Slammed, p.9
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       Slammed, p.9

         Part #1 of Slammed series by Colleen Hoover
 

  it on top of the stack.

  “Is my mood that obvious?” he asks as he continues to stare at the mints on his desk.

  I grab two of the altoids and walk out of the room without responding.

  As I navigate the halls searching for my fourth period class, I see a bathroom and quickly duck inside. I decide to spend the remainder of fourth period and my entire lunch in the bathroom stall. I feel guilty knowing Eddie is waiting on me but I can’t face anyone right now. Instead, I spend the entire time reading and re-reading the writing on the walls of the stall, doing my best to somehow make it through the rest of the day without bursting out in tears.

  My last two classes are a blur. Luckily, neither of those teachers seem interested in my ‘about me’ either. I don’t speak to anyone and no one speaks to me. I have no idea if I was ever even assigned homework. My mind is consumed by this whole situation.

  I walk to my car as I search in my bag for my keys. I pull them out and fidget with the lock but my hands are shaking so bad I drop them. When I climb inside I don’t give myself time to reflect as I throw the car in reverse and head home. The only thing I want to think about right now is my bed.

  I pull into my driveway and kill the engine. I don’t want to face Kel or my mother yet, so I kick my seat back and shield my eyes with my arms as I begin to cry. I replay everything over in my head. How did I spend so much time with him and not know he was a teacher? How can something as big as an occupation not come up in conversation? Or better yet, how did I do so much talking and fail to mention the fact that I was still in high school? I’m angry at the whole situation. I told him so much about myself. I feel like it’s what I deserve for finally letting down my walls.

  I wipe at my eyes with my sleeve, trying hard to conceal my tears. I was getting pretty good at it. Up until six months ago, I hardly had reason to cry. My life back in Texas was simple. I had a routine, a great group of friends, a school I loved and even a home I loved. I cried a lot in the weeks following my father’s death until I realized Kel and my mother would not be able to move on until I did. I started making a conscious effort to be involved in Kel's life more. Our father was also his best friend at the time and I feel Kel lost more than any of us. I got involved in youth baseball, his karate lessons and even cub scouts; all the things my dad used to do with him. It kept Kel and I both preoccupied, and the grieving eventually started to subside.

  Until today.

  A tap on the passenger window brings me back to reality. I don't want to acknowledge it. I don't want to see anyone, let alone speak to anyone. I look over and see someone standing there, the only thing visible is their torso…and faculty I.D.

  I flip the visor down and wipe the mascara from my eyes. I divert my attention out the driver side window as I press the automatic unlock button, focusing my gaze on the injured garden gnome who is staring back at me with his smug little grin.

  Will slides into the passenger seat and shuts the door. He lays the seat back a few inches and sighs, but says nothing. I don't think either of us knows what to say at this point.

  I look over at him when he finally does start speaking. His foot is resting on the dash and he's stiff against the seat with his arms folded across his chest. He's staring directly at the note he wrote this morning that is still sitting on my console. I guess he made it by four o'clock after all.

  “What are you thinking?” he asks.

  I sit up and turn toward him, pulling my right leg up into the seat, hugging it with my arms. “I’m confused as hell, Will. I don’t know what to think!”

  He sighs and turns to look out the passenger window. “I’m sorry. This is all my fault,” he says.

  “It’s nobody’s fault,” I disagree. “In order for there to be fault, there has to be some sort of conscious decision. You didn’t know, Will.”

  He sits up and turns to face me. “That’s just it, Lake. I should have known. I’m in an occupation that doesn’t just require ethics inside the classroom, they apply to all aspects of my life. I wasn’t aware because I wasn’t doing my job. When you told me you were eighteen, I just assumed you were in college.”

  “I’ve only been eighteen for two weeks,” I reply. I don’t know why I felt the need to clarify that. After I say it I realize it sounds like I’m placing blame on him. He’s already blaming himself; he doesn’t need me to be angry at him too. This was an outcome that neither of us could have possibly predicted.

  "I student teach," he says as he begins to explain. "Sort of."

  "Sort of?" I ask.

  "After my parents died, I doubled up on all my classes. I have enough credits to graduate a semester early. Since the school was so short-handed, they offered me a one year contract. I have three months left of student teaching. After that I'm under contract through June of next year."

  I listen as I take in everything he says. Really though, all I hear is, "we can't be together…blah blah blah…we can't be together."

  "Lake, I need this job. It's what I've been working toward for three years. We're broke. My parents left me with a mound of debt and now college tuition. I can't quit now."

  Does he think I'm asking him to quit his job?

  “Will, I understand. I'd never ask you to jeopardize your career. You’ve worked hard. It would be stupid if you threw that away for someone you’ve only known for three days.”

  “I’m not saying you would ask me that. I just want you to understand where I’m coming from,” he says.

  “I do understand,” I say. “It’s ridiculous to assume we even have anything worth risking.”

  His eyes glance at the note on my console again as he hesitates. “We both know it's more than that.”

  His words cause me to wince, because I know deep down he’s right. Whatever was happening with us, it was more than just an infatuation. I can’t possibly comprehend at this moment what it must be like to actually have a broken heart. If it hurts even one percent more than the pain I'm feeling now, I'll forego love. It's not worth it.

  I attempt to stop the tears from welling up again but the effort is futile. He brings his leg off of the dash and pulls me to him. I bury my face in his shirt and he puts his arms around me and gently rubs my back.

  "I'm so sorry,” he says. “I wish there was something I could do to change things. I have to do this right, for Caulder. I’m not sure where we go from here, or how we'll transition."

  “Transition?” I say. I suddenly start to panic at the thought of losing him. "But-What if you talk to the school? Tell them we didn’t know. Ask them what our options are…” I realize as the words are coming out of my mouth that I’m grasping at straws. There is no situation in which a relationship between us would be feasible at this point.

  “I can’t, Lake.” His voice is small. "It won't work. It can't work."

  We hear a door slam and Kel and Caulder come bounding down the driveway. We immediately pull apart and reposition our seats. I rest my head against the headrest and close my eyes, attempting to conjure up a loophole in our situation. There has to be one.

  When the boys have crossed the street and are safely inside Will's house, he turns to me.

  “Layken?” he says nervously. “There’s one more thing I need to talk to you about."

  Oh god, what else? What else could be relevant at this moment?

  "I need you to go to administration tomorrow. I want you to withdraw from my class. I don't think we should be around each other anymore."

  I feel the blood rushing from my face. My hands start to sweat and the car is slowly becoming too small for the two of us. He really means it. Anything we had up to this point is over. He’s going to shut me out of his life entirely.

  "Why?” I make no effort to mask the hurt in my voice.

  He clears his throat. "I'm not asking you to do this because I want to avoid you. I'm asking you this because what we have isn’t appropriate. We have to separate ourselves.”

  Separate ourselves? My hurt quickly su
ccumbs to the anger building up inside of me. "Not appropriate? Separate ourselves? You live across the street from me!"

  He opens the door and gets out of the car. I do the same and slam my door.

  "We’re both mature enough to know what’s appropriate, Will. You’re the only person I know here. Please don’t ask me to act like I don’t even know you,” I plead.

  “Come on, Lake! You aren't being fair." He matches his tone to mine, and I know I’ve hit a nerve. “I can’t do this. We can’t just be friends. It’s the only choice we have.”

  I can’t help but feel like we’re going through a horrible break-up, and we aren’t even in a relationship. I'm so angry at him. At the entire situation. I can’t discern if I’m really just upset about what has happened today, or my entire life this year.

  The one thing I know for sure is that the only time I’ve been truly happy lately has been with Will. To hear him tell me that we can’t even be friends hurts. It scares me that I'll go back to who I've been for the past six months; someone I'm not proud of.

  I open the door to the car and grab my purse and keys. “So, you’re saying it’s either all or nothing, right? And since it obviously can’t be all!” I slam the car door again and head toward the house. “You’ll be rid of me by third period tomorrow!” I say as I purposefully kick the gnome over with my boot.

  I walk in the house and throw the keys toward the bar in the kitchen with such force that they glide completely across the surface and hit the floor. I step on the heel of my boot with my toe and kick it off in the entry when my mother comes in.

  “What was that all about?” she asks. “Were you just yelling?”

  “Nothing,” I say. “That’s what it’s about. Absolutely nothing!” I pick up my boots and walk to my room, slamming the door behind me.

  I lock my bedroom door and head straight to the hamper of clothes. I pick it up and dump the contents out onto the floor, searching through them until I find what I’m looking for. My hand slides into the pocket of my jeans and I remove the purple hair clip and walk over to the bed, pull back the covers and climb in. I make a tight fist around the clip as I pull my hands up to my face, and I cry myself to sleep.

  When I wake up, it’s midnight. I lay there a moment, hoping I will come to the conclusion that this was all a bad dream but the clarity never comes. When I pull back the covers my hair clip falls from my hands and lands on the floor. This small piece of plastic, so old that it’s probably covered in lead ridden paint. I think about how I felt the day my father gave it to me, and how all the sadness and fears were eliminated as soon as he put it in my hair.

  I lean forward and retrieve it from the floor, pressing down in the center so that it snaps open. I move a section of my bangs to the opposite side and secure it in place on my head. I wait for the magic to take effect, but sure enough, everything still hurts. I pull the clip from my hair and throw it across the room as I climb back into bed.

  5.

  "I keep tellin' myself

  That it'll be fine.

  You can't make everybody happy

  All of the time."

  -The Avett Brothers,Paranoia in B flat Major

  Chapter Five

  My pulse is pounding against my temples as I climb out of bed. I’m in dire need of my own box of altoids. My entire body is dragging from hours of alternating between crying and inadequate sleep.

  I make a quick pot of coffee and sit down at the bar and drink it in silence, as I dread the day that lies ahead of me.

  Kel eventually comes in, wearing his pajamas and darth vader house shoes. “Morning,” he says groggily as he grabs a cup out of the sink strainer. He walks over to the coffee pot and proceeds to pour coffee into the World's Greatest Dad cup.

  “What do you think you’re doing?” I ask him.

  “Hey, you aren’t the only one who had a bad night.” Kel climbs onto a stool on the opposite side of the bar. “Fourth grade is rough. I had two hours of homework,” he says as he brings the cup to his mouth.

  I take the coffee out of his hands and pour the contents into my own, then toss the mug into the trashcan. I walk to the refrigerator, grab a juice and place it in front of him.

  Kel rolls his eyes and pokes through the hole at the top of the
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