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Wild Crush, Page 2

Simone Elkeles

  My mom follows with her cell in hand.

  "Let me take a picture of you two," she calls out, waving to Trey as she follows me out of the house in her high heels.

  She doesn't realize that Victor Salazar is in Trey's car. My mom halts as soon as she notices him.

  "Oh," she says, taken aback.

  No matter what I tell my parents, Vic's reputation speaks for itself. He's been arrested for fighting more than a few times, and they don't like that we have the same friends. He also has a perpetual grim look on his face. I think it's his way of telling people not to get too close so they don't know how messed up his family life is.

  "Okay, um, well..." Mom practically stutters.

  Trey steps out of the car. "Vic, come on. Mrs. Fox wants to take a picture of us."

  "I think she wants to take a picture of just you and Monika," Vic says, his gravelly voice sounding like he doesn't give a shit if he's included in the picture.

  I open the passenger door and pull on Vic's arm. "Come on," I say. "It's picture time."

  "I don't do pictures," he mumbles.

  "Humor me," I tell him. "Let's get this over with quick so we're not late and don't get detentions."

  Vic shrugs. "I actually want to be late."

  Mom clears her throat as Vic steps out of the car. I haven't seen him much this summer, and he looks totally buff. Trey and Vic have been working out a lot in preparation for the upcoming football season. He's wearing a football jersey like Trey, but Vic has on ripped jeans while Trey is wearing skinny jeans that show off his lean, muscular legs. They're best friends but different in so many ways.

  I situate myself between the guys and smile while my mom takes the picture.

  "Text me a copy of that," Trey says.

  "Sure thing," Mom says, texting him from her phone. Yep, my parents have my boyfriend's phone number programmed into their contacts.

  Vic shakes his head the slightest bit, as if he can't understand how Trey could be so accepted by his girlfriend's parents. Vic is a guy who avoids parental interaction as much as possible.

  When we arrive at school ten minutes later, we walk in the building and congregate in the senior hallway. All our friends are here. Derek and Ashtyn are staring into each other's eyes as if they're trying to jump into each other's souls. Bree is fixing her hair, making sure she looks better than perfect. Jet is getting the attention of all the single girls. He's used to it, especially after he started modeling and his picture popped up in stores and magazines. He's become a mini-celebrity in Fremont.

  Trey, who's been by my side the entire time, gets a text. He turns his phone away so I don't see the screen, making me feel like he's hiding something.

  "I'll be right back," he says.

  "Why? What's up? Who just texted you?"

  Ugh. I'm aware I sound like a clingy, controlling girlfriend. Last week when we hung out he was preoccupied with texting someone on his phone. He told me it was his cousin a bunch of times, then he told me his sister kept texting him. I didn't question it then, but I'm feeling like there's a wall between us right now.

  "It's my dad," Trey explains. "He wants me to call him. I'll be back." He gives me a peck on the lips. "Love ya."

  "I love you too," I say, the words coming out automatically.

  I watch him walk away, and a sinking feeling fills my stomach.

  I turn around to see Cassidy Richards walk over to Vic, whose locker is next to mine. She plays with the ends of her long, curly blond hair and licks her lips. It's obvious she wants his attention, but he's not biting.

  "Hey, Vic," Cassidy says in a flirty tone.

  "'Sup," he responds.

  Cassidy is on the cheer squad with me and definitely tries to get information about Vic's life whenever she can. I work on decorating my locker while trying to ignore their conversation. It's hard, though, since it's happening right in front of me.

  "I heard you got in a fight last night," Cassidy says in an accusatory tone. "Over Heather Graves. So do you like her now?"

  Vic closes his locker. "Seriously?" he says.

  Cassidy puts her hands on her hips. "It's a legit question."

  "No, it's not."

  "Fine, be that way." She huffs a few times. "I was just trying to make conversation."

  "You were tryin' to start gossip," he responds.

  Cassidy storms away while Vic shakes his head in frustration.

  I attach a mirror and decorate the inside of my locker with pictures of friends and magazine cutouts, aware that Vic is watching me.

  "What?" I ask when he shakes his head.

  He gestures to the pictures. "Why do you need to decorate your locker?"

  "Because looking at pictures of my friends and things I like makes me smile." I gesture to his perpetual stoic expression. "You should try it sometime. Smiling is good for you, you know."

  His jaw is set in a grim line as he glances at Cassidy across the hallway gossiping with her friends. "Maybe I got nothin' to smile about."

  "Come on, Vic. Everyone has something to smile about."

  "That's you, Monika. Not me."

  If he only knew.

  He leans against his locker as Brandon Butter walks up to him. "Umm, Vic... um, I don't really want to be the one to tell you this, but someone saw one of your sisters go down H hall with Luke Handler."

  Vic mumbles a slew of profanity that would probably get him sent to the principal's office if any teacher heard him.

  Luke Handler is known for trying to hook up with as many girls as he can. He's also got this habit of posting pictures of girls making out with him online. It boosts his ego and his playboy status. He's perfected the way he convinces each girl that, unlike all the girls before her, she's the only one who can turn him into a committed, monogamous boyfriend. While Luke ends up looking like a stud when the "relationship" quickly ends, the girls end up with bad reputations.

  Vic's face turns from stoic to lethal.

  "I'll smile while kicking Luke Handler's ass," he says to me, then storms down the hallway toward H hall.

  "Don't get yourself in trouble," I call out, even though I know Vic doesn't fear getting into trouble.

  Someone needs to tell Victor Salazar that fighting and smiles aren't supposed to mix. Ever.

  Chapter Three


  Dani is a freshman, so she has no clue that hanging out in H hall is a bad thing. It takes a few days for the new freshmen to learn that if you want to hook up, you go to H hall to avoid being seen by teachers.

  H hall is also considered the hos' den.

  I hear the bell ring just as I catch sight of Luke Handler talking to my sister, looming over her as she leans against the solid brick wall. She's looking up at him, batting her eyelashes and giggling at something he just told her.

  "Yo, Handler!" I call out just as the douche bag is about to touch her face with his grimy hands. I grab his collar and look into his beady eyes. "What're you doin'?"

  The dude holds up his hands. "Uh... nothing."

  "Doesn't look like nothin' to me, man."

  Handler looks from Dani to me. "Is she your girlfriend or something?"

  I sneer at him. "No. She's my sister, you piece of shit. If I see you even look at her again, take her to H hall again, or take any picture with her and post it online, you'll be starin' at my fist instead of my face. Got it?"

  The guy swallows, hard. "Sure. I--I got it."

  As I let go of his collar and he rushes down the hall to get as far away from me as he can, the sound of my sister's exaggerated groan echoes in the air. "Oh my God, Vic! You are such a dork! I'm just trying to have some fun here. Are you always going to ruin everything?"


  She rolls her eyes. "I'm not prissy Marissa. If he did something I didn't want to do, he'd have my knee in his balls."

  I don't doubt that, but Dani isn't used to guys like Kiss-and-Tell Handler.

  The late bell rings. Damn.

  "Marissa is probably i
n class right now," I tell her. "Which is a helluva lot better than bein' in H hall with Fremont's resident player. He wanted you to hook up with him so he could show off what a stud he is and post shit all over the Internet. That's not happenin' on my watch. Now go back to class before the security guards catch you ditchin'."

  My sister gathers her books and starts walking away from me. "You're a hypocrite, Vic," she says. "You act like you're all high-and-mighty when you're the biggest fuckup at this school. Rumor has it people are making bets on whether or not you'll end up graduating or in jail by the end of the year. You want me to tell you which one has the best odds?"


  She flashes me a satisfied, wicked grin that reminds me of Papa, before strutting off to class.

  I round the corner to M hall for my first-period class and come face-to-face with the man who's supposed to keep Fremont free of drugs, violence, and troublemakers.

  Officer Jim.

  "Stop right there," Officer Jim calls out. The smug look on his face is an indication that he likes his job way too much. "I don't suppose you have a hall pass, son."

  I shake my head.

  "Then we're gonna have to take a little walk to the principal's office."

  If I get in trouble, Coach Dieter will make my life a living hell. Extra laps during football practice will be the least of my problems. "Can't I just go to class?" I ask him. "Cut me some slack."

  Officer Jim shakes his head. "My job is to report all tardy and suspicious activity to cut down on student delinquency."

  "Delinquency? Come on, you can't be serious. It's the first day of school. Maybe I got lost."

  His expression doesn't change. "You're a senior, Salazar. If you got lost, I'll take you to B hall where the special needs classes are held. Is that where you want to go?"


  "That's what I thought." He gestures for me to follow him to the front office. I'm instructed to sit and wait until Principal Finnigan can be informed of my student delinquency. What a joke.

  Officer Jim stands by the secretary's desk with a puffed-up chest and an ego that matches the size of his beer belly.

  "Victor Salazar, Dr. Finnigan will see you now," the secretary says.

  I walk into Finnigan's office, and she looks up from her desk. She's wearing a man's suit and has her brown hair cut short. I think she's trying too hard to be seen as a hardass. Or a dude. Or both.

  "Mr. Salazar, sit down," she orders. When I do, she tents her hands together and sighs. "You're starting the year off on the wrong foot. Ditching class is unacceptable."

  "I wasn't ditchin' class, Doc."

  "You were in the hallway without a pass, Victor. During first period." She leans forward as if she's about to tell me something really important. "Let's not beat around the bush. You have a history of ditching, young man. You're more than aware that I don't tolerate delinquency or tardiness. You're a football player, Victor. And a senior. You need to start out the year on the right foot this time... or I will have Coach Dieter kick you off that team. Maybe that'll be your wakeup call."

  No, way. I can't let that happen. Football is everything to me. I'm used to coming up with excuses to get out of trouble. It's like a game, one that I'd like to win more often than I lose.

  "Listen, Doc," I say. "I was helpin' a lost freshman find her class and that's why I was late. To be honest, I should be given one of those Good Citizen or Random Acts of Kindness awards instead of sittin' here in trouble."

  I can tell she's trying to hide a grin. "A Good Citizen award?"

  I give her an innocent nod. "Do you really think I'd ditch class on the first day?"

  "Don't make me answer that question." She leans back in her chair, her lecture obviously over. "Today I'll be nice and give you a warning. And another thing, call me Dr. Finnigan or Principal Finnigan... not Doc." She picks up the phone and tells the secretary to let Officer Jim back in her office. "Please escort Mr. Salazar to his first-period class," she tells him. "And Victor... as much as I enjoy our conversations I'd rather they were focused on collegiate goals instead of school infractions."

  Collegiate goals? That's a joke.

  I don't say anything. I figure I can let the doc live in la-la land for at least a few more days.

  Chapter Four


  When Mr. Miller, our sociology teacher, takes attendance, he calls out Victor Salazar's name three times before marking him absent in his notebook.

  "Has anyone seen Mr. Salazar this morning?"

  A couple of people raise their hand. "I saw him by his locker," one guy says.

  Another girl says she heard he was in a fight in front of the school, and another says she saw him in the hallway right before class.

  Cassidy Richards is sitting in the front row. When she hears Mr. Miller call out Vic's name, she sneers and mumbles something about him being a jerk.

  Mr. Miller starts going over the syllabus when the door opens and Vic walks in the room. Officer Jim, the guy who patrols the halls at Fremont, walks in behind Vic. The security guard briefly talks to Mr. Miller before leaving.

  "Nice of you to join us, Mr. Salazar."

  "Thanks," Vic mumbles, obviously hating that he's the center of attention.

  "Take a seat up front," the teacher orders when Vic starts walking to the back of the room.

  Vic turns around and glances at the empty seat next to Cassidy. "I get claustrophobic up front," he says in a lazy drawl.

  "Too bad." Mr. Miller points to the empty seat in the front row. "Obviously I need to keep an eye on you."

  Vic reluctantly slides into the first seat up front, giving a compulsory nod to Cassidy as he sits next to her.

  For the rest of class, Mr. Miller explains that sociology is the study of people in groups.

  "How we react individually is drastically different than how we act with our peers and community. We conform to social norms whether we realize it or not," he says. "And when we break social norms or go outside what is expected socially, what do you think happens?"

  Cassidy immediately raises her hand. "It makes us uncomfortable."

  "Exactly," our teacher says. "It gives a little shock to our systems. Think about social norms. I also want you to break them--observe what happens when you violate them. Take a video of you doing something out of the norm and see what happens." Mr. Miller stands in front of Vic's desk. "For some of you, I think going against the norm is actually a daily ritual." He taps his fingers on Vic's desk and flashes him a pointed look.

  Mr. Miller lectures us for the next thirty minutes until the bell rings and we all rush out.

  "That was brutal," Vic says.

  "Why? Because he picked on you?" I ask.

  "You think I give a shit whether Miller picks on me or not?" He shakes his head. "No. That class is supposed to be an easy A, but Miller doesn't make it sound like his class is a blowoff."

  Vic isn't known for getting the best grades. He doesn't really try hard, but then again it's probably because he doesn't think he's smart enough to get As. He already told me that taking easy classes this year was his goal. I took sociology because I'm seriously interested in it and am thinking of majoring in sociology or psychology in college. Not because I thought it would be easy.

  "I'll help you study," I tell Vic. I glance at Cassidy, who's walking in front of us swaying her hips, probably to get his attention. I urge him to come closer as I whisper in his ear, "Or I'm sure Cassidy would love to tutor you."

  He doesn't even look in her direction. "Don't go there."

  When she turns the corner, I say, "I don't know why you don't give her another chance, Vic. She's obviously still in love with you... when she's not referring to you as a jerk."

  "I am a jerk."

  "No you're not," I tell him. Ever since freshman year Vic has been in my group of friends. I know him well, even though he has a wall up a mile wide. There are times when his true self shines through that tough-guy facade. "Sometimes you're..."

>   "An asshole."

  "No. I was going to say moody or intense. Passionate." When he starts to walk down the hall, I grab his arm and pull him back. "You're real. And protective of the people you care about. I love that about you."

  He looks away, seemingly uncomfortable with the compliment.

  He's not as bad as his father has made him believe he is. In fact, I rely on Vic for a lot of things. Trey does too. Vic's loyal to the core, and that means a lot to me.

  He's also very charismatic. The funny thing is that he's clueless about the fact that he's popular and girls talk about him all the time. He's even got his own cheering section in the stands during football games.

  Vic has the attention of most of the student body whether he wants it or not. I look down the hall and see one freshman girl point at him and giggle excitedly, then take a picture of him while his back is turned.

  "What're you looking at?" Trey asks, coming up behind me and kissing my neck.

  I turn around and hug him, erasing the image of Vic's body from my mind.

  "Nothing. Hey, how was your first period?" I ask.

  "To be honest, I'm already stressed out," he says, pulling back. "It's gonna be arduous being in all AP classes with no study hall, and on top of that I have college apps and essays. Not to mention football. I'm so overwhelmed and it's the first day of school."

  "You don't need to take all those super hard classes," I tell him as we walk down the hall. It doesn't escape my attention that Trey isn't holding my hand. In the past, he would hold my hand whenever we were walking through the halls. He's too agitated now, like his stress level is so high that he can't focus on our relationship. I get it though. You don't get to be valedictorian by being a good boyfriend. You get it by earning As in AP classes. "Lighten your load if you're that stressed out."

  "I can't," he says. "So much rides on this year for me. You're aware of that."

  "I know."

  He shifts his books and a clear baggie with a bunch of pills inside falls from between the pages of one of the books. He quickly picks it up.

  "What are those?" I ask him.

  "Anxiety meds my doc prescribed," Trey says. "They calm me."

  That's weird. He never told me he was on medication. "Why are they in a baggie?"

  "Because I didn't want to bring the entire bottle to school. It's not a big deal."

  I say in a hushed tone, "I don't want anyone thinking you're taking illegal drugs, Trey. Baggies are what drug dealers use. Have your parents fill out one of those prescription forms at the nurse's office and--"