Fallen crest alternative.., p.16
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       Fallen Crest Alternative Version, p.16
 

         Part #2.1 of Fallen Crest High series by Tijan  

  I leaned close. “I might have to deal with you as a future mother-in-law, but I hope that you’ll never become my future stepmother.” I stood but I bent towards her again. “You’re a real bitch, do you know that?”

  Then I swept out of the private box and hurried down the stairs and through the narrow hallway. As I entered the gym, the sounds doubled from what I had heard in the box, but I sighed in relief. I could breath. Then I twisted around and looked up. The plastic walls were clear and I saw her watching me. A somber expression was on her face, but I turned my back. I didn’t care.

  The referee whistled, the ball hit the wall beside me, and I was jerked back to reality.

  The game still went on.

  CHAPTER SIXTEEN

  I sat in a back corner on the opponents’ bleachers. I knew few of Mason and Logan’s friends and even fewer still that would want to sit with me. As the game progressed and Fallen Crest Public’s team won 32-24, I waited as everyone milled onto the open gym. When the team went back to the locker room, it was obvious their party crowd all waited around to figure out plans for the rest of the evening. It was just as obvious to see that Kate, Parker, Natalie, and Jasmine were the reigning Elite for their school. When they walked, everyone watched.

  As I bypassed some of the opposing team’s fans, more than a few of them noticed the same. A group of girls grumbled at the FCP’s skanks, but when Natalie heard the comment, her head reared up and her eyes went feral.

  She shoved through the crowd and stopped in front of their group. “Excuse me, bitch?”

  Jasmine was the first to shove after her. She crossed her skinny arms and flared her nostrils. When a lock of her black hair got in her eyes, she flicked it back and looked annoyed. Kate and Parker followed suit but held back a step.

  I felt Kate’s eyes on me but never moved. I was to the side and turned in a slow motion. For some reason I wanted to watch this.

  The girl who had made the comment backed up a step. Her eyes got wide, but her friends rallied around her. They were all dressed in tight jeans and tight tops. Most of them wore pigtails that were loosely pulled back to look sexy.

  Natalie smirked as she skimmed her up and down. “You call us skanks? You’re the Whores-R-Us of Nethlam. Who do you think you are?”

  The girl’s mouth shut with a snap and she paled. Her friends giggled, but no one spoke against them. Natalie’s arm was hoisted to her hip in a dramatic pose. It was meant for intimidation, but I couldn’t hide my grin. Kate’s eyes narrowed as she saw it, but she didn’t say anything. Instead, she shuffled closer to Natalie and shoved forward. As she stood in front, her arms were crossed and she stuck her head forward. Then her lips lifted in a snarl and her eyes turned murderous. “Leave before I bash your brains in.”

  One of the girls snorted.

  It was all they needed.

  Both Kate and Natalie grabbed for her and pushed her through the crowd. They slammed her into the nearest wall and lifted her in the air. The girl was pale and shaking as they got in her face. Her lip trembled and I wondered if she would puke in their faces.

  The girls’ friends scattered. Jasmine and Parker kicked at their heels as they did. One of the girls tripped. When she fell to the floor, she looked over her shoulder in horror. When she saw that Jasmine and Parker hadn’t descended on her, relief flooded her and she pushed herself back up. She ran after her friends.

  “You think you’re funny?” Natalie glared at the girl, an inch from her face.

  “No—oo—no,” the girl stuttered. Her mouth opened and closed.

  Natalie pressed harder against her throat.

  “I—” the girl gasped. There was no sound after that. When her face changed to a blue color, I shoved through the crowd and yanked Natalie away.

  Kate rounded on me but stopped short.

  The girl fell to the ground. Her knees buckled as she landed with a hard plop on her bottom.

  “What are you doing?” Natalie started to get in my face.

  I shoved her back. “You were choking her.”

  She quieted but not before looking at Kate for confirmation. Both of them edged back a step to regard me.

  I knelt beside the girl. “You okay?”

  Her hand massaged at her throat, but she nodded as she coughed for air. “…anks…”

  I glared at the other two but couldn’t contain my animosity as I snapped at the girl, “Next time, shut your mouth.”

  Kate and Natalie shared a look and I knew they wondered if that was meant for them, but I shoved past them. I didn’t care. As I walked away from them and merged with the crowd that was still gathered on the court, I let my hands fall to my side. They were clenched in fists and I shook them free. My fingers had stiffened, and they were white from blood loss.

  Then I let out a deep breath. I hadn’t realized I’d been holding it. That was starting to become a pattern for me, but I knew what those girls were like now. They were rough and they were in your face. They used force while the girls at the Academy used whispers and gossip. I took another deep breath. I wasn’t sure which was better, but it didn’t matter. They were two sides of the same coin.

  As soon as I stepped out into the concession area I had come in from, there were more loud shouts. People sprinted past me. Some shoved against others in their pursuit and alarm flared inside of me. Whatever Natalie and Kate had been doing, it didn’t compare to what was going on there.

  “Where the FUCK are they?!” a guy shouted over the rest.

  There was movement from the crowd around him. A wave of people pressed back. A girl tripped next to me, but I caught her and held her up. When I saw it was one of the girls who had left their friend inside, my hand let go as if scalded. Then I turned back. There were more shouts and curses.

  The same guy yelled out in a low baritone, “I’ll rip them up! I don’t care about no goddamn restraining order. Let go of me—”

  Another wave went through the crowd. People were pressed against all sides of me and I gasped for air.

  “No!”

  “Get him!”

  “Stand down!”

  “Fuck you all—”

  A hand grabbed my arm and I reared back, ready for a fight. Then I saw Kate’s somber gaze. She tugged me behind her. When I didn’t move, she yelled in my ear, “They wouldn’t want you here. Come on.”

  I shook my head.

  She snorted in disgust and let go of my arm. Then she shouldered her way to the back. A part of me wondered if I should’ve gone, but then three people slammed against me. I went down. As I was about to hit the floor, I grabbed for the nearest arm and gritted my teeth. I used all my strength to keep myself upright. I would’ve been trampled under the crowd if I went down. A girl cried out in pain, but I didn’t care. Then I turned and started to shove my way back through the crowd.

  As I progressed past a hallway, there was a shout. I squashed myself against the wall as a line of police men sprinted past me. They were dressed in full swat gear. It wasn’t long before screams and wrangled cries filled the air. I knew they were pushing their way towards the guys in the front, whoever they were.

  Police whistles screeched in the air and I winced. The high-pitch was painful to the ear, but I kept pushing backwards. I didn’t know their school and the only exit I knew to get to my car wasn’t an option, so when I found an empty hallway, I stopped and leaned against the lockers. Then I bent forward and gasped for air.

  Holy hell.

  I gasped for more breath. My arms trembled. My knees shook. I slid to the ground. I couldn’t hold myself upright.

  I couldn’t contain my hands. They were violently quaking. As I pressed them to my face, I flinched when one nicked my eye. I shoved them underneath me. They couldn’t hurt me if I sat on them. After awhile, a long while, I was able to sit there and calm down.

  My breathing evened out and my limbs no longer shook, as much.

  Then I looked back up.

  The hallway was dark and I was alone. I cou
ldn’t hear any sounds from whatever had happened and I slowly pushed myself back to my feet.

  As I tried to find my way back, I kept getting lost and I cursed. Who knew their school was so big? And then I caught a whiff of popcorn. Relief flared inside of me. It was so tremendous, my knees almost buckled to the ground. But I gritted my teeth and followed the smell of that buttery popcorn haven that I never enjoyed until that moment.

  Popcorn was my new best friend.

  As I turned the last corner, the sight of the concessions stand was a sight I had to stop and appreciate. Then I shouldered it back, lifted my chin, and walked past the crowd that still remained. Some women were crying. Some girls were sobbing to their friends, who seemed just as shaken up. Most of the men were talking animatedly to their friends, with rough hand gestures, and their voices grew as their stories progressed.

  With an odd sense of humility, I tried to slip past them.

  I would’ve been successful if Kate hadn’t come out of the women’s bathroom. She stopped short as she saw me but shoved her hands in her front pockets and rolled her shoulders back. She wore another thin top that showcased the bra underneath and her ribs. It ended an inch above her jeans.

  I half expected to see abdominal muscles, but was surprised when I saw soft skin instead.

  She leaned back a step and looked up and down. “Mason and Logan went crazy when they heard you were here.”

  “What?” My body started tingling, not of the good sort.

  “Yeah.” She tilted her chin up and gave me what might’ve been a smile. It looked detached to me. “They couldn’t get out of the locker room. Cops kept them barred in, but when they were let out and we saw ‘em, I told ‘em that I tried to get you to come with. Mason went ballistic. Logan too.” Her eyes raked me up and down. Her entire demeanor was so cold. “You didn’t tell them you were coming?”

  I shrugged. Something in me fell away and I grew numb as I faced off against this chick. “There’s one thing I keep thinking about.”

  She kept a blank expression. She didn’t bite.

  I forged ahead anyways with a dead feeling inside of me. “Why do you care so much?”

  Her eyebrow lifted now. But she still wore that pouty look with her lip and her hands stayed in her pockets.

  And an anger I didn’t know I possessed wrangled up inside of me. My hands jerked out to grab the back of her neck. I wanted to bash her head into the wall as I had done with Jessica, but I clamped down at the last second.

  She jumped back. Her eyes went wide in alarm. She watched me, warily.

  I expelled a violent breath and tried to calm myself down.

  Her eyes kept looking me up and down. I knew she was on alert.

  I turned away but reared back. She jumped from the movement, but I took two steps. I got in her space. This time I was the one an inch from her face. She kept herself still as I smirked. “You know what else I can’t figure out.” I paused a beat. Her eyes looked alarmed. “Who did you used to screw? Was it Mason? It couldn’t have been Logan.”

  The answer clicked in her depths, and I drew back.

  I had my answer.

  I sighed and glanced at the door. “And for your information, I can take care of myself.” And then I left through the door. It was pitch dark as I walked down the streets. Most of the cars I had walked past on the way in were gone, so the streets felt empty.

  When I got to my car, loud laughter rang out behind me. I jumped against my car and grimaced. My shoulder rammed into it, but I rolled my eyes at my own stupidity. My hands still shook as I opened the door and hurried inside. Once there, my shoulder ached with a deep pulsation. My hand rubbed at it and I started my car.

  I turned towards home.

  My eyes were blind as I drove through the streets. I was on automatic pilot. I didn’t think. I just drove so I shouldn’t have been surprised when I turned the engine off and sat back. The streets were dark, darker than normal. Then I blinked at the white house before me.

  I had driven to David’s house. My old home.

  A curse slipped out of me as I fell back against my seat, not moving.

  I drove home, this home, not my current home.

  With a curse on my lips, I pulled out my phone. I wasn’t surprised to see a few missed calls from Mason, two from Logan, and some text messages from both. I didn’t read them. I didn’t listen to the messages, but I sent one back. ‘I’m fine. Drove to my old home by mistake. U okay?’

  It wasn’t long before Mason responded. ‘You sure? K said you were mad. What happened?’

  ‘Beside the crazy guys?’

  ‘Those were Roussou. Cops wouldn’t let us out. Someone reported they would b there. Had a mtg all day over it.’

  And that explained Logan’s absence.

  I was about to reply when a car drove past me. The red brake lights lit up and it slowed as it turned into my old driveway. David didn’t park in the garage. He stopped inside the driveway and turned the car off. As he headed my way, I groaned again.

  I thumbed a quick text. ‘Talking to my dad. Call u l8r.’

  When David bent down and peered inside my car, I slid the phone in my pocket. It vibrated back at me, but I got out of the car. The night was still cool. There was a drizzle in the air, but I never felt it. The old numb feeling had returned. It doubled as I faced my old father over the top of my car.

  “Sam?” He frowned. He was wearing the Academy apparel and I figured he had come from their basketball game. The coaches tried to support each other. “What are you doing here?”

  “I…” I had no words.

  His small grin turned into a small frown. He raked a hand over his head. “You look tired, Samantha. Come inside?”

  “Why?”

  “Because.” He shrugged. “It’s Friday night. You were parked here when I came home. I don’t know. I’d like to visit with you. I did raise you, you know.”

  And I felt sheepish. “I know.”

  “Come inside. I’ll make that hot chocolate you liked when you were little.”

  “I’m almost eighteen.” But I shut my car door and started to follow him.

  He grinned over his shoulder as he led the way. “Let’s pretend you’re still eight. You were more fun then.”

  “Dad!”

  He chuckled as he opened the door and held it open for me.

  When he flipped the lights on, I couldn’t move. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t blink. Everything was the same. The same two white couches were still there. Analise had bought them, but they weren’t good enough to take with us when we moved. The piano that was stationed between them, against the far wall, was still in place. Even the same sheet music was there, to the same page that I had left from my last practice six months ago.

  Then I turned and everything became blurry. My vision grew unsteady and I saw a small box tucked behind the plastic tree Analise purchased at a retail store. I had thought I’d forgotten it, but now I went to it and slid to my knees. Then, with my heart pounding and a giant basketball in my throat, I turned over the lid and my chest tightened like a lynchpin.

  “Yeah.” His voice was rough. But he coughed and he tried to hide the emotion.

  The lynchpin moved and everything was sucked out of me at once. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t breathe.

  David added, but his voice drifted away. I knew he looked away. “I haven’t done much with the place. I know I should. Malinda keeps telling me it’s not normal, but…”

  I knew he saw the box.

  I gulped. Silent tears slid down my cheeks.

  “Sam?”

  I couldn’t look away from the photos. Everything was in that box. There were photos of Analise and David’s wedding, their honeymoon, some of their dates, our holidays, everything. My first day of kindergarten was in there. My last day of kindergarten. My first day of first grade, last day. My first dance recital, the horrible green frilly skirt Analise swore I looked adorable in. The program from the first play I was in, and the p
rogram of the community show I was a lead character in. All of it. My first date with Jeff. The times when Jessica and Lydia would come over.

  All of my life was chronicled in those pictures and memorabilia.

 
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