Fallen crest public, p.18
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       Fallen Crest Public, p.18

         Part #3 of Fallen Crest High series by Tijan
 

  He was reluctant.

  “I’ll be fine.” The pain in my cheek was starting to filter in, and he couldn’t help with that. “I mean it. I’ll talk to you after school.”

  He frowned, but nodded. Bending to kiss my lips, he thought better and kissed my forehead instead. When he glanced at Heather, I knew there were words he wanted to share, but didn’t. An outsider was present. As he stalked through the door and it shut behind him, Heather frowned at me. Her hands went to her hips. “What the hell was all of that about?”

  She meant the fight. I sighed. “I miss my dad.”

  Heather took me to her house after the fight. The bruise on my cheek wasn’t too big, and it was easily covered with make-up. When she asked if I’d get in trouble for skipping, I didn’t think I would. Most of the teachers didn’t take attendance and the ones who did never called my name. Because I was still new, I didn’t think my name even got onto the attendance sheets. She seemed okay with that answer. When we first arrived, her dad met us in passing, heading back to Manny’s after taking a lunch break. She gestured to me and said, “It was those same girls.” That was enough for him. He nodded and replied, “Always stand-up for yourself.” Then he left.

  I asked her later what he meant, and she explained that she informed her dad about everything. He knew about Kate. He knew they were sending her threats. He knew they’d threatened his and her brother’s livelihood. I was surprised that he hadn’t gone to the principal, but her dad was realistic. He knew nothing would be done and those girls always got away with their bullying. Heather informed me that he gave her permission to defend herself, in any way she needed, and that he would have her back.

  Then she added, “My dad’s not stupid. He knows there’s only so much a parent can do against these types of bullies. If they get in trouble, they’ll only do something worse the next time around. That’s why he said I don’t have to worry about getting in trouble with him.”

  I nodded.

  I didn’t know if that was the right thing to do as a parent. My own weren’t stellar, but she talked to her dad. He was here for her. He would support her if she needed it. Then she distracted me when she asked, “You still going to the game tonight?”

  There was no question about what game. It was the game against Roussou.

  She suggested, “You could sit by my friends. You remember my friend, Max? Channing’s half-brother? Dark spiky hair? Usually wears ripped shirts and has tattoos all over him? He always goes when they play Roussou. He likes to spend time with Channing, but Cory and Rain should be in our stands.” I grinned at the thought. Cory was like a feral cat. Her ‘warming up to me’ was not snarling at me. Then she added, “But you’ll have all those Academites there, too. You could see some of your old friends.”

  Mark would be there. His mother might be there, too and that meant … my father. And hours later when I parked outside of the school, it seemed that everyone had come for the game. There were no spots in the parking lot. There were no spots within a four block radius of the school. I finally found an empty spot near the football field and parked. I jogged over it, heading past the parking lot. When I noticed the line that snaked outside of the gym’s entrance, I slipped in a side door. Some of the hallways were blocked off, but not all the way. I could slip past one of the gates, and join the mass chaos once I found one I could fit through. The volume in the building was deafening. People was lined up at the concessions, there were lines for the bathrooms, and people were packed into the entrance hallway. Instead of two people selling admissions, they should’ve had twenty.

  I hadn’t gone far when someone touched my arm.

  Thinking it was Kate, I swung around with a fist already formed.

  Instead, it was Mark. “Hi,” he shouted in my ear, but is eyes got wide as he stared at my hand. “Uh … never mind?”

  “Sorry. Hi.” I gave Mark a grin in response. He was friends with Logan, but since his mother started dating David, things had been awkward between the two of us.

  He leaned close again. “You like it here?”

  I nodded. I couldn’t help myself. I looked around him, but there was no sign of his mother. Spotting Adam in a corner, he had his arm around a girl’s waist. Mark must’ve noticed my gaze. He yelled in my ear again, “Yeah, Adam has a new girlfriend. She transferred in this semester.” He let out a little laugh. “Or he’s trying to get a new girlfriend. I don’t think they’re official yet.”

  She was pretty and petite. Her wavy hair was a wheat-golden blonde color and fell to her shoulders. When Adam saw me, he stiffened. She glanced up, a frown on her face, and followed his gaze. When her eyes caught mine, they were a breathtaking green.

  I waved at them. Adam jerked his head in a stiff nod back to me. Her gaze lingered on me, and I could see the confusion there. Lifting a hand to his chest, she tipped her head back, the questions already on her lips. As his jaw clenched, I knew she had asked who I was.

  When I turned back to Mark, he lifted a shoulder up. “Her name is Kris. He’s crazy about her.”

  I remarked, “That must drive Cass nuts.”

  “You have no idea.” Amusement sparked in his eyes now. “We miss you over there.”

  My eyebrows went up at that.

  “We do. I do. I know Adam does. Not everyone hates you over there.” He skimmed me up and down with a wolf-whistle on his lips. “You look good, Sam. Public school must agree with you.”

  I shrugged. “Seven hours earlier and you would’ve really though that. You look good, too.” And he did. Mark had always looked good, but there’d never been an attraction between us. He was six foot two inches, had muscular shoulders, dark hair and the same almond eyes that his mother had. He wasn’t the golden-boy beauty that Adam was, and he didn’t have the classic handsome features like their other friend, Peter, but Mark’s easygoing personality and contagious smile were like a magnet to girls. Always had been. I had no doubt Mark had his pick of the ladies.

  He flashed his dimples. “Logan would be proud. I’m doing that workout he was telling me about last weekend …” He trailed off. “He didn’t tell you about that?”

  “You saw Logan last weekend?”

  “I always see Logan. Same parties, you know? But we haven’t been getting invites to the public parties like we used to. A lot of people think it’s your fault, like you don’t want your old classmates there.”

  I was public enemy number one at Fallen Crest Academy. Not much had changed. Fond memories. “What’d you talk about?”

  “What?”

  “You and Logan. What’d you two talk about?” That wasn’t what I wanted to ask him, though.

  He shrugged. “What we always talk about. Girls and lifting weights. What do you talk about with him?”

  My eyelid was beginning to twitch. Screw it. “Is your mom still dating David?”

  “Your dad, David?”

  I nodded. My heart began pounding.

  “Yeah. Why?”

  “You told me a couple months ago that you thought they were going to get married.”

  “I know.” He gave me a sheepish look. “I’m sorry. I overreacted. My mom told me that your mom and dad hadn’t been divorced at the time, but they are now. Aren’t they?”

  “Are they here?”

  “Your mom and dad?”

  “Your mom and my dad,” I shouted in his ear. The crowd had doubled, and we were pressed even closer together. I couldn’t see Adam anymore.

  “Oh.” He laughed at himself. “Yeah, they’re here. They’re with the adults. Why?”

  I shook my head. “No reason.”

  “Oh.” His frown came back. “Was I not supposed to say that? Is that a secret or something? I never know what’s going on.”

  “No, it’s fine. You’re fine.” I patted his arm for extra reassurance while a storm had started inside of me. “I’m going to go and find a seat.”

  “Wait.” He tapped my shoulder again. “We heard there’s a party at Fischer’s tonigh
t and Academites are invited. Is that true? Are you going to be there?”

  “Probably.” I waved at him again before moving away. “See you later.”

  “Oh. Okay.” His hand jerked up, and he waved it back and forth. “Yeah. See you.”

  Before going into the packed gymnasium, I needed to go to the bathroom. The lines hadn’t lessened and then I heard a buzz inside of the gym, followed by another deafening roar from the crowd. I’d been to enough basketball games to know the teams just left their locker rooms, which meant I needed to hurry. I didn’t want to wait in line so I turned a corner and went down one of the darkened hallways. Slipping past one of the gates, I jogged all the way to the bathrooms at the opposite end of the school. No one should be in them and I wouldn’t have to wait in line. I would get back by the time they finished their warm-ups.

  Everything was going according to plan.

  Pushing through the door, the bathroom was empty. It didn’t take me long. I finished and washed my hands. When I turned from the hand dryer, I stopped. Everything stopped. In hindsight, I would realize that the dryer drowned out the sounds of their entrance, but it didn’t matter. I couldn’t have stopped it from happening.

  Kate had come inside the tiny bathroom. Parker stepped around her, Jasmine and Natalie following behind. When the door closed behind them, Natalie reached up and locked the door.

  All four of them were dressed in black clothing with hooded sweatshirts. The four reached up and pushed back their hoods as one. Each had their hair tied back in a low ponytail.

  My stomach dropped.

  This wasn’t going to end well, but I couldn’t get past them. I couldn’t call for help. I tried to grin, failing miserably. “Payback?”

  Kate’s eyes turned feral. She lifted her top lip in a snarl. “This isn’t payback. This is your punishment.”

  Parker sneered at me, her hands hung loose beside her. They were ready to harm someone.

  I gulped.

  They were ready to harm me.

  Then she added, “This is the first wave.”

  Kate grunted, taking a step closer. “You should’ve quit school today. I gave you one last out.”

  Natalie spoke from the back, “Time’s up.”

  The room plunged into darkness, and I had one second. The sounds dimmed like earlier that afternoon. My breathing was now deafening in my ears. My heart started to race, but the fear threatened to paralyze me.

  I pushed from the sink and darted into a stall. Someone reached for me. They grabbed my shirt, but I didn’t stop. My sleeve ripped off, and I used that to my advantage. As they fell back with my sleeve, I punched at them. Someone cried out, I assumed it was Kate. The other three were behind her, but I got into the middle stall and locked the door. Before I had time to think, I dropped to the ground and flew underneath to the next stall.

  A foot stepped on me. I heard, “She’s in this one.”

  Fuck.

  The foot lifted in the air. It was going to kick me, but I thrust a hand out blindly. I caught it, but there was too much force behind it. It crushed two of my fingers, and I clamped my mouth shut. A scream wanted to burst out of me, but I swallowed it. Good god, I swallowed it. No sound. No tears. No cries. They couldn’t hear anything from me. I wouldn’t give them the satisfaction. Pushing past that blinding pain, I threw my shoulder up and into the person. It was enough. She fell back, and I heard more cries.

  “Get off me, Parker.”

  “It was that bitch.”

  “Let’s turn the lights on. This is stupid.”

  “No, someone might see. If the door’s locked, they won’t come in here.”

  “Shut up and get her,” Kate barked at them.

  I heard the pain in her voice. I must’ve hit her harder than I thought, but then I heard someone fall to the ground. They were trying to crawl in like I had. Flipping around, I kicked at them instead.

  “Ouch! Bitch!”

  I kicked them again, and again, and again. I kept kicking them. It was working, but suddenly two hands grabbed my arm, and I was yanked from underneath the last stall. The exit door was right there. I pushed to my feet and reached for it. My fingers hit it, but then I was pulled back again. I made for one last reach. I grunted from the effort, but I got to it. The lock moved down.

  I was thrown back to the floor after that. I couldn’t even turn over before fists were coming down on me.

  They hit my jaw.

  They hit my eyes.

  They pulled my hair out.

  They ripped my shirt.

  They punched my stomach.

  And then the kicks started.

  To my side. Down on my ribs. On my head. To the side of my head. Then to my hips. They wouldn’t stop. I couldn’t keep going. My eyes were swollen shut by now. I lifted my hands, but only to ward off their attacks. I couldn’t fight anymore. The pain was too much and I couldn’t get through them. The door was less than five feet away, but it could’ve been five miles now.

  “HEY!”

  Oh, thank god, I thought for a brief second. There was a pause, and they stopped.

  The door burst open and someone braked. Their sneakers screeched against the floor from their sudden stop. She choked out, “Oh my god.”

  “You—” Kate started, her tone menacing.

  They took off.

  No one moved. The door shut behind whoever it had been. Then Kate screamed, “Stop her!”

  Natalie was panting. “She’s gone. We should get gone, too.”

  “We’re not done.”

  “She can’t move. Let’s go.”

  “NO.”

  “Kate, you can’t kill her, and that freak saw us. We need to get to her before she tells anyone it was us.”

  Jasmine spoke up, a tremor in her voice, “You think she’s going to tell?”

  “Yes,” Natalie snapped at her. “Idiot. She’s going to get help for this cunt. Let’s go.”

  She stepped over me, but kicked me one last time before shoving through the door. The rest lingered, and she roared from the hallway, “LET’S FUCKING GO!”

  Each of them kicked me one last time on their way out. I couldn’t fight them. I knew it was coming, but the pain had paralyzed me. This wasn’t a pain that I could shut off. It didn’t take me away from my reality. I was here the whole time. I could hear, and I could think, but I couldn’t do a thing to stop them. When the door shut behind them, and I lay there alone, I finally gasped for breath. Even my mouth hurt. I could taste blood, and I felt its wetness all over me.

  Please don’t let them get Mason. Or Logan. That was my one prayer. Whoever they were getting, whoever would come through those doors again, I didn’t want it to be either of them. They couldn’t see me like this. They’d lose control. They’d do something horrific, and I couldn’t lose them because of this.

  “In there,” I heard someone yell from farther down the hallway. Their sneakers were pounding on the floor. I could feel their approach, and then their shapes blocked the light from under the door. They were right there, on the other side.

  Please not them, I prayed again to myself.

  When they started to open the door, I closed my eye … and then I waited.

  A woman choked out, “Oh my god.”

  That wasn’t Mason or Logan. It wasn’t someone I knew. My eyelid opened, but I could only see through a small slit. They were too swollen for much more.

  Gentle hands touched me as she knelt beside me. “Oh, dear. Samantha?”

  The girl remained in the back, but she spoke up, “They were beating her. All four of them.”

  “Who, sweetheart?” The warmth in that voice washed over me in waves. She touched the side of my face and turned it to the side. More light shined on me, and she sucked in her breath again. “Oh, dear.” She glanced up again. “Who did this to her?”

  “Some other girls.”

 
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