Fallen crest public, p.19
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       Fallen Crest Public, p.19

         Part #3 of Fallen Crest High series by Tijan
 

  Wait—I knew that voice. Images of Heather’s friend flooded me. It was Cory.

  Then the lady asked, “Can you and your friend go find someone for me?”

  “The principal?”

  “Yes, dear, but I’d also like you to find someone else.”

  “Okay.”

  Gone was the goth girl from earlier, with her constant glares and venom-laced words. Cory reminded me of a little girl in that moment.

  “Do you remember the gentleman that was standing next to me?”

  “Yes.” Her voice dipped again with emotion.

  “Go get him.”

  “Who is he?”

  The hand rested on her arm this time. It was strong and healing. I felt this woman’s courage through that touch, and I drew in a shuddering breath. I needed it. I needed every bit of strength this woman was giving to me.

  “Try to be quiet about this. We don’t want to draw a lot of attention.”

  “Who’s that guy?” Cory questioned again.

  I drew in another breath. I didn’t know why she was insisting, but it felt good. Like she was looking out for me.

  Then I heard the answer, “That man is Samantha’s father.”

  The door closed again. I felt the small draft. It was soothing against the burns from everything else. Then the woman moved so I could see her. Dark eyes and brown curls framed her face. Malinda Decraw smiled at me, though I could see the hesitation in her. She nodded, but it was as if she were reassuring herself. She murmured, “We’re going to get you some help, Samantha. I promise, honey.” Her last word stumbled out and hitched on a sob. “Everything will be fine.”

  Her hand brushed my hair back. Her fingers trailed through it, and I wondered if it was the only place she could touch me. She repeated again, speaking to herself now, “Everything will be fine …”

  My dad was there.

  That thought was on repeat in my mind. For some reason it helped block the pain. He came with Principal Green and both of them had been quiet since they came in. I couldn’t see them. Malinda kept patting my hand. I wasn’t even sure if Cory had returned with them.

  When they began discussing plans, and I heard the word ambulance, I tried to tell them not to call for one. My lips cracked open and blood rushed inside my mouth, but I swallowed enough so I could talk. “No.” It came out as a whisper.

  “David.” Malinda stopped their quiet conversation. Her hand patted mine. It was so gentle. “She’s trying to say something.”

  “Hi, honey.” He stepped so he was in my line of sight and plastered a fake smile on his face. It was one of the worst I’d seen.

  I tried again, “Don’t call them.”

  “What, honey? Sammy, sweetheart.” He knelt down and bent closer to my lips.

  I repeated, “Don’t call them. I can walk.”

  “Samantha,” he stopped and moved out of eyesight. There was a sniffle, followed by a cough before he came back. The light from above reflected off a trail of moisture on his face, but there were no tears. He said again, “You can’t move. We have to get an ambulance. There could be internal damages.”

  I tried to shake my head. Mason and Logan couldn’t know. They’d react without thinking or worse. I felt a different pang go through me. They might assume it had been the Roussou people. That would be worse. I whispered out again, “No, please no.”

  “I’m sorry, honey.” He lifted a hand to pat my hand, but held it in the air. There was nowhere to touch.

  Malinda moved her hand. “I don’t think she’s hurt here.”

  He closed his eyes and took a couple breaths. They came out sounding jerky, but then he reached over and touched my hand in the same spot. He patted it, but it was so light it was more of a gentle graze. “Honey, Samantha, your principal’s already gone to call them.”

  I sucked in air through my cracked lips. I wanted to protest.

  “But we’ll have them come through the far end door. People at the game won’t see then.”

  The relief was overwhelming. Fresh tears came to me, and they spilled down my face, stinging as they slid over the damage.

  He added, “You don’t want Mason and Logan to see you right now, do you?”

  I stopped trying to talk, but I shook my head. It was the smallest movement I could muster. I was trying so hard.

  “We won’t let this out, but the paramedics have to come and get you. We’re scared of moving you.”

  I closed my eyes. I could breathe easier, as easily as I could. He understood. Mason and Logan wouldn’t find out until later. I hoped to be the one to tell them, if I could, but when the EMTs came in with a stretcher, I was beginning to realize that it would be a long while until I could do anything for myself. When they rolled me onto the stretcher, I couldn’t move. My ribs ached. My chest pounded. Sharp pangs stabbed me, shooting up and down, all over me.

  As we rolled down the hallway, I saw Cory beside the lockers. She stood there with Rain huddled behind her. Their hands looked as if they were clasped together, but I couldn’t be sure. When her gaze caught mine, she lifted one side of her mouth. I tried to relay my thanks. She saved me.

  I couldn’t see her anymore as they wheeled me the opposite direction and out a back door. I barely felt the cold air. It stung my face, but the rest of me was wrapped in a blanket. I could move my legs, even wiggle my toes, but they hurt. Everything hurt.

  “Yo, what’s that?”

  Principal Green let out an exasperated sound. “If you two are here for the game, you should be on the other side of the school.”

  “Relax, dude. We don’t even go here.”

  “Then you’re trespassing. Get off the school’s grounds. Wait,” his voice rose, “get away from her.”

  “Relax …” the voice trailed off, and I saw Brett Broudou standing above me. When he recognized me, his eyes widened, and his mouth opened. The cigarette he had poised at his mouth lowered. “Whoa …”

  “Who is it, Brett?”

  That must’ve been Budd.

  I wanted to look away, but I didn’t. He wouldn’t move. He kept staring, so I looked back at him. A storm of emotion flashed in his gaze before he demanded, “Who did this to you?”

  “That’s enough,” my dad stepped forward. He held a hand up and moved him back. “She needs to get to the hospital, son.”

  “Son,” Budd ground out from somewhere. There was a bitter laugh in him. “You hear that, Brett? Geezer called you ‘son.’ We’ll show you ‘son’. We’ll show you a whole different meaning—”

  Brett snapped at him, “Shut up, Budd.” He gentled his tone and asked, “Is she going to be okay, sir?”

  My dad paused, frowning at him. “Are you friends with her?”

  I needed to tell him. I had to stop him.

  “Sir, I met her at Manny’s.”

  “Brett, come on.” Another menacing growl from Budd. “This is fucking ridiculous. Her pussy’s damaged now. Let’s focus on the Kades.”

  That got my dad’s attention. His head jerked to wherever Budd was. I could still see Brett, and I saw him flinch, before he sighed and moved out of eyesight.

  “Let’s go.” Principal Green stepped forward. His authority came out full force, and he pounded a hand on the ambulance’s door. “David, don’t even bother. I recognize these two. They were banned from the game. I’ll have security take care of them. You go with your daughter.”

  “She’s your daughter?”

  “Who cares? We need to go, Brett. They’ll escort us out, and we’ll have to sneak back in. Let’s tail it now.”

  Principal Green stood above me now. He was watching them, but he glanced down. He gave me one reassuring look before he murmured quietly to me, “I won’t tell, Sam. They won’t know.”

  The relief was overwhelming. Again. Tears burst forth, but I couldn’t wipe them away. They had strapped me to the stretcher so I wouldn’t shift any bones or my insides. I was in so much pain.

  “David,” Principal Green said as my stretc
her was lifted into the ambulance. The paramedics got me into place. “You can go with her. Malinda already took your car. She’s going to meet you there.”

  “Yeah, okay.”

  When he climbed inside the ambulance, he sat as close to me as possible. The doors were shut, and it wasn’t long until the engine was started. As it turned onto the street, David reached out and took my hand. I’d never seen him this sad. He brushed at a tear, but tried to smile for me. “Don’t worry, honey. You’ll get looked at and everything will be fine.”

  No, Dad. Everything wouldn’t be fine.

  That was the truth. I was just realizing that I still hadn’t let him in on it.

  When I left the locker room, only a few were still in the gymnasium. Most were heading to Manny’s and then to Fischer’s for a big damn party. I knew Logan was riled about it, had been during the whole game and after. When I saw him jumping up and down near the bleachers, and our mom watching him, I rolled my eyes. Logan was ready to tear into someone.

  “Honey.” Helen stood up from her seat and gave me a gracious smile. If Sam were there, I knew she would’ve been self-conscious. My mother dressed to impress. I never cared what clothes she wore, but it mattered to her what others thought. She pressed a kiss to my cheek and she patted me on the shoulder before moving to press her hair back in place. “You were fabulous. It was a close game, wasn’t it?”

  Logan snorted, but kept jumping up and down. He was rubbing his hands together before jabbing them into the air.

  “We won by four points. It was close, Mom.”

  “See. I know a little about basketball.”

  I didn’t care. “Did you see Sam here?”

  She stiffened before shaking her head. “No, honey. Was I supposed to look for her? I’m sure she sat with some of her friends.”

  Logan snorted again, still jumping. “She doesn’t have friends at this school.”

  “Logan.”

  “What? She doesn’t. It’s your fault, not hers.”

  Helen skirted between us. “Are you suggesting Samantha has no friends because of her boyfriend?”

  “Yeah, Mom, I am.” He stopped jumping and gave her a dead look. “Your son’s the cream in a pussy’s food dish. The claws come out. Bitches and pussies fight over that shit. You should be proud.”

  When Helen didn’t respond, I chuckled. “Don’t worry, Mom. You can be proud Logan’s the cat’s meow.”

  Horror flashed first as she twisted around. “Logan? She’s with you now?”

  Logan glanced at me. We shared a look before he rolled his shoulders back, squared his chin away and threw out his cocksure attitude. “Is this news to you? I’m hurt that you’re even surprised by this.”

  “I … I …” she sputtered, drawing to her tallest height. “I’m not. Of course not, I’m just taken aback by the camaraderie between you two. There’s no hard feelings?”

  “Why would there be?” Logan asked, throwing an arm around my shoulders. He lifted up on his tiptoes so we were the same height and then he patted me on the arm twice. “She dips in both of our cream dishes.”

  “Logan!” We waited as she swayed on her feet, a hand to her chest. Then she sputtered again, “This is disgusting. I implore both of you to break up with this girl. If she’s doing what you’re insinuating, this will go down a bad road. Trust me. You both need to stop seeing her.” She paused and an old flare came over her. “Her mother alone is a good enough reason to try for someone better. Horrible breeding. You both need to preserve where your semen goes. Once you’ve reproduced, there’s no going back. That child is in the world for the rest of your life—”

  I’d had enough. “Mom.” I shrugged Logan’s arm off me. “We’re joking with you. Sam’s still my girlfriend, and it’s not her fault she doesn’t have friends here. Some of the other girls are jealous.”

  “Oh.”

  We waited. One second.

  “You two are horrible children. To joke like that? Why would you even think about something like that in the first place?”

  “Relax, Mom.” Logan threw his arm around her shoulders. When she tried to smooth out her shirt’s collar, he said to me, “I already asked around. No one’s seen her.”

  Heather was working. Sam knew her old classmates would be there. It made sense if she opted out. “She’s probably watching a movie at home or something.”

  “Or she’s already at the party and getting drunk.”

  Sometimes my brother really pissed me off.

  “What?” He flashed me a grin. “It’d be awesome if she were. My sis needs to get drunk more. Last time she did, she and Tate got into it. That was hilarious.” His smile turned wistful. “I’d pay money to see something like that again.”

  “Okay.” Helen gave us a kiss on our cheeks. “I can tell where this is going so I’m going to be heading out myself.”

  When she collected her purse from the bleachers, Logan asked, “Are you going back to the hotel?”

  She snorted. “Oh no. I’m not eighty years old. I’ve got plans myself. I’ll see you both for dinner tomorrow night? Samantha is always welcome to come. Please extend the invitation to her.”

  “Wait.”

  She paused. “Mmm?”

  “So what are you doing tonight?”

  “Mason, son. I do love you, but just because your girlfriend doesn’t have girlfriends doesn’t mean every female can’t have girlfriends. It’s a girls’ night tonight. I would tell you both not to wait up for me, but you never do. I’ll just say my farewell with, ‘Don’t impregnate anyone tonight.’ How’s that?” She waved at them as she headed for the doors.

  I waited until she was through the door before I commented, “Mom doesn’t have friends.”

  “She has cousins.”

  “Sisters.”

  “Sisters-in-law.”

  “But no friends,” I finished. We shared a look before I cursed. “She has a date tonight.”

  Logan groaned. “There went my pre-buzz. That’s like my foreplay before partying.”

  “I want to get drunk tonight.”

  “I’m down with that.”

  We started for the door and as we went through the gym doors, heading for the building’s exit doors, I heard my name called. I couldn’t see who it came from so I kept going. We hadn’t gotten far from the doors before two people stepped from the line of trees near our Escalades. As I recognized the Broudou brothers, five more followed them.

  Logan gave me a pointed look. He was down for whatever happened. It was the look we’d been using since childhood. Fuck it. If this was the time, this was the time. The need to bust someone up was with me and I was done waiting to get even with them. “You put my best friend in the hospital. I thought the next step was ours.”

  Budd shook his head, and the skin on his neck shifted from the movement. He brought a bat out from behind him and tapped it against his leg before leaning his weight onto it. “Well, we were going to do that.” He gestured to his brother beside him. “Brett wondered if that was smart. I think he said we should kick the pooch while it’s down. I heard he got a few broken ribs and he’s being baby-sat by his rich mommy and daddy. It was all over our school. The famous movie folks are back in Fallen Crest.”

  Logan narrowed his eyes. “You think we’re some goddamn pooches?”

  “You’re a man down.” He made a show of looking around. “Looks to me like no one else is around.”

  “We heard there was a big party,” Brett added.

  Logan snorted. “Aren’t you supposed to be banned from our campus?”

  “Yeah.” Budd laughed, the sound was menacing. “They caught us twice, but we keep coming back. We’ll keep coming back, you know. That’s how we operate. No damn Kade is going to beat us.”

 
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