Fallen crest public, p.8
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       Fallen Crest Public, p.8

         Part #3 of Fallen Crest High series by Tijan

  Logan snorted as he stood up. “Detention? What will the coach say? I’d miss practice.”

  “Leave, Mr. Kade.”

  “Leaving, Principal Green.” Logan flashed him a grin and lifted two fingers in the peace sign. “Remember my tip: Don’t give your number out to hookers and no Facebook. It’ll save you a lot of trouble.”

  As soon as the door closed, I stated, “We didn’t do anything.”

  “I know. They know that, too, but someone else did. Budd and Brett Broudou. They went to Quickie’s and beat up a clerk. When the clerk was questioned, he indicated an earlier incident with them this week. He said you almost fought them.”

  “They beat the guy up?”

  “Yes, they did.” He cleared his throat. “Everyone is aware of the strained relationship between the two schools. There have been past incidents and this is my warning to you, Mason. Stop it. This rivalry with Budd and Brett Broudou needs to stop. This is between them and you, but both parties have included their schools. Other students will be hurt by this. Have you considered those consequences?”

  My tone went cold. “I’m aware of the consequences.”

  Then I left. Principal Green didn’t stop me, but it wouldn’t have mattered. I didn’t care to listen to any more advice from him. I was more aware of the consequences than anyone else.

  As the rest of the week passed, I was in an alternate universe. Logan was pissy because I disapproved of Tate, who continued to stop at his locker every chance she got. Nate was pissy … well … that was deserved. We kicked him out of our meeting. I was pissy with Mason because he didn’t disapprove of Tate anymore, or because he didn’t explain it to me. There must’ve been more to it than what he said. He didn’t have some ‘sudden’ realization that Logan wasn’t going to fall in love with Tate again. There was a reason—this was Mason—there was always a reason, and as the rest of the week wore on, I was starting to realize he wasn’t going to tell me.

  The conversation was avoided, and when I brought it up, he’d distract me. Of course, most of those places were distracting anyways. In the shower. In bed. In the car. The only place he didn’t try was in the kitchen. The one time I raised the question again, he ate quickly and left. Some excuse was thrown over his shoulder as he headed to his car.

  I wasn’t happy. I wasn’t happy at all.

  But when Friday came around and I found myself in an empty house, I was ready to admit defeat. I had no idea where anyone was, but I had a shift at Manny’s. The evening would go fast, or that was my hope.

  When I got there, there was no one. Crickets.

  The door shut behind me and sent an echo throughout the place. Brandon stopped wiping the counter and lifted a hand. “All hail, Strattan.”

  “Are you trying to be funny?”

  “Not you, too.” His grin vanished.

  “Not me what?”

  “You’re crabby.” He gestured inside the kitchen with a glass and towel in hand. “You and my sister. What’s in the water at that school? She’s been crabby all week.”

  “Shut up, Brandon!” I heard through the door. “Just be happy you’re still getting dates.” Her voice became clearer as she stood in the doorway. Her hand was in her hair; it looked stuck there. “You’re almost a has-been, tending bar for a living.”

  “Screw you. I own this side, remember?”

  She rolled her eyes, stalking past him and shoved open the screen door. When it banged shut behind her, she plopped down in one of the lawn chairs. The smell of cigarette smoke soon drifted inside.

  The usual sibling camaraderie had vanished.

  Following her outside, I took one of the other chairs. “What’s wrong?”

  Flicking the end of her cigarette, she got up and shut the solid oak door. Letting the screen door shut after it, she sat back down and took a long drag before she shook her head. Her voice trembled. “Have the Tommy P.’s done anything to you this week?”

  I frowned. “What? No.” And I was surprised by that. They’d been so grrr and threatening before, I had expected something. “Why?”

  Taking another long drag, she reached inside her pocket and held her phone to me. “They’ve been sending me texts all week.”

  “About what?”

  She snorted. “Can’t you guess?”

  I could, but I didn’t want to. They were starting with my friend. I knew this was the beginning. The first one read: First warning, bitch.

  I rolled my eyes at their originality and clicked on the next: Second warning, cunt. Again. So original. The third and fourth were the same, more warnings followed by an expletive. Then they started getting interesting. The fifth read: Ditch the bitch or you’ll be sorry. Something new. The sixth was different: You used to cut. The word is out. Wanna know who told?

  I paused and glanced over. Heather was on her second cigarette already. I held my tongue and read the next one: We know about your mom. Want that out too?

  Heather told me her mom left when they were kids. I wondered what more there was to the story, but went to the eighth text: Fire Strattan. If you don’t, we’ll destroy your daddy’s livelihood.

  I couldn’t read the rest. A sick feeling took root in my gut. “I’m sorry.”

  Heather ground out her second cigarette, and lit a third right away. As she settled back again, she shook her head. “Brad plays ball with Natalie’s cousin. Never considered warning my oldest brother not to say a word. I’m guessing that’s where she learned all that stuff.” Her voice quivered.

  “You used to cut yourself?”

  She inhaled a long deep drag before shaking her head. “In the seventh grade. That’s when my mom took off. I was an idiot. She was a horrible person, but I didn’t want a dad that first year. I wanted her back. I blamed him for everything, even though she was the one that cheated, and she was the one that left us. He stayed. She didn’t, but I wanted her.”

  There was more to the story. I heard the pain in her voice. “Your mom cheated?” Something we had in common.

  She nodded, looking so bleak and defeated. The wind picked up and blew her hair back. It flattened her shirt against her small frame. She was already slender, but the material was so thin that I could see her ribs. Knowing she couldn’t have lost so much weight over just this week, it still made me feel guilty.

  “I’m sorry,” I told her.

  “For what?” She was almost done with the third cigarette. “I don’t like being told what to do. That’s what she used to do. Kate and the tomboy bitches are just like my mom. I hate being told what to do.” She drew in another drag, cursing at the same time. “They want to tell me what to do? Tell me to drop someone who’s been a better friend than most of my others? I’m starting to really hate them, Sam. I’m talking really hate them, like I want to cut them how I used to cut myself.”

  I didn’t know what to say. Heather had stood by me, but she’d been distant all week. “You never told me about your friends? They didn’t look happy with you the other day.”

  “Yeah.” She drew her knees up into the chair and wrapped her arms around them. They were like twigs. Still holding the cigarette, she drew in a deep breath. I saw how she swallowed, grimacing at the same time. “I can’t really blame Cory or Rain.”



  “Her real name is Rainbow?”

  “No.” She blew out a puff of smoke. “Her real name is Ginnie, but we call her Rain. She’s always wearing something with a rainbow. Always has, now that I think about it, since the sixth grade when she moved here. Rain’s short for rainbow.”

  “You said she’s an albino.”

  “Yeah,” her voice softened and her eyebrows set forward. Frowning to herself, she grew thoughtful. “Kate was being the bitch she is, making fun of her. Cory stuck up for her and the two have been close ever since. Helps that Cory understood. Kate’s been picking on her since the third grade, I think.”

  “No wonder they don’t like me.”

s not you.” Heather shook her head, lifting the cigarette again. “It’s Mason and Logan. It’s not even them really, it’s just because they were friends with those girls for so long. They’re why Kate and the Tommy P.’s got so powerful, you know? They gave them weight or cred or whatever. No one wanted to mess with the girls that were ‘friends’ with the top guys.”

  “Hey!” Brandon banged on the door. “Game’s going to be over in an hour.”

  Heather groaned, finished her last cigarette and put it out.

  “What game?”

  Both frowned at me. “The basketball game.”

  “Fallen Crest …” A foreboding sense of dread kicked in. “Public?” I didn’t need to see their reactions.

  “Mason and Logan never said anything?”

  “No …”

  “Don’t sweat it. It’s like another day at the job for them. They’re more about football games, aren’t they?”

  “Yeah …” But it still stung. Whatever. Another shitty thing to add on to this week. “So what happens after a game? What are we in for?”

  “Before your guys made this the popular hangout? Nothing. We would’ve gotten a few stragglers in, but now it’s going to get packed. Our regulars know not to come in. Even Gus, and you know how much he loves his seat, but they know we’ll get swamped. A few girls from school texted and said everyone’s planning on heading here. It’s going to get nuts.”

  Forget Mason. Forget Logan. I had a job to do. “You want me in the front or back?”

  “I’d say screw it and work the front, but Frank is sick.”

  “So the back it is.”

  “That’s okay with you?”

  It felt like I’d been kicked again when I caught a look of pity in her eyes, but I ignored it. Tried to, but it hurt. No one said a word about the game. I didn’t have any friends at school. I couldn’t hear it from them, and Heather had been distant on her own. I saw her in the hallways, before and after school, but she had started leaving campus during lunch the last couple of days. I’d been distracted. Mason began waiting for me at my locker during lunch. They had an open-campus policy, so we took advantage of it and left to grab fast food. Most of the time was spent on the drive there, getting our food, and then eating it as soon as possible on the way back. Any free moments were spent in the parking lot with a few stolen kisses and some heavy petting. He made sure his car was always parked away from the school and surrounded by his friends’ vehicles, so no one could spy on us.

  And thinking about other students, I said, “No one really made a big deal about the game. At Academy, there would’ve been pep rallies. Posters and banners would’ve been everywhere. I don’t remember seeing any this week.”

  Heather pulled open the doors as we went inside and answered over her shoulder, “There were flyers, but not that much. Everyone just knows about the game. They go if they want, they don’t if they don’t want to. Besides, the basketball games aren’t like the football games. Those are nuts.”

  “Are you kidding?” Brandon piped in from behind his counter. “The basketball games are nuts, too.”

  “I know, but she’s asking why it wasn’t really talked about at school.”

  “Oh.” He nodded. “It’s because everyone just knows about it. That’s how it was during my days.” A wide grin came over him. “I remember those days fondly. Good days. Good memories.”

  Heather rolled her eyes as she tied on her server’s apron. “You mean, good pussy?”

  “Ah.” The wide grin stretched in a full smile. “Easy pussy is more like it. I didn’t have to search for it. Those girls came to me. I can’t imagine how the Kades have it now. Compared to them, I was nothing. They’re like gods.”

  It felt like a knife stabbed me in my chest.

  Heather made an exasperated sound. “You’re an idiot.” She jerked her thumb at me.

  “Oh.” He sounded sheepish, letting out a weak laugh. “Sorry, Sam. You know what I mean, not that I remember Mason indulging in pussy like Logan does, but—”

  “Just shut it, Brandon. You’ll be doing us all a favor.”

  I held a hand up, shaking my head. “No, you guys. Really. I am aware of their near-celebrity status. This is nothing new to me. I live with them, remember? Logan’s got a new girl over almost every day.” But that wasn’t true. He was gone most of the time. During the week we had all settled into a new routine. Logan was usually the first to leave, or he would leave the night before and not come home. He must’ve kept half his closet in his car because he never wore the same clothes twice, and he was always showered for the new day. Nate was the next to leave. He’d dash out a few minutes before Mason and myself. While I’d be nibbling on a piece of toast in the kitchen, waiting for Mason, Nate would dart through, holler a goodbye, and be on the road before Mason would even come down the stairs.

  As for Mason and myself, we began a trade-off. We’d ride together in the mornings, unless I went on a run. I took my own car during those days, but when I would ride with Mason, I drove his Escalade home while he got a ride with Logan or Nate. If he forgot to give the keys to me during lunch, they would be waiting for me in my locker. There wasn’t a lot of time for us to talk because he had basketball practice, and I’d usually be itching for a long run, sometimes my second one of the day.

  “Game’s over,” Brandon called out. He was looking down at his phone. “We won: thirty-two—nineteen.”

  “Here we go.” Heather took her place behind the counter. I went to the backroom. It wasn’t until hours later that I remembered I had left my phone in my car.

  I left the gymnasium and pushed through the doors. A lot of the others had already gone. Most were headed to eat and then to Fischer’s party, but I needed to go to Manny’s first. Sam might not want to go and after the way I’d been dodging her question all week, I needed to make it up to her. Whatever she wanted was whatever she was going to get. My jaw clenched as I remembered the hurt in her eyes when she realized I wasn’t going to answer her. Shit. I couldn’t. If I did … no way in hell. I couldn’t. That was the end of it.

  My hand tightened on my bag as I crossed the parking lot. Logan’s car was still parked next to mine. What was my brother still doing here? Nate’s car was here too. Things were cold between the two, but they could joke around with each other. Still, I didn’t see them hanging out together, and I hadn’t seen either of them in the locker room. Coach needed to talk to me, and most of the guys were gone when I came out.

  “Hey,” Logan spoke up, straightening from his Escalade.

  I frowned. My little brother looked tired. “You need to stop with this whole sex marathon you’ve got going on.” Unlocking my car, I tossed my bag inside.

  Logan rolled his eyes. “Whatever. I hear you and Sam going at it all the time. Don’t you guys take a fucking break?”

  I grunted. Nice choice of words. “I can have all the sex I want with her. Know why? Because she’s my girlfriend, and I love her. I know my dick can be in her, and it’s safe. She’s safe. We’re not going to be having little Kades running around here anytime soon. Can you say the same?”

  “You’re such a dick.”

  “A dick that cares about you. Stop all the screwing around. You’ll catch something or you’re going to end up with a kid.”

  “What’s your problem?” Logan ran a hand through his hair.

  “You’re my problem. I mean it, Logan. Stop screwing around. Find a girl, get some feelings for her, and be rabbits.” He was pissed. We both knew it, but I wasn’t going to ask for the motivation of his sudden marathon. “There has to be some girl in this town that you could date who’s not Tate.”

  Logan shot me a dark look. “Get over yourself. I don’t love her, and you know it.”

  I narrowed my eyes, studying him before I relented. “Do whatever you want. Mom’ll love being a grandmother.”

  My brother shot me a different look now, one filled with dark humor. “Can you imagine that? Helen quilting little booties for the
kid? She’d flip out.”

  “If we thought she went nuts after the divorce …” I chuckled. “I’ve got a feeling we haven’t seen nothing yet. She’d go ape-shit.”

  “I’d feel bad for whoever the chick would be.” Logan shuddered, laughing at the same time. Then he stopped and studied me for a moment. “What are you going to do about Sam?”

  The amusement was gone.

  A cruel glint appeared and Logan added, “Mom’s moving back to Fallen Crest. What’s Sam going to do when you leave for college?”

  I cursed. “That’s for me and Sam to deal with. You don’t need to worry about it.”

  “Screw you, Mason. I care about her, too. We both know Mom’s going to want me to live with her. I, sure as shit, ain’t stepping foot in Dad’s place while he’s got Psychopath Barbie with him, and I’m not letting Sam go back there. No way in hell.”

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