- Art & Soul
“This is the girls’ room, Levi,” I whispered. He laughed. He thought I was funny. I was actually being extremely serious.
Then he frowned slightly. “Why didn’t you say something to them?”
“I don’t care what they think.”
“Is that why you just had a panic attack?”
The back of my hands brushed against my cheeks, then under my chin. “I didn’t.”
Cocking an eyebrow, he gave me a ‘bullshit’ look. He leaped off of the counter. Before I could say anything else, two girls walked into the bathroom giggling and paused when they saw me and Levi standing there. They started to giggle again and walked out—not before muttering a nice ‘slut’ comment. Great. Just what I need.
Pinching the bridge of my nose, I closed my eyes. “Look, I don’t need you feeling sorry for me. I don’t need your pity. Besides, you’re coming off as a really creepy new guy and the last thing I need in my life is more creeps.”
I didn’t mean the words, and I regretted them the moment they left my lips, but I was embarrassed and wasn’t sure how much more I could take. Having Levi standing in the girls’ bathroom with people walking in staring at us and calling me a slut was too much. Being pregnant was too much. Levi treating me in such a caring way was too much.
It was all emotionally draining and pushing him away was the one thing I could control. I didn’t need his caring gazes and adorable smirks.
He didn’t reply. His head lowered, and he stuffed his hands into his jeans as he walked away and muttered an apology.
I was officially a jerk.
* * *
When I finally built up enough courage to leave the bathroom, I turned to my left to see James, my brother’s best friend, standing in front of my locker, reading the red lipstick. James had always been a staple in my family’s life—he was Mike’s version of Simon, pretty much. He was also my first, longest running crush since I was eight.
I liked to think of James as a born socialite. He was friends with everyone no matter their high school social status. From the stoners, to the nerds, to the jocks, James befriended every group. That was part of the reason why it was so easy for me to crush on him when I was younger.
Funny how it only took one night to change all of my thoughts about him.
James looked up and gave me a half smile. “Aria. Hey.” I swallowed hard and stared into his worried eyes. “Is it true? Are you…?”
My head lowered. “Yes.”
“And is it…” He paused, glancing around the empty hallways. He took a sharp breath and stepped closer to me. “Am I…?”
He muttered ‘shit’ under his breath. His fingers tugged at the collar of his sky blue Calvin Klein polo. “Are you sure it’s mine?”
I must’ve looked shocked, because he quickly retracted his words.
“Sorry. That was an asshole thing to say.” He pinched the bridge of his nose and took a deep breath. “What I meant was, are you going to handle it?”
“Handle it?” I asked, raising an eyebrow.
He whispered, “You know…are you going to get rid of it?”
I didn’t reply.
How could I reply to that?
“You gotta understand, Aria. Nadine and I are in a really good place with our relationship right now. Plus, I have football and am getting ready to go off to college next year. This would ruin everything for me. I can’t really afford to deal with this kind of thing in my life right now.”
My eyes moved to my lipstick locker.
Pretty sure you’re not the one dealing with this.
My stomach tightened, and for a second I thought about slamming my fist into his perfectly slender nose. “Thanks for your kind support, James. You truly have a way with words.” I rushed out of the school building. All of the buses and most of the cars in the parking lot had already left. Mom sat in her Audi, looking at her phone.
Great. Now the doctor’s appointment.
My body slumped. I dragged myself to the car and collapsed into the passenger seat.
“Where the heck have you been, Aria?! I’ve been waiting here for over thirty minutes and you haven’t been answering your phone!” she hissed, annoyed with my tardiness. “Do you know what kind of stress you’ve been putting on us? Your father is on the edge of a breakdown, I had to make way too many calls to get you set up with a great therapist, Ms. Franks can only watch Grace and KitKat until six, I have to work third shift at the hospital tonight, and you have an appointment in five minutes across town and now we are going to be late!”
I looked up at her and my mind tried to form words about how much of a shitty day I’d just experienced. I wanted to unload all of my emotional garbage into her lap but the thoughts in my head were all just turning into a giant mess.
My bottom lip trembled as I locked eyes with Mom. Her stare softened from her irritation. She nodded once, and only once, in understanding. “Okay,” she whispered, unbuckling her seatbelt and moving closer to me. Her arms wrapped around my shoulders, and she pulled me into her side. “Okay.”
I sobbed uncontrollably into her side.
And she didn’t let go.
I wasn’t a stranger to panic attacks. I’d watched Mom fall into them all the time growing up. They had a way of engulfing a person, swallowing them whole and spitting them out to the point that they weren’t recognizable. That was why I had to check on Aria in the bathroom. I had to know she was okay, because I’d seen the fallout of people when they weren’t all right due to their own minds.