It wasn’t that Mike was stupid. He just didn’t really try. Truth was he never had to try. People loved him easily. The girls always wanted to date him while the guys wanted a solid bromance. Teachers let him slide by with ‘good enough’ grades so he wouldn’t be kicked off of the football team. He was never put into a position where he had to put forth much effort. That was until his ACT scores weren’t that great, which didn’t pair well with his subpar report cards, making it harder for the scholarships to roll in for him. I could tell that my parents were growing wary of Mike not being offered a full ride like they thought he would’ve been.
They were holding their breath waiting for a letter to come stating that he’d at least been accepted into a college.
“Well, I think that’s wonderful, James. You worked hard for it. You deserve all the success coming your way,” Mom said.
James smiled and thanked her. “Hopefully this dope will be joining me out there,” he said, shoving Mike in the shoulder. Every now and then I could feel James’ stare falling over to me, but I hardly reacted.
“At this point, we’ll take anything,” Dad huffed. I watched Mike’s mouth tighten with annoyance. I wondered if Dad knew how harsh he’d been lately.
“Ah, the letters will be arriving soon, I’m sure of it. Mike’s the smartest person I know, besides Miss Beautiful over here.” James leaned toward Nadine and kissed her cheek. He stared at her as if no one else in the world existed, even though I was positive that we all did. I wondered what it felt like to be looked at as if I were the only thing that mattered.
* * *
After dinner, Nadine stopped in my room while the guys played some video games. She sat on my bed, flipping through my sketchbooks and telling me how talented I was. I wished she knew how much she shouldn’t have liked me.
“I heard some of the things people have been saying about you at school. They’re jerks,” she said, placing the books down onto my mattress. “For the record, I think it’s brave what you’re doing, having the baby.”
“Each day at school as I’m being called a whore and slut, I rethink the decision.”
“Don’t. It’s brave.” Her stare faltered to the ground. “James and I went through the same thing, but I had a miscarriage.” My eyes widened as I listened to her talk. “He didn’t want me to have the kid, anyway. He said he had plans for his future, as if I didn’t have plans, too. After the miscarriage he cried, though. I still don’t know if they were happy tears or sad.”
“I had no clue.”
She shook her head. “No one did. It was over the summer when we took a break. But if I’d had a chance, I would’ve kept it, too. So screw everyone at school with their small-minded thoughts. Hold your head up high, and keep going. Even on the bad days, just remember why you’re doing it.”
“Thanks, Nadine.” Gah. She really, really shouldn’t have liked me.
She smiled and left the room.
James popped into my room next, closing the door behind him. “Hey,” he said. His hands were stuffed in his jeans pockets as he swayed back and forth. “Sorry about showing up tonight, but Mike kept begging Nadine and me to come over. I didn’t want things to seem weird, so I thought I should come.”
“It was weird. It is weird.”
He sighed. “We should talk.”
“Your brother said you were keeping the baby. Is that true?” he asked sheepishly.
My jaw tightened, and I dug the palms of my hands into the side of my mattress. “You told me you two broke up because she was treating you terribly. You said you two were going different ways in life.”
“We were…” His head hung low like a puppy caught destroying a cushion.
“You left out the fact that she was pregnant.”
“You came into my room and you told me how Nadine treated you like garbage. You built her up to be this monster. You said you always liked me. You ran your hands through my hair calling it beautiful. You called me cute and touched me, kissing my neck, my stomach. Then tonight I find out that your girlfriend never treated you like crap. She loved you. She loves you.”
“I was in a bad place that night,” he whispered, still not looking at me.
“You told me how you cared about me. Was that all crap just to sleep with me?”
“No. Of course I care about you, Aria. You’re my best friend’s kid sister.” Kid sister. Ouch. “That night Mike and I’d been drinking. I’m not proud of it or anything and I never meant to hurt you.”
Hurt me? “James you screwed me and got me knocked up. Then for weeks you pretended like you never slept with me, and got back together with Nadine—you know, the other girl you screwed and got knocked up. You honestly have the most determined sperm in the history of sperm.”
He didn’t reply. I hated that he blamed it on alcohol. I hated that the reason he really broke things off with Nadine was because she wanted to keep the baby. I hated that he was able to walk around school with no one knowing the truth of what we did.
It wasn’t fair.
“What’s the deal with you and Levi Myers?” he asked out of nowhere. “Are you two a thing or something?”
Me and Levi?
I didn’t reply, because what right did he have to ask me that question?
James and I were in completely different situations, even though we equally played a part in the pregnancy. No one was vandalizing his locker at school. No one was calling him a whore. He was pretty much known as a god at Mayfair Heights.