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“Fight! Fight! Fight!” he shouted, jumping up and down. “Kick his ass, Mike!” Simon yelled toward the guy fighting.


Aria’s brother was the one throwing the punches, and he was also getting a few hits to his own face. “Call my sister a whore again! I swear to God, do it, asshole!” Mike said, slamming his hand against the guy’s jaw.

I hurried over and pulled Mike off of the guy.

His eyes were wild with anger and he looked at me once before storming off. Simon clapped his hands together, excited with the craziness of his first house party, and then he kindly bent over and threw up on my shoes.

What a perfect freaking night.

* * *

I was happy that the weekend from party hell was over Monday morning. Simon texted me telling me he had the time of his life, which was good for him. It was weird knowing so much more about him and how much blame he put on himself for what happened to his sister, therefore I was kind of happy I was able to aid in his night of freedom.

He kept talking about the party for the next three days, trying his best to not say anything about it around Aria, but I knew he would slip up soon enough.

“We’re skipping school today, Art,” I stated on Thursday as Aria walked up to me in the woods at 5:55 A.M. She was still rubbing the sleep out of her eyes and yawning in her sweatshirt and pajama pants.

She’d been joining me for the morning deer feedings almost every day when she wasn’t feeling sick. Whenever she didn’t show up, I would leave a pack of saltine crackers on her windowsill.

“Did you get my best friend wasted this past weekend?” She yawned.

“I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

She gave me a knowing grin.

“Okay. He might have been wasted this past weekend, and I might have been there with him.” I smirked. “He was a bit heartbroken over Abigail rejecting him, so he asked me to go out for a manly night with him.”

“But I thought she liked him?”

“I know. Freakin’ women, I tell ya.”

She narrowed her eyes. “Watch it. Hormonal pregnant female here.” She chuckled.

“I also almost got my ass kicked by a guy who thought I was screwing you over.”

“What? By who?”

“James Martin. He told me that if I was screwing with your emotions, he would kick my ass because you’re like a sister to him. Later that night he also told me that I was messing around with some girl named Heather, which was a surprise to me seeing how I’d never heard of her.”

Aria’s mouth dropped. “Seriously? He said I was like a sister to him?”

“Yeah. He seemed to really care about you. Which I can’t fault him for.” I smiled.

She didn’t. She huffed. “Oh my God. I’m going to kill him.”

“I’m going to place the murdering side of you in the pile of hormonal pregnant things, too.”

“No. That’s not hormonal. That’s just the facts. I am going to kill him.”

“Oh. Well, then I am a bit terrified, yet oddly turned on by this dark side of you. If killing him is your goal, that’s fine and dandy. But just not today. Today we’re skipping school.”

“What are you talking about?” she asked, reaching for a few berries for the deer from my tin bucket.

“We’re. Skipping. School. Today,” I repeated, this time slower.

“Don’t be silly,” she replied, leaning against a tree. I leaned against the one beside her.

“I’m not being silly.”

“You are.”

“Says who?”

“Says me.”

“The girl who’s skipping school today?”

“No, the girl who’s not skipping school today because she’s already behind in her classes.”

I sighed. “I’ll help you with homework,” I offered.

“You hardly do your own homework.”

“Homework is overrated.”



“I’m sad we aren’t skipping school,” I said.

“Why would we skip anyway?”

I reached into my back pocket and pulled out a pair of tickets. Aria’s eyes fell to the tickets. “It’s your birthday present.”

She snatched them out of my hands. “Shut up.”

I shut up.

“You got tickets to the Jackson Pollock exhibition?”

I didn’t reply.

“Are these for real?”

Silence from me.

“Why aren’t you talking?!”

“You told me to shut up.”

“Well, talk now.”

“Okay. I got us tickets to the Jackson Pollock exhibition, but today’s the last day.”

She frowned. “It’s in Richman. That’s a two hour train ride away.”

“Then we better leave soon.”

“I have a therapy appointment after school.”

“Then we better return early.”

“You really want to skip school?” she asked, a bit of hope in her voice.

Only if you do. “Yes.”

She didn’t reply right away. She stared at the tickets in her hands while I stared at her. I tried to count each freckle on her nose, and when I lost count, I started over.

“I’ve never skipped school on purpose.”

“There’s always a natural high doing something for the first time.”

Her lips turned up. “We’re totally skipping school today.”

I wanted to do a dance, but she would’ve thought I was a dork.

But then again, she already thought I was a dork, so I did a jig anyway.