Page 4

“All right, hoodlums. Pull out a book and read. TGIF.”

Ten minutes hadn’t yet passed when I heard someone whisper my name—possibly my name. A few seconds later, it was louder, and I recognized the voice as Sonny’s. She was trying to get my attention. I didn’t dare turn around. Any hope of comprehending the words on the page in front of me was lost. I just stared at one word and hoped Sonny wouldn’t catch the coach’s attention.

Coach Morris perked up and nodded to the back of the class. “Yes?”

Sonny lowered her hand and sat tall in her seat with a smug expression. “I was just wondering what the school policy is on the AIDS virus.”

“What do you mean?” Coach asked.

“If one of the students has tested positive for AIDS, what does the school do to protect the rest of the students?”

“Why do you ask?” The curious light in the coach’s eyes had extinguished, and it was obvious that he knew Erin was up to something.

“I just heard today that one of our students has it, and everyone is nervous.”


“Because it’s contagious, and no one wants to die just because some skank wants to punish everyone else for her loose ways.”

“Loose ways,” Coach Morris deadpanned. “I can explain the school policy with you in detail after seventh period if you’d like.”

“I have cheer,” Erin said, annoyed that her plan didn’t work. “I’m sure the entire class would feel better hearing what you have to say.”

Coach sighed. “I think it’s more likely that you’re helping to spread a cruel rumor.”

A collective tittering made its way through the classroom.

“That’s offensive,” Sonny said. “What are you again? A karmologist?”

Coach chuckled. “Kinesiologist.”

“That’s what I said. You’d think a graduate of health science would typically consider my concern valid.”

Coach didn’t hesitate. “Common sense disagrees. Read your book. No more talking.”

His perceptive remark saved me from further ridicule for now, but the senior meeting after school was going to be considerably less fun.

“What are you reading?” A deep voice asked.

I barely acknowledged Weston’s question, holding up the cover of my book high enough for him to see.

He nodded, waiting for me to speak. When I didn’t, he offered a small smile, and sat back.

“What are you reading?” I asked.

Weston immediately leaned toward me, holding up his cover the way I had.

“Piers Anthony?”

Weston cleared his throat to stifle a cough then smiled. “I like his stuff.”

I nodded. “I approve.”

“Good,” Weston whispered. “I was worried.” After a short pause, he leaned into my ear again. “Why don’t you ever talk to me in Art class?”

We had seventh period Art together, the class I looked forward to all day. Weston was in it, but more important, people like the Erins and Brady weren’t. We were serious about our work, and it was the one place during the school day that I could be myself.

“I guess I was just busy.”

“Are you going to be busy today?”


“Well, maybe I’ll get lucky and you’ll take a break.”

I turned around to hide my grin, but not before glancing back and seeing the familiar look of hatred in Alder’s eyes.

Whore, she mouthed, glaring at me.


After seventh period, I put my books in my locker and walked slowly to the east hall, the fifty-minute-long high I’d been on with Weston during Art quickly faded with each step. I dreaded seeing everyone’s reaction when I walked through the door.

Brady and Brendan were sitting on top of desks, some students were looking at their phones, texting or checking social media, and the Erins were sitting at desks that were turned around to face everyone else. Mrs. Hunter, English IV teacher and senior class adviser, wasn’t there yet. Shit.

“What are you doing here?” Alder said. I didn’t answer, but that never deterred the Erins. “No one wants your opinion.”

I took a seat in the back near the door and hoped Mrs. Hunter wouldn’t be much longer.

Sonny feigned sympathy. “You can leave. No one gives a shit what you have to say, anyway.”

“It’s mandatory,” I said simply. “I’m not leaving.”

Sonny stood up. “You will if I make you.”

“Sit down,” I said.

Sonny’s expression morphed from annoyance to shock to rage. “What did you say to me?”

I looked her straight in the eye. “I’m staying. Sit down.”

Weston’s gaze bounced from the Erins, to me, and back. Sonny took a step toward me, and Weston stood. By the look on his face, even he was surprised at his reaction.

Sonny looked at him with utter disgust. “What are you doing, Wes?”

Weston cocked his head for a moment. He took a breath and blinked a few times, clearly unhappy about being in the middle of things. “It’s a mandatory meeting. No point in making her miserable over it. She probably doesn’t want to be here.”

“Weston!” Alder said, astonished.

Weston took a puff from his inhaler, staring his girlfriend in the eye. “Leave her alone.”

Just as both Erins’ mouths fell open, Mrs. Hunter breezed through the door and headed to the front of the class. “What did I miss?”

Weston sat down, and so did Sonny.

“Nothin,” Sonny grumbled.

“Okay, let’s get started,” Mrs. Hunter said, winded. “Who wants to be in charge of the senior assembly?”

The relief that washed over me made me emotional, more than I’d been in quite a while, but I kept the tears inside, refusing to let my classmates see me cry. They would just have to be disappointed for the day.

Chapter Three

“Bitches!” Frankie said, as she watched soft serve feed out of the machine. “I can’t believe she bowed up on you like that. What was she going to do? That’s right! Nothing!”

“Are you even talking to me right now?” I asked, amused.

“I would love to talk to the twaterati about it. Love!”

I laughed once and shook my head, letting the mixer blades make love to the M&M Blizzard I was making. When Frankie trained me, she said it looked a lot like giving a guy a hand job. I wasn’t exactly sure what that was like, but I would make someone very happy one day.