My head is swimming when Brian reaches for me. I let him grab me by the elbow and pull me toward his chest.
“It’s me or Silas,” he says again. He’s being bold since I already punched him for touching me. But I’m not thinking about him. I’m thinking about the girl, the shrimp, wondering if she’s back there, hiding behind everyone else. “I need an answer, Charlie.” He has me so close that when I look into his face I can see the freckles in his eyes. “Then my answer is Silas,” I say softly.
He freezes. I can feel the stiffening of his body.
“You gonna show up for practice today?” Landon asks. He’s already standing outside my door and I don’t even remember pulling into the parking lot of the school, much less turning off the car. I nod, but fail to make eye contact with him. I’d been so lost inside my own thoughts during the drive over, I didn’t even think to prod him for information.
I’ve been hung up on the fact that I didn’t wake up with memories. I was hoping Charlie was right—that we would wake up and everything would be back to normal. But we didn’t and it’s not.
Or at least I didn’t wake up with memories. I haven’t spoken to Charlie since last night, and her text this morning revealed nothing.
I didn’t even open the text. It flashed on my lock screen and I read enough of the first sentence to know I didn’t like how it made me feel. My thoughts immediately wandered to who might be picking her up and if she was okay with it.
My protective instincts kick in whenever it comes to her, and I don’t know if it’s always been that way or if it’s because she’s the only one I can relate to right now.
I get out of the car, determined to find her. Make sure she’s okay, even though I know she more than likely is. I don’t have to know any more about her to know that she doesn’t really need me to take care of her. She’s fiercely independent.
That doesn’t mean I won’t still try.
When I enter the school, it occurs to me that I don’t know where to begin searching for her. Neither of us can remember which lockers are ours, and considering this happened to us both during fourth period yesterday, we have no idea where our first, second or third period classes are.
I decide to walk to the administration office and see about getting a new copy of my schedule. Hopefully Charlie thought to do the same, because I doubt they’ll give me hers.
The secretary is unfamiliar, but she smiles knowingly at me. “Here to see Ms. Ashley, Silas?”
I start to shake my head no, but she’s already pointing me in the direction of an open office door. Whoever Ms. Ashley is, I must visit her enough that my presence in the office isn’t unusual.
Before I make it to the open office door, a woman steps out. She’s tall, attractive and appears extremely young to be an employee. Whatever she does here, she hasn’t been doing it long. She barely looks old enough to be out of college.
“Mr. Nash,” she says with a vague smile, flicking her blonde hair back over her shoulder. “Do you have an appointment?”
I pause and stop my advancement toward her. I glance back at the secretary right when Ms. Ashley waves it off. “It’s fine, I have a few minutes. Come inside.”
I move gingerly past her, taking in the nameplate on the door as I enter her office.
AVRIL ASHLEY, GUIDANCE COUNSELOR.
She closes the door behind me and I look around the office, which is decorated in motivational quotes and typical posters portraying positive messages. I suddenly feel uncomfortable. Trapped. I should have said I didn’t need to see her, but I’m hoping this counselor—one I apparently visited regularly—will know a few things about my past that may be of help to Charlie and me.
I turn, just as Ms. Ashley’s hand slides down the door and reaches the lock. She turns it and then begins to saunter toward me. Her hands meet my chest and right before her mouth connects with mine, I stumble backward and catch myself on a filing cabinet.
What the hell?
She looks offended that I just shook off her advance. This must not be unusual behavior with us.
I’m sleeping with the guidance counselor?
I immediately think of Charlie and, based on our obvious non-commitment to one another, I question what kind of relationship we had. Why were we even together?
“Is something wrong?” Ms. Ashley says.
I turn slightly and take a few steps away from her, toward the window. “Not feeling very well today.” I look her in the eyes and force a smile. “Don’t want to get you sick.”
My words put her at ease and she closes the space between us again, this time leaning in and pressing her lips against my neck. “Poor thing,” she purrs. “Want me to make you feel better?”
My eyes are wide, darting around the room, mapping out my escape route. My attention falls to the computer on her desk, and then a printer behind her chair. “Ms. Ashley,” I say, gently pushing her away from my neck.
This is wrong on so many levels.
She laughs. “You never call me that when we’re alone. It’s weird.”
She’s too comfortable with me. I need to get out of here.
“Avril,” I say, smiling at her again. “I need a favor. Can you print a copy of mine and Charlie’s schedules?”
She immediately straightens up, her smile whisked away at the mention of Charlie’s name. Point of contention, apparently.
“I’m thinking about switching a couple of my classes so I won’t have to be around her as much.” Couldn’t be further from the truth.
Ms. Ashley—Avril—slides her fingers down my chest, the smile reappearing on her face. “Well, it’s about time. Finally decided to take the counselor’s advice, I see.”
Her voice drips with sex. I can see how things must have started up with her, but it makes me feel shallow. It makes me hate who I was.
I shift on my feet as she works her way to her seat and begins clicking at her keyboard.
She pulls freshly printed pages from the printer and walks them over to me. I attempt to take the schedules from her hand, but she pulls them away with a grin. “Uh-uh,” she says, shaking her head slowly. “These are gonna cost you.” She leans against her desk and lays the sheets of paper beside her, face down. She brings her eyes back to mine and I can see I’m not leaving without appeasing her, which is the last thing I want to do right now.
I take two slow steps toward her and rest my hands on either side of her. I lean in to her neck and can hear her gasp when I begin to speak. “Avril, I only have five minutes left before I have to be in class. There’s no way I can do all the things I want to do to you in just five minutes.”