The words hang in the air before falling to the ground like lead. Trystan offers the woman a crooked smile as he steps away from Brie. “You’re mistaken, although I’ve heard that I’m hotter than Day Jones.” He winks at the reporter before turning toward his locker. Trystan’s mind is reeling a mile a minute. All he could think to do on the fly was to deny the whole thing. There’s no way they can prove he’s Day Jones.
The reporter is momentarily stunned, but Brie laughs and catches his shoulder. “Trystan! Tell her the truth. Tell her that you’re Day!”
“I’m not Day Jones.” Trystan is wearing his most charming smile, trying to hide the knots in his stomach, and then he does what he always does when things get unbearable – he acts his way out. With enough charm and vibrato, no one sees what’s real and what’s not—well, no one but Mari. He scans the hall for her, but she’s not in sight.
Brie laughs that high pitched giggle that drives him insane as her catlike claws drift up and down his arm. “Oh, come on, Trystan. Everyone knows. There’s no reason to be shy about it anymore. Tell the reporter what you told me.”
He gives Brie a blank look before responding to the reporter. “I have no idea what you’re talking about. It was nice meeting you, but I need to get to class.” Trystan intends to shoulder past the crowd. People are speaking in hushed whispers, trying to figure out what’s going on. About half the group believes him. Good. Tucker catches his eye from across the hall. The teacher’s arms are folded across his round chest while he watches the situation unfold. Just as Trystan starts to leave, Brie catches his elbow.
“You’ll have to forgive him for this. When he wrote that Day Jones song, Trystan swore that he’d never tell anyone about it, but it was for me. See, I have it right here.” Brie holds up a piece of paper and waves it around.
The reporter takes it and looks down at the sheet. “Is this your handwriting, Mr. Scott?” She tilts the paper so he can see it, but Trystan already recognizes it. It’s the song he wrote for Mari.
Brie is beaming and still tethered to his arm. She lets go and steps in front of Trystan, taking the paper and turning it over. “Look at the last line. That’s the original version. He wrote it for me.” Brie is all girlish charm and warm smiles.
Trystan can see the avalanche of crap hurling toward him but nothing will allow him to side-step it. It’s too late. The paper has damned him. He could deny it, and say Brie’s a lying whore, but what good will that do? They already know. The crowd of students and teachers grows louder. They sense it. The reporter is talking, but her words sound like noise in his ears. A teacher steps up and nods, confirming that the song on the paper is Trystan’s handwriting. Someone shoves a guitar at him, as Trystan stands there unblinking. His mind is caught, reliving the worst parts of his life—and realizing that everyone is going to know. It’s a matter of hours before they dig up the police report from the other night. Trystan shoves the guitar away and shoulders his way through the crowd without looking back.
I’ve never crashed so hard, so fast, before. Trystan tenses next to me when he sees the people around his locker. Before we even make it to his locker, Trystan is engulfed in the mass of bodies, all of which are brimming with excitement. I stand there for a moment and feel sick for him. Trystan is going to hate this. I wonder how they found him, how they know.
At that moment, Brie steps between us. She takes Trystan’s arm and pulls him forward. Just before she does it, she looks over at me with a sharp smile. Acid fills my stomach. I don’t know how she figured it out, but she did. I feel my feet sliding backwards, moving away from the crowd. Suddenly, Katie is beside me.
“Holy shit, Trystan is Day Jones?” She’s smacking gum in her mouth and staring. When I don’t answer, Katie stops chewing and looks over at me. Bright blue eye shadow is painted across her eyelids. “What’s with you?”
The mob seems to get sucked down the hallway. It forms a chasm between me and Trystan—a gaping hole is expanding and swallowing him—and there’s nothing I can do about it. Katie’s eyes are on the side of my face. Her gaze flicks toward Trystan and then back to me. I hate this. It’s as if I can feel his skin crawl even from here. I don’t see Trystan look up for me and there’s no way to get to him. I turn back and duck around the corner with my heart racing like someone is trying to kill me. I’d pull the fire alarm if it would help him, but nothing will help him now. Maybe this was meant to be? Maybe he needs this?
Katie’s knuckles wrap the top of my skull. “Hello? Earth to Mari.”
Jerking my head out of the way, I manage to avoid getting my brain knocked again. “Cut it out, Katie,” I snap.
“So let me get this straight. You were with Trystan this morning before he was ambushed by reporters, doing God-knows-what in the basement.” She ticks off two fingers as she says it, acting like it’s no big deal, even though it is. I know she wants to scream and giggle with me, but we can’t right then because everything is falling apart. So, last night doesn’t matter, not after this. She senses my worry and it makes her mood drop.
I have my back to the wall and suck in a huge breath. I keep telling myself that this isn’t bad, but it feels horrible. I nod at Katie.
“So, you’re still stuck on him and now Brie wants him back, right?”
“What?” I glance up at her and try to shove away the nauseous feeling that’s making me sweaty. I didn’t think of that. Is that what she’s been doing this whole time? How did I miss it? Jaw hanging open, I manage, “You think Brie wants him back?”
She smirks at me and gives me a look that clearly says I’m an idiot. “Yes, for starters she’s a whore and secondly, if Trystan is Day Jones, she’s going to let everyone know that they were together. It’s not like Brie to just be pushed aside, not when something this big happens. Trystan was her first and only long term relationship—well, long term for Brie. Add to the fact that she’s a glory-hog and yeah, there’s no doubt she’s after Trystan.”
Acid is creeping up my throat and no matter what I do, I can’t calm down. No one knows about Trystan and me, nobody realizes we’re together, and right now he’s not with me—he’s with Brie talking to reporters. I want to slam my head into the lockers, but I don’t. My mind drifts to what things will be like without Trystan. I knew it was coming next year, but I couldn’t picture it until this second. My heart flutters nervously as I realize what it means—no more Trystan to run lines with, no more teasing in the basement, no more friendship, no more anything—Trystan Scott won’t be here, but I will. The hollow space inside my chest fills with dread. I’ll spend the next year waiting to graduate, waiting for college, and trying to manage my craptacular parents without him.
I shove off the wall and dart down the hallway to the office with Katie on my heels. “Where are you going? Class is that way.” Katie points behind us, but continues to follow me to the office.
I shove through the doors and hear the women chattering about Trystan, wondering if their golden boy is really Day Jones. They’re excited for him, I can hear it in their voices.
“That kid needed to catch a break,” one woman says. She’s standing next to the humming copy machine, running off worksheets.
They look up and see me at the counter. The secretary doesn’t get up from her desk. “Can I help you girls?”
Katie leans her hip against the counter and shrugs as she picks at her black nail polish.
Nodding, I say, “I’d like an application for early graduation.” The idea has been bouncing around in my head for a while now, but I was too chicken to act on it. It means defying my father, and I didn’t think I had the backbone, but at this moment I do. At this moment the acceptance letter at the bottom of my sock drawer looks like a way to escape and I plan to take it. The only obstacle is the application for early graduation. It was due weeks ago, so I don’t know what the chances are of the school giving me my diploma early, especially since the principal has the final say and the guy is a stickler for the rules. He’ll probably deny me without even looking at my transcript.
Katie’s jaw drops and she stares at the side of my face. I never told her that this is what I wanted, or that I was even thinking about it. The truth is, leaving her early will suck, but staying here will suck even more. She gapes at me and a wad of gum tumbles out of her mouth. “You can’t graduate early! Why would you want to do that? Senior year is almost here—it’s time for fun—and you’re going to cut out on me? Who am I supposed to hang out with at senior cut day? What about at lunch? We can finally leave campus. What about prom, Mari?” Katie’s shocked posture says it all—how could you leave me?
Trying to explain is difficult, but my senior year won’t look like hers because of my parents. “Katie, my senior year is going to be all advanced classes. It’s not going to be fun because my parents won’t let me slack off, so what am I waiting around here for? I could go take the classes at college.”
The secretary digs through the filing cabinet next to her desk, and then walks over and hands me the paper. She taps at certain parts, including the deadline. “It’s already passed, honey, but it can’t hurt to try. I’ll add it to the stack if you get it back to me by the end of the day.” She winks at me as she speaks. “And if it’s accepted, you walk with this year’s graduating class. You’re cap and gown will cost extra because you’ll be paying for a rush, you can’t get a class ring because it’s too late, and unless you already submitted your college applications I’m not sure who’ll take you this late in the year.”
Taking the paper, I say, “Thank you.” I stand there filling it out with Katie burning holes into my head. After jotting down the reason, I thank the woman, and head out without another word. Katie trails behind me stomping her feet on the floor much louder than normal. She’s mad, I know she is. “I can’t stay. Not after this.”
“But, why?” She races up to walk next to me just as the bell rings.
I can’t say it. The words are in my head but I can’t force them out.
Just as we round the corner, I see the mass of people standing there by Trystan’s locker, but he’s gone. Teachers are telling everyone to get to class. That’s when I see Brie walking toward me. Her books are clutched against her chest and there’s a triumphant smile on her face. As she passes, she says, “I couldn’t have done it without you. Thanks for leaving that song where I could find it, Virgin.”
I stiffen as she passes. Her words hit me like a steady stream of bricks. That’s why Trystan’s song was on the floor behind the desk. She must have taken a picture of it last night and printed it out. The reason they know Trystan is Day Jones is because of me.