Page 29

He unlocks his door and reaches inside for his phone.

"It's dead," he says as he plugs it into the charger. "Give it couple minutes to get a charge, then you can call her."

"Thanks," I say as I lean against his truck and wait.

He stands next to me as we wait for the phone to charge. "It's snowing again," Javi says as he wipes something off my arm.

I look up and see the falling flakes contrasted against the black sky. I guess we're about to finally see what a Michigan Winter really looks like.

I turn to face Javi. I was about to ask him something about snow tires, or plows but it slips my mind as soon as his hands grasp my face and his tongue makes its' way into my mouth. I turn my face and push against his chest with my hands. When he feels my resistance his face backs away from mine, but his body is still pressed against me, pushing me against the cold metal of his truck.

"What?" he smiles. "I thought you wanted me to kiss you."

"No, Javi." I'm still pushing against him with my hands but he doesn't budge.

"Come on," he says with a smug grin on his face. "You didn't leave your keys inside. You want this." His mouth encircles mine again and my pulse starts to race against my chest. It's not the same reaction I get when Will makes my pulse race. This time it's more like fight or flight mode. I try to scream at him, but his hands are pulling my face into his so hard that I can't catch a breath. I try to move but he's using his body to pin me against his truck, making it virtually impossible for me to break free.

I close my eyes. Think, Layken. Think.

Just as I'm about to bite down on his lip, Javi pulls away from me. But he keeps going backward. Someone is dragging him away from me. He falls to the ground and Will straddles him, grabs hold of his shirt and sends a blow straight to Javi's jaw. Javi falls back to the ground but turns over and pushes off against it, causing Will to stumble backward.

"Stop!" I scream.

Will is knocked to the ground when Javi returns the punch. I'm afraid Javi is going to hit him again, so I throw myself between them just as Javi swings a punch intended for Will-straight into my back. I fall forward and land on Will. I try to catch a breath, but I have none. I can't inhale.

"Lake," Will says as he rolls me onto the ground next to him. His worry is fleeting, however, as rage fills his eyes. He grabs the door handle of the car next to us and starts to pull himself up.

"I didn't mean to hit you," Javi says as he walks toward me.

I'm on the ground so I don't see what happens next, but I hear a smack and I can see Javi's feet are no longer planted on the ground. I look up just as Will leans over Javi and delivers another punch.

"Will, get off him!" Gavin yells. Gavin is pulling Will back and they both fall to the ground.

Eddie rushes to my side and pulls me upright. "Layken, what happened?" She has her arms around me and I'm clutching my chest. I know I was hit in the back, but it feels like my lungs are concrete. I'm gasping for air, but I can't answer her.

Will rustles out of Gavin's grip and stands up. He walks to me and takes my hand as Eddie scoots out of his way. He pulls me up and puts my arm around his shoulder, wraps his other arm around my waist and starts walking me forward.

"I'm taking you home," is all he says.

"Wait," Eddie yells as she circles to the front of us. "I found your purse."

I reach out and take it from her and attempt to smile. Her hand goes up to her ear in the shape of a phone and she mouths 'call me.'

Will assists me into his car as I gently lean back against the seat. My lungs have refilled with air, but every breath I take feels like I've got a knife protruding from my back. I close my eyes and focus on inhaling and exhaling through my nose as we drive away.

Neither one of us speaks. Me, because I can't. Will because-I don't know why. We drive in silence until we're almost to the Ypsilanti city limits.

Will jerks the car to the side of the road and throws it in park. He punches the steering wheel before he gets out of the car and slams the door. His figure is illuminated by the headlights of the car as he walks away from the vehicle, sporadically kicking at the ground and cursing obscenities. He finally stops and I watch as he stands loosely with his hands on his hips. His head is leaned back and he's looking at the sky, letting the snow fall on his face. He stands like this for a while until he makes his way back to the car, sits down, and calmly shuts his door. He puts the car into gear and we continue to drive in silence.

I'm able to walk, my breathing has returned to normal, and the knife in my back feels more like a lump now. Regardless, he still assists me as we walk into his house.

"Lay down on the couch, I'll get some ice," he says.

I do as he says. I ease myself stomach first onto the couch and close my eyes, wondering what in the world just happened to tonight.

I feel his hand on the couch as he kneels down next to me. "Will!" I gasp as I open my eyes and actually see his face. "Your eye." There's a trail of blood running down his neck from a gash above his eye.

"It's fine. I'll be fine," he says as he leans over me. "Do you mind?" he asks as his hands grasp the bottom of my shirt.

I shake my head.

He pulls my shirt up over my back and I feel something cold compress against my skin. He places the ice pack on top of the injury. He stands and opens the front door, shutting it behind him as he leaves.

He left. He just left without saying a word. I lay there for a few more minutes, expecting him to return right away, but he doesn't.

I roll onto my side and let the pack of ice fall onto the couch. I ease my shirt back down and prepare myself to stand up just as the door bursts open and my mother runs in.

"Lake? Sweetie, are you okay?" She throws her arms around me. Will walks in behind her.

"Mom," I say weakly as I return her hug and cry.


"It's fine Mom, really," I say as she's tucking me into my bed, asking me how my back feels for the one hundredth time in the ten minutes that I've been home.

She smiles and strokes my hair. That's what I'm going to miss the most about her. The way she strokes my hair as she looks at me with so much love in her eyes.

"Will says you got hit in the back. Who hit you?"

I wince as I try to push myself up against my pillow.

"Javi. He's in my class. He was trying to punch Will but I got in the way."

"Why was he trying to punch Will?"

"Because Will punched him. Javi walked me to my jeep when I left the club. He thought I wanted him to kiss me. I was trying to push him off of me-I couldn't get him to stop. The next thing I know Will's on top of him, punching him."

"That's awful, Lake. I'm so sorry," she says as she leans forward and kisses my forehead.

"It's fine, Mom. I'm fine. I just need some sleep."

She strokes my head again before she stands up and flicks the lights off.

"What about Will? What's he going to do?" she asks before she closes the door.

"I don't know," I reply. Because at first, I think her question is referring to what he's going to do about Javi. But after she shuts the door, I realize she's asking what he's going to do about his job.

I lie awake for hours after that, dissecting the situation. We weren't on school grounds. He was defending me. Maybe Javi won't say anything. Will did throw the first punch, though. And the third. And the fourth. And probably would have thrown the fifth if Gavin wouldn't have walked up when he did. I try to recall every small detail of the entire night, in case I'm asked to defend his actions tomorrow.


The next day, I wake up to find Caulder in my kitchen with Kel eating cereal.

"Hey. My brother can't take us today. Says he has something he has to do."

"What does he have to do?"

Caulder shrugs. "I dunno. He brought your jeep home this morning. Then he left again." A spoonful of fruit loops goes into his mouth.


I can barely sit through my first two classes. Eddie and I spend second period writing notes back and forth. I told her everything that happened last night. Everything except for Will's poem.

I feel like I'm floating as we walk to third period. Almost like in my dreams when I'm hovering above myself, watching myself walk. I feel like I'm not in control of my actions, I'm just observing them as they are carried out. Eddie opens the door and walks in first. I follow slowly behind her as I make my way through the classroom door. Will isn't here yet. Neither is Javi. I inhale as I take my seat. The bustling of the conversation among the other classmates is briefly interrupted by a crackling over the intercom.

"Layken Cohen, please report to administration."

I immediately swing around and look at Eddie. She gives me a half-hearted smile and a thumbs up. She's just as nervous as I am.

There are several people in the office when I walk in. I recognize the principal, Mr. Murphy, speaking with two men I don't recognize. When he notices me walk in, he nods and motions for me to follow him through the door. When I enter the room, Will is seated with his arms folded at the table. He doesn't look up at me. This doesn't look good.

"Mrs. Cohen, please take a seat," Mr. Murphy says to me as he seats himself at the other head, opposite Will.

I choose the chair closest to me.

"This is Mr. Chorizo, Javier's father," says Mr. Murphy, motioning toward the man I didn't recognize.

Mr. Chorizo is sitting across from me. He stands slightly and reaches across the table and shakes my hand.

"This is Officer Venturelli," he says of the other man.

He follows suit and leans across the table, shaking my hand.

"I'm sure you know why you're here. It is our understanding that there was an incident involving Mr. Cooper that occurred off of school grounds," he says, pausing in case I need to object. I don't.

"We would appreciate it if you could tell us your version of events."

I glance toward Will and he gives me an ever so slight nod, letting me know he wants me to tell the truth. So I do. For fifteen minutes I explain in honest detail everything that happened last night. Everything except for Will's poem.

When I'm finished with the details and the questions have all been asked, I’m released to return to class. As I get up to leave, Mr. Chorizo calls after me.

"Ms. Cohen?"

I turn and look at him.

"I just want to say I'm sorry. I apologize for my son's behavior."

"Thank you," I say. I turn and make my way back to the classroom.

A substitute is filling in for Will. She's an older lady who I've seen in the halls before, so she must also be a teacher here. I quietly take my seat. I can't think about anything other than Will, and if I'm about to be the reason he loses his job.

When the bell rings, the class begins to file out and I turn to Eddie.

"What happened?" she says.

I tell her what happened, and that I still don't know anything. I linger outside the classroom door for a while, waiting for Will to return but he never does. During fourth period, I realize I'm not in the state of mind to learn anything, so I give myself the rest of the day off.

When I turn onto our street, Will's car is in his driveway. I pull my jeep up to the curb and don't even bother pulling into the driveway. I throw it in park and quickly run across the street. As soon as I'm about to knock on the door, it swings open and Will is standing there with his satchel slung across his shoulder and his jacket on.