I peeked over the top of my book and stared at them. Jordan’s face was red, and Cheryl seemed more than amused by the fact that he was upset.
“No,” Jordan hissed, grabbing her tightly by the arm.
I put my book down.
“No. You don’t get to do this. Not without a real reason.”
“You want a real reason? Fine.” Cheryl yanked her arm from his grip, and she stood up tall, staring him square in the eyes. “I slept with Hank.”
Jordan’s eyes grew wide. “What? No, you didn’t.”
“I did.” Her eyes widened too, and a wicked grin found her lips.
Oh no. She was about to crush his spirit, the same way she’d crushed many other guys in our hallway.
“I screwed him at Tim’s party when you were sick, and at his house when I told you I was getting my hair done, and in my room yesterday when—”
Jordan closed his eyes and his hands wrapped into fists. “Hank is my best friend.”
She snickered and lightly shoved him in his chest, forcing him to step away from her. “You should choose your friends more carefully.”
Her laughter faltered as her head flew sideways when Jordan’s hand slapped her hard. Her back slammed against the wall and her body slid down to the floor.
I hadn’t a clue how it happened, but the next thing I knew, I was standing in the hallway, holding my novel in my hand, ready to knock Jordan out if he stepped an inch closer to my sister. Cheryl’s face reddened from his hit, and her hand gripped her skin.
“You’re a fucking whore,” Jordan said, spitting at her, his words hitting me hard, his actions hitting me harder.
He screamed at her, his voice cracking. “You fucking whore!” he shouted, slapping her hard across the face. She stumbled backward and whimpered, her hand flying to her cheek. “I gave you everything. We had a life together. What about our son? What about our family?” He slapped her again and again. “We had a life!” He shoved her to the ground and his eyes popped out of his head, as if he was crazy—disturbed.
“You’ll come to your senses, trust me,” Jordan told my sister. “And I’ll be waiting when you come running back to me.”
I raised my arms up high, seconds away from hitting him. I stomped my feet, my mind traveling from past to present day with each blink of my eyes. Over and over again I stomped my feet until Jordan turned to look my way. When our eyes met, I stepped back.
Jordan’s dark side was showing. Everyone had a dark side, their own personal devil that they kept chained up most days. The devil whispered lies into individuals’ ears, filling them with fear and doubt, pushing them to do dark things. The main goal was to control the sounds of the devil, to only allow it to peek out of the closet where it was chained up. The devil could only truly take over one’s mind if the person freed him, and allowed him inside.
Jordan’s devil broke free of his chains that night.
His darkness scared me.
I blinked slowly, and when I reopened my eyes, Jordan had a sly smile on his face. “What the hell are you gonna do, freak? Are you going to silently beat me to death with a book?” He came toward me and launched forward like he was going to hit me.
A sharp yank to my dress sent me backward, the poppy in my hair flying across the forest floor. His fingers were wrapped around my dress and he tossed me to the ground. My breaths weaved in and out and I screamed as he tackled my body, placing all of his weight on top of me, his filthy hands covering my mouth, muting my shouts.
I kicked and screamed, screamed and kicked. He was going to kill me.
When I opened my eyes, I was on the floor, covering my face with the book in my grip, shaking from fear, shaking from memories. I hated that part of me—the one that sometimes slipped back into the past. I hated how it shook me, how it still had a hold on me at times, but mostly, I hated when others noticed. Most of my panic attacks I’d been able to keep hidden. Most of the panics were a secret of mine.
He laughed at my reaction. “What a fucking nutjob. I’m out of here.”
He hurried down the stairs and slammed the front door on his exit.
With haste, I stood up and rushed to Cheryl’s side. I bent down, reaching my hand out to help her up. She swatted it away.
“God, Maggie. Why don’t you just get a life of your own and butt out of mine?” she grumbled, standing up and rubbing her cheek. “You’re so embarrassing.”
She hurried to her bedroom and slammed her door shut.
I rushed over to my bedroom, grabbed my notebook and a marker, and ran back to Cheryl’s door, knocking.
She opened it and rolled her eyes. “What do you want?”
I scribbled on the paper. You didn’t sleep with Hank.
She ran her fingers through her hair and shifted on her feet. “Go away, Maggie.”
You were shopping with Mama yesterday. You didn’t sleep with Hank.
“It’s none of your business.”
Jordan hit you.
“I provoked him.”
He hurt you.
“I pushed him, Maggie. I pushed him.”
I gotta tell Mama and Dad that he hit you.
“Will you just shut up, Maggie?” she whisper-shouted as she reached for the page in my notebook and crumpled it up, tossing it into her room. “You don’t understand anything about relationships or boys, even. That’s just how Jordan gets sometimes. I push him, and he pushes back. Stop making a big deal out of things. Not everyone is as traumatized and damaged as you, okay? And just because you’re a freak and don’t have a life of your own doesn’t mean you can meddle in mine.”
I stepped back.
For a second, Cheryl’s upper lip twitched and her eyes glassed over; perhaps she was feeling regret for hurting my feelings? She shook her head back and forth, shaking off the feeling. “I’m not going to apologize, all right? You pushed me, Maggie, so I pushed back. Anyway, Jordan and I aren’t even together anymore, so it doesn’t matter. I’m on to bigger and better things now. So if you don’t mind…” She took her hand and waved me off. “Bye.”
I sighed and walked off to my room, back to my quiet corner of the world, and picked up my book once more.
Sometimes I wondered what it’d be like to leave the house, but if there were people like Jordan outside those doors, I was better off staying at home.