I narrow my eyes, wondering if he’d go through with it. “You wouldn’t do that.”
He gives a short, cynical laugh. “Try me.”
On Monday I’m sitting in Isa’s living room pretending I’m not thinking about Monika and my lie to her that I’d be at school today. When I woke up this morning, I did actually think about hopping in the shower and going to school. But that was a fleeting thought. I’m not going to graduate anyways since I’ve missed so much school and probably can’t catch up, so what’s the point?
Just as I’m about to watch TV to zone out every thought running through my useless brain, Isa barges in wearing her oversized overalls to match her oversized Latina attitude. Damn, I wish I’d locked her out. Then I could pretend I wasn’t here.
I lean back. “Hey.”
“I’m havin’ an intervention.” She stands between me and the TV. “I’m done with you sittin’ on your ass doing nothing.”
“I’ve had a rough couple of weeks,” I say casually. “I just want to be left alone.”
“I’m sorry you lost your friend. I know all too well what it’s like to lose people you care about. But I’m drownin’ in work downstairs, and you’re MIA.” She gestures to my attire. “And you’re a fucking mess.”
“Sorry? That’s it?” Her dark eyes are like daggers right now. “If I don’t get this backlog of work done, I’m gonna lose my shirt and I’ll have to sell the place.”
“I can’t work right now.”
She points to the television. “Because you’re sittin’ on your ass watchin’ some dumb cartoon?”
I’m trying to stay calm. “Don’t give me shit. I don’t need it, Isa.”
“So what? You’re gonna be a bum the rest of your life?”
“Not a bum. I prefer to call it a ‘free spirit.’” I want her to go away and stop challenging me so I can go back to being a slug. She’s making me think. I don’t want to think, especially today when Monika expects me to be at school and I know I’m letting her down by ditching again.
“You’re acting like an idiot,” Isa spits out.
“I am one. You were a gangbanger, Isa. You have a lot of experience with idiots,” I say.
Her face gets all red. “Don’t you dare go there, Vic.”
“I’m just sayin’… maybe you can give me some pointers.”
She takes the remote control and whips it at my chest. Her gang tattoos might be permanent, but she left the thug life behind when her friends were shot dead from the same gang she pledged her loyalty to.
“You’re not the first one to lose someone, you insensitive pendejo,” she says, her biting words meant to strike hard before she storms out.
Her words bite. Too much.
I wonder how much lower I can sink.
Waking up today was easy. Looking forward to seeing Vic at school made me jump out of bed and forget the aches in my joints. Since Trey died, everything has been screwed up. Having Vic back at school will bring some normalcy to life—at least that’s what I’ve been telling myself.
I pull into the school parking lot and, with a fresh spring in my step, walk to the senior hallway.
“Hey,” I say to Ashtyn and Derek, who are sitting in front of their lockers.
Ash looks up at me. “You’re smiling.”
She nudges Derek. “Do you see that? My best friend is happy today.”
Derek nods. “Yep. I see it.” He sounds unsure when he looks up at me. “Congratulations?” Ash whacks him in his arm, and he shrugs. “Sorry, I don’t know what to say.”
Ash rolls her eyes and stands. “Guys are clueless.” She hooks her arm around mine. “I’m glad you’re doing better,” she says. “I was worried about you. You don’t call me back, and whenever you text me it’s so short.”
“I know. I’m sorry.”
She shoos away my words with a wave of her hand. “Don’t be sorry, Monika. I’ve been conflicted on whether or not I should push you to do stuff or leave you alone. We all miss Trey—and Vic.”
Ashtyn and Vic are good friends on and off the football field. I know it’s been hard for her not having him around. Trey’s death left a void in our group of friends. The fact that Vic left has made life unbearable, which is why it’s so important that he comes back.