This is the second chapter of a series continued from my last story titled “Introvert. Extrovert.” So many people have asked me to do this, and I was glad to be up for the challenge, more so that I have finally managed to do this. I know this ends with a cliffhanger, but there’s more to come, so don’t worry. Thank you so much for reading!
<span class=”dropcap”>I</span> should’ve punched her back. I should’ve. I mean, I did break one of my teeth, which still hurts, but you know what they say about pain: it starts to feel like someone else’s after a while. I should’ve punched her back. It’s the only thing on my mind as I get closer to the trees perfectly placed among the school’s red bricks. I don’t even care about the fact that the girl towers above me. I’ve never felt this strongly about something before. It somehow feels good.
I reach the stairs, my eyes fixed on the ground as usual. I hear footsteps, and then I hear whispers. They’re about me. They’re talking about me. I try to focus on what my therapist said. Not everything is about you. But I can’t help thinking about last night and the eyes that followed me as I fell to the ground. That bothered me more than the pain of getting punched in the face. Who did this to you? I remember someone asking, and I remember replying back, I don’t know, because I genuinely didn’t know her name then. I still don’t.
When I reach the classroom and yank the metal door open, it’s empty because I’m twenty minutes earlier than everyone else. I sigh in relief. Avoiding Cadence has worked so far. It’s stupid, because I’m doing it out of fear, not anger. I should be mad at her, like I am at the girl. That’s how it works. I didn’t forget her hands either, the hands that tightened around hers. As far as I know, she is a liar, a cheater, and a master manipulator, not only to me, but to everyone that cares about her. But I can’t pretend to know her because I don’t, not even after all those years. So intimidation gets the best of me. I’m not her. I have no friends other than Cadence, if I can even call her that now. I’m vulnerable. I know I am in no position to challenge anyone. She has nothing to lose, but I do.
As I sit down, I realize I’ve chosen the same seat as yesterday. I also notice that someone has filled up the hole that I worked so hard on last time. It irrationally annoys me, and so I spend the next ten minutes or so digging out the remains.
“Here,” I say, not taking my eyes off the hole.
The teacher goes through a few more names, then lands on one that gets no response: “Katherine Denton.”
I turn around. That particular seat is empty. I look around to make sure. And that’s when I realize two things: one that her name is Katherine, and the other that she is not here today. I know she’s not sick. She’s up to something. Knowing that does not help though, not unless I get to know about her other than her first and last name. I know one person that does: Cadence. Damn it, Cadence. But I can’t help myself as I sprint out of the classroom the moment the bell rings. I head towards the library where I know she always is, but halt when a swarm of students walk past me. They’re loud. So loud. I cover my ears and close my eyes. It hurts.
I remember my meds that I forgot to take this morning. I still have a bottle in my bag though, so I dig it out, taking one look at the label before swallowing a pill. Abilify. My hand reaches for the doors when I hear an unmistakable voice around the corner. Cadence. A face appears on the other side, and I open the doors to let him through.
“I know, Kat. I know.”
I hear silence followed by unintelligible murmurs, a sigh, then the sound of an ended call. Then I pick up my pace, walking straight towards her like an officer about to grab a criminal. She turns around just as I stop in front of her. I look up, but stop just above her lips. She clearly hasn’t expected me. Her eyes widen.
“Hi, Cadence,” I say. My voice shakes. God, why do I have to be like this?
“Ava.” She shifts her feet. She’s uncomfortable. I know we both are. “What are you doing here?”
I ignore her. “Where is she?”
“Kat. Where is she?”
Cadence crosses her arms, trying to look as cool as she does when she’s surrounded by her many other friends. “Why would I tell you that?”
“Because I saw you.”
I can see it: the fidgeting, the shaking. I see it because I usually see it in me.
“Look, I can explain,” she says, desperation evident in her low voice.
“I don’t care, and I don’t want you to,” I say. “I just want an address.”
“What are you going to do to her?”
“Is that what you asked her when she was planning to punch me in the face?”
I can’t believe myself, what I just said. But I get the response I was hoping for. She goes silent. I count the seconds. One, two, three…
“You cannot tell anyone else.”
“Deal.” I smile.
She spits out the address like a bug just flew into her mouth.
Eighteen stops. That’s how far Kat ran away from school. When I get off the bus, which no one else does, I find myself in front of a small hotel with an empty first floor as a garage and a door to the right. It looks like it’s about to fall off the hinges. What the hell is she planning here? I won’t lie. I’m scared shitless. But I’m here to do one thing and one thing only. And so when the bus moves forward, I have no choice but to do the same.
I open the door to find her talking to the front desk. I take a step back, hiding behind one of the columns and watching her as she heads towards the elevator without turning around. I stay back just long enough to watch her press the number 3. That’s all I need, I think as I run towards the stairs, ignoring stares from people in the lobby and from the front desk. I run faster than I ever have in my life, and that’s not saying much. By the time I’ve reached the third floor, I’m panting loudly, my chest heaving until I remember to be quiet and place my hands over my mouth. I hear the elevator creak open with a ding, and that’s when I open the door to come face to face with Kat herself.
I don’t wait for her to react. I raise my fist just like she did last night, preparing for revenge, but lower it back because something seems off. She doesn’t seem surprised to see me. In fact, she’s not moving at all. She doesn’t look like a runaway either, wearing tight jeans and a clean white shirt. Why? But I don’t think further. I’m mad. I take one step towards her. I raise my fist again and fling it towards her, only to have her catch it midair. I struggle, watching her other hand, which holds a key. Then she nods towards my direction but not at me.
I turn around as much as I can with my arms locked behind me.
Kat releases my arms. Whoosh. Something clangs against the back of my head, and I crumple to the ground. I raise my eyes just enough to see an aluminum baseball bat. My screams are muffled against the carpeted floor as I am dragged through the hallway. I try hard to stay awake, I do, but my brain cannot handle the pain added from yesterday, and so my eyes close against my will.
The baseball bat is the last thing I remember when I open my eyes back again. I hear a distant ringing in the back of my head. I raise my arms but stop, seeing that I’m surrounded by a bed too comfortable and too white. I immediately sit up and look to my right. A random picture of sunflowers. An orange bed lamp. A smooth, polished wallpaper. The hotel. I start to remember bits and pieces. The bus ride. The chase. The attempted punch. Then I look to my left.
I scream, because I am not alone. It’s Kyle, his eyes closed and mouth awkwardly open. I gingerly peel the sheets from him, expecting to see blood, but they are only as white as the rest of the bed. He still has his blue letter jacket on. My hand shaking, half with fear and half with hope, I press it on his chest and realize that he’s not breathing. My heart sinks.
All I can manage is a croak. My throat hurts. I frantically look around, and see a mug on the carpet and a pool of water on the bedside table. I don’t know when or how I will be the next victim, so I leap out of bed. I stop when my bare foot touches something round. I look down. It’s an orange bottle. I pick it up, my heart pounding. Its lid is missing, and so are the contents, except for a single green pill on the bottom. I read the label. Abilify.
Then I hear a knock at the door.