* * *
I’m back in my room when my phone buzzes. It’s Alex.
R U awake? I’m around if you want to talk.
I whip my phone across the room. That ass. Like I’d ever speak to him again. He doesn’t deserve to hang out with me, and he definitely doesn’t deserve to make out with me. He associates with shit bags like Rennie and Reeve. He thinks they’re quality people, and as far as I’m concerned, that makes him just as bad as they are. They make me want to barf, every last one of them. They get away with murder on this island. They just do what they want to do, and screw everyone and everything else.
Today I told that girl in the bathroom that Reeve would get his, that karma’s a bitch. I meant it when I said it, but now I’m not so sure. When has Rennie ever had to pay for any of the evil shit she’s done to me? Never. I’m sick of waiting for karma. Karma can suck it.
I’M SITTING IN CHEMISTRY CLASS, AND I FEEL DIZZY from trying to untangle Mr. Harris’s blackboard notes. He’s written out a bunch of numbers and letters, trying to explain the process of scientific notation. I think it’s supposed to be a shorthand way to deal with infinite numbers. Only, I’m infinitely lost. I thought I was studying science, not math.
But the other kids in my class seem to have no problem following what Mr. Harris is saying. They’re nodding and scribbling things down in their notebooks. It’s been this way all day, in every single class except gym. It seems like the juniors in Jar Island High are smarter than me, and I should technically be a senior. I used to be smart. I always got good grades at my old school. Then my life got screwed up, and since the Reeve stuff, I’ve always been behind. What if the school decides to put me back another grade? I’ll be eighteen and a sophomore? No. That can’t happen.
I want to lay my head down on my desk and never wake up. I look over at the guy sitting next to me. Every time Mr. Harris turns around to write on the board, he carves something into his desk with the pointy end of a key. I lean closer to get a better look. It says, EAT ME.
* * *
After Reeve’s first day at my school, I tried to steer clear of him. Which wasn’t easy, because we had to ride the ferry to and from Jar Island together every day. Reeve would sit in the galley with the other passengers, and I’d go outside on the deck. Even when it started to get cold, I’d ride outside. I was fine with it. I actually like sitting on the deck, always have. But then one day when it was rainy, he saw me walking outside and called out, “Hey, Big Easy. Come here a second.”
Big Easy was the nickname Reeve gave me after a social studies unit on New Orleans and Mardi Gras. It caught on with my classmates really fast. The only person who used my real name at the Montessori was my teacher. I was Big Easy to everyone else.
Who would want to eat lunch with Big Easy? Or be science partners, or have sleepovers together? Nobody. I wouldn’t have wanted to be friends with me either. So how could I blame Anne for abandoning me? I couldn’t, but it still hurt.
I remember exactly how his voice sounded that morning. Kind of bored. I wondered if he’d noticed me, had thought of me standing out in the rain just to keep away from him. If that was why he’d called me over. Because he felt bad.
I wish I could travel back in time and push myself out that door and into the rain. But no. I walked over, as if Big Easy was my name. I even said “Hey, Reeve,” as if we were friends. And I smiled, too. I was appreciative. I was lonely.
Reeve looked up at me from his seat. After a second or two, he said, in a low voice, “Take one step to your right.”
I did what I was told.
Reeve slid off the edge of his seat, and it flipped up, the same way the seats do in movie theaters. Then he crouched in front of it on the floor, his back to me, and pulled something out of his pocket.
“What are you doing?” I whispered.
Reeve didn’t answer me, but I could see his shoulders start to shake up and down. I heard scratching noises.
I glanced over my shoulder. Behind me the old woman inside the snack booth was reading a newspaper, waiting for customers. I guess she felt me staring, because she lifted her head and smiled at me. I forced a smile back and then turned and pretended to be watching the storm through the windows.
That’s when I knew—Reeve was using me for cover.
I didn’t want to get in trouble. But also, I felt . . . useful.
When he was done, Reeve sat back on his chair. He flicked the knife open and closed with one hand. “I stole this off my brother Luke,” he said.
I wasn’t sure what to do, if I should walk back outside, but Reeve added breezily, “If you want, I’ll show you what the different blades are for.”
And he did, for the rest of the ride.
When the ferry got close to the mainland, Reeve gathered his things and left to use the bathroom. I waited for him to come back. When he didn’t, I went to the window. Reeve was already off the ferry, headed up the road to school.
I took my time, walked slow, careful not to catch up.
* * *
The bell rings and the room gets noisy right away, as if the entire class has been collectively holding their breath for forty-five minutes, but now they’re free to talk to each other. Everyone separates into their groups of friends and heads into the hallway, leaving me behind.
It’s not that I expected to come into Jar Island High and be instantly popular. I’m not delusional or anything. At Montessori I didn’t have a million friends. But there were plenty of people who talked to me. I had a place to sit during lunch. My life was perfectly fine, until Reeve showed up.
Why did I come back? What did I hope to accomplish, exactly?
It took a long time for me to get better, but I did. I got better. But suddenly it’s like the last four years never happened, and I’m feeling all the same terrible feelings about myself that I did back then. I could be at home right now, with my mom and dad. Instead of here, surrounded by bad memories and no friends and the boy who made my life a living hell.
So that’s it, then.
As soon as I make the decision, I feel loads lighter. I pack up my things. I walk down the hallway and see Reeve at the very end, as cocky and confident as he ever was, taking his sweet time getting wherever he needs to go.
I know exactly what I’m going to do. Yesterday he caught me off guard, but today I’m ready. I will get right in his face, say my name, my real name, out loud. Let him see for himself that he didn’t break me. I’m here. And then I’ll blow him a big fat kiss good-bye and put an end to this chapter of my life once and for all. No more regrets. It’s no way to live.