Some Girls Are - Page 17


There’s always an audience.


The worst part is, I have to sit down. Right there. My back hurts and I can’t breathe. I move to the corner like a gasping, injured dog and sit on the floor, trying really hard for air. Not getting any.


“I know you fucked up my locker,” she repeats. “Don’t think for a second we’re finished.”


“I never for a second thought that,” I wheeze.


They clomp past me. I close my eyes and imagine myself on Tuesday, in bed, where there was this brief moment between waking up and being totally awake where my mind was completely empty and it was so peaceful.


When I open my eyes, I can breathe again and everyone is gone but Michael.


“Are you okay?” he asks.


“Get away from me, Michael.”


“I’m serious. That looked really painful.”


“You should be happy. You totally just got to see me suffer up close.”


He pales and slinks off, and it’s satisfying, but it doesn’t last. It never does.


Brenner calls me up to the board to solve some complicated equation


he’s spent the last ten minutes chalking out, even though I’m not wearing a skirt or a low-cut top. I don’t know the answer, so I have to stand there staring blankly at numbers until he tells me to sit down again. On my way back to my desk, Kara forces her chair out, slamming it into my side.


“Oh, God.” She pushes herself to her feet so the hard plastic edges dig into my skin on her way up. “I’m so…”


Sorry. She never says it, but Brenner acts like he heard it, and that’s the end of it. I rub my side, biting my lower lip. Kara smirks and sits, satisfied.


I want to push her down a flight of stairs.


I actually stake out a staircase between periods so I can do it. It seems so reasonable. It seems so fair. Kara comes this way for her next class and all I have to do is trip her from the side or get her from behind, like she got me, and down she goes. I lean against the wall and wait. By the time the crowded hall thins out, I’m salivating. It looks so good in my head. I have to make it happen. I need to make it happen.


So of course she never comes.


The bell rings and I sit down on the stairs, a slowly deflating balloon. When the bloodlust finally fades, I feel stupid. I stay on the steps for a long time, until Liz rounds the corner. Our eyes meet. There must be no other way for her to get to where she wants to go, because she sighs and begins the trudge up. Every time I see her now, I see her suicide and it makes me want to puke. She passes me. I listen to the sound of her heels as they clack down the hall. Then they stop and clack back.


I don’t know how to be around her. People have to live with things they don’t want to live with all the time, but—how? After Liz, every time I ate, I tasted guilt, and I don’t know why. What I did to Kara didn’t make me sick. What would Dr. Hayden have told me if I’d been brave enough to tell her the truth about me, that I was just as bad as Anna? Dr. Hayden listened to my select truths and said the right things— Anna was the bad one—until I almost believed it wasn’t me, and then I discovered antacids, like that was my problem all long, and I could eat again, and it took me the rest of the way. I never thought it would catch up with me before I graduated.


“Michael told me he told you about—” She stops. “—What I did.”


I look up at her. Liz is vaguely

intimidating from this angle. She looks sort of mad, nose up, even though she’s staring me down.


“Yeah,” I say.


“I never wanted you to know that.”


“I never wanted to know that.”


I lean my head against the wall and wait for her to go. She doesn’t.


She crosses her arms. “Have you gotten used to it yet?”


“When did you get used to it?”


“What made you think I did?”


“I’m sorry we’re not friends,” I tell her. I don’t know why.


“I’m not,” she says. “I’m sorry we were. I never thought I’d be your claim to fame. From the boring, bitchy, popular girls to the kind that go that extra mile to make people’s lives hell. After me, you guys were all set. Anna owes me, when you think about it.”


“I wouldn’t try cashing out, if I were you,” I tell her.


She rolls her eyes and walks away.


By the end of the day, my body is all bruises and scratches. My back, the door. My side, the chair. Jeanette sits behind me in English class and jabs me in the shoulders with the sharp end of her pencil until the period is over, and I just sit there and take it.


Dodgeball.


Nelson splits the class down the middle, and the divide is such that she can’t be as stupid as she looks. I think she’s just as bored as the rest of us, because Kara, Anna, and Josh are on one team, and I get stuck with Bruce and Donnie and Michael.


Maximum entertainment value.


In elementary school, we had a Safe Ball. It was this soft, foamy thing that didn’t hurt at all but still managed to strike fear into your heart when someone caught it and took aim. It felt so personal.


Now we’ve grown up and graduated to hard rubber.


I’m nervous, but in a good way. I want to move. I want to hurt them. I’m a horrible person; they’re horrible people too. We might as well take each other. Anna and Kara whisper to Josh and Bruce, who hangs around until Nelson shouts us into positions, then Bruce wanders to my side of the court, glaring.


Everyone gets into place. We’re using one ball today, not six. Organized chaos. Anna’s team gets the ball first, and then it goes to Mehmet Erdogan, who whips the ball at Donnie, who doesn’t even try to dodge it. Nelson blows her whistle. He’s out. Bruce grabs the ball and gives it a hard throw in Josh’s direction.


“Hey!” Josh yells.


“In it to win it,” Bruce says, and there’s an edge to his voice. I bet he’s pissed about Josh and Anna. I glance at Josh. He frowns, retrieves the ball, and sends it Bruce’s way, hard. Bruce catches it and aims for Josh.


“You guys,” Anna says, amused. She knows exactly what’s going on. Bruce sends the ball at Baz Jones. It hits her thigh. She shrieks and heads for the side. I’m impatient at this point. One of them has to eventually take a shot at me.


I beat Samantha Mantle to the ball and throw it at Kara before she realizes I’m aiming at her. It whaps her in the chest. She staggers back, startled, and no one can call me on it because that’s the game.


But the whole room goes quiet because they know it’s more than a game.


Nelson blows her whistle. “Off the court, Myers!”


Kara marches to the sidelines. It’s the most exciting thing that happens for a while. I dodge the ball and watch more people get taken out. I’m

disappointed when Anna takes an unexpected hit from Megan Gunter. I wanted to do that.


The numbers dwindle slowly. Michael and I stay alive by keeping close to the back of the gym. We have the edge on the other side. Josh is all over, untouchable. He’s always good at weaseling away from a hit. Each time I get the ball, I make him my target, until it’s so obvious, he backs into the corner of the gym because I can’t throw that far.


And then the game gets a whole lot more boring.


“Come on, Josh,” I call. “The game’s up here.”


Josh scowls but he stays in his corner.


“Don’t push it,” Michael says. He sounds close.


“Why do you care?” But when I turn around, he’s already walking away from me. I focus on Josh and shout for him to “man up,” because I need to hit something with a ball and he’s all that’s left.


“Shut up, Regina,” Anna snaps. “Seriously.”


“Aw,” I say exaggeratedly, “so cute, Anna. I’m sure Josh appreciates it.”


“Too much talking and not enough playing,” Nelson says. “Get up the court, Carey. I don’t grade you if you don’t play.”


Josh’s face turns red. He takes a couple steps forward. The ball goes back and forth and nobody’s out. Back and forth. Back and forth. Back and forth. Josh edges back to his corner. I make an exasperated noise.


“Come on, Josh.”


“Leave him alone, Regina,” Anna shouts from the side. “Ms. Nelson—”


The toss of the ball interrupts her, and then—Michael’s out. Whitney Lodge gets him, and it’s one of those blink-almost-missed-its, where the ball maybe grazed his ankle, but no one can really say for sure. But with Anna and Kara insisting “It totally hit his ankle we saw it he’s out we saw it,” Nelson calls it. Bruce retrieves the ball.


“I was having so much fun, too,” Michael mutters, making his way off court. I head back to my corner.


And then the room explodes.


I don’t see it. It happens around me. Behind me. Noise. Lots of noise. At first I think it’s me because it’s near me, but it’s not me. Nelson blurs past me to get to—I whirl around—to get to…Michael.


I was standing here, Donnie was over there clutching his face, and there was blood. Lots of blood. Now I’m standing here and Michael’s there and there’s lots of blood and he’s clutching his face. But where Donnie was loud, Michael is quiet.


Nelson compensates by blowing her whistle so hard it pops out of her mouth.


“BURTON—OFF COURT! PRINCIPAL’S OFFICE! NOW!”


“Ms. Nelson,” he protests, “I didn’t—”


She blows her whistle and he shuts his mouth. “You did that deliberately, Burton. Get down to the principal’s office now.”


Bruce swears under his breath, earning another blow of the whistle, and pushes through the doors so hard they hit the wall. Nelson goes to Michael, and it really hits me.


He’s hurt.


I hurry over while Nelson checks him out. Once you’ve seen one bloody nose, you’ve seen them all, but this is different. It’s Michael. It doesn’t look good on him. “Is it broken?” I ask.