I opened my locker and retrieved the plastic bag I’d put there that morning before making my way to the cafeteria. This is it. I spent four months building a new life, and now I’m about to burn it all to the ground.
I didn’t even bother getting a lunch-tray; I had a feeling I wasn’t going to have much of an appetite after this anyway. I walked over to the table in the corner of the girls’ section, where Rhonda was giggling inanely with Kendra and Chloe.
Rhonda looked up when I threw the plastic bag on the table in front of her. “What’s this?” she said.
“It’s every piece of jewelry, every cosmetic you ever loaned me,” I said. “I don’t need it anymore.”
She shook her head. “This is a big mistake, you know that?”
I nodded. “You’re right. It is. I should never have accepted your invitation.”
She glared at me. “No, that was my mistake. Your mistake is thinking you can just walk away.”
I shuffled my feet. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“It means, you little troll, that I spent months of my time on you, just so you could …”
“What? Join your group of brainless butt-kissers?” I gestured at Chloe and Kendra.
“Screw you, bitch,” said Chloe, rising to her feet. “I’ll smack the shit out of you right now.”
“Sit down, Chloe,” said Rhonda.
Chloe didn’t take her eyes off me. “Rhonda …”
“I said sit,” she replied through clenched teeth. Slowly, Chloe sat back down.
I sniffed. “That’s great, Rhonda. Can you get her to fetch and roll over too?”
“As I was saying,” she said, ignoring me, “it’s one thing to waste my time. It’s another to spit in my face by saying you’d rather be with a pointless freak like Joshua Harper than with me.”
I glared at her. “He’s not a freak, and you know it. You just tell everyone he is so you can terrorize him whenever you want. But yes, I’d pick him over you every day of the week.”
“Awwww, that’s so sweet.”
“Go to hell, Rhonda.”
“Oh, I’m going to enjoy this.” She stood up. “Attention everyone!”
Every girl within twenty feet turned to look at us.
“I have an announcement. Make sure everyone knows this by the end of the day.” I just stood silently, facing her. Do your worst, witch.
Rhonda pointed at me. “Starting today, Eve Devereaux is dead at this school. No one talks to her. No one even looks at her. Ever. Anyone got a problem with that?”
I looked around. Two dozen girls were staring at me, not speaking. The silence was deafening.
“Didn’t think so,” said Rhonda. She turned to face me again. “And Eve? Make sure you tell your loser freak boyfriend this applies to him, too. Or so help me, I will make you watch while Brent beats him half to death.”
My jaw dropped. I had pegged Rhonda as being a spoiled, power-hungry brat, but I was wrong. She was pure evil.
Rhonda sat back down. I looked at Chloe and Kendra, who were both giving me the finger. “Have a nice day,” Rhonda said, and all three of them laughed.
I turned around and slowly walked out. I made eye contact with a few of my classmates, but they all just turned away. I looked around for Emily and Susan, but I couldn’t see them.
I left the cafeteria and approached the empty playground. I wandered aimlessly over to the nearest bleachers and sat down. I was numb. I was prepared for the worst, and I got it.
I’m such a fool. Such a goddamn fool.
I just sat there, my thoughts racing. I had nothing left. Rhonda had taken it all away from me. Everything except …
My eyes locked onto the bleachers on the far side of the playground. It was so far away, but I could just make out a figure sitting there. A figure wearing glasses and a blue hoodie.
I walked slowly towards Joshua’s Island. The short walk felt like it took hours. When I got close, he finally saw me. He jumped up, took my hand and led me to the bleachers, sitting me down on the bottom tier. Taking me by the shoulders, he swung my head around until we were facing each other. “Eve? Are you okay? Talk to me!”
I looked into his eyes. “It’s done.”
He gulped, and then hugged me briefly. I didn’t return the hug. “What happened?”
“I told her I was done. I was out. I told her to go to hell.”
His eyes widened. “Son of a bitch.”
I felt dizzy, so I closed my eyes and buried my head in his shoulder. He put his arm around me almost immediately. My God, how things had changed between us.
“Did she blow her stack?” he asked.
My voice was barely audible. “No.”
“Really? What did she do?”
“She stood up and told everyone that nobody was to speak to me …”
“That doesn’t sound too …”
“… ever again. And that includes you too.” I sniffed heavily, trying in vain to keep the tears at bay.
He tightened his hug. I felt a tear trickle down my cheek. “Everything’s going to be okay, Eve.”
“No, it’s not. She annihilated me in there. And I totally deserve it.”
“No, you don’t!” he said, facing me once again. “You don’t deserve it any more than I do!”
“Yes, I do. I turned my back on my best friends … for nothing. I made the biggest mistake of my life, and now I have to pay for that mistake.”
“Eve, you were conned by a liar into an offer you couldn’t turn down.”
“I could have said no! When she said I had to stop being friends with Emily and Susan, I should have said no!”
I laid my head on his shoulder again as another tear rolled down my cheek. He put his arm back around me, holding me tight. “But I didn’t … and now I’ve lost everything,” I said.
He put his other hand on top of mine. “Not … everything.”
I lifted my head. We were less than a foot apart. We just sat there, not speaking, for what seemed like hours, staring into each other’s eyes. He had such amazing, deep brown eyes, full of genuine concern and sympathy. After a few moments, I started to feel a tiny bit better.
Three short weeks ago, I couldn’t even stand to look at him, and now, I feel completely at ease when I’m around him. If it hadn’t happened to me, I wouldn’t have thought such a thing was even possible.
Then it hit me: we were the same now. Two totally different people, who through fate, circumstance, karma or bad luck, had found ourselves here, on these crappy bleachers. We had nothing left but each other.
Finally, he broke our gaze and removed his hands from around me.He smiled, gestured to the bleachers and said, “Welcome to the Island. Population: two.”
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