Chapter 12

She drove home and parked. She sat for a minute in the car, tired out of her mind. She exhaled and got out of the car.

She glanced up at the house immediately as it shook with loud voices. Were Laura and her dad having a fight? They rarely fought, what was going on? She ran up the front steps and opened the door.

Laura was in the kitchen, alone. "You're home!" she gasped. Lexie nodded. "How was it?"

"It was very appropriate for Ryan." Lexie whispered.

"That's good." Laura smiled sadly.

The living room shook with her father's full volume voice. "What the heck is going on?" Lexie demanded, jolting.

"You shouldn't go in there-" Laura began as Lexie ran in through the kitchen door into the living room.

Lexie's father and mother were standing in the living room, nearly nose to nose, screaming at each other. Their lawyers were trying desperately hard to calm them down. "MOM!" Lexie gasped.

"Hi, baby," her father came over. Her mother threw her hands in the air, collapsing on the couch next to her lawyer. "How was the funeral?"

"It was very nice." Lexie replied distractedly. "What's she doing here?"

"You know, she is in the same room as you." Lexie's mother replied sarcastically. "But anyway, she is getting custody of you."

"What?" Lexie gasped.

"That's right, I'm getting custody of you," her mother replied as though they were talking about the weather.

"I BARELY KNOW YOU!" Lexie shouted back. So much for her catatonic stage.

"Like it or not, you need a mother," her mother replied crisply as she stood, very businesslike. "Let's go, Richard," she motioned to her lawyer and they left.

Paul, Lexie's dad's lawyer, got to his feet too. "We're going to fight it, Lexie," he nodded to her dad then left.

"You have to!" Lexie cried dramatically, turning to her dad. "I can't live with her, I barely know her!"

"We're going to try, Lexie," her dad tried to reassure her. Lexie walked to the window, watching as Paul drove away. "I guess the funeral woke you up."

"I still can't believe he's dead, Dad." Lexie said quietly.

"Ryan was a great guy, Lex," her dad replied quietly. "He'll always be with you."

Lexie looked down at the hardwood floor and sighed. "I know," she looked back up. "But I still miss him," she bit her lip.

Her dad came over and gave her a hug. "It's gonna be okay, Lexie poo," he whispered. For once she didn't complain about the nickname.

Her parents went to court the following day and Lexie made the long, hard trek to school after another nightmare then half-sleep night. She pulled the Jetta into her parking spot, got out her backpack, and automatically scanned the parking lot for Ryan then stopped as a wave of sadness passed over her. She bit her lip and walked into school.

Whispers and points were everywhere. The last time Lexie had been in the center of attention like this had been. when she and Ryan had first gotten together. She bent her head slightly, biting her lip.

She opened her locker and buried her upper torso in it, pulling out her books and trying to escape the stares. She felt worn, hollow, and alone. Not even her friends were coming up to her. if they were even here. She glanced at her watch. Vanessa always got to school 15 minutes before the bell and the girls usually parked next to each other, walking in together (Lexie, always running late, had usually opted to walk with Ryan). She glanced quickly around the hall but didn't find her friends. Lexie stared at the picture of Ryan in her locker and sighed.

She heard the whispers. She felt like a helpless waif that no one would talk to. Feel sorry for, yes, but talk to, no. She yanked out another book then shut her locker with a bang, looking around for any of her friends.

Matt was walking toward her. She blanched, pulling her book tighter to her, then bailed, not being able to deal with him, and finally realizing that she probably could never again deal with him. She ran in the opposite direction out to the courtyard. "LEXIE!" she heard Matt. She stopped since she had, in a desperate attempt to dodge a sophomore couple groping each other, dropped her book. She grabbed her book but when she stood to flee, Matt grabbed her wrist. "Lexie, we have to talk!" he begged.

She shook her head. "Leave me alone," she said, her voice raspy from so much crying after the nightmare last night.

"You look like hell." Matt said quietly.

"Thanks, Matt. Considering that my boyfriend was KILLED a few days ago, and I keep having terrible nightmares that end either in sitting up in bed and screaming or crying, I thought I looked pretty good." Lexie snarled back as she ripped her arm away from his grip.

"Have you even LOOKED in the mirror lately?" Matt asked quietly.

"You know what, you don't look too much better." Lexie snapped back. It was the truth: Matt had dark circles under his eyes, his hair was clearly dirty, and his face was oily. But she could feel no sympathy. "Leave me alone." Lexie snarled back, walking back into the building. But out of self- consciousness, she ducked into the bathroom.

She gasped at her reflection. Her eyes were bloodshot with a hundred red veins running through them. Her hair was oily and messy like she hadn't brushed it this morning. or had she actually not brushed her hair this morning? She couldn't remember. She wasn't wearing even a drop of makeup and the effect of the painful tears had made her usually clear skin blotchy and red. She groaned, leaning her head against the cool counter. No wonder no one wanted to talk to her.

She left the bathroom after trying to fight with her hair but had given up thanks to the impossible state it was in. The bell had rang but she was always late to Mr. Summers' class, out of blatant disrespect and so that she could have a heart-to-heart (not) with him. She ran to class and opened the door.

"I guess Miss Roberts will not be joining us on account of Mr. Cromwell's recent devastating death." Mr. Summers looked up to see Lexie frozen in the doorway. "Oh. Miss Roberts! You are here today!" he gasped. Lexie nodded mutely. There was a long, at loss pause and Lexie waited for the lecture to begin. "Please take a seat, Lexie," he finally said quietly.

Lexie slowly made her way to the back of the room. Mr. Summers, nice to her? Since when?! And what was this business of him calling her the nickname he told her he would never call her? She slowly sat down. Then again, Ryan was dead, so it was no wonder weird things were happening. She waited for the Gossip Patrol (or Vanessa, Denise, and Annie) to jump in and say how sorry they were or whatever but instead they just stared uncomfortably ahead. She waited for her friends to say SOMETHING, ANYTHING for condolence or even for them to LOOK at her but they didn't. Even Vanessa, her best friend since first grade, looked uncomfortably away.

That was when Lexie realized that she was alone.

After class, she decided to screw the rest of her periods. Her friends didn't give a crap and her teachers thought she was out because of Ryan. She walked slowly out to her car. She climbed into her car, tossing her Trig book on the passenger seat, and glanced at the parking lot, her eyes traveling from Annie's silver Honda, Denise's white Acura, and Vanessa's black Jeep. She glanced at Matt's red Durango and started the Jetta. She had to get away.

She had to get away.

She squealed out of the parking lot, not caring that she had over accelerated and left tread marks. She drove so fast that she didn't even take off her backpack, but it was practically empty anyway. She sped down to the beach and jerked the Jetta into a parking spot in the empty parking lot. She climbed out; yanking down on her blue, long sleeved V-neck shirt down over her jeans and ditched her flip-flops. Then she walked down to the water's edge, loving the turbulent water of the ocean. The beach was completely deserted, not many people were attracted to the beach in January, and a strong wind blew. The sky overhead was dark with clouds of rain, perfectly suiting Lexie's drab mood.

Then she realized that this was the beach with all the memories. this was where she and Ryan had first said I love you, this had been where they had gone a mere three months earlier for their anniversary. Lexie burst into loud, noisy sobs, not caring if someone would hear her or walk by. She sank down so that she was sitting on the sand, sobbing as her heart broke before her.