When the Smoke Clears

I woke up Tuesday morning feeling like I'd been run over by the Depression Express. I was absolutely dreading school. Not only did the weather—a lumpy gray blanket of clouds unfurled across the sky—represent my inner turmoil, but so did my physical appearance. My eyes were red-rimmed and blotchy from lack of sleep and excessive crying. I'd managed to convince my parents to let me stay home Monday due to "cramps." After the weekend's disastrous events (Xavier proving that he was nothing more than an oversexed jock, Jeremy drunkenly initiating a make-out session with me, and Lia blowing up on me like an atomic bomb), I'd opted to avoid the awkward confrontations and spend the day in bed. Under the covers. My Uncle Roy had finally managed to drive our beds out to us and his timing couldn't have been better.

I yanked my comforter over my head helplessly and burrowed back into my mountain of pillows. I was just thinking up a clever excuse to keep me home from school again when Miles burst into my room like a rabid, uncoordinated ape. Attempting to rotate a basketball on the tip of hid index finger, he stumbled forward and toppled onto the foot of my bed. The basketball flew off of its axis and before I could react it collided with my forehead.

"Oh my God." Miles sat up fearfully. "Meadow, I'm so sorry."

I rubbed my throbbing head tiredly, "Ow."

Miles looked slightly confused before retrieving his ball, "Xavier's gonna be over in half an hour to pick us up. You should start getting ready. Dad sent me up to make sure you were awake."

Xavier actually had the audacity to offer us a ride after this weekend? Did he really expect me to sit in then same vehicle as him? He'd shoved me into a closet and pretty much forced me to listen to him screw his girlfriend, who was barely teetering in the brink of sanity. There was absolutely no way I was getting in that car. Finding it futile to prolong the inevitable by missing school again, I flung my legs over the side of my bed and decided to face the day head-on.

"Well, I'm up," I grumbled, cutting my eyes at Miles's basketball. "But I'm not going to be ready by the time Xavier gets here. I'll just catch a ride with Mom."

Any day last week I would have tore through my room like a cyclone to get ready on time to ride with Xavier. But this morning I was in no rush at all. Miles stared at me with a suspicious gleam in his eyes.

"Did anything, like, happen between you and him?" Miles finally asked in the small, childlike tone he adopted when he was nervous.

I'd completely forgotten about Miles walking in on Xavier and me the week before. We hadn't been doing anything but I'm sure even Miles had sense the chemistry in my bedroom that day. I guffawed unconvincingly as if the idea of me pursuing Xavier was ridiculous.

"No, of course not," I said stiffly, avoiding Miles's probing eyes by digging through my closet in search of an outfit.

"Oh, okay," Miles murmured, not sounding very convinced. "Because you know he has a girlfriend."

I froze.

"What are you saying?"

"I mean, just remember what happened with Eddie."

I gritted my teeth and continued shuffling through my wardrobe, "I'm awake so you can get out now."

"Look, I'm sorry Meadow. I just don't want to se you go through something like that again. It—"

"Bye, Miles."

I could sense him slump his shoulders and slink slowly out o the room. As soon as I heard my door click shut behind him I felt like the biggest bitch on the planet. I made a mental note to apologize for my coldness later. However, he should have known at that point which wounds to let heal.

Rain splattered against my window pane and slide down the glass in twisted streams. Typical weather in Cedar Heights. For the first time since we'd moved I found myself actually feeling homesick. Maybe it was because it was now set in stone that I couldn't have Xavier. Or maybe it was because I'd left so many things unresolved back in Phoenix. Either way I couldn't fathom how people actually lived here without getting suicidal. Maybe they weren't pining over guys they couldn't have.

Deciding on an outfit was a lot more difficult than usual. On one hand, I was in a sweatpants kind of mood. But on the other, I still wanted to look cute for when Xavier saw me.

Wait, I snapped at myself, why do you care about looking good for him?

Because you still think you have a chance, home wrecker.

I groaned and flung myself dramatically onto my bed. Why couldn't I get Xavier out of my system? If he was single would I be this sprung over him? I wracked my mind and honestly couldn't come up with an answer. Maybe I did just like him because he had the whole forbidden factor going for him.

I decided to give my angst a rest and start getting ready for school. I took a quick shower and decided on a cute, but comfortable outfit and applied a thin mask of make-up to truly erase any evidence of my pathetic sabbatical. I grabbed my cell-phone and turned it on. I'd kept it off all day Sunday and Monday; completely shutting out every scrap of the outside world. I had numerous missed calls from Brianna and multiple text messages wondering where I was hiding or why I wasn't at school the day before. Nothing from Xavier though. A slight tremor of disappointment rippled through me.

I had one voicemail. I put my phone on speaker and set it on my nightstand while I shoved my textbooks and binders into my book-bag. The voicemail recording told me that the message had been left on Sunday evening. Six-o-five to be exact.

"Hey, uh, Meadow. This is Jeremy. Kayla gave me your number. I just wanted to call and apologize for how I acted Friday night. I had way too much to drink—I know that's cliché and not a very good excuse but it's all I got." He paused to chuckle uncomfortably. "I just … I feel really bad. But just so you know, what I said … I meant it. I really am into you. A lot. I just wish I hadn't been drunk when I told you. Or tried to maul you. I understand if you never want to talk to me again. Uh, but I really hope you do. Damn, I don't even know where this is going anymore. I'll just stop while I'm ahead. See you tomorrow?" Click.

I bit my lip nervously. As if the day wasn't already shaping up to be awkward enough. Jeremy was cute. Jeremy was nice. Jeremy was available. Jeremy made sense. But I knew that if I pursued anything with him I would only be doing so to redirect my affection for Xavier. He'd just be an outlet for me to get back at that dog. But then again, maybe I was making myself too attainable for Xavier. If I was suddenly into someone else—Jeremy, maybe?—would Xavier want me? That was almost certainly the case when it came to me, so maybe that kind of twisted infatuation could work its magic on Xavier as well.

"Meadow! Come on, you're going to be late."

My thoughts were interrupted by my dad's voice booming from downstairs. I checked the digital clock on the nightstand. School started in twenty minutes. I slung my book-bag over my shoulder and rushed downstairs. At the foot of the stairs my dad was standing, arms crossed and tapping his foot impatiently.

"You ready? I still have to conduct a few interviews before I open up the store. I'm trying to hire a new cashier."

"Um … I thought Mom was taking me to school."

Dad shook his head and ushered me out the front door, "She had to leave early to meet with one of her students. You got everything?"

I nodded mutely and used my pre-Calculus binder to shield my head from the rain. The school was only ten minutes away but riding there with only my dad was going to feel more like ten hours. I almost would have rather gone with Xavier. I hopped into the front seat of my dad's Titan and he took off. For the first few blocks the only noise was of the tires sloshing through puddles and the rain pounding onto the roof.

"So I hired Xavier yesterday. He's going to be helping out around the store on weekends—since he has football during the week. He's a good kid, you know?"

I fought the urge to roll my eyes. I hadn't had a one-on-one conversation with my dad since we'd moved and the first thing he felt the need to talk about was that prick Xavier? I wondered if he would think Xavier was such a "good kid" if he knew he'd nearly slept with me four nights prior to this very uncomfortable car ride. Probably wouldn't make any difference.

"—I just wish Jadon would get into something. Other than drugs. With that build he's got, he'd make a great basketball player. Speaking of which, Miles has really turned a new leaf since we moved out here. He's playing ball now; he's going places. No more of that X-Men pansy stuff or sitting up in his room reading all day. I'm proud of him."

Miles was going places before, I thought with a grimace.

If anything I thought Miles's change had been slightly for the worst. I know I'd encouraged him to be someone new if he wanted to start over, but now he was hanging out with a bunch of obnoxious freshmen jocks. And they were definitely rubbing off on him.

"I asked Xavier to start coming by and maybe start hanging out with Jadon a little bit. I think that's all Jadon needs. A good role model."

Because you sure haven't been one.

I frowned. Jadon could hardly stand Xavier as it was. Besides, Xavier was the last guy you wanted to play big brother. We finally pulled up to the front of the school. Not once during the entire car ride had my dad asked how I was doing; how I'd adjusted to the move.

"Well I guess I'll see you later." I propped my door open.

"I'll see you at home."

I stepped out of the car, once again shielding my hair with my binder. I turned back to face my dad once more, hoping to hear the words that I knew weren't coming.

"Meadow, hurry up and shut the door!" He scolded. "Rain is getting in."

A sudden surge of fury bubbled up inside of me and exploded. I slammed the door. Hard. My dad took no noticed and just took off. A small wave of rainwater washed over the toes of the expensive boots he'd bought me last Christmas.

I love you too, Dad.

Shaking my head, I turned around and started up the stairs toward school. Immediately everything I'd been dreading flooded back to me. I had to talk to Jeremy. Face to face. I had to talk to Brianna. Face to heavily made-up face. I had to giggle and gossip with Brianna, as if I hadn't just tried to seduce her boyfriend that weekend. Then there was the whole aspect of actually seeing Xavier. I took a deep breath and braced myself for the day ahead before walking into the front hall.

I maneuvered my way to my locker, managing to keep a low profile.

Jadon was propped against the locker beside mine when I slammed it closed.

"So you decided to come face your problems head on." He raised his eyebrows.

"What makes you think I have any problems to face?" I tried my best to look nonchalant.

"Because you played the cramps card last year after the whole Eddie incident. And you freshman year when you had that English presentation."

"God, why does everyone keep bringing Eddie up? Nothing like that happened!"

"So," Jadon started in his low, suspicious tone, "nothing went down with you and Xavier? Say at Lisa's party Friday?"

I bit my lower lip nervously. I didn't want to answer too quickly because that would look suspicious, but I was pretty sure I'd given myself away by taking my sweet precious time. Jadon stared at me knowingly. I could lie to him even if I wanted to. He could read straight through it. Before I could confirm what he was already thinking, Curtis and Lisa called out my name. Jadon brushed past me as they approached.

"We'll talk later?"

I nodded.

Lisa embraced me, "Ooh, girl, is that your brother? He is a certified cutie."

Curtis grunted. "Not as cute as your man though, right?"

Lisa giggled in a high-pitched way that sounded like an electric drill sawing away at tooth enamel. It made me want to cringe. She leaned up and planted a kiss on Curtis's cheek.

"Mmm, of course not baby. You know you're the only guy for me."

I pinched myself to make sure this was real and not some dream taking place in the fifties. This was much too corny to be genuine.

"So when did you two become an item?"

I was only half-curious. I'd seen Lisa all over Curtis at her party, but he seemed like the type to hit and quit. I didn't expect him to actually pursue a relationship, especially with a ditz like Lisa.

While Lisa gushed about how Curtis had taken her out for a romantic dinner and some restaurant downtown on Saturday night I looked nervously over her shoulder for Xavier or Jeremy. I had to get out of sight quick if one of them were to spot me.

"—and the night ended with a kiss," Lisa finished with a sigh, as if regaling me with a classic tale of unstoppable love.

So did this love connection mean Curtis was no longer hooking up with his mysterious late-night booty call? Somehow I doubted it.

Curtis snickered, "Well it didn't end there, but we won't get into all the raunchy details."

"Babe!" Lisa widened her eyes and slapped him flirtatiously on the shoulder. "You are so bad!" She shook her head in unison with another crazed giggle and faced me. "So where have you been, girl? We've been trying to reach you all weekend. You didn't look too good after the party Friday night."

"I wasn't feeling too well," I lied. "I was pretty much out of commission all weekend."

Suddenly I saw Jeremy turn the corner behind Lisa. I mumbled a quick excuse to take my exit and darted down the hall. I glanced back over my shoulder to make sure Jeremy wasn't following me. I turned the next corner sharply and ran straight into a wall. I stumbled back, dazed and when I looked up I realized I hadn't completely embarrassed myself by running into an inanimate object. Worse, I'd collided with Xavier. Damn, he was buff. I let my mind wander momentarily but then snapped back into reality. I readjusted my book-bag on my shoulder and pretended nothing had happened. I strutted past him coolly but he reached out and grabbed my arm.

Intense. Electric. Cold. Hot. Soothing. Beautiful. All of the familiar feelings that had emerged the first time he'd touched me came rushing back and I froze.

"Hold up. You ain't trippin', are you?"

I yanked my arm out of his grasp violently. "Get off of me!"

"Come on, don't be like that."

Astounded, I turned to glare at him, "Be like what? Annoyed? Tired? Fed up?"

"A bitch," he replied matter-of-factly, not even batting an eyelash.

I had half a mind to slap the smug look right off of his face, but I didn't want to cause a scene. Plus dramatic altercations weren't really my strong suit and his reaction time was probably fast enough to catch my wrist before I could do any damage. Then I'd just feel stupid.

"You're such an asshole." I turned to storm away again but he reached out and grabbed me. Again. I didn't try to shake him off this time.

"I'm sorry. I didn't mean it, but will you just talk to me?" His eyes were pleading.

I wanted to melt. He looked adorable when he was hopeless. I wanted to just hug him and tell him that I forgave him for everything. But then I remembered sitting in a dark closet and listening to him moan while he screwed another girl. The glare I shot him next was so intense that I'm surprised he didn't drop dead right there in the hallway.

"I don't have anything to say to you."

"Then just listen." His grip on my shoulder tightened desperately. "Please."

I made a show of sighing heavily but allowed him to steer me into an almost empty art studio. Almost empty except for Lia, whose braids were now streaked with a bright yellow and looked like a three-year-old had gone crazy on them with a highlighter.

"Lia! Hey—"

Lia gathered up her things abruptly and stood up. "Don't bother. You're just as fake as Brianna and her clones."

"W-what? What did I do?"

Lia gritted her teeth and stomped her foot dramatically. "Are you going to make out with him too?" She nodded at Xavier, seething.

"Is this about Jeremy?" I was lost.

"Jeremy?" Xavier lowered his eyebrows. "What about Jeremy?"

"Just leave me alone," Lia growled. "You're just another prissy, back-stabbing bitch like every other whore in this school." She stormed out the door without a word.

"Um … do her and Jeremy have a history?" I asked Xavier, still completely bewildered.

"Do you and Jeremy have a history?" Xavier demanded.

Figuring it was best not to tell Xavier about Jeremy's drunken kiss, I avoided the question. Even though technically, Jeremy and I didn't have a history. And Xavier had no right to be mad about it if we did. But I had to admit, I was definitely turned on by his blatant display of jealousy.

"It's not important. What did you want to talk about? The bell is getting ready to ring so make it quick."

Xavier sighed, "Look, I know you're pissed. But you have to understand, I was drunk."

That seemed to be everyone's excuse lately.

"Breaking up with Brianna isn't as easy as you make it seem. We have a past together."

"This isn't about you dumping her. It's about the fact that I've made it clear to you how I feel about you and you've done nothing but consistently blow me off. First, you didn't even tell me you had a girlfriend. I was fine with that—fine with being your girl on the side. Then you make me feel like an idiot and pretty much tell me to get lost. As if that wasn't bad enough, you drunkenly tell me that you didn't mean it but two minutes later end up shoving me into a closet and making me listen to you fuck the girl you have this 'past' with. And I'm convinced that if I did anything remotely sexual with you, you'd kick me to the curb with no shame. I was sick all weekend—" Okay, now I was lying to gain some sympathy points—"and I didn't even get a text message from you asking how I was. I went four days without hearing from you after you made me look like a complete idiot. I spent an hour and a half crying in Lisa's guest bathroom because of you. At a party! You made me cry at a fucking party! So as far as I'm concerned, you and Brianna can have a future together too. Because I'm done Xavier."

Xavier remained silent but avoided eye contact. I was attempting to calm myself down. I'd never unloaded like that on someone before. I felt kind of bad, but he needed to hear it. After what seemed like an eternity, he spoke again.

"You're absolutely right. You have every reason to hate me but just give me another chance. Tell me what I need to do. I'll call you every night. I'll take you on a real date. If I only wanted to sleep with you do you think I'd still be tying this hard? I really like you. You're not all clingy and co-dependent. You're strong. You're not like Brianna or most of the other girls around here. You don't take my bullshit just because I'm on the football team. I just need some time to distance myself from Brianna."

"You mean you want to screw her a few more times. You seem to have no problem doing that. And you want me to wait around. Well it's not going to happen Xavier. You have to dump her soon. I'm not going to be 'the other girl' anymore." I darted past him and out of the classroom just as the bell rang.

As soon as I transitioned into the current of the hallway I heard a familiar voice call my name. From the corner of my eye I saw Jeremy shoving through the crowd. Was this morning ever going to end? I knew I'd have to face him eventually but after the exchange I'd just had with Xavier I just wanted to be left alone. My English class was still two hallways down; that gave Jeremy plenty of time to catch up. I darted for the girls' bathroom. I could hide out in there until the final bell. By then Jeremy should've been long gone, leaving the coast clear.

I stumbled into the bathroom foyer, slightly winded and took a deep breath. My relief was quickly stomped out like a cigarette butt as I heard a weak cry sounding like that of a kicked puppy. This was followed by a loud thud and then a low, angry growl. A male's voice. I bit the inside of my lower lip nervously. Against my better judgment, I peered around the corner into the bathroom. At the end of the row of pristine stalls, a guy in an expensive-looking black jacket had a skinny girl pinned up against the wall. Her face was hidden behind his broad shoulders.

"I thought I told your ass about tryna play me," came the gruff voice of the guy.

The girl squirmed and clawed at the boy's hand, which was clutched around her neck. I wanted to turn and get help but I was frozen. It was like the time I'd watched my first R-rated movie over at Cassandra's house. We both knew that it was going to give us nightmares but we kept watching anyway. The girl gurgled a frightened protest as the guy fingered the collar of her shirt.

"Am I going to have to collect my payment in other ways?" He used his free hand to cup the girl's breast. "You know what happens if you're mom doesn't come up with my money, right?"

Suddenly my cell phone vibrated. The sound reverberated throughout the bathroom like a distant buzzing. My breath caught in my throat. The guy in the black jacket turned around sharply. My mouth gaped open as I saw that the girl he was harassing was none other than Olivia. Her mascara was smeared and I could see a bluish bruise beginning to form just below her left eye. I immediately recognized her tormentor as the guy who had been bothering her at the party. The creepy guy who had bumped into me—the one with the black eyes that seemed to look straight through me. He released Olivia and she bolted for the door. I did the same.

Black eyes was too quick. Olivia shoved me out of her way and disappeared. Before I could register what was happening I was being yanked backwards, my book bag was flying across the bathroom, littering the floor with all of its contents. My back slammed hard into the opposite wall—the very wall Olivia had just been pinned against. Ironic. Disoriented, I looked up and found those pools of shadow he called eyes staring straight at me.

"What did you hear?"

"Ah … I … nothing. I swear. I have no idea what's going on." My voice was trembling. "Please."

He gripped my shoulders tightly and pulled me forward just enough so that he could shove me back into the wall with a vengeance. My shoulder blades throbbed as they bashed into the tile. He leaned in closer to me; so close that his lips nearly brushed my cheek when he spoke next.

"Bitch, don't lie to me. How long were you standing there?"

"I wasn't…"

"I know you're one of Olivia's little friends, but don't go getting all concerned and trying to get caught up in this. Mind your business."

"We're not even friends." I was close to tears now. "We just…"

"Shut up!"

His yell echoed throughout the bathroom just as my ill-fated cell-phone had and he sent me crashing into the wall once again. At this point I was avoiding eye contact.

"You didn't see anything." He stated it as if it was an indisputable fact.

I choked back a sob and nodded frantically. He released me and stormed out of the bathroom without glancing back once. The final bell rang. Struggling to catch my breath, I slid down the bathroom wall and tried to wrap my brain around what had just happened. I tried to gather my thoughts, but they weren't cooperating. My body moved mechanically to pick up my books and jam them back into my bag. Olivia was in some deep shit and I was definitely not planning on getting myself involved.

I retrieved my phone from my pocket to see who had picked such a convenient time to send me a text message. I groaned as I saw that it was from Jeremy:

Meet me lunch?

Not bothering to text back, I snapped my phone shut and rushed to my first class.

I went to the cafeteria with Kayla and Brianna after Pre-Calculus like every other day. Brianna had squealed and given me a very tight hug when she saw me enter the classroom before third period. She proceeded to fill me in on all of the weekend's events that I'd missed out on while crying in my bedroom. She told me that Lisa and Curtis were an item now, but she wasn't sure how long that was going to last. Neither was I because I'm sure Curtis's "friend" who had a taste for strawberries and whipped cream wasn't going to let him go that easily. Saturday night they'd all gone clubbing and Olivia had taken ecstasy for the first time and ended up in the backseat of some random Puerto Rican guy's Honda Civic. Didn't sound like I was missing much.

"I'm so glad you're back though," Brianna gushed as we made our way to the usual table on the left side of the cafeteria. "Things were pretty bland yesterday without you. Lisa was busy making out with Curtis and Olivia was hung over and in a pretty pissy mood"—like always, I thought privately—"and Xavier blew me off yet again to 'kick it with the fellas.' Who says that? And who in their right mind would rather spend time with a bunch of dudes over this?" Brianna twirled in front of us as if revealing a showpiece. "He's been acting really weird lately."

I shrugged, "You know how guys are."

Lying, inconsiderate assholes. That's how guys are.

Brianna agreed. "You're right. I'm going to get some food."

Why? So you can throw it all up?

"You guys want anything?"

I shook my head. I didn't have much of an appetite after my strange encounter of the psychotic kind that morning. As Brianna left, Kayla turned to me slowly. She'd been pretty quiet up until this point.

"Hey, girl." She sounded nervous. "I'm really sorry about Friday night. I was just being overdramatic as usual. I shouldn't have gone off on you like that."

I wracked my brain to try and recall what on earth she was talking about. In the midst of all the other chaos that had gone on I'd completely forgotten about her snapping at me about Jadon. It was still a bit fuzzy but that was the least of my worries right now; I had my own love life to worry about.

"Don't even worry about it," I replied. "I'd forgotten all about it. What happened with that anyway?"

Kayla sighed, "I went to ask him to dance but he was so busy grinding against Christina Hernandez to notice. It's cool though." But the look in her eyes said it was anything but cool.

Right now I didn't have the time or the patience to delve deeper into her problems though because I had my own to deal with. Both Olivia and Jeremy were charging toward the table and both of them had the look of someone who had a mission to accomplish in their eyes. And both of them were headed straight for me. Olivia reached me first. She kneeled down and curled her lips back, revealing several unnaturally white teeth. It was very frightening.

"We need to talk."

"Okay." I didn't move.

Olivia cut her eyes at Kayla. "In private."

I made a point to let her know that I was annoyed by rolling my eyes before standing up. She grabbed me roughly and yanked me toward the cafeteria entrance with a frenzied force. Needless to say, it hurt. I yanked my arm out of her grasp and rubbed where her nails had made their mark with a grimace. One manhandling a day was my limit and Creepy Black Eyes had definitely reached it already. As soon as we were in the hallway, Olivia turned to face me.

"You didn't see anything this morning, got it?"

After being damn near assaulted by Creepy Black Eyes, Olivia trying to threaten me seemed more like a kitten struggling to meow. I crossed my arms and glared at her, waiting for her to continue.

She pointed at me like she was a mother scolding her child. "You have no idea what is going on, okay? So mind your business. Don't go opening your mouth and telling anyone about what you saw between me and Martin this morning, okay? That's between us."

As if Martin (so that was his name) hadn't driven that point home already.

"Olivia, I don't care about whatever you have going on with him. I don't even like you, so please don't get confused and think that I'm going to invest any time in worrying about you. But I will tell you one thing: if you ever throw me under the bus again like you did this morning, I won't hesitate to let others know about your little dilemma. Others who might actually care."

No, I hadn't forgotten about Olivia shoving me out of the way in order to save her ass.

Olivia stepped toward me menacingly and I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a tiny bit intimidated.

"You better not say anything."

"Then you'd better start treating me with a little more respect. I'm sick of you catty remarks and overall bad attitude. And quite frankly, so is Brianna. And Lisa. And everyone else who has to be in you presence for more than thirty seconds."

Olivia froze and blinked rapidly for a few seconds as if she couldn't believe that I was actually talking back to her. Hell, I could hardly believe that I was talking back to her. Blackmail definitely gave a girl some confidence.

"I know you think that you and Brianna are BFF's," Olivia snarled, "but she's only nice to you because Xavier asked her to be. If you weren't his neighbor she wouldn't give you a second glance. I'm her friend. You're her charity case."

"Is that so?" I said coolly. "Then why hasn't she told you that she's not going to college? Why hasn't she told you that she's participating in the Winter Talent Show?"

Okay, so I was blatantly leaking confidential information but Olivia had to be put in her place.

Olivia looked as if she'd just been smacked.

"Did you even know she smoked?"

She opened her mouth and was on the cusp of speaking, but apparently thought better of it and clamped her lips shut quickly.

"That's what I thought. And you're not going to say anything to her about this. Because if you do I'll tell everyone that I saw Martin groping you in the bathroom and demanding his money. They'll come up with their own conclusions."

I saw Olivia clench her fist. She stared into my eyes with hopeless defiance but she and I both knew that I had her outwitted. Reaching an agreement with our cold, silent stares I turned and left her standing alone in the hall.

There was officially a new bitch at Roosevelt High School.

Kayla was still the only one sitting at the lunch table when I returned. She shot me an inquisitive look as I sat down beside her.

"What was that about?" She asked, raising her eyebrows.

"Oh, just Olivia being Olivia." I rolled my eyes.

"Ugh, say no more." Kayla held up a hand as if to ward off anymore talk of the girl.

I was feeling a lot better after putting Olivia in her place, so I decided to ask Kayla for more details about how she felt about Jadon. Before I could even formulate a question in my mind, Jeremy plopped down into the seat on the other side of Kayla. I instantly felt light-headed. I'd forgotten all about him, what with being thrown into walls and such. Kayla and Jeremy exchanged a look.

"Oh, uh, I have to go," Kayla looked like an actress struggling to recite lines she'd long forgotten, "get a book from my locker."

She stood up so abruptly that she nearly knocked her chair over. As soon as she'd left, Jeremy moved over into her seat and looked up at me quickly.


I forced a smile, "Hey."

"Did you get my text?"

I told my quadrillionth lie since attending Roosevelt and said, "No."

"Oh." He nodded. "But you got my voicemail, right?"

"Yeah, it was sweet." That wasn't a lie. "I really appreciate your apology. Don't worry about Friday night. That's in the past—we all do crazy things when we're drunk."

Lord knows I had. I thought of myself hazily fumbling with Eddie's zipper.

Jeremy beamed, "Okay, good. I just didn't want things to be awkward."

"They won't be." I flashed him a comforting smile. "I've already forgotten about it."

"So then maybe we could start over?" Jeremy glanced at me hopefully. "Could I take you out this weekend? I promise no alcohol, which in turn will eliminate all possibilities of any alcohol-induced confessions."

I laughed. Jeremy was the complete opposite of Xavier. I didn't even understand how the two of them could be such close friends. Jeremy reminded me a lot of Jadon though. Minus the drug addiction and cynicism. And I definitely wasn't trying to date my brother. I glanced over my shoulder across the cafeteria at Xavier's table. He was laughing boisterously with his meathead clan. Brianna was perched on his lap flashing her pageant girl smile. He looked back at me. I saw a flash of jealousy dance through his eyes as he spotted Jeremy.

I turned back to Jeremy and cranked up the charm, "It's a date."

So college sucks. A lot. But I handwrote most of this chapter in my Biology lecture since that class bores me to tears. I'm going to try and update more now since I've stopped Myspace/Facebook for a while to focus more on my writing. Those social networking sites are such beautiful distractions. Anyway, I'm satisfied with this chapter. Is Meadow really done with Xavier? What exactly transpired between her and Eddie? What's Lia's problem? And who exactly is Curtis's secret lover? All these answers and more coming up!

Next: Jadon's got a new addiction. And her name is Christina.