The way I was greeted by Shay the next day definitely made me doubt my statement to Miriel. It wasn’t actually much of a greeting, really, it was some odd snort from his nostrils as he turned his head in my direction, looked straight over my head, and walked right past me, coming just close enough to me so that I could feel the irritation radiating from his skin. He didn’t grace me with a touch. It was like sitting next to an iceberg in AP Modern History; I felt the subzero detachment issue from him and make the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end. I even missed the usual poking of his stylus in the soft spot between my shoulder blade and my back, saying that he wanted to talk to me. He didn’t. The clattering of his bracelets told me he was sporting quite a few more of them, and if we wouldn’t have been fighting I might have asked about them. I didn’t.
I wasn’t going to bend on this one, I always had to otherwise. Lately, every time we argued I had to come to him and say that it wasn’t a big deal and I would try not to be so judgmental. But Shay was a stray cat: if you fed it, it would return. I had to stop feeding the Shay.
None of his friends noticed our wall of silence at lunch, in fact they seemed even more hyperactive and reckless than usual. I would call them our friends, but I really only dealt with them politely during school when I saw them, and they were never too persuasive in their invitations for me to watch them kill themselves. “Missed you at the lake yesterday Rousseau!” said one of his Junkie friends, Thio. I had been trying to study, but he just sprawled out over my book and grinned up at me, stretching his arms. “You should’ve been there, Shay nearly outswam the dam! Looks like swim team is paying off, eh?”
Nearly outswam it. I could see him standing at the top of the dam, grinning at the prospect of doing what no one else before him was stupid enough to do. Then without a second thought he would leap out over the enormous concrete structure, vanish into the falling water, and swim for his life against the hydraulic. Like anyone else who had jumped a dam, he had been pounded with the pressure of hundreds of gallons of water, caught in the current, and if the pressure didn’t kill him, the lack of air did. But he had Kickback, and those other souls didn’t.
Shay let a smile snake its way up his cheek while he played aimlessly with his food, chuckling to himself. I counted twelve bracelets on his arm now, five more from yesterday. Who had the time to go out and die five times? Apparently Shay had an opening in his schedule. “Yeah, not to mention that I have the body of a god thanks to all these years of team. That paramedic’s eyes got a couple sizes bigger when she saw these muscles.” He flexed his biceps for Thio, who was nodding and agreeing.
I snorted and finally broke the barrier between Shay and I. “Be careful, Shay, those toothpick arms might snap if you keep bending them like that.”
Thio started laughing, and I guess I had said that rather loudly because all of Shay’s gang of Junkies were laughing too, complimenting me and rubbing the new salt in his wounds, further irritating Shay. But he couldn’t think of something to jab back at me with, so I managed to score a win in our little civil war without starting a new campaign theater.
“You guys hear the news?” Thio asks the table, “Kickback’s non-cosmetic now. It’s just like getting a band-aid, everyone’s gonna have it and it’s gonna make the weekends that much better.” There were hoots of approval, a couple of guttural ‘live it up’s, and Shay’s smile returned. Fantastic. “It’s too bad you have so much homework, Shay,” Thio went on, “or else you could come with us to the lake again, maybe beat your time.”
“You know, Thio,” I said, patting his side to make him curl up off my textbook, “you guys should try something new to celebrate your new freedom.” My tone was getting more and more sarcastic, I couldn’t help myself when I was on this subject. “Maybe go down to the zoo and break into some exhibits and play with the tigers.”
|Choi Minho||as Paul|
|Lucy Hale||as Rousseau Williams|
|Lourdes Leon||as Miriel DeSales|