Chapter Ten

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            "Corey? Hey, wait up!"

            Luke's voice was difficult to ignore, even amongst the commotion of the hallway, but I was willing to try. I didn't want to wait up; with that came being cornered into a conversation, and the exchange of words I'd already resolved to keep quiet.

            But there was no quick escape route; students were piling into the narrow space from every classroom, forming a wall that proved impossible to penetrate. The main doors were in sight, but Luke was already catching up, his footsteps fast advancing behind me.

            "Corey!"

            Once I felt his hand on my arm, there was nothing left to do but stop in my tracks, slowly turning to face him. He was slightly out of breath, his chest heaving from the way he'd dashed after me, his expression a picture of both disbelief and concern. "What's going on?"

            I noticed then the bruise that had formed a ring around his eye, the ugly reminder of the events of that morning. It had definitely worsened since then, and the purple hue seemed even more prominent under the harsh lighting. A split in his lip looked just as painful; the break in the skin was red and sore.

            "What do you mean, what's going on?"

            "I... I just—" His sharp blue eyes flickered over my expression as he struggled to find the right words. "What are you doing here?"

            "What does it look like I'm doing?" I asked flatly. "I go here now."

            "But what happened to...? I mean, what about you being part of the—"

            My heart lurched; I cut him off before there was opportunity for the word to escape. "Shh!" I insisted, realizing too late that I was speaking unnecessarily loud. "Keep quiet! Don't talk about that. Not here."

            The hallway was bustling with activity, our voices drowned out by the abundance of other people's conversations all around us, so the chances of being overheard were slim. Still, I didn't want to take any chances.

            "What?" Luke frowned. "Why?"

            "Do we really have to talk about this?" I pleaded.

            "Yes! Come on, Corey, you've got to at least tell me what on earth's going on here. I bump into you at Joe's, this super cool... well, you-know-what, and I convince myself we'll never see each other again. Then all that stuff happens at the show, I'm sitting around wondering if you even made it out alive, before you show up a week later at my high school? Don't you think I deserve some kind of explanation here?"

            The retort quickly dissolved on my tongue, my sigh a resignation to Luke's spiel. "Not here," I murmured eventually. "I don't want to talk about it here."

            "Well, let me give you a ride home, or something," Luke offered. "We can talk in the car."

            Of course, the smart decision would be to decline and get out of there as soon as possible. I'd feel mean, depriving Luke of an explanation, but I had to leave the circus behind if I wanted to fit into a place like this. That much had already made itself clear in the few hours that I'd spent at Franklin, and the weeks that followed would likely only strengthen the realization.

            And yet already I could feel those piercing eyes chipping away at my resolve, breaking away the pieces until it was weak enough to crumble. Despite what had gone down this morning, and the gossip I'd overheard at the back of class, I couldn't shake off the thought of the boy I'd met in the diner: the one I'd wanted nothing more than a second chance with.

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