Chapter 2.1: Andrew

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On Thursday afternoon, Andrew was once again nagged out of the house by his mother

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On Thursday afternoon, Andrew was once again nagged out of the house by his mother. "God, Mom," he said, stomping down the stairs. "I don't need to be a half hour early every time!" Still, better to be out of the house than in it, the way his mother was acting.

School that day had been made fifty percent more tolerable by the appearance of Cody Mitchell. Cody didn't share any of Andrew's classes – he was too much of a slacker - but it meant Andrew had someone to sit with at lunch, and that was something. While he pedaled his bike as slowly as his balance would allow, his brain replayed the conversation at lunch over and over.

"Heard you got suspended," Cody said, pulling a half-eaten Subway sandwich out of a battered paper bag, along with a bag of chips and a can of Coke. Somehow, Cody maintained a part-time job at Subway despite being high 95% of the time.

"From who?"

"Those jerks who come to Subway after football practice."

Andrew had taken a savage bite of his own sandwich. It was some kale and bean sprout and hummus concoction his mother had made for him.

"The fuck you eatin', dude?"

"Shut up."

"Want some of mine?"

The sub had formerly been a foot-long. Half-eaten, it was still pretty long. "Yeah."

Unceremoniously, Cody tore the sandwich in half and held out the uneaten end to Andrew.

Before Cody had come over, Andrew had been sitting alone, pretending to read the novel assigned in English class. Catcher in the Rye. So far he liked it; it matched his mood. But he had finished the book in the first week it had been assigned. Now he was just using it for cover as he watched Ryan Sullivan.

The guy looked so fucking friendly, smiling and laughing along with his friends. Did any of them know Ryan was in therapy? He guessed not.

He hadn't realized he'd lapsed into watching again until Cody said, "Look at her. Bet she's glad she ditched us losers, huh?"

"Yeah," Andrew said without missing a beat, shifting his gaze to watch Nina Ivanov hang all over Matt Welch. "Look at her with that asshole."

At the start of freshman year, Nina had been a new foreign exchange student who didn't know anyone, and she'd befriended Andrew largely because he was sitting by himself at lunch. For a few weeks, she and Andrew and Cody had been a tight little group at lunch. It wasn't long before the cheerleaders had gotten their hooks in her, then the accident, and now Nina acted like Andrew and Cody didn't exist. It didn't normally bother Andrew. Cody, on the other hand, had never gotten over it.

"I got this app on my phone to teach me Russian," Cody said. "How's this: Yallow blue vas."

"What does that mean?"

"I love you."

"Aw, thanks."

Cody coughed out a laugh, his eyes squinting. "Ya bro, you know it. You think that'll impress her?"

"I know who it won't impress."

"He's got nothin' on me," Cody said, waving Matt off.

"He's smarter than you, stronger than you, and... okay, you've got the sex appeal."

"Yeah. That's right." Cody held up his fist and Andrew performed the obligatory fist bump. "So those guys," Cody mumbled through a huge bite of his sub, "they said you wrote some plan to shoot up the school or something. For English class."

Andrew rolled his eyes.

"That's real dumb, man. You can't be doin' that shit."

"I didn't," Andrew snapped. "The assignment was to write a eulogy. What the fuck did they expect me to write?"

Cody shrugged. "Probably not a school shooting."

"Yeah, it was stupid. But I had to write something. And it was my own fucking eulogy."

"And I'm the one who gets shit about not working to my potential." Cody picked at the bandage above his eyebrow.

"Skateboarding?"

"Yeah, man. There's this sick rail in the parking lot behind work. I got it like, seventy-five percent." After polishing off his sandwich, Cody popped open his chips. "You been working on your tricks?"

"Kinda." Andrew looked away. Back toward Ryan. Monica Johnston, queen bee of the cheerleaders, had draped herself over his shoulders. No small wonder she'd earned the nickname "Moan-ica."

"You wanna come by after school? My shift doesn't start till three, we could grind for an hour. I got some stuff, too."

It was a tempting offer – the getting high part, Andrew had no desire to show Cody exactly how little progress he'd made on his tricks. The balance with one arm was so much harder. And it hurt a lot more when he fell. "Can't. They're makin' me go to therapy again."

"That fuckin' sucks, man." Cody made a fist. "But for real, we gotta skate together soon, yeah? You ain't lyin' about practicing, right?"

"No," Andrew said, his voice quiet. He'd still barely touched his sandwich.

"Yo, when did you dye your hair black?" Cody was squinting at him.

"Geez, you already have hearing aids, you need glasses now, too?"

Cody laughed. "But come on. Is this one a them cries for help?"

"I'm fine," Andrew said, his mood turning bitter.

"Sure, sure. Okay, I'm just gonna take a little nap now." With his backpack as a pillow, Cody put his head down and closed his eyes. "Wake me up when lunch is over."

That meant Cody had turned off his hearing aids and wouldn't hear the bell. Andrew sighed and picked up his book again. This was why Cody's presence made school only fifty percent more tolerable.

Now, Andrew chained his bike up outside of the office building and made his way upstairs.

Goddamn it, why was Ryan so early? He'd had half a hope that last time had been Ryan's first session too, and he wouldn't be early this time. Andrew threw himself into the same chair he'd sat in the other day. Because Ryan was once again sitting in the middle of the fucking waiting room.

He waited a long moment, giving Ryan the full weight of his glare, before asking, "So they got you for twice a week too, huh?"

Ryan blinked. "Uh, yeah. Twice a week." He stared at his knees.

Andrew frowned. "Funny. Seems like everybody knows what I did, but I haven't heard anything about you. Must be nice."  

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