TWELVE.

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JESS WASN'T AT work the next afternoon.

To say that Marley was concerned would be a bit of an understatement. She didn't remember much of what had happened last night, but from the bits she could piece together and what Courtney had told her when she called in the morning, she knew that she had been a mess. She had also missed a mess.

She vaguely recalled Ryan harassing her in a drunken stupor and decided to use alcohol to make his comments sting less. She remembered Jacob and Jess finding her on Kyle's porch, and she had the faintest memory of being guided over the bridge by Jess. Everything other than that was blurry. She certainly didn't remember Jess' rather annoyed state that Courtney said he'd had all night. Maybe that explained the fight.

The fight. Marley couldn't believe that she'd missed that. From what she'd heard from both Courtney and Jacob and judging by Luke's attitude this shift, it was bad. Really bad. But that wasn't what concerned Marley the most.

What concerned Marley the most was the conversation she'd had with her school's secretary while serving her lunch this afternoon. Between the pleasantries, the seventy-year-old Secretary Kerry had asked Marley if she was being forced to work with Jess today (technically, she'd asked Marley if  she had been 'forced to work with that punk today,' but Marley knew exactly what she'd meant) and only when Marley laughed it off and told her he called out, was the bomb dropped.

"Not only is he slacking at school, but he's also slacking at work too," Kerry had said, shaking her head. When Marley questioned this, Kerry's eyes became wide from behind her coffee cup. "You heard he was expelled from school right? Because of how many times he skipped?" She clucked her tongue. "I hope that hoodrat goes back where he came from. He's been in this town for too long. It's time for him to go home."

Marley had eyed the cross on the dainty chain hanging around her next. Maybe you've been here for too long too, you old bat, she'd thought. However, she kept that to herself, giving Secretary Kerry a plastic smile and leaving her with her bill.

The thought had been rattling around in her head ever since. Jess had been expelled. Expelled, expelled. He had broken the agreement he'd set with Luke. After hearing it from both of them, she knew something set in stone, something that Luke was going to hold on to. She feared the consequences to come.

As if to prove her point, Luke slammed a plate holding a Reuben sandwich in front of her. "Take that to the guy reading the newspaper in the corner."

Marley said nothing and did as she was told. She slowly walked back toward Luke, wiping her hands on the rag she kept with her. She prayed that Caesar would call another order.

To her chagrin, he did no such thing. Marley found herself next to Luke again and she knew he had questions for her. It was only a matter of time before he started to make small talk to sneak his questions in.

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