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Blemish

Summary

blem·ish
  ˈ/blemiSH/
  noun
  1.
  a small mark or flaw that spoils the appearance of something.
  "the merest blemish on a Rolls Royce might render it unsalable"

Opening

What makes a town well known? What puts it on the map? Does it have the top school in the state? Or does the oldest living person live there? When you’re asked what town you’re from do you proudly say it for anyone to hear, or do ignore the question completely, because your town is some place you don’t want to think about, a place you don’t even want to point out on a map, A Blemish and imperfection, your town is a place of secrets, a place of deceit. That was Brayersfield, for me at least. Some people in this town walk around like we’re the capital of the world, but I want to find my way out before this town sinks its meaty claws and pulls me in forever.

“I am telling you! Tristen was totally staring at me!” Lucille says, her chubby cheeks turning red at the very thought of Tristen Maxwell being even the slightest interested in her.

“Don’t take this personally Luci, but Tristen is a Maxwell?” I say, she frowns looking down at the red and blue table of Yungs Diner. I bite my tongue to stop myself from continuing further.

“Why is it so impossible for someone like him, to like me?” she says, picking at the skin around her nails. I reach across the table taking her pale hands into my tan ones.

“It’s not completely impossible, I am just saying don’t get your hopes up and get disappointed,” I say. She looks up meeting my gaze before smiling.

“Alright,” she says, pulling away she runs her fingers through her hair. I look outside at the pouring rain hitting the pavement, it was going to be hell getting home. “Is my driving you home?” she asks, I look over to her.

“She doesn’t have to,” I say, Lucille looks outside.

“It’s pouring outside Thena, what friend would I be if I let you walk home in that,” she says, on cue, her mother’s gray Volkswagen minivan, pulls into the parking lot. She flashes the lights as if we don’t already see her and we grab our things, running outside and jumping into the car.

“Good after noon girls, how was school?” Lucille’s mother says we get comfortable in the seats buckling up.

“It was school” Lucille shrugs, not wanting to go over her 7th-grade anguish with her mother who probably wouldn’t understand.

“Alright, Athena are you coming over ours or going home”

“Home please,” I say, she nods and pulls out of the parking lot. The streets as expected at a storm like this was deserted, everyone safely tucked away at home. I stared outside at the lights slowly dying in the houses, at the water rushing off into the sewers. Then I am blinded by bright red and blue lights.

“What’s happening here” we turn on to my street, and the closer we got down the street the sooner I realized, the police were at my house. A police officer steps into the street holding out his hand.

“What do you think is happening?” Lucille asks I didn’t give an answer. I slide open the door jumping outside.

“Ma’am get back inside the car,” the office says, I don’t recognize his face. I stare at my house, I stare at the police officers walking in and out.

“That’s my house”

“Get back in the car”

I dash past him, I make it to the crowd of police officers and start pushing through my hair sticking to my face. My heart beating so badly I couldn’t breathe, I made to the front and see them pulling out a gurney. It’s black bag sitting on top zipped, my legs begin to shake.

“Ma’am this is a crime scene” someone steps in front of me.

“What happened?” I ask.

“This is a crime scene I am going to have to ask you to leave,” he says.

“This is my house, what happened?!” My voice becoming horse, his eyes go wide.

“I am so very sorry” he starts, my heart continues to beat and I feel the tendons in my legs break, and my bones become mush. “There was an accident, Christopher Gates and Gillian Gates were found dead at the scene”

I couldn’t stop shaking as I stared at him, accident? What accident could leave two people dead? He grabs my shoulders.

“My brother? My little brother” I start, my tongue turning into mush. The man points me to a police car, that sits in between the ambulances. I run over using the rest of my strength to throw open the door and look down at my little brother.

“Athena” he cries.

“Cj,” I say, he jumps into my arms and I fall back into the water. Everything turns into static, I can hear, I think, everything is buzzing. Everything is flashing red and blue lights.

□□□□□□□□

I sit in the cold police station, the medium sized police blanket did nothing for my soaked body. I stared at the floor, at the light shining on it as I created a puddle underneath me. Cj sleeps in my lap, cuddled in my arms the one thing keeping me warm. The one thing keeping me from completely breaking, they’ve told me nothing of this so cold accident except that it wasn’t a case of breaking and entering. The only living occupant who knows what happened was Cj and for obvious reasons, he didn’t want to speak.

“Ms. Gates” I look up meeting the neutral gaze of Sheriff Winslow.

“Yes,” I say.

“Do you have any relatives you could call? Grandparents? Aunts? Uncles?” he asks, I suck in a breath closing my eyes. My parents weren’t on good terms with their respective families. My dad being a spoiled suburban white child and my mother being a spoiled Atlantic hood-rat their families didn’t really see them being happy together. So, they stopped talking to them, in my 13 years on this planet I haven’t met a single grandparent, the only family member who even tried was my Aunt.

“My Aunt…... She lives in Capital City” I say, he nods.

“Do you known her number?” he asks, I shake my head.

“She…... She works at Maslow Heights” I say, he nods.

“And what’s her name?”

“Tiana Winfield”

 

Words probably couldn’t express the emotion my Aunt felt when she came rushing into the police station, she was the oldest sister. Out of 3, my mother was the youngest, when my mom broke ties with the family because she loved my father so much it broke my Aunts heart and she did everything to try to mend the relationship between my mother and the rest of her family, but it was too late for that.

“Athena,” she says, pulling me into a tight hug. I hug her back probably getting her clothes wet, as I was still wet. Cj stood beside me holding on to the end of the blanket. My Aunt pulls away from me kneeling down beside him. “You guys are going to stay with me okay? And everything is going to be okay”

What makes a town well known? What puts it on the map? Does it have the top school in the state? Or does the oldest living person live there? When you’re asked what town you’re from do you proudly say it for anyone to hear, or do ignore the question completely, because your town is some place you don’t want to think about, a place you don’t even want to point out on a map, A Blemish and imperfection, your town is a place of secrets, a place of deceit, a place of murder. 

Act i

 

 

 

  𝑻𝒉𝒆𝒓𝒆 𝒂𝒓𝒆 𝒏𝒐 𝒔𝒆𝒄𝒓𝒆𝒕𝒔 𝒕𝒉𝒂𝒕 𝒕𝒊𝒎𝒆 𝒅𝒐𝒆𝒔 𝒏𝒐𝒕 𝒓𝒆𝒗𝒆𝒂𝒍

-​𝑱𝒆𝒂𝒏 𝑹𝒂𝒄𝒊𝒏𝒆  

 

One

“Athena Louise Gates, if you don’t get out of bed I am going to make you get out of bed” my bedroom door flies open, but stops because of the many boxes piled at the door. I sit on my bed, staring at the angry brown face of my aunt.

“I do not want to go to school”

She takes a deep breath, leaning against the door frame.

“Honey, I know this place brings back sore memories”

“My parents died in this god forsaken town” I say, she bites her lip closing her eyes. Probably counting to ten, or something her therapist told her to do so she wouldn’t kill me in my sleep.

“My job requires us to me, and it just so happens they were opening an office here what was I supposed to do we need the money” she says, opening her eyes again. I stare at her before climbing off of bed.

“I don’t want them to stare” I whisper.

“Honey, they’re going to stare regardless you’re beautiful, captivating, anyone would love to stare at you” she says, I fight the smile breaking on my face.

“Alright” I say, she sighs with relief before closing my bedroom door. First days of school, most First days for students started on August 29th, I’m about two weeks late but that was only because I started school where I lived in Capital Heights since 8th grade, since we moved away from this town. Now I am starting the second to last year of my high school life at the one place I’ve only thought about in nightmares.

Brayersfield High School.

I returned to Brayersfield, three days ago expecting to see changes. Everything was the same, same high school, same middle school, same diner that sat at the exit of town, same broken road, that badly needed repair, nothing changed in Brayersfield, it was like they pressed a paused button, or they were preserving the essence of this terrible place in a bottle.

I walk downstairs into the kitchen, Cj sits at the table slurping down his cereal like someone was going to steal the bowl away. I take a seat pouring myself a bowl.

“Are you ready for your first day?” I ask, looking over at me. He slurps milk from his spoon looking at me with a nod. “Alright, and don’t be afraid to walk away if people start asking you uncomfortable questions”

“Questions about mommy and daddy?” he says, not looking me in the eye I shove a spoon full of sugar bits or whatever this cereal was called into my mouth, nodding at him. We both finish our cereal just as our aunt walks in pulling on her black heels.

“Alright, are you guys ready?” she asks.

“Ready as I’ll ever be”

“Do you want me to drive you? Or are you going to drive the bike?” she asks, the bike something left for me by my Father. It was a 2010 Harley Davidson Breakout bike that my dad bought off of craigslist and was building up for me, he was going to give it to me on my 16th birthday and teach me how to ride it. I had to finish the renovations, and teach myself but it is still my most prized possession.

“The bike, I don’t want to be stuck after school” I say, drinking down the sugary milk from the bowl then standing and dropping the bowl in the sink.

“We’ll be careful, okay?” she says.

“Okay” I say, walking over to her she kisses me on my cheek and I turn and kiss Cj on the cheek before leaving.

Brayersfield was a small speck of a town, it was one of those towns you see in Television shows where everybody knows everybody, and no one can move into town without every single person knowing before they even have a chance to get their boxes from the truck, so it was no surprise that everyone knew of my arrival, everyone was waiting for me to walk through those doors.

I felt like I was on a runaway, as I walked to the main office to talk to Principal Geryl people stared, pointed, whispered as if I wasn’t able to hear. When I walked inside the office, people acted as if I was some kind of celebrity. Principal Geryl stood outside of his office and waited for me, and when we walked inside I could tell people went back to work as if I was never there.

“Good morning Ms. Gates” principal Geryl starts, sitting at his desk.

“Good morning”

“You’re Aunt called me about a week ago to talk about you returning to town, and returning to our school for obvious reasons she is worried about how you will re-enter life here in Brayersfield, and I just want you to know that you have nothing to worry about, you will be treated just as any regular student and if anyone is making you feel uncomfortable in any way, don’t hesitate to tell me alright?” he says.

“Alright” I say, he grabs a few papers off his desk handing them to me.

“That’s your emergency contact form, the school code and conduct, you’re schedule and locker enjoy your first day” he says, with a smile. I stand leaving his office, I walk towards the doors of the main office, where some people still stood.

Locker 2939, on the second floor. I just had to make it to my locker, and then make it to class that would be easy. I open the door and walk out walking to the main hallway where even more people stood and whispered, it took me a minute to find the staircase, and get to the second floor. Then I started looking at Locker numbers to find mine, holding my helmet in one hand and looking down at my paper in the other. Ignoring the stares, whispers, the points, it sent chills through my body that people had nothing else better to talk about.

I finally find my locker, and people were standing around it. A part of me hoped it was for any other reason but I knew it was because of me.

“You’re Athena Gates, right?” someone asks, as I stop at my locker I meet the gaze of a curious looking Freshman.

“Yes, and something tells me you already knew that”

“Everyone has been talking about you coming back ever since they spot you moving in a few days ago” she says, looking down at her phone before raising it up and snapping a picture of me, I take a step back, glaring at her.

“What the hell” I say, she looks at me with wide eyes.

“Sorry” she says, before turning around I watch her go, disappear into the crowd. I turn back unlocking my locker and shoving my helmet before slamming it closed, it was going to be a long day.

□□□□□□□□

I was ready to blow my brains out by 4th period, people treated me as if I was the one who killed my parents. I sat at a lone table at lunch, with a tray of food I wasn’t even the slightest interested in eating, praying that no one would try and bother me. I picked at the dried corn, and unsavory looking meatloaf that was floating in a lake of gravy, hoping time would go faster.

“So, you were just going to come back into town, and not immediately come and see me?” I look up and meet the same brown eyes of the girl, who held my crying body that raining night.

“Lucille” I say.

“Yes! Lucille!” she says, dropping in the seat in front of me. Even though she was obviously upset her face still showed the exact right amount of beauty, that chubby cheeked girl I knew it 7th grade was gone. Replacing her was a K-Pop singer.

“I’m sorry I just….” I scrolled through, the long list of bullshit excuses for not getting in contact with the only friend I had in this town. “It was just a surprise”

“A surprise for me to, that I had to be sub tweeted to find out that you’re back” she says.

“Sub tweeted?”

She pulls out her phone, before showing me the screen.

@LazyGurl2525

Funny how the only person who AG talked to back in middle school, didn’t even know she came back into town.

 

“AG? My name is an abbreviation now?”  I say.

“That’s not the point Thena, why didn’t come see me! It broke my heart when you left and I’ve missed you ever since” she says.

“I’ve missed you too, I was just going through a lot of things and I didn’t realize when I came back that I’d be coming back to you I thought I’d be coming back to whispers, and stares…...” I say, noticing the large amount of people staring.

“Well I forgive you” she says, standing walking around the table standing beside me, I realize she wants me to stand as well and when I do she pulls me into a tight hug. She pulls away, and smiles.

“Lucille” A deep voice says, a voice that shakes my core. Lucille pulls away from my raking her fingers through her hair, a tall muscular male, walks across the cafeteria towards us. All eyes followed him now, which was a small brief relief.

“Tristen” Lucille says, crossing her arms. He eyes her before looking at me. Tristen? As in Tristen Maxwell?

“Athena Gates, I never thought I’d see you again” he says.

“Ditto” I say.

“What do you want Tristen, I am catching up” Lucille says, Tristen looks away from me and back at Lucille.

“What hell are you doing? You can’t ignore me like this” he says.

“That’s exactly what I am doing, and we’re not talking about this here Tristen” she says.

“Then when?” he says, his voice felt like it shook the walls. Tristen was always slightly intimidating but that was because he was the only child of the Maxwell’s, you had to call ahead to come over his house. He was born into power, The Maxwell’s ruled this town with a solid gold fist.

“Not now, not in public” Lucille turns to me. “Do you want to go? I see you haven’t even eaten” she says.

“I’d like to go anywhere but here” I say, she smiles and I grab my bag and we walk towards the door.

“Sorry about that” she says, when we make it into the hallway.

“About what? Tristen being an asshole? I already knew that” I say, she sighs.

“It’s embarrassing when he tries to talk about our relationship in public, I am always looked at as the bad person” she says.

“He’s a Maxwell, if it’s not in public it didn’t happen” I say, she laughs.

“I see your views on the Maxwell’s haven’t changed”

“My views on everything hasn’t changed, I am still the same person I was 4 years ago” I say, just missing a chunk of my family.

“Well I am glad, because I missed you so much” she says, before pulling me into another hug.

“I missed you too”

It wasn’t a lie, the one thing I did miss from my time away from this town was Lucille. She was a breath of fresh air, and probably hated being in this town just as much as I did.

“So, you and Tristen huh?”

“It kind of just happened” she shrugs.

“Are you guys like… Serious?”

“He wants to get married after we graduate” I choke on my saliva and have to stop walking.

“Married? What about college?”

“Tristen says all I need is the town,” she says, and just like that this towns long talons have dug their sharp nails into her, and was slowly dragging her down.

 

Two

The final bell rings, and I am more than happy to leave the building. If this was going to be how every day for next two years was going to be like, I will consider home schooling. I make it to my locker grab my helmet and make my way outside to the parking lot, as I walk into student parking towards where I parked my bike I notice a small group of leather jackets surrounding it, it wasn’t particularly cold outside, but Leather jackets were not only tacky but out of season.

“Excuse me” I say, they all face towards me and then I notice someone sitting on my bike. “What are you doing?”

“Admire this nice ride” the guy sitting on my bike says.

“Well this nice ride is mine, so can you kindly get off?” I ask.

“You ride this?” he asks, climbing off. I scoff rolling my eyes.

“Don’t sound so surprised” I say.

“It’s just you don’t fit, this bike” I cross my arms across my chest. I was about to show him how my shoe fit in his ass but I counter to ten, digging my nails into my palm.

“Well, let’s stop living in social stereotypes alright greaser?” I say, pulling on my helmet and walking over to my bike climbing on, I start it up and without really asking rev the gas, forcing the leather jackets idiots to move out of my way. My aunt and Cj are at the house when I get there, Cj sits at the kitchen table eating sliced apples and doing his homework and my Aunt is already starting dinner.

“Hey Thena, how was your first day” she asks, I walk over to Cj kissing the top of his head before falling in the seat beside him.

“It was long, I am officially a Brayersfield High, Celebrity” I say, My aunt chuckles.

“How so?” she asks.

“Well for one I was trending on Twitter, and I’ve had 4 different people take pictures of me without asking it’s like I am being followed by paparazzi” I say, she turns grabbing a bowl from the counter and walking over to me.

“People will get over it soon, I promise” she says, setting down a bowl of grapes and apple slices.

“Thanks” I say. I start snacking on the fruit, helping Cj with his homework before starting on mine, when we both finish our homework. Cj goes into the backyard to play and I go lie down in my bedroom.

 

Luci: I heard you got into an altercation with Francis

Me: Francis? You mean the Outsider wannabe who was disrespecting my bike?

Luci: Yes, I guess…. He’s bad news, I’d stay away from him

Me: Wasn’t planning on doing anything, but thanks for the warning

Luci: What are you plans for dinner? Do you want to meet up at Yungs? Catch up?

Me: Sure, why not?”

 

I walk back downstairs, and my Aunt is still cooking away.

“I am going to Yungs to meet up with Lucille” I say, she spins around facing me.

“Lucille? Whose Lucille?” she asks.

“Lucille is my friend from 7th grade…...” I say, Lucille didn’t need much more of an explanation. She was the one person I walked about from this town that I wasn’t bashing on.

“Alright well be safe, and be home before 11 It’s a school night” she says.

“Sure thing” I grab my keys, wallet, and helmet and walk out the door. I walk over to my bike and sitting on the seat was a black box, with a white bow. I look around as if it’s deliverer would be waiting behind a pole. I pull away the ribbon letting it drop to the ground and I open the box, inside was a single photo. It looked old it also looked like it was taken from inside of a car on a rainy day, I couldn’t see clearly but it looked like Lucille and I sitting in Yungs. I turn over the picture checking for a date but instead I am met with perfectly neat hand writing, like when you first learn cursive.

Welcome back.

It sent a chill through my spin, I turn the photo over again looking at it. My hair was longer, curlier, I was actually smiling. This picture must have been taken 4 years ago, on the rainy day that changed my life. I look around once again, as if someone was going to reveal themselves and I stuff the photo in my back pocket climbing onto my bike. I pull on my helmet and start it up pulling from the drive way.

The whole ride to Yungs, I was making a list of possible people to have taken that picture and to have dropped it off to freak me out. The list was too long to pick off by the time I got to Yungs, I park my bike climbing off taking off my helmet.

“Hey Sandy, fancy seeing you hear” I turn around and come face to face with the guy named Francis.

“Sandy?” I question.

“Because you called me a Greaser so that must mean you’re my Sandy” he winks, I laugh.

“You don’t look like someone who watches musicals, and you’re far from a Danny Zuko” I say, walking towards the entrance to Yungs.

“You’ve been here what? 3 days already meeting up with a boyfriend?” he says, I stop turning around.

“If it’s any of business, which it isn’t I meeting up with a friend” I say, he smirks.

“You’re right, it’s none of my business go enjoy your food Sandy” he winks, I roll my eyes opening the door to Yungs and walking inside. Lucille waits patiently alone inside, looking over a menu. I walk over to the table sitting down.

“Oh, you made it!” she says, happily.

“Yes, I did!” I say.

“I see you ran into Francis again” she says.

“You know, Francis isn’t really an intimidating name” I say, pulling a menu in front of me.

“Most of his friends call him Elijah” she says.

“Alright that’s a little more intimidating but not that much”

“I’ve already ordered us each a strawberry milkshake,” she says.

“Delicious” I say.

“I am not that hungry, I am just going to get some fries and a grilled cheese sandwich” she says.

“That sounds good, but I think I want a burger” I say, scanning through the menu that I’ve already got imprinted in my mind.

“Good evening ladies, here is your milkshakes anything else I can get you?” the waiter asks.

“I’d like grilled cheese sandwich, one half swiss, one half Provolone, and shredded parmesan in the middle and some French fries please” Lucille says, handing over her menu.

“And I’d like a mighty meaty burger with extra tomatoes and no onions with well-seasoned fries”

“Alright coming right up” he walks away and I lean back in my seat.

“So, tell me, how did you Lucille Helena Cho started dating Tristen James Maxwell” I say.

“It’s a little unsettling that you know his middle name”

“Most of the people in this town know the hour he was born” I say, she nods in agreement.

“It happened Sophomore year, my mom forced me to attend an event at the Maxwell estate it’s was a complete snore fest and Tristen was there being his regular brooding self and he walked out to the balcony and I don’t know why but I followed him and we talked about school, he mentioned you more than once for some reason and then my mom called me back inside, after that he sort of just attached to me”

I shuddered at the thought of Tristen Maxwell talking about let alone thinking about me, my parents hated the Maxwell’s ever since they moved to this town. Which made them outcast I was born into the hate and ever since I can remember I’ve hated Tristen Maxwell and the rest of the Maxwell estate.

“Cute” I say, she snorts drinking down her drink.

“You don’t have to fake it, I know you can’t stand him” she says.

“That’s the understatement of the century” I say, the doors to the diner open. Lucille straightens up looking over my shoulder, I turn around and Elijah A.K.A Francis walks in followed by 3 others of his leather jacket friend, his eyes scan the diner and he chooses a booth three down from ours.

“Doesn’t he give off a vibe?” Lucille whispers, I look back at her.

“A vibe?”

“Like a…. It’s hard to explain” she says, I look over her shoulder. Three tables down Elijah sits at his table, facing me. His dark brooding brown eyes staring at me, as I stare back. I didn’t break eye contact, I studied every eye lash, every freckle. He looked away first, forcing me to look back at Lucille. “You were staring at him” she whispers.

“He was staring first, I don’t appreciate being studied like I am some artifact at a museum” I say.

“Maybe people are looking at you because you’re a beautiful painting”

“Now you sound like my Aunt”

Our food arrives shortly after, and I don’t have any more staring contest with Elijah A.K.A Francis for the rest of the night. His group of misfits did know how to make their presence known, every once in a while, they’d start shouting back and forth, sometimes calling waitresses across the diner.

“It’s getting late, I’ll see you tomorrow at school, right?”

“Bright and early” I say, as we walk outside to the parking lot.

“Alright, be safe” she walks up to her Prius probably a present from her father who lives in Hong Kong, I wouldn’t be surprised. She climbs in and I watch her pull out before I walk over to my bike climbing on and pulling on my helmet. I start up my bike pulling out of the space when suddenly a loud popping sound happens and my engine cuts off. I quickly kick up the kick stand, hopping off, I take off my helmet so I can see better.

“Not now, come on” I whisper, to myself setting my helmet down on the pavement. I drop down to look at my engine but I can’t see nothing in the darkness. “Fuck” I hiss.

“Seems like you’re in need of assistance” I look up, and Elijah AKA Francis stands a few feet away along with his lackeys.

“No, I am perfectly fine” I lie, standing again.

“It looks like you’re abandoned, your friend is gone” he says.

“I can always call her”

“And what about your bike, you seemed a little defensive about it earlier it must mean a lot to you” he says, my nails begin digging into my palm. He was right there was no way in hell I was leaving my bike out here.

“Fine” I hiss, he smirks. One friend walks across the parking lot getting a pickup truck and the other two pulls my bike up into the bed of the truck.

“You can ride with me” Elijah says, I look over at him hoping he sees my glare through the darkness, I pull out my phone I had two hours before 11. I climb into his car, buckling myself up. It smelled like French Fries, and alcohol. Elijah follows the pickup truck, I sit on the edge of seat making sure my bike wouldn’t bounce off or anything. “Who gave it to you?”

I don’t bother looking over to him.

“It was supposed to be a gift from my dad when I turned 18, but he never got a chance to give it to me” I say.

“What happened?” I look at him, was he not originally from Brayersfield, everyone knows what happened to my parents even toddlers get told the tragic story of the Gates family.

“My mother and father were murdered when I was in the 7th grade, they never found the murderers....” I say, looking back outside at the bike.

“I uh didn’t know....”

“Hard to believe.... I left town 4 years ago and moved back, what did you think people were ogling me because I am interesting?” I say.

“You seem pretty interesting” I look back over to him, but he stares at the road. His hair shined in the moonlight, he actually looked like a greaser. We turn into what looked like an auto park, the truck stops at garage.

“You’re a mechanic?” I ask.

“My dad is” he says, he parks the car and we get out. His friends get my bike out and he opens the garage, the lights flicker on and we walk inside, Elijah grabs a tool box and drops down beside my bike, I walk over sitting beside him, helping him open the access to my engine. He grabs a flash light. “It looks like someone tried cutting your brakes but cut your transmission line instead” he says.

“Who would try and cut my brakes” I was talking to myself, staring at the leaking transmission line.

“You’re going to need a new one, it might take a few days to get it though” He says, I look over at him.

“I have to get home, and get to school tomorrow I need my bike” I say.

“I’m sorry doll face but there isn’t any way doll face” he says, I stand up dusting my jeans off.

“Well then, you’re driving me home, Mr. Mechanic” I say, he chuckles to himself standing whipping his hands on his jeans.

“Fine, Princess” he says, I growl under my breath. “Tell Pa I’ll be back” he says, walking from the garage. I give a curt wave to the three boys before following Elijah outside.

“Those are you brothers?” I ask, opening the car door.

“Step brothers,” he says, I climb inside of the car, slamming the door. Looking at my bike one last time before the garage door closed. “I’ll take care of your bike”

I make it back to the house, I say nothing else to Elijah before going back inside. I don’t know how I was going to explain my bike being in a garage and how I got home.

□□□□□□□□

“What happened to your bike again?” my aunt asks in the morning, I stab my freshly made bacon.

“There was a mishap, I got a ride with Lucille home and got my bike towed I can pick it up in two days”

“What kind of mishap? Are you alright” My aunt stops the car, at a stop sign and beings looking me over. I swat her hands away but she keeps pulling at my clothes.

“I am fine” I say, she leans back in her seat.

“Sorry” she says, before looking back at the road. I slide back in my seat looking out the window, thinking over whether I should tell her someone cut my transmission line, that someone actually wanted to cut my brake line. “I worry about you a lot, both you and Cj, but mostly you” she says, I look over at her. “You remind me so much of her” she says, staring at the road in front of her.

“I’m okay, really”

So much for telling her.

She drops me off at the end of the lineup of cars, I walk up the small hill to the front doors getting my first round of morning stares. I pull open the doors and I am greeted with the smell of lemon bleach, and more stares. I make my way upstairs to my locker feeling empty without my helmet, and having no real reason to go to my locker beside the fact I didn’t want to make it to class early.

I turn the corner and Lucille is waiting at my locker, her hair combed out perfectly. She wore a cute outfit that made her look like she was the only person dressed in a school uniform and she was rocking it.

“Morning”

“I thought I told you to stay away from Francis” she whispers, looking around the hallway like saying his name was going to summon him, like he was bloody Mary.

“What are you talking about?” I ask.

“Billy Aleah said his mom saw you getting out of Francis’s car last night, what happened to your bike?” she whispers.

“I uh…. Someone tried to cut my brake like, but instead cut my transmission line Francis was just helping me out” I say, she gasps loudly looking around.

“Who would do that? You could have been seriously hurt” she says.

“Well I wasn’t and you don’t have to worry about me, or me talking to Francis me and him are on a strict mechanic to owner basis”

“Okay, I believe you” she smiles.

Even when I start to believe that Brayersfield changed, everyone shows me it hasn’t. Gossip flies around this town like a disease, you can’t sneeze without someone telling someone else. Most people know someone is cheating before the cheater knows they are, it’s a horrible cycle of buzzing, and on top of that. This town is horribly judgmental with the Greasers, I mean that’s not they’re actually names but I am sure the reason most stores don’t have hair gel it’s because of them. They were just misunderstood and it didn’t help that they fed into people’s fear.

“I’ll see you at lunch, right?” she says.

“Right” I say.

Three

I tap my pencil to the sound of the ticking clock, staring at the teacher go on and on about quadratic formula’s and shit, I really didn’t care about. Every few seconds I look up at the clock and it seems time was moving slower.

“Aren’t I correct, Ms. Gate?”  I look back over at the teacher, she stands in front of an equation that’s obviously wrong.

“No, you’re not” I say, simply. She seems shocked that I’d call her out, instead of mindlessly agreeing with her. “The answer would be 4X- 5 not 5X-3” I say, she looks back at the board, then her shoulders sag and she erases her answer before fixing it.

“Thank you, Ms. Gate,” she says. I look back at the clock and it still ticked away, 15 more minutes and then class would end. While the rest of the class rewrote the answer, whispering under their breath about me being smarter than the teacher. I slowly started packing up, not wanting risk being the last out of the classroom.

When the bell rings, I walk out of the class and make it halfway down the hall towards the cafeteria before the halls are filled with hot breath, and running freshman. On top of people staring at me because of the simple fact that I was Athena Gate, now people were staring at me because I was Athena Gate last seen with Francis Rivera. Of course, no one would stop and ask me the reason behind it, and it wasn’t like I was going to tell. It was my personal life and they need to find their own.

I walk into the cafeteria and Lucille is waiting at the same table from yesterday, opting out of eating the rubber food they served us here I take a seat across from her.

“You’re not getting lunch?” she asks.

“I’ll just eat at home” I shrug, dropping my bag on the floor.

“So, have you figured out who want to try and hurt you?” Lucille asks, pulling out a small bowl of what looked like chopped vegetables.

“No, but I did get this last night before meeting up with you” I reach into the side pocket of my bag, pulling out the picture and sliding it across the table. “Someone had left it on my bike”

“Creepy, that looks like us the night your……” she stops herself and quickly shoves a carrot into her mouth. I take the photo back dropping it in my bag.

“I’m choosing to ignore it” I state.

“As long as you don’t get hurt”

“Lucille, what are you doing sitting over here?” I don’t have to turn around to know it’s Tristen. His voice just screams punch me in the throat.

“Athena is my friend” Lucille says, simply.

“I thought we talked last night, I want you to sit with me” he says.

“Not unless Athena can sit with me” I turn around facing him, his jaw is clenched and I could tell he was doing everything in his power not to glare down at me.

“Honey” he says.

“This isn’t a debate Tristen” Lucille says, simply I turn back to her with a smile. I can tell Tristen walks away when her shoulder sags and she looks back down at her bowl of vegetables.

“Someone is going to have a temper tantrum” I say, she snorts before straightening up.

“He’s being really possessive, especially now that you’re back” she says, chewing on a steamed carrot.

“Think he’s afraid I’ll steal you from him” I wink and she laughs.

“I think that’s what his nightmares consist of” she jokes, towards the end of lunch it felt more and more people were staring at me, then suddenly everything goes silent. Lucille sucks in a breath, and I turn to see what people were so shocked about Francis walks into the cafeteria followed by his step-brothers. They stop for a second looking over the crowd of fearful faces before Francis finds mine. He smirks walking over to me.

“Hello dolly face” he says, dropping in the seat beside me.

“What do you want” I say, he smiles.

“That’s no way to talk to the person who fixed your precious bike, now is it?” he says, holding out my keys.

“You fixed it? Already!” I say, he shrugs.

“I had some time to kill, I thought why not can’t keep a pretty thing like you waiting” he says, I reach for my keys but he yanks them back. “Wait one second” he says.

“What? Do you want me to pay you?” I ask, he leans forward.

“No, I am not a mechanic” he says.

“Then what do you want?”

“For you to accompany me to a party” he says, smiling. Lucille sucks in another breath, I side eye her before looking back at Francis.

“Is this how you ask out all of your girls?” I ask.

“Most of them come to me, but I like working for it” he smiles, I growl.

“Fine” I say, grabbing my keys. He stands running his fingers through his hair.

“Friday night, I’ll pick you up at 6 wear something nice, and I parked your bike in the front” he says, before turning and walking away.

“Athena Julia Gate! What the hell was that?!” Lucille hisses, I turn back to her.

“It’s not a date, it’s a payment” I say.

“So, you’re hoeing yourself out for a bike?” she says.

“A bike that my dad gave me, and it isn’t hoeing myself out okay?” I say, she stares at me before sighing.

“I’m sorry” she says, quietly.

“What makes him so bad anyway?” I ask, she looks at the seat beside me where Francis was just sitting.

“He just has a bad reputation” she says.

□□□□□□□□

“Absolutely not!” My aunt says.

“Auntie!” I whine.

“You will not be going out with that boy! I’ve heard things Athena” she says.

“That’s just talk! I’ll be fine it’s just one party” I say, she stares at me angrily cutting her meatloaf. Cj sits between us looking back and forth like he was at a tennis match.

“I don’t want you getting into any trouble, not in this town” she says.

“I’ll be fine, if anything goes left I was demand he take me home, I’ll text you every few minutes, please!” I say, she stares down at her plate angrily chewing. I stab my fork into my meatloaf. “Lucille will be coming” I say, she looks up.

“Lucille Cho?” she says.

“Yes”

“I work with her mother, and I don’t think she’d ever let Lucille go out to a party like that” My aunt says, I roll my shoulders back.

“Well she is letting her go to this one, so now can I go?” I ask. My Aunt’s shoulder sag meaning she was giving in, she looks me in the eyes.

“Just this time Athena, but no more hanging out with that boy” she says. After dinner, I skype call Lucille while applying a face mask and braiding my hair back.

“Hey” she says, jumping onto her bed with a black face mask.

“Hey” I smile.

“What’s up?” she says.

“Alright…. Uh…. I kind of told my Aunt you were going to the party with me on Friday, and that your mom was totally cool with it” I spit out, she stares at the screen.

“A-ga-ri dak-chyo!” she screams out. “How could you Athena! My mom barely lets me leave the house to check the mail!”

“Just tell her it’s my first weekend back and you want to have a sleepover, come on please!” she stares at me.

“You’re real doof” she mutters, I smile.

“Thank you”

“But we’re not staying long, those types of parties always end with the police being called and I don’t want to get arrested, got it?” she says.

“Got it”

In the morning, I take my bike to McDonalds before going to school, getting to class early so I can eat. I spend the rest of the day going over how Friday night was going to happen. The only parties I’ve ever been to are the ones Cj was invited to and I was volunteered to chaperone, so teenage parties were really my forte.

“Alright what are you wearing Friday” Lucille says, she stands outside of my 3rd period. Her hair in a stylish bun.

“Uhm, probably what I am going to wear to school” I say.

“What no gross, what the hell Athena” she says, stopping me. “You will not be going to a party, dressed like this” she says, gesturing to my clothes.

“Hurtful”

“No offense, but you dress like a 12-year-old boy” she says.

“Well then we go shopping after school” I could tell she wanted to squeal with excitement. From the looks of things, she didn’t have many female friends, and I think Tristen is to blame always having her clipped to his side like an accessory so she doesn’t get to do teenager girl things like get her nails done with her friends, or go shopping. I felt bad, I knew I could have simply asked my Aunt for clothes, she lived and breathed for high fashion but this was a nice second choice.

“Okay! I’ll meet you in the parking lot after school then!” She says, before skipping down the hallway. I watch her go before turning and walking towards third period. When I get there Tristen is standing outside and physically gag.

“Don’t be too happy to see me”

“Never in a million years Maxwell” I say.

“I would just like to inform you Gate, that I will be keeping a close eye on you” he says.

“I love have admirers Maxwell, but don’t you have a girlfriend?” I say, he growls.

“That’s exactly why I am keeping an eye on you, wherever you go trouble seems to follow” he says.

“If you’re talking about Francis, he is innocent” I say, before walking into the classroom and taking my seat.

The Maxwell may have everyone else under a steel thumb, but I refused to be brainwashed by their flashy clothes and money. They thought they were so perfect and great just because they’re ancestor founded this dismal town. They needed to be put in their place and know that anywhere they’d just be regular people.

 

I meet Lucille in the school parking lot after school, she stands at her car using one of her windows to reapply her pink lipstick.

“Are you ready?” I ask, she perks up smiling.

“Yes” she says.

“I’ll follow you” I say, walking back towards my bike. I get there and Francis is leaning against it. “You’re not really respectful to other people’s properties, are you?” I ask.

“Why’d you defend me?” he asks.

“What?” I ask.

“To Maxwell, I heard what that dick said to you and you defended me” he says.

“Don’t get a big head Zuko, I just choose to give people the benefit of doubt” I say, before climbing onto my bike. I pull my helmet on start it up and pull from the space. The closest mall to the town was 3 miles away, it was a decent sized mall and it was worth the drive. When we first arrive Lucille and I grab and cinnamon pretzel just like my mom would buy us when she’d take us here. A cinnamon pretzel with sugar glaze and a side frozen lemonade.

“So, I go entail that the party is going to be at a barn, so that means comfortable shoes and a dress that is long enough to withstand dancing, but short enough to be cute” Lucille says, sucking down her drink.

“Where do you get this entail? And who said I was wearing a dress?” I say.

“If you’re dragging me to this party, you’re wearing a dress” she says, I wasn’t going to argue with her. I let Lucille guide me only pointing out things that I would absolutely not wear like striped dress, with a v-cut. I didn’t have boobs and I didn’t want the first thing people look at is my flat chest.

“How about this?” she says, holding a right red dress with small black polka dots.

“That’s pretty” I say, dropping my drink the nearest trash.

“Finally! Go try it on” she says, shoving it in my hands. I walk back to the changing rooms, choosing the biggest one. I slip out of my shoes, and skinny jeans, dropping everything in a pile in front of my mirror. I slowly pull on the red dress, and zip it up halfway looking at myself in the mirror. “How does it look?” Lucille asks, through the door. I walk opening it up enough for her to see.

“I think it look great” I say, she smiles.

“We’re getting it” she says, I close the door and quickly getting undressed, first my skinny jeans, hopping around the changing room attempting to get it passed my ass. When I finally get it to my waist, something pops out of my back pocket. I button my jeans, before picking it up, it was a small locket. It was similar to the one I wore around my neck that had a picture of my mother in it. I attempt to open it but it wouldn’t budge. “Come on Thena, we have to go to payless!” Lucille says, I look at the door before back down at the bronze locket. I open my backpack dropping it inside before pulling on my shirt and meeting Lucille outside.

“Did you find everything you wanted?” the cashier says, Lucille drops three more random items on top of my dress.

“We sure did” she says.

“You don’t have to pay for it” I say, but she pulls out her card anyway.

“You bought the pretzels” she says, handing the man her card.

“Yeah, the pretzels were like 10 dollars, this is 35” I say, she shrugs.

“Can’t take it with you” she smiles, the man puts everything in one bag before handing it to me.

“Enjoy the rest of your day” he says, we leave the store going down the escalator to the empty payless. We try on 15 different boots before settling on a pair, and before Lucille had the chance I bought my own.  In the end I got a dress, some tights to wear underneath, new boots, and inserts so my feet wouldn’t hurt.

“Alright Friday after school, you’re coming to my house for hair and making up and then we’re going to your house to get dressed and I guess Francis is driving us” she says.

“Alright” I say.

“See you tomorrow!” she says.

The rest of the week was me pulling myself through school, and ignoring Tristen’s dirty looks every time he saw me in the hallway. After school of Friday, I followed Lucille home on my bike, and we arrived I saw the same Volkswagen sitting in the parking spot. I parked on the street and followed Lucille through the garage inside.

“Annyeong, eomeoni” Lucille says, out her mom appears her hair cut in a short bob.

“Annyeong” she says, before looking over at me. “Athena” she says, before pulling me into a hug.

“Hi, Mrs. Cho” I say, she pulls away looking over my face.

“You’ve grown” she says.

“Thanks”

“We’ll be in my room” Lucille says, taking my hand and dragging me down the hall. Lucille was the only child and that meant she had a lot of things to herself, that included the entire basement being turned into her room. I walk in and there are pictures of her and Tristen covering the walls, even some of us in middle school before I left. “Alright sit down,” she says, pulling me into the vanity seat.

“We don’t have to go all out remember” I say, she presses her finger to my lip.

“And artist is at work” she says.

After half an hour of torturous eye brow plucking, and hair combing Lucille was finally done with me. I sat in front of the vanity mirror staring at myself. My eyebrows manicured, my hair full of bounce and curls. My hand subconsciously goes to the locket around my neck, a memory of my mother getting ready for a dinner party flashes in my mind, she turns to me kissing me on the forehead her bright red lipstick leaving a mark.

“Do you like it?” Lucille asks.

“I love it” I smile.

“Great, now I have to get ready” she says, pushing me out of the vanity seat. I sit on the ground for the 15 minutes it takes for her to comb, flat iron, and braid back her hair. She ends up looking like Daenerys Targaryen from game of thrones. She applies red lipstick, mascara, and a little bit of blush before she is finished. “Now time for the hardest thing we’ll have to do tonight, get passed my mother” she says.

“What’s the plan?” I ask.

“I was thinking of blitzing out the front door before she has a chance to see my face” she says, standing.

“Do you think that’ll work?” I ask.

“We can only pray” she says, we sneak up the stairs and quietly as possibly. We can hear her mother in the kitchen watching some Korean drama, and chopping vegetables. We make it to the top of the stairs and quietly tip toe towards the front door.

“What are you two doing” I jump up, and we both turn around facing Lucille’s father.

“Mr. Cho” I smile.

“Abeoji” Lucille says.

“You two look very pretty, where are you running off to?” he says.

“A movie” I say, quickly.

“Yes, we’re meeting Athena’s Aunt and little brother there” Lucille adds, he looks between the both of us, I put on a tight smile poker face, holding my breath.

“Okay, well you’re not 007 you can walk normally” he says, before walking passed us into the kitchen.

“Well that was a bust” Lucille mumbles, behind me. We walk through the kitchen into the garage. I walk down the drive way to my bike climbing on, I secure my helmet and then Lucille follows me back to my house.

“Lucille! It’s so nice to see you!” my Aunt says, when we walk into the house.

“Hello Ms. Winfield” Lucille says.

“Don’t you look beautiful!” she says, looking Lucille over carefully.

“Thank you” Lucille smiles, I grab her hand pulling her upstairs.

“Where is CJ?” I ask, before I am fully at the top.

“He’s at the park with some of the neighborhood kids” my aunt says, I make it to the top and we walk into my room to get dressed.

“Alright these are the rules for automatic dismissal from this party” Lucille starts.

“I’m listening”

“Any fights that start, we’re going, if we even hear a police siren we’re gone, no alcohol, and no eating we’re going there as a payment and to enjoy the music, okay?” she says.

“Got it”

“We’ve got to be careful Thena, we’re going to into very dangerous territory” she says.

“How dangerous can it be?”

Four

The drive up to the barn was like the intro to a horror movie, nothing but car lights and trees. Francis kept the windows down so the wind blew inside, making everything smell like pine needles and the closer we got, a farm. We arrive to an open field, I see a barn up ahead with bright lights and people walking in and out. Francis parks the car, beside the thick crop of corn.

“Are you two readies?” he asks, I look back at Lucille whose probably been doing a silent prayer this entire ride.

“Yes, we are” I say, we climb out of the car. Lucille immediately going to my side. As we get closer to the barn entrance the music gets louder and we get inside I see people dancing, people sitting on bales of hay drinking wine coolers and beer, people standing around a table picking food off platters. People on the top side dancing and some people swinging back and forth on a rope. The music playing was Elvis Pressley meets Skrillex. “You know, this music doesn’t help people say you guys aren’t greasers” I yell to Francis, who laughs.

We walk further into the party, and I start to notice people staring at both Lucille and I and for the first time it probably wasn’t because of who I am, it was because Lucille and I stuck out like a sore thumb.

“Hey, FR! Nice seeing ya didn’t think you’d come” a tall muscular looking man says.

“Wouldn’t miss this for the world” he says, the man looks at me and then Lucille then back at me.

“Who is this pretty thing?” he says, eyeing me like I was on display. Francis wraps his arm around my waist pulling me closer to his side. I get a whiff of his body spray.

“This is my date, Athena” he says. The man backs off with a smirk.

“Alright, don’t want any trouble” he says, before walking away. Francis pulls away.

“If anyone tries messing with you guys, just tell me okay? I’ll be right back” he says, turning and walking away.

“That was weird” Lucille says, I look over at her.

“What do you mean?”

“That protective tug, nearly yanked you off your feet”

“He just wanted to make sure no one messed with us, okay?” I say.

“Okay”

We find a decent space to stand, the crowd gradually begins to get bigger until the barn was almost filled to the brim with people.

“This is turning into a rave” Lucille yells, over to me her grip on my arm getting tighter. I don’t answer I am too busy surveying the crowd to find Francis whom I haven’t seen since we got here.

“Let’s dance” I yell, looking at her.

“What?” she says.

“We came here, might as well have a little fun no drinking, no eating, just dancing okay?” I say, she stares at me before nodding and I pull her out to the dance floor. I didn’t really know what was playing but I just started swinging my hips to the beat and Lucille followed along.

Two songs later, I am drenched in sweat and it looked like Lucille took a dive in the pool, multiple people had tried making a grab at me but I just pulled Lucille closer and she got the hint and pretended we were together, it was fun. More fun than jumping into a ball pit at Chucky Cheese to find 3 small children. Another song starts when arms wrap around my waist, and before I get the chance to pull away someone presses their lips against my ear.

“We have to leave, now” Francis whisper, Lucille has stopped dancing and I turn around looking at him.

“Why?”

“No questions, we have to go” he says, grabbing my hand I grab Lucille and he starts pulling us through the party. We make it to the entrance of the barn, the fresh air smelled like pine needles and I was suddenly really cold. Francis grip on my wrist didn’t let go even as we walked towards his car. As we got quickly I begin to see flashing red and blue lights. “Shit”

“Cops” I say. he starts pulling me towards the corn and I pull Lucille.

“Just keep running and loop around, avoid all lights” he yells, I hold onto Lucille’s hand tightly as we run and push through the corn field. I hear the sound of screams, and see flashlights in the air. Francis stops running pulling us both behind a scarecrow.  “Stay here I’ll make a distraction and you two runs towards the car, okay?” he whispers yells.

“Okay” I breath out, he disappears into the darkness. I lean against the long pole the scarecrow sat on, Lucille catching her breath beside me.

“This is exhilarating” she whispers.

“Okay, Daredevil” I whisper back, I take her hand again and start running in the direction I hope is the car. Pushing through corn stalks isn’t as easy as Francis made it seem. As I feel I am getting closer to the end I trip and both Lucille and I fall into the dirt.

“Shit, are you okay Thena” Lucille hisses.

“I’m fine” I say, pulling myself up.

Then Lucille begins screaming, I turn facing her to see what she is screaming at but can’t see anything but her screaming face. I finally look down and see, the dead body beneath me, then I am screaming.

□□□□□□□□

“Athena!” My aunt says, running towards me I stand up from the plastic chair and she envelopes me in a hug. The police found us, we manage to convince them that we had no idea about the party and we were just going on a walk when we heard screaming and went to investigate. When they called Lucille’s parents she told them that exact story. My blood still ran cold at the thought of the body, I never saw my parent’s bodies the funeral was closed casket, so it churned my stomach at the thought.  I look over at Lucille who stands with her mother, her face has been completely distant since the police found us. “What did you tell the police” my aunt whispers.

“That we went to the movies, and then went for a walk and heard screaming when we went to check we found the body” I whisper, she nods before pulling me tighter.

“Mr. and Mrs. Cho, Ms. Winfield, I’d like to talk to you for a second” the officer that brought us in says, My Aunt kisses me on the forehead one last time before leaving the room with the officer. I walk over sitting beside Lucille, she doesn’t say anything just grabs my hand, and we sit in silence.

 

The body belonged to Donna Winters, she had been missing for 2 weeks. My Aunt wouldn’t tell me the cause of death but from what I seen it looked like someone slit her throat, I shudder at the thought of her white lifeless eyes. This town really was death, that poor innocent girl and they had no leads. She didn’t have a boyfriend, she kept to herself. Her parents said she disappeared when she was walking home from the library one night, some monster must have scooped her up, and did god knows what.

“Are you okay?” my Aunt asks, when we park in the drive way. I look over at her and I can’t even choke out a yes, she reaches across pulling me into another hug. “You’re going to be okay” she whispers.

We walk inside, I can hear Cj soft snoring from here. I go upstairs to my room, I take the worlds coldest shower before falling into my bed, in my Hello Kitty Pajamas. I stare at the ceiling because every time I close my eyes all I can see is her lifeless ones. An hour passes and I hear something hit my window, I ignore at first but then something else hits it. I climb out of bed walking to the window looking out, Francis stands under the window waving for me to come down.

I swallow the bile in my throat, before I leave my room sneaking downstairs and going outside. I walk around to my side of the house.

“How’d you know that was my room?” I whisper.

“Lucky guess” he says, walking up to me.

“What are you doing here?” I ask.

“I heard about what happened, are you okay?” he says.

“No, I found a fucking dead body….” I hiss, he puts his hands up. I sigh, looking around the dark night. “Do you know… What happened to her?” he doesn’t say anything.

“What is that supposed to mean?” he says, I look over at him.

“It’s just she was over there”

“So automatically it’s me? Or my friends?” he snaps, I step back.

“I never said that”

“But you’re thinking it” he says, he sighs throwing back his head. Before looking back down at me. “And to think for one second I thought you were different” he says, before pushing past me walking towards his car.

“Francis! Francis” I hiss, but he ignores me. I watch him climb into his car and drive off into the night. I stand on the lawn for god knows how long before going back inside.

Week 1 finished. 355 to go.

 

The weekend is spent watching animated movies with CJ and eating junk food, I didn’t even want to think about the outside world. I didn’t even want to hear what the town was conspiring together, and I didn’t want to think about how hurt Francis was.

How can someone I’ve known for one week get under my skin? Was it because he didn’t treat me like a girl whose parents were murdered? Was it because he didn’t stare, or ask where I went for 4 years. I should have done him the same decency and not fed into the stupidity of others.

“Thena” Cj says, walking into my room I roll over looking at him.

“Hey” I say.

“I’m hungry, and Auntie isn’t back” he says, I sigh crawling out of bed and following him downstairs into the kitchen. I start making Cj a sandwich, he takes a seat at the door when there is a loud knock on the door.  I quickly finishing making the sandwich giving it to Cj before walking to the door, I open it enough for the person on the other side to see me.

“Athena Gate, in the flesh and blood” Layla Maxwell stands on my porch, beside her was Austin Maxwell and behind them was their wretched son.

“Hello Mrs. Maxwell, what do I owe the pleasure?” I say, leaning against the door frame.

“We came to speak to you about the recent events in the cornfield” Austin Maxwell says, I swallow air.

“I told the police everything I knew” I say.

“Did you tell them that you went out with that Rivera boy? And took my Lucille with you” Tristen says, angrily.

“Tristen, honey” his mom says, softly before looking back at me for my answer.

“I turned down Francis’s offer and instead went to the movies with Lucille, my Aunt, and Cj after the movie Lucille and I went for a walk she wanted to show me that things haven’t changed we started hearing screaming coming from the cornfield and went to investigate” I say, with my best poker face.

“You liar” Tristen hisses, I glare at him.

“Athena honey, if you know that Rivera boy has anything to do with this, tell us” Mrs. Maxwell says.

“That family has been nothing but trouble since they arrived here, and we just want them gone” Mr. Maxwell says, a rock forms in my throat. I want so badly to slam the door in their face, but I didn’t want to look guilty.

“If I hear anything, I’ll tell you but then again it is a very small town” I say, before shutting the door. I lock it and rest my head on the door counting to ten before walking back into the kitchen where Cj is already finished with his sandwich.

“Want to go for a ride little man?”

□□□□□□□□

I pull up on the garage, the familiar car lot in my view. I turn off my bike climbing off, I take off my helmet and help CJ off. Taking off his helmet.

“Stay right here, okay?” I say, he nods. I walk up to the open garage, I heard loud music playing and then a tall round man comes into view.  “Excuse me” I yell, I get no response. “Excuse me?!” I tell, the man sits up turning around looking at me. He walks over to his radio turning it off.

“Sorry ma’am but we’re closed on Sunday’s you can go inside and make an appointment though” he says.

“No actually I am here to talk to Francis” I say, he cocks an eyebrow before nodding. Walking towards a door on the far end of the garage, he opens the door poking his head in.

“Francis se mete el culo aquí tienes un invitado” he yells, before walking back towards me. “What’s your name?” he asks.

“Athena” I say, he seems surprised for a millisecond before putting back on a cool face of indifference. The door opens and Francis stands in the doorway, shirtless in nothing but a pair of basketball shorts and flip flops.

“What are you doing here?” he asks.

“I need to talk to you” I say.

“Thena! Thena! I need to pee!” Cj says, running up to my side.

“Ella tiene un niño ¿En qué te estás metiendo en el hijo?” Francis father says, to him.

“No papá, ese es su hermano, ¿puedes llevarlo adentro?” Francis says back, his father looks back at me before holding out his hand.

“Go with him Cj, I’ll be right here” I say, Cj takes the man hand and they walk inside. Francis walks up to me with his hands in his pocket. “What did he say?” i ask, Francis Rolls his eyes.

“Nothing”

Lie, but I ignore it.

“Look I want to apologize about Friday night” I say.

“Why?” he says.

“Because I didn’t mean it like that, I just was scared and”

“You don’t have to apologize to me Athena, I know what people think about me and my family, I see the stares and hear the whispers It’s nothing new”

“But I am not a part of the whispers or the stares! I get whispers and stares and I know it sucks so I didn’t mean to offend you”

“Why do you care if you offend me?” he asks.

Why did I care? What was I trying to prove by apologizing?

“You were the only person in town who didn’t look at me like the girl who got her parents murdered…. You’re right everyone in town are the same, except you” I say, Cj comes running out of the door.

“All done!” He announces.

“Awesome, let’s get Ice cream” he smiles rushing to my bike, I look at Francis and he stares at me. “Bye” I say, I walk to my bike first helping Cj with his helmet and then helping him on before climbing on myself and pulling on my helmet. I start up my bike and begin pulling out when someone steps in my way, I lift the visor on my helmet staring at Francis.

“I’ll forgive you this time doll face, but only because I found something” he says. I turn off my bike taking off my helmet.

“What did you find?” I ask.

“I can’t tell you hear but meet met at Yungs in an hour, and we can talk all about it” he says, I nod and watch him walk back towards his house.

“That your boyfriend?” Cj asks.

“What? No! I just met him C what do I look like?” I say, he just laughs. I take Cj home first he gets dressed in more comfortable clothes before we set off to Yungs. When I arrive there, I get a text message from my Aunt saying she’d be home in two hours and a phone call, I answer the phone.

“Hey?”

“It’s Lucille, Tristen just came over asking all these questions about Friday night he really wants to incriminate Francis” Lucille says.

“What did you tell him?” I ask.

“The same thing we told police, no way in hell I am getting caught in a lie” she says.

“Thanks Luci” I say.

“Anything for you, what are you doing now?” she asks.

“I’m at Yungs with Cj, I’ll talk to you later” I say. I end the call climbing off my bike and helping Cj, we walk inside and I guide Cj to a booth in the back away from the windows. Not shortly after we order Francis arrives, wearing a black shirt, black pants and his hair gelled nicely, he slides in across from beside Cj.

“What’s up little man” Cj stares at him, before looking over at me. He mouths boyfriend and I glare at him.

“What did you find?” I ask, he holds up a finger before waving over a waiter. The waiter slowly walks over as if Francis is going to bite.

“Can I get some large fries and a banana milkshake?” he asks, the man nods before quickly walking away.

“Banana?”

“It’s delicious” he says. He straightens up.

“So, what did you find?”

“Friday night, when I heard you screaming I ran back to help you but the police got there before you did, I found this though pinned to the scarecrow. He pulls out a crumpled looking paper. It was a flyer for a gala, I pull it closer to me. It was dated 4 years ago, a good 3 months before my parent’s murder. It was a gala hosted by none other than the Maxwell’s.

“What’s this?”

“Flip it over” he instructs, I flip it over and it’s the same perfect handwriting that was on the back of the photo.

Welcome back.

I have a poem for you Kitty.

Blood is red.

Lockets are Brown.

By the end of this, you’ll be 6 feet down.

 

“What the fudge” I say, glancing over at Cj who is happily eating his ice cream.

“I think it has something to do with Donna”

“Then why didn’t you give it to the police?” I say.

“I said I think, plus by your reaction I can tell it struck a chord?” he says, I look back down at the perfect script. My stomach twists.

“My father used to call me Kitty, I was his little Kitten…... He said when he married my mother he wanted to get a cat before she got pregnant, one day he came home with a kitten and she came home with news that she was pregnant with me…. I was his Kitten…” I suck in a breath.

“Do you think this letter was meant for you?” he asks, I shrug.

“I don’t know! This is completely morbid” I say, looking back down at the letter. By the end of this, you’ll be 6 feet down. Down where? End of what? So many questions. Lockets are brown? My hand reaches touching my locket, and then I remember the one that mysteriously appeared in my back pocket.

“Well I am taking it to the police, this will prove that none of my guys are the killer they can match the hand writing” he says.

“Right” I say, he begins taking it but I take it back. Pulling out my phone I take a picture of it before letting him take it.

“Are you okay?” he asks, shoving it back in my pocket.

“Fine, I’m fine”

We stay with Francis, he gets his fries and shares them with Cj. He offers me some of the milkshake but I feel like I am going to throw up. When we’re finished, Francis says he is going to the bathroom but instead pays for everything, after 10 minutes of arguing about how I owed him, I left with Cj, arriving home just when my Aunt does.

“Hey guys, where were you” she says, climbing out of her car.

“With Thena’s boyfriend” Cj says.

“He is not my boyfriend!” I hiss.

“Who’s not your boyfriend?” she asks.

“Francis….” She sucks in a breath.

“Athena” she starts.

“He really isn’t that bad!” I say.

“I’ve been hearing things Thena, Things about that family” she says.

“And I am sure you’ve heard things about us too, about how I spent 2 years in an asylum? About how Cj was mute? Talk is cheap in this town and you should know that” I say, walking inside I go straight to my room and close the door behind me.

I fall on my bed staring at the ceiling, what was happening in this town? I roll off the bed and grab my backpack digging around until I find the locket. I grab a sharped edge screwdriver I used to build my bed, and I attempt to pop it open. After 15 minutes, it doesn’t open. So, I go downstairs into the garage and grab a hammer, I hit it twice and it pops open.

Inside was a small picture I couldn’t really tell who it was, and a small piece of paper. I grab the paper and start unfolding it. It looked like something ripped from a magazine or a newspaper and on the back, was sloppy cursive.

To my dearest Gillian,

My sunrise, My Sunset.

You bring cheers, when we see each other again the birds will scream with happiness my love because we’ll be together again, you and I.

A.M

A love letter to my mom? Who was A.M it defiantly wasn’t my father he was C.G Christopher Gate, who was writing my mother love letters. Together again? Was my mom having an affair was this a letter from a past lover? How did I get it? Who gave it to me?

“Athena?” my aunt says, gently opening my door. I quickly swipe everything into my top desk drawer spinning around.

“Yes?”

“I wanted to apologize for upsetting you, I know it’s been a rough month so far but I just want you to be safe” she says.

“What makes Francis so unsafe? The amount of hair gel he lathers into his hair?” I say.

“His father went to prison for grand larceny and 1 count of attempted murder….”

“That’s his father, not him and I am sure everyone in this town has their skeletons” I say.

“Please just be careful” 

Five

Monday Morning, usually a shit fest of whispers about the weekend and people bitching about being awake before 11. A Monday morning after a classmate was found dead, was different especially for the two people who found her. Lucille met me at my locker. Although she wore sweat pants and one of her father’s old shirts, and her hair was in a sloppy bun, she looked amazing.

“Morning”

“I am exhausted…. My mom is taking me to the Doctors after school because I’ve gotten zero sleep all weekend, and it hasn’t helped that Tristen was calling me nonstop” She says.

“Oh yeah your boyfriend made a surprise pit stop at my house, I didn’t know the Maxwell’s became detectives” I say.

“They didn’t they’re just trying to save this towns reputation it took a lot after your…. This town isn’t what it used to be” she says, I open my locker throwing my helmet inside before shutting it.

“You’re right, this town is a blemish, a mark, a scar on the map of America” I say.

“Athena” Lucille starts. Before she continues and give me a whole town pride speech a loud shout happens and then people are running down the hallway. “A fight? On a Monday?” Curiosity gets the better of us and we follow the crowd, until we’re in the main hallway. Francis and Tristen are chest to chest.

“Get out of this town, Greaser” Tristen hisses.

“Who are you to tell me what to do yellow belly” Francis hisses.

“Elijah hit him already!” someone yells from the crowd, I manage to make it to the front just before he raises his fist. I grab his arm and he towns facing me, the anger on his face slowly drifting away.

“Your girlfriend coming to save you?” Tristen snorts.

“No, your girlfriend is” I snap, Lucille pushes through the crowd crossing her arms. I manage to push through the crowd with Francis behind me, while the crowd disperses and Lucille chews Tristen out.

“Why did you stop me”

“Because he isn’t worth it,” I say, letting him go and facing him. “Plus, you won’t earn anyone’s respect by throwing your fist,” I say.

“Who says I want anyone’s respect?” he says.

“Francis if you keep acting like a gang member, people are going to continue to treat you like one,” I say, before walking to class. I don’t see Lucille until lunch and even though she was obviously upset she still looked magnificent.

“Tristen and I broke up,” she says, sitting beside me.

“What, why?”

“He said I was defended a heathen, and it didn’t make me any better”

“That dick”

“It doesn’t matter, I have you right?” she says, resting her head on my shoulder.

“Right”

“It’s sad, no one really knew about Donna, she kept to herself, she was always in the library……” Lucille says, after a few moments of silence. “I am going to the memorial service on Wednesday, please come with me,” she says.

“Of course, I’d feel weird not to,” I say. Lucille smiles.

“I’m glad you came back, Athena”

I wish I could say the same.

➸ ➸ ➸ ➸ ➸ ➸ ➸ ➸

Wednesday rolled around like thunder, with a bang. It was pouring down rain like the earth was crying, everyone who wanted to attend the memorial was excused for the day, I rode in with Lucille and her mother and we walked in the crowd was bigger than expected.

“You’re the two girls that found my girls body,” a woman says when we walk up to the front.

“Uh, yes,” Lucille says.

“Can you please, sit in the front?” she says, gesturing to two open spaces. Lucille looks at her mother who just nods, and then we take our seats. The casket was closed which brought about the haunting memory of my parent’s funeral, I put my hands in a tight fist, trying to think of anything and everything. When the music stops and everyone is sitting done, Donna’s mother takes the podium. She wipes her face with a tissue looking down at her daughter’s casket. “Donna was a spirited girl, always willing to help she was kind, sweet, and was nice to everyone she met the night she went missing was possibly the worse night of my life…. And the night they came and told me they found her body, took its place, I don’t how long my baby was out there waiting for someone to find her and I glad these two girls found her when there was something left to find now my baby can really rest in peace”

The rest of the service was some of Donna’s friends, and teachers reading her poems, and excerpts from her favorite books. Then we all went outside to her plot, trekking through the mud standing under umbrellas I watch them set her casket down, I watch them slowly lower it.

by this end of this, you’ll be 6 feet down.

I suddenly had the urge to throw up, but I held it in. I held it in until she was fully buried and then I ran inside and threw up in the church bathroom. Whether that letter was meant for me or it still sent a chill down my spine.

“Athena? Athena are you okay?” Lucille asks, opening the bathroom door.

“I just felt nauseous” I mumble, flushing the toilet and standing up. I open the stall door and Lucille is leaning against the sink. I walk over washing my hands and then rinsing out my mouth.

“Will you be okay?” she asks.

“I just need to sleep,” I say.

“Well then let’s get you home,” she says, patting me on the back. We make it back outside, it’s still raining but not that hard. I see Donna’s parents standing under an umbrella talking to Austin and Layla Maxwell, I didn’t have the time or energy to deal with that family. Lucille helps me down the steps and towards the parking lot.

“Lucille,” Tristen says, we both turn around and Tristen stands in of course, a really expensive looking suite. His hands shoved in his pocket, his attempt to seem bashful just made him look even more like an asshole.

“What,” Lucille says, a hand grip on me tightening.

“Can we talk, please?” he says.

“I have nothing to say to you,” she says, before turning and pulling me towards the parking lot. I hear him coming up behind us and he grabs her arm pulling her back, she lets me go and I stumble forward spinning around.

“Didn’t you hear her, she said no” I spit.

“Stay out of this” he hisses, I grab Lucille’s hand.

“I guess Maxwell’s really don’t answer to No, you need to be better trained” I turn around and we quickly find Lucille’s mother sitting in her car. We climb in without even looking back at Tristen.

“Was that Tristen?”

“Yes, can we go” Lucille says, running her fingers through her damp hair. Lucille’s mom drives me home, I get inside and go straight to my room, having a few good hours before my Aunt and Cj got home, I open my door and Francis sleeps on the bed, I almost scream but he looks so peaceful. I walk over to the window and see how he climbed up and inside, I really need to start locking my windows. I get undressed and redressed in my pajamas, before climbing into bed beside Francis giving him a little space. I wake god knows how long later with my back to Francis' chest and the deep smell of oak filling my nostrils.

“This is awkward” I hear him whisper, I turn around and he looks at me with his dark brown eyes.

“Are you going to tell me why you’re in my bed room”

“I was waiting for you to get back, and I must have been tired,” he says.

“Did you enjoy breaking into my room?” I ask, slowly sitting up.

“It was the highlight of my dim week,” he says still lying down, I look down at him.

“Why are you here?”

“I needed to talk to you about something,” he says, sitting up.

“And this couldn’t wait until tomorrow?”

“No, it couldn’t,” he says, ruffling his own bed head.

“What’s going”

“I got an odd package today,” he says, climbing off my bed he walks over to his bag which sat underneath my window, he pulls out a small tiny box, the same size box in which the picture came in, he hands it to me. I take it from him and he leans against my desk watching me. I open it and it’s a picture. It was from the party, Francis had his arms around me, whispering something in my ear, I stared at Lucille who stared at him. This was last Friday night. “Look at the back,” he says.

Stay Away.

Fairy tales don’t always have a happy ending.

You’re not Prince Charming.

“Is that a threat?” I say.

“I don’t know, but it’s obvious this person doesn’t want me being near you,” he says, I look up at him.

“Why not?”

“I don’t know, but I have a feeling that flyer wasn’t meant for Donna…” he says.

“You gave it to the police, right?” I say.

“Yes, I came up with some bullshit excuse and said I found it pinned to the barn the morning after the party” he shrugs.

“Who could be doing this? And why?”

“I don’t know but I think you should go to the police,” he says.

“With what information?” I say.

“How about the picture, locket, and letter you’re hiding in your desk?” he says, I gasp.

“You went through my stuff”

“I was curious, what was little Thena hiding away”

“Secrets should remain secrets”

“Look someone is obviously trying to scare you out of town, and I don’t think you’re safe” he says.

“These are just weird coincidences”

“Really Kitty?” he says, pointing to the picture. “That was a weird coincidence?” he says.

“Maybe it’s one of your friends, trying to psych you out”

“That’s not hazing Athena, that’s a threat someone said I should stay away from you because Fairy tales don’t have a happy ending whatever the fuck that means, why are you brushing this off”

“Because I am scared!” I shout, staring at him. I look back down at the picture my stomach twisting. “When I watched them lower Donna an innocent girls body into the ground and I remember by the end of this you’ll be 6 feet down, I don’t want to die…. I can’t leave my Aunt or Cj” I suck in a breath, Francis pushes off of the desk sitting beside me.

“You’re not dying,” he whispers, pulling me into his side. I hear my front door open.

“Athena we’re home!” my aunt yells.

“And we brought burgers!” Cj shouts, I pull away wiping my eyes.

“You should probably go, lord knows what my Aunt is going to do if she finds you up here” I say, he stares at me before standing. He grabs the picture, and his bag.

“I’ll see you tomorrow, okay?” he says, I nod and he begins climbing out the window. I stand to check the mirror that hangs next to my door, my eyes are a little red, but I did just go to a funeral. I leave the room meeting my Aunt and Cj in the kitchen.

➸ ➸ ➸ ➸ ➸ ➸ ➸ ➸

The next morning both Lucille and Francis stood at my locker which brought an extra amount of attention.

“Good morning” Lucille pulling me into a tight hug, she then pulls away and slaps my arm. “Why didn’t you tell me about all the threats you’ve been getting” she hisses, I turn glaring at Francis and he shrugs.

“They aren’t threats, I thought they were just some idiot trying to scare me”

“They sound like threats to me Thena,” she says.

“I’ve had this conversation before, if something else happens I am going to police okay?” I say, looking between her and Francis. Hopefully nothing else happened. I open my locker and something springs open and something sprays over me. I step back and Lucille starts screaming.

“Calm down, it’s okay it’s going to be okay,” Francis says, I was afraid to open my eyes but when I did I see a dead baby pig hanging inside my locker and carved into its skin is.

Just like mommy

I sit in the nurse’s office, after 5 minutes of dry heaving. Francis pulls both Lucille and I to the nurse. The nurse pulls Lucille into a bed for her to rest and then instructs me to get undressed. I sit now in a cold office in some school sweats and sweatshirt as the nurse slowly wipes the blood from my face.

“I don’t think this joke was very funny” she mumbles.

“I don’t think it was a joke,” I say. The office door opens and Principal Geryl followed by my Aunt walks into the room.

“Athena!” she says, running to my side.

“Ms. Gate, why didn’t you tell me you were being bullied,” Principal Geryl says.

“I didn’t think I’d get a dead pig in my locker sir,” I say, attempting not to sound angry but failing.

“Do you have any idea who would do such a thing?”

“No,” I say.

“It was probably that Rivera boy, or one of his friends,” my Aunt says.

“Auntie” I hiss.

“I already have Mr. Rivera in my office, I’ll speak to him shortly”

“What why? Francis didn’t do anything” I say.

“I have a witness saying they saw Mr. Rivera sneaking into the building last night” Principal Geryl says.

“Who? They’re lying!” I say.

“A creditable source Ms. Gate, now I think it might be best that you go home early today” he says, before leaving the office. I wanted to scream, no matter what I said, no matter what I did they kept pointing fingers at Francis. My Aunt pulls me out of the office and we walk towards the front door. My helmet still in my hands, I tried to think of who would try and frame Francis. We turn the corner into the main hallway and Lucille stand with Tristen.

“You! You did this” I hiss, Lucille steps in my path.

“Thena,” she says.

“He’s been hounding me since the say I got here, talking about you’ll have people watching me was it you who took the picture” I shout.

“Athena,” my aunt says this time, but I ignore them both.

“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” Tristen says. Lucille grips my hand tightly. I glare at him.

“I am on to you Maxwell, everyone has their bones and you have an estate filled with them” I hiss, pulling away from both Lucille and my aunt I stomp away. Getting outside, I make it to my bike climbing on. I climb onto my bike and start it up racing from the parking lot.

I don’t know where I was going but I didn’t want to be near anyone right now, this wretched town kept throwing things at me and I tried dodging but I am bad at it. I attempt to slow down but I can’t my heart beat quickens, did someone cut my brake lines? Did they succeed this time? I try my brake again to no avail, and then I try my emergency brake my bike halts to a stop I fly forward I am in the air for I don’t know how long. I hit the pavement so hard I think I felt something break, I slide and bump until I am just lying on my back. Everything hurts I slowly pull my helmet off and I can smell the burnt rubber, I slowly look over at my bike it lays on its side not too far from me. I see written in black ink on the side next to wear my break line would be was.

Got it this time.

I was actually going to throw up. The police arrive and I am still lying on my back, the paramedics help me into the truck and bandage my arm.

“You’re a lucky girl, just minor bruises and a slight concussion,” the paramedic says, as we drive to the hospital.

“Someone cut my brake line,” I say, tasting the blood on my busted lips.

“Someone what?”

“Someone cut my brake line,” I say, slower this time. Then I look up into the lights of the ambulance. Someone wanted me dead I don’t know why, but they did they were sitting me warnings.

The Locket.

The pictures.

The Flyers, but all it was giving me was my Mom having a possible affair, and the fact that I had a stalker. When we get to the hospital I am sitting in the small room where they did second check up for a good hour before my Aunt rushes in.

“I knew you get hurt on that god forsaken machine one day, what the hell!” she yells.

“Someone cut my brakes” I say, she stares at me eyes wide.

“Someone did what?”

“They cut my brakes” I say, staring down at the wipe bandages around my wrist.

“You don’t know that for sure” my aunt says, I look at her.

“Why is it when I say something there is always away around it but I bet if someone said Francis Rivera cut my brakes, you’d be agreeing with them willingly this town chewed me up and spit me out they didn’t even bother finding who killed my parents and you’re sitting here being brainwashed with the bullshit!” I snap. She stares at me, I immediately regret what I say but I don’t take it back. I could have been seriously injured and she isn’t listening when I say someone cut my brake, so that meant if she didn’t believe me. The police wouldn’t either, that meant I was on my own.

Lucille waited in my room when I arrived home.

“Christ what happened” I closed the door behind me.

“Someone cut my brake lines” I say, falling on my bed.

“Oh my god Athena, when need to tell the police!” she says.

“We can’t” I say.

“What do you mean we can’t, you said” she starts.

“I know what I said Lucille, but now I am saying we can’t” I snap, sitting up. “My aunt didn’t believe me when I said someone cut my brake line, she blamed it on poor construction she didn’t want to admit that there was the slightest possibility that someone was trying to hurt me, so who says the police are going to be any better?”

Lucille stares at me and sighs.

“Alright, but this is getting scary Thena,”

“I know, what happened to Francis?”

“He got expelled, Principal Geryl wouldn’t believe him when he said he didn’t do it” she says.

“You believe he didn’t do it, right?”

“If you believe he didn’t do it so do I” she says.

“We have to go see him” I say.

“I’ll drive”

“You kind of have to” I say.

➸ ➸ ➸ ➸ ➸ ➸ ➸ ➸

We make it to Francis’s house, Lucille parks by the front gate. We walk around the back pass the garage to the front door knocking loudly. The door opens and it’s one of his step-brothers.

“You’re here for Elijah?” he says, I nod. He disappears inside and a few second later Francis appears he a black eye was forming and his was busted.

“What the hell happened to you!” I shout.

“No what happened to you!” he says, closing the door behind him.

“Someone cut her brake lines” Lucille says, simply. Francis looks at me wide eyed.

“Athena, we had a deal” he says.

“Yes, well change of plans, if the Principal and my own Aunt didn’t believe me when I said you didn’t put that pig in my locker then no adult in this town will so we’re on our own” he stares at me, his jaw tenses his eyes raking over my body staring at the wrapping on my arm, and the cut on my cheek. “Now who busted you up”

“You can thank her lovely boyfriend for that” Francis says, looking at Lucille who rolls her eyes.

“What happened?”

“I confronted him, because he’s the only person principal jackass would listen to and he said maybe you did it for attention so I punched him in his pretty little privilege face” Francis says.

“Awe for me?” I say, Francis rolls his eyes.

“So where are going to go now?” Lucille asks.

“A remedial school 1 hour away,” Francis says.

“Damn” I say.

“You girls better get going, it’s getting dark” he says.

“Are you going to be okay?” I ask.

“I’m a big boy Athena, I’ll be fine” He says.

“Francis Vuelve a entrar y te cubre el ojo!” someone yells, from the inside.

“I’ll see you tomorrow” Francis says to the both us, but we both knew it was directed towards me. Francis walks back inside, I watch the screen door close and then Lucille and I walk back up to her car. She drives me home, and after sitting outside in her car for 10 minutes, I go inside. Cj sits in the living room watching cartoons, I go upstairs and walk into my room and my Aunt sits on my bed holding the one framed picture I have of my parents. It was at Cj’s baby shower, they were so excited and I was so happy I was getting a sibling.

“I miss her so much” she whispers, staring down at my mom. I stare down at the picture, the wide smile crossing my mother’s face.

“I do too”

“When my parents gave her a choice, to pick between the family and your father she didn’t even blink, she didn’t bat an eye when she said Christopher then she left…. I was heartbroken and all the years I knew you existed and Cj and I did nothing until I got the phone call, that my baby sister was gone…. I had ostracized her like the rest of my family, she had died” My aunt voice breaks. “Thinking I didn’t love her”

“She knew” I finally move from the bed room door, sitting beside her. “Trust me she knew” I say, my Aunt blinks away the tears.

“Everything is happening so fast Thena, and I don’t want to lose you not like I lost your mom and I don’t want you to have to even think for a second that you’d have to choose between family and a boy…… So, if you really like that Rivera boy, then I am okay with it”

“Francis, please just call him Francis” I say, she sighs wiping her eyes.

“Fine, Francis”

“Auntie! Auntie!” Cj rushes into the room, breathing heavily.

“Yes honey?”

“They found another body” he says, I look at my aunt with wide eyes. We rush downstairs, the TV was now turned to the news. A picture of a beautiful looking girl, dark chocolate skin, curly brown hair, bright eyes is shown on the screen.

“My god” my aunt whispers beside me, was this just another senseless murder? Or another threat?