Arizona Skies
Author: Isabella Darcy

Chapter 36
Retaliation

My life is shit, I think, leaning my head on a palm, ignoring the pain of my elbow being squashed onto the hard table. Aubrey, Frank, Leanne, Emma- shit. Fuck it. Just fuck it all.

I'm not even bothering to take notes on the lecture Mr. Keck is giving, though everyone else is eagerly leaning forward, eyes glued to the projector, scribbling on their notebooks. I know I'll have to spend extra time reading the book later, but I just can't focus myself right now.

My mom always said I was too sensitive, caring too much about what other people thought. I didn't believe her. I'm tough, I can stand criticism- but she was right. As pathetic as it is, my life seems to revolve around those four people- and any little thing they do I feel the impact. She used to say, in the years before we found out about the cancer, before she became chained to the hospital bed, she used to say- Aurora, know yourself. Don't be defined by the others around you. Whoever comes and goes, you will always have yourself.

Fat lot of luck that did me.

 

 

Somehow, I get through first period, and I'm walking to my next class, my arms tight around the book I'm holding, keeping my head down. Just five more periods, I think, five more before I can go home and sleep, forget it all, get away from everything, the shithole that is my life.

I hear a laugh beside me, high and unnaturally loud, a squeal of delight. Raising my face, I recognize that swinging sheet of black hair. Leanne is wrapped so tight around him I can't even tell whose limbs are whose, and she scrunches her nose with fake distaste as he kisses her, right in front of me, feet away.

Frank kisses her.

Her arms around his neck, his mouth pressed to her's, morbidly fascinating. I can't tear my eyes away, watching as she laughs with her hair flying in the slight wind, that high unnatural laugh. Frank kisses her.

Suddenly I feel sick.

 

 

I can't watch this anymore, I can't look, I just can't. Stumbling against the stream of kids hurrying to second period, I push in the opposite direction, eliciting loud yells and curses.

"Watch where you're going!" Some kid yells after me after I dizzily careen into him.

"Get out of the way!"

"What the hell are you doing!"

Somehow, I make it past them, pushing out of the crowd to lean against the wall, trying to catch my breath. Faces and voices rush by, and the stucco bungalow opposite me swims in my eyes. My stomach is churning, writhing like some horrible alien. I slide down the wall, my bag falling with a clunk beside me, burying my face in my hands. I can't do this.

I stay like that all period, a crumpled heap by Bungalow 3. No one sees me, no one touches me. Gradually the feeling of nausea subsides, and I'm able to raise my head to look around me, the barren campus silent without the students who will be coming out for nutrition in just a couple of minutes. I feel wetness on my cheeks, sticky sweet in my mouth- I must've been crying.

How is it that you're falling apart like this? Don't you have a shred of self-respect left? I ask myself, huddled on the asphalt. You'll always have yourself.

With an effort, I wipe away my smeared eyeliner, rubbing the tears off of my cheeks. I can do this. Three minutes to nutrition, and I think about heading to Aubrey's truck, sitting there the twenty minutes. I can't face them, really I can't. Maybe I'll just wait in the truck, and-

You'll always have yourself. The words are a mantra in my head. You can do this.

I push myself up from the asphalt.

 

 

"Aurora, where were you?!"

Emma rushes at me with worry spelled out over her face. "Where were you in Calc?"
I push a stray strand of hair behind an ear and give her my best bright smile. "I felt a little sick, that's all. Nurse's office." I lie easily, emboldened by her unquestioning look. "She said I could stay the whole period."

"Oh. Well, I hope you feel better." She smiles at me, a little too hard. Behind her, I see Frank and Leanne, still tangled, heading towards the table.

"I do, thanks," I say, my voice a little louder than usual, my eyes fixed on her's with the same bright smile. "A lot better."

"I hope you're not catching the flu," she says, relief in her voice.

We sit down at the other end of the table, facing each other. I can feel Leanne's eyes on me, but I swallow and keep talking.

"I hope not. That'd be bad, with Lindsey away and everything."

Emma nods. "Yeah."

"Aww, Fwankie wants a piece?"

Leanne is cooing, holding a piece of coffee cake on the tips of her finger towards Frank. Out of the corner of my eye I can feel Frank flush.

"So, do you want to come over to my house this afternoon?" I ask Emma, loud and clear, completely ignoring them. "To work on the art project?"

She smiles. "Sure, why not. We can order pizza."

"Yeah, it'll be fun."

Leanne is still trying to feed Frank the coffeecake, cooing and squealing as if he's a baby. "Aww, you sure you don't want any, sugarplum?"

Its embarrassing Jimmy next to her, and he pointedly looks away. Frank is getting progressively redder and redder.

"Oh, and I'll help you with the chem homework," Emma keeps talking, loud- hoping, I suppose, to distract us both from the lovefest down the table.

"Yeah, that'd be cool."

Leanne makes a final attempt to feed Frank the coffeecake, jamming it to his lips. Then:

"Stop!"

With a growl he knocks her hand away. She pauses in midaction, her hand dangling in the air absurdly, her mouth hanging open. Frank rises, red to the tips of his hair, and walks away from the table, leaving Leanne to stare after him, her eyes starting to fill with tears. Awkwardly Jimmy shifts in his seat, craning his head as far away from the sight as possible.

"Okay, then, it's settled."

The bell rings, and Emma and I walk to third period. I can't help the small smile. Empowerment. It feels good.

 

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