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“You’re like the opposite of a vampire,” Marisol philosophized as she entered my room, without knocking. She’d given up on that a while ago, when I’d gotten into the habit of ignoring the noise.
I rolled over and opened my eyes, blinking into the bright light. The lamps in my room were on despite it still being broad daylight outside, another habit I’d recently picked up.
“That’s what I should start calling you,” Marisol said while setting down her bookbag. “Miss Anti-Vampire. How are you?”
“Good,” I said, the same lie I’d been repeating for weeks. Marisol promptly raised her eyebrows.
I reached over and opened her bookbag, taking out the green folder in which she’d collected my worksheets, notes and assignments for the day. She dropped these off at my house after school, and just like every day, I gave her back another folder, this one containing the homework I’d done.
“Still can’t sleep?” Marisol asked, eyeing the lights. I shook my head, the nightmares had started a few days after the rape, and they hadn’t stopped since. The only way I was able to get any rest was in some sort of half-sleep state, with my room brightly lit, during which I woke up at least once each hour. I was exhausted as a result, and spent most of my time dozing. I still managed to get my homework done though — the learning at least provided a distraction.
“How’s school?” I asked in an attempt to be polite, and Marisol sat down on the edge of my bed, sighing.
“Weird. It’s been so mellow lately. Everyone is still shocked about what happened, and since you’re not there, they’re nice to me instead. I don’t get hassled at lunch or in PE anymore, they pretty much just leave me alone. It’s quite lonely, actually. I miss you.”
On one hand, I was sorry to hear that. On the other, my bed had become as much of a refuge as I could make it, and I was unwilling to leave it for very long. So, I just looked apologetic, feeling uncomfortable.
“Audra has been asking about you,” Marisol mentioned. “I think she’d like to visit you. She’s been much nicer lately. Almost like old times.”
“That’s nice of her,” I said, looking down at my covers distracted, and Marisol sighed.
“Look, Jenna — there’s no easy way to say this, but you need to come back to school. You can’t hide in here forever.”
“Why not?” I asked defiantly, even though I knew the answer very well, and Marisol started listing reasons.
“Well first off, teachers aren’t going to make accommodations forever. You can’t take finals in here. Next semester you’ll have two new teachers, and they’ll want to know what your face looks like. Your mom will be disappointed if you don’t walk across the stage on graduation day. Plus, I’m counting on your vote for prom queen.”
Marisol had always been able to make me smile, and she did, infallibly, with her comment. I met her eyes for a moment, both of us looking quite sad, and I shook my head mutely after a few seconds and pulled the covers higher again.
“Damn it, Jenna,” she said. “I can’t help you if you won’t let me. Please, at least consider it. Just try one day.”
“Maybe,” I said, knowing my answer already. There were too many horrible memories associated with school now, and I didn’t want to set foot inside that building. I was quite content working from home.
“I suppose that’s all I can ask for.” Marisol got up from the bed, clearly disappointed. I averted my eyes. I felt bad about letting her down. But at the same time, I also wished she’d understand the way I felt about this issue.
The door closed quietly, and I soundlessly sank back into my pillows, trying to clear my mind of all thoughts. That didn’t last long, however, as the door opened once more.
“Um,” Marisol said, sticking her head back in. She looked clearly uncomfortable.
“What?” I said more aggressively than I’d meant to, and she flushed.
She slid into the room and closed the door, trying not to make any noise. Her eyes seemed unsure. I was confused by her strange behavior and frowned.
“Um, Seth Marshall is standing out there,” she finally said.
She might as well have punched me in the gut, the effect was the same. I stared blankly for a good ten seconds, trying to figure out why Seth was here. He hadn’t made any contact with me at all since the talk we had had in the hospital, and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to see him again or have him stay as far away as possible. I’d missed him, but seeing him would remind me of all we’d had, and of what his father had done to me.
“I can tell him to leave,” Marisol offered reluctantly. “I don’t much like him of all people coming here. But you do need to face it at some point, Jenna. Better sooner than later.”
I wondered dully why everyone kept saying that, and where they had gotten the idea. Thinking about what had happened, going back to school and seeing Seth, all these things would rip open all those wounds again, scar me worse and cause me that much Ataşehir Escort more pain. I couldn’t think of anything I’d want to do less.
“You can all go to hell with your damn psychobabble,” I said, rolling over and facing the wall. I regretted it the moment I’d said it, but now it was too late.
“Fine,” snapped Marisol, opening the door again. “I’ll be on my way.”
I could hear the door being slammed a moment later. I pulled my blanket up higher, right below my chin, hoping that I would finally be able to have some peace. It was hard to empty my mind over and over again, since I snapped back to full consciousness with every damn interruption.
I clenched my teeth when the door opened and closed again, and pressed myself deeper into the pillows. I was rapidly losing my patience. It wasn’t that much to ask to just be left alone, I thought. I waited for someone to start talking to me, but there was no sound I could hear except for my own breathing.
Finally, I turned, the uncertainty if I was alone or not becoming unbearable. Seth was standing there, hands in his pockets, simply looking at me and waiting. I couldn’t quite bring myself to look into his eyes.
“I thought it would be better to give you some time,” he finally said. “After we talked… I figured it was for the best to let you think things over, to let you decide…” He broke off, waiting for me to say something, but I didn’t. I was too busy trying not to look at him, and trying to fend off the dark memories that my brain couldn’t suppress. When I didn’t reply, he just kept going.
“I didn’t realize you’d be missing from school for this long. I don’t know if I should have come to visit you earlier.” He sighed. “Hell, apparently you don’t even want to see me now.”
I did, but I didn’t. I slowly shook my head and turned again, facing the wall.
“I understand,” Seth said. His voice cracked slightly as he said the words. But he still didn’t leave. He was silent for a few seconds.
“Marisol or your mom probably told you,” he finally said, “that we made the state playoffs. Glenn Valley is pretty excited. We’re having lots of extra practices. It’d… It would be nice if you could come to one of the games.”
I nodded carefully, not wanting to make any commitments. I wasn’t sure why Seth felt the need to make small talk all of a sudden, but before I could consider the matter, I heard Seth sigh deeply.
“Anyway,” he said. “That’s all I got. I just wanted to see you. If you ever need me, I’ll be there. If you don’t… I understand. It’s fine. If you’re happier that way, I can live with that.”
I heard him open the door and suddenly had to blink heavily.
“I’m sorry, Jenna,” he said, and it sounded so final I couldn’t stop my eyes from filling with tears.
Marisol was shocked when she entered the room again to find me crying my eyes out, hugging my pillow. I hadn’t cried since the first night at the hospital. It felt surprisingly good, despite all the pain I felt.
“What in the hell just happened?” Marisol asked, eyes wide. “What did he do to you? Do you want me to-“
Her eyes drifted towards the door, as if she was considering sprinting after Seth and confronting him. But instead, she held one of my hands and handed me a few tissues.
“Seriously though,” she said after I had calmed down a bit. “What did he do to make you cry?”
“We basically broke up,” I said, watching her face reflect complete confusion.
“You… what? Are you making a joke? I can’t tell, Jenna, because you haven’t been in a mood to joke lately.”
“I’m not joking, Mari.” I sighed, realizing that this confession was way overdue. “Look, here it is. Remember the mystery guy?”
“Yeah,” said Mari, not getting it.
“Seth Marshall,” I said, watching her expression change ever so slowly. For almost a minute, she said absolutely nothing, simply sitting there with her mouth open as she put together all the pieces of the puzzle in her head. Then she finally spoke, slowly.
“You had sex with the homecoming king?”
I felt a sudden urge to giggle, the first in many days. Leave it to Marisol to cut right to the heart of the matter.
“Only before he was homecoming king,” I said.
“It still counts,” Marisol determined, shaking her head. “You’re serious. You and Seth Marshall…”
“Yes,” I said. I felt suddenly a lot better, finally having told her the one thing I had kept from her for so long.
“So, why did you break up?” she finally asked, and my smile faded. “Was it your choice or his?”
“Well, technically,” I swallowed hard. “Mine. And you know why that is, so don’t even ask.”
Marisol was quiet for a moment.
“Did you ever consider that it might be a good idea to work through this with him instead of just pretending to be fine on your own?”
“I’m not pretending to be fine,” I sniffed. “If I was, I wouldn’t be crying, damn it.”
“You’re pretending that what’s going to make it fine is you Kadıköy Escort barricaded up here in your room for all eternity, and it’s not. You need to come back to school, Jenna, you need to face all those things. The longer you wait, the harder it will be.”
“I’m not going to school,” I said automatically, having heard this talk way too many times. But this time, Marisol wasn’t giving in.
“Yes you are. I’ll drag you by the hair tomorrow if I have to.”
It didn’t actually come down to dragging, but I did my best to delay the inevitable. Marisol had my mom’s support on the issue, and both of them were completely unapologetic about taking away my blankets, shouting, and everything else they did to get me to leave my bed and get dressed. I complied while being completely pissed off, sulking while I put on a large sweater and jeans. It was dark, cold and rainy outside, reflecting my mood perfectly.
“You’ll thank me later,” Marisol said when she caught a glimpse of my face as I put on my coat. “I know you’re mad at me for doing this, but it’s for your own good.”
“Yeah, right,” I said, but followed her out to her car without further protest.
I was anxious during the drive. I basically hadn’t been out of my house in weeks, the only exceptions being the various follow-ups for which my mom had had to drive me to the hospital. The thought of being back among people, especially those who populated Glenn Valley High, made me nauseous. I knew that Marisol was right, that I’d have to face this sooner or later. Still, part of me stubbornly clung to the absurd thought that spending the rest of my life in isolation was completely feasible.
“I checked with Mrs Jamison,” Marisol told me when we entered the student parking lot. “She said it’s not a problem if you just want to come to my classes with me today, to get used to being at school again.”
That’d be nice,” I said quietly. Marisol gave me a smile and squeezed my hand before opening her car door.
“You’ll be fine,” she promised me.
It was a strange feeling to enter Glenn Valley High School again. A large part of me didn’t want to set foot in the place. But I followed Marisol without complaints, walking through the halls to her locker.
It was almost a surreal experience. I had never had so many people look at me before, and I especially hadn’t realized how many people here now knew my name. It was being called almost constantly. Some people were simply greeting me, welcoming me back, others were trying to make sure I was who they thought I was, or telling their friends that they’d just spotted me. It appeared I was to be Glenn Valley’s primary source of gossip for the day.
I shrank as much as possible behind the homework folder I had brought. I wasn’t used to this amount of attention. I didn’t care for it either, especially now. But it seemed that although most people didn’t know the exact details of what had happened during the homecoming dance, everyone knew that I had been the victim. Not that this would have been hard to guess, considering the amount of time I had been absent from school, but I hadn’t expected everyone to actully be able to put a face to the name Jenna Swanson.
“This is weird,” I said to Marisol while she opened her locker.
“It’s not like it used to be,” she agreed, stacking books in her arms. “They don’t yell my name through the hallways, but I’ve had a bunch of people come up to me at lunch and ask about you. Not a clue who most of them were, either.”
“What did they want to know?” I asked.
“If I was your friend. Once I said yes, they usually bombarded me with questions like if it was true that you’d moved across the country, or whether you were really on life support, or something ridiculous like that. Some of them actually asked how you were doing.”
“That was nice of them,” I said sincerely.
Marisol only gave me a look that I couldn’t quite interpret, and, after shutting her locker, steered me through the hallway to her first class.
None of Marisol’s teachers seemed surprised to find me sitting next to her in class. I was glad, since I was getting enough unwanted attention without any teachers asking me what I was doing in their classroom. The hours before lunch were surprisingly uneventful, even relaxing, once people stopped turning to look at me. I could simply sit there and listen, not having to worry about remembering what was actually being said.
But when the final bell before lunch rang, I tensed up again. I didn’t like the idea of being stared at by a good third of the school’s population once again, but unless I wanted to hide and fast for the day, I didn’t have much of a choice.
Marisol seemed to sense my feelings. She gave my arm a reassuring squeeze as we made our way through the hallways once more and finally joined the already long queue to get some lunch. I positioned myself between Marisol and the wall, trying to avoid being seen by everyone else. Naturally, it Bostancı Escort happened anyway. I could see a few fingers pointing, and people actually turned to look in my direction. The girls behind us were whispering, and I was getting more and more uncomfortable by the second.
“This sucks,” I finally informed Marisol. She nodded and patted my arm.
“I know. You’ll get through it. This is just because it’s your first day back. In a few days, they’ll stop looking.”
I shrugged, watching instead the inevitable reorganization of the lunch queue. The Cross Country team flocked around Alicia Miller, who happened to be furthest ahead in line. A group of cheerleaders inserted themselves randomly in front of two timid freshmen, pushing back the entire line. It happened every day.
“You know, they’d probably let you skip ahead too, if you tried.” It wasn’t Marisol who said that but Audra, who had quietly appeared next to us. She gave me a timid smile and smoothed her blond locks.
I gave her a smile in return, but wrinkled my forehead at her proposition. I disliked the fact that everybody else skipped the line, so I wasn’t about to do it myself.
“Hell, worth a try,” Marisol shrugged, and before I could protest, she was dragging me along, past the Volleyball girls and a few people from the yearbook staff.
“Excuse us,” Audra chirped, squeezing herself through a bulk of people so we could grab our trays. I could see people opening their mouth to protest, then shut it again as soon as they saw my face.
“Stop, please!” I hissed, when Audra made an attempt to get us even further ahead. “I’m fine with where we’re at.”
“Spoilsport,” Marisol said good-naturedly, but both girls settled with me in the spot just before the Volleyball team. We had drawn even more looks as the result of this action, and I shrank back behind the both of them, my hands squeezing my tray.
“Come on, don’t be mad,” Marisol said. “This is probably our one and only chance at ever doing this.”
“Yeah,” I said unenthusiastically. I wasn’t sure how to tell Marisol that I didn’t care for such things as getting ahead in the lunch line or drinking first at the drinking fountain. A few weeks ago, I might have enjoyed having those benefits, but now, they simply were not worth it. I sighed and lowered my head. I didn’t care for any of the attention I was getting, and while for Marisol, this might be new and exciting, I wished that things would go back to how they had been before as quickly as possible. All this crap was one of the reasons why I had avoided school over the past few weeks. The other reason of course being-
It took a few seconds before I noticed that the entire room had suddenly gone strangely silent. When I raised my head, I saw more than half the people in the room openly staring at me. At first, I didn’t understand why this was happening, but then I finally saw Seth.
He was standing on the opposite end of the hall, frozen in place, looking at me. His face was strangely flushed and he looked flustered. I’d never seen him like this before.
“Jenna?” Audra asked, and she protectively put her arm around me. It wasn’t until then that I understood why people were staring. They assumed that for me, Seth was synonymous with his dad. They were expecting me to freak out, or to run, to make some sort of scandalous move they could gossip about, and from the looks of it, Seth was half-expecting me to do the same.
He was very much uncomfortable, I noticed, and not just with the fact that I was here. I was pretty sure he had never had people react to him the way they were doing now. I wished they wouldn’t, either. He had been through a lot, and the look of pain in his eyes made me want to run across the room and comfort him. I wasn’t the only one suffering here.
It took a lot of strength to give him a simple, shaky smile and turn back to the front. Through the corner of my eye, I could see him finally start to move, crossing the room to stand in line with Cantelloni and some of the other football players. They formed a protective ring around him, just as Audra and Marisol were doing for me. Slowly, conversations started up again, and we stepped forward as the line finally moved.
“Are you okay?” Marisol asked very softly. I shook my head.
A moment later, we finally got around to picking up silverware and receiving food.
“Ew,” Audra commented, picking up a hot dog. I mirrored her, automatically taking the fruit cup and salad as well, even though I couldn’t have had less appetite.
“We need to talk,” I said to Marisol once we had passed the cashier. “Alone. Please.”
“Sure,” said Marisol, giving Audra an apologetic look. Audra only shrugged and gave me a smile, turning to sit with her team.
“Where do you want to go?” Marisol asked. “I usually eat over at that table, but if you don’t want to be overheard…”
“Art room,” I said, and started to walk towards the door. Students weren’t allowed to take food out of the lunch room, and especially not into a classroom. Miss Larsen, who was standing watch at the door, however, took one look at me and let us pass.
“I should have told you he was in my lunch hour,” Marisol apologized as we crossed the hallway at a fast pace. “I’m sorry.”
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