34. Paying Attention

“What did you do?” Sara exclaimed much louder than necessary when
we drove away from Evan’s the next morning.
“And don’t you dare say ‘nothing’, because you are glowing.”
I pressed my palms against my fiery cheeks, knowing she saw way
more than I intended.
“Not what you think,” I corrected. “But, it was… interesting.” I couldn’t
hold the smile back. I stared out the window, unable to make eye contact
with her.
“Uh, ‘interesting’ is not details,” she said impatiently. “You’re not going
to tel me, are you?”
“Not today.” I grinned. But I would eventualy. Not in the explicit detail
that she would have liked, but enough so that she knew.
I was so caught up in the mind buzzing thoughts that fueled my glow
when I returned home, that I barely registered my discomfort as I
limped around on my leg, completing my chores. I was also oblivious
when Carol came up behind me while I washed the previous night’s
The knife slipped through my soapy hands with a quick, forceful
I inhaled sharply at the sting of the blade against the inside of my
“Oh, did I get you?” Carol remarked snidely. “I needed it.”
I held my fingers tightly, glaring at her while what I realy wanted to
say screamed in my head. The blood dripped through my clenched

fingers and spread in the water below. She set the knife on the
counter, with no intention of using it, and left the kitchen with a
malevolent smirk.
I reached across the counter and grabbed a handful of paper towels,
leaving a trail of red in my wake. I wrapped them around the padded
section of my sliced fingers, right below my knuckles. The blood easily
soaked through the papery material. I cradled my hand and walked into
the bathroom, turning on the water to flush out the wound. My fingers
pulsed as the blood flowed freely, swirling with the water down
the drain. I had to use a towel to apply enough pressure to stop the
bleeding. I knew I’d have to do everything I could to remove the bloodstains
later. Within a few minutes of strangling my fingers, the gapes
in the fleshy tissue only trickled instead of gushed. I wrapped them
with bandages as tightly as I could to alow the slices to clot. I clenched
my teeth, shaking my head in disbelief at her cunningness. I pressed
my lips together, flexing my jaw. The anger she provoked was not as
easy to push away anymore. I was overtaken by the fury, and it
lingered long after it should have been tucked deep inside.
Sara and Evan both eyed my wrapped fingers throughout the day on
Monday, but it wasn’t lunch that Sara said something.
“Are you going to tel us, or what?”
I roled my eyes at her insistence. “Cut my fingers washing a knife,” I
responded flatly.
Sara shook her head and folded her arms across her chest.
“Al four of them?”
“The truth,” Evan demanded, not alowing me to get away with the
weak explanation. I didn’t like the accusing way they were both staring

at me. This wasn’t their problem. They didn’t need to make me feel
like I’d done something wrong.
“Listen, I’m not going to tel you what happened. If you don’t like my
explanation, then you can fil in the blanks as you see fit. I’m not going
to tel you anything more. You know where I live, and you know who I
live with. I don’t need to relive it again by teling you.”
Aggravated beyond what I could contain, I pushed myself away from
the table and walked, or slightly limped, out of the cafeteria. Neither
Sara nor Evan said anything to me during Journalism class. They
alowed me to fester in my own space for the fifty minutes of class. But
as soon as it was over, they bombarded me again.
“You can’t be mad at us,” Evan implored. I kept my back to them while
sitting at the computer.
“Emma, you have a tendency to downplay your injuries,” Sara added.
“You have to understand that we’re going to be concerned.”
“I can handle it,” I snapped, spinning around in my chair to face them.
“Didn’t you tel me something similar that afternoon on the track, right
before you ended up in the hospital?” Sara’s raised voice cracked as
she finished the sentence. I remained silent and stared at the floor.
Evan scooted a chair in front of me and gently held my uninjured hand
in both of his.
“We know you can handle more than you should,” he stated soothingly,
“but this is making us… nervous. I realy think we should…” I
shot my eyes at him, becoming panic-stricken when I realized how he
intended to finish that sentence. He didn’t finish his thought. The silence
said enough.

“You don’t understand,” I whispered, dropping my gaze. “I can’t leave
their house. Not yet. I don’t want to risk ruining Jack and Leyla’s lives.
I could also lose everything I’ve worked so hard for. Besides, I have
nowhere to go.”
“You...” they both began.
“Nowhere that I could stay without it causing more problems or exposing
my secret,” I corrected. “Do you realy think they’d let me leave
quietly, or live in the same town, wondering what I was teling your
parents? I would have to leave Weslyn, and then people would start
asking questions. I have no choice.”
They understood. I could see it in their broken expressions. I shared
with them the thoughts I’d already processed a hundred times before
in my head. They finaly got a glimpse of the true threat in exposing my
situation. We would al lose. I hoped I convinced them that the risk of
staying was worth it.
“I promise you,” I vowed, looking between Evan and Sara, “I wil know
when I can’t do it anymore, and then we can go anywhere you like.” I
finished my sentence looking at Evan. Sara’s eyes flinched in confusion,
but she didn’t ask for an explanation she understood enough.
“Besides, I only have four hundred and eighty days left.” I smiled, trying
to lighten the mood. It didn’t work.
The next two weeks passed without incident. It helped that we spent
the Easter holiday with Janet, and then I spent most of the week of vacation
with Sara. George and Carol took the kids to the theme parks in
Florida, leaving me behind, of course. Little did they know, Sara and I
escaped to Florida as wel to visit her grandmother for four days on the
Gulf Coast while Evan was in France snowboarding with a friend from
San Francisco.

“I think that would be a great gift for his birthday,” Sara confirmed
while we lounged on the soft white sand, the warm breeze blowing
through our hair.
“You don’t think it’s too…” I scrunched my face, trying to find the right
“No, it’s perfect.”
“I think Ms. Mier wil let me do parts of it in class as an assignment
too. You know I’m having dinner with his parents on Sunday, right?”
“No, you didn’t tel me that,” Sara exclaimed, sitting up to face me.
“Do you remember his mom asking me to dinner back in the fal?”
“Yeah,” she recaled eagerly.
“Wel, she’s insisting it be this Sunday. I can’t believe I didn’t tel you
this,” I pondered. “Oh, and the worst part is that she invited Carol and
George as wel.”
“She did not,” Sara gaped.
“Wel, I actualy had to ask them since I can’t give my phone number to
anyone besides you.”
“So they know about Evan now?” Sara concluded, stil unable to close
her dropped jaw.
“They were going to find out eventualy,” I returned with a slight shrug.
“You should have seen Carol’s face when she found out I was dating
someone. I think her irises turned red. It was pretty creepy.”

“Are they going?” Sara asked in horror.
“Of course not,” I responded as if stating the obvious. “But George was
okay with me going, despite Carol.”
“Em, this is going to be so bad, isn’t it?” I watched as Sara’s posture
sank with the realization that, after al we’d done to conceal Evan from
Carol, she’d found out about him. I accepted this inevitability the moment
we kissed in the Art room. I had prepared for it until my stomach
turned inside out - hoping that I was ready. Sara, obviously, was not.
“What could she possibly do that she hasn’t already done?” I offered
Sara, trying to put her at ease - without success.
“You’re going back home after the track meet on Saturday, right?”
“Yes,” I answered suspiciously.
“You have to text me within an hour of being home to let me know
you’re okay,” she demanded.
“Sara, stop.”
She silenced me with a stern stare. I knew I had to give in to her demands
or risk being ignored for the remaining two days in Florida.
“Fine,” I promised with an exasperated sigh, “I’l text you.”
Neither of us mentioned it again for the rest of the week. As Saturday
approached, Sara became more anxious. Her nervous energy distracted
me from being nervous myself. I focused on seeing Evan at the
meet, and that was enough to keep from thinking of Carol.
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