8. Bad Luck
I woke up to the same routine as any other morning, until I looked in
the mirror – reminded that there was nothing routine about my life. I
took in my nightmare of a hairstyle and knew there was no way I could
get away with not washing and drying it. I was already going to draw
attention - I didn’t need to look like I’d slept on the streets as wel.
My head stil throbbed but the golf bal had significantly reduced to being
almost flush with my forehead. I was able to tolerate showering
and brushing my hair, and my eyes only watered slightly when I dried
it. Maybe I would be able to survive today after al.
Then I saw Sara’s dropped jaw when I slid into the car. Sara didn’t say
anything to me, and I couldn’t read her expression with her oversized
sunglasses covering most of her face. She handed me a bottle of water
and aspirin. Then again, maybe today was going to be one of the
longest days of my life.
“Thank you,” I said as I dumped a couple pils in my hand and swalowed
them down with several large gulps of water. I tried to act natural,
despite the tension.
She barely glanced at me. I flipped the visor down to examine my
cover-up in the mirror, trying to figure out what was making her so
withdrawn. My bangs were swept across my forehead to conceal my
bruise, and the bandages were barely noticeable under the fan of hair.
“Okay,” I demanded. “Why aren’t you talking or looking at me?”
“Emma,” she breathed in exasperation, “look at you!”
“What?” I defended, glancing back up at the mirror. “I think I did a
pretty good job of covering it up.”
“That’s what I mean.” Her voice was shaky. It sounded like she was going
to cry. “You should never have to cover anything up. I know you
won’t tel me what happened, but I know you didn’t fall. Wil you at
least tel me what it was about?”
“What does it matter?” My voice was smal, not anticipating the
strength of her reaction. I wasn’t expecting her to act like nothing
happened, but I didn’t want her to cry.
“It matters to me,” she choked. I watched her blot her eyes with a tissue
under her glasses.
“Sara, please don’t cry,” I pleaded. “I’m okay, I swear.”
“How can you be okay with this? You aren’t even angry.”
“I’ve had the weekend to get past it,” I admitted. “Besides, I don’t want
to be angry. I don’t want to let her get to me. I’m not okay with this,” I
said pointing to my head, “but what other choice do I have? I’l deal
with it. So please don’t cry. You’re making me feel horrible.”
“Sorry,” she murmured.
We puled into the parking lot, and she slid off her glasses, blotting her
eyes while looking in the rearview mirror.
“I’m okay,” she breathed, trying to produce a smile.
“How bad does it look? Be honest.”
“You actualy did a decent job hiding it,” she admitted. “I’m having a
hard time because I know the truth.” And then again, she didn’t know
the half of it.
“If anyone says anything, because I know they wil, tel them I slipped
on the wet floor and hit my head on the coffee table.” She roled her
eyes at my lie.
“What, do you have a better one?” I countered.
“No,” she sighed. “Keep the aspirin. I know you’l need them.”
“Ready?” I asked tentatively. I didn’t like seeing Sara upset, especialy
over me. The anger and sadness were in complete contrast to her personality.
It was uncomfortable to witness. She released a heavy breath
I received a few questions about my injury from some of my soccer
teammates and other brave gossipers, but most people just stared. I
should’ve been used to the stares after Friday’s disaster. I wished I invisible
once again - or at least ignorant of the gossip that was always
happening around me.
I found my way to English class without having to explain my fall to
more than two or three more people. I sat in my usual seat, puling out
my paper to pass in.
“Does it stil hurt?” Evan asked from the chair next to mine. At that
time, Brenda Pierce approached the seat she’d been sitting in since the
first day of class and scowled to see it occupied. He smiled politely and
“Wel, there’s one person who’s not going to like you,” I said wryly, trying
to avoid the question.
“She’l get over it,” Evan stated with little interest. “So, do you stil have
I drew my eyebrows together and reluctantly admitted, “I took some
aspirin this morning. So, it’s better, as long as I don’t turn my head too
“That’s good,” he said casualy. Everyone else had asked what
happened; no one bothered with how I was feeling – until Evan.
“How was the rest of your weekend?” Evan whispered.
“Okay,” I answered without looking over at him.
Ms. Abbott began with the class discussion, handing out our newest
reading assignment after we passed in our papers. She also handed us
a short story which she alowed us to begin reading in class after she’d
given us our writing assignment.
“Are we talking, or not?” Evan whispered when Ms. Abbott stepped
out of the room.
“We are,” I glanced at him, confused. “Why?”
“I can never figure you out. I want to make sure I’m on the same page
“I’m not much of a talker,” I confessed, turning back to our assigned
“I know.” His answer drew my attention - he had that amused grin
spread across his lips.
I wasn’t in the mood to inquire about his antagonizing grin and didn’t
give him another glance for the remainder of class. I wasn’t alowing
myself to be dragged into the mystery that was Evan Mathews, not
today. I just wanted to get through the day with as little attention paid
to me as possible. I wished it could have been that easy.
Evan escorted me to Ms. Mier’s Art class. He didn’t try to talk to me.
But he’d inspect me with a concerned flip of his eyes every so often as I
walked blankly through the hals, not looking at him or anyone else. I
had to sever my emotional cord to escape the anger and shame that silently
slithered through my head, disconnecting myself from the stares
and whispers that folowed me down the hal.
“Today you are going to take a walk around the school property and
snap pictures of scenes that inspire you for the calendar entry next
month,” Ms. Mier announced. “The final pieces wil be displayed along
the wal of the main entrance where the students and faculty can view
them. A vote wil decide the twelve pieces to make the calendar. The
artistic creation that has the most votes wil also be the cover of the calendar.
Does anyone have any questions?”
The class was silent. Ms. Mier asked a couple of students to pass out
the cameras from the storage cabinet.
“Are you submitting an entry?” I asked Evan, who was standing behind
me with his own camera in his hands. I glanced back to catch him
raise his eyebrows, surprised to hear my voice.
“I’l submit a photograph.”
“Please meet back in the class in forty minutes to return the cameras,”
Ms. Mier instructed.
The class emptied into the hals, heading toward the stairs that led to
the back of the school. I opted to take the side stairs that let out at the
footbal field and tennis courts.
“Do you mind if I come with you?” Evan asked from the top of the
stairs. I looked up at him from the middle of my descent and shrugged
with indifference. Evan folowed me in silence. When we exited, the
cool air blew against my face. The refreshing breeze sent a chil through
me, waking me from my stupor. I observed the briliant colors of the
foliage and proceeded toward the footbal field.
“Did your parents say anything when you came home soaked the other
“They weren’t around,” he replied dismissively.
“Does that bother you – not having them around?” I asked the question
without thinking, not expecting an honest answer since it realy
was none of my business.
But he responded. “I’ve learned to cope. It was easier when my brother
was stil here.”
“You live with your aunt and uncle, right?” he countered.
“Yup.” I bent over to take a picture of the field through the fence,
twisting the lens of the camera so it produced a blur of color. I stood
up and continued toward the wooded area behind the bleachers.
“Not easy?” Evan stated casualy, like he already knew the answer.
“No, not easy,” I agreed. I wasn’t finding the need to lie - yet. We were
walking a delicate line of disclosure, without revealing too much.
“Tight reins?” Another question that sounded more like a statement.
“Definitely,” I answered, stil taking unfocused pictures of the green foliage
mixed with hints of red and orange. “And you don’t have any
“I guess not.”
The wind blew my hair from my face, and Evan winced. My cheeks
reddened, realizing he hadn’t noticed the bruise on my head until now.
“Prone to bad luck?” he asked, nodding to my head.
“Depends on where I am,” I answered without answering. I tried to
brush my hair back across my forehead with my fingers, concealing
the purple reminder of my bad luck.
“How many brothers and sisters do you have?” I inquired, switching
the focus back on him.
“Just the one brother, Jared. He’s a freshman at Cornel. And you?”
“No brothers or sisters – just my two younger cousins. Is he anything
“Nothing. He’s quiet, more musicaly inclined than athleticaly, and is
realy easy going.”
I smiled at the comparison. Evan smiled back, and my heart woke up
from its two day slumber.
“Where are you considering going for colege?”
“Several schools in California mainly, along with a few others in the
New York, Jersey area. I’d love to get into Stanford if they’l have me.”
“I heard they were here watching your game Thursday.”
I nodded, now focusing the camera on the ground brush and zooming
in to capture the details of the falen leaves.
“Where are you looking?”
“Cornel, obviously, but I have friends going to different schools in
California, so I may head back. I have time to figure it out.”
We continued our delicately balanced conversation until it was time to
return to the classroom.
“You have a night game on Friday, right?” he confirmed as we climbed
“What are you doing after school, before the game?”
“Probably staying at school and doing homework or whatever.”
“Do you want to get something to eat?” he asked, hesitating on the
landing before opening the double doors leading to the hal. I stopped,
and so did my heart.
“And yes, this would be a date, so that we’re clear,” he stated with a
smirk. I stopped breathing too.
“Okay,” I breathed, stil unable to move. Did I realy just agree to go on
“Great,” he said, producing a briliant smile that caused my heart to
catapult to life at such a frantic pace that it left me lightheaded. “I’l see
you in Trig.” He continued down the hal past the Art room.
I returned my camera to the supply closet and walked in a daze to my
“What is that grin for?” I heard Sara ask from what sounded like a
mile away. I brought her into focus, not realizing that I’d been
“I’l tel you later.” The grin turned into a smile.
“I hate it when you say that,” she groaned, but knew she didn’t have
time to interrogate me in between classes. I grabbed my books and
headed to Chemistry.
Class went by so slow. I took notes automaticaly and worked on the lab
assignment with my chemistry partner. I kept looking at the clock to
find that only five minutes had crept by. Finaly, the bel rang.
“I hope you feel better,” my chem. partner offered. My forehead
crumpled. “You seemed kind of out of it today.” I grinned, which only
made her more confused.
When I arrived at my locker, Evan was waiting for me.
“Sorry, decided not to wait for you in class,” he explained with a grin.
Sara walked up to her locker. “Hi Evan.” She gave me a suspicious look
from behind his back. I looked into my locker, pressing my lips together
to fight the urge to smile.
“Can you tel me what you’re alowed to do?” Evan asked as he walked
“Not much,” I answered seriously, my grin deflating.
“But you can do anything that involves school, right?” he confirmed,
trying to put the pieces together.
“Pretty much. As long as I have a ride and am home before ten
“Would they know if you weren’t doing the school thing that you said
you were doing but stil folowed the ten o’clock rule?”
I sunk onto my seat with my stomach in my chest. I could guess where
he was going, and it was a place I was too afraid to even consider.
“I don’t know. Why?” I tightened my eyes to try to read his thoughts.
“Just wondering,” he said, stil thinking. My attention was snapped to
the front of the room when we were requested to pass our homework
“Have you ever purposely done something you knew you weren’t supposed
to do?” Evan continued with the inquisition on our way to
“Like what?” Again, not liking this line of questioning.
“Like sneaking out of the house, or saying you’re at the library but go
to the movies instead?” I looked at him with wide eyes. I swalowed the
lump lodged in my throat at the thought of it.
“I guess not,” he concluded by my speechlessness, and probably audible
“What are you thinking?” I finaly asked.
“I’m just trying to figure this out.”
“Us,” he said as he entered the classroom and took his usual seat.
I stumbled to my seat, not breathing again. He was so confusing. I
wished I had warnings when he was going to say things like that.
“Mr. Mathews,” Mr. Hodges declared, “would you please join Ms. Thomas
at her table. It appears her partner is no longer in this class, and
there is no point in having two single tables, especialy when we have
our dissection labs.”
Upon hearing this announcement, I stared down at the black surface
of the table to conceal the blood that was rushing to my face.
Evan sat next to me and said, “Hi,” like he was introducing himself to
me for the first time.
I released a blushing smile and quietly replied, “Hi.”
After Mr. Hodges began his lecture on the bones in the hand, I
scribbled on a blank piece of paper, Are you already assuming there’s
Evan wrote in response, Not yet.
I stil didn’t understand what that meant and drew my eyebrows together,
so he wrote, I’m getting ready for when there is.
My heart felt heavy, like it just fainted. There was a huge grin on
Evan’s face. I wasn’t as amused. His questions and comments were
making me dizzy. I tucked the paper in the back of my folder and
stared at my notes, trying to conceal my bright red cheeks with my
“See you later,” Evan said after class as he walked away. I was left
looking after him, baffled. I knew there was a motive behind his line of
questioning and the insane statements that folowed, but I was so lost.
Sara was waiting for me, leaning against our lockers when I arrived. I
opened my locker to return my books without saying anything. I knew
what she was expecting.
“Do not do this to me,” she demanded impatiently.
“How was your date with Jason this weekend?” I attempted to redirect
“Not this time you don’t,” she scolded, stil way too serious for Sara.
“We’l get to me later - talk.”
I paused, trying to digest what I was about to tel her.
“We’re going on a date after school on Friday, before our soccer game.
We’re getting something to eat,” I confided. I wasn’t sure what else to
“Wow,” she responded with a smile that made me flush with color
once again. “That’s realy great. I realy like this, Em. I have a good feeling
“I’m glad you think so.”
She flashed her eyes toward me, not understanding my reaction.
“I stil don’t get him, Sara,” I admitted with a heavy sigh as we tread
down the stairs toward the cafeteria. “He asks these questions and
makes these cryptic remarks. I feel like I’m trying to read between the
lines, but I’m stil coming up blank. And then when I have an opportunity
to ask him what he means, he disappears.”
“I know he’s been colecting his surveys from people and has a couple
more interviews for the article that’s due tomorrow. He’s interviewing
me at the beginning of Journalism class. Maybe that’s where he keeps
“I’m not realy worried about where he’s going,” I corrected, knowing
she was trying to put me at ease. “The timing of when he leaves is always
after he makes some remark or asks a question that I need him
to explain. That’s what’s driving me crazy.”
“Like what?” she inquired.
“I don’t even know where to start.”
“Do you like him?” We puled the chairs back at our table in the back
corner of the caf.
“I’m stil trying to figure him out. But I’m getting used to being with
him in class and walking down the hals together. I don’t have the urge
to push him away like I did before. So maybe he’s wearing me down.”
“Or maybe you like him,” Sara countered with a devious smirk. Before
I could answer, Jason approached our table with a tray of food.
“Hey Sara,” he greeted, hesitating before sitting next to her.
“Helo Jason,” she beamed, shifting in her chair to face him. I suddenly
felt like I was witnessing something that wasn’t meant for a third pair
“I’m going to get something to eat,” I announced to ears that were deaf
to my voice.
On my way back to the table with my lunch, I caught Sara and Jason
smiling absurdly at each other. I hoped I didn’t look at Evan that way.
I’d feel like an idiot if that’s what everyone saw whenever he was
around me - although it looked nauseatingly adorable between Jason
and Sara. The ogling was enough to deter me from returning to the
table, so I went to the Journalism room instead to get a head start on
Since the class was in the computer lab, no one came into the room,
besides Ms. Holt, who grabbed some things from her desk and
checked on my progress. She didn’t have a class after Journalism, so I
stayed during study as wel. I buried myself in my homework to avoid
thinking about Sara’s reaction that morning or Evan’s persistent interest.
But my mind drifted towards those unavoidable thoughts
I was overwhelmed by the whirlwind that had forced its way in, turning
everything upside down in such a short amount of time. I was losing
control, and it was making me panic. I was having a hard time
staying focused on what had always come so naturaly before. The end
was within sight, and I couldn’t jeopardize everything and let it al slip
So, if I was going to make it to colege (in one piece), I had to avoid
these panic-inducing situations, like the party - or anything else that
distracted me for that matter. That included… dating. My heart sank
in my chest at this realization. But I knew it was what I had to do – I
had too much to lose.
“There you are,” Evan declared as he entered the room. “I was wondering
where you’ve been.”
“Hi,” I responded, looking down at the keyboard.
“It’s definitely quieter in here,” he observed, then noticed my avoidance.
“What’s going on?”
“I can’t go on a date with you,” I blurted in a rush. “I need to stay focused
on school and my responsibilities. I can’t afford distractions. I’m
“I’m a distraction?” he asked in bewilderment.
“Wel… yes, you are. The fact that I think about you at al is a distraction,
and I can’t commit myself to any more extra curriculars.” That
came out way worse than it did in my head.
“Are you comparing our date to Art club?” I couldn’t tel if he found it
insulting or amusing.
“No.” I sighed in frustration. “Evan, I’m not good at this. I’ve honestly
never been on a date in my life, and I’m just not ready. I said it. Is that
good enough for you?” My faced turned crimson with the spontaneous
confession. I continued to reveal too much to him, and that was a part
of the control I needed back. There was too much he couldn’t know,
and I couldn’t keep slipping up. He tried poorly to suppress his signature
grin. I grunted in annoyance and threw a paperback book at him
from atop my pile.
“I always bring out the best in you, don’t I?” He released a short laugh
as he avoided my throw. “Okay, no date. But we can stil hang out,
“As long as you promise not to ask me on a date, mention us as if we
were an entity, and no comments about sweaters,” I insisted. I realized
my demands were ridiculous and didn’t make much sense, but it was
what my insubordinate heart would need to survive a friendship with
“Okay, I think,” he agreed in confusion, nodding slowly. “But you’re
stil talking to me, and I can sit next to you in class and even walk with
you in the hals, right?”
“Sure,” I replied after hesitating.
“Can we hang out outside of school?” he pushed.
“When would we possibly do something after school?”
“Friday – no date, I promise. But you can come over after school, and
we can hang out before the game,” he offered. “We can even do homework
if you prefer.”
I examined him with narrowed eyes, trying to decide if he was serious.
More importantly I needed to decide if I could handle the offer – a
smal voice was screaming at me to say no, but I didn’t listen.
“Alright,” I conceded. “But just as friends.”
“I can do that,” he replied with a smirk, “for now.”
“Just kidding,” he said as he held up his hands in defense. “I can be
just friends with you - no problem.”
The bel rang, declaring the end of the day, and the hals started to fil
with the voices and footsteps of students anxious to leave.
“Good luck in your game today,” I said, gathering my books together.
“Thanks,” he replied. “I’l see you tomorrow in English?”
“I’l be there.”
He smiled as he walked away.
I remained in the seat, absorbing the results of my attempt to put my
life back in order. It didn’t go exactly as I planned. I was supposed to
cut him out completely, and a part of me was furious that I hadn’t. I
knew I was taking a big risk involving someone else in my life. I tried
to convince myself that I could be friends with him, not alowing him to
get too close, while stil remaining focused on school. But I wasn’t as
confident as I should have been. I fel back into my routine for the remainder
of the day. My head hurt from running around during soccer
practice, but I got through it. Sara was gushing about Jason and her
date, so I was convinced that she was over the emotional trauma from
earlier that morning.
Actualy, the rest of the week fel into a familiar pattern as wel. The only
difference was that most of my classes, along with my journeys to
them, included Evan. He respected my reserved disposition, keeping
conversation within the boundaries of school topics. I continued
breathing and my heart kept beating, although at times it stil acted insane
and sped up at the sight of one of his mesmerizing smiles, or
when he’d look into my eyes a little too long. But even that I could
push in the pocket of acceptance. I had my safe place back, and that
helped when I had to cross the threshold of instability at home.
I avoided Carol as much as possible, although her slicing tongue always
found an insult to carve into me every time she saw me. I had an
away game on Tuesday and worked on the newspaper layout on Wednesday,
so I was able to stay away until after dinner. On Wednesday
night, I even felt brave enough to sneak into the fridge at two o’clock in
the morning to take a filet of cold breaded chicken and a granola bar
back to my room to quiet my rebeling stomach. I was back to focusing
on surviving the next five hundred and sixty-seven days however I