Read Rage: A Love Story Online

Authors: Julie Anne Peters

Tags: #Young Adult Fiction, #Lgbt, #Social Themes, #Physical & Emotional Abuse, #Friendship, #Juvenile Fiction, #Social Issues, #Homosexuality

Rage: A Love Story

BOOK: Rage: A Love Story
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To Alyson Lacoste, who asked me to write this book

 

and I said, “No. Absolutely not.”

 

Alyson is a very persuasive young woman
.

 
 

I’m wearing ultra-lowrider camo pants that barely cover my crack and if she looks she’ll see the strap of my thong. This filmy beige crop top where, if I get a chill, my nipples will be my most outstanding feature. My hair looks sexy hanging in my eyes. My walk is killer. She can’t
not
notice me
.

I enter her field of vision, she does a slow double take, then stops talking with her clique, the LBDs, mid-sentence. Her eyes scrape me, skim me. Scratch and burn me. I feel her drink me in and salivate. I don’t look. Not yet, not yet. My eyes shift slightly. ZAP. ZING. She’s hooked. I smile her in
.

She’s mine
.

• • •

 
 

Same sexy me. She detaches from the LesBo Dykes, or Les Beau Dykes, and follows me to the parking lot. She gets in her car, stays close to mine, runs a yellow light. She tracks me to the bank of the river, to the edge of Fallon Falls. We park and get out. I step on the slippery rocks, arms extended, balancing across the rushing water. I spring to the shore, knowing she’s on my scent. Around the side of the boulder, I duck into a cave and wait. The smell of burnt sugar tickles my nose. I hear her. She enters and steps in front of me—reaches out a hand, both hands, and moves into me, slides her arms around my waist, my bare skin, where nerve endings spark and snap. There’s no time to blink or moisten my lips
.

“Hi. I’m Johanna.”

She kisses me long and hard, awakens the ache of longing inside me. Her lips are metal, then melon. Finally, finally she lets me go. I gasp for breath and she smiles, a one-sided, sliver-moon
smile, and says, “Now that we have the introductions out of the way …”

• • •

 

“Johanna, dear?”

I jerk to the present.

“Mrs. Arcaro has passed,” Jeannette says.

I missed it, the last breath of her life. A pang of guilt for daydreaming at this critical time stabs at my heart, but I chase it away. I give Mrs. Arcaro’s frail hand a gentle squeeze and lay it on the sheet. I feel Mom smiling down on me from heaven.

As I’m leaving Memorial Hospice, I feel uplifted. I meant something to someone. Even if Mrs. Arcaro was a stranger, I’m the one who was there for her at the end.

I’m the one who stayed.

Chapter 1
 

I
locate the room on the first floor where Mrs. Goins asked me to meet her. She was desperate, she said. So many seniors on the verge of not graduating, she said. Would I please tutor this one? A special one who needs special help with the senior project, she said.

I guess I’m meant to feel special, but I have my own stuff to finish—like that damn Film Studies class Novak talked me into.

I peek in. The classroom’s empty. Did I get the room wrong? I’ve been losing whole blocks of time lately, spacing constantly. Where does life go when it’s lost to you?

My backpack slips off my shoulder and a note falls out of the front pocket.

“I’m dropping Film Studies,” Novak wrote.

An old note from the beginning of term. At the time I thought: Thanks. Abandon me, like everyone else has.

I hear Mrs. Goins coming before I see her. She’s… rustling? Maybe her thighs are rubbing together or something. Since the first of the year, she’s put on, like, twenty pounds. A lot of people call her Meaty Loins.

I would never do that.

The person behind Meaty Loins materializes.

“Johanna, this is Robbie Inouye. Robbie, Johanna Lynch.”

Oh my God. Kill me now
.

Robbie Inouye scares the hell out of me. He might be retarded, or challenged, or whatever terminology you use to dance around the truth. He’s definitely messed. His eyes aren’t symmetrical, or could it be his head’s on crooked? The corners of his mouth are always caked with dried-up spittle and he lumbers, drags his feet like Frankenstein. He’s not big. I’m five eight and he’s shorter than me, but he
seems
huge.

Once upon a time, slow-moving Robbie would get jostled in the hall. I’d see people cut in front of him, making him stumble. Then came last November, right before Thanksgiving. I remember because Novak had been dumped by her boyfriend, Dante—again—and it was taking longer than usual to stanch the internal bleeding. We were in the restroom by the cafeteria. I got her past the point of slitting her wrists by reassuring her that she was an idiot for staying with him. “If I wasn’t so fucking irresistible,” she hiccuped, swiping at her nose, “I wouldn’t attract vermin.” “Exactly,” I replied. I was late; I couldn’t stay to hold her hand. “I’m better off without the asshole.” “Too true.” I had a midterm in trig and I’d blown the last quiz.

“Thank you, sweetie.” Novak hugged me. “What would I do without you?” She held me so hard I couldn’t breathe.

So I’m charging out of the restroom, dodging bodies and wedging through the mob of people exiting the cafeteria. Late bell rings and my class is two flights up. Then I hear this cry, more of a keen or wail. I look over and see a blur of skin, bone, and loose spittle, bared teeth. It’s Robbie.

Someone had taken the instrument case he carries around. A guy was swinging it over his head and Robbie was lying on the floor like he’d been jumped. His books and papers had spilled down the stairs and one of his shoes was off.

Without warning, he rose up like Atlantis emerging from the sea, like Goliath in a rage, fists flailing, screeching and bellowing so loud my ears squinched. The guy with the case passed it to another guy, then a girl, a guy, the girl again. Robbie went crazy. He started swinging in all directions, clawing to get that case. He let out this high-pitched hawk screech, along with foam and spit, then busted the girl right in the chops with his fist. I felt the impact as she screamed and dropped the case.

The first guy made the mistake of retaliating for his girlfriend, hooking Robbie’s neck from behind. Robbie whirled and smacked the guy’s head into a brick wall.

I heard—
felt
—the crunch of bone.

I don’t know why I did it, but the case was only about two feet away and I bent to retrieve it. Robbie grabbed the case and swung it up. The corner smacked me in the chin and slammed me into the stair rail.

His face came inches from my face, then his eyes rolled back into his head and he hauled off and whacked me on the
shoulder. I crashed, tumbling down the stairs, feeling vertebrae crush.

My shoulder was dislocated. This was before my sister, Tessa, moved back home, so Novak took me to the Urgent Care Center.

The guy Robbie clobbered had a concussion, and his girl a fat lip, but none of us pressed charges. Unhappily ever after, Robbie plodded the halls and people steered clear. Especially me.

“Robbie, why don’t you find a seat?” Mrs. Goins says.

Franken Psycho’s case brushes my leg and I jump back.

Before I can get a squeak out, Mrs. Goins lowers her voice and goes, “Thank you for doing this, Johanna. He needs to graduate.”

So do I. “Mrs. Goins, my work schedule changed. I just found out today, and now I have to go in at two. Um, every day, I think.” My eyes shift to Robbie and I see he’s helped himself to the teacher’s desk and is rolling in the office chair. He pulls open the top drawer and removes a stapler.

Mrs. Goins looks at me over her granny glasses. “I thought I could count on you.”

My face flares. She sponsored the Youth Service Club when I was in it, before Mom got sick. …

“You’re the first person I thought of.” The pleading in her eyes. Or is it desperation?

“I—I guess I can change my schedule back.”

She rests her hand on my forearm. “Thank you, Johanna.”

“Get out of my chair, Robbie,” Mrs. Goins orders him. He’s stapled together a bunched-up wad of his t-shirt, and as he yanks it apart, staples ping the window.

She motions him to a desk up front and he grabs his battered brown instrument case. It’s the size of a trombone or saxophone.

“Robbie, Johanna is going to get you through the senior project so you can graduate with your class. She’ll be tutoring you. Do you know what ‘tutor’ means? It means—”

“I know what it means,” Robbie says in this sluggish monotone. Robotically, his head rotates, and his eyes fix on me.

A streak of phantom pain shoots through my arm.
Please don’t hurt me
.

“He has the essay to finish. I’m not sure he’s even started it. Robbie,” she carps at him, “have you even started writing the essay?”

He doesn’t answer.

Chill. Don’t piss him off
. She removes a sheet of paper from her messenger bag and waves it at me. Robbie extends his legs in front of him so I have to step over them. He raises them enough to make me half trip.

Asstard
. Wait, I feel bad calling a retard an asstard. Wait, not really.

Is that a smirk on his face?

Mrs. Goins glances at her watch. “I have a student conference in five minutes, so I’ll leave you to it. He needs to have the essay finished and handed in to the English department by next Friday.” As she bustles by, she adds, “Robbie, do this one last assignment and you’re out of here. Cooperate with Johanna.”

I skim over the sheet. Oh yeah. I’m familiar with it. Name. Date. In no less than a thousand words, describe your best moment and your worst moment in high school and what each taught you about yourself.

We found out what the senior project would be last September at our first senior assembly. They told us we had to have it in by April first to graduate. It’s already May.

“Cooperate with Johanna,” Robbie says.

“What?” When I glance up over the sheet at him, he eyes me warily. I move behind the teacher’s desk to put something solid between us. “Did you bring any paper?”

His arms fling out to the side and I lurch back, jamming into the whiteboard tray. Ow.

He smiles vacantly.

What’s with this guy?
I flop into the rolling chair and it almost tips over. He sniggers. “Do you have anything to write with?” I ask.

“Cooperate with Johanna,” he says.

I tug open the top drawer of the desk and find a green mechanical pencil. There are sheets of white copy paper in a lower drawer, so I remove a few and click out a length of lead on the pencil.

Robbie watches me the whole time, mesmerized. I get up and hand him the paper and pencil. He holds the pencil up to his nose and sniffs. He does the same with the paper.

Weird.

Can he read?
Well, hopefully, since he’s a senior in high school. But half the jocks can’t read.
Bad Johanna. Shouldn’t stereotype
. Robbie has probably been mainstreamed, or whatever you call it.

I read to Robbie, “In no less than a thousand words, describe your best moment and—”

“Your worst moment of high school and what each taught you about yourself,” he drones.

I give him the xeroxed copy of the senior project.
Can he write?

“Johanna, Johanna, Johanna,” he deadpans. He straightens in the desk and prints a series of words across the page. I peer over to see what he’s writing.

He covers it up. Not before I catch a glimpse of my name. He’s spelled it “Joe Hana.” He wrote something bigger at the bottom of the page.

He lifts his arm so I can see. Two words:
FUCK YOU
.

Tutoring session over. I snatch my backpack off the desk and head for the door.

“Hey!”

I don’t stop.

“Hey,” he calls louder. The desk creaks.

“What?” I whirl.

He blinks fast. “I didn’t mean you.” His eyes bounce around for a second, then focus on something behind me.

I pivot. All the blood rushes to my face. My head and brain and ears explode.

It’s her.

How long has she been standing there?

“What are you doing?” she asks.

I open my mouth to speak, to say the first words I’ve ever spoken to Reeve Hartt. Then realize she isn’t talking to me.

Robbie says, “Cooperate with Johanna.”

Reeve’s eyes flash on my face for a second. It’s fleeting, but I think she actually notices I’m here.

“We have to go, Robbie,” she murmurs, and takes off. Not far. She stops and waits. I could reach out and touch her. I could take her hand. …

Robbie scrabbles to stand and snags his case. He trundles over to me at the door and I step aside to let him pass. He thrusts out the paper and pencil.

“Later, dude,” he says. His arm clips my shoulder, and that phantom pain flares through me.

Reeve takes off with Robbie tramping behind her. At the end of the hall, at the intersection, he says something to her and she spins around and slugs him in the chest.

I flinch and squeal. Reeve shoots a dark look my way.

I leap back into the classroom as my heart gallops in my chest.

So close. I clench my pack to me and try to catch my breath.

What’s their connection? I wonder. She knows him. They can’t be together. Please. Robbie’s retarded. Reeve’s gay.

And mine.

But only in Joyland.

So far.

BOOK: Rage: A Love Story
11.77Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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