Authors: Raziel Reid
“It’s like, the cat is dead and alive, but if you never think about it, it’s like it was never even there.”
“Has Mr Hurst been drinking before physics again?” he laughed.
“Hey, guess what?” I asked. “I’m ready to move to Hollywood and sell my soul to the devil! Will you miss me?”
“Still on Hollywood, huh? Fame is your generation’s AIDS.” He leaned back in his chair and started playing with his tie. “But I’m glad you have a dream, Jude. I just wish you’d leave the devil out of it.”
“Not possible,” I said. “Just ask the Kar
“Well, only a few more years and you’ll be free to move to L.A., where you can ask Kris Jenner for tips on how not to smudge while writing in blood on the dotted line.”
“Ah, reality-show contracts,” I sighed. “But I’m not waiting. I’m way too interesting to wait.”
“So what’s the plan then, you hitchhiking on out of here?”
“No, I don’t want to get killed before I get there—my stalker would be so disappointed. I bought a bus ticket.”
“Really?” Mr Dawson asked. “When are you going?”
I was about to tell him everything; how they were rolling out the red carpet for me as we spoke. But I didn’t because, suddenly, I knew he’d try to stop me. He’d call my mom. He’d tell himself he was doing it because it was the right thing to do, but really, it’d be because he didn’t want to see me go. “Just for a couple days,” I said quickly. “I’m going to see my dad.”
“You’ve never mentioned your dad before,” he said, like he already didn’t believe me. “Where are you staying?”
“The Chateau Marmont, of course.”
“Yeah,” I nodded, even though I knew I had gone off script.
“With your dad?” he asked, and we were just improvising now.
“Yeah, he’s a movie star. A really famous one.”
Mr Dawson didn’t say anything, didn’t even blink.
“He was filming a movie around here, that’s how he met my mom,” I said, and I could see it. I could believe it. My Hollywood father with wavy blond hair and chestnut eyes. “He had to keep me out of the tabloids because he had a wife at the time. America’s sweetheart, you know—the whole deal. She was in the movies too. So I never really got to see him much. But this is going to make up for it.”
“Sounds like a dream,” he said.
“Yeah,” I smiled, believing it, really believing it. I looked out of the window. It felt like it had been snowing forever. “So what are you and Lisa doing for Valentine’s Day?” I asked.
“Not much, I’m afraid. We’ll have to try and squeeze something in. She has to work on the weekend, and I’m chaperoning the dance on Friday. The school was short on volunteers.”
“I’ll save you a dance,” I said, and he chuckled as he stood up, grabbing his wallet off his desk.
“I’m going to run down to the caf,” he said. “Hopefully the hormone-raging freaks will be eating their hormones, not waiting in line for them.”
“Are you going to get the chubby cancer burger?”
“No,” he shook his head from the doorway. “I think I’m in the mood for a ham and disease.”
He left the classroom, and I was sitting alone when I saw Angela and Luke walk past the door. They didn’t notice me, but I almost fell out of my desk because I hadn’t seen Angela since we were at the Day-n-Nite with Keef. I called and texted her, but got no reply. She’d been skipping the classes we had together.
I understood why she was ignoring me. It was easier. I thought maybe I should just let her push me away, but I couldn’t. I loved her too much. So I stuck my head out the door and was about to call her name before she turned down the stairwell. But someone pressed pause, and I remembered what she’d told me.
“I would never do that to you,” she’d said.
I followed them. I ran to my locker, got my coat, and stepped in their footprints as they cut through the field to Luke’s house. They didn’t turn around once. I almost wanted them to because then I could stop following them. I’d already know, I’d see it all over their faces.
When they reached his house, I stayed back and watched them go through the front door. I waited behind a tree and then walked up the front steps. An icicle hung from the roof and dripped onto my head. I looked through the window but couldn’t see anyone inside. Breaking and entering isn’t as glamorous as a DUI, but I thought maybe I’d start a new trend. I took a deep breath and opened the door, stepping inside. They were already upstairs.
The house looked different without people partying in it. It felt warm, and not just because I was coming from outside; it smelled like leftovers, like meat and potatoes. The carpet needed to be vacuumed. There was taxidermy mounted on the walls. The fridge was covered with pictures and magnets. A schnauzer stood up from its mat near the back door, and I was worried it was going to bark, but it just wagged its stumpy tail.
Hearing them together upstairs wasn’t enough. Maybe I was a masochist; I wanted to know without a shred of doubt. I’d hold onto the pieces and keep trying to put them together.
Careful not to make any noise, I slowly climbed the stairs. I didn’t have to go all the way up. I could see them through the banister. Luke’s bedroom door was open, and they were on the unmade bed. His hand ran up her back and undid the snap of her bra. Angela’s nipples were pierced. He grabbed one with his hand and put it in his mouth. Her head fell back, her eyes closed, and her mouth opened. If she moaned, I didn’t hear.
I ran back down the stairs and out the door, leaving it open behind me. I could hear the dog barking all the way down the block.
I didn’t drop to my knees, gasping for breath, until the director called “Cut!” and everything faded to black.
hen I got home, I found all the pictures of Angela I had, including the pictures she had taken of me, and started burning them with my lighter, letting them turn to ash on the basement floor. I thought watching her burn would be satisfying, but it just made me sad. I couldn’t hate Angela. If it hadn’t been for our friendship, I wouldn’t have had anyone to write my suicide letters to.
When my head healed from Matt’s skateboard attack and I got out of the hospital, I don’t think I would’ve been able to show myself at school if I hadn’t known Angela would be by my side.
Before the first day back, I put a ton of makeup over my scar, trying to make it disappear. No matter how much vitamin E I had rubbed on it, it was still purple. I thought about giving myself bangs, but decided I’d rather be teased about the scar.
My mom was home from work and still awake. She was standing in the kitchen smoking a cigarette when I came upstairs. She asked if I wanted breakfast and pointed to a box of cereal on the table. I could hear Keef watching cartoons in the living room. I told her I wasn’t hungry. She nodded and offered to drive me to school. I told her I wanted to walk and she didn’t say anything, but I knew what she was thinking. The cigarette between her fingers burned, the ash grew long. She hugged me before I left, but I didn’t hug her back. My whole body stiffened. I didn’t look at her because she was crying, and I was embarrassed that she’d stayed awake for me.
I met Angela outside the Day-n-Nite. She was sitting on the sidewalk, making more rips in her tights with a razor that had dried blood on it.
“Nervous?” she asked.
I shook my head but could tell she didn’t believe me.
We smoked a joint as we walked the rest of the way to school, but it just made me paranoid. Angela was chill. Her head was back and she smiled with her eyes half-closed behind her orange-tinted glasses.
Nothing out of the ordinary happened in the morning. People stared and talked about me, but I was used to it. I told myself I was Lilo. People always stared and talked about me. When I was in line for a juice in the caf, the girls behind me talked about me like I wasn’t standing right in front of them.
“I thought he killed himself?” they said, sounding disappointed.
Colin cut up his eraser into tiny pieces and threw them at me all through math whenever Mrs Kennedy turned her back. I sat so still I wasn’t sure I was alive. A piece of eraser whipped my ear and it stung, but I didn’t react.
I loved my haters.
At lunch, a big crowd hung around the bleachers. They all turned and stared as I walked by with Angela, who was smoking a cigarette. Luke looked down so that he didn’t have to look at me, and Matt yelled, “Whoever helped you to the hospital should be shot!”
I stopped and turned around. Angela said, “Fuck him, Jude,” and rolled her eyes.
“You should’ve been left to die,” Matt said, shaking his head and laughing.
“Eat shit,” Angela snapped, flipping him off.
I waited for Luke to look at me, but he didn’t.
“Say goodbye to your friend,” Matt taunted Angela, making his hand into a gun and pointing it in my direction.
Angela would have jumped onto the bleachers and strangled Matt if I had let her. That’s why reducing her to ashes didn’t appease my rage. I gave up on her, taking Luke’s grade school photo off my mirror instead.
I flicked the lighter in my hand, on and off, losing myself somewhere between light and darkness.
I kissed the picture, then held the flame to the edge and watched it burn.
I wanted to kiss it again, once he was gone. But it was too late.
He was already ashes.
I fell asleep on the cutting room floor and woke up with fragments of Luke and Angela stuck to my cheek.
It was the last day of filming. The school Valentine’s dance was to be the wrap party. After that I’d be on a bus, playing a new character.
I went to school just because I thought I might go crazy with anticipation if I stayed home all day. And I was curious if Angela would show up—if I’d get to see her. I knew she had to do it, she had to get me back. If I hadn’t caught them, I don’t think she would’ve told me. She didn’t do it to hurt me. She did it to even things out so that she could sleep at night, knowing she wasn’t the only one who’d been betrayed. I was leaving, and I thought I might never see her again, but it didn’t make me sad. I stopped feeling anything real after I saw her with Luke. It was easy to make believe when everyone was so fake.
There was no point in class that day; everyone was too hyped up on cinnamon hearts or Oxy. All the pretty girls gave each other roses. Even the lipstick on Mrs Kennedy’s teeth was red.
Luke was at school, standing at the end of the hallway with Matt and all their friends, his arm around Madison.
I don’t know how I ended up in front of them. They looked up at me, and if the camera had flashed for the photo, they would’ve had red eyes.
Madison raised her eyebrow and waited. The director had called, “Quiet on set, camera rolling!”
“Luke,” I said, swallowing the vomit caught in my throat. It went back down and made my eyes water. He looked at me and his face went hard. I could tell he was terrified. “Luke,” I said again, even though he was already listening. Everyone was.
“What?” he asked, deadpan.
“Will you be my Valentine?”
Matt started laughing, and Madison said, “Oh my God, you’re joking, right?”
“You know you love me,” I said, my dying words.
“You’re a faggot,” Luke sneered, already looking away. If he wasn’t looking at me, was I there?
“Yeah? Well, so are you. Why don’t you just admit it already?”
“What did you just say?” Madison laughed.
“What, didn’t you tell them, Luke?”
“Tell us what?” Matt asked.
“About how he came back.”
“Shut up,” Luke said, looking at me again. I was alive!
“He came back. Luke saved me that night. It was him.”
“You’re fucking kidding me,” Matt said, turning to Luke for confirmation and finding it in his pupils, which dilated with fear, or maybe with regret for having a conscience. It’s the only thing that can make your star fade.
“He was my hero,” I cried, and I knew this was the reel I’d send in for awards.
“Shut up,” Luke said through gritted teeth. He was so close.
“Don’t be shy, Luke. We love each other. That’s why you saved me. Because you love me. And that’s why every time you came to visit me at the hospital, I gave you the best—”
“Shut the fuck up!” He screamed, lunging at me.
I didn’t step back. I took a breath, trying to take him in. I wanted to feel it. But he stopped himself. He came so close to me that I could’ve kissed him, but then Matt yelled, so the whole hallway could hear, “Luke Morris is a faggot!” And even though I could’ve puckered my lips, I was too busy watching his quiver.
The bell rang, and Mr Dawson appeared at his classroom door, ushering us in. Matt was smiling wider than his future beer belly.
Mr Dawson started class by reading aloud, but no one was paying attention. No one even knew what he was reading. Everyone was tweeting under their desks. Matt was already trying to trend “#LuJu.”
Then Matt looked up from his phone, right at Luke, and started simulating a blow job, poking his tongue in his cheek. Madison made a show of sliding her desk as far away from Luke’s as possible. Mr Dawson stopped reading and glared at her when the desk squeaked against the floor. A few people burst out laughing as Matt exaggerated a gag. Mr Dawson looked like he was ready to throw the book at them, but he didn’t have a chance. Luke stood up, pushed over his desk, and stormed out of class. Madison screamed when the desk flipped and crashed to the floor, but you could tell she wasn’t scared, it was like she had planned it. Like she had fucked for the part and been cast for the way she screamed.