Chapter 15

I opened my locker and slammed it shut. He hovered behind me. "Just listen to me," He said. I stopped sharply feeling him bump into me. I turned and looked at him. "Please," I said looking at him desperately. "Leave me alone. Michael's going to see us talking, and..." There wasn't anyone around us because I had left lunch purposely to avoid him only to discover he had caught on. His eyes sank into an unusual shade of sadness. The bell rang and I turned walking away from him leaving him a few steps behind.

"Core," He said. He caught up. He was persistent. "Can we at least talk?"

"No," I said. "We can't," I couldn't look at him. I wanted him to leave me alone. A desperate tugging erupted in my chest. I just wanted him to go back into his world and I could be in my world again. I wanted him out. I wanted him gone. I wanted him to be shoved out of my life again. I was stupid if I ever thought we could be friends. I could barely handle being alone with him. "Let's just forget this whole friend thing and go back."

"It's only been a week," He said. "We slipped up once, it's no big deal."

I kept walking. I tightened my eyes on the hallway in front of me. I couldn't stand him. I hated him and people were seeing us together talking. Something would circulate around and Michael would hear somehow about everything. He ruined everything again. He kept up with me until I dove headfirst into the crowd. He was lost behind me. I was shaking, I realized, as soon as I got to class.

Michael had come by the diner to get a cup of coffee and to make some plans for the next weekend. I had smiled and we had agreed. As soon as he was gone I was back into the same trance I had been in all day. I kissed Steven Green again. I was back to square one while dragging along Michael. But Michael knew nothing. He didn't know Steven's full name. He was just Steven from that cool band that plays in the fields. He wasn't anything to Michael, and Michael liked him too much for his own good because of that.

Taylor glared at me after I dropped a napkin dispenser onto the ground. "What the hell is up with you today?" She asked.

I ignored her scooping up the silver tin dispenser and walked it to table I had taked it off of. "I'm telling mom," She warned me from behind the counter. Like that would do anything.

"Stop being five years old," I snapped at her. She narrowed her eyes at me and her nostrils flared. I went to get someone coffee when the bells rang and in came Steven. He sat down at his corner booth and waited for me. His hands were folded neatly in front of him. If I avoided him, Taylor would know. I walked over and took out my notebook. "Are you going to get anything?" I asked.

"Grilled cheese," He said looking up at me pathetically.

I wrote it down. "Anything else?" He was going to order a glass of milk.

"Milk would be fine," He said. I wrote that down too. I didn't look at him.

"I'll put this in," I said tightly.

"I'll be here," He said smiling a little. He thought he was winning. I walked away only to come back with a glass of milk and a straw. He thanked me nicely. And took out a folded copy of some book and started reading. I brought him his grilled cheese and he thanked me. "Have you read 'Dogrun'?"

"No," I said. "I didn't check it out."

He nodded. "You should read it." He said. I walked away. Taylor didn't say a word to me. As soon as she was gone I avoided that corner at all costs. Steven stayed there until my shift was over. As I drove around the diner, I saw his van drive off into the distance. Typical Steven Green. I watched it shake as it made its way back to his house. I hated him so much.

Elliott always waits by my locker at the beginning of the day. I walked up to her smiling saying hello sheepishly. She just gave me a look. She stepped out of the way for me to go into my locker. I took off my bag looking voer at her. "Hey," I said. "What's up?"

"Nothing," She said. "Just the usual."

"How was the Calc test?" I ask.

She tightens her jaw and looks at me. "So, how's Michael?" She says. I tell her he's fine. We're going on a date this weekend again, he hasn't told me where yet. She nods tightly. "How's Steven?" She asks.

I look over at her. I panic suddenly. "What?" I say softly.

She holds up a little note. "I found him sitting here," She said. She fiddles with the tight little folds of paper. "Now, Steven never is anywhere on time, but he was here bright and early waiting for you. He looked pretty damn pathetic, too, Core. So hopefully you cut him off before he ruined everything again."

I looked at her. "What did he say to you?"

She looked at me. "Nothing really," She said. "Just told me to give this to you."

I nodded she passed it to me. I stared at it. "Oh," I said. I put it in the top shelf of my locker to ignore it.

She crossed her arms and waited. I got my books and shuffled some papers around. She was silent and it was uncomfortable. Not just the normal uncomfortable. It was stiff and tense. I waited for her to say something else. I waited for a lecture, but Elliott wasn't like that. "I'll see you in English," I said shutting my locker.

She didn't say anything.

I turned to walk and then I heard her. "You kissed him," She said suddenly.

I whipped around and saw her. She was glaring at me. "What?" I said.

"That's just a guess," She said. "Hopefully you didn't let him screw you again."

I stared at her. She nodded. "If you don't say anything," She spoke tightly as I walked closer so nobody heard us. There wasn't anyone around us really. "I'm going to assume you guys fucked or something."

"It was just a kiss." I said softly. "He kissed me. I'm never talking to him again."

She sighed. "Core, you got to figured this stuff out." She said. "He ruins everything. He always will. This friends shit won't work with him. He's just going to wriggle his way in like this. He's still clearly hooked up on you."

I nodded. "Come on," She said. "I want to get a drink from the caf."

We turned and walked side-by-side to the vending machines in silence. I saw a flash of him. His hair and his eyes watching me as we cut past his hallway. I hate him. I hate him more than anyone. This was it. We were done.