A/N: I would say I'm horribly sorry for the wait on this chapter, but I think I've lost my apologizing privileges. It's been a solid five and a half months since my last update and I can't even give you guys a good reason for it. Junior year is kicking my butt, there's been a lot of personal things going on these past few months, and, I don't know, I've just been kind of alkncpwakjsfhcw, you know? That and I'm really losing patience with Degrassi. The summer block was so bad, the fall block was worse, and now it's airing on Tuesdays, which is a little ridiculous-it's going to get cancelled. My DVR has more important things to record than a half an hour of complete BS.
That being said, I can't promise the next update will come soon. I'm not even happy with this chapter (like at all), but I figured I might as well post it. I don't know how many of you are left reading this, if any at all, but I just want you guys to know that your views, your reviews, your compliments and encouragement-it really means the world and more to me. I use to be so shy and completely unwilling to let anyone read anything I'd written. You've really made a difference in my self-confidence. So thank you for that. Really. Your support is everything. (PS- I hope you don't hate me too much.)
That being said, Happy-Every-Holiday & New Year! I hope it was/is fantastic!
And without further ado, here's the twelfth chapter!
And one more thing- the title of this chapter, "Migraine," really doesn't have anything to do with this chapter-well, I guess in a way, but not really. It's almost 1 o'clock in the morning and my iPod is spitting songs at me. This is the result, apparently. haha. If you have any curiosity, the song is Migraine by twenty one pilots, who are absolutely amazing, if you're interested. (I don't own the song, or them, sadly.)
The heavy cafeteria lights reflected great mock-suns on the waxy tabletop. Mock-suns blemished by paper bags and food wrappers and trays, but he could still feel their sweltering warmth chewing him up from the inside out. The enigma of his actions continued to bite the headache relentlessly choking his temples, his eyesight fading in and out with each occasional stab of pain. He adjusted and readjusted his sleeves.
His fingers tugged at the collar of the stuffy dress shirt hiding beneath his sweatshirt, his restless toes drumming the soles of his shoes. He was fully aware of the strange looks he was receiving from the trio of freshman in front of him as they chattered about this, that, and the next thing, occasionally prodding Maya for some kind of unspoken explanation. He was fully aware of their mental tallies marking up all of his wrongs and offs and not rights and the petite hand desperately clawing at his clenched fist and the four-word-question begging to be released through bared teeth—what's wrong with you? He didn't know. But he knew he had never felt so much like a horrible car accident before.
For the first time since the morning after his spectacular display of how someone like him handles a house party, he ignored his family's early morning video call for fear he'd breakdown again. His parents were already disappointed; he wasn't doing well in school, he wasn't doing well on the ice, he wasn't even doing well at being a normal human being—he couldn't bear to give them another reason to think less of him. Or prove them right, though everything he did, everything he felt as soon as he was left alone confirmed every single worry of theirs. He blinked hard, swallowing the lump pressing against his jugular.
He thought he was doing better. He thought he was finally, finally falling into step with the rest of everyone. He thought he was happy—genuinely, unbreakably happy. Three weeks of doing well, three weeks of distractions—a fools trap.
He picked at the untouched sandwich glaring from his own paper bag, little glimpses of turkey and cheese peeking out the sides. He didn't have the courage to tell Jane he really didn't like wheat bread or that cheese made him sick or that he always, always had peanut butter and jelly on game days—she did, after all, get up earlier just to pack his lunch because he seemed a little distant these last few days and a nice, Billet-Mom-Made lunch might be just what he needed. He figured she and his mom must have compared notes because she tucked a napkin embroidered with her flowery handwriting spelling Have a good day and a great game, Cam! Good luck, sweetheart! in with the baggie of pretzels. Neither one of them seemed to remember he was fifteen and would probably be thrown into next week if any of his teammates saw.
His focus landed on the bottle cap Maya had taken off her iced tea. Between his index finger and thumb, he spun it like a top, the grooved edges tattooing his finger pads with their methodical pattern. Three weeks had passed since their impromptu movie date and for almost as long, he had lived in confusion—were they together? He was too shy to ask. He wanted to be, no doubt about it. Maya made him happy, being with, laughing with, sitting with, studying with, doing anything with Maya made him happy. But, like everything, Maya had cleared it up for him; "Come on, don't you want to watch your girlfriend sing her heart out to Don't Stop Believin'?" she joked, just hours before he sealed his own fate. His hand locked around the little plastic cap.
His fist like a courtroom gavel, the conversation comfortably wrapping around him came to a screeching halt. Instinctively, his eyes pulled themselves off the torn paper bag, his eyebrows quirked into a question. It wasn't like them to just cut out of the latest gossip or their ever-running Which Movie Should We Watch This Friday? opinion pool; it wasn't like them to just cut out of anything—neither of the freshman were particularly quiet. "Hockey jerk at twelve o'clock and moving in." Tristan's usually pepped voice dropped a few octaves, the exasperated whine shimmying over the still air. Like a dumb cliché, Cam could see the storm clouds rolling in over his head, the lightning and thunder encroaching on the diminutive bubble he had place himself in. It was pathetic what the mere mention of the sport did to him; it was pathetic that he let it.
He never liked hockey. He didn't like the cold or the sound of the blades slicing the ice beneath his feet to shreds or the teams that liked to play rough or the teams who didn't play hard enough or the constant, relentlessly vaulting expectations. He never liked hockey, but he played because he was expected to. Dad played hockey. Justin played hockey. Campbell played hockey; it was an inevitable predestination. He never liked hockey, but he played anyway. And he excelled, better than Dad, better than Justin, better than the best senior player in their small town, better than the best senior players in the small neighboring towns, and now he was here, and he played because he was expected to, but it was getting harder to comply with expectations.
"Rook!" Luke Baker's callused thumbs cupped the back of his neck, his hands so large they dwarfed his shoulders. "My favorite little klutz," His breath hitched at the mention of their last game, his spine quivering beneath the weight. Maya gave up on trying to get a hold of his hand and settled for his wrist, her petite fingers tight against the sweatshirt sleeve. "Let's get one thing straight, if you got me switched to left wing so you could try sucking at right wing too, I'm going to make life rough for you. Got it?"
Flushed cheeks, sour tongue, he choked out a "yeah" before returning to the mutilated sandwich in front of him. He hadn't asked to switch his position with Luke's; he didn't want that, he never wanted that. He had asked Coach to put someone else, anyone else, on left wing—he couldn't do it, he couldn't see what he was doing, he couldn't play and his father was getting frustrated. In asking, he had figured he'd be removed from the starting line-up, not switched. "Sorry," he murmured, the hands easing off his shoulders. "I didn't think Coach would move anyone else around."
"Just make sure you remember how to play between now and the bus, Saunders."
He bit his tongue
It took seven seconds after Preacher Boy Baker walked away for the conversation to recover. Uneasy glances, nothing he hadn't grown accustomed to over the course of the lunch period, spilled onto his lap. Maya didn't let go of his wrist, her fingers slowly inching over the back of his hand. She had nudged her iced tea in front of him, and he took a sip, his chest rejecting the cool liquid just as much as his racing heart.
"They're such jerks," Maya spat, her cheeks flushing. "I seriously don't even know how they're allowed to function in normal people society. I mean, all they do is walk around here like they're miles above the rest of us on some stupid pedestal and look down on us like we're their henchmen or something. It's ridiculous." All of the oxygen he'd been hoarding escaped his body in one swift gust, his heart cutting off any blood supply to his arteries. He felt like he was falling, but he couldn't figure out why—he wasn't one to stop any Ice Hound complaints, he didn't even feel like one of them, but for some reason, every word that came out of her mouth worsened his headache and the encroaching panic.
"Maya," His voice caught in his throat, the strange, coarse rasp he'd been hearing a lot more than he'd ever want to slipping through his teeth. "Just leave it alone."
"Cam, they're horrible to you." He wanted to tell her that wasn't horrible at all. He wanted to say he deserved it; he was a lousy player and a lousy teammate and he was horrible—they were simply stuck with him. Her sparkling blue eyes bore into his. He turned away.
"They're supposed to be." He grumbled, the fingernails on his free hand clawing at the paper bag in front of him. She left it alone. The freshmen restarted their lunchtime banter with a pair of jumper cables.
He knew Maya could tell he was tripping over his own heartbeat, he knew she could tell he was struggling against the hypoxic zones forming in the pit of his stomach, he knew she could tell he was choking back the indistinguishable, twisted emotion threatening his every thought. She always knew.
Her thumb drew circles around his knuckles, and before he knew what he was doing, his hand relaxed, and she went in for the kill. A half-hearted laugh spilled from her rosy cheeks at something Tori said as her fingers laced themselves between his, her palm colliding with the scratchy, torn piece of fabric knotted around the base of his palm. Just like that, her chuckling extinguished itself, her eyes drawn to the entwined hands resting between them. An expression so betrayed stuck to her lips; he had to look away, guilt sinking its teeth into his chest.
"Maya?" Tori reached across the table, glaring in his direction before grazing her forearm. "Are you okay?"
She didn't respond. Instead, her eyes fixated on his, scouring the depths of their pools for some sort of explanation. She wasn't stupid; she knew the cut from the Night From Hell should have been healed for weeks, she knew it had to be from something else, something he'd been trying to hide. He couldn't think quickly enough. He stared back, his chest heaving and grappling for something to quiet her concerns. Nothing came to mind. He kept staring. She stared back. And he found himself sinking and sinking and sinking.
Minutes passed. Tori's screechy questions of what did you do to her and what's the matter with you attracted the attention of neighboring tables. Zig and Tristan gaped on in utter confusion. He couldn't breathe. The lights, the smell of freezer burnt cafeteria food, the screaming of the entire student body, the pins and needles and shards of glass and sharpened skates and oh god sharpened skates, bloody sharpened skates and his hand in a bloody towel and the Pause, oh god he couldn't breathe, the great Pause before the pain registered, before the Realization kicked in, dammit he couldn't breathe, those sharpened skates, how could he have—oh god his parents were going to kill him, they were going to bring him back—couldn't breathe, oh god it was all his fault, everything was his fault, ohgodohgodohgodohgod…
Maya's hands were pressed to his cheeks, his eyes stinging behind swaths of salty tears. He pulled away from her hold, his feverish skin pulsing uncomfortably beneath the layers of clothing. Jagged, sharp breaths squirmed in through his nose before crawling out his mouth, the smell of antiseptic and rubbing alcohol burning the back of his throat. In a matter of seconds, the setting fell into place around him—he wasn't in the cafeteria anymore; Tori, Tris, and Zig weren't passing him accusatory glares from across their table; Maya wasn't incredulously staring at their intertwined fingers. He wasn't in the cafeteria anymore, but he couldn't remember ever leaving it.
"M," He managed, his voice hoarse and shrouded by earthquakes cracking the instable foundation he had built his complicated city atop. His bottom lip trembled; embarrassment smarted his cheeks. The school nurse stood at the phone, the khaki cord wrapped around her fingers. Her wary eyes narrowed as he slid further back on the crinkling table paper, his body poised to jump from the cushioned cot.
"No, don't try to get down," Maya spoke for the nurse, instantly wrapping her hand around his forearm. "Just take a minute to calm down." She smiled one of her Maya smiles, dragging her fingernails across the contours of his knees. Try as he might, he couldn't calm down. The string attaching his heart to the pit of anxiety swirling in his stomach kept pulling taut, forcing him to lurch and fight and he was tired, too tired. And confused, lost.
He leaned back on his wrists, blinking his eyes dry before releasing the breath he held captive just to make sure his lungs still worked. He tried to focus on the pastel green walls slowly shrinking the emergency room set up; the Healthy Living posters, the framed student artwork—anything to avoid to look on Maya's face. A horrified grimace poorly masked by a Cheshire Cat grin contorted her soft features into something foreign. His eyes trained on a rather sloppy painting of Minnie Mouse.
"What happened?" He coughed, though part of him knew full well which card had been plucked from his deck. As his senses recovered, the lack of the shredded, makeshift bandage knotted around his palm sent chills up his arm. Instinctively, he tucked his hands in the pockets of his sweatshirt.
"You don't remember?" Her voice hitched, her blue eyes boring into his. He shook his head, dropping his gaze.
"Oh," Her lips wrapped themselves around the sound, a perfect oval slowly flattening itself out into a thin line. "Well, I, um, I grabbed your hand and you got pretty freaked out," She started, though he wasn't entirely sure he wanted to hear all of the gory details anymore. "I was pretty freaked out and Tori thought maybe you had done something so she started shrieking—you know how Tori is—and you kept saying how sorry you were and, um," she swallowed, pinching the bridge of her nose. He cringed, every muscle pulled so tight he wasn't sure he could relax them. "You—You kept going on about something that was your fault, that you, um, you," she stammered, her face flushing a shade of scarlet so deep she could have rivaled a tomato. "It doesn't matter. We got you to the nurse's office a few minutes late and that was it. "
She chewed nervously on her bottom lip, her eyes unfocused behind her glasses. "I know you said you were fine after Katie's party, but I'm going to ask you again, and please don't lie to me this time, okay?" He propped himself up on his elbows, sliding his body back against the crinkled table paper until he was sitting upright. "Are you really all right?" He felt she had something more to say, but decided against sharing.
The look she was giving him made him nervous and the way she brushed her fingertips against his feverish skin made him even more guilty and the longer he sat there, the guiltier he felt. And again, he was sinkingsinkingsinking. Except this time he knew what was happening.
He buried his face in his knees. "I'm—I'll be fine." He murmured. "Don't worry about it."