Here's to the Broken Kids | Part One | Chapter Three
Posted September 29th, 2018 by Zelda
in a perpetual predicament
A/N: Welcome back! Matt is way creepier in this version! I hate it! But at least he's not like... unrealistically violent anymore.. right?
Thank you so much for taking the time to read this, please feel free to drop a line in the comments even if it's just for a conversation!
The library was a bust, Xena was sure. She wasn’t going to get a job there, she wasn’t going to get a job anywhere at the rate she was going. For three weeks she had been hunting for a part-time job, she needed the money to help pay for her meds. True, her parents could afford it, but the guilt at costing them so much money was beginning to suffocate her. Maybe if she could pay for her own meds she wouldn’t feel like such a worm.
Her feet dragged on the sidewalk, her shoes were scuffed all up the sides and across the toes where the ground rubbed them. She let her head sag as the library interview replayed in her head endlessly. The librarian had stared at her the entire time, and not in a good way. It was her own fault, she should have done something with her hair. Made it look less like she had let a homeless clown style it. Or at least she should have showered last night.
Face flushing, she tucked her chin to her chest and tried to clear her head. Man, she needed to get back home and take her meds. These last few days had been killer. The Neurontin seemed to be wearing off faster than it should, but she wasn’t sure how much more she could sneak before someone caught on. She was already burning through bottles twice as fast as she was supposed to. Dr. Klay had prescribed her two pills a day, one in the morning, and one in the evening with her two lithium tablets. But right now she was taking four on a good day. Plus one at three a.m. on nights when the nightmares were really bad, and sometimes one after lunch because she’d thrown up again and she didn’t want to risk crashing in the middle of class.
“Well, look what the cat dragged out,” a too-familiar voice jostled Xena from her thoughts. She flinched, her blood running as cold as the wind that bit her cheeks.
“Hey, Matt,” she mumbled, lengthening her stride in hopes that he would, by some miracle, decide not to follow her. Not today, not right now. She didn’t want to talk to him.
“Are you avoiding me?” Matt purred, his shadow blocked out the harsh winter sunlight. He’d grown taller than her over the summer, by a lot. He’d gotten stronger too, filling out his once-lanky form with muscles that most girls and a few guys fawned over.
“No,” Xena lied, gluing her eyes to the sidewalk. In her pockets, her hands began to shake. She didn’t want to talk to him. She didn’t want to talk to him. She desperately needed him to be anywhere else. Her stomach stirred and she pressed her lips together in a line so hard they cracked.
“I think you are. That’s a poor way to treat your only friend,” he flicked her ear, “A damn poor way.”
Wincing, she resorted to biting her lip. Blood leaked onto her tongue, and her eyes burned. She told herself it was because of the wind.
“What, that cat got your tongue?”
She kept walking, head down. Her head was beginning to spin, her ears rang the way they always did before she had a panic attack. Breathe. She had to breathe. She opened her mouth to suck in some air, and immediately regretted it. Her stomach lurched, the cold air collided with the contraction of her throat at the same time and she choked. Coughing hard enough to see stars, she was forced to stop walking. The cough triggered more gagging, and she doubled over, resting her hands on her knees in a weak effort to stay standing.
“Gonna puke, Xena?” Matt asked, there was a sick-sweet poison rolling off his tongue with his question. He laced his fingers through her hair, his fingernails scraped her scalp. Xena could only retch again as he massaged her head and hummed.
“Hey, is she okay?” A new voice entered the fray, barely making it past the buzzing that invaded Xena’s ears.
“Yeah, why do you care? Do you know her or something?” Matt sneered the last part, as if daring the newcomer to say yes. Xena forced herself to focus on her breathing. The newcomer would leave in a moment and if she was still struggling like this by the time they were gone… who knew what Matt would do next.
“We’re friends, actually.”
Matt let go of her hair suddenly. Xena herself wasn’t sure she’d heard right. She didn’t have friends. Sure, maybe Carlee Iron with all her popular, future-valedictorian, cheerfulness might have checked to see if Xena really was puking her guts all over the dead grass, or one of those girls from science 10 who let Xena in for group projects occasionally. But no one would claim friendship.
“What, you’re friends with Frankenstein here?” Matt laughed, snickered really. He had a snaky way of laughing, like if he laughed to hard his skin might split to reveal a giant boa constrictor. He grabbed her by the shoulders and pulled her upright. The headrush forced her to lean on him just to stay upright. “Nah, I’m her only friend. Isn’t that right, Zee?”
She made a sound that might have been a word, or a groan, she wasn’t paying enough attention to tell. She was too busy fighting to keep her eyes from rolling up into her skull. Her stomach had finally stopped turning long enough for her to catch her breath. But now her head was spinning harder and she couldn’t see in a straight line. Her legs shook almost as hard as her hands, it was only Matt keeping her standing.
“Uh, okay, but we kind of had plans for after school.”
“Yeah, we were supposed to meet at the library but I’m running a little late. My mom is waiting just down the block for us.”
The accent. It finally hit Xena, she recognized the Newfie accent from the kid in art. What was his name… Samuel? What the hell was he doing?
“Is she? Huh, whatever. Have fun, I guess. Watch out though, you might end up with vomit all over your shirt. She makes a lot of messes, if you know what I mean.” Matt laughed again, noticeable forced this time. He hesitated a moment, and Xena could only imagine the thoughts racing through his head. She half expected him to say more, to spill her secrets to the new kid like he threatened to spill them to everyone else. But he just patted her once more on the back of her head and walked away.
She should have been relieved. After all, Matt was gone and her breath was coming easier and easier. But instead icy dread sunk inside her stomach. The pat was a warning, and she knew it.
“Yo, are you alright?”
“I’m fine,” Xena lied, forcing herself to stand straight on her shaky legs. She didn’t pass out, but she was damn close.
“No offense but you kind of don’t look alright,” Sam said, his eyebrows knitting about his stormy grey eyes. Xena gritted her teeth and shrugged, refusing to meet his gaze. She had to go. She had to thank him and walk away. But she didn’t trust her knees not to give out the moment she took a step. She could feel Samuel’s eyes on her, studying her in a way she didn’t want to be studied.
“Here,” he said after a moment. He shrugged out of his puffy winter coat and held it out to her, “You’re shivering, and your ‘friend’ is watching us. Take this and we can walk to the end of the block,” he thought for a moment, then added, “you don’t have to if you don’t want to, but I don’t think that guy will leave until we do.”
Xena hesitated before taking the coat. She wasn’t really cold, just panicky, and the idea of Matt watching her from behind made her shake harder. If Sam left her now, what would Matt do? She didn’t want to find out.
“Thanks,” she mumbled, slipping her arms into the sleeves of the coat. It smelled of air freshener and a bit of ocean brine, and even if her shaking wasn’t from the cold, the coat helped. Suddenly Samuel laughed, the lopsided corners of his mouth becoming more pronounced.
“You got your sleeve all bunched up,” he said, pointing to the bulge on Xena’s arm. In the blink of an eye he’d slid his hand up the sleeve of the coat, “This happens all the time with this stupid thing. I swear it’s cursed or something…” he trailed off. Xena, seized with panic for the second time in the past fifteen minutes, could do nothing as she felt the back of his hand slide over the bare scars across her arm. Then, with nothing more than a stumble in his sentence, he pinched her shirt sleeve and pulled it down until it was even. “There you go. Now let’s walk, just to the end of the block and around the corner. I know you said you didn’t want to be friends, but let’s pretend for a second? We can go our separate ways after we lose Creeper McCreepface, no smoke, no mirrors.”
“Uh, yeah, yeah. Okay.” Xena agreed. She remained where she was though, still distrustful of her own ability to walk. Samuel, noticing her hesitation, offered a smile and his hand.
“I promise I don’t bite,” he said jokingly. That got her, she let out a short laugh, and just like that the wall between them was down. Maybe not all the way, but enough that it mattered. She took his hand, a hint of the laugh lingering on her lips. Suddenly, it wasn’t so hard to walk.
“So, Xena, tell me about yourself,” Samuel said as they started out down the sidewalk.
“There’s not a lot to tell,”
“I lead a pretty boring life,” aside from the drugs and the constant fear, that was. She didn’t do much except sit on her bed and go to school. It was a sad and boring way to spend all her time, which was another reason she wanted a job. “What about you, you’re new to Rosewood, right?”
“Yeah, my family moved down from the east coast last week. It’s very… interesting here.” He scratched the back of his neck, pursing his lips. He had on a loose green tee shirt and his arms were covered in goosebumps, but he didn’t seem to mind.
“It’s flat,” Xena said.
“Yeah, it’s flat,” Sam agreed immediately, “Like really flat. And dry, do you ever adjust to the dryness? Because I’ve been getting nosebleeds all week and,” he trailed off.
“And?” Xena glanced over, half-scared for a reason she couldn’t quite grasp. Her fear was replaced by confusion when she saw him with his face in his hands. “Are you okay?”
“I cannot believe I just told a girl I get a lot of nosebleeds,” he groaned into his hands. Prying them off his face, he pointed to her. “Forget I said that, Xena, forget I ever ever said that. I do not get huge ugly nosebleeds at super inconvenient times, it doesn’t happen.”
All at once, Xena was laughing again. She tried to stop it, but didn’t try very hard. It felt like bubbles in her chest, and cool water on her tongue. Then Sam started to laugh too, and the bubbles grew warmer.
“Do you want to go get ice cream? Like, right now?” he asked, when they’d both run out of breath. Xena hesitated, ten thousand what-if’s circling in her mind. But none of them mattered right then because she was dizzy with laughter, and it for the first time it felt like her medication was working the way it was meant to, and as long as Matt stayed away maybe she could have a friend.
“Sure,” she agreed with a smile.
“Great! There’s this place a block from here, I saw it on my way to the library,” he waved her forward, hurrying ahead as he did.
“Hey, Sam?” her smile turned wry.
“Your nose is bleeding.”
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