Page 16 of Don't Look Back

Lunch wasn’t much different.

I had to go through the line alone, and nothing looked edible. Settling on pizza, I grabbed a bottle of water and searched the tables. Veronica was in the back, waving her hand like an air traffic controller. Getting used to the stares, I headed in their direction.

“I heard she doesn’t remember a thing,” whispered a girl. “Like she had to be told what her name was. How insane is that?”

“Well, she certainly forgot who she was friends with,” replied another girl, much louder. “I saw her talking to Louis in the hallway today. Hell froze over.”

Passing another table, I heard a guy say, “I’m not sure which one I wanted to come back. Both have the tightest…”

I hurried up, not wanting to hear the rest of that. I passed my brother, who was sitting next to a pretty blonde. They didn’t seem to notice me, as their mouths were attached to each other.

Sitting down beside Veronica, I forced my muscles to relax. The girls were talking about what happened on a TV show they watched last night, and I was able to eat half of my pizza in silence. A few minutes later, a guy with short dark hair and a supermuscular build joined us. He sat beside Candy.

“Trey.” He shoved his hand out, grinning. He had a slight accent—British? “Nice to meet you.”

Veronica knocked his hand away. “Don’t be stupid.”

“What?” He winked at me. “Del said she doesn’t remember any of this. Figured I’d introduce myself.”

“Samantha.” I held my hand out, going along with it. He laughed, shook my hand, and settled back, throwing an arm over the back of Candy’s chair. “Damn, you really don’t remember a thing?”

Damn, I was really getting tired of people asking if I remembered anything. “Not a thing.”

His eyes narrowed. “So you have no clue about what happened to Cassie?”

Silence descended on the table like a thick, itchy blanket. A fist-size ball of unease formed under my ribs as I met Trey’s stare. “No. Do you?”

“No.” Trey laughed. “I hadn’t seen her that whole weekend. We broke up.”

Veronica cleared her throat. “Guys, can we talk about something else? This creeps me out.”

He ignored her. “Have you asked Del if he saw her that weekend?”

The ball grew larger, heavier. Had I asked Del? I didn’t think so, not in so many words. “He didn’t mention seeing her.”

Trey’s look of innocence didn’t fool me. “You might want to ask again. Just saying.”

“What does that mean?” I demanded.

“It doesn’t mean anything,” Veronica said, pushing a piece of lettuce around on her plate. “Trey’s missing a few brain cells. Anyway, Lauren and I were planning on going to Philly this weekend to get new dresses for the party Del’s throwing after prom.”

Lauren was the brunette with blond streaks, the quietest one of the bunch. She smiled at me.

“Del’s having a party?” I asked.

She shook her head at me and then laughed. “Oh, yes, I’m stupid. He throws one every year. Everyone goes. And some people who shouldn’t be there go, but there’s no way to control the population.”

“Yeah, like if she shows up, we’re going to have to hide the food,” Candy said, her lip curled. “And lock the fridge.”

The words were so loud I didn’t have to guess at whom she was talking about. The girl was sitting down at a table in front of us. Her curly hair was pulled up, and the back of her neck was beet red.

“Oink. Oink,” said Veronica, brows puckered together.

I stared at them. “That girl isn’t even big,” I said in a hushed voice. She wasn’t as skinny as Veronica and Candy, but hell, people in Third World countries were heavier than they were.

Candy glanced over her shoulder and snorted. “What is she? A size ten?”

My mouth dropped open. “Yeah, wow, call Jenny Craig. You guys are joking, right?”

Trey leaned back farther, amusement dripping from his pores. The table of girls stared at me as if I’d stripped naked and done a little jig. I gripped my bottle, wanting to throw it at one of their heads.

“Jeez, that’s rude on so many levels.”

Veronica jerked her head back. “Okay, that’s coming from you?”

“So?” I said.

She bit down on her lower lip as she scanned the cafeteria. “Okay. Do you see her?” She pointed out a pretty girl with mocha-colored skin and kick-ass boots. “Just a couple weeks ago, you called her”—she lowered her voice—“a fat bitch whose thighs were capable of setting the world on fire. So you have no room to talk.”

My jaw hit the floor. “I…I wouldn’t say that.”

Lauren nodded slowly, her eyes focused on her plate. “You did.”

“And a week before that, you actually offered a salad to some chick and suggested that she eat that instead of her pizza.” Trey laughed. “I really thought you were going to get your butt kicked.”

A horrible feeling surged through my veins as I stared at my friends, the same combination of shame and confusion I’d felt when I tried to apologize to the boy in the hall. I couldn’t decide which was worse: that I had said and done things like that, or that my friends all seemed to think it was okay. Disgusted with them and myself, I grabbed my tray and stood. “I’ll see you guys later.”

Veronica’s mouth snapped open. “Sammy!”

I ignored her, blinking back the angry rush of tears. More than anything, I wanted to get away from myself—from any reminder of who I used to be. And I knew exactly where to sit.

I stopped in front of my brother’s table, my eyes fixed on him. “Can I sit here?”

He looked surprised but nodded. “Sure. Have a seat.”

With my cheeks blazing and a sob stuck in my throat, I sat down. Several moments passed before I realized that Carson was at the table, and he was watching me through narrowed eyes. When I glanced up, my eyes met those of the girl sitting beside my brother.

In an instant, I knew who she was—the girl I had a brief memory of; the one with the red floppy hat. Excitement hummed through me as I realized I knew someone. “You’re Julie!”

She glanced at my brother and then back, blinking rapidly. Scott placed his fork down. “Do you remember her, Sam?” he asked.

I nodded eagerly, kind of like a puppy in the dog treats commercial I’d seen the day before. “Yes. I mean, I remember a younger version of her. You were wearing a red hat, but I couldn’t find a picture of you on my wall, but I think we used to be friends.” I glanced at Scott, who was staring at me with wide eyes. Actually, half the table was gawking at me. My cheeks flushed as I trailed off.