His entire left eye was swollen shut, the skin covered with a purplish-blue bruise that looked painful. He was getting a lot of stares, too.
Keeping my head down, I quickly grabbed my morning books and hurried in the opposite direction.
I didn’t make it.
“Sammy,” Del called out, not too far behind me.
With my heart in my throat, I kept walking. The last thing I needed was a scene. People had enough reasons to talk about me.
“Damn it,” he grunted, catching up to me by the stairwell. Grabbing my arm, he pulled me to a stop. “Are you just going to ignore me?”
I turned around, sucking in a sharp breath. Up close, the black eye was worse, but there was something glinting in his one good eye. Something that chilled my insides, made me want to run.
“We need to talk,” he said, voice low.
I shook my head. “There’s nothing to talk about.”
He leaned in, his head inches from mine. There was a minty scent on his breath. “You at least owe me a chance to explain, especially after what your brother did.”
Any feelings of dread I had were quickly replaced by irritation, and I tore my arm free, not caring what people thought. I owed him? “I don’t owe you anything, Del.”
He exhaled. “I know you’re mad, and I get that, but all I want to do is talk to you. You can’t just break up with me and have that be it. You don’t get to make a call like that without giving me the chance to fix it.”
My mouth gaped as I took a step back, hitting the edge of a glass case full of plaques and metals. “Look, I’m sorry. Maybe Scott shouldn’t have hit you, but this is my choice. I don’t need your permission.”
His jaw popped out. “That’s not what I meant. I know you don’t need my permission. You’re twisting what I’m saying.”
Across from us, a few kids had their phones out, texting away. My heart sank a little, knowing that by the beginning of first period, this would be all over the damn school. “Del, I don’t want to talk about this. Maybe later—”
“Later? You promise?” He grabbed ahold of my hand again. “Tell me you promise, and I’ll believe you. Okay? Because out of everyone, I have your back, Sammy. You just don’t realize that.”
I opened my mouth, but nothing came out. The desperation he threw off covered my skin like a slimy, dirty substance. Why was he so frantic to salvage this relationship? It wasn’t great before, and it sure as hell wasn’t something worth fighting for now that I’d lost my memories.
“Is everything okay here?” Mrs. Messer’s voice came out of nowhere. “Samantha?”
Del dropped my hand, and I turned, swallowing. “Yeah, everything is fine.”
Her dark eyes settled on him. “And you?”
He nodded, taking a step back. “Everything is great.”
“Then I suggest you get to class,” she responded coolly.
With him facing me, Del’s one-sided smile looked wrong with the black eye. “Later.”
I said nothing as he pivoted and stalked off. The icky feeling was still coating my skin, seeping through. Clenching the strap on my bag, I shuddered.
“Is everything really okay, Samantha?” Mrs. Messer asked softly, coming to stop beside me.
Nodding, I worked to keep my voice level. “Yes. We were just talking.”
Her gaze didn’t miss anything. “Is the condition of his face something I should be concerned about?”
“No,” I said, shaking my head. “I have to go.”
Mrs. Messer nodded. “I’ll see you tomorrow morning.”
There was no escaping our meetings, but it was better than the alternative—an honest-to-God real psychiatrist. Hurrying to homeroom, I slid into my seat seconds before the bell rang. The first two classes weren’t bad. It was the next class, English, that I was dreading.
Veronica was waiting for me when I walked in and headed for where I’d been sitting since I returned to school. She stuck out one thin arm, blocking me. “You can’t sit here.”
For a moment I entertained the idea of grabbing her by her overprocessed hair and dragging her to the floor. “Why?” I demanded.
She twisted her lips into a frigid smile that was oddly familiar. Candy snickered from her seat. “Mr. Dase?” Candy raised her voice, waving her arm back and forth. “Mr. Dase?”
The teacher looked up from the stack of paper on his desk and let out a loud sigh. “Yes, Candy?”
“Can you make Sammy sit somewhere else?” she implored. “We don’t feel comfortable sitting here with her.”
Fire scorched my cheeks as a dozen or so faces turned to me. One stood out the most—Goth Boy. I expected him to look pleased that I was getting paid back for the years of abuse I’d put him through. Instead, his almond-shaped eyes just looked sad behind the spikes of black hair.
Mr. Dase raised his brows. “Why don’t you feel comfortable, Candy?”
“It’s okay,” I said, hating the way my voice trembled as I headed to an open seat in the back. “I can sit back here.”
Satisfied with the resolution, he went back to shuffling his papers, but out of the corner of my eyes, I saw Veronica shoot Candy a pointed look.
“Mr. Dase,” Candy whined, waving her arm again.
Taking my seat, I gripped the edges of my desk.
“Yes?” Mr. Dase sighed.
Candy sat up straight, pushing her chest out and arching her back. “I don’t like that she’s sitting behind me.” Her voice dropped to a stage whisper. “You do know she was the last person to see Cassie alive, right?”
My knuckles ached from how tight my grip was on the desk. Okay. That was it. There was a good chance I would hurt one or both of them.
Our teacher’s expression remained bland. “I am sure you’re perfectly safe where you are.”
He then moved on to roll call, and that quieted Candy down, but the damage was already done. Stewing with anger and embarrassment, I had no idea what was covered in class. When the bell rang, I had to force myself to walk out of the class without confronting them. Their laughter followed me through most of my classes.
In bio, I figured Candy would keep quiet without Veronica being there, and I wondered if that had been me once—calling the shots like Veronica. Making the other girls do terrible, mean things out of spite and boredom.
I was now a strong believer in karma.
My crappy day got a little better when Carson came into class. The smile on my face wasn’t forced or weak. It was big and stupid—real.