He didn’t smile back as he sat beside me, and I felt the happy little feeling deflate. “Why did Scott give Del a black eye? He won’t tell me why.”
“Oh.” Not what I’d expected. Glancing up at the front of the class, I could tell that Candy was trying to listen. Squeezing my pen to keep myself from turning it into a weapon of mass destruction, I kept my voice low. “Del didn’t really do anything.”
“He didn’t?” His voice was dangerously soft. “Because I’m thinking the worst here, and if so, he’ll have a matching eye by the end of the day.”
My eyes widened. “No—no, nothing like that. I broke up with him, and then I had this memory about something he did. We kind of got into it after that, and he wouldn’t leave. Scott sort of took care of that.”
“What do you mean, he wouldn’t leave?” Anger shone from his blue eyes, along with a fierce protectiveness that had me wanting to smile like an idiot.
“It’s not a big deal, really. Everything is fine now.” With the exception of Del thinking he could somehow renegotiate our relationship status.
Carson didn’t look too convinced, but he scooted closer, pressing his knee against mine. “What did you remember?”
“Uh, it’s really embarrassing.”
“I can deal.” He grinned.
My lips twitched. “I’m sure you can, but I’m not confident that I can.” I watched him as he waited, sighing when I realized he wasn’t going to let it drop. “I’m sure you already know. It has to do with…photos on a phone.”
One brow arched, and then he leaned back as he figured it out. “Would this be something that happened around seven months ago?”
I nodded as my entire face turned warm. “Yeah, well, I had no idea he’d taken those photos when…it was happening.” Focusing on the back of Candy’s head, I continued almost painfully. “I don’t know why I forgave him when it happened. I can’t even wrap my head around it. It’s disgusting.”
“So you weren’t okay with it?”
“Not from what I do remember. I was pretty pissed.” I peeked at him from underneath my lashes. “So…you saw them?”
He watched me for a ridiculously long time. A brief, indiscernible emotion flickered across his face. “I saw them.”
“Great.” I tucked a strand of my hair back, searching for a much-needed change in subject. “I got another note last night, after Del left.”
“What did it say?” He sounded relieved by the topic change, too.
I pulled the note out, showing him. Again, another unclear expression appeared as he read it. “It would be nice to know who ‘him’ is,” he said, folding it and handing it back over. “Who do you think is leaving these notes?”
“I don’t know,” I whispered, shoving the note back into my bag. “It would have to be someone who has access to my house. That really limits the whole pool of suspects.”
Carson agreed, and we didn’t have any more time left to discuss potential candidates. Class started, and we had to examine cell growth in plants under a shared microscope. Tingles shot up my arm every time our hands brushed when we exchanged slides.
After class, he walked to my locker with me, waiting until I was ready to head to the cafeteria. I wasn’t sure if he was keeping an eye out for Del or if he had been as unwilling as I’d been to leave bio.
As we neared the doors and crowded room, I stopped. “I’ll be there in a few minutes.”
“Okay.” He looked reluctant to head in, but I smiled and then he nodded, went around me, and disappeared.
I waited for the one person I’d hoped would be up-front with me, ignoring the looks of those passing by me. I spied Julie up ahead. Her long skirt flowed around her ankles as she strode down the hall. Her lips spread into a smile when she saw me, but it quickly faded when I grabbed her arm.
“Hey,” she said, glancing around. “What’s up?”
“Can we talk somewhere private?”
Julie’s ponytail bobbed as she nodded. “We could go to the computer lab. No one is in there during lunch.”
Perfect. I followed her down the hall, past the library, and into the cold, silent lab. She dropped her bag in a chair. “What’s going on?”
I took a deep breath and then said something I should’ve said days, if not weeks, ago. “Not to be all twelve-step program on you, but first off, I’m sorry for whatever I might have done or said to you.” I felt the heat creeping across my cheeks. “It wasn’t right for a multitude of reasons, and I have this feeling that you were probably the only true friend I had and I screwed that up.”
Julie hesitated. “Sam, I could take up an entire week listing all the shit you’ve pulled, but seriously? You’re not the same. When Scott first told me you…you changed, I didn’t believe him, but I saw that it was true the day you sat at the table, and it’s still true. In the way you talk, how you carry yourself and look at people. You remind me of how you used to be, and that’s good enough of an apology. Anyway, it’s in the past. I’m over it.”
Tears rushed to my eyes. It wasn’t much of a forgiveness speech, but it was close, and I’d take it. “Okay. I want to ask you something, and I want you to be honest.”
Taking ahold of her ponytail, she started twisting the end around her fingers. “All right.”
“I remembered something last night, about Del and me. He’d taken these photos of me—”
“The ones where you were giving him a blow job like a p**n star?”
I grimaced. “Yeah, thanks, but I hadn’t known he was taking them. I must’ve heard about them after the fact and blown up.”
“You didn’t know?” She leaned against the edge of the desk, eyes narrowed. “What an ass.”
“My thoughts exactly.” I propped myself against the table beside her. “But I forgave him, and I don’t know why I would have. I was hoping you could tell me…what I was like when I dated Del.”
“Oh, wow.” Julie blinked. “Honestly?”
She gave a short laugh. “I’m not even sure if you really loved him or if you two were sort of expected to be together. Your families are, like, the richest in the county. You both were popular and good-looking. It was assumed you two would get together….Well, either you or Cassie when her mother moved back, but I don’t think anyone really thought that until she got older.”