Page 23 of Mayhem (Mayhem 1)

I don’t see Adam until Wednesday, when he shows up twenty minutes late, a cigarette tucked behind his ear. Our night together is almost like a memory of a memory now. I still remember every detail, but it’s like it was a movie I watched and rewatched a hundred times, not like it was something that actually happened to me. I admire Adam from afar just like all the girls who have never actually talked to him. And today, he is looking pretty damn admirable. He’s dressed in midnight-black jeans—which, uncharacteristically, aren’t torn up at the knees—and a long pale yellow band T-shirt with black lettering and designs. His hands always draw my attention, decorated with bulky rings and black nail polish, and framed by layers and layers of stringy leather bracelets. A long wallet chain hangs from his jeans, swinging as he walks to his seat at the front.

When class ends, Adam is the first one on his feet, but Dr. Pullman immediately stops him from leaving. “Adam, hang around. I’d like to speak with you.”

I watch Adam’s back as he lets out a visible sigh and turns around. He leans against the wall by the door, watching everyone else leave, and I suddenly feel panicked. I’m actually going to cross paths with him now. There’s no way I can avoid it!

I pack my things as slowly as humanly possible while Leti stands over me, grinning from ear to ear. I swear, it’s like that boy can read my mind. “What’s taking you so long?” he teases.

I shoot a glare at him from where I’m crouched on the floor, picking up a stack of papers I intentionally dropped to buy myself some time. I’m hoping Dr. Pullman will talk to Adam and get it over with before I make my way down the stairs.

By the time I stand up, I realize what a horrible plan that was—because Adam, Leti, and I are the last three students in the room.

Oh, God.

But maybe he won’t even recognize me. I’m sure he’s been with dozens of other girls since Mayhem. It’s been over a month since then, and I look nothing like I did that night. My hair is pulled up in a lazy mess, I’m wearing my glasses, and I’m dressed in baggy winter-green yoga pants and an oversized royal blue college T-shirt. My nails are bright pink, my flip-flops are orange, and my face is pale, pale, pale.

Oh, God.

I take a deep breath and stand up, and Leti looks so amused that I’m seriously going to smack the snot out of him as soon as there aren’t any witnesses. I make my way to the stairs and then take one down, two down, three down.

“Adam,” Dr. Pullman says as he walks closer to where Adam is standing. They meet halfway. “I’ve lost track of how many times you’ve been tardy or absent in this class. I might be willing to overlook it if you actually paid any attention to the lessons or at least attempted to do well, but it’s become obvious you’re here for . . . well, why are you here?” Dr. Pullman shakes his head to himself and continues before Adam can respond. “The last day to drop this class is Friday. You won’t get a refund, but you won’t get a failing grade. If you don’t drop, I’m giving you a zero. I’m tired of you coming in late and interrupting my lectures.”

“But I need this class to graduate . . .” Adam says, like it never even occurred to him that he might not pass.

“Maybe you should have thought of that earlier,” Dr. Pullman informs him unapologetically.

And then, inexplicably, words start coming out of my mouth before I even comprehend what I’m doing. “Dr. Pullman, I’m so sorry,” I say, coming to stand next to a very curious-looking Adam. “Today was my fault . . .” Uh, it was?! “I was . . . going over class notes with Adam this morning, and . . . I lost track of time, and he hadn’t eaten anything at all, and so I told him he should really stop at Lion’s Den to get something, like maybe a BLT or a chicken salad sandwich or even a bowl of soup or something . . .” Okay, I’m full-on rambling now while everyone looks at me like I’m crazy. I smile sweetly. “You know, to help with his low blood sugar and all that jazz. But anyway, it was my fault and he really was trying to do better and he really was late because he was aspiring to improve in this class.” Lies, lies, lies!

Dr. Pullman gazes at me suspiciously. “You were helping him polish his notes?”

“Yes.” I nod vigorously. “We . . . we already arranged tutoring for this weekend and everything. He really wants to do better.”

Dr. Pullman looks over at Adam then, who is staring at me with a still very-freaking-confused expression on his face. “You do?”

Adam’s eyes slowly drift from my face to Dr. Pullman’s. “Uh . . . yeah, I do. Tutoring . . . this weekend . . .”

Dr. Pullman inhales deeply as he considers this new information, glancing back and forth between me and Adam. “Okay. Rowan, if you’re going to help him . . . and Adam, if you’re serious about this . . . one more chance. Don’t be late again.”

I nod and exit the room, passing by Leti with Adam close behind. What in God’s name did I just do, and better yet, why did I just do it?!

“Hey,” Adam calls to me when I keep walking. Having no idea what to do about any of what just happened, I nervously turn around to face him. Over his shoulder, Leti is one gigantic smile. He winks at me and then slips away. “That was . . . uh . . .” Adam scratches the side of his chin adorably. “Why did you do that?”

By the way he looks at me, I can tell he has no idea who I am. And I’m not sure if that makes me feel relieved or so disappointed that I need to skip speech class to wallow in Dee’s room. “It just looked like you could use some help,” I say, forcing my shoulders to shrug in an attempt at looking casual.

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