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Point of retreat, p.33

  Point of Retreat, p.33

   part  #2 of  Slammed Series

Point of Retreat
 


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  “March 2nd is a Thursday.”

  “It’s a leap year.”

  “Ugh! Fine. March 2nd,” she says. “But I want a suite this time. A big one.”

  “You got it.”

  “With chocolates. And flowers.”

  “You got it,” I say. I lift my head off of her pillow and kiss her, then roll over.

  "And a fruit tray. With strawberries."

  "You got it," I say again. I yawn and pull the covers up over my head.

  "And I want one of those fluffy hotel robes. Both of us. That way we can wear them all weekend."

  "Whatever you want, Lake. Now go to sleep. You need to rest."

  She's done nothing but sleep for five days, so I’m not surprised she's wide awake. I, on the other hand, have had close to zero sleep for five days. I could barely keep my eyes open today. It feels so good to be back home, back in my bed. It especially feels good that Lake's right next to me.

  “Will?” she whispers.

  “Yeah?”

  “I have to pee.”

  ***

  “Are you sure you’ll be okay?” I ask her for the tenth time this morning.

  “I’ll be fine,” she says. She holds the phone up to show me she has it close by.

  “Okay. Sherry’s at home if you need her. I’ll be back in an hour, the luncheon shouldn’t last that long.”

  “Babe, I’m fine. Promise.”

  I kiss her on the forehead. “I know.”

  And I do know she’s fine. She’s more than fine. She’s been so focused and determined to get better that she’s doing way too much on her own now. Even things she shouldn’t be doing on her own, which is why I worry. Her indomitable will that I fell in love with sometimes irritates the hell out of me, too.

  ***

  When I walk into the gymnasium, I scan the area looking for the boys. Caulder is waving when I see him, so I walk to his table.

  “Where’s Kel and Kiersten?” I say as I take my seat.

  “Mrs. Brill wouldn’t let them come,” he says.

  “Why?” I jerk my head around looking for Mrs. Brill.

  “She said they were just using this lunch as an excuse to get out of study hall. She made them go to regular lunch at 10:45. Kel told her you’d be mad.”

  “Well, Kel’s right,” I say. “I’ll be right back.”

  I walk out of the gymnasium and turn left to head to the cafeteria. When I walk inside, the noise penetrates my eardrums. I forgot how loud kids were. I also forgot how much my head still hurt. I glance at all the tables but there are so many kids, I can’t spot either of them. I walk over to a lady who looks like she’s monitoring the cafeteria.

  “Can you tell me where Kel Cohen is?”

  “Who?” she says. “It’s too loud, I didn’t hear you.”

  I say it louder. “Kel Cohen!”

  She nods and points to a table at the other end of the cafeteria. Before I reach the table, Kel spots me and waves. Kiersten is seated next to him, wiping at her shirt with a wad of wet napkins. They both stand up when I reach the table.

  “What happened to your shirt?” I ask Kiersten.

  She looks at Kel and shakes her head. “Stupid boys,” she says. She points to the table across from theirs. I turn and look and there are three boys that look a little older than her and Kel. They’re all laughing.

  “Did they do something to you?” I ask her.

  She rolls her eyes. “When do they not? If it’s not chocolate milk, it’s apple sauce. Or pudding. Or Jell-O.”

  “Yeah, it’s usually Jell-O,” Kel says.

  “Don’t worry about it, Will. I’m used to it now. I always keep an extra change of clothes in my backpack just in case.”

  “Don’t worry about it?” I ask. “Why the hell isn’t something being done about it? Have you talked to a teacher?”

  She nods. “They never see it when it happens. It’s gotten worse since the suspension. Now they just make sure they only throw things at me when the monitor’s aren’t looking. But it’s fine, Will. Really. I have Abby and Kel and Caulder. That’s all the friends I need.”

  I’m pissed. I can’t believe she has to go through this every day! I look at Kel. “Which one’s the one Caulder was telling me about? The dickhead?” Kel points at the boy seated at the head of the table.

  “You guys wait here.” I turn around and walk toward Dickhead’s table. As I get closer to them, their laughter succumbs to looks of confusion. I grab one of the empty chairs at their table and slide it out, then pull it around next to Dickhead and straddle the chair backwards, facing him.

  “Hey,” I say. He just looks at me confused, then looks at his friends.

  “Can I help you?” he says sarcastically. His friends laugh.

  “Yes. Actually you can,” I say. “What’s your name?”

  He laughs again. I can tell he’s trying to play the part of the big, bad twelve-year-old that he is. He reminds me of Reece at that age. He can’t hide the nervousness on his face, though.

  “Mark,” he says.

  “Well hi, Mark. I’m Will.” I extend my hand and he reluctantly shakes it.

  “Now that we’ve been formally introduced, I think it’s safe to say that we can be frank with one another. Can we do that, Mark? Are you tough enough to take a little bit of honesty?”

  He laughs a nervous laugh. “Yeah, I’m tough.”

  “Good. Because you see that girl over there?” I point back to Kiersten. Mark glances over my shoulder at her, then looks back at me and nods.

  “Let me be frank with you. That girl is very important to me. Very important. When bad things happen to important people in my life, I don’t take it very well. I guess you could say I have a bit of a temper.” I scoot my chair closer to his and look him straight in the eyes. “Now, while we’re being frank with one another…you should know that I used to be a teacher. You know why I’m not a teacher anymore, Mark?”

  He isn’t smiling anymore. He shakes his head.

  “I don’t teach anymore because one of my dickhead students decided to mess with one of my important people. It didn’t end well.”

  All three of the boys are staring at me, wide-eyed.

  “You can take that as a threat if you want to, Mark. But honestly, I have no intentions of hurting you. After all, you’re only twelve. When it comes to kicking someone’s ass, I usually draw the line at fourteen-year-olds. But I will tell you this…the fact that you bully people? And girls, for that matter? Girls younger than you?” I shake my head in disgust.

  “It only goes to show what a pathetic human being you’ll turn out to be. But that’s not the worst of it,” I say. I turn and look at his friends. “The worst of it is the people that follow you. Because anyone weak enough to let someone as pathetic as you be their leader is even worse than pathetic.”

  I look back at Mark and smile. “It was nice meeting you, Mark.” I stand up and swing the chair back around until it’s back in its place under the table, then I place my hands on the table in front of him. “I’ll be keeping in touch.”

  I look all three of them in the eyes as I back away from their table, then turn back to Kiersten and Kel. “Let’s go. Caulder’s waiting on us.”

  When the three of us get back to the gymnasium, we go to Caulder’s table and take a seat. We aren’t seated for two minutes when Mrs. Brill marches up with a scowl on her face. Right before she opens her mouth to say something, I stand up and reach my hand out to her. “Mrs. Brill,” I say with a smile. “It’s so good of you for letting Kiersten and the boys eat with me today. It really means a lot that you recognize the fact that there are families in this world with non-traditional situations. I love these kids like they’re my own. The fact that you respect our relationship even though I’m not a typical father really says a lot about your character. So I just wanted to say thank you.”

  Mrs. Brill lets go of my hand and steps back. She eyes Kiersten and Kel, then looks back at me. “You’re welcome,” she sa
ys. “Hope you all enjoy the luncheon.” She turns and walks away without another word.

  “Well,” Kel says. “That was definitely my sweet.”

  Thursday, February 16th, 2012

  One more day…

  Chapter Seventeen

  “So what’s the damage?” Lake asks Dr. Bradshaw.

  “To what? You?” He laughs as he slowly unwraps the bandage from around her head.

  “To my hair,” she says. “How much did you chop off?”

  “Well,” he says. “We did have to cut through your skull, you know. We tried to save as much hair as we could, but we were faced with a pretty tough decision…it was either your hair or your life.”

  She laughs. “Well I guess I’ll forgive you, then.”

  ***

  As soon as we get home from the doctor, she heads straight for the shower to wash her hair. She’s been dying to wash her hair. I’m pretty comfortable with leaving her home now, so I go pick up the boys. I forgot they were staying an hour after school, so I text Lake to let her know I’ll be late. The school talent show is tomorrow night and the students who signed up to perform get to stay and practice. Kiersten and Caulder both signed up, but neither of them are giving us hints as to what they’re doing. I’ve given Kiersten copies of all my poems. She says she needed them for research. I didn’t argue. There’s just something about Kiersten you don’t argue with.

  When the boys and I finally get home, Lake is still in the bathroom. I know she’s tired of me babying her, but I check on her anyway. The fact that she’s been in there so long worries me. When I knock on the door, she tells me to go away. She doesn’t sound happy, which just means I’m not going away.

  “Lake open the door,” I say. I jiggle the door knob but it’s locked.

  “Will, I just need a minute,” she sniffs.

 
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