How to Save a Life(3)By: Emma Scott
I didn’t even make it to lunchtime before I’d heard all the dirt on some poor schmuck named Evan Salinger. Without speaking to a single person directly, I learned Evan had been a foster kid. A weirdo. A loner. There’d been some kind of incident here at school three years ago. Something about him having a major breakdown in algebra class. I didn’t have the details, but that breakdown had landed Evan Salinger in a mental institution, and permanently awarded him the name “Freakshow.”
As resident freak, I half-expected Evan to wear the title as I would have: dark clothes, long hair from behind which to hide and observe, maybe some emo eyeliner if he was really feeling it.
As it turned out, I sat next to Evan in Western Civ—my last class for the day. I didn’t even realize it until the teacher called on him to answer a question. He sat to my left, and the hair covering that side of my face had blocked him from view. I turned and nearly choked on my contraband chewing gum. No black clothes or emo makeup or stringy hair. Not this guy. Evan Salinger was, to put it mildly, fucking gorgeous.
He wore his blond hair long, like Leo DiCaprio in his Titanic era, but Evan was bulkier than young Leo. I only saw him at profile, but Evan’s biceps stretched the sleeve of his t-shirt quite nicely, and his shoulders were broad and looked strong, even if all they did was hunch him over a book. He was tall—his knees bumped the underside of his desk—and when he looked up to answer the teacher’s question, I caught a glimpse of striking, sky blue eyes.
Impossible, I thought, this guy could possibly be the same notorious weirdo the school populace couldn’t shut up about. I would have cast him as the quarterback for the Wilson Wildcats. Or captain of the local 4H. Class president. This guy was Prom King, not Freakshow.
From behind my half-wall of hair, I took in Evan’s clothes, searching for clues, but I found nothing to support the whisper brigade. He wore faded jeans with his plain t-shirt, and work boots. The jeans were smudged with what looked like faded motor oil stains. This at least made sense: I’d heard he was the adopted son of Harris Salinger, who owned the town’s mechanic and auto-body repair shop. The Salingers lived in a big white house on Peachtree Lane and Mrs. S drove a Lexus.
Evan’s adopted family had money—another thing he had going for him. Obviously, his position on the lowest rung of the social ladder could only come down that stint at Woodside Institution. I hoped that wasn’t the case, but what else could it be? In a school of only three hundred kids, that sort of history would kill Evan’s chances of ever being named anything but the local mental case, never mind Prom King.
Wilson High, I quickly deduced, was isolated as hell. Its kids so bored with each other, you couldn’t pass gas without everyone whispering about it.
And goddamn, they sure whispered about Evan Salinger.
When Mr. Albertine called on Evan to answer that question about the Roman Coliseum, the entire class seemed to flinch all at the same time. The air tightened, and then everyone—and I mean, everyone—swiveled in their chairs to hear Evan’s reply.
I expected him to bust out in some operatic aria. Maybe stand up, raise both middle fingers to Mr. Albertine and tell him to shove the Coliseum up his ass. I was kind of hoping he would. I mean, if you were stuck with a shitty rep, why not make the most of it?
Evan, still hunched over his book, answered the question correctly in a totally normal, sort of deep, sort of gravely, (okay, sort of sexy) voice. The other students stared a moment more, some narrowing their eyes at him, all suspicious-like, as if to say, “What are you playing at now, Salinger?” Then one by one, went back to minding their own business.
Not me. I kept staring. For all his hard angles and masculine ruggedness, there was some intangible softness about him too. I don’t know how or why I could possibly know this at first glance, but to me Evan looked like he’d spill the deepest secrets of his heart to the first person to show him any kindness.