How to Save a Life(4)

By: Emma Scott

He’s sort of beautiful, I thought.

I was jolted out of my reverie when Albertine called on me to answer the next question. I tucked my gum into the corner of my cheek. “Didn’t catch that, sorry?”

The whole class turned around again to get a load of the new girl with her torn black tights, purple skirt, black T-shirt and boots. My ear caught a few snickers. The actual quarterback of the Wildcats, Jared Piltcher, gave me an appraising glance from the next row.

Albertine repeated the question, I bullshitted my way through an answer, and still I felt Jared’s eyes on me. He fit the bill for masculine hotness too, but he lacked that intangible quality I’d noticed in Evan. Jared was barricaded behind his popularity and good looks and his star status. You could talk to him for days and probably never get through all that posturing to the real him.

Which made him the perfect candidate for my purposes.

I trapped Jared’s gaze with the eye not hidden behind my hair and ran my tongue over my upper lip. Slow, like I was tasting something good. His eyebrows shot up, and then he laughed quietly to himself, shaking his head. He gave me a final, questioning look. I nodded once. He coughed and turned to face the front of the room again. Did he adjust his crotch to quell a burgeoning boner, ladies and gentlemen? I believe he did. Under the bleachers or behind the gym, or in some abandoned corner of the library, we’d meet up and I’d start building my own reputation.

I slouched back down, making sure the wall of hair over the left side of my face hadn’t moved and the class dragged on. A sense of warmth fell over me, a ray of sunlight from the window maybe. Except that I wasn’t sitting near a window.

I glanced at Evan Salinger. He wasn’t looking at me; his head was down, eyes on his book, but even so. It was him. I could feel him, if that makes any sense. Which it doesn’t. I know it doesn’t, and I knew it then. But it felt like Evan Salinger was observing me without looking.

“Stop that,” I whispered.

“Sorry,” he whispered back immediately. He wasn’t confused by my request. He’d known what I meant, which was fucking odd since I hadn’t known what I meant. And then it was as if something got shut off. A beam of light dimmed by a passing cloud. I shivered, and that feeling of Evan’s attention on me was gone.

Okay, so that was weird.

Was this part of his freakshow reputation? He had a strange vibe, no doubt. Not explainable and likely a product of my imagination. But not terrible. Not when I really thought about it.

Not terrible at all.

The next morning, before second bell, I lured Jared Piltcher to the bleachers behind the gym and let him reach up my shirt until his hard-on was obvious against my thigh. He kissed like he was trying to eat my tonsils, but I managed to keep my hair over my left cheek. He wasn’t interested in my face anyway.

“I have a girlfriend,” he said as the bell rang. “I’m taking her to prom. Just so you know.”

I shrugged. “It’s cool. Our little secret.”

“Cool. So…after lunch?”

I shrugged again. “We’ll see.”

First rule of showbiz: always keep them wanting more. And this was all an act. I was an act. A facsimile of a human being, playing the part of a seventeen-year-old high school girl. And like my part required, that day at lunch, I sought my people. I found the table populated by boys and girls dressed in black, sporting emo hair and makeup and I sat among them as if I had been doing so every day since the start of the school year.

I plunked myself next to Marnie Krauss—the alpha bitch of the misfits, and across from her second-in-command, Adam Lopez. Adam was the only uncloseted gay kid in the whole school, maybe the whole town.

Adam gave an affronted huff, drawing his chin in and raising his brows. “I’m sorry, have we met?”