How to Save a Life(8)

By: Emma Scott


I leaned toward Marnie. “What’s this bullshit?”

“Evan spent time at Woodside,” she whispered. “The mental institution up in Halston.”

“Yeah, I heard. So?”

“So you see that scarecrow-looking creep tagging along with the jocks?”

I looked and noticed a scrawny stick of a guy with a pinched look on his face, and the curved handle of a cane clutched in his bony hands. The runt of the litter.

“I see him.”

“That’s Shane Salinger. A senior, like Evan. He told everyone Evan had ECT at Woodside.”

“ECT… You mean shock treatment?”

Marnie nodded.

“Is it true?” I asked.

She shrugged and smiled dryly. “That’s the majestic, terrible beauty of a rumor. It doesn’t have to be true for it to spread.”

Evan walked out of the hallway, head up, eyes forward. Shane Salinger laughed along with everyone else, twice as loud. “Ha! Good one, guys!”

The jocks ignored him, and Shane inched his emaciated body—it was obvious he was suffering some degenerative disease—closer to the huge dude standing beside him. Like he was taking shelter. The big guy had the same straw-colored hair as Shane but was ten times as brawny, with pimpled skin and dull, flat eyes.

I nodded my chin at him. “Who’s that?”

“Another Salinger brother, Merle,” Adam said. “A junior. Shane’s a tag-along, trying to run with the big dogs, but Merle is a big dog because he’s good at football.”

Marnie nodded as we resumed walking. “The only thing keeping Shane from joining us at the bottom of the food chain is Merle. That, and the rumors he coughs up about Evan. Keeps the lugheads entertained.”

I frowned. “Why does Shane talk shit about Evan? Isn’t he their brother?”

“Officially adopted.” Adam shrugged. “But so what? Not blood. Shane hates Evan. Like, seriously hates him.”

“Seems like lots of people do,” I muttered to myself. I walked another step and realized Marnie and Adam had both stopped and were staring at me with mild alarm. I glared back.

“What?”

“Do not go there,” Adam said. “Evan Salinger is yummy, I will give him that. A strong, silent type. But then you get in his space…” He shivered dramatically.

“He’s hot, I’ll admit,” Marnie agreed, “if a little white-bread for my tastes, but there’s something…off about Evan.”

“Aren’t we all?” I muttered.

Marnie didn’t seem to have heard me. “You ever walk under a field of electric lines? Where you can hear them humming, and the hairs on your arms stand on end?”

I fixed them both with a dubious, one-eyed stare. “Yeah?”

“Try standing next to Evan sometime,” Adam said.

Marnie nodded. “He gives me the creeps. And he’s social poison, to put it mildly.”

“Why?” I snapped. “Because he was in a mental institution for a little while? Is the whole fucking school so backward that they’re going to pick on him for that? For years?”

Adam put his hand on my shoulder and said seriously, “Your concern is cute. But misplaced.”

I brushed him off.

“It was kind of a big deal, what happened to land him in there,” Marnie explained.

“So what happened?” I asked impatiently. “Something about Evan having a breakdown in class?”

They exchanged looks.

“Something like that,” Marnie said.

“Oh, if it were only that simple,” Adam said with a dramatic sigh.

I tried not to roll my eyes with impatience. The bell was going to ring any second now, and I’d be left with a goddamn cliffhanger. “So what happened?”