"Wintering" Preview (Book #3)

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His arm wrapped around me and pulled me into a hug. I never felt so content and happy. The world felt right. It was like I was meant to be with him. I was sure of it. I had never been so sure of anything before. He made me feel like I was the most important person in the world. Like I was the only one that mattered. As if I was a princess. I gazed into his smiling eyes and knew I was found.

He took my hand and our fingers wove seamlessly together. We walked up the steps to the front gate at school. The minute we stepped through the gate, we were in the auditorium. Huh? I looked behind me and it was the door. I thought we were just out front? Now, I was in auditorium and it was rehearsal. I glanced up at him and he changed. I never got a clear look at his face and who he was, but I knew it was a different guy.

I was staring at Alan. What the hell? He leaned down and kissed me. I wanted to move, but I couldn’t. He held me too tight. His lips pressed hard against mine and his hands wouldn’t stop moving. I tried to get him to stop, but he wouldn’t. I squirmed trying to get away from him. I screamed for help. Someone grabbed and shook me.

My eyes flew open and I was out of breath. I looked around my room. Patrick was still there. The clock read 4:28 am.

“You okay?” Patrick whispered.

I sat up. “Yeah. Now that I’m awake.” I rubbed my face. “You stayed.”

“Of course, I said I would. I thought it helped at first… But it didn’t seem to do you much good.”

“It did. I got a couple hours of sleep. What about you?” I was worried about him.

“Yeah, I got some sleep.” He stretched his neck. “Wanna tell me what the nightmare was about?”

“It wasn’t bad at first. I don’t remember exactly what happened, but I remember it was good. Great, actually. I wish I could remember more about it.” I sighed. Then I told him about how the dream turned into a nightmare. I hate that I can never remember the good dreams, just the bad ones.

He shook his head and let out a frustrated huff. “Sorry. He’s not going to hurt you anymore. I promise you that.”

* * *

It was almost 5:00 am. Patrick left to sneak back home and get ready for school, before coming back to pick me up. My room felt so big and empty with him gone. There was no point lying in bed trying to go back to sleep and return to that awful dream. I decided to take a shower and get ready for school. I stood under the hot water and hoped it would burn off the filthiness I felt. It didn’t.

* * *

We got to school earlier than usual. The crew was already in Mr. D’s room hanging out when we got there. I didn’t expect to see them, but I should have figured. They each gave me a hug as I entered the classroom and made my way to our table. Emily and Cassie sat beside me.

“How are you doing?” Emily asked.

I shrugged, “Eh. I’m here.”

“That’s always good,” she smiled.

Cassie put her hand on my back. “Were you able to get any studying done?”

“Yeah. Not as much as I would’ve like, but some.” I took a deep breath. “He called me last night.”

“What?!” they exclaimed in unison. Their words came at me so fast.

“What did he say?”

“I hope you told him off.”

I hope you told him that he was a jackass and will rot in hell for what he did to you.”

“So what did you say?”

“Nothing,” I muttered.

Emily interrupted me before I could finish, “What do you mean nothing?! You didn’t believe whatever that lying bastard said, did you?”

I shook my head. “I didn’t answer so he left a voice mail.”

I explained to them what happened and what he said. His message seemed to piss them off more, just like it did with Patrick. They were so livid that when Joey came up to us, they nearly bit his head off thinking he was Alan.

“What the hell do you want?” Emily snapped.

Joey took a small step back. “Just wanted to see how Liz was doing.”

Emily stared at him then looked over at Patrick and Bobby who nodded. She relaxed a little. “Sorry. I didn’t mean to…”

“It’s okay. I understand.” He offered a small smile then squatted down next to me. “You okay?”

I took a deep breath, bit my lip and shrugged, “Joey, thanks for…” Shattering my world? No, it wasn’t really his fault. As much as I wanted to blame him, he wasn’t the one who lied to me or used me. But if he didn’t see anything or say anything, my heart wouldn’t be broken and everything would be fine. Okay, not fine.

“I’m really, really sorry.” He reached for my hand but I pulled it away. “Sorry.”

“It’s okay,” I mumbled.

“Anyway, just let me know if there’s anything I can do. Anything you need.”

I nodded.

“Well, I’ll see you at rehearsal.” He started to get up.

“I’m not going,” I whispered.

“What do you mean? You have to! You can’t let that… that… him win.” I had never seen Joey this angry, even after what I did to him at the Winter Formal.

“I know! That’s what we said,” Emily pointed to her and Cassie.

“I… I can’t. You don’t understand. I can’t sing. The music is gone. How am I supposed to go to rehearsal and not be able to hear or feel the music?”

“But you can’t quit. You’re the best thing about the show,” Joey insisted. That was sweet of him, but that was hard to believe. “And remember what Prof. C said at the beginning? If you miss a rehearsal, don’t expect to still be a part of the show. And if you miss two don’t bother coming back.”

“Yeah, I know.” But the way I saw it, since Prof. C gave me the day off anyway, I didn’t really have to decide anything right now. That rule didn’t apply to me. Not right now anyway. I just needed some time. I shook my head, “Don’t worry about it.”

“But…” Cassie started to say until Mr. D interrupted.

“Liz, can you come here a second?”

I was thankful for the rescue. But what did he want? I hope I didn’t bomb the final yesterday. That’s the last thing I needed. I walked up to his desk. “Yeah?”

“Just thought I’d let you know how you did on the final.” He pulled out my test and handed it to me.

I looked at it – 47 out of 50. I was proud of myself.

“You had the highest grade,” Mr. D smiled.

“I beat Patrick?” I was surprised.

He nodded and laughed, “I figured that might cheer you up.”

“Yeah, a little. Thanks.”

“Everything okay?” Mr. D carefully asked. It was a loaded question and I knew it.

“Not really,” I admitted.

“You know I’m always here if you want to talk.”

Patrick always trusted Mr. D. He could have told my parents, the nurse or my counselor about the night I was going to… that night of the carnival. But he didn’t. And he never treated me weird either about it. He was always supportive and helpful. I trusted him too. “You don’t have a second period class, right?”

“No. It’s my prep. But don’t you have a final?”

“Yeah, computer science. But do you think you could write me a pass to come here after I’m done with it?” I didn’t really feel like sitting in CS in silence with just my own thoughts and nothing to do. I’d rather be in Mr. D’s room, but I didn’t want to intrude on his free time. “Maybe I could help you grade or something.”

Mr. D immediately wrote out a pass and handed it to me. “Here you go.”

“Thanks, Mr. D.” I gave him back my final.

“Ooh, you finished grading the final?” Patrick came up to us.

Mr. D nodded and looked through the pile of papers. He handed Patrick his paper. “Here you go.”

“What did you get?” Patrick looked at me.

“I did okay. Better than I thought.” Normally, I would have jumped at the chance to tell him I beat him. But I just wasn’t feeling like it today. I was tired and upset and I had put him through a lot last night. Besides, it was hard to feel like you’re better than someone when you feel so crappy and that someone is the one making things better or tolerable. “How’d you do?”

He shrugged, “Alright.”

Alright good or alright bad? I put my hand out so I could see his final. He handed it over and I glanced at the score at the top – 46 out of 50. I beat him by one point. If I wasn’t in the middle of trying desperately to hold myself together for the rest of my finals, I would have had fun with that. We both would.

* * *

My CS final wasn’t too hard once I got focused. I double checked my free response answers before handing it in. I think I did okay. There was still almost an hour left before the bell would ring. I turned in my test and showed Mrs. Wyle my pass from Mr. D. She nodded and said I could go.

Mr. D was at his desk when I walked into his classroom. He looked up. “Done already? Does that mean it was easy or too hard?”

“It was okay,” I shrugged. “Do you need any help with anything?”

“No. I’m fine, thanks. I’m just entering grades.”

I put my stuff down at my desk. I might as well try to get more studying done for my math final. My CS final I wasn’t worried about. My calculus final… there was more on it and I really needed to be focused for it. I leafed through my notebook. Hell, if I didn’t know it by now, the next sixty minutes weren’t going to help. I shut my notebook and put my head down.

I heard Mr. D get out of his seat. “Do you want to talk about it?”

I looked up and he was sitting on the desk beside me. “My life’s falling apart. Just when I thought everything was great… it spins out of control.”

He quietly listened as I told him about everything. Well, not everything. He was still my teacher and it would have been really weird talking to him about some details, as much as I trusted him.

“Liz, you need to do what’s right for you.”

“But, my mom… she’s going to be so mad at me. She actually seemed to like me since I was with Alan. Like there was hope for me yet,” I scoffed. “She’s just going to say that it’s another way I disappoint her.”

“I don’t think she’d want you to be with a guy who treated you like that… who didn’t care about you.”

“My mom adores him. There was never any issue with me going out with him. He’s Filipino. Our moms grew up together. They pretty much wanted us together. Shoved us together. They were both thrilled that we were seeing each other. I swear they even had our kids names picked out and who got to babysit when. She’s just going to say that I wasn’t trying and that’s what I get.” I could hear her voice in my head already. You didn’t even try. A good boy likes you and you can’t keep him liking you. What’s wrong with you? What am I going to do with you? “And she’s right. I don’t know the first thing about holding onto a guy and having a boyfriend.”

“Well, based on what you’ve said. He doesn’t seem to know how to have a girlfriend. He should not be treating you like that. It’s never okay to cheat on someone. If he treats you that way, as if you don’t really matter, then he doesn’t love you. And if you let him continue doing that, then you are saying he is more important than you. That’s not a relationship. Not a healthy one. Liz, don’t be that girl. You are far too smart to let a guy walk all over you and just take it. You matter. You deserve respect. What he’s doing is not respectful at all.”

Respect is a huge thing with Mr. D. He spent a whole day during the first week of school talking about it. He didn’t think that it was a one-way street like we should respect him just because he’s the teacher. He respected us back, unless you proved you didn’t deserve it. And he wanted us to respect each other. I really liked that bubble that he created in his classroom. Maybe that’s why I felt safe here. My family was all about respect too. But it definitely wasn’t a two way street. I had to respect my elders, even if they didn’t deserve it and I didn’t get an ounce of it.

“But… my mom. I know she wants me to… She’s going to say that I’m embarrassing her again and being disrespectful.” I shook my head, “I’ve always been such a big disappointment to her. I thought I was finally doing something right and she’d be happy with me. I don’t think I can… go back to her hating me.”

“I don’t think she hates you. But I do think that she’d want you to be with someone who respected you. She wouldn’t want you to be with a guy who cheats on you, who doesn’t think you’re the best thing in the world. She’d want you to be happy.”

“My mom could care less about my happiness,” I mumbled.

“I don’t believe that.” Why would he? He didn’t know my mom or understand my family.

“It’s true.”

“Well, you do deserve to be happy and respected. It’s just my opinion, but it doesn’t seem like you’re in a healthy relationship. You deserve better. A lot better. You need to do what’s right for you. Not for anyone else. If you put up with him just because of your mom, you’ll only be hurting yourself.”

“But what if nobody else likes me? At least he does, or did. At least enough to still want to keep me around and not break up with me.”

“Liz, that’s a very bad reason to stay in a relationship and to let him treat you like you don’t matter. You are just setting yourself up for very bad things. Listen to me… There is someone out there who is perfect for you and who will think that you are perfect just the way you are. He will think you are special and love you unconditionally. It might take some time, but it will happen. I know it will.”

I took a deep breath. What he said made sense, but didn’t make it any easier to swallow. I’m supposed to end the one thing that made my mom proud of me because it was the right thing to do? It wasn’t the first time that I purposely disobeyed them and did something that I wanted to do, that didn’t really hurt anyone, but that they didn’t like. That didn’t make this easier. This was different.

“Look, I’ve known a few students who found their true love in high school, even went to different colleges, got married and lived happily ever after. Others found them in college, some after. The point is, you’ll never know if you try to make everyone else happy at your own expense.”

“Hey, Mr. D!” Patrick walked in. “Liz?”

“Hi.” I was confused as to why he was here. “What are you doing?”

“I was done with my final a long time ago. Took a nap already. I just needed to walk around a little, so I asked for a pass to the bathroom. Thought I’d stop by here to say hi. What about you?”

“I asked Mr. D if I could hang out here after my final.”

“Why didn’t I think of that?” Patrick looked at the clock. There was about forty minutes left before the bell would ring. “It would have been more comfortable to sleep here than those desks in French. You think I could get a pass?”

“Sure,” Mr. D smiled and wrote out a pass for him.

“Thanks! I’ll be back.” He hurried out.

Mr. D stood up. “Just think about what I said. Don’t hold onto a guy like Alan just because you’re scared to be alone. You can do better and deserve better. It’ll happen for you. I know it.”

I nodded. He went back to his desk. I put my elbows on the table and rested my head in my hands. My head hurt. I was stressed out and tired. I just had to get through today and tomorrow. Once finals were done, I could afford to have a total meltdown. This would be the one weekend when I wouldn’t have any homework so I wouldn’t have to worry about school. Something was telling me that I wouldn’t be able to avoid it or Alan… any of this for that long. I had a sinking feeling that it was all going to explode soon.

* * *

Patrick returned and put his stuff down next to me. He opened up his backpack and pulled out a granola bar.

“Brain food for the final?” He offered me the second bar in the wrapper.

I shook my head. I didn’t feel like eating. “No thanks.”

“Okay,” Patrick sighed and put it away. “Let me know if you’re hungry later. Want to review for calc?”

“Sure. Whatever.” I appreciated that he was trying to distract me with more important things like our calculus final which was worth 20% of our grade. I just wasn’t sure that it would do any good going over it now.

“Quiz me.”

I leafed through my notebook and asked him a bunch of vocabulary terms and how you would solve random problems. He knew everything. The upside was that I didn’t really have to check if he was right, because I knew it too. I was feeling a little more confident about a final that I didn’t get to study as much as I would have liked for.

* * *

The bell rang. We had a ten minute passing period instead of our usual five to get to our next class. It was weird walking from Mr. D’s to math. It wasn’t our normal path and the people seemed different. It was a whole different mix of students walking to and from class. It might have well been a different school. I didn’t like it. I took comfort and safety in seeing the usual faces, even if I didn’t know them, go past me as I walked to class. I was really glad that Patrick was with me or I might have just asked Mr. D for a pass to be late for my next class.

We turned the corner of the building and walked toward the library. Then I saw Alan coming toward me. I hoped he didn’t see me and that I could just find a different way to class. But he did. Patrick saw him too.

“Son of a bitch,” Patrick hissed and took off toward Alan.

I tried to grab his hand to stop him, but he was too fast and slipped through my fingers. I ran after him. Patrick hit Alan square across the jaw and pinned him against the wall.

“Did you think you could hurt her and get away with it?” I had never heard Patrick’s voice sound so full of hate. He hit Alan again and Alan doubled over.

I had to stop this. I couldn’t let Patrick get in trouble because of me. A crowd was quickly forming around us. I pulled on Patrick’s shirt, “Patrick! Please!”

“If you ever touch her again…”

You don’t get to decide that,” Alan shot back.

Patrick punched him over and over. Alan was clearly in pain. I had to get Patrick away from here before any teachers or administrators came or he could get suspended. I had no choice but to put myself between the two of them. I stood in front of Patrick so he could see me and threw my arms between the two of them. It was enough to get Patrick’s attention.

“Patrick! Stop! Please! We need to go. You can’t get busted for this.” I yanked on his arm. I begged, “Please!”

He glared at Alan.

“Patrick. He’s not worth getting suspended for. Let’s go.”

“You’re right.” His breath was heavy and he let go of Alan. “But it would be worth the satisfaction.”

Alan was writhing in pain, trying to stand up. “Thanks, Liz. I knew you wouldn’t let him…”

“I didn’t stop this for you,” I snapped.

We were out of there before any adults could get through the crowd of students. Good thing the adults were slow in reacting to a fight and the spectators weren’t going to turn in those involved. I clutched his arm and led us toward math class. We were a few feet away from the crowd when Tony, Jason and Bobby came up to us.

“Dude, it was you, wasn’t it?” Tony asked Patrick. “We heard Alan was getting his ass kicked.”

“Yeah.”

“You alright?” Bobby patted him on the back.

“Yeah, I’m okay.” I couldn’t understand how Patrick could say that. It was obvious he wasn’t. He was still so mad and tense.

“You were supposed to wait for us before doing anything,” Jason stated flatly.

He was mad that he wasn’t in on it? It looked like they all were. What? I stared at them in disbelief.

“Sorry guys. I saw him and he was smiling at Liz as if he did nothing wrong. I just lost it,” Patrick fumed. “Don’t worry. I’m not through with him.”

“What does that mean?” I shook his arm. He didn’t answer. I turned to the rest of the guys. “What does that mean?!”

“Don’t worry about it,” Bobby patted me on the back.

“I told you. Nobody does this to you and gets away with it,” Patrick said with absolute certainty.

“Yeah, we got your back, Liz. We protect each other,” Jason added.

I was speechless. Part of me felt really good that they would do that for me. They really loved me and I belonged with them. But I didn’t want them to get hurt or get in trouble because of me. I couldn’t have all of them suspended defending me. That wasn’t right. But it was really flattering and sweet.

“Look, we’ll see you guys at lunch.” Tony slapped Patrick on the back. We were almost to our class and they had to get to theirs.

“’Kay. But let’s meet in Mr. D’s room. I don’t want him coming near Liz,” Patrick told them.

“Sounds good. We’ll let Kraig and the girls know,” Jason answered before they left to go to class.

* * *

Patrick sat down at his desk and I stood next to him. He took out his calculator and a bottle of water. He stared at his backpack while he drank almost the entire bottle then took a deep breath. His right hand kept opening and closing into a fist.

“Patrick?”

“Hmm?” He looked up at me.

“Seriously, are you okay?” I remembered how bad my hand hurt when I hit Nikki. I couldn’t type. How could he do his final?

“Yeah, I’m fine.” He nodded.

“But your hand…” I stared at it.

“It’s okay. Don’t worry about it.”

“But I am! We have a final. How the hell are you going to write?”

“I can handle it.” He didn’t seem concerned. He grabbed a pencil and paper from his backpack. He quickly wrote something down and showed it to me – Thanks for making sure I didn’t get busted. I owe you a milkshake.

I rolled my eyes. What was I going to do with him? And a milkshake was the last thing on my mind.

“See. No big deal.” He flashed a crooked grin at me.

The bell rang.

“Okay. For now.” I wasn’t convinced, but I turned and went to my seat anyway. I didn’t have much of a choice.

I had to push what just happened out of my head. I needed to concentrate. The first problem was easy enough. I answered all the multiple choice problems and went onto the open ended questions. That’s when I wished I had really been able to study better. It was like I had seen some of these problems before, but I couldn’t really remember how to do them exactly right. If yesterday didn’t happen like it did, I’d be able to do these damn problems. I would remember how to. Then all the feelings and memories flooded back.

I hated feeling this way. I hated that I was going through this… and it was finals time. I hated that I was going to make my mom disappointed in me again. I hated that I was going to be accused of being disrespectful, when I wasn’t. I was the one being disrespected. Not that she would care. I hated this. I hated being treated like I didn’t matter. I hated being taken advantage of. I hated that I was played. I hated that he made me look like a fool. It was all his fault. I hated him.

I was suddenly filled with so much anger and hate. My lead kept breaking as I tried to answer the last question on the test. I finally got fed up with my pencil that I slammed it down and committed the cardinal sin of math – I wrote the rest of my solution in pen. Ms. Adams was going to hate that.

“Liz?”

“What?” I barked. I looked up at the voice.

Ms. Adams stood over me holding the stack of tests. She looked startled at my reaction. “You can work through lunch if you need more time.”

“Sorry. Uh, no thanks,” I handed her my test. I didn’t get a chance to look over my answers. I did my best, but I wasn’t too confident that I did well. Going through it at lunch wasn’t going to get me any more points.

She leafed through my test and stopped at the last question. “Ink?”

“Yeah, I was having trouble with my pencil. The lead kept breaking on me.” Because I was pushing too hard because I was so pissed off. “So, I used a pen. Sorry. I can rewrite it in pencil if you want.”

Ms. Adams shook her head, “No, it’s fine. Good luck on the rest of your finals guys.”

“Thanks,” Patrick politely responded.

I packed up my stuff and we left. I walked briskly to Mr. D’s room with my jaw clenched. I was still so angry.

“Hey, are you alright?” Patrick finally asked.

I glared at him. I tried to find the words to express myself.

“Are you mad at me for hitting him? Don’t tell me you feel bad for him.”

“No. I’m not.” I took a deep breath. “I’m just so… mad. I hate him. If you wouldn’t get in trouble for it, I would want you to beat the crap out of him.”

A small sly grin touched Patrick’s face, “Good.”

* * *

At lunch, it was just the crew in Mr. D’s room. That was good because I couldn’t shake this all-consuming anger. The crew did their best to distract me, to try to make me laugh or talk about anything else. But I couldn’t let go of the realization that he was the reason why everything was falling apart. He intentionally did this to me. He knew what he was doing and didn’t care that it would hurt me. He just thought he wouldn’t get caught. I can’t believe I let myself fall for him.

I looked up at the clock. Great. Lunch would be over soon and because of our finals schedule, I had choir next. I still couldn’t imagine singing. Usually, singing calmed me.

“Hey, what do you have next?” Jason bumped his shoulder into me to get my attention.

“Choir.” I said flatly.

“That’s good. Right?” Jason was confused. “I mean, you always feel better when you sing.”

“Yeah, but…” How could I make him and the rest of them understand? “When I sing, I get lost in the music. I feel it… inside. I can’t…” I rubbed my face. “It’s like my soul is dead right now.” I sighed. “Anyway, it’s hard to sing when my heart isn’t in it ‘cause it’s dead. Probably doesn’t make any sense.”

Jason rubbed my back. “No, I get it. I’m sorry.”

“That’s why I can’t go to rehearsal today. That and I don’t know what I’d do if I had to really face him. I know I can’t sing with him. I don’t know if I ever can.”

“You did good this morning when you told him off.” Patrick told me.

“Yeah?” Emily got excited. “What happened?”

“He made it like she was breaking up the fight to save him. Thanking her…” Patrick rolled his eyes then laughed. “She nearly bit his head off when she told him that she wasn’t doing it for him. It was great!”

The crew was proud of me. But it wasn’t something I thought about saying. I shrugged. “It just came out.”

Jason smiled. “Like I said. We protect each other first.”

Bobby hung his arm on my shoulder. “Don’t know why you’re surprised. You’ve done it before.”

“I can’t believe you put yourself between two guys who were in the middle of a fight.” Amazement washed over Cassie.

“Well, from what I hear, it wasn’t much of a fight. Patrick was pretty much wailing on him and Alan was just a punching bag.” Kraig’s eyes lit up.

I replayed the image in my mind. “Yeah.”

“But still, you got between them. You could’ve gotten hurt.” Cassie insisted.

Tony was unusually serious. “Yeah, you could have. It’s not smart to get between guys who are throwing punches. Even if it’s one-sided, Patrick could have hit you.”

I looked at Patrick. He was upset. “No, he wouldn’t have. That’s why I did it. I knew he wouldn’t. And it was the only way to get his attention.”

“You got my attention all right.” Patrick scoffed. “But they’re right. You shouldn’t have done it. I was so angry, I wasn’t thinking at all. I could have hit you. I could never forgive myself if I did.”

“Like I said. I knew you wouldn’t, otherwise I wouldn’t have done it.” I got up and went over to him. He shook his head like he was ashamed or something. Why didn’t he believe me? I was mad that he didn’t. I shoved him and screamed. “Don’t!”

It startled everyone. The room got quiet. I didn’t care. I felt the rage inside me build.

He looked at me confused. “Wha…what did I do?”

“He’s already ruined enough of my life. Don’t let him get between us and make you feel guilty for something you would never do.” I pushed him again. “Don’t let him do that! I can’t take it if he did that!”

“Liz, calm down.” He put his hands on my arms.

“No!” I shook. “He broke my heart. My mom’s gonna hate me again. He stole the music. And now he’s gotten you to run from me too. Soon, the rest of you guys will too.”

“I’m not going anywhere. None of us are.” Patrick hugged me. I heard the others agree with him. I buried my face into Patrick and held on tightly. I was losing it and filled with so much hate. Maybe if I held onto Patrick tight enough, I could pull myself together. I indistinctly heard some whispering behind me.

“She’s just stressed out because of finals, Mr. D.” Emily lied. Well, sort of lied. Finals were stressing me out, but that I could probably handle, if it was just that.

“He knows.” I mumbled into Patrick’s chest.

“What, Liz?” Cassie’s fingers gingerly stroked my arm.

“She said he knows.” Patrick said. “It’s been a bad couple days. She hasn’t really slept or eaten much. Then pile finals on top of that…”

“I’m sure it isn’t easy. But it’ll get better, Liz. Hang in there. Okay?” I’m sure that was Mr. D’s way of saying ‘Don’t try to kill yourself over this.’ He worried. That was nice.

Damn. It was time to go to choir. Stupid bell.

I nodded. “Yeah. Sure.” I grabbed my backpack and angrily threw it over my shoulder.

The crew was all talking at me at once trying to tell me to calm down and that everything was okay. They kept telling me they weren’t going to leave me and that Alan would pay for what he did. Emily and Cassie said they’d meet me right after sixth period and walk with me to the gym.

Patrick walked with me as we left Mr. D’s room. “I’m sorry, Liz. I didn’t mean to make it sound like…”

“Yeah, well it did.” I interrupted him.

He nodded. “Sorry.”

I sighed. “No, I’m sorry. I… like you said, I’m really tired and stressed out. I just got to somehow get through choir and history. I didn’t mean to go off on you like that.”

“It’s okay.” We got to where we had to go our separate ways to class. “I’ll see you afterschool. Maybe watching practice will help.”

“Yeah, at least he hasn’t ruined basketball for me.” I was really glad for that. Hopefully, it would be an escape for me.

* * *

Choir was awful. I forgot that Ms. Marshall wanted us to perform for our final and it was starting today because she wasn’t sure if she’d get through everyone during the actual time of the final. She was randomly calling students one by one to the back practice room. Please don’t call me. I never thought I’d wish that in here. I stressed out the entire period wondering if she was going to call me and if she did, what would I do. How could I tell her that I couldn’t sing? I wasn’t sick. I had a voice. I just didn’t have a soul. What was I supposed to say? Mrs. Marshall, sorry I can’t do the final, my boyfriend is an asshole.

I wish I could go back in time and that none of this happened. I wanted to pretend it didn’t. Then I could do my final in here, I could be in the show and everything would be fine. But that wasn’t possible. I hated my life right now. One thing I was thankful for right now… Class was over and Mrs. Marshall didn’t call on me today. Okay, maybe that’s two things.

* * *

I headed to my last class. It was hard to determine if I was running late for class because I wasn’t used to the people around me. We were going from third period to sixth. I figured since the crowd was pretty thick still, I had plenty of time. I wasn’t looking forward to a review of several hundred years of history crammed into less than an hour, so I walked slowly to class.

A familiar arm wrapped around my shoulders. “Hey, Lizzie.”

For a split second, it felt so good and it made me happy. Then I realized how much I hated him and what he did to me. I gritted through my teeth. “Let go.”

Alan ignored my demand. “Why didn’t you call me back last night?”

I tried to squirm out from under his arm but he wouldn’t let me. “Leave me alone.”

“No. What the hell is going on? Why did Patrick go all psycho on me?” We stopped near the library. “Don’t tell me he still pissed about me wanting what’s best for you and wanting you to quit the show?”

Un-freaking-believable. I was amazed at how clueless he was or how dumb he was trying to play that it rendered me speechless. I stood there frozen.

He stood right in front of me and acted as if he was innocent. Alan stroked my cheek and leaned in. “You did quit, right?”

I stiffened and clenched my teeth. “Technically, but…”

He didn’t let me finish. He started kissing me along my neck. I fought my body’s reaction to want to melt. “Good.” He made his way to my lips. “That’s my girl.”

I was not his girl. The heat of my rage and hate burned through me. I pulled back and slapped him. “I am not your girl.”

He rubbed his face. “What the hell did you do that for?”

I couldn’t believe he was going to keep lying to me. Okay, I guess I could. “Like you don’t know. I know you were kissing Grace.”

His face was red. Good, I hope it hurt. “Look, she kissed me. It only happened once…”

“Liar!” I shoved him and he took a couple steps back to get his balance. “I know.”

He came toward me and grabbed my hand. “Why don’t you calm down? Let’s go somewhere to talk.”

“I’m not going anywhere with you.” I struggled to free my hand, but he wouldn’t let go.

“Don’t do this. You’re ruining a good thing.” Was he threatening me? What the hell?

“Good thing? Seriously?” I yanked my hand back.

“Yeah, it’s not like Grace and I really do anything that we do. Look there’s stuff you don’t want to do. Fine. So, Grace and I will.” He actually thought he was justified in cheating on me.

“So, you hooking up with Grace was for my benefit.” I screamed. “Yeah, right.”

“Oh, come on. My mom likes you and I thought you liked her. You know your mom loves me.”

I couldn’t believe he was dragging our moms into this.

“The only reason why she likes you is because of me.” He was so sure of himself. Unfortunately, he was right.

That stung. It felt like I was being stabbed.

He stared right into me. “Do you really want to go back to her hating you?”

It was like he inserted the knife and twisted it. “What the hell do you care?” I glared at him.

“Oh, I care…” He acted sweetly and lightly touched my cheek. “So… Don’t worry about the show…”

“You son of a bitch. That’s what you care about.” All I saw was red. I pounded on his chest. “That’s what you want!”

He smirked and grabbed my wrists. “It wasn’t like you didn’t get anything out of it. You know you enjoyed it and wanted more.”

I was disgusted. Repulsed. “Bastard!” I kicked and fought to get him to let me go. “And don’t ever touch me again.”

“That won’t be a problem. I have Grace and she has the part she should have gotten to begin with.”

I whipped my arm back and he caught my wrist before I could slap him. He laughed. All my anger and hate erupted. I channeled it into his crotch with my knee. He fell to the ground, writhing in pain. “Go to hell.”

I looked up and saw that we had been surrounded by a bunch of gawking students. Great, I didn’t know I had an audience. They moved out of my way as I got the hell out of there. I ran to class and heard the bell ring. Crap. I’m late. I got to history out of breath and shaking.

Mr. Galang called out to me. “Ms. Mariposa, do you have a pass?”

I was halfway to my seat and shook my head. “No.”

“I need a pass.” He shooed me away.

I turned around and left. I didn’t want to be in class right now, but I’d be marked truant if I didn’t go back. Mr. Galang wouldn’t let me back in class without a pass. If I went to the attendance office to get a pass, they’d give me detention. The last thing I needed was that – sitting in silence, thinking about what I’d done. I did plenty of that already. I didn’t deserve detention. It wasn’t my fault I was late. Alan, my ex-boyfriend… the gift that keeps on giving. Giving me crap I don’t want.

I went to Mr. D’s room. He was in the middle of giving a review problem to his class. I walked to the front of the room and stood off to the side to wait for him to finish.

Mr. D walked over to me. “What’s up? Everything okay?”

“Could you write me pass to class?” I stared at the ground. “Mr. Galang won’t let me in without one.”

“Were you late for his class?” He grabbed a piece of paper and started writing.

“Yeah. Ran into Alan.” I mumbled.

Mr. D handed me the pass. “I heard. Are you alright?”

“Eh.” I took the pass. Wait. What? “What do you mean you heard?”

“Some of them…” He pointed to the class. “Were talking about it when they came in.”

I sighed nervously. “Great.”

“Don’t worry about it. I’m sure everyone will forget by the end of school.” He gave me a reassuring look. “Go to class.”

I nodded. I doubt they would, but I left anyway to go back to history class.

* * *

It wasn’t until most of the class had left that I realized that class was over. Emily and Cassie were at the door waiting for me. They had heard about what happened and hugged me tightly. We were just a few rooms away from Mr. Galang’s when Patrick and Bobby caught up to us.

Patrick walked right by my side. “Is it true?”

I wasn’t sure what he’d heard.

He didn’t wait for my answer. “Did he touch you? And you kicked him?”

“Yeah.”

“Yeah? Which one?” He was impatient.

“Both.”

Emily laughed. “I would have loved to see you kick him where it hurts.”

“Me too!” Cassie smiled.

“Good for you!” Bobby slapped my back.

I could tell Patrick was mad, but he was also proud. “That’s the Liz I know. The fighter.”

* * *

It was nice being at the guy’s basketball practice instead of rehearsal. There was a different rhythm to the afternoon. I never realized it before, but the gym had its own melody. The squeaking of the shoes, bouncing of the ball, the pounding of the guys’ feet as they ran back and forth. I missed being there and hanging out with Emily and Cassie on the bleachers. It was good to have different sounds filling my head right now.

There was so much noise in my head. I needed… I had to find a point to focus on, to bring order to the chaos. I started steadily rocking back and forth. I hummed mindlessly amidst the discordant sounds. The hum slowly turned into a whisper of a song.

Out of the corner of my eye, I could see Tony and Kraig enter the gym. I was glad that the whole crew was together, like before. They excitedly ran up to us on the bleachers.

“Where have you guys been? Practice is almost over.” Cassie asked.

“We were in the principal’s office.” Kraig answered.

“What?!” Emily exclaimed.

Cassie mirrored my confusion. “What did Mr. Costino want with you?”

“You guys didn’t hear?” Tony was ecstatic. We shook our heads. “I would have thought you would have heard by now.”

“Hear what?” Emily was dying to know the gossip.

“There was a big fight right outside the auditorium.” Tony smiled. He was so excited.

The principal had Tony and Kraig in his office. I was worried. “What the hell happened?”

“Oh, we just gave Joey a little backup.” Tony had that same sly grin on his face that Patrick had earlier.

My eyes widened. “Backup for what?”

“His fight with Alan,” Kraig chuckled.

11 Responses to "Wintering" Preview (Book #3)

  1. Annie says:

    Cant wait!!!!! When will it be released?

    • Shirley Miranda says:

      I’m thrilled you’re excited for it! I’m hoping it will be out in about a week. I’ll let you know once I have an official release date.

  2. Amanda says:

    Omg…. Love this series cant wait for the book to come out

  3. amy says:

    Oh wow this is great!!!! I can’t wait for the book to come out.

  4. Elizabeth J. says:

    Do we have a release date??? I may have to preorder. Where were guys like Patrick when I was in high school??!?

    • Shirley Miranda says:

      No official release date at the moment, but it’s close. =) The Patricks of the world are out there… they’re just hard to find. =)

  5. Christina C. says:

    That is so good! I am so excited for the book to come out. Will it automatically come out for the Kindle or will I have to wait longer?

  6. meridyth h says:

    Thanks so much for the sneak peak! Now i can get to sleep tonight! I can’t wait for the release of the rest!! I have really enjoyed The first two this week! I love the characters! Well done!

  7. Amy Littlejohn says:

    OMGSH I have been checking Amazon EVERY DAY waiting for Wintering to come out, and now after reading the first chapter, IM DYING. Can’t wait to read more 🙂

  8. Rachael says:

    Thanks for the preview! Impatiently waiting for the rest!

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