“Mr. Caruthers.” Madame Lyon stepped out from behind her desk and addressed Madoc in English, crossing her arms over her chest. “I assume you have somewhere you need to be right now.”
Madoc placed one hand over his chest, while the other hand gestured to me. “Nowhere but by her side until the end of time,” he answered.
I cleared my throat as I took my seat. “Piss off,” I mouthed to him.
With a fake pout puckering his lips, Madoc backed out of the door and disappeared.
As soon as the door closed, I heard some cell phones ringers go off around me including some vibrating from other phones, including mine. Weird. Why were we all getting notifications at the same time?
“Mettez vos telephones off, s’il vous plaît!” Madame told us to turn our phones off. It was a school rule to keep them silenced during instructional time, but everyone carried theirs on them.
I quickly reached into my bag to completely silence mine as a few others were bold enough to actually check their notifications covertly.
As I went to lower my volume, I saw that it was a text from Jared. A little shot of heat surged through my chest, and I hid my phone under the desk so I could check the message.
When I opened up the video he’d sent, I nearly choked on my own air.
I couldn’t move. I couldn’t breathe. My hands shook as I watched a video on my phone of Jared and I ha**ng s*x Saturday night. I could tell it was Saturday night from the way my hair was styled for Homecoming.
My stomach rolled and putrid bile rose up to the back of my mouth. I think I would’ve vomited if not for my throat closing off the oxygen trying to get in.
Us. Having sex. We were recorded.
And there I was, perfectly visible and extremely na**d as I straddled Jared.
Oh, my God. I wanted to scream. This could not be real!
What was going on?
Snickers, snorts, and whispers popped up around me, and I jerked my head when the girl sitting next to me laughed out loud. She smirked, with her phone in her hand, and I could only stare in horror as she flashed me her screen. No, no, no. The same sordid video played on her phone.
As I looked around, my eyes wide, I knew others in the class were seeing the same video message.
This can’t be happening! I struggled to take in breath after breath as my brain worked to figure what the hell was going on. My eyes burned with tears that didn’t fall, and I felt like I was on another planet.
No, this is not real. It’s not…I shook my head, trying to wake up from this nightmare.
I couldn’t stop the tremors rocking through my fingers. I glanced back down to my phone and backed out of the video. The text accompanying the message read: “She was a great f**k. Who wants her next?”
My chest shook with dry sobs.
The message came from his phone. It was sent to everyone.
Madame called out, trying to get the class focused, “Écoutez, s’il vous plaît.”
I stood up shakily, pulled my bag over my head and hurried out of the room. The laughs and taunts behind me were like white noise. They were there. They were always f**king there. Fuck me for getting comfortable.
Why didn’t I listen to my instincts? I knew I couldn’t trust him. Why was I so weak?
I held my stomach, trying to hold back the cries, wails, and screams that I wanted to let loose. My lungs felt stretched from the deep, fast breaths I’d been taking.
That video was everywhere! And by tonight, there wouldn’t be one person in Shelburne Falls who hadn’t seen or heard of it.
Jared. My head was splitting trying to take in the betrayal of what he’d done. He’d been patient and clever and waited for his revenge. He’d ruined me. Not just in high school but forever. I’d always be looking over my shoulder now, wondering who would discover that video on some sordid website and when it would happen.
And I loved him. How could he do something like this? My heart felt like it was tearing in two.
Oh, God. My stomach hollowed out, and I couldn’t hold back the sobs anymore.
“Tate,” a voice panted.
I stopped and looked up, my tear-filled eyes meeting Madoc’s. He’d just come up the stairs, and I saw his phone in his hand.
“Tate, Jesus.” He reached for me.
“Stay away from me!” I hurled at him angrily. I should’ve known better. Madoc would be just like Jared. He’d fooled me, too. And I couldn’t trust either of them. I knew that now.
“Tate.” He reached for me again, slower, like he was approaching an animal.
I wanted him away from me. I couldn’t listen to any more painful insults or degrading innuendos. No—scratch that—I wouldn’t listen to any more.
“Just let me get you out of here, okay?” Madoc inched towards me.
“No!” I cried, the tears blurring my vision. I slapped his hands away and caught him in the face with my palm.
He quickly stepped in front of me and wrapped his arms around my body, holding me tight as I struggled and cried.
“Stop it.” He jerked me a couple of times. “Just calm down.” His voice was strong and sincere. “I’m not going to hurt you.”
And I wanted to believe him.
“They saw everything,” I sobbed, my chest heaving from the heavy breaths. “Why did he do that to me?”
“I don’t know. For once, I don’t know what the hell’s going on. We need to talk to him.”
Talking. I was f**king done with the talking. Nothing I tried to do with Jared this year helped me. Nothing made my life better. In the end, his bullying had ended any hopes I had for happiness.
Somehow I’d been wrong when I thought he really cared. When I thought he really loved me. I believed every stupid lie he spewed. Maybe he was never abused. He probably didn’t even have a brother.
He’d finally pushed me so far down that I only wanted to escape now. Escape into something other than hope, love, and all that other bullshit.
My anger and pain were molding into something else, something harder.
Whatever it was, it felt better than what I felt a minute ago.
I took a deep breath and sniffled. “Let me go. I’m going home.” My voice was hoarse but steady when I pulled away from Madoc.
He released me, and I walked away slowly.
“I don’t think you should drive,” Madoc called out behind me.
I just wiped my eyes and kept walking. Down the stairs, through the empty hallways, and out the front doors.
I’d parked next to Jared that morning, and when I saw his car I let out a hard laugh. Not from amusement but from the look on his face when he came outside to see what I’d done.
I grabbed the crowbar out of the back of my truck and ran the sharp-cornered end along the side of his car as I walked to the front of the vehicle. The shrill screeching of metal on metal sent a warming high right to my veins, and I smiled.
And brought the crowbar down dead center on his windshield.
The impact splintered the glass into a hundred different cracks. It sounded like a fat roll of bubble wrap popping all at once.
After that, I went crazy. I pounded dents into his hood, doors, and trunk. My hands hummed from the vibrations of the blows, but I didn’t stop. I couldn’t. With each wallop, I got higher and higher. Hitting him where it hurt made me feel safe. No one could really hurt me if I could hurt them, right?
This is how bullies are made. A voice in my head whispered. I shook it off.
I wasn’t becoming a bully, I told myself. A bully has power. I didn’t wield any power here.
I slammed the crowbar across his driver’s side window, shattering it. Bits of glass rained all over his seat.
Before I could get the crowbar raised to bust one of his quarter panel windows, I was grabbed from behind and turned away from the car.
“Tate, stop it!”
I twisted out of his grasp and whirled around to face him. He held up his hands as if to calm me, but I was already calm. Didn’t he see that? I was in control, and I didn’t care what any of these people thought.
Madoc stood behind Jared with his hands on his head, surveying the damage to Jared’s car. His eyes were so wide that I thought they would pop out of his head. The school’s windows were nearly spilling with bodies anxious to get a glimpse of the display.
“Tate…” Jared said timidly, eyeing the weapon in my hand.
“Stay away from me, or it’ll be more than your car getting busted up the next time,” I warned.
I didn’t know if it was my words or my flat tone that surprised him, but he hesitated.
He stared at me like I was someone he didn’t know.
I’d gotten out of there before anyone had a chance to torment me more. Once I jumped in my truck and sped off, my phone started lighting up with calls and texts. K.C. dialed every thirty seconds, and I got nothing from Jared.
Good. He knew that it was over. He’d gotten what he wanted. I was shamed and humiliated, and his job was done.
The texts, on the other hand, were from random people, most of whom I barely knew.
You look like a good f**k. Busy 2nite? One of the texts read, and I clenched the phone so hard that I heard it crack.
Do u do threesomes? This text came from Nate Dietrich, and I felt my stomach start to turn.
Everyone was laughing at me and hovering around that horrid video, no doubt launching it into cyberspace for anyone to see. Thinking of the dirty old men that would get off from seeing it, or all of the people at school who would look at me now and know exactly what I looked like without my clothes on made my skull ache and my eyes burn.
After two more disgusting messages, I steered the truck to the side of the road and opened the door to throw up. My gut wrenched, emptying everything I’d eaten today. Coughing, I hurled and spit up the last contents of my stomach and shut the door.
Snatching tissues out of the glove compartment, I wiped my face clean of tears and stared out the front windshield, not really wanting to go home.
Anyone who wanted to find me would start there. And I couldn’t see anyone right now. I really just wanted to jump on a goddamn plane and go to my dad.
I exhaled and dropped my aching head to the steering wheel, forcing in deep breaths.
Son of a bitch.
There was no way my dad wasn’t going to find out about this. The video was probably all over the place by now. The school and other parents would find out, and someone would call my him.
How could I have been so stupid?! Forgetting for a moment that it was ludicrous of me to believe Jared and trust him, but I had sex with him at a party, in someone else’s house!
That damn phone of his. He’d placed it on the dresser to play music, but he’d really set it to record us having sex. He probably thought he’d have to coax me into putting out at the Beckman house when I’d actually coerced him. Or so I thought.
Everything was a lie. The way he kept me so close this past week, touching me and holding me. Every time his lips brushed my neck as he hugged me, and all the times he kissed my hair when he thought I was asleep.
All. A. Fucking. Lie.
I wipe my nose and pulled off the side of the road. There was only one person I could be around right now. The only person who loved me and couldn’t look at me with pity or shame.
The narrow roads—almost like paths—of Concord Hill Cemetery were only wide enough for one lane. Thankfully, I was here on a Monday afternoon, so the whole place was empty and quiet. I breathed a tired sigh of relief when I picked out my mom’s grave from the road. There was no one around. I’d be alone, for at least a little while, to escape the world and what had happened this morning.
I climbed out of the car and pulled my fleece jacket over my head, shielding myself from the October chill. The cool breeze was pleasant on my face, though, which still burned from wiping tears. I didn’t have to see my face to know I was probably splotchy with puffy eyes.