Copyright 2015 Camille Leone

This story is a work of fiction. All names, characters, places and incidents are invented by
the author or have been used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any similarity to
actual persons or events is purely coincidental.
All rights are reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in form or by any means
without the prior written consent of the author.

Dear God,
Why? Why do good people get hurt and dirty rotten sons of bitches end up without a scratch
on them? Look, you know who I’m talking about. That piece of shit named Mason, who walked
away from the same crash my brother was in. Exactly what lesson am I supposed to learn from
this? Huh? That really bad people get all the breaks in life?
And if you’re not the one who screwed up, can you tell your son Jesus that the wrong kid got
saved? Because Mason is just as evil as ever. So guess what?
Now it looks like I’ll have to kill the fucker myself.

The blow to my stomach is swift. It hurts like hell, and I’m not able to double over because
Mason Drury’s keeping me upright ‘cause he’s got a hold on my jacket. He pulls me to him,
pressing his body tightly against mine. I’m not sure what’s more revolting . . . that he’s got a
boner, or that he wants me to know about it. I’m trying to call up my breakfast just so I can vomit
all over him like I’d done before. I remind him with gurgling and gulping sounds, making him
think something’s coming out at any second.
I feel him recoil and back off a little. Just that small bit of space is all I need to squirm away.
When he grabs my elbow I’m ready for him, rushing into his chest with my head down, leading
with my right shoulder. I barrel into him with all my might. We both hit the fence that surrounds
the back parking lot of the school, and someone hollers about a fight. That gets the attention of
the bus monitors and also kids with their cell phones already out, which is what I wanted. It’s not
what Mason wanted though.

I get jerked up from the ground but there are too many eyes on us for him to punch me
again. Mr. Hear no evil, See no evil, Speak no evil Katz calls over to us, walking briskly in our
direction. Mason cuts his eyes back my way and there’s pure hatred in his stare. I watch as his
face morphs into someone so innocent, you could trust him to walk your grandpa across the
street. Only I know that Mason would be the first to push Grandpa into oncoming traffic.
As soon as Mr. Katz is in earshot Mason says, “I know, I know, Nat. It’s killing me too about
Cody. But suicide isn’t the answer. You need professional help.”
Mr. Katz to looks concerned – but for the wrong reason. “Nathalie, why didn’t you tell
someone? Your parents need to know how depressed you’ve been.”
I lunge at Mason, and by that time more kids are surrounding us. “Just keep this scumbag
away from me. He’s the real problem. Keep your hands to yourself, Mason!”
Mason’s been playing the sympathy card since he got out of the hospital. Even though he
was in the car with Cody, he walked away with hardly a scratch. He tries the “I’m so shocked”
routine and Mr. Katz buys it.
“Nathalie, you shouldn’t make statements like that,” Mr. Katz says. “This is a tragedy we all
feel.”
Oh wow. Way to shut someone down. Bring up the fact that everyone blames my brother for
the accident, even though he’s in a coma and can’t say shit about what really happened. Katz
orders me to go with him to the office and I smirk and say gladly, but not before I give Mason
my middle finger. A cell phone is right in my face, so I make the most of the camera time. “You
heard it here first. Mason Drury is a pervert. Hide your little sisters because his thing is underage
girls.”
Mr. Katz jerks me away from the camera. I don’t recognize the girl holding it. She nods at
me as if she’s in complete agreement, then she disappears into the crowd before “fraidy” Katz
can snatch the phone out of her hand.
I’m not sure if she’ll delete my video clip or if anyone believes me. The word “crazy” and
“ew, just look at her” and “she’s totally lost it” surfs through the crowd. Maybe their opinions
would’ve hurt before my whole life went to hell. Now I could care less. As I’m hauled through
the steel double doors of the side entrance, other kids scatter out of the way, like I’ve got bed
bugs or something. I see sneers on several overly glossed lips, exaggerated eye rolls and girls
laughing as they point at me. I don’t have a single friend at this school.

When I was simply Cody’s little sister, people looked at me with envy. Girls fell all over
themselves to be my friend. And why wouldn’t they? Cody’s tall and good looking. Even some
of the boys dreamed of a bromance with my brother.
I’ve never really told my parents about this, but I think Cody didn’t tell people he was biracial. They only found out after I started attending the same school and I told ‘em that he was
my brother.
“Oh, so you’re adopted?” and “So your dad is black, huh?” they’d ask me. Even after I’d tell
‘em that Cody and I have the same father, they still refused to believe it. Maybe it’s because
Cody’s got blue eyes and blonde hair.
Once we make it to the office Mr. Katz tells me to sit down and wait until the Vice-Principal
can see me. He also says that they’ll send a sub into my mom’s classroom so that she can join in
on the fun. Whoopee! There’s nothing like seeing her long suffering expression on a Monday
morning.
The bell rings to signal the start of class, so all the staff behind the counter ignore me as they
go into work mode. I’m thinking if nobody’s watching I can sneak out between the late comers
and the students bringing down attendance reports. I start sliding my chair over, ready to make a
break for it, when I feel eyeballs on me.
Tanner Joseph’s looking my way. I’m expecting him to curl his lip and complain to the staff
that I smell. Instead he just keeps staring, like he’s trying to recall who I am.
“Nathalie?” he asks.
“Hey, Tanner.” I turn my head away. Tanner’s the ‘new’ old guy in school. Technically he’s
not really new because he was here last year. And he was supposed to be in the car with my
brother, but for some reason he wasn’t. As much as it sucks to have people asking me how Cody
is doing, it must be just as bad to have them saying “Man, just think, you would’ve been in that
car!” After the accident he dropped out of school and left town. Now he’s back but he’s a junior
like me when he should be a senior.
I guess my appearance doesn’t freak him out because he leans forward with his elbows on
his knees and says, “How are you?” His tone and the way he’s acting all concerned and stuff
sounds so . . . so not like him. Reminds me of my psychiatrist. I don’t recall Tanner doing much
talking when he hung out with my brother. More like he did a lot of laughing. Cody was the
hunky blonde Adonis of the group, Justin Ybarra was the suave, handsome charmer, and Tanner

Joseph was like, he was a bit of both. There were other guys who hung around them, like Mason,
but the three princes everybody adored were my brother, Justin, and Tanner.
“Fine, can’t you tell?” I joke, in answer to his question about how I’m doing. “I just went on
a shopping spree and bought some new clothes.”
I expect him to laugh, but he doesn’t. I guess my scuffed up army boots and stained
oversized camouflage jacket have him wondering what’s going on. Oh, and my hair hasn’t been
combed through in days. I don’t have straight hair like Cody. Mine is a mix of textures, like a pot
scrubber and a cactus had a kid. Plus the colors range from dark brown to blonde, almost like a
patchwork quilt. Once Cody’s accident changed everything I shaved my head after years of
having my hair straightened. Now that it’s growing back, I just let it do whatever.
I told Cody about it when I’d visited the hospital. All his hair was gone too.
Tanner ignores my joke. Instead he asks me about Cody. “How’s he doing? I-I meant to
visit, but I wasn’t sure it would be okay.”
Now I roll my eyes. “It’s so comforting to know all his ‘friends’ are so concerned after the
fuckin’ fact.”
One of the office staff claps to get my attention. “Miss Childress, watch your mouth. We
don’t allow that kind of language in here.”
I give her a “ooh, I’m so scared” expression, so her voice rises and she continues with, “You
were such a sweet girl when you first came here. Are you meeting with any of our grief
counselors over Cody?”
“Lady, he’s not dead!” I scream. “He’s in a coma but he’s gonna wake up-” A hand squeezes
my shoulder. I know it’s my mom, because her nails dig into my skin. She does that all the time
whenever she wants me to calm down.
“Nat, what have you done this time?” Her voice is soft and full of concern. It cuts through
me worse than if she’d hauled off and smacked me.
“Nothing,” I mumble, slouching in my seat. The office has gone quiet, so I know everyone
wants to hear her chew me out. But she’s so serene that it only adds to her beauty. Cody took the
best features of both my parents, that’s what I overheard someone say who knew both my dad
and my mom. My dad is overseas, so I only get to talk to him when he calls us on a video chat. I
wish I could talk to him now. There’s an awkward silence in the room. Mom says hi to Tanner,
telling him how good it is to see him again.

I hide inside the collar of my coat, like a turtle popping back into its shell. This camo jacket
used to belong to my dad. Then Cody wore it. Now it’s mine.
Mom bends down to look me in the eyes. Hers are enormous and dark, almost black in color.
Her skin is deep brown, like tea cooling in a cup. “Come with me. We’ll go to the counseling
office and talk.”
“Mr. Katz brought me in here. They say I have to stay.” I motion toward the office staff just
staring us down. Stupid ass bitches.
“I need to take her somewhere quiet,” my mom says. All the women behind the counter nod
in unison.
Before I leave I tell Tanner goodbye.
“I-I’m gonna pray for you, Nat,” he says. “I’m gonna pray for Cody too.”
Because I’m shocked as hell I don’t say anything. My mom speaks up, telling him how
much “we” both appreciate his words. As she’s dragging me off I look back at Tanner. He’s got a
weird look on his face. His eyes are closed and he’s mumbling something. Then I realize what
he’s doing. He’s praying. Tanner Joseph is actually praying. And he’s doing it in public.
I’ve got a feeling Cody’s car accident changed a whole lotta people’s lives in this town. And
it’s not over yet.

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