“Did I just walk into some bizarro universe?” I locked eyes on Alex. I was pretty good at figuring out expressions, and this wasn’t a joke. Alex wanted to kill me; as good an actor as he was, I didn’t think he could fake the hate in his eyes. “Seriously, could you at least tell me what’s going on?”
“I don’t have to tell you shit,” he said. “Now get the hell out, you’re not welcome.”
“Make me,” I turned and walked away before I snapped and respawned in the hallway. I was on probation right now, and I had no idea what the cops would say about my power use. Alex was smart enough to find some way to use it against me.
A couple of the Los Fieles members were near my locker, laughing. “Bad breakup with your boyfriend?”
“Gonna cry now?”
“Out of my way, shitstains,” I muttered and pushed past them. “We both know you don’t have the cojones to try anything.”
They said some stuff in Spanish that I couldn’t understand, but didn’t cause any more trouble. I put my homework on the Algebra teacher’s desk. “Sorry about it being late. I have the doctor’s note saying I was in a coma for a bit.”
I couldn’t quite read the look Mister Gross gave me, but he wasn’t happy to see me. “Aren’t you supposed to be immune to getting hurt?”
And now the teachers are calling me a liar. “I tried telling that to my hospital bill, but I still have to pay it. I’m also going to need last week’s assignments.”
He took the note and my homework. “See me after school and I’ll get it to you.”
“Thank you,” I said even though I only wanted to tell him to stop being an ass about doing his job. The rest of the class was awkward, with students spending more time staring at me than paying attention to the teacher. Not that they ever paid attention to the teacher, but usually they were just texting.
My power was nice enough to tell me that a spitball hit me, and a thought teleported it to fall on the ground next to me. I looked back to see who it was, but too many suspects and not enough evidence. I didn’t see the teacher having my back, either.
More dirty looks followed me to art. Ben had gotten there first and moved his chair over to another table. It was supposed to be two people to an art desk, but no one argued with him. I spent the art class very aware that I was alone, that even the teachers were against me. I waited for lunch, that’s when I could at least try to get some answers.
I didn’t even put away my books before rushing for the lunch room. I knew I wasn’t getting answers from Alex, and he’d get between me and Cassie. Then, if she wanted to talk to me she’d have answered my calls. Ben was too much of a coward to help, I knew that already. The next shot was David.
I found him in the hall with Amy. “Hey, David, I-”
He stepped up to me. “Stay the fuck away from my sister.” It was almost funny, seeing scrawny little David threaten me like that. I mean, I knew I wasn’t going to hurt him, but even without my powers he couldn’t hurt me.
“I just want to know what the hell’s going on!” I insisted. “How’s that too much to ask?”
Bear didn’t take long to step up behind David. “Didn’t Alex say something about us not wanting you here?”
Oh, fuck you, fuck all of you forever. I slammed the side of my fist into the wall hard enough to trigger a respawn, just so I wouldn’t be seen crying in front of them. “In case you haven’t noticed, you don’t have the power to make me go away, and neither does Alex.”
I knew I wasn’t getting anything out of them, so I walked off to find someone else. Then I thought of Kayla. I rushed to the senior lockers to find her.
Seniors have an earlier lunch than us, so she was getting her books. They didn’t seem pleased with me, either. I noted that fatass skinhead near his locker, smirking, but he could wait. “Kayla.”
She looked over at me, then glanced around. I didn’t give her a chance to talk, in case she told me to fuck off, too. “I have no idea what the fuck is going on around here and no one’s telling me a thing. I need answers.” I saw her waver, and pulled the last card I had. “Listen, you once said you owed me; I’m calling it in.”
Her face softened. “There’s a rumor that you killed Ferne?” Somehow, she phrased it as a question.
Oh, great, and I can’t even say it’s not true. I wasn’t sure what I was allowed to say, with all the coverup shit that went into it. I watched her expression change as she realized I wasn’t going to deny it. I had to say something. “She had powers. She tried to kill me, and almost succeeded.” Hopefully that would be explanation enough for her.
Kayla shook her head. “It gets worse. The rumor around school is you were taking advantage of your fame to have sex with girls. A… uh… few girls are even claiming they slept with you.”
“They’re lying bitches.” What the ever loving fuck.
“And,” Kayla hesitated. “And that’s why you killed Ferne. Either she shot you down, or she didn’t and got pregnant, or-”
“And people believe this bullshit?!” I shouted. I’d say the rest of the students stared at me, but they were doing that before the outburst. I dropped my voice. “No, just no. Cassie shot me down and I was fine with it, and I haven’t even tried asking anyone else.” I could even accept a lot of the school buying this shit. I didn’t even care. But-
“Zach Parker, please come to the office. Zach Parker, to the office.”
Kayla looked like she wanted to say something more. “Umm, you should go. I’ve got to get to class.”
God damn it. I walked to the principal’s office, stewing over the news. Whatever asshole started this had me over a damn barrel; I could say it was a lie, but part of it was true, and they had ‘witnesses’ who’d claim other parts were true. I was well and truly shit out of luck.
Principal Jenson’s door was open when I entered the office. “Please, come in,” he said from the doorway.
“Sir, if this is about those stupid rumors, they’re all lies. I haven’t touched any of those girls who say I did.”
“No, Zach, it’s not,” he said with a smile that I’d almost swear was genuine. “Even if those rumors are true, it’s not a crime. To my knowledge, no one’s come forward who claims you forced them, nor are any of them young enough to violate consent laws. Now, I can’t say I approve, but I understand. I know it may surprise you, but I was a young man myself once upon a time.”
No you stupid bastard. “So why am I here, then?”
“A couple of our Hispanic students claim you called them a racial slur, this morning,” he said with his practiced false understanding.
“They’re lying.” God damn it, of course they’d pick now of all times to fuck with me. “You’re not going to believe the damned gang members over me.”
“They have witnesses,” Jenson stated. “They claim you called them, and I quote, ‘shitskins’.”
And this day just got so much better alluva sudden. “Did. Not. Happen.”
Jensen sat there for a moment while I wondered what bullshit was swishing around between his ears. “Perhaps you should take the rest of the week off.”
What? “Are you suspending me?”
“Not at all,” he lied smoothly. “Clearly you’re under a great deal of stress, and the school environment is only making it worse. In addition, it’s close to Christmas break, so you can get a head start on vacation and perhaps things will be better when you return after the break”
You mean if I return. “And my classwork? I’ve already gotta catch up for the week I lost.”
He smiled and folded his hands together. “Your teachers will understand. I’m sure if I ask, they’ll be willing to mark your current grade, sans the week you lost, as your final grade. None of your missed assignments will be held against you.”
I almost laughed. If he made that offer last week, I might have hugged him. Now I just wanted to punch him until all the bullshit stopped. I thought back to some of the stuff Miss Spencer talked about. “And I can get that in writing?”
“I’ll need to talk to your teachers,” Jensen lied. “I think they’ll see why this is best for everyone involved.” I bet they will. “If you and your mother come in tomorrow, you can sign the papers, okay?”
“I’ll be here, but Mom’s lost enough time on my behalf. Do we absolutely need her?”
He frowned a little. “We can’t sign legal contracts with minors, Zach.”
I shrugged. “What legal contract. I just need a piece of paper saying I can sue you if you screw me.”
He tried to look concerned about me, but I didn’t buy it. “We’re not going to do that.”
“Then what’s the problem?” God, is this what it feels like to be a lawyer? No wonder Miss Spencer’s always so happy. “Because if you’re not going to agree to this, I’ll need to get back to class. So much work for me to do.”
“I’ll see what I can do.”
“Great!” I stood up. “Well, I’m going to pack up and head home. See you tomorrow.”
“Have a good afternoon.”
I left the office fuming mad. They won. They fucking won. They ruined my reputation and chased me out of the school, and there was not a damn thing I could do about it. Worse, the teachers were in on it, or at least didn’t care enough to stop it. I wanted to scream, I wanted to cry, I wanted Ferne alive so I could take my time killing her a second time. More than anything, I wanted to know why.
A couple of the black gangers were in the hall whispering shit and laughing at me. I said nothing, I didn’t trust myself not to really use a racial slur at this point. I hated them in that moment, really truly wanted to hurt them in a way I only felt about Kitten before. I may have lost, but I wasn’t going to do it without making them pay for it.
I didn’t go out the front door; I went for the stairs, to the roof. The same pusher as before was there, and for a moment I wondered if he even went to the school, or just came here for business. He didn’t try to stop me this time, which was good for him. There were more people since it was lunch break, and the smell of smoke, tobacco and other, hung in the frigid air.
It didn’t take me long to spot the target: that damn fatass skinhead who talked about my mother. I walked straight toward him while trying hard not to smile; I was going to enjoy this.
He saw me coming, and just crossed his arms and smirked. “You got something to s-”
I jacked him in the face before he finished the sentence. He stumbled back while I respawned. To his credit, he didn’t fall over.
None of his buddies jumped in to help, and the other gangs were probably just going to watch and laugh. I just kept walking past him to the edge of the building. “Get back here y-”
A thought, and I teleported him to me, only inches from the ledge. One shove, and he went over the side, naked and screaming in the late December cold. I only waited a moment before teleporting him back to the roof and touching him as he fell to the floor.
I wasn’t done with him. A thought teleported a couple cheap plastic pens from my pack to my hands. I dropped down on the bastard, stabbing one of the pens though his wrist. He started screaming again.
“Shut the fuck up or the next one goes into your useless fucking skull!” I dragged the tip along his face, leaving a blue mark behind. He trembled with some combination of fear and pain, and maybe cold.
I looked over at the other skinheads, a couple had pulled knives. I mentally dared them to try something, but they didn’t. “Listen up! This goes for every one of you worthless cockroaches. I am sick of your shit!”
Probably not the coolest threat in the world. “You wanted me pissed? Well, you’ve got it! I am done with your shit! I’ve killed once and I can do it again. I can take my time with it, too.” I twisted the pen stuck in this asshole’s hand while he tried desperately not to scream. “I can take you away to some basement and carve you like a fucking turkey!”
They didn’t know my range or time limits.
I yanked the pen out of fatass and stood, turning to look at all the gangers while my example scrambled away. His blood was all over my hand. Perfect. “And I don’t care which of you assholes do it, I’ll go after all of you, starting with your leaders and working my way down. I can torture you for information, or maybe go after your buddies that aren’t here.”
I took a breath, the emotion was getting to me and I’d respawn soon. I needed to finish up here. “But that’s not so bad, right? I can only cut you apart once, and then it’s over, is that what you’re thinking? Well, fuck you.”
The big guy appeared next to me one more time, his injuries gone. “I can do it all over again until I get bored. Trust me, it doesn’t take a lot to turn healing powers into the worst kinds of torture imaginable.” I ran my gaze over the crowd, letting my victim get away for the second time. “Oh, and if anyone says anything to the cops, I come for every last one of you.”
I turned and stepped off the edge of the building. I regretted not doing that a month ago.