Links to the previous chapters are HERE
"Gian, you are not to be alone at school," Principal White said as we neared the entrance. Gian frowned, shaking his head. "No, don't argue. Have either Marisha or someone else walk with you. Someone you trust. If you don't agree, I'm sending you home."
"I agree, I agree."
"You be careful, too," he said, nodding to me.
I didn't argue. We might manage the next few hours without any more trouble now that everything had been sorted out. Principal White left us at the doors and Gian and I went to Study Hall, which appeared to be pretty much a free for all, with no more school work and only a few more classes to go through today. They hadn't heard about Gian's accident which saved him the embarrassment of talking about what had happened. There'd been so much other trouble that when we said we'd been with Mr. White, they didn't even question why.
Missy wasn't here. I wanted to get a whiff of her perfume.
I kept glancing at the time. My stomach began demanding food. Gian kept grinning.
Once class let out, we went to his locker and he pulled out several heated containers, handing some to me. We headed into a bright beautiful day and found a place by the fountain, the last time any of us would have lunch here. I felt a little sad until Gian began ladling out the food. We had a feast of manicotti, garlic bread, salad and chocolate cake. The others envied me.
I took Gian to his class and scurried over to mine. Gian promised not to leave until I came for him. I'm sure the promise galled in some ways, but I took the principal's warning seriously and I hoped he did too.
I felt as though I was flying, which came from a strange combination of joy and rage, the two melding into something I had trouble keeping under control. Everything would work out right. I hated how Gian had suffered -- and Akio, too. I suspected her father's suicide might be related to this mess as well. I wondered how much he knew about what had happened.
I wanted others to suffer for what they had done, though maybe not today. Today I wanted the world to stay calm and fun and for the last few hours at Deervale High to pass without any more dramatics.
I walked with Gian to our last class. Everyone else yelled as they ran through the halls but I didn't want to yell and run. I wanted peace. I wanted to return to a better time before all of this horror struck. Since we couldn't, I decided I'd be happy to push ahead to a different, better time instead. I was ready to leave the school and become an adult.
Modern American History went too quickly. A bell rang . . . and then High School ended. We would have prom on Sunday, and a week from now we'd return to hold graduation, but school was done.
I walked over to Gian and took his hand. We went out together. Most of the class had gathered at the fountain, taking pictures and laughing. I wished Akio could be here, cleared of everything we had thought she'd done, so she could laugh along with the rest of us.
I stopped in shock when I found Missy standing nearby with some of her friends. I could tell she had no idea the police wanted to find her. In fact, she seemed no different than the rest of us, and I doubted, suddenly, if she had been the witness and the person who had ruined two years of Akio's life. I doubted . . . right until she looked at me.
I had never seen such hatred. I almost pulled out the cell phone to call the cops to tell them to come and get her right now. Gian took my hand and I saw him glance towards Missy and scowl as well.
"Maybe we should leave," I whispered.
"No. We're safer here with everyone else around. And papa will be by soon. I don't think we want to be somewhere without a crowd."
"Oh. Good point." I shivered. "She doesn't know about what we found out and she's already angry at us. When she learns . . . I almost wish it wasn't her, Gian. I don't want her to have any more reasons to dislike us."
His hand tightened around mine and I tried to concentrate on how wonderful his fingers felt. I looked at the flowers around us and listened to the laughter. I didn't want to have the darkness press in on this moment, but anger hung around Missy like a cloud, and I could see all her friends infected as well.
"I think, under the circumstances, nothing we do either way would change how she feels. She's sick, Mar."
"Who's sick?" Mark asked, too loudly, from behind us. People turned our way including Missy. She crossed to us.
"Shit," I whispered.
"You talking about me?" Missy shoved me in the chest. I wanted to swing: I wanted to deck her and finish out the last of my High School day with one less problem.
"I asked you a question." She started to jab again.
I knocked the hand aside. Her eyes went wide --
"Go sit by the fountain and relax, Missy," Gian ordered. "Enjoy this day. There aren't going to be any more."
"Big fucking deal. Do you think I give a damn about what happens here?"
"No, I don't," Gian replied. She looked at him, her face coloring. "I don't think you give a damn about anyone but yourself. It doesn't matter to me. Go away."
She pulled back in shock, acting as though he had hit her after all. There was some disconnect between her brain and reality. She had latched onto Gian after the accident which just creeped me out all the more. Was part of her brain trying to make amends? Or did she fear discovery?
She leaned closer once more and stared into his face. "You don't know what life has been like for me here, how awful you've made things for me --"
"You did it to yourself, and you know you did." His expression remained calm, but I could see the rage deep in his eyes. "You know when things changed, don't you?"
Her breath caught and her face paled. I hadn't expected Gian to say those words, and they took even me by surprised. He hadn't said anything direct but I knew she thought about the night of the accident. I think she suspected he knew something. Or else her guilt made her paranoid. I stepped closer to Gian because she had the look of someone desperate, crazy, and willing to do anything, including push someone in a wheelchair down some stairs. Or maybe worse.
The others stared at us in frozen in silent shock, knowing they witnessed something odd and dangerous. I didn't think they'd put everything together yet, though. I don't know why Gian pushed. Maybe, like me, he'd felt the rage smoldering all day. Maybe he wanted to be able to face Missy with the truth before the police picked her up.
"You don't know what I've gone through." Her voice had gone a pitch higher. So like her to turn this around to being about her. "You and your friends --"
"We weren't the ones who lied."
There it was. She knew. I saw her eyes go wild and her hand lift, ready to hit Gian. I slapped her arm away and she looked at me as though she had forgotten I existed. I could see no sanity in her face. I wished Gian hadn't said anything. She could be more dangerous than he suspected.
"The police are here, Missy," Gian said. "They know what you did, and about Nadine."
She spun. I could see police walking our way and realized Gian had kept her attention so they could get close enough to grab her without a big deal. Relief washed over me knowing this nightmare had finally come to an end.
"Missy Murphy? Would you come with us --?"
"Get away from me!"
She screamed as one of them reached for her. She shoved her hand into her pocket, pulled something out and sprayed.
Pepper spray. She turned the canister into the faces of the cops and then the rest of us. I had ducked, but I still got enough to feel the sting and find myself blinded with tears and pain. Others shouted and I couldn't see anything except blurry movement as I went to my knees. I reached for Gian, hoping he'd been able to cover his face --
I couldn't seem to find the chair. I squinted and turned around and a dozen heartbeats later, I realized Gian wasn't somewhere close by.
"Gian!" I got to my feet and ran, stumbling against people, half tumbling into the fountain. I threw water in my face. "Gian!"
I heard a car. Missy's? She couldn't have gotten past everyone with Gian! They wouldn't let --
I ran towards the sound of the car. Something silver came at me, and someone grabbed me out of the way. The car came so close I could feel the brush of metal on my leg.
"Marisha!" John or George shouted. I could almost make out his face now. "Don't! She'll try to kill you!"
"Did she take Gian?"
"Yes! She kept spraying anyone who got too close!"
I could see the direction the car headed. I pulled away and started running.