Bully Page 25

I’d always known, deep down, that Jared’s problem with me was tied to that summer.

The truth was I resented Katherine. And even though I’d never met Jared’s father, I resented him, too. I would take responsibility if I’d hurt Jared, but I had no idea what I could’ve done to deserve his hatred. His parents, on the other hand, had clearly abandoned him.

It was one the tip of my tongue to ask her about his scars, but I knew she wouldn’t tell me.

Instead, I asked, “Does he see his father?”

She glanced at me, and I instantly felt like I’d invaded Top Secret territory. “No,” was all she said.

***

The next day in first period, I sat taking notes about linear approximations when I got a text from K.C. Covertly sliding the screen to bring up the message, I completely lost my attention to Calculus.

Jared texted me last night.

I swallowed hard. Before I had a chance to respond, she’d sent another message.

He wanted to make sure I was o.k. See? He’s not all bad.

What the hell did he want with her? K.C. was pretty. Definitely. She was also my best friend, and that had to factor in somewhere with him.

I texted back: He’s up to something!

Maybe, maybe not. was her response.

That was the last I heard from K.C. until lunch. Physics, P.E. and French passed in a blur as I fought the urge to text her again.

“Hey,” she said as we met in line to grab our lunch.

“Hey, so talk to me.”

“Well, like I said, he texted to see how I was doing, and we exchanged a few more texts after that. I just thought it was nice that he checked up on me.”

She thought he was nice? We exited the line after paying and made our way outside, while I tried to sift through how the hell K.C. went from agreeing with that Jared was a dick to thinking he was “nice.”

“Well?” I was trying hard to seem like I didn’t care. “What could you two have talked about after that?”

“Oh, not much…other than you cut the electricity to his house?!” She laughed it off, but I could tell she wasn’t as amused as I thought she’d be. Maybe she was pissed that I didn’t tell her myself.

“Um, yeah.” I was fighting for words. Jared complained about me to her? “The ass**le’s party was too loud, so I shut it down.” I cleared my throat. It didn’t sound as good saying it out loud.

We took our seats at a picnic table and began digging into our food. She stayed quiet, but I caught her glancing at me between bites.

“What?” I asked, annoyed. “You told me to play the game, remember?”

“Did you at least ask him to turn it down first?”

“No.” It came out more like a squeaky question. “Well, yes. On a different occasion I did.” It started to feel like I was on trial.

“And how’d that turn out?” She paused, water bottle in hand.

“Well, he wasn’t cooperating. So…I incited a panic and yelled ‘cops.’ People kind of left after that.” I tipped my head back and gulped some water to keep from meeting her eyes. I was still proud of that night, but K.C. clearly didn’t find it funny.

Instead, she rolled her eyes. “Tate, when I said to play his game I meant—”

“You meant play his game!” I blurted out. “You didn’t say to kill him with kindness. You’re defending him?” What had happened here? It was like I was in the Twilight Zone, and K.C. had been body-snatched.

“All I’m saying is that Jared has talked to you.” Her voice was calm, the opposite of mine. “That’s it. You look like the bully now. You’ve broken up two of his parties, broken his friend’s nose, and kneed that same friend in the balls.”

Great! Fucking great! He’s coming off looking like the victim?

“He’s not telling the whole story,” I sputtered. “He broke into the girls’ locker room while I was getting dressed.”

K.C. frowned, looking confused. “He just talked to you, though, right? He didn’t touch you?” Thankfully, she showed some concern for me, finally. I was ready to rip her head off.

“Well, he didn’t attack me, of course,” I snapped defensively. For a moment, I considered telling her that he’d broken into my house, but that would just send her back to him with questions that he’d answer…his way.

“He has issues,” K.C. conceded, “but I told you, there’s something going on between you two that you haven’t dealt with. I’m just not convinced that he’s such a bad guy after all.”

Sweat beaded my brow, and I took a deep breath. “K.C., Jared is bad news. You know this. I mean really, he’s a jerk, and I don’t want you making excuses for him. He’s not worth it.”

She shrugged, probably not wanting to argue but definitely not wanting to give in. The discussion was over, and for the first time, I wanted to throttle my best friend. My only friend, pretty much.

“So, have you talked to Liam at all since Saturday night?” I changed the subject before ripping a bite out of my chicken sandwich.

“No, and I couldn’t care less,” she snipped and concentrated on her phone.

“Uh huh,” I muttered, not convinced. Liam and K.C. had been together longer than any other couple I knew. I had a difficult time wrapping my head around the idea that K.C. didn’t care about his betrayal and losing him. If I were her, I probably wouldn’t be able to forgive him, but that didn’t mean it wouldn’t hurt.

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