“Do you think I’d drop my walls like this for–for just anyone?!” I say, voice taut. I’m almost shouting now.
Axel throws up his hands in surrender.
“Ella, it’s not like that.” I narrow my eyes at him.
“No. You think you can get away with anything just because I was in love with you. That’s not happening anymore. You manipulated me, and I–I–I didn’t even care. I was naive, and clearly you weren’t. Go away. Please. Don’t make me second-guess myself.” I realize I’m crying. Tears are pouring down my face, scrubbing away the dirt and lipstick.
Axel reaches out, trying to swipe away the tears like he used to. Used to. Past tense. I smack his hand away.
“Come on, El. It was a joke.” I nearly laugh.
“A joke? You kissed my sister as a joke? Do you realize how dumb that sounds?” I stand up, jabbing a finger at the door.
“Leave. And never come back.”
It’s Thursday morning. Seventeen days until graduation. Seventeen days until I’ll finally be free. Axel and I have it all planned out.
Axel. My “friend” who’s right now seeming like a little more than a friend. Marjorie tells me I’m making a mistake. She says he’s a player and doesn’t care about my feelings more than my looks. Which are nonexistent, by the way, but Marjorie says I’m gorgeous.
I’m almost to school. I’ve got the route down pat–side step the pile of melting dog poo, jump over one, two, three puddles, take off my sunglasses, and awkwardly avoid everyone on the front steps of the school. I’m here.
My first class is math, and Ms. Rio reminds me I have, yet again, forgotten the weekly assignment, meaning I get an F until I can do some extra-credit. Which I won’t. I never do.
Sixth period lunch with Marjorie. She talks about the cute guys on the lacrosse team, how dumb Kelsey the cheerleader is, and her little brother Andy, who has apparently stopped wearing shoes.
Seventh period is English. Axel sits next to me and flirts for the whole class. I feel depressed. I don’t understand why.
After school, Axel and I have a date. Finally.
“Hey, Els.” He smiles and slides into the front seat of his Volvo SUV. I carefully flop into the passenger seat and we exit the parking lot. Thursday dates mean smoothies at Lemon Smoothies.
“Axel, do you ever wonder why we even have school? Or jobs? Or money? Why don’t we just live without all that but everyone’s required to have a job? I just don’t get it.” Axel laughs and laughs.
“Ella, Ella, Ella. I love when you say stuff like that.” I manage a smile, though I don’t really understand what’s so funny. I really do think that would be smarter.
I shrug and take another sip of my mango smoothie. I need therapy, maybe. Nothing makes me laugh anymore.