The Impossible Vastness Of Us
Hayley knew, though.
She rubbed my arm and turned me away from Gretchen. “You’ve had a long day, sweetie. Why don’t you make it an early night?”
I nodded, and turned around to find Eloise standing near the door to the kitchen, watching me.
The last thing I needed was her witnessing my weirdness.
CHAPTER 4 (#u2e87e5b1-71a8-500a-9100-9d4ffe3b0fe2)
HE WAS EATING DOUGHNUTS. They were fresh and I could smell them. Carla had brought them.
My stomach clenched painfully.
“I can’t keep eating ’em if she’s gonna look at me like a feral cat,” Carla complained. “Just fucking give her some food, Ed.”
“Little bitch isn’t getting a thing until I say so. She knows what she did.” He glared at me.
I didn’t know what I did.
I just knew it didn’t take much.
“Well, she’s freaking me out.” Carla shoved the box of doughnuts away.
“Fine.” He stood up abruptly and grabbed up the box of baked goods. Eyes on me the whole time, he strode across the trailer to the trash can, stood on the pedal that opened the lid and one by one he dropped the doughnuts inside.
I hated him.
I tightened my arms around my knees and shoved my face against my skin to block him out.
“I gotta go to work.”
“She ain’t going to school?”
“Nah. They’d feed her.”
“She could just eat while you’re gone.”
“I emptied every inch of the place.” He laughed, a wheezy sound I hated just as much as I hated him.
“You’re sick,” she said.
If she thought so, why didn’t she do something?
I felt a stinging burn against my head, the crack of his hand echoing in my ears. I winced and looked up at him.
He sneered down at me. “Don’t move a muscle or I’ll know.”
I nodded, so relieved when they were gone.
I waited a while before I dragged my tired body over to the trash can. I pulled the doughnuts out, wiping cigarette ash and some spicy sauce off a few of them before I shoveled them into my mouth. And I cried the whole time.
* * *
By the end of second period the next day, I knew bulimic had been added to my roster of fictional problems after a girl I didn’t know leaned across her desk as I finished an energy bar before Calculus 2 started.
“Bryce Jefferson told me all about you so I need advanced warning if you’re going to puke that up, because I don’t handle vomit very well.” She wrinkled her nose at me.
I blinked at her, confused for a few seconds, before it dawned on me that Eloise had told Bryce about my kitchen escapade the night before, and Bryce had clearly told everyone else. It was bad enough the whole thing had given me nightmares I didn’t want—I didn’t need this crap.
“I’m not bulimic. But it’s good to know you are so concerned about a possibly life-threatening disorder affecting a classmate. You should win an award or something for most compassionate student. No, wait. I mean the most self-centered dipshit award.”
Her mouth fell open in outrage and she shifted her entire desk away from mine with a screech across the hardwood floors.
That probably wasn’t the best way for me to go about making new friends.
As it turned out I shouldn’t have worried too much about alienating one of my classmates. By Day Four at Tobias Rochester, Eloise’s friends had done that for me. I had not made one friend and the only classmate that spoke to me at all was Gabe, and that was to flirt with me briefly in the cafeteria. It didn’t make me feel too special, however, because it became clear as he mingled with other students that Gabe flirted with a lot of girls.
I’d also exhausted all avenues regarding extracurricular activities. It turned out every team was full—the debate team, yearbook, events committee... I’d even asked about the math and science teams but apparently only geniuses were allowed and I was rejected because of my mere above-average brain. As for athletics, they had no soccer team so I was already at a disadvantage. I couldn’t play basketball or lacrosse, I couldn’t fence or dance (at least not at the level Tobias Rochester dance team could), I couldn’t sail, row or play rugby or squash. The only thing I was good at was running but the cross-country team was full, which left me with just plain old running. Not exactly a team sport but I signed up, anyway.
Tobias Rochester was a small and competitive school. If you didn’t get your foot in the door of a team the first day of the school year it was doubtful you ever would.
The only other extracurricular options left to me were the Tobias Rochester Chronicle and whatever Eloise could rustle me up in the theater. I still hadn’t heard from Franklin and every time I walked into Modern European History I braced myself for disappointment.
On Friday I did just that as I strode into his class.
“India,” Franklin said as soon as I stepped into the room, “see me after class, please.”
I sucked in a breath and nodded, not wanting to get my hopes up. Part of me wished he would just tell me before class started so I knew one way or the other if my school career was destined for the toilet.
Settled at my seat, I kept my head down, not looking up when the seat next to me scraped back. My breathing came a little faster and I hated that Finn made me apprehensive. I refused to acknowledge his presence just as he’d ignored my existence for the last four days. We’d passed one another in the hall and, like Eloise, he’d looked anywhere but at me. He never spoke to me in the three classes we shared and he’d also ignored me last night when Eloise had her crew over to hang out by the pool and eat pizza. Thankfully Theo and Hayley hadn’t been home so I wasn’t forced to go out and sit with them all.
I did think it was weird that last night was the first time I’d seen Finn at the house since my first day there. Plus, he’d never been there alone. It bugged me that I was so curious about his and Eloise’s relationship. Why should I care?
I cut Finn a look out of the corner of my eye. He was wearing a dark blue Henley with black jeans. All week I’d seen him in shirts that were rolled up at the sleeves and suit pants. Today his top was more fitted, highlighting his broad shoulders and slim waist. I’d discovered Finn was the only junior on the school’s very distinguished rowing crew, and to top that he was the stroke, the most important position in the boat. The stroke was the rower closest to the stern and set the stroke rate and rhythm for the rest of his crew to follow. In a way he was kind of like their leader, their captain.
Turning my focus on Franklin, I listened as he went over what we’d been discussing all week. Toward the end of class he sat on his desk and grinned at us in a way that made me wary. That was a grin that wanted something from us.
“So,” he said, “I’m going to split you into pairs and each team is going to give the class a verbal and visual presentation in two weeks.”
The tops of my ears got hot at Franklin’s announcement. This could either be a very good thing for me, or a very bad thing. If Franklin teamed me up with someone I didn’t know, then there was a chance I could straighten out a few of those rumors and actually make a friend. But if Franklin teamed me up with—
“Finn and India, you’ll be partners. Your topic is the Lisbon earthquake of 1755 and its social and political effects on the rest of the world.”
I was screwed.
I tensed as Franklin smiled at us, completely unaware of the major disaster he was creating.