Made you up, p.6

Made You Up, page 6

 

Made You Up
 



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  “You all right, Richter?” Mr. Gunthrie dropped his book and walked over to clap Miles on the back. Miles spit one more time and put a hand on Mr. Gunthrie’s shoulder.

  “Yeah, I’m fine. Must have eaten something bad at breakfast.” Miles wiped his mouth on his sleeve. “If I could go to the restroom . . . clean up . . .”

  “Of course.” Mr. Gunthrie gave Miles another sharp slap on the back. “Take as much time as you need. I’m sure you’ve got this all memorized anyway, haven’t you?”

  Miles gave him a wry smile and left.

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  ..................................................................

  Chapter Eleven

  Tucker found me after lunch and reassured me that Miles had been running a job.

  “A job? What, like the mafia?”

  “Sort of.” Tucker leaned back against the wall outside the cafeteria. “People pay him to do things. Usually revenge stuff. You know, steal someone’s homework and paste it on the ceiling. Put dead fish in someone’s glove compartment. Stuff like that.”

  “So what was he doing this morning?” I asked.

  Tucker shrugged. “You usually don’t know until it happens. One time he hid a hundred water balloons full of grape juice into Leslie Stapleford’s locker. When she opened it, there were toothpicks or something that popped all the balloons and set off a chain reaction. Ruined everything she had.”

  Note to self: Stand to side of locker door when opening.

  “Did you hear the announcement today?” Tucker asked, changing the subject.

  “Oh, about McCoy hiring someone to fit the scoreboard with gold plating?”

  “Yeah. I told you he was crazy, right? I heard he does some weird stuff at home, too.” He said it with a conspiratorial stage whisper. “Like mowing his lawn, and trimming his peonies.”

  “Peonies?” I balked. “God, he really is a freak.”

  Tucker laughed. The cafeteria doors beside him swung open and Celia Hendricks walked out with Britney Carver and Stacey Burns. I stepped back, slightly behind Tucker.

  “What’s funny, Beaumont?” she asked with a sneer, as if he’d been laughing at her.

  “None of your business, Celia.” All humor left Tucker’s face. “Don’t you have a Makeup Addicts Anonymous meeting to get to?”

  “Don’t you have a Cult in a Closet to get to?” she shot back. “Oh, wait, I forgot, you have no friends. My bad.”

  The tips of Tucker’s ears turned pink and he glared at her, but didn’t say anything else.

  “God, Beaumont, you’re so weird. Maybe if you acted like a normal person once in a while—”

  “I’m his friend,” I cut in. “And I think he’s perfectly normal.”

  Celia looked me up and down, her eyes lingering on my hair. And then she huffed and stomped away without another word.

  “You didn’t have to say that,” Tucker mumbled.

  “Yeah, I did,” I replied.

  There is no force in high school more powerful than one person’s blunt disagreement.

  The rest of the day passed without a hitch. Miles did not acknowledge my presence. I did not acknowledge his.

  Miles’s locker was still glued shut when I left for the gym.

  The entire west side of the school was for extracurriculars. The gym, pool, and auditorium were all connected by hallways that ran behind them and a large rotunda at their center, linked to the rest of the school by a main hall. Lining the rotunda were huge glass cases filled with trophies the school had won over the years: athletics, music competitions, color guard. There were pictures in black and white of the winning teams alongside some of them.

  The picture that caught my attention didn’t have a trophy and wasn’t from a competition. It was a framed newspaper clipping. Someone had taken a bright red marker to the girl in the picture, partially obscuring her face, but I could tell she was pretty, blonde, and wearing an old East Shoal cheerleader’s uniform. She stood next to the scoreboard, which looked brand-new.

  Beneath the picture was the caption: “Scarlet Fletcher, captain of the East Shoal cheerleading squad, helps introduce ‘Scarlet’s Scoreboard,’ a commemoration of the charity and goodwill her father, Randall Fletcher, has shown toward the school.”

  The picture was framed in gold and set up on a tiny dais like it was sacred.

  I spotted Miles on the other side of the rotunda. He was standing outside the concession stand, talking to a kid I’d never seen before. As I watched, they made a quick exchange. Miles gave the kid something thin and gold and got a handful of cash in return.

  “What was that?” I asked, stomping up to Miles as soon as the kid had walked away. “It looked very much like Mr. Gunthrie’s fountain pen. I’m not ruling out the possibility that you’re an accomplished pickpocket.”

  Miles raised his eyebrow as if I was a very amusing puppy.

  “So that’s the only reason you drank that awful stuff this morning? So you could steal a teacher’s pen? For money?”

  Miles shoved his hands into his pockets. “Are you done now?”

  “Lemme see.” I tapped my chin. “Yep, all done. Asshat.”

  I started to walk away.

  “Alex. Wait.”

  I turned back. It was the first time he’d said my name. He held a hand out. “Well played,” he said.

  Oh no. No, we were not doing this. I hadn’t spent ten minutes gluing his locker shut just to admit it to him. So I arched my own eyebrow and said, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

  The corners of his lips twisted up right before I walked away.

  * * *

  It can’t be him. It’s not him, is it?

  Cannot predict now

  I know I’ve asked you a dozen times already, but . . . just . . . yes or no?

  Concentrate and ask again

  You only have twice as many positive answers as negative and noncommittal—how does this keep happening? It’s not him, is it?

  Better not tell you now

  You said that one before. I’m going to ask one more time: He’s a jerk, so he can’t be Blue Eyes, right?

  Reply hazy try again

  Reply hazy my ass.

  * * *

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  ..................................................................

  Chapter Twelve

  The transition from Hillpark to East Shoal was significantly easier than I’d expected. It was the same basic high school garbage wrapped in a slightly different skin. The only difference was that everything at East Shoal was completely insane.

  There were several things I learned that first month.

  One: The scoreboard really was a school legend, and Mr. McCoy really was dearly, dearly in love with it. McCoy had his own brand of crazy: he continually reminded everyone of “Scoreboard Day,” when we were all supposed to bring in an offering of flowers or lightbulbs for the scoreboard, as if the scoreboard was a wrathful Mayan deity that would kill us if we disobeyed. Somehow, he managed to cover this insanity with a mask of good test scores and even better student conduct. It seemed like, as far as the parents and teachers were concerned, he was a perfect principal.

  Two: There was a cult entirely dedicated to discussing preexisting conspiracy theories and determining if they were true. They met in a janitors’ closet.

  Three: The cult was run by Tucker Beaumont.

  Four: Mr. Gunthrie, the most in-your-face teacher in the school (because of the yelling, see), was nicknamed “The General” because of his penchant for going on war-related rants and wielding his treasured golden fountain pen as a weapon. He’d done two tours in Vietnam, and he had a long family history of war-related deaths, which rendered me almost incapable of not calling him Lieutenant Dan.

  Five: Twenty years ago, as the senior prank, someone had let the biology teacher’s pet py
thon loose. It had escaped behind the ceiling tiles, never to be seen again.

  Six: Everyone—and when I say everyone, I mean absolutely, positively everyone, from the librarians to the students to the staff to the oldest, crustiest janitor—was piss-down-their-legs scared of Miles Richter.

  Of all the crazy things I heard about East Shoal, that was the only thing I couldn’t believe.

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  ..................................................................

  Chapter Thirteen

  I must have set a record. With the backpack-pushing and the assignment-ripping and all the general childishness that occurred between me and Miles, it only took him a month to banish me to work in the concession stand with Theo.

  I was fine with this because a) I liked Theo better than him, b) I was less paranoid when he wasn’t around, and c) I didn’t have to sit in a gym full of people I didn’t know. It didn’t take me long to get used to Theo—she was so good at getting things done that I figured if she wanted to hurt me, she would’ve done it by now.

  I thought I had a lot of homework, but Theo’s back should’ve broken from the size of her bag.

  “Seven AP classes, plus I’m retaking the SATs and ACTs because I know I got cheated last time,” she said. “I keep all the other stuff I need over here in this pocket, and then my first-aid kit is in this pocket. . . .”

  “Why do you have a first-aid kit?” I asked.

  “When you have two brothers like mine, someone’s always getting hurt.” She shoved her physics book onto the counter and opened it up.

  “I don’t know how you do that,” I said. “Do you go home after club and do homework all night?”

  She shrugged. “Not most of the time. I work graveyard shifts at the Showtime. You wouldn’t believe how late people come in to watch movies.” She paused, then said with a sigh, “My parents make me.”

  “Why?”

  She shrugged again. “That’s just the way it is. They’ve always been like that. They wanted me to take all these AP classes, too.”

  “They made you join the club, too?”

  Theo grinned. “No. None of us voluntarily joined the club. Except Jetta. Evan and Ian and I got put here when we snuck laxatives into the chili at lunch two years ago.” She laughed. “So worth it.”

  I snorted. Theo was okay. “How’d everyone else get here?”

  “They found Art with some weed in the bathroom, but he’s the best wrestler we’ve got, so instead of suspending him from the team, they sent him here.”

  “I didn’t peg Art as a pot smoker.”

  “That’s because he’s not,” said Theo. “He was trying to stop some of his teammates from smoking, and they let him take the fall.”

  “Does anyone actually get thrown out of this school, or are they all given to Miles for safekeeping?”

  “I’ve only ever heard of people getting expelled for violent stuff, like fighting or bringing a weapon to school.”

  “What about Jetta?”

  Theo stared at her physics textbook and sighed. “I think Jetta’s here because of Boss.”

  “What do you mean?”

  “Jetta came here last year, and she didn’t speak English very well. Boss was the only one who bothered to talk to her.”

  “What about Miles?” I asked quickly, before Theo could turn to her homework. “What’d he do to get here?”

  “Hmm?” Theo looked up. “Oh, Boss? I’m not sure. Me and Evan and Ian were the first people to join the club, but Boss has always been here. He used to do all this stuff by himself.”

  She suddenly stopped talking. Miles was at the big concession stand window. He dropped a worn black notebook on the counter and leaned in.

  “How’s the game?” Theo asked.

  “Imagine a thousand starving orphans on a sinking ship in the middle of a shark-infested sea, and you’re getting close to how much I don’t want to be there,” Miles said dryly. “I get to hear Clifford talk about how nice Ria’s ass is every fifteen seconds. They’ve been dating since seventh grade; you’d think he’d be over it by now.”

  “Mm-hmm.”

  “I’m bored,” said Miles.

  “What’s new?” asked Theo.

  “Let’s play Five Questions.”

  Theo snapped her book shut. “Why, may I ask? It’s not going to make you any less bored. And we might as well start calling it Three Questions, because it doesn’t take you five anymore.”

  “What’s Five Questions?” I asked.

  “It’s like Twenty Questions, only not twenty because Boss can do it in five,” said Theo. “I’ve got someone. Go.”

  “Are you a president?” asked Miles.

  “Yes.”

  “Do your first and last names start with the same letter?”

  “Yes.”

  “You’re Ronald Reagan.”

  “See?” Theo threw her hands in the air. “Two! Two questions!”

  I didn’t mind not having many responsibilities with the club, as long as Miles kept reporting that I was doing what I was supposed to. It gave me more time to write out long-winded college essays about how my illness shaped me. My nightly mountains of homework made the Tower of Babel look like a toothpick, and it was only worsened by my late shifts at Finnegan’s. Finnegan’s wasn’t too bad on its own, but as soon as Miles waltzed in, I had the sudden urge to both hide and put soap in his food.

  Every time I walked past Miles, I got the distinct feeling that he’d stick his leg out and trip me. He didn’t, of course, because that wouldn’t be subtle at all and not Miles Richter’s style. Nail files, hedge trimmers, and homemade flamethrowers were more his speed.

  I gave him his burger and retreated behind the counter, where I asked the Magic 8 Ball, Will Miles Richter try to kill me?

  Most likely, it replied.

  By late September, we had regular labs every week. I glanced at him a few times as he made tables in his lab notebook. He was bent over, his glasses slipping down his nose, his left hand curled around so he could write properly. His sleeves were rolled up, and I noticed for the first time that his forearms were freckled, too. Were they warm? They seemed like they’d be warm. Blue Eyes’s hand had been warm. There were four inches between my hand and his arm—four inches and I’d know for sure.

  Don’t do it, idiot. Don’t you dare do it.

  I stifled the urge and asked a question instead.

  “So. Can you really speak another language?”

  I hadn’t heard that weird accent from him since the first day, but I knew he and Jetta had been speaking German.

  “Where’d you hear that?” Miles didn’t look up.

  “Is it true?”

  “Maybe. Depends on who told you.”

  “I figured it out myself,” I said. “It wasn’t hard. Is it German?”

  Miles slapped his pen on his lab notebook. “Why are you here, exactly?”

  “Because they put me in this class. Don’t look at me like it’s my fault.”

  “Why are you here? In this school? In the club?” His voice was too low for our neighbors across the table to hear. “What did you do?”

  “What did you do?” I shot back. “Because it must have been pretty weird if they made you run the whole club by yourself, without a teacher supervising.”

  “Nothing,” he said.

  “Seriously, though.”

  “Seriously, nothing. Now why don’t you answer my question, since you seem so intent on getting information out of me, but refuse to give any up yourself.”

  I looked at the calcium carbonate. “I spray-painted the gym floor.”

  “Spray-painted what?”

  “The gym floor, I just said.”

  “What did you spray paint on the gym floor?” The w in “what” came out hard like a v.

  “Words.”

  I smiled brightly at the pissy expression on his face. Screwing with him was so unexplai
nably worth it. I turned back to the Bunsen burner and listened to him seethe.

  Game nights in the concession stand hit occasional lulls, so Theo and I entertained ourselves making plastic cup pyramids and talking about English class.

  I found out that Theo wrote for the school newspaper, which was why I always saw her talking to Claude Gunthrie, the editor. (“I know he looks kind of constipated all the time”—she knocked over a stack of cups in her excitement—“but you haven’t seen his biceps. My God, they’re beautiful.”)

  “I feel like I should constantly be watching my back in that class, you know?” I said. “I’ve had a weird feeling about Ria since school started.” Ria sat near me in class, but all I’d ever seen her do was bat her eyelashes at Cliff and giggle like some kind of perky, latte-fueled automaton.

  “Ria’s really not all that bad,” said Theo. “You’d think she would be. She’s popular, but she doesn’t go picking for food among us lower beings. Unless she’s looking for a distraction from Cliff.”

  “Why would she need a distraction from Cliff?”

  “They’ve been dating since seventh grade, but the real drama didn’t start till freshman year. Biggest. Shitstorm. Ever. She always accuses him of cheating; he’s always treating her like a trophy. So, like, once a year, she’ll go find a guy to sleep with to make Cliff jealous. Cliff finds the guy, beats the crap out of him, and then Cliff and Ria make up and the whole cycle starts again.” Theo reached over her head to place a cup on top of the pyramid. “No, the people you really want to watch out for are Celia and the Siamese Twins.”

  Celia’s two cronies, Britney and Stacey, might as well have been joined at the hip. I could tell Theo’s brothers apart better than I could those two. I reached around and added to the pyramid’s edge. “Celia gives Miles these looks in English class. Like she wants to eat him.”

  Theo shivered. “Don’t mention that while Boss is around. She’s obsessed with him. Has been since freshman year, since she started getting weird. Never came out and said it, but you can tell.”

 
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