Sorry for my lack of posting lately. I would give you my semi-decent excuse, but I think I’ll save that for another post (hint: it involves rants).
The earlier chapters are shown here.
After the lockdown drill finally ended I walked outside and got into my sister’s car. I used to hate Kathy just as much as Adrien, but she got so much more bearable once she left for college (and even more so when she got kicked out for underage drinking). She now spent her time working part-time as a waitress, taking classes at a community college somewhere nearby, and shared rent with her girlfriend in an apartment in the village. She was studying to be a school guidance counselor.
“So you got suspended, huh?” she asked as I got in. “Did you get caught selling meth?”
“Selling gum,” I said.
“That’s it?” I nodded. “Damn. That’s a pretty stupid reason to get suspended.”
“You know what’s even worse?” I asked, “Adrien, my own twin brother, tattle-taled on me.”
She raised her eyebrows and looked at me to make sure I wasn’t joking. “Wait, seriously?”
“Yeah. He took a picture of me selling gum in study hall and sent it to Mrs. Romero, and got me suspended. Total dick move.”
I knew it was him, but Kathy still seemed doubtful. “Well, are you sure he did it?”
“Who else could it be?” I said. “It was taken right where he’d be sitting. Besides, no one else on that table had a particular grudge against me.” Except possibly Fiona, I thought. She also wanted in on my gum business, but I turned her down. She didn’t exactly seem mad at me (I wasn’t sure if she was even capable of getting upset), but she sure wasn’t happy.
“Well, before you plan to, I don’t know, suffocate him in his sleep or something, you have to be completely sure he was the one who sent it,” Kathy liked to nag me.
“I know it was him,” I said, thinking about my plans to get back at him. The “supergluing-his-eyelids-shut” one was my favorite so far.
“Still, try to see things from his point of view,” she said. “Imagine being constantly over-shadowed by your arrogant twin brother.”
“I’m not arrogant,” I said, “I’m perfect.” I was kidding, by the way.
“That,” she said, shaking her finger at me, “is exactly why he doesn’t like you.”
Just then my phone started vibrating. I recognized the caller ID as the school’s number. “I didn’t know they called us that quickly,” I said, relieved. At the beginning of each year, the school gives each student a bunch of papers for their parents to sign. Whenever they asked for my parents’ phone numbers I simply wrote mine down instead. I looked at Kathy. “I need you to pretend to be mom.”
She gave me a questioning look. then shrugged. “Sure, why not?” She started pulling over towards an almost empty parking lot. “How should I act?”
I should have gone with the “Okay, I’ll talk to him about it,” option, but I was pissed off at Mrs. Romero. “Act angry at her. Make her sound stupid.” She nodded. I pressed the answer button and put the speaker on.
“Hello?” said Kathy, all polite and friendly.
“Hi, Mrs. Melonsky? I’m calling you about an incident with your son, at school today.”
Kathy gave me an excited face, answered, as any good parent should, “What happened?” and then, “Which one?” The answer surprised all of us.
“It’s Adrien, ma’am.”
Kathy looked at me, confused. She mouthed “What did Adrien do?” and I responded with “I don’t know.” Finally she answered back into the phone, “What happened to him?”
Mrs. Romero sighed, the same way a Doctor probably does right before giving a patient bad news. “Well, about twenty-five minutes ago, the school went into lockdown when a van was seen driving into school grounds. Three teenagers, presumably students here, but so far unidentified, were seen escaping out of the bathroom window, carrying a body bag into the back of the van.” So that’s what the lockdown was about. I had a feeling it might have something to do with James, but Mrs.Romero had left me completely in the dark over the whole situation. “Adrien left to go to the bathroom a couple minutes before this happened and hasn’t returned to class since.”
“And you’re just calling me now?”
“We had to make sure it was him.” Kathy was about to say something else when I abruptly ended the call and started texting James. “What are you doing?”
“I’m texting someone else,” I said. I didn’t want to call in case Mrs. Romero called back during our conversation and heard me on the voicemail.
“Who?” she asked. “What, do you know something about this?”
“Well…” I thought about lying and decided against it. She knew me too well. “Sorta, yeah.”
I texted James: Hey, did you happen to kidnap my twin brother by any chance?
Then I explained the whole situation to Kathy. I didn’t want to, but chances are I’d need her to drive me around a lot today, and she wouldn’t do it without an explanation.
“So basically,” I started off, “I sell a lot of gum.”
“I am aware of that.”
“As in, a lot of gum. Last year I made over ten thousand dollars just from selling.” She made the same shocked expression everyone made when I told them that.
“Ten thousand dollars? What’ve you been spending the money on?”
“More gum, mostly. I’ve been clearing out all the stores in this city as best I can, so people are forced to go to me for more gum. And then I hired distributors all over the other schools in this district, who I provide with gum for them to sell, and they get to keep thirty percent of what they gain. My first distributor was James, and well…” I hesitated, “He’s sort of kind of a little bit insane.”
“Why the hell would you hire him?”
“Hey now, he wasn’t crazy at the time,” I said, checking my phone again, mostly just to avoid her glare. “I guess something bad happened over the summer, because when I met with him, about a week before school started, he seemed completely different. I heard his uncle died, or his mom, or… the point is, someone died, and I guess it threw him over to the edge.
“Anyway, word got out that I made over ten thousand dollars last year.” (More like I bragged about it to everyone I knew, but I wasn’t going to tell her that.) “And James is clearly a bit upset that he only made four hundred (which is good enough if you ask me), so since the week before school started he’s been asking me to raise his commision. And every time I do he asks me again, and raises it a little higher. Now he wants an eighty percent commission. So I want to turn him down, but everytime I meet up with him he seems to get more and more violent. Last time he even brought friends to intimidate me.”
“And you continue to do business with him?”
“Hey, I took extra precautions. I set the meeting up in the school bathroom, so he wouldn’t be able to do the ol’ puncharoo without getting caught.”
“Wait, I thought he went to a different school?”
“Oh, he does. All you have to do is walk in, act like you belong, and spend all your time in the bathroom slash cafeteria. He seemed perfectly fine with the idea.”
The good mood she’d be in previously was all but gone now. “Why can’t you just behave like a normal kid and stop putting your brother through hell?”
“He deserves it,” I said, thinking of the photograph, and then of how the meeting would have played out: James, the crazy person with anger issues, meets up with Adrien, the crazy person with anger issues, who he thinks is me. “Knowing Adrien, he probably did something stupid to provoke him, like punching him in the face.”
My phone started vibrating again. I half expected it to be Mrs. Romero calling back, but no. This time it was James.
Meet me at Bedford Park at 12.*
*Bedford Park is located near Jame’s neighborhood, just so you know.