The Hiding Game Ch. 09

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Homecoming week had taken over Glenn Valley High School to the point of obnoxiousness when I went to class on Monday morning. Crappy posters were hanging everywhere, all lockers had been decorated with green bows, and even the cafeteria would be serving green Gatorade with every meal so we could really get into the homecoming spirit. It all made me feel very much like punching someone. I had planned to pass a note to Seth during study hall, indicating that I wanted to see him, but when we casually passed each other in the hallway before first hour, it was him who pressed a piece of paper into my hands. I waited to unfold it until I had actually sat down in study hall and the bell had rung.

Come see me in the art room, his note said, without any further explanation or a signature. Seth hadn’t shown up in study hall, and Miss Larsen was mulling over the attendance sheet, possibly considering whether to mark him tardy or not. I gave her a smile when she noticed me standing in front of her, and asked her for a pass to the restroom.

“You know, you’ve been doing this rather a lot lately,” she told me, trying to be stern.

“I have a UTI,” I lied, trying to look like I was in a moderate amount of pain. “I can ask my doctor to write a note for you if you don’t believe me.”

“No, don’t bother,” Miss Larsen shook her head and smiled back at me. “I was just wondering.”

I nodded and went on my way. I was nervous as I walked the hallways, clenching my hands into fists repeatedly. I was about to ask the school’s football god to the homecoming dance. Crazy!

Standing in front of the art room, I took a deep breath before pushing open the door. Seth sat in there, on the windowsill, sketching something. He looked up and gave me a quick smile when I entered and let the door fall shut behind me.

“Good morning,” I greeted. He moved to one side of the windowsill to give me space to sit as well, and I climbed next to him. We were silent for a couple of minutes, and there was no sound except for the ticking of the clock and the slight scratching of Seth’s pencil.

“I like this spot,” I finally told him. “Do you always sit here?”

He nodded, continuing his sketch. “Yeah. When the sun is up, the light is fantastic.”

“I imagine.” I moved closer, causing him to give me a quick kiss on the cheek. “I didn’t know students were allowed to sit up here.”

He suddenly looked a bit embarrassed. “Well… technically they aren’t.”

I smiled when I got the picture. Mrs Walsh was making an exception for him, of course. As much as I tried, I couldn’t be annoyed with him for all the little favors everyone at school did for him. If he had been demanding better grades or used his popularity to get himself out of real trouble, then I might have changed my mind, but Seth earned his grades and was an overall “good guy”. I had been a participant in most of his illegal activities, which involved nothing but sneaking into the school after hours to have sex. A rather victimless crime, I found.

“Who is that?” I asked when I turned my attention to his drawing. The pencil sketch was of a woman with long, lightly colored hair, dark eyes and a beautiful, oval face. Seth was putting the finishing touches on her lips, and he took a deep breath before answering my question.

“My mom,” he said, putting the pencil down and studying the drawing for a moment. I put my head on his shoulder.

“She’s beautiful,” I told him.

“Is she?” Seth stared at the sketch as if he was unsure of that fact. “I don’t remember if this is how she looks.”

“Oh.” I couldn’t hide my surprise. “I didn’t know… what happened to her?”

“She left,” he replied, putting his sketch pad away. “When I was ten.”

I wasn’t sure what was the appropriate thing to say. It certainly wasn’t the right time to ask him for the circumstances, or to compare stories. My dad had left me and my mother as well, but I had only been four years old, so I didn’t remember him at all.

“I’m sorry,” I finally whispered and kissed his cheek. He gave me a single nod, acknowledging my words. I finally decided to change the topic.

“So, were you planning on going to the dance?” I asked, trying to sound casual. Seth looked down at his hands holding the pencil and nodded.

“Alone?” I tried to keep the nervousness out of my voice, but I wasn’t quite sure if I had managed. Now, he was definitely avoiding me, lowering his eyes and turning his head away.

“No,” I heard him say quietly. I felt suddenly very cold.

“Who are you going with?”

“Anita Ryan,” he replied, still very quietly.

“Did she ask you, or did you…?” I couldn’t keep my voice from shaking any longer. I was upset.

“I asked her,” he said.

“When?”

“Last Thursday.”

I looked up at the back bahis firmaları of his head disbelievingly.

“That’s the day we… that’s when it rained so badly!”

He nodded slowly.

“So after you fucked me under the bleachers and gave me a cold in the process, you had nothing better to do than to go back to school and ask some cheerleader out?”

He turned to look at me then, lips pressed together.

“I did promise you honesty, didn’t I?” he said, sounding bitter. “I knew I couldn’t go with you, so…”

“Why not? Why not, Seth, why do you insist on hurting me like that? The only good reason I can see you keeping this a secret is because you’re embarrassed of me. Or how many other girls are you sleeping with that can’t know about me?” I was yelling now, and my hands were shaking.

He grasped my wrists and forced me to look at him.

“Nobody!” he yelled. “I’m not sleeping with anyone else, Jenna. Please, damn it, I’m just trying to protect you!” He was clearly trying to salvage what he could, but I’d finally had enough. I pulled my hands away from him, forcing him to let go.

“I’m sick of your bullshit, Seth,” I told him, turned around and left the room.

***

“So it’s over,” I told Marisol later. She was sitting next to me, shading the outline of an apple she had just sketched. I was still too upset to draw any if the fruit that was stacked on the center table, instead stabbing my pencil at my paper. Marisol touched my arm comfortingly.

“For what it’s worth, he’s a complete ass,” she told me. “And I don’t think I ever want you to tell me his name, because I’d have to show up on his doorstep and punch him, or something of the sort.”

I smiled, cheering up when I imagined Marisol actually punching Seth.

“Well, looks like I won’t be going to the dance after all,” I sighed. “Just as well; it’s not like I actually own a decent dress.”

“Yes you do,” Marisol disagreed. “The one we bought last year. I was with you, remember?”

“Oh.” I did remember. “When we wanted to go to the homecoming dance, and then we chickened out? I figured this year would work out pretty much the same.”

“I think we should go this time,” Marisol said. “We’re seniors now, and we’ve never been. It’s really pretty sad.”

Just then, the intercom crackled and one of their office aides could be heard: “Attention students. We’ve tallied the votes, and this year’s nominees for Homecoming Queen are-“

There was a pause, during which I turned to Marisol.

“We voted?”

“During first hour,” she told me. “When you were busy breaking up.”

“Well damn,” I said. “I completely missed out on a chance to vote for myself. And for you!”

“So, that makes one vote for the both of us instead of two,” Marisol shrugged.

“We’re going to look downright unpopular!”

“I know!”

We grinned at each other, just as the office aide finally continued, probably just now having found the list of names she was going to read. “Alicia Miller, Katie Schoen, Anita Ryan, and Lindsay Anderson.”

I suddenly felt sick to my stomach. Anita Ryan?

“You’ve got to be kidding me.”

Marisol looked at me, moderately surprised by my reaction.

“What’s the deal, Jenna? Those are pretty much the names we’d expect.”

“The nominees for Homecoming King are-” There was another pause, during which Marisol and I gave each other looks.

“I’d just be too easy to have the list right in front of you while starting to talk,” she sighed. I gave her nothing more than a slight nod and a shaky smile. The fact that Seth and I had broken up – if you could even call it that – was so freshly in my mind, and it hurt me even more to have the fact thrown back in my face every few minutes.

“Seth Marshall, Jacob Gordon, Mike Stahl and Rick Cantelloni.”

There was slight applause throughout the art room, and I looked up at Mike Stahl, who was sitting on the opposite side of the room, on a table full of cross country and track people. He was a long distance runner, wiry and red-haired, and usually not too mean-spirited. He was letting his friends shake his hand, all the while complaining jokingly that he didn’t really have a chance against the likes of Seth. I turned to Marisol.

“I want to go home,” I told her sadly, and put my forehead on the table.

***

I didn’t end up leaving school before classes were over, much as I wanted to. Twice I passed Seth in the hallway, my heart slamming against my chest every time. He averted his eyes both times, looking just as unhappy as I felt. I tried to be glad that he wasn’t taking things any better than I was, but all I felt was a deep, choking sadness that wouldn’t pass.

Marisol stopped by my house in the late afternoon. She was carrying two large plastic bags, one of kaçak iddaa which she dropped onto my bed once we had gotten to my room.

“I come bearing gifts,” she announced. “It’s your mystery guy breakup kit.”

“My what?” I opened the bag, curious as to what she meant by this, and sighed.

“Mari, you’re too cute.” I pulled out the rainbow-colored care bears shirt she had gotten me and unfolded it. “Aw, Tenderheart Bear.”

“I know he’s your favorite,” Marisol smiled. “Well… I know you maybe love Cozyheart Penguin a bit more, but they didn’t have that shirt.”

The shirt was so corny, but at the same time, I found it incredibly touching that Marisol had gone through the trouble of getting it just to cheer me up. And this wasn’t all yet.

“Strapless, backless bra thingies. The hell?”

I pulled the form-fitting, cushiony adhesives out of their wrapping, and looked to Marisol, who grinned.

“For your dress,” she explained. “We are going to that dance, sister. I’m going to be stubborn about it this year. Especially since I’m having this feeling we may not be going to Friday’s game.”

“Fine.” I smiled slightly. “I don’t feel too good about it, but I won’t argue. I’m pretty sure my only alternative is sitting at home and moping while thinking of him at the dance with another girl.”

“That’s the spirit… well, it’s a start, anyway,” Marisol said, lightly punching my arm in encouragement. “Keep unpacking.”

I reached into the bag again and this time actually laughed out loud when I recognized a cheap romance novel, complete with kitschy cover. Next came a gigantic Hershey’s Kiss. The last item in the bag was a large bottle of tropical passionfruit body lotion. It was lovely.

“Thanks,” I whispered, really touched by Marisol’s thoughtfulness and support. I hugged her, and she squeezed me in return.

“I can’t let that stupid idiot guy get you down,” she told me. “And just so you know, I got myself a care bears t-shirt too. I know we’re not much for the dress up days crap, but we can wear this one for twin day.”

“I was planning to dress up as my own evil twin, actually.”

Marisol giggled at that.

“You should wear it underneath another shirt, at least, when you go to school. You know, so you have a care bear near when something happens. I daresay this week won’t be the most fun for you.”

***

Marisol’s prediction about homecoming week was definitely correct, not that it took much to figure that out. The next few days went past in a blur, and all I remembered was me trying to avoid Seth in study hall, me trying to avoid Seth in the hallways, me trying to avoid Seth in my thoughts. Study hall sucked especially badly, since he sat right in my line of vision. It was the same torture every day, me trying and failing miserably to concentrate on my homework. I ignored the stupid, theme-y dress-up days, refusing to attend school dressed in pj’s or a toga.

On Thursday, Marisol and I did decide to dress up as care-bear loving twins, and she gave me a supporting hug just before she sent me off to study hall. This day was different, however, because just after Miss Larsen had taken the attendance, Carolyn the friendly office aide entered the room and clapped her hands to get everyone’s attention.

“I need all seniors from this study hall in the commons please. Leave your belongings in the room and follow me.”

Wondering what the hell was going on now, I got up from my seat along with the other seniors in the room. Once we were all assembled in the commons, the segregation started – athletes in one corner, and everyone who wasn’t in the other. I rolled my eyes when Coach Bassett immediately waved any and all varsity letter winners over to where he was standing. I was left with a small group of non-athletes crowding around Carolyn, who affectionately patted my arm.

“How are you, Jenna?” she asked, and I shrugged, unsure of whether to lie.

Miserable, I wanted to tell her, but instead I said: “Fine. What’s this all about?”

“Well,” Carolyn said, “the varsity athletes are building the bonfire, like every year. They think they have to keep the rest of you busy too.”

I rolled my eyes once more. This was pretty much what I’d come to expect from Glenn Valley High School over the years. I frowned when the school’s janitor appeared next to Carolyn.

“So, what do we get to do? Polish their shoes?”

“Something like that,” Carolyn admitted, sounding a bit embarrassed. “Mr Smock here has requested help cleaning up some student desks. Most of you will be doing that. Jenna, and you two,” she pointed, “come with me.”

I knew she thought she was doing me a favor by saving me from having to scrape dried gum off desks, and I though so too. But when I saw who we’d be working with instead, kaçak bahis I about had a heart attack.

“Everyone, this is Christoph Marshall. He’ll need your help readying some football equipment for tomorrow’s game.”

The family resemblance between Seth and his father wasn’t the strongest I’d ever seen, but it was definitely there. Where Seth had deep green eyes, his father had expressive blue ones, and I knew that Seth’s facial structure had to resemble his mother’s for the most part. But they had the exact same color hair, the same strong jaw line, and the same massive, muscular football player build. I’d known that many of the football players’ parents had volunteered to help out for the homecoming game, but I hadn’t realized that Seth’s dad would be among them.

“Good morning,” Christoph said, sounding fairly cheerful. “Sorry we’re robbing you of your morning nap here, folks. I’ll need two of you to go and spray everything in the equipment closet next to the lunch room with this.” He pressed a bottle of disinfectant into the hands of the boy next to me. “Here’s the key as well. One of you should come with me and help me carry some stuff.”

“I’ll do it,” I volunteered before I could stop myself. It was an idiotic move, but the thought of maybe finding out if his dad knew why Seth acted the way he did was pretty tempting. Christoph simply smiled at me and waved for me to follow him, out of the school building and towards the weight room

“What’s your name?” he asked me while we were walking towards it.

“Jenna,” I replied. “It’s nice to meet you, Mr Marshall.”

“Christoph will do. Likewise,” he said, nodding in my direction. “Do you know my son?”

“Yeah, a little,” I told him, wondering to myself if there was anyone in the entire school who didn’t know Seth Marshall. “We had English together my freshman year, and we’re in the same study hall.”

“I see.” He was silent for a minute or two, while I struggled to find a way to work Seth’s behavior into the conversation. Everything I came up with sounded weird and creepy.

“You know yet what you’re going to do next year?” Christoph finally asked me, and I shook my head.

“Yeah, my son had the hardest time deciding on a school,” he said. “It’s between UNLV or Oregon State for him now.”

I hadn’t known that. Those were pretty good schools for him to play football at, and if he had been offered at scholarship from both of them, that was a huge accomplishment. I couldn’t help feeling happy for him, as much as I told myself that I didn’t care.

“That’s great,” I said sincerely, not daring to say any more. Chistoph smiled proudly.

“He’s a good kid, you know. And he’s got a lot of talent.”

“Oh, I know,” I agreed.

“Do you watch any games?”

“I do,” I nodded emphatically. He took out the key to the weight room when we had arrived in front of it, unlocking the door. Once inside, he pointed me in the direction of the pile of worn work-out clothes in a corner, while he went and gathered up something else in the other room. It was a pretty gross thing to carry an armful of worn, sweated through athlete’s clothing, but I could suffer through this if it maybe helped me to figure out Seth.

“So,” I continued when we were walking back to the school, “how has senior year been going for Seth?” This was as close as I was going to get to asking what the hell was wrong with the boy.

“Good, from what he’s been telling me,” Christoph answered. “It’s just football and schoolwork for him, nothing else. How it should be, if you’re trying to get a big scholarship. I’ve been on him to get his grades up a bit, and he’s done pretty well with that.”

“Great,” I said, chewing my lips while I considered that bit of information. Only football and schoolwork? Apparently Christoph wasn’t too well informed about his son’s extracurricular activities.

We passed a row of athletes carrying firewood on our way back to the school. Coach Bassett was leading them, his face red, and I heard him repeatedly yelling, “No firecrackers!”

I grinned involuntarily. Every year, the bonfire builders managed to hide a gazillion explosives within the mountain of firewood, one of the few athletic traditions I actually approved of. It was pretty fun to attend the lighting of the fire just to watch the administration get more and more pissed after each explosion.

My smile fell when Seth crossed our path, giving a nod to his dad and me a short look that was so dark and cold I almost took a step away from him. He apparently was less than happy to see me talk to Christoph. I wasn’t sure what his problem was, since his dad seemed to be altogether clueless about anything not to do with football and schoolwork.

I followed Christoph to the varsity locker rooms, where he had me dump the clothes and sort them into darks and whites. During that activity, I kept wondering whether I found this or scraping gum less desirable, and when the bell rung at the end of the hour, I still hadn’t made up my mind.

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