Out of the three of them, Holly was the only one I wanted to talk to at a time like this. She was the one I wanted to talk to most of the time. And now I really needed to talk to her. I didn’t want to bother her, because she was in most of my classes, so I knew how much homework she had. But I had to talk to someone, so I pressed her name.
“Hey, Chastaine.” Her warm voice pushed away some of the dark cloud over me. “Do you think the teachers get paid extra if they give us so much homework we don’t have time to sleep?”
“Who knows?” I tried to laugh and failed. I usually enjoyed Holly’s sense of humor, but tonight, nothing struck me as funny.
“Are you okay?” Paper rustled. “I guess you aren’t calling about the chemistry assignment.”
“Not really.” I hesitated. I spent way too much time whining to Holly.
“Tell me,” Holly said.
I took a deep breath and let it all out without giving myself time for second thoughts. “Jim pled guilty. He admitted what he did to me and Maryellen. The court’s going to sentence him. I don’t know when, and I don’t know what, but he’s going to pay. But people aren’t going to believe it even if he’s the one saying it. They’re still going to say Maryellen and I lied.” The words poured out of my mouth.
“Whoa. Slow down.” Again I heard rustling at her end of the phone. “He said he did it?”
“Yeah.” Tears started running down my cheeks, and this time I didn’t manage to hold back the sobs. I had no clue why I was crying. Jim pleading guilty was good news.
I was ruining my makeup and going back on my promise to myself to not let the jerks win. But now that I had someone listening to me, I couldn’t stop.
Holly didn’t say anything until I managed to calm down. “They’re going to send him to jail or something?”
“I don’t know yet. Whoever talked to my dad said Jim hasn’t been sentenced yet.” I didn’t even know for sure who Dad had talked to. The prosecutor, I guessed.
I started crying harder again, and my nose got all stuffed up, which annoyed the hell out of me since I didn’t have any tissues. I grabbed a shirt off the floor and held that against my nose. Holly’s breathing on the other end of the phone became a rope I held onto for a few minutes. Proof that someone was there for me.
Finally, she said, “Relief? Is that why you’re crying?”
“I don’t know.” I sniffled and tried to convince myself I was through with the tears. “Probably. Plus you’re listening to me. Most people don’t.”
“I’m not most people.” She paused. “All the crap you and Maryellen deal with. Maybe it’ll be over now. People will find out he pled guilty, and they’ll stop saying you’re lying and all the other stuff. And it’s about damn time. It isn’t right that you and Maryellen are getting the consequences for what Jim did.”
“Do you want me to come over?” she asked.
“Um.” I had to think about that one. Having her sitting beside me would make things a little easier, but it was getting late, at least by my parents’ standards. I wasn’t supposed to have company or leave the house after eight on school nights, and if I was already out, I had to be home before ten. Those had always been my rules, even before all the shit hit the fan. For some stupid reason, my parents thought being strict would keep me from doing things they considered wrong.
They’d pretty much figured out otherwise once the whole thing about Jim and my sex life came out, but they hadn’t let up on the rules. And I didn’t dare to ask if they would consider it.
“I can’t,” I said finally. “My parents.”