The cold air outside helped a lot. In Massachusetts, the temperature was rarely warm in the winter, but this year it had been even colder than usual. In spite of that, I only wore the thin pseudo-leather jacket I’d had all fall. I didn’t do winter jackets. They were bulky and wrecked my usual look.
Today I wore skinny jeans and a long-sleeved sheer green top over a matching cami. I looked hot, even with the damn fake-fur-lined low-heeled black boots Mom had insisted I wear for walking to school in slush and ice. A winter coat would have spoiled the whole outfit, even if I wouldn’t have been shivering during the entire walk.
People yelled at me out the windows of a couple of passing cars as I walked to the donut shop. It was a little too cold to drive with car windows open, but the idiots didn’t seem to care. They were too busy trying to make me feel like dirt. I didn’t really register what any of them said. I didn’t have to hear it clearly to guess the basic idea anyway.
Holly and Evan were the only ones at the donut shop when I got there. That made it easier for me to walk in and sit at their table. The only other person who wouldn’t have worried me was Guillermo. Anyone else might make a comment or something, though mostly they didn’t do it with my friends around. Holly had already gotten into a fight with one of her best friends over something the other girl said about me. Now they didn’t even speak.
I went to the counter and ordered an extra-large coffee with vanilla creamer and a ton of sweetener. I hated the taste of coffee, but lately the caffeine was one of the few things that helped me get through a day of school without falling asleep in class, and for some reason it helped my stomach. It was bad enough that my guidance counselor and the nurse dragged me down to their offices once or twice a week to “check in” with me. I didn’t want to have a reason to go there.
When I walked over to Holly and Evan’s booth, Holly moved over to make room for me beside her. I sat down and pasted a smile on my face. “Everyone ready for another fascinating day?”
“Second day back from vacation, and I’m already ready for vacation,” Evan said. He was wearing a neon pink blouse and matching nail polish. Over break, he’d dyed his hair royal blue. “But hey, at least people figured out that bullying’s not legal. Now they’re being more subtle about it. You should report what they’re saying to you, Chastaine.”
“No point,” I muttered. “I deserve what I get, remember? And most of it isn’t being said at school anyway. There’s some there, but the worst is online, and Lawrence and the rest of the staff can’t do anything about that. I don’t feel like wasting more time in the office.”
“It isn’t right.” Holly narrowed her eyes. “You didn’t do anything wrong. Neither did Maryellen. Nobody should be making you feel like crap for having a crime committed against you. Some people just shouldn’t exist.”
“It is what it is.” I’d heard Holly’s rant about fairness plenty of times, and I wasn’t up for another repetition. I agreed with her, but saying it over and over didn’t change the fact that when a girl was raped, a lot of people blamed her for letting it happen instead of blaming the guy for being a criminal.
“Yeah, and what it is, is complete crap.” Holly took a sip from her iced something-or-other.
“He said he’s guilty. They’re going to sentence him,” I said. “Maybe now people will find something else to be asses about and leave me and Maryellen alone.”
“In this school?” Evan raised his eyebrows. “Dream on, girl. Not to make you feel worse, but they still go off on me because of Jim getting arrested and those other guys getting kicked off the football team right before playoffs. And the football player thing didn’t even have anything to do with me directly. It was because of what they said to Moe.”
“Can we please change the subject?” My coffee was too hot to drink, but I drank some anyway. The pain in my tongue and the roof of my mouth yanked me out of the whine-spiral I was heading toward. “Homework. Who did it, and is there a chance in hell I can finish any of it before I have to hand it in?”