The full version of this story is available in PDF format on my Free Reads page.
As I closed my locker, Bryce walked over and leaned against the one beside me. “Turow says shit like that all the time.”
“He shouldn’t,” I said. I looked at him and quickly looked away, my face warm.
“Yeah, well, he’s a teacher. He can do what he wants.” Bryce fidgeted with the combination lock on the locker he was leaning on. “Look, there’s stuff going on you don’t know about, okay? Don’t mess with Turow. Let it roll off.”
“What are you talking about?” This time I managed to look at him without being flustered. “Don’t mess with him? Isn’t that the same thing you told me about Pete and them?”
He hesitated. Bryce almost never hesitated. He didn’t care what he said or what other people thought, which was one of the reasons he was one of my most frequent detention slip customers.
I leaned against my locker. Lunch was only half an hour, and time was ticking, but whatever Bryce had to say was more important. He wouldn’t talk to me in the cafeteria; he kept his distance at school, mostly. I’d used to think it was because he was embarrassed to be seen with me, but he’d explained over the summer that it was the opposite. He didn’t want people to look down on me for hanging out with him.
So to find out what he was talking about, I would have to miss part of my lunch break. Not that it mattered. My third-block teacher would give me a pass to the library, and I would sneak into the caf and eat during study hall lunch. I did that half the time anyway.
Bryce still wasn’t saying anything, and now I was getting fidgety. I tried not to show it. He liked me better when I was confident and patient.
“Turow was on something this morning.” He said it so quietly I barely heard.
I replayed the words in my mind to make sure I had them right. When I spoke, I lowered my voice even more than Bryce had. “Drugs?”
He gave me a short, sharp nod. “I know what he takes.”
I decided to pretend I hadn’t heard that one. I knew Bryce used and sold drugs. He’d told me his reasons, and they weren’t something I was willing to judge him about. He didn’t use anything stronger than pot around me, and mostly he didn’t even use that. And he’d told everyone he knew that if anyone tried to sell me drugs, they would have to face him. Something no one really wanted to do.
I was guessing if Bryce knew what Turow took, he had something to do with Turow getting his supply. That wasn’t something I wanted to know about.
One thing I knew for sure, though. Sometimes Bryce smoked on weekday mornings, but he saved the stronger stuff for weekends and occasional nights when he just couldn’t handle things. He never came to school on anything strong.
Turow was a teacher, and if he was coming to school on drugs, someone had to do something about it.
I touched my tongue to my too-dry lips. “He called you guys names.”
“Because he doesn’t want to admit he’s one of us.” He twisted his mouth into something between a smirk and a grimace. “He’s getting worse. I don’t know where he’s getting the stuff anymore, and some days you can tell he isn’t even here. Last week he grabbed Kendall’s arm so hard he left bruises.”