Jo stared at us, her black eyes wide.
- What's wrong with you, people? - she said in a shaky voice. - Look at yourselves! - she ran her fingers through her hair. - This is beyond sick…
We were quiet.
- He deserved it, - I finally said softly and Jo glared at me.
- Who do you think you are to decide who deserves what? - she demanded and I just shrugged.
- It' s not like he died or anything… - one of the twins said and I immediately pushed the impossibly bright sickening image out of my head.
- That's right, - Jo nodded. - It makes everything all right then… I wonder whose brilliant idea it was… - she narrowed her eyes. - Let me guess. Riley, are you the mastermind behind this?
He shrugged indifferently and Jo nodded.
- Thought so, - she said.
She turned away from us as if merely looking at our faces was making her nauseous.
- I just don't understand why… - she said softly. - I mean, I know what he did but to play that horrible prank on him… - she shuddered. - Get out. All of you. I don't want to see you again. Thank God it's my last day here… This is just a freak show…
- I -
- I need six hundred dollars, - she said and looked at me.
- Right. Let me go get my piggy bank… Becka, are you for real?
- Caitlin, I don't know what to do, - she whispered and her lips quivered.
- What happened?
She sniffed and looked away from me. I patiently waited. Finally she sniffed again and muttered:
- I am pregnant…
I just stared at her. Pregnant? She can't be… She doesn't even have a boyfriend, she never goes out with anyone, she usually stays at home and reads her countless books… The only time I was able to drag her out was three months ago, to Sam's birthday party… Suddenly I felt as if somebody hit me on the head with something heavy.
- Oh God, Becka… - I muttered. - Sam's party?
- Who is the father? - I asked numbly, the word "father" almost scratching my tongue.
- Ben, - she whispered and my head started to hurt.
- Ben? - I repeated and Becka started to cry.
I hugged her and tried to calm down myself. Ben?! I closed my eyes and concentrated on Becka. Finally she stopped crying and I pulled away from her.
- What do you need six hundred bucks for? - I asked her with a frown.
She looked at me as if I just asked her if it's normal for a dog to have four legs. I blinked and understanding hit me.
- Oh Becka, - I moaned. - Abortion? Really?!
- What do you expect me to do? - she sounded defensive. - My father will kill me if he finds out and my mother will like tell me that now I have to suffer eternal damnation…
She was right. Her parents were so strict that it wasn't funny. Her dad wouldn't even let her wear jeans and her mom believed that if Becka as much as looked at some boy with a smile she would burn in hell. Her mother was insanely religious. But abortion? I never was one of those anti-abortion freaks that scream it's a murder every chance they get but the very idea that Becka, little quiet pure Becka is going to have an abortion was making me shudder.
- Caitlin, - she said softly. - You are the only person I can talk to about this.
- Does Ben even know? - I frowned and Becka immediately shook her head.
- You need to tell him, - I said and suddenly she looked so helpless that I almost started crying myself.
- I can't, - she whispered. - The day after the party, after we… You know… He wouldn't even look at me at school. Wouldn't even say hi or anything…
- Was he drunk? Maybe he doesn't remember….
- Whatever, - she snorted. - He wasn't drunk or high. He had maybe one beer.
- Oh God… - I sighed. - Okay, let me talk to my Dad, maybe he'll give me the money.
- You gonna tell him? - she almost shrieked, her face suddenly paper-white.
- No, - I said patiently. - I'll come up with some story.
- Could you maybe ask Meg? - she asked in a small voice and I grimaced.
- No, - I said shortly and Becka just nodded.
- Well, - she said and looked at her hands. - I better go home. My mom will make me say ten Hail Marys if I am late, - she grimaced.
- Okay, - I nodded thinking that her mother would be a perfect candidate for an asylum some day.
She left and I just sat by my kitchen table, staring into my tea cup. Finally I pushed the cup away and got up. I really didn't want to do this but I knew that I had to.
… I rang the bell and the door swung open almost immediately.
- Hey Caitlin! - Ben's twelve year old sister beamed at me.
- Hey Jessi, - I smiled at her. - Is Ben home?
- Yeah, - she said and half-turned her head. - Ben!!! - she yelled so loudly that I jumped. - Ben!!!
- Jesus, shut up! - he said walking up to the door. - What the hell is wrong with you? Idiot…
- You are an idiot, - Jessi grimaced and ran away.
- Hey McGowan, - he said when he saw me. - What's up?
- Need to talk, - I said tightly and he grinned.
- Okay, let's talk. You wanna do it in my bedroom? - and he winked at me.
- Outside, - I muttered experiencing strongest desire to punch him in the face.
- Fine, - he laughed.
We walked outside and he closed the door.
- So what's up? - he said again looking at me with his baby blues that used to make my heart skip beats a while ago.
- It's Becka, - I said trying to push away the image of his head on the pillow next to mine.
- What about her? - he asked indifferently and I cringed.
- When was the last time you talked to her? - I asked in a hostile voice.
- I don't remember, - he shrugged.
- Ben, - I sighed deeply, trying to keep my temper under control. - Have you slept with her?
He stared at me and his eyes twinkled.
- McGowan, - he said softly. - Are you jealous?… Don't be, she didn't mean anything to me, was just a fling…
- So you have, - I muttered.
- Don't be jea…
- I am not jealous, you imbecile! - I hissed at him. - How many times do I have to repeat that I don't care about you?!
- Oh really, - he murmured and leaned closer to me.
Suddenly I had an impossibly bright flashback of his mouth on my neck, his hands all over my body and I squeezed my eyes shut. He laughed softly.
- You don't care, right…
I opened my eyes and looked at his face that was really close to mine now.
- She is pregnant, - I said dully and he just froze.
Slowly he pulled away from me, his baby blues started to fill with panic.
- So? - he said finally. - What do I have to do with it?
- Oh, I don't know, - I said sarcastically. - You already did the most important part…
- It's probably not even mine, - he shrugged. - I mean, I don't know who else she slept with after me.
I looked at him in disbelief.
- Are you for real? - I said finally. - It's Becka we are talking about! You were her only guy!
- It only happened once, - he snapped at me and I almost laughed.
- Yes, Ben, - I nodded. - Usually it only has to happen once…
He shook his head in frustration.
- What does she want? - he asked shortly.
- She needs six hundred dollars, - I said and he stared at me blankly. - For an abortion.
- Six hundred dollars, - he repeated. - Is that all?
- Well, that's easy then! - his eyelid was twitching. - Why wouldn't she say that she needs two grand? I mean, six hundred dollars is just ridiculously low price!..
- What are you talking about? - I frowned.
- McGowan, - he looked at me. - Are you insane? You seriously think I am going to give her money? What else should I do? Freaking marry her?!
- Ben… - I said quietly. - Can you at least help her out? Can you give her three hundred?
- No, McGowan, - he said with irritation. - I won't! It's not even my problem! If she was stupid enough to freaking get pregnant then how is that I have to give her money?!
I wanted to hit him so badly right now, my hands were shaking.
- I mean, she should've thought about it before she let me in her pants, - he continued. - It's not like I raped her or anything… If she decided to spread her legs…
I punched him so hard that my entire arm went numb for a second. He staggered backwards, his eyes huge with disbelief and pain.
- What the hell… - he muttered and carefully touched his mouth. - McGowan, are you nuts?… I am freaking bleeding!
- Too bad I didn't knock your teeth out, - I hissed and walked away from him.
… I was shaking so bad that I had to sit down on the bench. I probably looked like I was having a seizure or something. I sat on the bench, my hands shoved in my pockets, my teeth locked so hard that my jaw was hurting.
- Bastard, - I muttered. - I can't believe I ever thought I was in love with him… Damn bastard!.. God damn you!
- You know, Caitlin, - someone said seriously and I jumped, startled. - It's not that bad when you are talking to yourself but when you start cursing yourself that might become a problem.
It was Riley Thorn from my class. He was one of those guys that manage to look tough even though they are not all buff and muscular like some of the jocks. He always wore his black leather jacket and pale blue jeans. Sometimes I wondered if it was the same pair or if he was buying them in bulk. He had at least four tattoos - one on each arm, one on the shoulder, and one on the neck. His hair always looked messed up and the color changed every week. Last week it was purple. Today it was jet black.
- Hey, Riley, - I muttered. - I wasn't cursing myself.
- Who were you cursing then? - he seemed genuinely interested and I just shook my head.
- I see, - he nodded and pulled a pack of cigarettes out of his pocket. - Want one? - he offered me the pack.
- Ugh, no, - I grimaced. - I hate cigarettes.
- Okay, - he shrugged and pulled one out of the pack.
- So what's up? - he asked a few minutes later, blue cloud of smoke surrounding his head like a weird halo.
- Not much, - I sighed.
He squinted his eyes slightly at me. His eyes were strangely light and it looked almost bizarre against his black hair.
- You look like someone just killed your puppy, - he said.
- I never had a puppy, - I grumbled and he laughed.
- It was a metaphor, Caitlin. Hey, what are you doing this Saturday?
- Nothing, - I shrugged. - Why?
- Here, - he pulled a folded piece of paper out of his pocket and handed it to me.
I unfolded it carefully. It was a flyer.
- Who is Comatose Deer? - I asked frowning.
- My band, - Riley grinned.
- You are in the band, - I said and he nodded.
It didn't surprise me. Riley was the kind of guy who'd be in the band with a weird name like Comatose Deer.
- So what do you play? - I asked, feeling a little better than ten minutes ago. - Drums?
- No, - he said seriously. - I play piano, guitar, and I am the main vocalist.
I stared at him. It was really hard to imagine him playing the piano.
- You play the piano? - I asked him doubtfully and he smiled with a crooked smile that made him look like he was twelve.
- Yeah, - he said flicking his cigarette away. - Took lessons since I was seven.
- You took music lessons, - I said and he rolled his eyes.
- Will you stop repeating what I say? - he grimaced. - Yes, I took music lessons.
- Sorry, - I shook my head. - It's just… - I shrugged. - Kinda hard to imagine you play the piano. I mean, piano sounds so…. - I tried to find the right word and he grinned.
- Normal? - he offered and I nodded.
- My mother made me take lessons when I was a kid, - he said solemnly. - I hated it at first but then I started to like it. Then I tried writing a song and I loved it.
- You write songs, - I said and he just looked at me. - Sorry, - I winced.
- Yes, - he said patiently. - I write songs.
- That's really cool, - I said sincerely and he smiled, clearly pleased.
- Come to the club on Saturday night, - he said. - We will start playing around nine or so.
- Okay, - I nodded. - I will.
- Cool, - he got up. - See you later then.
- Bye, Riley, - I said and he walked away.
I looked at the flyer and snorted at the name once again.