Count On Me(4)

By: Melyssa Winchester

I nod my head and he smiles. It’s not a big one, but considering the way he looked a couple of minutes ago, it’s a nice change.

“Do you want a ride home?”

I nod and he walks me around to the passenger side of the car. Holding up one hand, he jogs quickly around to the driver’s side, slides in and reaches across to pop the door open on my side. Then, using his other hand he motions for me to get inside.

It would be so easy to slide in the way he did, but I can’t do it. I know he’s only trying to be nice and take me home, since it is on his way and all, but I think he forgets exactly what happened to me out there with his friends.

“Get in the car, Isabelle. I don’t care about that.”

Once I do as he says and slide into the seat, doing my best to keep my jacket over the wet spot, I close the door and wait for him to drive away. After about two minutes of him not doing anything but staring straight ahead, I clear my throat. The sound breaks him out of his trance and he turns, his lips lifting until he’s full on smirking at me.

“I’m sorry. I know I need to take you home, but I can’t. Not yet. I need to ask you something first.”

Considering how one sided this conversation has been so far, I’m kind of surprised he wants to ask me anything at all. I expected him to want to get rid of me as quickly as possible.

“You have your notebook?” he asks me, motioning toward the remains of my broken backpack. “I know you have trouble talking, so, how about I talk and you write?”

His voice is low, soothing even, as if he knows my issues with loud noises and is trying not to spook me. The way he’s acting reminds me of the way he was when we were kids. It’s a time I miss more than I want to admit. He was so patient with me back then. It’s the complete opposite of the way he’s been lately. He’s like the old Kayden again. It’s nice.

I pull the notebook out of my bag and search around with my hand for a pen. When my hand finally lands on one, I pull it out and yank the cap off; creating a loud popping sound that makes me jump in my seat. I brace myself for the laugh that’s sure to come, but after a few seconds, I realize he’s not doing anything but staring ahead again.

“How long were they doing that with you before I came out?”

I scribble on the paper quickly, the answer easy.

I guess it was fifteen minutes.

“Why did you go with them?”

Staring at the paper in front of me, I take a minute to think over my answer. I want to tell him the truth, but I’m afraid that when I do, he’s going to laugh and think I’m pathetic.

Amy said that Tim wanted to ask me to the dance, but he was nervous and she wanted to help him out.

“Fuck!” he yells, banging his fists off the steering wheel, the sound making me jump and throw my body even closer to the passenger side door. His anger is startling. Noticing my reaction, he sighs before allowing his body to collapse into the seat. “Isabelle, I’m sorry. I forgot.”

It’s okay. I write, adding a smiley face at the end to let him know it’s okay. I have issues, but it doesn’t mean he should feel bad for reacting. After years of my mom doing the same thing, I feel like an old pro, at least with telling people it’s okay.

“You know,” he says. “You can just smile; you don’t need to write the happy faces.”

I lower my head and out of the corner of my eye I see he’s frowning, which makes me sad. This is probably why the doctors think I’ve got social anxiety, but it’s not that at all. I just have the uncanny ability to make people feel bad because I don’t know the proper way to act. No matter how hard I try to learn it, it never sticks.

“What did they do to you?” he asks, shifting the tone of the conversation again.

Pushed me around a little bit, yanked my backpack off and ripped it open. Tim and Dillon did that part. They grabbed me pretty hard on my arms. You know the rest.

I can see his attempt to calm his breathing and again, I just feel sad. I actually debated whether or not to tell him what they did because of the reaction he’d have and seeing it now bothers me. He shouldn’t have to worry about this.

“They won’t do that shit to you again, okay? I swear to you, no more. If it happens, they’re dead.”

I’m not sure how I’m supposed to answer so I pick up the pen and do the one thing that I hope will get him to smile again. I can sense the tension rolling off of him and it’s making my stomach uneasy thinking about it. I want him to be okay.

Holding up the notebook, I turn it in his direction and the minute his eyes catch what I’ve done, they soften and he smiles. It’s a real, genuine smile. One I haven’t seen him wear since we were seven. It makes me happy knowing that I was right.

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