You would think one might outgrow violence.
At some age—after inflicting so much pain, seeing too much blood, hearing so many cries of agony—a person would be able to walk away, turn her back, and the need wouldn’t be there anymore.
It never worked that way for me.
The urge just grew and grew until it was too much to handle.
There may not be a wish to die inside me anymore, that might’ve gone away, but a different desire rose up. I wanted to cake the streets in red. I wanted to put terror in the Normals’ hearts, inflict them with some of the quaking we woke with. I wanted them to feel what it was like to have the power against them.
But I couldn’t do any of that.
Or at least, it wasn’t time.
The sounds around me permeated my mind, and I turned toward the voice amid the yells, laughter, shrieks, splashing, and glasses being tapped together.
Right. I was at a pool party.
No wonder I was feeling all murderous.
Who wouldn’t be?
A lot had changed in the ten weeks since a friend was assaulted, and particularly in the last month. A lot. One of those changes was heading toward me. Tabatha Sweets. One of the most popular girls in our school, one that used to fear me, and here she was. Coming up to me. Calling my name. Acting like we were buddy-buddy, which we actually had become. Hence the not-fearing me part.
She still should have.
She came to stand right in front of me. She wasn’t blocking my sun because I’d been holed up in the corner of the backyard, lying down behind the grill, because let’s face it, I wasn’t the socialite here. I was here for very specific reasons: this pool party was at the Shaws’ house.
Cross Shaw was my boyfriend.
Taz Shaw was my friend. She was also Cross’ sister.
And the other two guys in our crew wanted to hang out. Zellman and Jordan.
So we were here.
I was here.
And daydreaming about violence.
I sat up, looped my arms over my knees, and sighed. “What’s up, Tabatha?”
“What are you doing back here?”
Her voice was a little snippy with frustration, but also confusion.
Tentative was the best way to describe our relationship—and I’m being extremely loose with those words to describe whatever I had with Tabatha and her minions. You can blame all the hours I had to serve on their charity committee, which was renamed their ‘event’ committee as part of my community service. Stabbing our old principal had ended with me sort of having other girlfriends besides Taz.
I wasn’t sure how that had worked out.
A couple had been after Cross, and I knew a couple still held a torch. As for Tabatha, she and Jordan were now a couple couple.
Yeah. I was surprised at how fast that happened too.
They went from one official date to being a couple, and now they were almost the lovey-dovey type of coupledom.
Anyway, right now, my crewmate’s girlfriend who was also somewhat a friend of mine (depending on the day and my mood, to be honest) stood over me. She was staring me down, hands on her hips.
I couldn’t lie, though. The urge to pull my knife out, just to hold it and know it would make Tabatha uneasy, was strong. But I didn’t. I’d grown over the last year. See? Counseling and community service could rehabilitate us lower criminal beings.
“Where are the guys?” I ignored her question. Did she not know me by now?
Pushing up to my feet, I didn’t wait for her to respond.
I took stock myself.
Zellman was on a back lounger, his on/off woman (Sunday) on his lap. Monica (one of the girls still holding a torch for my guy) was next to them, sitting on some other guy’s lap (I think a baseball player).
Jordan was just coming out of the house.
He saw me staring at him and paused, beer in hand. He raised his eyebrows in question, but I shook my head.
I didn’t need him for anything.
He kept moving, going to sit in another lounger by Z. And I knew where the fourth member of our crew was.
Jordan. Zellman. Cross. Me.
We were Wolf Crew, the smallest crew in the Roussou crew system, but also the most dangerous one.
There were other crews. Larger ones like the Ryerson Crew, or the Frisco Crew, which had popped up over the last semester. They were our neighboring town, and their high school had burned down. The town was too small to get enough funds to build a new one in time for their winter semester, so they were being bused to us. Well, half of them were. A few went to Fallen Crest Academy, and a good third went to Fallen Crest Public School, but the rest came to us. Frisco, Fallen Crest, and Roussou formed a weird triangle a bit inland in California, so those were the options.
We’d heard the Frisco students who went to the Academy shit their pants at how rich and fancy everything was. Most people in Frisco were poor like us. The Academy was for the rich. There were exceptions, but it’s what it was.
A few of their girls had tried to follow Tabatha around. She only took in two of them, literally flicking the others away with her hand.
I guess that’s what popular girls did? I didn’t know.
All this is just to say: I’m not like them.
I’m not like Frisco. I’m not like a Fallen Crusty, and I’m not even like a Normal (our term for those who aren’t in crews at Roussou). The ones I’m like? My crew. Zellman. Jordan. Cross. That’s it.
And seeing Jordan laughing so easily with that sporty guy, I felt a twitch in my chest.
I didn’t know what it was—jealousy, anger, or maybe I was just hungry. But the fact that I’d felt that twitch was enough for me. If I did emotions, it was never a good result, so I was gonna bounce.
“Oh, no, no, no.”
I began to move around Tabatha, but she blocked me.
Her eyes flashed in determination, and she pressed her lips together. “I recognize that look on your face. You’re going to ditch.” She shook her head. “You can’t ditch.”
“I don’t care.” I started off again.
She blocked me again, flipping her hair as she did. The movement was enough to draw attention, and conversations around us started to wane.
I gritted my teeth.
Tabatha was in my face, and I hated when anyone was in my face, and I was two seconds away from—
“Sweets.” The door opened again. Taz stepped out, a hand on her bikini-clad hip, dressed just the way Tabatha was. “Back away from Bren.”
Tabatha started to turn, laughing.
Taz wasn’t joking. She nodded at me. “She’s two seconds from putting hands on you.” She scanned the backyard. “Not a great situation to be in right now, if you get my drift.”
There were phones out. Things didn’t stay secret anymore, not since the Friscians came to town. And there was another development rumored as well, one that had most people seeing stars and Hollywood signs, but I can’t even get into that now. I’d been given a heads-up and knew it was going to be a pain in my ass.
“You’re close to losing it?” Tabatha asked quietly, easing back a step.
This was her redeeming quality. Sometimes she was clueless, but other times, she had learned to give me space. She backed down now, an apology flashing in her eyes.
I could move my jaw again. It wasn’t encased in cement. “I don’t like being cornered.”