Lucita sat in the car, not ready to go back home. Her grandmother had told her that her mother was sorry. Lucita wasn’t so sure she believed that, but she really couldn’t miss another day of school, especially after the alarming texts from Silvia. Tiffany was becoming a tiresome nuisance, as was Blake. Cyrus’s mother got into the car and gently touched her shoulder before she started the car.
“No…scared actually, that woman can be a brilliant actress.”
“I’m sure she’s sorry. If not, I’ll come back…with the police.”
Lucita winced. “Isn’t that a bit extreme?”
“Running away as often as you have in the past is a bit extreme. I’d prefer you to be someplace safe.”
“Me too.” Lucita looked out the window, waving goodbye to Cyrus as they drove away, her fingers lingering on the glass. She was going to miss him as if that were any different than usual. Cyrus was complicated, and she was tiring herself out, fawning over him. But she couldn’t let go, didn’t want to let go.
Cyrus’s mom drove quickly, turning the lights and buildings into blurs. Movies came to mind, time became a memory, but when people and objects became blurry for her, it was magical, as if nothing was real.
Sometimes, she felt like nothing was real, like she was dreaming. Lights moved slower, people became more detailed, and buildings took form.
Lucita froze at the sight of her apartment complex. Her heart raced when she saw her mother, who appeared teary-eyed and relieved to see her. Lucita swallowed back the bile rising in the back of her throat. Her mother was always like that, remorseful but never changing.
Cyrus’s mother parked the car and took her hand. “I want you to stay in the car while I talk to her.” Lucita nodded, watching as she approached her mother. She knew her, knew that Cyrus’s mother wouldn’t let her get out of the car if she thought it was unsafe. Lucita knew she would take her away for good if she thought it best for her.
Watching Cyrus’s mother talk to her seemed to last forever, but it looked like the warnings and threats were getting to her. Finally, arms crossed, Cyrus’s mother turned to her and waved her out of the car. Lucita did so cautiously, careful to watch her mother and run if she snapped. Her mother rushed to her, making her flinch, saying sorry over and over again. Lucita hated feeling numb to her own mother’s touch. She did love her, but the hate, the resentment submerged the love. Nevertheless, she hugged her mother and accepted the apology, waving farewell, making her way back to her room where here kitties waited for her.
Blake had listened to everything beneath the stairs. What a stroke of luck for him, catching her coming home. Apparently, she and her mother had some serious problems. A wicked smile pierced his lips, and he would wait until she fell asleep. To see her face the following day would be priceless. Thank god Tiff’s dad had taught his daughter how to technically mess with a phone. He checked his phone, set up the mini system to block his number, and headed home.
“Having fun being a stalker, love,” said Tiff as she neared him. She wasn’t smiling, but he saw the amusement in her seemingly glowing green eyes.
“Don’t be a bitch.”
“Whatever,” she said, draping her arm around him. “So what did you hear?”
“None of your business.” Blake shoved her arm away, disgusted. Despite all that had happened, he respected Lucita and thinking back, she had every right to find him repulsive. But still, he was hurt and angry that she played him like that. He couldn’t get over that.
“You’re a hypocritical asshole.”
“I don’t get it. If you still care about Lucita,” she spat out her name, “why are you trying to mess with her life?”
“Again, none of your business.”
“Dammit, Blake! I’m only helping you because I care about you! Why can’t you just believe me?” Blake couldn’t tell, looking down at her, if she was acting or genuinely telling the truth. Either way, he was still disgusted with her.
“After what you did, I don’t think I can.” He considered apologizing but thought against it.
“Screw you then, you don’t even care about what I’m risking. If my dad finds out I’ve been using his gear or my mom thinks I’m doing something stupid, it’s off to boarding school.”
Blake shrugged, kind of hoping that her mother would send her away anyway.
“Then don’t get caught.”
“Easier said than done.”
“Just keep a lid on your anger.”
“Again, easier said than done.”
Blake shrugged again and walked away, looking at the waning moon, almost obscured by the clouds. “Go home, Tiff.”
“Obviously, I hate being around when I’m not wanted.” She stalked off while he rolled his eyes. All she gave a damn about was herself. He smiled to himself. Maybe he and Tiff were made for each other.
Jason enjoyed Elizabeth’s company. They liked the same things and could talk for hours. He really did like that a lot. But he enjoyed Lucita’s company more. She was smart, not to say that Liz wasn’t, but Lucita was more. She was funny, unpretentious, and outgoing. Qualities he now realized Liz lacked.
Lucita seemed one way but was the complete opposite. She was down-to-earth and caring. Her nails were always done, but at least two were still broken and chipped. Lucita was a girl who seemingly didn’t like to act like predictable. Today, though, she looked very worried, almost frightened.
“Luci? Are you sure you’re okay?” Again, she nodded.
“Yeah, don’t worry about it, okay.”
“Kind of hard not to. If you keep picking at your nails, they will start bleeding. Either vent or I may have to tie you up, seriously.”
Lucita laughed and looked at him worryingly. “You won’t tell anyone, right?”
“Of course not.”
She smiled, then looked down at her nails, her glasses sliding down slightly. “Monday, I wasn’t sick. I ran away from home. See, my mom and I fight, not all the time, just from time to time. She gets mad at little things and totally overreacts. I make things worse when I say she’s being unreasonable or try to stick up for myself. She gets madder, and so do I. So I run.”
“Things are better, though, right?”
Luci shrugged, looking away. “For now.”
“So why are you so worried?”
“Someone other than you knows. I got a text this morning from a blocked number. I didn’t think people knew how to block their numbers anymore. I thought that was, like, an old-school phone thing. Although, now that I think about it, it can’t be that hard.”
Alarms went off in Jason’s head. “What did the text say?”
“I know your secret. Your little troubles with mommy, dearest. Tick, tock. How long before a tell?”
“Why are you so worried about people knowing?”
“Would you like the entire school to know your family’s issues?” Jason shook his head. “Thought so.”
“Don’t be. Guess we’ll just have to wait and see what happens with this one, huh.”
Jason watched her lie down and look up at the crystal blue sky. Rebecca and Silvia arrived, trays in hand, and chatted Lucita’s ear off, filling her in on what she had missed. Lucita smiled as though nothing were wrong. But he saw behind the smile and would deal with Tiffany and Blake sooner rather than later.
Lunch passed quickly, and with each minute, his anger grew. He made the decision to skip his next class, sending Liz a text just to let her know the way a dutiful boyfriend should. Although he hid the reason.
Jason greeted him with a punch and grabbed the collar of his blue polo shirt.
“Whoa, dude,” he laughed, “I take it Lucita told you about the creepy text received?”
“What the hell is wrong with you?”
“Honestly? I don’t know. Having fun, though.”
“Stop screwing around Blake. You may be my friend, but if I have to, I will beat the crap out of you.”
Blake rolled his eyes. “Don’t worry about it, okay. It’s not what you think, anyway. I have a plan, I promise.” He studied Jason. “You know, you’re as screwed up as me, dating someone else yet fawning over another, becoming her personal bodyguard. How would Liz feel?”
Jason shoved Blake away from him, sending him into the wall. “At least I’m ten times more decent than you, you piece of crap.”
Blake winked at him. “You say that now. Let’s see how you are in a year or two.” Blake fixed his shirt and flipped Jason off as he waved goodbye. Jason resisted the urge to go after him and pin him to the ground.
New Girl (Memoirs of the Third Floor #1)
Lucita is starting at a new school. Silvia is keeping a secret. Rebecca is struggling with herself. Three girls and their friends have entered high school, and for each of them, it’s hard enough without having to deal with friends, betrayal, and their insecurities. High School is tough enough without having to be the new girl.
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