Vincent stared at the light blue wall of his bedroom. His mind blank or as blank as he could ever make it as one thought after another flitted in and out of his head. He frowned as his thoughts turned to memories of what happened three days ago. Had it really been that long? It felt like they had just piled into Teasha’s car afraid for their lives as a group of crazed students surrounded her car.
He could still feel Bull’s fist as it connected with his face. Unconsciously he fingered his bruised mouth hissing from the pain he dropped his hand. The swelling had gone down but the bruises remained, bluish purple against his pale skin. His vision blurred as tears threatened to escape his self-control.
Disgusted with himself he took his glasses off rubbing his temples and the bridge of his nose. He didn’t want to go back to school on Monday morning. The thought raised goose flesh on his arms. Everyone by now knew what Bull and his henchmen had done to him and his friends. They would all be wearing targets on their backs. He didn’t know if he had the strength to face them.
“Vincent,” his mom’s voice carried down the stairs “Divia is here to see you.”
Sighing he grabbed his glasses and hurried up the stairs. He had known Divia his entire life. Lived next door too her since they were born a few hours apart. They shared birthdays. It never felt strange to combine parties. Her friends were his friends. It was normal. He always tried to make it clear she could come over whenever she needed anything. She seldom took advantage of the offer. Her being here now showed how rattled last Wednesday had made her. He hoped he was enough to help her. He smiled at the reserved quiet girl standing rigidly in his parents yellow kitchen.
“Divia” he said her name as he entered the room. She looked up at him relief in her gray eyes as if he had just pulled her from a pit of snakes instead of from his parent’s curious eyes and well meaning questions.
“Can we talk?” she asked her voice barely audible above the running dishwasher. Her eyes shifted towards his parents a silent plea for privacy.
“Sure we can go to my room to talk,” he suggested.
“No I mean not there,” she looked towards the floor a miserable expression upon her face.
“I think that’s our hint to leave,” Milo said with a smile. He took Jillian’s hand whispering something in her ear.
She turned with a sparkle in her eyes and giggled up at her husband, “we’ll be in our room if you need us.”
Vincent nodded hoping they were quiet this time especially since Divia was there. As they walked out he waved towards the chairs “have a seat.” It felt strange saying that to her. If it were anyone else they would have just went down to his room to hangout. Not Divia though. Not once in sixteen years had she been inside his room. He always suspected it was her strict parents.
She moved towards the table. Her movements leaden and jerky “thank you” she mumbled. The corners of her mouth curled up for a brief moment as she sat down.
Instead of joining her Vincent moved to the fridge “would you like something to drink?” He didn’t wait for her to answer “we have coke, sprite, orange crush, snapple or water.” He grabbed a coke for himself and a snapple for her knowing it was her favorite.
Walking to the table he sat the snapple in front of her. She stared at it a moment. He smiled “go ahead and take it. No one else drinks it. We keep it on hand just for you.”
She smiled reaching for it “thank you.”
Vincent smiled as he sat across from her. He watched her take a gulp of her drink before doing the same with his coke. He wished she wasn’t so timid even with the group she grew up with she was that way. He wondered if she’d have been different if she would have had brothers or sisters. He rather suspected they’d have all been like this slightly backwards socially and afraid of making a mistake her dad would perceive as an embarrassment.
Glancing at the time he asked “what did you want to talk about?”
She swallowed looking at him with large scared sorrowful eyes “my dad wants to send me to private school.”
“He can’t do that” he exploded slamming his coke down to the table. Of course he could. Liono was her father after all. Sometimes he hated the guy. He looked down as something soft touched his hand.
“He’s my dad,” she said softly as a tear rolled down her cheek “he wants what’s best for me.”
“What’s best for you isn’t sending you away,” he cried taking her hand and squeezing it. She of all of them needed the support of the group to survive.
“He says it’ll be good for me” she shook her head “maybe he’s right. I do depend upon you and the others an awful lot.”
“You don’t” he protested over his thoughts to the contrary. “Maybe my parents could talk to them. Convince them to change their minds.”
“Do you think they would?” she asked surprised and a little hopeful.
“All we can do is ask,” he said. She gulped as she nodded agreement. “Mom. Dad,” Vincent called “can you come here a minute?” He heard the click of their bedroom door as it opened and tried to smile reassuringly at her.
After some coaxing and Vincent talking for Divia. Divia filled in things his parents needed to know. They were able to explain the problem to his parents well enough for them to understand.
Milo stared blankly ahead processing everything he had been told. Turning to the young girl he asked “why don’t you want to go to this private school?”
She looked up eyes darting to Vincent pleading for his help. Vincent opened his mouth to speak for her when Milo firmly shook his head at him saying “let her answer.”
“I” she looked down uncomfortable with everyone looking at her “I want to be with my friends.”
Milo nodded patting her hand, “have you told your parent’s that?”
Her eyes lifted up pleading “I can’t,” she stammered.
“Why can’t you dear?” Jillian asked “I know your parents care about you. They want what’s best for you.”
“How can separating her from everything and everyone she knows be good for her?” Vincent asked his voice tinged with anger. Ever since Wednesday he felt his world was tilting out of control, throwing him further and further into chaos.
“You won’t always be together,” Jillian told her son “people change. Grow apart. It’s part of growing up.”
Vincent sat back in his chair. Rolling his eyes he gave his mother a sullen look “it’s not fair” he mumbled.
“I didn’t say we wouldn’t talk to them,” Jillian told him “I can’t promise they’ll change their minds.” She looked to her husband “what do you think?”
Milo shrugged “my experience tells me once Liono has made up his mind he sticks to his guns. I think the kids should prepare themselves.”
Vincent walked Divia home crossing the lawn to her door. Sighing he kicked the grass with his toes “sorry. I thought they’d be more helpful.”
“It’s not your fault or theirs either,” she looked up at the sky ” maybe it won’t be so bad.”
“It could be worse,” he grumbled.
“So not helping,” she told him taking a reluctant step towards the house.
“I’ll think of something,” he assured her “if I don’t then maybe one of the others will.”
“Are we still getting together on Sunday?” she asked.
“Yeah” he mumbled “we need some kind of plan for Monday. We can’t stay home forever.” He looked over at her “you’ll come?” he asked as she turned to go inside.
“Is it at your place?” when he nodded she continued “I’ll be there.” She opened the door “good night” she told him closing the door behind her.
Vincent sighed walking back to his house. He had a terrible feeling things were about to change and he didn’t like it.
Divia looked around the dark living room relieved her parents weren’t anywhere in sight. The last thing she wanted to do was talk to them. They’d done enough talking already. She’d done enough nodding her head and pretending to agree.
She almost made it to her room when her mom came out of the bathroom. “Oh your home,” she gave her a genuine smile like she was happy to see her.
“I’m tired,” Divia muttered “I think I’ll call it a night.” She hoped that would forestall whatever else her mom thought they needed to talk about until tomorrow.
Glancing at the time Elyse frowned “it’s only 8 o’clock. I know your not that tired.” She knocked on her bedroom door “Liono she’s home.” Turning her attention back to her daughter “we need to talk.”
Groaning Divia followed her mom into the living room. Plopped onto the couch while her mom turned on the lights. “Aren’t you done destroying my life already?” she complained.
“Don’t talk to your mother like that” Liono commanded overhearing her comment as he came into the room.
“Yes dad,” she said even though she hadn’t thought her comment was that bad.
“Good” he said turning to Elyse when she sat beside her on the couch “did you tell Vincent what we discussed?”
“You didn’t say I couldn’t?” she said as her heart beat sped up as panic took control. Was she in trouble for telling him? Was this why they wanted to talk to her? Could they have….
“We won’t change our minds if that’s what your thinking,” his voice was firm unyielding “you will be going to private school. This incident only confirms what we’ve known for a while. You need to learn to think for yourself.”
“I know your disappointed,” Elyse said her voice and eyes full of sympathetic understanding.
“Disappointed doesn’t begin to describe how I feel,” she pulled her knees up to her chin wishing she could be anywhere but there.
“This is not a punishment,” Liono told her his voice developing an irritated tone from having to repeat himself.
“You’re sending me away. How else am I supposed to take this?” she cried forgetting herself as her emotions took control.
“Divia honey we’re worried about you,” Elyse tried to intercede before Liono lost all patience with the girl. Under the best of circumstances she knew Liono was volatile and unpredictable.
“It isn’t fair,” Divia cried “I want to stay here. I want to graduate with my friends. I want to…” she bit her lip hard before she could say anything else. She couldn’t believe she almost gave away her secret. Something she knew her dad couldn’t handle and wouldn’t accept. She would do whatever it took to keep him from finding out. “I’m sorry” she mumbled looking to towards the floor.
“Your mother will call the school on Monday and make all the arrangements,” he told her as if she hadn’t said a word “you’ll see this is for the best. You’re too dependent on your friends. You need to learn to think for yourself.”
“We know you’ll miss them,” Elyse smiled at her hoping to soften the blow “you’ll still be able to see your friends on the weekends and holidays.”
“It won’t be the same,” Divia could feel the tears welling behind her eyes. She blinked them back knowing her tears would only anger her father further. “Can I be excused now?” she asked sending a pleading look to her mom.
Liono nodded “good night,” he said his voice gruff but not unkind.
“Good night” she mumbled as she passed on her way to her room.
Vincent gave Divia a firm hug when she came down the stairs to his humble abode. “I’m sorry” he said “my parents tried but ” he shrugged words failing him.
“I know my parents minds were made up and unbendable,” she looked around her surroundings “this isn’t what I was expecting.”
“Yeah welcome to my dungeon” he mimicked an evil laugh of a mad scientist.
A pang of regret hit her hard as she wondered why she had never come down here before. It looked warm and inviting if you didn’t mind the chemistry set, microscope and miscellaneous scientific clutter. He had a gaming area where she knew he played on-line with Ryan, Zach and sometimes Charity. Sighing she regretted always having her nose in a book studying. She should have done more with the group. Now it was too late. Dragging her mind back to the present she asked “when will the others arrive?”
“Any minute” he told her giving her another hug “have you told her yet how you feel?”
Shaking her head she sighed “what’s the point now when I’m not even going to be here?” she mumbled. Walking away to inspect his chemistry set “she doesn’t feel the same way about me, I know.”
“How do you know if you haven’t asked her?” he asked following her his eyes kind “she could surprise you.”
“I doubt it,” she mumbled “you forget I know her secrets.”
“Just because she’s told you about some stupid crush doesn’t mean she doesn’t like you,” Vincent said “you have to tell her or you’ll always wonder what if.”
She was about to say something when Ryan and Hannah came down the stairs together. She was enveloped in a hug that took her breath away “your parents are so mean,”Hannah commiserated with her “my dad’s even called but they couldn’t reason with them.”
When Hannah became distracted with Vincent’s music collection Ryan stepped up to give her a hug and a peck on the cheek “I’m going to miss you.”
“Really?” she asked not sure how to take that declaration.
“Of course I’ll miss you. We all will” Ryan assured her “who else will I be able to confide in?”
Ryan was the only other person other than Vincent who knew about her crush. She was sure she was the only person other than Hannah who knew about his crush on Charity. “You can always call or text me if you need to talk,” she told him.
“True. Don’t be surprised if I take you up on the offer,” he said before joining Vincent and Hannah in their argument over what music to listen to.
Feeling like an outsider in a group where she had always felt at ease Divia stood at the bottom of the stairs. She glanced up hoping to see Teasha come in. She half expected Teasha wouldn’t come since her brother had just gotten released from hospital. She was about to tell Vincent she was going home when the door opened and the object of her concerns started to come down the stairs towards her.
“Divia I’m so sorry,” Teasha said giving her a hug “your parents are the worst.”
“Tell me about it,” she sniffed enjoying having Teasha’s arms around her. She caught Ryan and Vincent smiling at her. Blushing she pulled away “so um,” she fumbled for words “how is Zach?”
Teasha smiled sending a flurry of butterflies to flight in Divia’s stomach. She wished she had the courage to tell her how much she liked her. So immersed in her own thoughts she didn’t hear a word Teasha was saying about her brother. She knew it must have been good since everyone was smiling and laughing. She wondered if she ever revealed her secret if she would face the same treatment Zach had. Was she better off keeping that part of herself hidden? She plastered a fake smile on her face as she joined her friends. On the outside she knew she gave the appearance of having a good time while on the inside she was screaming. She was so alone even in a room full of people she knew loved her.