Fable Page 11

The whole commotion in the hallway immediately stopped, as if her words had been spoken over the intercom. It became so quiet that you could hear Mina’s and Nan’s sharp intakes of breath. Mina wasn’t prone to violence and was about to think of something mean to say back to Savannah, but she didn’t have a chance to, because Nan Taylor, perky, happy-go-lucky Nan Taylor, pulled back her fist and punched Savannah in the face.

Savannah wasn’t prepared, and fell to the floor. Nan stood over her shocked face and yelled, “No way was he handicapped, or different. He was the most special, coolest, and smartest kid ever. And the world is a much sadder place because he’s not here. And don’t you ever, EVER, insult him again!” Nan shook with anger.

The hall was full of students and teachers, and one by one they started to clap. The clapping got louder, and Nan’s hands went to her mouth in shock. She looked at what she had done, and her face grew red.

She turned and threw her arms around Mina, and spoke quickly. “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. That was wrong of me. I’m probably going to get in a lot of trouble for this, but it was worth it. No one insults our Charlie.” She pulled herself away and walked toward the principal’s office, her head held high. Savannah, during the commotion, started screaming and crying, and was sniveling about Nan being a “bully, brat, and jealous of her good looks.”

Mr. Ames was trying to hide the smile on his face as he helped up Savannah and led her to the principal’s office right behind Nan. The second bell rang, and no one was heading to the next class. They were all right where they’d stopped, talking and texting about the altercation.

It was Mrs. Colbert, with her short hair and blue wing-tipped glasses, who put her fingers to her mouth and whistled loudly, causing those nearest her to cover their ears.

“That’s enough chitter chatter. Get to class, or you’ll all have detention!” she yelled loudly.

Brody took off, heading to his next period. Jared looked a little scared at the sight of Mrs. Colbert, and ducked behind a group of students and disappeared. Mina was left alone and out of sorts, but she was able to make it to her next class. She was a zombie the entire time and was pretty sure the teacher called on her a few times, but she was useless until lunchtime. Jared met her after fourth period and walked the lunch line with her. When Mina went to grab her tray of pizza, cut carrots, and chocolate milk, Jared swiped it up and carried it out the main lunchroom and down the hall.

“Hey!” she called after him, while trying to catch up with his longer legs. He didn’t stop, but turned and headed out a side door that led outside. Finding a comfortable spot under a tree, he finally placed her tray down and waited for her to sit.

She should have been upset by his actions, but after looking around outside at the lack of students, and the quiet calm shade the tree provided, she actually felt grateful. It was still incredibly hot out, but she could put up with that in exchange for solitude. Or almost solitude.

Mina took a bite of her pizza, which tasted like paper covered in cheese. She forced it down and then took to breaking her carrot sticks into miniscule pieces.

“What did those carrots ever do to you?” Jared joked.

“Charlie hated carrots, so he used to do this to them to make it look like he’d eaten them, or make them small enough to hide under the mashed potatoes.”

“Smart kid.”

“Yeah, he is…or was.” An awkward silence rose between them, and Jared looked like he had something bothering him.

“Look, Mina, you can’t let his death affect you like this. You need to move on. Prepare yourself for whatever crazy scheme the Fates will send your way.”

“I know. I’m just not sure that I have the heart for it anymore.”

Jared’s cheek ticked in anger. “I know you lost your brother, but you can’t give up so easily.”

“Why do you even care?”

“I care! I thought for sure since you figured out the tie between the Grimoire and me that you would at least summon me or talk to me. But you ignored me the whole summer. I was angry with you!”

“And I was confused and hurt. I’d lost my boyfriend…again.”

“Get over the human. It’s obvious that you two aren’t meant to be together.”

“Well, maybe we could have a chance if the Fae stopped interfering with my life.”

“We just saved him the trouble of dumping you after he realized how close he came to being saddled with you and your emotional baggage,” Jared fumed.

“I don’t have emotional baggage,” Mina whispered, choking on the pain his words caused.

“Yes, you do. You’ve got enough emotional baggage that you could open up your own airline.” He began to tick the items off his fingers. “Let’s see: abandonment issues, low self-esteem, jealousy issues…and you’re obsessive.”

Mina was stunned and shocked at his assessment of her. Whether he was right or wrong, it didn’t matter. What mattered was the fact that he was talking down to her.

“I don’t have to take this from you. Maybe I was right all along to not talk to you. It’s obvious you have no compassion or understanding of a human’s feelings. Which are completely normal for a teenager who was unjustly saddled with a curse that’s destroyed her whole family. I’m sorry if I have the emotional stability of a teeter-totter right now, but that’s better than you, who has the emotional maturity of a rock.”

She squeezed her carton of chocolate milk so hard that a chocolate fountain spewed out the top to run down her hand onto her jeans. Mina’s eyes opened wide in shock, and she dropped the carton on Jared’s lap. He jumped up faster than lightning and began to dance.

Mina looked at Jared’s shocked face and her messy lap, and began to laugh and couldn’t stop. She laughed so hard she snorted, and then laughed some more because of it. Jared looked at her strangely and started to chuckle as well. He knelt down with napkins and dabbed at her jeans in the most awkward way. Mina swatted his hands away and grabbed the napkins from him. It wouldn’t matter; she would once again have an embarrassing chocolate milk incident to write in her notebook of Unaccomplishments and Epic Disasters—if she still had it. Maybe she needed to start a new one.

“I’m sorry,” he mumbled, not looking her in the eyes.

“I’m the one who spilled milk on you. I’m the one who should be sorry.” She still couldn’t catch her breath.

Jared had sobered up pretty quick. “No, you know what I mean. I didn’t really mean any of those things.”

“Then why would you say them?”

“You were burying yourself so deep in your misery that you were becoming numb to your surroundings, which leaves you vulnerable to an attack. I was trying to break you out of it, and was aiming to make you feel a different emotion. I figured anger would have been the easiest one to get you to feel, but I completely disregarded joy. I forgot how easy it is to make you humans laugh.” He stood back up; a large chocolate stain ran down his pants. His face kept shifting from utter disgust at the milk on his clothes to remorse for hurting her.

She couldn’t help it—she started laughing again. Even though his reasoning behind being rude to her was terrible, the laughter did help her the rest of the day. She was even able to raise her hand in class and answer two questions. She didn’t believe it, but Jared’s attempt at caring by pretending not to…worked.

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