It Could Get Worse

Backstabbers Are The Closest To Us

Sometimes life seems to slow down. Its as if the world around me is working in slow motion, and Im left at normal speed. I walk around trying to fit into a world thats moving at a completely different pace than me. It normally feels like a special kind of torture the universe bestowed upon me.

Lately, though, I haven minded as much. Charlie and I are back together and probably the most healthy weve ever been. He has me over a couple times a week, and he hasn even hinted about breaking up. I have a job now and am making money. I get free pizza and drinks, and already got a dollar raise. I even get along with my coworkers for the most part. Oliver and I are a little awkward and quiet, but we get along.

I had to drag myself out of bed this morning, but at least I got up. The school day drags along, while I fall asleep in every class. Ive been staying at my friends house for a few days now. I don want them to have to see me other than when I first show up, so Ive been getting up pretty early. Its not to bad coming and sleeping here early in the morning, but its not amazing. As long as I can put off going back to Terrys apartment, Ill put up with it.

When the last bell finally rings I leave the school as fast I can. I feel like Ive been in that building for ages. Work has been scheduling Oliver and I together. Its only been a few days since I started working, but weve worked together every time. When I get to the store, Oliver is already standing at the front counter. ”Cutting it close. ”

”I have five minutes. ” I quickly throw on my work clothes in the bathroom and clock in. I go up to the front and log into the second register. ”How do you get here so fast? Im only ten minutes away, but you
e always here first. ”

”I have a work study for my last hour of the day, so I come in early. ” A work study? Thats a thing? ”Im going to get a drink. Want one? ” I nod as a customer comes in. He pays for his gas and then leaves. So far this convenience store is almost always slow. We don get a lot of customers. Maybe its because you have to come inside to pay.

After half an hour of small talk, we start to go silent. We talked about school and our classes. We talk about how we both don have a license. ”So what do you plan to do after graduation? ” My initial instinct tells me to lie and say Im going to college, but I don see him in school. He knows I live in the ghetto, so I don have to put my mask on in front of him.

”I don know honestly. I haven thought about it much. I haven applied or looked into any colleges, let alone thought about what I would do there. ”

”Well, whats your passion? ” He starts to organize the candy in the front of the counter. Passion.

”I don know, I never thought about it. I guess I don really have one. ”

”Okay, hobbies, dreams, possible careers. Any of that? ” I take a minute to think if I ever wanted to do something. What do I spend my time doing?

”None. ” I say after scanning my brain for anything.

”What do you do with all your time then? ”

”Well, Ive recently put working here into my schedule. Other than that, nothing. ”

”Youve gotta do something. You only just started here. Homework doesn take up all the time you have off. ”

”I don know man. I hang out with my boyfriend a lot. Thats about it. ” He rolls his eyes with a shake of his head. ”What was that? ”

”You spend all your time with your boyfriend? Sounds toxic to me. ”

”How is that toxic? ”

”You don have hobbies or alone time. You don even know what you like or do other than being with him. Doesn that sound bad to you? ”

”No, not really. When Im with my boyfriend, I have food and a place to sleep. I don have time for hobbies or the mental space for them. I have a million other things to think about than keeping myself entertained. Also, I didn have hobbies before I started dating him either. ”

”Let me guess. You were dating someone else? ” I scoff and start to organize my till. ”How long have you been with your boyfriend? ”

”A year, basically. ”

”Basically? ”

”Yeah, we
e kind of on and off a lot. ”

”Sounds healthy. ” Sarcasm lines his words.

”Why are you judging my life? Its mostly healthy. It could be a lot worse. ”

”Just because its not the bottom of the barrel, doesn make it the top. But like what? If you know its not great why even stay? ”

”Because sometimes being all alone is worse than putting up with a little bullshit. Id rather get dumped every few months than have nobody to keep me company. Also, he may be going through his own stuff in a bad way, but hes not a bad guy. He treats me a lot better than most of the people I know, so thats why I stay. ”

”Well considering you know gang members Ill take your word for it. ” He comes back around and starts to organize his own till. ”That guy, that was harassing you that day. Is he your ex? ” I nod and start to fill the nicotine options behind us. ”Howd long you date him? ”

”About a year give or take. ”

”He seems like an asshole. Whyd you date him for so long? ”

”He took care of me. Leo had a job and an apartment. My mom kicked me out when I got into 10th grade and he was a stable in my life. He was distant and has quite the temper, but he was never that bad. I mean, until we broke up. We were also friends growing up, him, Lil, and I. We were friends for a lot of our childhood even though Lils family has money. ”

”When do you hang out with her then? ”

”I don . After Leo and I split she stopped being my friend. She hates me now. ” I turn back around to my till as a few customers come in. Once they leave, we
e left with an awkward feeling sitting between us. ”So, do you have a girlfriend? An ex? What are your passions? ”

”Wow, what a loaded question. Um, well, I am single. Ive never dated anyone, not enough time. My passion is a little undecided. ”

”What do you mean? ”

”Well, I really want to travel and see something more than this shit hole, but I also want to go to college. I applied to quiet a few, but I don know where I plan to go. I also have no idea what to go for. Im not super keen on anything yet. I want to go for something that I can make good money with, but I don want to pick solely based on that. ”

”Any hobbies to help you decide? ”

”Not really. I mean Im normal and have hobbies, but nothing to turn into a career. I make art and sometimes have art shows, but I could never make that into a stable job. ”

”Art shows? Thats impressive. ”

”Wait till I tell you about my GPA. ”

”Grades aren impressive. ”

”Says you. ”

”So, how often do you have these art shows? ”

”Once in a while. ”

”What media do you use? ”

”Mostly lead and charcoal. I do drawings. ”

”You should invite me to your next exhibit. Id be interested in seeing how talented you actually are. ”

”Thats not going to happen. ”

”And why not? ”

”Because I don let my friends come to my shows. Why would I let you? ”

”Being made fun of is good for the soul, thats why. Im going to go stock. ” I stock the shelves for a few hours. When I go back up front, we stay pretty quiet. There always seems to be this awkward block between us. We get along fine now, and I don hold the thief thing against him since he helped me escape Leo. I don know if hes just a reserved person, or if hes uncomfortable around me.

An hour before we close Oliver starts mopping the floors. By the time we put up the closed store, everything is done, and we leave. ”See ya. ” He calls out as he goes in the opposite direction of me. I start to walk away from the building when I hear someone tug on the door.

”We just closed. ” I say to them as I turn around. There she is, Terry.

”What are you doing here? ”

”I work here now. What are you doing here? ”

”Cigarettes. Wanna open up and sell me some quick? ”

”Not allowed to. ” She rolls her eyes and goes to the side of the building where a car is waiting. She shakes her head and they all start loudly complaining. She gets in and they drive off. The car swishes from side to side as they speed off. Well, shes obviously not home tonight. I start walking to the apartment, excited to get a full night of sleep.

⇜ ⇝

I wake up with the sun shining in my eyes, and I smile a little. Its nice not having to wake up early, and getting to sleep in my bed. While the place where my bed is isn great, its still my bed. The rest of the apartment is silent while I get dressed for school. All the lights are off when I push open my door. I don see any movement, but I still try to stay as quiet as I can as I slip out the front door. Ill take a quiet, easy morning.

The wind isn bad this morning. As long as nothing goes wrong, today could be a decent day. The sun warms my shoulders as I make my way to school. A few students trickle into the school as I enter. The bell rings a few minutes after I get to my locker. The morning is quiet and seems to have sped up a little bit. During lunch, I buy my own food with the twenty dollars Frank gave me. ”You already got lunch? ” Charlie asks as he sets his backpack down next to me.

”Yeah, I got here pretty quick after my last class today so I grabbed my own. ” His tongue wraps around his top teeth as he starts bobbing his head. He looks away and clicks his tongue before walking away. When he comes back with his food, the rest of the table starts to show up. ”Are you mad I got my own lunch? ” I whisper to him.

”Why would I be mad? Its not like I usually get you one or anything. ” He says loudly, granting us a couple glances. I shake my head and slowly eat my food.

The bell rings before Im able to get halfway through my food, not that I had much of an appetite. I grab my books from my locker and head to the library. After lunch, I have a study period down in the library. As soon as my legs touch the chair the librarian calls me over. ”They need you in the counselors office. ” I nod and leave. I haven caused any trouble. Im not sure why the counselors would need me. I knock on Sarahs, our counselors, door.

”Mona, come in. ” She gestures to the empty chair next to her desk. ”I called you down to discuss your grades. We
e only a bit into the year, and you
e already failing your classes. You have two classes you
e passing. One is gym. Its early but starting off bad can make it hard to make your way back up. We sent a note to your mother and gave her a call. She said something about how you don live there and wished us luck finding you. She then called back after receiving our letter and told us you were probably dead. Now, theres a lot for us to talk about. First, do you need us to call anybody for you? ”

”No, Im fine. Im living at home. My mom is on some new medication, so she doesn always know whats going on. ”

”Okay, then what about your grades? You
e failing all your classes. Whats going on? You
e a senior; you need to pass your main classes to graduate at the end of the year. ”

”I know, Ive just had some stuff going on and am struggling to stay motivated. Ill try harder. ”

”Well, I talked to a few of your teachers and they said you
e handing in your work. So, is it just that you
e not understanding? If thats the case, I can give you the name of a good tutor. They charge $25 an hour. ” She starts writing down a name on an index card.

”Oh, Miss Charlton, thats okay. I actually have been thinking of getting a study group instead. I work better when I work with people I know. Thank you, though. ” She smiles and sets her pen down.

”Okay, Im going to trust you to get this under control. If you decide you want my tutor then let me know. I don want you to get left behind because you
e distracted. ” I leave with a smile. Shit, Terry was right. Why the hell would she tell the school that I was dead?

I sit back down in the library with my work laid out in front of me. I don want to do any of this. I see the ink smudge on my math book, and decide to put that subject off again. Next, I try to read my book for English and give up on that. I can only read the same page so many times, before giving up. I switch over to physics. I check the front of the book to make sure Im reading the right language before shoving it all in my bookbag. Maybe I should get a tutor. I obviously don understand a lot of this. Ive been ignoring my math class for so long they probably don remember I attend one. A tutor is expensive though, and I don really want to spend my new earned money on school.

My thoughts are interrupted when the bells goes off above my head. I heave away my bag of undone assignments and responsibilities to the next class I won be passing.

⇜ ⇝

When I get to work, I still feel crappy. Its not like I care about school, but Im not going back next year. I don want to get held back my last year, because that would be embarrassing. I would definitely not have any friends after that either. Dads mom is also paying for my school, and I don know if shed do it an extra year. She doesn want to do it now. Im also a little terrified of her, not that she would come down here and have it out with me.

I only saw her once, and that was enough. My mom went to shake her hand and introduce herself, and she just stared her down. Ive never seen anybody stand up to my mom so well. She slowly lowered her hand right before ”grandma ” said, ”I would say its nice to meet you, but its not. I told him to never marry you. Shes a nasty, whore I said to him. Did he listen? No. Look where it got him. ” She said all of this in the calmest voice. It sounded as if she was just telling us how her drive there was. Like she was explaining the weather in Washington. My mother scoffed and crossed her arms. I could see she didn have the guts to say anything back, but didn want to seem like a pushover. She then turned to me

I remember seeing flashbacks to her and my mother. My palms started to sweat, and I was terrified. I was more worried to talk to my grandmother than the fact that I was now alone in the world with my mom. ”Whats your name. ” It wasn a question, but a demand.

”Mona. ”

”What a stupid name. ” She bent down and held my chin between her two fingers. ”Fits you. ” She said with an eye roll then stood up. ”I am your fathers mother. You shall not call me grandma, but you can call me Ann. ” I nodded, too scared to do anything else. She put out her hand with the most annoyed look she could muster. I took it very slowly, as if trying to pet a stray dog. She walked a few feet away from mother and sat me down on a couch. She sat next to me, but at a safe distance. ”What grade are you in? ”

”5th ”

”When you get old enough for middle school I shall send you to a good one. Your father asked me to help give you a decent education. I don know how good the education is around her, but itll have to do. Theres a private school in your town; I will send you to ones within walking distance. ”

”Thank you. ” I whispered not knowing what else to say.

”Don thank me child. I don do this or anything, for you. If I liked you I would take you with me, but I don . Don take it personally, though; its not your fault you were born. Nonetheless, I will follow my sons last wishes and send you to a nice school. I will send you mail on where it is when you get old enough. Don waste my efforts. ” She calmly stood up as if she didn just threaten a grieving 10 year old, and left. She walked out the door, and I never saw her again. She did as she said, though. She sent me to a nice school and always sent my school enrollment information through the PO box that she bought me.

As I clock in I feel so drained. ”Whats up wet blanket? ” Oliver says calmly as I sign into my till.

”Wet blanket? ”

”Yeah, you look like you
e going to be in a bad mood today. ”

”Well not everyday is perfect, thank you very much. ”

”Ah, so it will be a grumpy day. ” I roll my eyes letting out as big of a sigh as my lungs can handle to let him know Im not in the mood for his sarcastic humor. ”Okay fine. Whats up? Boyfriend say he didn want to hang tonight? ”

”No, Im just struggling to keep my grades up, and the schools got a stick in their ass about it. ”

”What subjects? ”

”All of them? Im passing gym and writing. Im failing math, physics, phycology, and whatever classes I go to during the day. ”

”You don remember all your classes? ”

”I don know. Classroom 233 first, then classroom 256, then gym. ”

”Okay I get it. ” He shakes his head annoyed.

”Do my academics stress you out? ”

”Hah, you call that academics? You don remember half of your classes. Thats just coasting. ”

”Coasting is better than crashing. ”

”Didn you say you were failing your classes? ” I glare at him to make up for my lack of response. ”Look, I still feel kind of bad for the thief thing. ”

”I told you its fine. ”

”It was pretentious, and I wasn raised to be judgmental. So, to make myself feel better about it. How about I help you with your classes? We have a lot of down time here. I could tutor you; I guess, while we work. ”

”Why would you? ”

”Because you obviously need some help and tutors are expensive. Also, why not? ”

”You don get anything out of it. ”

”Yeah, so what? I don need to get anything to do something for others. I volunteer at a childrens camp during the summer. It might seem crazy, but some people just like to help others. ” I squint my eyes at him, as if I could see any hidden motives doing so.

”Fine. ” I give up with a sigh. ”But only because I don want to flunk out my senior year. ”

”Okay, Ill take it. Whats first? ”

”I don know, what do you want to start with? ”

”What are you the farthest behind on? ” I think about that ink splotch on my math book.

”Mmm, physics. ”

”Perfect, get your math books. ”

”What? I said physics. ”

”Yeah, and you
e a liar. Struggling always starts with math. ” He nods his head toward the back room. I roll my eyes and get my things. I drop my stuff onto the counter, ”What the hell is all over your books? ”

”A pen exploded the other day. ”

”You didn clean it up? ” I scrunch up my face.

”Huh didn consider it. Oh well, its dry now. ” He shakes his head and starts opening the books. He helps me throughout our shift. He gives me instructions while he stocks the shelves, and we take breaks to help customers. By the end of the night, we finished all my math homework. ”Ill mop since you did all the stocking. ”

I shut off all the warmers and grab water. When I push the bucket out to the floor, Oliver is looking at the rest of my homework. He pulls out the book we
e reading for English. ”This is a good book. ”

”Yeah, thats what Ive heard. I can never concentrate enough to actually read it. ” As I ring out the mop, he starts talking.

”The night sky spoke to me, almost yelling. The sky yelled down and told me to turn around. Run it almost screamed. Why does the earth know what lies ahead of me when I don ? ” It takes me a minute to realize hes reading the book. While I mop the floors, he sits on the counter and reads. To my surprise I actually follow the story. He was right, it is a pretty good book.

”Done. ” I say before pushing the mop to the back and dumping out the water.

”Cool. ” He hops off the counter and grabs his stuff from the back room. ”Here are your things. ” He packed all my stuff back into my backpack. We lock the front doors as we leave. He waves and turns to leave.

”Hey Oliver! ” He turns and slides his hands into his sweatshirt pocket. ”Uh, I wanted to thank you for doing this. Im not sure if I come off appreciative, but I am. Also, I wanted to extend an invitation. Some friends of mine are having a party next week, I was wondering if you wanted to come? Its pretty casual, nothing that exciting. ”

”Uh, yeah sure. I assume its on a day we have off? ” I nod. ”Okay, sure. Oh, here. ” He takes out his phone and walks back over to me. He pulls up his phone number and puts it into my phone. ”Now you can contact me if you have any questions on your homework or anything. ”

”Okay. ” I suddenly feel awkward, so I give a little half smile.

”Alright, Im out. ” He turns and leaves this time. The walk back to the apartment is cold. Through the day the wind picked up and brought a chill with it. When I get home, its quiet again. The TV is on, but I don see anybody watching it. I lay down in my room, and for once I feel accomplished. I tuck my knife under my pillow and change into my pajamas. I sleep nightmare free for the first time in years. The morning was right, it was a good day.

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