Saturday, April 15, 2017

City of Secrets--Chapter 3

City of Secrets

Chapter 3








Previously: Social outcast Frankie Moreno was leaving school early when she overheard classmates Penny and Chase arguing in the hall. When Chase pushed Penny against the lockers, Frankie intervened, only to find herself faced with Chase's wrath. 

Chapter 3

Frankie 

 


    Frankie’s eyes were locked on Chase’s. She wanted to look away, but she couldn’t. She’d heard girls say his eyes were dreamy, that you could get lost in them. Frankie didn’t think they were dreamy, but she could get lost in them. Lost in hell. Their hazel color reminded her of an animal’s eyes. A predator’s eyes, and a predator was exactly what Chase was.

    “Come on, Frankie. Answer me,” he said. “You think you can just—”

    The bell rang. Frankie and Penny jumped, but Chase remained cool as ever, even when the hall filled with people.

    “What are you doing with these losers, Chase?” Laurel Beaumont asked, as if she’d found Chase in the hall performing a circus act with monkeys.

    Chase turned his smile back on as though someone had flipped a switch. “Penny was telling me about her internship at NCAR. We better be careful, Laur. I think she might give us a run for our money for valedictorian.”

    Frankie watched Penny, wondering what she would do, but Penny just stood there, her expression neutral.

    Laurel tossed her hair over her shoulder—her signature move. “Who cares if Plain Penny gets valedictorian? Some of us have lives.” The girls surrounding Laurel laughed.

    “Yeah, but what’s the freak doing here?” Amber Abrams asked, glaring at Frankie.

     Chase shrugged. “She just showed up. Got all jealous when she saw me talking to Penny. She can’t get over the fact that we’re never going to be a couple.”

    If it were anyone else, Frankie would’ve had a million comebacks and would’ve enjoyed delivering each and every one of them. But not with Chase. His threats were too real.

    “Oh, gag.”

    “I can’t believe you went there.”

    “You know the story,” Chase said, walking over to Laurel's group. “We were drunk. She came on to me. I—”

    “Shut up,” Frankie said. She knew she was the one who should keep her mouth shut, but she couldn’t stand it when Chase talked about That Night.

    “Ooh.”

    “She told you.”

    “Come on, Frankie,” Chase said. “If you wouldn’t act so easy all—”

    “Enough already, Chase,” Jason Singer said. “I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m sick of listening to you brag.”

    Amber, Jason’s girlfriend, stepped out of the crowd. “I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m sick of you standing up for the freak.” She brushed past him and disappeared down the hall.

    “That’s our cue,” Laurel said. She and several other girls followed after Amber.

    “Don’t tell me you two are at it again? How are you even still together?” Chase asked.

    “We’re fine,” Jason said. “Come on. My truck’s still in the shop, and you promised me a ride home.”

    “Yeah, sure, man.” Without another look at Frankie, Chase followed Jason down the hall. Now that the show was over, everyone else started heading off too.

    Frankie was about to do the same, when Mr. Rosen rounded the corner. His eyes zeroed in on Frankie. “Ms. Moreno, I would’ve expected you to be long gone by now. Follow me. Detention. You can expect to be spending tomorrow after school with me as well.”

    Frankie rolled her eyes. “Fine. Let’s just get it over with.”

    By Frankie’s standards it was a compliment, but Mr. Rosen had apparently forgotten what Frankie’s usual standards were, because he said, “Keep up that attitude and we can go ahead and tack Wednesday on too.”

    Frankie wanted to remark on how Mr. Rosen must enjoy spending time with her, seeing as how he just loved to give her detention, but decided it was best to stay quiet. She was about to follow him when Penny said, “Wait, sir. I need to talk to Frankie.”

    His tone was slightly friendlier when he said, “This isn’t social hour, Ms. Harper. You can speak with her on your own time.”

    “It’s school related, sir. Ms. Miller’s orders. It’ll only take five minutes. She’ll go straight to your classroom after. I’ll make sure of it.”

    What are you, my babysitter? Frankie managed to keep this thought to herself, and was proud of the self-control she was having.

     “If I ask Ms. Miller, she’ll confirm this?”

    “Yes.”

    Frankie wondered how Penny had come up with the lie so quickly, and how she could be so confident about it. She also wondered when Penny Harper had started lying. Not that Frankie knew Penny well, but she wouldn’t have taken the class brain to be the type to lie to a teacher.

    “Very well. Make it fast.”

    Frankie had a feeling he wouldn’t have agreed if anyone other than Penny had asked. Once he was gone, Frankie said, “You don’t have to thank me, you just better watch your back.”

    “What?” Penny asked, sounding confused.

    “What do you mean, what? Chase. He’s dangerous. Stay away from him.” Frankie looked straight into Penny’s gray eyes—so much like Richie’s—willing her to listen.

    “I—I know he is,” Penny said. She wouldn’t meet Frankie’s gaze.

    “I don’t think you do. It sounded like you were egging him on or something. I’m serious, Penny. Stay away from him.”

    Penny tilted her head, looking at Frankie quizzically. “Why do you care?”

    Good question. It wasn’t as though they were friends. They’d known each other their entire lives, yet barely spoken. Was it because Penny looked small and vulnerable standing there in a baggy sweater, her usually pale cheeks tinged with pink, and her eyes wide behind her glasses? Was it because she was Richie’s sister? Or was it something else?

    “I don’t know. Just watch out.” Without saying goodbye, Frankie turned and started away.

    “Frankie, wait. I really do need to talk to you.”

    “We just did,” Frankie said, without bothering to turn around.

    “No, I mean about school. Ms. Miller wanted me to ask you something.”

    Frankie turned in surprise. “I thought you made that up.”

    Penny laughed, and something about the sound made Frankie’s heart feel lighter. “No. Ms. Miller wants me to tutor you.”

    The heavy feeling returned. “Tutor me? What, like I’m some kind of degenerate moron or something? Just tack that onto my other nicknames, why don’t you? Frankie the foolish freak. Or, how about this? Frankie the flunky.”

    Penny didn’t blink, or show any signs of being rattled by Frankie’s outburst. “No one thinks you’re dumb. You just need help getting motivated. I can only imagine how hard it must be once you’ve fallen behind. I can help you make up what you didn’t pass last year and stay caught up on this year’s material in the process.”

    Frankie studied Penny. She seemed serious, and it sounded like exactly what Frankie needed, which meant it was too good to be true. “Why would you help me?”

    “It actually helps both of us. I need something extra to put on my college transcripts.”

    Frankie rolled her eyes. “Right. Like you need help getting into college.”

    “It’s not the getting in part I’m worried about. It’s the paying for it. I don’t want my parents’ help. I need an academic scholarship,” Penny said, a faint pleading note to her voice.

    “All the other spoiled little shits are more than happy to spend their parents’ money. Why aren’t you?”

    “I’m just not, okay? So, come on. What do you say?” Penny asked, the pleading tone even more obvious now.

    Frankie knew she needed to start thinking about her future; she wasn’t going to see a dime of her mother and stepfather’s money once she turned eighteen. She had no idea what she was going to do after high school. Not to mention her other problem. The one that was growing every day. She wasn’t sure if doing better in school was the answer, but maybe it was a place to start. “Yeah, I guess.”

    Penny smiled, and the weightless feeling in Frankie’s heart returned. “Great. I’ll talk to Ms. Miller tomorrow.”

     “Okay,” Frankie said, not feeling nearly as excited as Penny. Or maybe that was the fact that she had to go to detention.

    “Hey, nice shirt,” Penny said.

    “Yeah, right.” Frankie assumed Penny was making fun of the shirt, like Emma had earlier.

    Again, Penny didn’t look fazed. “No, I’m serious. Richie had the same one,” Penny said, her tone wistful.

    This time, the weight that seized Frankie’s heart was so heavy it pulled it all the way down to her feet. Frankie stared at Penny, guilt rendering her speechless. The shirt had belonged to Richie. She and Richie had been messing around in his room when his parents had come home. Unable to find her own shirt, Frankie had thrown his on and snuck out the back door. The shirt had never found its way back to Richie’s closet. Frankie was only wearing it now because it was one of the few things she had that was baggy enough to hide her growing stomach.

    Penny knew none of these things. She didn’t know that Frankie had known Richie as more than some guy in the grade ahead of her, let alone been his girlfriend. Penny had no idea the number of times Frankie had been inside Penny’s house. Penny had no idea that Frankie had broken Richie’s heart. If Penny knew, she would hate Frankie. She would never speak to Frankie again. Suddenly, that idea terrified Frankie.

    “Are you okay?”

    Frankie blinked. “Um, yeah. I’m just tired. I should go. Detention.”

    Penny nodded. “Yeah. See you tomorrow.”

    “See you,” Frankie said. She turned and walked toward Mr. Rosen’s room, hating herself all over again for what she’d done to Richie. Now she had something new to hate herself for. She hated herself for lying to Penny, but she knew she didn’t have a choice. Penny could never find out the truth. 



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