Focused on my little investigation, I neglected to notice Teddy saunter into school, or his surveillance of my activities. I didn’t register Mr Ried’s words in our morning Homeroom announcements as I stewed on my predicament. Instead of heading to my first lesson, as soon as we were dismissed, I hurried to find Tom.
He must have known what was coming, because as soon as Tom noticed my approach, his skin drained white while he stood near the entrance to an empty classroom.
“Can we talk?”
“In here.” Tom led me into the vacant room, closing the door behind us. “I wish I could reverse what I did. You were right. I should have stood up to Teddy. This should never have happened.”
“It’s a bit late for that now. The damage has been done. They don’t remember anything that’s happened between us since I started, not exactly. Rebekah and Bernie didn’t even know who I was.”
“I didn’t think it was that bad.”
“You didn’t think. That’s the whole problem isn’t it?”
“Riley. I’ll do anything, anything to make this right.”
“I’m really trying not to hate you at the moment.” Upon spitting out those words a tear escaped, trailing down the side of Tom’s face.
I wished that I felt guilty, that I could stop, but the venom of my rage failed to waver.
“You violated their minds. An essential part of who they are. Doesn’t that occur to you? How serious this is?”
“Of course it does. I don’t do any of this lightly.” The pleading tone had left his voice, replaced with the harsh edge of irritation.
“Like you did with Mrs Noble? That was hardly the last possible choice of action. You could have made up a story, lied?”
Tom simply hung his head, searching for an answer.
“All of you have gotten so used to relying on your abilities, even though you want to appear normal, disconnected from the rest of us. Every time you go alakazam, you fly in the face of everything you’re trying to achieve.” I stepped close, so the seriousness of my face clouded his vision. “Either take ownership of what you can do, limit the damage, or don’t do it at all.”
“I hate this.” He whimpered back. “This is exactly what I didn’t want.”
“I don’t mean to attack you like this-“ I couldn’t finish my sentence as emotion ebbed like a tidal wave from my feet to the tip of my head.
My body sprung forth and I caught Tom in a tight hug, a loud sob escaping from somewhere deep in my throat.
“This feels so helpless.” He croaked as thick arms clutched me against a muscular chest.
Realisation struck at what I was doing, and I pushed him away – well, rather forced myself off his solid frame – my eyes freely trickling with tears as I stalked vehemently from the room.
Hurrying to my special place, I curled up on the bench and willed for the tears to stop. Why was I so upset? Did Tom just use some mind-mojo on me? I waited out the rest of the lesson, using the time to regain my composure.
All through my next lesson, Maths, I pushed every thought of Tom – and that involuntary embrace – into a box locked away deep into the overactive neurons of my cranium. Sneakily pulling out my mobile, I sent a text to Teddy, asking him to meet me at my car for morning break. He was the next victim on my hit list. It was time I made my feelings clear, and be done with him once and for all.
The interior of my bug was like an oven, baked under a boiling sun, I started the engine and cranked up the air conditioning and watched students milling about outside, on alert for Teddy’s approach. I switched on the radio after a minute… where was he?
Just before I ran out of patience and resorted to another text, Teddy appeared through the external doors and headed in a straight line towards where I sat. My heart skipped, it annoyed me how he still managed to boggle my senses, his smooth gait so effortlessly cool. I needed to stay angry to make my point, scowling as he reached the car, knocking at the window. I waved for him to climb in, watching the circumference of the building to see if we were being spied upon.
“This is a little intimate.” He smirked as soon as he pulled the door closed, the radio broadcasting a love song I could not identify.
I switched it off.
“I didn’t want anyone to overhear me screaming at you.” I replied and his smile instantly faded.
“Tom said you tore strips off him.” Of course he did!
“So you know just how angry I am. How indecent it is of you to ask me to be okay with everything that has gone down?”
“I understand. It won’t happen again.”
“And this thing between us-“
“There is still an us?”
“If, and I re-iterate, if, we continue to see each other, I am not going to choose you over my friends. You’re going to have to come up with some other way around keeping what you want secret. Scrubbing out peoples’ memories is no longer an option.”
Teddy replied with a nod and stared at his lap.
“You’re not going to say anything back?”
“I don’t know what to say. At this point let’s just agree to disagree.”
“I can’t be with anybody who condones involuntarily stripping away parts of peoples’ lives.”
“It’s not like that.”
“Then enlighten me. Help me understand; because I want to. I don’t want to feel this way about you.” My words seemed to hit home and Teddy squinted in pain.
“It might be easier for you to understand if you had been living with us for a while. But Roberts’ hunches, they’re never wrong. And he truly believed that there was no other option, a choice between two terrible things, we took the one that meant less death.”
“Less death? Someone is going to die?”
“We think so.”
Another shock, more information that he drip-fed me.
“Please, go. I need to be alone.” He climbed out of the car, pausing before gently closing the door.
“You can ask me anything. Anytime. Just call me and I’ll be there.”
I didn’t want to be sitting at school any longer, with 10 minutes of our break left, I decided to shirk the rule of not leaving the school grounds, and coasted out of the lot, heading towards the closest road out of Alice Springs.
Living in such a small burg, the buildings receded into the scrub very quickly, and within minutes I was surrounded with powder green shrubs and ore coloured rubble. It was the perfect place to gather my thoughts; a clear open sky, nature nestling in from every angle. Parking under the large shadow of a River Gum I waited for my mind to stop reeling.
At least I was taking charge of the situation, although, I did just run away again… Teddy promised no more hidden facts, and I had gotten exactly what I asked for. Was I really capable of handling this? It could be so easy to end all ties and stick my head back into the sand, live out the rest of High School blinkered from the Tavish clan. I could – if I didn’t lose control of my faculties whenever I was in a room with one of them. Resting my head on the steering wheel I prayed a solution would simply fall into my lap and life would be uncomplicated again.
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