I'm not sure how I dragged myself to school the next day. I certainly didn't want to go, and was having trouble making myself care about even the old threat of expulsion. But the idea of staying home with Mom and wallowing in our respective miseries somehow sounded worse.
"So, I have something kinda wild to tell you," Teek said, at lunch.
"How wild?" I asked. She was making grabby-hands at my Capri-Sun, so I tossed it her way.
"Guess who me and my mom saw at the supermarket yesterday."
"Who?" I asked. I was not going to play. I was also not going to look at Adam, who was sitting (with Casey again!) at a table across the quad.
In one deft motion, Teek stabbed the straw into the drink. "Ken Ikeda's mom," she said.
This caught me off-guard, but I recovered. "So?" I said. Mrs. Ikeda was still in town; I already knew that. I'd seen her myself at Walgreens a couple of months ago, and quickly ducked into the Hair Care aisle to avoid her.
"That's not the wild part. But if you're not interested, I won't tell you."
"Why would I be interested?"
She raised her eyebrows. "Um, maybe cause you and Ken were, like, inseparable all through eighth grade? But if you want to pretend you don't care, I don't have to tell you.”
"Fine." I just wanted to get Talking About Ken over with. "Tell me."
She gave me a half-smile and leaned forward across the table. "Ken's coming back to Courtyard.”
Ken's coming back to Courtyard.
I blinked at her, hoping my face remained passive. Inside, I felt like I'd just been sucker-punched. All the air left my lungs. It was like playing field hockey in eighth grade and being charged by an asshole jock who didn't care if the handle of his wooden stick caught me in the chest and knocked me to the ground. I'd lie there in the grass with the wind knocked out of me while the gym teacher yelled at me to get back up, get back in the game. I couldn't say or do anything, because I couldn't breathe.
Teek was staring at me. "Well, are you going to say something or what?"
"Great," I croaked out. It felt like someone was sitting on my chest. I attempted to inflate my lungs and tried it again: "That's great. Cool."
"Are you okay?"
"I'm fine." I looked down at my ham-on-Wonder-Bread sandwich, two bites missing from the corners like reverse Mickey Mouse ears.. "I think I just swallowed wrong."
"Oookay," Teek said. She didn't sound convinced and she shouldn't have been. "So I'm guessing you and Ken haven't kept in touch. Since you never talk about him anymore. And you didn't know."
I shrugged. What else was I supposed to do?
Teek's face remained neutral, but she leaned in a little closer when she asked, "So what happened? Between you and Ken, I mean."
"Nothing," I said, without thinking. "We just lost touch."
She wrinkled her nose. "I don't believe you."
"Well…" It's the truth, I wanted to say, even though it wasn't. But Teek would know I was lying; she already knew I was lying. I opened my mouth again, with no idea of what was going to come out, and that's when a hand tapped me on the shoulder.
"Dillon," a voice said. "I'll see you at our meeting tomorrow, yes?"
I looked up. I'd been saved by Mr. Bodoni.
"Oh," I said. "Yes. Right."
"Excellent," he said cheerily. He was wearing that red cardigan again. He rested a hand on his stomach, on the spot where the knit gaped between the buttons. "Well, enjoy the rest of your lunch."
"Thanks," I said. He offered a weak wave, which I didn't return, and headed off towards the office.
Teek watched him go. "He's still making you meet with him?" she asked.
"I guess," I said. Mr. Bodoni had been the last thing on my mind the last few days. But now that he'd reminded me of our impending "meeting," I was damn sure I was not going to be there. Not now, not when I had so much to think about, so much that could spill-over and come out. I couldn't tell him about Adam, I'd already decided that much. And I couldn't talk about Mom; with Richard gone, I'd already granted myself permission not think about that for a while.
"So—" Teek started to say, and I suddenly remembered what we'd been talking about.
Before she could finish, I stood up. "I need to go to the library," I said, stuffing the remains of my sandwich into my lunch sack. "I just remembered I gotta print a thing for English."
"Paper outline." That sounded plausible, right? "I'll see you in bio."
"Um," she said. "Okay."
She was suspicious, but that was the least of my worries. I avoided her eyes as I gathered my stuff and turned away from the table. I didn't notice until I made it to the library that my heart was beating like crazy.
Ken's coming back to Courtyard, she had said. That was the last thing I needed.
Up next Thursday, Chapter 27: One Day at a Time.