Walking into the halls of Martin Luther King High School was like coming home, and that wasn't really a good thing. Home was full of reasons I didn't want to be there, and school wasn't any different. This was supposed to be better, even though I knew that was a load of shit my mom told me to get me to pack up my stuff and leave in Dad's beat-up old Corolla. It was Dad's house, Dad's rules, Dad's decisions, or it was military school. At first I thought my mom was full of shit with that threat. You see that on TV; it doesn't really happen. But there were fucking brochures on the dining room table the last time I came home with bruised knuckles and a black eye, and if she was bluffing then she was better at it than I thought. She called Dad the same night.
Their divorce had been bad and I probably made it worse, but I didn't care. Their bullshit had been hell to deal with for years and they had no idea how much they stuck me in the middle. How much they used me and never even listened to me. How much they didn't even know me and worse, didn't even try. So fine. I took my shit and left my mom's house. It couldn't be any worse at Dad's.
I was wrong. He had rules, strict curfews, and a big fist. He hit me once and I hit him back, made him remember I was as big as him now and I wasn't Mom. I could have called someone, maybe, but CPS likes to skip past our neighborhood. So we handle things our own way.
Going to MLK was like walking right back into everything I left. Because I'd been out of school a lot, my grades weren't good enough for the honors class and that made a big difference. I got put in class with the kids everyone would be shocked to see graduate, if they did. The ones who started fights, who were two minutes away from prison or military school. I guess I belonged there too.
I expected that. I expected everything I got, except him. Javier was there. I tried not to stare, but he looked the same, just taller. Taller and darker. Not physically, something else, like he'd been through hell and back in the last few years. I saw that look in the mirror a lot.
I remembered him. We'd been pretty good friends once. He'd lived only a few buildings over and we used to ride the same bus before I moved. We hung out the way kids who didn't have a whole lot of choice in the matter hung out, and we liked each other okay. Maybe more than okay, on my part anyway. He looked at me and his eyes went big and round and I knew he remembered me too.
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