If You Dare: Chapter 8

After

Violet

As soon as my shift is over, I beeline for my dorm room and toss clothes at random into my suitcase.

Aneesa, who is at her desk video chatting with a couple of friends, tells them she has to go and closes her laptop. She rushes to my side, still in her grass-stained soccer uniform. “What’s going on?”

“I’m leaving.” Mom will understand when I explain the situation. She may be disappointed in me right now, but she won’t want to see me tortured by the vengeful brother of my dead best friend.

“What, why? Did I do something?” Aneesa’s eyes are round. I almost feel bad for her, but I’m too preoccupied with being terrified for myself.

“No, it has nothing to do with you.” My hands tremble when I yank a pair of shorts from my dresser.

“So why are you leaving?”

“Because no one wants me here.” Tears prick my eyes. One day, and being back on this campus has already been absolute hell. I can’t believe I ever thought there was a chance I might survive this day, let alone this year.

Aneesa rushes to my side and grabs my hand. “I want you here.”

I brush away the tears. “Thank you, but there are some very dangerous people who don’t.”

She frowns. “Like who?”

I shake off her hand and return to packing my bag. “Like the brother of my dead best friend.”

Since he confronted me in the library, I haven’t been able to get his face out of my head. The snarl to his lips, the fury in his eyes that seared through me. He said he would kill me.

And I believe him.

Aneesa’s lips purse. “I’m sure he’s not exactly happy to see you, but he’ll get over it. If he really hates you being here that much, he can leave.”

“He’s a senior. And he’s the hockey captain. He’s definitely not going anywhere.” And if Wes did leave because of me, that would just be another way I ruined his life. More guilt weighing on me.

“That sounds like his problem,” Aneesa insists. “You have just as much right to be here as he does, Violet.”

“I don’t have a right to anything.” I appreciate what she’s trying to do, but she has no clue what she’s talking about, so I keep my voice firm. Conversation over. “I need to call my mom and tell her to come get me.”

Aneesa nods and returns to her laptop to read her email. At least, she pretends to.

Mom answers on the third ring. “Violet?” she asks. She used to call me hon.

“I need to come home.” My voice is already watery.

Silence. My first day of kindergarten, I cried so much that the teacher let me call Mom from the front office and she left work to pick me up early. My first day of college, I called her crying that I already missed her and she stayed up on the phone with me until I fell asleep.

A dull ache roots deep in my chest when she doesn’t offer to come get me this time. “You knew this first day back wouldn’t be easy. You can get through this.”

“I will literally attend anywhere else,” I plead. “Just please don’t make me stay here.” She can send me to a university in Alaska for all I care. At least there, no one will know who I am. What I’ve done.

“What happened?” Her tone is gentler now, full of concern.

My voice cracks. “Wes hates me.”

“He doesn’t hate you,” she soothes. “He’s hurting and angry, but that will pass when he realizes what happened was an accident. You’ve worked so hard for this opportunity, Violet. Few people are lucky enough to get a free education, let alone at their dream school. You’ve wanted to be a writer your whole life, and you can’t flush away all your hard work for anyone. If you leave, you’d have to figure out a way to pay for a place to stay, a car, tuition. We don’t have the money for that. Trust me, Wes will find it in his heart to forgive you, and you’ll be so glad you decided to stay.”

“What if I just take a gap year?” My heart is pounding in my chest now. I can’t stay here. I can’t. “I’ll come back after he graduates.”

“You’ll forfeit your scholarship.” A pregnant pause. “What happened with Wes, Violet? If something happened, I can talk to the Novaks.”

That would only make Wes resent me more if he found out I ran to my mommy and got his parents involved. I have enough guilt weighing me down. I don’t need more.

Mom is right. I’ll never get a free ride anywhere else, and this is what I’ve been working for my entire life. All I have left is my education, my career. My writing is the only remaining part of me that brings me any flicker of joy, of hope. I can’t give that up.

Wes is pissed right now. He threatened to kill me in the heat of the moment. But he would never actually hurt me.

He’ll be busy with his own classes and a hectic hockey schedule. Between working out, practice, games, and travel, he’ll forget all about me.

All I need to do is survive until he graduates.

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