“You did what?” Marisol shrieked and dropped her taco. The tortilla opened up, and some of the carnitas fell out.
“I went after her,” said Ed.
“At 3 AM? Near Whitehaven? With an infuriated biker whose bike she stole after her?”
“I don’t know if there was actually a biker,” said Ed.
“Oh, well that’s fine then.” Marisol scooped the taco into her hand.
“We didn’t see any.”
Marisol rolled her eyes. “You didn’t tell me any of this.”
“No,” said Ed.
Marisol glared at him. “Fine. So the biker didn’t show up?”
“Not that I saw,” said Ed. “Someone did shoot at us, though.”
“Someone shot at you? For fuck’s sake!” All around them, the faces of other taco patrons shot in their direction. Marisol bent down and lowered her voice. “Someone shot at you?”
“I think so,” said Ed. “Maybe. There was a noise. It was pretty loud.”
“Ugh,” said Marisol. “Okay, fine, whatever. Then what happened?”
“I knew you would come,” said Kristen as Ed pulled of on the exit to Okenville. “No one else thought you would.”
“No one…” Ed trailed off. Who else was there?
“No,” Kristen said. “They didn’t.” She put her hand on his leg. Ed didn’t say anything. He just drove.
“You’re going to need a new coat,” Kristen said after a few minutes.
“Yeah,” said Ed.
“That one has a hole in it.” She didn’t need to say it. Ed knew it had a hole in it. He was there. But she said it with such delight. Like she could taste the words in her mouth, and they were delicious. Ed swallowed.
“I’ll buy you one,” Kristen said.
“You don’t have to,” said Ed.
“Of course I don’t have to,” said Kristen, and she laughed her gas flame laugh. “But it’s going to be cold at the party. And if you don’t wear a coat you will look ridiculous.”
Ed wanted to say something, but the words froze.
“This is my house,” said Kristen. She slipped her hand off of Ed’s leg – slowly – and slipped out of the door. “Saturday,” she said without turning around.
The text day Ed told Marisol about the party. And nothing else. He tried to get her to come.
“To a party with those people?” she said. “Not a god damn chance.”
“It could be fun,” said Ed.
“No way, brother,” she said. Then she grinned. “Besides, I wouldn’t want to cockblock.”
“You think something will happen?” Ed’s throat was dry. It was always dry, but this time he noticed, because he read that sometimes it happened in situations like this.
Marisol shrugged. “That girl wants to wrap every part of you around her fingers. I don’t know what game she’s playing, but there ain’t no doubt about that.”
“I thought you didn’t like her?”
“I don’t. I think she’s a crazy bitch.” Marisol put her hand on Ed’s shoulder. “But I like you. And if you want to dip your wick into that fire, I’m not going to stop you. How else will you learn? Just don’t expect too much sympathy over here when you get burned.”
Ed thought about hugging Marisol. But that would have been weird.
Rumors spread over the next few days that Kristen Selka was having a crazy part in the woods this weekend. Ed didn’t remember there being this much gossip in Okenville before Kristen showed up. But maybe he just never paid attention. Everyone whispered about who was invited and who wasn’t invited. Ed heard from Steve that Ryan Sutherland hadn’t even heard about it until Thursday, and certainly didn’t get an invitation. Somehow, everyone knew that Ed was going.
Ryan and two of his varsity friends cornered Ed outside the locker room Friday afternoon. There was no one else around. Ed wondered what had taken them so long.
“Hey freak,” said Ryan. “I heard you’re after my girl. Is that true?”
“I dunno,” said Ed.
“I asked you a question, assrag.”
Ed shrugged. “I’m not after anyone.”
“That’s not what we heard,” said one of the friends. Ed thought he was very tall.
“You need to learn some manners,” said Ryan. He actually said that. Like a bully in an 80s movie. Ed thought that was kind of funny.
“Are you laughing?” Ryan’s friend asked, grabbing Ed by the sleeve.
“No,”said Ed. Had he laughed? He didn’t notice.
“Oh, that is fucking it!” Ryan punched him in the stomach. Then the other two joined. They smashed Ed’s head against the wall, and elbowed him in the gut. One of them punched him in the ear.
Ed didn’t want to fight back. It didn’t seem worth it. But after a few minutes he got the impression they weren’t going to stop for a while, and he didn’t want to be late for art class. He liked art class.
Ed spent the rest of the day thinking someone was going to come and tell him he was in trouble. But no one did. Ryan and his friends must not have said anything. Maybe they were embarrassed, or something. He saw Ryan in the hall, but he wouldn’t catch Ed’s eye.
Just after last period a freshman ran up to him and handed him a bag. It contained a brand new jacket. It looked expensive. It was Gore-tex. It was flame-red and had a darker red circle on the chest.
Right over the heart.