"You wanted to see me, Mr. Jones?" I knock lightly at the door, sticking my head inside the principle's room.
The old man looks up at me, then motions me inside with a nod.
I sit myself in the uncomfortable wooden chair, facing Mr. Jones, who wears a dead-serious expression.
"Joey...I heard what happened yesterday." He says, his head resting in his hand.
Almost immediately, my face flushes in embarrassment.
"I'm sorry, sir. I don't know what came over me. I didn't mean to hit William." I mutter.
He stares at me, taking off his glasses and sighing.
"Yes, I'm aware that you didn't mean it. I've heard that William is a troubled boy. But that's not why I've called you here for."
I raise my eyebrow.
Last time I checked; I didn't do anything wrong except for that.
"Joey, you know what reputation your father holds, right?" He asks.
I hesitate for a second before muttering, "Yes..."
"And you're also aware about how everyone looks up to him in this ordinary town?" He tests me again.
I look him in the eyes, not hiding the frustration I felt. I hate it when people praise Mr. Miller, like he's some angel. "What's your point?"
The man leans forwards, with suspicion in his voice, "You'll never guess who came here yesterday to defend on your behalf."
I roll my eyes, "The way you're saying this, I reckon it wasn't my father?"
Mr. Jones scowls, "I hope you're taking this seriously, Joey."
"And I hope you'll stop giving me hints and get straight to the point." I retort.
"Very well." He gives me a curious look, as I try to hold back my anger.
Stop taking everything in you.
Just shut yourself from this world. Don't let them see what you feel
"Yesterday, Mr. and Mrs. Park came to complain about you."
"I'm sure they did." I say, carelessly, staring at the tight fist of hands resting on my lap.
"They wanted to meet your father, Joey."
These words perk my ears with some sort of interest as I look up at him.
"And of course, they weren't going to let you go that easily considering that you broke his nose." His tone can't help but be surprised. "So, you understand, that I had no choice but to call him."
He did what?
Did Mr. Jones really call him?
Does that mean Mr. Miller already knows?
No…there must be a misunderstanding. If Mr. Miller knew what happened…he would have reacted much worse than that…
Much, much worse.
"Are you ok, Joey?" Mr. Jones interrupts my drastic thoughts, "You look quite pale if I must say."
"Y-you called him?" My voice shakes slightly.
"No, I didn't get the chance." He looks at me intently. "Something – or should I say someone – peculiar happened."
Just say it already!
"What?" I ask, on the verge of losing my patience.
"Well, as soon as I was about to call John, Gillian Ray decided to make an entrance."
At that very moment, that I realize something he said before. He said that he won't let Mr. Miller find out. He said that he won't tell him anything as long as I get what he had asked me done.
"Joey? Are you alright? You look…pale." The man asks.
I give him a pensive stare, "What did Mr. Ray say?"
The principle shrugs, "He just...um… 'cleared the issue'."
"Will you explain what you mean by that."
"Well," He gives me a nervous glance, and I immediately know why he's acting like that.
He bribed them. Gillian Ray gave Will's parents and Mr. Jones money to keep their mouth shut.
Greed. It drives a person to do anything. It makes a person let go of things, in which they deserve justice.
"Nevertheless," He continues when I don't question him, just looking down at the floor, my brows furrowed. "All the matters have been cleared."
"I see." I get up from the chair, suddenly not wanting this conversation. "If the problem has been solved, then I guess I'll leave."
He nods, "Yes, of course."
I walk to the door grabbing hold of the door-knob when he calls out to my back,
"Don't skip your classes, will you?"
I scoff, the grasp of the knob tightening.
Maybe I'll stop doing that when you stop getting induced so easily.
"Sure." I say, leaving the office.
So…Gillian's defending me now? That's a new one.
But one thing I learned from others is that they don't just 'help' you because they want to. There's always a darker purpose behind it. Everyone is selfish. Everyone has their own cause. And they won't hesitate to leave you behind to reach it.
Maybe, this theory of mine is the reason I can't trust anyone.
But who's to say I'm wrong?
After all, the people I know are what they are.
"Dude, you okay?" Matt asks me, his face creasing with worry.
The two of us are on our way home, walking towards the main square from where we'll part to opposite directions.
I shake my head, shrugging the bag on my shoulder in a comfortable position.
"Yeah, I'm okay." I reply, chewing at my lips.
Gillian is really forcing me into a difficult position. How am I supposed to get the money he wants? Why can't he just talk to Mr. Miller, god damnit?
Why drag me into this?
"You keep on blinking out, Joe. What's up, man?" Matt inquires again.
"Nothing, Matthew. I told you I'm fine. Stop pushing me to tell you what's wrong when there isn't." I growl, taking out my frustration.
Matt scowls, kicking at a stone on the pavement, huffing, "Shut up, Miller. Why are you the one acting like this when clearly, I should be the one mad at you, you jerk!"
"What did I do?" I roll my eyes.
He stops, which makes me freeze in my tracks too.
"You know, Joey, even though I try hard to ignore it, you just constantly keep on proving me how dumb you are! Do you seriously not know why I'm angry at ya?"
He snorts in disbelief, when I blink blankly at him.
"You literally ran out of school yesterday! You didn't even answer when I called out at you, like an idiot! Why did you do that?"
I hesitate for a good minute.
"I…Something came up. I remembered something important to do."
"Oh really?" Mat jeers, "Stop lying pal. You really think I'll believe this excuse? I know you only ran off cause you hit that Will. Which he deserved!" Nudging me with his elbow, he says, proudly, "Who knew you had the guts and strength to break his nose! Hilarious! I understand that you got shocked and freaked out about that."
The thing about Mat is that he always answers his trick questions, himself.
"Hey man!" He repeatedly pokes hard at my head, "What the hell are you thinking in there, huh?"
I grab his hand, annoyed, "Stop doing that."
He grins, "Nah. I think I'll keep on hitting your head until you get some sense in your hallow mind."
"No, Matt. I mean it. Stop." I warn him, "I'm not in a good mood right now."
"Gimme a break!" He huffs, "You're never in a good mood."
"Not necessarily." I respond.
"Oh yeah?" He raises his eyebrows mischievously, "If that's the case, why don't you give a big smile to the world?"
I look at him, sighing, "You really need to stop bugging me."
"Pfft. Whatever, dude. I'm just trying to help a friend out."
I don't say anything to that.
Two thoughts running in my mind.
The dinner party.
That damn party in which they just had to invite Mr. Miller.
I get why he tries to act so nice you know. I get why he wants everyone to know how great of a man he is. No one can suspect a kind man like him to be a killer, right? Especially since I heard him preparing a speech of starting a petition against these murders. He's probably going to announce it in the party tonight. I'll never understand him. I'll never understand why or how he does it? He's either the most careless or the most intelligent man I've ever seen. Because whatever he does, I don't know if it makes it easier or harder to do what he does.
"See! This is what I'm taking about, Joey!" He waves a hand in front of my eyes, attempting to get my attention. "What in the world are you thinking that causes you to forget that I'm still here?"
We turn around a corner.
"What did old Jones say that's making you so anxious?" He asks.
"Nothing." I say. "It's nothing."
"You know…I don't think Will's gonna cut you some slack for what you did." He points out, validly.
"I know that."
"But your father is a well-respected man. Won't his parents like…forgive him? Or the other way around?"
"Why do you act so weird whenever I mention your pa?" Matt mumbles, "Everybody knows how much bloody amazing he is! You should be grateful!"
The anger bubbles in my mind when he says that. I glare at him.
You got to be shitting me.
"Will you just-?"
But before I could fight about this, I get interrupted by his voice.
"Just because your dad's guy gave my parents some compensation, you think I'll let go of what you've done?"
He stands in front of us, gritting his teeth, blowing out fog through his bandaged nose, because of the cold night,
Mat smirks, "My mom always told me when I was young that if you talk about the devil, he's bound to show up. Guess she was bloody right."
William ignores his comment, eyes only piercing in mine,
"You and I have an unfinished business to complete, Miller." He yells.
"Literally the most cliché line a villain could say." Matt says, tilting his head slightly as if he's judging him, enjoying the redness in Will's face, "But you know what, I'm quite fascinated what Joey will break off next on your face, considering your nose is already in bad shape." He looks at me, half-serious, half-joking, "You're gonna have to punch that look off from this guy's face. Cause if you don't, I will."
I look at him, wondering if he actually means it.
Matt returns my perplexed stare with an expectant look.
"You really think I'll let you punch me again, huh? You losers don't have a chance against me." Will snaps, confidently.
Matt erupts in laughter, bending down to his knees.
Provoking him on purpose.
"Matthew, you idiot," I whisper in a hiss, "Stop."
He pats my back, "Aww Joey, don't ruin the fun! I've never had a good laugh before!"
Will clenches his fists, "What's so funny?"
Matt smiles, bitter-sweet, "Oh nothing. Except that you're challenging the two of us now even when you couldn't handle one."
Will's rage gets mixed with hesitance, knowing Matt's got a point.
"Why don't you stop babbling and fight me then?" He shouts, "Or are you two afraid?" He glares at me, "Why don't you try and hit me again!"
"He gladly will!" Matt yells back, "Or better yet, I'll do it instead to knock some sense into you!"
He takes a few steps forward, but I sigh, and grab hold of his shoulder,
Matt turns his head, brows furrowed, "What do you mean, 'stop'"?
"Do you really want to fight him? I mean yesterday you said you didn't want to. Since clearly he wanted attention. He's doing this on purpose. He wants to prove that he's the strongest in school."
"Then I'll just have to prove him wrong!" Matt exclaims.
I shake my head, "It's better if we never let him know instead."
Matt opens his mouth to protest than realizes that I'm right.
What's the point to fight all the time, you know? It's stupid.
Will listening to our conversation, "Then why don't you step up, Joey? I'm sure you'd like to, considering you still have all that pride from yesterday left in you!"
Because I can't.
I managed to slip up once. But I can't let myself do it again.
Last time, Gillian saved me. But that was when he was there. His eyes were anyway.
Right now, If i do anything like that, I'll only cause commotion. And since everyone knows who's 'son' I am, they are bound to tell Mr. Miller.
And let's just say, I'm not prepared to...defend myself from him.
"Because," I take a deep breath, looking at the two, "It's just not worth it..."
It's not worth it.
"Come on, Matt." I gesture him to follow, as i walk past Will, who's steaming. "I have an important place to be to. And I'm getting late."
"S-sure." Matt replies, giving one last glance to Will.
He walks up to me, voice low, "You really triggered him."
"Just keep walking." I tell him, "Don't look back."
I can feel Will's stare all the way on the street, until we took a final turn to our destination.