When they began discussing plans, and I heard the word ambulance, I tried to tell them not to call for one. My lips cracked open and blood rushed inside my mouth, but I swallowed enough so I could talk. “No.” It came out as a whisper.
“David.” Malinda stopped their quiet conversation. Her hand patted mine. It was so gentle. “She’s trying to say something.”
“Hi, honey.” He stepped so he was in my line of sight and plastered a fake smile on his face. It was one of the worst I’d seen.
I tried again, “Don’t call them.”
“What, honey? Sammy, sweetheart.” He knelt down and bent closer to my lips.
I repeated, “Don’t call them. I can walk.”
“Samantha,” he stopped and moved out of eyesight. There was a sniffle, followed by a cough before he came back. The light from above reflected off a trail of moisture on his face, but there were no tears. He said again, “You can’t move. We have to get an ambulance. There could be internal damages.”
I tried to shake my head. Mason and Logan couldn’t know. They’d react without thinking or worse. I felt a different pang go through me. They might assume it had been the Roussou people. That would be worse. I whispered out again, “No, please no.”
“I’m sorry, honey.” He lifted a hand to pat my hand, but held it in the air. There was nowhere to touch.
Malinda moved her hand. “I don’t think she’s hurt here.”
He closed his eyes and took a couple breaths. They came out sounding jerky, but then he reached over and touched my hand in the same spot. He patted it, but it was so light it was more of a gentle graze. “Honey, Samantha, your principal’s already gone to call them.”
I sucked in air through my cracked lips. I wanted to protest.
“But we’ll have them come through the far end door. People at the game won’t see then.”
The relief was overwhelming. Fresh tears came to me, and they spilled down my face, stinging as they slid over the damage.
He added, “You don’t want Mason and Logan to see you right now, do you?”
I stopped trying to talk, but I shook my head. It was the smallest movement I could muster. I was trying so hard.
“We won’t let this out, but the paramedics have to come and get you. We’re scared of moving you.”
I closed my eyes. I could breathe easier, as easily as I could. He understood. Mason and Logan wouldn’t find out until later. I hoped to be the one to tell them, if I could, but when the EMTs came in with a stretcher, I was beginning to realize that it would be a long while until I could do anything for myself. When they rolled me onto the stretcher, I couldn’t move. My ribs ached. My chest pounded. Sharp pangs stabbed me, shooting up and down, all over me.
As we rolled down the hallway, I saw Cory beside the lockers. She stood there with Rain huddled behind her. Their hands looked as if they were clasped together, but I couldn’t be sure. When her gaze caught mine, she lifted one side of her mouth. I tried to relay my thanks. She saved me.
I couldn’t see her anymore as they wheeled me the opposite direction and out a back door. I barely felt the cold air. It stung my face, but the rest of me was wrapped in a blanket. I could move my legs, even wiggle my toes, but they hurt. Everything hurt.
“Yo, what’s that?”
Principal Green let out an exasperated sound. “If you two are here for the game, you should be on the other side of the school.”
“Relax, dude. We don’t even go here.”
“Then you’re trespassing. Get off the school’s grounds. Wait,” his voice rose, “get away from her.”
“Relax …” the voice trailed off, and I saw Brett Broudou standing above me. When he recognized me, his eyes widened, and his mouth opened. The cigarette he had poised at his mouth lowered. “Whoa …”
“Who is it, Brett?”
That must’ve been Budd.
I wanted to look away, but I didn’t. He wouldn’t move. He kept staring, so I looked back at him. A storm of emotion flashed in his gaze before he demanded, “Who did this to you?”
“That’s enough,” my dad stepped forward. He held a hand up and moved him back. “She needs to get to the hospital, son.”
“Son,” Budd ground out from somewhere. There was a bitter laugh in him. “You hear that, Brett? Geezer called you ‘son.’ We’ll show you ‘son’. We’ll show you a whole different meaning—”
Brett snapped at him, “Shut up, Budd.” He gentled his tone and asked, “Is she going to be okay, sir?”
My dad paused, frowning at him. “Are you friends with her?”
I needed to tell him. I had to stop him.
“Sir, I met her at Manny’s.”
“Brett, come on.” Another menacing growl from Budd. “This is f**king ridiculous. Her pu**y’s damaged now. Let’s focus on the Kades.”
That got my dad’s attention. His head jerked to wherever Budd was. I could still see Brett, and I saw him flinch, before he sighed and moved out of eyesight.
“Let’s go.” Principal Green stepped forward. His authority came out full force, and he pounded a hand on the ambulance’s door. “David, don’t even bother. I recognize these two. They were banned from the game. I’ll have security take care of them. You go with your daughter.”
“She’s your daughter?”