FRACTURE: Chapter 1

WARNING: IF YOU HAVE NOT READ FLICKER, THIS CONTAINS SPOILERS

 

Chapter 1

Before last month I never gave much thought to my school’s no-hats-during-school-hours policy, but all that changed after Martinez shaved my head.

The final bell rings and I smooth my knit hat over my head, tugging it firmly to my ears. The pressure from my chest that builds every day, all day, eases out of me in one long exhale. I rise with the other students and follow them into the hallway, wishing for the bazillionth time that Stride Right—Mr. Walker, the principal—had cut me some slack.

No one stares as I weave through the hall to my locker, but my fingers find their way to the edge of my hat anyway. They lower as I see Cameron leaning against my locker, one foot propped against the scuffed metal.

“How long you gonna wear that?” He pushes off the locker and I tuck myself against his chest. “No one cares.”

Before I can catch myself, my fingers slide beneath the hat to trace the scar that zig-zags across my skull. “I care.” I wish I didn’t, but I do. Curse of being seventeen.

Cameron presses a kiss to my forehead, just beneath the edge of my hat. His warm lips send tingles through my stomach.

“Well maybe if you did that through all my classes I wouldn’t mind so much.” As much as I hate to, I pull away and open my locker. I shove books in my bag as Cameron laughs.

“I’m sure Stride Right will be totally cool with that.”

I sling my bag over my shoulder and we fall in step toward the exit.

Cameron grabs my hand, gives it a little squeeze. “You think today’s finally the day?”

“I’ll get Martinez to agree if I have to beat him over the head with a chair. Being ferried by my mom is getting really old.” Cameron opens his mouth but I stop him. “I know you offered to drive, but this is her way of taking care of me. There isn’t much else she can do.”

“You think he’ll agree?”

I shrug. “Probably not.”

We follow a group of students out the front door of the school and walk slowly toward the end of the pick-up lane. Humiliation washes over me, warming my neck and creeping over my face. It’s bad enough they shaved my fricking head. Martinez insisted that surgery was the only way to control the mass in my brain, but losing my driving privileges is beyond ridiculous.

As if sensing my thoughts, Cameron lowers his head and kisses me quickly on the lips. I slide my hands behind his neck, not ready to let him get away just yet, but the sharp blast of a car horn stops me.

Cameron smiles. “Busted.”

I press one last kiss to his cheek then hurry to meet Mom. “I’ll see you in a couple hours.”

*****

“Biz, you know the risks.” Dr. Martinez sits less than a foot away on a rolling stool, elbows on knees, chin resting thoughtfully on his fists. This does not look promising.

“But Mom can’t be driving me everywhere. She’s already missed enough work…” I trail off, hoping the desperation in my voice is enough to convince him.

Mom looks away, avoiding my gaze. I cast a glance at the empty chair next to her, but Dad isn’t here to argue in my defense. A flutter of worry turns in my stomach. Mom would’ve said if something had happened. He’s probably just tired. As usual.

Martinez holds up his hands in protest, but his ramrod straight posture is crumbling. He’s giving in. “Okay. But only on a limited basis. No driving at night, just to and from school. You’ll get another CT scan next month and if everything comes back clear you can have full driving privileges.”

I straighten in my chair. “Really? You’ll let me drive?”

“You had major surgery and you can’t expect to go back to your normal routine overnight.” He keeps talking, but I’m no longer listening. I can drive!

Mom’s lips curve into a smile. Dark circles ring her eyes and the lines in her forehead are deeper than they were a month ago. I swallow my excitement and try to calm down. It’s bad enough she has to worry about Dad; I hate that I’m adding to her stress.

“I know this is boring for you, but I need to go through the checklist.” He grabs the clipboard from the corner of the counter and I rise from my chair.

Place my feet together, knees slightly bent. Close my eyes. For a brief moment Cameron and his sister Katie—the reason I had surgery and am standing in this office—dance before me. My stomach clenches.

“Lift your left foot.”

I do.

“Touch your right hand to your left ear.”

I lift my right hand and—no! I didn’t hesitate. That wasn’t a hesitation. I crack an eye open. Martinez is staring at the clipboard, pen bouncing between his thumb and forefinger. My fingers brush my ear and he nods.

“Now the other foot.”

We go through this for the next ten minutes. Him trying to trip me up, testing my brain. Me doing my damnedest to pay attention and not make a stupid mistake.

“Last one.” The pen clicks—open, shut, open—then he clears his throat. “Point your left foot toward me, then toward the back wall, then toward me again.”

I steady my breathing, determined not to tip over, and follow his commands. “Now shake it all around.”

What the—? I open my eyes.

A broad smile stretches across Martinez’s face.

“The hokey pokey?” I face Mom. “Did you put him up to this?”

Her giggle is contagious and a snort erupts from me. “I hate you,” I say to Martinez.

“Yeah, yeah. Join the club.”

This is why I haven’t killed Martinez for shaving my head.

Yet.

 

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