Ethan was looking over Forrest’s shoulder, looking on as his fingers just flew across the keyboard of the computer in Ethan’s parents’ home office, opening windows and more windows, strings of white text on black filled the screen until he showed him some traceback strings of code listing names and dates of when it was last accessed or altered and by whom.
He pointed to one recurring username, then maximized another window with the key to it all. And there it was, white on black. A familiar name.
“You sure this is right?” Ethan couldn’t believe it.
“All I can tell you is what you see here. I can do a lot, but I cannot change the facts and that log is a fact.” Forrest answered matter-of-factly.
“This is going to put her over the edge. Plus, I don’t get why. She has been nothing but nice to him.”
“I can give you my best guess. Look whom she sits to with at lunch now. And guess what she is no longer doing: dating.”
“Holy crap. I am going over there now. I so feel like cleaning that dork’s clock something bad now!” Ethan said angrily.
“Why do you think I did? He pulled something like this on me before, at our old school. We used to go to the same one in Sunset Valley. When I ran into his ugly visage on my first day in school here, I lost it.” Forrest told him.
“Why did you never tell Ezzy that?” Ethan wondered.
“I don’t need to justify my actions to anybody. I did what I felt I needed to.”
“So what did he do to you?”
“That is a story for another day. I say we’ll pull the freak tomorrow. With both of us there he’ll piss his pants and will sing like a canary.”
They boys waited in a hallway they knew Benny would have to pass through, and when he did they pulled him into a room.
Like Forrest had guessed, all it took was the threat of terrible things and he admitted everything.
Evidently Brylee had come to him, knowing he was a computer guru to help him get revenge on Ezzy. When Benny refused, Brylee first tried to charm him, when that failed she threatened him, even punched him in the private parts, when she realized it still wasn’t getting her anywhere, she promised Benny something he couldn’t say no to: guaranteed time with Ezzy.
So Benny obliged.
“Have you told Ezzy? Please don’t tell her. PLEASE. I never wanted to do this!” he begged.
“You are joking right?” Forrest snorted a displeased laugh.
“I so want to hit you right now!” Ethan threatened him.
“Please don’t tell her. I’ll do anything you want, you can beat me up every day and I won’t tell a soul, just please PLEASE don’t tell her.” Benny continued to beg.
“Come on, let’s go.” Ethan pushed Benny away from him, turned to Forrest.
They left Benny standing there, looking destroyed, scared and worried.
Later that day, Forrest brought it up again.
“So what are you gonna do now?”
“I don’t know. If Ezzy finds out, she may sink even deeper into that black hole. I need that nerd to fix this somehow.”
“Nah, I can get you hooked up. Just need to figure out what we are gonna do to redeem her. I think you should tell her though. She trusts you, if you betray her now too, even if it is to protect her, she won’t trust you again. And what about Brylee?”
“She is single, and so am I! I had such a hard time with this, but right now, I am so disgusted. You know, what’s ten times worse that her cheating on me is that I cared about her so much that tried to do this right. Maybe because of Ezzy, I wanted to be a guy who respects girls, hoping Esmée will find a guy like that. So I never pushed Brylee to anything, and you have seen her, she is HOT. Not gonna lie, it was hard and I was tempted a million times. But I didn’t, thinking she will appreciate that. Instead I come to find out she went all the way with the first dude who asked. Fucking hell, man. I don’t get girls. This makes no sense. All of them always whining about how us guys only want that one thing, then I don’t, and my girl puts out for the next in line.” Ethan was upset.
“I don’t know what to tell ya, man. Life sucks.”
“How come you don’t have a girl?”
“Nah man, I don’t wanna get tied down in that drama. My last girlfriend turned into baezilla, every time I as much as looked at another girl she’d lose it. I am good. Maybe I am that guy that you tried not to be. Take what they’ll give, when they get clingy, I move on. Easier that way.”
“Just remember to stay away from my sister, Don Juan!”
“Have you met your sister?! I can’t even say hi to her without her trying to tear my face off. Not my type anyway. Not slutty enough.”
“Starting to see why Ez doesn’t like you and thinks I shouldn’t be friends with you.”
“Don’t worry, you’re not my type either, man. You’re safe.”
“I have to tell her about all this shit, don’t I?” Ethan became serious after the joking.
“If you want to be a good brother, yup.” Forrest confirmed.
Sitting next to her on her bed in her room Ethan watched Esmée closely. After the initial shocked expression, her face stiffened in a mix of pain, disbelief and anger.
When she said nothing, Ethan started talking softly
“Look, Forrest and I have a few ideas on how to get back at them, and kinda redeem you…”
“I am not going to let you go Mad Max on them. I will help you. Listen to the options we have so far and…”
“What do you mean ‘no’?”
“I don’t want to do anything.”
“You don’t want to make them pay?”
“Ez, look, I know you’re hurt, but you have people on your side.”
“Thanks Ethan. You are the best. But I already knew I can count on you. That’s why I know you’ll respect my wish. No revenge. Just let it go.”
“Not worth it. None of them are worth any effort. It all sucked, still does, but it showed me who my friends are. And I don’t like it. I want nothing to do with any of them. I like being alone now. Prefer it.”
She did not budge.
The next day in school Ethan told Forrest.
“Forget it. All of it. She doesn’t want to do a thing. Nothing. I think there is definitely something wrong with her.”
“There’s a lot wrong with her, no argument from me, but joking aside, I do get it. She is doing something. Telling them all to go suck a big one. If you found out your friends turn on you just like that, would you welcome them back with open arms now? And what good will revenge do her now? After the initial glee wears off she’ll be no better than them. She’ll be fine. Your sister is a tough old broad. Speaking from experience here.” Forrest replied to a very tired looking Ethan.
“I still think I need to take this to my parents.” Ethan said quietly.
Ethan didn’t have to. That very day, Esmee was sitting on the couch, staring into a great big void and her mother sat down beside her.
“Mommy!” Esmée burst out, then leaned up to her mother, all the stress of the past weeks pouring out of her mouth, every little detail, every emotion she felt, interrupted by sobbing and anger, while Everleigh comforted her gently. When Ezzy got it all out, she calmed down, and Evey told her
“It sounds like your mind is made up on this, my angel. Maybe you want to talk to your grandma about this. She went through something similar when she was your age, but it really spiraled out of control for her and ended up destroying her family. Luckily you have your brother and know you can come to us for all of this. Your daddy and I hate seeing you withdrawn like this. If you are over it, as you say, you need to get out again, have some fun.”
They spoke for hours about what Evey knew about what happened to Katie at 15, then about Everleigh’s youth, her experiences, first love, how she knew KC was the one.
Everleigh had hoped this would make Ezzy want to go out again, trust again, but she remained a hermit even days after that.
Esmée never snapped out of it. When there was still no change even months after the candid talk, she was evaluated by a doctor, who called this a teen phase, a form of rage and coping mechanism. Told the parents to just continue monitoring her.
“Hi Ezzy…” Esmée heard a familiar voice and was upset instantly.
“Get the hell away from me you waste of skin!”
“Ezzy I am sorry….”
“I am going to …” she turned to Benny shoving him hard that he stumbled backwards, then tried to swing at him, never even realizing Forrest had walked up to them.
Her attempted attack on the already cowering Benny was stopped, as she was pulled away and pushed against a locker, when she realized who dared to interfere, her mood got even worse.
“YOU again!?” she hissed at Forrest.
“Happy opposite day. My turn to save the nerd.” he smirked.
“I am just going to knock you out first!” she threatened.
“Fat chance. Get lost Benny. I’ll handle her.” he knew she was all bark and just upset.
“HANDLE ME!? You are …”
“An asshole? I know. You keep telling me. Let me remind you that you could have had your revenge but said you didn’t want it. No going back on your word, no going Xena on his scrawny ass now.”
“Everything okay, kids?” a teacher had noticed them.
“Oh yeah, my best friend Ezzy and I were just hugging.” Forrest grinned at her.
“No PDA on school property, Mr. Gray.” the teacher reprimanded.
“Sorry teach, she just makes me wanna…ya know.”
“Puke? Cos that what I am feeling.” Ezzy burst out.
“Aww, girls. So moody. Well, baby, see ya later. And no touching other guys, remember. Especially not THAT one. Ethan won’t like that either if you do.” Forrest played his little game, but Ezzy did understand the message in his jesting.
“Ugh!” she made, but did not argue, so Forrest let go of her.
She couldn’t take it anymore. Simmering with anger she hurried down the hallway and into the bathrooms, locking herself into a stall. The only place you were guaranteed privacy at school.
After sitting there for a good 5 minutes the doors opened and a group of girls entered, chattering and gossiping, while checking on their makeup and hair. Ezzy recognized the voices of her old cheerleading squat friends. Friends! Ha.
“I mean seriously? If Ethan thinks he can do better than me, fine. I am done trying. Over something so stupid too.” she recognized Brylee’s voice.
“Maybe he’ll come around if you show him you are no longer interested.” Amber replied.
“He may, but I have moved on now. His loss. He is such a little boy still anyway. Holding hands and maybe a stolen kiss here and there. Looks aren’t everything, I am telling you. I wonder if he would even know what to do with a naked woman. If he even really likes girls.”
“I bet his friend would. He’s kinda hot. Have you seen him without a shirt? Yes, please!” Autumn said.
“I haven’t, but now I really wanna!” Kayleigh chimed in.
“Oh yeah, six pack, baby! Momma liked. And he is half black, you know what they say about black men, right? Wonder if that is the half he inherited .. hahaha …Too bad my boyfriend was in the stands. He never comes to practice, but THAT day he was there. Had he not been, he may well be single now and I may be rolling with some chocolate arm candy.” Autumn told her.
“But isn’t his mom black? Would he then inherit THAT part? Anyway, stupid name though. Forrest. Like Forrest Gu-uuuu-mp.”
“Honey, if a guy looks like that, he doesn’t need a brain. The dumber the dude, they better they are in the sack, you know, to make up for it. I may try him out and see if he gets school-wide cheers or jeers.” the girls giggled.
“So if you are through, mind if I go after Ethan?” she heard Autumn’s voice.
“Uh – seriously? That is like a serious no-no. You do not take your friends’ exes. Especially THAT one. Ethan is taboo for ANY girl now, unless she wants to deal with me! We all know what that looks like, right?! His own damn fault, he brought that on himself.” Brylee said.
The girls were done and marched back out.
Those used to be her friends?!
Had she been like that? Disgusting!
Should she warn Forrest? Although, getting played would serve him right. That would wipe the arrogant smile of his face once and for all.
“Hey Esmée! Got a sec?”
“You again?! What now? Already in need for the next verbal spanking by me?”
“Tempting, but no. It’s Ethan. He’s hurt.”
“WHAT!? Where is he? Is he okay?”
“Chill for a sec! School called your parents, they are on the way, he is with the nurse.”
“What happened? Was it at practice?!”
“Kinda, but not really. Aaron was bad talking you and Ethan wasn’t having it. As you well know your dreamy Aaron is a tad bigger than your brother, so, you can guess how that went. The rest of us and coach pulled them apart, but Ethan looks a bit damaged on the surface.”
“I gotta go!”
“He’s with the nurse downstairs.”
“Not going there! I am going to kill Aaron!”
“Hey hey hey … stop! As much as you being you amuses me when you are mad, not a good idea. Everybody knows he’s the ass. And he is in with the principal now. Knowing you, you’d just barge in and punch him out anyway, so doing Ethan a solid her by telling you no. Ethan could use you there right now, so be nice to your brother if you can manage, he’ll need someone there who is not his parents with endless tirades about school fights.”
“Gawd I hate that guy!” Ezzy said.
“Who Aaron? Now that’s a change.” Forrest smirked.
“Can you quit the sarcasm for a minute?!”
“OK, sorry, go find Ethan. I gotta get to class but thought you should know so I came to find you first. I’ll check in about Ethan later, okay?”
Ethan was generally okay, just sore and bruised. Luckily no breaks or sprains and little pain, unless one of the Cameron women snuggled him a little too rough. The whole family had come over, most of them left again by now.
Once the siblings were alone in Ethan’s room, Esmée told him
“Thank you. Really. So very sorry you got hurt.”
“No need to thank me. And I got him good a few times too.”
“That’s why you are the bestest brother in the world.”
“If you care so much about me, stop the hugging! You Cameron girls are just a bit too intense for me at the moment. Grandma was worst of all, but you are close second. Just thinking about it makes me ache all over again.”
“Fine. Thanks for having Forrest find me by the way.”
“I didn’t. He came up with that on his own.”
“I keep telling you, he isn’t a bad guy, or he wouldn’t be my best friend.”
“Best friend?! I thought I was your best friend. And Cole.”
“He is my non-related best friend then.”
“You really cannot find anybody else but him?”
“I don’t want to. He is golden. I do not know why you two dislike each other so, but I really wished you’d stop. He is staying. So you need to get over it, Ez. For me.”