STROPHE, Chapter XXXV: Suspicion
Wednesday, March 13, 2002
Gavin’s confidence in Naomi had been shaken by Stefan’s allegations that she was a liar. It didn’t help when he spotted her talking to Kentaro in the hall right before lunch time.
Naomi was carrying her duffel bag, and when Kentaro approached her, Gavin saw her swing the bag around in front of her, as if she was using it to shield herself. He thought about approaching them, but he hung back around the corner to see if he could pick up any threads of their conversation.
Kentaro leaned heavily on his crutches. Something in his stance reminded Gavin of a leering, impotent old man. “I have what you want,” he said to Naomi.
She spoke too softly for Gavin to hear her response. She had lowered her head and took a few steps like she was going to walk away, but he took her arm. Naomi’s head snapped back up, and she jerked her arm out of Kentaro’s grip.
“Naomi!” Kentaro called her back. She stood still in the hall for a moment, then looked over her shoulder at him.
The expression on the football player’s face was flirtatious, almost coy. Gavin didn’t think Kentaro even knew how to treat a girl with any type of subtlety.
Naomi slowly walked back to Kentaro, tucking her hair behind her ears. Her industrial piercing shone dully in the fluorescent light of the hallway. She looked him directly in the eyes and said, “You owe me something, you big oaf.”
She’s a liar. Stefan’s whispered voice weaved its way through Gavin’s thoughts. An image of the alexandrite flashed into his mind.
The voodoo doll worked, thought Gavin. That’s the reason his leg broke. We have a lot of power over this jerk, and he has no idea. The thought brought him pleasure, and returned to watching Kentaro around Naomi with much more confidence.
She seemed angry at him, but there was definitely something between them that Gavin didn’t know about. Something else Naomi was keeping from him. Why was she doing that? Was he so hard to trust? Gavin shook his head and watched Naomi walk away from Kentaro, tossing her hair over her shoulder. Her eyes glittered with anger. She strode past the corner where Gavin hid without even noticing him.
After Naomi had disappeared into the girls’ bathroom, Gavin approached Kentaro, who was stumping down the hall on his crutches. “Hey,” he said. His voice never came out as forceful as he wanted it to. Even now, it sounded weak to his own ears.
Kentaro didn’t even turn around. “Why should I bother with a pipsqueak like you?”
Gavin caught up to him, his ire stoked. “You wanna know the reason why you broke your leg? The real reason?”
Kentaro stopped in the center of the hall. Two freshmen ran into him and bounced off, scampering away. “I know the reason. Me and my friend were messing around. It was an accident.”
“Nope,” Gavin said with bravado he rarely showed, “it was because my friend and I put a curse on you.”
A loud laugh escaped Kentaro and echoed down the hall, causing everyone in the immediately vicinity to stare. “You think you’re some kind of wizard or something? Get real. Quit playing video games and go get laid.”
Gavin wasn’t even offended by the remark. He knew the magical powers existed. He knew, without any trace of a doubt that Stefan’s voodoo doll had cursed Kentaro. He had felt the power of the alexandrite firsthand. Magic was real. Of course, the hulking idiot standing in front of him could ever comprehend it. “I’m warning you. If you mess with my girlfriend, there will be repercussions.” He used Stefan’s word on purpose. For an instant, he imagined himself as Stefan must feel: dominant because he had inner strength nobody knew about.
An amused smile lurked on Kentaro’s face, the smile of someone watching a magician perform card tricks and knowing the secrets behind each sleight of hand. “I’ll kick your ass if you try any of that magical shit on me. It’s stupid.”
“Don’t threaten me. My friend and I are witness to dark powers. Powers that can do much worse than just breaking your leg. Trust me on this.” Gavin folded his arms, entirely confident in the force of the powers. They were true. They existed. They could take down people much stronger than Kentaro. He kept Stefan’s confident sincerity in his head. Stefan had changed because of the powers.
“So you’re telling me that the reason I’m on crutches is because of some stupid curse?”
“Yeah. That’s exactly what I’m telling you. You better believe it.”
Kentaro actually seemed to consider Gavin’s words. “Really. I don’t see why I should believe this. It’s bullshit. I don’t know why I’m wasting my time talking to a limp wrist like you.” He turned away, and Gavin knew, from the way Kentaro’s voice had softened in the midst of a thought that was deeper than the normal content of his mind, that to some degree, he believed him. The quarterback of St. Placid’s football team was scared of a nobody like Gavin.
“Stay away from me. Stay away from my girlfriend. Or there will be consequences,” Gavin warned. He tried to pull power from within himself, not from Stefan. He had touched that alexandrite. He had felt its power. He knew the power existed and could be used as a weapon.
“All right. Chill out, man. I don’t need any freaks ganging up on me,” Kentaro said. He began to slowly clump down the hall.
Gavin smiled. I win this round.
Kentaro must not have been that concerned about Gavin’s threat because later that day, Gavin caught him talking to Naomi again.
The entire football team was standing on the practice field, drinking soft drinks and discussing strategies for next season. Gavin paid no attention to any of their talk. The reason he had wandered outside on this chilly afternoon was because he had seen Naomi head out there after her last class.
The practice field was behind the school, secluded from the traffic on the main highway. Because of its location, it was often forgotten by the landscaping staff, so it wasn’t taken care of that well. Most of the time, it served as an all-purpose area for all the classes: the horticulture class had planted bulbs there one year, and they were coming up now as spring approached. Stalks of daffodil. A tulip here and there. Nice flowers that would be trampled under the heavy feet of jocks. Art classes used the practice field to paint outside. PE classes would play soccer games out there. End-of-year celebrations were held on the practice field. It was also the designated smoking area.
Gavin watched Naomi head out there. She carried her duffel bag and wore her cheerleading hoodie, the hood over her head with her hair tucked back inside the hood. “Kentaro!” she called.
A chorus of raucous laughs and taunts from the football players rose up. Kentaro got clumsily to his feet and greeted Naomi with a wide smile. “What’s up, babe?” he asked.
she’s cheating on me
The thought was a small weasel lifting its head in Gavin’s mind. He forced himself to put any emotion aside and simply listen.
“I have a question to ask you,” Naomi said. “In private.” She didn’t seem happy. Her voice was hard, almost stern.
what’s going on?
More catcalls from the football players. Kentaro laughed, his grin so wide it looked unnatural. “Oh, ho! So you’re finally realizing that I can give you what you want.”
what is it what does she want?
“Give it to her, Kentaro!” screamed one of the football players. The coach yelled for them to be quiet, but Gavin could see he was watching the conversation between Naomi and Kentaro with interest.
Gavin watched Kentaro and Naomi walk far enough away so he could no longer hear them, closer to the trees at the edge of the practice field. They were so far away, he could barely see their facial expressions as they talked to each other. Naomi kept her arms crossed in front of her chest. Every time Kentaro leaned into her, she took a step backward.
what is it? what is it?
The weasel-like thoughts were on high alert in Gavin’s mind. He could barely stand the suspense. Apparently, the football players and their coach couldn’t take it either. Everyone was focused on Naomi and Kentaro, two characters onstage in the middle of a riveting play.
Kentaro put a hand on Naomi’s shoulder. She didn’t back up this time but kept her arms crossed. He said something and she nodded once. A lock of hair fell over her eyes. She pushed it back. The football players shouted incomprehensible things.
Jealousy gnawed at Gavin. I can’t do this anymore I just can’t she’s hiding something and Stefan said so and he tells the truth she lies to me
But I have power. I can make her tell me what’s wrong. I can get her back. If we can put another curse on Kentaro…
He tried to calm his suspicious thoughts. He tried to tell himself he could just talk to Naomi one on one, but something told him the conversation would not end well. Not when she was hiding so much. And she was.
She doesn’t trust me. Never did. Now I can’t trust her.
Return to Chapter XXXIV | Read Chapter XXXVI