8: Tyler

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8. Tyler

 Once drama class is over, I walk quickly out of the cafeteria, heading for my locker. I'm inches—mere seconds—away from my locker when I feel a hand on my shoulder.

I turn around and stagger back on instinct to get away from the unknown presence.

Coach Artegon holds his hands up, leaning back a little to give me some space. He gives me a welcoming smile. I haven't seen that smile in almost an entire year.

"Sorry to startle you," he says.

"It's okay," I murmur.

Coach Artegon stares at me for a moment. "Football season's started," he says

"Yeah, I know."

"Well I just wanted to tell you that we'll still accept you if you decide to try out late. We're not meant to, but . . . you had potential, Tyler. Huge potential. You were the captain."

"Yeah, well, I don't think I'll be trying out this year, but thanks for the offer," I say.

He just shakes his head and is about to walk away but he stops. "If you need help getting through something, Tyler, there are people you can talk to. If you can't talk to your parents, then you can talk to me or someone else in the school. You're not . . . you're not as alone as you think."

"Is that all?" I ask.

Coach nods, and lets out a long breath. He's disappointed. I watch as he turns and walks away. There are people walking around in the hallways but fewer than before. I look away and reach for my locker.

As I turn the dial, something catches my eye at the end of the hallway and I look up. Ethan stands, leaning against a wall where there are no people. He meets my eyes and tilts his head back, indicating for me to come over.

I let go of my lock. I walk quickly towards Ethan and stop right in front of him, leaning against the same wall, mainly to hide him from anyone that might come around.

"What are doing here?" I ask.

"Did you steal money?" Ethan asks, his face void of any emotion.

He does this often—his face will be blank and completely calm but inside a war will be raging.

"What do you mean?" I ask. "From you?"

"No, Carl," Ethan clarifies and then runs a hand down his face, glancing around the school hallways nervously. "Come on, let's talk outside."

He turns and takes the stairs two at a time until he reaches the top and walks out of the school's back door without even a glance back at me. I follow, his words going round in my head. Steal money? Why would he immediately suspect me?

Ethan leans against the brick wall of the school and I stand in front of him, feeling the sun glare down on my back.

"Why do you think I have anything to do with it?" I ask. "It's probably just a mix-up with numbers."

"Tyler." Ethan sighs and rolls his head back until it hits the wall behind him. "He's missing two grand." A dark look covers his face. "That much money doesn't just go missing."

"Well, why are you telling me this?" I ask. "I had nothing to do with it, Ethan. You should know that. I'm not into playing dirty or fucking around with Carl's cash. I just want out."

"That's the thing," Ethan says and then shakes his head with a humorless chuckle. "You're an easy target. I told you, Tyler. I told you that anyone would be stupid to not use you as an easy way to back out of a problem."

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