12: Tyler

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12. Tyler

I don't go home.

I can't.

Instead—like a coward—I walk to my truck and get in and sit there. I put the radio on so that my racing thoughts aren't the only thing occupying the tense silence. My eyes flicker to the side mirror and I have a perfect view of the entrance of the bar where less than twenty-four hours ago I was lying on the ground in a pool of my own blood.

I press the button to lower the window and lean out to look at my reflection in the side mirror. My eye is swollen, the area underneath the socket dark and discolored. My face is covered in red and pink marks. A thick line of dried blood goes vertically down my bottom lip, making it look like it's been cut in half.

I slide my phone out of my pocket and stare down at the screen. I can't go home. At the same time, I know I can't keep hiding this from my parents. My whole face is fucked to the point where it no longer even looks like me. There's a giant cut going down my side that probably needed stitches and will probably now get infected because of that. There are bruises all over my stomach and I can't help but walk with a little limp.

No lie can cover that up.

I unlock the screen of my phone, ignoring all the notifications. I find the contact I'm after, and call. After only three rings, a frantic voice is on the other end.

"Why the fuck didn't you answer my calls?" Ethan bursts out. "I'm been worried sick. Don't do that."

"Sorry," I breathe out. "I got beat up pretty bad."

"How bad?"

"Knife to the side. Black eye. Few kicks in the stomach," I sigh. "The usual."

"You okay?" he asks.

I shrug. "Been better. I went to . . . a friend's house. They fixed me up."

Ethan scoffs. "What friend? I'm literally your only one."

"Funny," I mutter. "Just some chick from school."

"You got a girl to fix you up?" Ethan asks. "And to think all this time I thought you might be gay."

I hear him laugh on the other end and roll my eyes. "Fuck off. I'm fine but I don't know what the hell I'm going to tell my parents."

I lift up my elbow and rest it on the open window, running a hand through my hair.

"Just come up with some crap," Ethan says.

"I have a swollen eye the size of my fist," I say. "And not to mention the knife wound running down my whole hip."

"Assholes," he mutters. "Playing dirty. They know it's cowardly to use knives. You catch their faces?"

"Yeah." I lick my bottom lip and feel the bump of the split lip beneath my tongue. "One of them was that new guy, usually fights on Fridays. Lazy eye."

"Really?" Ethan sounds surprised. "He never seemed like the type."

"Yeah, well, he definitely was the type when he held me down while that other guy was messing up my face."

"The others?"

"Just two others. Adam, you know him by his nickname, Hawk, and the weird guy with the bleached hair." Ethan's silent for a moment and I sigh, knowing that something is on his mind and he's hiding it from me. "Spit it out, Ethan."

"Well . . . I was thinking if maybe Carl was the one to tell them to beat you up?" he offers.

"No. Carl doesn't play dirty. He would also want the satisfaction of seeing me beaten in person. He's not one to play around like this."

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