It was lunch, just two blocks away from freedom for an entire week. Ty and the gang, along with the Rizzo brothers who had taken permanent residence at the gang's table, were chatting away with the exception of Dante who spent his lunches brooding and scowling.
They were talking about a girl Grant had tutored the day before and how she spent the entire hour trying to get him to have sex with her.
"I swear, she was more irritating than Jay!" he exclaimed, reliving possibly the most horrible hour of his life with a shudder.
"Hey!" Jimmy pouted. "I'm not that bad."
Grant simply gave him a look that had the shorter boy crossing his arms over his chest with a huff.
Ty laughed causing Drew to look over at her from across the table.
"Like you're any better, Ty," he said.
Ty frowned at him, "I am not as bad as Jay-Jay. Right, Buzz?"
Grant remained quiet, biting his lip and wincing apologetically.
"Ha!" Drew cheered and jeered at Ty, "Told ya so."
Ty pouted, "Shut up." Drew kept laughing and Ty automatically scooped up a spoonful of mashed potatoes and flung it at Drew's direction.
Drew barely dodged it and the lump of potato flew directly into the back of a boy's head at the table behind them.
"Shit," Ty froze as the sophomore shrieked and turned around to see who had thrown the food item.
Ty was caught red handed with her spoon still poised in the air and her face a picture of shock with laughter wanting to break through.
The boy stood up and picked up his salad bowl, glaring at Ty as he threw the bowl. It was practically in slow motion as the contents went flying on everyone at the table, the bowl landing comically on Henry's head.
There was a moment of stunned silence before…
And just like every other teen movie set in a dysfunctional high school, utter chaos erupted in the form of splattered mashed potatoes and high-pitched shrieking along with a very distinct "Bring it, bitch!" followed by the same voice yelping as they fell to the floor with a face full of salad.
Ty, her friends, and the Rizzos ducked away from the cross fire that began, spreading out to avoid getting food on them.
Ty just barely dodged a blob of some sort of unknown meat and rolled across the floor, grabbing a discarded sandwich and throwing it directly at some kid's face. She ducked and dodged her way to the lunch counter and hopped over to take cover behind the lunch stand. To her surprise, some else had the same idea and was sitting with his back against the counter, feet spread out in front as he wiped food from his face and arms with a small towel he had picked up from the counter.
The lunch ladies and men had long since evacuated the cafeteria and were hiding out in the kitchen behind locked doors to avoid any misfire. It wouldn't be long before word got out to the bigwigs of the school or the supervising teacher finally returned.
"I'd say great minds think alike, but that would mean complimenting you," Ty said, crawling to sit beside Dante but leaving a gap of a few inches between them.
Dante finished wiping off his body and tossed the towel to Ty without glancing her way. She caught it and muttered a quick "thanks" though she was still caught up in an adrenaline rush.
"Haha, I've been wanting to do this for forever," Ty laughed, wiping her face and arms with the towel.
"You've never started a food fight until now?" Dante asked skeptically. "I somehow find that hard to believe, stronza."
"I've started small food fights, like with my friends, but never an all-out food fight that gets the whole school involved. And now I can check it off of my unofficial bucket list," Ty tossed the used towel to the counter in front and turned her head, grinning at him.
Dante smirked, "You missed a spot."
"Well you're one to speak, Dainty. You've got gravy sauce on your nose."
Dante immediately wiped his nose on his sleeve and rolled his eyes at Ty when he realized she was lying seeing as no brown sauce stains appeared on his grey shirt. How he actually fell for that, he'll never know.
Ty grinned cheekily, sticking the tip of her tongue out and biting down on it lightly, "Gotcha."
"So who got you with the strawberry yogurt?"
Ty pursed her lips in thought before shrugging, "Dunno, it was kind of a blur. So where is this strawberry yogurt on my face that I somehow missed?"
"If I tell you, it wouldn't be any fun, now would it?" Dante drawled, sniggering as Ty began to blindly wipe her face to try and get rid of the smudge of pink dairy.
"Jackass," she whined, giving up rather quickly.
"Is it that hard to say my name?"
Ty scoffed, "I should be the one to ask you that. You've never called me by name, in fact, do you even know what my name is?"
"Sì, I do."
Ty raised a brow at him expectantly, "Well?"
Dante kept his face emotionless though his lips were itching to curve upwards. "Well you've still got bright pink speckled yogurt smeared on your face."
"Urgh, where?" Ty frowned in annoyance.
"Jeez, you are one hell of an idiota." Dante pulled her hands away from her face and swiped his thumb downwards next to her ear. He froze though when he noticed just how close he had gotten to Ty to get rid of the distractingly funny spot of yogurt.
Dante moved back and cleared his throat, wiping the yogurt off on his jeans.
"Er, um, thanks," Ty stuttered, rubbing the area with her own hand and licking off the leftover yogurt. "Anyway, you never answered."
"Answered what?" Dante asked, glad that Ty didn't comment on their awkward moment. If she had, he had no idea how he would have responded.
"My name?" she emphasized.
Just as Dante opened his mouth to avoid answering, a loud, angry bellow echoed across the cafeteria, "What is the meaning of this?"
Immediately, all noise ceased to exist. Ty and Dante turned around and peeked over the counter to see that everyone had frozen and were staring in shock at a man dressed in a pair of second hand, blue pinstriped dress pants, a white dress shirt and a matching faded blue tie, his face red with unadulterated rage.
"Shit, it's Fretheim. Fuck," Ty whispered, grimacing.
"Who?" Dante glanced at her, sinking back down to stay hidden.
Ty crept back down as well and answered quickly in a hushed, anxiety-drenched tone, "He's the head of the school board. He rarely visits but of course he checks the place out today of all days. He's going to expel the person who started this without a word. I'm fucked! Of course I'd have the luck to get expelled on the last day before spring break."
Ty held her head in her hands, trying to think of some way to avoid trouble but came up with blanks. It would take only moments for someone to tell him that it was Ty who started the food fight, and considering her track record she knew she'd be expelled without a word. Also, like always, she couldn't depend on her parents, as they would not spend a single cent to sway judgement since they didn't even want Ty to attend Brick Road High in the first place.
Wilfred Fretheim was not lenient in the least and whenever he visited the school, every single person was on their best behaviour to avoid expulsion or getting sacked. He's fired teachers who were seconds late to a class and janitors who forgot to place a "Caution: Wet Floor" sign, suspended students who forgot their homework, and a few years ago he expelled a student who tripped and spilled her coffee all over his shoes. She only got back in and graduated because her parents threatened to sue and Mr. Fretheim was out of the state when the paperwork for her readmission was completed.
"Well?" Mr. Fretheim demanded, eying the mess that was his cafeteria. "Who started this?"
Everyone remained silent, fearful for their scholarly lives. Ty silently prayed that by some miracle, no one would call her out on it but her face paled when a high-pitched voice rang through the cafeteria, condemning her, "It was Tyler Jackson, sir." The rat was a girl in Ty's biology class, the fake redhead Eve who had desperately tried to get with Carlos on the brothers' first day.
"Where is he? Tyler Jackson, you boy are to come with me to the office."
Eve spoke up again, slightly hesitant and careful to not redirect Mr. Fretheim's anger towards her, "Um, sir? Tyler is a girl."
"A girl?" Mr. Fretheim questioned. He shook his head, confusion instantly being replaced with his original anger, "No matter, Tyler Jackson, I demand you show yourself."
Dante looked to Ty and was surprised to see all the blood had drained from her face, her eyes wide in disbelief with a tinge of fear and worry. She closed her eyes and swallowed her heart that had lodged itself in her throat before slowly standing up and turning to face the rest of the cafeteria.
She saw Drew and Fred frozen in a headlock, Fred about to shove a handful of mashed potatoes into Drew's face. Carlos and Luca were safe in a corner, somehow managing to have avoided most of the crossfire. Shady had chocolate pudding splattered all over his striped polo. Grant, Henry, Jimmy, and even Davie were spread out around the cafeteria, each covered in various food items, and in the center of the room, Mr. Fretheim stood glaring at her.
"I'm Tyler Jackson, sir," Ty raised her hand slightly, trying to keep her voice steady.
Mr. Fretheim briskly walked towards Ty until he was standing on the other side of the counter. He was a short and stout man, Ty easily a few inches taller than him, but he was intimidating. He held power over all the students and staff and he was not afraid to abuse it.
"Did you start this fight, girl?" Mr. Fretheim stared her down.
Ty caught her friends out of the corner of her eyes and immediately knew what they were about to do. She narrowed her eyes at them in warning, clearing saying, "Don't even think about taking the blame or I will murder your corpses," without uttering a sound.
"Yes, sir," she confirmed, keeping her head up high and her voice solid.
As soon as the words flew from her mouth, Dante stood up from the floor, stating, "She's lying, sir. I was the one who started it."
Ty turned to face Dante, her jaw slack and eyes wide in disbelief.
Dante ignored her, as well as every other person who was looking at him like he was insane, and faced the slightly confused and impatient man before him. "She was trying to take the blame for me. I threw strawberry yogurt at her and she retaliated but missed, which resulted in everyone throwing food at one another. I was the one who started the food fight." He belatedly added, "Sir."
"What? No, Dante you—" Ty was silenced when Dante grabbed her wrist and squeezed a warning though it was hidden behind the counter that separated them from the rest of the people in the room.
Dante turned to face her and spoke loud enough for only Mr. Fretheim and her to hear, "It's alright, don't worry about it. I'll be fine." He leaned down to her, whispering directly in her ear so that only she could hear his next words, "Learn to shut up, Tyler Sierra Jackson."
Dante pulled back with a slight smirk at her thunderstruck expression. She was shocked silent and he noticed that her breathing had hitched when he had gotten close to her. He ignored the fact that his heart rate had increased when his lips had been so close to her skin, practically ghost-kissing the shell of her ear. He only had to duck down a few more millimeters to gently hold her ear between his teeth.
What is wrong with me? Dante mentally shook his head, his mind a mess of questions and thoughts that were not in the least bit helpful in the current situation.
"You," Mr. Fretheim pointed at Dante, "Office. Now." He turned to face the rest of the cafeteria and directed, "The rest of you. Everyone will help to clean this cafeteria up until it is time for the next period. No one is allowed to be late for their next class. And never again shall something like this occur. Now, get to it!"
Dante jumped over the counter and walked behind Mr. Fretheim out of the cafeteria with his head held high, his posture lazy and casual. Everyone watched him exit the cafeteria with questioning eyes. They all knew that Ty was the one to start the fight, if unintentionally, so why was Dante Rizzo taking the blame?
"He'll be fine," Grant tried to console a very anxious Ty. Carlos, Luca, the boys, and Ty were standing outside the doors to the main office waiting for Dante. Lunch was almost over and Dante had yet to be released.
Oh fuck, I hope he doesn't get expelled, she worried her bottom lip. This is all my fault.
Henry checked his watch and grimaced slightly, "We need to get to class in five minutes."
"You guys go on ahead," Ty said, waving her hands at them as she put her back to the wall and slid down to the floor.
Ty could see the others were about to argue with her so she held her hand up, her eyes hardening in determination, "Don't even try."
The boys sighed and let her be.
"I'll tell Clover you had a woman problem," Fred said.
Ty cracked a grin, "Thanks, Red. I'll be fine, guys. Get to class."
The boys nodded and reluctantly left Ty, heading to their own classes. Carlos and Luca were more than a bit worried about leaving Ty alone but they knew that Bellini wouldn't be stupid enough to attack Ty during school hours while she was right in front of the main office where a number of witnesses would hear her struggle.
Twenty minutes after class had begun Ty was still sitting against the wall next to the door to the office. One of the janitors had passed by her but one look at her worried and anxious expression made him leave the brunette be and not force her to class.
Ty was close to dozing off, the recent nights' lack of sleep winning the battle against her nerves. Just as her lids fell and her chin dropped, the door to the office swung open. Ty had made a slight error in choosing to sit to the right of the door.
"Ow!" At least she was no longer falling asleep.
Dante frowned at the brunette as she got to her feet, rubbing the side of the leg that got slammed by the door.
"What are you doing, stronza?" he asked.
"Well I was waiting for you, but now I'm just kind of in pain. Why you slamming doors, bro?"
Dante ignores the question and reiterated, "Why are you not in class, stronza?" He had the fleeting thought that Ty could have been worried about him but when he realized that he likedthat idea, he pushed it away to the furthest reaches of his mind and concluded that she was just feeling guilty.
Ty rubbed the back of her neck and looked past Dante's shoulder. "I was just worried that you got expelled or something when that food fight was totally my fault. You're not expelled are you?" Ty frowned worriedly and finally looked directly at him at her query. Even though she had asked, she knew the chances of Dante not being expelled were little to none.
Dante ignored the flare in his chest, battling the feeling down by trying to convince himself that Ty was only guilty and not actually worried as she had claimed. It was a battle he was losing.
"No, just an in-school suspension," he answered, playing nonchalance.
Ty was surprised to say the least. "How?" she blurted.
Dante raised a brow, "Why? Did you want me to be expelled?"
"No! No. I was just surprised. I was sure Fretheim was going to lash out and expel you. He's done worse for less. I mean, he expelled a kid who accidentally spilled coffee on him and-"
"I get it, I get it," Dante cut her off. She looks kind of...carina. Aspettare. Che cosa?
"Oh." Ty's face and ears were a flustered hue of red. "Sorry. But yeah. How did you manage only a suspension?"
They began to walk towards the car park as Dante explained, making a quick stop at their lockers to collect their supplies.
"He was going to expel me, and even though I really don't care, I wouldn't have been allowed on campus if I was no longer a student. He called Papà, they talked and I'm certain Papà threaten-ahem...convinced him to give me a modified in-school suspension for a week and send me home today."
"Oh," was all Ty could think to say in response. Dante scoffed and rolled his eyes at her flawless vocabulary skills.
"Shut up. What else am I supposed to say to you telling me Roberto threatened my school's headmaster dude?" Ty pouted and swatted Dante's arm.
"You could finally understand what kinds of power plays are happening around you. You could stop being a reckless idiota and understand that life is not a field of flowers for you right now but a dark forest with dangers at every corner."
Ty blinked in surprise, not expecting that kind of response from Dante. She realized that he was right though. She had been consistently avoiding realizing her situation since the Build-a-Bear incident over the weekend. Carlos and Luca had also made her realize that running out of school alone and heading to a deserted skate park was not the smartest of ideas when some crazy Italian gangster was after you.
"I'm sorry," she said. "I've been pretty idiotic since the bear thing. I just… I guess I wanted to delude myself into thinking things were normal and I wasn't on some nutjob's hit list."
Dante was surprised, to say the least, at Ty's apology. A snarky comeback, he was expecting. Not a heartfelt apology and acceptance of not being very smart about her situation.
"So long as you know," he replied. He had to admit that it was a bit of weight off his shoulders to know that Ty was finally taking Bellini seriously. "Are you staying in school?"
Ty bit her lip before shaking her head, "No. I need to get as far away from here as possible because Andrew's gonna try and drag me to the airport."
"Get on," Dante directed with a nod. He already knew about the whole Lisbon thing, remembering that memorable rainy night that ended on quite the sour note with him being kicked out.
Ty was about to argue that she could just skate behind him, but decided to not be difficult. He had already received a week of in-school suspension in place of her expulsion.
After a bit of adjusting, Ty had her helmet and gear on with her board on Dante's lap as she sat behind him on his bike. Her arms were around Dante's torso and she couldn't help but marvel at the firm muscles of Dante's back that she had pressed against her front. Dante on the other hand couldn't help but enjoy the feeling of Ty pressed to his back with her arms hugging his waist. He couldn't even begin to persuade himself that he was unaffected by the close proximity when he knew very well that he, without a doubt, liked it.
Something is wrong with me, he thought as he revved the engine and shot out of the school grounds.
"She's left the school again, but with one of the brothers," came the daily report to Maurice Bellini's ears.
"Which one?" Maurice asked.
"Dante Rizzo, sir."
Maurice frowned, "Didn't the girl and him not get along?"
Maurice's spy hesitated before answering, "At first it seemed so, but she got on his bike with him and they left. They were talking before leaving but I was not close enough to know what."
Maurice waited a moment before cutting his subordinate loose, "Today was the last day before her spring break. Keep an eye on that skate park she frequents and be ready to capture her whenever the opportunity arises."
"Yes, sir," the subordinate said before Maurice cut the call.
Elsewhere, another similar order was being relayed to a higher caliber group of men and then a simplified version to one George Friedman.
Ty was sitting in one of the living rooms, flicking through TV channels as she lazed on a couch, stretched out like a pampered feline. Dante had gone to the shooting range the moment they arrived at the mansion and was still down there as far as Ty knew.
Ty had sent her friends a text saying that she and Dante went back to the Rizzo mansion to prevent them from worrying about her. She had also asked them to relay the message to Carlos and Luca to keep them from worrying too.
Adventure Time was the only thing decent enough to watch even though Ty didn't really understand why so many people loved the show so much. Fin had just been turned into a giant foot when Ty's phone started ringing.
Absentmindedly, she brought the phone to her ear and answered, "Hello?"
"Tina! Where on earth are you?" Mrs. Jackson's voice demanded.
Ty brought the phone away from her ear to check the caller ID and her mood immediately turned sour when she confirmed that it was indeed her mother calling her.
"None of your business," Ty replied coldly.
"Andrew checked at that garbage school of yours as well as the apartment and said that you were nowhere to be seen. He said that your stuff had been packed as well. Where are you, you stupid girl? You are going to miss the flight!"
Ty scoffed, "I gave the tickets away, old lady. I'm staying right here in New York, and in four days' time when I'm finally eighteen, I'm moving out and will have nothing to do with you and the old man. And you can't do fuck all about it. Good bye, and tell Andrew that he can shove a cactus up his anus."
Ty cut the line just as her mother started to yell and call Mr. Jackson to speak some sense into Ty. When the call ended, Ty blocked her mother's, father's, and Andrew's numbers with not a moment to spare. As soon as it was done she was receiving a call from a blocked number and Ty ignored it.
Ty had a broad grin stretched across her face. "I'm free," she murmured and then giggled. "Haha! I'm free of them!"
She technically had four more days until she was completely free, but at that moment it didn't matter. Ty was just happy that her time of having to deal with them would be over in just four days. She exactly have a place ready to move into, but she would figure out the details later. Besides, she was still under a modified house arrest until Maurice Bellini was captured and dealt with.
Ty couldn't wait. She was just about free.
Dante walked away from the living room Ty was in. He had overheard her entire conversation with her mother – well, only Ty's side of the conversation really – and couldn't stop thinking about the fact that her birthday was in four days. He didn't call what he was doing eavesdropping, since the door had been opened and Ty had not been quiet.
"She was giggling," he muttered to himself as he went upstairs to take a shower. He refused to think about how he liked the sound.
Stronza - bitch
Sì - yes
Idiota - idiot
Carina - cute
Aspettare - wait
Che cosa? - what?