I Hate You, Jason Lawrence

Jason was Abby's tormentor when they children, her bully. So when he moves away in the fifth grade, she is eager to forget him. Now, as she's going into her senior year, she has only two things on her mind: making this the best year yet, and winning over the popular and good-looking Ryan Blake. But there's only one problem: Jason has returned, and though he is eager to prove he's changed, Abby is not eager to let him close. As the year goes on, though, Abby is unable to push Jason away anymore. Or her feelings...

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4. Sure, People Change


 

Chapter Three


        It seemed like time stood still as I stared up into the slightly older face of the boy who once tormented me. Every bad memory I had of him – every hair pull, every kick to the gut or back, every shove and punch, all of it – came flooding back to my mind as my eyes roamed over his face. I hadn't seen him since he and his family moved away in the middle of fifth grade year. I remember the nearly overwhelming excitement and happiness I had felt in those moments, knowing that I would no longer have to put up with his bullying, and no longer hide what he'd been doing to me from my mother. To see him, almost six years later when I had all but forgotten him, I was now overwhelmed with a completely different kind of emotion.


        Seething hatred.


        It seemed to fill every part of me, seep from every pore. I was sure I had to look almost crazy as I gave him the hardest, meanest glare I could conjure up – not because I was hoping to intimidate him, but as my body's natural reaction to seeing the person that had made my childhood pure hell. My whole body was rigid and numb, and my heart was beating so fast I was sure it was going to burst from my chest and make a run for it.


        What the hell is he doing here?! My brain was screaming, as I took deep breaths through my nose to try and calm my nerves. And why, of all the places he could be right now, is he in my class?!


        "Hey, are you alright?"


        The sudden sound of Ryan's voice brought me back to reality and I was no longer focusing on just Jason, once again aware that were other people in the room. I turned to him, staring at him blankly, and I could see confusion clearly written on his face as he stared back at me.


        "You're about to break your pen," he continued, looking down at the pen in my hand. I followed his gaze, realizing I had a death grip so tight on it that my knuckles had turned white, and the pen was bending in my grasp.


        I dropped the pen on my desk, forcing a smile as I looked back to Ryan and nodded. "I'm fine," I insisted, and he gave me a hesitant smile before turning back around in his seat.


        "Well, Jason," Mr. Connor was saying, and I glanced back up at the boy who had caused my miniature meltdown. "Take any seat you like, I was just getting started."


        Jason nodded, making his way to one of the only empty seats in the middle of the room. He was glancing around, looking at everyone's faces and I held my breath as I waited for him to look at me. But he didn't. Not until he sat down in the seat he'd picked. He set his notebook and textbook down on his desk, getting comfortable in his chair, and that's when his eyes found mine. We only locked eyes for half a heartbeat before I spun back around in my seat, using every ounce of willpower I had in my body to pay attention to what Mr. Connor was saying. But as class went on, I could feel Jason's eyes on me, practically boring a hole into the side of my face. I rolled my shoulders back, taking a deep breath. I was not going to look back at him.


        But it became harder and harder to concentrate on what Mr. Connor was saying when I knew that Jason was staring at me. I'd been trying to take notes, but looked down in frustration when I realized I'd only written down a couple of phrases, and most of them were nonsense. I let out a sigh, running a hand through my hair, and giving into my urge to peak back at Jason. When our eyes met again, I could have sworn I saw something strange in them – regret?


        I shook my head. No, that was impossible. Jason was incapable of feeling anything but contempt and hatred for anyone or anything. The fact that he'd even apologized to Mr. Connor for disrupting the class when he barged in was a surprise. Though, I supposed he'd always been good at fooling adults into thinking he was a little angel.


        It seemed as though time had slowed down to a near stop, the class dragging by so slowly I was sure it was never going to end. I was becoming antsy and anxious. I couldn't wait to catch up with Charlotte in between classes and tell her that Jason was back. I began counting down the minutes, staring up at the clock impatiently. And when the bell finally rang, I was the first one out of my seat, heading to the door. But I didn't even make it out into the hall before I heard someone shout my name from behind me. A voice I did not completely recognize, though it did sound familiar.


        "Abby!"


        I knew exactly who it was without turning around, and I was absolutely not stopping for him. The hallway filled up quickly as everyone scrambled to get to their next class, and I scanned the crowd eagerly for Charlotte's bright red hair.


        "Abby!"


        I almost turned around that time, out of habit, but I caught myself. Where the hell is Charlotte?


        Suddenly, I felt a strong hand wrap around my arm, pulling me back, and I spun around quickly to look at who had the audacity to grab me.


        "Abby, can we talk for a second?"


        I narrowed my eyes as I stared up at Jason, and I was almost taken back by how gentle his gray eyes were. Not something I was expecting when looking in the face of the demon spawn who used to pick on me. But the shock was only there for a second before it was quickly replaced with the seething hatred from before.


        "Don't touch me," I hissed, snatching my arm out of his grasp. "And no, we can't 'talk for a second'. I have to get to class."


        "You have five minutes before the next bell rings, I only need two," he begged. Something about his facial features was different than how I remembered him when we were children. He seemed... Softer. I was curious to see what was so important that he had to say it right then, but I remembered how manipulative he could be – anything that came from his lips was not to be trusted.


        I shook my head. "I don't have time for this. I'm going to class," I muttered, turning back around. I began shoving through the crowd as I headed to my next class.


        "Who do you have for next period?" The sound of Jason's voice suddenly next to me made me jump, and I let out an exasperated sigh.


        "None of your business," I answered.


        "I have Mr. Lang, AP History." He was persistent, acting as if I had invited him to walk to class with me.


        I stopped short then, and Jason bumped into me. I looked up at him, propping a hand on my hip and quirking a brow. "Seriously?" I asked, hoping he had just happened to catch a glimpse of my schedule, and was just saying that to get a rise out of me.


        But he nodded emphatically, showing me his own schedule, and right at the end of his list of classes I could see it: AP History, Mr. Lang, Room 263.


        I groaned in exasperation. Another class with me? Was I being punished for something terrible I'd forgotten I'd done? Jason just stared down at me, the tiniest of smirks playing at the corner of his mouth as if he knew the reason for my frustration.


        I rolled my eyes. "What do you want, Jason?" I asked, moving forward again, continuing to shove my way through the crowded hallway.


        "I just want to talk, Abby," he answered, and there was a hit of honesty in his voice.


        I shook my head. "Well, I don't want to talk to you." We were getting close to Mr. Lang's classroom, and I quickened my pace.


        "Look, I know you're mad at me for how I treated you when were kids, and you have every right to be-"


        "Oh, do I?" I asked in mock appreciation. "Well, thank you for giving me your permission to still be angry at the boy who tortured me and made my life as miserable as possible when we were growing up. Really, I'm glad to have your approval."


        Jason was silent for a long moment, and I almost thought he had taken the hint and disappeared to anywhere away from me. As I rounded the corner, getting ready to turn into Mr. Lang's class, though, I felt him grip my arm again, this time more gently, and when I spun around to face him, he let go of me immediately.


        "Abby," his voice was low, and his face was soft again that same hint of regret I'd seen in eyes earlier shadowing his face. "I didn't mean-" He stopped, taking a deep breath. "Look, I'm sorry, okay? Really, I-"


        This time it wasn't me that cut him off. The first bell rang, and Mr. Lang stood at the door greeting each student as they walked in.


        "I'm going to go find a seat," I said, and I didn't give him a chance to respond before I turned toward the classroom.


        I gave Mr. Lang a smile as I scanned over the empty seats, and decided to pick a seat at the back. There was already someone seating on either side of the desk, and in front of it, so there was no chance Jason would be able to squeeze in and try to finish his little admission of guilt, or whatever he'd been trying to accomplish. He walked in a little while later, looking over in my direction briefly, before finding his own seat at the other side of the room. I let out a quiet little sigh of relief, opening my notebook as I waited for Mr. Lang to begin the class.




                                                                                            *
 


        "Jason Lawrence? Like the Jason Lawrence? The one who used to pick on you relentlessly, steal your toys, pull your hair, punch you, kick you, push you-"


        "I get the idea Charlotte," I said, interrupting my friend. "And yes, that Jason Lawrence."


        We were sitting on my bed, both with our legs crossed beneath us, but I was getting a head start on the homework that was due at the end of the week, and she was drawing. As usual.


        I'd managed to dodge Jason after fourth period had ended, and was able to find Charlotte easily. We walked out to the parking lot together, and I gave her a basic rundown of everything that had happened after lunch. Of course, she insisted on getting every minor detail, so I invited her over, and there we sat, with a large of bowl of potato chips in between us as I worked on the assignment for English class, and she sketched a picture of her dog.


        "Holy crap," she said, and a few chip crumbs flew out of her mouth as she spoke. "I didn't even know he had moved back."


        "Neither did I." I glanced down at the assignment, then set it aside. There was no way I would be able to concentrate on homework as long as Charlotte and I were talking about Jason.


        "Wasn't your mom really good friends with his mom?" Charlotte asked. "You'd have thought she would have known they were coming back."


        That was a really good point, and one I hadn't even thought of.


        "I don't know," I said, leaning back against my headboard. "What I do know is that I really don't want anything to do with him."


        Charlotte shrugged, stuffing her mouth with chips again. "I don't know. Maybe he's changed? I mean, it has been a few years. We're not the same people we were when we were kids."


        I thought on that for a minute. True, I definitely wasn't the same person I was when I was a child. I'd learned to stand up for myself to some degree. But the idea that Jason Lawrence could have changed so drastically, to have gone from being the very definition of a cruel, hateful bully, to a productive member of society, was almost laughable.


        Sure, people could change, I supposed.


        But not that much, and not Jason Lawrence.

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