Pieces Of You Excerpt
“No fucking way.” Probably not the best words to throw out the day before I start my senior year of high school, especially since I’m sitting in the principal’s office with both my mom and said principal, but still: No Fucking Way am I doing what they’re asking of me.
Next to me, Mom gasps. “Holden, you can not speak like that!” She actually has the audacity to sound serious. She’s the one who taught me to swear like a sailor. Not on purpose, obviously, but I’m pretty sure the first word out of my mouth was shit, and I sure as fuck didn’t get it from Sesame Street.
“Your mother and I have spoken and we both agree that this is a great opportunity for you,” Principal Hemmings says, his cheeks blushing red when he finally trails his eyes from my mom’s chest to me. He knows I’ve caught him leering at her, and it’s not like it doesn’t happen on the regular. It’s probably the only downside to having a young mom. Still, if he doesn’t check himself soon, I have no problem climbing over his desk and pulling his teeth out one by one.
“I’m sure you’d agree with anything my mother says,” I mumble, earning another gasp from Mom. “Especially when you’re looking at her tits when she’s speaking.”
“Holden!” That came from both of them, in sync.
Shaking my head, I sit up straighter. “I’m not doing it.”
“You are.” Mom’s words come with a tone of finality, and I can’t help but narrow my eyes at her.
“I know you have a busy schedule, with football and basketball and baseball and who knows what else, but I think this would be good for you,” Hemmings says, resting his elbows on his desk, his eyes on me, and nowhere else.
After clearing my throat, I strum my fingers on the armrest of the cheap-ass chairs and say, my tone even, “I don’t know how many ways I can say this but No. Fucking. Way.”
The pain starts at my ear and quickly makes its way down my neck, and then my entire face. A second later I’m on my feet, screeching, and it takes a moment to realize that my mother is literally dragging me out of the office by my ear. I’m officially calling bullshit on all the times she’s asked me to open jars for her, because the woman is way stronger than I’ve given her credit for.
We’re standing in the foyer right in front of the office desk when she finally releases me. I’m quick to rub at the spot she’d just attacked, my eyes thinned to slits as I glare down at her. Then I take a quick glance around the space. Usually, the day before school starts, the office area’s filled with students checking their subjects and schedules and whatever else it is people who care about school do. Luckily for me, there’s only the office lady behind the desk, and a girl I don’t recognize sitting in the short row of waiting chairs.
If I was the type of person to get embarrassed, this would be one of those moments.
The girl doesn’t even bother hiding the fact that she’s watching us, eyebrows drawn, her hazel eyes flicking between my mom and me. I wonder what she’s thinking. If she is at all. She sure as hell wasn’t thinking when she got dressed this morning. She’s in a tweed skirt down passed her knees, and a white, short sleeve blouse with the buttons done all the way up to her collar. Back straight, her hands are folded on her lap, and beside her black old-lady shoes is a worn, brown, leather messenger bag. She dresses like she’s eighty, but she doesn’t look a day over eighteen. Her eyes catch mine and widen slightly. For a moment—a split second—we just stare at each other. And, because I like to play games, I throw her a smirk, and then a wink. Because why the fuck not?
“What the fuck, dude?” the woman standing in front of G.I-Jock whisper yells, but he doesn’t hear her, because he’s too busy trying to… what? Flirt with me? Intimidate me? He’ll have to try a lot harder than that to get under my skin. After waiting a few seconds for a reaction from me, and not getting one, he finally looks back at the woman.
I assume, going by their possible age difference and the way she’s speaking to him, that she’s his much older sister. For a moment, I wonder where his parents are. I push away the question, annoyed that I even went there. G.I Jock’s sister sighs, shaking her head. “I need you to work with me on this, Holden.”
Holden. I flip the name over in my mind, for no other reason than I like it. It’s a good name. Solid. Strong.
“What is this even about?” Holden says, crossing his arms. “You’ve never cared about what I do before, why start now?”
“Because it’s your senior year and—”
“Bullshit,” Holden cuts in.
The middle-aged lady behind the large reception desk clears her throat, giving the siblings a look that clearly states this is a school, dipshits, and you’re being inappropriate.
They both roll their eyes, moving two steps away from the desk and closer to me. Holden’s sister keeps her voice low when she says, “I need to start being more present in your life, and this is how I’m choosing to do it.”
“How is this making you more present?” Holden retorts, his broad shoulders shifting when he shoves his hands in his pockets. “This is just giving me something more to do on top of—”
“At least I’ll know where you are instead of you disappearing at all hours of the day and night doing God knows what to fuck knows whom.” Ah, so Holden’s a player, and his sister doesn’t like it. I should’ve really picked up on that the moment I laid eyes on him.
“This has nothing to do with me, does it?” Holden’s tone changes when he says this. He’s no longer combative, no longer fighting her. It’s as if he’s accepting whatever fate his sister is asking of him. “It’s about Mia, right?” Mia? Hmm. I’m intrigued. This is the most drama I’ve witnessed since Mom used to make me watch a bunch of housewives on reality television.
They have the same eyes, I note, and they use those eyes to stare each other down for way too long. The difference? Holden’s eyes get clearer while his sister’s fill with tears. “Stop it,” she whispers, teeth gritted.
Holden doesn’t stop. “Because you didn’t know what was happening with her, and so you’re projecting that fear on me?”
“That’s enough, Holden,” she says, only this time, her tone is authoritative. It’s impressive, really. She’s quick to wipe at her tears, before lifting her chin defiantly. “So what if I want to keep a closer tab on you and—”
“So just say that, Mom,” he cuts in, bringing her in for an embrace. Whoa. Mom? This is a plot twist I was not expecting. And neither is the sincerity in the way he holds her, the way he strokes the back of her head as he brings her into his chest. “If you need me to do this to take away your guilt, Ma, then I’ll do—”
The office door opens, and a man appears. From the research I’d done on the school, I assume this is Mike Hemmings, the principal. Hemmings’ eyes go from Holden and his mom, to me sitting here, completely enthralled in what’s happening in front of me. “I’m sorry to interrupt,” Hemmings tells them. “But I have other students I need to see today, so…” He looks as awkward as I feel, and he didn’t even witness what I did.
Holden’s mom pulls away while Holden nods and states, “I’ll do it.”
Hemmings returns his nod with a flat, “That’s good.” Then he smiles, first at them, then at me. “Jameson?” he questions.
I get to my feet, run a hand down my skirt. “Yes, sir.”
He opens his door wider. “Come in.”
“Thank fuck that’s over,” Holden murmurs as I pass him, throwing an arm around his mother’s shoulders and spinning her toward the exit. Right before I step foot in the office, I hear his mom’s reply: “No shit.”
“I’m Principal Hemmings,” the man dressed in a neatly pressed suit introduces himself as I move around him. He closes the door after me and points to the chair on one side of his desk as he makes his way to the other. I notice the shine on his black dress shoes while his cologne wafts through the air. Sitting in his high-back chair, head bent to look down at what I assume is my file laying open on his desk, he asks, “Are your parents here with you, Jameson?”
My heart skips a beat. Two. “Jamie’s fine, and no,” I sputter, my voice barely audible as I link my fingers on my lap and push my palms together. After clearing my throat, I add, “I take it you haven’t read my file?”
Hemmings glances up but keeps his head down. “No, I’m sorry.” He seems sincere enough. “It’s been a helluva day. Can you give me a moment to skim it quickly?”
I press my lips tight and nod once. When his eyes start shifting from side to side, reading the cliff notes of my academic life, I take the chance to get a good look at him. He’s in his forties, at the least, with dark-brown hair combed and styled to the side. His desk is immaculate, just like his clothes. I wonder if the way he displays himself for the world is an extension of who he is—or if he’s faking it just like I am. I don’t have a lot of time to ponder that thought before I notice his eyes widen, and I know he’s just read the part in my file that will no doubt label me for my last year of high school. When he looks up, frowning, his eyes are no longer able to focus on mine. “Emancipated?”