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Authors: Kate Spofford

Bethany Caleb

BOOK: Bethany Caleb
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Bethany Caleb

 

by Kate Spofford

 

Copyright © 2013 by Kate Spofford

 

Cover image “Click Click Boom” by Laura Galley, used with permission

Cover design by Kate Spofford

 

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form without written permission from the author.  This book is a work of fiction and any resemblance to any person, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

 

First eBook Edition: May 2013

 

Contents

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Epilogue: One Month Later

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Chapter One

 

On a clear day in October, Bethany Caleb decided to bring a gun to school.
It was only Tuesday.

The velvet-lined mahogany
box lay empty on the bed beside her. The gun weighed heavy in her hands. She stroked the cold metal, feeling it warm beneath her fingers.

Her eyes refused to compromise the black of the gun against the background of the quilt covering her parents’ bed.
Mrs. Caleb had decorated the room in shades of country blue and antique white, matching a photograph out of
Home & Garden
almost perfectly. Yet there was a dangerous world outside, a world where Bethany was harassed every day, where her friends got beat up for how they dressed. Bethany herself didn’t fit into the decor of her parents’ bedroom. In her solidly black attire, she felt like an ugly insect grown to monstrous proportions. This black gun knew how life was for her.

Bethany had found the gun there four summers ago, when she was eleven.
Her sister Darlene was supposed to be watching her that day, not baby-sitting because Bethany was too old for that, but watching her, making sure she didn’t do anything like snoop around and find Dad’s gun. Instead Darlene was talking on the phone. Darlene was fourteen then and had received a phone on her birthday. The phone was clear so you could see all the inner workings. Ever since Darlene got the phone she talked on it constantly. Darlene had a lot of friends. Bethany had one friend, Jana Perkins, who the kids called Piggy because she was fat. They called Bethany Geek, because she wore glasses back then. Now she wore contacts.

 

She had often thought about the gun since that day.

Life felt to her like the stale air under the covers, but cold, and no one could understand why she felt cold because she had all these blankets.
She had parents who were not divorced. She had a family with enough money. She was smart. She was talented. Her father often told her how pretty she was and how much prettier she would become as she grew older. Yet the air was stale, used up, and it was hard to feel alive.

The gun was heavy, but not as heavy as she thought it would be.
She imagined shoving the gun into the waistband of her black skirt and walking into school like that, shooting everyone she saw. Her life would be much better without people. Everyone in her life had let her down in some small way, and that was unbearable.

Her parents, for example, treated her different
ly after she started wearing black clothes. They never mentioned it outright, but began treating her like she was a troublemaker, when all through middle school she had been a straight-A student. They questioned where she went after school and asked if she was high or stoned. And ever since she had stopped painting bland watercolor landscapes, her parents criticized her art, too. The scrutiny had become worse this year, now that Darlene had started college. Darlene was no different than her parents, although she at least pretended to be open-minded about things like not dressing in Abercrombie & Fitch.

Or you could take Bethany’s ex-best friend, Gennifer Neveu.
When Jana moved after eighth grade, Genn was the first person Bethany connected with. But last spring Bethany had discovered that Genn was a thief, and more recently, a back-stabber.

And then there was Bethany’s ex-boyfriend, James Cooper.
Who, after breaking up with Bethany in August, began dating Genn.

 

These were only the really important people.
There were still the rest of Bethany’s friends, who were now awkward around her because of the whole James and Genn thing. There were all of Bethany’s teachers, who assumed Bethany was a troublemaker based on her clothes. There was everyone else in the world, who Bethany knew had disappointed her somehow, and she could name all those reasons if she had a lot of time to think about it. The gun looked like a good solution to her.

She nestled the gun in the front pocket of her book bag, beneath a wad of tissues, several of them smeared with mascara, some extra Maxi-pads, and a fistful of colored gel pens.
Lifting the bag from one of the shoulder straps, she found that the gun didn’t add much extra weight. Her textbooks were already heavy enough.

The only question was when she would decide to use it.

 

 

Chapter Two

 

Bethany locked up her house and trudged out to the end of her driveway.
As she waited, she looked at all the fallen leaves on the sidewalk, and noticed the lack of leaves on the lawns of Andrew Street. A gust of wind cut through Bethany’s black wool coat and tore a few red leaves from the maple tree across the street, which landed on the clean green lawn of the Newell house. Bethany wondered if Mr. Newell would pull out a rake for three leaves.

Her hair hung in her face.
She liked it that way. She didn’t have to see the looks on the faces of the students with cars who yelled things like, “Bus Baby” or “Pedestrian” out their rolled-down windows. She didn’t have to see the perfection forced upon nature that pervaded the houses on her street.

The school bus appeared from behind the trees where Andrew Street met Townsend Road.
Slowly it closed in on her, yellow and red lights flashing a warning she wished she heeded every morning. Many times she questioned why she stood her ground as the bus approached. School was never going to get better. But staying home wouldn’t do anything but get her in trouble. And so she boarded the bus when the doors folded open.             

If Bethany had any hope about making it through the school day without the usual harassment, it disappeared when the doors squeezed shut behind her.
A sea of faces watched her stumble to the back. Her eyes scanned in vain for an open seat. Since she lived near the end of her bus route, empty seats for an unnoticed arrival were rare.

 

Bethany approached the back seats.
Caitlyn Trudeau and Lea Blauser sat together three rows from the back, all blond hair and perfectly applied make up and fake tans. Ben Simms, Jake Hines, and Pete Franklin guarded the last row of seats. Today Carrie Bottino sat on Ben’s lap. It was well-known that Carrie had been pregnant at their eighth grade graduation ceremony and now had a two-year-old son waiting for her at home. This knowledge left Bethany feeling inferior, somehow. This fifteen-year-old girl was a mother. This girl was an adult. Bethany was still a child.

Still five seats away from Ben Simms and his friends, Bethany had overstepped her bounds.
“No seats back here, freak,” Pete yelled over the rumbling motor.

Bethany turned with her eyes on the narrow strip of aisle.
As she started walking back toward the front, the bus lurched forward and she stumbled. Ben took that opportunity to throw an empty cigarette carton at her. Carrie giggled nastily.

Through her curtain of hair, Bethany finally located Nathan Javovich, who always sat alone and never had a problem sharing his seat with her.
Not that there was much room left for Bethany to sit. Nathan weighed over 300 pounds, the fattest kid in school. Bethany tried not to watch him pick the scabs on his arms, but something about the repetitive action drew her eyes again and again.             

Objects continued to be thrown at the back of her head.
She saw a few of them fly by: a stubby pencil, a rubber band. Others she felt stick in the waves of her hair. She hoped there was no gum. That had happened before.

Aside from the assholes at the back of the bus, no one looked Bethany’s way.
They wanted to avoid association with her. Nathan didn’t even look at her. His eyes stared vacantly out the window.

A crumpled ball of paper bounced off her head.
Bethany thought about the gun in her bag.

 

She could kill off the boys in the back seats of the bus, them and their white trash girlfriends.
She’d take out Ben first, he was the leader. Then she would aim for Jake Hines, he’d probably be ducking out the emergency exit after watching Ben die. At that point, Pete Franklin would be laughing at his two idiot friends who got themselves shot up. A bullet through his throat would shut him up. Then she could shoot up Caitlyn Trudeau and Lea Blauser, that would send a message to Shannon.

That victory would be satisfying, but unrealistic and fleeting.
The gunshots would startle the bus driver, who would slam on the brakes and send her stumbling to the floor, most likely whacking herself in the face with the gun on the way down. Then Carrie and all her stupid slutty friends would laugh at the blood dripping down her chin. Carrie would be vindicated, say, “Serves you right, you little freak,” maybe spit on her.

Probably Nathan would laugh at her too, even though she had always defended him when the other kids picked on him.
That was ancient history, third grade. She didn’t do that anymore. She had always defended Jana, too, but that didn’t get her anywhere except on Shannon Lavoie’s shit list. She didn’t defend Jana anymore, either, now that Jana lived in Delaware. But Bethany had learned that it didn’t help to speak up for her friends, or for anyone. No one spoke up for her. It was best to be quiet, invisible, say things without saying them. Like with her clothes. Or with a gun.

But not right now.
She would wait until the perfect opportunity.

 

Chapter Three

 

The
Middlebury High School building appeared over the hill, an ugly tan structure crouched behind a moat of parking lots. There, on the brick wall near the side entrance, someone before Bethany’s time had spray painted “Abandon All Hope Ye Who Enter Here.” The sloppy black letters rang of truth. It appeared as though janitors had attempted to scrub the letters away, but the essence of them could still be seen.

Bethany got off the bus, feeling small shoves at her back that were undoubtedly from Caitlyn and Lea.
There was no opportunity to turn and confront them with the gun; she was swept along with everyone else to the front entrance in a herd-like formation that always reminded Bethany of cattle driven toward the slaughterhouse. 

Here were the benches dedicated to the memory of a teenage girl who had died last summer in a drunk driving accident.
To have high school be the end of all she knew was the worst thing Bethany could think of.

Behind the dark glass doors, Bethany entered a maze of gray lockers, herded along with the other students.
The hallways were merely the beginning of school’s slow suffocation. Several football players shoved past her, believing the right of way belonged to them. Her boots tripped over someone’s foot. There was no way to know if it was intentional or not. Bethany kept her shoulders in and her head down, and fought her way across the aisle toward Sophomore Hall.

 

From her locker she could see James waiting by Genn’s locker.
His green and black sweater with the holes he stuck his thumbs through and patched up jeans distinguished him from the other students. Most everyone else wore preppy clothes from GAP and J. Crew, and liked to broadcast that fact with the company logo slapped across their T-shirts and sweatshirts. Two perfectly made-up girls wore matching sweatpants with “Abercrombie” spelled out across their asses.

Bethany avoided looking toward James.
He hadn’t been in school for the past week. Without him she’d been lost, life seemed pointless.

She threw her afternoon class books into her locker and checked for all of her morning books, then slammed her locker shut and spun the dial.
It was a small victory when she entered her homeroom English class without having to speak with James or Genn.

 

BOOK: Bethany Caleb
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