Authors: Shanora Williams
opyright © 2016
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o the Sweethearts
Thank you for believing me. Thank you for letting me rip your hearts right before putting the pieces back together again. I would be NOTHING without you.
“Most of all, I learned that it’s possible for two people to fall in love all over again, even when there’s been a lifetime of disappointment between them.”
- Nicholas Sparks
eople always questioned his appearance
He, being Drake, the curly, inky-haired kid that never went unnoticed. I’d known about him since I was in the fourth grade. I didn’t meet him until the fifth.
Every Tuesday that he showed up to school, he sported at least one gash on his face and knuckles that were bloody red. I say Tuesdays, because on Mondays he was always absent.
He was taller than the average fifth grader. He had long, black eyelashes that hid bold, emerald eyes, and wild, long black hair that concealed his boyish features. He needed a haircut badly.
All of the kids in our school were afraid to talk to him or look him in the eye, not just because of his rough, rugged looks, but also because of the rumors that circulated through school like water out of the fountains.
They loved to talk about him. I think some boys actually envied him—mostly because of his height and how, even though most of the girls were terrified of him, they also had a small crush on him. What girl can resist a bad boy?
For a while, I wondered what the bruises and cuts meant. All the other kids in Mrs. Pots’ fifth grade class were afraid to ask Drake Davenport why he always had marks on his body, but not me.
His broodiness didn’t bother me. It further intrigued my naïve mind, and when he was assigned to sit at my table in art class after the new semester, I asked him about it on the very first day.
“Why do you always look like you’ve been beat up?”
He turned to look at me, his thick eyebrows furrowing beneath his corkscrew bangs.
“What?” he muttered.
“You heard me.” I sat back in my chair, dropping my pencil. “Why do you look like that everyday?”
He grimaced, jerking his head to look away. “Leave me alone.”
“Why won’t you tell people? Is it bad?” I whispered my last question.
He frowned at the chalkboard, avoiding my eyes at all costs. “Fuck off,” he grumbled.
I gasped like a true girly-girl. “Why did you say that? You can’t say words like that!”
“Well, leave me alone, stupid girl.”
I folded my arms tightly across my chest. “For your information, I’m not stupid. I have the best grades in our class. I got accepted into Lake Lane Middle School, thank you very much.” Lake Lane was a private school in our lakeside city of Fox River, Minnesota. It was very hard to get into, even if the family had money to spend on it. The student basically had to have straight A’s all year long if they wanted in. I was proud to be accepted.
Drake rolled his eyes. “Does it look like I care about your dumb grades?”
“Do you care about anything?” I inquired. I was a nosy, prying kid. I can admit that.
“Do you ever freaking stop talking?”
“No. The only way to get answers is if you ask questions. Imagine if Einstein didn’t ask himself questions. He wouldn’t have been such a genius.”
“Whatever,” he grumbled. He dropped his markers and then pushed out of his chair, marching towards Mrs. Pots’ desk.
He asked her something and she reluctantly handed him the yellow bathroom pass, telling him to hurry back. He was out of the door in seconds, and I blew a breath. Sheesh. Was he rude or what?
“You better leave him alone, Jenny,” Jake whispered across the able. “I heard he beat up a girl on the playground once.”
I frowned. “I don’t believe that.” I glanced at the door. “I don’t think he’s so bad. He just doesn’t like to talk.”
“I heard he lives in a moving house with no bedrooms in a bad part of the city.” Silvia laughed as she covered her mouth, pointing her gaze at the door Drake recently walked out. “He’s so poor. Look at what he wears! That’s probably why he’s so mad all the time.”
Everyone at the round table giggled—everyone except me.
Yes, most of the students at our school had wealthy parents. Most of us lived in gated communities, but there was a small part of Fox River that I knew Drake resided in.
He lived in a trailer home with his father. He was automatically included in our school district zone because he was only a few blocks away from the school.
He didn’t fit in, but that didn’t give any of the kids at our table the right to make fun of him.
I looked at each of my giggling classmates. “That is really mean to say, you guys. My brother always told me not to judge anyone because of his or her appearance. He told me you never know what anyone is going through so never judge unless you know for sure, and even if you know, still try not to judge.”
The entire table stopped laughing—well, everyone except Parker Hastings. “Oh, shut up, Jenny! Your stupid brother isn’t even alive anymore so who cares what he had to say!”
I gasped, staring wide-eyed at him. Parker’s words stung my heart, his taunt like salt being rubbed into a deep wound. My eyes went hot and prickly. Mrs. Pots appeared right behind me as soon as Parker let out his rude remark.
“Parker Hastings! Meet me outside the classroom.
I dropped my head as everyone
and sniggered while Parker groaned, shoving his chair back and stomping to the door. When I glanced back, I was surprised to see Drake standing at Mrs. Pots’ desk.
He watched Mrs. Pots crossly follow Parker out and after he dropped the yellow bathroom pass on her desk, he tipped his head to look at me.
His eyes were softer than they were less than five minutes ago. He walked my way and sat down in the short blue chair beside me.
I didn’t look up. One: because what Parker said about my brother Mitchell was still eating me up inside, and two: because I didn’t want Drake to pick on me too.
So I picked up my markers and finished my fractions coloring sheet.
Drake continued his with dry markers that were most likely from his previous school year. I silently slid a few of my markers his way, letting it be known that he could use them if he wanted.
I felt him looking at me. I still didn’t bother meeting his eyes.
When everyone around our table focused on their papers while talking about other things—things like field day and summer break—Drake finally spoke.
“I heard what you told them.” He paused on coloring and I glanced aside, but his eyes weren’t on me. He was focused on his paper. “Thanks… I guess.”
That was the first time I had ever heard Drake Davenport’s gratitude. It was the first time I ever heard him give
After that day, Drake’s attitude towards me changed. He didn’t say much, but he did small gestures for me, like picking up my pencil if it rolled off the desk, or taking my worksheets up whenever he was going to turn his papers in.
He was really smart.
He aced every test, but for some reason he tried to hide it. I saw his grades, the red
along with the smiley face stickers poking out of the corners of his folders.
Whenever Mrs. Pots handed our tests back, he’d hurriedly stuff his in his backpack, side-eyeing me and everyone else at the table.
Of course, no one really paid attention to what he did but me.
I wanted to ask why he was so ashamed but I decided it was best to keep my questions to myself. I didn’t want him to switch up on me again. I liked the nicer side of Drake—the side he only revealed with me.
During recess, Drake normally sat in the corner right by the door. He’d sit in the same spot everyday, waiting for Mrs. Pots to blow her whistle so he could go back inside.
He hated recess. It seemed he hated fun in general.
But one day he actually decided to come out and play. I usually did some jump roping, swinging, or walked with Melissa Gills around the playground. I wanted to walk that day, but Melissa was absent, so I sat on the swing.
It was a hot, sticky day. My head hung down as I picked at my nails, focusing on the tip, where a smidgen of sparkly blue nail polish stubbornly remained.
I heard the crunch of footsteps along the red mulch and looked up. Drake was walking my way with an uneasy demeanor. He ran his hand through his dark, tangled curls, glancing over at the group of girls gossiping as they drew with chalk.
He frowned at them when he noticed they were watching, and they all looked away, but not without giggling first.
I watched him as he came in my direction, his steps slow and measured, his face giving away his uneasiness.
I gripped the silver chains connected to the swing, swinging my legs to guide me in a light, easy sway. Drake stepped to the left, standing near the metal bar.
“Are you here to play?” I asked.
He didn’t say anything, just folded his arms and pressed his back against the metal. The sun beamed down on him, causing sweat to prickle at his forehead. He swiped it away, grunting a little as he pushed from the metal.
“You can take that swing,” I offered, as if it were mine. “No one’s gonna bother when you’re standing right beside it. Plus, swinging will help you cool off. It helps me cool off.”
I stopped my legs from moving, planting the bottoms of my feet on the ground. Drake looked at me through the corner of his eye. He never looked me completely in the eye. It was as if he was afraid to.
Now that I thought about it, it seemed he didn’t like to look anyone in the eye. Not that he was afraid of the others; I just figured he didn’t think they were worth his time.
Finally making a move, he walked towards the swing, grabbing the chain with his large, bruised hands. He yanked it, causing a loud clanking noise on the metal above.
Sighing, he finally twisted around and sat on the leather seat, adjusting himself as he gripped the metal in his hand.
We sat in silence for a few seconds. I didn’t want him to feel uncomfortable. He’d obviously come my way for a reason. In some sort of way, I think I felt safe. So I kept my regularly blabbering mouth shut, waiting on him to speak.
When he finally did, I perked up, giving him my full attention.
“This is what you do?” He squinted his eyes as he looked ahead at some of our peers playing kickball.
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“I mean…” He paused for a moment. “I see you swing a lot. Most times you’re by yourself or with that girl with the red hair. Why are you always alone?”
“Oh.” My lips twisted. I wasn’t sure how to respond to that. He looked at me and my heart pranced in my chest. His green eyes held mine (they seemed a little darker today), and he remained still on his swing. “I don’t know.” I shrugged. “It’s… cool. I don’t mind being by myself.”
I looked at each group of kids. The nerdy group sitting by the bench, reading thick novels.
The athletic boys that would soon become jocks, challenging each other with their grand-slam kicks in kickball.
The girly-girls that
wore pink and had their hair curled in spirals. It was the trend for this year.
And then there were the kids like me. The stragglers. We kept to ourselves and didn’t mind it, whether it was swinging, balancing a soccer ball on the tip of our foot, or simply walking the track.
Then there was Drake Davenport, who sat in the same spot every day. Every day except this particular one.
“I don’t care either,” he replied.
I picked at my nails again. “Do you have any friends?”
“Not really.” He thought on his response, most likely not wanting to seem like too much of a lame-o. “Well, I hang with my cousins a lot. They don’t go to this school though. They get homeschooled.”
“Oh.” I paused. “Besides Melissa, I don’t really have friends here either. I used to tell my brother a lot of stuff but—” I clamped my mouth shut, frowning in his direction before gripping the chains.
My eyes drifted, landing on anything but him.
Drake watched me intently as my words failed me. I glanced sideways.
I almost stopped breathing. I didn’t mean to look at him. I didn’t want to. I didn’t want his sympathy.
“You don’t need to tell me. I heard about your brother.”
“What did you hear?” I ask.
“That he died.”
“Oh.” My lips twisted. “Do you know… how he died?”
“Well, I guess that’s good,” I sighed with relief. “You’re the only person in our class that doesn’t know. Better if it stays that way.”
He shrugged and sorta-kinda laughed. It was a quiet huff. Nothing too major, but at least it was a smile. He kicked his legs, pushing himself into a full swing. It was easy-going and brisk, and I decided to start with him.
We swung for about ten minutes until Mrs. Pots blew her whistle, the sound for us to round up and meet her at the sidewalk.
I dragged my heels through the mulch, hopping off the swing and landing with an awkward
Drake was practically mid-air as he jumped off the seat with a smooth landing.
“That’s dangerous,” I said, shielding my eyes as I started towards Mrs. Pots and the rest of the students.
“Me and my cousins used to do it all the time when my mom would take us to the park.” After he said that, his forehead creased and he frowned, suddenly angry. He stopped walking, and I noticed his fists clenching.
With a confused expression, I stopped walking, waiting for him to meet up to me. Normally, Drake was the first one back in the classroom and in his seat after recess, but not today.
Today it seemed something was bothering him. I couldn’t pinpoint it, but he seemed more… vulnerable. More vacant. Less… hostile, maybe?
“I know I ask a lot of questions,” I said as he met at my side, burying his fingers in his front pockets, “but can I ask you something?”
He didn’t look at me when he answered. “I guess.”
“Why did you want to swing with me today?”
He shrugged. “Just wanted to.”
“Do you swing a lot with your mom?”
I realized when I mentioned his mother he sort of froze, nostrils flaring and turning red at the edges.
He met my eyes and calmed himself immediately, as if the sight of me sort of eased him a bit. “She’s… not here anymore.”
“Oh.” I dropped my head, my curly hair curtaining my face. “Sorry.”
“Don’t say sorry. It happened. It’s done. That’s what my dad always says to me.”
“Why would he say that to you?” I whispered, suddenly angry with his unknown father.