Home > A Million Kisses in Your Lifetime(4)

A Million Kisses in Your Lifetime(4)
Author: Monica Murphy

The majority of them got nothing but heartache to show for it, and the words I told you so are always on the tip of my tongue when they complain to me, which isn’t too often. Not anymore.

They know how I feel. They know what I might say. They’d rather avoid me versus hear the truth.

“You’ll be fine, Maggie. Keep your head up,” Fig says, his voice soft, his eyes glowing as he takes her in.

I watch him, the hairs on the back of my neck rising as I glance between the two of them. The way he said that, how he’s looking at her—it’s very familiar.

Too familiar.

Other students come shuffling in, their voices loud as they chatter animatedly among one another. I settle into my desk, zipping open my backpack and pulling out my notebook and pencil, getting ready for class to start. Maggie does the same, her gaze on Fig the entire time as he rounds his desk and settles into his chair, a few girls from class coming to talk to him. They all giggle when he says something, the sound grating.

I watch Maggie watch him, wondering at the jealousy I see in her gaze. Hmm.

I don’t like that either.

Just as the bell rings, Malcolm and Crew enter the classroom, as per their usual habits. Sometimes they’re even late, though Fig never marks them tardy for it.

I look away at the last second, not wanting to make eye contact with Crew, but it’s no use. He catches my gaze, his cold blue eyes seeming to penetrate mine, and I stare at him for a second too long, my mouth growing dry.

It’s like being caught in a trap, staring at Crew. It’s almost scary, how much power he seems to wield with just a glance.

His name is on the building. His family has owned Lancaster Prep for hundreds of years. He’s the most privileged student at this school. Whatever he wants, he gets. The girls all want a piece of him. Every boy here wants to be his friend, yet he shuns most everyone. Even a lot of the girls.

I hate to admit this, but we’re a tiny bit similar, Crew and me. We just move about our day in a different way. He’s cruel and unyielding, whereas I’m kind to a fault. I try to be nice to everyone I encounter, and they want a piece of me. He’s mean and snarly, and they always come back for more.

It’s odd.

I finally manage to look away from Crew when Fig stands in front of the white board, his booming voice drawing my attention as he launches into a lecture about our upcoming read, The Great Gatsby. I’ve never read Fitzgerald before, and I’m looking forward to it.

“Wren, can you stay after class for a moment? I’ll make sure to give you a pass,” Mr. Figueroa says to me as he hands me a battered copy of our assigned book.

“Sure.” I nod and smile.

He returns the smile. “Good. I have a few things I want to run by you.”

I watch him walk away, curious. What does he want to talk to me about? We’re still three weeks away from winter break, meaning we’re over a month away from me becoming his teacher’s aide for the spring semester.

Not too sure what else there is to talk about.

“What does he want anyway?”

I glance over at Maggie, who’s watching me with narrowed eyes. “You mean Fig?”

“Yes, I mean Fig. Who else?” Her tone is nasty. Like she’s mad.

I lean back a little in my chair, needing the distance. “He just asked me to stay after class. That he had a few things to run by me.”

“Probably has to do with me and what you saw.” Maggie’s expression turns knowing. “He’ll probably ask you to keep it quiet. He doesn’t want anyone to know.”

“Know what?” I mean, I sort of get what she’s implying, but there’s no way Maggie would get—involved with our teacher, would she? She’s been with Franklin for over a year. They’re pretty serious, though they’ve argued a lot lately. Maggie says their relationship is extremely passionate in all ways, and makes it seem like that’s her preference.

But why would you want to be with a guy who you hate and love equally? That makes no sense to me.

“About our friendship, silly.” She watches Fig head back to his desk, a faintly dreamy look on her face. One she usually only reserves for her boyfriend, not our teacher. “People wouldn’t understand.”

“I know I don’t understand,” I retort.

Maggie actually laughs. “Figures. You know Wren, you can be kind of judgey.”

I’m offended. And is that even a word? “You think I’m judgmental?”

“Sometimes.” Maggie shrugs. “You’re so damn perfect in everything you do, and you hold everyone else to the same standards, which is impossible. You get good grades, and you never cause any trouble. The teachers and staff all adore you. You volunteer every chance you get and all the younger girls think you can do no wrong.”

She lists every one of those things like it’s a fault versus a good quality.

“What do you think of me?” I brace myself, sensing I’m not going to like what I hear.

A sigh leaves her as she contemplates me. “I think you’re a very naïve girl who’s been sheltered your entire life. And when the real world finally bites you in the ass, you’re going to be in for a big shock.”

The bell chooses that exact moment to ring, and Maggie doesn’t hesitate. She leaps to her feet, grabs her backpack, and shoves the book into it before she makes her escape without another word. Not even a goodbye to me or Fig.

The rest of the students exit quickly, even Crew, who doesn’t look in my direction. He’s too busy smirking at Malcolm about something.

Something I don’t care to know about, that’s for sure.

I remain in my seat, suddenly nervous over why Mr. Figueroa might want to talk to me. I set my backpack on my desk, shoving the old copy of The Great Gatsby in the front pocket, briefly checking my phone to see I have a text from my father.

Call me when you get a chance.

My stomach bottoms out. When he texts me to call him, it usually isn’t about anything good.

“I have a free period right now.” Fig strides over to the open classroom door and pulls it shut, cutting off the noise coming from the hallway. It’s eerily quiet. “So it’s the perfect time for us to—chat.”

I rest my hands on top of my backpack and offer him a faint smile, fighting the nerves bubbling up inside me. “Okay.”

He walks over to the desk Maggie just vacated and settles in, his warm gaze landing on mine. I take a deep breath, reminding myself that Fig doesn’t want anything from me beyond help. Despite the whispers and the rumors I’ve heard over the years about him and other female students, he’d never try something like that with me.

Fig knows better.

“What did you want to chat about?” I ask, when he still hasn’t said anything, hating how breathless I sound. Like I’m trying to flirt with him, when that’s the last thing I want to do.

He tilts his head, contemplating me. “You’re turning eighteen next month, aren’t you?”

I blink at him, surprised he’d know that fact. I’m sure he could look it up in my personal file, but why would he care? Do teachers even have access?

“I am. On December 25th.” The words fall from my lips slowly, my gaze questioning.

Where is he going with this?

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