“I’m guessing the other players are going to work off a bit more energy. I’m surprised you didn’t have a lot of girls hanging off your arm,” I nodded to a cluster of people that were hanging out at the edge of the court. They were giggling and flirting. Troy turned to face them and shrugged.

“Yeah, well, most of those girls just like the fact that we’re a good team and they like to think that someday we’re going to be rich in the NBA.”

“And you’re not?”

“Nah, it’s just a bit of fun. I wouldn’t want to play professionally. I’ve always felt that if you turn a hobby into a job it takes some of the fun away. I play basketball to relax, I don’t want to feel stressed about having to perform or get good results.”

“I can see that. Funny how people find different ways to relax. I was just in botany class with Adam.”

“Oh yeah, him and his plants,” Troy chuckled, but not in a mean way. “He cares for those things like they’re people.”

“They do mean a lot to him. It’s cute, in a way. But that is, obviously, a lot gentler than what you do. Don’t take this the wrong way, but I’m a little surprised you three are friends. You and Josh I can understand, you fit together, but it doesn’t seem like you have very much in common with Adam.”

“You’d be surprised. But we have a laugh together and appearances can be deceiving. Adam has a rough side too.”

“Adam? No way,” I reared back and shook my head vehemently. “I saw him with those plants. There’s no way he could hurt a fly.”

“You haven’t seen him lose at a game. He can get pretty mean. It takes a long time to get him there, but if you push the right buttons…” Troy let out a low whistle.

“Hmm,” I said thoughtfully, “then I’m surprised that he didn’t explode at Julia when she came over to us and insulted him.”

“He’s not stupid either,” Troy said, his expression changing the moment I mentioned Julia. “Going after her is bad news and you’d do well to stay away from her as well. I don’t know how much her parents have donated to this place but they must have given them a fortune because she has free reign. Either that or she’s been fucking Mr. Griff.”

I shuddered at the thought.

“But how can she just be allowed to get away with so much? Surely others have complained?”

“Oh yeah, but Julia outlasts them all. The people who complain eventually move on, but Julia keeps on studying, so nobody ever gets very far and it’s not worth the trouble to keep on complaining once you’ve left this place. People go on to better and brighter things. It’s just easier to stay out of her way.”

“But that just lets her win. Hasn’t anyone ever even tried to put her in her place?”

Troy pursed his lips and nodded slowly. “There was one girl. Her name was Suzie. Julia had it out for her from day one. Every class she was in Julia pestered her. She pulled these pranks, like putting eggs under her mattress, filling her locker with dead birds, hiding her clothes so Suzie had to run across campus wearing nothing. I don’t know what Suzie ever did to piss Julia off…maybe it was nothing, but Julia was relentless.”

“And the faculty didn’t do anything about it?”

“Oh they punished her alright. They gave her detention, but what good is that when she lives on campus anyway? Suzie was getting more and more agitated and since nothing was happening she decided to take things into her own hands. One day she just snapped. See, Julia has this thing worked down to a tee. She’ll hound you until you snap and then pretend that she wasn’t really doing anything bad at all. If it’s not outright violence then people don’t seem to care as much. But Suzie had other ideas. One day she opened her locker to see that all her books had been gnawed to shreds by a raccoon that Julia had shoved in her locker. I still remember it actually; the raccoon scampered away. Julia was doubled over in laughter and Suzie was just standing there, holding her locker door open, looking at the torn tattered paper falling out. I think all of us knew there was something different about that day. When Suzie turned around we could all sense that something had snapped inside her, all of us apart from Julia anyway, because she was too busy laughing.

Suzie just turned around slowly and didn’t say a word. She walked up to Julia, grabbed a fistful of her hair, and then slammed her against the locker. Julia screamed and tried to get away, but Suzie was stronger than she looked and was relentless. Julia sprawled across the floor and Suzie kicked her against the locker again and again. We were all stunned into silence. It was awful to watch, although none of us could say that Julia didn’t deserve it.”

“What happened?”

“Teachers ran out to stop it. It took two of them to pull Suzie away. She was kicking and screaming. I’d never seen madness in anyone’s eyes before. Then, Julia looked up and this is the thing I’ll never forget. Blood poured from her mouth and she had a black eye, but she was still smiling, because she knew she had won. She’d broken Suzie, and of course Suzie was expelled for violence. It didn’t matter that Julia had pushed Suzie that far.”

“So Julia wasn’t punished at all?”

“She was, but it was only a slap on the wrist. She was suspended for a little while, but she wasn’t expelled like she should have been. She must have had a strong talking to from Mr. Griff or Mrs. Thorpe though, because she hasn’t been that bad since.”

“I guess I’m lucky I got here when I did then because I can tell she’d love to do that stuff to me.”

“Probably. You have to wonder at what’s gone on in her life to make her act that way.”

“I don’t know, I think some people are just rotten to the core.”

Troy looked askance at me, as though he was taken aback by what I said.

“You really believe that?”

I thought about everything I’d learned about vampires. I thought about all the people they turned against their will and how their cold, undead hearts were incapable of love. I thought about the hunger-crazed monsters I’d killed and all the horror and pain they had inflicted throughout history.

Tags: Lilly Wilder Paranormal
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