“And what did Principal Gagnon say?”
“That I must’ve misheard. And that I shouldn’t eavesdrop on the boy’s locker room.”
Xiao Dan’s feet kicked the pebbles and the red and orange leaves on the bridge. Her arms were crossed across her chest and she stared at Matilda. Matilda, who was watching the rushing river water below them, back straight and chin held high.
Xiao Dan didn’t know what she expected. Maybe some screaming. Possibly tears– a lot of tears.
But, then again, that was how Xiao Dan reacted. Some people, like Matilda, were more composed.
Or, maybe Matilda was getting ready to slap Xiao Dan.
Xiao Dan wouldn’t blame her.
She did have a summer love affair with Matilda’s boyfriend.
But Xiao Dan didn’t think that was their biggest problem anymore.
Matilda finally turned around. There was a dark, piercing stare in Matilda Liú’s eyes. It was the look of a woman wronged. The look of somebody setting off to war.
“What do you want to do about this?” Matilda asked.
Xiao Dan’s mouth opened, then closed. “I… I don’t know. My plan sort of ended at telling you everything.”
Matilda almost smiled.
“But you want to expose them?”
“I need to expose them,” Xiao Dan replied, stepping forward. “They can’t get away with this. They’re treating us like trophies to be collected. Like we’re a score during a game. I mean, I just saw Isaac flirting with Valeria at the grocery store. It’s disgusting.”
When Isaac Atteberry approached Xiao Dan at the start of summer vacation, Xiao Dan thought: finally. It’s finally my turn. I get to fall in love. I get to be the girl that’s wanted.
But summer ended. The sun set, the wind grew harsher, and the school bell rang. He returned to Matilda. He told them that his and Xiao Dan’s summer meant nothing. That he was angry that he and
Matilda fought, so he went to someone else.
Xiao Dan thought she was disposable. But, after hearing the conversation outside of the boy’s locker room, Xiao Dan wished she were disposable.
Being disposable was better than being a score.
Matilda nodded. “Then this is what we’ll do: you go into the boy’s locker room this week. That is likely where they have the paper that keeps track of everything. I will go to Isaac’s house tomorrow and get his text messages. Once we have all of that, we can ruin them.”
Xiao Dan blinked. “Wait, really? You’re on board?”
“Of course I am,” Matilda said. “I’m not letting Isaac make a fool out of me. Not again.”
Xiao Dan tried not to take that personally.
“Do you think it’s gonna be that easy?” Xiao Dan asked. “They’re the varsity hockey team. They bring in a lot of money. Principal Gagnon is gonna try to spin a narrative. He’s gonna say that they’re immature young men who have their whole future ahead of them. They sway any narrative we try to spew out. They-”
“I don’t care. They will regret the day they decided to do this stupid bet,” Matilda said. “Every single college that’s scouting them will get the evidence. They’ll be blasted around town and on social media.”
Xiao Dan’s eyes burned and her throat bobbed. “What if it doesn’t work?”
“It has to,” Matilda said, unwavering. She breathed in and breathed out, then smoothed out her cardigan. “Anyway, thank you for telling me about this.”
“Yeah, of course,” Xiao Dan’s voice cracked and she cringed at herself. Matilda turned to walk away, but Xiao Dan stepped forward and tugged on Matilda’s sleeve. “Wait. I just- I need to say that I’m sorry.”
Matilda blinked. “Why?”
“About Isaac. I thought you two had broken up. If I knew, then I wouldn’t have been with him. I’m sorry that everything turned out like this.”
Matilda’s lips pressed into a thin line. She held Xiao Dan’s hand and shrugged. “I’m sorry that everything turned out like this too.”
“Let me see your notes,” Isaac pouted, exaggerating his eyes for effect. “Please. You’re so smart and I’m not.”
Matilda forced a smile. “Flattery won’t get you anywhere.” She brushed a hand through his hair. “You need to take your own notes. That’s how you study.”
Isaac kissed Matilda’s cheek. “Have I told you how pretty you look today?”
“Notes,” Matilda ordered, pointing at his textbook. “Our test is in four days.”
Isaac groaned and looked back at his laptop. Matilda’s smile faded and she rolled her eyes.
She needed to get to his phone or laptop. She needed the texts.
She needed a miracle.
If she couldn’t get that, she’d at least get him shaking.
“So,” Matilda began. “Someone saw you talking to Valeria the other day.”
“Valeria Soto? Yeah, I saw her at the store,” he said, unflinching.
“Okay,” Matilda deadpanned.
Isaac turned around. He tilted his head and poked Matilda’s nose. “You sound grumpy.”
“I heard you were flirting with her.”
“Flirting with her?” Isaac echoed his disbelief. “Jesus. All I did was talk to her. How did that get twisted as flirting? That’s ridiculous. You don’t believe it, do you?”
Matilda stared at him.
Isaac’s jaw dropped. “Milly, come on.”
“Meant nothing,” Isaac interrupted. “I was sad about our fight and I went to someone else. It was the worst mistake I’ve ever made.” Isaac moved from his seat and squatted down to be at eye-level with
Milly. “You know that, right?”
“I can’t help but worry.”
Isaac grabbed her hand. “I know, I know. That’s why I’m trying to win your trust back. You need to believe me, Milly. I wasn’t flirting with her. I love you, okay?” Isaac pushed her hair behind her ear. “Only you.”
Matilda met Isaac’s eyes.
She could see her reflection in his pupils. She could see that her eye bags and frown lines had deepened. The warm tones on her skin had been sucked out, leaving her a sickly pale.
She used to be an arrow pointing in the right direction. She was a star to be admired. A wonder to marvel at. The girl who everyone thought could rule the world.
She was perfect in every way.
She didn’t think that meant also being the perfect prey.
“Okay,” Matilda said. “Okay.”
Isaac’s body relaxed. His head lowered onto her lap.
“Isaac!” His dad called from the basement. “Isaac, come help me move this!”
“Alright,” Isaac shouted back. He stood and patted Matilda’s head. “I’ll be back.”
Matilda’s body perked. She watched as Isaac opened the door and then waited for it to shut. When his footsteps going down the stairs faded, she bolted up.
His laptop was still open.
First, she clicked into his call logs.
In the past four days he had called Matilda, his mom, his dad, Bryson Price, and Kayden Hubbard.
And Valeria and Tamiko.
No last names.
He called each one at least four times.
Matilda clicked into his conversation with the boy’s hockey team. She searched for the word ‘bet’.
Matilda’s stomach dropped.
Over forty mentions.
“Go and open the door first, son,” Isaac’s dad ordered, his voice echoing up from the basement.
Matilda jumped. She pulled out her chord and connected her phone to his laptop. She pressed ‘back up’, watching the download bar slowly fill.
“Alright, but don’t drop that,” Isaac shouted.
Matilda’s heart rate increased.
Isaac’s footsteps loudened.
The door opened.
Matilda yanked her chord out from the laptop. She stuffed it inside her purse and pushed her phone away from his laptop.
Matilda ran out of the living room and into the bathroom. She locked herself in, pressing her hands against her face as she processed what she had seen.
Valeria and Tamiko.
Xiao Dan, Mi-sook, Tori, and Jasmine were already on his list.
As well as Matilda.
Matilda’s hands gripped the spotless, white sink.
She was a pawn in his game.
She let this happen.
She hurled into the sink.
Matilda coughed out the remaining chunks. She fell back against the wall and caught her breath.
Finally, Matilda pulled out her phone. She clicked on Xiao Dan’s contact and sent a simple text.
I have the messages.
Editors: Hailey Hua,