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I held my breath. What a bully. Every time I’d ever seen Mayor Baxter in town, he was nothing but polite and charismatic. He reminded me of a game show host, the way he paraded his wife and son around. And the house they lived in? I’d walked past it at least three dozen times and marveled at the manicured lawn and curved driveway every time. Never once had I thought this kind of stuff was happening behind closed doors. I thought dads like this only existed in the low income housing my mom kept us in.
“You want to piss away your chance at a scholarship, fine by me,” Mayor Baxter growled, using his other hand to grind his finger into Drew’s chest. “But if you think for a second you’re going to get one dime of my money to pay to be a bum, you’re kidding yourself.”
“I’m not gonna be a bum, Dad,” Drew croaked.
Mayor Baxter grabbed Drew’s hair, and jerked his head back and forth one time. Hard. “Excuse me?”
Drew flinched, and I swear I felt the pain on his throat myself. “Sir,” he choked.
My chest felt tight, and I rubbed at it absently. I’d been in Drew’s position so many times. So many times. With my mom’s boyfriends, with my mom, with my aunt, with my grandpa, with scattered foster parents over the years. It never got any better, even when it happened to someone else. It was scary as hell no matter what. Even from across the parking lot.
“I don’t want your money, sir,” Drew went on. “I don’t need it.”
“Like hell you don’t.” Mayor Baxter released Drew’s neck and rammed his fist into the side of his car, rocking it back and forth. “You’re just like your mother. She wouldn’t survive five minutes without my gold card. Neither would you, you spoiled little prick.”
Drew looked away from his father, his eyes scanning the parking lot.
Don’t look him in the eye, Drew, I thought, watching him. He doesn’t deserve your respect. Don’t give it to him.
His green eyes locked with mine, and I froze. Busted again.
I thought about turning around and going back in the school, but then Mayor Baxter would hear me. God only knew what he would do to Drew then. Or me.
So I just squared my shoulders and stood there. I don’t know why. It’s not like I cared about the likes of Drew friggin’ Baxter before now. Something about seeing someone who was usually cocky and over-confident getting pushed around and shoved into the side of a car by his own dad made me care. Just a little.
Holding my breath to keep quiet, I tucked my hair behind my ears and offered Drew a tiny smile. Just a small, silent message letting him know that he wasn’t alone.
Because nothing was worse when someone knocked you around than feeling utterly alone. Believe me, I knew. I remembered.