Excerpt from Erase Me

Sam descended on her like a charging bull the moment she caught sight of Jasmine’s half-purple face.

“Who da hell did this? And don’t you dare try’n defend ‘em, I’m gonna rip out their hair and dig out their eyes with my thumb!”

“Sam! It’s fine!”

“Why didn’t ‘ya call me? You promised!”

“If you’d just calm down and listen to me I can explain.”

“Don’t try the ‘fell off my bed and onto my dresser’ excuse, just give me names.”

“I don’t know his name—“

“Him?! Aw hell, that’s low! You’re gonna point him out so I can chop his balls off—“

“Do you always bark so much this early in the morning, bitch?”said a boy.

This was an instant Sam derailment.

Coming up from the back doors that Sam had just entered was none other than Ivor Rainford, tall, handsome, insanely rich (no one knew why he came to a public school), arrogant, and Sam’s arch nemesis. Jasmine would have smiled, since their battles were often amusing, if it wasn’t for Sam’s already irate mood.

“Not now, rich dick, I’m busy.”

“Chopping off someone’s balls? How very ladylike. Though I’d think a savage like you would chew them off. Pretty image we got there.”

Sam whirled on him, red to the tips of her shaggy, gold blond hair. Jasmine almost expected steam to start pouring out from her ears like a volcano. There was nothing she hated more than perverted comments on her own sex.

“I got enough fists for both o’ ya, so shut yer yap before you lose some teeth!”

“Or what? You might chew my balls off too? I think I like this idea—“

“Bastard!” She made a swing, and, per usual, Ivor simply stepped to the side, smirking.

And also as per usual, Ivor’s uncanny luck to summon a teacher the moment Sam started throwing fists kicked into gear. This time, it was Mr. Hemsworth.

Jasmine could only be amazed that Mr. Hemsworth’s famous ice-inducing glare worked even on the formidable Ivor Rainford, who backed down just as quickly as Sam.

“While your flirting is amusing—“ he started.

Sam gagged. “Flirting?

“—I’m in no mood to play. Ivor, keep on provoking Samantha and I’ll write you up for sexual harassment. Samantha, get violent and I’ll see you’re suspended.”

And then his grumpy gaze fell on Jasmine, who stiffened. He blinked, but let a bit of the ice from his glare melt. She wish it wouldn’t. Without it, she could catch a glimpse of the handsome face that had melted her yesterday.

“Quite the bruise you got there. Did you fill out the email the principal sent you about that?”

“Yeah, um…thanks.”

Sam glared at both teacher and boy as they walked away, growling low in her throat.

“Well ain’t this great? Not even eight and I already wanna blow up this damn hellhole.”

Though she liked Sam’s bad moods as much as the next person, she took the opportunity of Sam’s distraction to quickly explain what had happened the day before. She finished as they reached their lockers, and Jasmine had to focus on twisting in her combination.

“So this guy just popped out of the blue and whacked you over the face just because he thought you were eavesdropping on him and Mr. Kent?” Sam rubbed her hands together. “This is sick, I bet they’re swapping steroids for the upcoming match. Is there a reward for turning in criminals like that?”

“I doubt it, though drugs would make sense. He did seem really scared.” The locker door popped open and a slip of paper fell out. Jasmine recognized the curl of cursive through the white paper and picked it up. Instantly Sam was behind her, chin over her shoulder, bad mood suddenly forgotten. Jasmine gave her friend a fond smile and unfolded the poem.

“Quiet, now.

The softness of your eyes

only open

to unfiltered sunlight,

and tremble to any cloud

of storm.

But I’ll kiss

and return

every shard of amethyst

the thunder may break from them,

or rather willing fingers

tremble in the violet night

to do so.”

“Eh, so…” Sam stepped back, scratching her nose. “Have you asked lord rich ass ‘bout these yet, ‘cause—”

“For the last time, it’s not him,” said Jazz, grabbing her Integrated Technologies book and slamming the door closed.

“Whoa, chill. I’m just say’n it wouldn’t hurt ta ask. I mean, look at dat: willing fingers tremble in the violet night, he’s hanker’n for ya bad.”

“‘He’ as in ‘not Ivor.’ Besides, do you really think a guy that just asked you to chew his balls would have a poetic bone in his body?”

Sam opened her mouth to answer, but stopped as a tall bulk of a teacher wearing a too-tight wrestling T-shirt side stepped into their path from the traffic of students. As one, Jasmine and Sam backed up, exchanging glances of relief that at least he wore jeans today rather than the revealing gym shorts.

“Jazzy,” he said brightly, “just the girl I was looking for. Got some last minute questions about your little run in with Ean last night. Care to step in with me for a bit? It’s my prep hour, so you shouldn’t have to worry ‘bout anyone listening in and judging you.”

Instantly, Jasmine knew she did not want to go. “B-b-but Mrs. Green—”

“I’ll write you a note explaining why you’re late. This should only take a minute or so.”

Jasmine could feel Sam sharing her unease, but Jasmine couldn’t find any reason to feel that way. If he only had a few questions to ask—it did make sense. She had been the one to get slapped so hard half her face was now purple.

Even so, Sam sent her off with a shoulder squeeze and encouraging smile. She, of all people, knew just how much crap ‘SuperAss’ Kent inflicted on Jasmine whenever he had the chance. Hopefully he wouldn’t find any reason to do the same this time.

Mr. Kent closed the door behind her when they stepped into his classroom. Posters of Hollywood rehashed Shakespeare intermingled with framed wrestling uniforms and sports trophies on the walls. Nothing to suggest that Mr. Kent amused himself in waving barf bags in front of stage frightened girls or bullying boys on the wrestling team.

“Come on, short stuff. To the desk. Got something to show you.”

Hands clenched hard together, she eased her way to his desk at the corner of the classroom. A silver framed photo of the school’s wrestling team sat besides the computer. Mr. Kent had opened a drawer beneath it and pulled out a plain, white envelope, which he began slapping against his other palm.

“A bit closer. I’m not going to bite.”

Jasmine was within arms’ reach now, biting her lip so hard she thought it might break skin.

With the nail of his thumb, he flipped open the thin envelope and spread out three photos onto his desk. Three familiar heads of messy blond hair met her; three pictures of Sam.

Just as she was wondering what Sam had to do with any of this, what she was seeing hit her with the force of a train.

Two of the pictures had Sam at a slant, almost hidden in the darkness of the picture, holding up a glass light bulb pipe to her mouth. The last had her with a simple, obviously homemade joint, puffing clouds into the sky. To make it worse, the unmistakable stucco and brick walls of the school photo-bombed each picture, as though not sure what it was doing there.

Jasmine’s lungs turned to tar.

Mr. Kent wore a smile meant to be sympathetic, but only managed to sneer. “Looked into your friend’s records and found she’s been in Juvy twice for the possession of illegal drugs. To make it even better, I even found that her dear old Mama has been tossed into jail the summer before her daughter got into high school for drug trafficking. That being said, what do you think would happen to poor Sammy if these pictures got out?”

The words hit her through the incessant buzz of Sam had promised—because Sam had promised, ever since they started to be friends, she had sworn not to touch drugs again. As far as Jasmine knew, she had kept her word, as well as sworn on her life to let Jasmine know if she ever had trouble with it again.

Calm down, I ain’t gonna be a stoner. Do you think I wanna end up like my parents?’

“Well?”

Jasmine looked up at the waiting, smirking Mr. Kent. In that one word he had puffed out a cloud of stench like old Pepsi and dirty socks.

“That’s not her. How–how did you get these?” She hardly had the air to speak above a whisper.

“Not really important, seeing as it is her. No, what’s important is what you’re going to do for me so that these pictures don’t fall into the wrong hands. Nothing big. Think of it like an agreement.”

Jasmine’s head went light, probably because of his reeking breath, or maybe because of the swirling nausea building in her stomach. The world threatened to fall sideways. “Why are you doing this?” She could hardly hear herself.

“Because I know what went on between you and Ean,” and at this, the smirk faded and his eyes started to pop as they always did before he launched into a particular fervent lecture. “I know you heard something, and I need you quiet. Also…”

He began circling around her. The tips of his wide, thick fingers tickled around her waist to her lower back. “I’ve been needing something tighter.”

The pictures came up to Jasmine’s face. Sam puffing on a light bulb—Sam hunched furtively in the shadows—Sam smoking a joint.

“She turns eighteen in November, doesn’t she?” said Mr. Kent, as though mentioning that it would rain today. “Would be a crying shame if she had to finish high school in a legit prison. Juvy’s a bit too big for legal adults, I would think.”

The fingers didn’t leave her back. Her skin writhed at his heat leaking in through her sweater.

“What do you say, Jazzy? What shall I do with these pictures?”