I went to see Luke today, at his house. He looked like a textbook derelict, with a two-day stubble and that depressed, hopeless glint in his eyes. And he didn’t smell too good, either. I told him to shower and shave, and then we’d talk. When he came back fifteen minutes later, he looked like a new man, but his attitude hadn’t changed at all.
“Come by to take a last look at the condemned man?” he asked.
I narrowed my eyes at him. “What were you thinking?” I demanded. “Getting drunk at school? Come on.”
“I know, I know, it was a bad move,” Luke admitted. “I went there after the party, to be alone. And I thought I was showing some decent responsibility, waiting to get wasted until I was walking distance from home so I didn’t have to drive anywhere.”
I pursed my lips. “So you walked to the school?” I asked.
“Yeah, yeah, of course. What do you think, I’m one of those idiots who’d actually get behind the wheel loaded?”
“No, I guess you’re a whole different kind of idiot,” I said, starting to smile. He tossed a pillow at me. “Hey!” I objected. “I’m here to help. So wait, you went to the school to be alone . . .”
“Yeah. I needed to think.” He focused his gaze on mine, and I shifted, feeling that swirly sensation inside of me that I got whenever he looked at me lately. “About what happened, at the party . . .” he began.
“It’s okay,” I said. “That’s not important right now.” I paused, thinking how a big part of this was my fault—for storming away from that party, and Luke, without giving him more of a chance. I knew he wasn’t good in those moments, yet still I’d pushed him instead of just laying everything out on the table and letting him do the same. “We’ve got to figure out what you’re gonna do.”
“There’s nothing I can do. I’m totally, thoroughly, irrevocably screwed. I already had the special meeting with Principal Adams. They’re kicking me out of school, which means I won’t be going to college anytime soon. Unless it’s like Far Eastern Nebraska State Tech Vocational College or something.”
“I’ve heard they’ve got a great Forestry program,” I quipped.
Luke rolled his eyes.
“Not funny,” I said. “But honestly, I don’t think you’re gonna get kicked out of school. Not if I can help it.”
“Oh, yeah. And what exactly can you do?”
“Did you forget already? It so happens that I am a founding member of the Student Disciplinary Committee.”
“Ha.” For the first time since I’d been there, Luke cracked a smile. “That’s a good one. No, really.”
“What? This is exactly this type of situation that I created the SDC for—so we’d have a forum to foster discussion between students and school officials, to challenge the hegemony of people like Dr. Adams. It will be a good opportunity to test the concept in its inchoate state.”
“Suh-weet. Can’t wait to be the testing ground for your failed school government bureau.”
“Except being drunk on school grounds,” Luke said.
“Can they prove that? Tell me exactly how it all happened.”
Luke leaned back, tilting his chair off the floor. “I was out at Pond Field, behind the gym, and I was having some beers. I didn’t think anyone would be there, obviously. But I guess some of the cleaning crew gets there before dawn to get started, and—they caught me. Saw me drinking, the whole thing. There’s not really a way out of it.”
“I don’t know about that.”
“Well, at the very least, maybe I can get them to go lenient on you.”
“Look, face it Fran, there’s no chance here. Adams showed me the line in the faculty handbook—no alcohol on school premises, ever. They have every right to expel me. Now can we talk about something else, please? Hey, the SATs are a week away. Are you ready?”
“I guess so. Ready as I’ll ever be.”
“Well, I have one last pointer for you. You should wake up early the day of the test and go running. It gets the blood flowing to your brain.”
“Totally,” Luke said. “Trust me.”
“No,” I said. “Trust me.”