A Different Blue Page 25

“Do you know how to empty the magazine?” Wilson asked me softly.

I nodded. Jimmy had taught me. I swiftly removed the bullets as Wilson addressed the class, many of whom had started to rise from where they had huddled beneath their desks.

“Students – I need everyone to calmly exit the classroom. Walk, don't run. When you get out into the hallway, don't stop. Exit the school. I'm guessing help is already on its way. Everything is going to be all right. Blue, stay right here with me. You can't go out in the hallway with the gun, and I can't take it from you right now. We'll wait here until reinforcements arrive.”

By reinforcements, I knew Wilson meant the police, but was trying not to alarm Manny who had clearly come undone, and was a quivering mess in his arms.

My classmates scrambled for the door, flinging it wide as they erupted into the hallway beyond. The corridor was silent and empty, as if classes were in session beyond the closed doors. But I knew there were teachers trying to keep their students safe, huddled in terror behind those doors, crying, praying, hoping that they wouldn't hear more gunshots, begging for rescue, calling 911. Maybe everyone had run for the exits when Manny began shooting at the lights. Maybe there was a SWAT team running up the stairs at that very moment. All I knew was that when the police arrived, my little friend would be leaving in handcuffs, and he wouldn't be coming back to high school. Ever again.

“Set the gun and the bullets on my desk, Blue. You don't want to be holding them when the authorities arrive,” Wilson instructed, pulling my attention back to the now-empty classroom and the gun in my hand.

I did as Wilson asked, and as I moved back toward him his eyes met mine and I saw the terror of what had just transpired stamped all over his young face. It was as if, now that the danger had passed, he was replaying the entire event in his head, complete with bonus scenes and possible bloody outtakes. Even as I wondered why I wasn't shaking, my legs would not longer hold me, and I teetered, grabbing for a desk to lower myself into.

And then the room was swarming with police shouting instructions and asking questions. Wilson answered them all in rapid succession, pointing out the weapon and relaying what had transpired in his classroom. Wilson and I were pushed aside as Manny was surrounded, restrained, and led from the school. And then Wilson's arms were around me, holding me fiercely as I clung to him in return. The front of his shirt was damp with Manny's tears, and I could feel his heart pounding wildly against my cheek. The smell of spicy soap and peppermints that was uniquely Wilson was accompanied by the sharp scent of his fear, and for several minutes neither of us were capable of speech. When he finally spoke, his voice was hoarse with feeling.

“Are you daft?” he scolded, his lips against my hair, his words clipped and his accent pronounced. “You've got more bottle than any girl I've ever met. Why in God's name didn't you hide like every other student with half a brain!”

I clung to him, shaking. The adrenaline that had been keeping me upright had abandoned me. “He's my friend. And friends don't let friends . . . shoot . . . other friends,” I quipped, my voice quavering in spite of my bravado. Wilson laughed, the sound almost giddy and full of relief. I joined him, laughing because we had looked death in the face and lived to tell about it, laughing because I didn't want to cry.

Wilson and I answered questions together, and then we were questioned again separately, as was every student present in the classroom and in the hallways from the time Manny entered the school. I'm sure Manny was also questioned extensively, though rumors abounded that he was unresponsive and currently on suicide watch. I found out later that SWAT had been called and ambulances and emergency personnel were already gathering around the school by the time the seventh-hour European History class had erupted through the main doors of the high school.

Most of the student body had been swiftly evacuated by teachers and administrators as the drama unfolded in Mr. Wilson's classroom, and when his students had run from the building, carrying with them the news that Manny had been disarmed, the police just arriving on the scene promptly entered the building. From that first gunshot into a fluorescent light, to the moment Manny was taken into custody, only fifteen minutes had elapsed. It had felt like an eternity.

People said Wilson and I were heroes. There were local cameras everywhere as well as some national coverage of the school shooting that had ended without bloodshed. I was commended by Principal Beckstead personally, which was surreal for both of us, I'm sure. The few times I had been in his crosshairs in the past weren't because of heroic behavior, to say the least. Mr. Wilson and I were hounded for weeks by the media. But I didn't want to talk to anyone about Manny, and I refused all interviews. I just wanted my friend back, and all the police and the interviews just made me think of Jimmy and the last time I had lost someone I cared about. I even thought I saw Officer Bowles, the officer who had pulled me over in Jimmy's truck once upon a lifetime ago. He was talking with a group of parents when I walked out of the school that terrible day. I told myself it couldn't be him. And so what if it was? It wasn't like I had anything to say to him.

It was one month since Manny had lost his mind. One month since I'd had a break from the madness that had ensued. One month of intense unhappiness, one month of despair for the Olivares family. They had released Manny, pending some sort of hearing, and Gloria had taken the kids and fled. I didn't know where they were, and I doubted I would see them again. One horrific month. And so I called Mason. It was a pattern with me. I didn't date. I didn't hang out. I had sex.

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