Losing Hope:A Novel

By: Colleen Hoover

Chapter Four

Les,

Happy two-week deathiversary. Harsh? Maybe so, but I’m not apologizing. I have to go back to school Monday and I’m not looking forward to it at all. Daniel has been keeping me up to date on all the rumors, despite the fact that I keep telling him I don’t give a shit. Of course everyone thinks you killed yourself because of Grayson, but I know that isn’t true. You were pretending to be alive long before you ever met Grayson.

And then there’s the whole incident that I still haven’t told you about. The one that involved me forcing Grayson to break up with you? It’s a complicated story, but because of that night, everyone is now saying that I was indirectly responsible for your suicide. Daniel says people are even sympathizing with Grayson and the asshole is eating it up.

The best part about this particular rumor is that apparently my immense guilt over the hand I played in your suicide is causing me to be suicidal. And if that’s what the masses are saying, then it must be true, right?

To be honest, I’m way too scared to kill myself. Don’t tell anyone that. (Not that you could now, even if you wanted to.) But it’s true. I’m a pussy when it comes to the fact that I have no idea what to expect after this life. What if the afterlife is worse than the life you’re running from? Willingly taking a dive headfirst into the unknown takes some serious courage. I have to hand it to you Les, you’re way braver than I am.

Okay, I’m signing off. I’m not used to writing so much. Texting would be way more convenient, but you like to do everything the hard way, don’t you?

If I see Grayson at school on Monday, I’ll rip his balls off and mail them to you. What’s your new address?

H

? ? ?

Daniel is waiting for me by his car when I pull into the parking lot.

“What’s the game plan?” he says as soon as I open my door.

I’m racking my brain for anything I might have missed. I don’t remember anything significant about today that would require a game plan.

“Game plan for what?” I ask.

“The game plan for today, dipshit.” He points his clicker toward his car and locks his doors, then begins walking toward the school with me. “I know how much you didn’t want to come back, so maybe we need a game plan to counteract all the attention. Do you want me to be all sad and mopey with you so people won’t want to confront us? I doubt it,” he answers himself. “That might encourage people to approach you with words of encouragement that resemble condolences and I know you’re sick of that shit. If you want, I can be super excitable and take all the attention off you. As much as you don’t want to admit it, you’re all everyone’s been talking about for two weeks. I’m so fucking sick of it,” he says.

I hate that people don’t have anything better to talk about, but I like that it bothers Daniel as much as it bothers me.

“Or we could just be normal and hope people have better things to talk about than what happened with Les. Ooh! Ooh!” he says giddily, turning to face me while he walks backward. “I could act all pissed off and walk in front of you like a bodyguard, even though you’re bigger than me. And if anyone tries to approach you I’ll punch them in the face. Please? Will you play the part of pissed-off, grieving brother? For me? Please?”

I laugh. “I think we’ll be just fine without a game plan.”

He frowns at my unwillingness to participate. “You underestimate the enjoyment other people gain from gossip and speculation. Just stay quiet and if anything needs to be said today, I’ll be the one to say it. I’ve been dying to yell at these people for two weeks now.”

I appreciate his concern, but I really anticipate today being just like any other day. If anything, I think it would be too awkward for people to mention it when I’m actually in their presence. They’ll be too uncomfortable to say anything to me at all, which is exactly how I prefer it.

The bell for first period hasn’t rung yet, so everyone’s still standing outside. It’s the first time I’m walking into the school without Les by my side. Just the thought of her takes me right back to that moment when I walked into her bedroom and found her. I don’t want to relive that moment again. Not right now. I pull my phone out of my pocket and pretend to be interested in it for the sake of just taking my mind off the fact that Daniel could be right. Everyone around us is way too quiet and I hope to hell it’s back to normal soon.

Daniel and I don’t have class together until third period so when we make it inside the building he waves me off and heads in the opposite direction. I open the door to my homeroom and almost immediately, a sudden hush falls over the classroom. Every single pair of eyes is staring back at me, quietly watching me walk to my desk.

I keep my phone out and continue to pretend I’m engaged in it, but I’m acutely aware of everyone around me. It keeps me from having to make eye contact with anyone, though. If I don’t make eye contact, they’ll be less likely to approach me. I wonder if I’m just imagining a difference in the way people are acting today as opposed to before Les killed herself. Maybe it’s just me. I don’t want to think it’s just me, though. If that’s the case, then how long does this last? How long will I have to go through every second of the day thinking about her death and how it affects every aspect of my life?

I compare losing Les to losing Hope all those years ago. It seemed back then that everything that happened for months after Hope was taken somehow led to thoughts of her. I would wake up in the morning and wonder where she was waking up. I would brush my teeth and wonder if whoever took her thought to buy her a new toothbrush, since she didn’t get to take anything with her. I would eat breakfast and wonder if whoever took her knew that Hope didn’t like orange juice and whether or not they were letting her have white milk, because that was her favorite. I would go to bed at night and look out my bedroom window that used to face hers, and I would wonder if she even had a bedroom window where she was.

I try to think of when the thoughts finally stopped, but I’m not so sure they have. I still think about her more than I should. It’s been years now, but every time I look up at the sky I think about her. Every time someone calls me Dean instead of Holder, I think about her and how I used to laugh at the way she said my name when we were kids. Every time I see a bracelet on a girl I think about the bracelet Les gave her just minutes before she was taken from us.

So many things remind me of her and I hate knowing that it’s just going to be worse now that Les is gone, too. Every single thing I think or see or do or say reminds me of Les. Then every single time I’m reminded of Les, it leads to thoughts of Hope. Then every single time I think about Hope, I’m reminded of how I let them down. I failed them both. It’s as if the day I gave them their nickname, I was somehow nicknaming myself the same. Because I sure as hell feel pretty fucking hopeless right now.

? ? ?

I’ve somehow made it through two classes without a single person speaking to me. Not that they aren’t discussing it, though. It’s like they think I’m not even here, the way they whisper and stare and speculate about what’s going on in my head.

I take a seat next to Daniel once I arrive in Mr. Mulligan’s classroom. Daniel silently asks how I’m doing with just a look. Over the past few years we seem to have formed some sort of nonverbal communication between us. I shrug, letting him know that it’s going. Of course it sucks and I’d rather not be here at all right now, but what can I do? Suck it up. That’s what.

“I heard Holder’s not speaking to anyone,” the girl in front of me whispers to the girl seated in front of her. “Like, at all. Not since he found her.”

It’s obvious by the volume at which she’s speaking that she has no idea I’m sitting right behind her. Daniel lifts his head to look at them and I can see the disgust on his face, knowing I can hear their conversation.

“Maybe he’s taking a vow of silence,” the other girl speculates.

“Yeah, maybe. It wouldn’t have hurt Lesslie to take a vow of silence every now and then. Her laugh was so freaking annoying.”

I instantly see red. I clench my fists and find myself wishing for the first time in my life that it wasn’t wrong for a guy to hit a girl. I’m not angry that they’re talking about her behind her back, I expected as much. I’m not even angry that they’re talking about her beyond the grave. I’m angry because the one thing I loved the most about Les was her laugh. If they’re going to say anything about her, they better not mention her fucking laugh again.

Daniel grips the edges of his desk and lifts his leg, then kicks the girl’s desk as hard as he can, scooting her a good twelve inches across the floor. She squeals and immediately turns in her seat to face him.

“What the hell is wrong with you, Daniel?”

“What’s wrong with me?” he asks, raising his voice. He leans forward in his chair and glares at her. “I’ll tell you what’s wrong with me. I’m pissed that you’re a girl because if you had a dick, I’d be punching you in your disrespectful, fat mouth right now.”

Her mouth drops open and it’s obvious she’s confused why he’s targeted her. Her confusion is instantly cleared up the second she notices that I’m right behind her, though. Her eyes grow wide and I smile at her, lifting my hand in a half-hearted wave.

I don’t say anything, though. I don’t really feel the need to add to anything Daniel just said and apparently I’m taking a vow of silence, so I just keep my mouth shut. Besides, Daniel said he’s been dying to yell at these people for two weeks now. Today might be his only chance, so I just let him do his thing. The girl immediately turns and faces the front without even offering up the slightest hint of an apology.

The classroom door opens and Mr. Mulligan enters, breaking up the tension and naturally replacing it with his own. Les and I did everything we could to avoid having him at all this year, but we weren’t very lucky. Well, I’m not, anyway. Les doesn’t have to worry about sitting through his tedious, hour-long lectures anymore.

“Dean Holder,” he says as soon as he reaches his desk. “I’m still waiting for your research paper that was due last week. I hope you have it with you, because we’re presenting today.”

Shit. I haven’t even thought about what I might have had due over the past two weeks.

“No, I don’t have it with me.”

He looks up from whatever it is he’s looking at on his desk and eyes me. “See me after class, then.”

I nod and maybe even roll my eyes a little. Eye rolling is inevitable in his class. He’s a douchebag who gets off on the control he thinks he has over a classroom. It’s obvious he was bullied as a kid and anyone not wearing a pocket-protector is the recipient of his misguided revenge.

I ignore the presentations during the rest of the period and try to make a list of what assignments I might have due. Les was the organized one of the two of us. She always let me know what was due and when it was due and which class it was due in.

After what seems like hours, the bell finally rings. I remain seated until the class clears out so that Mr. Mulligan can practice his retaliation on me. Once the classroom is occupied by just the two of us, he walks to the front of his desk and leans against it, folding his arms over his chest.

“I know your family has been through quite the ordeal and I’m sorry for your loss.” Here we go. “I just hope you understand that unfortunate things like this are going to happen throughout your life, but that doesn’t give you the excuse to not live up to what’s expected of you.”

Jesus Christ. It’s a fucking research paper. It’s not like I’m rewriting the Constitution. I know I should just nod and agree with him, but he picked the wrong day to play preacher.

“Mr. Mulligan, Les was the only sibling I had, so I actually don’t foresee this happening again. As much as it seems like it happens repeatedly, she can only kill herself once.”

The way his eyebrows crease together and his lips tighten into a firm line make it apparent that he doesn’t find me amusing at all. Which is good, because I wasn’t trying to be amusing.

“Some situations should remain off-limits to your sarcasm,” he says flatly. “I would hope you would have a little more respect for your sister than that.”

As much as I hate that I can’t hit girls today, I hate the fact that I can’t punch teachers even more. I immediately stand up and walk swiftly to where he’s standing, stopping just inches from him, my fists down at my sides. My proximity causes his body to go rigid and I can’t help but feel a sense of satisfaction knowing I’ve scared him. I look him directly in the eyes, clench my teeth, and lower my voice.

“I don’t give a shit if you’re a teacher, a student, or a goddamned priest. Don’t you ever mention my sister again.” I stare at him for several more seconds, seething, waiting on his reaction. When he fails to say anything, I turn around and grab my backpack. “You’ll get your report tomorrow,” I say, exiting the classroom.

? ? ?

I’ve been convinced I was minutes away from being expelled. However, Mr. Mulligan apparently chose not to report our little interaction, because nothing has been said or done and it’s now lunch break.

Moving along.

“Holder,” someone says from behind me in the hallway. I turn around to find Amy catching up to me.

“Hey, Amy.” I wish her presence gave me even the slightest hint of comfort, but it doesn’t. Seeing her standing here just reminds me of two weeks ago, then that reminds me of the pictures she was at my house for, then that reminds me of Les, then that reminds me of Hope. Then of course I’m consumed with guilt again.

“How are you?” she asks hesitantly. “I haven’t heard from you since . . .” Her voice trails off, so I answer her quickly, not wanting her to feel she has to go into more detail.

“I’m okay,” I reply, feeling guilty that she seems disappointed I didn’t call her. I thought she was pretty clear with what happened between us. I hope she is, anyway. “Did you um . . .” I look down at my feet and sigh, unsure how to bring it up without sounding like a complete asshole. I shift my weight from one foot to the other and look back up at her. “Did you want me to call you? Because I thought what happened . . .”

“No,” she says quickly. “No. You thought right. I just . . . I don’t know.” She shrugs and looks as though she already regrets this conversation. “Holder, I just wanted to make sure you were okay. I’ve been hearing rumors and I’d be lying if I didn’t say they have me worried. I felt like I made that day at your house all about me, and I never even thought to ask you how you were holding up at all.”

She looks guilty for even bringing up the rumors, but she shouldn’t feel that way. She’s the only person all day to actually make an active effort to ensure the rumors aren’t true. “I’m okay,” I assure her. “Rumors are rumors, Amy.”

She smiles, but doesn’t seem to believe the words coming out of my mouth. The last thing I want her to do is worry about me. I wrap my arms around her and whisper in her ear. “I promise, Amy. You don’t need to worry about me, okay?”

She nods, then pulls away from me, looking nervously down the hall to her left, then to her right. “Thomas,” she whispers, excusing the fact that she pulled away from me. I smile at her reassuringly.

“Thomas,” I say, nodding. “Not at home helping his dad with yard stuff, I guess?”

She purses her lips together and shakes her head. “Take care, Holder” she says, turning to walk away.

I put my things in my locker, then head to the cafeteria. I walk in several minutes after the cafeteria has filled up with people, and at first it’s like any other day at lunch. But once people begin to spot me as I make my way to the table where Daniel is seated, the voices drop entire octaves and eyes can’t seem to mind their own business.

The amount of drama I’ve witnessed today is comical, really. Everyone I pass, even people I’ve been friends with for years, all seem to think if they don’t quietly watch my every move, they might miss the moment that I completely break down and lose it. I hate to disappoint them, but I’ve got a pretty good handle on things today. Nobody’s going to be losing it, so they might as well go back to their regular routine.

By the time I actually reach the table, the entire sound of the lunchroom has dropped to a dull murmur. All eyes are on me and I seriously wish I could tell everyone to go fuck themselves. But that would be giving them exactly the meltdown they want, so instead I keep my mouth shut.

The one thing I don’t do, though, is tell Daniel he can’t say what I’m wishing I could say. I look him straight in the eyes as I approach the table and we have one of our quick, nonverbal conversations. A nonverbal conversation in which I give him the go-ahead to release any pent-up frustration he might still be harboring.

He grins mischievously and loudly slaps his palms down on the table. “Holy motherfucking shit!” he yells, climbing up onto his chair. He gestures wildly toward me. “Look, everybody! It’s Dean Holder!” He proceeds to climb on top of the lunchroom table, pulling all the attention away from me and placing it on himself.

“Why is everyone staring at me?” he yells, motioning with huge, exaggerated gestures toward me. “We have the Dean Holder here! The one and only!” When only a few people look away from him toward me, he throws his hands up in the air like he’s disappointed in them. “Come on, guys! We’ve been anticipating this moment for two weeks now! Now that he’s finally here, you all decide to shut the hell up? What’s up with that?” He looks down at me and frowns, slumping his shoulders in defeat. “I’m sorry, Holder. I thought today would be a little more interesting for you. I was hoping for a Q&A session to kind of clear the air, but I didn’t realize every single person in this school is a spineless dipshit.” He begins to climb down from the table but then shoots his arm up into the air and holds up a finger. “Wait!” he says, spinning to face the entire crowd. “That’s actually a very good idea!”

I look around and expect one of the cafeteria monitors to be making their way over to him to put a stop to his spectacle, but the only monitor in the cafeteria right now is just watching him like everyone else, waiting to see what he’s up to.

Daniel jumps from our table to the table next to us, stepping on a few trays in the process. He spills chocolate milk all over the table and almost slips, but presses his hand onto the top of a guy’s head and straightens himself back up. The entire spectacle is pretty damn entertaining, so I take a seat at our table and watch him like I’m not even the reason behind his whole outburst.

He looks down at a girl seated at the table beneath his feet and he extends his arm, pointing his finger down at her. “What about you, Natalie? Now that we have Dean Holder here and live in person, would you like to ask him if your theory about why Les killed herself is correct?”

Natalie’s face reddens and she stands up. “You’re an asshole, Daniel!” She grabs her tray and walks away from the table. Daniel remains standing on top of the table, but his extended index finger follows her across the cafeteria.

“Wait, Natalie! What if Lesslie did kill herself because Grayson dumped her the same week he took her virginity? Don’t you want to know if you’re right? Don’t you want to know what you’ve won?”

Natalie exits the cafeteria, so he immediately turns his attention to Thomas, who is seated next to Amy a few tables down. She’s got her hand over her mouth and she’s looking at Daniel in shock like the rest of the cafeteria. He points to Thomas, then hops across three cafeteria tables to get to him. “Thomas!” Daniel yells excitably. “What about you? Would you like to participate in the Q&A? I heard your theory this morning during first period and it was a doozy.”

Thomas stands up and grabs his tray just like Natalie did. “Daniel, you’re being a jerk.” He nods toward me. “He doesn’t need this right now.”

I don’t say anything, but I actually hope Thomas gets away unscathed. I don’t know what rumor he started, but even so. I’m pretty sure what I did with Amy was retaliation enough, even though he’ll likely never know about it.

“Oh?” Daniel says, pulling his hand up to his mouth in false shock. He looks over at me. “Holder? Do you not need this right now? Are you like, in mourning or something? Should we be respecting that?”

I try not to smile, but Daniel’s doing a damn good job of turning this shitty day upside down. He steps from one table to the next, moving back toward our table.

“Do you not want to participate in the Q&A, Holder? I thought maybe you would want to set the record straight.” He spins around and addresses the entire cafeteria again without waiting on an answer from me. Several students begin picking their trays up and exiting the cafeteria in fear that they’ll be pointed out next. “Where’s everyone going? None of you seem to mind discussing it any other time. Why not right now when we can actually get some honest answers? Maybe Holder could tell us all why Les really did it. Or better yet, how she did it. Maybe we could even find out the truth behind the speculation that he’s suicidal, too!” Daniel looks at me again and props his hands on his hips. “Holder? Are the rumors true? Do you actually have the date set for when you plan to kill yourself?”

Now all eyes are definitely on me. Before I can answer, and not that I was going to, Daniel holds up his arms and faces his palms out toward me. “Wait! Don’t answer that, Holder.” He spins around to address the quickly dwindling crowd again. “I think we should open it up for bets! Somebody find me a pen and paper! I’ve got dibs on next Thursday,” he says, pulling his wallet out of his pocket.

Apparently the cafeteria monitor draws the line at illegal betting, because she’s now walking determinedly toward Daniel. He notices the monitor stalking toward him, so he shoves his wallet back into his pocket. “We’ll take bets after school, then,” he says quickly, jumping off the table.

I turn and head toward the doors to the cafeteria and he follows behind me. As soon as the doors swing shut behind us, the murmur of the cafeteria returns, but much louder this time. Once we’re both back in the hallway near our lockers, I turn to face him.

I can’t decide whether I want to punch him for what he just did or bow down to him. “You’re messed up, man.” I laugh.

He runs his palms down his face and falls against the lockers with a big sigh. “Yeah. I didn’t really mean for it to go on like that. I just couldn’t take another second of this shit. I don’t know how you’re doing it.”

“Me either,” I say. I open my locker and grab my car keys. “I think I’m just gonna call it a day. I really don’t want to stick around right now.”

Daniel opens his mouth to respond, but he’s interrupted by someone clearing his throat behind me. I turn around to find Principal Joiner eyeing Daniel angrily. I turn back to Daniel and he lifts his shoulders innocently. “I guess I’ll see you tomorrow then. Looks like me and Principal Joiner have a lunch date.”

“More like a detention date,” Principal Joiner says firmly from behind me. Daniel rolls his eyes and follows the principal toward the office.

I grab the book I need to finish Mr. Mulligan’s research paper and shut my locker, then walk down the hall toward the exit. Before I round the hallway, I hear someone say Les’s name and it causes me to stop in my tracks. I peer around the corner and there is a small group of four people leaning up against their lockers. One of the guys is holding a cell phone and they’re all leaning over him, watching the video he’s playing. Daniel’s voice is coming from the speaker. Apparently someone recorded his display during lunch just now and it’s already circulating. Great. Even more fuel for the gossip.

“I don’t understand why Daniel made such a big deal out of it,” the guy holding the phone says. “Does he really expect us not to talk about it? If someone is pathetic enough to kill themselves, we’re obviously going to talk about it. If you ask me, Les should have tried to stick it out rather than take the easy—”

I don’t wait for him to finish his sentence. His phone shatters when I throw it against the locker, but the sound doesn’t even come close to the sound my fist makes when it meets his jaw for the first time. I don’t know if the punches get louder after that, though, because everything around me is instantly tuned out. He’s on his back on the floor of the hallway now and I’m on top of him, hitting him hard enough that I hope he’s never able to open his fucking mouth again. People are pulling on my shoulders and my shirt and my arms, but I continue hitting him. I put my rage on repeat and watch as my fist grows redder and redder from the blood that smears my hand every time I swing at him.

I guess they’re getting their wish after all. I’m breaking down.

I’m losing it.

And I don’t really give a fuck.

▶ Also By Colleen Hoover

▶ Hot Read

▶ Last Updated

▶ Recommend

Top Books