Note: One use of a racial insult in this one (in German)
“Ha! Kicked your ass again!” Harper threw her fist above her head in triumph as she stepped back from the arcade machine.
Beside her, Devin seemed to force a smile. “Heh. Yeah. Guess you did.” He muttered.
His voice was so quiet, she’d had to read his lips to understand.
A soft sigh passed Harper’s lips. He’d been so… blah all day. It was sucking the fun out of everything!
And honestly, Rylie hadn’t been much better. She’d been so much quieter than usual, and opted to sit by herself at one of the tables instead of watching Harper and Devin’s rematch.
Harper couldn’t understand what had changed. They’d been so excited that she was allowed to hang out with them again, and her friends had been fine the last few times they hung out together… So why were they being so weird?
Still annoyed, Harper followed Devin as he headed back to the small table where Rylie waited for them. As they drew closer, she noticed her friend had ordered refills on their beers.
“Thought we could all use another round.” Clearly Rylie had noticed her staring at their now-full glasses.
“Thanks.” Harper tried to smile as she took a seat.
The three of them each took a few sips of their drinks, saying nothing. The more time that passed, the more uncomfortable Harper began to feel. She couldn’t take it anymore! She needed to find out what was going on.
Harper took a breath, then opened her mouth to speak. Unfortunately, Devin and Rylie decided to do exactly the same.
“Alright, spill. Why are –”
“So, uh, guess who I–”
“Guys, can we cut the –”
The sound of their bright laughter mingling together helped to ease some of the tension that had been building up between them. It took a minute or two for the sound to finally die away.
“Okay,” Rylie broke the silence at last, “You first.” She gestured toward Harper as she spoke.
She shrugged slightly, the brief high from her laughter suddenly vanishing. “I just noticed both you acting like, super weird today. And I wanna know why.”
Rylie and Devin exchanged a brief look.
“Um, well…” Devin mumbled uncertainly. Harper had given up on being able to hear his words clearly. Instead, she stared at his mouth as he continued. “I… I don’t really…”
Rylie gave him a swift kick under the table.
“Ow!” He cried, glaring at her for a moment before turning his gaze back toward Harper. “Okay, um… so… Guess who I talked to yesterday?”
She simply shrugged in reply.
“My cousin.” Devin answered for her.
“Julia? That bitch who ratted us out to our parents?” She raised an eyebrow at him, feeling her anger beginning to rise. Harper was still so bitter about the huge mess they’d gotten into back in January. “Why the hell would I care about that?”
Devin practically winced at her words. “I know, I know. She still feels like shit about that. But she just panicked. You’ve met my Papa, Harper… He’s…”
She sighed softly. “Intimidating.” She admitted, shrugging. “Yeah, I know.”
He paused for a moment before continuing. “But anyway, uh… Speaking of intimidating… When I was talking to Julia, she told me about this guy. His name’s Simon…” Though he’d finally raised his voice to a normal level, Devin still seemed to have a hard time meeting her gaze. “Real scary guy, I guess. Dangerous…”
Beside him, Rylie rolled her eyes in annoyance. “He’s a drug dealer.” As always, she got straight to the point. “And we’re not talking weed… Really heavy stuff, according to Dev’s cousin.”
Harper felt like she was going to be sick. She knew exactly who he was, of course. But she tried her best to keep her voice and body language casual. “Okay… But why are you telling me this?”
“Well, Simon lives in Julia’s apartment building.” Devin explained. “And I guess she heard him talking on the phone… And it sounds like he was saying Erik owes him a ton of money…”
“I’m just telling you what she told me.” He continued. “She said she was sure she heard him mention the name ‘Erik’, and…” For a moment, Devin seemed almost reluctant to go on. “He, um… He was complaining about some, uh… ‘dreckiges Schlitzauge‘ who’d been skipping out on payments…”
She winced inwardly at the racial slur. It simply made her hate Simon even more.
“Harper…” Rylie’s voice was almost pained. “I hate to say it, but it sounds like Erik might be one of his customers. And if he is…” Her eyes flicked toward the boy beside her.
Devin simply shook his head, letting her leave the thought unfinished.
Despite having finished almost half of her drink, Harper’s throat suddenly felt so dry. Fuck. They know. For one wild moment, she considered telling them the truth. After all, Rylie and Devin were her best friends. She couldn’t lie to them… Could she?
But listen to the way they’re talking… A soft voice in the back of her mind seemed to whisper. They’re judging him. They’re jumping to conclusions. This is why you couldn’t tell them about the stealing, remember? They’re just as bad as your parents…
“That’s ridiculous!” Harper replied at last. “You guys know we can’t trust Julia anyway… And even if she really DID hear that, it’s not like there’s only ONE Asian guy in Windenburg! Or one guy named Erik either!”
“I know.” Devin said gently. “But like… We already know he’s into weed and stuff, right? And then there was that X from the party…”
Harper rolled her eyes. “That’s nothing. And you guys didn’t seem to mind that shit when he was sharing it with you!”
“We don’t mind it!” He insisted. “That’s not what we’re saying.
“Yeah, it’s just… Well, if he’s into that shit, is it really such a huge jump to think he might be into other stuff too?” Rylie finished the thought for him.
“You don’t think I’d know if he was?!” The lies were coming so much easier than she’d expected. “I’m telling you guys, it’s not like that. Julia’s wrong.”
“She probably is.” Devin agreed, though his voice sounded anything but certain. “But like… if you found out he was… You’d do something about it, right? You’d tell somebody?”
Harper shook her head. “Why would it be anyone else’s business what he does?”
Rylie sighed, leaning forward slightly in her chair. “Because shit like that’s a big fucking deal, Harper. People get hooked. They turn into pathetic junkies. And it leads to all kinds of trouble… And I don’t mean just for them.”
A sudden heat began rising up Harper’s neck and into her cheeks. “I don’t know when the two of you decided to turn into my parents, but you’re being ridiculous! First off, you’re jumping to conclusions, okay? I already told you, Erik isn’t into that shit, and Julia’s a fucking liar.” She sounded so sure, Harper almost believed it herself.
“Look, we didn’t mean to –”
“And if he did get into that kinda stuff, who the hell cares?!” She continued, talking over Rylie’s reply. “I never thought you guys would be so judgmental!”
“We’re sorry, okay?” This time, Devin was the one who replied. “We didn’t mean to piss you off. We really didn’t.”
“Yeah, and we know Erik’s not stupid enough to get involved in shit like that anyway.” Rylie added with a gentle smile. Her words only made Harper angrier.”We just wanted to let you know what we heard, and make sure everything was okay.”
“Yeah, we’re just looking out for you.” Devin assured her. But there was something in his voice that Harper didn’t quite trust.
“Yeah, whatever.” She muttered uncomfortably as she rose to her feet. “I’d just really appreciate it if you guys didn’t start spreading lies about my boyfriend, okay?”
“We’re sorry.” Devin repeated. “Seriously.”
“Yeah, and we probably shouldn’t have sprung it on you like that.” Rylie admitted. She looked up nervously at her friend. “We’re still cool, right?”
“Yeah. It’s fine.” Harper lied. “Look, I should probably head home. Gotta stick to my stupid curfew.” She forced a tiny laugh. “Thanks for the beer… And the concern, I guess.”
“Sure…” Devin’s expression was so difficult to read. “Later, Harper.”
She could barely manage a small nod at her friends before turning and heading out the door.
Harper felt sick the entire way home.