Cruel Academy - Nicole Fox



The boy getting his ass kicked in the ring looks like he does not want to be there.

I get it.

I don’t want to be here either.

I don’t know why I came at all, to be honest. It’s not safe for me here.

John could be anywhere, around any corner. Waiting for me.

Not a single person in the crowd would do anything to intervene if he chose tonight to try and drag me back into his world.

Underground fights like this one aren’t exactly a breeding ground for Good Samaritans.

If John did pounce out, they’d probably all cheer. Like this was just another fight on the undercard.

Haley Cochran versus her abusive ex-boyfriend, John “Bumper” Whitley! Watch as this hundred-pound girl desperately tries to fend off the leather-clad douche bag who’s made her life a living hell!

Shit—not only would they stand around and watch, they’d probably start betting on the outcome.

I’m seated at the top of the bleachers looking down at the boxing ring in the middle. Sunglasses on and hoodie pulled over my face so nobody recognizes me, even though it makes me look like a total diva bitch since it’s, ya know, nighttime.

But even up here, I’m still close enough to see the blood spattering the canvas of the ring down below.

One of the fighters is bigger than the other—taller, broader, thicker—but something about him seems unsteady. Ready to crumble at any moment.

Probably because it’s almost entirely his blood that’s been spilled.

His opponent, a stocky boy with light brown hair and a distractingly muscled back, is fully in charge of the match.

Even worse—he knows it.

He’s so arrogant that I can’t sense it from here.

It’s in the way he walks around the ring. Hands down by his side, inviting his opponent to strike. Taunting. Sneering. Laughing.

It’s in the way he grins. The way he spits. The way he waves his arms at the crowd, egging them on to get louder, rowdier.

And they do. They love him. They envy him. They want him.

Caleb Wilson is a god here…

To everyone but me.

Dread coils in my stomach like a snake. I take a deep breath to try and shake off the nerves that have been clinging to me like static electricity all day. My clothes feel too tight, my hair keeps brushing across my nose, and I’m suddenly unsure of what to do with my hands.

I shouldn’t have come here. This was a mistake.

It’s time for me to go.

I adjust my hoodie lower and start to clamber down the bleachers. I keep my head down and move fast.

But not fast enough.

“Haley?” comes a shrill, drunken voice.

I freeze. Fuck. I should just keep going. Run out into the parking lot, get in my car, and get the hell out of dodge.

But it’s too late. I’ve been spotted.

“Haley Cochran, is that you?!” the girl repeats.

Sighing, I turn around and lower my sunglasses.

“No fucking way!” shrieks the girl—Anna McCauley—in a bastardized New York accent that is as fake as the long lashes she’s wearing. Anna always has her lashes on.

I give her a tight smile. “Hi.”

“Are you slumming or what?” She takes a long sip of whatever spiked drink is inside of her gas-station Styrofoam cup and smacks her lips. “I didn’t think you ran with us anymore.”

“I’ve been busy. We moved this summer and—”

“I know. Big castle on the hill. We’ve all seen it.”

My stomach flips. “You know where I live?”

She nods, looking dangerously unsteady on her high heels. “If you thought you could disappear after the way you left Public, you’re batshit crazy. Crazier than I thought, actually.”

Shit. No bueno. If Anna knows where I live, then John certainly does, too.

Hell, she’s probably the person who told him.

That’s not good. Not good at all.

Anna leans forward, eyes as wide as possible considering the weight of her lashes. “Is it true you tore his place to shit? I heard you trashed his house after he dumped you?”

“After he dumped me?” I bark out a laugh. “I broke up with him.”

She purses her lips and nods, but I can tell she doesn’t buy it. No one does. Not a single one of the Public kids I used to call my friends.

Not that I care. If I had it my way, I’d never see any of those people again.

Anna shrugs, takes another long sip of her beverage, and then totters away without even bothering to say bye. I watch her go.

“Bitch,” I whisper under my breath.

She takes a seat amongst a cluster of Public girls on one of the front bleachers.