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By Alex Flinn. Intelligent, popular, handsome, and wealthy, sixteen-year-old Nick Andreas is pretty much perfect—on the outside, at least. What no one knows—not even his best friend—is the terror and anger that Nick faces every time he is alone with his father.

Then he and Caitlin fall in love, and Nick thinks his problems are over. Caitlin is the one person he can confide in, the only person who understands him.

The metal detector screams when I walk through, and a security woman tries to check my pockets. I pull away. These what you want? I dangle my keys an inch from her nose, getting in her face. She backs off, scowling. I throw them into her yellow plastic basket and walk through again.

Behind me, my father flings in his keys. Then, he looks at the security woman, and his expression becomes a smile. Miss, if you would please be so kind to tell me where is this courtroom?

He hands her the notice for my hearing. She smiles too, taken in like everyone else by his Armani suit and Greek accent. Second floor. She looks at me. Restraining order, huh?

I stare forward, remembering a day on the beach, Caitlin laughing, a white hibiscus in her hair. Was it only a month ago? God, how did we get here? We reach the top, and he shoves me through a green door. The courtroom smells like old books and sweat.

Brown benches, like church pews, face the witness stand. On the front wall, gold letters read:. Fine, if you know what the truth is. Caitlin sits with her mother in the center pew. Dressed in white, her blond hair loose, she looks like something from our mythology book, a nymph, maybe, pursued by a beast.

I pass her. Caitlin examines her knees, but I can tell her eyes are brimming. Yeah, Nick. I thought so too. I must stand there a second too long, because my father shoves me forward.

I take a seat in the fourth row. He leaves a gap between us, opens his briefcase, and removes a thick folder. I try to catch his eye. I look away. So I concentrate, really concentrate, on making my face a mask.

People at school—my ex-friends, even Tom, who used to be my best friend—see me how I want them to: Nick Andreas, sixteen-year-old rich kid, honor student, coolest guy around.

All fake. Only Caitlin knew the truth about the warfare with my father. She knew how humiliating it was warming the bench in football all season. Telling her that stuff was a mistake. I grin like an idiot as the bailiff swears Caitlin in and a lawyer in a gray polyester skirt begins asking her questions.

Is this your statement, Miss McCourt? Caitlin nods. Is it your testimony you were involved in a relationship with the respondent, Nicholas Andreas? Is he here today? Point him out, please.

I meet her eyes, try to make her remember all the good times. Bad move. Her tears, brimming before, spill out, unchecked. A tissue is offered. Polyester keeps going. Cat says nothing, glancing at her mother. The question takes me by surprise. Does she mean to lie about that too, make it rape, what we did together? Polyester repeats the question, and Caitlin says, I heard you. I was thinking. She looks at her mother again and wipes another tear.

Her chin juts forward. Finally, she says, Yes. It was consensual. Nick and I. I loved him. I look at the wall, my attention suddenly riveted by a palmetto bug, feelers writhing. I could kill it if I wanted. The lyrics run through my head with all the other suddenly meaningless information. Deny it? No way could she say that much bad stuff about me. But when I tune in a few seconds, I hear her, agreeing with everything Polyester says I did, not explaining, not giving any background, just agreeing.

It was a slap, I want to tell them. One slap, when she pushed me way too far. I never beat her up, would never hurt her. I loved her, love her still. Caitlin clutches the tissue like a white flag. You may step down, the judge tells Caitlin. Then, Madame Judge turns to me. My father and I look alike. Still, I search the mirror for differences, anything to avoid seeing him in myself. His eyes are bad enough. Those green eyes can do more damage than his fist, and I see them in my own eyes every day.

I wonder if God is listening, if God exists. I never hit her. My face hardens. The mask takes over. I sit. Where does she get off calling me Nick? What if I called her Debbie, maybe even Debs? Judge Lehman is destined to hate me.

Young, but not pretty, brown eyes swimming behind thick glasses. I see her as a schoolgirl, lenses covered in fingerprints, waiting for the day she can screw someone like me. Her next words prove my point. Control is part of faking it. Judge Lehman persists. Sweet little you could never do such a thing. Right, Nick? Wrong, Judge Lehman says.


Breathing Underwater

Sep 12, Minutes years Buy. Sep 12, Minutes years. Nick is one of the chosen few at his high school: intelligent, popular, wealthy. People think his life is pretty easy. Except for one thing. When Nick meets Caitlin, he thinks that she is the answer to all his problems.


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