Home > Thirteen Reasons Why(3)

Thirteen Reasons Why(3)
Jay Asher

You were playing ball—I don’t know if it was basketball, baseball, or what —but you couldn’t come over until later. So we waited.

Basketball. A lot of us played that summer, hoping to make JV as freshmen.

Justin, only a sophomore, had a spot waiting for him on varsity. So a lot of us played ball with him in hopes of picking up skills over the summer. And some of us did.

While some of us, unfortunately, did not.

We sat in my front bay window, talking for hours, when all of a sudden you and one of your friends—hi, Zach!

—came walking up the street.

Zach? Zach Dempsey? The only time I’ve seen Zach with Hannah, even momentarily, was the night I first met her.

Two streets meet in front of my old house like an upside-down T, so you were walking up the middle of the road toward us.

Wait. Wait. I need to think.

I pick at a speck of dry orange paint on the workbench.

Why am I listening to this? I mean, why put myself through this? Why not just pop the tape out of the stereo and throw the entire box of them in the trash?

I swallow hard. Tears sting at the corners of my eyes.

Because it’s Hannah’s voice. A voice I thought I’d never hear again. I can’t throw that away.

And because of the rules. I look at the shoebox hidden beneath the cloth diaper.

Hannah said she made a copy of each of these tapes. But what if she didn’t? Maybe if the tapes stop, if I don’t pass them on, that’s it. It’s over.

Nothing happens.

But what if there’s something on these tapes that could hurt me? What if it’s not a trick? Then a second set of tapes will be released.

That’s what she said. And everyone will hear what’s on them.

The spot of paint flakes off like a scab.

Who’s willing to test her bluff?

You stepped out of the gutter and planted one foot on the lawn. My dad had the sprinklers running all morning so the grass was wet and your foot slid forward, sending you into a split. Zach had been staring at the window, trying to get a better view of Kat’s new friend—

yours truly—and he tripped over you, landing beside you on the curb.

You pushed him off and stood up. Then he stood up, and you both looked at each other, not sure of what to do.

And your decision? You ran back down the street while Kat and I laughed like crazy in the window.

I remember that.

Kat thought it was so funny. She told me about it at her going-away party that summer.

The party where I first saw Hannah Baker.

God. I thought she was so pretty. And new to this town, that’s what really got me.

Around the opposite sex, especially back then, my tongue twisted into knots even a Boy Scout would walk away from. But around her I could be the new and improved Clay Jensen, high school freshman.

Kat moved away before the start of school, and I fell in love with the boy she left behind. And it wasn’t long until that boy started showing an interest in me. Which might have had something to do with the fact that I seemed to always be around.

We didn’t share any classes, but our classrooms for periods one, four, and five were at least close to each other. Okay, so period five was a stretch, and sometimes I wouldn’t get there until after you’d left, but periods one and four were at least in the same hall.

At Kat’s party, everyone hung around the outside patio even though the temperature was freezing. It was probably the coldest night of the year.

And I, of course, forgot my jacket at home.

After a while, I managed to say hello. And a little while later, you managed to say it back. Then, one day, I walked by you without saying a word.

I knew you couldn’t handle that, and it led to our very first multiword conversation.

No, that’s not right. I left my jacket at home because I wanted everyone to see my new shirt.

What an idiot I was.

“Hey!” you said. “Aren’t you going to say hello?”

I smiled, took a breath, then turned around. “Why should I?”

“Because you always say hello.”

I asked why you thought you were such an expert on me. I said you probably didn’t know anything about me.

At Kat’s party, I bent down to tie my shoe during my first conversation with Hannah Baker. And I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t tie my stupid shoelace because my fingers were too numb from the cold.

To Hannah’s credit, she offered to tie it for me. Of course, I wouldn’t let her.

Instead, I waited till Zach inserted himself into our awkward conversation before sneaking inside to thaw my fingers beneath running water.

So embarrassing.

Earlier, when I asked my mom how to get a boy’s attention, she said, “Play hard to get.” So that’s what I was doing. And sure enough, it worked.

You started hanging around my classes waiting for me.

It seemed like weeks went by before you finally asked for my number. But I knew you eventually would, so I practiced saying it out loud.

Real calm and confident like I didn’t really care. Like I gave it out a hundred times a day.

Yes, boys at my old school had asked for my number. But here, at my new school, you were the first.

No. That’s not true. But you were the first to actually get my number.

It’s not that I didn’t want to give it out before. I was just cautious. New town. New school. And this time, I was going to be in control of how people saw me. After all, how often do we get a second chance?

Before you, Justin, whenever anyone asked, I’d say all the right numbers up until the very last one. And then I’d get scared and mess up…sort of accidentally on purpose.

I heave my backpack onto my lap and unzip the largest pocket.

I was getting way too excited watching you write down my number. Luckily, you were way too nervous to notice. When I finally spat out that last number—the correct number!—I smiled so big.

Meanwhile, your hand was shaking so badly that I thought you were going to screw it up. And I was not going to let that happen.

I pull out her map and unfold it on the workbench.

I pointed at the number you were writing. “That should be a seven,” I said.

“It is a seven.”

I use a wooden ruler to smooth out the creases.

“Oh. Well, as long as you know it’s a seven.”

“I do,” you said. But you scratched it out anyway and made an even shakier seven.

I stretched the cuff of my sleeve into my palm and almost reached over to wipe the sweat from your forehead…something my mother would’ve done. But thankfully, I didn’t do that.

You never would’ve asked another girl for her number again.

Through the side garage door, Mom calls my name. I lower the volume, ready to hit Stop if it opens.

“Yes?”

By the time I got home, you’d already called. Twice.

“I want you to keep working,” Mom says, “but I need to know if you’re having dinner with us.”

My mom asked who you were, and I said we had a class together. You were probably just calling with a homework question. And she said that’s exactly what you had told her.

I look down at the first red star. C-4. I know where that is. But should I go there?

I couldn’t believe it. Justin, you lied to my mom.

So why did that make me so happy?

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