Home > Thirteen Reasons Why(6)

Thirteen Reasons Why(6)
Jay Asher

“Oh, hey,” his dad says, “I do remember you. You stayed for dinner once, right? Big on the ‘please’ and ‘thank-yous’.”

I smile.

“After you left, Tony’s mom was after us for a week to be more polite.”

What can I say? Parents like me.

“Yeah, that’s him,” Tony says. He grabs a shop rag to clean his hands. “So what’s going on, Clay?”

I repeat his words in my head. What’s going on?

What’s going on? Oh, well, since you asked, I got a bunch of tapes in the mail today from a girl who killed herself.

Apparently, I had something to do with it. I’m not sure what that is, so I was wondering if I could borrow your Walkman to find out.

“Not much,” I say.

His dad asks if I’d mind getting in the car and starting it for them. “The key’s in the ignition.”

I sling my backpack over to the passenger seat and slide in behind the wheel.

“Wait. Wait!” his dad yells.

“Tony, shine it over here.”

Tony’s standing beside the car. Watching me. When our eyes meet, they lock and I can’t pull away. Does he know? Does he know about the tapes?

“Tony,” his dad repeats.

“The light.”

Tony breaks the stare and leans in with the flashlight. In the space between the dash and the hood, his gaze slips back and forth from me to the engine.

What if he’s on the tapes?

What if his story is right before mine? Is he the one who sent them to me?

God, I am freaking out.

Maybe he doesn’t know.

Maybe I just look guilty of something and he’s picking up on that.

While I wait for the cue to start the car, I look around.

Behind the passenger seat, on the floor, is the Walkman. It’s just sitting there.

The headphones’ cord is wrapped tightly around the player. But what’s my excuse? Why do I need it?

“Tony, here, take the wrench and let me hold the flashlight,” his dad says.

“You’re jiggling it too much.”

They swap flashlight for wrench and, at that moment, I grab for the Walkman. Just like that. Without thinking.

The middle pocket of my backpack is open, so I stuff it in there and zip it shut.

“Okay, Clay,” his dad calls.

“Turn it.”

I turn the key and the engine starts right up.

Through the gap above the dash, I watch his dad’s smile.

Whatever he’s done, he’s satisfied. “A little fine-tuning to make her sing,” he says over the engine. “You can shut it off now, Clay.”

Tony lowers the hood and clicks it shut. “I’ll see you inside, Dad.”

His dad nods, lifts a metal toolbox from the street, bundles up some greasy rags, then heads for the garage.

I pull my backpack over my shoulder and step out of the car.

“Thanks,” Tony says. “If you didn’t show up, we’d probably be out here all night.”

I slip my arm through the other strap and adjust the backpack. “I needed to get out of the house,” I say. “My mom was getting on my nerves.”

Tony looks at the garage.

“Tell me about it,” he says. “I need to start my homework and my dad wants to tinker under the hood some more.”

The streetlamp overhead flickers on.

“So, Clay,” he says, “what’d you come out here for?”

I feel the weight of the Walkman in my backpack.

“I was just walking by and saw you outside. Thought I’d say hi.”

His eyes stare a little too long, so I look over at his car.

“I’m heading to Rosie’s to see what’s up,” he says. “Can I give you a lift?”

“Thanks,” I say, “but I’m only walking a few blocks.”

He shoves his hands into his pockets. “Where you off to?”

God, I hope he’s not on the list. But what if he is? What if he already listened to the tapes and knows exactly what’s going on in my head?

What if he knows exactly where I’m going? Or worse, what if he hasn’t received the tapes yet? What if they get sent to him further down the line?

If that’s the case, he’ll remember this moment. He’ll remember my stalling. My not wanting to tip him off or warn him.

“Nowhere,” I say. I put my hands in my pockets, too.

“So, you know, I guess I’ll see you tomorrow.”

He doesn’t say a word. Just watches me turn to leave. At any moment I expect him to yell, “Hey! Where’s my Walkman?” But he doesn’t.

It’s a clean getaway.

I take a right at the first corner and continue walking.

I hear the car’s engine start and the crunch of gravel as the wheels of his Mustang roll forward. Then he steps on the gas, crosses the street behind me, and keeps going.

I slide my backpack off my shoulders and down to the sidewalk. I pull out the Walkman. I unwrap the cord and slip the yellow plastic headphones over my head, pushing the tiny speaker nubs into my ears. Inside my backpack are the first four tapes, which are one or two more than I’ll probably have time to listen to tonight. The rest I left at home.

I unzip the smallest pocket and remove the first tape.

Then I slide it into the deck, B-side out, and shut the plastic door.

CASSETTE 1: SIDE B

Welcome back. And thanks for hanging out for part two.

I wiggle the Walkman into my jacket pocket and turn up the volume.

If you’re listening to this, one of two things has just happened. A: You’re Justin, and after hearing your little tale you want to hear who’s next. Or B: You’re someone else and you’re waiting to see if it’s you.

Well…

A line of hot sweat rises along my hairline.

Alex Standall, it’s your turn.

A single bead of sweat slides down my temple and I wipe it away.

I’m sure you have no idea why you’re on here, Alex. You probably think you did a good thing, right? You voted me Best Ass in the Freshman Class. How could anyone be angry at that?

Listen.

I sit on the curb with my shoes in the gutter. Near my heel, a few blades of grass poke up through the cement.

Though the sun has barely started dipping beneath the rooftops and trees, streetlamps are lit on both sides of the road.

First, Alex, if you think I’m being silly—if you think I’m some stupid little girl who gets her panties in a bunch over the tiniest things, taking everything way too seriously, no one’s making you listen.

Sure, I am pressuring you with that second set of tapes, but who cares if people around town know what you think of my ass, right?

In the houses on this block, and in my house several blocks away, families are finishing up their dinners. Or they’re loading dishwashers.

Or starting their homework.

For those families, tonight, everything is normal.

I can name a whole list of people who would care. I can name a list of people who would care very much if these tapes got out.

So let’s begin, shall we?

Curling forward, I hug my legs and lay my forehead on my knees.

I remember sitting in second period the morning your list came out.

Ms.

Strumm obviously had an amazing weekend because she did absolutely no prep work whatsoever.

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