Jeremy Gilbert is following her again.
It's been like this all month. It's weird how he always seems to know where to find her, at parties and after school and when she's heading out or just finished up at the Grill. Her friends have a bet going about when he'll show up at the cemetery, but so far everyone who said it was a matter of days has lost.
She's as surprised as anyone.
"Go home," she says over her shoulder, and instead of turning around, Jeremy picks up his pace until he's a couple feet behind her. He told her to wait up when she walked out of his house after finishing up an errand for Matt, who doesn't seem to realize Elena's a week and a fistful of emotional stability away from dumping him, or if he does he's decided to wait on her hand and foot anyway, and involve Vicki in the process.
Jeremy also told her to wait up last Monday after work, and last weekend at a party. She ignored him both times. You'd think he'd get the hint.
"Stop following me," she says, not turning around this time. It's just a couple more blocks until the place Summer's car should be waiting.
"Come on, can't you help me out? I don't know anyone else."
"You shouldn't know anyone else."
Jeremy's still walking a foot behind her, which is a pretty sedate pace for him. He's usually all eager and shit, like all he's asking of Vicki is a pat and a cookie. He's big enough to walk a little faster and get in her way, stop her, but he doesn't, which is probably why she hasn't had the heart to turn around and tell him to get fucking lost yet. She doesn't want to be the one to teach him that move.
Much like she doesn't want to be his drug dealer. "How do you think your sister would react if I helped you?"
"Who cares what my sister thinks?" he asks, like he's surprised she's going there, which—look, he has a point there. Vicki sure as hell doesn't care. But Matt does, and as much as she hates the way Elena's been treating him, she doesn't want to have to endure any more disappointed looks and condescending lectures.
"Why don't you just get help? Legal help, like from a therapist. Get put on antidepressants or something."
He snorts, and when she looks back at him and cocks her head, his face falls and he says, "Wait, seriously?"
She sighs and keeps walking.
"That's what Elena would say," he says, his voice pointed. "That's what Elena's doing." Vicki reads it like an insult at first, from the tone and because she has no interest in being in any way like Elena Gilbert, and then she realizes what he actually means—that that's precisely why he's not doing it.
And that's ridiculous and totally the kind of thing Vicki would do, so she doesn't dignify it with a response. They walk—she walks; he follows her—the rest of the way in silence, mostly because all Vicki can think of to say is shit like drugs aren't the answer and just the fact that she's thinking those things makes her want to slap herself.
He stops moving about a foot from the curb, stays there on the sidewalk, all hunched over and sad while Vicki climbs into the passenger seat of Summer's truck.
"What is with this kid?" Summer says as she opens the glove compartment. Vicki grabs a pack of cigarettes—actual cigarettes, because Summer's truck is her dad's and he went crazy the one and only time they smoked weed in here. The cigarettes are his, too, but as far as Vicki knows he doesn't care if they steal those.
"I'm not a kid," Jeremy says, which makes Summer laugh.
"That's precisely what a kid would say."
His mouth's a thin line now, his expression set. "I'm not a kid," he says again, mutters.
"Let's just go," Vicki says, but Summer's still looking at Jeremy. "I have a shift at the Grill in two hours, can we just go?"
Summer turns to her then. "What does he want? Is he after you, or what?"
"He's after an easy high," Vicki says dismissively, trying to light her cigarette but only getting sparks from her lighter. Summer takes one out of her pocket and does it for her, then leans in close.
"You wanna get rid of him," she says, "you should just let him come. One night in the cemetery with us will scare the shit out of him." She turns to look at Jeremy, who's still standing on the sidewalk with his hands in his pockets, looking like he's waiting for someone to pick him up and take him to the animal shelter. It's depressing. It's the last thing Vicki needs, someone to keep upright.
"I'm not sure that's going to work on him," she says. She can't be sure, but there's something about Jeremy that reminds her of a couple of years ago, a low point she hit that felt like a death wish, like she was getting high not to shut out the world but to shut herself off for good. And Jeremy—Jeremy doesn't realize what he has because he's never missed it. She got through that period because of Matt, fifteen and already stronger than her, and because they had to pay the bills and there was always something, even if she only looked at her life day to day.
Jeremy can afford to get lost in this, and Vicki wants no part in it.
But Summer tilts her head, unlocks the backseat door and says, "Hop on," and Vicki doesn't have the heart to tell him to get off.