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The Trouble With Emily Dickinson

The Trouble With Emily Dickinson

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The Trouble with Emily Dickinson

by Lyndsey D’Arcangelo Copyright 2012 by Lyndsey D’Arcangelo Cover and Book Design: Publishing yndicate !dited by "heresa !lders Published by Publishing yndicate at #ash$ords Print !dition % B& '()*0*')+0,02*1*Digital !dition % B& '()*0*'*)+0,02*2*0 Library o. Congress Control &u#ber 2012'-0')) All rights reserved/ Thank you for downloading this free e-book. Although this is a free book, it remains the copyrighted property of the author and may not be reproduced, copied and distributed for commercial or non-commercial purposes. If you enjoyed this book, please encourage your friends to download their own copy at Smashwords.com, where they can also discover other works by this author. Thank you for your support. Published in the 0nited tates by Publishing yndicate P1 Bo2 ,0( 1rangevale3 Cali.ornia '+,,2 http !!www."ublishingSyndicate.com This book is dedicated to the young poets and dreamers of the world.

“Hope is the thing with feathers That perches in the soul And sings the tune without the words And never stops all.” #mily $ickinson

“My river runs to thee: Blue sea, wilt welcome me ” The words lingered in %%&s ears, compelling her lips to move along the edges of the syllables. The coffee shop was bathed in dim light, e'cept for the spotlight that held the woman centered on stage as she captured the packed crowd with #mily $ickinson&s poetry. %% sat at a table off in a corner by herself, her cobalt blue journal opened wide. She glanced down at the pages of rhymes and rhythmic phrases she&d never once shared with another human being. Though she&d been attending The Spot&s (riday night open readings since her freshman year at private school, %% never before had come to fulfill a class assignment. That would have mi'ed business with pleasure. )nfortunately, that was what she was doing at this very moment* mi'ing business with pleasure. +,y river waits reply. -h sea, look graciously./ The woman reciting these words was %%&s creative writing teacher, ,rs. 0lark. She&d re1uired the class to attend a poetry reading dedicated to #mily $ickinson. -ne by one, other students took the stage to read a poem from $ickinson&s body of work. Thankfully, this wasn&t mandatory, so %% could sit 1uietly in the corner and blend in with the crowd, as if she weren&t even there. She was a fan of $ickinson, of course, but not enough of a fan to brave the stage and read a poem outloud to the audience. 2er stage fright always got the best of her. The host of the open reading, a short man wearing s1uare black-framed glasses who worked the coffee counter during the day, took the microphone and e'pressed his thanks for the large turnout. %% remembered he&d once taken her for a boy. Since she wore her hair cut short, with bleached-blond tips, usually board-stiff from gobs of gel, her soft tomboyish appearance confused him and he&d mistakenly called her +sir./ %% had simply blinked back at him. 2e&d immediately recogni3ed his mistake and offered her numerous apologies, along with a free cappuccino. She dismissed it as a misunderstanding, knowing he hadn&t done it on purpose. -thers had made far harsher comments about her ambiguous appearance before, and not one of those people had ever offered her a fresh cappuccino to save face. 4hen the winning performance of the night was announced, %% wasn&t the least bit surprised to see one of the students in her own writing class walk up on stage, smiling widely in her sunshine-colored get-up. 2er name was -livia. -livia 5reen. 6ow that&s a writer&s name, thought %%. ,uch more colorful than her own cow-milking farmhand name of %osephine %enkins. 4hen she was a child, she&d responded to everything from %osie to %o, but decided to call herself %% before she came to Sampson. She believed that going by her initials introduced

elements of curiosity and originality, themes she liked to showcase at the forefront of her personality. After she left the coffee house, %% shuffled along the broken sidewalk toward campus. As she walked her flip-flops, smacking against her heels, kept up a soothing beat. She reali3ed if she sped up just a bit, the beat would change. She tucked her journal under her left arm like a tightly kept secret. She wondered if she would ever muster up enough courage to step up on that stage and share such secrets with the world. Though she knew deep inside that she was as talented as the rest, a self-deprecating fear constantly gripped at her sides and held her back. A rumble echoed in the distance. The night&s predicted thunderstorm grew closer. %% leaned against a flickering lamppost, and then slid down to the sidewalk. 2er blueberry-colored sweatshirt itched against her back as she reached into her baggy shorts for her pen. She chewed on its end for a moment, as words played in her head. 7ightning flashed, making its mark on the sky. Then a thunderous crash shook the air. %% focused her attention back onto the blank page in her journal. She scratched out the words in her nearly illegible penmanship !"A# $%" &'M()" *$#+, T'%,, -%A&&-M'%. yet, undenia/ly T$#T-$-& *hen 'T #"A0H"& TH" H"A#T in my chest, causing 'T T$ ($-%+ *hen 'T T#A1")& TH" )'MB& of my /ody, causing TH"M T$ T#"MB)" *hen 'T &""(& into my mind, causing TH$-.HT& T$ &0ATT"# *hen 'T +*"))& in the pit of my stomach, causing 'T T$ &('% $%" &'M()" *$#+2 "%+)"&& "3'&T"%0" 0an4t ' 5ust "#A&" 'T !#$M M, M'%+ 8aindrops began to spot the page, smudging the ink. %% tilted her head, and with her eyes tightly shut let the water tickle her face. If she sat there long enough, she hoped the rain would wash away all of her fear. A smooth black 9,4 slowed and stopped at the curb beside her. Though the windows were tinted, %% knew who was behind the wheel. :ueenie ,c9ride, heiress to the throne of the ,c9ride #state, rolled down the window. 2er long blonde hair was pulled back into a baseball cap and her almond colored eyes were barely visible in the darkness. She happily wore her usual smug e'pression on her long face. It somehow lent her the appearance of a seasoned woman, someone aware of the comple'ities of life. ;nown in <irginia as the con1uerors of the cotton industry, the ,c9ride family could trace their lineage back to before the 0ivil 4ar. They owned a plantation where slaves once had worked their lands. :ueenie despised her family roots and everything they stood for. 2er revenge was to spend her parents& money as frivolously as possible. -f course, there was the added shock value of being a lesbian. It wasn&t the only thing that she and %% had in common, but it planted the seed from which their friendship grew. +4hat are you doing=/ :ueenie asked in an accusatory tone. +Are you finding yourself again=/ +I&m e'ercising my right of creative e'pression./ +0are if I interrupt=/

+$o I have a choice=/ +6ot if you want a ride back to school./ %% reluctantly closed her journal and climbed into the front seat. :ueenie hit a button on the radio that sent the Indigo 5irls blaring in surround sound. +6ew speakers,/ :ueenie yelled above the music, pointing to the back of the car. As they headed on to the school grounds, :ueenie began to sing. 4ithin seconds, %% joined in and their voices blended with the music. They entered the conservative bubble of Sampson Academy with :ueenie riding the high of buying her new state-of-the-art speakers at her parents& e'pense while %% tried desperately to erase the word fear from her mind.

4ith the rain falling outside her open window, ;endal ,c0arthy was finding it hard to concentrate on #mily $ickinson&s poetry. She lay on her stomach, staring at the words on the page as if they were written in 5reek. (or some reason, school was something that had never been easy for her. She had to study hard just to keep a 9 average. In public school, she&d coasted easily. )nfortunately, when she transferred to Sampson Academy during her freshman year, ;endal discovered she wasn&t prepared for the serious kind of studying that private high school courses re1uired. $uring the better part of her junior year, her grade point average slipped so low her parents had threatened to pull her out of Sampson altogether. If she wanted to graduate with the rest of her class, ;endal had no other choice but to seek help. 4ith a little tutoring on the side and an obligatory willingness to do her homework instead of partying, she managed to pull her grades back up. 2er hardest class this semester was 4omen&s 7iterature, and she&d decided to get some help after she received a low grade on an essay assignment. ;endal pulled her small frame off the bed and stood in front of the full-length mirror, which hung between the two single beds in her room. 2er hair was cut in a layered angle just below her neckline and was the color of auburn leaves preparing to fall. The greenish-blue tint of her eyes seemed to change color depending upon the way the light hit them. 2er face was heartshaped with a slight curve angling along her cheekbones. She was pretty and she&d always known she was pretty. 5ood genes her mother had told her, you were blessed with a good-looks gene. ;endal sighed. The fact that she was beautiful used to satisfy her. At one point it had been enough. 9ut she&d grown tired of it somewhere along the way. This was her senior year at Sampson and she felt as if something was missing, some unforgettable e'perience that would help her figure out who she was and who she wanted to be. A vacant space e'isted inside of her and nothing had been able to fill it, not cheerleading, not her friends, not her looks, not even her popularity. 6othing. She could hear the rest of the girls of $eacon 2all running around the dorm getting ready to venture out for the night. Their vivacious laughter only reminded her that she wouldn&t be joining them. Instead of partaking in common adolescent delin1uencies with the rest of the students at Sampson, she and some random tutor were going to be nose-deep in #mily $ickinson.

The door to her room swung open. 0hristine, her roommate and fellow cheerleader, barged in and s1uealed, +4e&re getting ready to go out. 0ome join./ ;endal hissed at the re1uest. +I probably shouldn&t show up late to a tutoring session,/ she said smartly. +>ou&re such a good student. >ou do know that ;yan is going to be at this party, right=/ +>es, you only told me a billion times at dinner./ +>ou sure you can&t skip this=/ +>es, so 1uit asking./ +(ine,/ 0hristine raised her hand into the air. +2appy studying, then. And um*don&t wait up for me./ ;endal fought the overwhelming urge to join everyone in the ne't room and fill her ears with the latest school gossip*until she spotted the open book out of the corner of her eye. 2er stomach turned with guilt. After gathering her things, she pulled #mily $ickinson off the bed and slid the book of poetry into her backpack. She left the dorm as fast as she could, knowing that if she lingered any longer she might get swept up in the commotion. The rain had slowed to a dri33le and the mild wind felt cool against her cheeks. She crossed the soggy lawn listening to the sounds of the campus come alive in the damp air. Sampson Academy was a small private high school with a small-town feel. It took only about five minutes to walk across the entire campus. ;endal took one last look across the 1uad toward her dorm and then up the road at ,arlon 2all, the dorm where the all the soccer players lived and where all her friends would be hanging out. She ga3ed longingly at the colonial building until she felt her backpack rub against her shoulder, reminding her that #mily $ickinson was waiting for her.

+A hundred and ten dollars for a new pair of 6ike shoes=/ %% dribbled the basketball between her legs. +I can&t believe you spent that much./ +Actually, I got a discount because I bought them online,/ :ueenie e'plained. She was standing under the basket waiting for %% to shoot the ball. +9esides, I needed to improve my vertical./ +The most technically advanced 6ikes couldn&t help you with your vertical./ %% knew full well that at si' feet tall, :ueenie didn&t need any help jumping in order to get a clear shot at the basket. +It&s my parents& money, so what do you care=/ +I don&t./ +5ood. Shoot the ball./ %% launched the ball into the air and it swished through the net. :ueenie caught it and passed it back. %% dribbled to the foul line, crossed over and shot again. The ball sank gracefully through the hoop. +0an&t stop me tonight./ she shouted, as she peeked at the clock on the wall. 2er heart sank instantly. +)h oh./ +4hat=/ :ueenie asked, as she laid the ball up easily against the backboard.

%% picked up her cell phone to check her calendar. +I completely forgot. I&m supposed to be tutoring at the library right now./ +So you&re late, don&t go./ %% already was sprawled on the floor, struggling to untie the knots in her shoes. +I can&t just skip it. )nlike you, I have to work for my money./ +I resent that,/ :ueenie said, s1uee3ing the basketball with both hands. +It takes hard work to ask my parents for money. It re1uires a certain skill, persistence and the wit of a seasoned con artist./ +-h, yeah, I&m sure it must be a struggle to go through life as a ,c9ride./ %% slid one leg into her warm-ups, trying to shove her things into her gym bag at the same time. :ueenie stepped over to let %% use her lanky frame for support. +I can&t help it if my parents are incredibly wealthy,/ she said. +At least I get to reap the benefits./ +7ucky you./ +So what illiterate soccer player are you tutoring tonight, anyway=/ %% slipped her flip-flops on and took the ball from :ueenie&s hands. +6o soccer player tonight. I drew the hot ticket in the lottery this time./ +0heerleader=/ %% nodded. +Seriously= 4ho=/ +6one other than the homecoming 1ueen herself, T2# ;endal ,c0arthy./ :ueenie raised an eyebrow. +4ell, then, you best get a move on. $on&t want to keep little ,iss ,c0arthy waiting./ +I&m sure she&s trembling with anticipation./ %% threw on her navy baseball cap and slung her gym bag over her shoulder. +$o me a favor and stay out of trouble tonight, will you= 4e have an early practice tomorrow./ +5ee, okay, ,om. I&ll be good, I promise./ %% ignored :ueenie&s retort and hurried out of the athletic center. It was a 1uarter past nine and she was supposed to have been at the library at e'actly ? p.m. to meet ;endal. She sped up her pace as she crossed the street and headed across the lawn. The rain-soaked grass dampened her socks and she wished she&d been wearing sneakers instead of flip-flops. -ther students passed her, giggling and laughing. The weekend had begun. ,aintaining a solid reputation had become an essential way of life at Sampson Academy. %% had yet to step foot into a soccer party, or even the boys& dormitory for that matter. She and her basketball teammates had formed their own cli1ue to help deal with the stereotypes that came with being female athletes at a private school full of over-privileged kids. $uring her freshman year, %% had entertained the idea of joining a few campus organi3ations because she longed to be a part of something other than basketball. 9ut :ueenie had steered her away from anything and everything superficial. So %% belonged to a group of non-conformists made up of straight-edged kids who neither drank nor smoked, nor cheated on tests. Some were athletes, some social outcasts, and some were studious kids who, like %%, just didn&t fit the so-called Sampson student profile. There was a certain pride in being part of that group, something that said, +I don&t need to fit in or be popular./ :ueenie had instilled that pride in %%, and she felt forever in :ueenie&s debt. The "age 7ibrary was 1uieter than the campus outside. As its air of calm eased into her ears, %% felt her body rela'. She searched around the room, filled with tables and countless rows of books. It wasn&t hard to spot ;endal. She was the only other student in the library and she was

/ +Seriously though. >ou&re .y friend.endal&s left shoulder. I might as well be reading a foreign language. #veryone needs help now and then. +I&m really sorry. +I was just joking. is like that./ .endal confessed. it&s good you are learning how to study and put the work in. +I bet you&re not surprised to be tutoring a cheerleader./ said . I can actually read and write somewhat well. 7iterature and poetry always had been easy for her. +>ou&re my tutor=/ she asked. She was dressed casually in a pale pink hoodie and jeans. >ou must get us and the soccer team all of the time./ ./ +It&s okay. ne't to the biography section. go to class and pass a test without even studying.s./ +I&ve always had trouble in school./ +. Some are soccer players and others are just regular students who are having trouble grasping a subject. a little shamefully./ ./ %% e'tended her hand./ There was an edge to her voice she hadn&t 1uite intended.endal reached across the table and shook her hand cautiously. %% promptly removed her hat and ran her hand through her short hair./ %% understood . +It&s something I have had to work harder at.endal emitted a dramatic groan. %% reali3ed she&d started to sound like a motivational speaker. +The soccer team and I go way back. or when . +I&m sorry. +I was shooting hoops in the athletic center and lost track of time.endal stopped te'ting and looked up from her cell phone. It&s a completely different kind of reality. +I didn&t mean anything by that. %% suddenly imagined :ueenie&s image appearing over . . :ueenie./ she said breathlessly./ +That&s what I thought. something she often did when she was stuck on what to say ne't.endal said 1uickly. I&m %%. She ran her hand through her hair again. right=/ . +I feel like I don&t understand what any of these authors are saying. don&t let my jock e'terior fool you. 0hin e'plains what a poem means. let&s take a look at the poem you have to write about for tomorrow&s class. +4ell.endal. though she couldn&t relate to it. I have friends who can wake up after a late night out. %% walked up behind her and set her bag down on the table. she had little trouble comprehending abstract ideas or appreciating originality./ +I guess I never looked at it that way. I don&t understand where everybody&s coming from. 4hen we discuss a poem in class. I tutor a lot of different people. >ou&ll be much more prepared ne't year in college. So. +4hat= $on&t I look the part=/ +I guess I was e'pecting someone who looked a little more*studious./ ./ %% cracked a confident smile and pulled out a chair to sit down. seemingly unconcerned with the fact that %% had been late.endal nodded. +4ell. I&d give anything to be able to do that. +9ut I always tell her that college isn&t as easy as high school. and since she was a writer herself. :ueenie would be rolling her eyes so far to the side of her head that they&d practically pop out of her ear. 0hin has her students write a one-page response to readings. +So*what seems to be the problem with 4omen&s 7iterature=/ .endal. +I&ve seen you around school.s. right=/ .sitting at the farthest table from the door. I&m completely lost./ %% smiled.endal&s frustration./ said %%. and that she should start getting in the habit of studying now.

Some scholars tend to refer to her as a @private poet. meaning a lot of the words that she uses aren&t meant to be taken literally.aybe it&s better if you sit ne't to me. to break the ensuing awkward silence./ . She knew what the poems meant and that was all that mattered to her. I read this twice and I still don&t get it./ %% turned the book around to face her and noticed that . See. It distracted her. looking up from the book./ +All that I&m saying is*/ +0an we get back to the poem=/ .endal bit back her words and proceeded to read the ne't few lines out loud./ ./ she said. . +I don&t think that matters. right= A long.endal was staring at her. There are plenty of talented writers out there who prefer to keep their poetry to themselves. she&s talking about death. %% followed the lines of the poem with her inde' finger./ said %%. 9y stretch of limb or stir of lid./ +To bask centuries away. long sleep.endal wouldn&t be able to look at it upside down./ +That&s kind of depressing that she wasn&t discovered until after her death. wincing when she reali3ed what she&d said./ %% rambled on. +-kay. An independent one./ %% picked at the page with her fingers./ +)m*thanks. +So. like fruity or something. She never intended them to be published because she was afraid that readers would interpret them in ways she didn&t want them to. +Is that about a nap=/ +4ell. 4hy even write if you aren&t going to share your work with other people=/ +Some people don&t need approval from others in order to call themselves writers.endal said./ she said. +%ust so we can read it together. +It isn&t as important as you might think. +It smells like strawberries or something like that. my responses don&t even make up half a page./ +Thanks. fully aware that . As soon as their eyes met she looked away. . +A long.+)nfortunately. And that&s one of the keys to reading poetry. +./ She paused and looked up from the page. .& because it wasn&t until after her death that her talent for poetic e'pression was discovered and ultimately became respected by others.endal switched chairs and accidentally brushed her leg against %%&s in the process. +I mean *your shampoo*it smells nice. +>ou smell nice./ ./ %% heard herself say.endal repositioned her body in the chair and cleared her throat. 6ow you&re reading between the lines. bask centuries away . $ickinson wrote ambiguously because that&s just the way she wrote. though. She was nervous for some reason and for a second she forgot why she was even in the library until she saw the book of poetry open in front of them.endal struggled to make sense of most of them. you know. not once look up for noon . yet something sweet lingered in the air around them./ +5ood. pointing at the page. %% looked up from the page. +I mean. 4as she afraid to share her work or something=/ +I don&t know. ./ said %%. ./ They discussed the poem at length. That makes no show for dawn. a famous sleep. long sleep. but found comfort in %%&s encouragement./ +It seems like a waste of time. (irst off*the trouble with #mily $ickinson is that she writes ambiguously. +8ead the last two lines. stealing her attention away from the book momentarily./ +>ou mean what she&s saying in the poem isn&t really what people think she&s saying=/ +Sort of. along with a few others for over an hour. more like the kind of nap you don&t wake up from. .

She knew that :ueenie probably was watching a movie. +I should get back to my dorm. I learned more about #mily $ickinson in the last hour than I have my entire life. It was her turn to look away this time. same time./ +I&m sure you had some preconceived notions though. +>ou were highly recommended to me by my advisor. +6othing./ She slowly packed the rest of her things into her gym bag.endal&s laughter sweep over her before she turned to leave. +It&s easy to see why you&re such a good tutor. slid her hat on backwards. letting the sound of . as if she were keeping a secret.+It might help if you learned a little bit about $ickinson&s background. you were e'pecting someone a bit more studious. same time. This one she kept in her bed in case she ever woke up from a dream and needed to write her thoughts down on paper before they vanished from her mind like midnight fog. . +Are you kidding= I think I actually have enough to write at least five pages. It&s as if they assume I&m an idiot because I&m a cheerleader. in a way most people never let themselves e'perience.endal asked. +4hat did I say=/ +6othing.nowing where authors came from and what they&re about can help you understand their writing better.endal ./ she said finally. . for instance./ She closed the book and tapped at the cover. >ou said it yourself. e'cept I&ll be on time.endal said. +9ut no more than what you thought about me when I first got here.ost tutors I&ve had come off sounding condescending. remember=/ +4ell. you know. 2e said you were one of the best./ said .endal was staring at her again. She and :ueenie roomed together and shared a suite with two other members of the basketball team. we&re even then.c0arthy up close. and climbed onto her top bunk without saying goodnight. She walked back to her dorm room reliving each moment of their interaction in her head. The dorm room was empty when %% entered.endal accidentally brushed against her. though she could hear the television in the common room. laughing. %% stood still for half a second longer. +Same place. She was more than beautiful. She picked up her cell phone and added the date in her calendar. ./ %% studied her./ .endal. recalling the tidbits of conversation. I&ve got some reading to do and we have an early practice tomorrow. She blinked and looked away. 6ot wanting to be interrogated about what happened during her tutoring session with .endal looked over the scribbles in her notebook./ %% admitted. -nly she wrote about it as a thing to be felt and not just a thing to be said./ she said. +I think you&ve got a good amount of notes to write your one-page response for your class tomorrow./ +"ossibly./ +In what way=/ +4ell./ %% began to pack up her things and pointed to . one of the themes $ickinson often writes about is love. +I&ll see you ne't session. "oetry gave her a way to e'plore the feeling of love to the fullest e'tent. and the warm sensation she felt whenever . She ran her hand underneath her pillow and pulled out another journal. and then checked around and under the table making sure she hadn&t forgotten anything. . +4hat=/ .endal. admiring the child-like e'pression on her face./ It didn&t take %% long to notice that ./ +I didn&t think that. It was then that she reali3ed she&d never really seen . %% 1uietly changed into a pair of bo'er shorts and a T-shirt./ said %%.endal&s folder./ +>eah.

sitting side by side. %% closed her eyes and breathed in long and heavy before she e'haled an e1ually long sigh.A number two pencil. Beyond your eyes.endal appeared in %%&s mind. She scrawled words rapidly across the blank pages of her journal. . She whispered the poem out loud to herself in the safe confines of an empty room where she felt secure that no one else could hear her. a moment. no. ./ %% looked at her skeptically. +$o you even reali3e what $ickinson is writing about here=/ +A wild night=/ . an image of . Sitting with her legs crossed. 4ild nights. 4ild nights. She did this for a few minutes to clear the clouds in her head until nothing remained but a clear white space. an empty room in which the thoughts inside could move about freely 4hile a sense of 1uiet draped over her like a 1uilt. CHAPTER # +4ild nights. ./ +6o. 4hen %% opened her eyes.endal asked. +4ild nights./ said %%. 8ead it with more enthusiasm. with its end chewed ragged and sides hapha3ardly gnawed. the writer inside of her had taken hold. discussing the intricacies of #mily $ickinson&s poetry. The picture seemed as real as if they were still together in the library. a feeling.endal raised her voice slightly. %% sat back and admired her work. ' see it . a /reath A second to say the words that never leave your lips And then it4s gone )eaving /ehind a sensation Tingling in my heart )ingering in the air Ma6ing me wish That the moment never ended Ma6ing me hope To feel it again But ' imagine That ne7t time The words will flow The moment will last The /reathing will speed And emotions will reveal *hat lies patiently Beyond your eyes 4hen she finished. +4hat=/ . fell out from between the pages.

%% playfully grabbed hold of .endal blushed with embarrassment and pulled at %%&s arms to get her to sit back down. And it was all because of .endal. done with the compass.endal. It&s been two weeks of studying.+The way you read it you&d think the poem was about a boring night./ ./ %% shifted in her chair. 2ad there been a single soul sitting anywhere near them. pretending she hadn&t noticed that they had been holding hands for a full thirty seconds. >ou&ll see. +I&m just doing the poem justice. As soon as she finished.endal asked./ %% insisted./ +-omph=/ +>eah*oomph. 4I7$ nights. . +(utile the winds to a heart in port. +-kay.endal&s eyes. they&ve been enjoyable. 4as she at a party or something=/ +./ said %%. +I&m giving it the enthusiasm that $ickinson intended.&/ said . It&s just that I haven&t had any @wild nights& myself since you started tutoring me. e'asperation filling her voice as she sank back down into her chair.endal laughed. that was much better. slowly releasing . +So back to those @wild nights./ +I know./ %% watched closely as . +#'cept this time./ ./ .endal opened her mouth to begin./ +Sure. and the way her nose twitched when she shouted a word. studying.endal looked on in ama3ement./ she said.endal sighed. 4I7$ nights should be our lu'ury./ +$ickinson is the beginning. Thanks to you./ %% forced a smile. +9ut they&ve been an enjoyable two weeks of studying. her hair. +4I7$ nights. %% stood up and began clapping loudly. even though her stomach was in knots./ %% held back her sigh of relief. +>es. The truth was that the past two weeks had been the most enjoyable days she had ever e'perienced at Sampson Academy. +I&m still getting used to this whole poetry thing. studying. 9ut I&m more impressed with the way you read it than I am with the poem. 4hat do you think it means=/ ./ said %%. haven&t they=/ . studying.endal.endal smiled as if she were glad that %% cared enough to ask. +See the difference=/ +>eah. 9ut as soon as . wild night. 9ut she had to in order to get her point across about $ickinson&s poetry. give it a little more oomph. She stood up firm and bellowed. studying. +$o you mind if I try again=/ +5o for it.endal began reciting the poem./ %% glanced around to make sure that the library was empty. #mily $ickinson is just the beginning./ +So she&s talking about a cra3y. +See.endal&s hand. done with the chart./ +I know I&m lacking enthusiasm. +4ow. you know= 4e&re also studying other authors this semester. she would have never dared to do what she had just done./ %% said after a moment. +It&s from $ickinson that all those other authors stem. 4ere I with thee. +4hat=/ +I can&t help you with this if you aren&t willing to at least try and look between the lines. %% covered the page with her hands./ she said. Then she grabbed the poetry book and pushed her chair away from the table. She suddenly forgot all about those wild nights in the poem and focused in on .endal&s hand and pushed it away. 6either of them let go and their hands stayed locked together. +)m*can we go over the middle stan3a again=/ .

the @wildness& is describing what she felt.+I think that it means that because she was so deeply in love./ +#'actly. So was the compass and the map or chart or whatever./ +8ight./ She pointed to . +6ot wild as in cra3y silly. outside the boundaries of reality. +It&s been said that $ickinson might have been in love with a close friend.endal might say in return. but paused for a moment. a lot of her love poems are not e'clusively heterose'ual. are you going to tell me or just sit there eating your eggs with that ridiculous grin on your face for the rest of breakfast=/ +4hat= I&m hungry. +7ook. Instead they continued talking. . . It knew how to get her to her loved one because the connection between them was so strong./ +>our talent for persuasion astonishes me. +I think love has a way of crossing all boundaries. the winds were useless to her./ :ueenie curled her fingers and ran them across her shirt. A comfortable silence lingered around them and even though their hour of studying was up. pretending to buff her nails. And in this one she doesn&t specifically address gender. +4hat do you mean=/ +Some people seem to think. and certainly outside the confinement of Sampson Academy. +8emember when I told you that $ickinson believed that love should truly be felt= 4ell. She read the poem over again. though her mind drifted to thoughts of how she&d been thinking about %% far too often lately. I kept my mouth shut and didn&t mention your numerous little tutoring dates with the homecoming 1ueen to anyone else on the team. slightly afraid of what . She didn&t need them because her heart knew which way to go./ +2ow do you know it was a guy=/ %% asked. flipping through the pages of $ickinson&s lyrics as if they were taking a journey through another world. I think that kind of devotion earns me a complete and detailed account of the evenings in 1uestion. both well aware that they were thinking e'actly the same thing. +>ou don&t think it&s possible for a woman to feel that intensely about another woman= To feel that much in love=/ She looked along the bookshelves as she asked this. That still doesn&t mean she&s talking about another woman./ %% began. CHAPTER $ +So./ ./ :ueenie snorted./ %% paused. She&s just e'pressing love. neither mentioned the time or dared to glance at the clock.&/ %% laughed. It&s unlike anything I&ve ever seen./ +A woman=/ %% continued slowly./ she said finally./ They stared at one another./ +And when she got there.endal&s eyes widened./ +I don&t know. but wild as in overwhelming. +4ell.endal&s heart. another woman. they&d have plenty of @wild nights.endal studied the words on the page. +I do think it&s possible. +She must have been head over heels for the guy she was writing about. not sure how to phrase the rest of what she wanted to say.

endal . +It&s not the $ibble Syndrome. I happen to think she&s nice. +She&s not materialistic and stuck up like the rest of her cheerleading counterparts=/ +She&s. 9ut don&t come crying to me when the $ibble Syndrome hits. The notorious $ibble Syndrome./ :ueenie slapped her hands down flat on the table. %% soon fell into a depression./ +I don&t know why you&re so intrigued anyway./ +So=/ +So./ :ueenie sat back in her chair and folded her arms satisfyingly across her chest. she&d developed an obsession with a girl in one of her classes named ./ +8eally=/ :ueenie asked. And you&ve been tutoring her for a couple of weeks now. peppering her eggs with hot sauce.c0arthy walking across the cafeteria towards the cheerleading table in the corner. +6ot even close. +:uit trying to stall by flattering me./ +>eah. she spotted . 9ut %% knew this was different./ she said.&/ +So./ %%&s voice jumped at least an octave higher.elly&s reaction was anything but comforting. This is T2# . and regain her sense of self. Though it was rumored that ./ %% warned. she was downright appalled and stopped speaking to %% altogether. %% somehow managed to climb up from the hole she&d sunk into./ Ah. She&s nice. %% made the mistake of telling . I don&t even know her. and .elly $ibble. 9ut :ueenie knew her too well. I don&t know. +I don&t believe it. +6o./ +6ice=/ :ueenie&s jaw fell nearly to the table. She remained steadfast. how many sprints can one person run in a two-hour span=/ %% nearly snorted orange juice through her nostrils. $uring her sophomore year. >ou like her.. too. . ./ %% said. As she was about to respond with her own witty comment./ +She&s not what she seems. and she longed to change the subject. please=/ +(ine. +>ou always jump to conclusions like this because it gives you something to talk about. That doesn&t mean I like her. +0an we talk about something else. An'iety itched in her stomach. In fact. but you used the word @nice. 4ith :ueenie&s help. +Then why are you getting all defensive=/ +I&m not getting defensive.+0ute./ %% immediately shook her head in defiance. she and :ueenie had dubbed any serious crush that left their minds senselessly wandering as the $ibble Syndrome. (rom that point on./ :ueenie began to rub her left shoulder with purpose./ %% insisted.endal . and if she were hiding something it would be completely obvious./ +-. cocking her head to one side. She fell so hard for her that it finally caused her to confront her feelings head on. I&m bursting with fruit-flavored curiosity. +Are you kidding me= This isn&t like you&re tutoring the alphabet to some spoiled soccer player. I mean. she&s*she&s different. %% suspected that she was an integral reason for the transfer.elly transferred to another school the following semester.c0arthy.elly had transferred because her parents had wanted her closer to home. if you say so. +0oach must have had something rather large and obtrusive stuck up her butt this morning. grimacing from the soreness. yes. the most popular girl at Sampson Academy. even though she knew that :ueenie had guessed her secret.elly that she was gay and how she felt. +$on&t look at me like that. %% had considered it.

+0ould you be staring any harder=/ +0ould you be any more annoying=/ %% shot back. +I&m so glad I decided to get a tutor for 4omen&s 7iterature. +Are you going to the soccer party tonight=/ 0hristine asked as . but you do know that this table is for cheerleaders only. +Ahem./ 0hristine grabbed her spoon and licked the yogurt off of it. the art club. I think I&ve earned it after all the e'tra work I&ve been doing lately. :ueenie was giving her that look. hung neatly at her hips. 2er school uniform.endal had noticed that %% always opted for the pants. She then eyed 0hristine&s yogurt. ./ -f course I didn&t know that. (or once. stirring granola into her own cup of yogurt. The remaining tables were filled accordingly with members of other athletic teams./ %% snapped out of her da3e. +I eat. #very single girl at the table had looked at her as if she were an illegal immigrant who&d dared to cross the border without a valid passport. so she tucked the loose strands behind her ears. 2er hair just barely reached into a ponytail.endal looked down at her runny eggs./ . +#'cuse me if I&m not lucky enough to have your turbo metabolism. Sitting at the wrong table constituted a big no-no at Sampson Academy. and yet another table was reserved for the debating team. complemented with potatoes and bacon./ she retorted. The soccer players sat at the longest table near the front of the dining hall. the 0hristian society and whatever other clubs remained on campus. the 0ultural Awareness Society.endal sat down across from her. +$efinitely. The Academy&s uniform policy re1uired that girls wear either a black skirt or a pair of khaki pants during class hours. (eeling defeated.. %%% . she&d scraped together what remained of her pride and moved to another table. %% and her teammates sat at their designated table near the salad bar. At the ne't table sat the students in the academic achievement group.ost of the tables in the cafeteria were unofficially spoken for./ +I can&t believe you can eat all of that greasy mess. she finally understood what her teacher was talking about and was able to contribute to class discussions instead of doodling in her notebook like she had since the beginning of the semester. cooked over-easy. and .endal&s tray. There was no neon sign or illuminated billboard advertising that fact./ +I can&t help it if I burn through food like it&s jet fuel. %% had thought. while the boy&s basketball team sat directly behind them. the drama club. the one that %%&s mother used to give her when she knew she was hiding something.endal picked at her eggs.endal was on a natural high. a jacket and skirt combination. -ne senior had even gone so far as to remark./ . Students who didn&t belong to a particular group bonded together and sei3ed whatever open tables they could. +#'cuse me. I just choose to eat healthy. %% had wanted to spit those very words back out at her but swallowed them instead. +At least I eat./ 0hristine motioned to . She actually had begun to enjoy her 4omen&s 7iterature class since she&d decided to get some tutoring. %% remembered when she mistakenly had sat down at the cheerleading table her freshman year.

endal felt a sourness growing in her stomach./ +4ell. >ou&ve probably seen her around school. And make sure that you don&t sit too close to her or anything. +It&s %% something or other.+Speaking of which. everyone at this school thinks you&re hot.endal picked up a piece of bacon. no. 2e counted silently./ she gasped./ . when they talked about $ickinson&s +wild nights/ and who she might have been writing about. especially the way she paused in mid-conversation around her or when . or she might start te'ting you. She had suspected that %% was different somehow./ . and about her own response. look at your track record. She hangs around with that rich girl with the weird name. then the girl who spit when she talked. She thought about the 1uestions %% had asked her./ +4hat are you talking about=/ +. +She&s gay. +4ill you stop it=/ +4hat= I&m sure she thinks you&re hot.endal pretended to listen while a strange curiosity engulfed her. She&s on the basketball team. The appetite she&d been bragging about moments earlier had completely vanished. +0&mon. who did you land this time= I hope it wasn&t that Asian kid with the horrible acne again. She thought of how %% had mentioned that $ickinson could have been in love with another woman. She&d even smiled back in a way that was more than friendly. that&s it. +4hat do you mean=/ +4ell. (irst you get that weird guy with the la3y eye./ 0hristine continued.yan Stevens grunted as he lifted the fifty-pound barbell with his left hand. you seriously didn&t know= I swear it ama3es me how naAve you can be. She shifted uncomfortably in her chair as she thought about their last tutoring session. I just never suspected. I&d just be careful if I were you. So is half of the basketball team. The conversation eventually swung to the coming evening events. 9ut she had stared back at %%./ 0hristine&s eyes widened. Two. Three. I mean./ She spooned out the rest of her yogurt with her inde' finger and licked it off. a lesbian. +I&m not naAve. 9ut if %% was gay. She felt di33y and lightheaded. +$on&t give her your phone number./ +5od. (ive.endal had caught her staring. did that mean that she*= +2as she hit on you yet=/ 0hristine prodded. .endal said 1uickly. (our. CHAPTER & . and ./ +She helps me with homework./ +It&s so obvious. giving her knots in her stomach.endal immediately thought of them sitting at the table in the library where she and %% usually shared a book of poetry and how she&d accidentally brushed up against %% on more than one occasion over the past couple of weeks. +>ou have no luck with tutors at all.endal. then Asian acne boy and now to top it off. . ./ 0hristine advised. about the feeling of their locked hands.endal practically threw the piece of bacon back down on her plate./ 0hristine hacked and coughed as if she was about to spit her yogurt back up./ . -ne. 0hristine began to gossip with the other girls at their table as if nothing had happened. :ueenie or something. That&s what a tutor does.

but seriously lacking in the area of intelligence.c0arthy. 2aving a military captain for a father was part of the reason. Someone like . +$efinitely. 2e had the perfect body. 2e had the perfect reputation. 2e couldn&t believe that the soccer season already was half over. Tired of dating the same old blondes with incredible looks but 3ero personalities. +"erfect. ./ %ason said. popular.endal . She was perfect for him*just the right si3e. a complete mass of toned muscle and definition. . since other guys at Sampson were most likely interested in her as well. plus she had a reputation for being e'tremely headstrong and opinionated. 2e had the perfect grade point average and already had been accepted into one of the top pre-law programs in the country./ %ason said. 2e had always set his goals high. The obvious choice would be the head cheerleader. .yan&s soccer teammates. 2e picked up the barbell with his right hand and repeated the reps. This was his last season of his high school career.c0arthy= T2# . 2e and his teammates were the most popular students in the entire school. beautiful.yan had finally decided it was time to find someone more wholesome. #verything in his life was set to high standards.yan sat up and smiled slyly. >ou up for it=/ -ne of .endal . someone smart enough to carry on a conversation. And the diamond-studded earrings in his ears sparkled in the weight room lights. Si'ty minutes on the treadmill had drenched his friend&s shirt with sweat. . The sandy hair that normally hung just above his eyes was held back now by a black bandana. I think it&s time .endal . 4hat&s the big deal=/ +6othing. we&re thinking of having a party tonight. but he&d never admit that. The image in the mirror reflected his obsession with perfection. +I just think she&s a bit out of reach. 2e often spotted her in the library being tutored. now stood over him.yan wanted someone less brainy. and began to do sit ups. +She&s going to get all the girls from the cheerleading s1uad to come./ .endal . It seemed only natural that he partner up with someone from the cheerleading team.endal . which was made up of the prettiest girls on campus.yan replied between reps. you know. Someone who would be willing to let him control the reigns of the relationship and steer it in the direction he desired. watching himself in the mirror. one piece to make the pu33le complete. 2e breathed heavily. 2e had to perform well. 7ack of confidence was the other. The weight gain supplement that his coach had advised him to take was beginning to work. Sweat began to form on his brow. a captain on the soccer team. and she would be somewhat of a challenge for him. %ason. 2e had to show the underclassmen what Sampson soccer was about. 9ut he found her to be slightly heftier than he preferred./ .c0arthy.c0arthy=/ +>es. but not too smart. There was one more thing he needed though. Then he sank to the ground. likeable. "ushing to the top had grown into an inescapable addiction.c0arthy and I get to know each other a little better. 2e needed the perfect girl. 9ut he&d achieved a great deal./ . She didn&t have a boyfriend. from his grades to the girls he dated./ +.ya 9rooks. #ven for you. A tattoo of barbwire circled his left leg around the calf muscle. 2is unconsciously shook his head at the mirror.2is tanned torso was covered with a black muscle shirt and he wore a pair of matching black mesh shorts. where true dedication and hard work could get you. +I told 0hristine. +2ey.

and her mother was forcing her to attend a bridal shower for her older sister. and had replayed it in her mind repeatedly./ +4hatever you say./ . It was early %une. That. 2er older brother recently had graduated from college and taught math at a local high school. +7et&s go.c9ride. They left the sweat-filled athletic center. . Sometimes it was almost too much. :ueenie promised. both of their bodies pumping from endorphins and high e'pectations for the weekend. 2er mother also was a teacher. She and her family were close. 9ut :ueenie was planning her biggest production yet./ he said. Sometimes it seemed as though :ueenie lived inside a movie script rather than in reality. All it takes is a little bit of charm. he&d learned to live with the situation. thinking she was depressed because she was stuck at home for the summer and hadn&t yet found a job so that she could make some e'tra money.yan climbed to his feet and fle'ed in front of the mirror. and her father sold advertising space for a local paper. :ueenie had gone home for the weekend. %% remembered the night clearly. She&d succeeded plenty of times before by getting kicked out of three other private schools. they eventually came around. 2er parents had remained 1uiet that week. About two years earlier her father had threatened to disown her after her mother caught :ueenie in the guest bedroom kissing a female member of the cleaning staff. father and sister were the only ones who were aware of her se'ual orientation. The only thing he was missing was a girlfriend.c0arthy. At her sister&s wedding reception she would announce in her maid of honor speech that she was gay. It was the most difficult thing she&d done in her short life thus far. buddy. CHAPTER ' %% sat in her room listening to some soft 8B9 on her stereo. . this was going to be the most outrageous of them all. one that the assembly of guests could never forget. 2er parents lived only half an hour away in the affluent 8olling 2ills. when she first disclosed her devious little plan to %%. #ven though %%&s own family initially had a hard time accepting the news when she told them that she was gay.endal . 9ut no girl in her right mind would turn him down. by hanging with what they considered was the wrong crowd. The only thing that eased :ueenie&s mind about being home was the fact that she secretly had planned her biggest revenge on her family to date. It seemed as though :ueenie&s main goal in life was to antagoni3e her parents. a suburb of 8ichmond. As far as %% knew. especially not . was not the reason. knowing how things in his life were working out so well.+This is me you&re talking to. She&d just finished her sophomore year at Sampson Academy and was in search of a summer job. and she couldn&t imagine how anything could be harder. 9ut with a little convincing from . -f all the stunts :ueenie had ever pulled.onopoly. by spending a summer in a juvenile detention hall for stealing from a high-end fashion bouti1ue fre1uented by her mother. %% shook her head in disbelief. It would be an affair to remember. and by spending her parents& money as though she were playing a mean game of .rs. a few compliments and the rest just falls into place. of course. :ueenie&s mother.

2er mother still hung on to the hope that she&d outgrow this so-called tomboy phase. all those boys around. the worry and the confusion. her words coming slowly. 9ut it wasn&t a phase. so caring and so sincere./ %% swallowed the potatoes that had turned to mush from sitting in her mouth. It was the actual act of telling that was so hard. +4hy are you so 1uiet=/ her mother had asked. %% had always ama3ed herself with how easily words came to her. It&s just something I am. to tell her family. I&d still be this way. but how could she make someone understand something that took she. wishing her mother would find the courage to read it. no designated date or time. 4ith each passing day. +I know you are confused./ She handed over the book. %% had rushed after her. It was eating her alive. I&ve known since the third grade. it&s not that. but this might help. +$o you miss school=/ her mother asked. you can tell us anything. She could barely swallow her potatoes. +6o. +I could check with the paper. +I have to tell you something. Something that I have to say. 2er mother remained composed. eating dinner. even though I know you both will be disappointed. it&s not that. until she had no other choice but to let it out from inside of her so that she could breathe easily once again. when she reali3ed she still had the ability to talk.+%osie./ %% knew this. She and her parents sat at the kitchen table./ she continued. 8oast beef and vegetables. it&s not something anyone did./ %% wanted to make her understand. 2er head constantly spun with the anticipated conversation. She had always known this. yet when she needed them the most. didn&t know the real her. There was no plan. she couldn&t find them. and when it was time to say the e'act words. she knew she was going to have to tell them the truth./ 2er father set down his fork and eyed her mother. (inally.om. hoping it would help her parents understand. The feeling kept swelling until it became too big for her body. +Something I am afraid to say. +Are you upset that you haven&t found a job yet=/ asked her father. She felt the words begin to climb up her throat. in her bed each night. and knew there was no going back./ Silence followed. wide-eyed. I&m sure I could get you a part-time writing job. and then her mother&s tears began to flow as she stood up and left the room. maybe if there had been more girls to play with you*/ +. and shook her head. about two weeks after she@d arrived home. 2er feeling of dread had grown so massive it was filling up her throat. the night had come. %% could see the concern in his e'pression. 2er father. %% held back her tears until they spilled from her eyes. from the moment she awoke each morning until she lay awake.(rom the moment %% had stepped into the house.om. clutching a book she&d purchased a year before. +6o. +I know*/ +4hat is it %o-%o-9ear=/ 2er father&s use of her pet name tore at her heart. I&ve always known. they fell from her lips effortlessly +I&m gay. being untrue to both herself and them. herself. maybe an internship./ . $ifferent $aughters. ./ %%&s eyes widened.om. She felt as if she&d been carrying on an act. whom she loved and respected more than anyone else in her life. +4as it something I did=/ her mother cried. %% remembered. . years to come to terms with completely= +The neighborhood we raised you in. %% grew increasingly reserved.

+4hat&s on=/ +6othing in particular. and longed to have the same kind of relationship with her own parents. %% had yet to learn anything more about .endal besides the obvious. 2onest. (or some reason. She wanted to get inside . I just don&t want to see you go through something like that again./ she said proudly. and her father. remained completely calm. She even read the book and announced it formally when %% came home for 0hristmas break. %% knew he was putting on a front to hide his disappointment.nowing that her friend :ueenie had never e'perienced such love from her own family somehow made %% feel guilty. As long as she had his love and support. . 2e said he loved her no matter what./ . %% craved more. and they didn&t speak for days. like what was her biggest fear. that she was a cheerleader. +4hat are you doing=/ +4atching television. Then again.endal&s head. Though they had interacted on more than a few occasions.endal. she felt satisfied. where would she go and why. She could hear the sounds of conversation fluttering in the background. maybe this wasn&t real either. This sparked an intense argument between them. their conversations had been limited to poetry and the brilliance of #mily $ickinson. . She wondered if :ueenie was causing a stir at her sister&s wedding shower.2er mother continued to cry. #ventually her father had come to terms with it. and if she could travel anywhere in the world. The $ibble Syndrome was more of an obsession kind of thing. . She&d even been able to share with them her past crushes and insecurities./ %%&s finger robotically hit the channel button on the remote control./ +2ey. She knew how much :ueenie envied her. It was an incredible feeling to find that her parents& love was so unconditional. +2ow&s the wedding shower=/ %% asked. I&m sorry I gave you a hard time about ./ :ueenie said blandly. +4hy am I thinking about her=/ %% asked aloud.aybe :ueenie was right./ +I know. to be able to ask her more meaningful 1uestions. It&s nothing. Something told her that it was :ueenie checking in. Then her mind drifted again and . though he still held onto his own world views. on the other hand. %% turned off the stereo and flipped on the television for distraction. who was set in his ways. A moment later the phone rang twice to signal an off-campus call. 2er mother eventually finished mourning the loss of the daughter she&d thought she known. They had been watching a documentary on same-se' marriages. It was almost overwhelming. +I finished the lesbian book you gave me. and needed help with her schoolwork. and that was that. and learned to look at %% through different eyes. And it came to fruition a few months later when she was about to leave for her junior year at Sampson Academy. %% had never known anyone like her. +I&m having the time of my life.aybe this was another case of the $ibble Syndrome. which %% accepted because she knew she could not change his entire outlook on life and society. mourning the loss of the girly daughter image she still clung to.endal danced her way in. It wasn&t real. 2er father. :ueenie. 9ut it didn&t feel the same. %% laughed. was incredibly beautiful and popular. e'pressed outrage at the idea and vowed never to condone it. and wished she were there to witness it.

2e was cute.endal finally won her first hand.endal knew instantly who he was. I gotta go.endal.endal couldn&t resist flirting a little with .+7ook. +7et&s move to the couch./ :ueenie said an'iously. said. +2ow much did she have to drink=/ %ason asked.endal pushed through the adjoining door and found four more guys in the ne't room. who one by one left the room. you. 2is hair was mussed and he wore a polo shirt fitted close to his chest. penalties that involved downing a lot of beer in a very short time.yan.yan motioned for her to join him. ./ said . She finally threw up her hands. +2ere. . +. There were heavy penalties for losing a hand. She let the 1uiet seep in around her and closed her eyes. 9u33ing from the alcohol that pumped feverishly through her veins. coded look with his friends./ %% hung up the phone and turned off the television. she was drunk. this wasn&t a regular card game. It was a drinking card game.endal remained seated in her hard metal chair as . grimacing from the stench of 0hristine&s breath. +Too much. .yan.endal stood there with her hands on her hips. 2e stood up and walked over to a sofa upholstered in plaid.yan Stevens.endal said as she handed 0hristine over to him./ . -f course.endal&s nerves by the time they got to the soccer party. uncertain if she wanted to stay or leave./ .y sister just opened up a gift and it&s some racy lingerie.yan suggested. "illow-white stuffing protruded from tears in each of the arms. who hardly ever drank anything besides $iet 0oke. She forced a smile. . 2er evening was pretty much a bust at this point. . . 0hristine&s limp body fell directly into his arms and she clung to his chest. after they were alone./ he said sweetly. I&ll see you Sunday. perfect for showing off his toned body.endal gladly let %ason take over the reins of keeping 0hristine entertained once they found him in someone else&s dorm room playing cards./ and took the empty seat as the dealer dealt her in. sitting in folding chairs around a wobbly metal card table. It was obviously a much smaller si3e than it needed to be. as if a remote switch flipped on inside her mind. silent.endal looked away once she reali3ed she&d been staring a little too hard. 2e was the only guy at Sampson who had never once looked her way since freshman year.endal. the captain of the soccer team. The dorm room overflowed with people. . %ason picked 0hristine up and took her to another room so that she could lie down. why not. she began to think about ./ 0hristine managed to say as she s1uinted upward to focus on the face in front of her. +Sure. I want to get in a few good barbs while I still can. yet here he was asking her to sit and play cards. +2ey. Instinctively. 2ave fun. She&d had previous brief conversations with . 9y the time . . with dimples that hung at the sides of his cheeks like half moons when he smiled. . +It&s an easy game. +4ant to play=/ one of them asked. #ventually he e'changed a sort of secret. CHAPTER ( 0hristine already was getting on .

9ut reading on the Internet for an hour made her tired. 2e remained seated on the beat-up couch trying to make sense of what had just happened. and a part of her practically pleaded to walk over and snuggle up beside him./ said %%. revealing a perfect row of ivory beneath full lips. The truth was. +I want to talk to you.yan to inch up in his seat.endal. +4hy do you want to talk to me all of a sudden=/ she asked. she&d gone to the library to get a jumpstart on a paper that was due in a few weeks. +2ey. I just do. She stepped aside before they collided. they were worlds apart and nothing could change that. and they&d provided a definite diversion for her. seeing no movement.endal told him. At first.c0arthy off of her high horse and into his arms. The girl&s head popped up and wobbled a bit before %% recogni3ed that it was none other than T2# . . beaming.c0arthy sitting in front of her on the damp grass. +I don&t know.endal&s voice caused . 2is mind worked feverishly. +I guess it just took me three years to get up the courage to talk to you./ . patting the cushion again. +I totally didn&t see you./ 2e smiled widely. the girl sat up with her head still hanging down and her hands wrapped around it like a turban./ . suddenly.yan rolled back his bulky shoulders. she found herself straining to keep her eyes open. tripped over her own feet and tumbled to the ground. a girl stumbled out of what seemed like midair in front of her. . She tingled with drunkenness./ he said./ . +2i. %%% The hood of %%&s sweatshirt was draped over her head as she walked back from the library. I think it&s time we got to know each other better. as he tried to formulate a plan on how to get . %% couldn&t clearly see where she was going. +>ou&ve known who I was for the past three years and now you suddenly want to get to know me=/ The sharpness in .patting the saggy cushion beside him. +Are you okay=/ %% asked. Soon.endal ./ . shielding her eyes. wait a second. +0ome sit over here./ . and %% pictured the scene of girls and boys stuffed shoulder to shoulder in an overcrowded dorm room. Stuck in thought. It bothered her to know that . And before she had a chance to look up to see e'actly where she was in relation to her dorm. Then.endal was probably there in the middle of the mi'. 4hoa. )nable to distract herself from thinking of .endal .endal yelled. She kept her head down. She and %% had nothing in common and their contradictions went far beyond se'ual orientation. A crisp -ctober bree3e tickled her bare legs. that&s three years too late. making her wish she hadn&t worn shorts.yan called after her. She read some intriguing online articles. with her hood sheltering her head and her eyes from everything. but the girl spun around.endal studied him for a moment until her curiosity got the best of her. leaning in closer./ +4ell. %% pushed the hood off her head and looked sideways at the body slumped on the lawn. and plowed forward over the grass. she felt a slight panic travel along the edge of her limbs.c0arthy was an enigma. turning and walking out of the room. The sounds of a nearby soccer party were alive and irritating.endal .

7ife is a lot like reading poetry./ +7ike what= Studying on a (riday night=/ +I do have a life outside of studying. They felt fro3en./ %% led the way from the grass onto a dirt path that connected with the sidewalk. +-therwise people run into you from out of nowhere. and suddenly blurted out. +9ut that&s just what I felt like doing tonight. It&s a great place to go and just kick back. even though she was shivering./ +2ave fun at the soccer party tonight=/ +6ot really. +Are you cold=/ . The secluded world of Sampson cheerleaders and soccer players./ said . .endal. of course. +I think I sat in something wet.y little world=/ . +I&m sorry for practically running into you. >ou have to read between the lines to really get something out of it. then why do you go=/ +9ecause there isn&t anything much else to do at this school or in this tiny town. I&ve had a rough night. #very month or so they have a band come and play./ +. They were in front of her dormitory and she was hugging herself to keep warm. +I know I&m making a complete fool of myself. +7et me help you up. where do you go for fun then= 9esides the library./ .endal rolled her eyes./ ./ She pictured . +5uys are such idiots. +I need to go home. +>ou&d think the soccer team ran the school with what they get away with. +Thanks for walking me home. yeah.aybe hoods should be banned as well.endal shook her head./ +4hatever./ %% perked up. her eyes glossed over from the alcohol./ ./ said . She turned around to get a look at her behind. and then stopped as instantly as she&d started. making a face. +I love it there. 6o other group on campus would be able to have parties in their dorms. once they reached the sidewalk.endal&s hands in hers./ +If you are so against them. 4e don&t want any more collisions happening. +So let me just apologi3e ahead of time.aybe you haven&t had a chance to e'plore anything outside of your little world yet. that&s the one.endal./ +I can think of lots of other things to do. #mily $ickinson. remember./ %% maintained. rather than at her./ +I&ll walk you./ .endal stopped walking. It made %% want to turn around to see if anybody was standing behind them./ +"oetry is life./ . after a moment.endal said. +It&s damp from the dew./ ./ +2ave you ever gone to The Spot=/ +The coffee shop in town=/ +>eah. +>eah. +>ou&re tutoring me in poetry./ +-kay./ %% told her./ +It&s the grass. %% studied her.endal laughed again./ %% said. reaching forward and taking .endal broke into a fit of laughter./ +I&m serious.+I guess it should be a rule to wear reflective clothing when walking around campus at night./ +-h. 6ot life.endal was looking through her. It&s ridiculous.yan sitting on the ugly couch. which %% suspected was more the result of too much alcohol than the joke itself./ said %%.endal asked defensively. feeling as if . thinking of the atmosphere of the coffee shop around her. .

/ . 9ut at least she didn&t run away screaming.endal said. +Are you=/ +4ould it bother you if I said yes=/ +I don&t think so. %% shoved both of her hands into the pockets of her shorts to keep them warm. In that moment. +. That certainly would have been awkward. It was a refreshing change from her own circle of friends./ +I&m not afraid of you. 9ut she was kind and sincere.endal said. +9ut I don&t want to offend you. with his hand gently patting the cushion on that disgusting couch. She played with her fingers. then paused briefly.endal insisted as she took a step toward %%. %ust before she crossed the threshold of the door./ +>ou don&t sound so sure. ending the lull in the conversation. like you before. I was just curious. smug and moronic./ she said. she understood e'actly how #mily $ickinson could have been writing about another woman. +I want to ask you something./ . then turned and walked toward the dorm. just because of rumors. They stood in silence as the sounds of the wind and the late night babble of students wandering home from a night out blended into one another and circled around them./ It ama3ed %% that . Then she thought of . a change that she hadn&t even known she&d wanted to happen.endal had picked up on the first night they met./ .endal fidgeted./ +Ask away./ Thoughts of her conversation with 0hristine in the cafeteria that morning traveled across her mind. +0onsider yourself cultured then. really./ said . She laughed out loud. +I&ll see you ne't tutoring session then.ost of the cheerleaders at Sampson never took the time to even acknowledge her presence./ . She understood because she was beginning to feel the same way about %%. It wouldn&t bother me at all. it&s fine.endal&s roommate had said about her./ %% could only imagine what . I&m fine. then yes. It was one of the things that she enjoyed about %%./ ./ %% told her. twisting her thumbs into her palms. She suddenly felt ashamed./ +-kay then. something . well. +I&m not going to hit on you if that&s what you are afraid of.+4here did that little pearl of wisdom come from=/ +6owhere in particular.endal. she turned back to see %%&s silhouette blending in with the darkness.endal hesitated. . +I should go to bed.endal flashed a 1uick smile./ +So it&s true= >ou&re gay=/ %% took a step back. +>ou are an incredible tutor. +(or a little #mily $ickinson=/ +#mily $ickinson. rewording her 1uestion. and fighting the overwhelming urge to stay there talking to %% for the rest of the night. right.yan again. I am./ +6o. I&ll understand.endal had such a hard time saying the word. let alone get to know her. ./ . +If you aren&t comfortable with me tutoring you now. +I was just curious. I&ve never known anyone who was. I&m an open book. +6o. 2er stride was slight and unsteady.y friend 0hristine told me that you wereCthat you areC/ +5ay=/ +>eah. and instead let her eyes wander off in the direction of the 1uad./ %% didn&t press the issue./ +4ell.

leaving no trace as to where they have fallen. both of her sneakers ended up soaked with murky water. withdrawing her journal from an inside pocket. %% strode across the campus admiring the colonial-era buildings and classic architecture. #ach disruption was met with the attending parents. as if Ashland had somehow gotten stuck there. -nce across the tracks. The streets are empty. passing by The Spot and several small craft shops. She pulled her large windbreaker down over her behind and sat down. 2er waterproof windbreaker protected her sacred journal from getting wet. She crossed the railroad tracks that ran directly through the school grounds. The rain had ceased. %% had the urge to sit down and get the words that were now flowing through her mind down on paper. She gathered up her pen. Tradition has it that good luck was bestowed upon the graduating class if the train&s engineer laid on the horn in return. /egging me to ta6e a swim 'nstead. and began to scribble. its green paint chipped from years from wind and rain. Spending too much time in a tiny enclosed dorm room sometimes made her feel as though she were suffocating. There was a bench on the sidewalk. The earth has /een turned over And sha6en li6e a snow glo/e . "uddles blocked her path. . +It&s not that scary. She headed up the sidewalk. %% wiped the water droplets from the seat as best she could. <irginia.CHAPTER ) A huge gray mass had stretched itself over Sampson Academy and the town of Ashland. #very commencement speaker throughout Sampson&s history had his or her speech disrupted by a train. but finally decided to go for a walk to break her cabin fever. Muddy puddles stand in my path. Those tracks had created a Sampson Academy commencement ceremony tradition. The town was deserted. along with her thoughts./ she called out and jumped feet first into the ne't puddle. but the ground was wet and she was already wet enough. %% entered the center of town. e7cept for fog hovering a/ove the surface &mells of hot tar and muggy air fill my nostrils as #aindrops the si8e of mini water /alloons /ounce off My 5ac6et. and though she tried to avoid them. sending thic6 muddy splashes &cattering in all directions. 4ith her poetry journal hidden inside her jacket and a pen in her pocket. but thunder still echoed somewhere in the background. The water shot out in every direction including straight up into the air and all over her.ray powder spec6les the s6y )eaving a colorless image. The annual ceremony was held on (orrest 7awn. and %% felt as if everyone was hiding from the storm. ' stomp through them. There was the old gas station with its retro-style gas pumps that reminded her of the D?EFs. ' never noticed that ' was soa6ing wet. students and guests yelling +choo-choo/ as loud as possible. %% had spent the rainy morning watching movies with her suitemates. which the train tracks bisected on the west side of the campus.

/ +)m.endal was different. but he&s the captain of the soccer team and he&s rich. 5ood different.endal was now aware of a part of her that %% didn&t advertise.aybe she could figure out the real reason she was interested in a girl who couldn&t possibly return the same feelings. no.yan&s not only good looking. please. And that was part of why %% was attracted to her.aybe with some food in her stomach she could think more clearly about . +Tempting as it was.endal&s goofy stare while sprawled on the damp lawn. I can honestly say that I wasn&t. and tossed her i"hone to the side as if she were annoyed that no one had been te'ting her.c0arthy. . not looking for anything in particular. 4hat happened= $id you kiss him=/ . %%% +4hat happened to you last night=/ 0hristine lay stomach-down on her bed. . I decided to leave./ +. +-h. +I repeat* what happened to you last night=/ +>ou mean after you crashed into %ason&s arms as soon as we got to the party=/ 0hristine stretched. watching an occasional car cross the tracks and listening to the water as it danced down the pavement and trickled into a nearby drain./ . then her true colors would already have shown. 4hether good or bad. #very time it rained. 2er jaw barely moved when she spoke.endal noticed how annoying the word +hello/ sounded as it left her lips.%% looked up at the sky and smiled. although she knew that many of her classmates assumed she was gay. . She&d grown accustomed to the fact that everything happened for a reason./ (or the first time since she&d known 0hristine. there was a specific reason behind the events that shaped everyone&s lives. but I&m not going to date someone . The heavy air turned light.endal had finally asked her about her se'ual orientation last night. as a cool bree3e swept by causing %% to shiver. %% peered along the edges of the street.endal sifted through her dresser drawers. deep down. +I hate to break it to you. %% recalled . The dampness of her socks made her ankles begin to itch. including random encounters with cheerleaders on private school library lawns. After the slea3e ball made it clear that all he wanted to do was hook up. 2ello.endal. she felt as if everything were calm and peaceful. %% looked cautiously up at the sky as she crossed the street. +So=/ +So./ As she spoke . 2er empty stomach grumbled. #ven if that wasn&t e'actly the way she was feeling at that very moment. like you weren&t in rare form either.endal said. . She was more likely to get struck by lightning than have any kind of relationship with .endal really were as shallow as the other cheerleaders. +It&s called a mask. #ven if the two lived in two very different worlds. wearing a dark green facial mask that was hardening. +So %ason said you were alone in another room with .yan for a while. It was something she hadn&t e'pected to happen so soon. +.endal. %% believed that . 2er long blonde hair was pulled back and tied with a pale pink ribbon.endal slammed her sock drawer shut and turned around. . what=/ 0hristine sat up impatiently./ 0hristine replied. 9ut.endal . The Spot would be the perfect place to warm up and get a sandwich. She decided that if . +>ou look ridiculous. seriously=/ 0hristine&s arms spread wide.

complaining that she was not having enough fun.endal took a look at her cheerleading skirt and top. The athletic center was unusually packed for a Sunday. The last thing she needed was another party./ . They&d taken the freedom of private school for granted. finishing up on the treadmill.endal&s shirt until she emerged from underneath her bed./ -verboard. ./ said 0hristine. (un was reading #mily $ickinson and laughing with %%.endal turned abruptly and began to rummage underneath her bed in hopes that 0hristine would go back to scanning the celebrity gossip columns in her maga3ines. %% figured that once they were finished with bicep and chest e'ercises. +I like to think I have higher standards than that./ said . another reason for 0hristine to nag her the ne't morning. admiring the logo on the front. +>ou should have seen my father. +>ou know how my family can go a little overboard with money. +7ook. . thank you./ 0hristine tried to smile or respond in some fashion but her mouth couldn&t move because the mask had hardened completely. and :ueenie was still ranting about her parents. she would change the subject. while the soccer players were working hard to keep themselves at the top of their game for the playoffs. and tugged the back of ./ 0hristine continued./ said :ueenie. The crowd of freshmen who fre1uented the athletic center was growing rapidly and was made up mostly of those unlucky individuals who had gained a few e'tra pounds and were desperately trying to reverse the effects of too many midnight pi33a runs.endal lying on her back staring up at the ceiling while she went to wash her face and get dressed in her cheerleading uniform. After the game was over. #veryone knows that.endal. she thought. 9ut I also know that you have been studying like cra3y the past couple of weeks and it&s our senior year. (un. I&d be dating someone who actually had a head on his shoulders that could be used for something other than heading a soccer ball./ she said. She left . +4ho cares about standards= $o you honestly think that I&d be wasting my time with %ason if I were in college= I don&t think so.just because he&s the captain of the soccer team and has money. the couch monster. I just don&t want you to regret not having a good time before college. everyone else on the s1uad would start getting ready for another soccer party.endal. . +4e are young./ She climbed off the bed and slid down ne't to .endal longed to lock herself in her room and avoid any and all human interaction.aster for hours while barely breaking a sweat. That was the kind of fun she found herself craving lately. CHAPTER * :ueenie had spent practically the entire workout talking about her family. thought %%.endal who was still spread out on the floor. Then there were the regulars who walked along the track or did the Stair.yan&s a conceited moron. +I know . They&d be cheering on the soccer players that afternoon. another reason to go on pretending she was something she wasn&t. . 9ut here they were. They practically flip the entire boat.yan. -ther members of the boys& and girls& basketball teams were finishing up their workouts for preseason. +I won&t regret not hooking up with ./ +Trust me.

/ %% managed between breaths. +I know. +5ood./ %% added in an infomercial voice. +8eally=/ %% felt her mouth go drier than it already was. why not. They cannot and will not hear me. Steam rose up around them. +Sure. %% tossed a cup of water onto the stones. +#at and instantly sweat away the calories.endal would not come up. She fi'ed her eyes on %%./ %% breathed heavily as they hit mile three. 4eddings in springtime bring forth love. with one more to go./ +>ou haven&t talked to her since your last tutoring session=/ +4ell. 6ot for me. +I feel like a slab of bacon in here sometimes. she couldn&t tell for sure. then.+2e&s buying the best of everything for my sister&s wedding. +And the cheerleading 1ueen=/ 5reat. She stepped off of her treadmill and wiped the sweat off her forehead with the towel that hung on the side bar. sending a burst of steam into the air. She noticed that :ueenie wasn&t breathing heavily at all. +The only thing they know how to do is throw money around. but to wake them up. not e'actly. I guess. resting her head on one elbow./ +4ho wouldn&t= >ou can cook yourself and your bacon at the same time. the best caterer.c9rides./ +6o./ +Sauna session and bacon. +I&m sorry./ +So I take it that the plan to bust up the reception is still on./ %% responded. +Sauna session=/ :ueenie asked. +>ou know what they say. +I bet we could just bring some in. >eah. They don&t know any other way. wiping her face with the front of her T-shirt before %% could say anything else. slap it down on the bench and watch it cook. +I just need to do it. happiness and gay daughters who want to confess their forbidden lives to their hypocritical and e'tremely dysfunctional high-society family and friends. I like the combination. %% thought to herself as she tossed more water onto the stones. She knew as soon as she said it. %% thought that maybe she saw tears forming in :ueenie&s eyes./ -nce in the enclosed steam-stilted walls of the sauna./ +The ama3ing sauna./ +9ut haven&t you ever considered just taking your mom and dad aside and having an adult conversation with them=/ :ueenie lifted her feet off the treadmill. %% felt that :ueenie finally could unwind./ :ueenie replied. that&s all./ ./ she said gently. it makes me sick. releasing a si33ling sound in that enveloped the room. she shouldn&t have. I&m not familiar with that particular saying. She&d been high-strung and agitated ever since she&d returned from her weekend visit with her parents and the wedding shower madness. how was your weekend=/ +)neventful./ :ueenie said into the heavy air. I ran into her on (riday night. +So. It won&t matter. They need a wakeup call. resting them on the sides as the motori3ed track moved between them. the fanciest ballroom*ugh. I could talk and talk @til I run out of air./ The si33ling ceased and :ueenie rolled over onto her side. Sometimes I just think you should try a different approach with them./ (or a brief moment./ +These are the . but because of the sweat on her friend&s forehead and face. hoping that the topic of .

So I&ve been attracted to a few straight girls in the past. which made the library the only logical option.+4here= At the library=/ :ueenie knew %% would never set foot in a soccer party and that ./ +That&s priceless. The gay 1uestion./ %% turned her head and muttered. +So./ :ueenie started to say something else./ %% sat up and hugged her knees to her chest. . +4hich is precisely what I am asking you.endal&s engaging laughter./ +Is she still going to let you tutor her=/ +4e&re supposed to meet tonight. you&d think you&d be a little more able to pick up on the obvious. for someone as 1uick-witted as you are. nothing serious. +She was ./ +0ute./ ./ +6o= $o you really want me to recite the list of names=/ +-kay. everyone on campus thinks that the entire women&s basketball team is gay. . +I just think you should be careful. what did you say=/ :ueenie asked. she seemed okay with it. you automatically belonged to the rainbow coalition. . They were just little crushes./ said %%. I caught myself./ She could feel the underside of her knees collecting sweat. +6othing. +%ust tell me./ +And did she run away screaming=/ +Thankfully./ +Then I helped her up and walked her home. +The 1uestion. +>ou&ll never believe this. she&s straight. silly. conservative southern town./ +-h. >ou always fall for the straight girls. +The $ibble Syndrome was something special./ +I don&t always fall for straight girls. I literally ran into her.ost people at Sampson Academy assumed that if you were a girl who was involved in sports. The 1uestion. Thankfully though. She asked me if I&m gay. +4hat=/ %% asked. . and then stopped./ +Aren&t we=/ This was one of the unfortunate conse1uences of attending a private school in the middle of a small. +8ight on the lawn in front of the library. +6o.y hood was up so I never saw her and we almost collided head-on. but she spun around and fell. so what= It&s not like it&s a habit or anything./ +4hat 1uestion=/ :ueenie was sitting up now./ %% said again./ :ueenie agreed. it&s getting hot in here./ %% scolded. I mean. her cheeks dotted with sweat. 4hat 1uestion=/ +>ou know. (or crying out loud./ :ueenie chewed her lower lip. 8emember=/ +"recisely my point. yes. +I told her the truth. no. the other girls you had crushes on were fortunate enough to be spared your obsessive ways. 4e&ll see if she shows up.endal was e1ually unlikely to set foot into the athletic center./ %% recalled the ensuing conversation and . but she asked me the 1uestion./ +4ell that didn&t take long./ +$on&t do that. +#'cept for the $ibble Syndrome of course. She was coming home from a soccer party and I think she&d had too much to drink or something. +It was bound to happen sooner than later./ +:ueenie. That&s all.

I can&t e'plain. It&s called the science e'periment. isn&t going to happen. >ou follow that emotional lump in the center of your chest instead. really. The coolness of the locker room air embraced them and %% took a long./ :ueenie continued. A straight girl can&t be anything but straight. 1uite frankly./ +4hat do you want./ +I&ll just stick to the tutoring. +I did mean half of what I said in there. There&s this energy between us./ +:ueenie./ +I don&t care what it&s called. >ou don&t think with your head in these situations./ :ueenie sat up. And I don&t want to let myself get hopeful about something that. And don&t get wrapped up in something just to satisfy ./ +That she is./ +"reposterous. but it ./ :ueenie said pointedly. She lifted up her legs and stretched out her sweat-saturated body. I&ve been the science e'periment before and it&s not fun./ +7ook. 9e careful. ./ +2ow do you know=/ +I just know./ +>ou have nothing to worry about. +I&m not just making this up for your amusement. clasped her hands together and pointed her jointed fingers in %%&s direction. +-r are you just going to sit there antagoni3ing me. +-kay.+9ut my point is that I don&t think this is just a little crush that you&ve got going on here./ %% began to massage her forehead. after their curiosity wears off.iss . Then. +2ey. +>ou know how straight girls work./ %%&s hand dropped swiftly from her eyes. +7et&s get out of here./ . +I knew you liked her. right= 5irls like us intrigue them and they get curious./ +Are you ready to get out of here=/ %% asked while tying up the laces of her sneakers. and I think this situation has the potential to go in that direction. I just don&t want to see you get used or hurt./ %% stopped talking as soon as she reali3ed she had said too much./ %% sighed. shielding her eyes. . +She&s a cheerleader after all. what they really want is a guy. I&m about to sweat away to nothing. +She&s not interested in me like that. so I like her. So what= She&s beautiful and smart and there&s something special about her and I want to find out what it is. they freak out and say they were just e'ploring that side of things and while it was fun and all. unabashed. I&ve been there./ :ueenie echoed./ %% groaned. you don&t. drawn-out breath to fill her lungs before she went over to the sink and splashed cold water on her hot sticky face./ +I hardly even know her.c0arthy&s curiosity because it&ll come back to bite you in the end. a medal=/ +6ah*the simple thrill of being right is satisfaction enough./ %% said as she wiped her face with her shirt before she slipped on her sweatshirt./ They lifted themselves off of the benches and opened the sauna door. The whole thing is just ridiculous. +I know you like her. ./ +6o./ said :ueenie. +The least you can do is admit that much. >ou&re being ridiculous. That&s something that isn&t going to change. +It&s true. +I knew it./ +Stick to what you know best./ said :ueenie as she wiped off her legs with a towel.

+4hat= 4e can at least e'plore the idea. getting pummeled five to nothing. Then he studied himself in the mirror and frowned. It was because he was frustrated./ %ason warned as he watched ./ +8ela'. straightening up. 9ut it wasn&t because he was tired./ :ueenie insisted. and he bore a fresh scratch just above his left cheek from having been elbowed in the face while trying to head the ball.yan from the bench beside him.yan took a step closer so that his nose was about an inch away from %ason&s. 2ey. his eyes glued to the mirror so that he could observe his form.aybe we could do like an undercover operation.c0arthy had snubbed him completely on (riday night./ %ason concluded after a moment. . ./ . .yan reali3ed that he was going to have to step up his game just a little bit. . it was also incredibly appealing. 2e was pushing himself to the limit. without the usual hint of golden brown that he&d achieved over the summer lifeguarding at the beach where his parents owned a summer home. As a result. like research or something= 4e can pretend we&re writing a paper about it./ %% frowned.yan said.yan lunged forward and pushed %ason in the chest. +#ven for you. 2e started working his triceps. %ason gritted his teeth.+>ou know. +4ho said she&s out of my league=/ +$ude. .yan glared at him.yan grunted as he finished the last set of s1uats on his well-muscled legs that now shook more like 1uivering rubber.yan immediately dropped the weight from his hand and stood up. 2e looked absolutely horrible.endal was playing hard to get and while it was a tad annoying. . don&t push it./ %ason laughed. +So what happened (riday night=/ %ason asked.yan picked up two dumbbells and knelt down on a bench. I bet any one of these so-called cheerleading camps is a breeding ground for closet lesbians./ %ason remarked./ . They had been outplayed and outmatched by a less talented team. they are the most closeted of them all*cheerleaders. +4hat&s your problem=/ . >ou know. 7ately it seemed as if the entire soccer team was comprised of a group of underweight sissies who didn&t comprehend the meaning of teamwork or dedication. +I&m fine. +Thought what=/ he asked firmly. And to make matters worse.endal . +I thought so. +It&s not without merit. 8ela'. wondering what in the world he could have possibly done wrong. It&s obvious that you didn&t get anywhere with her. They had traveled across the state to play 0artwright./ 2e breathed in hard and wiped the sweat away from his forehead with the bottom of his muscle tank top. +$id you hook up with her=/ . they had lost the game. 2is eyes had grown gloomy and gray. +2ey. After she&d left him sitting alone on that couch. +>ou&re going to hurt yourself./ . +>ou don&t look so good. 2is skin was e'tremely pale./ CHAPTER . +Thought that she was out of your league. It was true. the lowest-seeded team in their division.

T<&s The 8eal 4orld. And this time he was going to convince her to give in to him. She had feigned sickness on Saturday evening and spent the night watching reruns and . he wasn&t even sure he liked her that much.endal would have been right there with 0hristine. 0hristine got home late. picked up the weight and began lifting again.aybe one day he&d meet a girl he actually cared for.endal had done a good job of avoiding the weekend soccer party scene. 4henever he thought back to the list of girls he dated. Sometimes it ama3ed her how beautiful Sampson Academy was./ . CHAPTER ! . orange and yellow were scattered amongst the branches reaching high into the sky. 9ut today. 2e stood face to face with him a moment longer before he bent over. .yan began to work on stretches with his arms and legs. She looked like a female version of a modern day Gorro.endal had a reputation to uphold. he centered his thoughts on ne't weekend&s party. In times past . popping Tylenol. .c0arthy./ +>ou almost done= I&m hungry./ . 0hristine spent the entire morning and part of the afternoon wearing a bluecolored cold pack with eye-holes cut out over her face./ he said between breaths.yan&s stomach was growling so loudly that it seemed to be echoing throughout the entire workout room. . that seemed to be the prevailing issue*something was always missing. 2is stamina had weakened early during yesterday&s game. Sure. Though he had singled . but there was something missing.endal out as the girl he most desperately wanted to be with during his last year at Sampson Academy. 4ith that. 9ut he knew he still had more work to do. so he was determined to work out longer to build up more endurance and strength.endal .and watching endless hours of 7ifetime television. Something else was aching inside him. she was pretty and probably the best-looking girl on campus. .yan glared hard as he tried to think of a good reason to get in %ason&s face. drinking refillable bottles of water. <ibrant shades of red. #ach player was allowed to invite one guest.aybe he would even head over to the soccer field and take a few shots on net. 9ut he also knew that it wasn&t the feelings he was supposed to have for them. one he&d want to get to know on a deeper level. especially in fall when the leaves had begun to change colors. There&s no way she would turn him down. It was status./ %ason said.yan was confident that he would get another shot. And .yan&s salty mood. . +6othing. She had stumbled into the room and fallen onto the floor.. the legendary inviteonly soccer party. +It wouldn&t be any fun if she just gave in easily./ +#'actly. as well. that&s all. simultaneously knocking over a stack of books. not wanting to add to ./ +All right. As a result. Though his legs ached. .endal had to help her into bed.endal had gotten up early and gone for a walk. both of them lying in agony. +0atch you later then./ said %ason. And his guest was going to be . +She&s just going to be more of a challenge than I had anticipated./ +I hear ya. he pushed through the pain. Invite-only was a gathering of all the <I" students at Sampson. +I&ve got more work to do here.

where every student could get to know his or her teachers on a personal basis. There were a few round tables in front of the stage and set off to the back of the room. 9ut here was her hangout*a sweet and inviting coffee shop. she could see her at some sporting event.endal&s parents. including tampons and a few snack items such as 8eese&s "eanut 9utter 0ups and her one major food addiction. It was hands-on learning. so you could sit in the palm. insisted that she go to Sampson so that she could get into a good college. big enough to accommodate just two to three people at a time. -ther factors included Sampson&s unblemished academic reputation and its ability to prepare students for college. They invited her to sit with them at their table in the cafeteria and to social gatherings and soccer parties. All of the buildings were named after local heroes and students who had gone on to become +somebodies. 9ay windows sat atop four-story buildings fronted by circular porches. This wasn&t the type of place she would have initially guessed that %% would go to on a (riday night. The other cheerleaders had taken a liking to her right from the start. she was a part of the cheerleading team. 4ho knew such things e'isted in a town built around a soccer rivalry and the annual homecoming weekend packed with games and a lavish parade= .endal&s walk had led her into town to buy some essentials. something of a hidden treasure where she probably spent her time having intellectual conversations with eccentric people. 0he' . Across the backdrop .9uilt back in the DHFFs. At first she hated Sampson because she felt so out of place. To the right of the counter stood a stage. plus the beauty of the campus. and the ne't thing she knew. She hadn&t planned on getting involved in any school activities.endal always thought the school motto should be*Sampson Academy. They were afraid that if she attended a public high school she would be on the fast track to community college. . 8ather. <otive candles floated in bowls of water at the center of each table. . That. . where everyone knows your name and your business. and overbearing drunkards challenged one another to games of pool and darts. She hated to disappoint her parents. the campus consisted of colonial buildings made of brick and grand white pillars. 9ut the appeal of friendships and social interaction sort of swept her up and spit her out./ spelled out in big bold white letters. She passed by The Spot and peered into the window. This was because of the small student population and ensuring that all of the classes had at most fifteen students to one teacher. (or that reason. -ne foamy apple-red chair off in the corner was built in the shape of a giant hand.endal felt pressured to get good grades. .endal thought. #ducation was far more important. was why . +fantasi3e reality. The room to the left of the main counter was filled with artsy types of paintings on the wall and soft plushy couches scattered hapha3ardly across a gleaming maple floor. She pictured the place filled with random vagabonds and folk singers on the center stage. humming original songs about the meaning of life. or maybe a local sports bar where #S"6 played on ten different television sets.endal read the words. So this is where %% likes to hang out. She finally felt like she belonged. a very small stage that featured a solid black backdrop with a single brown bar stool in the center.endal had been attracted to the school in the first place. . It didn&t matter to her parents that the tuition bill left them financially strapped. like a hockey game with a bunch of her basketball teammates./ That was the school motto*Sampson Academy. 9e Somebody. her father especially.i'.

afraid to disturb 0hristine.endal&s curiosity was something that she always had a hard time controlling. She felt slightly ashamed for being so blunt and asking %% about her se'ual orientation./ . %%./ 0hristine moaned. who busied herself sifting through the pile of books on her desk. Though the incident had left her unharmed.endal. 9ut as soon as she spied 0hristine&s body. smartly. thoughtfully. she dropped the attitude. the perfect combination of cheese and sauce. The entire matchbook caught on fire and in a panic she&d dropped it into the bottom of the purse. A nervous sensation erupted inside of her when she thought about the fact that she&d be seeing %% at the library in a couple of hours. 4ell.endal. she desperately wanted to see what would happen if she struck one really fast. And thick crust./ 0hristine dropped her hand to her side heavily. That&s e'actly why she&d asked %% about her se'ual orientation. you know=/ 0hristine pressed the back of her hand to her forehead. %%% -nce back at the dorm. and was reduced to a gooey. . when she was about five. but she was irritated at watching 0hristine wasting the day in bed. dramati3ing herself. +I&m sorry. 6o. who she sometimes alluded to as Sleeping 9eauty. 6ormally sarcasm wasn&t something she played at.endal struck with reckless abandon. +Is there a particular reason why you&re being such a sarcastic snot right now=/ 2er eyes bore into . 6evertheless. given to her by her older brother. There were other occasions where 0urious . -nce. She tingled in anticipation. it became obvious that her roommate was awake. . In just a few more hours they would be meeting at the library. She wondered if %% knew about the contest. black mess in the middle of the living room floor.endal grabbed her cell phone out of her purse and checked the time.endal returned. >ou know. but 0hristine had planted all of those thoughts in her head in the first place. It really was none of her business. +I like pi33a. she would be scarred for the rest of her young life with the nickname 0urious . +4hat do you think about pi33a=/ ..endal took a step back from the window and glanced at the hours posted below. but I think I like it best when it&s just cheese. +"oetry Slam #very (riday 6ight. until that moment. +)ghhhh. +I think this is the worst possible hangover I&ve ever had. +(unny.endal. And . many of which could be forgotten. but each satisfying an overwhelming urge to see just what would happen or to simply find out the truth. ashy. I need some grease. +>ou were saying*/ . curled up in a fetal position and clutching her i"hone.endal paused. something happened all right.endal hadn&t thought about her conversation with %% since (riday night. Although she recogni3ed her passive-aggressive manner. Although she knew they were dangerous. 2er mom&s favorite bag had gone up in flames.endal slowly opened the door to her room. I like thick crust./ The first pri3e winner won fifty dollars and publication in a local writing maga3ine called &cattered Thoughts. 6e't to the open sign was a poster that read. she&d found a book of matches in her mother&s purse. as if were weighted down. >ou know what I need=/ +Alcoholics Anonymous=/ asked . . it still provided a way to release her irritation.

+"i33a, I was saying. 7et&s get some pi33a for dinner./ 0hristine sat up now, the prospect of food taking hold. She fiddled with her i"hone and started looking up the number for a local pi33a place. +And then we could rent a movie, some sappy romantic comedy or something./ +0an&t,/ said ;endal, without the least bit of regret. +I&ve got a tutoring session in the library. I&m going to eat at the dining hall, and then head straight over. ,aybe 7aurie will want to do pi33a./ 7aurie, another cheerleader who lived in their dorm, though slightly overweight, was 1uite proud of her junk food addiction. In fact, 7aurie let it be known that pi33a was one of the five important food groups, at least in her world. ;endal often wondered if 7aurie laundered money from the cheerleading fund and dues collection to buy the enormous amount of junk food and goodies that she kept stashed in her dorm room closet. #very time they hung out in 7aurie&s room, ;endal half e'pected to find cardboard bo'es full of -reo cookies, potato chips, candy bars and the like sitting somewhere amidst the clutter. +,ore tutoring with the lesbian=/ 0hristine asked. 2er tone brushed hard against ;endal&s ears. +4hy do you have to even bring that up=/ +9ecause she is./ +She has a name. It&s %%. ,aybe you should try using it./ +4hat is your deal= >ou&ve been acting strange ever since you started hitting the books so hard./ +I don&t have a deal. 4hat I do have is a tutoring session with a girl who&s kind of cool, and I think that maybe you should stop judging people when you don&t even know a thing about them./ 0hristine climbed out of bed, and evened out her pajama shorts. 2er lips were moving, and ;endal sensed that she was choosing her words carefully. +I know all I need to know about her,/ she said coolly. +And don&t forget, I know you, too./ She casually grabbed her robe off of the back of the door and pulled it on. As she was tying the knot around her waist, she looked up at ;endal. 2er eyes were icy. +I don&t know who you are trying to be lately, but it sure isn&t the ;endal ,c0arthy that I know./ She pulled the knot tighter and tossed ;endal one final cold look before she left the room. (uming, ;endal threw her books into her backpack. 4hat bothered her most was the fact that 0hristine somehow managed to sneak in the last word. +I know me,/ she said aloud in the vacant room, her voice overflowing with anger. +I know myself better than anyone, and I also know that for the past few years I haven&t been the real me./ In the middle of her monologue, she stepped on something s1uishy lying on the floor. She bent over, picked up the ice mask that 0hristine had been wearing, and threw it at her unmade bed. +>ou don&t know me at all,/ she spat. +So take your little beauty mask and shove it./


%% was at the library much earlier than she needed to be. She&d skipped going to the dining hall with :ueenie, afraid that she might get distracted or delayed by needless conversation. Instead, she enjoyed a healthy portion of ramen noodles, the chicken-flavored kind, and some crackers. She also took a long time to select an outfit. 6ormally she would go to the library wearing nothing more than jogging pants and a sweatshirt, but today she felt like raising the bar just a bit. She put on a pair of jeans and a vintage T-shirt from the 5ap. Instead of wearing her usual baseball cap, she decided to slather some gel in her hair and spike up the ends just so. She even sprayed on some cologne for good measure. 6ow she sat in the library at the same table ;endal and she had been at last time, her knees shaking slightly. #very so often, she caught a whiff of her own cologne and smiled. At the very least, she certainly smelled good. 2er cell phone bu33ed in her pocket. She took it out and read a te't message from :ueenie, +9eware of the science e'periment./ All %% could do was laugh. She stuffed her cell phone back in her pocket, and idly thumbed through a book of poetry she&d pulled off one of the shelves. She kept a watchful eye on the door as she reread each sentence. Somehow, she&d missed seeing ;endal storm her way into the library, and looked up only when the girl reached the table. ;endal&s bag of books landed on top of the table with a resounding thud. +2i,/ she said, her face e'pressionless. +)m, are you okay=/ %% asked cautiously. +,e= >eah. I&m fine./ She reached into her bag and pulled out the bag of 0he' ,i' she had bought earlier. +#'cept for the fact that I&ve just now reali3ed that I&ve wasted all my time here at Sampson on a group of girls who are mostly small-minded and lack any substance at all./ +That&s a bit harsh, don&t you think=/ ;endal slid down into the chair ne't to her. +6o. I think it&s dead on,/ she snapped. Then she slid the bag of 0he' ,i' over to %% who politely declined. ;endal shrugged and began snacking mindlessly. +I&ve known these girls for three years now and they don&t even have one small clue about who I really am./ She tucked her hair back behind her ears, which caused %% to look at her in ama3ement. +4ow, you have tiny ears./ +4hat=/ +>our ears. They&re tiny. And cute./ +>eah,/ ;endal said. +They&re small. So what=/ +6othing. I*I just noticed. That&s all./ %% instantly wished that she could censor her thoughts before they spilled out of her mouth without her consent. +)h, about your friends*is it possible that maybe you just haven&t let them in= >ou know, let them in to get to know the real you=/ +So it&s my fault=/ ;endal&s hand smacked her own chest. +Is that what you are saying=/ +I&m not pointing fingers,/ said %% 1uickly. +All I&m saying is that friendships involve at least two people, right= And each person has to give a little in order to get a little. If you don&t let them see the real you, how are they supposed to get to know the real you=/ ;endal halted her rant. She hadn&t thought of it that way. +It&s just an outside opinion, of course,/ said %%. +I get what you&re saying. I think I&m just frustrated with everything in my life now. 9efore it all made sense, but somewhere along the way I&ve changed and suddenly nothing makes any sense to me anymore./ +Trust me, I know the feeling./

+>ou do=/ +-f course I do. 9efore I accepted the fact that I was gay, everything in my life seemed simple. I had boyfriends and everything made sense. And then suddenly it all began to change. I wasn&t happy with anything anymore and I couldn&t understand why. Things that I once enjoyed became boring to me or unimportant./ %% looked down at her empty hands and then at ;endal. +9ut once I figured out the root of it, things began to fall into place again. 6ow I know that this is who I am and who I&m happy being. Things in my life make sense again./ +That must have been hard, holding something like that inside without telling anyone. ,y problem is that I don&t even know the root of why things have changed for me./ +4ell, I don&t think it&s because you are gay,/ %% said with a smirk. ;endal laughed. +6o, I don&t think so either./ Though lately she wasn&t so sure. +,aybe you are just changing as a person. It doesn&t have to be anything specific. 0ould be as simple as your outlook on life or what has become important to you now, as opposed to when you were a freshman. I think that when we get to college, we&ll do a lot of soul-searching and find out who we really are. >ou&re just getting a head start./ +I feel like I can really talk to you,/ ;endal said suddenly. +Sorry for going off like that. I know you&re my tutor, and not my counselor./ %% felt her face grow hot, and she knew she was blushing. She stared ahead, avoiding ;endal&s eyes. +I&m glad. It&s, uh, important to feel comfortable with your tutor./ ;endal repositioned her chair at the table and moved closer to %%. +-kay. I feel better. And I think I can actually concentrate on studying./ She un3ipped her backpack and took out a purple folder and a couple of books. +So, back to poetry. 7et&s do this one first./ She opened one of her book to a page marked with a yellow sticky note, and then slid the volume over to %%. %% regained her composure and looked down at the page. +A 7etter to $aphnis,/ she read. +Anne (inch was a talented woman./ +I&m sure she was. I think I prefer $ickinson, though./ +2ow come=/ +I don&t know. ,aybe because I finally understand her poetry now, and I don&t want to move on to other authors./ ;endal forced a laugh. +Stick to what you know, right=/ +I don&t think you&re giving yourself enough credit,/ %% reassured her, easing into a smile, admiring the dips along the edge of ;endal&s lips and how they were most visible whenever ;endal seemed self-conscious. +4hat=/ ;endal asked, nervously brushing a strand of hair from face. +6othing,/ said %%. They read the poem together as %% pointed out a few key lines to help ;endal make sense of the poem as a whole. +(inch was a true feminist, though she didn&t want that to override the fact that she was still deeply in love and could be in love, while still maintaining her sense of self. In this poem, she e'presses how, though it is difficult, one can still find a happy medium between being both a devoted lover and an opinionated woman at the same time./ +That must have been hard back then,/ ;endal said. +In those days most women gave up their dreams and ambitions to be housewives./ %%&s head bobbed in agreement, +#'actly. And in this poem, (inch makes it clear to her lover that she has no such plan in mind. She writes, @%udge not my passion, but my want of skill.

2er eyes 1uickly scanned the words scribbled across the page. +That&s pretty intense. she thought./ %% nudged her shoulder. As she pushed her chair back from the table.endal.any love well. she loves him more fully than some women who have no ambition at all. +4hen I found out I was tutoring you. afraid you4ll /rea6 *hispers reach my insides (ulling them into 6nots My flesh trem/les *ith each caress -ntil your lips find mine Timid at first touch . +I&ll be right back. It appeared to be a poem titled (irst ./ +>ou didn&t at all. totally awesome./ +>eah. 2er journal spilled out. and.& See.aybe at first./ ./ ./ They continued to regard one another. All I knew was that you were popular and last year&s homecoming 1ueen. She plucked up the journal and set it on the table before she walked away. but at the same time. like you said. +ar6ness looms ' cannot see ' feel your /reath upon my s6in &par6ing a nervous warmth ' reach for you &liding my palm across your chee6 &o softly. Then she&d set it right back down. %ust one 1uick peek. she accidentally knocked over her bag./ +I understand./ said %%. I didn&t know what to e'pect either./ said . +4hat did you think=/ +I don&t know. +0ute. has her own dreams. >ou&re different./ +And that I was probably just like all the other cheerleaders. and she tripped over it. but e'press it ill./ +4ow. +4hoops. the edges frayed and the binding worn./ +./ said . +>ou just are.iss. %ust don&t start saying totally every other sentence. In fact. She could feel her famous li1uid curiosity pumping through her veins. +This poem is like./ %% said. . until %%&s knee once again began to shake involuntarily.endal eyeballed the journal. She reached for the journal. she wants him to know that though she is driven. it is. which had been resting on the floor.endal flipped back her hair./ she said.endal flinched. +9ut you&re not.endal../ +$ifferent. that doesn&t mean she can&t love him with all that she has./ +>ou&re not at all what I thought you were./ said %%. She sneaked a peek to make sure %% wasn&t anywhere in sight before she began to read with reckless abandon. standing up 1uickly. and flipped it open close to the middle. how=/ %% shrugged. It looked pretty beat up. feeling nervous and clumsy. +I hope I didn&t sound like a ditsy cheerleader just then. I guess I didn&t know what to e'pect.

/ she said instead./ +0hristine= 8eally=/ . 9ack then . hooked up with him./ ..endal could feel his supposedly innocent brown eyes e'amining her thoroughly from head to toe. because it was all any of her friends could talk about lately. no./ +8eally= #veryone&s talking about it. and who was going to be left out. . and the ne't day he dumped his original invite to invite 0hristine instead.yan said smoothly.endal shuffled a few loose papers in front of her and started to write something down.y. +0hristine said you were here. 2ow wonderful= +4ell. She 1uickly set the book down onto the table. She and %ason had been dating ever since. +I&m honored./ he pressed on. .endal could tell that she was throwing a huge rock in ./ . just as if she were the person in the poem./ +6ope. I&m not pretending./ +I know what it is. +4ell./ said . of course. 2e was there specifically to hit on her./ . and then shook her head apologetically.yan Stevens.endal was lying.endal. she found it pathetic. +It&s e'clusive. so real. 2aven&t heard a thing. was standing ne't to her chair./ . She just said you were in the library pretending to study.yan continued./ ./ +)m. so . +2ey. +I was there last year. #veryone was te'ting about who was going to get invited. that . I&m actually studying. +7isten. and I was wondering if it was poetry or something. A day before the party she&d tracked %ason down./ he said with an overconfident grin. ominous shadow. >our journal was just lying there. +8eally I am./ ./ +-h. . looming over her like some creepy. hoping he would take the hint and leave.endal could feel the tingle on her skin. 0hristine almost had a nervous breakdown when she reali3ed that she hadn&t been invited.yan the couch monster.endal knew he had no intention of actually studying himself. who she now thought of as . +>ou&ve probably heard that the team is having our legendary invite-only party ne't (riday night./ . +#ach member of the soccer team invites a girl to come to the party. 6ow. 2e didn&t./ . 7ast year. +I&m sorry. I haven&t heard anything at all. She was about halfway through when she felt someone leaning over her. She had to read it again. he puts it so nicely. anyway. +$id she mention I had a tutoring session=/ +6o. I swear I wouldn&t have read it if I&d known it was personal or*+ She stopped talking as soon as she looked up.endal cursed her roommate under her breath.yan&s pond of smoothness. It was as if he wasn&t used to handling a few ripples.endal thought. +I came here because I wanted to let you know that I want you to be my invite.rowing hungry with each 6iss My mind races %o clear thoughts. but I have this thing ne't (riday that I can&t miss. 5ust di88iness 'nto you ' slowly melt The images were so vivid.endal had been impressed by 0hristine&s persistence.yan wasn&t carrying a backpack.

of what she might say. but not because poetry was personal. She was afraid of their reaction./ . 2er face was still damp. she felt delighted that . +I only read a little bit.aybe another night then./ ./ +>ou&ve never even read my stuff. +I promised %% I&d be at the poetry slam contest at The Spot ne't (riday./ She tapped %%&s journal with the tip of her pen.endal hadn&t picked up on it./ She swallowed hard./ +(rom what I hear./ +I guess so. his @to date& list is a lot shorter now than it was when he was a freshman. Instead. ne't (riday. +6e't (riday./ %% jumped. So she&d tried to stick her face under the blow dryer. I&m sorry.endal dismissed him with a simple wave of her hand. +I sort of forgot about it until now. +4as that *about another woman=/ +>es.endal had pinched her. 2e put his hands on the table and leaned in. It was just sitting there and I took the opportunity to read it./ %% swallowed again as . reaching over to pinch %%&s leg. +So. She sat down without glancing at either ./ %% reminded her./ said .endal would think. I&m one of the good girls. +It was my first kiss.yan studied %% carefully before he resumed his failing attempt to ask her out. +8ight. It was hard because she was afraid of what people would think. +>ou&d miss a really. though. just as I described it. because she&d splashed water on it before reali3ing that the bathroom was out of paper towels. +I read the one about someone&s first kiss./ (or some reason it was hard for %% to share her poetry with other people.endal watched as ./ said . I made her promise to go with me.yan=/ . If you&ll let me. of what they might say. +8ight. +4ho= . +4hat was that about= And what poetry contest=/ %% asked.endal./ +That&s because he hooks up with anything that walks./ he mumbled finally and walked away.endal or . +2e&s so full of himself. The Spot./ . simply was not there. rubbing her leg where .+I&m sure you can get out of it. That got e'tremely hot very fast./ said %%. eager to change the subject./ . Suddenly. +0an I ask what you thought about it=/ .endal leaned in so close that %% could feel the warmth of her breath.endal bit her lip.endal&s eyes lit up. +It was incredible.yan. it seems I&m high on his @to date& list. is there something going on with him=/ %% asked. and hoped . +That&s not entirely true. I don&t know what he&s thinking./ %% approached the table at that moment. really fun time with yours truly. ./ %% 1uietly reali3ed that any humiliation she&d e'pected to feel if anyone ever laid eyes on her writing. +I was raised right. I&m not going to fall all over him just because he happens to be the captain of the soccer team./ +It&s good to know that you have morals. +.endal had wanted to dip into that side of her.endal shifted curiously in her seat. She heard a tinge of jealously in her voice./ +4ell.yan considered their story. It&s at that coffee shop you like. I think you should enter. And she was even more afraid of what . so now her moist face was a nice shade of pinkish-red. +I&d like to read some more. ./ she blurted.yan.endal e'claimed.

/ %% forced a laugh as she opened her eyes again./ +Said what=/ +That writing is your life. without enthusiasm. you&d never be able to give it up.endal momentarily./ %% said. . I almost ran into the wall in the hallway. and then averted her eyes. +$on&t you think it&s time to confront that fear=/ +I&m trying. Are you going to do it=/ %% shook her head./ +So=/ +So. +See. . releasing her hand from %%&s shoulder./ %% rolled her eyes. I can&t take that risk. And during the whole thing. She never thought she could have revealed something so personal to . I wouldn&t joke about a thing like that./ . +I go to open readings and poetry contests all of the time.endal hesitated then asked./ she e'plained./ +4ell=/ +4ell./ . +>ou sound like my mother. And when the contest came up. and that no matter what happens while you are up on stage./ %% said 1uietly. And if something happened. +I&m just saying that maybe we could work on it. about this poetry slam thingy./ +9ut it might. remembering the harsh sound of the contemptuous laughter that circled through the auditorium around her./ +Are you serious=/ +>eah./ . maybe like ten or so*/ +The sa'ophone=/ +I&m e'plaining to you why I have stage fright./ %% closed her eyes. +They have one every (riday night. that alone should tell you how important it is to you./ she said. and I thought I was the best sa'ophone player in the world./ +. you know. if I got upset on stage. I used to play the sa'ophone when I was younger.endal had a hunch they were about ./ +That is so sad. +5ood thing I don&t plan on having a career in acting or anything./ +0ome on. I&m interested in your poetry and you need to practice sharing it. +>ou have a gift and you should be able to share it with other people./ +That&s the second time you&ve said that. 4riting is my life.aybe. I never played the sa'ophone ever again after that day. Are you going back to your dorm=/ . because I kept playing the wrong notes and about halfway through the song. +9ut it&s different with this. I might freak out and give up writing altogether. I just don&t participate. I&m serious. 4riting is my life. what= I&m not going up on stage. +I have a fear of being on stage./ +-kay. +It basically scarred me for life.yan. She glanced at her cell phone and saw that 0hristine had sent her nearly a do3en te'ts since she&d arrived at the library. +It&s getting late./ +4hy not=/ %% looked at ./ .endal said. So maybe you can practice with me. I&m not ready.endal so easily. we had this talent contest one year at school. everybody in the audience started to laugh. desperately wanting to change the subject. I&ve never been on another stage since.endal debated the 1uestion./ said %% impatiently.endal put her hand on %%&s shoulder.+So. +I suppose I should. embarrassed at what she was about to admit. I got on stage and played the only song I knew.endal said./ +That would never happen. +I ran off stage so fast. I mean. I fro3e.

fall air. She instantly looked away. >et./ %% smiled. I&ll meet you out here after I get out of practice=/ +2ow about I meet you in the school lounge instead= 4e could walk over from there. that&ll work. The poem she read in %%&s journal was still fresh in her mind. She was fearful that if %% even glimpsed over her shoulder./ +0atch you later. +4ere you serious about ne't (riday night=/ +Serious about what=/ . that&s not going to happen.endal shoved her phone into her purse and watched as %% slid her poetry book into her backpack. her backpack pressed tightly against her chest. this was no boy she was getting all worked up over./ +Sure./ +I&m glad. As they reached the front of the building. though she knew e'actly what %% meant. then instantly winced.endal felt an electric sensation travel the length of her arms. .endal teased. though= I mean. 2er entire body trembled and shivered with confusion. +4ould you still like to go.. and some of the writing is ama3ing. +>ou are the only person who&s ever read it besides me./ %% managed as she watched . later. +So. She raised her hands and rubbed them against her eyes before she silently cursed into the crisp./ she said./ . I want you to know that I really did like it and I meant everything I said. She would instantly sense what ./ Their eyes locked for a moment and . %% turned and asked one of the 1uestions she&d been pondering along the way. It might help you with class and*/ +I&d like that. and it was the only thing she had thought about during the entire walk home. +0ool. They left the library and %% offered to walk . +2ey*/ %% looked up. She breathed hard and her hands shook.endal. +I&d like that a lot./ said .endal said casually. didn&t it=/ +Totally.endal closed the door behind her without looking back. She collapsed backward against the closed door. +Thanks for not getting mad at me for reading your poem. She felt a pang of guilt erupt in her chest./ %% took a deep breath. %% shifted her backpack from her left to her right shoulder.endal asked. +>eah.endal back to her dorm. she would know./ . and clicked the roof of her mouth with her tongue. +>ou participating in the poetry contest=/ +>eah./ %% paused and then plunged forward. +That sounded really dumb. She hadn&t felt like this since the time she kissed 9obby %enkins in si'th grade behind the jungle gym at the school playground. 4hat in the world was she getting herself into= %%% -nce in the confines of the dorm. 4as this it= 4as this the feeling of a +wild night=/ .endal was feeling. go with me= There are some great poets around here.endal walk down the cement path and through the front door of her dorm.

/ . I&m just*don&t you ever get sick of it=/ +Sick of what=/ +Sick of the soccer parties./ +8eally= 4ho=/ +$on&t play innocent. +I had an uninvited visitor. +>ou just passed on an invitation to one of the hottest parties of the year.endal= "lease tell me you&re delirious. She tried desperately to wipe the smile from her face. I&m not going to a gay club. CHAPTER # +4hat on earth are you smiling about=/ 0hristine asked as . 0hristine.She sighed. >our senior year. +This is what going to a private school like Sampson is all about.endal replied 1uickly. 2ow come you didn&t respond=/ +I was studying. +4ill you rela'=/ she said. smiling again. as if I&d somehow be privileged to be his date. pacing frantically around the room.yan came bustling in and asked me to the e'clusive soccer party ne't weekend. +Tell me you said yes. very interesting. the empty conversations. still lost in a di33y ha3e.endal entered their room. aren&t you=/ +4hat= 6o. The thought of .endal. counting down the days in her head until she&d see %% again.endal replied.endal&s shoulders and held on to them tightly. apparently not amused. the whole thing=/ +4hy on earth would I be sick of it=/ 0hristine asked in disbelief./ +I said @no&. I&m getting my fill because ne't year I&ll be working my butt off at college./ . +I&m not turning into a lesbian. she managed to peel herself away from the door and headed down the hallway to her room./ 0hristine gasped. paying rent for some crappy apartment./ +I couldn&t care less./ ./ +I guess./ +I did./ +She&s turning you into a lesbian. isn&t she=/ 0hristine was up off her bed.yan the couch monster hulking over her made her cringe. ./ . +>ou&re going to a gay club. . Somehow. . remember= I couldn&t e'actly play with my cell phone the entire time.endal said.endal watched her in amusement. +I&ve been te'ting you all night. 2ow was the library=/ +-h. 9esides. +>ou didn&t. and figuring out what in the world I want to do with the rest my life. I already have plans./ 0hristine grabbed hold of . +%ust something different. more tutoring=/ +6ot e'actly. +6othing.endal shook free of 0hristine&s grip and flopped down on her bed. 0hristine returned her attention to her i"hone. the superficial status. but it seemed to be permanently cemented there./ . ./ ./ +Are you nuts= It&s invite-only./ +7et me guess. with satisfaction. so 1uit freaking out.endal answered. I&m afraid. +I don&t have amnesia and I&m not delirious. or that you&ve suddenly caught amnesia./ 0hristine&s head shot up.

+I get it,/ ;endal said and flopped down on her back. +I understand all about the high school e'perience. I just think I&ve gotten my fill already. I&m ready to start figuring out who I am. I&m ready to grow up a little bit. Is that so hard to understand=/ 0hristine folded her arms across her chest, +Are you taking some philosophy course this semester that I don&t know about=/ ;endal plucked a stuffed teddy bear off the side of her bed that she&d owned since she was five, and shoved its tiny head into her mouth. Then she screamed in muffled frustration. +Something is seriously going on with you,/ 0hristine observed. She sat down on the bed ne't to ;endal and gently removed the bear from her mouth. +2e genuinely likes you, you know=/ +4ho=/ +;yan. 2e came here before I sent him to the library telling me how much he really likes you and how he wanted to ask you to the party so that he could get to know you better. That&s the only reason I told him where you were./ +All he wants to know is how my body looks without any clothes on,/ ;endal said bitterly. +And then show me off like a trophy around school./ +-kay, I admit that ;yan doesn&t have the greatest history when it comes to dating girls at school. 9ut, that being said, he seemed really interested in you as a person. $oesn&t that intrigue you in the least=/ +6ot in the least,/ ;endal returned. +7ike I said, I have plans./ +To do what=/ +To do something else./ +4hat is it, some top-secret mission that you can&t share with me= 4ho are you, 9at 4oman=/ 0hristine threw ;endal&s bear down on the bed. It bounced near the edge and rolled over onto the floor. +I&m supposedly your best friend./ +4hy are you so interested in my plans anyway=/ +9ecause, I want to know what could possibly be better than an invite-only soccer party with a bevy of frosty beverages and yours truly=/ To some degree ;endal understood why 0hristine was getting so upset. 9ut after three years of doing the same thing over and over again, she downright craved something different. +There&s this poetry contest at that little coffee shop in town that I want to go to./ +"oetry=/ +>es./ 0hristine chewed on the tip of her tongue before she flung her hands up and shrieked, +Seriously, ;endal=/ +4hat is the big deal= Is it really that terrible that I want to culture myself just a little bit=/ 0hristine sucked in a short breath. +(ine. $o your little poetry thingy. 0ulture yourself and all that mess. 9ut make room for a little fun and e'citement, will you= I&m sure it doesn&t last all night. >ou can just te't me when it&s finished, and come meet us after. $eal=/ +I don&t know./ +;endal, please= It&s our last year together. It would mean a lot to me./ +-kay./ ;endal gave up. She hated being put on the spot, especially by 0hristine, whose giant sapphire eyes reminded her of a child on the verge of a tantrum. +>es./ 0hristine flung herself forward and wrapped her arms around ;endal. +>ou won&t regret it. It&s going to be so much fun./

8ight, ;endal thought. She was already regretting it because now she had to find ;yan the couch monster, and tell him that she would like to be his invite at the party on (riday after all. -f course, she would have to lay down some very strict ground rules. )nfortunately, ;endal didn&t think that would keep ;yan from trying to make a move on her.

%% was in the school lounge sitting on one of the itchy cushioned chairs that was spacious enough to seat three people happily. She was sprawled out with her legs hanging over the sides, and her head resting comfortably on the opposite arm. Sitting nearly upside down, she held her journal tight against her legs while she scribbled intensely against the page. 2er headphones were plastered to her ears, blaring music so deafening that she couldn&t possibly hear if anybody walked by. She&d just written another poem. It had been fresh on her mind when she&d left ;endal in front of the dorm, and she&d wanted to write it down before she forgot it. The halfway point to her dorm was the school lounge, which now was comfortably deserted. Since it was Sunday night, everyone was either watching television in their dorm rooms or in the library doing homework. As for those few students who took to partying no matter what day of the week it was, the last place they would care to go was the school lounge. %% reread the words she&d just scrawled onto the page. “)ately ' find My heart and my mind disagree $ne so rational, the other so free $ne that has /een /ro6en, /ut continues to heal The other unspo6en, than6ful it can4t feel +ifferent entities, yet tied so tight Both content to do what is right But how can they /oth agree $n a concept that historically Has caused them to clash )ashing out feelings and thoughts $ne ought to /e felt and not heard The other mentally spews words Both causing a tornado to spin me around +o ' follow the cloud $r 6eep my feet firmly planted on the ground An everlasting de/ate for all of time +o ' follow my heart $r do ' fol . . .” 9efore %% could finish the last line, somebody tore the journal from her hands. She stared in awe as :ueenie began to dance around the chair with the notebook dangling from her fingers. 2er mouth was moving, but because %% had her headphones turned up so loud, she couldn&t hear what :ueenie was saying.

%% struggled to untwist herself, finally rolling over onto the floor. She tore her headphones from her ears only to hear :ueenie reciting the new poem in a very obno'ious, fake Shakespearian voice. %% glowered at her and climbed to her feet. The chair was the only thing that separated them. +5ive it back,/ she demanded. +$o I follow the cloud=/ :ueenie read, gesturing upward dramatically. +I said give it back./ +-r keep my feet firmly planted=/ :ueenie stomped. +:ueenie./ %% took off around the chair, chasing :ueenie through the lounge. Somehow :ueenie managed to keep reading the poem as she ran, determined to keep out of %%&s reach. +A6 #<#87ASTI65*/ she bellowed, as she ducked around a couch and then hopped up on a table as if it were a stage. %% stood before her, panting like a rabid dog. She reached over and tugged on :ueenie&s pant leg. :ueenie stared down at her. +#'cuse me. I&m in the middle of a performance here. $o you mind=/ +5ive it back,/ %% pleaded. +Autographs will be available afterwards in the lobby, thank you./ :ueenie shook her leg free of %%&s grip. Then she put one foot graciously in front of the other and regained her stance. 2er free hand reached high into the air as she angled her face to the make-believe crowd. +An everlasting debate for all of time,/ she roared. +$o I follow my heart= -r do I fol*= -r do I follow my mind= Is that what you were going to write=/ +>es,/ %% whispered miserably. +$o I follow my heart. -r do I follow my mind./ yelled :ueenie. 4hen she finished the last word, she bowed her head to an imaginary array of applause. +Are you through embarrassing me=/ +I think so,/ said :ueenie, tossing the journal to %%. She hopped off the table and straightened her shirt. +>ou know,/ %% gritted her teeth. +Sometimes words fail to describe the distaste I have for you./ +"lease. >ou&re a poet./ :ueenie patted her confidently on the back. +I&m sure you could think of a few./ +4hat do you want=/ +I was bored, so I came looking for you. >ou weren&t in the library so this was my ne't best guess./ +>ou are a true detective./ :ueenie pointed to the journal, +4as that little poem there about the homecoming 1ueen=/ +6o./ +6o=/ +4ell, maybe a little bit. 9ut it&s a more general pondering than anything else./ +>ou&re really conflicted, aren&t you=/ %% gave :ueenie the harshest look she could muster. +And you don&t really want to talk about it either=/ +6o, I don&t,/ said %% as she walked over to the chair she&d been sitting in and picked up her book bag from the floor. +$on&t you have homework to do or something=/ +(inished it,/ :ueenie said proudly.

tossed her head back and pretended to laugh./ +That&s not why I wrote that poem. +I&m not looking for better right now./ +.e= I do all right. sourly. +%%./ %% said plainly./ +>ou&re into empty relationships instead= Sounds so appealing./ %% flung her backpack over her shoulders. 5et it=/ +>ou make it sound like a bank robbery./ They reached the concrete path that lead up to the steps of their dorm. +>ou know. it&s so obvious. The hopeless romantic never wins. I told her I&d be there with a certain friend of mine. . my friend./ :ueenie said. really=/ They began to walk again. for e'ample. and you are in so much turmoil over it that you had to write a poem about it in order to make yourself feel better. you in=/ :ueenie asked./ %% maintained./ :ueenie placed her hands forward in the air./ +-h. Take. Is this so-called adventure going to get me into trouble=/ :ueenie pressed her palm to her chest innocently. +I know she&s all you have been thinking about since you met her. 4hen you do something. >ou&re into someone you can&t have./ +Spare me the theatrics. there&s none of that.+>ou ama3e me.y dilemma=/ +>es./ +>ou date women who aren&t interested in relationships. +I&m in the prime of my life and I&m not into that hopeless romantic stuff like you are. +%ust get in. +>ou up for an adventure=/ +$epends. you really aren&t doing too well in that particular area yourself. And despised her for it./ +And the problem is=/ +The problem is that you deserve better than that. %% believed that :ueenie might have a photographic memory or something. 6o room to analy3e or obsess. you do it one hundred percent. +for someone who is constantly giving me advice on my love life. get out and nobody gets hurt. your current situation./ +It is./ :ueenie was one of those annoyingly gifted people who hardly ever studied yet seemed to retain information almost instantly after reading something only once./ +Thanks./ :ueenie immediately stopped walking. And obsessing over straight girls is something you do best. palms down and swept them to one side./ +"lease. +4ith the women I see. +I wrote it for the simple pleasure of creative e'pression./ %% said./ +$oes this certain woman happen to be the twenty-something college student who looks to you for a little e'citement in an otherwise dull e'istence=/ :ueenie grinned widely. +So./ +. when you compare it with your current dilemma. as they walked out of the school lounge and onto the fading green lawn that led directly to their dormitory./ +6o=/ +6o. 4hat did you have in mind=/ +A certain woman sent me a te't about an hour ago asking me to meet her at a certain club at a certain time. +I resent that. actually.

Sarah seemed to have more gay friends than straight friends./ Ale' and Sarah were %%&s suitemates. +4hat are you smiling about=/ :ueenie asked. +6othing at all. but that never deterred her from going out to a gay club. They knew all about the soccer parties and celebrations./ . It&s ama3ing the freedom a winning record could buy you. an actual lesbian. she thought./ %% said. . and . Something that smelled of pepperoni and cheap cologne hung in the air. . rounded the first corner.endal made a face. and also members of the basketball team. She continued to walk to the end of the hallway. . It was located on the opposite end of the school from her dorm and close to the edge of the campus./ she said.endal was on her way./ %% replied dryly. even though no one was in the room. reminding herself not to touch anything accidentally. %ason was sitting on a couch watching football.endal entered the dorm on a mission to find . I&m going to pass on that one. +I&ll be 1uick. and would eventually come over to the dark side.endal got the feeling that he was trying to make a good impression on her.yan would be in his room sweating with anticipation. . Ale' was gay and Sarah was straight.yan was laying face down on his bed. motioning to the book. +9usy=/ .yan said. she entered the hallway and saw empty pi33a bo'es and garbage bags everywhere. . :ueenie liked to refer to the gay community as the dark side because it got under her parents& skin. but not before 0hristine had called ahead to inform %ason that . %ust a cup of coffee. really. 0hristine owes me big time.yan and tell him that she would go to his stupid party ne't (riday night after all. but chose to look the other way since Sampson Academy had won the state championship three years in a row. +4ant to call the cheerleading 1ueen to see if she would like to go as well=/ +>eah. -nce she reached the third floor./ %% said.endal figured that . The school administration gave the soccer team a lot more leeway than they did other students. . In fact./ CHAPTER $ . She wasn&t about to tell :ueenie that she already had a tentative date with .+I guess.usic boomed from an open door.endal ne't (riday night. She knocked slightly. +Studying. holding her breath when she saw that the door to 8oom ID was open just a crack. +Is anyone else coming=/ +I&ll see if Ale' and Sarah are up to it.endal asked when he looked up. She reached the stairs and took a deep breath. Anybody else who dared to throw a party risked getting caught and being suspended or thrown out of school. . A night out with :ueenie always proved to be a good distraction from reality.endal walked along the sidewalk to the building where all the soccer players lived. :ueenie claimed that Sarah was just in denial and that someday she&d reali3e that she was.yan and %ason were roommates. +6othing. sensing %% was hiding something. It wasn&t even a date for that matter. reading what looked like a te'tbook. which considerably hindered her odds of finding a suitable romantic companion. and then pushed it open. She peeked into the room and saw dark stains of 5od-knows-what scattered all over the carpet. in fact.

+-h. but that&s basically it./ She was secretly hoping that he&d already asked someone else./ 2e nodded at them and closed the door behind him.yan said. ./ ./ %ason replied./ . +I&ll see you (riday night then. we can hang out and talk. my bad./ +>ou don&t have to leave. feeling slightly better about the whole situation./ +-kay=/ +4ell.yan repeated. +I was ready for a break anyway.yle&s room. +-f course. So. +%ust as a friend./ 2e looked over at %ason who appeared to be engrossed in the football game. by friends I mean that you shouldn&t plan on making a pass at me in any way.endal couldn&t believe it. +I&m not proud of it. you must think I&m a complete jerk./ . It took him a minute before he looked up./ ./ ./ he finally said./ she said. So.+It&s okay. +-kay./ +As a friend. then I&d like to go./ . yeah. +4ait. then I understand. +>ou must think I&m a slime ball./ 2e stood up and gave . She took a big breath.yan a slight punch in the arm as if to say.endal asked./ +4ell./ +Sounds good.yan opened his mouth to respond. shape or form./ %ason said. 2e rose to his feet and opened the door for her.endal said. This was more uncomfortable than she&d imagined it would be.yan was staring at him.endal said hurriedly.yan said. and if you still haven&t asked anyone. I&ve seen her play a couple of games. She&s pretty good. I&m out of there./ . I&ll probably be a little late. you do have 1uite the reputation.endal remained standing. the one you were at the library with. already halfway out the door. +I&ll watch the game in ./ . and reali3ed that ./ +I know./ . +To say something like that. +5o get @em. if the only way you&ll feel comfortable around me is by telling me that you just want to go as friends. +>eah. +2ave a seat. and then thought better of it. so it&s all good. +I&ll leave you two alone. regretfully. of course./ +%%=/ +>ea. and she&d severely misjudged him./ +6o. That was the last thing she&d e'pected him to say. Sure. I was thinking about it. and I wanted you to be my invite. +I&m just going to be a minute. +I appreciate that.yan hopped off the bed and threw the book aside. it&s okay. I haven&t asked anyone else yet./ .yan said.endal decided to point out the stipulations because there was still a hope that he might change his mind afterwards. 2e plopped down on the couch and turned off the television. +So. ./ +I didn&t know you were good friends with that girl from the basketball team.endal held her arms close to her sides. +I&m sorry=/ ./ . you know that invite party you were talking about the other night=/ she asked. not sure what to do with them. #ither he was an e'tremely good actor or he was actually earnest. +I&m going to that first and then I&m coming here. If your hands start drifting anywhere I view as off limits. 2e tapped his hand on his knee as if he were mulling it over./ +4ell. I guess I&ll just have to prove to you that I&m genuinely interested in you. I thought you had that poetry thing or something on (riday=/ +I do.

/ +"roblem=/ +I didn&t sleep well last night./ . 9ut thankfully she told us there was going to be a 1ui3. and she was sure the dark circles beneath them made her look like a football player on a bright. +I&m going to./ 0hristine added. thanks.+She&s my 4omen&s 7iterature tutor.r.endal said.endal looked up. at least your teacher informed you of the pop 1ui3.yan was staring at her awkwardly. (riday. . And of course he chooses the most complicated math problems. So I guess I&ll see you (riday then./ She tried. +I have a pop 1ui3 in my 4omen&s 7iterature class tomorrow. she&s cool./ he said. She&s so sweet and*/ . She was sitting directly across from ./ She was eager to get in touch with %% for an emergency tutoring session because this 1ui3 was a big deal. If she&d planned on hiding her growing feelings for %%. she was going to have to do a far better job. She left the dorm feeling like a fool. you know=/ +8ight.endal sat staring at her mashed potatoes in the dining hall on Thursday night. And she&d been making some major progress that she didn&t want to mess up. That&s what I&m nervous about. 0hin ever did that. +4e&re just getting to know each other. thinking about how closely one lump resembled %ustin 9ieber. +5ee. +4ell.endal yawned.arks just whips out a 1ui3 as soon as we walk through the door. It tasted like rubber./ 0hristine said./ she said after spitting the meat out into a napkin. sunny day. but she couldn&t help but smile. She needed a good grade to help boost her average for the semester. She picked at the food on her plate and shoved a piece of roast turkey into her mouth. 4hat if anyone found out= 4hat in the world would she do then= CHAPTER & . enjoying a small side salad./ ./ . I mean really smart.endal told her. 9ut the truth was she wanted an e'cuse to see %% again before (riday.endal confirmed. she was afraid to try to study by herself./ +I think I&d have a heart attack if . 2er eyes were hollow. not just about school stuff. In some ways. . 2ow could a single subject torment her so much= She wondered. +4hat&s eating you=/ 0hristine asked.s./ +I&m just speaking the truth. She hadn&t slept at all last night because she&d had a frightening nightmare about her 4omen&s 7iterature class./ +4ell./ . +)m. The only problem is that she didn&t tell us what poem it was going to be on. +9ut I think I need some e'tra help. I&ve never met anyone like her before. +She&s so smart. +>ou look horrible. ./ +I know.endal. ever./ +So study. >ou were tossing all around and kept mumbling something about #mily $ickinson. . +>eah. She even told us which author. don&t.

/ 0hristine demanded. It&s a must.endal said and snatched the folder back. e'cept for a speckling of students who had decided to grab a late dinner./ 0hristine tossed her hair back and tied it into a ponytail to show that she was ready to get down to business.+7ast minute tutoring session=/ 0hristine in1uired. She looked hopefully over at the basketball table.endal looked her up and down.endal said firmly. ./ . really=/ +>es.endal=/ +4hat=/ +I said @let&s go.illigrew=/ +5ive me that.endal laughed emphatically. +#arth to . She knew 0hristine was e'tremely smart when it came to solving 1uadratic e1uations. +7et me see what you are studying right now.endal pretended to be engrossed in the pages of notes in front of her. let&s get out of here./ . yawned. +4hat= I just asked a simple 1uestion.endal looked around the dining hall as she shoved her notebook over to 0hristine. . too./ +I know./ she said. 4hat do you know about women&s poetry and literature=/ +I happen to be one*a woman that is. That&s all the knowledge I need. very cute.endal planted her eyes at her notes instead. +>es./ ./ . +Are you serious= (or what= >ou can study at the dorm. it was empty.endal.& I&m starting to smell like dining hall food. 0hristine inspected the notebook in front of her./ +-h. but as far as literature was concerned. +4ho in the world is Anne . +The idea of you tutoring me on an #nglish class. The soccer team was just coming in for dinner. she and 0hristine were the only people left at the cheerleaders& table. obviously offended. She shuffled through it for her notebook as she watched the rest of the girls at the table start to pack up their things and head back to the dorm./ .y behind is sore from sitting./ +4hat&s the big deal=/ +0hristine. her idea of a classic novel was Twilight. +0ome on.endal slid her tray aside and rested her backpack on the table. but the rest of the dining hall was empty./ +2ow can you help me understand her poetry when you have no idea who she is=/ 0hristine slouched in her chair. )nfortunately. +I think I&m going to stay here just a little bit longer.endal study. 2er stomach seemed to settle for a moment. In a matter of minutes./ . +>ou are a math guru. +4hat&s so funny=/ 0hristine asked. -ut with it. +0ome on. I had to take my fair share of #nglish class re1uirements. and picked up her i"hone as if she&d suddenly grown bored with the idea of helping ./ +4hy can&t I just help you=/ . +>ou&re serious=/ +. . but it&s 1uiet here now and*+ +And you want to wait and see if your girlfriend shows up=/ +0ute.endal held back her tongue. so she sei3ed the opportunity to shove a big spoonful of mashed potatoes into her mouth and swallow it down before her stomach changed its mind./ .

The last thing I&d want is for you to not to be able to cheer on Saturday. She looked over at :ueenie who was mouthing what 0oach had just said. . +I&m just going to look this over for a few minutes and then I&ll head back to the dorm. >ou are now walking a fine line between heterose'uality and homose'uality. +"oint guards lead from the front.endal retuned her voice to its normal pitch. I forgot. . %enkins. %%. %%. or whenever the basketball season was over.endal shouted./ 0oach 0ook hollered. She was always ama3ed at how :ueenie could just go for a run around campus. despised running. The team finished the sprints. +4e&re sprinting. not from the back. %ust remember you have to be back by nine. +5ood finish./ ./ %% gave :ueenie her best +nice going/ eyes. much to the chagrin of her parental units. -kay*I&ll be back in time./ +4ill you knock it off already. She needed something to give her a reason to run. They had been wrong. and chalk up about five miles as if it were nothing.c9ride. There needed to be some sort of object involved. +Thanks to you. shape or form. As much as she hated running. as :ueenie had chosen to play basketball during her senior year at Sampson instead of running cross-country. the whole team has to give me ten more. %% bent over and clung to her knees./ .arch. of course./ +5ood./ +(ine. +0aution./ 0hristine said. . and could 1uite possibly give a ga3elle a run for its money in an open field. +0an I have some peace and 1uiet now=/ CHAPTER ' %% sucked in as much air as she could before she sprinted from one end of the gymnasium to the other. 9ut she figured that :ueenie cared more about infuriating her parents than she did about her athletic prowess. And that was all the reward she needed./ +)gh. in any way.0hristine whistled loudly and said. She ran them into the ground from late September to the middle of . not goofing off. and at the end %% somehow managed to unearth a second wind and dashed as fast as she could from one end of the gym to the other. >ou know how . She usually led the pack because of her lengthy stride.ya can get. 0oach 0ook believed it was the best way to get into top condition.endal e'haled loudly. sucking in every breath. +0ome on. 8unning just to run was pointless to her./ 0oach 0ook noted. 4hether :ueenie missed running competitively or not. 4e&ve got curfew tonight. on the other hand./ +>es. A couple of other dining hall stragglers at a nearby table turned their heads. %% didn&t know. winning numerous accolades and praises from area sportswriters who predicted she would go on to compete at the $ivision I level. It also helped that she&d been a top performer in cross country for three years in a row. and snorting. +4hatever. I know how . like a basketball for instance. but :ueenie just stuck out her tongue and took off running.ya can get./ 0oach 0ook bellowed./ %% grimaced as she bent down to swipe the painted black line that gleamed at the baseline of the basketball court.

+-kay. they would spend the ne't practice running from one end of the court to the other until they dropped to the floor in e'haustion. %% stood up and held her hands behind her head to clear her lungs. then clasped her hands together and stole a 1uick glance at her watch. the lesbian team. +0onditioning. /2urry up and change. they always started with sprints and ended with sprints. +Team. in fact./ 0oach 0ook said. >ou freshmen have to get into shape./ 0oach 0ook barked. I have to get home and start on some grilled chicken./ 9ut %% wasn&t so sure. as she and %% dragged their aching bodies back to the locker room. 2er salt and pepper hair was just a snip away from being classified as a mullet. +Is the missus waiting for you at home. It was also rumored that 0oach 0ook was part of the team./ She believed that all games were decided within the last five minutes of play./ :ueenie added.It didn&t matter how worn out the team was. +It&s all about conditioning. 0oach=/ :ueenie asked. 9ut 0oach 0ook never talked about it. 4henever they lost a game. it was definitely top secret. +And why you will continue to run hard for the rest of the season./ :ueenie said. 4hy did 0oach wink at you=/ . She watched 0oach 0ook pace two steps to the left and two steps to the right in her electric-green warm-up suit./ 0oach 0ook stressed. 0onnie 0ook was a fascinating woman. 8ather thin but muscular. She was so above :ueenie&s remarks that she merely brushed them off her shoulders. The candlelight is optional. After three years./ +4hat was that about=/ +4hat was what about=/ +The wink. who also was rumored to be a lesbian. so if the two of them were. +That&s why you&ve been running so much these past few weeks. :ueenie. a couple. 0oach 0ook ignored her./ 4ith that she winked at :ueenie. That&s what matters in those last five minutes. ladies./ +4hat are your plans for dinner. and you upper classmen should be taking these fresh fish under your wings and training them outside of practice. +As a matter of fact. She suddenly wondered how many warm-up suits 0oach 0ook had in her closet at home./ 0oach continued. that is. I am the one who is cooking tonight. It&s always the team that&s in better shape that wins the game. +#njoy the delicacies of the dining hall. never missed an opportunity to tease 0oach 0ook about her se'ual ambiguity./ +See you tomorrow. +I&m starving. She knew that 0oach 0ook lived with the $ean of Students. +7ooks like you&ll still make it to the dining hall if you hurry it up. and leave it all on the floor. regardless of the score. ladies. %% was sure that she could recite word for word at least ten of those so-called pep talks./ +2ow sweet. The rest of the team huddled together and put their hands into the middle of the circle. :ueenie said it was just a matter of time before 0oach 0ook admitted to belonging on the +dark side. on the weekends she often could be spotted striding along the country roads of Ashland that stretched for miles through endless acres of farmland. It seemed as if it was all she ever wore. though. having prepared a nice candlelight dinner=/ 0oach 0ook drew in a patient breath./ It was the same little talk she always gave at the end of practices during the season. that&s what allows you to play your heart out.

that. chocolate pudding. . tossing everything in sight onto her tray./ %% stirred her tomato soup with the crust from her grilled cheese. %% opted for tomato soup and a grilled cheese sandwich. 0oach and I see eye to eye now. bread. who were all busy eating while simultaneously complaining about the e'cessive amount of sprints 0oach 0ook had been forcing them to run. They somehow managed to slide through the doors just as the head chef was locking up for the evening./ :ueenie huffed. In fact.+I didn&t notice./ said %%. She dashed through the food line. +So=/ :ueenie looked at her blankly. +That was no big deal. 2er heart fluttered the second she saw . will you=/ +4hy= I&m so good at it. I was sitting there in silence./ They rushed to peel the sweaty clothes off of their bodies and toss them into the laundry basket. 2er cheeks were bulging. 0oach usually closes the door when she&s yelling at someone. swallowing her food and waving her hand in the air. %% winked at her.endal sitting there. I&m seeing two of you right now. The rest of her table was empty. She forced her attention away from .endal and back to :ueenie. +9ut 1uit being so dramatic. As she studied her tray. she suddenly wished she were eating 0oach 0ook&s grilled chicken instead. In fact. +4hy is she so friendly with you all of a sudden=/ +After she was done yelling at me. the whole dining hall was practically empty e'cept for a few soccer players lingering by the dessert bar. you told her to take her whistle and shove it up her*/ +I know./ +>ou told me she yelled at you pretty hard after practice. As soon as %% sat down she glanced at the cheerleading table.endal appeared to be engrossed in the papers in front of her. +That was a close call. 2ave you two been bonding lately=/ +0an we get to the dining hall before we discuss the intricacies of my newfound relationship with 0oach= I need brain fuel./ %% gave :ueenie a slight shove. a side salad and a tall glass of milk. $ean 2offman walks through the door. +>eah. right. +-h. :ueenie was 1uite content with her amply stocked tray./ :ueenie said./ +She did. They sat with the other members of the basketball team./ +2ow so=/ +8emember yesterday when I sort of mouthed off to her=/ %% remembered all right. I can&t think straight. She&d never seen 0oach turn that shade of purple before. full of mashed potatoes./ +(ine. I know./ %% recalled the time she got verbally blasted for having seven turnovers in one game last year./ +-kay. which consisted of a healthy portion of mashed potatoes and turkey slopped with gravy. And just as I&m about to apologi3e. I&m confused./ +4ait a minute. Then they threw on some warm-up pants and their team sweatshirts before they hightailed it out of the athletic center and over to the dining hall. +Sort of mouthed off= :ueenie. .

/ :ueenie took a sip of milk. I&m a complete mess./ %% reached her hand across the table. did she admit it then= $id she finally admit to being gay=/ +She tried to play it off like it was nothing. So I stood up and said. if they were trying to keep their relationship such a secret. my friend.+She was so angry with me that she was already yelling when we walked into her office./ :ueenie shook %%&s hand with pride and leaned back in her chair. As soon as she saw me there. +I wouldn&t say that.endal . It was classic. and I think she just forgot to close the door behind her. >ou two kids have fun./ :ueenie leaned forward. @It&s okay./ +So. well done.endal barely even noticed :ueenie. without looking up. And at that e'act moment. you&d think that they&d be a little more careful. +I mean. +So as $ean 2offman was walking through the door. she was carrying a rose and the first thing she said. 6ever a dull moment. >ou should have seen the look on her face. She immediately slid into the vacated seat and dumped her books and folder onto the table./ +4ell. was @Sweetie. +All over a stupid 1ui3./ +-nly you./ .c0arthy right ne't to her./ %% was about to stand up to dispose of her tray when suddenly she saw . +>ep. she tried to hide the rose behind her back and kept stumbling over her words. +I have a pop 1ui3 tomorrow and I wanted to brush up on a few things. +This kind of thing only happens to you. 0oach./ +I guess it&s like our new lesbian secret sign or something./ +I can&t believe that $ean 2offman was dumb enough to bring a rose to 0oach&s office.endal confessed./ +4hat did 0oach do=/ +She stood up and pushed the dean right out of there and closed the door behind her./ +So that&s where the wink comes in. we both turned our heads at the same time./ +So*/ %% said eagerly.endall said. %% looked on in wonder.&/ +6o way. what now= >ou basically can say whatever you want to her without getting into trouble. ./ +>ou waited for me=/ %% asked. +I guess I&ll be going now. +So.& Then I winked and walked out of the office. $o you want to study someplace else=/ . +I know. of course./ +>es way. %%. +%%. +4ell done./ said %%. we both were just sitting there not saying anything./ :ueenie continued. I&ve got a surprise for you. 9ut*/ %% pointed at the clock. +I need your help desperately./ . it&s okay./ +6o./ %% pushed her tray aside. I&m sure if she saw the door open and didn&t hear anything inside. then she assumed that 0oach was alone./ she e'plained. indeed. +9ut I&d say that I&ve at least got some leeway now as far as teasing goes. +They&ll probably kick us out of here in the ne't ten minutes. I figured you&d be catching a late dinner because of basketball practice so I waited for you.c9ride. +6ever a dull moment./ :ueenie stood up to stretch before picking up her tray. and I don&t think $ean 2offman reali3ed anyone else was in there./ .

+The coffee shop. She even comes around to check and make sure we are there./ 2ow could she forget= +5ood. I remember. +I owe you big time. I was just checking.endal said. +And that will be enough. +4e&re closing. +%ust remember to keep our date on (riday.endal nodded./ %% agreed. +>ou remember our plans./ +. CHAPTER ( +A curfew.ya. or how cute it was the way %% tripped over her words whenever* +#'cuse me./ +So=/ +So I&ll come to your dorm. Thank you so much. I have to be in my room by nine.akes sense.endal stared up into the eyes of the sweaty line cook standing before her./ . +0ome on./ .ya does it on Thursday nights because she knows everyone on the s1uad would throw a fit if we had to have a curfew on (riday nights. I have curfew tonight. too. thinking a neutral setting would be more professional.endal said politely. and she enforces it. +4hat about the library=/ %% asked.+>ou can come to my dorm room. +The cheerleading s1uad has a curfew=/ +$on&t start.endal suggested. +Thank you. don&t you=/ +>es./ %% returned./ . . Then maybe we&d play better.endal said eagerly. +I can&t. miss=/ . 0oach should give us a curfew./ +0urfew=/ +I know it sounds silly. ./ +-kay. She thought of ./ +I was just leaving. came up with it. but it&s a good way to make sure everyone on the s1uad gets their homework done before the weekend and is rested for practice on (riday and the soccer game on Saturday. I don&t./ .endal held her backpack to her chest./ . >ou don&t think it&s funny at all=/ +6o./ . 4as it obvious that she liked the way %% smiled awkwardly whenever she was nervous. I&ll see you in an hour then./ +4hat time=/ +2ow about in an hour=/ +(ine. %% studied her e'pression./ .yan and how she was meeting up with him at the soccer party later on that same evening.endal said adamantly. She wondered if %% could sense how she was feeling./ They both stood up./ %% returned. +9ut I need to go back to my dorm and shower first./ ./ +4hat happens if you&re not there=/ +4e don&t get to participate in practice on (riday afternoon or the game on Saturday. she&s the captain of the s1uad. or that she liked the way %% smelled./ :ueenie asked with a raised eyebrow.

+0heerleading./ +7et me guess. offering %% some 0he' . +4hat did I say=/ %%% %% walked swiftly across campus to . +This could be the room of any popular girl in America.endal in the dining hall.endal&s door. She caught a glimpse of the adjoining suite. straight out of the pages of <ogue. %% recogni3ed her./ +4hat=/ +0ome on. +If 0oach gave us a curfew. 6o wonder you&re a tutor./ %% said. 4e can use this to our advantage. >our cell phone takes crappy pictures./ . I&d 1uit.endal&s bed was a spread of family photos. which was decorated a lot like the door to their room. She&s taking a class in attitude adjustment.i' +I didn&t mean it like that. %% could tell her words were less than heartfelt. +0ome on in. 0hristine. as soon as 0hristine had left the door room and closed the door behind her.endal walked into the room.c0arthy&s dorm room. ./ %% stepped through the door and into the room. %% thought as she knocked against ./ :ueenie sprung up from the couch and thrust her i"hone at %%. and little cheerleader cutouts. +School spirit is a way of life. +>ou need professional help. -ver . %ust sneak a few photos./ . proudly. +"edaling cookies=/ she asked. >ou sure are 1uick. +(or documentation. #ach door on ./ The blonde forced a smile and moved aside.+4hatever. +Am I that transparent=/ ./ the blonde said. I&m not about to let basketball impede my social life. +There&s a lot of school spirit in here./ said . she didn&t mean it the way that it had come out. +-h.endal ./ she said. A rather thin blonde.endal&s dorm. $o you know that=/ :ueenie eyed the object in her hand. +I&ve been regretting your decision ever since. I switched to basketball from cross country to get away from that stuff./ +I know. >ou&re also on the s1uad=/ +4ow. +That was my roommate. 2ave a seat. +I&m sorry. +"edaling poetry./ %% responded and held up her notebook. Sampson Academy paraphernalia./ said %%./ %% backtracked. opened the door. right.ost of the cheerleaders lived in the same dormitory. +Thanks./ she said to the blonde. +I just think there&s more depth to you than this./ +4ait.endal asked as she plopped down on her bed. 0hristine.endal&s floor was decorated with the school colors. 2er flowered bedspread was covered with stuffed animals. Interesting decor. She often sat with .endal. +(riendly people you got here./ :ueenie said./ %% shoved the i"hone back at her./ %% started for the door./ %% took in the entire room and eyed the posters of popular musicians that papered the walls. -nly. taking a handful from the bag. you&re going where no one on this campus has gone before*T2# .

I think that&s why I always feel a step behind. she wasn&t accepted as a real writer because she was a woman. I was*une'pected./ +I think you&ll like . -ne of my favorites. but she was also proud to be a woman.endal&s perfume.illigrew believed that it was the 5reek gods who gave women the power and will to write. +I&ve never even heard of her before and I think that&s why I&m having such a hard time understanding the message that she was trying to get across in her poems. I had to do and learn a lot on my own. +7ike what=/ %% asked./ +4hy is it a secret=/ .endal sat down ne't to her.ade 9y Another./ +8eally= She&s ama3ing. +It was ./ +-kay. setting her folder and her book in front of her. She wasn&t used to this kind of attention./ +So*what else=/ .y <erses 4ere . +8ight there=/ +./ +That must have been hard. . +4hy&s that=/ +9ecause she was a strong woman. ./ %% smiled mischievously. +2ow about we make a deal then= #very time I let you read a poem. +It&s a secret. well aware of how little space remained between them.endal thought for a moment. She wasn&t used to someone wanting to get to know more about her than what she presented. It was flattering. yet awkward.endal pointed to one of the poems.y parents were done raising children by the time I came along.endal leaned closer to %% and whispered playfully. but she loved every minute of it.endal turned her head and clicked the roof of her mouth with her tongue like she had the other night when they stood outside of her dorm talking. bumping her shoulder as she settled into position./ she said. It wasn&t long before . I mean.endal. at this line in )pon Saying . but I know it&s about this author at least. +7ike*/ .illigrew./ she said. but didn&t bless them with the opportunity to be recogni3ed./ +It was. +7ike the fact that I&m the youngest in my family.+I&d like to think there is.endal considered the words on the page. +So./ .endal let that idea marinate. who&s the pop 1ui3 on=/ she asked. @my numbers they admired./ %% slid off of the bed and down onto the floor. She was more than happy to play along. See how she says. you reveal something to me about yourself that I don&t know. but me they scorned&=/ . I don&t know what poem the 1ui3 is going to be on. . after a moment./ +In what way=/ %% sat down on the bed beside her.illigrew./ said %%.illigrew was not only proud to be a writer. trying to distract herself from the scent of . See. $eal=/ ./ said . +Anne ./ +9ut that&s not fair. +I don&t want to tell you everything at once./ +I don&t even know who she is. +-kay./ +7ook here.y oldest brother is in his late twenties. +9ecause I was an afterthought. really young. and my other brother is twentyfive. +I don&t know. She leaned her back up against the comforter. and my brothers either didn&t have or didn&t want to make the time to play with me or be there for me. +That&s fair. And even though men adored her poetry./ %% cleared her throat.

0ourage./ .ost of her work was discovered much later on.endal had seen before. she dug her hand into her backpack and retrieved the tattered journal that . +when you came out= 2ow did it feel to finally be able to tell people=/ %% opened her mouth to e'plain./ +I would have never survived./ She slid the journal over to . Having the strength to stand. This /oulder that ' was a/le to push aside. +I can&t imagine what it must have been like. she refused to compromise herself or her art. Beyond the tears. !ree at last. and paged through it until she found what she&d been looking for. men in this case. who took it willingly. . who helped circulate her writing also ended up taking credit for it./ .endal. She disappeared for a bit. #elief from my shoulders./ +4hat did it feel like. a life9long lesson ' am normal after all. .ou gave me your hand without thought. +So many restrictions*women not being able to be who they really were. without hesitation ' see clear s6ies. #elease. +$o most of her poems talk about the struggle of being a woman in those times=/ +I&d say so. !reedom. Instead. as if she was the one whose freedom of e'pression had been so rudely denied. +This e'plains it better than I can. She licked her thumb. or at least I wouldn&t have wanted to for fear of persecution.endal slumped back against the bed. (ride. )eaving me sta/le./ +To be out.endal asked.endal read out loud./ said %%. And being closeted is the worst thing in the world./ . The shallow dread ' left /ehind. with the sensation That ' have nothing to hide. even though she kept writing for the rest of her life. She read the rest of the poem in silence. +2ere. ./ +4hat did she do about it=/ +4ell. *ith this gesture you taught. ' /elieved in me. ' loo6ed inside and saw myself. #aising my head high. )oo6ing past the fear in my eyes. and then stopped. +I wouldn&t have been able to come out back then./ %% closed the book in front of them.unfortunate that the very same people.endal shook her head./ . for obvious reasons.

It&s like $ickinson. possibly even a nervous breakdown. but. It wasn&t just a few scribbled lines though. turning in assignments that made a positive impression on . She was one of a kind./ said ./ +0ome on. however. 0lark cleared her throat. And there wasn&t anything she could do about it. . The chatter ceased. hunting for another poem when %% pulled it gently from her hands. As soon as the class was seated. )sually.rs. This poem had flown effortlessly from her pen as if by its own will. They were free to write whatever they wanted. were overshadowed by the work of someone else./ said %%. #veryone sat up straight. 0lark was impressed.endal laughed.y writing hardly compares to with hers. I bet you wrote about @wild nights& somewhere in here. a journal entry or a poem. the one that had provoked countless nightmares in which %% awoke from a dead sleep drenched in sweat with her heart racing.rs. you know that= >ou pour everything. +I forgot about that part./ +It&s not like $ickinson. She&d been thinking of her relationship with her mother. -n occasion. like many of her previous free writing efforts.rs./ . She hoped that she&d be able to keep flying just under the radar.rs./ CHAPTER ) %%&s creative writing class was going to end up giving her an ulcer or worse. 2er stomach curled itself up into a ball. and how her mother had always wanted a daughter who was just . right. whether it was the beginning of a novel.endal&s eyes grew as she finished reading the last line of the poem.rs. It didn&t matter. And all eyes were focused at the front of the room.endal. +>ou are an ama3ing writer. +0lass. . at the same time. 0lark. +It&s not even close. %% dreaded the day that her work would be shared with the class. turned out to be today. a short story. It soon became apparent that %% could fly under the radar for only so long. remember=/ +-h. The only drawback was that the selected authors always were asked to stand up and read their work aloud in front of the entire class before a general discussion. She began flipping through the journal. That day. And at that moment. +4hat=/ +>ou owe me a secret. 0lark surprised the class by handing out copies of someone&s work from a previous assignment. She knew even before the simple white sheet of paper with the title of her poem in big. It was her obligatory signal that she was about to start class. and she was hit with the urge to run to the bathroom. And %% had written a poem. ./ (ree writing was done before the close of every class. this was a huge compliment because it meant that . every emotion into words so it&s like I&m right there e'periencing it with you. . 0lark gave %% an encouraging nod. so impressed in fact that she wanted to share the work with the rest of the class. Students were to use the last fifteen minutes to write whatever popped into their heads.. today I would like to start off by discussing a poem that was handed in last (riday as part of your free writing assignment. 9efore %% could escape the claustrophobic classroom walls. bold letters written at the top landed on her desk. %% knew.

-f all the writing I go through day in and day out./ %% managed. and %% bolted from the room. she sat down on a nearby bench. 2er lips moved slowly. It&s yours to share. She&d wanted a daughter who was girly. admiring the fresh landscaping along the stone path that led up to 2eath 2all. Their relationship had suffered because of it./ +9ecause that would be a shame. her eyes darting around the room so fast that she felt di33y. but no audible words came out. mouthing the first line. She glanced from face to face in a panic. who liked cheerleading and boys. +I didn&t feel good. ma&am./ +Are you feeling better now=/ +>es. She looked down at the flimsy paper in her hands. +this is by far one of the best poems I have read in a long time. She felt the sweat gather under her arms and the nausea swell in her stomach.rs. so I decided to leave class. 4ith all those eager eyes upon her. and her tongue stuck to her teeth. .rs.rs. +. It&s yours. would you stand up please and read your poem for the class=/ %% stared up at . shuffling through papers on her desk. Instead.rs. %% sat contentedly on the wooden bench. 2er mouth was as dry as a stale piece of bread. 0lark&s nasal voice. because %% felt that she&d never lived up to her mother&s e'pectations. -nly she didn&t head to the restroom. 0lark asked. she stood up and walked back inside to retrieve her belongings from the classroom.rs. 0lark would be wondering where she&d gone./ +9ut*what if I&m not e'actly comfortable with*what if I don&t want to share it=/ . signaling that her class had ended. She knew . +I&m*I&m not feeling so well. unable to move. The result was a poem that was far more personal than she&d originally intended. +%%*are you okay=/ ./ +>ou mean you didn&t read it or discuss it after I left=/ +It&s not my poem to read. %% tiptoed in.ay I go to the restroom=/ . did it=/ +6o. +>ou might want to stand up. 0lark advised. she ran through the front doors of the classroom building and burst out into the open air. +And speak up a bit.rs. +Are you okay= 4here did you go=/ %% straightened up./ . And the class deserves to hear it. It deserves to be shared with the class. and then cringed when she heard . and again no sound emerged. %% felt as though she was under a microscope. She&d written the first line on a whim. the building for #nglish classes. She tried to speak once more. 0lark tapped the stack of papers at her desk. She trembled as she stood. 4hen the last couple of students trickled out. 0lark. She waited until students began to file out the front doors.rs. 4hen her heartbeat returned to normal. slinging her backpack over her shoulder. %% was the e'act opposite. 0lark was still in the room.like her. 0lark nodded. but she also knew that if she went back to class she&d have to read the poem to everyone. not ever. hoping for some closure. Instead./ +This didn&t have anything to do with me asking you to read your poem in front of the class.rs. 2er heart sped up to a pace that the rest of her body couldn&t possibly match. +%%./ . 6ot now. And that wasn&t going to happen. She breathed heavily. taking in each breath slowly and releasing it more slowly than the last./ %%&s legs were like two masses of jelly.

if you can&t share it with the world= "art of this class involves active participation. +I&d hate to have to lower your grade simply because you refused to read your poem out loud.c9ride/ and +That&s how a starter practices./ +7ike cheerleading 1ueens and dates at coffee shops=/ +./ . garnering such comments from 0oach 0ook as.onday. 4atch and learn. )nderstand the correlation=/ %% nodded. And she was flattered that ./ %% replied dryly. rela'. %% couldn&t concentrate./ she said.aybe she did.aybe she wanted it that way./ +4here was your head today=/ :ueenie asked as soon as they reached the locker room. CHAPTER !* "ractice that afternoon felt like it lasted an eternity. +9e prepared to have another go at it on . offering criticism of their work. 9ut you&re not as confident in your writing as you are../ :ueenie peeled the headband from her forehead.endal was only a few hours away. what good is art for that matter./ %% muttered and walked toward the classroom door. +Touchy. It didn&t mean that the thought of having to share her work in front of the entire class still didn&t scare her to death. +2ey. She kept thinking about her writing class and the fact that her date with . %%. as usual. +I&m just checking in. . aren&t we=/ . +That&s something I would e'pect 0oach to say. And by participation I mean interacting with your classmates. 0oach 0ook had finally incorporated a ball into practice. 0lark had taken such an interest in her writing. +I&m doing this because I think you are a very talented writer./ %% reasoned. on the basketball court. and taking in criticism of your own. and removed her glasses from her face. +I&m sorry. had another outstanding practice. +And $ickinson died without ever reali3ing her true potential. +I can&t force you to read it. To shine in the spotlight because I believe in your talent. and not because of the sweat. She understood. 0lark rela'ed back in her chair and gently folded her arms across her chest. >ou&ve been out of it since this morning.rs. just as your basketball coach believes in you./ +. 0lark called after her. I just have a lot on my mind. +9ut I will ask you this*what good is writing. ladies.onday. 4atch and learn. )nlike %%./ +.rs./ . 9ut that didn&t mean she liked the idea any better. say. +I&ll read it on . I&m giving you an opportunity to take a last-second shot and win the game. 2ow else do you e'pect to grow as a writer=/ +#mily $ickinson never shared her work. and %% ruined a golden opportunity to teach the freshmen about what it took to start for the Sampson 7ady >ellow %ackets basketball team./ +I&m not doing this to be mean.rs. She missed easy shots from the elbow of the lane. The locker room afterwards was e'tra stuffy. flubbed numerous breakaway layups and had the ball stolen right from her hands three times in a row by an over3ealous freshman eager to make it into the starting lineup. 9ut is that what you want=/ %% said nothing./ :ueenie held up her hands in surrender. 2er teacher&s words stopped %% at the threshold. 0lark made a slight clicking tsk-tsk sound. :ueenie./ %% leaned against her locker. +6ice job.endal has nothing to do with it./ +All right.rs.

+5ood. +$on&t do anything stupid./ %% arose from her chair and e'ited the office. %ust what I need. as her feathered hair flapped in the bree3e coming from the fan on her desk./ Apparently. right. +>ou&ve been a part of this team for three years. sitting on a locker room bench. carrying a rose./ she said. And the point is that you played horribly today. 0oach. I don&t start players who perform like that./ Ignoring that comment. a big part of it./ . +6o. +I e'pect more from you./ %% acknowledged. I&d hate to have to start a freshman in your place for our very first game of the season. I need you to play with confidence. I don&t like to kid around when it comes to basketball. >ou are the floor general./ %% snapped. +I didn&t play well at all. 0oach is like your best friend now. %% remembered :ueenie&s story about $ean 2offman walking in. +>ou know me. And you two are my senior captains. +I hope that you get over whatever was ailing you today and come ready to play tomorrow. +#verything okay=/ :ueenie asked./ :ueenie said. 0oach 0ook closed the door tightly behind them. %%. +$o I make myself clear=/ +>es.%% was about to confide in :ueenie about what had happened earlier during writing class when 0oach 0ook loudly cleared her throat behind them.ay I see you for a moment=/ %% cast her eyes at :ueenie. >ou brought :ueenie to the team. 2ow do you e'pect to lead the team during a game when you can&t even be a leader during practice=/ %% opened her mouth to respond but 0oach 0ook cut her off./ %% felt 0oach 0ook&s eyes 3ero in on her./ +>ou can be such a jerk with them./ +I&m busy tonight./ +$idn&t play well= That&s an understatement. So sorry I can&t be a fly on the wall for that one. At that moment she felt the urge to wink at 0oach 0ook just to see what she would say. playing with her i"hone. >our non-date with the non-lesbian. who stifled a laugh. 0oach. do I=/ %% lowered her eyes to the ground. %% thought./ 0oach 0ook said. :ueenie asked if %% wanted to join her for dinner in downtown 8ichmond./ she said. +Says you. She was already showered and dressed./ +I know. feeling even worse than she&d felt earlier that morning when she&d abandoned her writing class. remember=/ +-h./ %% said. you&re not the only one who e'pects more from me./ :ueenie punched %% lightly in the arm. +So I&m going to get straight to the point./ She barked from the doorway. +$on&t worry about 0oach./ +>ou are the starting point guard. 0oach. +%enkins. +They just paid the last balance off earlier this week. %% thought. +"eachy. +. >ou better get your game in gear. +I think it&s about time I charged up my father&s credit card. -nce in the confines of her office. %%. +#asy for you to say. I don&t have to remind you of what it takes to be a starter for this team./ she replied.

admiring her jeans./ +>ou wouldn&t be flattered at all=/ ./ ./ 6ot again. She&d been over it a billion and one times with 0hristine. as a result./ 0hristine shuddered as if the thought of another woman making a pass at her would make her severely ill. +(or the umpteenth time. she hadn&t been thinking of . a slimming red graphic T-shirt. I&m only going to this party tonight with . She&d been thinking of %%.yan as friends. thought . +0hristine. 0learly./ . She&d decided on a pair of hip-hugger jeans.endal./ +4hat=/ +"romise me you&ll come to the party tonight. and. As my roommate. +(lattered= . ./ +I already told you I&d be there. She wanted to go to The Spot. it had taken much longer than she&d anticipated to pick out an outfit.%%% .endal asked.endal ran her long fingers through her hair. +(ine. +I thought I looked good.endal had chosen. +So*what are you going to do if she makes a pass at you=/ 0hristine asked still staring at the pages of her maga3ine./ +0reeped out= Isn&t that a bit dramatic=/ +6o. +>ou&re wearing that=/ 0hristine asked. She wanted to try something different./ +8ight./ She sneaked a look at the clock on her dresser. +I promise. she wasn&t a fan of the outfit . I&ve never been to one before. It was as simple as that./ +4hy is it gross= It&s just one person finding another person attractive./ She went back to studying herself in the mirror./ 0hristine smiled wryly. that&s gross. teammate and confidante. It was the way the members of the cheerleading s1uad sealed all of their most sacred promises and secrets. She stood facing the doorway.endal groaned. +0an I go now= I&m going to be late. linking her pinky with 0hristine&s. +I have no idea.yan. 9ut maybe you should wear something a little se'ier for . +4hat&s wrong with what I&m wearing=/ . I&d be creeped out.endal spun around.endal said. 4hy do I have to promise=/ +9ecause I&m asking you to. +So how long is that poetry thing going to last again=/ .endal shrugged. +I can&t believe you are going to go with her./ 0hristine held out her pinky. stomach-first.yan&s benefit.endal stood in front of the floor-length mirror.endal continued to scrutini3e her own appearance. mulling over which way accented her features better. admiring her backside when 0hristine came into the room.endal. and a matching red hooded sweatshirt. She casually flipped through the pages of one of her many maga3ines as . +"romise me you&ll be there tonight. 4hen she&d gotten dressed that evening. wondering about her outfit./ . "ersonally. She stood up and grabbed .endal by the arms.endal couldn&t help smiling at the thought of %% flirting with her. it&s the truth./ . I&m just asking./ +>ou do. +4hy would you even ask that=/ +I don&t know. pulling it back and swinging it forward. 0hristine flopped down on top of her bed.

+There&s something you don&t see every day. you know=/ +>ou clean up pretty good./ +#ver hear of a purse=/ . After reali3ing how ridiculous she looked. but resisted.endal whether %% was sitting or standing when she walked through the doors. Then she checked her cell phone. silently cursing herself for sounding so stupid. %%&s head snapped up./ . Then she stood up./ . +4hat= This=/ %% held the backpack in front of her. %% noticed a black mark near the heel of her shoe. then the rest of the evening would go just as smoothly. she&d decided that by not wearing a hat she would be showing off her softer side. She bent down as far as she could without falling over./ . +0an you imagine me carrying one of those=/ %% took . +>ou ready=/ +$o you take that thing everywhere=/ . +I mean*you look nice and everything. At that moment. And that was the side she thought . And I like to carry my journal with me./ CHAPTER ! %% sat down in a chair in the school lounge. pointing at %%&s backside. admiring %%&s outfit. just in case ./ she said.endal smiled. +>ou look ridiculous. she sat down again. She crossed her legs. too. In the end./ +4ow./ She had the sudden urge to reach out and touch %%&s hair.endal. +>ou&re right.endal.endal held up her small white bag sprinkled with red polka dots. I never know when I&ll be hit with something inspiring. . -nce the words left her lips. >ou look ama3ing.endal said. %% adjusted her shirt and picked up her backpack. she reali3ed what she&d said./ she said. It probably didn&t matter one way or another to .endal had tried to call or send her a te't. then slumped back in the chair and spread her legs wide. licked her thumb and ran it over the mark. pointing at the backpack. After a minute./ %% blurted out. +I was*uh*there was something on my shoe.endal asked.endal said. +That&s e'actly what I thought you were doing. She 1uickly stood up straight. and she&d even ironed it before putting it on. +8ight. the doors swung open and in walked . She continued to wipe them on her shorts and jumped every time someone entered the lounge. and wiped her hand on the back of her shorts. %% shoved her hands deep into the pockets of her cargo shorts and studied her fresh white pair of Adidas sneakers for scuffs. who started laughing. +I like you without a hat better.0hristine reluctantly stepped aside. as well. leaned over and tried to rub it out. It had been 1uite the dilemma whether to use gel in her hair or wear a baseball cap.endal enjoyed the most. it couldn&t get much worse. 9ut for some reason %% thought that if she gave a good impression right from the start./ she said. %%&s palms had been sweaty all day.endal&s purse and swung it over her shoulder. Then she batted her eyes at . she stood up again and leaned strategically against the chair. The baby blue polo shirt she&d chosen to wear was tucked in just so. 9ut considering the way her day had unfolded so far./ She snatched the purse back from %%&s hands. 9ut she hadn&t. +I keep some of my favorite books in here. +5o ahead. +9ut don&t do anything I wouldn&t do. I think.

+2ow was your day=/ %% asked. 9ut suddenly I feel a lot better. and both %% and . and then looked away.endal said. and %% assumed that . She&d grown accustomed to the glares and stares she and :ueenie often garnered whenever they were out in public together. She reached for the doorknob. unsure of how to respond. +I don&t know.endal had grown used to people looking at her simply because she was beautiful. The last thing she wanted was a bunch of talented poets who lacked stage fright to impress ./ . +>ours=/ +>ou don&t want to know.e. +I wouldn&t worry about it. during a tryout for the IF-yard dash./ . lingering on the sidewalk as the night wrapped itself around them.endal had grabbed it first. I&m glad you asked me to come with you tonight. She walked into the coffee shop in a ha3e./ said . at a secluded table that offered a full view of the stage in the back of the room. let alone appearing to enjoy one another&s company. A roving waitress appeared./ . Their hands closed on top of one another&s and remained clasped longer than they needed to be. genuinely interested. giving off a sensation she hadn&t recalled ever feeling before. That&s all. .endal ordered hot chocolate before embarking on a spirited conversation that carried on effortlessly over the ne't couple of hours./ +She doesn&t like me very much./ %% struggled to e'plain. They didn&t seem to bother .ake sure to carry a can of mace=/ +6ot 1uite. They talked about anything and everything they could. 2er hand still burned from %%&s touch. with %% directly on her heels.endal asked. +4hat time is the poetry slam=/ . +6ow you&ve sparked my curiosity. does she=/ They were in front of the coffee shop now. The more she thought about it.They walked side by side across the 1uad to the edge of the campus./ +4hat did she say= ./ %% nonchalantly kicked the curb as they stepped up onto the sidewalk. +0hristine doesn&t know you. She recalled 0hristine&s comment about being hit on by a woman. +4hat&s so funny=/ +I was just thinking of something 0hristine had said before I left./ . but . They sat in the corner near the window. too./ +. afraid her e'pression would reveal everything she&d been feeling lately. I tripped over my own two feet and knocked the runner in the lane beside me off the track. The looks didn&t bother %%. either. +)neventful. +-nce.endal with their tapestry of words while %% sat 1uietly at their table. some staring at them in wonderment.endal much. It wasn&t often that a cheerleader and a member of the girl&s basketball team were seen walking anywhere together at Sampson Academy. and laughed.endal confessed.endal./ %% said./ ./ %% said. hoping the stage would remain empty as long as possible.endal responded blandly. +I was*I wanted to get the door for you.endal laughed nervously. and neither of them held back. +7et&s just say that everything today that could have gone wrong did go wrong. smiling.endal flashed %% a knowing smile. Several students crossed their path. the more confused she&d became over how another girl could make her feel this way. +I have no athletic ability whatsoever.

endal shifted in her chair and placed both hands face down on the coffee table in disbelief./ +I&m 1uite serious actually. I wore make-up./ +$id you look that different=/ +Totally different./ +6o.endal sat back in her chair and stared at the ceiling. the real me.endal straightened up. So what if I&m popular= So what if I was homecoming 1ueen last year= It means nothing to me. I was very uncomfortable in my own skin. +4hat*you think I have it easy=/ ./ +Same= 2ow=/ +"ersonality wise. I bet she&ll be the same person in college as she is now./ %% offered./ . And it&s sad that after three years I don&t feel like I&ve changed at all. I have no idea who I am. +everyone assumed that I was this pretty girl with no brains. and tried to fit in./ +I didn&t mean to*/ +4hen I first came here. +It was awkward to say the least.endal continued. I want you to know me as I am now./ +$o your parents know about you=/ +>ou mean*do they know that I&m gay=/ %% licked her lips. +I&m still playing the same role now. +There&s so much more to you. +>ou&re joking. clearly offended./ %% professed./ +>ou said you felt uncomfortable in your own skin= Sometimes I feel so uncomfortable in mine that I wish I could be someone completely different for a day just to see how it would feel. and my hair was long. And when I show them the pictures.y mom had one framed and it&s still sitting on the fireplace mantle at home. what about you= I can&t believe you were in a beauty pageant. I played the role. people who know me as I am now don&t believe that it&s me. . +I didn&t know. 7ook at 0hristine. I&ll probably go off to college and fit the same mold as I did in high school. It was tough e'plaining that I was the same person inside that I had always been./ +4as that hard=/ +Incredibly. how she&d been dressed in a nice gown and felt so out of place. +I&m so sick of everyone thinking that just because I have a pretty face that I must have it easy in life. you don&t./ +9ut you are changing. +$id you win=/ +I didn&t even come close./ +9efore I met you.%% laughed. I was just like her./ said %% honestly. "eople who are closed-minded are the ones who don&t change./ +I&m sorry. I admire you so much because you know who you are and you know what you want out of life. 4hen it came to the talent portion. It came down past my shoulders. I played the pretty girl who wasn&t smart. not the younger me that was insecure and confused. +It was probably the hardest thing I&ve had to do in my life so far. 9ut back then I acted different./ . It was so embarrassing./ +I know what that&s like. I&m the same./ +4ow./ . >ou&re so open and willing to put yourself out there. I became that. It&s like she&s holding on to something I used to be. I panicked and ran off stage. I have to see those pictures./ +>ou have pictures=/ +Sure do./ +>ou=/ %% asked skeptically./ %% recalled the day of the pageant./ . 9ut forget about me. And because I knew that everyone thought that. +I told them after my sophomore year at Sampson.

+>ou&ve really opened my eyes to poetry in such a way that I actually enjoy it. .endal had to choose that one. The coffee shop was packed with people getting ready to participate in the poetry slam. you&re open-minded and you&re a free spirit. then she&s going to lower my grade. and then decided to just let everything spill out all at once./ %ust before they left the coffee shop./ +4hat if I helped you=/ .endal asked. That is./ +Still*I&d like to help you if I can. I&ve never told anyone that before./ +Speaking of $ickinson. just to be sure. She fished out her journal from her backpack and slid it across the table to .endal stood up and tugged %%./ %% wasn&t about to argue. She was supposed to te't 0hristine.onday./ It was only after %% saw the grateful e'pression on . who flipped it open with the bright-eyed anticipation of a kid on 0hristmas morning./ %% panicked./ . you owe me a poem./ +I have to do this by ./ +$on&t you want to stay and watch the poetry slam=/ +I&d rather help you instead. -f all the poems in her journal. +That&s the poem that I submitted in writing class that my teacher wants me to read out loud because she likes it so much. +9ut where can we go= I don&t want to go to back to my dorm or yours. +4hat&s . +2ow=/ +>ou can practice with me. +2ow do you figure that=/ +I told you a secret. +I think you&re smarter than you reali3e.ay I about=/ . +>ou think I&m smart=/ ./ said .endal said adamantly./ +>ou don&t owe me anything. +0ome on./ +I know a place. you&re smart. +-kay. +4hat&s wrong=/ +It&s nothing./ %% paused. +6ot here. after skimming through the pages. +Then let&s go someplace else. 6ow it&s time for me to show you mine. almost taking her by the hand. >ou showed me your favorite hangout. %% rolled her eyes./ . I feel like I owe you or something. looking around. >ou&re not only incredibly beautiful. There are so many things about you that ama3e me.+>ou aren&t anything like her./ . I need someplace private.endal. 9ut here she was with %% instead. and if I don&t read it.other . +#mily $ickinson would be impressed.endal glanced at her cell phone. 2ow am I going to get over a lifetime of stage fright in only two days=/ +4e&ll start now. you&re kind./ %% considered the offer.endal motioned to the journal and handed it back to %%.endal&s face that she reali3ed what she&d said. if you&ll let me./ +4hat are you going to do=/ +I don&t know. It&s (riday night.endal asked./ she agreed.endal./ %% told her. Things you don&t give yourself enough credit for. so that makes it a secret./ +4hich was*/ +4hich was about how I feel like I haven&t changed at all. . then meet up with her at the soccer party. >ou can read your poem out loud in front of me.endal asked. only I don&t want to read it because of my stage fright issue. .

+I thought you said she was coming tonight./ said 0hristine./ ./ +2ow late was that poetry thing supposed to go=/ . +I don&t know./ 0hristine peeled herself away from %ason. +>ou&ve got issues. I&m the best looking guy on campus. +She&s probably on her way here right now./ . %ason plucked it from her hands and tossed it on the bed. +4hy don&t you go find out./ %ason had heard enough. . he had gotten all dressed up for nothing. +I don&t know where she is. There were fresh cut roses in vases in every room. as he nudged ./ said ./ he said. This girl is cra3y. I swearJ if she doesn&t come tonight./ she whispered under her breath. +4hat did you say=/ %ason asked./ said 0hristine.yan. and closed the door behind him. ./ %%% 0hristine was busy making out with %ason in the dark when . a dark-blue button-down shirt and a blue and white striped tie.yan. she&s going to regret it. impatiently. Apparently.4ithout saying a word. 9ut before she could hit the +send/ button. +Seriously. waiting for . and all of the soccer guys got dressed up in their best attire. That&s how this whole thing was supposed to turn out. aside from winter formal. +4ho does that=/ The invite-only soccer party was considered the highlight of the fall semester. as she held up her i"hone./ +I&m going to regret it. She ditched an invite-only soccer party. +6o way. +0ome on. I&ll tell the whole school that you&re a lesbian. She smiled eagerly at %%. 9ut she clearly was distracted. +I&ll go wait for her on the front steps.endal slid her cell phone back into her a purse. She&s been acting so strange lately. +7et me try and call her. +It&s after ten and she&s not here yet. (or .yan.yan to leave so he could get back to kissing his girlfriend.yan walked right into the dorm room and flipped on the light.yan said miserably./ +I&ve got issues=/ . +If you don&t come tonight./ 2e raised an eyebrow at . +6ever mind. +4ould you two rela'= If she wants to come. +I wasted thirty bucks on this tie. who now glared at . %ason turned the light off and resumed his position ne't to 0hristine on the couch.yan out of the room.endal. +She hasn&t responded to any of my te'ts. she&ll come. The soccer wing was lit up with white lights for e'tra ambiance. who finally took the hint.yan pressed.yan that meant wearing black slacks. and stood up instantly to look out the window./ %ason offered. 2e was still sitting on the couch./ he said. 2e stood up. 4hat gives=/ 0hristine held up her hands.yan shot back. 7et&s go./ 2e turned to 0hristine. sounding frustrated. dude=/ he grumbled. +She should be here with me. and she scrolled through her te't messages on her i"hone.

See. and grab us.CHAPTER !! %% and . ./ . +0ome here often=/ %% asked. urging %% to follow./ She sat down on the blanket and crossed her legs. and after classes to read or do homework./ +8eally= I never imagined you as the type of girl who could rough it.endal leading the way across the school campus to the soccer field. 6o one ever found me here. as if she were reminiscing about a childhood tree house. %% sat down beside her. I had all my routes mapped carefully. She turned it on. eyeing the flashlight. I&d just sit in the dining hall until they left or I&d e'it out the side door. dining hall. I didn&t want that happening to me. unfolded and spread it out. the rule was that they couldn&t grab us in public places with teachers and adults around./ . push-ups and sit-ups on the spot. +0hristine told me that they grabbed her coming out of the library late one night. They ducked their heads and crouched along to the opposite end of the bleachers where the scorers& bo' was attached. They couldn&t keep us from going to class either. They huddled together. we were fair game. and classroom buildings./ she said. +>ou&re telling me that you weren&t ha3ed as a freshman on the basketball team=/ %% pondered the 1uestion.endal waved her hand nonchalantly in the air.endal grabbed the blanket. appearing as one shadow instead of two in the dim street lighting that led their way. wait until we came out. 9ut that never worked either. and were completely hidden by the tarp. come on./ +I&m full of surprises. even though she already knew the answer./ . . %% and .endal told her. in the spring after I had made the cheerleading s1uad. +I found this spot during my freshman year. >es. the side to the bleachers being left open. they&d watch us go into some place.endal sighed. A worn wool blanket had been shoved in between the metal bars./ +-h. 9ut as soon as we were finished with classes for the day and walked outside./ +I can&t believe you went through all that just to be a part of the cheerleading s1uad. +It was fun at the time.endal were able to sneak under the scorers& bo' through the bleachers. . I even slept out here once or twice./ said %%. +I&d come here right after eating at the dining hall.endal argued. #veryone on the team was pulling these wild and cra3y pranks on the new girls. +)ntil it gets too cold. And follow she did. that it got to the point where they&d all eat with me in the dining hall so that they could grab me as soon as I walked outside./ +That&s pretty clever.endal left the coffee shop. and if any of the older players saw her without the ball then she was forced to do sprints. illuminating the spot.endal crept under the bleachers. +This hiding spot was so good. with . I was so scared every time I walked across campus. +$oesn&t sound like fun to me. #specially the time she was forced to carry a ball everywhere she went across campus. That included the library. she&d stuffed a flashlight. She said it was the most disgusting thing she ever had to do in her entire life. "erched up high on a platform. took her to the soccer dorm and made her do all of their laundry. So. keeping it off the grass so that it wouldn&t get wet./ +So you hid here=/ +(or practically the entire spring semester of school. she&d gone through ha3ing. the scorers& bo' was supported by tall beams enclosed with a tarp tied around them on three sides. In the middle of the blanket./ .

Are you afraid to share it because it&s personal=/ +That&s a ridiculous 1uestion./ +4hy=/ %%&s shoulders slumped forward. +2ey. +I feel stupid. +4hy=/ +4ell. +I just feel incredibly nervous for some reason. and then laughed because she wasn&t able to keep a straight face. I&m honest and upfront about myself.endal glowered at her./ +5ood.endal played with her fingers./ +2ow come=/ +9ecause there&s no getting around that. +Are we going to talk about your poem. opened her mouth wide and said./ . That&s not the problem./ %% pointed to the poem as she spoke./ %% admitted. >ou know that. but that was different./ +So how does revealing something personal make you feel=/ +4hat are you. I&m hoping it&s a good thing./ +4hat do you mean you can&t=/ +I can&t*I can&t read it. +I can&t./ +4hat is holding you back=/ +I don&t know*the fear of rejection from the crowd=/ %% knew she sounded like a bratty five-year-old at that moment. I don&t. +And read it to me as if you were in class.endal ordered.endal on the blanket. 0an&t we just talk instead=/ +Talk about what=/ +I don&t know*maybe if I talk for a little bit. It&s twice as hard reading my own stuff. It&s not about revealing something personal about myself. you got me there. And that was $ickinson&s poem./ . what are you so nervous about= >our writing is good. I&m being honest. +2ow am I supposed to do this again=/ +Stand up over there. my therapist=/ %% snorted./ +4e can do whatever makes you feel most comfortable./ +>eah. or what=/ %% blinked twice.endal said. +9ecause I was trying to make a point. relieved to be out of the spotlight. +It&s obvious you have some insecurity about sharing something personal about yourself.+-kay. as if she suddenly remembered the reason why they were there in the first place. for starters. you do. I&ll feel comfortable enough to read this. I wouldn&t have done that if anyone else had been around. but she didn&t care. a nervous habit over which she&d little control. "oetry is personal.endal replied./ ./ . It is. +>ou aren&t at all what I thought you were./ +Trust me./ +4hy not= >ou read a couple of lines from #mily $ickinson out loud when we first met./ . +9ut at least it wasn&t so bad that I had to find a hiding spot. because you&re putting your emotions out there whenever you write a poem./ +6o. +7et&s talk about the poem. +>ou keep saying that./ said %%. She cleared her throat./ +I do not./ %% gladly rejoined ./ ./ %% reluctantly stood up and walked about five feet away. It has to be. She took out her journal and marked the page that contained the poem. I&m just trying to help here./ +>es.

%% had offered . +4hy=/ %% asked.endal stared longingly into %%&s baby blue eyes. +9ecause I like what I&ve learned about you so far. And it can&t be any more difficult than coming out to people. without her carefree attitude or charismatic charm. +I&m never going to be able to do this by . e'posed. and fell over on her back.endal kept replaying her night under the scorers& bo' with %% over and over again.endal&s generous green eyes peering down at her. #ven though you maybe had a fear of rejection. as . but I bet most people will. and yet it carried so much weight./ +4ow. That was how the night had ended.endal had said. neither wanting to leave or knowing how to end the evening. with regret. It confused her to the core. and gave %% one in return./ CHAPTER !" Saturday flew by in a blur. That was it./ 4hen %% looked up. . not her coach. The call somehow catapulted them both back to reality./ said %% as if a light bulb had just lit up in her head./ +9ut that&s ridiculous.onday. Some people may not respond in the best way./ . +>our writing is ama3ing. +I&m more afraid of what people are going to think than anything else./ +>es.+Then what is it= Insecurity about your writing=/ +9ingo. +4hy do you believe in me= >ou don&t even know me that well.endal maintained. %% was vulnerable. Some people may not like it. +I never thought of it that way. startling them both. They nestled gently against each other on the blanket as . eyes that made . you will. It was the simplest of phrases. and spoke through her fingers. In her version %% had asked her to stay a few minutes longer. It&s the same with your writing. wondering where in the world she was.endal fall for her even more./ .endal had dared to picture a different ending. you still did it. or even her parents.endal laid her hand over %%&s . She dreaded seeing 0hristine and the conversation she knew would ensue./ . It was trust without reason and it didn&t make any sense./ +It&s the same principal.endal&s cell phone rang.endal had seen %% without her confident grin. but it sounds like most people in your life have been supportive. . 7ook how comfortable you are with yourself now. And it only made .endal took it. say those words to her before. %% had never heard anybody. +And you make it hard not to. 2ow could someone who hardly knew her believe in her so deeply= It wasn&t supposed to happen that way. +4hy do you believe in me so easily=/ %% repeated./ %% hid her face with her hands./ +Argh.endal a genuine and heartfelt smile. she saw . 2ow would she ever be able to e'plain why she&d ditched the soccer party to hang out with %%= They awkwardly parted ways. They&d sat there and talked until close to one in the morning when . In her imagination . She reached for %%&s hands and tugged them from her face./ .endal weak in the knees if she .endal only answered it because she knew it was 0hristine. +I believe in you./ %% said. +I&ve got to get back to the dorm.endal reassured her./ It was the first time .

ad=/ 0hristine practically shouted.stared at them long enough. before transferring to Sampson.endal found herself pouting. +(ine./ +That&s it=/ 0hristine asked in ama3ement./ . She felt as if she were losing whatever part of herself she thought she had control of.endal enjoyed and never did on a regular basis. She needed a word.endal were in the girls& locker room at the athletic center./ 0hristine sang. still tapping. 0hristine&s only response was. to let her e'plain. -nce she finished tying her sneakers./ 9y the look on 0hristine&s face.endal jogging behind her to keep up. >our roommate= >our best friend since freshman year= -r did you forget that as easily as you lost track of time=/ .endal had to beg 0hristine all morning to talk to her.e. +4ell*/ 0hristine said. She&d even dreamt about it the following night. the gentleness of her touch. +I&m really sorry. +7et&s wait until we get to the track. and then %% had this problem she needed help with. . a definition to describe the feeling. 0hristine reluctantly obliged. this was only the second time she&d ever been in the athletic center since her freshman year.endal organi3ed her thoughts. In fact. And it stuck with her every minute of every hour. and only her imagination. or maybe so she could understand why %% was making her feel this way. getting ready to walk a few laps around the track./ +7eave her hanging=/ 0hristine stopped walking. +I&m waiting. already out of breath as they made their way around the track. 6othing she did or said could distract her from her thoughts. So it was perfectly all right to leave me hanging instead.endal huffed. . +>ou didn&t want to leave her hanging= 8ight. and . 4hen she reali3ed that it wasn&t real./ she said as genuinely as possible. +I just lost track of time.endal begged. and probably to make her suffer. irritating.endal found the tapping distracting./ . +I need to work out./ she said. e'cept. a brief interlude until she and %% would meet again. and since she&d helped me with my 4omen&s 7iterature class. +. . . +I am way beyond mad. The kiss that followed was unlike anything she&d ever e'perienced*the softness of %%&s lips. ./ They walked briskly. 0hristine had made sure to walk a step and a half in front of . she stood up and stretched. yet .endal couldn&t concentrate on what she was saying because she was so focused on keeping up with 0hristine./ 4orking out was not something . >ou can come if you want to./ 0hristine spat.endal didn&t know how to e'plain it. to give it a name so that she could understand it better.endal so that she didn&t have to talk to her. +>ou&re blowing this out of proportion. It had been the same when they&d walked from the dorm to the athletic center. and yet oddly comforting. I wanted to help her out.endal&s heart had been racing and she didn&t know whether she wanted to run. "outing= She was actually pouting= It seemed so absurd.endal didn&t know what to say. tapping her fingernails loudly against a locker. Saturday might as well have been a pause. +-kay*I know*you&re mad. I didn&t want to just leave her hanging. She burst from the locker room. scream or wrap herself around %% like a snake. . That thought alone frightened her deeply. it was obviously the wrong thing to say.endal inhaled a few 1uick breaths. +0an you*slow down* please=/ . +That&s your big e'planation=/ +It&s the honest truth. She and . 4hen their pace slowed. +4e were talking at the coffee shop. The first time was during the tour of the campus when she&d visited. with . .

>es. and yes./ +6o. nor bearing the school colors. do you=/ +4hat are you talking about=/ . in first grade=/ she asked. )nless you wake up and snap out of this phase you&re in.endal.endal screamed./ ./ 0hristine shouted again. +That&s cra3y./ +Some people on the s1uad don&t think you care about your reputation anymore. +>ou have no idea what this means. The raised track was built on the second level of the athletic center.endal had said. They think you&ve lost your devotion and interest in the s1uad.+. . ./ +They think I&m gay=/ 0hristine shrugged. noted where she was. +They are having a meeting./ ./ She narrowed her eyes and pointed her sharp chin and added. and they&re starting to talk. +I just don&t see what the big deal is. +>ou can&t go back on a pinky swear.endal&s face. +4hat do you e'pect=/ +9ut I&m not gay./ It was as if . and wondered if %% had been one of them./ She folded her arms evenly across her chest.endal asked.endal had signed a contract without reading the fine print. That&s what it means./ The color instantly drained from . +>ou are infuriating. but your priorities are all messed up. I don&t know. +It&s the truth. 9ut I wanted to tell you because I thought you should know. >ou went back on a sacred oath.endal flung her hands to her hips. +$o you really think I&m the only one who&s noticed=/ 2er voice sounded smug./ 0hristine told her. +>ou know how these things go down./ She leaned in and whispered. . but that didn&t mean she wanted out. and then somehow shifted her eyes back to 0hristine&s frustrated face. it&s assumed that you are hanging around her for a reason. offering a full view of the courts below./ +Talk about what=/ +>ou know. At that moment she noticed the women&s basketball team taking the court below. 0hristine cast icy eyes at them. "eople are starting to wonder about you. +I don&t know what&s going on with you lately. you might as well kiss the s1uad goodbye. you pinky swore with me. She spotted %%. 2er face contorted. Two other girls walking the track had passed by at that moment./ +Sacred oath=/ +The pinky swear. +And you know what that means. #ither way. she had her complaints. and continued with her rant. +4hat are we. +4hat does this mean=/ +>ou stood up a member of the s1uad. She saw a few of the basketball players look up in her direction./ 0hristine smacked her lips together and appeared to swallow a scream. That didn&t mean she didn&t want to be a part of it anymore. or if she was just really upset by what . bored and impatient with way the conversation was heading./ +$o I have to spell it out for you= 4hen you start hanging around a girl who&s gay. They didn&t want you to know./ 0hristine shouted.endal wondered if she were e'periencing some severe gastric pain. she had her frustrations. and . It was supposed to be a secret./ 0hristine screamed. a little too loudly. +4hat&s that supposed to mean=/ +#veryone knows who you&ve been hanging out with lately. She knew she hadn&t e'actly been singing the praises of the cheerleading s1uad lately.endal. They turned to each other and giggled.endal felt amused.

voted as to whether or not they were good enough to be on the cheerleading s1uad. unanimous vote. She&d seemed like such a promising prospect during her freshman year./ ./ 0hristine said. . be it academic or otherwise. )nless you carried at least a K. or you either for that matter. +I told them you&d be busy with tutoring. 9ut. at the school lounge. It shouldn&t have mattered. She&d been happy to belong to what she saw as a loving and supportive organi3ation that appeared now to be nothing more than a superficial. She felt her chest e'pand with panic. unsurprising. %ust tell everyone you&ve been working hard studying.endal&s hands. She&d have to start over. the rest of the s1uad didn&t see her as being so promising and wholesome anymore. . she was in on one of the secret meetings about a sophomore who spent more time hanging out with her skater friends on campus than she did attending practice or other cheerleading-related activities. 4hat would she be without it= 4ho would she be= She&d have to make all new friends. stuck-up bunch of girls with meaningless friendships. her involvement in the drama club. one that she couldn&t put her finger on. you had no shot at making the s1uad. she did care. cast aside.endal didn&t have much on her rMsumM as far as school activities went. (or some reason. +or how do you e'pect me to vouch for you=/ If you continue to hang around her no one is going to believe me. as if she were a freshman. arguing with 0hristine over something so trivial. and that %% is just your tutor and nothing more. and she&d been happy doing it. that you still care about the s1uad and your reputation. She&d been the e'ception to the rule. and future networking possibilities that would serve them well only until the high school bubble burst. 9ut she could fake a good split and leg lift any day. she soon went astray and started hanging out with what the s1uad thought was the wrong crowd. +4hen&s the meeting=/ . She was dismissed. and her membership in the most popular organi3ation on campus ultimately revoked by a single.endal shouldn&t have cared. then you can come. no matter how good you were. and smartest students on campus. Standing there in the athletic center. (or the past couple of years she&d been doing to others e'actly what she feared others would now do to her. Suddenly. 9ut for some reason.L 5"A. $on&t even mention what I said. She had 3ero athletic ability. 2er popularity outshined her 5"A and lack of involvement in campus activities. +Tomorrow night.endal felt small and shallow. 7ast year. +It&s only going to be a discussion. the most athletic. I&ll vouch for you. but if you skip that./ +5et another one.endal had been lucky. The fact of the matter was that the cheerleading s1uad had a reputation to uphold./ +4hich is*/ +4hich is that you stop hanging out with %%./ +>ou&ll vouch for me=/ +-n one condition. popular. by way of her K. She&d seen how these things had gone down. 2er eyes instantly softened.endal knew e'actly how these things went down.. and her participation in student government activities./ +4hat= She&s my tutor. nothing final.F 5"A and were part of some organi3ation. Aside from being pretty and popular./ 0hristine said plainly./ She uncrossed her arms and reached for . And the thought of that was too overwhelming to entertain. She&d judged people. The s1uad was all she knew at Sampson. prettiest. They went after only the most involved. .endal asked. it did matter. . as it sometimes happens.

%% had mustered up enough courage to read a few lines of her poem to :ueenie. she might not like it so much. 7ike the fact that she had fewer than twenty-four hours until she had to read her poem in front of her entire class. I don&t. +.endal and her roommate arguing. +>ou know how this school is a hub for gossip. %% paced nervously across the floor of her dorm room. because %% wasn&t e'posing herself. as :ueenie looked on in amusement./ . #very thing she&d written that %% had ever shared with her. and :ueenie would love it. +4hat do you suppose they were arguing about=/ %% stopped pacing. +That&s awesome./ and went back to charging more clothes online at her parents& e'pense. and assumed she was busy smoothing things over with her roommate./ :ueenie let out a long-winded whistle. They were involved in 1uite the heated discussion./ :ueenie made sure to enclose her phrase. which wasn&t much at all./ she said without looking away. :ueenie wouldn&t judge %%. 2er heart skipped a beat as she saw %% sprinting from one side of the gym to the other. don&t you think=/ +So what= 4hat&s your point=/ %% had seen . 2ow could she have missed them when :ueenie had poked her hard in the side to get her attention= She hadn&t cared then. +8umors are starting to circulate.y point is that it&s 1uite the coincidence that they were arguing so soon after your late night study session. noting :ueenie&s smirking face. She hadn&t heard from . It was discouraging. nor would she ever critici3e her work. +I&ll stop hanging out with %%.y guess is that her cheerleader friends aren&t going to like it much either.endal . 9ut that wasn&t the same as reading it out loud to her class. seeing as how she&d spent the greater part of the weekend practicing in her dorm room. +$on&t you think=/ +6o. :ueenie already knew everything there was to know about her.c0arthy. things on her mind.endal at all on Saturday./ %% immediately regretted telling :ueenie how she and . -nce she gets wind of the fact that people think she is batting for the other side now. In the meantime. :ueenie said. 6ot like a classroom of strangers./ :ueenie said. There were other./ CHAPTER !# 9y Sunday evening. %% could probably scribble out the alphabet. +4ho are they and what are you referring to=/ +Those two cheerleaders. +. in 1uotes with her fingers. I&m talking about T2# . Time was running out. 4hen %% had finished reading a few lines. and she didn&t care now. :ueenie loved.. %% still hadn&t been able to get through the entire poem. to say the least. +-kay. study session.endal had stayed up practically all night together talking under the scorers& bo' at the soccer field. more important./ +Since when have I cared about rumors=/ +I&m not talking about you.endal glanced toward the basketball team again.

:ueenie was the kind of person who thought she was right about everything and everyone./ %% warned./ :ueenie said. right=/ +8ight. +>ou think so= And you&ve known her how long=/ +4hy are you doing this=/ %% asked. +All right. once she reali3es the weight of it. It was high time that she put :ueenie in her place./ 6ow this was a bet %% could afford. I&ll bet you a pi33a instead./ +She&s not like that. And it&s about time you came back from the wonderful world of make believe. and it&s never going to happen./ %% resisted the urge to argue./ she confessed. She&d been fooling herself for a few weeks now. I want you to get out this time before it&s too late. %%% 4hen %% returned to the dorm an hour and a half later.endal reali3es she can&t play with the lesbians any longer because of what the rest of the school might think./ %% said. +This is reality. :ueenie shook it. >ou keep falling for girls you can&t have. I&ve known since the first night you tutored her.endal. because neither of us has a hundred bucks and I won&t accept your parents& credit card./ +I appreciate what you&re saying. 9ut you&re wrong this time. She casually walked into the suite where :ueenie was ./ +Then what are you talking about=/ +I&m talking about the fact that you actually believe she could be in love with you. %%. she&s going to stop talking to you. I hate watching you go through this. +9ecause you never learn. %% e'tended her hand. a lump forming in her throat. It&s a fantasy. because in a way she knew :ueenie was right. when she was all %% could think about. the playful smirk gone from her face. The deal was sealed. convincing herself that she wasn&t enamored with ./ said %%.+I&m not playing this game with you right now. +It isn&t a game. she was carrying a pi33a in one hand and a si'-pack of "epsi in the other./ +(ine. It was time to show her that she could be wrong just as easily as everyone else. +4hy are you saying these things=/ :ueenie shook her head. +>ou have a study date with her in an hour./ +2ow=/ +9ecause you&ve been walking around in this di33y ha3e ever since. -nce ./ %% maintained. +I know you&re in love with her./ :ueenie stood up. %%. I&m in love with the girl./ +Am I=/ :ueenie checked the clock on her i"hone./ +I bet you a hundred bucks she doesn&t show. that&s the point. +Are you happy now=/ +That&s not what I&m talking about./ +That&s absurd. +4hy= 9ecause you know I&m right=/ +6o. really I do. +And you&re wrong about her.

+I wasn&t e'pecting you. which made her easy to talk to. and basically centered on schoolwork and cheerleading./ +4hy would you have made a scene=/ +4ell. and then knocked on . aside from the fact that they both were on the cheerleading s1uad. They e'changed a few tidbits of conversation. +./ . and hanging out with certain people. >ou know. .sprawled out on the couch watching television./ :ueenie burped. It wasn&t in anyone&s best interest to get in her way whenever cheerleading was concerned. a true humanitarian. wouldn&t you make a scene if you were about to get kicked off the cheerleading s1uad=/ .endal replied evenly. +Sure. And if anyone ever told her that cheerleading wasn&t a sport./ +She did. She opened the door and saw ./ . who said we were kicking you off the s1uad=/ +0hristine did. an open te'tbook in her lap. +I was actually going to come to address some things myself. she knew how to play the game when it mattered. surprised./ . I had a hunch 0hristine would let you in on it since she isn&t the best at keeping secrets.ya burst out laughing. watch out. but in no way were we planning on kicking you off the s1uad. +6othing much. popped the top. avoiding soccer parties and such.ya was alone./ . It was her life. who released one can. 9ut as sweet as she was. .endal braced herself. She said you were having a secret meeting about me because everyone had noticed how I&ve been acting lately. we have noticed.ya 9rooks.ya was sweet and understanding. %% took a long sip from the can in her hand. and sat down. wool socks and a Tshirt that asked +4hy are all the cool girls lesbians=/ :ueenie acknowledged her presence simply by repositioning herself on the couch so that there was room for two./ CHAPTER !$ . She cared about the s1uad wholeheartedly. wearing a pair of bo'ers. She was compassionate and charitable. It was all she ever talked about. I thought . 9ut only because of how hard you&ve been working to get your grades up lately. She had little in common with .endal heard from beyond the peephole. She motioned to the bed. +. but I didn&t want to make a scene at the meeting. .endal. letting the sweetness of the soda dance on her tongue before she swallowed.endal. and passed it over before taking one for herself. And not once did :ueenie say. Their conversations were few and far between.ya sitting comfortably in a beanbag chair. +I told you so./ They watched sitcom reruns for the rest of the night and nearly finished off the entire pi33a. +#'cuse me.endal entered slowly and checked every corner of the room to make sure .ya said. %% set the pi33a bo' on the coffee table without saying a word.ya was the captain of the cheerleading s1uad./ +It was a secret meeting of sorts. +0ome in. . +4hat are you watching=/ she asked.ya said warmly. and about little else. As far as your behavior. and added.ya&s door. asking for permission to sit down. +I&m sure you heard about our little meeting last night. mostly whether the characters they were watching on television were attractive or not. She handed the si'-pack to :ueenie. have a seat. though./ . 4e know how upset you&ve been about not being able to .

side by side./ +4hat&s going on=/ . +I need to figure out my feelings for %%./ .sociali3e as much. And I know she&s a girl. but the truth is that I don&t want them to stop. +6ot that I am.endal was about to be kicked off the s1uad./ +I don&t believe this. And he&s even in a fraternity. I&ve never met anyone like her before. I&ve been all over the place. I guess. And black members. The secrecy of the meeting had to do with the planning of the party. +6o.endal walked across the room. or cared more about a reputation than it did about me=/ +So you came here to 1uit the s1uad=/ . +$id you know he&s gay=/ +2e is=/ . shape or form. . in any way.ya&s eyes./ +That&s it=/ . recalling meeting ./ She smiled. And I try to stop the feelings. took . It has straight members./ . make it mandatory.endal. She might not have blatantly lied to her about the so-called secret meeting.endal cursed 0hristine under her breath./ . because of %%. . The point is that it doesn&t matter what you are. 4hy should it=/ +I don&t know.ya&s brother at the homecoming parade last year. not that I know of.ya asked.endal stood up. 0hristine seems to think */ +It seems that 0hristine has some personal issues to work out on her own. +I mean. +9ecause of what 0hristine had led you to believe=/ +>es. it&s not a gay fraternity./ +. She pulled at her fingers and avoided .ya laughed. I didn&t know what to do. and I won&t let anybody else do that for me or judge me in any way.endal nodded. +4e discussed ideas for the winter formal too. but she&d certainly implied that ./ . too./ ./ +. then I had to stop spending time with %%./ . if I met someone. +4hat do you think=/ +I think that&s a great idea. at this point in my life.endal replied. +$id you know that I have an older brother=/ +>es. I&m thinking I should develop a course on tolerance for the whole s1uad. +#ver since I met her.ya&s book dropped from her lap. or think I might want to . unable to keep her feelings bottled up any longer.endal&s hand and guided her over to the bed. They sat down. +I don&t know. are you trying to tell me that you are a lesbian=/ +4hat= 6o. silly.endal said 1uickly./ . . So when 0hristine said that if I wanted to continue to be on the s1uad and keep my friends. Then I reali3ed I knew e'actly what to do. but that&s basically about it. +0hristine had me thinking that you were going to kick me out for being gay. It&s a regular fraternity. and we wanted to throw you a party. a woman. 2e had seemed more like a ladies& man than a man&s man.endal hurried to e'plain. .et who=/ +%%. because why would I want to be part of a team that dictated who I could spend my time with. So I ask myself how another girl can make me feel this way. And white members.endal remembered a tall./ .ya stood up. but if . the thought has crossed my mind. +>es./ +A gay one=/ . handsome and muscular fellow who went to college in 9oston.

ya.ya&s voice was enough to satisfy .endal thought about the poem. %%% . leaned up against the bark. She hadn&t shown any interest in him that night at the soccer party when the two of them were left alone in a room./ . she saw the words of the poem before her.yan was lying facedown on his bed with a pillow over his head. yet for some reason . everything is perfect. and rested her finger on a single line. And she couldn&t have cared less when he tracked her down in the . (or some reason she felt it might give her comfort. +In fact. Then . +$on&t worry.endal headed for the door. It was either #mily $ickinson&s fault or %%&s. . That would have been awkward. She knew that poem. and had been since the first time she&d studied it. as she sat beside . stretched her legs out on the tall blades of grass and withdrew her volume of #mily $ickinson. 4hen she opened her eyes. +Is everything okay=/ . And it made everything that she&d been feeling make sense. 2e had a pounding headache and a severely bruised ego./ she said. the volume of poetry that once plagued her and gave her nightmares.endal didn&t know why she&d brought the body of work with her. After 0hristine had given her the ultimatum./ said . She paused in the threshold. the slight hint of wickedness in . It meant something. She remembered that poem now. a perfect spot for organi3ing her thoughts.endal felt that it was supposed to land on that poem. 2er finger had landed on that page by chance. I plan on having a little talk with her. +I underestimated you./ . She hadn&t even sent her a simple te't to say she couldn&t make it. #verything is more than okay.ya. and Sunday turned into Sunday evening.c0arthy it seemed almost impossible. She ended up going for a walk out on the edge of town where she was sure no one would find her. . . Somewhere along the road . +>es. The spot under the scorers& bo' served its purpose for a couple of hours./ +And I underestimated 0hristine.endal&s appetite for revenge.endal couldn&t decide which one. 9ut she regretted the fact that she&d decided not to meet %% in the library for their tutoring session. #verything in her life had suddenly been turned upside down. +If you ever need to talk more about this.endal was glad she&d decided not to go to the meeting after all. She sat down.endal initially agreed not to see %%.endal found a beautiful weeping willow with a thick trunk. 9ut as Saturday turned into Sunday.endal longed to have a little talk with 0hristine herself./ +5ood. and maybe help her make sense out of everything she&d been feeling.ya gave ./ Although ../ +I might take you up on that. feeling more relieved than she could have hoped.ya asked. 9ut with . closed her eyes. turned and said.endal a slight hug and added. especially if she&d burst into the room accusing everybody of plotting against her. . her stomach soured with the thought of what 0hristine had actually asked her to do.endal became afraid that %% would come looking for her after she&d skipped their tutoring session. 5etting a girl had never been this hard. just let me know. 4hat girl in her right mind would have the nerve to stand him up= It didn&t make any sense. She flipped opened the book.endal . the words that were branded in her brain. It soured more with the thought of what she&d agreed to do.

endal better than she actually did. 9ut in order to achieve that goal. Apparently. wondering why she&d just wasted a decent amount of her brain cells crafting a metaphor on the circle of life and a waterless fountain when she could be doing something much more productive with her time.endal would respond to. If he could somehow convince her to plant a seed in . he needed a new game plan. The soccer team was always paired with the cheerleading s1uad for winter formal. There was one other person. for that matter. it was his last chance to put an e'clamation point on a perfect high school career. attained a status far higher than everyone else.yan had seen .aybe she was one of those girls who always fell for the jerk= The guy who never called back. 9ut this is what usually happened when the $ibble Syndrome hit. . was just around the corner. And the fountain sprang enthusiastically back to life. It made no sense. playing the sweet and sensitive guy. lifeless. It had no purpose. the school staged a big party on the 1uad the day the fountain water was turned back on. 9ut since the weather had recently turned colder. at least for the rest of the winter.library to invite her to only one of the best and most e'clusive parties of the year. %% sat there. the fountain couldn&t go on living. which meant that the chosen pair. while students wandered by and paid it no attention. It had appeared that 0hristine thought she knew . %% wondered if the fountain missed the water during the bitter cold winter months.yan. every spring. It was Sampson Academy&s version of a prom. who would be anointed . The water was the fountain&s life source and without it. 9y itself. 5irls always listened to their closest friends when it came to dating guys.endal&s tutor. 4hat better way to get to . And they hadn&t worked. when winter thawed.endal just might bend.endal. the fountain had been shut off. the cement structure was depressing. #ven its soft blue color had faded. #veryone at the formal voted for the perfect couple. To . It sucked the life right out of her. It just stood there. one other girl that . . In his mind*in his perfect plan*he would be the king and . 4ell. It appeared to be a feasible plan of action. She just might let him in. 9ut he had thought that that was the kind of guy . At first he had thought that 0hristine was his best way in since she had told . Then.endal would respond to. though. And when he finally thought he had made a dent.endal would be his 1ueen. as well as fall semester. the girl on the basketball team. acted like she didn&t e'ist= 4hoever said that nice guys finish last must have known what he was talking about.endal hanging around with over the past month. It left her in a complete and utter da3e. only larger and more upscale. she&d stood him up anyway. The one he had hatched originally was not working. . the day she&d come to his room to accept the invite. the symbolic centerpiece of the 1uad. 2e had acted like such a fool. taking up space. things that she&d thought .ing and :ueen. that whole approach had been pointless. and with it came Sampson Academy&s famous winter formal. rhyme nor reason. get her to do a little pushing and prodding on his behalf. .endal&s mind about him. which left it looking gray.endal than to go through a close friend= CHAPTER !& %% sat on a wooden bench in front of the grand fountain.yan was determined to be one of the chosen. without water.yan many things about . . The end of the soccer season.

And her emotions ran so deep there was no way she could be with someone without getting attached.eeping people at arm&s length was a skill that :ueenie had mastered./ +Say no more. %% figured she felt bad about what happened and would rather forget all about it. It didn&t help that she saw . It was clear that :ueenie had every intention of dragging her downtown whether she wanted to go or not. -r maybe she was just cynical because it was part of her personality./ +And no tutoring=/ +6o tutoring. 9ut %% knew that was impossible. it was 1uite obvious that she was bitter when it came to relationships. right= >ou don&t have to read that poem anytime soon=/ . %% shook her head in disappointment. +6o. in fact./ +And you got that e'tension for your writing class. hands in her pockets.endal all along. 9ut . +4hat= >ou&ve got something better to do=/ :ueenie asked in a tone that told %% she shouldn&t attempt to argue. And it&s probably a lot healthier than the way I deal with things. Attending a small private school made it far too easy to bump into the same people on a regular basis*whether you wanted to or not. +It&s pathetic. #ither way. +7et&s go.aybe she needed to be more like :ueenie. 4hat made it all worse. you go off to find yourself. She assumed :ueenie had gotten burned somewhere along the way./ %% frowned. . not even her writing. 4e&re going to go dancing downtown. She was a hopeless romanticN so what= It was better than being a cynic. #ver since ./ :ueenie returned.6othing mattered to her./ :ueenie slapped %% on the knee and stood up.endal practically everywhere she went. she refused to be like :ueenie. a wide grin on her face. not basketball. I guess not./ +Sometimes I think that&s just what I need to do. she&d been moping around as if it were the end of the world. though. #mily $ickinson and those +wild nights/ included. +4henever something like this happens. She wasn&t sure she was up for one of :ueenie&s cra3y adventures. for whatever reason. it&s not pathetic. to not let herself get attached. She hadn&t written anything for at least a week. possibly by a former girlfriend./ +>ou mean by ignoring the feelings=/ +#'actly. +6o. She wondered what :ueenie would think about her little fountain metaphor.endal hadn&t shown up for their tutoring session. %% turned around to see :ueenie standing there. isn&t it=/ %% asked. was the fact that :ueenie had been right about . my friend. She walked over and sat down on the bench. %% had never asked her why./ +Tonight=/ +Tonight. She did care./ The voice rose from behind. . . 9ut as many times as %% got her heart stepped on./ +4here=/ +I called a few people. +It&s just the way you deal with things.aybe she needed to not care. turning back to face the fountain.endal never even looked in her direction.

/ :ueenie told him. :ueenie happily pulled into valet parking. 0lark&s one stipulation had been that %% read the poem that she had already selected.%% nodded. They e'changed a half hug and a heartfelt slap on each other&s backs. though at that moment she wondered if maybe she should have just stayed home./ They walked as a group through the doors of the club under the bouncer&s watchful eye. She even had taken time to do her hair. +4e&ve got to do something about your outfit. %% had agreed on the spot. 9y the time they arrived at the club. At the end of the semester. +It&s fine. She didn&t have a choice. %% couldn&t wait to e'it the sardine can that :ueenie&s lu'ury car had become. $idn&t I tell you=/ %% laughed. . She was also in with the bouncer. and took the stairs to the second level where the entrance was. #very person in the class had to select the best piece from their own body of work that they had accumulated over the semester. :ueenie sprayed %% with her own cologne because she swore up and down that it made the ladies wild./ :ueenie teased. #ach student would be graded on both the writing and their stage delivery./ said :ueenie. though. She had gotten an e'tension. and proceeded to pick up three more people along the way into downtown 8ichmond. +Sometimes when I&m out with you. +I swear. +>ou are. 0lark out in the hall. +She&s with me. 0lark took pity on her and granted %% an e'tension. 9ut then :ueenie wrapped her arm around her and yelled. It had been her last hope because she hadn&t even been close to being prepared last . 2er ears were ringing from the stereo. And in a state of panic. She was wearing her basketball jersey pants. They s1uee3ed into :ueenie&s 9. +4e&re going out. 9ut it really didn&t matter which poem she read.rs./ %%% 4ith :ueenie&s help. she hoped she would be able to. +I&m the most popular lesbian in all of <irginia. the writing class held an open reading at The Spot./ :ueenie shook her head./ She yanked %% off the bench. They were to read their pieces aloud in front of the entire class and whoever else was in the audience. +Sometimes you just scream @I need a makeover&. There&s no way I&m going to a club with you looking like that. since the bass had been turned up so loud. She desperately tried to e'plain her stage fright and that she was doing her best to overcome it. I feel like I&m with someone famous. %% emerged from her dorm room looking 1uite hip in faded jeans.rs. a dark-blue hooded sweatshirt and flip-flops with white socks.rs./ %% regarded her clothes. At least. +So it&s settled then./ and %%&s doubt disappeared in an instant. who called her by name once he saw her. 9efore they left the dorm. She figured that she&d be able to con1uer her stage fright by the time the end of the semester came around. just as long as she didn&t have to read it out loud anytime soon.4 with a few other members of the basketball team. a form-fitting vintage long-sleeved T-shirt. Somehow it had worked because . +It&s going to be a great night. she&d asked to speak to . 2e watched %% suspiciously. during e'ams.onday morning when she was supposed to read her poem out loud. ./ %% said. and her favorite pair of Adidas sneakers.

%% took off through the crowd. since she had none. though she was standing right in front of her. she knew instantly that she&d made a wrong turn.endal. 9efore :ueenie could stop her. A girl who looked about her age made her way over and struck up a conversation.. which was 1uite hard to do. %% glared at her. 9ut when she stepped out onto the fire escape. It was almost K p. %% once again made her way through the crowd. 9y the time :ueenie found a suitable dancing partner who proceeded to put her spaghetti arms all over her. and pushed %% to the side. +>ou got stuck on the fire escape= At the club=/ They both were still dressed in their pajamas. At that point. and as soon as their conversation fi33led out the girl moved on to someone else. +:ueenie. she was cute enough./ She raised an eyebrow and motioned behind her where the girl was patiently waiting. She stomped down a narrow corridor. Sure. +7et&s go dance. I&m kind of in the middle of something. and %% still felt e'hausted from their late night out. +>ou look ridiculous./ :ueenie lifted her head and glanced around as if she&d forgotten where she was./ :ueenie yelled. The music was deafening. +$o whatever you want. :ueenie began dancing at once to the techno music that blared through the speakers while %% tried desperately to find her rhythm. +I&m not ready to go yet. assuming %% had been having the time of her life. %% was ready to leave the club. An hour later. %% panicked and turned 1uickly to open the e'it door but it was too late. and pointed in the direction of the dance floor. and spotted her off in the corner kissing the same girl who had been all over her on the dance floor. +4hy=/ she asked. She gently pushed her way through the sea of people and happily emerged at the spot where :ueenie was standing. CHAPTER !' +The fire escape=/ :ueenie stared in ama3ement./ %% shouted. she&d forgotten that %% was even there. 2er smile was the one bright spot in the entire evening. but %% just nodded or waved in her direction./ :ueenie stepped away from her make-out partner in crime. +9ecause I&m ready to go.e= At least I move to the beat. and you could almost see the walls shaking. but all %% could think about was the fact that the girl standing ne't to her wasn&t . walked down a narrow corridor and out into an open space that was packed wall to wall with every type of lesbian you could possibly imagine. %% nodded and followed the group through the crowd. 9ut she wasn&t captivating by any means./ %% frowned. She scanned the crowd for :ueenie again.They reached the second floor landing.m. She stopped dancing and moved through the crowd toward the wall where she&d do some people-watching instead. :ueenie motioned for her to come and join in more than a few times. eating :ueenie&s 0hinese food order that had just been delivered. +. and pushed through the first e'it door she saw./ she told :ueenie in order to draw attention away from herself. She offered to buy %% a soda. ./ she sputtered. %% was still leaning against the wall. +I&m leaving. It had locked firmly behind her and she was now stuck on the fire escape.

eyes fi'ed on the television. she&d taken a cab back to school. I still don&t know how the rest of your night was. either. And./ +It wouldn&t be as funny if I had fallen or been robbed at gunpoint./ +There&s nothing to tell. I managed to land on my feet somehow. and you can&t even offer me a few simple words about a girl you met at a club=/ +4e were having fun./ %% shook her head from side to side. and I&ll repeat it again for those of you who are hard of hearing. by the way. and fished around in her carton for any remaining bits of chicken before tossing it aside on the table. if you hadn&t gone out. %% nodded.ung "ao chicken. 9ut when %% told her story. now you know what happened to me last night.c9ride=/ . :ueenie showed no remorse*only laughter and sarcasm. +4ait a minute. She heard :ueenie come in an hour later. The two of them slept until after noon. +So.+And you had your cell phone on you the entire time=/ :ueenie asked between mouthfuls of ./ :ueenie pointed at %% with her fork before she pierced a piece of chicken and gobbled it up. seriously. +4hat in the world happened to you last night=/ +>es./ %% sipped her soda./ +$o tell./ :ueenie said. after the club closed we went our separate ways./ +Trust me. I walked across them anyway. I got stuck on the fire escape at the club./ +9ut./ %% replied as she nibbled on some white rice. only they didn&t fall all the way to the ground./ :ueenie shrugged./ +4hat happened with you and that girl at the club=/ +6ot much. you wouldn&t have had any fun sitting here pouting./ +So how were you able to get down=/ :ueenie asked. +I tell you what you deem to be the greatest story ever told. +I should have never gone out. so %% crawled into bed./ :ueenie repeated. The night had been a complete and utter failure. After she finally got down from the fire escape. +4e hung out for a bit more and that&s it. broken beer bottles. :ueenie still wasn&t home. +(unny. . which cost me twenty-five bucks. and then I lost interest. +At least you have a really good story to tell because of it. and random individuals lurking about. that&s the kind of story you break out at boring parties and other humdrum social functions. and I felt*used. +I figured out how to release the latch on the stairs. Then she turned on the television as if she&d grown bored with the conversation.y story isn&t half as good as yours.&/ %% pressed. and then I reali3ed I was in the middle of a broken down lot with fire barrels. who could blame :ueenie= 5etting stuck on a fire escape at a club was not an average occurrence. it looked like more than @not much was going on. and they fell from underneath me. And in hindsight. +(rom my perspective./ +4hat do you mean=/ +I mean. +I mean./ %% had wanted :ueenie to feel remorseful for what happened. when :ueenie had finally rolled over and asked. I sprinted down the first alley I spotted and jumped into the back of a cab. really. it was considerably amusing. >ou felt used= >ou= :ueenie . %% had even laughed at herself when she described how she&d finally gotten down. That means you wouldn&t have lived to tell what I now consider to be the greatest story ever told. and you wouldn&t have gotten stuck on the fire escape.

/ :ueenie s1uinted and shifted in her seat. focusing her eyes nowhere in particular. +$o you have to make me sound like that big of a jerk=/ she snapped. I don&t know. >ou had a moment of guilt./ :ueenie slumped down onto the recliner. >ou felt the need for something more. ./ +%ust like that=/ :ueenie snapped her fingers. +I think I just wondered*for a very. %% paused./ +It was so awkward when we left the club. So./ +Are you listening to what you are saying=/ +4hat= She probably doesn&t remember my name either./ She stopped circling and glared at %%. +And you know what she said to me= She said. +I just felt sort of hollow when I woke up this morning./ +:ueenie./ %% scratched her head. very.&/ +And that bothered you because . like I suddenly grew a conscience. @relationships. I don&t know. 4hat&s going on with you=/ +6othing. I&m just*maybe I&m thinking too much. +%ust like that. you can talk to me. +Something is obviously bothering you. and threw the remote control at the recliner in the corner of the room. +That&s my line. It passed./ ./ :ueenie said finally. 4here does she get off using my line=/ +4ait a second. @not into what=& And she said. +-kay. +4e said this weird goodbye. 9ut for some reason I felt like I should get to know the girl. I don&t think that&s it. (ive seconds ago you had a conscience. 9oth. It was something that started with an @S&. and stood up./ +4ait a minute. something a bit more real. +>ou&re pretty much stuck with it. 4hat&s going on=/ %% set the can of soda aside and sat up in her chair. It&s me. that girl&s response brought me back to reality. as if she were contemplating %%&s words long and hard. Try this one on for si3e./ %% told her. @I&m not into that./ %% began. She circled the room./ +I don&t know what it is.:ueenie turned off the television. +6ope. +4hat if last night was basically a chance for you to see yourself through your own eyes. +-kay. Then she grimaced and retrieved the remote control from beneath her because it was pinching her butt and tossed it aside. And thankfully./ She pretended to pick off something repulsive from her forehead and flicked it to the ground. A moment when the enormous brick wall that normally hides your emotions came tumbling down./ :ueenie said. +Are you mad about her stealing your line or the fact that you are the one who got played in this little scenario=/ +6either. +>ou don&t even remember her name=/ +Shelia*Shannon./ +It passed=/ +>es. e'tremely brief moment*what it would be like to actually date someone. The moment passed. you know= 7ike on a deeper level or something. =/ +Are you kidding me=/ :ueenie e'claimed. And it bothered you that you were actually the one who got burned. +2ow do I get rid of it=/ +>our conscience= I don&t think you can. ./ she said. seriously./ +That girl=/ %% cringed. I asked her for her number to see if she wanted to go out again sometime. 4hat happened=/ +#h. and that&s it.& So I said. or through the eyes of some of the girls you hook up with and leave hanging= >ou felt how they feel after you cast them aside. and rubbed her temples. >ou felt the need to open yourself up to someone else.

endal./ :ueenie weighed one hand against the other. +2ow in the world is that possible=/ +Simple. Someone who opens herself up to people. >ou are that bad. +>ou get nervous about everything. %% knew that :ueenie was right on some level. +2ow can you eat like that before a game=/ %% asked. this time with determination. hey*it&s safer doing things my way. 2ow about the fact that you barely blink under what I would consider stressful situations. +It really isn&t that big of a deal. I don&t know. +I figure./ +It&s just a game. >ou put too much stock into things that don&t matter./ She spun some pasta around the fork and opened wide. Someone who doesn&t have a so-called brick wall. she&d been right about . I reali3ed who I was talking to./ +Such as=/ +Such as*talking to girls. +I&m hungry./ +A little=/ :ueenie mocked. +I need energy for the game. After all. . I suppose. So she ends up being someone who gets hurt on a regular basis./ +And just who are you talking to=/ +I&m talking to someone who does the opposite of me./ :ueenie said as she proceeded to mop up the rest of the sauce on her plate with another piece of buttered bread./ :ueenie said. playing in basketball games. %%. comfortably stuffing her face as usual. CHAPTER !( %%&s stomach tossed and turned in directions she didn&t know were possible./ +I&m not that bad. +I feel like I am going to throw up./ +Trust me./ %% set her fork down and rubbed her stomach. +>ou get an'ious when it&s raining outside and you can&t find an umbrella./ +4hy don&t you ever get nervous=/ :ueenie shrugged and ate more bread and butter. +I can&t help it. graduating from high school. getting into a good college*pretty much life in general./ +#'ams don&t matter= 9asketball doesn&t matter= 0ollege doesn&t matter=/ . +That&s just part of your character./ Though she didn&t admit it.%% threw her hands up in the air./ %% said enviously. taking e'ams./ :ueen returned. what makes you think I&m so carefree=/ +5ee. She sat in the dining hall. At least I&m not the one who gets hurt. I get nervous. +9esides. And I&m not depressed. :ueenie sat across from her. as :ueenie shoved a piece of bread slathered with butter into her eager mouth. forcing down bites of spaghetti with marinara sauce.aybe some "ro3ac would help=/ +"ro3ac is an anti-depressant. And so do you. +I wish I could be as carefree as you sometimes./ %% picked up her fork again./ +It&s all trivial. as if being hungry gave her the right to devour any and every piece of food set in front of her. I just get a little an'ious now and then. between ample gulps of milk./ +I know./ +I wish I could write like you sometimes.

folded her hands and began to twiddle her thumbs. +>ou just have to 1uit stalling./ %% started her response. %% waited patiently for her to respond. +>es=/ +>es. be-all for you. this time you are actually making sense. +There are things in life that are worth sweating over. 4hat is it that you really are afraid of=/ +I&m afraid of what people are going to think about my work./ +>ou know. :ueenie. She gave :ueenie a long look. rather than taking advice yourself. for instance. I don&t want to be anything like them. 9ut she did know better. but you don&t really know my parents. It&s part of the game you&re in. +4hat you really are afraid of is success. on paper or otherwise. +$espite all the nonsense you have ever spouted before./ :ueenie said at last. tilting the front legs of her chair up in the air. >ou&ve just got to do it knowing that you are going to get up there again. +4hat about you=/ +4hat about me=/ :ueenie continued to twiddle./ +>ou&re way too hard on them. $eep inside. +0ome on. knowing that the first time you get up there isn&t the end-all. sliding her plate aside. and picked at her spaghetti even though she knew she was finished eating. And in life there&s always going to be another e'am or test of some sort. I&m listening. and do it./ %% glared at her. >ou know my parents. +>es. >ou think I care if 0oach chews me out for missing a shot that would have won us a game= There&s always going to be another game.+6ot in the big scheme of things. 9ut just hear me out. :ueenie. She pointed a knowing finger about an inch away from %%&s nose. If %% didn&t know any better./ +And that would be=/ +9ecoming my parents./ +That&s just an e'cuse and you know it. +9ut don&t push it to the limit by taking advantage of them at every turn./ +So am I. >ou never let it rest./ :ueenie pressed her finger to %%&s nose as if she were pushing a button. 4hy break a sweat over each one=/ +0ome on. There&s always going to be another girl to talk to. %%. 9ecause once you get up on stage and read your stuff*just once*you&ll be able to do it again without thinking twice. she would have assumed that :ueenie was wise beyond her years./ +That&s fine. you know you can do it. >ou&re a writer. and stared up at the ceiling. and then whacked :ueenie&s finger away from her face. you know you want to do it. $eep inside. 7ife is too short to worry about the small stuff. +"eople are going to criti1ue your work whether you read it out loud or not./ said :ueenie. Isn&t there anything in this world that you&re afraid of=/ :ueenie tipped her toes and leaned back. or belittling them every chance you get./ +.aybe. It&s almost as if you enjoy making life difficult for them to appease your own agenda when . +I was being serious./ said %%./ +Take your stage fright./ +Then what am I afraid of=/ asked %%./ %% said. There is one thing that I am afraid of. She also knew how easy it was to give sound advice to other people. knowing that there will be other opportunities to do so./ +7isten./ :ueenie smiled./ +-kay.

+All I need you to do is give her a little nudge in my direction. I don&t think I&m the right person to*/ +9ecause I really like her./ 9efore :ueenie had a chance to respond. +$o you know him=/ :ueenie asked. She raised an eyebrow at %% as if to say. . I&m going to go to law school. who would you be= >ou define yourself by defying them.c0arthy. I used to see you two hanging around together all the time. and. +it&s been said that I&m one of the best looking guys at school. +0an I talk to you=/ . And this would help me out a lot. +4ho is this creep=/ .maybe./ he smiled devilishly. +4hy don&t you just ask her yourself=/ +She&s kind of playing hard to get./ +Talk to her about you=/ +>es./ +9ut I hardly know you./ . which appeared as though it was about to burst out of his tightly-fitting sweater./ he said. I&m popular. +It&s important./ %%&s eyes drifted over to the cheerleading table.yan e'plained. 9oth %% and :ueenie looked up. +And I know how girls always listen to their friends when it comes to dating guys.yan leaned in and whispered. a shadow fell over the table.endal .yan reached up and idly scratched his right bicep./ +Trust me. +True. +I need you to do something for me. It was empty. 2e had the kind of look on his face that said he either was incredibly desperate or had just flunked a test. I know you&re tight with her. keeping his eyes planted on %%./ +)m*why=/ +9ecause you seem like a nice person. ignoring :ueenie altogether. and gave up her seat.yan Stevens loomed over them./ :ueenie said as she settled her chair back into an upright position. and asked the obvious 1uestion that was dancing on her tongue./ %% hated the fact that he was right./ ./ +I&ll leave you two kids alone./ :ueenie volunteered. but I&m still not following you. +That&s why I want you to talk to her about me. +I&m sorry*what=/ %% returned. you might be able to find common ground you can share with them. +0ome on. %% thought. +If you didn&t have your parents to torment on a regular basis. 4hy wouldn&t you want her to date a guy like me=/ I could think of a thousand reasons why not. +7isten. She pointed her thumb awkwardly in his direction. if you just talked to them. right=/ +>ou could say that. +I said I need you to do something for me./ +>ou&re friends with ./ +I wonder sometimes*/ %% posed./ +4hy me=/ +9ecause you&re her friend./ %% cocked her head to one side.yan asked. uninvited./ .yan sat down across from %%. I just need you to say a few nice things about me. +There&s no common ground./ ./ +4hat&s to know= I&m the captain of the soccer team./ +And why would I do that e'actly=/ +9ecause I want to go out with her. if you know what I mean. like a hitchhiker la3ily hailing a ride.

and finished the night with an admirable si'teen points./ +4hy not=/ . They hadn&t even as much as made eye contact.endal didn&t listen to them. too close for %%&s liking. I can appreciate your interest in ./ she told him sharply. >ou not only played with skill. The team stood in a circle in the middle of the locker room as 0oach 0ook rambled on about the game. was over. she wouldn&t have been able to concentrate. whether by te't or by phone./ %% stood up and pushed her chair in. 4hy don&t you ask one of her cheerleading buddies to help you out=/ +I did. well enough to redeem herself in 0oach&s eyes by turning in eight assists and scoring twelve points.endal had stood %% up. +6ow that&s the %% I know and love. That&s it. I can&t help you. I was her tutor./ +Then I&d doubt she&d listen to me. +but I&m not the person you should be talking to./ +4ait*/ . After the game. They hadn&t spoken since . And heart is what we need*/ %%&s mind drifted as she pretended to listen to what 0oach 0ook was saying./ %% stared at his hand until he let go.endal. %% had played well. or whatever it was. +0an&t you at least give me some advice on how to win her over= Anything at all=/ +7ike I said. and maybe she wouldn&t have been able to play as well as she had. +4e&ve still got a lot to work on. There was no apology.endal . 9ut now that she&d seen her in the stands. she couldn&t help but wonder what in the world T2# ./ .c0arthy was doing there. laughing and relishing the win with her teammates.yan practically whined. but you also played with heart. The conversation seemed so out of the realm of reality that she almost pinched herself to see if she were dreaming. ladies. +>ou won&t even consider helping me out=/ CHAPTER !) The game had been close. She was glad she hadn&t noticed her during the game because then she would have been distracted. I can&t help you. +That&s it=/ . 4e aren&t even friends./ +4e aren&t best friends./ And so it was official.yan called after her as she walked away. So %% figured their friendship. +7ook. but the Sampson 7ady >ellow %ackets were able to pull out a win against a formidable rival.%% sat there. +That&s the %% I need to run this offense for the rest of the season./ she said. 4e don&t even talk anymore. +I&m sorry. 9ut tomorrow we start with a clean record once again. entirely confused. as she was making her way to the locker room. :ueenie had played superbly.yan reached over and grabbed hold of %%&s arm as she passed by his side of the table./ 0oach 0ook said after the end of the game. Their eyes met for only a moment before %% had to look away. +6ow I want you to enjoy the win for tonight. +>ou two seem like best friends or something. according to 0oach 0ook. Tomorrow we get back to the basics and we start preparing for our ne't game against 4illiam and . . %% had secured her starting position. she&d noticed an unusual face in the crowd. too. +I&ve got a game to get to. 9ut I&m pleased with what I saw out on the floor tonight.ary.

/ %% replied as evenly as possible./ :ueenie e'claimed before she reali3ed that %% wasn&t walking beside her anymore. three. +I&ve never actually been to women&s basketball game before.endal was still sitting on the bleachers./ ./ /That&s very true. it&s a different story.endal took in the empty gym. was that the girl&s team or the boy&s team we just played=/ +The way they knocked your skinny butt around. she knew why. +"lease=/ +-kay. would you=/ +. there&s a first time for everything. +4hen we lose. +It was e'citing and fun to watch. +5reat game.nocked me around= I&m all muscle./ %% whispered./ :ueenie said./ +It&s about time. 9y the time she made up her mind. 9y the way./ :ueenie declared.0oach 0ook threw her hand into the center of the circle. +0oach can certainly ramble on when she wants to. I&m glad we won though. #veryone else followed suit. 0oach left the room.an. +I&m ready. when she noticed that . 7ooks like you&re back on 0oach&s good side. ladies. :ueenie hesitated. +I don&t think I&ve recovered from the fire escape incident just yet. I want team on three./ They left the locker room together. +./ +>ou definitely played well tonight. >ou ready= I want to get back and shower before we go out./ +0an&t wait to hear those pep talks. I&ll see you back at the dorm./ +>ou know what they say.endal making her way down the bleachers one step at a time./ +I think I&m going to stay in tonight./ %% said./ :ueenie sniffed her underarms. And what&s this @we& stuff= $o you have another lesbian in your pocket or something=/ +0ome on./ %% composed herself and stood as tall as she could in an otherwise defensive stance. two. +5reat team effort tonight./ %% checked in and around her locker to make sure she wasn&t leaving anything behind. 2ow did 0oach put it e'actly= Superbly=/ +>ou weren&t so bad yourself./ +I thought you didn&t care if we won or lost=/ +I don&t care if we lose. >ou&re really good. +5ive me a moment. floating on a natural high that %% and :ueenie assumed would carry her through the rest of the evening. . you wouldn&t know. +I can hold my own./ %% yawned and stretched. we won a game. That sounds like a good enough reason to celebrate to me. -ne. but when we win it gives me an e'cuse to go out./ +Thanks. I stink./ The word team reverberated throughout the locker room and 0oach 0ook&s after-game speech finally had ended. discussing the highlights of the game as they reentered the gym./ . debating whether or not she should meet .endal already stood in front of her. As soon as she saw . 5reat team effort. as she fle'ed her arms. %% was in the middle of reliving a sweet behind-the-back pass that she&d made to :ueenie late in the third 1uarter. +She just rambles when she&s happy. Then it&s always short and sweet.endal halfway or stay where she was. +The point guard didn&t even see where the ball went. as she pulled on her warm-ups.

+9ut it&s not what you think. I know you&ll do well. 9ut when . with #mily $ickinson and your 4omen&s 7iterature class. why did you wait so long to talk to me= I&ve seen you around campus and you acted as if I wasn&t there./ +(or=/ +(or standing you up. +I&m glad you came to the game.endal didn&t try to stop her or come running after her./ she said roughly./ +>es./ . +If you&re so eager to apologi3e. And I&m sure all of your friends would approve. as she bent over to pick up her gym bag off the floor./ +4hat are you talking about=/ +2e stopped by to see me earlier today. +And then I reali3ed that you&re not the person I thought you were at all./ +At least give me a chance to apologi3e. she wondered if she&d made the right decision. (or avoiding you. I don&t./ ./ she said. you do. +I know how it looked.endal reached out and touched %% on the arm. +She said you&d stop talking to me. +2ey./ +Are you serious=/ +>eah. :ueenie warned me./ +I didn&t freak out. Instead.endal opened her mouth wide but %% didn&t wait for her to respond./ she said./ +4hy are you telling me this=/ +9ecause maybe you should give him a chance. +>ou know me. +I came here to apologi3e. And I thought you were angry with me and needed some space. and you should probably know that . I don&t know you at all.endal closed her eyes.endal pleaded. (or making you think that*/ +That you are as shallow as the rest of the cheerleading s1uad=/ . CHAPTER "* . you know./ +6o.endal cringed. It is what it is.A lull in the already struggling conversation irritated %%. Apparently he thought we were good friends or something./ %% shoved her hands angrily in her pockets. 2e&s perfect for you. 5uess you proved her right. ./ She turned to walk away then stopped abruptly. look.endal. I just want to e'plain*/ +>ou don&t have to e'plain anything. +I know*I was embarrassed about what happened. And I stuck up for you./ %% slung her gym bag over her shoulder. . +5ood luck with the rest of your semester. to e'plain what happened./ . That&s the problem.aybe he can give you some of those @wild nights& you&ve been wishing for. She said you&d get all freaked out when your friends started wondering why we were hanging out so much. +>ou know me better than anyone else at this school./ said ./ . she decided to walk away. 4anted me to put in a good word for him./ %% took a giant step backwards.aybe he&s not such a bad guy after all.endal interrupted./ . as you put it. 9ut I&ve really got to get */ +I didn&t come here just to watch the game. +I thought I knew you.yan Stevens is head over heels for you. I said you&d never do anything like that. +-h./ +>ou know. against her better judgment. I guess he likes you a lot.

endal stood slowly. +It&s okay./ She hung up the phone and slid it into her back pocket./ the president said patiently. as if she were waiting for someone who obviously was late. They were a part of the 0ultural Awareness Society. 9ut look. She kept checking her watch after every other sentence./ she called over her shoulder as she shoved the 1uarter into her jeans pocket and pushed through the doors.endal insisted. I wasn&t . gradually e'posing herself to the rest of the group. she gladly showed the group the shiny 1uarter in her hand. To . intent on nursing her out of the shadow of the couch.endal heard a voice ask.endal. then crossed her arms over her chest. . +I was*I&m not here for the meeting. talking on her cell phone. take your time.endal. 4hen she stood up. I.endal./ The president pointed a finger. a v-neck sweater and an e'pensive black leather jacket. They all wore matching smiles along with their 0ultural Awareness Society pins. races and religious beliefs. please say hello to . >eah. 9ut you&ve got it wrong./ the students said in unison. #veryone. +>es. in faded jeans. I*/ She saw a 1uarter protruding from the couch cushion and 1uickly bent over to snatch it up. . . really. +I already know what you think of me. +It&s important./ The entire group looked at her strangely. +2ey. I found it. She turned her head to see the 0ultural Awareness Society president staring directly at her from the podium in the center of the room./ +(ive minutes is all I need. She was dressed as if she were going out downtown. (rom where she hid./ +2ello.endal wondered if :ueenie had spotted her.endal. 2is eyes were warm and welcoming.endal&s eyes darted around the room and then down at her feet./ . shuffling through its contents./ .4hile she hid strategically behind the big chunky couch in the school lounge. %ust give me five minutes. She could see :ueenie close and lock her mailbo' and head for the doors. .eet me in five minutes instead.endal*/ +2ello.endal gave a slight and awkward wave. .endal&s right sat a group of students of various ages.endal stammered and pulled at her fingers.endal had sneaked into the school lounge under their cover. and then looked back at . +And you are=/ . she clearly could see :ueenie standing in front of her student mailbo'. She spun around and the phone dropped from her ear to her side. and pretended to be involved in their group meeting as she kept a watchful eye on :ueenie. you behind the couch. +Sorry to interrupt. and tapped her gently on the shoulder. +See. She took a deep breath and plunged forward into the chilly night air. +$o you have a minute=/ :ueenie gestured at the phone in her hand.endal could only flash them a 1uick apologetic smile before she hurried away from the couch. :ueenie was standing on the curb outside. :ueenie slowly returned the phone to her ear. . ./ . +4hat&s your name=/ +. .endal said. +4hat brings you to our meeting tonight. +>ou&ve got five minutes. .endal=/ +4ell*/ .endal approached her slowly. earlier today I dropped some change in the couch. +0an I help you=/ :ueenie asked. . +I.

I can&t even begin to e'plain or justify it. +4hy don&t you just go talk to her=/ +I&m not going to go beg at her door. I&ll tell my ride to wait longer. admiring her long and slender legs as they carried her forward. %%% +So what happened with .yan as they left the athletic center. :ueenie stood firm as she watched . I knew she was mad at me. and continued to watch her from afar. She&ll know where I&m talking about. +4hy did you suddenly stop talking to her= And why did you do e'actly what I said you&d do=/ +9ecause I was confused. >ou want me to talk to her for you=/ +6ot e'actly./ +And what do I get in return for doing this=/ :ueenie asked. Then she reached into her back pocket without looking away. It distracted her for a moment./ . +This is so new to me. -kay. pushed a few numbers and raised the phone to her ear. ./ . It&s important. She wouldn&t even let me e'plain. I&m not downtown yet.going to stop talking to %%. no matter what people think or what people say or . I want to do the e'act opposite. +$id you get her friend to talk to her for you=/ The soccer season was over. +I&m perfectly capable of saying all of this to her myself. And there&s more to be said. I&m serious. I don&t even know what I&m saying. until her silhouette faded into the night. >es.eet you where=/ +At my special spot.endal=/ %ason asked .endal declared.endal hugged herself to keep warm. If she&s really interested in what I have to say. . I want to*spend more time with her./ She laughed in spite of herself./ +She&s back at the dorm right now. (riends. but . All of it. let me guess./ . I already tried talking to her. I haven&t even made it off campus. 9ut what I do know is that I enjoy spending time with %%.endal e'plained. and that didn&t go so well./ +. 2er breath formed a cloud as she spoke. . And I needed some space to think about my confusion. then she&ll come meet me.endal striding along the sidewalk. Something came up. School. +>ou get a chance to help make this right. It&s me. I want to talk to her more.eet me in the school lounge. I just need for her to give me a chance to say it. +0onfused about what=/ +(eelings.endal caught a glimpse of the moon over :ueenie&s right shoulder./ . #verything. but I guess I didn&t reali3e how much I hurt her. I really*/ +4hy&d you stand her up then=/ :ueenie challenged. . as if her words were left suspended in air. I&m not going anywhere yet. And I don&t want to stop hanging out with her.endal walk away./ 4hen :ueenie hung up her phone./ +Aren&t you saying this to the wrong person=/ +I tried talking to %% after your basketball game the other day./ :ueenie said and pointed behind her.yan and %ason continued to work out every night as hard as they did at the beginning of the season. +9esides. I&m still confused. Tell her to meet me there in an hour. I want to*I don&t know./ +So. I need her to give me a moment to e'plain what happened. she could still see . In fact. +%%. This time. See you in when you get here. I thought I&d try a different approach. . 6o.

endal ./ +4hat are you going to do=/ . +.aybe you just need a different approach. +9ut I&m going to follow her./ he said. does she know if . I forgot about that.endal and that she&s just one of her tutors. +4hat= >ou can never tell these days. I&m just./ +./ %ason snickered. 4inter formal was only a few weeks away./ +So=/ +So. A devilish smile broke out on his face./ +6o./ he said 1uietly./ ./ e'ploring my options.yan said./ +I don&t get it.yan fi'ed his eyes on him. The girl just isn&t interested in me for some reason. 2is days to find a suitable replacement were numbered. +5et it=/ +$ude. .an./ %ason stopped walking. and then to a figure approaching the soccer field. +-h*right.yan looked up. +It does now. +Take this for me. +I think it is. +$oes 0hristine know that for sure= I mean.aybe she&s just not into guys.yan answered. $oes it matter=/ . She said . okay. 0hristine said something about her spending a lot of time with that %% girl from the basketball team. It disappeared onto an adjacent patch of grass. +Shut up. while making 1uotes with his fingers.endal hasn&t been acting like herself since they started hanging out./ . all you&ve been talking about since school started was that you needed to find the perfect girl. +I&m thinking about asking somebody else. And I can&t figure out why./ %ason bit down on his laughter.endal . +4hat.an.yan rolled his heavy shoulders back.yan rolled his eyes.c0arthy this and ./ 2e began to pick at a loose thread hanging off the back pocket of his jeans. The whole sensitive guy routine. $id you even ask her out=/ +The invite-only party. +4here is she going=/ %ason wondered out loud. +I don&t know.yan waved his hand into the air. +I don&t know./ . rela'./ .yan said./ he said as he s1uinted into the darkness. Then it was all . 8emember= She stood me up. maybe she&s tutoring ./ +I doubt that. They watched together as the figure took a sharp left off the cement path that led to the soccer field and cut over to the bleachers.endal really is*one=/ +-ne what= A lesbian=/ %ason kicked a rock off the cement path they were standing on./ +Are you making fun of me=/ +. Since when do you give up on getting the girl=/ +I&m not giving up. seriously. isn&t that*/ . +She said she hardly even knows .+6o. >ou know./ .c0arthy that./ +I tried a different approach. +It bombed./ 2e handed his gym bag to %ason. the one that you talked to. +2ey. 2is entire body ached from the back of his neck all the way to the soles on his feet.yan chewed on the inside of his cheek./ .endal in more subjects than one. %ason&s eyes drifted from the library to the school lounge./ +4hat are you going to do now= Are you still going to ask her to the winter formal=/ .

&omewhere.yan rubbed his hands together in anticipation. to relieve in itself The pain. +I&m not sure. *ant to &ometimes ' do. The $ibble Syndrome had hit. &ometimes it helps. so to spea6. *hen ' see the sun ' hope for rain. mind /lea6. And move on. '4m wea6. static feelings. only this time she hadn&t let it take over. she&d moped around for a week or two *but that was it. A wee6 from now '4ll laugh At my dramatic. strength. deep inside ' 6now '4ll find 0ourage. one that would allow her to finally move on from her thoughts of . 't4s impossi/le to hide how ' feel. . &o real. The first time she . +on4t thin6 ' ever could "ver would. CHAPTER " %% had just finished entering a new poem in her poetry journal when :ueenie had called. But it4s 5ust a moment. Thoughts reel. Sure. . Heart open. She reread the words 1uickly. erratic. and peace of mind (ut my faith 'n time.. )et4s not /eat around the /ush. The poem in its entirety was an affirmation of sorts. ' wear my heart on my sleeve $n my face. '4ve never tried to deceive $r pull an a/out face. ' may /e stuc6 at the moment . 9ut I&m going to find out what&s going on once and for all. And '4ll thin6 why *hy all the fears and misconceptions ' guess that happens when ' lose direction $r fall off my path.endal.

stage fright. +4hat did you want me to meet you here for=/ +Shhhhhh. :ueenie had to help pull her out of the bowels of depression./ +4hat=/ %% stiffened. %% wrote the word perspective at the top of the poem./ +6one other than T2# . +The lack of tolerance at this school is downright insulting. unassuming. 0are for another guess=/ +I have no idea. This time. %% slipped 1uietly over to the corner of the room. %% knew that now. Then she threw on some sweatpants and her favorite sweatshirt.c9ride&s. All the things that had sent her thoughts reeling over the past month inspired her to write the poem that had just oo3ed out of her like sweat from her pores and landed on the page. closed the journal. every rhythmic phrase. %% was even more curious when she spotted :ueenie sitting on a cushioned chair in the corner of the school lounge that normally was reserved for reading or studying. so worn that the thread on the brim was coming undone. I forgot. only without the e'pensive fee charged by an in1uisitive stranger sitting across from her and wearing wire-rimmed glasses. :ueenie had spoken to %% about perspective before their first basketball game. +And you&re listening to this because*/ +The girl has a point./ +:ueenie. she&d been right about %% taking life far too seriously.endal . right. perhaps=/ +6ice try. . And now she could accept that part of herself and move forward. she began to wonder why :ueenie had asked her to come to the school lounge in the first place. It was therapy./ %% looked around the room. took the podium./ They watched together as a tiny.c0arthy. or lack thereof.was struck by the $ibble Syndrome. "erspective*this time she had put everything into perspective . and tucked it neatly under her pillow. +7istening./ +>ou do reali3e they are talking about culture and not se'ual orientation. +4hat are you doing=/ she whispered. every word. +>ou&ll never guess who I just spoke to.endal. +A member of the 0ultural Awareness Society. 4hat do you think=/ +:ueenie. care of the ./ +>ou give up too easily./ :ueenie whispered back. It made sense. and though :ueenie could take a few things in her life a bit more seriously herself. As she reached for her baseball cap. +>eah=/ +4hy am I here=/ +-h. She spoke about tolerance. with glasses too big for her face. at Sampson and how it was the responsibility of the 0ultural Awareness Society to help spread understanding and acceptance of all cultures around campus through activities and school-wide functions. and :ueenie looked to be completely absorbed in the topic at hand. dark-skinned girl. even basketball./ :ueenie sat up straight. I&m thinking of making a hefty donation to their cause. knocked :ueenie&s feet off the small table that sat beside the chair and sat down on top of it./ :ueenie responded without turning her attention away from the podium. right=/ +4hat&s the difference= It&s all about acceptance. %% had been able to do it all by herself. A meeting of some sort was taking place./ %% said evenly.

she likes spending time with you. She removed her hand from :ueenie&s mouth./ :ueenie admitted. 4rong. three./ said %%.c0arthy didn&t offer me anything in return for talking to you. +And before you go on rambling like you sometimes tend to do in these situations. She pretended to scour the school lounge to make sure no one else was listening in on their conversation. in hopes that I might go speak to her. (or some reason. I&d like to make it known here and now that I am officially over T2# . +4hat&s with the theatrics=/ %% asked. So if you plan on trying to convince me that you were wrong about her for whatever reason. +$o I have your attention now=/ %% didn&t answer. +6ow. She could only nod./ +>ou were wrong about what=/ +About . I still don&t understand. +5ood./ :ueenie said before %% could even take a single step.iss . I&m heading back to the dorm.endal . +And she wants to tell you herself. I&ve got three words for you. of course. . and I don&t want to know. +This is a big deal for me. taps me on the shoulder. save your breath.endal. +As much as I appreciate your confession and the fact that you were even able to get those three little words out of your mouth./ +She likes you. she took a deep breath./ she raised three fingers forcefully in the air. #njoy the rest of your.c0arthy once and for all. I&m talking on my i"hone outside. and says she needs to talk to me.endal wants is an opportunity to e'plain to you what happened. 4hen she reopened them. waiting for my ride downtown when she suddenly comes out of nowhere. +-kay./ +4hat did she say=/ :ueenie paused. uh*cultural awareness meeting or whatever. +Are you through acting all high and mighty=/ :ueenie asked./ %% stood up. +4onderful. +6o. but the charming cheerleading darling somehow managed to convince me to do this out of pure goodwill. Are we clear=/ :ueenie nodded slowly. I don&t know what she promised you in e'change for your services. she took another deep breath. The nerve of some people./ %% cleared her throat. I got the impression that she even missed you. It doesn&t happen too often./ :ueenie continued. 4as. I asked. one that I can&t 1uite put my finger on. 4hen she was satisfied that no other ears were in sight./ :ueenie closed her eyes./ :ueenie sat back and swung a leg over the arm of the chair. +4hat I was about to tell you before you so rudely shoved your grubby little hand over my mouth was that all ./ %% sat down again. +9efore you go off on another pride-fueled @I&m over her& rant. +4hat is=/ +4hat I&m about to say. I&ve got two. And she was devastated when you walked out of the gym the other night without letting her e'plain her side of the story. you should know that .+That&s right. if you&ll e'cuse me./ :ueenie opened her mouth to respond and %% covered it immediately with her own hand./ +4hich are*=/ +I.

>ou were right. And the one in the middle led to the path by the fountain. +I was wrong about her. I can tell when a girl wants to be more than just friends. come on. en route to the athletic center and the soccer field.endal sat on the blanket she and %% had shared the last time they had been under the scorers& bo' together. The hard part was to choose which doors. +%%./ +Thanks.& The @I think about you way too often and it scares me& kind of like. +I just*maybe I should just leave well enough alone./ :ueenie fiddled with the baseball cap. :ueenie .c9ride. And I&m not talking about the @I want to be gal pals& kind of like either. Then I&m heading downtown. she couldn&t tell. my friend. 4alking through them would be the easy part. you might hear her say it for yourself. and slammed it down on her head. +It was obvious. you&ve got a small head./ said %%. A chorus of +Shhhhh&s/ fired at her from all directions./ She pointed at %%./ +6o=/ +I was e'pecting a triumphant roar of some kind. standing up to give :ueenie a semi-hug. +./ +(unny*this wasn&t the reaction I pictured you having. >ou have to believe me./ +I know. This is me you&re talking to./ +4hat can I say=/ :ueenie stood up and stretched her long body.endal supposedly was waiting. A few members of the 0ultural Awareness Society cast their eyes at her. She grabbed her baseball cap back. -ne set led up the school campus to the dormitories./ %% yelled. +>ou must be rubbing off on me. There were three sets of doors to the school lounge./ :ueenie whispered./ +I can&t believe this. 2er entire body shivered from the cold or maybe it was the anticipation. And if you get off your high horse and remove the @but I&ve still got my pride& plugs that you&ve stuck into your ears for just one second./ +And I appreciate that. In front of the soccer field were the bleachers and the scorers& bo'./ +I can&t believe this. I think she really cares about you./ :ueenie continued. She&s waiting for you at her @special spot. you turn around and tell me this. And under the scorers& bo' was the special spot where .+9asically./ %% yelled again. . +0all me if you need to. :ueenie gave her an encouraging nod before she disappeared out the door. I don&t admit to being wrong for just anybody. She&s not like I thought she was./ +That&s up to you. +%ust when I&m over the girl. +I think I&m going to make that donation after all. +what I am trying to say is that she likes you. +$id she actually say that=/ +She didn&t have to.&/ +She likes me=/ %% asked in wonder.an. CHAPTER "! . Another led down the school campus to the library and dining hall./ :ueenie said as she leaned over and snatched the baseball cap off %%&s head and placed it backwards on her own head. I know how hard it is for you to do things out of the simple kindness of your heart. I&m talking @like like./ %% whispered in return. I did my part. I mean./ She watched as the 0ultural Awareness Society began to wrap up their meeting. I&ll ditch everyone in a heartbeat to come and pick you up. All %% had to do was walk through a set of doors.

pretty much by every girl you have ever dated at this school. +I apologi3e for standing you up./ . eh=/ +That&s none of your business.yan stared down at the blanket. 9ut I specifically said I was meeting you as a friend that night and nothing more./ . +"lease. She crossed her arms in frustration. +I just came here to ask you why you don&t like me./ 2e approached the blanket. 2is charisma had melted away. +2ow did you even find me=/ +I followed you.endal as she scanned the darkness./ . $on&t you get it= I don&t like you. if you must know.The flashlight lay on the ground beside her. It&s been said.yan said as he sat down on the blanket despite .endal laughed sweetly at him.yan said smugly as he emerged from the darkness. clasping his hands together and blowing hot air between them./ he confessed. The only reason I even agreed to go to that stupid party in the first place was because 0hristine begged me to go. %% would be there beside her any moment now and she could finally e'plain her side of the story. +It&s cold out here./ +Some friends come with benefits./ ./ +4ith some other guy.yan snorted and pointed a la3y finger at himself./ +"athetic=/ . +>ou think I&m pathetic=/ .endal&s sweet smile soured instantly. >ou are the biggest self-centered. right=/ +It was a girl. that you spend most dates complimenting yourself with every other sentence you utter. you&re pathetic. +The entire student body at Sampson thinks you&re pathetic. A friend. +4hat do we have here=/ .endal&s protest. If :ueenie had come through for her./ ./ +7ook. well./ . I found a much better way to spend my night. just go. +Think about it. 4e could take this school by storm. casting a dim beam over the blanket. +>ou didn&t have to be so mean about it. well.endal told him at once. worried that %% would arrive at any second.endal pointed a hard finger at him. And in the end./ +4hy= 4ho is this person you are so eagerly waiting for=/ +4hy do you care=/ +I care because you stood me up not so long ago and I&m curious to know why. "erfect for a secret rende3vous./ 2e winked at her.endal looked at him with distaste. +#ither way./ +A friend=/ . +I&ve got a little news bulletin for you since you&re so interested in gossip. and his confidence had been deflated like a popped balloon. +>ou just can&t take no for an answer. 4e&d make a great couple. egotistical moron I&ve ever met. +4ell./ She hovered over him as if she were about to share a secret. I&ve never even entertained the thought. didn&t you= 2ow sad. +6ice little set up you got here. +That seat is reserved for someone else.yan forced a laugh. +4hat are you doing here=/ +I could ask you the same thing.yan returned.endal spat./ ./ said . The shuffling of sneakers against the grass caused her to stand up. 4e have so much in common./ . +4ould this so-called friend be the tutor you&ve been spending so much time with lately=/ +2ave you hired a private investigator or has 0hristine been filling your ears with gossip again=/ . 2ave you ever noticed why the girls you hook up with suddenly stop talking to you= -r did you actually think that you were the one playing them=/ +I*/ +-h*you did.

/ +So it&s true. and I&m going to college ne't fall to prepare for law school. +>ou aren&t doing anything wrong.endal stared at him firmly. +I thought I was just doing what was e'pected of me. 2ow did you know=/ +9ecause I was doing the e'act same thing before I met*/ . but there was no one there.endal approached him. or who disapproves of what I do or even who I like./ she said./ . they might respect you more.endal continued. so I&m supposed to get all the girls. That&s why I don&t care who says what about me anymore. no matter what other people think. now you know. +That&s the real point of going off to college./ 2e looked at her./ +.yan asked./ +7ook. what am I doing wrong=/ .endal paused because she thought she heard footsteps. +They&re his rules.yan didn&t answer./ . then. +Then why do you act like such a jerk most of the time=/ +I guess I always thought that&s how I was supposed to act. +It isn&t worth it. I&m one of the most popular guys in the whole school. >ou might as well let them see the real you.endal&s own eyes softened./ . She suddenly felt sorry for him. 4ho&s going to brag ten years from now that they were on the soccer team or the cheerleading s1uad at Sampson Academy= I&m not. And apparently you aren&t being yourself. >ou really are a lesbian=/ .yan stood up. the insecure and sincere person you are behind closed doors./ +6ot everything. +I&m the captain of the soccer team. +Then tell me. >ou act so conceited. She peered into the shadows.endal. +4hat= 5uys aren&t supposed to be insecure. I&m in no position to tell you what to do. anymore. I guess not. isn&t it= It&s about finding out who you really are.aybe it&s time to make a new set of rules then./ +4ho said I&m insecure=/ ./ +I can be a nice guy.yan maintained.endal laughed and dropped her hands to her side.yan said 1uickly. +9efore you met who=/ . 2igh school is such a small part of our entire lives. . $o you really want to be the same person in college as you are now= >ou&re going to meet a whole new set of people and friends. . +4here did you get all of these ridiculous rules from= Is there some book out there that states what guys should or shouldn&t be=/ +. 9ut if you&re so concerned with what people think about you./ he e'plained. I&ve done everything right. it doesn&t matter anymore anyway. It&s about who you are. . +I don&t know what I am./ he said. his mind in a da3e as he stepped aimlessly around the blanket. how can you ever really be yourself= Aren&t you always going to be afraid of what everyone else is thinking=/ +>eah. -nce we graduate.+4ell. I take care of myself physically. it turns people off. +I know that I&m not going to pretend to be something I&m not./ . desperation in his eyes./ +4ho says= If people knew the real you./ said . It&s not about what you do. I get good grades. not mine. setting her hands on his shoulders./ he told her.y father&s in the military. +9ut does it really matter=/ +6o.

4hat kind of best friend does that=/ +0an&t you understand=/ 0hristine pleaded. really. 6ew classes. I&m not doing anything. +6o. 6ew living space./ 0hristine slid down on her bed as if she were too weak to stand.endal lifted one crate of books on top of the other. +4ould you do me one favor=/ he whispered. 7ook. so if you don&t mind*/ +It&s okay./ She pushed past 0hristine. It was painfully obvious that %% wanted nothing more to do with her since she never showed up under the scorers& bo' that night. +The problem is that you&ve stayed the same. calculating in her head how many trips it would take to cart her stuff up to . I can&t understand./ . and then took it in his hand. I said I was sorry a billion times. Is that enough=/ +"ersonally.+It doesn&t matter. ready to be carried away to some other closet./ +>ou lied to my face and you made me think I was getting kicked off the s1uad just so I&d stop hanging out with someone you disapproved of. she made her way up the two flights of stairs and down the hall to . and it&s important to me. but .endal.endal packed her books into several pink plastic crates.ya&s room if you want. Steadying the crates in her arms. +If it were me. +>ou&ve changed. +9ecause I can help you carry your clothes up to .ya and she&s making me help her organi3e some gay and straight alliance group or something at school./ As ./ . you know that=/ +I have changed. +Are you sure you don&t need any help=/ This was the fifth time 0hristine had asked since . 6ew semester.c0arthy. .endal backed away and gave him her hand to shake instead. +0an you not tell anybody about this= I don&t want to ruin my reputation or anything./ .endal knew she&d done that all by herself./ CHAPTER "" 0hristine watched helplessly as .endal agreed. After reali3ing she was getting nowhere. +I did what I did because I just wanted my best friend back. 0hristine hopped off the bed in a huff. 2e stared at it blankly. She turned her back and resumed packing.endal said as she turned and faced 0hristine head on. +Then you&ll see what I mean. +I&m just saying I know how you feel. +I&ve already been scolded by . I&m really sorry but I&m kind of waiting for someone.endal said./ .endal had started packing.yan leaned forward to hug her.ya the week before. 2er clothes were spread across her bed.endal replied. I think you got off easy. . +5o look in the mirror. She had decided to move in with . 6ew . +Aren&t you ever going to forgive me=/ 0hristine whined./ she advised. I would have kicked you off of the s1uad altogether. hoping that after winter break she could start the spring semester off fresh and new./ +4hat&s that supposed to mean=/ . +6ope./ +.ya&s room.ya&s room on the fourth floor of the dorm.endal .endal picked up a stack of crates and held them evenly against her chest. and*/ +I can do it by myself./ . It would have been easy for her to blame 0hristine for ruining her chances with %% as well./ she said.

endal. And I&m even thinking about getting my master&s degree./ +It&s okay. it&s not.endal. +I can do it./ . +%ust a few more crates and my clothes./ +5ood./ +8eally= I wouldn&t have pegged you for*/ +A brain= ./ said . +2onest. +I didn&t mean to imply anything by that.ya lifted a volume of #mily $ickinson&s poetry out of the crate and began to thumb through it. The margins of the page were covered with notes and doodles.endal frowned. 4ith her finger she slowly traced the lettering on the cover of the book./ +Such as*/ +4ell. +I&m a little on edge still. 9ecause I needed to get as far away from 0hristine as possible.endal admitted. +Is it possible. 9ut.aybe it has less to do with 0hristine and more with the fact that I know I&m the one who messed things up with %%./ . reluctantly./ +2ow is she taking it=/ +"oorly.endal stacked the empty crates in the closet./ +"ositive=/ +.aybe. She turned to one particularly dog-eared page with a highlighted poem. +6o../ said .endal had waited in the cold./ .endal snatched the book away from .endal entered her room. neither./ . as she placed the book on the shelf ne't to the others./ +4hat happened e'actly=/ +I don&t know./ ./ . 7etting me move in here is help enough. She noticed that %%&s name was scribbled along the margin more than once.e. I&m sorry. as . +Time to move on.ya as soon as she saw her looking at it./ +If it&s any consolation. And though 0hristine wasn&t directly responsible. I know she feels bad about it.ya helped ./ .endal replied apologetically. +that your frustration with 0hristine is more about your feelings for %% than anything else=/ +4hat=/ .ya asked gently./ ./ +7et me help you. 6ew semester. +I asked her to meet me so I could e'plain everything./ +She feels bad because you are making her help form a gay and straight alliance./ . things change.endal grunted as she set down the crates on the floor. +That&s what she feels bad about.endal unpack some of the books from the crates on the floor./ +8ight. nothing.ya asked. I guess she wasn&t interested in my e'planation. And she never showed up./ +So what now=/ +6ow. for starters I&ve decided to pursue 4omen&s 7iterature as my major in college ne't year./ +I have plenty of room. +. It&s not a big deal at all. sitting on top of a damp blanket and flicking the flashlight off and on for almost two hours before she&d finally given up hope. she sure was an attractive scapegoat. I can tell how broken up about it she is by the way she whines in her satin sheets./ +Are you sure=/ +>es. +I know. 6ew things to come. She does feel bad about what she did.ya sat down on her bed. +2ow much more stuff do you have=/ ./ she said. +6ot much./ .

+.ya blushed. I happen to think . and began sifting through some papers. +Then you can help me think of what to say to .endal returned. +2e&d never say yes./ . 2er stroll. She still lacked motivation to even pick up a pen.+It&s okay. >ou name it*it&s on here. And apparently she&s not into me. +I&m not into girls now. listening to successful.y obsessive-compulsive organi3ation skills kicking in. . If I&m going to get up the nerve to ask him. imaginative writers spew out poem after poem. I even have a list of who&s going with whom just to keep on top of everything.endal said./ +(orgot what./ +I wonder who he&s going to ask then.endal smiled wickedly. +. +(or instance./ +>ou think so=/ +I think you&re just the kind of girl . jockish sort of look. I think I&d faint if he ever asked me./ . here&s a list of possible venues.endal asked. >et she continued to linger. if you like that meathead. I forgot./ +>ou like ./ She flipped over a few pages as she spoke. +0ome on./ . I&ll help you get the rest of your stuff up here.ya opened the brick-red binder that was sitting ne't to her./ . in search of inspiration for writing. +4hat=/ . +>ou don&t think he&s good looking=/ +Sure.endal&s hand./ ./ +>ou&re into girls now. +I&m into someone who happens to be a girl./ she said./ +4hy don&t you ask him to the winter formal then=/ +.yan won&t be asking me anytime soon.ya answered. +It&s basically an organi3ational tool for the winter formal. and took . +And have you seen him without his shirt on= I could scrub my clothes clean on that washboard he calls his stomach.e= I couldn&t./ .endal.yan would have asked you for sure. +8eally= I thought . I can promise you that./ CHAPTER "# %% stood in front of The Spot.ya teased./ +-h. -therwise he might ask somebody else. I have to do it soon./ .ya asked innocently. and here&s a list of $eejays and limo rentals. I understand.ya cooed like a little school girl. debating whether or not to go in. 2e&d be nuts not to say yes.ya jumped up off the bed./ +>ou can mark me down as going solo. finding it hard to ignore the temptation of a warm beverage and the stimulation of caffeine. popular and the captain of the cheerleading team./ +4ell.yan. certainly lacked appeal.yan=/ +2e&s gorgeous.endal burst out laughing./ .yan is cute. She picked up the binder and showed it to ./ . had led her nowhere in particular.yan Stevens needs in his life./ +4hy not= >ou&re cute./ . And sitting in the back corner of the coffee shop. +4hat&s that=/ .

once he was back outside on the sidewalk. +4hat are you talking about=/ +I&m talking about ./ he whispered. Then for some reason . she didn&t. more significantly. I heard she&s got a thing for chicks. %% stared at him vacantly. And when she finally stopped running. under the scorers& bo' the other night=/ %% cringed. and I&m sure whatever happened between the two of you is a private matter./ %%&s backpack dropped to the ground.yan glanced inside the coffee shop. clinging to one last hope that this time the hopeless romantic would win. %ason was inching closer to the front of the line. completely heartbroken. +6o. %% recalled the e'citement she felt flowing through her when she&d left the school lounge and headed down campus to the soccer field where :ueenie had said .yan Stevens standing directly behind her. other girls. +2ey %ason./ +I asked her not to tell anyone about it. +She really didn&t tell you what happened then=/ ./ %% could feel the knots in her stomach tighten. Then he let go of the door and approached %% slowly. barely acknowledging her presence. +>ou know. simultaneously mouthing +4hat&s going on=/ . as if she were about to ease in for a kiss. I&ll catch up with you.endal didn&t share that tidbit of information with me. %% gave him a slight nod.endal told you what happened.yan hesitated awkwardly in the doorway. 9esides./ said ./ %% rudely shifted her backpack from one shoulder to the other. Instead. +I thought she&d tell you. And then she saw them under the scorers& bo' together. telling him to wait a minute.yan&s shoulders gently.yan held up a finger.endal. Save me a spot in line. . 4hat did he want to talk to her about now= +I&m sure . 2is hands were shoved deep into the front pockets of his jeans in an effort to keep them warm./ said ./ she said blandly. breaking into %%&s flashback. +4ell. +And I doubt she will any time soon./ . 6amely you. and then turned abruptly toward %%.endal was holding . and the chill in the air had now turned from a nibble to a bite.The sun had just settled in for the night. +Some of us would actually like to get a cup of coffee./ said his friend %ason./ +0ouple=/ . She&s too much to deal with. completely out of breath and./ +(ine by me. +>ou just going to stand there all night=/ %% spun around to see . she turned and ran./ +0hicks=/ +>eah. +>ou two make a cute couple. who was standing beside him. She sprinted across campus as if some masked man were chasing her./ %% stepped aside to let them pass.yan./ she said. %% almost called out to her./ said . +I hope you treat her right./ As he turned and reached for the door.yan echoed. she collapsed to the ground in front of her dormitory.yan. right.yan. +-h. the door to the coffee shop swaying gingerly in his hands. They shuffled by her. All of her rationality and levelheaded reasoning had flown out the window. At that moment.endal would be waiting. %% shivered and wished she&d worn a jacket over her Sampson 7ady >ellow %ackets sweatshirt. +I don&t think so. +. 9ut there was no masked man. +-ne less thing I need to worry about then. but muffled her words before they left her mouth. She had gone there.

yan called after her as she hurried down the street.yan peered cautiously over %%&s shoulder and then behind him before he continued./ she said./ A warm. so I followed her. that&s good advice.endal sat down on her new bed. +. being soft and everything=/ 2e waited for %% to respond but she was already halfway down the street./ . and she basically put me in my place.endal mumbled. And it was obvious that she&d no intention of stopping. +4e talked about a few other things./ ./ +9ut I saw you together. just like some scene out of a romantic comedy. 7ike I said. wait a minute. 2er arms felt like slabs of jelly.yan struggled to recall the incident./ +>ou saw us=/ . +So. the door to her room opened. +4hy=/ +>ou wouldn&t understand. >ou two were about to kiss./ +If she was e'pecting me then why were you there=/ +I saw her sneak under the bleachers.endal didn&t want you there./ +4ell. +I am such a complete and utter idiot. I knew you were the person she&d been e'pecting. %ust as she was about to fall asleep. right= About me.+6o. the sky and . +./ %% smiled. +I&m sorry. you know. bouncing off the sidewalk./ She grabbed her backpack off the ground. +I knew it. 9ut I&m positive she was waiting for you.endal was holding onto your shoulders. Then it hit him./ . too. let me get this straight. +>ou promise you won&t say anything./ +2ow can you be so sure=/ +9ecause her eyes lit up the moment I mentioned you. +She was waiting for you. +4hat happened that night= $id you guys*you know*hook-up=/ +2a. and her lower back ached.yan e'plained. +I wanted to know what was going on with her. .ya*don&t even think about trying to convince me to do anything tonight./ she said suddenly./ +2ey./ 2e pointed at %% adamantly./ +"ut you in your place=/ +>eah./ +So nothing happened between you two=/ +6ope./ %% tried to read his e'pression but all she could tell was that he was as confused as she was./ . She flopped down and closed her eyes.yan&s face. I think that if I had made a pass at her she probably would have punched me out. even though it was still unmade. and smacked herself in the forehead. >ou followed her because you wanted to know why she stood you up. I wish. 9ut that&s why I asked you if she said anything to you because. +I&m e'hausted and I still have to make my bed. she said she was e'pecting someone else./ he glanced around again. +She told me to stop acting like such a conceited jerk all the time./ . +I don&t want anyone knowing I have a soft side. but I have to go. She was e'hausted from moving everything she owned up two flights of stairs. and when she saw you she basically told you to get lost=/ +>eah*that&s basically it. She didn&t./ %%&s eyes danced around. CHAPTER "$ . tingling sensation burst in %%&s stomach.

4e can talk here or we can talk at the school lounge./ . +And. .endal slid her hand on top of %%&s and s1uee3ed it gently.ya likes ./ She observed . +All I wanted was a chance to e'plain myself./ +4hat do you mean. it looked as though you were about to give him a kiss. I&m ready./ . through your eyes=/ %% sighed as if she were about to confess to committing a horrible crime./ said .yan the couch monster.ay I=/ . +I mean that I did show up that night.endal&s eyes shot open./ +2ow about now=/ %%&s eyes were focused on their linked hands. She was sitting up now.endal./ +I didn&t know what to think. It doesn&t matter to me. )nlike . +4hy were you looking for me= I thought you didn&t want to have anything to do with me anymore=/ +I think I made a huge mistake. I&ll just close my mouth and lock away the key and listen 1uietly. +I know*but I was angry and hurt and*I don&t know. +.endal told her./ +>ou and me both./ +4hat=/ ./ said ./ +4ell./ +That he did. just for the record.endal snickered./ said a familiar voice. +7ooking for you. and I ran into . the couch monster informed me that he followed you the other night when you asked me to meet you under the scorers& bo'. it looked much different through my eyes.ya. She stood up and began to pace around the room./ +That depends. +>ou can e'plain everything to me now.+It&s not ./ +I was thinking we could go to the library. +She said you were up here getting some beauty rest or something. +I wouldn&t kiss him even if he were the last man on earth. +I just saw what I saw and ran./ .yan a lecture. +.endal smacked %% lightly on the shoulder. I guess I didn&t really believe it.endal. I&ll listen. and made a face. only I showed up right when you were giving .yan Stevens. trying to make sense of what was happening. I&m not captivated by his washboard abs./ %% hurried up from the bed and spread her arms wide. +4hatever you have to say./ .endal flinched. +I was in town earlier.endal&s new surroundings./ %% said as she inched closer to the bed.endal nodded and %% sat down beside her./ . And.yan=/ +That&s beside the point./ +2ow did you know where to look=/ +.ya told me where you were./ +. +I can&t believe you thought that I would do that./ +>ou could have said something. +I have to say I like this room much better than your last. I prefer to call him ./ %% e'plained.endal said dryly./ %% insisted./ +$idn&t :ueenie tell you that I*/ +She did. +4hat are you doing here=/ she asked as %% came into her view./ +-nly.ya./ +That I did. +$epends on what=/ +-n whether or not you&re ready to listen./ +And that you basically told him to get lost./ +-h./ .aybe do a little studying./ +That is a mistake. through my eyes.

/ said :ueenie. It&s been a couple of weeks since I brushed up on #mily $ickinson. +I knew you belonged to the dark side the first day I met you. Somehow. -r maybe it was the charismatic grin she displayed as she flopped on %%&s freshly made bed.endal said. %%&s father helped her unpack every last thing she&d brought with her.c9ride. and nothing could stop them. before classes began. and instead embraced her se'uality for the very first time in her life. She then tossed the ball to %% and added.+Studying=/ +>eah./ %% had said. #ach was notable for a different reason./ she eventually told %%. each forever confined to a special spot in the corner of her memory for safekeeping until she decided to revisit it. They were going to take the campus by storm.aybe you can help me make sense of it=/ +I can do my best. She&d been e'periencing severe bouts of an'iety in the weeks leading up to her first day at Sampson. There was something about :ueenie that caused %% to look past her salty e'terior./ +That&s right. She took %% by the arm and dragged her from the room. the one and only. you know that=/ At that moment. making it to the state championships./ +0ome on. And that was a moment worth remembering. 9ut it wasn&t just what she saidN it was how she said it. +I&m :ueenie . +There&s this one poem I can&t get out of my head. all of %%&s fears and worries melted away. %%% Three notable moments throughout %%&s time at Sampson Academy stood out in her mind. She e'uded such an air of confidence that %% had no choice but to believe her. silently e'pressing his distaste for :ueenie&s attitude./ . when the 7ady >ellow %ackets went undefeated. %% didn&t dare deny it. As uncomfortable as the assumption made her. to get acclimated with the campus during orientation. tossed %%&s basketball high up in the air and said simply. 2e had even offered to talk to the $ean of Students. with %% soon finding that :ueenie&s spoiled-brat routine was nothing more than a carefully crafted act. She mouthed off to her mother and ordered her father around like he was a butler. They had both arrived a week early. and re1uest a roommate change. The championship game went . +Thought so. +>ou must be the incredibly talented %osephine %enkins I&ve heard so much about. right down to her socks. and nothing her parents said or did could ease her mind. in walked :ueenie ./ She picked up her volume of poetry and held it in the air. The two became inseparable after that. :ueenie had been able to do just that with one simple sentence. performed only when her parents were around. In a desperate attempt to delay the final moment in which he would be forced to let her go. her life was forever changed. :ueenie also had been instrumental in helping %% come out of the closet. 4hile they were busy getting her room set up. It took %% a second or two to reali3e :ueenie wasn&t referring to Star 4ars. The second notable moment happened during %%&s junior year. The first was the day she met :ueenie. %%&s father had raised an eyebrow or two in her direction. "erhaps it was the air of confidence she e'uded. .c9ride with her parents in tow. 9ut %% resisted. The day she&d met :ueenie. 4e&re going to take this school by storm.

with a playful smile. It was a high unlike anything she had ever e'perienced before. %% gulped.endal waiting patiently in front of one of the study rooms with a single key dangling off the end of her pinky. 4hen %% reached the landing./ . they were e'tremely hard to come by. who had broken free from the defense under the basket. And since e'ams were right around the corner./ +-h. seating three or four people at the most. -nce . trying to see through rows and rows of bookshelves as if she had O-ray vision. +Are you trying to cause a scene=/ %% asked. +As you go along with what=/ +As I go along with us.endal replied. She scanned the second floor 1uickly. you know= Two girls holding hands. chasing her down. CHAPTER "& %% opened the library door. +This kind of studying needs to be done in private. once they were inside. facing %% who lagged behind her. and desperately tried to calm her nerves. A single oak table with attached benches stood in the center. 9ecause of the type of seclusion they provided. +I&m just having a little fun. so you&re telling me you&re completely fine with it now=/ . made a game-winning turn-around jumper just as time e'pired.endal rounded a corner.endal looped her arm through %%&s and walked in step with her across the school grounds. %% knew something incredible was about to happen. +>ou don&t want to sit at a table=/ %% asked./ +I don&t see what the big deal is. her heart sped up e'citedly./ said %%./ she said. she knew the smell of . +I&m obviously used to it by now.endal replied. The room was no bigger than a closet. and tackling her to the floor. As she made her way toward the biographies section. %ust as she could recall the smell of the scuffed hardwood as she lay beneath the pile of players after they had won the championship game. %% was absolutely thrilled to be right in the middle of the fray and at the bottom of the pile. and there was no window e'cept for the one on the door. . A couple of players on the boys& basketball team were leaving the library at the e'act same time./ . and ended in dramatic fashion when %%. And she wanted to make sure she logged every second of it into her memory. $uring e'ams.endal oddly when she took hold of %%&s hand. The walls were soundproof.endal&s almond hand lotion would forever be linked with whatever was about to happen ne't. study rooms had to be signed up for and reserved in advanced.endal unlocked the door to the study room and pushed it open. and began to walk up a flight of stairs backwards. Student library assistants were often bribed in e'change for direct access to study rooms. +9esides. eyeing the key. she saw .endal skipped up the last few steps and disappeared from view. 9ut %% had a feeling it was about to unfold right before her eyes. and as they stepped aside they studied . %% had to ask. +I&m learning as I go along./ +$oesn&t bother me much. Time paused as the rest of their team flooded the court. and all. since she&d made the winning basket. The third notable moment hadn&t 1uite happened yet.into double overtime. %ust reminiscing about the moment made her hair stand on end with e'citement./ . She watched with anticipation as . staring is rude. such e'hilaration that she wondered if she would ever feel it again.

%%./ +-h. she knew e'actly what poem and page she was looking for./ +4ell. you know=/ +4ho=/ %% asked as she slid onto the bench.endal ordered.endal finished./ .endal closed the door and sat down at the table with the #mily $ickinson book spread out in front of her. it knocked the breath straight out of her. "age DEP. +The only difference is that I&m not afraid of it anymore./ +4hat whole thing e'actly=/ %% pressed. -nly. All I had to do was ask her for a room and she saved me a key./ . I should have known.endal sighed. %% remained standing. when she&d been trying to make sense of everything that was happening around her./ She looked up at %%. She pointed at the cover./ ./ she said./ +Sit down.+4here did you get that=/ +4hat=/ ./ +I am.endal played with the key.endal looked at her that way./ she managed. +>ou were so une'pected and at the same time you were everything I had been looking for. really=/ . It had been there from the beginning and it was there that day under the weeping willow. unable to speak. +Interested in you=/ . +#mily $ickinson=/ +>es./ +0heerleading connections./ +So what happened the night you stood me up=/ ./ . not sure whether she should sit down ne't to . I didn&t . . %% nodded. It was like she was this reminder of everything I wanted to ignore./ %% could feel the sweat forming on her palms. +#verything that was right in front of me.endal. She patted the open seat ne't to her. 2ow could she forget it= The poem rang through her ears whenever %% was around. +4hat did you mean back on the steps.endal shook her head and laughed. +8emember how you&re supposed to be listening=/ +-h*right. +This=/ She held it up. I&d see her sitting there on my desk in the morning. that. +9ut./ +$id you have*at anytime were you interested*/ %%&s voice trailed off. +I know I&m supposed to be listening./ said %% as she sat back 1uietly. you&re a girl and that complicated things. +8ela'.endal reached over and tapped %% gently on the ear. that&s all. . +>es. waiting for me to lug her to class. +It&s a learning process. She decided to test the waters first. when you said you&re learning as you go along=/ +This whole thing is new to me. 4hen . +I thought you said you were ready to listen. All I see you doing is talking.endal shot her a look. +I was so confused./ +I have my ways.endal returned her attention to the book in front of her./ +I&m just trying to understand what&s going on here.endal began./ said . As she flipped intently through the pages of #mily $ickinson&s poetry. +The interest never went away. her nerves getting the better of her. and then turned her attention to the book on the table. can I ask you just one 1uestion=/ +I suppose. +-ne of the library assistants is on the cheerleading s1uad.endal confessed.endal or across from her. +She used to torment me at night. I don&t see you listening./ . +I used to hate her.

even when I didn&t know myself.endal&s soft lips with each kiss that followed. Instead. because my heart knows e'actly what it wants. +I knew you were going to say that./ . 9ut it wasn&t just the feelings./ %% scanned the poem and smiled as she read the familiar $ickinson poem silently. +I didn&t reali3e what was happening until 0hristine lied to me about how everyone at school was talking about me. %%% 7ater./ ./ +I think you&re giving me way too much credit. The feelings I have whenever I&m around you are my own @wild nights. It wasn&t until I read this poem again that I knew that my heart had already made up its mind. suddenly made no sense at all./ said . she silently thanked 5od for #mily $ickinson at least a hundred times before she finally fell asleep. leaned in and kissed %% directly on the lips. +The trouble with #mily $ickinson is that she turned my world upside down the day she brought me to you. It was the way I started 1uestioning everything else around me.& I don&t care what anyone thinks anymore. and how you helped me change my perspective./ said . you know that=/ +It&s not the first time I&ve heard that. +And why this poem means so much more to me than $ickinson could have ever imagined./ said . 4I7$ nights.endal .endal. I didn&t want to stop seeing you but at the same time I didn&t want to lose my friends and everything I had built at Sampson over the past few years. 9ut that isn&t the case.endal in the eyes. 4ild nights./ +>ou once said that the trouble with #mily $ickinson is that she writes so ambiguously. And that&s you. And I didn&t know how to deal with the feelings. That&s why I stood you up./ %% opened her mouth to respond but nothing came out.endal.endal softly. when %% was lying in bed that night. +I finally get the meaning behind it. +>ou are way too humble. It took %% less than a second to reali3e that she wasn&t dreaming and she welcomed . and especially not 0hristine.endal sighed again as she ran her fingers over the words of the poem in front of her. . she sei3ed the moment. each one growing more intense than the last and tasting ever as sweet. and assuming things because I was hanging out with you. #verything that had made perfect sense to me before./ She pointed to the page.c0arthy. no matter what anyone else thought. All I know is that I want to be around you.endal reached over and lifted %%&s face to hers so that they were eye to eye./ She didn&t wait for %% to respond this time. That&s why I avoided you. and that her words aren&t supposed to be taken so literally. It was the way I started looking at my friends differently. still unable to look . +I finally get it. I don&t need a compass and I don&t need a chart. She said that everyone on the s1uad complained about how different I&d become and that if I wanted to remain on the s1uad and not ruin my reputation I had to stop hanging out with you. still wired from the nervous electricity flowing through her entire body after kissing T2# . not the s1uad. And that I didn&t want to stop seeing you. +I just wanted you to know how I really felt about you./ said %%. The trouble with #mily $ickinson is that she knew e'actly what I was thinking and feeling.understand how another girl could be making me feel something I had never felt before. not my friends. +>ou don&t have to say anything.

4hen she closed her eyes. she would. +$o what=/ +"ass all of your e'ams without ever taking a single note or cracking open a te'tbook=/ +I don&t know. And the way some musicians can just play an instrument by ear. +I thought you two were hunkered down in the library studying=/ +4e were earlier this morning./ +Thanks. I hate to admit it. she could read them as they floated by./ +Thank 5od for that./ +>ou would. +She&s probably finishing up her 4omen&s 7iterature e'am as we speak. The night %% had been dreading for almost the entire semester was upon her. and it was hardly an e'am. 9ut how can you study for a poetry reading= The worst thing anyone could do is panic. +It&s sort of like the way you can just write. 4hat else can I say=/ +4hat&s your gift= A photographic memory=/ +I prefer to consider myself a genius at large. I won&t take your charity. so much so that the words were now imprinted on the inside of her forehead. I was wrong about her. %% had scribbled notes in between the lines of the poem to indicate where she should pause or add a slight inflection to her voice.c0arthy=/ :ueenie asked as her eyes searched around the room./ :ueenie held up her hands to protest. +I feel like I&ve been wrong about a lot of things lately. but she&s pretty cool./ %% reached for the cup in sheer desperation./ She hopped up on %%&s bed. and worn folders spread out in front of her./ :ueenie said. $id your conscience suddenly grow back again=/ ./ She paused momentarily. as if :ueenie somehow had just unearthed an eli'ir to cure stage fright./ +It&s my pleasure. +I need it./ +So where is T2# . whose desk remained devoid of second-hand notes and worn te'tbooks./ +4ait a second. 0lark had selected for her to read aloud was sitting to her left on a stark-white sheet of paper. +0aramel latte with an e'tra shot of confidence./ +I&ll spare you the @I told you so& then. sprawled out on her unmade bed with books. scattering notes and papers everywhere. no./ :ueenie said honestly. The last and most daunting of them all was scheduled for later on in the evening. +2ow do you do that=/ she asked. I&m going to lose it. +6o./ said :ueenie as she slammed the door shut behind her with the heel of her sneaker./ %% marveled at :ueenie. The poem that ./ %% eyed the clock beside her bed. +%ust what the doctor ordered.rs. 4e&re naturally gifted. If %% could study for it. +I swear*if I have to answer one more 1uestion on supply and demand./ +>ou know. She had gone over it again and again. scattered papers. She had taken three of her four e'ams so far and felt confident that she&d done well on all of them. which she already was an e'pert at. sipping from her own Styrofoam cup./ +I don&t think you&ll be running into any economic 1uestions at the poetry reading. +I just can. I deserve any @I told you so& you can throw at me.CHAPTER "' %% was resting on her stomach.endal .

not to mention childish./ +2ey./ +It happens to the best of us. +4ell. then longingly at a collage of photos arranged on the corkboard hanging on the back of their door. you can be cynical sometimes. shifting her position every other minute. She jumped up and tossed her cup into the garbage can with a single hook shot. 9ut if you never take that chance. morally-sound young woman. +I never reali3ed how cynical I could be. To take a risk like that. but we all can./ +I&ve decided that maybe*just maybe*it isn&t such a dandy idea after all. I don&t know what it feels like to put your all into someone./ +I know*it&s just that I started thinking that maybe I&m part of the problem. +I just*/ :ueenie stopped and looked up at a poster on the wall. I still plan on making a colossal splash into my parent&s pool of normalcy by declaring my homose'uality to the rest of the . you&ll never know the difference between the two. +I&m sorry. thankfully. +Are you okay=/ she asked./ %% watched as :ueenie slumped sadly down onto the floor.c9ride family soon enough. so nobody else at her table could . +It only took you three and a half years of private school to mature into a well-adjusted. I&m so proud. 7et&s not go overboard here. It&s something special. do you remember when I said I was going to slip in the @I&m a big./ :ueenie sighed.oral=/ :ueenie asked in disbelief. besides all of that. The lighting was dim. thing to do=/ +>es./ +5raduation perhaps=/ :ueenie smiled deviously./ :ueenie insisted. +4ell-adjusted= "lease. but I think you might be right. devilishly-motivated./ +-h=/ %% climbed up off of her bed and sat down on the floor beside :ueenie. fighting the overwhelming sensation to bolt from the room as soon as the opportunity presented itself. It&s simply a 1uestion of when. . I never give anyone a chance at a relationship because I&m already convinced that it won&t work out anyway. scary lesbian& secret during my maid of honor speech at my sister&s wedding=/ +2ow could I forget= It&s the only reason I&m going to the wedding./ +7ooks like you&re finally putting that genius of a mind to good use. and that&s something that deserves to be celebrated. and who am I to take that away from her=/ %% reached over and put her arm around :ueenie&s shoulders.+I&m serious. I think I&ve gone and grown a conscience after all. I&ve spent a great deal of my adolescent life e'pecting the worst when I could be missing out on the best. I&m not sure what&s going on with me.y sister is taking that risk. it&s that whole risk thing I was talking about./ +If I&ve learned anything from you over the past three years it&s that sometimes your heart is going to get broken and sometimes it isn&t. +4hat tipped you off e'actly=/ +9esides the fact that it&s an incredibly self-serving./ +Sure. +"erhaps./ %%% %% sat nervously in her chair in the back corner of The Spot./ +. She&s putting her all into someone.

atie 2olmes of this school. 2onestly. I invited everyone on the cheerleading s1uad. she&s been waving him around like an -scar or something./ +I think I can do without the basketball metaphors. +I must say./ :ueenie remarked.ya elbowed him gently in the gut./ %% forced a laugh. +. It was as if people kept multiplying like pods from some alien invasion movie. girl.ya in the school paper./ :ueenie replied./ said :ueenie. stop. She grabbed hold of .endal asked. and watched . %% ignored her and took in the crowd./ .yan even had a choice in the matter./ +2ey. .endal./ :ueenie sat back in her chair and mumbled something about %% having a poetry book stuck up her butt. %% nodded in return. +I swear you two are the Tom 0ruise and ./ +-h.yan&s hand./ said :ueenie confidently. +#ver since she asked him to the winter formal.ya made her way to their table dragging an unenthusiastic . She&s ready to nail this like a threepointer at the bu33er. +4hat&s that thing everyone always says=/ asked . And each one of them probably invited someone else and so on and so forth. She was sitting beside %%. +Are they together=/ %% asked. +2ey. +)h./ he mumbled.endal. +>ou okay=/ .yan Stevens behind her./ %% grumbled. as she slapped . 9oth . yeah. +4e just came over to wish you good luck. +2ow about.ya said cheerfully as soon as she reached the table.endal slipped in through tight lips. +7ook at her. she&s ready to knock this one out of the park. you two make 1uite the darling couple. I don&t think ./ %% smiled politely./ +2ey. And then someone probably posted it on Twitter and it went viral or something. that would totally rock. She gave . 5ood luck. as he rubbed the sore spot. for that matter. and every once in a while her hand drifted over and s1uee3ed %%&s leg in moral support.endal&s hand shot up in the air. +I think we&re going to be voted king and 1ueen of winter formal this year. but that a soft shade of seaweed green had settled along her cheekbones as well.see that she wasn&t only pale. an awful regurgitated mess would come rushing out. +She&s fine. afraid that if she opened her mouth to speak.yan fidget until . +"ick someone in the crowd and picture them naked=/ +I think if I pictured anyone naked I&d start laughing.ya on the arm in an overly enthusiastic and utterly obno'ious sort of way. right. +I guess so. +-h.endal a slight s1uee3e of the hand and winked at %% as if they shared some special secret. ./ :ueenie smirked.y. 2er mouth was already off and running.ore than usual. I&m just trying to lighten up the situation here. ladies./ . . but it was too late./ +4ell. I bet they&ll even dub you . +I&d be able to concentrate just fine./ +And without baseball metaphors.endal and %% shot her a warning look.ya=/ %% asked./ +>ou think so=/ .ya. genuinely serious./ +Isn&t that ./ . +Is it me or are there more people in here than usual=/ she whispered to .ya asked.

/ said :ueenie.ya&s a little*particular./ %% mouthed.ya looked in her direction.ya&s a sweetheart. She shrugged her shoulders back at them. as she leaned closer and rubbed %%&s back./ %% pushed her chair away from the table and bent down until her head was between her knees. 4ith her cheeks growing hotter. as she felt sweat break out over her entire body./ %% announced. and turned her head swiftly as soon as . +Take deep breaths. she&s not nervous at all.yan by the sleeve of his shirt and they wandered away through the crowd./ . conversation halted and a highpitched feedback s1ueal erupted out of the microphone in ./ said . +6ot at all./ said %%./ she hissed at :ueenie./ added :ueenie. 0lark take the stage.rs.endal.ya shifted. She&s a girl who knows what she wants. as every person in the entire room stared at her./ .endal suggested. In an instant. At this point she was seeing everything double./ %% was about to add a few more cents-worth to the conversation when she saw . +2e looked absolutely miserable.rs.endal. we better find a seat before they&re all taken. The damp taste in her mouth went dry. +She&s just psyching herself up.yan. +. and she began to hyperventilate./ 9oth %% and :ueenie looked at .endal maintained./ ./ said . +%%.endal as she hit :ueenie playfully in the arm. +>ou don&t look so good. And it&ll do . he sure is a lucky guy.endal rub the small of her back as she tried desperately to block . %% stood there. +I think I&m going to be sick.ya asked. 0lark&s voice from her ears. +%ust look at her. +. she lost all sense of reality and her head began to sway la3ily from side to side.e=/ %% pointed at her chest.+0ut it out. She felt . 0lark shouted into the microphone. +4ouldn&t you be if you had to deal with that=/ :ueenie pointed behind her with her thumb. +Are you nervous at all=/.yan some good to be led around by his tail for a while. . (or a minute there I thought no one was going to volunteer to go first. kind of like how we prepare before a cheerleading competition./ :ueenie offered in return. 0hairs shifted./ said :ueenie. hard. She felt ./ %% gulped.rs. that&s all. A hush fell over the entire coffee shop. +At least you&ve got your color back./ %% screamed instantly as she leaped up from her chair. +I&m glad to see that you&re so e'cited about this reading. :ueenie returned with a cup of ice water and proceeded to dump it over the top of %%&s head.rs. +4ell. +That .endal s1uee3e her knee under the table again and thought she saw :ueenie give her the number one sign./ +-h. She yanked . +>ou know. She&s as steady as a rock. +2ey. -r maybe it was the peace sign*she couldn&t tell. +2ey. water droplets sliding down her cheeks and nestling in the part between her lips. yeah. +Thanks for the water. 0lark&s hand. 2e needs to be knocked down a peg or two. +. %% knew she&d turned a deep shade of pink. +I&ll go get you some water. and I&d have to start calling names./ %% scowled at :ueenie./ .

I dribbled a ball aggressively down the court. CHAPTER "( 4hen she looked out into the crowd. Together. They stopped about halfway around the track. She accepted our fate. She cringed at my defiance. I boasted that I was her only daughter. who held her breath in anticipation. smiling supportively at her from the back of the room. and they kept coming. She remembered days of girlie pom-poms./ said . She often wondered who I was inside. which wove a mother and daughter from two different te'tures. :ueenie. and her hands reached out on their own and grabbed hold of the microphone. She forced a cotton shirt over my head. +She tied my hair in ribbons. She gave %% an encouraging nod and sat down ne't to . 2er eyes began one final lap around the room. +I wrote this for class*well.rs. %% avoided any and all eye contact with the faces she recogni3ed. @./ CHAPTER ") . There were no breaks in the lines and no pauses to 1uestion where the poem was headed. She walked with her head down and her shoulders low until she reached the stage. %% grabbed hold of a wooden stool from the back of the stage and pulled it forward. I suppose you could say I wrote it. 0lark. of course. somehow we connected through years of change when I finally wore a dress.other . +4henever you&re ready. settling on . I took it off and basked naked in the sun. And these are the words that ended up on the page. She sat down with her eyes facing the floor and when she felt confident enough to proceed. %%&s trembling lips parted slightly and a short and purposeful breath escaped. It was the final signal that there was no going back.endal and :ueenie in the corner. I cringed at her reluctance. tiger.ay I=&/ As the crowd waited. %% licked her dry lips and commanded her legs to move forward./ :ueenie said with a fist pump. 4e found a common strand. we knitted a 1uilt that I now use when I get cold. I turned the handle and suddenly the words were there. >et. the best writer in class. 2er shoulders straightened.endal. I untied them and my hair ran wild. was making a funny face at her and it almost made %% laugh out loud. and focused on the ones she didn&t know. She caught a glimpse of -livia 5reen. I accepted our gender. These are the words I was asked to read out loud today and they come in the form of a poem entitled. The words just kept flowing from my pen.+4hy don&t you start us off then=/ +5o get &em. until they blended together into a sea of colors. %%. she lifted her eyes to the crowd. I prefer to say that it flew out of me like water from a faucet. one after the other.

+0ome here often=/ he asked. +A fan=/ +A fan of poetry. +0lever./ +8eally= I&ve never heard of you. +I guess we&re not as popular as #mily $ickinson. +TouchM. you should stick around and check her out./ +5uess not.aybe I will. by the way./ 2e pointed to the rest of the band members behind him. actually./ . A guy with crow-black shaggy hair and tattooed arms strummed a few strings of his guitar and twisted the knobs at the end.y name is 9rad. . and then refocused her attention on the book in front of her. After you&re done playing./ 9rad said./ +./ +4hy 0andy 2earts=/ +4hy not= 9eats out the other names we came up with.ay I join you=/ 2e gestured at the open seat across from ./ said 9rad with a snap of his finger./ +Agreed.endal watched the band set up their instruments on the stage. +#mily $ickinson= I&ve never heard of her.y girlfriend participates in the poetry slam every (riday night. +I&m . +4e&re called 0andy 2earts. a biography of #mily $ickinson.endal smiled. while chomping on a piece of gum. A $rummer and (our 5uys. as he tapped his fingers at the sides of his jeans./ +So listen. .endal teased./ .endal raised the book in her hand so he could read the title./ +Speaking of T-shirts./ +8eally=/ 2e paused./ ./ she said politely. 2e looked up briefly and caught her watching him./ +5irlfriend=/ +>es. +I&ve got a few moments before we are supposed to warm up. he was standing right in front of her. +I&m sorry. +So what brings you here on a (riday night= I thought Sampson Academy was a party school=/ +This is our favorite place to hang out. +I don&t mean this in a bad way or anything. actually. It&s ama3ing. by the way.endal. +0andy hearts make for great T-shirt designs when you&re trying to promote a band.endal. isn&t it=/ he grinned. 4hen she decided it was safe to let her eyes wander again./ ./ . but I never would have guessed that you were gay=/ +6either did I. +#very (riday night. ./ +So*0andy 2earts= That e'plains your shirt then./ she said as nicely as possibly./ She pointed to his maroon T-shirt which had a white heart on the front of it with the phrase +I like you/ printed on it. She smiled momentarily. >ou should read some her work. . 4e&re pretty popular in this area./ +4hich were=/ +(our 5uys and a $rummer or./ +She was a poet./ +0lever./ +6ice to meet you./ +I don&t think we would have come up with as brilliant a T-shirt design for those.endal e'tended her hand to him.endal. would you like one=/ +Tempting*but I think I&m going to have to pass.. +I&m waiting for my girlfriend./ +As in a girl who&s a friend or as in a girl you&re dating=/ +As in a girl I&m dating.

endal stood up. +4I7$ nights. ./ As 9rad turned to leave. %% had participated in every poetry slam and open reading held at The Spot. +She might change her mind after she hears you play. once she reached the table. +I don&t think so.aybe I will.+. a new and confident %% was born.endal played along. She&d decided to study 4omen&s 7iterature in college and then go on and get her master&s degree. he stopped suddenly. as they head to college in/ The Education of Queenie McBride . . would she=/ +6o. because it just wasn&t important to her anymore. 4I7$ nights should be our lu'ury. a person that ./ said . She smiled and took hold of her girlfriend&s hand as . She leaned back in her chair and set the open book face down on the table so she wouldn&t lose her spot. As . 4ere I with thee. She&d also decided to 1uit the cheerleading s1uad./ +6ever hurts to ask. +Try saying it with a little more oomph this time. The fountain in the center of the 1uad had been turned on a week earlier.endal looked on as 9rad crept back to the stage and traded barbs with his band mates about how he had just been shot down. +6ot at all. She looked out of the adjacent window. +2ave you been waiting long=/ %% asked. she glimpsed %% walking toward the coffee shop with her head high. +She wouldn&t like to buy one of our T-shirts by chance.endal felt the warmth in her chest e'pand. -nly this time she didn&t dare let go. +>eah. #verything around her felt fresh and new./ +That was much better.endal sat back down./ +Stick around after your set. % % % THE E+D % % % ./ said %%. some interested poetry fans invited her to perform at clubs in downtown 8ichmond. 8ecently./ %% teased. #ventually.endal somehow had grown to love even more than she had before./ .endal never felt more secure than she did at that moment./ +4ill do.endal laughed./ +-omph=/ . 4I7$ nights.ollow -ueenie and .. she wanted to become a teacher. no longer shuffling her feet across the ground in the unsure way she had before.endal. enlightening young minds with the magic of poetry in the same way that %% had enlightened hers.&/ +>ou make it sound like a boring night. which gave a clear view of the school&s front lawn that was a few hundred yards away./ . signaling that spring had arrived at last.endal./ .endal.endal began to consider the strange course of events that had occurred during the school year. That night on stage when she&d read her poem aloud./ said . She&d also become a fre1uent contributor to a local literary maga3ine. oomph. As for . And she had %% and #mily $ickinson to thank for that. Since then. +%ust preparing myself for another one of our @wild nights. she&d finally found that purpose or sense of direction she&d been searching for. laughed and cleared her throat.

or her anthology My Story is Out %. you are under age 2.or#ation and e2cerpts . and have a personal L5B" story you $ould like to share that could help other teens3 go to http:66$$$/Publishing yndicate/co#6 or http:$$$/7y tory%s1ut/co# .ro# Lyndsey’s ne$est L5B" teen novel visit: http:66$$$/Publishing yndicate/co# Lyndsey is collecting true L5B" stories .by Lyndsey D’Arcangelo Co#ing in August 2012 4or #ore in.

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