Prologue

The symptoms are all there: inattentiveness, jitteriness, infatuation, and pure, unadulterated elation. Nothing gets this person off your mind, you just think about him or her every moment of every hour of every day. Your friends cannot stand to be around you, because “Aidan texted” or “Aidan said” or Aidan did something much less noteworthy than what you make it out to be. The disease is love. The diagnosis is smitten. There are four simple steps to falling in love, and then this person in question is taken away, like being swept off your feet. Maybe that’s where the saying came from. The first step is attraction. Not necessarily “love at first sight,” but sometimes it is. It’s turning around, and there he is. Aidan Johnson was tall, with short, brown hair, and possibly the most gorgeous, green eyes I had ever seen. But this wasn’t what I noticed about him. It was his shirt, yes, his shirt. It was one of those statement shirts: “Your village called, their idiot is missing.” It wasn’t necessarily the most witty thing you could put on a shirt, but it was witty enough to make me laugh. A laugh that was loud enough for him to hear. He looked over. I looked away. Now, I know that isn’t the most romantic thing you’ve ever heard. I walked away quickly from him. In fact, I practically ran. To both my horror and excitement, this wasn’t the last time I saw him. I walked into my Biology class. Among a class of 20 people, filled with classmates I have known all four years of high school, of course the only person is the new guy, Aidan, with his funny shirt and forest green eyes. He smiles. Braver the second time around, I smile back, only to sit next to Rachel, my friend and study buddy of two years. “Lilly! How was your summer?” she asks, the standard question. “Pretty good, I went to Yellowstone National Park,” was my response. A standard answer includes one highlight of slight interest. The conversation continues. I tell her about Yellowstone, she tells me about her family in

Florida. Every now and then, I look away to see if Aidan is looking at anyone. I see him pull out a sketchbook. I wonder what he’s drawing. Then I force myself to stop, to look at Rachel and focus on a particularly amusing story about her grandmother. Our teacher walks into the room. Mr. Abrams walks in, a stack of papers tucked under his arm. He’s an elderly man, and supposedly very strict. “AP Biology will be one of the most difficult and time consuming classes this year.” Those were the first gruffly spoken words out his mouth. It gave no hope of an easy grade. Rachel noticed this, too, as we exchanged intimidated looks with each other. I looked over at Aidan. He looked very nonchalant about it.

Chapter 1 But I’m getting ahead of myself. This story does not begin at the four steps of falling in love, but the five stages of grief. Our story begins like chick flicks and romance novels before, a single girl whose life has been altered somehow. Still, I’m getting ahead of myself. It was a summer day like any other. The warm Southern California heat set on my porch as I waited for Casey to pick me up. I hear a car drive by my house. It passes, then comes back. I look up to see Casey’s truck. “Hey!” yells Casey, thin, blonde, and excited to see me. I get in her car to find her trying to choose a radio station. “So where are we going?” “Supermarket,” I reply, “my family decided to have half the world over this weekend.” “Fun” “Yes,” my sarcasm apparent, “nothing says fun like running errands.” “At least it’s summer.” Casey says, as we drive through the streets of suburbia, with its clean, well-manicured lawns, “before our senior year.” “Before we graduate and get out of here.” I continue. “And my parents get off my back

about dating.” “Speaking of dating, how is Bryan?” Casey asked. “Good, working at summer camp,” I said. I was about to continue, then Casey pulled into the parking lot of the supermarket. “What are we getting for your parents?” “Um,” I began shuffling through my pockets, looking for a list, “soda, cheese, crackers, chips, dip” “Ok, basic party food stuff,” says Casey impatiently. In a half an hour, we were back in her car food bags in the trunk, driving back to my house. “So while your parents are having people over, what are we doing?” “First, I have to go to Bryan’s house and drop off his sweater,” I said distractedly. Thinking of Bryan made me go into a haze, the kind that lovesick puppies had. “And then?” Casey asked, clearly waiting for relief of being bored at home. “We’ll go watch a movie or something.” I said. Later that night, I knocked on his door. Bryan opened the door and smiled. Tall and somewhat gangly, his mop of curly black hair set on his face, framing brown eyes. “Hey,” he said. His smile faded as I walked in, “um, well…” “Yeah?” I looked up at him questioningly. No good news was coming from the look on that face. “We need to talk.”

Chapter 2 They say the first step to any grief was denial. Whoever “they” are, they speak the truth. However, it was a different kind of denial. When most people experience loss, they deny

and a bunch of other things in the near and distant future. it has to be some elaborate conspiracy. high-pitched laugh. just maybe he would call to take it all back. “Oh my GOSH. Although my denial has passed. I think many people react the way I did. the anger has set in. It was her sarcastic voice. and then homecoming. “I mean. I was standing inside Staples. “these things are always a matter of patience. deciding between types of hi-lighters. right?” I was on the phone with Casey. The only people who had it worse were my friends. Casey said a “hm” in agreement. “Of course. and a little willpower.” I said for the umpteenth time. you’re so funny. I . Just the idea of “he can’t have stopped wanting me overnight” ringing through your ears.” said a concerned Mara. “This really sucks. said in a matter of fact tone. Few people understood that.” Sometimes I just wish someone would stop telling me things will be okay and tell me how to make them ok. I was wondering whether this was an accident. It’s really just a matter of time. She has been hearing me utter the same words for the 97th time. it was an awful way to begin the summer. I had to deal with my boyfriend dumping me. *** A matter of time was taking longer than I thought. School begins in a week. I thought we were going to go to parties together. It’s the middle of August. My case was not denial of truth. that maybe. I then heard a loud. But my friends had to deal with me. She hung up and I relayed this to the next friend. “I think it’s just some time before you find someone. the government just doesn’t want you to be happy. However. All denial aside.” Casey. The words “I don’t see you the same way anymore” are burned into my brain like a phrase I was forced to memorize. My heart almost stopped. I was wondering if it was just a mistake. obviously sick of my banter. It was moreso a denial of why. I guess Mara was right. Bryan!” I heard a girl say. which happens to everyone.the truth itself.

” Bryan said. It was indeed Bryan Scott. you could be wrong. I thought to myself. I looked away. staring hard at the highlighters. Now it reminded me of the pain he has caused thus far. “Lilly!” screams the same high pitched voice. Trust. “Roxie! Hi!” I say. His arm was flanked by a thin. Her name was Rachel. Roxie. in an equally annoying. wait. I looked up. “Lil. I turned around. I turn around. my fake voice is convincing as enthusiasm. “How’s your summer?” “Great! Absolutely amazing! Spending with it with this wonderful guy right here!” she indicated Bryan. I left the store wanting to punch someone. “It wasn’t that funny. Before he could say something. Her name was Roxie. something Bryan said was always for homework. . His brown eyes looked into my soul. I feel my heart pounding in my head. he was not alone. walking away. Her classes always coordinated well with his. high pitched voice. or Regina. I need to go. I’ll just let you guys talk. Roxie’s high pitched voice rang through the store. I chose to believe the second. Wearing an olive green t shirt and jeans. leaving Bryan looking at me.” I walked to the counter and bought my highlighters. Apparently. right? “Hi. or Rebecca. and she always called. who looked uncomfortable. red-headed girl I recognized from my sophomore class.began to feel my blood boil.” I said in hurriedly. I knew it began with R. “BRYYYYYYYYYYYYAAAAAAAAAAAAAAN” “I think she needs you. as if deciding would seal my destiny forever. Bryan is a common name. the cornerstone of every relationship. It used to drive me into a lovestruck stupor. “Let me go look at binders. she walked away.” With that. Or Roxie was an idiot.” I heard him say. But I don’t scream. Bryan had always claimed that Roxie was just a friend.

was he? He was with whatever her name was. especially living in the same place for thirteen years. When you stare at your ceiling at the middle of the night. A summer of waking up at noon and hanging out with your friends traded for waking up far too early and studying isn’t really a fair exchange. for at least one second. It’s the one of the worst feelings in the world. This was saying something. the dude who came up with the stages of grief. Does getting over him really have to take all summer? I look at the clock. and celebrity worship. I wouldn’t call it love at first sight. It was there. Aren’t they all just some guy? Bryan. Except he wasn’t coming back. But it was attraction. if only for a few minutes. I also learned he was in my AP Biology class. What a fun thought. I later learned his name was Aidan Johnson. Because. one strong enough to forget about Bryan. School starts in a few hours. I still went. my life was altered. Because standing at the other end of the hall was a guy I had never seen before. . I don’t think anybody does. love is overused thanks to cheesy movies. that he’s coming back to you and that this time it will be ten times better.Chapter 3 Depression. trying to ignore the fact I miss him. is it? Either way. *** I did not want to go to school. high school crushes. I sighed and attempted to go back to sleep. let’s face it. It’s three in the morning. It’s the loneliness that you’re facing. the guys who write those stupid love songs I find myself listening to over and over? I stare up at the ceiling for a few minutes. Sure as hell. right? This is apparently the next stage in grief according to some guy.

And every time he doodled. Abrams droned on about cells. tired. to the point it made me sick. pulling my brown hair from my face and pushing up my glasses to see better. Abrams’s every word. These were Bryan and Roxie. The drawings were random. in the case it turned up on the next test. Abrams. but I’m sure it was in there somewhere. For Aidan. who spent more time looking at each other than at Mr. the person I would call for help and depend on the rest of the year. As Mr. There were the overacheievers who hung on to Mr. I looked around everyone else. The idea of attraction being the first stage of falling for someone. drawing weird doodles on the margin. who were challenged into the class by guidance counselours. Abrams decided to treat us like middle schoolers and give us assigned seating. It’s not always to their looks. There were the slackers. . the folder just looked cooler. who slept. there was the one person I did not want to sit next to. but they looked almost perfect altogether on one red folder. or simply looked bored. Jealousy may not have been an official stage of grief. He listened. it happened. it was his attitude. scribbling down a few words every now and then. smiling flirtatiously. nor hypnotized. according to Mr. like the world could go on.Chapter 4 It was insane. One my right. I was one of them. was the person who would be my official lab partner. He just looked laid back. On the other side. I found myself in an interesting position. Bryan and Roxie would glance at each other. and he would just be leaning back and listening. really. Then there was Aidan. That’s what he did. I would look around the room. but Aidan’s drawings were different. His doodles were drawn on a paper folder. Everyone draws when they take notes. and we seldom heard his voice in class. but to some air about them. Mr. in more ways than one. There was something so care-free and relaxed about him. Bryan somehow ended up being right next to me. He looked neither bored. Abrams. One day.

Mr. but connected with swirls. Him realizing I’m a total dork? Not so awesome. and cats. “See something interesting?” Aidan asked. patterns. But putting me in between my ex and the guy I’m too nervous to talk to was terrifying.Aidan Johnson was my lab partner. smiling. feeling like what I just said made me sound repetitive. but that works” And so begins the second step to falling in love.” he said. Bryan would always give me weird looks when I said something dorky. It was affirmation. Biology has always been one of my favorite classes. Aidan had proven to be different yet again. “I started with this guitar. These were completely random items. huh?” “Like cells in the human body.” I said. “I never thought of it that way. guitars. happiness. It looked ten times cooler up close. Biology class still went on. . that feeling where you can’t stop smiling. There were these things on there like globes. that looks so cool. Funny how something small becomes this huge thing. Chapter 5 It’s funny how you can have mixed feelings about something for completely different reasons. and Aidan still drew on his folder. “and then it sorta transformed into this entire folder. and monograms. “Everything is pretty interesting. And lame. The idea of sitting next to Aidan was another thing.” I heard myself say. An excuse to talk to him? Awesome. Abrams still droned on like a vacuum cleaner.

Roxie’s annoying friends rolled their eyes when Bryan stopped by her and kissed her in such a way. For once.Chapter 6 Have you ever thought that you would soon be getting over someone? Have you ever thought that liking someone else would mean getting over someone? Have you ever been proven horribly wrong? You can probably tell where this one is going. nice talk. They were never in the same order as the method itself. but a thought shared by everyone they knew. “why are you talking to me?” “Someone’s not in a good mood. surprised that he was there. Bryan’s best friend had found his way to me. He was relatively nice guy.” he said. I also know that every time I saw Bryan and Roxie together. Why would he even say that? “Ok.” “Thanks?” I said. *** I’ve mentioned the five stages of grief about a million times. this wasn’t in my head. He sat next to me one day while I was trying to do my math homework. I have no idea why Alex decided to tell me that. according the . His name was Alex. This made for a really annoying day. Bryan and Roxie seem to be so attached at the mouth that I wanted to say you were less awkward. “Nothing. Besides.” I said. Bryan and Roxie had reached the height of annoying. “I was just trying to be nice. While Bryan and I were dating. I also didn’t finish my math homework. There was really no reason for us to talk after Bryan and I were over. I put up with Alex and Alex put up with me. Then he left.” he said. Bargaining is supposed to come after depression. I felt a huge hole in my stomach. it looked like a struggle with a vacuum cleaner. “What’s up?” Alex says. I did know that I dwelled on being better than Roxie about something. appearing out of nowhere and unaware that I was busy. always kind of annoying.

distracted Casey. Roxie. Chapter 7 Casey was looking at the dress on the hanger.people who made the stages up. That morning. I even straightened it. not to mention a huge blow on my self esteem. Eyeshadow. I even took out my never used makeup kit. buying a bag of chips. Aidan walked in. wore her hair down and never wore glasses. But to me. Then. I realized that this was not my case. blush. I got to Biology thinking about why I should really get contacts. To a normal person. I sighed. Changing my looks wasn’t going to help. however. I wore my hair down. I was bargaining now. He sat down next to me and smiled. The ugly dress. This led to us looking for similarly ugly dresses. pretty and thin. Bryan had always told me I looked better without my glasses and with my hair down. But he didn’t even notice. I didn’t expect Bryan to take be back and dump Roxie. Thank god he looked away right after. Maybe this could work? It didn’t work. this was just depressing. “Who the hell would wear this?” she said. even lip gloss. It was at these dress racks that I got a text message. this would have made sense for a guy not to notice his ex (especially when he’s attached to another girl).” he said. “Your hair looks nice. He would have seen my blush a really crazy shade of red. It starts by looking in the mirror. or do something to my hair. However. But it didn’t hurt to try. “Jake dumped me” . My geeky glasses and messy brown ponytail stared back. We were at Target.

being grounded for breaking curfew. I was reading Pride and Prejudice. her voice barely audible. But watching one of the happiest people I knew reduced to tears erased all the jealousy. I was going to make up a lame excuse about bio homework. “It’s the beginning of senior year!” said Mara.” Mara said. we sat in silence the rest of the car ride. What about Aidan? Would Aidan become one of them.” I said. I shook this sentiment off. we learned that going to college together was not an option. “Originally.Our friend Mara had been with the same guy for all 3 years of high school. “Hi” I said. too? Would Aidan become another Bryan? My train of thought was broken by hysterical sobs. and that they had to break up. We all think our guys are different. I had read this book so many times to the point the binding was falling off. As far as I knew. “Does a guy who doesn’t see a future with you really deserve to be with you?” I asked. “You’re too good for Bryan. despite them being jerks. watching the heart of someone breaking in front of me. I got a call. or. but I’ll just say I’m bored” . comforting her. Casey and I left an hour later. had always loved her. Before my one year with Bryan. “we still had time!” I was standing in the corner. Of course he was different. in Casey’s case. her tear-stained face red and blotchy. I realized Bryan didn’t see a future with me. And as I said this. “Jake was different. Through her tears. A few minutes later. Casey and I had our arms around her. My friends were all busy with work.” After Casey said that. her boyfriend. It was Aidan. “She’s too good for him if he was such an asshole. Jake. *** It was a Saturday night. I envied her.

too. Maybe because I was so happy about it. too!” And so it went. and more than one moment I couldn’t stop talking about. I told everyone about Aidan. She said that there were “other fish in the sea. I didn’t talk like this since Bryan and I broke up. It made me feel less nervous around him. My sarcasm usually went over people’s heads. there was humor in his voice. “That sounds so exciting!” I said. Except Mara. a desk job organizing files and putting them in cabinets.” I wiped the brown strands of hair from her face. even calling his sister. Casey was telling her that Jake was stupid to let Mara go. calling him. She kept insisting that Jake was different.” I hate that phrase.I laughed. Two hours of sarcasm. She was in her “denial” phase with Jake. Aidan and I had more than one two-hour conversation. . But Aidan shocked me once more. “It does. My friends seemed less critical about this. Mara said she loved him. I’m sure you envy the insane amount of paper cuts I get. She admitted to driving passed his house. Chapter 8 It was the third step to falling for someone: thinking about them despite having a million things to think about and do. more than one exchange of smiles. I was smitten. I couldn’t stop thinking about him. but Mara would not hear it. He talked about his job. boredom. It meant “it’s your turn. and an extremely wonderful conversation later. Casey gave up and gave me a look. trying to make my sarcasm apparent. Whenever he did talk. Casey kept arguing this. Who wants to date a fish? Why can’t I date a person? Mara didn’t listen to Casey.

She went on to tell me their entire story: from the beginning of 9th grade Spanish. My lack of sleep made me irritable. Still. telling me how much she missed Jake. I was tired. The fact it was a week after their breakup and the fact Jake was flirting with some other girl in front of me made me furious. to the end. something I thought I’d never say. I checked my phone. Bryan did not call. my phone beeped. but I wasn’t focused on him. I told her my stomach hurt. I barely believed myself. “What the hell?” were her first words. we’ll support you one hundred percent” Then I told her it’s going to be okay. English class was boring. The first person I told about everything. It was Casey. I asked my friend to hand in my homework for me and went to the nurse. I thought I was making progress with this Bryan thing. “Bio sucked without you. did my homework. Mara called me. it sounded good to hear. Later.” I told her as she nodded silently. Then I heard the phone ring. I spend the night watching my procrastination eat me alive. *** Seven in the morning was a brutal time. I doubted she believed me. I sat around by my phone. Once I finished my homework. Neither did Aidan. . I got a text message saying. But this text message threw me a massive curveball. for that matter. We sat there for a few minutes wondering why it was. their first kiss at a bus stop. The fact Jake sat two rows ahead of me made me angry. Casey was just as confused as I was. “But whatever you choose. Did he want me back? Was Roxie as annoying as I thought she would be? Was this all a practical joke? We managed to call Mara as well. I went home and slept.” It was from Bryan. Chapter 9 I was baffled. even read Pride and Prejudice. She was doing well enough to come up with theories with us. But every five minutes.“It’s too soon to let go. I paced around it.

“But what about Aidan?” Mara said, “The guy in your bio class. I’m pretty sure he likes you.” How is someone really sure about that kind of thing? I guess the thing about being book smart is that what appears obvious to some people never reached me the same way. Still, I knew I liked him. “It’s not fair to him, to like you and be easily replaced,” Mara sounded like she wasn’t talking about Aidan at all. But Mara wasn’t the type to just not tell us something, except when she really did not want to talk about it. “Mara, what’s wrong?” I asked. Did this have something to do with Jake and that girl from English? “Some girl in his math class!” Mara screeched. She was on the verge of tears. Jake must be really getting around, I thought to myself. “I’ll be over soon.” I said to her, about to grab my keys. But Mara said it didn’t matter. She said it was time to be strong. At least one of us was being strong. I then got another text message from a number I didn’t know. It said: “It’s Roxie. You’re a bitch.” What the hell?

Chapter 10

I have to admit that I absolutely hate gossip. Everything about it sucked. You hear something that could or could not be true. You hear it from someone that could or could not be reliable. And it could or could not spread like wildfire. I walked into biology that day. The text from Roxie was still buzzing in my head. I looked up to see her and one of her friends talking animatedly. Once I walked in, they both

stopped talking and glared at me. But this is what I had heard so far: Bryan dropped out of Biology He broke up with Roxie He may or may not still like me He does not intend to actually ask me back because he’s afraid of Roxie I was still thinking about Bryan. Although he left me for some manipulative bimbo, the Bryan I used to know was stuck in my head. He used to be the person I talked to about everything. I would ramble on for five minutes straight, and he would actually listen. I would tell him about all my insecurities (all 5,734 for them), and he would listen. There wasn’t much listening anymore, and I was still too nervous around Aidan to tell him anything. I sat down next to Aidan and smiled. He was wearing a black shirt, which looked amazing with his brown hair. And his eyes. If eyes were windows to the soul, his soul was deep and moving. “I take it that one dude is gone?” he said, talking about Bryan. “Yeah, Bryan,” I said, trying not to sound upset, “he was never the academic type.” “People who sleep in class usually aren’t.” he said, looking at me, most likely expecting a laugh. I didn’t laugh. “Something wrong?” Aidan asked. “What? No, it’s just presumptive to say that.” What the hell was I saying? He wasn’t the academic type, it wasn’t presumptive, and Aidan’s right! “To each their own, I guess,” he said simply. He didn’t argue, but he still looked put off. I got home that day to a call from Bryan. “Hi, Lil” he said, trying to be casual. “Hi,” I said, trying to sound as bland and controlled as possible. “Lilly, I miss you.” He said. “Which explains why you dropped out of the one class we had together, and why you’ve

been avoiding me since I first saw you with Roxie” “She scares me, Lil” Bryan said, “and I miss those weird rants you have when you’re annoyed.” He then offered something I should have said no to. He asked to be just friends. “Sure, let’s give this a shot,” I heard myself say. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------“Lilly Warner, why?” said a flabbergasted Mara. Casey had the same reaction.

“To be perfectly honest guys, I have no clue.” I told them.

I knew exactly why I said yes. I just didn’t want to admit it. Chapter 11

It was the first weekend of October. I was swamped with homework and made possibly the dumbest decision about my personal life. I stared blankly at my math homework, wondering how calculus could ever help me. Somehow, I began thinking about Bryan, and the idea of being “just friends.” It was awful. I was still wondering how I could rationally have said yes. This entire thought process gave me a huge headache. It was a wonderful Saturday afternoon, so I put away my homework and grabbed my camera. It was time for a photo run. I gladly left my house and took the bus to the mall. There, I began taking pictures of things inside and outside the mall. My favorite things to take pictures of were trees. As I lifted my camera, trying to get a close up of a branch, I heard a voice behind me. “I thought we didn’t start plants until next semester,” It was Aidan. “I’m getting a head start,” I said, smiling. He chuckled, revealing a smile that could grace

not clear them out. looking up at the leaves. she wasn’t too thrilled about us moving. however.” “Weird expression. I sighed. I pegged him as the loner type. but they’re still there.” he said. “I know the feeling.” “Are you guys close?” I asked. Aidan. so she’s in college back in San Fran. “San Fransisco. surprised me. “you’d think moving away from your problems would solve them. the weather. dealing with after effects. “Something wrong?” Aidan asked.” I said. “Where did you move from?” I asked. hoping this list didn’t bore him to death.” He had baggage. He certainly spent enough time alone to make that true.” “Certain thoughts are worth clearing out. He looked happy talking .” I said. “You’re taking pictures of trees outside of a mall?” he asked. relationship ended badly.” “The lack of hippies and excess of blonde bimbos?” I offered “Lack of gays and excess of Republicans.” I laughed at this. “I usually go to the mall to take pictures of the fountains.toothpaste commercials. “Stupid drama.” he said.” He says. There was no need to.” he said. “I didn’t know you were a photographer. I didn’t expect that. the vibe. but it helps me clear my head. those artsy sculptures donated by someone famous. though. The people. “Southern California is different. “she’s older by a few years. as my sister says. “I’m not. laughing. looking both puzzled and (hopefully) interested. “I always thought people would want to keep thoughts in their head. Now was a good time as any to figure out more about an otherwise mysterious person. and the coy pond.” I’ve heard that guys get turned off by saying stuff like this.

“Fourth grade was awesome! Everything was so much easier. What about you? Any shared blood? “One brother. fourth grade is a big deal to him. I scanned the parking lot looking for my silver Toyota. disregarding the fact I was far from it. Chapter 12 Where is my car? This wasn’t the title of a movie. I simply waved back.” Aidan said. we’re as close as our age difference really allows. so I always had one friend wherever I went. but she’s my best friend. “We moved around from place to place as a kid. his black hair almost brown in the sun. I heard my phone beep.” “That’s young. “Good. “Alex sorta bailed. I thought to myself. I saw Bryan waving to me. stating the obvious. “tired. I had proudly finished all my homework except an English essay. trying to ignore how red my face was going. finally spotting the car.about his sister. That night.” . annoyed that I couldn’t find the thing. Things sucked now that everyone was getting older. school sucks. “He’s a cool little kid.” Aidan said. It was from Aidan. can I get a ride?” has asked. “Hey. I’ll save that for tomorrow. He was walking by my side.” I laughed. but a question I asked myself as I stepped into my parking lot. text message alert. “How are you?” asked Bryan. he’s 9.” I said. “It was cool running into you today.” “Sure.” I said.” I smiled.” I said. He was right. To my left. “It sounds cheesy to say it.

but turn it on louder. was complaining about something sucking. to stop driving until the song was over. Bryan began fumbling with the radio. He thanked me for the ride. Typical Mara. “Remember this song?” Bryan leaned back on the passenger’s side. It was so familiar. just tired. “Lilly!” she said.” which was true. sounding bubbly and energetic. Why couldn’t I turn it off? I pulled over to his house. that he said school sucked. Except me. Casey unable to do damage control without me.” he said. He didn’t care when I was on Casey’s couch.” I was still trying to analyze every piece of the puzzle when Mara called. thin. How could I forget? I wanted to turn it off. who went to a different school than Mara and I did. the guy I had liked for a year. The guy who was taking easy classes. Part of me was confused. and always changed my favorite classic rock station to one of those top 40 pop music ones. Apparently. He didn’t care that I was insanely jealous of his perfect. “What’s wrong?” asked Bryan. I finally turned off the radio. This bothered me. and drove back to my house. pretty. Mara was upset. He could have an intense workload. . and until recently. was finally adjusting. but I wanted him to stay in. this train of thought gave me an angry look on my face. He was always the possessive type. It happened at the end of sophomore year. flashing a perfect smile at me as he closed the door. I still had a huge pile of homework. Why did he care? He didn’t when I had a meltdown. We got in the car. Then he took his hand off the radio knob. had told me he “only saw me as a friend.“It does. or have few friends from coming here from San Fransisco. had his perfect girlfriend flanked on his arm. again. I wanted to tell Bryan to get out of the car. It was “Iris” by the Goo Goo Dolls. Casey. Andrew. Instantly. crying while shoving down calorie after calorie of ice cream. “Nothing. The song came on. model-esque girlfriend. Everything was looking up. Mara and Jake had been together for a year.

Jake’s friend Bryan just got dumped by Kelsey Galloway. It made me upset. and when he got his license. it was date after date. “So Jake and I already had sort of an anniversary lunch thing. Thinking about it gave me a headache. We talked all night. I really do want you to know who I am. I missed them a lot. Chapter 13 . I thought he would blow me off like Andrew. right after finals were over. “Lilly. “I love this song!” we both said simultaneously. His dad loved classical rock and was always playing it on speakers at home. almost forgetting Jake and Mara were even there. high-pitched and bubbly. and we wanted to go to this restaurant and see this movie. sobbing. Who didn’t know Bryan Scott? He was popular. That was also the night of our first kiss. The opening guitar part. Then the song came on. it was the first song we listened to in his car together. We talked about books.” it was a Friday night. Ever since then. making him well-versed in my musical taste. Mara. but not overdone in any way. He was surprisingly an avid reader. She kept talking. cute. it became part of my entire world at that moment.“Hey. He was charming and perfect. “You know Bryan Scott. We then both smiled. he gave me a smile and a hug.” She said this all in one fast breath. funny. The first thing was his he smiled. When I came up to the restaurant. the lead singer’s voice. I was geeky and neurotic. I was pleasantly surprised. I missed those days. Before I knew it. so we were wondering if you could come with us and keep Bryan company. I thought he would roll his eyes at the sight of me and text his friends about the nerd he got set up with. and completely out of my league. Big. I dug my iPod out of my backpack and began to play the song. streaming down my face. crocodile tears.” he said that night. right?” It struck me. I was crying. He smelled like cologne.

“You can’t see him. My mom had felt so bad for my cousin. Danny. “sometimes when adults don’t agree. She promised to stay for a few weeks.” . I think being with him would be a bad idea. her face tear stained from crying and red from yelling.” said a deep voice. usually far removed from the estrogenladen issue of relationships. Violet. playing video games. even the occasional felon became Violet’s new love interest. my aunt. the tears and anger intense. Despite being in my room upstairs-with the door shut. “Why is everyone yelling?” he asked. My dad. Aunt Daisy!” continued Violet. How do you explain things to a nine year old? “Cousin Violet and Mom don’t agree on some things. choosing my words carefully.I could hear everything perfectly. his brown eyes fixated on my face. “You have NO idea what it’s like. Violet. had taken a stand. My grandparents had named their two daughters.” my mom said calmly. “you have no idea what HE’S like!” “He has issues.It started again. Her mother. “EVERYONE has issues. Daisy and Rose. This month became a year. after flowers. A few weeks turned into a month. Everyone from travelling musicians to druggies. Violet had taken a habit of dating guys that parents would never like.” said Violet. My mom and her sister thought it would be a nice idea to follow the tradition with their daughters. My parents were exhausted by this. My older cousin. they get angry and yell. I opened the door to my 9 year old brother. “You don’t get it!” yelled Violet. ear plugs jammed into his ears. that she let her stay in the guest room. He took out the ear plugs. kicked her out after nights of partying. I sat next to him on his bed as he paused his game. I heard her stomp her feet upstairs and slam the door. had been living with us for about a year. The yelling got loud. I decided to go to my brother’s room.” I said.

But they had the same eyes and nose.” “Good night. or when they fight. do you know some guy named Aidan?” Maybe I didn’t want her to leave my room. but she bleached it.” I brushed his brown hair from his eyes and kissed him on the forehead.” “How did you get to the topic of me. This was how Violet told her stories.” I felt relieved. pulling a strand of over-processed hair.” said Danny. “And Eric. “Neither do I. she looked younger than Danny did when she was being stubborn. Oh. rebellious. “He’s a bassist. A musician!” Bryan plays the guitar. “he said he knew you.” .” she said. “Anyways. I walked into my room.” Correction. This was despite her parents pleas. we were talking and he said he was shopping with his sister. Sis!” he said happily. he’s smart. like mine. “He’s gorgeous! He’s funny. little bro. “He stopped by the store. You can say it over and over again. “with some girl” My heart sank. “They’re being totally unfair!” said Violet. Lilly. why?” I tried to sound as relaxed about it as possible. I thought. Despite being 22. and he’s a musician. I want you to leave my room and stop stressing out my parents and scaring my brother.” Violet worked at a department store. laid back. The little kid was my life. “Later. Full of trivial suspense. You couldn’t really see the resemblance from far.“I don’t like it when they yell. Violet was sitting on my bed.” Her natural hair color was brown. “Yeah. by the way. arms crossed around her chest. I wonder if Aidan played anything. an impatient look on her face. Of course the good ones are taken. He certainly seemed like the type that would: artistic. “good night. She was what I called a “peroxide blonde. as if she knew. it’s such a cute name! You can say it over and over again. he’s cute.

Awkward is when we were first dating and we ran into Kelsey Galloway.” She said. This was added to the things Kelsey Galloway would say about me. “Fine.” she sounded bored. He was right. Full of hellos and excuse me’s. Chapter 14 “Hi. “She’s not even pretty. sorry. like. it wasn’t awkward.“The usual. “So how has your day been going?” Bryan asked. I guess. She wasn’t exactly known to be the nicest person. “my mom just called. and I said. And he said he knew you. “See. He said Glenbrook. As I put my phone down.” “Busy?” he asked.” “All right. my cousin went there.” I heard her once say. how are you? I’ll left money on the counter for pizza…love you!” That was the message from my mom.” “Yeah. that sounds cool. saying hello to everyone and moving through the crowd. Bryan says hello to me. good morning….I’m going to be late. hi. smiling. this friendship thing isn’t so awkward.” I wanted to remind her that I was with him for a year and a half. His sister was back from San Fransisco. we have a lot of work to do. excuse me. leaving the room. excuse me. hello. “his standards have seriously dropped since things didn’t work out with us.” He said. Kelsey dropped him in two weeks. hello. he’s in my biology class. Awkward was when we ran into Roxie. my mother’s voicemails are sent when she’s in the hallways. whose lips were transfixed to Colin Peterson.excuse me.” I said. . sweetie…. “asked him what school he went to.

“Hey.” “Those houses don’t sell themselves!” Bryan said. I have plans. Saturday night was about having fun.” Other times. she said “Oh.” ************************************************************************ For most people. she decided to pick on her innocent. had one mission on Saturday night: to cover for Violet. “Hey. geeky cousin. knowing Sunday is there to make up for it. she would come back at 11. Then.” I looked up. we looked at each other. waiting for her. spending time with your friends.” I said.“As usual. saying “it was so boring. . “Tell me about it. He then said something I didn’t expect. doing a perfect imitation of my dad. however. I would be up until 4 in the morning. Instead.” extending the o sound in “so. Both parents were real estate agents. what are you doing Saturday night?” Why was he still talking? Why wasn’t I responding? What did my face look like as these thoughts ran around in my head? “I can’t do anything on Saturday. What? I stared at him. and both of them said the same thing Bryan did. Sometimes.” I said. and make sure my parents were asleep so that I could let her in as quietly as possible. Every time I would ask when she was getting back. “she’s got a meeting to go to with my dad. but longer than a glance. Violet had no set time to come back from her party. It wasn’t the level of a stare. or having an unproductive night after an unproductive day. I’m really sorry about us. wondering why he would be apologizing for something that happened in June. Violet had never ended her partying ways since her parents kicked her out. I. especially in October. sighing.

I just stayed home on a Saturday. Put her into bed. He knew it like he had done it before.” Loosen up? So I could lie to the people who cared about me and endanger my liver while hanging out with questionable people? I’d rather not. Right now. “I wasn’t doing anything. Five minutes later my cousin was in her bed. I opened the door. watching some chick flick that seemed worth the time.” I said. I walked Aidan to our front lawn.Lilly. anyways. “Hello?” why was he calling me? “Hey.” “Weird?” I never got that response before. don’t make any sound. . Walk slowly. a passed out Violet. I remember Violet leaving three very angry messages. Violet needed me to do her bidding. actually carrying. Nonetheless. As I had left the theater. Still.” he said. After a week of Violet refusing to speak to me. you need to loosen up a little. “waiting for Violet is exactly what I do. There had to be total silence.” “Weird. considering the more important topic at hand. “Her boyfriend is in the car. open your door. He was with. It was Aidan. Sneaking Violet back in was a task left only to the experts. “Sorry for ruining your night. I decided not to ask. Lilly.” I shushed him. I answered. it was 3 in the morning. There was no need for anyone to talk at all. Despite the movie getting out at eleven. to say the least. sound asleep. She freaks out if I’m not exactly where I’m supposed to be. It was usually to tell me that they felt sorry for having a manipulative bitch for a cousin. What was odd was not the fact that Aidan knew this without me telling him. It sounded like something you would hear out of a horror movie. and then leave. I got a call from Aidan.” I was confused. one time I tried to break this rule of hers and go see a movie. yelling at my dashboard. It was with Casey and Mara.

The only thing was. it was pure and innocent. “but we still realize that people manipulate us.” “She has issues. Talking to him made me feel like none of that happened. it was painful to remember. texting. Especially for someone who doesn’t deserve to be taken advantage of. blurting out the first thing I could think of to defend her. He was calling.” “I don’t think anyone likes getting taken advantage of. we still don’t do anything about it.” he began looking around the street. His hands were soft.” “Of course not. we both knew we weren’t together.” “Maybe because it makes the person happy. not what makes other people happy.” “Sometimes you should concentrate on what makes you happy. perfect for holding in the middle of a crazy day. she can be a total control freak.” Chapter 15 There is a big difference between telling the past to go to hell and telling a person to go there instead. . It was amazing. If he continues to act nice in a way that makes you sick. Telling someone else to go to Hell might do the same thing. “but that doesn’t mean we should take advantage of other people. But only if you say it out loud.“For someone so free spirited.” I said. This was my relationship with Bryan. He was there and I was there. doing everything that made me feel like we were still together.” his tone profound.” he said. “and for all the wrong things. Telling the past to go to hell is like letting go of some really amazing memories for the sake of your sanity. It’s one thing I can’t stand. Yet. It was like we never broke up at all. “We all do. That’s what I missed the most. There were no holding hands. you keep it to yourself.

However. Passive aggressive people like Mara reminded me of soda cans. he healed it at a time I needed it. talking. He broke up with me for no reason. Granted. had no problem telling people to go to Hell. She cited all the things I wanted to cite. Casey still maintained that Bryan was an idiot. “Why can’t I get over him? How is he over me so quickly? Why does he still talk to me? Why do I find myself driving passed his house wanting to cry?” On and on she went. it doesn’t seem like that big of a deal. Tell Jake about the problems with their relationship before it got big? Of course not. or about being around another girl that I felt that feeling. she would tell us what she thought. You might notice some fizzing. Mara had exploded. saying all the things I wanted to say. But tell other people her real opinion of certain things? Never. Neither could Mara. or getting angry for him dumping me (despite wanting to). You can shake them a lot without anything drastic happening. I became defensive. It was also something I wish I had. This was something I admired about her greatly. The thing was. It’s the feeling of getting punched in the stomach. Whenever I told her that I was having these issues. however. but Mara came in a rather close second. It was until he said something about being single.We were both there together. I was the worst out all three of us. She also said Jake was an idiot. she just went on a ramble about how Bryan wasn’t worth my time. This was not the case with Bryan. I could easily tell Violet. Casey had a gift of being insanely outspoken. at the time. Sure. Heather. and several other people to go to Hell. or hear the bubbling. . If I was actually punched in the stomach. Casey. For some reason. My situation was no different with Bryan. Bryan. it explodes. he made me happier than I had been for a while. I could easily tell the person who punched me to go to Hell. Not that I drove passed his house (despite wanting to). I could never achieve this. or call him back over and over again (despite wanting to). But when you open the soda can. He broke my heart.

I’m coughing up a lung. Cigarettes made you less hungry. Teenage girls wanting to look cool? If cool meant sickly thin. It made me burst into huge fits of coughing. do I look okay? “Dude. you kept that perfect body that every girl in your school wanted. It was something I had in common with many people. I knew this because everything about her look said she . there seemed to be nothing wrong with sticking your tongue down an ashtray. I wanted to choke.” he said.” he said. you ate less. and ability to get women. it seemed. “Might not want to lose these things. Literally. walking beside me. “You really need to get over him. a concerned look on his face. hacking coughs that echoed through the hallway. It was one of those loud. what happened?” I looked up to see Bryan. “I pretended it didn’t bother me. A thin body and perfect skin were no match for the opinions of teenage boys. then yes. “Oh well. The person picked up my glasses and handed them to me. “Did you know she smokes?” We both already knew this answer.” Bryan hated smoking. you have to look cool somehow.” Ever notice that you don’t get over someone when a person says that? I found myself walking into class coughing loudly. I then bumped into someone. And if you ate less. knowing women was still not his strong point. “Roxie. However. Everybody stared. The smell of the smoke made him nauseated. Bryan regarded her smoking habit as “disgusting” and “a huge turn-off. gasping for breath.” I said. disregarding his “turnoff. glasses falling on the floor.” I heard Casey say. but whenever I gave her a hug. Despite Bryan’s intelligence. I crashed into this person. I chose to believe it as some weird connection between us.” Looking cool? I laughed to myself. While were together. She didn’t go to this school.“Dude.” While Bryan and Roxie were together. If you were less hungry. A few people asked if I was ok.” She said. “I do.

“She seems nice. Maybe by a few years. “Allison. I don’t think I had ever seen him embarrassed before.” she said. she looked older. touching the music note around my neck as if she had known me for years. Chapter 18 It still hadn’t hit me of how selfish I was acting. not a teacher way. I told Mara I was happy for . but with a smile to me. She said that they looked more identical up close. Allison’s eyes were the exact same shade as Aidan’s. But there she was. please don’t do that. “I was just being friendly!” Allison said defensively.” Aidan said. Our school had a strict policy against showing any belly button skin or ripped jeans. “That Aidan guy’s a little weird. I didn’t think someone as cool and collected as Aidan would be capable of blushing. grabbing his sister out of my sight. you can’t do that when you just meet someone!” I heard a voice say. interesting. Then it was the way she dressed. while she said (quite loudly) “I can’t say hi to your friends?” “That was. this is my sister Allison. yeah.” he said. his face red. I began to see exactly what she meant.” Bryan said. First of all. “And that necklace is really cool. “We should go.” I said. To her face. “Don’t think he likes me. “Lilly. “Um. but in a college student way. It was Aidan. in her majorly ripped jeans and tank top that showed her stomach. Allison. Her eyebrow piercing would also land her a detention. I had completely forgotten he was there.didn’t.” he said. this is Lilly. her hair the same color and slightly wavy. and your shirt is awesome!” “Thanks!” I looked down to notice my Led Zeppelin shirt.” Violet had seen them at the store. uh. “I’m Allison.” There are few things better than knowing a cute guy does not like your ex.

It seemed like the fairer option. I . some more important than the others. writing essays. Since I still wasn’t entirely sure of which school would prefer. Unlike most overachievers. Like most overachievers. Secretly. re taken. Halloween meant time to get costumes. However. She was well entering her second phase of falling in love. I had a teacher tell me that a kid who never did his work asked for a recommendation letter. the perfect score wasn’t my goal. my junior year science and English teachers were my recommendation letter “go to” people.” would be the beginning of all of Mara’s sentences. Mara from her history teachers. The standard date to turn in college applications was around the time of Thanksgiving. mine were solid. For people all across the board. Lots and lots of decisions. some schools like wellrounded kids. Some people were smarter about this than others. As per SAT scores. Mara was too happy. This meant a huge scramble for recommendation letters. I had taken. and frantically contemplating re-taking the SAT’s. I just stayed well-rounded. any negative energy towards this new development had to be hidden. Some people were guaranteed recommendation letters. candy. unlike Casey. The not talking about Jake rule would technically no longer apply. pumpkins. Other schools preferred kids who were good at something consistently. Bryan was guaranteed one from his lacrosse coach. and gotten a high enough score. As for me. After reading various “Tips to get into college” books. which meant a few different things. I wasn’t even being suspicious of Jake. I shrieked with excitement when she got sent a huge “I’m sorry” bouquet from Jake. “So Jake texted me. It was almost Halloween. the part where you can’t stop thinking about the person in question. She had no reason to be over him if he came back to her.her. and I was entering denial. I wished the rule was still on. and whatever else needed to look festive. this was a loss of sanity (for both Mara and myself). For other high school seniors. it was time to make decisions. To me.

And she doesn’t take advantage of being older. the essays. But her boyfriend knew where .” “Unlike your cousin?” he asked. not to mention a cute one. I always stared at the prompt. she asked me what school I went to. The prompt was a simple one: how have your surroundings changed you as a person? It was the standard prompt: vague enough to apply to anything." I said.” I said. And.” “That’s good.” he continued. “Nothing. being the outgoing person she is. What was I supposed to write about? My parents influencing my need to do well academically? Boring. “Anyways. but possibly inappropriate. of course.” I said. “Hey. though. there. to tell me all the things I missed about San Fran. So what to write about? I sat in the school library staring at this prompt. It never did. trying to cover up anything I said. So what was left? The applications themselves. It was adorable. spotted her at some party she dragged me to. who had a habit of coming out of nowhere. He looked straight at me.needed just enough for some college to let me in. “that your sister and you are close.” said Aidan. and told me you went there. His eyes were perfect. hoping the essay would simple do itself.” “That would be the simple version of the story.” I said. she’s here for about a week. excited for a distraction. “She’s fine. “my sister. “What?” he asked. “How did you find my house?” “I met her at some department store. “how’s your sister?” He chuckled. more to myself than to him. she was staying with you and your parents. “Hi. The modern media forcing the idea of relationships on me so I suffer intense longing? Interesting. Both seemed like an utter waste of time to me. as she needed a designated driver.

“it’s time to move on. Two very different people. He returned his book and left. and we realize we aren’t” “My ex girlfriend lives back in San Fran. “What’s the deal with you guys?” he asked.” Aidan said. “I try not to think about it too much. I library is a weird place to have a heart to heart. “He’s my ex. But I do. Funny how two minutes changes everything. because I miss her. sounding much more bitter about than I intended to. on two different oceans.” We were on the same boat. hoping the prompt would inspire me to say something more explanatory.” I said. this time being absolutely sure. Bryan had walked in. I’m actually not sure.” I looked at the screen. he turned to me. I looked up as he waved at me.” “She’s a party person. I waved back. “To be honest.” We stared at each other for about a good minute or so. “Can we change the subject?” “Sorry. “there’s a lot of drama behind the whole thing.” he said.” “Mind me asking why you guys broke up?” his voice sounded both very close and extremely far away at the same time. Was I still upset about what happened in June? “Funny how we think we’re over something. “If you ever need to talk. I don’t want to talk to her because it’s just going to remind me how much I missed her. though.” he said.” I said. “And how is that going?” I asked. The library door opened.Violet lived. surprising me with a question that I didn’t entirely know the answer to. yet on the same boat. and it’s weird. “She still talks to me.” . “I didn’t know it was that touchy of a subject.” “Neither did I. The bell rang As we both left. just let me know. completely out of the blue.” “Easier said than done.” I said.

I realized I was staring at my phone. All I remembered was things falling apart. Nothing big. but a bit more annoying. that didn’t work. “What is it that you needed me to talk about?” I looked at Jake. Just things slowly unraveling. . with the most serious tone I have ever heard him use. He was always laid back. Why did Bryan and I break up? For me. This doesn’t work either. I couldn’t shake what Aidan said about his ex. little by little.” he said. his surfer boy charm always intact. Slight muscles. just standing there. He was like Aidan in that sense. I didn’t slam the door in his face. I sat there wondering about the conversation I had with Aidan. Jake is at my house. Somehow. “What are you doing?” he asked. I felt like I had to tell Mara what was going on. the dishonesty that occurs within that sentence made me feel uncomfortable. tan. it was so sudden. What happened there? What was she like? Why had he decided to talk to me about it? Chapter 17 Jake was at my house. and laid back mentality? Triple check. flipping it open and closed every second. I stared at him for a second. Because I let Jake into my house. Jake invited himself into my house? Somehow. too” That night. Shaggy blond hair? Check. I’m here.“Thanks. patiently waiting. on my porch. I didn’t refuse to let him and tell him I could talk outside. Pretty blue eyes? Double check. “Nothing!” I said. no fights. like Jake and Mara. out of nowhere. Still. “I want Mara back. like a favorite sweater having its yarn undone. saying things in a joking or relaxed tone. No. I was trying to send her the perfectly worded text message to let that happen. perhaps too loud. He seemed prepared for this.

She would always tell me that she’s ready to move on. guess what happened?” I said frantically. but I do know she’s still hurting. Of course she still loved Jake. “Is she over me?” What kind of question is that. “I don’t know. I just stood there. but I wish. “he wanted Mara. But she wanted to get over him. I wouldn’t talk about Bryan if she didn’t talk about Jake. So what did I say to him? Would I tell Jake that she still loves him? Or do I tell him that she wanted to get over him? I took a deep breath and blurted out the first thing that came to my mind. “Dude. “Jake was at my house.” The conversation didn’t go on for very long. I called Casey.“What?” was all I could manage to say.” I heard a pause.” “Why are you telling me this. You hurt her really badly. He came to my . But when she came back from a date. other times. “No.” Jake said.” I asked. or remarked about some cute guy who worked at Blockbuster. I wanted to ask him. a huge one. It was painful to watch. she wasn’t.” this was not the time. It wasn’t working. and just as painful to relate to. I didn’t show this. it’s complicated. But like everything else. Jake was still standing there.” it was time to set up for the punch line. “and I want her back.” “Ok. hoping I could use some Jedi mind tricks to get him to leave. “what did he want?” “Apparently. looking at me. “Dude. “I don’t know what she wants. lowering my voice to sound less nervous. We took a vow together.” I was mad at Jake. she held back. Mara still loved Jake. As soon as he left. “There’s a huge sale on chocolate at the convenience store down the street from your house?” Casey asked. “I made a mistake in letting her go. his eyes expectant. Sometimes she was did fine.” I said.

However. wanting her back. I loved Casey for this reason: no hesitation. I knew I should have been happy for her.” Mara said.” “Well. “Jake wants me back?” she yelled. before I could tell her. What kind of best friend isn’t happy for a new relationship? But what I felt wasn’t happiness. “what should I do?” Best friends always know this answer before it gets asked. her voice nervous. Casey was happy for her. asking about whether you want him back or not. I got a call. He wanted to know if Mara still liked him. I was about to ask if I would be giving Mara false hopes. Why couldn’t Bryan see things Jake’s way? . Plus.house. I remembered how deeply I cared about Bryan. “But here’s mine: do I tell Mara. Like clockwork. I remembered what it was like to see Bryan with Roxie.” she continued.” “Yes. “lying to her is worse.” “It’s weird that he asked before telling her. We always think that any guy stupid enough to let your best friend go does not deserve you. she needs to know. reading my mind. “He was at my house.” **** I lay awake at 2 in the morning. I knew this was how Mara felt about Heather. Mara was beyond happy. I remembered how painful it was seeing Bryan at the convenience store right after we broke up. So I said this. it was from Mara. This made me angry.” she said. despite still believing Jake was an idiot. “Go for it. all guts. made me think “No. “And don’t think about giving her false hopes. I couldn’t tell any emotion from her voice. it had to be.” I said. it wasn’t skepticism.” She did need to know. “ I didn’t ask questions. Maybe I wasn’t worried about Mara getting false hope. It was jealousy. Mara! Don’t do it!” Then a new wave of emotion hit me.” She said.

Here I am.” Why mess with another girl’s guy? Government went fine. The second thing was Jake. but clearly always conveying something’s wrong. “What’s wrong?” I asked. You’d think that getting back together with Mara would stifle his flirtatious nature.” he said. One week of not seeing him would test the theory of “out of sight. Then came lunch. phone in his hand. trying not to think about anything upsetting. a discussion. “Don’t worry about it.” The first day was awesome. I guess not. I saw Aidan sitting on a bench. I was off to the mall to take more pictures. He said it like it was nothing. as usual. One. I envied him for being so relaxed. “And don’t say that nothing is wrong.” With that he smiled. English went fine except for a few things. and other stuff. How mundane. but the way Mara acted around him just screamed “taken. I had to . As I got out of the parking lot. But my day went normally.” “What’s her name?” If he was going to be the typical guy and pretend to be chill. Then Bio. saying it as if it was no big deal at all. my awful teacher. it’s not that big of a deal. who can just shrug something off like it’s “no big deal. everyone knows that that isn’t true.Chapter 19 Perhaps the most amazing thing could have happened to me the week before Halloween. It was a quiz. Math was boring. Bryan went on vacation. I didn’t blame them. out of mind. And then we have Aidan. This day was boring. Somehow. I had gotten my homework done. His face was troubled. Spanish? Worksheet. Every girl was charmed by Jake’s perfect surfer boy look. his green eyes touching the sunlight perfectly.” “It’s just stupid ex drama. fractured accents. our discussion was absolutely boring.

” “Take the dive?” I asked. Then I noticed his wrist. branch out to people. One day.” He had his arm around me.” I said.” He said. There was leather strap around it. I thought to myself. go out with him. a lot less embarrassing. “Just take a deep breath. I wouldn’t say what I wanted to do with him on our dates. I hated crying in public. do things that scare you. “Now exhale. a silver plate with those exact words inscribed into the metal. That was the last dive I took. his voice sounded distant. it could have been nothing. Or so I thought. “I took the dive with Zoe. It became safe after that. Allison went up to her and said ‘my brother likes you.get something out of him. He saw me looking at it. I could have said no to Mara’s offer. “but sometimes you have to take the dive. “One more gift from my sister. “it’s going to be okay.” I took the dive with Bryan. It was her message to me to always take chances.” “I should have been embarrassed. This was ridiculous. “I had this crazy crush on her through half of high school. And I did. or some reason not looking at me directly in the eye.” he said. No more dives for Lilly.” I heard Aidan say. I had tears streaming down my face. he pulled out a tissue. it’s ok. But I did. This one.” I heard Aidan say. But I felt a lot better all of the sudden. I spent all day avoiding this moment.” When was the last time I did anything that scared me? I was the safest person you would meet. One thing always lead to another. “Hey. why was I crying? I needed to calm down. Somehow. so I held my tears back. I . Ended up have six really amazing months with her. Before I knew it. God.” he said. this time looking at me straight in the eye.’” “Wow. I didn’t want to cry in front of Aidan. right? “Zoe. “your sister is a daring soul. This lead to him being possessive.

One time. as guys would call her. At the same time. However. this didn’t work for me.gave him a weak smile. I always asked. Either way you sliced it. “Better?” he asked. The fact there existed any life beyond textbooks wasn’t some harsh reality. That night. with frizzy brown hair (next to her smooth blonde) and glasses. She was. “Not sure what to tell you. she managed to wake me up at six in the morning. it’s not like a textbook or something that you can just read it and know. It looked reckless and dangerous. It’s just sometimes I did not care. it wasn’t something I knew how to do. making me drive to a gas station to pick her up. Lilly. It was an absolute shame. Her nights were spent with . I’m sure I asked her. Not to mention that Violet was the one person who was holding me back. I was thinking about what Aidan said about taking chances. And she always told me. Where would I begin? I asked Casey. Why she was there was unknown. and thank you. Eric had captured Violet’s attention almost as much as Violet captured those of other guys. “Anywhere.” And I didn’t. Violet was getting much worse.” The bassist who I’m sure also did drugs.” That was a problem. But Violet was almost not a part of my home life anymore. worrying is bad for you. her new “boy toy.” “Don’t worry about it. though. the dweeby one. There was something about Aidan that calmed me down. Violet’s idea of fun did not look fun at all. either. It was more like getting a new book and learning new facts. It wasn’t as though Santa didn’t exist. the one person I knew would have any answer. This one came from Violet. “A lot.” she said. “hot. this was a good thing for all of us. “Have some fun” was another response. She began staying with Eric.” This made me the less pretty cousin.

Test on a Friday? Mr. The neediness in her voice was no match. How ironic. working. I then got a call.” I thought about Aidan. brushing his hair back. This was a fact. But this class gave me a run for money. It was from Violet. who was so calm about work. “How you’re so relaxed is a huge mystery for me. I didn’t get it. “Hey. my stress levels higher. Everyone. and everyone felt the pressure.” .” he said. “Lilly. it should have been outlawed. wondering whether he studied at all. he was leaning on the wall. though. I texted Mara. that is. her days at the department store. “It shouldn’t be too bad. It was a Friday night. AP Biology was one of those classes that separated children from adults. I drove off to be the pushover. looking nothing short of “chill.Eric. I was a straight A student. my temper more on the edge. Whenever I saw him.” When he studied. how are you doing with the test next week?” I asked. Who gives three projects and a test all on the same day? What kind of insanity was that? I had been a smart person all my life. Chapter 20 I hate Mr. except Aidan. I had worked hard all my life. yet again. saying I would be late. This made it awful. I can’t believe I was getting worked up about how calm he was. but a serene glance to his notes. while other overachievers were going through notes. it’s all about studying for them. Still. it wasn’t with a manic look. I got those calls. Abrams had that going as well. about taking chances and standing up for myself. I was about to go to a movie with Mara and Casey. I need you. Abrams.

“I used to get angry. He pulled out a sketchbook.” he said.” he said. “don’t worry about it. but his sketchbook was by far the most incredible thing I had ever seen. “I was a riled up little kid. but I wanted to keep looking. changing something so awful into something beautiful. They were full of all kinds of things that were everyday things. written in a blood red. the edges of her dress.” he said.” I said. The words “Zoe” and “pain” written all over. but I learned to hold it in. It has simple things like violins and music notes. It was horrible. Some were in color. I looked through it. handing it to me. take stress out in other ways. “Hey. What was she like? Why did they break up? Did he like girls who . “It’s a lot of pain to deal with.” I wanted to look away and forget I even saw it. it was amazing. and the space around her swirled out to the edges of the pages. absolutely awestruck by others. to have someone go through as much. But I couldn’t help but think about Aidan. others in pen. I was mesmerized by some. he stared. ********** I was trying to read biology.” With that. I wondered about Zoe. like broken shards of glass. It amazed me. I always saw Aidan’s folder. I looked up. Her hair.” “Such as?” I could feel myself making it sounds like an interrogation.” I said gravely. Then there was one that I got to. I was both elated and mortified. “Pain happens. It was a picture of a girl with dark hair in the center of the page. taking the sketchbook from my hands. mixed with mountains. all kinds of incredible things. but all that reading about proteins translated into mind mush. It was like “Iris. he smiled. full of drawings and sketches. “I’m sorry. ever. There were cracks in the white spaces. maybe water.

Casey said things off hand like “that’s good” and maybe an “awww. saying things like “I think you’re getting too ahead” or “Maybe you should calm down a bit. But there was a problem. Getting back together with Jake had been absolutely fantastic for her. I noticed all of this after we broke up. I was happy. This meant I kept my mouth shut. . and. This did not matter for some reason. Mara was excited for herself. This hit me like a freight train. took no notice of this whatsoever. he was flirting with another girl. would trust Jake too much to believe us. I had entered a state of being that left these questions unnecessary. She was excited for me.” But Mara was in a mood to say “Awwww” in the most heartfelt tone. I was not on Mara’s side. disgustingly obvious when she wasn’t. knowing Mara. But I didn’t want to upset her the way Casey did. We knew Jake didn’t feel the same way. Whenever I saw Jake.were stronger than I am? Was he turned off by my insecurities? What about his sister? Was she always the one that ordered him around? Did he mind being ordered around? Did he obsess about me as much I as I was thinking about him? The last question’s answer is probably a no. Mara. sometimes even flirted. Hindsight is always twenty-twenty. As usual.” This did nothing but upset Mara. prompting her to use the age old excuse. reaching something beyond the infatuation of a crush. This was subtle when Mara was around. Even Casey had issues telling Mara how she really felt. I called Casey and Mara. “you don’t understand. I was excited for me. Casey tried easing Mara in.” I understood. I had nothing to tell her. He looked at other girls. So I kept my mouth shut. But I also realized that Bryan did the things Jake did. though. however. She was too happy to realize it.

he avoids me like the plague. This happened all the time. there were so many fights in the kitchen and over the phone. Eric and Violet had been together for only a month. or all week. or generic body part was. it was time spent with Eric. How is that fair? It was the same with Bryan. I found it funny that most men have problems with her committing. It’s like stone in the middle of a road: go around it. Violet simple went from there to work. You have an amazing conversation one day and don’t talk the other. At first. Shouting coming from both ends. I got an apology from him one day. The first fight is a landmark for every couple. and when he comes from vacation. hair. but the new topic on my mind was if Violet would ever move out. However. the solution was to walk back home. which was a long time for Violet. or even throw her phone at the wall (it was a surprisingly durable cell phone). it seemed. But she kept going . I wasn’t listening to how hot her boyfriend was or how gorgeous his eyes. Nor did he seem like the nice guy Violet made him out to be. For Violet. But Violet was having problems. that being a removal of said commitment. so she breaks up with them. Eric seemed to bring something else out of Violet. It should have. or just walk back home.Chapter 21 I hadn’t spoken to Aidan all day. I’d hear her slam down the receiver. For one. This did not bother me. about people and the parties they went to. through it. her door. For once. This happened with many relationships. She was actually remarking on how nice of a guy he was. I decided to pretend I was doing homework whenever he stopped by. stopping by once in a while to get food. Eric did not seem to return these feelings. a guy who seemed so shady to me. This mean dumping whoever thought she wasn’t ready for a relationship. how this affected them as a couple. This was added to the amount of crying Violet did. maybe to sleep in the guest room that she usually slept in.

Jake and Mara had first bonded on their love for movies. We both could not tell Mara. she said nothing. “You’re bitter and heartbroken. I wondered. She. shrugging some of her picks off as “trivial” or refusing to see them because they had no plot or bad acting. Violet never made it passed the attraction state. She said this simply. too. The best example of this was their movie dates. was in the infatuation state of love. became really upset. This was a problem in the new relationship between Jake and Mara. who simple told me my cynicism would pass. Why. This sounded incredible. We both knew it wasn’t. who had always been sensitive about her movies. We both saw Jake and his wandering eye. When they had their movie nights. as if it was a simple problem with a simple solution. Mara. this gave them a real bonding power for the first few months of their relationship. the movies had no power this time around. This was when I realized my own habits. Jake talked more about movies than any person I knew. I told this to Casey. They seemed to walk around the stone. Mara’s room had an entire shelf devoted to DVD’s of all kinds of movies. However. This happened more often than either of them would like to admit. from horror films to chick flicks. . she found someone who let that part of her go away. For me. the lack of fights did not mean there were no problems. Still. As selfish as Violet could be. I doubted Violet’s happiness the way I doubted Jake’s loyalty. this was shocking to see her like this. But in her chance to keep Jake and her wonderful relationship. would you do that? But I knew the answer before I could even finish the question. They avoided fights completely. Naturally.back to him. they both would pick movies for each other. Jake started doubting Mara’s choices. She cared about him. of course you’re filled with doubt” she told me. I doubted Jake’s loyalty the way I doubted Bryan’s sincerity. I did something that I had never done before to a couple: I doubted. There were times you could tell Mara was trying to hard not to argue with Jake.

I tried to change it back to school.You could tell that Mara was upset. Star Wars obsession? Check. letting us know when it was a big deal. he was a very nice guy. we both needed each other for ride to class. and I was always willing to help him because of it. homework help. Mara’s bubbly personality and pretty smile drove Doug into a trance. and I) were in the same freshman English class. This became the problem. Doug and Casey had a similar love for blowing things up. But with Mara. she . Whenever we strayed from the subject at hand. an attribute that the tomboy Casey had in common with a lot of guys. For the most part. maybe coffee for studying. High GPA and low social interaction. This is why he made the best study partner. He was enamored by her. But out of love for Jake. Doug and I had a mutual nerdiness that gave us a lot in common. are you going to library?” I awoke with a start. that Mara could do so much better. Casey. Doug Farmer was nerd personified. Despite his social ineptitude. But I didn’t point it out to her. Doug. The one thing I could never help Doug with was how he felt about Mara. we adopted Doug as a little brother. my friend and long time study buddy. Which I always tried to shake off. the most common.” Mara seemed to not notice how many girls actually were near him. Why point it out? Why get someone upset when they’re so happy? “Hey. back to carbohydrates and derivatives. Doug discussed science fictions movies avidly. He was the typical scrawny white geek you thought you only saw in movies. Ever since all four of us (Mara. “any girl would be luck to near him. or . Double check. My entire train of thought had been interrupted by a text message from Doug. Casey and I had unanimously decided that he was an asshole. By the end of freshman year. I told Doug sincerely that as nice as Mara thought he was. Glasses? Check. “He’s such a wonderful guy!” she would say. Mara disagreed. and Mara was nice to him. He was always the person I called when I needed help with something. he got nervous. he told me how he felt about her. she kept tried to keep this to herself.

tell Mara how he feels? As I walked into the library. Although Jake had been a nice guy to me. But whenever Mara and Jake were together. Mara never helped this. Although Doug was born with the patience of a saint. He also care deeply about Mara. I told Doug about Jake. I felt obligated to Doug the truth. By the end of the year. Doug was heartbroken. As I left for the library. I saw Doug with his biology notes in front of him. Despite his awkwardness and how nervous he got around people. It was the last time I told a hurtful truth. What if I said nothing? What if I told him to go ask her out. the surfer boy type that most nerds usually spited. I was now seeing Doug as an improvement. Mara and Jake had gotten together. Chapter 22 Doug and I had spent hours in the library as he tried to help me with calculus. There was a significance to the things I said to him. I felt a pang of guilt in my stomach that I did whenever I thought about him and Mara. but remained friends with all of us. . Tried is the key word for this statement. She also told him how much he deserved a great girlfriend. saying I was leaving soon. It made Doug even worse. he was an inherently good guy.only saw him as a friend. Mara had no idea how much Doug liked her. When Doug asked if she would change her mind. the brutal honesty that broke his heart. I began thinking of Doug and the things I said to him freshman year. There were times that I forgot. This made me sick. despite how she felt about him. I could tell he was getting worked up about my lack of math skills. you could see the look in his eyes. Her unawareness made her talk about Jake to Doug. And his definition of a great girl was Mara. It was heartbreaking. I texted him back. As I did. He did deserve a great girl. showing the world by publicly kissing in the hallways. To this day. I glanced at Doug.

Uh oh. But today. If it was her family. something so comforting. they meant that something was going wrong. “I’m listening. I’ll leave soon. in a loud enough voice for Doug to hear exactly whose voice it was. she looked relieved. But this time. “It’s Mara. “Ok. She baked cookies when things were going wrong with Jake. I drove to Mara’s house to see Casey’s truck already in the driveway. Nevertheless. Mara loved baking when things were going wrong. I walked into Mara’s house. At first. It didn’t.” she said. I thought. sounding urgent. “Hi. we were in a private room in the library. I was just getting increasingly annoyed at Doug and at calculus. in person. I had to answer her call. Poor guy. I understand.” she said.” He liked her so much.” I put down the phone. Mara went into hysterical sobs.” he said. Doug was way ahead of me.” “No. while Doug looked at me. I walked up the stairs. If it was her grades. It seemed like a cruel trick of nature that Mara called when Doug was around. The smell of chocolate chips would have been something so wonderful.He kept trying to repeat rules into my mind. “I can’t stay with him any longer!” I heard her say. it was cake. “I need to talk to you now. to see her crying in her bed. Then Mara called. muffins were her drug of choice. Lil. He closed my calculus book and handed it to me. claiming it was someone else. “Nothing I do is good enough for him. Please don’t let her be pregnant. too be greeted with the smell of cookies baking. Casey was sitting at her desk. I thought. as if this would help my retention at all. I would always silence my phone. As soon as Casey saw me. raising his eyebrow. “Go.” I said. it made me feel sorry for him. “All my movies have . all of the sudden. she sounded desperate. and Mara’s relationship was so bad.” She said.

I saw Aidan.” he said. I hated when I woke up so late.. My envy soon became disgust. she said. and I was judging her because of it. but she had the undying attention of a guy who would never leave her side. Mara was going through something awful. It was at the point where I had expected to see him everywhere. This did not happen. She burst into tears instead. Not only did she have a boyfriend for a long time. it was the truth. I called Mara later to hear she was doing well. I looked up and waved. “But…but. I sighed.suddenly turned into ‘frivolous crap.” “Hearts change. all of the sudden. and a few pep talks later. Mara had stopped crying. I was home. three pints of ice cream. beautiful. but couldn’t. I liked it a lot. I was awake at night. The sad thing was that she and Jake were still together. I had to admit. at 3 am. my sympathy for Doug became envy for Mara. I sat down and decided that I might do my homework. Doug paid her visit. One hour. When I got there. “Not doing homework for once. I woke up at noon on Sunday. But when she gave advice. He walked over to me. He basically gave her some advice about Jake and even brought her Rocky Road ice cream. I really do it to get out of my head. something that distracts me from what I need to be doing?” .’ everything I do just doesn’t get the appreciation it used to.” “So I’ve noticed. hoping some kind of sleep would make this entire day better. I can’t really focus. “Yeah.” Mara went to say something in return. looking at my camera. It didn’t. because I felt like I wasted the entire day. Casey was not the one for heartfelt advice. wondering how in the world I could end up so alone. So I did the thing I always did: I went to take pictures at the mall. you know? But whatever I find interesting. Somehow. “what do you take pictures of?” “It depends.” was all the advice Casey could offer. her favorite flavor. Lilly?” I realized that I’ve never heard him say my name before.

” and I said the thing that had been on my mind since forever. Still.” “Kiss of death. Personally. It gave him time to smile back. this was not like the usual silence. it wasn’t the least bit awkward. right? The guy that I’ve hung out with once or twice?” “Right” “Basically. then we tried to be friends. However. “you know Bryan. So I like explaining my art more than my brain. “I just have a lot on my mind. It gave me time to look up at Aidan properly and smile. I have no idea what went on my head. That was far too enthusiastic . Bryan and I always had these kinds of silences.” “All right. not entirely sure what to say. “Cool!” I practically screamed. I thought to myself.“Seems like you get lost in your head a lot” “I do” “You’re pretty smart.” Why was I telling him personal information? “Basically?” Why did he sound interested? “We broke up once things began falling apart for us. It was almost comforting. well. let alone to another person. “Where do I begin?” I asked. “Wherever you want. “Pretty much. Bryan would also tell me my intelligence was something good.” Was that a compliment? I backtracked for a moment before saying something in response. . rather gravely. realizing I was blushing. he’s my ex boyfriend. I thought it was too obvious of a compliment. “For me.” he said. “Maybe.” “Such as?” he looked down. it begins with an image. I could barely explain to myself. green eyes looking into my soul in the gentlest way possible.” Then there was silence. I took it. My drawings would help me clear my mind. so it’s probably a complex place up there. You could do the same with your pictures. “I signed up for an art show” he said.” He said.” I said. I realized we were walking together. For no words.

Who would have thought this could be a real source of advice? I looked at my calendar. I took my purple marker. no new plans. handing me a flier from what seemed out of nowhere. as in not anymore. what his bracelet said. out of mind. and I still hadn’t talked to Bryan in a while.” What actually happened was that I wound up missing him.“You should come. this time.” he said. I thought to myself. “Awww. and wrote 2pm. “I really hope you get to see some of it.” “Yes!” Casey and Mara had given me there opinions of Aidan.” I said. The date was a week from now. Used to means that I will never set foot .” *** “Yes. sounding more happy than she had in the last few days. scanning my eyes toward a week from now. Take the dive. much more calmly. In fact. this would be embarrassing. They also both seemed to agree that he liked me. What if he actually just thought I was weird and was simply being nice? Mara was nice to Doug. Chapter 23 I used to be a poet. Excellent. Let’s hope so. otherwise. circled the date. Did I just compare myself to Doug? Then I thought of what Aidan said. Both approved (what was there to disapprove?). now look at him. But was I? I didn’t know what was going on. Technically. “Sounds awesome. What if it was? I felt my cynicism set in. Used to. What happened with Bryan was supposed to be “out of sight. Lilly is getting a new guy!” Mara said. I thought sarcastically.

stretching from the moment I had stopped reading to the moment I sat down. It was in ninth grade. trying to get that memory out of my mind. She asked me to read it out loud. But it was enough to make me giddy. I wanted to write about Aidan. This did not happen. this was not a good thing. “They look professionally done. I was horrified. Used to means that I would rather not go through the humiliation. I had never written anything . too.” I said. so all the smart kids (the “nerds”) were trapped with kids who would make fun of their nerdiness (the “cool people”). too. One day. Everyone laughed. Mrs. I sat in the front row. In those shows. there was one person who liked what you wrote. Except there wasn’t something to look forward to. we were all instructed to write a poem. That laughter seemed to go on for hours. But there was something different happening with me. I couldn’t help but think about him inviting me to his art show. This one was all landscapes. It could’ve been on whatever we wanted. It’s funny how laughter always makes you think of something happy. She was proud of it.near a notebook for fun anymore. But like Mara baking cookies when she was upset. I saw him everyday for the rest of the week. “Doubting my abilities?” . From that day forward. He showed me his second sketchbook. He was excited about it. saying my poem was something that we should all aspire to write. I have even forgotten the poem and what it was about. Sure. All of the sudden. My English. like the smell of baked goods. The feeling was horrible. To this day. I read it out loud. like out of those television shows about high school life. and I was proud of it. Our school didn’t have honors classes until tenth grade. Smith teacher loved mine. The first Monday and he and I were talking. it wasn’t a big deal. I felt this new urge to write.

“that’s not…” “I was kidding.” I felt myself blushing. It’s the geeky smile I give When you’re anywhere near It’s me blushing like an idiot Especially when you’re here It’s the feeling like I swallowed A jar of butterflies It’s what happens When I look into your eyes It’s that fuzzy feeling That makes me all warm inside It’s that foolish behavior I can’t seem to hide It’s the clear things I wish to say But all I can do is stutter It’s my fantastic mood all the time That makes my heart flutter . I wrote a poem.” “Oh” With Bryan.“No. That day. But it wasn’t. It was a chance to look at him and smile. I decided it was time to stop. this would be an awkward silence.” as Aidan said. “Take the dive.

What if Aidan didn’t like me back? What if he only saw me as a friend? Would it be awkward like it had with Bryan? Could this just be casual. you moved on with your life. To me. Bryan would by a massive pack of them from Costco and have one every day. like I had with Bryan. How do relationships even begin? For me. to be able to write something. However. I thought sarcastically. I had entered the bargaining phase. a person who may not even feel the same way as I do.As soon as I wrote this. Why hadn’t I moved on? I was eating Starbursts. Those were the only ones I liked. I felt something. wondering about how far I had gotten with trying to get over Bryan. Casey. The ones he saw me looking at. It was a huge thing for me. Well. I felt many things. the ones I found myself looking at whenever I passed the jewelry counter at Target. of feeling so strongly about a person I barely knew. I remember giving each other our presents. who somehow knew these things off the top of her head. Bryan had taken me out to dinner. trying to do an essay. Thank you for relating my life to a boxing match. . I was sitting at my computer. more specifically. therefore. he absolutely loved it. a new feeling formed. It was at a Chinese restaurant called Wok and Roll. anything after holding myself back. I needed to calm down and roll with the punches. It was the feeling of embarrassment. it was always diving into a relationship. no point in eating them. like Doug and Mara? Would we have this arguing “give and take” relationship like Violet and Eric? I was breathing too much life into it. I gave him a jar of Starbursts. Bryan loved Starbursts more than any candy on the shelf. Whereas most people would have wanted something more meaningful than candy. there was no chocolate. Valentine’s Day. Thank you. according to Casey. as my frustration mixed with my nerves. After acceptance. Bryan gave me earrings. supposedly the last of the steps of grief before acceptance. a pink one.

it felt secure. it’s Lilly” “Hey. but in a way that was caring. He didn’t like public display of affection too much. For me.“It’s stuff like this. A kiss on the forehead was affectionate.” he said. everything ok?” . This alone was one of the things I liked about Bryan. “that makes me so happy you’re my girlfriend. My initial response was to call Doug. what is with white guys listening to rap?). hearts change. someone wasn’t laughing at me or judging me. Bryan’s heart went from me to Roxie. Christmas mistletoe. Neither was this essay. We had a mutual love for our own candy (M&M’s being my sweet of choice). I missed the way he kissed me on the forehead. That even if Aidan and I did work out.” He kissed me on the forehead. I was afraid that this could never happen again. Violet went from Kyle to Patrick to Brian to Zack to Kenny to Cory to Brett to Eric. a relatively good amount of common music (except rap music. I stared at the Starburst wrapper. and Valentine’s Day. All those couples who forced each other’s tongues down the other person’s throats disgusted him as much as they disgusted me. It felt safe. Why was I so afraid of letting go? Was he the same Bryan that still loved Starbursts and hated PDA? His time dating Roxie disproved the second one quickly. Which they did. for once. Casey didn’t go anywhere. Jake’s went from Mara to every girl within a ten mile radius of him. and then back to Mara. thinking about Bryan. the answer to all my nerd problems. and a future ahead of us. This future involved prom. As Casey said. we could never have what I had with Bryan. Doug’s went from Mara to science. It felt like. “Hello?” “Hi. “Nothing. not lust-driven. Then I did something else: I called Aidan. I was happy to be around someone who liked simple things. I missed the way he put his arms around me. what’s up?” he sounded tired.

“Yes?” I said. Did Bryan really need to call me now? “Doug. how’s it going?” “Do you have Fineman for Government?” “I don’t. my voice sounding tense as I hung up on Doug and answered Bryan. “Please don’t call me that.” as sweet as Doug was. what’s up?” Sometimes I wish I knew what was going through his head. “I can try and help you with the essay. I shouldn’t be taking a nap.” “No.” he said. It’s 3:30 in the afternoon.” “Oh. I have to go. but that’s ok. I ended up calling Doug. Mara did not need more drama in the form of an adoring nerd. though. I then heard a beep sound.” Very smooth. it somehow leads to talking about Mara. I thought to myself. “nevermind. go back to sleep. It meant a call on the other line. “What’s wrong?” he said.” the tone of his voice did not make me feel better. I wanted to know if you wrote anything. don’t worry about this right now. who explained the three branches of government’s usages of checks and balance and each Founding Father’s opinions on this. “Should I call back?” Crap.“I just woke up. I checked my phone.” his voice flat and irritated.” he said. Dougie” I called him this when I knew he needed a sense of comfort.” he said. I’ll talk to you later. Who was this guy? “What are you doing this Sunday?” “Art show. but promise me you’ll keep the adoration to yourself?” I felt horrible as soon as I said this. “It’s fine. I interrupted his sleep. a friend of mine asked me to go. “Look. . “She’s fine. “Fine.” “Why. it’s fine. his voice sounding genuinely concerned. and I realized I should have just called Doug. As most conversations with Doug went.

wondering why her drug addict boyfriend hadn’t stopped by in a while.” she said simply. I was worried about it. “What you’re doing is part of the healing process. She just gave me a look and walked upstairs.” “It usually is. as if it was something everyone knew. I asked Casey for advice instead. She didn’t say anything. Then Violet did something I had never see her do. Being a little more self sufficient would work out. begin shouting. I also didn’t bother to mention that she had never had a relationship go on longer than one month. I should have been proud of myself. “I mean. Lill” . I would have said yes. I almost did. she didn’t yell at me. and wanted to know if you wanted to come with. Bryan had asked me to go to a movie with him. Chapter 24 I said no. “How’s Eric doing?” I asked. she sorted it out herself. Why wasn’t I? “You need to get over him. you have been with this guy for only a year. annoying healing process. Violet didn’t rely on people to solve her problems for her. being me. “This is a long. But I finally drew the line.” said the always-condescending Violet. As usual.“I wanted to see a movie. She just left. I kept all these thoughts to myself. However.” Now I really wanted to know what was going through his head. or say anything to insult me. That’s not a good sign. If you gave her enough time alone. but I decided not to dwell on it. but it’s taking you at least another year to get over him. really. Despite being a serious drama queen.” I didn’t bother to tell her Bryan and I broke up five months ago. This was something I envied about her.

“You’ve been killing yourself over a guy who isn’t even worth it. You will upset Mara. she sounded like a mouse. “He has to have a reason for acting like this. “Relationships are fantastic.I didn’t think “I don’t want it to be” was a smart thing to say. There is something wrong. “Who says I want one?” “Who wouldn’t want one?” Mara’s voice was getting so high-pitched. “Lilly and I have both been in . like I had so many times before.” Casey was clearly losing her temper over the phone. I didn’t say go back into his arms like nothing happened. “I love him!” “you’re wasting your time!” Casey was furious.” Mara was crying. The truth is not something people want to hear. If I upset Casey. I’m so much happier in one than I am without one. Keep your mouth shut.” said Mara over the phone “stop scoffing. I didn’t want to find that there were Starburst wrappers on the table that my brother had eaten. “Casey. hoping they wouldn’t realize I was still in this conversation. Casey.” Oh. I especially didn’t like that he kept calling me to ask me if I was sure I couldn’t cancel on Aidan. I just closed my eyes. “Lilly does NOT think that I’m wasting my time with him!” Just don’t say anything. I thought.” There was something Mara was not telling us. shit. But I didn’t want to think about Bryan. Oh no. they’re beautiful. I thought to myself. “Casey. Everything about a relationship makes things better. you cannot say stuff like that and expect yourself to have a relationship any time soon!” yelled Mara. what would you know. She’s going insane again. just keep your mouth shut. So I just kept quiet.” “Do guys really think that way? Are guys really sensitive?” asked Casey. “Even Lilly thinks so. This is not a chance I want to take. she would understand. Why was my name being brought up in this? My heart rate shot up as I tried to figure out what to say. Do not say anything under all costs.

Jake said. Mara hit a nerve. She said yes. Casey knew about three guys named Will. “Oh my God. or Jake knew. But something bubbled up in me. he was a musician. *** Will Lee was awesome.” Mara said. however. This is what I’ve heard. This was a big deal. He had a smile that was perfect. It was another to bring up Lee. He was nice to Casey. She was head over heels. This was me taking the dive. hair that was done perfectly. Lee was not an argument to be used lightly. “you aren’t. but beautiful. I had never seen her so happy. I was trying to be invisible. I had to call Casey. The first guy who did not see her as “one of the guys” and openly said that she was beautiful. was by Casey. The bigger deal came when he asked her out. The light was shinier than anything I knew. He was extremely athletic. Lil. Not hot. for Mara to forget I was on the other line. It was usually Mara who talked excitedly about what Jake did. This was a story that could go both ways. “this isn’t good! I can’t believe I said that! But you don’t really think I’m wasting my time with Jake. What I’ve seen of him was a muscular Asian boy with very nice arms.” I heard myself say. Right?” Honestly. It was like someone had turned on the switch in Casey’s light.” That did it.relationships. a drummer. I didn’t know what to think. so we used his last name. not pretty. he was charismatic. Mara. You have never fallen for a guy since Lee. I met him and was instantly charmed by all the things he said. and an extremely smart guy. But she wasn’t picking up. so full of life. Lee was sweet. The thing I was most charmed about. He was many in all the right ways. She did the one thing no one should have. I heard a click on the other line.” I hung up on her. “No. “You mentioned Lee?” it was one thing to argue against Casey. It was usually Mara who would call me with so much excitement as a . And most of all.

I told Casey. there was only one packet of Starbursts left. She went for once a day. Then. He smiled and bought M & M’s instead. offering her ice cream and kind words. This wasn’t Casey’s style. As quickly as her light was turned on. the third one made an imprint on my memory. It was usually Mara who. “Here. Although she still gave pointed advice and was still. That was the packet of Starbursts I gave Bryan during our nine month anniversary. Two hour phone calls and back and fourth texts had stopped abruptly. giggled and blushed when his name was mentioned. So what happened to Will Lee? I ran into him at the convenience store. in essence. It was as if he disappeared off the face of the Earth. This was the packet of Starbursts that prompted Bryan to say the words that will live in my memory forever. He then saw my facial expression. She then gave up hope. What I remember most was how happy he made Casey. under most circumstances.” he said. At the convenience store. there was a difference. She was left to pick up the pieces. Casey was upset. When I had heard those words. then once. out of nowhere. they were ended with the perfect kiss. some girl appeared. Mara tried to comfort her. twice in an hour. Sunset dripping on . For some reason. But Casey became a new person. He smiled. glued to his arm like a mutation of a Siamese twin. The second most was how badly he screwed her up. He grabbed it from me. He stopped calling. I love you. Will Lee was the first and last. her light bulb was smashed. She tried to change the subject.kid on Christmas morning. He was charming as usual. remembered my name. giving it to me. She kept calling. knowing Casey preferred it that way. He walked away. I left her alone. as I remembered being charmed. Then something happened. and asked me how I was. Casey.

“Hi. it was beautiful. “I think I should give up. But who would Mara be with? My vote was always on Jake. Somehow. Now I just think how upset I was at the entire thing. Why was he acting weird? Did he actually miss me? What was going on in his mind that made everything so unclear to me. Dougie. it does. It was perfect.” “This sucks. For both of us. hands in each other’s. That you went from loving someone to becoming insanely detached. for Casey. jealousy happens.” In a perfect world.” “If we could take the derivative of a heart. Casey would be with Lee.our backs.” “He gave her a promise ring. and you’re left with your best friends fighting and your ex-boyfriend acting weird. Both of them would not be jerks. “Doug. I believed in Jake.” “Doug…” Can I say anything else but his name? “you can’t just stop feeling that way overnight. Lilly” he said. he was breathing heavily into the phone. It was so far away. Doug. “Doug…” I really had nothing to say that would comfort him.” my voice got softer. Doug’s voice was shaky.” I didn’t have to ask who “he” and “her” were. But Mara did have a point. “Yes. I was beginning to change my mind. This explained why Mara was so stubborn about not wasting her time. four years has been long enough. I felt awful for Mara. I would be with Bryan. things would be much better. I heard my phone ring. and for Doug. yes. Chapter 25 .” “I know. fights begin.

“you guys are practically a couple. I got a call from Doug.” “Mara. this wasn’t something Mara saw as noteworthy. If she took forever to get over Jake. I would be fine with that. that she was too happy with Jake. but I can’t help but think…” “Mara. I would say nothing. if I needed criticism.” “I’m still smoothing things over with Bryan. my head heavy with anger.” “How long is that going to last?” She hit a nerve. I was supposed to be the supportive one with her and Jake. “Mara. “You’re not talking to Mara anymore?” . “You should know. I’d ask Violet for advice. please tell me what you think. we’re friends.” Is she trying to set me up with Doug? “Um…we are?” “You guys honestly spend so much time together. She didn’t seem to get this at all. I kept it to myself. “I know. I am trying to move on with Aidan right now. Except Mara. No. that is. everyone knew how Doug felt about Mara.” Mara said. It could work. I decided that it could wait. I am not.” Me and Doug? Who really thought that? Then again. I didn’t wallow over Bryan to her every single day. If she did this with Jake. She thought I was against her? How did that even make sense. I’m working on it. And I was making some effort.” I hung up. But for some reason.” “I think you guys would be cute together.“Why is Doug not talking to me anymore?” I wonder if I was prepared to tell Mara the truth. “I don’t know. I’m doing homework. You’re both so smart and you both already hang out with each other. I thought about it.” yet another lie told to protect someone.

wondering how integrals will ever matter in my life. “I just think she could also be really supportive of me getting over Bryan. I need to finish this calculus homework. Dougie. I stared blankly at my paper. “To each their own. She isn’t.” “Dougie…” “Ok. This was an overachiever’s problem. “I’ll call you Dougie whether you want me to or not. “Don’t be. Maximum and minimum? Not so much. I need to move on.” “I can’t believe Mara never figured out how you felt about her. Doug helped this along well enough.” I sat down to do my homework. I had no idea how to do some of the things calculus asked me to.” “Look who’s talking.” “I’m sorry.” “It’s Saturday. Dougie.” “Mara spends too much time with her head in the clouds thinking about Jake.” Doug did his homework on Friday nights. Any less would just not suffice for me. fine” “I’m getting off the phone.” “According to Mara. Product rule? Fine.“Lilly.” I think that was a bit of a jab on Doug’s behalf. “I don’t agree with her!” I said. “Not cool.” “Stop calling me that.” “But it’s not.” and then I added. However.” he said. I could sit there and do a math problem without . you and I should be together.” “It sounds like Doggie. my yelling would make this awkward.” “Um…” I could hear Doug trying not to say something. it was still stressful.

“And the Hillsdale Art Fair is in a park. Biology did not help. The shirt was the exact one I wore when Bryan broke up with me.” “Can we compromise?” Mara added. “It’s not a date. “But you still have to look cute. so you can’t be too dressy. “Because that doesn’t make me look like I’m trying too hard. .” I said. “I like this. I had wedged it into the back of the closet.” “Don’t get snippy!” said Mara. “Or this!” throwing a plain navy blue shirt at me. Abrams wondering what he was talking about. though.” this was not Casey’s department.” Mara continued. Casey and Mara did agree on one thing. “Sure. However. to band shirts and frilly tops. She walked over to another shirt.” Mara said. it was still driving me insane.” Casey added. School sucks. Despite the mention of Lee and Jake in the same context. I was staring at Mr. “I prefer the AC/DC shirt to something I wore to a family dinner. I found myself trying on about a million different outfits. How would Mara even have found that? Casey recognized the shirt. from jeans to skirts. raising an eyebrow toward the purple in Mara’s hand. but was the sign of something so upsetting.screaming into the night because of him.” “My vote’s on the AC/DC shirt. “The frilly top?” Casey said. It was a simple red shirt. her voice getting higher-pitched. wondering what mysteries lay behind those green eyes. The moments I was not staring at Aidan. All of the sudden. and Mara’s happiness was rivaled only by Casey’s cynicism. “We are NOT doing the AC/DC shirt!” Mara yelled. They both agreed that going to Aidan’s street art show was a big deal. This was in addition to being totally exhausted all the time from Mara and Casey fighting.

“Hi. I had to admit that her ability to hug someone she just knew was admirable. hoping to God I wouldn’t get lost.” Mara said. walking both me and Allison to a white tent that looked like everyone else’s. It was Allison. Everyone had a lot of landscaping. Allison. it was confirmed. however. and jeans. “There’s a catch. In ten minutes. and your Converses. Fully pierced and tattooed. “Lilly!!!!!” What surprised me was that it wasn’t Aidan. This was pretty much what I had in mind an hour and a half before. Mara excitedly. As I saw him walking toward me. Some people had portraits. so proud of the little kid. this was also not difficult. I heard someone yell. Try not to swoon.” Casey said grinning. in my mind. I realized that this was unnecessary as I saw white tent after white tent.” I said simply. “So my booth thing is here. I was wearing a simple black hoodie. *** I went through Hillsdale park. I saw a girl running toward me. “Knock ‘em dead. flashing me a smile as he looked toward me. Aidan was so far from a little kid. Turns out. not being able to contain my laughter. had art that was more abstract. it was more of a tackle. “Try not to knock over my friends. This was worn with Converse sneakers and my hair worn down (“the ponytail is a kiss of death!” said Mara).” “Fine.” I laughed again. Aidan. . Put on lip gloss. It was a girl. “Visiting my brother’s art show. I thought. And eye makeup. Now to find Aidan. Actually.” he said.” “Just not actually dead.“These jeans.” I said. navy blue shirt. Al” he said. she gave me hug. “It’s almost two!” said. However. I told myself. it wasn’t like everyone else’s. He towered over me.

For you to see absolute chaos. Where’s the fun in that?” “That’s not the reason he used lilies. blushing for some reason.” she said. He took it harshly. this girl named Hannah. And Monet’s lilies are too up front about being pretty. actually. They weren’t scribbles. More specifically. gave her a bracelet. “The lilies. There was one that struck me. “Aidan loves his lilies. It . “my dad is somewhat conservative. it’s these perfect depictions of lilies. It looked like a massive amount of scribbles. “She cried.” Allison was smiling.” Allison said. “A few years. you realize that’s there’s more depth than you realized.” “Right. “Like people. I wanted something different. the one with water lilies. please go hit on a girl or something.” “Allison’s sexuality is really important to her. Simply titled “Broken.” He said. but she’s been more accepting of it since it’s happened. “What?” I stared at her blankly. only to look closer and see something really beautiful. It’s really inspiring. There are people that look like train wrecks. She was going to keep it to herself. but getting to know them. She went over to talk to her. They were flowers.” my heart sank. “He saw the Monet painting. “it’s a bit weird having a sister who gets more girls than I do. “The flowers. “How long has your sister been a lesbian?” I asked. Aidan came up out of nowhere.” his face got serious. “If you’ve ever seen the Monet painting.” “Your mom?” I asked. I looked closer. It was the one with Zoe’s writing weaved through images of broken glass.” “How did your parents take it?” “Not well. The others were just as captivating. but then her partner.” it was still my favorite one. like the kind my brother used to draw with crayons.” Girl? “that girl with the bandana looks cute.” he said.” I heard Allison say. “Allison. lilies.There was one I had seen before.

“I know her.” Aidan smiled. but sometimes people can be too much.” I said. “He draws these really awesome dragons. “ “It was me that told him that she didn’t like him.” “I think we make it seem harder than it’s supposed to be. like he’s actually seen one. Oh no. “That’s how I got this. was I going to tell him the entire story. We’ve known each other ever since. Hannah gave Allison one. I sighed. For a guy who I thought knew no one. We found this jewelry store that sold them. Talks about her all the time. I ignored the phone call. Allison gave me one.” “I asked first. “How’d you know?” “He likes her a lot.” He nodded along. Yup. right?” I underestimated Aidan Johnson. .” Purple was Mara’s favorite color. I loved a good listener. I’m all for being selfless.” My phone rang.” Aidan was adjusting some of his artwork. It was Doug. “I could ask you the same question.said ‘take the dive.” “Princesses?” “She always has brown hair.” “Mara.” “If only taking the dive was easy. “How do you know Doug?” he asked.’ “ I looked at Aidan’s wrist. “He was in my English class in ninth grade. “The princess. the bracelet was still there.” “We’re in art together. And princesses. Always wears purple. Totally detailed. he pretty much knew everyone in my life.

There were a few he was adamant about selling.” “There’s something wrong with disappointing people. I could tell you were a caring person. a woman came up and inspected Aidan’s art. She was a rather pleasant looking old woman.” “I think you need to be needed. What surprised me was that some people offered to buy his paintings.” As if I’m not anymore? “But you’re a people pleaser?” “Did you invite me to an art show to criticize me?” I may have said that too loud.” “Well. looking straight at me. “Dear. You think differently.” “Oh. The look made it seem like he was challenging me to contradict him. then. that’s settled.” “I think that everyone has needs. And that as a person.” he said. “from the moment I met you. and I think that’s cool. how old are you?” “Eighteen.“I wish I hadn’t. such as the one . “I do. I should have told him that he had a shot.” There were a few people who had this reaction.” “Lilly. ma’am” he said.” Aidan said.” Before I could respond. Not opinions of Violet or Mara. “Interesting. Not what people want you to think.” “There is nothing wrong with the truth. “I just want to hear your opinions. A few women at the other booths stared. we should fulfill other people’s needs. I felt like an idiot.” I said. “I invited you because you’re in touch with things.

exposing it was so easy.” he said this seriously. lack of communication.” “Start at the very beginning. “Sure.” .about Zoe. it’s not for sale. “You know what I mean. “Like you. I was born on February ninth. Aidan sold a few paintings. “It’s funny how an hour ago there were so many people. “But one thing first. Towards the end of the day.” Aidan said. it looks chaotic.” I said as he rolled up the painting about lilies. it’s beautiful. It was the one about lilies.” he said. “Answer me this. To him.” He said.” he said. Chapter 26 We sat on the park benches overlooking a big grassy field. but with a smile. What was even more amazing was that he was so open about his pain. But like you. over and over again. even got some huge fans. I don’t know where to begin. “What about you and Bryan. there was one he kept refusing to sell.” I said.” “So many things. He said. “make things easier.” “Well.” Oh my God. “All right. the spark was gone. that he could take pain and turn it into something beautiful. the tents were getting taken down. However.” He handed be the painting.” I leaned back. “let’s hear it from the very beginning. “Beginning of the relationship? Or when things fell apart?” “Let’s go relationship. with vices and baggage. Now they’re gone. grinning.” “Why did you and Zoe break up?” “Long distance. I envied him for it. It amazed me.

he was nice to me. I promise. are they?” “Nope.” “That doesn’t answer my question. never. Bryan just got dumped. so Mara wanted me to keep him company on a date.” “This is the princess?” Aidan asked.” he said. and Bryan are pretty good friends.” “Well. really. “All of the sudden. . Or. Everyone has one. “continue.” “Then what happened?” “Then…” I looked at him. “It was nice. “Relationships are nice fix-alls. So I remember thinking ‘this dude is so out of my league. “is this a conversation or interview?” “Most interviews are conversations. and I still remember this.” Oh no. normal stuff. he gave me his number. especially. Like. it was getting emotional.” Nice? It was wonderful having a boyfriend. We went on a second date.’ So I called him.“My friend Mara and her boyfriend have been dating for a while. her boyfriend. But then the fighting would end when things got stressful. “Yes. Make things less awkward. Things that bother you no longer do when you like someone. What movie we were renting.” “Sorry. this was fun. like something happened overnight.” “They never are. He asked me to homecoming.” “Understandable. and said. I look back on. So I went with it. were really not worth fighting over.’ But he smiled. then a third.” I saw that he was raising his eyebrow. I said yes. this relates to the story. you know?” “Honeymoon period. Things that. ‘call me. “basically Jake.” “Then things became different. we began fighting. I asked him to get here at 7 but he came at 7:10.” “That lasted about six months.” “Fighting about?” “First. I guess.

around anniversaries. I guess we were both too busy hating being single to really focus on the relationship itself.” “Go on,” Aidan said, I felt like he was a psychiatrist, except, I was more comfortable. “When we would have anniversaries, the fighting would just stop. We’d get each other candy and make up like nothing happened. He would get me Snickers and I would get him Starbursts.” “Blech, I can’t stand Starbursts.” Aidan was amazing. “Bryan loves them. Anyways, it wasn’t that we didn’t like each other. Of course we did, but we fought over stupid stuff, which lead to other fights. About…other things…” I trailed off. Now was the time. I had avoided so many things for six months. But now, looking at Aidan, was the moment truth. I had to tell someone, right? “You know the Roxie, right?” “The red-headed girl who smokes all the time?” “Right, that one. They’ve always been really close, and I’ve always wondered if there was something going on between Bryan and Roxie.” “There were times when I thought trusting Bryan would be a better option. But there were times when he would cancel on me to do homework. With her.” “Shit,” “Yeah, that’s what I thought. Whenever he got upset, I would feel like a bad girlfriend.” “But he was cheating on you.” “That’s the thing. All this time, he wasn’t. This isn’t me being naïve. This was hearing from Roxie’s band of annoying best friends. Jake said he hadn’t. Roxie, who would be the first to rub it in my face, said he didn’t. He had been faithful to me, and I freaked out. “ I was about to start crying, this was all my fault. This has always been my fault. Aidan read my mind. “It isn’t your fault your boyfriend wanted an escape plan. He may not have cheated on

you, but he could easily dump you for another girl. It’s the nice guy’s way of still being a jerk.” “I don’t blame him. It wasn’t just my jealousy. My overachiever status doesn’t make relationships work, either. For every amount of time he spent with Roxie, I had equal time spent with Doug.” “But you and Doug aren’t…” “I know. But Bryan didn’t. He also said my schoolwork was pushing him away. He’s possessive, I should have realized that.” “Hindsight is always 20/20.” “Yeah, so it was my fault.” “That you don’t want to compromise? That’s fine. Jealous is normal. Being jealous while causing jealousy kinda sucks, though.” “Among other things,” “Other things?” “This might get awkward,” “My sister is a lesbian, nothing is awkward.” I laughed. “Like every guy, Bryan wanted sex. Like most girls in my situation, I didn’t.” “Your situation?” “I want it to be special, not something my boyfriends wants me to.” “He suggested that he wasn’t special to you?” “At first, then he pretended to forget about it. But I’m making him seem like a sex fiend.” “He’s a teenaged guy. It’s kinda the same thing.” Aidan said. “It was one of few roadblocks. But then I was also really clingy. When he told me he loved me, I freaked out. I wasn’t sure whether I loved him or not, to be honest.” “But you said that you loved him?” “Yeah, I did,” I said, “I didn’t want to disappoint him. Then I ended up believing it was

true. Then I became clingy.” “What defines clingy?” “Blowing off Mara and Casey to hang out with him,” “I doubt they were happy about it,” “They weren’t. But Mara does that, too, but that’s for another day,” “So being clingy,” “Right. I would do that, always have my arms around him when we were in the same room.” “That’s not too bad,” “But he’s not one for PDA,” “That might be bad,” “I just did things that took away my life and replace it with his. One of those girls that becomes the ‘super girlfriend’ and won’t do anything without her boyfriend knowing. A lot of times, I did things only if he would do them. “Like this one time I just wouldn’t go to the store unless he went with me. I bribed him into going, practically.” “With Starbursts?” “Yes,” I realized that a lot of things were being said that I never admitted to anyone, “I think I made him watch a few chick flicks, too.” “Ouch,” he said, making a face. “See the issue?” “But he didn’t bother to talk to you about it?” “I think we would just get upset with each other about it. I’d respond with Roxie and he’s respond with Doug. Then we’d just get angry and hang up on each other.” “Conflict resolution seems to not work.” “There would be an hour where I compulsively checked my phone, thinking he called.

He never did.” Did that just come out of my mouth? There was something perfect about what happened next. “the waters are not as deep as you think. Then I said took the dive. it’s ok. Maybe it was the fact we were . right next to cell phone.” “Unfiltered truth is a vice I wanted to get rid of. That’s not the nicest thing to say. He usually called. There was so much to know. always the take the dive. And I tell uncomfortable truths.” “No.” I had not told this to anyone. Like when I told you that you need to be needed. “Healing process.” he said.” “I know. “it’s about time you say something without caring whether I’d like it or not.” “No fun in that. I do. vices make things so much more interesting. Lots of them.” “Take the dive. it’s just sad. “I like you.” “But you said it.” I said. “anything I can criticize.” he said.Then go on about my phone being broken because I didn’t get a call. When we broke up.” “It’s not. “I concentrate on flaw.” “I like vices. I know. “That’s not clingy.” “Then what are yours?” I asked. I just really thought I’d be over him by now.” I smiled.” “Hey. I sat there. I kept thinking he was going to call.” “It’s a…” I cut him off.” “I’d rather do that knowing I can swim.

talking about something depressing. which looked almost perfect from that small park bench. It was amazing. and free. you can practice on me!” “No. for once. unafraid.” I said to Aidan. He pressed his lips against mine.” Aidan said. She would not respond. I fell for a guy.” Chapter 27 I was wondering what had happened over the next few days that had left me so happy.” “Fine. I tried to call Mara. it really was. it was just plain impossible to separate them. Mara and Jake clicked just as well. But we both knew the real reason it was perfect. “I like you. spending every waking moment glued to each other. It could even be the fact that. Mara and Jake had been at it forever. too. “But you don’t want to tell her. He pulled away. I was unhinged. “There’s a reason that I can’t stand girls who do this type of thing. sweeping the bangs from my face. This was the problem. that anything seemed better then talking about Bryan. I liked having someone I could vent to. It was how soft his lips were. . this isn’t easy.” “Aidan.” “You should.” This was time for me to defend Mara. Maybe it the was the sunset. They seemed to be happy together. He leaned over. It was the way his hands were intertwined with mine. When Mara and Jake had gotten to this point. but not Mara. I was smitten.” “I don’t mean to sound rude. perfectly. Mara gets upset. I was overjoyed. “but she sounds like a drama queen. he liked me back.” “Why not?” “I can deal with certain people knowing.

This might have worked for Mara. I want a girl who will be my friend. titles suck. “basically. and made sure that when she wasn’t. I didn’t blame them. all these rules. “and all of the sudden. Mara had been spoiled by Jake. Jake had lived up to her expectations as prince charming. I had no idea how to do things with Aidan. and blue eyes were no match. and his mouth. the Valentine’s Day Gifts. And I don’t mean commitment stuff. you’re not that clingy. But had he? The way I saw it. “Dating is a really bad term. Mara was a princess. they were both glued to their phones. dating came naturally when I was with Bryan. had a good time. Was this how I acted when Bryan and I were dating? Was this how I was going to act if Aidan and I acted on that kiss? Please say no! “No. kissing one girl at a time. Again. This is pretty much the truth. To me. Aidan saw things differently. I would call him. always had been. Why? I don’t want a girl to be giggly and act annoying around me. The tanned skin. that’s comforting to know.However. Again. trust me.” I told him. only you guys kiss.” “So we’re just friends?” well. Jake doted on Mara in hopes of making up for being a jerk. We would arrange something to go to. right?” “Right. he would call me. It’s the mundane rules. your boyfriend is your friend. I want a promise.” Aidan said. Jake was still staring at every skirt that twirled his way. “We’re friends. I believe in monogamy. but not just friends. We went. this guy was taken. She was glued to his arm. kissed. I still saw him flirting with every girl that passed by him in English. Still. and Mara made it very clear to everyone that he was.” “That’s confusing. Girlfriend is a great title. but I don’t want a title.” Aidan said. there’s all this pressure. but it wasn’t working for me. . the fact we act differently around each other all of the sudden.” he once told me. shaggy blond hair.” Who was I to disagree? “But you have this title as being a boyfriend. This lack of titles was throwing me off.

I heard Mara’s sobbing from down the stairs. telling her it would be all right. I giggled. I was begging that I would not smell cookies. He had his arm around her. No pressure. it was Mara. No cookies. “is it ok that I giggle like an idiot?” “What do you idiots giggle like?” he grinned. please no cookies. kissing me on the forehead. please no cookies.” he said. “it got annoying.” I told him. Had she not dumped Jake yet? I had expected Casey to be the one with her arm around Mara. I thought. “there’s nothing confusing about that. who seemed to read my face perfectly. . smiling.” As I drove to Mara’s house. However. please no cookies. No cookies. The look in Doug’s eyes was heartbreaking. patting her on the back. too. I had spent so much time with structure and rules.” I said. “Yeah. “See. Oh no.” “I like you. “go. I walked up as the sobbing became louder and sounded more hysterical. please no cookies. However. Brownies seemed to be a step up from cookies. I looked up at Aidan. it was good to have freedom. “I get it. no labels. As usual. No cookies. the person that had her arm around Mara was both the most expected and unexpected person out of them all. as Aidan called it. please no cookies. “I can’t do it!” I heard her shriek.” I heard my phone ring.” he said. I said it in my head like a mantra: No cookies. I walked into her house. brownies meant that there was something wrong. pretty much. Horribly wrong.” These were how our conversations went.” “Dork. the door ajar.” “Understandable.” I blushed. smiling. fast. “Bryan was all about the title. that sounds like a smart person’s giggle. a lack of guidance. It was Doug.“I like you. I liked this. No cookies. It always was.

“You sound like Casey. His facial expression screamed of someone who wanted to get closer but knew they couldn’t. “Calm down. “Mara has a lot to worry about. Mara was the only one that could say “Dougie” without an eyebrow raise. and that’s going to be me.patting her on the back.” “She called me a drama queen!” I almost did not understand this at all. holding her.” “Dougie.” I heard myself say. trying very hard not to look her in the eye. “Dougie. I sounded like Casey. I walked down the stairs to see Doug. “I can’t dump Jake. I learned that taking deep breaths would always help this situation. deep breaths. I’ll be right back. “One of us has to right now. Mara tended to sound really inaudible when she cried. you can’t get over her if you act at her beck and call. my temper was rising. Mara took deep. “Moving on. “Aidan told me about the dragons. and yet his arm was still there. gasping breaths. “Okay.” I said. The pained expression gave it away.” He left the room. are we?” I raised an eyebrow.” Mara said. Lil. “I need to talk to Lilly alone.” Mara’s voice softened.” .” “I don’t want to get over her. I didn’t blame him. Isn’t it interesting how best friends tell you exactly what you’re thinking. don’t give me that look. “She needed me.” this kid breaks my heart.” “Why the hell not?” For some reason.” I told her as she nodded.” “You would prefer to draw her as a princess and draw dragons that you slay?” He looked shocked and hurt. “It’s going to be all right.

“What happened with Jake?” I felt like I’ve been out of touch. “Doug’s been acting so weird lately. “And he gave me a box. that’s why.” This was the restaurant that Mara and Jake spent far too much time making out in. he gave me a promise ring. it was still Jake with the pretty girl. I like her too much to see her like this.” He would still be in love with you! The mental note was exhausting to take.” I did not tell her that I had heard this from Doug.” Someone seems to not read my mind about being in love with you.” He’s in love with you. but what are we going to do about him being in love with you? “And he’s always been there for me when I have issues with Jake. Yet. That is.” I tried to be nice. you’re still here. “Well. “If it weren’t for you and Aidan. I died!” Obviously you didn’t. Jake didn’t even have half this much.“I am not backing off. telling me ‘I’m falling for you all over again.” The amount of devotion this guy had to her was amazing. “I opened it. I chose to ignore this ring . “It was the prettiest thing ever. “Doug. “let me take care of this. this was the one thing every girl wanted to hear. neither is life. first of all. I could tell there was a long story coming up.” she flexed her hand. it still is. Then again. somehow. “It was so sweet. I sat down next to Mara. “But he’s such a sweetheart!” I agree. I went upstairs to check on Mara. We went to dinner at Antonio’s. This was not fair.” Poor guy.’” To me. until you were recalling it while crying.

Where was Casey? “I wish he hadn’t. There’s a lot I don’t know. “So then what?” “Everything was fine.” I said.” “Hi. Lilly. she changed tone. “speak of the devil. I told myself. My inner monologue was not being nice. but then. Casey. Then. I thought. This would make my life much easier.” “Casey also says that we can’t always get what we want. smiling. “That’s my name. “What am I supposed to do? The spark being gone! I gave him so much! I gave my virginity to him!” “What?” this was meant to be said in my head. “He doesn’t think he loves me anymore! He keeps saying that sometimes he thought that the spark was done between us.” “It was amazing. “I feel like I got thrown away! Like this was some ridiculous booty call!” Do I tell her that this is what I thought this entire time? I’ll wait. “You know what Casey says all the time. “Lilly! Lilly.” she said.until later. Lilly!” a dreamy expression added to Mara’s tear stained face made her look manic. You don’t tell me everything anymore. that people change. that there’s something that needs to be there but isn’t anymore!” According to Jake.” “I’m going to a wedding?” Huh? . I really wish Casey were here right now. This is awkward.” My phone vibrated. “You didn’t know?” the practically yelled.” Mara trailed off and began tearing up. we had both given each other enough time. I was hoping Doug was nowhere near to hear this. There were more pressing issues at hand. that would be the spark.

It was Aidan.“Why are you going to a wedding?” Mara looked at me like I was insane. why can’t I just listen to my music in peace? As I rummaged through my closet. “Ok.” she said. They’re just too important. I thought you would always have an extra pair. “Basically. “I’m hanging up. have a lunch that doesn’t agree with you. You actually expect me to walk to class without music? Really? I think it’s really unfortunate when they only work in one ear. “I mean. Headphones should never break. It’s this week. Sure. “NOTHING IS OKAY!” Mara howled. this is all I had the power to do. I put my arms around Mara and pat her on the back. I heard my phone ring. However. “I seem to not have an extra pair of headphones. Tell Mara I hope everything’s okay. for someone who always has their headphones in. “I thought all music lovers had one. She had a big family with lots of weird relatives that asked her about her nonexistent love life. I sighed. we thought my cousin’s wedding was next week. It was weird venting to someone about this. hanging up. Usually this was reserved for Casey. I am driving to Arizona in an hour. you can listen to a conversation and to music at the same time. I checked the screen. and then your headphones break. I just don’t know where it is. . This was the worst for me. Like Doug. most likely back from work.” I said.” I said this as a pile of clothes fell on me.” “I have one. Have you ever had one of those days that just sucked? You fail a calculus quiz.” I could hear he was getting in his car.” I told him. right?” Casey was not a fan of her family gatherings.” “That’s inconvenient.” “Casey hopes everything is okay.” “I know.

Wednesday?” I had always thought that Thanksgiving was a Thursday thing.” Aidan rolled his eyes. “If you go.” he said.” “Sounds fun. “here you go. there!” said Aidan. “sorry.“Everything ok?” “Just the misfortune of a bad day. sounding assertive. Thanksgiving is near.” “Gotta love Doug. “Please don’t ask.” Then I heard the doorbell ring. I took some initiative. I got a nice surprise.” he said. This means buying food.” Headphones. “Hold on. I have a family dinner.” Aidan rummaged through his pockets. “Hi. “it’s fair to vegetarians. where would I be if I were a spare pair of headphones? “All right. “Doug told me your headphones broke.” “That’s the worst.” Aidan said.” “Oh. “but Wednesday?” .” Dude. and a tofurkey. or is a lesbian vegetarian hippie from San Fransisco too big of a cliché? “Allison and some of her friends visiting.” I told him. wondering who would be visiting.” “Who doesn’t eat meat?” “Allison. putting his phone in his pocket. “Wait. I walked downstairs. Also.” “A tofurkey?” “It is a turkey made from tofu. were you on the phone?” I smiled and kissed him. I looked up and smiled.” I took a deep breath. where are my headphones? “It is. “So you’re invited to Thanksgiving dinner on Wednesday.” “Yeah. you get to hear Allison’s explanation. He bought me headphones. His lips were insanely soft. “I have to go.” Aidan said with frustration. doorbell.” Is it just me.

I read in a magazine somewhere that he was only your boyfriend when he called you his girlfriend. and I still think that you should go for it. This . everything had to be the cutest thing ever. “Dude. too!” Mara squealed. it was like having a boyfriend. “Nope.” Casey’s cell phone reception was awful. this is cute! Lilly has a boyfriend!” But I didn’t have a boyfriend. cool. “I actually have no idea.” Casey said. “You know what?” Casey’s voice was rising.” *** “That has to be the cutest thing ever!” Mara said. dealing with lack of reception. Casey. “I can’t wait. Aidan and Thanksgiving. “Awww. Sure. “that’s not a sign that you’re lost at all. “Well.” Thank you. having one of few moments where Casey’s opinion didn’t matter. Things were better between her and Jake. She was on her cell phone. “I still think it’s cute.” said Casey.” Mara said.” “That can’t be good.” “That’s convenient. He had not done this.” Mara said.” “My mom knows. But I didn’t have a boyfriend. it seemed. “But yeah.” I said. “Meeting his parents.” “But you don’t know where?” asked Mara.” “That’s even better.” “I already said yes. “Whatever. “you think everything has to be the cutest thing ever. with all the perks of having one. I do know what state I am. His labels contradicted it.“Yes. “I’m in New Mexico.” said Mara. where are you?” I asked. “that has to be the cutest thing ever!” According to Mara.” “Awesome!” he kissed me again. “Wednesday?” asked Casey. “Casey.

I thought of Doug.was something I avoided telling people until now. Was beautiful the only thing I guy had to say to get our attention? “I’m going to miss him.” “It works for you. is everything ok with you and Jake?” “He left this morning to visit his family in Texas for Thanksgiving. guys. “worst comes to worst.” I said.” “I guess.” she said. .” I didn’t really know what else to say. I patiently tried to tell them about my conversation with him about labels. he probably has a few loose ends.” I told them. I thought. so many things that we can or can’t do because of words.” I said.” Before I could respond to her.” Casey said. family issues. “That was a bit harsh. “it doesn’t for Casey.” “Awww.” I know some people who would beg to differ.” Mara said. Oh crap. “He’s not my boyfriend. “Mara. I guess. “Ex girlfriend. He texted me this morning saying he missed me. but some distance would be nice. But this didn’t matter. that type of thing. it said ‘good morning. but…” “Guys aren’t quick to commitment. “she’s honest.” “Honesty hurts.” “But to not call you his girlfriend?” Mara piped up.” Casey said.” I told her. People just make a big deal about everything. this being the response that Mara wanted to hear. I’m all for society being stupid. I have to go. beautiful. “I mean. he doesn’t like you that way. I got mixed reviews. no matter what. I heard the phone click. “We always have so many labels. But I really don’t think that’s it.” “Loose ends?” I began to worry now. “I think it’s true. “Sometimes being a people pleaser doesn’t work for everyone. “It’s Casey. Mara.

The girl who answered was pretty. another thing that made me feel bad for him.” Aidan said. She was stunning. Doug was more than happy to babysit him. . she’s pretty” way.“Anyways. I froze for a moment. Danny and Doug had to be the cutest thing ever. Did Aidan have loose ends? I was about to find out. This was not a problem. However. long and flowing. Doug’s enthusiasm for video games was similar to that of a nine year old. I arrived at Aidan’s house. It was blonde. Labeling was on my side. Danny could not. hold on!” I heard Aidan say. Her eyes were very blue. Lilly. Danny had a kinship with Doug that I thought was adorable. and my dad needs me to help him with the Turkey!” She hung up. good. He wished me good luck as Danny walked into Doug’s house. Seeing as Thanksgiving Wednesday was not the official day. I have to go.” Girlfriend. Plus. He was in good hands. Somehow. Zoe? “Lil. but what I noticed first was her hair. leaving me to my thoughts. which Danny was. I left Danny with Doug. I have a bunch of stuff to buy. but in a way that was natural and beautiful. my parents had both gone on business trips. The other great thing was that Doug was responsible. Doug was an only child. “Zoe. I rang the doorbell. She had a thin waste. this is my girlfriend. leaving me with a very upset Violet (drama with Eric that she would not explain) and my brother. She was stunning. Thanksgiving was about spending time with your family. “Zoe. this is Zoe. I don’t mean this in a “yeah. Violet could take care of herself. This was also not a problem. For me. I saw him wearing a black polo. I became insanely nervous. Mara was wrong. *** For most people. not bleached at all. This was the wrong time to get butterflies in my stomach.

So I said nothing.” this girl was not going to be a bitch to me. though. “That’s funny.” he said. this was Roxie times fifty. she ran up to him and gave him a big hug. offered the seat to Allison.” You could have guessed. besides a few jabs here and there. I could tell Zoe was trying too hard. Aidan’s mom had sat at the front of the table. your boyfriend invited you.” . I thought. “Arianna. Zoe. “Lilly!” she gave me a hug that would hurt if I wasn’t used to Allison’s. “you need to behave. cool. Aidan was about a foot taller than she was. You could tell exactly where Aidan and Allison got their looks. “I’m really sorry about this.I shook her hand. Aidan hugged her back. What was he thinking bringing his ex? Allison had walked in.” I said. “you didn’t know. Aidan is clueless about anything near tension. When he looked away. she practically broke her neck trying to sit next to him. either. This made my blood boil. But Aidan. When Aidan sat down. she had a smile just like Aidan’s. “because I haven’t heard too much about you. It wasn’t fair to him. “I didn’t realize she was going to act this way.” Zoe glared at Allison while she walked out of the room. Aidan invited you as his friend. a fact I found both sweet and humorous. by the way. Dark haired and green eyed. Can we say death grip? “Aidan hasn’t said anything about you at all!” she said with quite possibly the fakest smile I had ever seen. actually meaning it. calm. I thought Roxie was a bitch. though. “Aidan!” she yelled. Neither of you can ruin this.” By this time.” she said. He then offered me a seat with a smile and sat next to me. Lilly. Then she glared at me. collected Aidan. laughing nervously. Zoe glared. Dinner went well. “Ladies. in a way that was almost as annoying as Roxie.” “It’s fine. Aidan had exited the room.

one is kind of materialistic.” “It really doesn’t. the pilgrims ate it. She left the room. “Never! I mean.” “You would never guess she’s your cousin. “Hey. giving me a “I never knew that” kind of look. reading my expression. why?” “Why not?” she cut open her tofurkey. We probably killed some of the people we supposedly shared a great meal with.” interrupted Aidan’s mom. A looked up and smiled.” “I used to write.” “My mom and aunt are like that. and this one. my aunt’s name is Rose.” “What Allison means to say. “Why not anymore?” Aidan asked. “I thought it would be sweet.“All your names begin with A’s?” “Obviously.” indicating me. Alan and I both have A names.” This was not the time to admit this. laughing. I thought being a family of A’s would be nice.” Arianna told me. Why? They’re just letters on a calendar! And what is the point of turkey? I mean.” I said. too. “conformity is confinement.” I said.” said Zoe. “was that conformity doesn’t sit well with this family. but didn’t the pilgrims also fear the hell out of the natives? I highly doubt the first Thanksgiving was really what the Macy’s day parades and media tell us.” said Allison. .” said Aidan. Allison. her piercings shining from the kitchen light. rolling her eyes. “Holidays always have these set dates. “She went to write it down.” “I love that!” Allison practically yelled this. of course. “is so down to Earth!” Aidan put down his fork to put his hand on mine. “Aidan said you had a theory behind celebrating Thanksgiving on Wednesday.” “So they named you Lilly. “She’s a writer. “My friend Casey says it’s boring. My mom’s name is Daisy. that’s adorable!” “My cousin’s name is Violet.

“Thanks so much.” he laughed. hurriedly pulling on his sweater and .” I said. “I just had some bad experience reading it out loud. ignoring Zoe. “thanks for dinner. I was proven wrong by her presence when I came to pick up Aidan on Monday. It was a good night. Chapter 29 Initially. She would be there on Thanksgiving and then leave. the feeling of warmth going through my body. “I bet it you’re good.” said Zoe. I smiled. Why can’t my hair look like that? “Is Aidan there?” I said. He came at the door before she could answer me. “Oh. with a sense of sarcasm only I could hear.” I said. coming back and commenting like she had never left.” “You should write again. and I’m sorry about Zoe. As Aidan walked me to my car.” I said. “Bye. we held hands and I leaned on his shoulder. I’d read it.” He kissed me.“Tell us. bored. it’s you.” Aidan said. “Honestly.” her blonde hair perfectly wavy. Even the tofurkey. “And I want to read your writing.” Allison said.” he said. it was awesome. smiling. we’re fascinated. However. “It’s nothing. it’s fine.” “Allison will be glad to hear it. The rest of the night went smoothly. It’s no big deal. I thought Zoe would be staying for a few days.

” You mean threatening my relationship with my boyfriend? “I’m really sorry.” but something snapped. you know?” “It’s fine. just so she didn’t have to take classes.” he said. Aidan. I don’t even think he noticed. as I drove toward school. “Tension sucks. and relax until college. a big unhinged. I wish I could kick her out. but it can be hurtful. But Zoe tends to be really opinionated. but Allison also wanted her to hang around.” “Kinda?” he asked. This was supposed to come out as “how long is she staying. “She doesn’t have school?” “Zoe graduated high school early. “So when is she leaving?” I asked him.” “Relaxing. We walked to my car. “I just kinda want to avoid tension.” he said.” I told him. He looked at me and smiled. It was something I didn’t mind at first.” .slinging his backpack over his shoulder. “she’s been making a lot of bitchy comments. too. “Second week of December. “I told her that I didn’t like how she was treating you.

there was no productivity in doing such. “I’m tired. looking out the window. looking at me. . Abrams had somehow managed to make himself even more hated than usual.” “Maybe. They were reunited. “Or just conflict.“Out of tension comes beauty. He waved back and walked toward school. Mr. “Hey. It was weird.” I was too tired to argue with him. holding our hands and smiling. I didn’t feel like telling people this. Who gives work up until the very last day of winter break? And to have homework over winter break? That’s just ridiculous.” I told Aidan. I then looked up to see Bryan. I walked to English to see Jake and Mara.” “Yeah. everything ok?” Aidan asked. in more ways than one. it’s a lot of work.” he said. He stared momentarily. “Please tell me we’re not like that.” I parked my car. both physically and of bio. but not as awkward as I thought it would be. I didn’t bitch about work. We walked out. I waved. Mara’s lips were glued to his by some force that was inexplicable by physics.

Hormones. Otherwise. Instead. At some point. For some reason. Mara and Jake seemed perfectly happy together. too. For me. It seemed like wherever I went. It’s called a honeymoon period. Another moment was when they were kissing in front of a teacher. it seems). Roxie and her man candy of the week were going at it. . the honeymoon period cycled. they were kissing behind a door until someone almost hit Mara. this wasn’t even against the rules. but I remember how bad it felt to watch happy couples kissing. it was a couple like Mara and Jake. guys. It was actually somewhat funny. when they’re so happy and all over each other. I could tell that he trying hard not to cringe when he saw Mara and Jake together. I thought.” Aidan smiled as he kissed me. Sure. It made me think of when a couple is first getting together. the cracks have not begun to show.“We’re not. people. The worst was Doug. he became the super nice guy friend for Mara. a power used and abused by this establishment we called high school. you have to love them. At any rate. They didn’t. With many couples who haven’t seen each other in a while (which is only four days in high school. It made you realize you were insanely single. kissing was great. Couples were free to do whatever they wanted. I felt awful. Smart move. Mara and Jake were making out in the corner. His futile attempts to get over Mara had completely disintegrated. Usually. He walked off to class as I heard annoying catcalls at Mara and Jake. Show some respect. being all over Aidan just seemed ridiculous.

I guess it’s a nice sentiment. “I really wish she would break up with him. I don’t know. perfectly polished. sucking the life out of her.” “It’s annoying. The fact that Jake was bossing Mara around was sickening. but I feel like Jake is. I would get calls about Jake threatening to dump her because she wouldn’t do something for him.” I told Aidan. However. I had nothing to say to Mara. I convinced myself daily that if Mara was happy. It was slightly hypocritical and definitely annoying. However. I noticed the promise ring that Mara had thrown across the room in rage a few weeks back was sitting happily on her finger. no woman should ever ditch her friends for her boyfriend.” We were in my living room. sitting on my couch. “Mara is usually this independent person. I’m alright with liking someone. But she says she’s in love with him. Mara did this. I was okay with all of her behavior. It’s one thing to like someone. Mara never let him go. but one I thought we were all a bit too young for.” . I wouldn’t mind talking to my best friend about something besides her boyfriend as well. Every night. Personally. I thought a promise ring was just a precursor to an engagement ring. Regardless. This wasn’t entirely her fault. “out of love. her behavior made me insane. However. my head leaning on his shoulder. forgetting about clinginess and bad movies. She was happy.Mara and Jake were going through their honeymoon period when they both came back from Thanksgiving.

I know you’re all for helping people. learning this was not going to help these cells work faster.” Aidan said. we can’t help people. saying that it was Allison’s life. She was so afraid that my mom and dad would lose it. I wish there was a manual to life. I had my own ideas about how long Zoe was there. However. not hers. I thought it was a good thing that we could spend some school free time together. But you can’t control someone else’s actions. My parents weren’t big vacation people. they need to help themselves.” “So we shouldn’t help people?” “Sometimes. “It’s like when Allison first came out. wondering when the function of the endoplasmic reticulum would ever truly matter in my life. something I like about you.” he smiled and pulled me closer. “Life is a mix up of people and emotions. “it’s not something for you to mess with.” I sighed. graphs will only get you so far. and I still wondered why. My mom took it well. Then I realized it’s probably mattering a lot to make my cells work. Still.“Well. His kiss was perfect. An hour later. I told Aidan this. I was back at my desk doing homework. Neither were Aidan’s. like there was for a textbook. She wasn’t going away. .

she crossed the line. to say the least. Zoe was not into books.” “What am I looking at?” he said. Like Aidan. and.” Whether or not she really thought books were geeky or it was a jab didn’t matter. I turned around to look at a book. . I thought nothing of going to mall with Aidan. as he walked over. she played music. Unlike Aidan. Allison staring at attractive women. For some reason. “Remember that concert we went in San Fran?” This nostalgia bullshit had to go. thinking of some way to get Zoe away. What did matter was that I got time alone with Aidan. “Aidan!” I called him. I wasn’t fine. We all walked through the mall. “Not exactly. If Zoe wanted to come along. This was annoying. she was an artist. From what I had heard.At first. I then told Aidan I wanted to go the bookstore. This time. “I need you to look at this. But Zoe decided she wanted to go with us. Aidan and I holding hands. in her words. and Zoe glaring at me when Aidan was looking away.” Aidan looked insanely uncomfortable. I was fine with this. Books never interested her. were “kind of geeky. Zoe had officially been the person that tried too hard to get Aidan’s attention. Allison is visiting and she gets to keep Zoe company? Perfectly fine with me. only to turn around and see Zoe’s arms clamped around Aidan’s waist. away from Zoe.

“it’s hot. “Okay.” she went on.” Aidan said. “He invited me to stay for his entire winter break. hadn’t she? Of course. He said he missed me. “It’s funny.” This one was hard to miss. “letting him go was such a ridiculous mistake. I truly loved him.” I said. we were all sitting in Starbucks while Aidan and Allison went to get us hot chocolate.” I would not let this girl get to me. not sounding interested at all.” Zoe said. “Thanks. Still do. Half an hour later.” “Here. handing me my hot chocolate. like the name suggest. though. “Interesting. “Seriously. “but Aidan invited me here. this would never be exposed to her.I looked at him and sighed.” . I thought. He’s my boyfriend now.” Allison appeared out of nowhere.” I wouldn’t let her get to me. She got to me.

. it’s really not that big of a deal. “Seriously. Bryan had Starbursts in his hands. when he was upset. there is. Usually.” his name got called by the barista.“Everything okay?” he asked. “What’s wrong?” I asked once nicely. he drank coffee and scarfed down more chocolate than I have seen any girl do. watching him turn around. “Yes. In case this afternoon was not any more awkward.” “Okay. The first thing I noticed was what was in his hand. I forgot how pretty his hazel eyes were.” “Look.” he put his chocolate bar in his pocket. Too late. Bryan walked into the Starbucks. I thought.” he didn’t believe me. everything is fine.” I said.” he was acting like a teenaged girl. Was everything on my face easy to read? “Yeah. “Hi.” He walked away. “Nothing. “Hey. almost an insult added to injury. However. He had a massive Hershey’s bar in his hand. It was upsetting.

“Trying to get her away from me. I know when he’s upset. I surprised myself.” “Aidan. Aidan?” I said.” “Why would you invite your ex girlfriend over for three weeks. but in a voice that was so hollow. “I will make this up to you. You stared at Bryan. Lilly.” “You were on the other side of the room talking to Zoe. I thought I would bring it up when Zoe wasn’t looming over our step. I am not in love with Bryan. it was like I didn’t exist. I liked you because of this personality you have. snapping. The way you act around Bryan. almost drove me away. Lilly.” “So you decided to drop your guard and make someone else happy?” .” I said. you were still in love with him. and trust me.*** Bryan walked me to my car. he was upset. I wasn’t going to go for it. “Because I didn’t know about us. you were still attached. You still do it. “I’m sorry.” “Of course you will. when you saw him today. though.” I pointed out.

because being self-sufficient doesn’t work for everyone. when we see him. “and as much as I know you’re a good person.” then he took a deep breath. this guy needs your help and you turn your back?” “How am I turning my back? I talked to him for barely a minute!” “But I can see it. other times. Now. Chapter 30 To be perfectly honest. I didn’t call him because I had a feeling we had. Aidan. sometimes I think it would be easier if we were all single. she and Jake had plans of their own. I wasn’t sure whether Aidan and I broke up at all. Winter break meant that I spent much more time at Casey’s house. I had stopped expecting Mara to be there a long time ago. when we run into him. Still. Lil. my winter break was going perfectly. it might help if you thought about the relationship you’re in right now. I wanted to cry.“Yes.” “Being sane and free might. so far. Sometimes Mara joined us. and together. This was fine.” I slammed my car door and drove away. “then maybe it’s you who isn’t interested.” I felt tears stream down my face as my voice got higher. watching movies and just killing time. You’ve been pretty happy with it. When I went home. I did. who by the way has been HORRIBLE to me. To be perfectly honest. “why should we be together when you’re clearly not interested?” “I am interested! But if you can’t seem to get rid of your ex. Otherwise.” he said. .

. “Don’t worry about it. It was a comfort.” she corrected. I knew better than meddle with that. I drifted off before Casey brought me back. just me. Casey was not the type. “That was the most boring wedding ever!” she said. Every since Lee. I’m running into Bryan everywhere and can’t seem to let go. Wanting him back is stupid.” Casey was having a moment of being supportive? “He made you happy. you guys went out for a year. “Dude. “you being attached is completely legitimate. Casey was the autonomous one. intervention was what I seemed to always do. “no cute guys. “Exactly. “Now to pick Aidan and mean it.” I laughed. it’s part of…” “The healing process?” I offered.” “But it’s not.” “Thanks. either. I got a call from Mara. we were on the freeway.” About halfway between the movie. “is Mara joining us or not?” I texted Mara this morning. That’s not stupid.” “I always kinda knew it would be the ultimatum between Bryan and Aidan.” Casey put away the pictures. “Let’s watch this.” I sat down on Casey’s bed. though.” she said.” a rather feeble thank you for someone who put up with me for all this time. With Mara. as I looked through pictures her cousin had sent her. and all the makeup my family tried to put on me. what’s wrong?” “Aidan and I seem to both have hanging exes.” at least Casey had to know. pulling out a movie. Within five minutes.” “Makeup. driving to Mara’s house. my family. Her voice was squeaky. “Attachment.” I loved how Casey said she knew everything. Athletic and tomboyish.At least I had Casey. Casey was uninterested. and for the most part could take care of herself. “She’s visiting from San Fransisco and can’t seem to let go. One of the things about my phone was that Aidan was one of my first contacts on my cell phone. “Bryan has been such a jerk this entire time.

“But-“ Mara interjected.” I heard myself say. Mara was not wearing her promise ring. My phones buzzed. wiping away the tears from her eyes. inside jokes. “all the way. He would go over to her house all the time and he would always have cookies baked for him.” We stayed at Mara’s for an hour. Turkey dinners. they honestly were. Mara sighed again. “I don’t care if you love him.” Mara sighed. a mutual love for Tom and Jerry cartoons. Casey couldn’t. “He’s been having issues with this since forever. or did Mara give lame excuses? “A guy who you deserve would love you enough to let you have what you want. not letting Mara or Casey know. You don’t deserve a guy who threatens to break up with you after everything.” “And we’ll be there with you. I almost felt bad for Jake.**************** “Let him go. My opinion was better on the side for now.” said Casey.” Anything I would have said next would have sounded insensitive. and he really needs me.” I sat there silently. a tan-line evident. I shut up. “His grandmother died. all that stuff. “No!” Casey was furious. Casey was doing all the talking for me.” We stared. She was in the same room. “But I have to keep him around!” Is it just me. . “That doesn’t justify him being a jerk.” I agreed completely. “They were close. “I need to be there for him. A text from Casey.

He was drawing what looked like the “Pain” painting. I expected him to ignore me. “Hey. who helped me study. I wanted to know what I had to do. I looked away. but as I say all the time. But did I? It was totally valid for me to be angry about Zoe. But he could have also cancelled on her. Sure. he went back to his sketchbook. Besides. still. Still. I walked into bio. It was 100%. no matter what. I stared at my score. I’m guessing the name featured would be Lilly. “Truth be told. “Aidan and I seem to both have hanging exes.” and then as sure as he was staring. either. This seemed acceptable. welcome to a distraction. none . Abrams passed out the quizzes. saying. she did get invited before Aidan and I were together. I texted back. but I couldn’t feel it. if it weren’t for Aidan. All I wanted was an answer to my problems. I liked Aidan. like most people would do in this situation. not Zoe.” I stammered. Aidan was too nice for that. I’m running into Bryan everywhere and can’t seem to let go. “Hi. Oddly enough. I have no freaking clue. this would excite me. “By the way. I wish a book could tell me. “That might be pushing it. I felt awful.” I didn’t.” I said.” Don’t I know it? “Worse than that Roxie chick?” asked Casey.“Do you really believe that we’ll be there for him?” it read. I thought. I thought. he just stared. “She’s visiting from San Fransisco and can’t seem to let go. not the ones on my paper. that we had to be there for Mara. but after our fight. things just became awkward. “So what are you going to do?” Mara asked. going back to school was awkward. Still. These cycled around my head as Mr.” telling her exactly what I told Casey. how are you and Aidan going?” Mara said.” “She’s a bitch.

Mara said no. It’s a funny thing about a teacher like Mr.of this would have made sense to me. but that’s because he made you happy. Did you know that you could have this wonderful guy in Doug who would love and appreciate you more than Jake ever has the capacity to do? Doug has liked you for what seems like a decade. He’s not making you happy anymore. you asked. Ok.” “Yes. I knew that there was a future with them. Abrams. I kept my mouth shut when he was being a jerk to you. The message from Mara said that she needed my opinion on something urgent. And then something hit me: I have never said anything against Jake. So was I. and I realized that this future was bright and beautiful. so it’s really all four years of high school. who thought cell phones were the devil.” “I have kept my mouth shut about this since you guys have been having problems. Abrams would hunt you down and call your parents if you had a cell phone. and by the sound of it. As I walked outside. I waited in anxiety for the full fifty minutes to see what Mara had to say. Still. “you cannot be for Jake anymore. we both said yes. so was Casey.” “You always said that it was meant to be between us. Mara. I realized the text message was from Mara. My phone lit up.” “NO!” Casey and I were asked about dumping Jake.” I said. “No. I kept my mouth shut about Doug. I know that I root for Jake. I thought to myself. That can’t be good. This was something that was both unnecessary and mandated law. I wanted to point this . Hey. Mr. When he had this back turned. but you get the idea. Mara was not the only person that was disappointed by Jake. *************************************************************** “Yes. I saw Aidan practically run out the door. finally biting the bullet. This wasn’t unlike most teachers. I went to my car and drove to Mara’s house. I had rooted for Jake since he had enamored Mara in Spanish class.

” “I just don’t know!” Mara whined. Casey was impressed. except for once. “let him go.” he said. I thought. “Everything ok?” I heard someone say. and I knew I wasn’t going to get it. I turned around to find Bryan.” . ignoring the pang of pain I felt from being reminded of Aidan.” “You seem upset. It felt amazing. I had to focus on the problem at hand. it was bitter regardless of how much sugar was put in it.” I said. “you rock and back forth.” I told her.” I left Mara’s house. “just give it time to unfold. but I was afraid of upsetting you. Mara was simply dumbfounded. and coffee never did it for me. Casey gave out an exaggerated sigh. it was the real me. for one thing. I was about to order a hot chocolate that would get me through the rest of my day. I don’t think either Mara or Casey had heard me tell them something unfiltered and unhinged. What did I want? I wanted peace of mind. “Just some stupid drama. Well.out. “Hey. biting your lip. I don’t I?” I kept listening to myself talk.” I said weakly. I drove to Starbucks. In all their years of knowing me. hands in your pockets. “If this guy is not making you happy. What did I want? I shook this away. To me. “What does Aidan want? What does Bryan want? What does everyone want? But what about what I want?” I paused. unafraid of other people. “When you get upset.” “What makes you think that?” I asked. But that’s not what should have bothered me. But which did I want more gone? Zoe was the bitchiest. “And I do this all the time. Everyone stared. “That’s fine. He’s not worth it. I took the dive.” I took a deep breath. I thought. But I had. I didn’t like tea. I decided to be less of a people pleaser and finally stand up for something. as usual. I wanted Zoe and Roxie both gone. I could not tell if they were impressed or just mortified.

I missed Bryan. so was I. I missed his kiss. And if he couldn’t tell Zoe that everything was going wrong because of her. you’re procrastinating if something is going on Wednesday when it should have been on Tuesday. wasn’t I? The cashier called my name as I ordered my hot chocolate. I thought crying for Bryan was a less fruitless endeavor than Aidan. Still. This had to be the biggest cruel trick of nature ever. who was intent on making me feel as guilty as possible. yelling at my best friend. awkward moment in bio.” he said.I was doing that. afraid of the truth that was happening in front of my eyes.” he went on. I went home and did my homework. Bryan?” “Nothing. so was his. “usually you get something of a normal size. who was I to tell Bryan my feelings for him were in the way of everything? . I stood near the window.” Unfortunately. “And the chocolate.” “Sounds like a typical Tuesday. grinning. I was not over Bryan. “What?” “The hot chocolate. It was the biggest one.” “falling out with a boyfriend. my past was coming back to bite me.” Bryan said. Could I blame him? I would be insane if my girlfriend and ex were both living in the past. Lilly. I’m exactly where I want to be right now. But you got a big chocolate. his sense of humor. Still.” I smiled. I really hated that I was crying so much recently. “What’s wrong.” “Well. and his hugs. which means that you’re upset. I excused myself once I got my hot chocolate. my chocolate warm enough to keep me warm but cold enough to not burn my tongue. waiting for it to be made. “It’s Wednesday.

” he would tell me. as Bryan pointed out. I remembered when Bryan and I first dated. Which made sense moreso because he was guy. we would go together and order our coffee. who I saw with Zoe constantly was probably the better choice had it not been for him being mad at me and not stepping up to Zoe. I could only imagine what the businessmen thought when they overheard Eric and Violet.” she said. Apparently. My size of choice would always be the smallest. Thoughts about Bryan circled in my head.” . spinning around faster and faster. However.One thing was for sure: I was not over Bryan. “Lil. Neither of us really liked coffee. we would always go to Starbucks. Chapter 31 To dump Jake or not dump Jake? That was the question on Mara’s mind. Aidan. Bryan didn’t like chocolate. However. Violet and Eric crossed the mark that Violet usually had with her boyfriends. the more I thought about it. Violet?). she was not that type of girl. I was still skeptical. I thought about this while listening to Violet rant incessantly about her life over a cup of coffee. he would get coffee. This was at the same Starbucks Bryan and I spent most of our time together. Before either of us knew how to drive. Eric and Violet had been talking about her partying ways and his drug addiction (drug addiction? Really. However. However. who refused to talk to me. I felt completely apathetic to Violet’s problems. Still. both of us would get something without it. “I think he might be the one. making the world spin into chaos. I always got hot chocolate. mine was one that had many ways of looking at: Aidan or Bryan. the more distracted I was. I drank the biggest size when I was upset. when he was upset. It was “something caffeinated that would help me get through things.

I stood up off my chair and walked to the sink. Eric let her because she was hot. I let her because I didn’t want to let people down. We let her. And lip gloss. Before I did anything. Not that this mattered to me. Then I decided against it and put on a nicer jacket. me to get her through home. she had it made. . obviously worried about her lifestyle. And brush my hair? Fine. she would never be caught sneaking out and sneaking in. not that any of this mattered to me. I walked in and sat down. I don’t even think Violet knew what she was doing my going out with a drug addict musician and partying like celebutantes on tabloids. I then realized that Violet really wasn’t autonomous. my parents to talk to hers for her. screaming. My parents let her because they loved her and she was family. wondering why Southern California just didn’t have awesome winters. despite being able to walk there in only ten more minutes. My Aunt Rose and my mom talked about her every day. I drove to Starbucks. Her coworkers let her because she was nice to them (to their faces). I stared at the coffee cup. well. and Eric to make her feel like she wasn’t screwing up anything. as if I could get every molecule of coffee of the smooth white porcelain. still worrying my parents. not that this stopped Violet from doing anything. I sat there. “Want a hot chocolate? I’ll buy it” I texted back a “sure” and put on my hoodie. She relied on her coworkers to get her to work. She ignored all this in pursuit of something else. I don’t think anyone really knew. I got a text message from Bryan. washing the cup slowly. What this something else was. “Wash me before I stain the cup!” I did wash it. I sat at the table nearest the window. a ring of brown coffee at the bottom. She was still partying. But there was something more to it. leaving her coffee cup for me wash. Yeah. and still not talking to hers. She then left for work. who had been ready to give anything everything to a guy who wasn’t right for her. All that mattered was that at Saturday night. What’s more. Her autonomy had been taken away.She sounded like Mara.

not so much right now. Crap! We sat there and talked for what seemed like hours.” I said.” I said. “Aidan. I felt ashamed. like someone things were the way they used to be. I was kind of in a slump. but as if there was something that wanted me to tell Bryan to go away and yell Aidan’s name. blushing insanely. it was scary and unknown. too. There was some force that made me want to yell. He saw me and smiled. I had my chocolate and he had this apple cider. “Yeah. the past was something I knew and was familiar. In a few minutes. hot chocolate. his black hair coming out of his green hat.” he said. stop!” and tell him that I was still completely . I couldn’t be sarcastic without him giving me a weird look. his brown eyes were welcome. He smiled back.” I smiled. “and I’m glad about us. frankly. The future? Well. I didn’t know what to say. I loved his smile. Because. but by what happened as I was walking out the door. I felt happy. Not just by what happened at Starbucks. He stared at me. “I’m glad things aren’t awkward between us.” --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------I was so confused. I laughed as if I hadn’t in the past few days. a representation of my past.Bryan walked in. I couldn’t help but think that things were weird. Lil. And yet. I smiled.” “I’m glad. Still. but there was something else. I saw Aidan while Bryan and I were walking out the door. “I’ll be right back. I felt like things were back to their normal way of things. right?” I smiled and nodded. “You’re not ordering coffee anymore. his green eyes looking as if they were popping out of their sockets. “and this place has so many freaking memories!” “It does.

But life wasn’t like that. I felt like I was drowning. neither worked out. Yup. These were things I knew the end to. Nor was I ready to be over Bryan.insane over him. Eric to Lilly. You could memorize. and (especially) Mara and Jake. Mara was also nice to Doug. things I could analyze. Bryan and I. not lose my mind over. work it out. And you could get it all right. and ended up getting laughed at. Winter break was coming? Winter break was coming! Either . I took the dive with Aidan and Bryan. because you could just apply it to the questions. trying to write an English essay that I simply didn’t care about. was it? Bummer. Simply because I was not over Bryan. When you’re so used to misery. try do everything right. Chapter 32 Winter break was coming. and (more or less) Jake to Mara. I was sitting in my room. Life should be more like school. pushing away my personal life. I did not care about Holden Caulfield. It’s called Stockholm Syndrome. For me. not caring. I wanted to take the dive. Eric and Lilly. This was usually more common when the oppressor was nice to you. But I didn’t. when your oppressor becomes your friend. making up some ridiculous bullshit as I went along. I was mentally exhausted by the entire thing. But I kept writing. you prefer it over happiness. it seemed like full blown Stockholm Syndrome. predict.” I took the dive with my poetry. because land was attached to my feet. focusing on concrete words and study guides. but honestly. Everyone seemed to have it: Aidan and Zoe. These were things I loved learning about. I was still dealing with the idea of “taking the dive. making it impossible for the poor soul to even think of getting rid of her. Why? Because the waters seemed to deep. He said the waters were never as deep as I thought. Possibly because it was also safe to be used to something. Bryan to me. Zoe was nice Aidan. and I really no longer cared if The Catcher and the Rye was a banned book or not. I was exhausted.

This meant she was leaving early to leave me with a crazed Mara.” Mara was the first to give an opinion. “I hate waiting.” said Mara. you can.” “This is not academia. I was excited to finally excited to not go to school. We had been spending tons of time together. Abrams had loosened his academic death grip. Still.” I told them. I’m also not ever sure which one made me happier.” said Casey.” “Well. This is life. I couldn’t stop thinking of Bryan and Aidan. especially now that Mr.way you said.” I told them. “it’s just not effective. “you can’t just decided this by weighing pros and cons. Lilly. “This is not a test that you can study for. This meant I really was left alone with Mara. you can’t take notes on life. Casey was being whisked away again to some obscure family thing. not getting dressed. “it’s like when you know you did really well on a test but the teacher takes forever to grade. my friends couldn’t make this decision for me. yes. It was just weird.” “I’m going to have to agree with Mara. sitting at the park bench where I first kissed Aidan. and then he changed to Bryan. It’s all in your heart. Doug was also leaving early.” “That’s just inconvenient. we had one more week left.” said Mara. Aidan and I would be holding hands. What?! I was completely and utterly confused. Crap. and not having to study. I would imagine myself in a park. I’m not sure which one was more disappointing. I was still dealing with Bryan. This also meant not seeing Aidan or Bryan. her voice scratchy over the phone from bad reception. . and everyone was leaving early or talking about leaving early. having one daydream turn into another. wait for things to unfold. I was looking forward to not waking up. “A little. If you can’t decide now.” said Casey. Worst of all. “Honestly.

Violet had thrown her phone at the wall. telling me step after step after step. My phone. This wasn’t surprising at all. The only difference was that Mara was overdramatic when she was upset. I knew that I would have to do this without Doug’s help. I was used to her being a bitch. I heard a loud bang all of the sudden. Doesn’t it bother you that you’re trying to look for something and you obviously can’t find it. It wasn’t the biggest size. And stared…. I emptied out all its contents. I thought. The boy had a patience of a saint and an IQ of a genius. My backpack was such a mess. There it was. though. She was always the person that was more overdramatic than Mara. I think it was coming from my backpack. I was trying to do my calculus homework.. Still. This time. continuously. And stared…. And stared…. courtesy of Starbucks. though. So I stared at the calculus book.So this was a decision that I had to make entirely by myself? Lame! -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------I was drinking another hot chocolate. it was nonsensical and unnecessary. scrambled through millions of pieces of paper and pens. ringing as if there was no . who had guided me through absolutely everything. This was not an easy thing to do without Doug. I could not tell where. but not the smallest I usually got. Even when she agreed with something. “I CAN’T BELIEVE YOU WOULD SAY SOMETHING LIKE THAT!” I sighed. Violet was just always overdramatic. It was enough to sweeten my mortification before it lead to the overwhelming chocolate making me too nauseated. it had peppermint in it. To me. she would make such a big deal out of it. My phone was ringing somewhere.

so sincere that I didn’t know how to follow it up.” She promptly hung up as I heard the silence between Mara and me. “What is it? Hurry up.” Mara said. but my mom is yelling at me. Casey. Calm the hell down. It was Mara. Everything just paused. “Quick. One was nice.” . I’ll see you guys in a week. “That’s freaking amazing!” Casey yelled. I called Casey. “Hey. she might as well be reporting from the front line of warzone. like someone had taken the remote and paused a very action packed scene in Die Hard. As I did this. “He was dragging me down. dude. I thought. I have to…” I had to go take care of Violet! “NOW!” yelled Mara. “is everything okay?” “I miss him already.” The world seemed to stop. I have to go spend some quality time with my family. “Mara.tomorrow. “What?” Casey spoke first. the other not so much.” I began.” “Hey. “three way Casey into this conversation now. it’s both of us. My heart rate seemed to slow down. “Oh my god. and I have some interesting news. “I dumped Jake.” her voice was urgent. “I’m happy for you.” “But Mara.” “Someone who doesn’t use a dead relative as an excuse to be asshole?” offered Casey.” Casey’s sarcasm was so apparent.” I sounded more blonde than Violet. someone who won’t tell what to do.” “You have to realize that the Jake you dated for two years and the Jake you dated for the past three months are not the same guy. or how to do it.” Mara’s voice was so urgent. “I want a guy that wont drag me down.

but.” How can he not? “Every look and comment Zoe has made is visible to everyone in the room. “you need to figure out this whole Bryan thing before you can . this math homework was sitting there. “hey. She’s quite the expert at this. I was exhausted. Not that they didn’t have a thing going. it’s how Aidan can be so naïve to the type of person she is. stranger!” I heard. being mad at Aidan is just stupid.” “You’re in love with Jake.” Allison said. except Aidan. giving the cashier money. This is not the old Jake.“Yeah. right? “True.” It seemed to me that we were all dwelling in the past. “I understand that Zoe hates your guts and makes so many comments. Still. “Heya.” I was surprised she was still nice to me. I thought.” “Nobody should be that close to their ex.” That was just a jab to my ego. considering ordering an apple cider instead of a hot chocolate.” Allison said. and as conflicted as I was about myself. As happy as I was for Mara.” I stepped forward and ordered my drink. She ordered hers right after.” “Surprised I don’t hate you for the thing with my brother?” “A little. The next hour and a half was spent finally finished the damned thing. “but look who’s talking. The thing is. you’re in love with the old Jake.” she said.” “Trust me. thinking about Bryan. But Aidan has no idea. “Things are complicated enough without Zoe.” I was right. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------I stood in line at Starbucks. “Look. You and that Bryan guy. I turned around to see Allison. “Oh. So I stared at it until some inspiration to do math hit me.

“she was the one who helped me get the courage to finally tell my parents how I was no longer into men. I thought. then.” Allison continued. “your brother has that going for him.” No. she came back. “and maybe you’re sick if hearing the term ‘take the dive. you can’t have Bryan. “I can tell you two make each other happy. I thought that was the reasoning behind it.” she said. I didn’t know what to do. But the thing is. So I waited for Allison to finish. She’s a bitch. I don’t think I was ever into men. And I had no reason to be ashamed of the person I was.” That had to be the most random thing to tell me. Aidan does. “The funny thing is. Somehow. it wasn’t my fault.” she said. of being who I wanted to be. “I’m going to disagree.’ but this whole ex boyfriend stuff is keep you at the platform.” I told her. Jump.even talk about Zoe. You told me you wrote poetry.” I said.” With that. why did you quit?” .” She looked around and saw a girl wearing a green jacket. you’ll be glad you did. “You know. Taking the dive aside. Actually.” She laughed. I was ashamed of myself. “But there’s no way Aidan can be. her name was Lindsey. “I used to date this girl who wore a jacket just like that. but she isn’t your problem. “I blamed myself for my parents divorce. she nodded. “Well.” “If you want Aidan back.” “Bryan is. I refuse to be ashamed of the person I am. kid. and she had the most gorgeous green eyes ever. “Anyways. right?” I nodded. My mom was more accepting of me being a lesbian than my dad. she walked over the girl in the green jacket and began talking to her. And so should you.

The other was to Aidan. I stared at the phone for hours upon end just to ask myself if I should call him or not. Aidan likes you and you like him. babe. I know that’s more than that.” I said. “I’ve got a date with this girl. about how I could care less about Zoe or Bryan. “You’re 17. I stared at my phone even more. “And you wanted to please them. But I just sat there.“They laughed at me. I told myself. Do I give up? Or do I just stand there and let the world pass me by. --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Still. Government chapter outline that would take me hours because of distraction? I did . I couldn’t force myself to do it.” I sounded a bit too defensive. Take the goddamn chance.” she sat upright. but I still couldn’t decide. But sometimes you have to make it so that your feelings are all that there is. She stared at the screen. come on” “I was 12.” she said. Whatever telepathic power I was trying to summon to make two phone calls was not getting here any time soon. Then. Whatever keeps you from being free needs to be let go of.” She answered the phone and waved goodbye to me. One was to Bryan. I know there’s more to it. What about Zoe? What about Bryan? Why can’t I just get over it all and call him. “you need to tell the people oppressing you to go to hell. I stared at my phone until my eyes began hurting. this matter more than baggage. you want them to like you. I now know how Mara felt about dumping Jake. as it always has? I did my English paper about The Catcher and the Rye. so you turned down the volume on your personality? Dude. Should I? He’s still mad. The choice seemed obvious. I liked him.” Her phone began buzzing. to finally tell him that I was done with all his “I want you back” bullshit. “but look. I sat there with my hot chocolate wondering what I should do. I wanted to make two phone calls. I even did my biology homework.

” “Ok. “Now this girl knew Zoe really well.that. It was night. She told me to write something. to free myself from Bryan. too. Where was she going with this story? If anywhere. used to tell me that Zoe got out of this really bad relationship with some guy. “This girl. A new thought dawned on me about Allison. who decided she was going to come over and talk to me. All to avoid taking the chance of still having a shot with Aidan. I got a call from Allison. I had no right to bitch about Zoe when Bryan was trying to pull me back. but really dumb. “So. “Heya!” said Allison. I heard a knock on the door. so that last bit didn’t add to the nice comfort of the rest of the night. and Aidan had a crush on Zoe since the dawn of time. However. I finally put my phone away. It wasn’t. but at least I had company while waiting around for Violet. “Nice house.” I started eating French fries. Zoe was totally fine with .” she said. I especially didn’t because I was letting him. as I wondered why people would knock if there’s a doorbell. It was time for me to face my fears. I thought it was weird. kid. One thing was for sure. “I used to date this girl.” she asked. She sat down on the couch. “I bought you French fries!” I laughed as I took the bag. I thought. Facing the unknown. at least I was doing something that didn’t include math or biology. smiling and holding a paper bag. Chapter 33 There are few things better than the feeling of a warm blanket on cold day. I opened the bag to see a massive pile of French fries as Allison walked into my house. I thought her baggage would be a huge deal. Really pretty. Ok. and I was reading Crime and Punishment. her name’s May.” I nodded along.

in your heart. but they had pink hearts on them. “Look. You can’t blame him.” Let’s give this a try.” she ignored my sarcasm. “Aidan learned to straighten up around her. “See. is it . you’ve seen her. it didn’t make anything easy for me. I wear glasses. So when he would kiss when we were alone. I don’t just say this because he’s my brother. her skin got under my skin. “he thought they were annoying. he would take them off and kiss me. let me finish. you know he is. Still.” I had to admire that Allison cared enough about her brother to tell me all this. So I focused in her flaws. okay. “Yes.” “Um. too.” “The flaws you tried to turn in to cute idiosyncrasies when you were dating?” I asked. I just totally hated those things.” Allison said. “and you gave up because you know.” “So I’m going to ditch Bryan because I care about Aidan?” “If you want to. It was this girl named Kira. Zoe didn’t really like Aidan at first. Pink hearts are just not badass! So whenever I thought of how much I missed her. And I’m so glad he did. but my story isn’t done. I feel like you should wear leather boots when you feel badass. she’s gorgeous. But I realized that I needed to just get over her.” She said impatiently.” She was gorgeous. I would just think of those ugly black boots.” “She had these shoes I hated! They were black leather boots.” “I know. it’s been a while since my last girlfriend. “This Bryan guy dumped you for a reason. “Those. Two years of being together and all the drama in the world for that girl. “He hated my glasses. It was so stupid.” I said. that Aidan is much better for you than he is. Because he would be a nervous mess around you.ditching this guy because she cared about Aidan. but Aidan’s better for you.” “You’re supposed to hate something of his. he was somewhat shy and would freeze up around her.

“he’s more into girls who are pretty.” “You are pretty. “but seriously.” “I’m not really his type. is that too big of a deal?” “So the tomboy thing never sat well with him?” “Yeah.” “No.” I said. you’re blind!” “That was another problem. I mean girls who put on makeup and short skirts.” I said. She took my glasses and put them. “I can’t kiss you if I can’t see you. “it’s not like he would look at other girls in front of me. “You straight girls and your need to be hit on. like her brother.” “But he never said anything about it. And it was.” I went on. but he likes that you’re nerdy. We always looked back on the past and thought. You can!” “If I didn’t know any better. “Aidan likes your glasses. “so I never really realized it until now.” getting more off my chest.” “So true.” She stood up right in front of me. not everyone can pull off glasses. I like jeans. “I should . But there were times where he would look disappointed if we were going out to dinner and I didn’t put makeup on.” I said. He thought the glasses just made it really apparent. She was tall. you know?” She laughed and gave them back. “Dude.that big of a deal.” she said. “and I’m not saying this to conveniently match your story. I’d think you were hitting on me. that whole glasses thing is lame.” “Hindsight is always 20/20. half joking half-serious.” she said.” “That’s messed up. And honestly. laughing.” I said.

shit shit shit!” “What’s wrong?” “Aidan and I have dinner with our father. no matter what you’re wearing.” Allison sounded like hippie personified when she said this. “but I don’t like leaving Aidan and my dad in the same room together. but I guess you didn’t mean sorry in that way.” she said. “It’s not about liking him. huh?” I asked this despite knowing the answer already. “Change that mentality. laughing.” her phone rang. That being said. he wanted to kick me out of the house for being a lesbian. I guess the state practically requires he has these lunches with us. “I know that I’m really biased.” “I’m sorry. When I came out. I should have seen Bryan as not being right for me. Just live for the future. We don’t exactly get along with the guy who’s caused my mom a lot of crap. “I am late.have seen that. not .” “No point in dwelling in the past.” “I should have seen that Bryan wasn’t into me. I should’ve seen Bryan as condescending. realizing there was really nothing I could say to that. “It’s not your fault. only learned from. it’s about him not liking us. “You guys really don’t like you dad.” The way she said “our father” was lined with sarcasm and disgust.” she said. When Aidan wanted to leave for art school. they might kill each other if I do. It can never be repeated.” I said. did you.” she went on.” “But I’m not the hottest thing ever. “shit.” She was about to leave when she turned around. I really need to go. I learned from Kira that I needed someone who would love me for more than my body and not wear ridiculous shoes. “Look. but you really pick the person that makes you happy. he refused to pay for it. “it doesn’t matter about the past.” I objected. You need a guy that treats you like the hottest thing ever.

However. or help her sneak in. something snapped this time. and go drive her back home. didn’t I? But I guess you did things for the people you truly cared about. obviously insanely drunk. This time.” my voice was getting stronger. steadying my voice.” This was the usual thing she yelled. I would fruitlessly apologize. You’re so worthless sometimes! Get over here now. This was something that I was used to. As I step out the shower I decide. What’s more.” With that. It was your own little world. This was how I usually acted. and that is to pick me the fuck up when I’m done. I resorted to taking a shower to relieve this tension.the one you want to impress. “I have one request to always ask of you. you just ignore the call. And quite frankly. I was left wondering about what had said. Showers are a gift from God. “No. In these cases. Still. you had no intentions of sliding open that door and letting the cold air of the real world in. she left. get off my bed. I answered it. the warm air mixed with the water you adjust to your perfect temperature. “I am not here to do your dirty work. get . “You heard me.” I said. That was one part of Aidan’s personal life I’m guessing Zoe would not want to intrude. I got another call from Violet. “screw drying my hair. something that happened on so many Saturdays. “What?” I could feel her temper rising through the phone. So when your phone rings and you know it’s your drunk cousin needing a ride from some random bar.” and just go back to wearing pajamas and reading. I wondered how It was going with his dad. something simple yet awesome. but I just didn’t care. No matter how bad your day was. you’re just pissed. “Yeah?” “Why the hell don’t you pick up your phone?” she practically screeched. It was control at its finest. a hot shower just seemed just about the perfect remedy for everything. I thought to myself. This was not a good time for me to be nervous. I did work a bit too hard to impress Bryan. I don’t think anyone really likes getting out of the shower.

but seeing as you’re too busy yelling at me.your own ride home. but the more I talked about feeling bad. just say it calmly. she got home. but not to her. One was ultra girly and had fake blonde hair. “No. You make things difficult. “You can hang out with us now!” said Mara. saying “her” with a voice that sounded infused with venom.” This did not sit well with me. “That might be because none of my boyfriends ever did drugs” There. she’d yell after me. to be honest. I said it out loud. Bye. I’m not surprised that a guy wouldn’t take a pretty drunk girl home. -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Somehow. But I knew what I just did. the other was the epitome of tomboy and had real blonde hair.” I hung up. I was all for being nice. Casey and Mara never got along well. “You are so fucking impossible!” she screamed. “Well.” said Casey.” “You have no idea what it’s like to not have a ride because your boyfriend is too high to give you one!” That might be because none of my boyfriends ever did drugs. . “you’re the one that makes everyone stress out. This was for obvious reasons. so this is where I’m ending it. I thought. I felt bad. I’d slam the door.” don’t yell. It felt freaking incredible. Casey did not like Violet. It always more of a jab here and jab there. what did I just do?” I said to nobody. I thought. “Oh my God. But she would not let me live this down. I would leave the room. Mara and Casey told me not to. I was going to ask for a ride. I just ended a year of being pushed around my someone who finally got what she deserved. “ And not have to deal with her. This clash happened. worry. It was a clash waiting to happen.

I really did. hoping Doug would finally seize the moment he’s been wanting for four years. “Calc homework?” “That. Chapter 34 It is Sunday night. “I’m not going to—“ he started. “I think I took a chance with my life when I applied to MIT. This. she’s not nice enough to be anywhere near related to you. “it scared the hell out of me. Right. “Yeah. It also didn’t help that Will Lee. This was the reason Casey didn’t come over as much as she used to. you finally stood up the Ice Queen!: And when she said this. me neither. dated girls like Violet. and Mara being single. “but dude.” “Seriously? You’ve had a crush on her for four years!” .” said Casey.” I said.” I said.” Casey said. I’m falling asleep at my desk wondering why I procrastinated on my homework. Dougie. Violet wasn’t always the nicest person to be around.” “You should do what scares you. Not that I blamed her.” said Casey. it’s good for you. I thought. “Dougie. wow. I thought. of course. I decided to do math homework instead. though. lamented a call to Doug. “I don’t like her. And right now. take a chance with your life. I blame English for getting in the way of government. “It’s pretty awesome.neither her ideals not the way she treated me. huh?” I said. “Hi. I didn’t even want to be around her. I should take the dive. the only guy Casey ever fell for. Honestly.” I am possibly the last person to tell anyone that. Who thought Crime and Punishment would the most annoying piece of literature ever? After staring at SparkNotes and wondering why I didn’t think of this in the first place.

how much caffeine would be okay? Third. but it was nothing compared to how I had felt about Bryan. and backup schools. But Aidan hadn’t become a jerk. can we focus?” “Yes. he had baggage. After staring long enough at my homework. armed with new help from Doug. had he? He didn’t know Zoe was that bad. But isn’t it the funniest thing when you’re trying to get your mind off someone.” Was he doing this just to frustrate me? “Yeah.” “Yes. and caffeine would not work because I had school tomorrow. I turned around to see Zoe. I was thinking about all the things that could have happened if things turned out differently. and Stanford.” “You applied for Berkeley. how thirsty was I? Second. This did not work. I was trying to think about Bryan. I didn’t ask this. Not to mention what I already do feel about Bryan. I gave her a fake smile and filled the rest of my soda cup. I walked to my car and decided to get a soda instead. and I wondered if he would ever ask her out.6. This was a challenging process that was determined by many things. carbon dioxide. I hung up and continued on with math homework.” said a voice behind me. I’d . calculus. I decided it was a futile attempt. all that soda explains why you’re fat. Sure. and even a little water. do I have to sleep just yet? I wasn’t too thirsty. What if I said nothing to Doug about Mara’s feeling for him? What if Doug got the girl? Would I be sitting here thinking about Mara and Jake? Would Doug become a jerk? Just like Aidan had.” He helped me like he always had. So I went for 20 ounces of sugar. I drove into 7/11 wondering how much soda I wanted. “Wow. so it’s number 43 on 5.“And I’ve wanted to go to MIT for 12” “I’m not even talking about college applications. First. There were some things that were better left untouched. that’s all you can think of? I was trying to forget thinking about him.

rather ignore her right now. “You know, he’s over you,” she said, how could I get this girl away from me? “Yeah, that’s great,” I said. Did she actually expect me to believe her? Even if he was, was Zoe the person to tell me that? “How the hell dare you?” she was obviously not used to getting the cold shoulder. “you stole my boyfriend!” Really? Was this really the way anyone somewhat mature should act? I was really beginning to wonder what Aidan really saw in this girl. “According to him,” I said, “you guys broke up.” What happened next took all grace and beauty from her looks. She slapped the soda out of my hand. Yes, she slapped it away like she was on a Jerry Springer show. “Dude, what the hell?” Aidan came out of nowhere. “I’m gonna go,” I said, taking another soda cup and filling it up. I walked away. There was still time for me to finish this homework. Plus, did I really want to stick around and watch Zoe and Aidan argue? I walked back to my car and drove back home. I sat there for an extra hour, trying to figure out my calculus homework. I finally did (thank you, Doug). It was time for me to finally sleep and try to get some life back in to me after being assaulted (by both schoolwork and Zoe). --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------The day back from winter break is the worst. You come back from sleeping for centuries and not doing any work to waking up early and being given so much homework. It was criminal, really. Mr. Abrams greeted us back with the usual wheelbarrow full of homework. He also had something new to offer. “We’re changing up lab partners,”

This was met with some amount of disappointment. Some people were lab partners with their best friends. Others with their crushes. I didn’t know what to think about this. On one hand, Aidan wouldn’t stare at me. On the other, we didn’t have an opportunity to talk, even if it was over something as stupid as proteins. My new lab partner was Jason Winslow. I knew him more as the guy who Doug always spent time playing video games with and guzzling Mountain Dews with over the weekend. Though not as smart as Doug, he was still insanely intelligent. “No fair! You have the two smart kids in the class as lab partners!” I heard someone yell. They were talking about Jason and me. “It’s the perfect nerd couple!” yelled another. High school kids were so immature. I shot a glance at Aidan. He looked very nonchalant. Or maybe it was apathy. I was trying not to care. Jason and I were a pretty solid team. I read the directions, he followed them, we collaborated on the questions after. It was like well-oiled machine. I was not complaining; school was hot I forgot about my dwindling personal life. This was perfect for that. When we got out, I should have felt insanely accomplished. I didn’t. All I felt was Aidan’s eyes staring at me. I decided that I was going to talk to him. Wow, since when did I become brave? “Hey,” I said softly. “Hi,” he looked up. “Can we talk about my obvious emotional instability?” He smiled at my comment. “Sorry about the Zoe thing,” I looked at him. It’s time to be honest. “I’m still working on the Bryan thing. I am.” “It’s okay,” he said, but in a way that sounded like he was not okay at all. He walked away.

Bryan was another case. He had texted me twice, even called despite us being in the same building all day. I was supposed to give him a ride home. This was something I obliged to. I guess I didn’t stop being a pushover, after all. “Everything okay?” Bryan asked. “Sure,” I really didn’t want to bother him with the whole Aidan thing. I just kept my mouth shut, as usual. I drove back home thinking of all the things I had to do. I had more math homework, more biology home, an English test, and something I had obviously forgotten. I still could not remember what I had forgotten. No matter, there was enough work to be done that I could remember. The one thing I could always rely on was my workload. I realized my free weekends bored me. This meant I had to make myself to work. Fun, right? The weird this was, I did find it fun. Not in the means that actual fun is, but it was something I actually liked doing. I liked to learn. Sometimes, it really was fulfilling to be able to know things and figure them because of something you’ve seen or read. This may have never gotten me a boyfriend who didn’t think I was geek, but it was important to me. I didn’t want to end up like Violet, who relied on her boyfriend for everything. I also didn’t want to end up like Mara, who became insanely co-dependent on Jake and lost her independence. Not cool. The rest of the week went on monotonously. Jason, though a nice guy and a good lab partner, I could tell that there was something off about him. Possibly because I was used to a lab partner that could talk to me without mentioning schoolwork, for once. No matter, I thought, this was fine for my grade. Math sucked, as usual. Doug was finally able to sit me down for 3 hours and teach me everything I knew. This, to me, was miraculous. Finals were coming up; he came perfectly in time. He helped me with the review packet, despite refusing to talk about Mara at all. This did not

read something and then write something about it. you have to put up with the costs. Then. In fact. staring at a blank word document.” his voice was quiet. learn about some concept and do a bunch of problems. This is what school did. I opened the door. Mara was enjoying being single for once. yet so close. I walked down the stairs. she was doing some noncommittal flirting. You could tell that everyone was beginning to stress out **** I was sitting at my desk. otherwise. I heard the doorbell. Mara was absolutely fine with this. it freaked out and scared you into taking actions. Jake was finally free to hit on every girl that passed his way. wondering who on Earth would be visiting me at this time. English. Wow. This was my life. though. This was major progress. I was unsuccessful. It was Bryan. It was read this.matter. they were the same thing over and over again. Obviously. come talk to me. I’m going to be pissed. I thought. It was 9 at night. “If you still don’t think you can take the AP test. “Hey. so far away. .” said my calculus teacher. Isn’t it funny that teachers know exactly what to say to stress you out? The future. and the other subjects I had to take. no pressure. right? January began talking about AP testing. I couldn’t help but not complain. As per calculus. We had to read another book by next week and another problem set. When you sign up for these classes. looking like he just cried for an hour. The great thing was. I was trying to summon amazing mental powers to let this essay write itself. Mara and Jake were both doing a fantastic job of not being around each other. All those hours of work better pay off. It was the tests in May that had to be registered in June. do this.

I would have felt extremely liberated if I didn’t have an essay to write. This guy felt that the only way to compliment me was to do something his way. “I’m in love with you. thinking one day you’ll come back to me. “When I said what. “I didn’t ask you to elaborate. I pulled back. “You have the most beautiful eyes.” he said. And then he did something I didn’t expect.“Hi.” I said.” “But—“ “No! I have spent so much time still having feelings for you. And now that you’re here. I had spent so much time pleasing someone who could never make me truly happy. Chapter 35 What kind of person takes a break from school after winter break is over? Didn’t you just get two weeks off from school? Aidan had gone back to San Fransisco.” “What?” my mind was slightly blown. now give me my glasses back. . looking up. I am done being a people pleaser! I am out of love with you.” He gave me my glasses and I slammed the door. What the hell? “Lil. I don’t get that you still love me when you obviously thing I’m not as great as you want me to be.” I stared.” he said. you always saw me as someone who needed improvement. And then he leaned in to kiss me. I just remembered the text message from Allison. He leaned over and took my glasses off. he did two things. Actually. Something triggered. I didn’t know how to handle this. I don’t need you anymore! You’ve never treated me like someone who deserved attention.

Still. I kept thinking about our first kiss. He’ll be back before finals. Some of it was Led Zeppelin. And after my falling out with Bryan. I tried to be cool about it. But the night brought on something completely different. Aerosmith had some really good ones. I think this was part of me being in insane denial. Aidan’s going to be spending time back in San Fran with me. It was time to go clear my head. He needs time alone.” and out it away. others were classic loves songs like Whitney Houston and Stevie Wonder. I thought. Stop being the person Bryan wanted to be and be the person I wanted to be? Choose someone that made me happy over the person I had to impress? But the person who made me happy wasn’t here anymore. I realized that Aidan was right the entire time. didn’t I just go through this phase?). during the day. It might have been pretty in the . a few trees.” That’s what I did. It did not work. I was thinking about Zoe and telling me he’s over me. some of it was Aerosmith.” It wasn’t exactly something I could resist. This was a flaw in the plan to say the least. right? Well. I didn’t need him. “Take the dive. that last part was more apathy than anything else. right? Stop pleasing other people and finding myself. “screw the book. Was he? I sat there listening to cheesy love songs again. The park that I had first kissed Aidan was tranquil at night. Some of these were Disney songs. It was a grassy field. Allison’s bracelet. I missed him. though. I keep thinking of his bracelet. and. sunlight. It was beautiful. a perfect scenery for a bad day. and the first time he called me his girlfriend. going through the phases yet again (how unfair. I tried doing homework instead. In the middle of me in a thoughtful trance. right? And he was over me. and our second kiss.“Hey. All these thoughts were running through my mind. I realized I had to read a book. right? So none of this actually matters.

The first was that Doug was not here. Most importantly. probably not thinking about me at all. he was laid back. The second was that Mr. he was not an alpha male at all. He wasn’t picky about books. neither did going home and doing homework. It was just the night. not because I wanted to impress him. It made sense for me to care about him the way I did. This meant that after our quiz. after loving him for a year. The one good thing was that my head did get cleared. I laid their on the grass. and think about Aidan some more. Still. tranquil and perfect. He made me a better person. Then I realized I was falling asleep in a park. thinking about all the things that went wrong. I was too tired to let it mattered. All right. finish my homework. So I could go home. of course I did. but the night had a different atmosphere. It’s not quite the dive that most people were talking about. but because I wanted to be more myself. the fact he didn’t want me anymore seemed to be a side point. I needed to go home and read. There were no screaming children. he was not Bryan.day. but the chances of that happening in Orange County were so slim. I took the chance. in the middle of the night. I left school early. Then again. This didn’t change the fact he was miles away from me. What? Doug never misses school. He was still nice to me. He was easy going. that last part did not sound fun. I still liked Bryan at the time. but it was a chance nonetheless. I was still in love with him. or tell me that my music was bad. or movies. no mothers. I closed my eyes. something you ignored me like a footnote in a textbook. Aidan had changed my outlook on things. and me. no dogs. He was different. to say the least. Abrams was not in bio. What did this all mean? I thought not to dwell on this. . right? The second day without Aidan was met with a few surprises. He didn’t judge me. imperfect and confused. I knew that rapist could come and get me. we didn’t have to do anything. We have to do what we have to do. This didn’t matter. nobody. All the things I liked about Aidan and all the things I could have played out better.

which was better for studying. they were comforting. mine was to read. She would leave me to the care of the librarians. Every year. The bookstore down the street from the school was my favorite place to be. I was breaking rules. When I was a kid. my mom used to take me to libraries when she was going to work. school would be over in fifty minutes anyways. but honestly. books were always important.Technically. Aldous Huxley: Brave New World JRR Tolkien: The Lord of the Rings Fellowship Two Towers Return Betty Friedan: The Feminine Mystique Dante: the Inferno Mary Shelley: Frankenstein Ernest Hemingway: For Whom the Bell Tolls Charlotte Bronte: Jane Eyre Toni Morrison: Song of Solomon George Orwell: 1984 George Orwell: Animal Farm Charles Dickens: Tale of Two Cities Don DeLillo: White Noise . instead of making a New Year’s resolution to lose weight or be prettier. Books were safe. To me. they took me to a place where I could let myself think about something else. but not as loud as malls were. I had a list that would last we long enough. This meant going to the bookstore. It was not as quiet as a library. class was over. My reading list had been the most important New Year’s resolution I had ever made. I could sit there and work on my reading list.

Lil.” “No.” I looked up to see Mara.” “What about you?” I said.” perhaps I said that too loud.” I said. putting one of the Lord of the Rings books back on the shelf. “I am. “Yeah. and the most by online summer reading lists.” “As nice as you are.” I said. I don’t know. “you got Jake back and you were miserable.” she was pulling on a strand of her hair. I always thought he felt. There’s still time. Those have been sorted out. smiling. and I don’t think this guy would leave for a week if it wasn’t for him liking you. “he didn’t. “hoping to read all them this time.” “That never panned out for that reason.” . “Hi.” “I hate waiting. So we wait.” “Aidan didn’t. and I totally blew it.” Mara said. Others by friends.” “So now what?” “Allison said leave him alone.” Mara said.Some of these books were recommended by teachers.” she said.” “Jake and I never sorted out our problems. “I knew I’d find you here. “Annual reading list?” she asked. “you are a really impatient person. sounding so definite. “you and Aidan had Bryan and that Zoe chick. Bryan and I dating meant I read a lot less. I had put my faith and words into the hands of others. “Yeah.” I smiled. insecure about not being as smart as you. it was like she was channeling Casey. “What?” “You have not totally blown it.” “He was so incredible for me.

huh?” “I’m glad you’re catching on. I took a deep breath. I tried not to slam my keyboard into the monitor. Dougie. “I got in. This hit me. This was about the fact that Doug needed to take this one chance.” He said. his voice quivering with so much excitement.” he said. about the gesture of ice cream. Whatever happened between Doug and Mara. It may have been about Mara when he stared at her in English. Besides. “I think you should go for it. “Doug. “What?” “MIT early decision.” “Asking you to not call me Dougie is a futile attempt. I didn’t like waiting for people to do things when I could do them faster. at least Mara finally knew. Then Doug called.” he said. And when I say tell Mara. that she did like him.Waiting. This had to be the most annoying thing ever. Or did I tell him the truth and hurt him again? “Hello?” Then I realized that Mara’s feelings did not matter at this point. Whether or not she likes you back. I was about to tell him what would make him happy.” “What do you think?” Did he just ask me whether Mara liked him or not? This was déjà vu of the worst kind. Even when my Internet was running slow. This was about the guy who stared. I’m not just telling her about MIT. that’s fantastic! This was your dream since kindergarten. you should take the chance.” “Yeah. This was about Doug. I didn’t like waiting for exam results. even when Mara was dating Jake and Doug got her ice cream.” “You’re on a roll today. “I need to tell Mara. . I know. Mara deserves a someone nice.” He hung up later.

but the voicemail said that Mara had to think about it.” “Finals?” she asked. “Yup. “finals and Bryan are not the same thing. This time.” she said. Casey.” “You think that Mara still loves Jake. “Piled high in some drama. good looks.I got a few calls that day.” “Yes.” A few minutes later. there. but I’m talking to him after next Wednesday. “Time is the better option in this case.” she said.” “Aidan’s coming back Saturday?” she asked. I answered.” it was sarcasm time.” “I should have more faith in that. Violet was always with a boyfriend. not doing homework. but thinking about what had been happening with Violet lately. I thought it would be easy to trust Doug. Another was from Mara saying that she got a call from Doug. I was sitting at my desk.” “Good. One from Casey saying she would be back from family reunion soon. Doug called again. “At least I know finals don’t mean Bryan. and definite charm to always have one.” Why was everyone telling me to be patient? “It’s Wednesday. I got another call from Casey. and I didn’t understand whether Mara was over Jake or actually had trust issues.” I said smiling. But for once. “I am. huh?” I loved that Casey could read my mind. “Why yes. I let both of these go to voicemail. she was single. “Yes. that she was having her own problems trusting guys again.” “Fair enough. She finally realized that Eric’s . not thinking about Aidan. “it’s good to know that you have your days correct.” I sigh in relief. Lil?” “Yes. She had the reliant personality.

No offense. it’s time to take a break and get a car. It’s just lame. and Spanish. Because of Doug. did she just say car? “A car?” “I don’t want you driving me around anymore. go do something fun.” Wait. Who thought of any of this? I had finals for math. . government. without another word. Doug was not in this class. So I’m going to actually get a car. For all of us. these were classes that I could study a few definitions and be prepared to answer anything.” she rolled her eyes.” She sighed and walked upstairs. she said.problems and her problems were things that she didn’t like him enough to deal with. How anyone could like the idea of sitting there.” “Go for it. “With guys in general. This was not surprising to any student. English was fine. Did Violet just turn her life around? Chapter 36 Finals were the bane of my existence. not like that. All that was left was biology. but you’re 17 and I’m 22. English. maybe even go to school . taking test after test was ridiculous. you need to leave your apartment. Government was also fine.” “No. “I’ve just been in a string of bad relationships. finally taking advantage of the fact she was talking to me again. Spanish was fine because my teacher did not take her subject seriously. “Oh well”.” “Allison will be thrilled. something. biology. “I’m done for a while. Once finals are over. This was the one that was worth me screaming into the night.” “With Eric?” I asked.” “On the other hand. calculus was fine.

People. my eyes from reading all day. “What’s wrong?” he asked. He could not believe that Mara was considering going out with “that geek with no life” or that he could ever come close to “the Jakester. Mara felt awful. Abrams did not explain things well enough. I mean. when this is all over. They were both asking me to be the one to sort things out. “I’m actually studying right now. otherwise. sometimes Mr. another from Mara. trying to read something about cell membranes. and I honestly was. why wouldn’t I? . I’d be freaking out over it. I wanted to study. “I really need to focus on bio. Mara and Doug were still both calling on and off. as I sat there wondering how I even had his number.” That was something else to tell me. no matter how many time you reread the book. let me study.” “This?” “Finals.” I said. “Hey. This was not that I couldn’t study this myself. it’s been driving me crazy! But I’ll talk to you on Wednesday. However. Of course I wanted to talk to him. Personally. sensing the hesitation in my voice. or does anyone who refers to themselves as the Jakester in a voicemail to his ex’s best friend sound pathetic. and one from Casey. somewhat hesitantly.and Jason did not seem like he would be helpful to me. getting them out of the way sooner sounded better. that’s fine. if you don’t want to talk to me. These were all ignored. and both of them weren’t sure how things were going to “pan out” between them. So there I was. It was time to go a second round of going over my notes. I got one more call from Doug. This one was from Aidan. Obviously. Jake had also called me. I could.” “Always the ambitious one. I preferred having the harder finals first. and why I hadn’t deleted it when Mara dumped him. I have to make sure I stay somewhere near the top. I didn’t want to sort things out.” Is it just me.” I said. please! Then I got another call. I was not calling him back. Thank god it was my first final. my brain hurting from studying. Doug felt rejected.

My teacher made it so that the hardest problems are last. and government. Like all the other problems I targeted. then biology. neither hard nor easy. -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------The next day was a blur. I got through with as much grace as I could retain. People tried to call me for favors just to talk. These were all not noteworthy. I was glad they were over. I answered the phone for him. too). I stared dumbfounded at the problems. I had to call people now. Still.” He sighed. a trooper of a calculus student. Still. This happened every single year during finals week. I’ll leave you alone. The fact that Aidan was on the other side of the room (and not right next to me) relieved the stress of my dwindling personal life (until Wednesday). didn’t I? I even told him that I had . I’m not even talking to Mara and Casey right now. I went on. I was exhausted. something triggered in my mind. But Aidan did not wait. He sounded far too disappointed to be over me and I was too stressed to dwell on this.” Maybe he wasn’t over me.“I do want to talk to you. of all the practice problems I read. Tuesday was the rest of my finals. Mara and Casey could wait. these were things I needed to think about. Even Bryan had done this. With math I knew what I was doing. Until I got to the last few problems. these were hard. These were English. then. I remembered one of them. “just let me study. I had my two hardest finals on this day. I navigated through my problems and got to a point where I answered all of them.” I told him. I began limiting it to just people from my class (who I know only called to ask a question). I had to continue reading. Spanish. Doug could wait (he was on phone hiatus. The first was math. Biology was just different. “Okay. Then.

terms and conditions, not blowing him off completely. “Hello,” Mara was on the phone. No signs of crying, I thought. This was good. “Sorry about ignoring the phone,” “It’s finals week,” she said, “I understand.” “So, Aidan and I are talking on Wednesday. I told him that’s when we were talking to each other because I can’t really do anything before finals week. Honestly, I answered the phone for him just to tell him that.” “Wow, a man worth Lilly’s attention from finals week.” “I have no idea what to tell him,” “That you still have feelings for him and you’re over Bryan?” Mara suggested. “Yeah, well,” I said, “I’m still mad about the Zoe thing.” “Argue your points, Lilly,” Mara said, “holding it in means you guys will fight for no reason because you can’t explain why you’re actually angry.” “Yeah,” I thought of all my issues with Bryan, “can’t have that happen. So Doug…” “He’s had a crush on me for a while, huh?” Mara’s voice didn’t change. “He has, please don’t tell me you’re not considering it because of Jake.” “No, I mean, I miss Jake, but I’m not going back to him,” “Good,” “I’m going on a date with Doug.” Now this was good news. “Yes!” I yelled. “Wow, someone was rooting for him to win,” Mara seemed excited. “We’re going out on Friday, so we’ll see.” I was excited for her. She was finally going to be around someone who appreciated her. In some twist of fate, Aidan got sick. “He’s seriously sick, I think from the clams we ate back in San Fran, I knew they were

sketchy. He wants to talk to you, but in between sleeping and throwing up, it’ll have to wait.” Thank you, Allison. The rest of the week was uneventful. Casey had come back and taken her finals. Doug was pretty sure he did well enough on his finals. Mara was done with finals and was thinking about her date with Doug. On Friday afternoon, we began to feel the excitement. “This is a dinner date, but this is Doug we’re talking about.” “So,” Mara said, picking up a dress. “Doug likes simpler clothes, a skirt would work much better. Less makeup, geeky guys aren’t into high maintenance.” “Most guys aren’t” said Mara. “Again,” I said, “Doug is different, and this is a really casual dinner date.” “I am not wearing sweatpants,” “We don’t expect you to,” Casey rolled her eyes. An hour later, she was ready. We had left to go to the movies. “Let’s hope for a non embarrassing night,” said Casey. “For Doug or Mara?” “Both. Doug for not being too big of a stalker and Mara for not being receptive.” I tried to tell myself that it would totally be okay. That Mara and Doug would fall madly in love and Jake would fall off a cliff. Maybe that last part was a bit harsh, but he wasn’t totally undeserving. Casey laughed at my proposal to throw Jake off a cliff. She even promised to help me push him off. This was something I loved about Casey, our mutual sick humor was always a welcome attribute. Usually Mara’s sweeter sense of humor was enough to balance out Casey, me being their eternal mediator. The rest of the night began my reading list for the year. I sat comfortably on my bed, reading with a blanket, hot chocolate, and not need to pick up Violet.

Violet had finally picked up things in her life. After her newfound independence, she bought a car (a used car with a malfunctioned window, but a car nonetheless). The spring would begin her classes. She also did the one thing that nobody expected her to do: she dyed her hair. She walked into the kitchen on Friday night as I was making hot chocolate. I turned around and didn’t even recognize her. In a second it hit me. “It’s….” I continued to stare, “brown!” “They call you the smart one and yet you’re Captain Obvious,” she said. “It looks great,” I meant this. “thanks,” she said, “I realized that I wanted people to take me seriously. That’s not happening if I’m 22, no degree, bleach blonde hair, and a job that’s usually reserved for teenagers.” “Wow” “I want to do this marketing stuff, be able to sell people clothing they look good in. Not just smile at random stranger and ask them how their day goes.” “Good job, Vi,” “This is the best thing, though,” she said, her voice rising, her brown hair looking natural and less processed, “I’m going home to see Rose and David again.” “Who are you and where is Violet Morgan?” “Hysterical,” she said, “I saw that Allison girl, by the way. She was looking for jewelry. That Aidan guy you dated apparently has a bad stomach flu.” “Yeah,” “What happened with you guys?” “Bryan got in the way of things,” this was true, he did. “Ugh, really?” “I finally got that taken care of,” I kept talking, it felt good to tell someone this, “I don’t need Bryan anymore. I just want another shot with Aidan.”

and even the occasional building. others of kids. kids. more of fish ponds and parks. Why I needed them in an hour was a mystery. had three days to shoot something. Because finals week came right before Martin Luther King’s Day. random people. “Doug is now my boyfriend. with people.” Violet made this sound extremely easy. Stomach flu was a very brutal disease. I was making this sound pretty easy. I went insane with my pictures. My phone vibrated as I looked at the screen. I decided that I wanted to wait a few days. “When he gets better. It was just like life: full of disorder. It looked insane. I looked at all my prints. An hour later. I had no idea what I was looking for. it looked incoherent. Finals were over. proud of myself. all I can do was press the button on my camera and hope for something amazing. deciding to get the one hour development. too. Some of them were close shots of leaves. What I was trying to find was still a mystery. parks. The things we put together that should not have been put together. with love.” Like I said. But it wasn’t. I looked back. Then I stared at the pile of photos again. I found myself arranging them and cutting some things and pasting others. But also like life. It was cutouts of all the pictures I had taken and chosen. Something hit me like a freight train. there was beauty to be created from it. It was all these things that made up our lives. I had a camera. At first I thought this was nothing. .” I said. beauty arising from chaos. it was the happy and sad mixed with nature. All of them of trees. As Aidan said. This was just a bunch of chaos. I went on another photo run. What the collage was looked like chaos. I went off to the photo store. flowers. It was text message from Mara.“Then get another shot with Aidan. it was beauty made from pain. I took the dive with my own art form.

you’re still going to the basketball game next week. we even went shopping for Doug (much to his discomfort). Casey looked toward him. Seriously? They’re talking to each other? “Hey. We even added Doug. “Hey.Chapter 37 Three day weekends are a beautiful thing. Doug and Mara holding hands. Lee. I haven’t decided. When I say shopping for Doug. just me and my friends deciding to just hang out all day. We saw Will. “Casey!” yelled Will. It was fun to finally have Doug back with us. a new girl around his waist whenever we saw him. “Yes!” he said. let’s get out of here. Whether she was ignoring him or over him remained yet to be seen. What twelve hours of sleep can do for a person is a medical miracle. The day went on like this. Then something changed to make things different.” Casey wasn’t one for beating around the bush with this kind . It was the four of us. and me. I woke up on Saturday feeling amazing. “Hey. who saw Will but didn’t look at him again.” I said. He was smiling. “Let’s not. who was more than excited to go anywhere with Mara. It was a fun day overall. with mock excitement. we asked him to try on things he looked ridiculous in. Casey. After my Friday night photo madness. like he had freshman year.” Casey said.” said Mara. There was no homework. right?” “Maybe. it was good to finally have things to near the way they should be. This included pink frilly dresses and a Santa outfit. Yup. no papers.” said Casey. no tests. “I say he wears this. she even gave him a hug. holding up a black trench coat.

“I’ll buy it. We saw this coming. “it’s fine. then.” Mara said. “it’s pretty.” “Really?” she looked disappointed. looking at the price tag.” . not that question.” Good job on making a decision.” Mara said. who decided being friends with Bryan would be a good thing. “But it’s expensive. I’ll see around. not that bracelet. and it sorta doesn’t matter anymore. “bummer. she had no reason to be. cool. Casey was over it. Doug.of thing.” I decided that awkward silences need to be stopped. like Mara. don’t get that bracelet. Dougie. it’s too big on you. Doug. said they were over something when they weren’t.” Casey recognized this as a joke. why are you talking to him?” “It was a year ago. bordering pushover.” “Anyways.” “Really?” “Doug. Most women. what do you think?” “It’s pretty. Mara said “awwww. “No. However.” I said.” “Honestly. she wouldn’t talk to him if she wasn’t.” As he walked out. Dougie. “Ok. I don’t want it. The thing was. “get your girlfriend something worth her money.” “Really?” Mara sounded skeptical. “Should I get this bracelet?” No.” Doug was being good boyfriend material. “She is.” Casey said. Mara asked the question on everyone’s mind.” Doug made one of those faces that just said. “she’s not like me. “Mara. there was that .1 percent of girls who weren’t like this. get it. “And Casey.

We left the store as the cashier gave us a weird look. I loved my friends. You bailed me out of more situations than I could ever imagine. and how everything was going to work out with her newfound independence. when I walked passed Violet’s room. Casey insisting she was. . she was still my cousin. not just pretending to be. and making bad jokes about the entire experience. finally becoming self sufficient. and I loved her. Doug doting on Mara. First. laughing. So you’ve always been the really smart one out of both of us. yelling and making everything suck for you. boyfriend’s clothing. she went back to Aunt Rose. the bed and desk were bare of all makeup. I missed her already. This letter may sound bad. Were we too loud with talking about the bracelet? The rest of the day went like that. and stayed home all those nights just for me. smelling her perfume.” I turned around to see my mom. The room was so empty.” I walked into my room. mess clothing. “She left a note. I wanted to thank you for everything. I wonder if this was how my mom would feel once I left for college. I ignored the fact that I just compared my older cousin to my theoretical child. I was looking forward to see what would happen. “She left this morning. Dear. how her classes would go. Mara was trying to make sure Casey was okay. I walked in into the room. she’ll call us when she gets there. That was such a bitchy thing to do. said ‘make sure Lilly read it. It was empty. but I didn’t feel like calling would be able to say everything. She was finally growing up.’” my mom smiled. Second. Despite her personality. She kissed me on the forehead.Doug shrugged. I was back at home. but don’t worry. Lilly. I wanted to apologize for making you do all those things. me mediating. I found the note on my bed. “I have to go to work.

I folded up the letter and put it in my dresser drawer.” I said. Violet PS: Bryan’s a loser. I know. The postscript made me laugh.” “Now it’s my turn. there’s no fun in that. I was sad about Violet leaving. seeing as Aunt Daisy and Uncle Danny raised you to be book smart and tried to keep you away from the guys.Third. but at least she was finally doing something that didn’t involve massive amounts of alcohol and shady guys. “Shocker.” “What if I were to tell you that this was Kyle. Casey called. Lots of love. he does.” . And last. Don’t hold back and chicken out with chances. sounds like a plan. “Then I would ask you who it was and hope it’s not Lee. I know you’re better with books than with boys. stay smart. Trust me. “Still.” I said.” “She’s going back to school. But you should know that that Aidan guy likes you. kinda miss her. I’m glad you’re over him. I can’t imagine you if you weren’t a total nerd. and long notes from Casey and Mara when they were bored in class. “What if I were to tell you I like a guy?” she said. Go for it. “what if I said Violet left back to her parents place?” “Then I’d be happy because I never liked her.” “She can read?” I laughed. the cute Starbucks guy?” “Then I would say go to Starbucks and hit on him in subtle way” “Okay. That makes sense. along with a few love notes from Bryan.

There were times when I could smell her perfume and just be happy that she was finally doing something she wanted to. This had not happened since the Will Lee incident. We had already gotten people talking about their dislike for teachers. but I was getting used to them. Less people started going to school at all. my English teacher. right? I was hoping he wasn’t using this flu as an excuse to avoid forever. She was still my cousin.” said Mrs. proclaimed that they hated all of their teachers. I was still attached to them both. The people that were usually quiet in school began questioning. you’ll get to see her at awkward family reunions. though. Speaking of. senioritis had hit full swing. “but I don’t think any of you want to do them. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Final grades came back. Kramer. As for homework. Just like losing Bryan. too. It would be pretty effective. which left her very jaded. My Spanish class.” The days without Violet were slightly irritating and boring. and started making plans for spring break (it’s January. I personally was getting it. My personal life was not. Not that I was complaining. the people who ditched class were usually people I didn’t like. My academic life was fine. It was mixed. why?). “I was supposed to give you these three essays to do. I missed her despite how much she took advantage of me. even with its honors state. At least I had one thing going for me.” I laughed again. Aidan did not. senior year would be over in a few months. It was almost a bit too perfect. just not as much as I was before. some of the teachers got their own brand of senioritis. . do you?” We were even too lazy to say no to this.“She’s your cousin. I was happy about Casey liking another guy. just like Bryan was still my first love. “Very true. Most people had given up on school. decreased dramatically.

Kramer was one of few who had this approach.” Mrs.” I said.” He used “hang out’ and “blow off” in such a strained way. I won’t grade them. “Hey. Warner. This didn’t get by the fact that he was being a judgmental prick. who the hell cares? It was driving me simply insane. Lil. but someone should teach you to listen.” why did he call us by our last names? “you should never question your teacher. “Ms. “By allowing any kind of laziness. “Hey!” I had to match her excitement.’ you might be intelligent.” “Well. if he went to hang out with his friends and blow off his homework. “I thought he was sick.“Anyways.” was Mr. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------This biology homework was killing me. My phone was ringing. cellular respiration. “The AP biology test is difficult. raising my hand.” “Kyle?” Score! “No. “We’re going to do a reading log instead. “he’s been missing in action. the pope. I was sitting here staring at my book. and please note I said ‘if.” Casey sounded excited. Cell membranes. thinking of all the things that I really didn’t want to think about. so why even assign them?” she said. didn’t I? “He said yes. who has been absent since two week ago. it was funny. you allow for yourself to fail even further. he said them every day.” . “Take Mr. Johnson. Abrams’s words. I don’t think he would do such a good job on the AP test.” I was not going to get angry.” It’s great to know some teachers truly cared about us. I hear sniggers from the room. religious guys won’t screw you over.

it was that everyone else was seizing opportunities to be in a relationship.” “Awesome. “So yeah. the guy that liked my glasses and ponytail.” “That’s exciting!” “I asked him out.” “Nice” this was like straight out of a romance novel. Casey would never lose her independence for anything.“But I prefer Kyle. With my two best friends having boyfriends. what was I supposed to do? Being single just became slightly inconvenient as I thought about Casey in a relationship. If there was anything that fates were trying to tell me. This was a huge problem for me. As excited as I was for her. he then gave me my coffee in person. well.” Before she hung up. seemed too big of a risk. I gave him my number on paper. even if he wasn’t sick. his number written on the cup. I had the perfect opportunity. we talked for an hour. It was time to get him back. Chapter 38 . Mara even made tons of time for us when she was first with Jake. and I didn’t even know Kyle to assumed he would be an asshole. I realized that I was soon also getting jealous. the guy that told me to take chances. The guy that taught me to create beauty from pain. I had been taking this out on hoping my friends don’t end up with jerks. realizing I was so afraid of getting hurt again that actually approaching Aidan. we’re going out on Friday. But Aidan wasn’t a jerk. it just wasn’t the way she was. the perfect dive. He was the guy I didn’t have to impress. So here I was. What if she began acting like Mara? What if Kyle ended up being another jerk? Then I told myself to snap out of it.

“Mara. “yes.” she paused. She hadn’t even seen those.Drive. Doug had written an entire notebook full of poems about Mara. not because you like him. “Should I break up with him? My answer was only no because of how I felt about Doug as a friend. Reading them. I did keep driving as I tried to remember all the things that happened over the weekend. they started out extremely happy. Then they got depressing and angry.” And then it hit me. you’ve come too far. I was guessing the angry ones were where Jake got there first. “Are you only dating him because you’re too nice to reject him?” “No. Being on the freeway when there was no one around was therapeutic. Actually. Apparently. I knew about the drawings. You can’t turn back now.” “That’s messed up.” My foot was on the pedal. Driving. “let me tell you something. Mara. “I wouldn’t have gone out with Jake if I knew he felt this way. Lilly. talking about her and how beautiful and nice she was.” another pause. He would be .” I told her that Doug watched as she fell for Jake. too. just keep driving.” I said this calmly. I am. Had they been dated. The flashback was still ringing in my ears. Just. She had never been called a “whore” or “forbidden” or even “evil. “maybe. Keep.” “What the hell have I ever done to him?” I knew that Doug had these feelings for Mara.” “But that wouldn’t make it genuine. Doug and Mara had their issues. I told myself. you would be doing it to be nice. Mara had no idea how to react. Mara had her issues.

” “I can’t. his heart would be broken. should be home soon. With anyone. It was Saturday and I begged to talk to him. “basically. He said yes through some miracle. Actually. “I have no idea how to navigate this relationship. It’s just that I don’t even think I want to be in a relationship anymore. I kept driving.” Mara cut people off when she was upset.” I told her. “Hi. but avoided me Friday.heartbroken. Through my mental ramble. thinking more about Doug’s feelings than hers. “That’s great. And talk to Aidan. my phone vibrated. He had gotten better around Thursday. he bought me roses and we went to dinner. I had to just get home and shower. I don’t.” “Mara.” “Why were you in San Diego?” “Violet. please think about this more. I’m going straight to Aidan’s. “I just got back from San Diego. Casey!” At least one of us wasn’t having problems.” “Oh. I just needed to talk to Aidan. And I know it isn’t because I miss Jake. I get another call an hour later.” I smiled. “It would break his.” I stole my mom’s used headset when she got a blue tooth. “call me when you’re not driving. “Hey. I then .” Aidan and I finally agreed to talk.” “Hi. damn it. I’m driving..” she said. “Anyways.” Are you freaking kidding me? As I thought about Doug and Mara. are you driving?” Casey was back from her date with Kyle. “but he’s sweet. Doug. then I realized she can’t see the smile over the phone. Really sweet guy.” Casey said.” “Yes. and go to sleep. Lil.

fact voice. I’m so nervous.” “I’m an hour away guys. “I’m letting you go. Lilly. it was a bit exaggerated. that Violet made me go shopping with her. I told myself. but freaking out had always seemed like a valid motivational tool. Like with most things. Which she did.called him to tell him I would be late. I breathed in. this was me being paranoid. I was always a nervous driver. Yes. It was going to be okay. Yes. “You’re going to Aidan’s?” Can’t I tell anyone anything without them already knowing? “Yes. I told Casey all of this.” “Except my dignity. I was .” said Casey. will you please not go insane. “what’s happening with Doug?” “I’m giving us more time together. She then put all three of us on the phone. Take a deep breath. “we can’t yo-yo relationship. As much as the DMV manual told you how to drive. “it’s really not!” “Just do it!” yelled Casey. noting the signs. despite a racing heart and me going insane.” “And I’m not going to. “Mara.” I need to change the subject. I needed a book to tell me things.” she said in a matter-of.” “Good.” “To who?” Casey asked. I’m surprised I survived the day. “ you have nothing to lose.” I somehow hung up on them and didn’t crash into the street.” “Just do it!” Now even Mara was telling to go for it. I had a death grip on the steering wheel to prove it.” I said calmly. She then said she was getting a call from Mara. “Aidan barely knows anyone and Allison won’t tell anyone. “it’s going to be just fine. “it’s not a decision I want to make and then regret. it didn’t quite give you ways to cause one that you could soon meet your maker. That was just too much effort on your part.” “Don’t be.” “Guys.” I said.” said Mara.

and did something.going to be fine once I loosened my grip on the steering wheel and relaxed. Doug was going through the exact same thing. I thought. Just relax. When I finally found Led Zeppelin. No. Alone. The IDEA of listening was masochistic. relatively comfortable. I actually really liked driving. I almost fell asleep at the wheel. I took a deep breath and kept driving. Just relax. For me. You concentrated on it but could still take it all in. it was a lot like reading. I knew I was going to make it somehow. I kept driving. the ambience. Of course. Love songs had to be the most masochistic idea ever. I just hoped he wasn’t still too made to answer the door. I thought. Or that no one’s home. You already went through the pain once. I was home free for another forty five minutes. it’s going to be okay. Doug had his own issues. Or that Zoe might answer the door. “Stop!” I yelled aloud to no one. this had to be done in person. Just relax. Nothing wrong with that. Or slam it in my face. Note to self. this was the one that played love songs. You sat there. Southern California’s easy listening station was the first to come up. and write a song about it. I compared it to a piping hot Starbucks cocoa to a lukewarm one you make with mix. Just relax. I thought it would be funny to drive to Bryan’s house instead. the surroundings. It was going to be okay. I was an hour away when I turned on the radio. Maybe I should just call Aidan. I thought. don’t repeat things in your head over and over again. drive to . I held in how I felt about Bryan because I didn’t know he felt about me. He was lovestruck for four years whereas Mara was in like mode. you feel pain. Or. it’s going to be okay. I was exhausted. I was not about to get over shadowed by my negativity. and even the sounds of everything around you. it’s going to be okay. why listen to it again? This didn’t make sense to me as I looked for classic rock. it’s going to be okay. The idea sounds fine. I thought.

” Allison paused. a job. Anyways.Aidan’s neighbor’s house. She finally got what she wanted. after years of not having it. but I guess it makes sense out of all the times she spent bossing your around. I’m just driving right now. and left. “she quit her job. I was not going to let this one go away. her car.” and I wasn’t. She’s pretty set on something. “I’m not trying to be vindictive or anything when I say it. know me far too well. Another phone call.” “Oh. I laughed to myself at the last one. She’s back in San Diego living with her parents. But she had always done the bare minimum. I thought. I needed to stop doubting myself.” “What the hell were you doing all day. This had to be done.” I had realized she’d only been gone for a week. That sounds mean to say. it had to be conquered.” Allison said. “I’m leaving the house. her house. packed all her stuff.” “I party” . “Hi.” “I was in San Diego visiting my cousin. but even she admits it’s true.” “Why?” “Violet likes her independence. “Violet left?” “Yeah. she needed to reassess. Yup. “I just really like that she’s finally doing something other than partying. forget where everyone lives. and after her last relationship fell through. It’s good to have drive for her. she’s taking classes at a community college and getting a degree in what might be fashion design or marketing.” These people. I was scared shitless. and I needed to keep driving. You sure as hell better he here soon!” “I will be. and yet I kept going. realize that Aidan had been turned into a giant rock.” “You’re kinda harsh about that.

I’m telling him today.” “True. Violet had told me. My wardrobe of jeans and t-shirts did not come under heavy scrutiny.“You’re in college. Lack of jewelry stopped being “too simple” and started being clean. Keep going.” With Violet’s blessing (“go for it. for once. Lilly. I left my house using her car. and one who actually seemed like she was related to me. At my house. she was busy. “Anyways. This was also a Violet I was happy to see. “You haven’t told him?” “He got back from school yesterday. This part was something I couldn’t believe. and she was taking initiative. It was good to know that she was. I’ll hope to see you soon!” She hoped to see me soon? That sounded like she was rooting for me. Go. She even explain to my parents how important it was. not because of the cute guys.” she said. I had never seen her more alive.” And I did trust her. you know you want to”). I thought. Let’s drive faster. she did ask a few times about Aidan. She loved her classes. She would come back and get her car tomorrow with my parents. Being a good goody I am. Her hair was browner than ever. a bit worse for wear. I didn’t want to break the rules. This was something she had never done before. It was good to know that someone was on my side. She drove around in her car. and manipulative. She let me pick clothing I wanted. go! I sped a little before realizing that I should stop. Violet had been doing great. It was old. I’m going to head out and do some stuff. but the engine worked. go. and even stopped going to parties altogether. “I’m not. bitchy. I avoided this question until she asked to full out confess. despite that being something she vowed never to do. didn’t roll her eyes. .” she said. angry. and was so happy to take me shopping. but this time she was happy to see us all. This was a Violet I had never seen before. “Trust me. As fun as shopping was.

finding something to say. I like him. I drove down. turned left.” “It’s Doug.I finally got to the main road. This was scary commitment. What would Casey say? “I mean.” he said. staring at the doorbell.” I thought about what I had to say. I rang the doorbell. It was Doug. I thought. My heart was pudding in my head.” my voice sounded so small. “I don’t want another possessive boyfriend. Chapter 39 I was running around to everyone’s houses doing damage control on Sunday.” I said. “I just got out of the relationship from hell. right. “the man would not hurt a fly. Deep breath. she also found out about the dragons. She was currently working on something else. It’s hard to trust guys. In addition. I walked to his house. “Well. What if he says no? I couldn’t help think of this as I cross the lawn. It was a simple. This was upsetting just because she was the one that stopped me from always siding with Mara. She was always the one who helped me smooth things out. Especially after how I was treated by Jake. I parked on the curb and got out of the car. then Mara. Dude. and right again.” I needed Casey badly. left. Hectic day! Mara had not gotten over the fact that Doug wrote the poems. but I’m not interested in getting too serious. I stood at the doorstep. two story house. windows were on. and I began wondering whether I should cut my losses and run the Hell away right now. meaning dangerous waters for someone to get involved. Lilly!” she said. just do it. He’s the most docile creature ever.” . “Hi. The door opened for me to find Aidan in sweatpants and a white t-shirt. “Hi. then to homework.

Mara. “Mara. He’s harmless.” I said.” “But. “Give it time. “I don’t know.“Docile?” “Easily taught. since when did Mara become the cynic? This was not something that sat well with me in any hopes of cheering her up.” .” I said.” She said simply. He used to love you. “he hurt you too badly.” “Did you really?” Why did Mara keep asking us if were really over anything? It got really irritating.” That was a really bad wording. I guess.” “I got over that. but now he loves every other girl with tight jeans or a skirt. “you cannot be serious?” “I miss the old Jake. calming breath. “What?” “Jake isn’t like that anymore. I thought. “The new Jake is not the old Jake.” I sat down next to her and looked straight at her. I thought.” tears were rolling down her eyes. Are you over Jake?” This should have been a yes.” take a deep. taking her hands. Isn’t it time we all move on to better things?” I heard a snuffle. “Mara.” Wow.” “You did that when Bryan was an ass. “time pretty much heals all wounds.” She said. “Yes. It’s not okay to miss him so much you want him back. It’s okay to miss him. It’s not your fault your ex is an asshole. “I really am over it. He’s never going to go back to being nice.” “Most men start out harmless. Mara. “You can’t just single out all men because Jake’s an ass. soft.

“Mara and I are breaking up.” “Speaking of. You might regret letting go of a guy that doesn’t want you to change. how did the thing with Aidan go?” I smiled.” I got her to giggle. looking around at all the things in his room.” --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- I was sitting in Doug’s room. it was Doug. I thought Mara was a drama queen. I admit. There was also a half Marvel coming wall and half DC comics.” “What?” I was semi shocked. he had his arms around me.” If anyone ever needed a hug right now. I knew it might happen. That was progress.“Pretty much?” she asked. Before I knew it. My phone began vibrating. please give this more time and thought. “Sweetie. but this soon? “Guess she didn’t like me as much as I thought. Still. but it happened with Doug more and more recently. full of movie posters and drawings of dragons. It was slightly obvious that he had been crying.” Doug had just walked into his room. Doug liked Mara so much. Everything from the Star Wars bed sheets to the model Millennium Falcon hanging from the ceiling. “I’ll tell you when you’re feeling better. It was pretty awesome. “So” he sat down on his chair. It was awful that she didn’t feel the same way. Doug had worshipped the ground . “Except the real ones that you need medicine for. It was Doug. “Hey. It always was a bit weird to see guys cry. It was actually weird that she didn’t feel the same way. It was a bit of a nerd’s paradise.

” It was true. You guys have more than enough time to figure things out. maybe that was too blunt of a statement. “This isn’t going to get you anywhere to just be afraid like this. He had never exactly heard me talk like. I’m sorry. He was.” Wait.” Ok. Change the subject.” “But. how do you know?” “They were in a different spot than they usually were.” “I just have a feeling that this will all go seriously wrong. Whatever. so what if she read the poems? Give this some time.” “Doubts weren’t unfounded. Doug stared.” How does he know she knows about the poems? “Wait. this worked. I guess.” “Doug.” I sounded like an Aidan/Allison hybrid.” “Yeah.” “But” “You’re being a coward. you can’t dump Mara.” “Don’t we all have that feeling? Seriously.” Ah. talk about it.” he said. me. Dougie. the objections. Aidan thinks this. and you’re running away from something because of reasons that are at least seven months away. but don’t worry. even Mara had her doubts at the very beginning of dating Jake.” “I can’t even tell you exactly why I’m breaking up with her.” “They dated for two years before he went and turned into a total asshole. “There are no buts. “Doug. you’re running away.” . “Dougie.she walked on well enough. “It would behoove you to not freak out. Doug. I thought. “You have her. what? “With MIT and the fact she saw those poems. Lilly.. Casey.

it had changed. Bust most of all.“We’re nerds. “Doug. to me. don’t break up with her. what happened with Aidan?” I smiled. because she likes you. fine. “Maybe.” “Why not?” Was he really asking me that question? “Because you love her. because your personal life needs it.” He stared at me. For some reason.” “You. Except. It was like that Nelson Mandela quote. “by the way. Please tell me I’m right.” “That’s school. I predicted a huge change in the house going in again. “I’ll tell you when you feel better.” I was running out of ideas to tell him. I thought.” “You took the MIT risk. same lights. I guess it would have looked exactly the same to anyone else. The couch seemed less welcoming and the lights went from being warm to having this chilled atmosphere.” He said. your heart will not forgive you for what your brain says. It was the same couch.” ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- I walked into Aidan’s house. where I had been a few weeks ago as his girlfriend.” “Ok.” “She said yes to you at first. We don’t take risks. same everything.” “That was a week ago. Lilly. “Doug!” “What?” “That’s not something you joke about.” he smiled. “There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you . it worked.

” Like Zoe.” Here begins my many apologies. “kid wouldn’t talk to me for two days. Which would have been okay. staring at his hands on the table instead of looking at me. “It’s fine. Honestly. it did.” “Why not?” Even though I already knew the answer. I did not say this out loud. “No. “You still loved Bryan.” “A bit of grudge holder. I didn’t even realize that she was being a bitch.” he said.” “Not exactly something I would object to. I did invite her before you and I got together. “I’m sorry about Zoe. “Do you want something like water or soda or something?” he asked.” And I had been altered. It wasn’t the usual type of quiet that Aidan was. I’m sorry.” she said. I sat down across.” So he was being nice but he was being cold? “Look. “Zoe was one of them.” he said.” he said. moreso my relationship to Aidan had been. Well.yourself have altered. “guess I had my own issues. collected feel to it. ignoring my comment. “Sorry.” “I didn’t even know about how she was acting. are we?” I should not have said this out loud.” he said. but I sorta decided . “besides the whole thing where you looked at him like a lovesick puppy. I thought. His quiet sounded more like he was still too angry to talk to me. it’s fine. He was quiet as he lead me into his kitchen. that he had always been a very stubborn one.” “Again. but I liked you. “we mainly broke up just because I was moving down here and she wanted to keep in touch.” “It took a while to get over it. I didn’t think we were going to be together at all. I was determined to get Zoe out of my head. that had a more calm. “I once broke his paintbrush. Allison told me this would happen.” he sat down at the dinner table. Allison brought it up. She kept telling me that she missed me.

Ever. She had some issues with her ex. she was being absolutely horrible about it! She was all over you. I thought. He always thought they were . She wanted me to break off things with her in person.” I might as well share. or at least trying to. I felt my heart getting metaphorically stabbed. She cheated on me with some asshole. It would hurt less. she would take me back. I went up to San Fran to tell her it was over.” “Bryan asked me back. that’s exactly what Zoe thought. “When you left that night. It’s human nature to love what hurts us. if that makes sense. “Allison wanted me to stop leaving things with Zoe untied. He used to this thing where he took off my glasses when we were kissing. “I needed to stop loving her. I would take her back. and I finally yelled at her to go away.” “No. she said. but anyways. “Why would Allison want to do that?” She wasn’t on my side? “Because Zoe and I had this back and forth thing going on since the end of the summer. didn’t I? Down with love. I’m just glad Zoe and I are over. Lamest. right? “Told me he loved me. Why didn’t you at least tell her she wasn’t welcome?” “Because of Allison.” “But wouldn’t it be a slap in the face to come here and get rejected?” “You would think so. I locked myself in my room and painted. She left the next day. Zoe kept knocking. Lilly. “I mean. Excuse.” he said. Then stayed there for a week because Allison didn’t want to be alone.” I kept Bryan around even when I thought he was cheating on me. then called a few hours later to tell me she was in love with me.” “And you kept taking her back?” “I loved her. and I needed to stop being human.” “How do you turn a blind eye to that?” I shouldn’t yell.” Aidan said. it makes sense. lower your voice. Lower your voice.” He stopped looking at his hands and looked at me.to turn a blind eye to it.

One of us had to make a move soon. Single? You whine and roll your eyes when all the taken people get gifts. “I like that you use words like idiosyncrasies in normal conversation. I pretended not to notice. Kinda slammed the door in his face. He kissed me again. it was me. I went on tiptoes as he kissed me.” “He deserved it. we both sat down a week before. But Aidan listened.” Come on. I stood up as he smiled. Then he said this: “Took the dive. Aidan. He didn’t listen. I still got a bouquet of roses and a death glare from another girl. Taken? You ignore the eye rollers and whiners as you get your gifts. I was just bothered that he didn’t listen.” I smiled. you can do better than that. In fact.” “She deserved to get yelled at. “And I like your glasses. nothing during school. “I never have to compromise my idiosyncrasies with you. We all do the same thing depending on our relationship status. “I like my glasses. I told him I wanted to get the gifts after school. “Hey.” He stepped over to my side of the table.” We both stared at each other. Aidan. “I like you. I was too embarrassed and he said it was something nice.” He pushed the bridge of my glasses up towards my face. right? This time.geeky. too. Even when I was Bryan. So when he took them off and tried to kiss me. He laughed.” I smiled. I thought.” . I just wanted my glasses back. I told him no flowers. no chocolate. didn’t you?” Chapter 40 Valentine’s Day was always one of my least favorite days on the entire calendar.

But if you need a present to fix or define a relationship. This was bad for true love. Love is great. What I didn’t get and absolutely thought was annoying was the third kind. These were the couples who had a bad relationship or barely a relationship and insisted on giving each other big teddy bears and giant bouquets of roses. I could even understand newer couples getting each other small gifts. I know that this was meant to celebrate love.” He kissed me on the forehead. and thank you. huh?” “It’s bad enough for people who hate being single on other days.” This was the main argument. right?” He chuckled at first. but great for Hallmark. I can understand the couples who had been together all four years of high school. “I wont get you anything on school hours. For .“Yeah?” We were people watching at the mall. “Please don’t give me anything during school. I didn’t have to see the most awful display of public affection ever at school. why?” “Can we just have dinner together and not buy presents?” “I kinda already got you the present. Valentine’s Day. like some form of candy or a cute card. “You know that next week is Single Awareness Day…I mean. That way. Valentine’s Day was best when it fell on a Saturday. I don’t think that Doug and Mara should have gotten themselves anything major.” “Awesome. that was what the holiday was for. should you be celebrating a love/romance that doesn’t even exist? I didn’t think so. “You don’t want to make single people feel bad. but kids in high school did.” He smiled. I thought. “Yeah.” Did he really? A bit ahead. Over dinner only. it disturbed me. The permanence of some high school relationships were so low. Having the world know you hate being lonely? Not so great.

Casey saw Will and then you threw us off by talking about this bracelet. Nobody really challenged this. I didn’t put any thought into this. She never told Doug this. but I think you could like him if you paid more attention. “What?” “I have always been a people pleaser.” We were at Starbucks. coffee in hand. Even Doug and Mara sought their solutions through dollars. Which is great.being a couple that’s had problems within the first few weeks. Mara bought Doug a Star Wars poster (that I picked out for her) and Doug bought her a bracelet (the infamous bracelet from two weeks ago). Doug had put more thought to it. she was staring at her mocha.” There. “You came up with this. “What should I ask my boyfriend to get to know him better. though. and he gets me a bracelet that I can’t even remember. “We had a fight about.” I smiled and took a sip of my hot chocolate. But I could tell she listened. and you always need to be pleased. I thought. She had just come back and joined us at Starbucks.” she said. I said it. working out their problems would suit better than buying solutions. I love you. But it’s time to cater to needs beyond you and those who hurt you. I’m not forcing Doug on you. She took a deep breath and took a sip of her mocha. your doting boyfriend and friends love you. “Why? I just spent the last half an hour learning that boyfriend went to Italy and won a . “I am so not down with relationships. remember. choosing to tell me.” She looked almost horrified.” “Does everyone remember this bracelet except me?” “Mara. but be less self involved. but Mara seemed unhappy. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Casey and Kyle had long since been over after date number three.

.” “Who doesn’t know that about Doug?” Casey said. I feel free.” “I’m making him dinner. the ones he’s wanted to see but didn’t have the chance to. “And a sci-fi movie marathon.” said Mara. “I’m surprising Doug. Casey smiled.” I added. “He refused to tell what it was.” “Love or material desire?” I asked. “And that the one that likes being single is the single one.” “Gory horror movies with myself!” Casey said.” I said.science fair when he was 9. his gift is supposed to be epic. She sounded excited. you guys are awesome. “So what are our plans?” Mara asked. “Plus.” “Now that sounds like a night worth having. “Oh my God!” Mara yelled.” it was time to focus on Casey. he knows how I don’t like waiting for surprises. They were already extremely familiar with my Valentine’s Day rants.” Good to know baking meant something wasn’t going wrong. “Aidan is taking me out to dinner. I won’t tell him. “you can’t tell him!” “Tell us. She looked at me.” Mara said. later. Casey and Mara both laughed. “Why does everyone know?” “Mara. “what happened?” “It was actually kinda mutual. “I’m just not into the whole being tied down thing. I was excited for her. and I would rather hang out with you guys and not tone down some of my personality on the day of love. frustrated. “It really does. I guess we were making progress. it’s good to know one of us likes being single. I like being single.” Mara said.” “Well.” she said.” I said. grabbing a chair and sitting down. I was glad that she was willing to do this for Doug. and a massive cookie.

.

I showed up wearing an AC/DC shirt. They were like looking into forests. a black t shirt. Because we all need a reason to buy something. she has a date with some cute girl she met at the drug store. “You look amazing. and his own pair of Converses. ripped jeans.” Aidan went on. or at least a skirt for their dinners with their boyfriends. “I think it’s a conspiracy from Hallmark to give cards.” I smiled. others arguing. I looked up at him. too” he said.” Aidan said. surprised that we were here in a place so packed.” It was true. It’s real and lasting. “How’s Allison?” I asked. somewhat upset that she had to go back to San Fran.” “I always like that after Valentine’s Day.Epilogue Most girls wore a dress. “Fake flowers that never die?” “Well. And his bracelet. in fact. “I did. I was a part of it. Not a fair representation of love. and my black Converses. “potted flower plant. I turned to the other couples in the room. “leave it to Allison to find a date somewhere as mundane as a drug store. “So do you. then everyone cashes in on it so that they don’t feel left out. “She’s fine. “I blame you.” “Did you just use the word mundane?” I asked. taking my other hand. they’ll die in a few days.” I smiled. I thought. “They’re beautiful. in need of .” he took my hand. “I never liked Valentine’s Day. Best time to get it besides Halloween. fake sucks.” Aidan said. blushing as I stared at my feet. but when they’re in bouquet. I had wanted to be part of it. others talking animatedly. as though there was a world inside them. he had a smile on his face. his green eyes staring right at me.” “What would be a fairer representation?” I asked. Some were kissing.” he smiled. “Flowers kinda bother me. He was wearing jeans. the chocolate is half priced. too.

you guys met Aidan.’” “Awwwww.” “Originally.” “I never said I was.” I never thought of that. I hope the moment being right had nothing to do with me getting so anxious I had a heart attack. I was going to give you flowers. So that it wasn’t a Valentine’s Day gift? “Because the moment is not right. you’re the most beautiful one. trust me. “That’s actually a really good idea. was he. “What did you get me?” “Nope.” he said. Plus. not yet. the other fixing my glasses. “Hi!” I said. “you’re not the only smart one in this relationship. I’m kinda having a moment with my boyfriend.” Funny. I took it as a . right?” Roxie replied with an overenthusiastic “of course” and Bryan just grunted. “How funny that Bryan picked this restaurant out of all of them. and he was testing me.” “Why not?” He wasn’t waiting until midnight. your name and the actual flower are spelled differently. huh? “Yeah. one hand pulling my hair back. With none other than Bryan. Please don’t let me have a heart attack.” I said.” I smiled.” I took my hands out of his. faking being nice to both of them. “Lilly?” I turned around to see Heather. it’s pretty awesome. “why didn’t you?” “Thought I would save it for when they actually had lilies at the store.nurturing and beautiful. ‘out of all the lilies in the world. it would have been a bouquet of lilies.” “I have my moment. you’ll get it when it is.” “So. I was being impatient. I would have a card that said.

The brown leather with the silver metal. kinda nervous about what they want me to do. it may have been getting on my nerves.” “Like the lilies. “So I have an interview next week.” I said. right?” I asked.” “The beauty from chaos one?” I asked. “Whatever. They liked my rendition of the lilies.” “You’ll never know if you don’t take the dive. The words “take the dive” engraved into metal.” he opened the box. his hands getting tense all of the sudden.” he said. right. “I’m putting this up on my wall. He stared at it. smiling.” we both said. I finally flagged . but it’s about life.” he said.” I said.” Wow.” “Doubting yourself won’t do justice. if I’m good enough. that interview could be the start of something.” I said. all I could think about was you. They soon walked away. “Beauty inspired from chaos. He smiled back and pulled out a box. We looked up and both smiled.yes. you’ll know. “That was weird.” Aidan said. It was the collage I had made from my photo run a few weeks back. “they want me to design some stuff for them. “When is the right time for you to give me the gift?” “Trust me. “I told you that you’d know when the time was right. “This is amazing. “Interview with what?” “Some company. “The very same. As much as I loved the smile. “it looked like a bunch of things thrown onto paper. “When I was there a week before finals.” he was smiling.” I said. I took a deep breath. “but yeah. “Maybe this will help with your nerves. I thought.” Aidan said as I turned around. I then pulled out my present. The bracelet looked exactly like his. looking through it over and over again.

“So are you. “It’s amazing.” He kissed me over the table. The waters I dove into were looking pretty pleasant.down the owner of those bracelets and begged her for another one.” He put it around my wrist. .” I said.

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