Eleven Months and Counting or Memories & Expectations A memoir.

Preface This story, like so many others, is about a girl. Well, technically, there are several girls in this story. Only one that really mattered. This is a story about girls, boys, late-night phone calls, laughs, mission trips to foreign countries, summer, lies, music, concerts, technology, friends, judgment day, graduation, Slurpees, private-school students, jealousy, shitty jobs, and it might even be a love story. I honestly can’t tell you if it is or not. All I can tell you is what happened, what I remember. I am writing this for me. I’m writing this to figure out what happened, to rejoice what went right, and to maybe, just maybe, fix what went wrong. This is a story about a small town called Ovilla, Texas.

Contents Valentine Before Play Eyes Talk Interlude I – Guatemala Amber Friends Bachelor, pt. 1 Interlude II – Victoria Bachelor, pt. 2 Bachelor, pt. 3 Change Interlude III – Hindsight Casey Interlude IV – Prom Dallas Sugar Ovilla Lancaster Interlude V – Exits End Interlude VI – Moments Truth Summer, pt. 1 Summer, pt. 2 Interlude VII – Colorado Monday Goodbyes Interlude VIII – Oklahoma Answers Nineteen Expectations Epilogue – Memories Music Characters A Note to the Reader

Valentine (February) It’s a cold, February evening. A Monday. I’m eighteen years old, standing, facing a beautiful blonde girl who is as tall as I am. That’s saying something. I’m six feet tall, but that’s beside the point. Her long blonde hair whips in the wind as she cries. We just broke up. Well, I just dumped her. As I turn and walk away, I can’t help but look at her one more time. She looks so beautiful. But it was time to end our relationship. Anyone who has ever been in a relationship where every other conversation is a fight knows that. I feel like I should probably point out that it’s the night before Valentine’s Day. Yes, I know, I’m an asshole. It had to happen then. There was no other way. I get that what I’m saying sounds weird, but it’s true. It had to happen then. I get in my little black Mazda and drive to Southlake. Southlake is the nice part of town. I pull up to my friend’s neighborhood, enter the gate key, drive in, and park in the driveway of Ty’s house. I go inside and am greeted by Scott and Ty. Scott and Ty are two of my best friends. I’ve known Scott since eighth grade, Ty since sophomore year. We’re seniors now. They both know that I broke up with my (now ex-) girlfriend tonight. They ask me how it went, and I tell them. I’m not happy. If anything, I’m actually pretty sad. She is a good girl. To this day, I don’t have a bad thing to say about her. It just didn’t work out. I vent and they listen. They are good friends and are supportive. Then we break out Ty’s old Gamecube and play NHL Hockey ’03, as we usually do. We have school the next day, so we call it an early night and go to bed around 11. Ty sleeps in his bed, Scott takes the beanbag, and I’m on the couch. Before I sleep, I log onto Facebook on Ty’s laptop. Unsurprisingly, my ex has blocked me. But on my newsfeed, I saw something that piques my interest. Hey, I’m single now. My interest can be piqued all it wants. A girl. Her name is Victoria. Victoria’s status reads as follows: “I hate Valentine’s day.” Victoria is a very attractive girl. She looks to be at least part Asian, but I’ve been wrong before. Long black hair. I scratch my brain to try and remember where I met her. I know I’ve seen her before. Then I remember. Stone Gate. That’s where it all started. At Stone Gate. _______________________________________________________________________________________________

Before (January) A month earlier. My ex and I are together at this point. You should know that I was involved in the theater in my high school. I love acting, being on stage, public speaking, all that stuff. Which is what led me to Stone Gate. Stone Gate looks like a huge metal box. It’s actually a very small, private Christian school. Every year, in December, Stone Gate hosts a speech/drama tournament. Private schools and Christian schools from all over attend. That includes my school. I’m sitting in the Stone Gate cafeteria, which basically looks like a sanatorium. The walls are extremely white, white tables, floor, ceiling, and no windows. The room is packed with theater kids memorizing monologues, talking, and laughing. I’m waiting for the Group Improvisation preliminaries to begin. I am competing with two of my good friends, Cole and Ryan. They’re a year younger than I am. Each school has its own table in the cafeteria. Our table happens to be located right next to Ovilla Christian School. Ovilla has some pretty cute girls sitting at their table. Ryan, Cole and I are called up to compete. We perform our piece. People laugh. The Ovilla girls watch from the back. After we perform, Ryan, Cole and I sit at our table and laugh about it. The Ovilla girls are right next to us. So I break the ice. I turn to the first girl and make some joke about Cole’s ugly red tie. The girls laugh. I introduce myself. Multiple girls start talking to Ryan, Cole, and I. Only three are important in the context of this story, though. Victoria, Casey, and Taylar. Well, Taylar isn’t really that important until much later, and even then she doesn’t do much. Whatever. These girls are funny and we have a long, good conversation. They’re cute too. Victoria and Casey are my age, Taylar is two years younger. Soon enough, though, we have to leave. I don’t get any of their phone numbers. I have a girlfriend at the time. When I get home, the girls have all sent me friend requests on Facebook. And that is all. Nothing else happens. I leave it alone.

Play (February) I’m in Ty’s bedroom, on Facebook. Victoria’s status. I message her. I tell her that I don’t like Valentine’s Day all too much either and I ask if she remembers me. She messages me back. She definitely remembers me from Stone Gate. She says that she was disappointed that I never messaged her. Victoria gives me her phone number and tells me to text her. The next day, I do. She’s a funny girl, and actually writes her words out when she texts. That’s kind of a big thing for me. We begin to text pretty regularly. I enjoy talking to Victoria. This proceeds for a few weeks. One day, Victoria sends me a video of Casey talking. You can tell that Casey doesn’t know that Victoria is recording her. Casey tells Victoria that she’s jealous that I’m talking to Victoria and not her. I don’t think anything of it. Our school’s spring play approaches at the end of February. It’s called Welcome to the Scherezade. For months, we’ve had after school rehearsals. We are ready. I have the lead role. I invite Victoria to come watch our Sunday show and then to dinner afterwards. She asks if Casey can come along. I invite Cole, who is in the show with me, to dinner with us. We perform the show flawlessly. It is the last show that I’ll ever perform in high school. We all had a great time. Afterwards, backstage, Cole tells me how excited he is to be going to dinner with an older girl. Remember, Cole is a year younger than us. I just grin. I hope he and Casey get along well. We walk out of the dressing room and meet the girls. They look great. They’re dressed up, with their hair and makeup looking nice. Casey and Victoria both have dark hair, but Victoria is much taller than Casey, while the latter is much has much larger breasts and far prettier eyes. Both of them are very pretty girls. Cole and I take them out to a local burger place called Snuffers. A little low-class for the occasion, but how many other places are open late on Sunday short of the McDonald’s drive-thru? We have great conversations at dinner. It isn’t awkward and everyone has a good time. Casey gives Cole her number. We drop the girls off at Victoria’s red car and they drive off.

Eyes (March) I continue texting Victoria. She asks me to come up to her hometown of Ovilla that next Friday and hang out with her, maybe meet some of her other friends. She sounds really excited. I’m excited too. Friday arrives and I make my first drive up to Ovilla. It’s on the other side of downtown Dallas, about an hour’s drive from my town of Flower Mound. I make the drive at about 3 o’clock, so I miss most of rush hour traffic. I make it to Ovilla in almost an hour and arrive at Victoria’s house. It’s a little, one-story house. She introduces me to her parents. Turns out that I was spot-on about the Asian thing. She’s half-Philippine, from her mother’s side. Her dad’s nice enough. Her mom hardly speaks any English. I make small talk with them for a bit, and then Victoria takes me back to her room. We watch my favorite movie: 500 Days of Summer. If you haven’t seen it, go see it. It’s the best movie ever made. During the movie, we hold hands and talk. After the movie, we leave her house and get burgers and milkshakes at Red Robin. It’s a nice, but the conversation throughout the whole evening between Victoria and I isn’t what it used to be. Lulls and pauses. I start to realize that we’re simply different people with different interests. After dinner, she drives us to meet some of her friends. The car ride is awkwardly quiet. We pull into a neighborhood and stop on a cul-de-sac. It’s about 7 o’clock at this point. There is a beat-up, old pickup truck parked under one of the streetlights. Three people are sitting in the bed, talking. Victoria and I exit her car and climb into the bed. One of the girls in the truck is Casey. The second person is a guy with dark, curly hair named Dustin. He’s really friendly, a pretty cool guy. The second girl changed everything. Her name is Amber. Amber is short and thin, with long dark hair. She is gorgeous. When I first see her, I don’t want to look at anything else. I sort of forget that I’m on a date with Victoria. She is wearing these killer gray jeans. The fact that “Smile Like You Mean It” is her ringtone blows my mind. She manages to pull of this crazy combination of adorably cute and wildly sexy at the same time. I sit next to Amber and immediately start talking to her. To put it briefly, we hit it off. I lose track of time. I think Victoria is starting to get mad, but I don’t really care. Eventually, Victoria says that she needs to take me back to my car so she can get

home. We say our goodbyes and leave. Amber and I make one last eye contact as Victoria pulls out of the cul-de-sac. Victoria is a little jealous. I can tell. She drives to a park, and we leave her car, walking around the quiet playground. It has to be almost midnight at this point. I think of saying something about how Victoria needs to get home, but I don’t. We sit down on this thick tree branch that extends over the playground. Towering above us are about eight cell towers, all with blinking red lights. The lights seem like eyes, staring at us. I can’t help but think of The Great Gatsby and the eyes of Dr. T.J. Eckelburg. Maybe Ovilla has eyes of its own, I think to myself. Victoria and I make small talk for a bit. I tell her I like her friends. Then we kiss. We make out on that tree branch for a minute or two. It’s kind of awkward. Victoria and I share our first and only kiss under the blinking red eyes of Ovilla, Texas. Shortly after that, I get in my car and leave. I think about Amber the entire drive home.

Talk (March) After driving back to Flower Mound, I arrive at my friend Pres’s house. Scott is there, along with Pres and several more of my buddies. My friends are sprawled all over Pres’s house, sleeping wherever there is room. Scott and I have squeezed into Pres’s bed. I check Facebook on my iPhone. Is it weird that I got very happy when I saw that Amber had sent me a friend request? Shortly after accepting Amber, she messages me. She sends me some goofy Youtube video that we had laughed about in the back of the truck. We exchange a few messages, and then she asks for my phone number. I happily give it to her. We text each other for about an hour after that, talking about anything and everything. We discuss her favorite movie, The Grinch Who Stole Christmas (the liveaction one with Jim Carrey) and how we share a common obsession with The Killers. I feel like I know this girl, damn it. After a while, we both grow tired and decide that it is time to go to bed. I tell her that I’ll text her the next day and I do. For the next week, we talk all day, every day. The conversation between us flows so much smoother than the conversation between Victoria and I. Victoria and I talk a little bit too. She talks about possibly making plans to hang out in the future. I change the subject. It’s just sort of awkward with her now. The next week is Spring Break, which means that my school goes on its annual Spring Break Mission Trip. This year we are going to Guatemala. Scott, Pres, and myself are all going. We’ll be gone all week. A couple days before we leave, I tell Amber about the mission trip to Guatemala and she gets really excited. She tells me that she was going on a weeklong mission trip to China late in the summer. I chuckle at the continued similarities, tell her goodnight and that I will text her when I am once again stateside. She says she’ll be looking forward to it.

Interlude I – Guatemala The Spring Break that I spent in Guatemala was indescribable. It truly was an unforgettable experience. I almost didn’t even want to go back to America. Almost.

Amber (March) After I return from Guatemala, Victoria and I have, like, one very short conversation about nothing. That was it. I didn’t hear from her again until a while later. But I honestly could not care less. Instead, I call Amber. Our first talk lasts several hours and goes late into the night. I tell her some of the great things that happened in Guatemala. Then we just talk. I honestly don’t remember exactly what we talk about, but the conversation goes on for hours. One part sticks out to me in particular, though. “I miss you already. That’s probably pretty weird.” She says that. I don’t think it was weird. I think I end up falling asleep on the phone. The next day is Monday, and that means a necessary return trip to reality. That means that school and work are back. I go to high school at Liberty Christian School, a small private school. There are only 107 kids in my grade. On Wednesday and Saturday nights, I work at the local Blockbuster video store. I hate my job and I don’t really like my school all that much. What gets me through the next few weeks is Amber. She texts me every morning, about 10 minutes into second period. We talk all day, every day. She is easygoing, funny, intelligent, honest, and kind. I love talking to Amber. We talk about our likes, dislikes, favorites, least favorites, movies, music, religion, family, friends, relationships. We talk about how we are both obsessed with the Harry Potter books and debate the quality of the last movie. We talk about how she hates it when I use the word “cool” to describe something. I use it a lot more after that, just to bug her. It was really cool. We talk about how she smokes and I don’t. We talk about how she can draw cool-looking tattoos on people with pens. She shows me pictures. They really are pretty cool. We talk about our love for horror movies and argue about the quality of Twilight. We talk about how she thinks it’s funny how I call her “dude” all the time. We talk about our families. Her dad is almost always away on business. She has a fraternal twin sister and two older brothers. Her mom’s name is Carol.

We talk about how she was asked to prom by four different guys, but she went alone because she didn’t want to say yes to one after saying no to anyone else. We show each other new music almost daily. We talk about how excited to graduate. She’ll be going to college in Virginia. I silently remark to myself about how far away she’ll be from the University of Oklahoma, which is where I’ve been accepted. We talk about our hopes and dreams. We talk about our fears. We talk about things that make us happy, angry, and sad. We talk about everything. Like I said, I work at the video store on Wednesday and Saturday. I work the late shift, so I don’t clock off until about midnight. After every shift, I hop in my car and call Amber. On my drive home, I would always stop at the RaceTrac convenient store and get a Big Red-flavored Slurpee. We talk as I drive home, and once I arrive, I just park in the driveway of my house and we keep talking. We talk until one of us gets too tired or if there is homework to be done. Then we hang up, send one final text goodnight. Rinse, lather, repeat. We don’t get to hang out or anything like that, though. It’s not like we don’t want to, it just happens that way. One weekend I’m busy, the other weekend she can’t. The fact that we live an hour apart doesn’t really help things. But I’m still happy. I can talk to her. And that’s enough. It goes on like this for some time. Then, a lot begins to change very quickly.

Friends (March-April) Stone Gate is only the beginning. In the upcoming weeks, there is the State Speech and Drama Competition, held in Austin, Texas. Tons upon tons of private schools will be meeting there. Only one that I care about, though. In the weeks before State, things begin to get weird. First, Casey messages me on Facebook. She is curious as to why I talk to both Amber and Victoria, but not her. I don’t think anything of it and give her my number. She begins to text me. At first it isn’t that often. At first. She eventually asks me if I’ll hang out with her during our free time at State. I agree. Amber asks me to make her a mix CD of some of my favorite music to give to her at State. After this happens, I ask Cole about Casey. I haven’t really heard anything about them since the night we had taken the girls out to Snuffer’s. He says they talk almost every day, and that he likes her, but he wasn’t too sure about how she felt for him. Victoria texts me again. She says she’d really like to sit down and talk at State. I don’t really understand why, but I agree anyways. Amber and I still talk a ton, but it slowly starts to change. Up until now, it had been very flirty, loose, and fun. I still loved talking to her but it was just different. Almost like something was holding her back. Amber starts talking about how much she loves having me as a friend. Friend. I can’t tell you how many times she drops the word “friend” into our conversations those upcoming weeks. She talks about how anytime she has a best friend that is a guy, he develops feelings for her and their friendship is ruined through the ensuing awkwardness. She still talks to me about how much she wants to see me and how she can’t wait to hang out with me at State. Going into State, my head was spinning. Looking back, though, it all makes so much sense.

Bachelor, pt. 1 (April) If you’ve ever seen the hokey reality show The Bachelor (yes, I have) then you have a good idea of what my weekend is like. I’ve committed to three different girls that I would spend time with all of them and I am freaking out. Any guy reading those last two sentences may ask, “What the fuck is wrong with this loser? That’s awesome!” It isn’t awesome. It really isn’t. Being on The Bachelor sucks. The truth is, I really only want to spend time with Amber. I want to see if what chemistry we have over the phone and Facebook will actually translate into a reallife hangout session. I don’t know if you (reader) have ever experienced that, where you talk to someone through technology and it goes great but as soon as the two of you are together in person, the whole thing hops on board the train to Awkward City real fast. Anyways, we check into our shitty Holiday Inn in Austin Friday night. The competition will last all day Saturday and will end on Sunday afternoon. I have a day and a half to figure this whole thing out. I had trouble getting to sleep that night. The next morning, we rise early to practice our pieces. I’ve had mine memorized for a while, so that really isn’t a priority. I’m still freaking out, though. We hop on the bus to the college where the tournament is being held. It’s a weird campus. I forget the name of the school, but it was very small. The buildings are spread apart and there are many plants and trees everywhere, with wooden bridges crossing over dried creek beds choked with leaves. It looks like the Ewok village from Return of the Jedi. God, I’m such a nerd. We set up our camp in the little corner of the “gym.” We’re one of the first schools there, so we have to wait for all of the other schools to begin. So we wait. I laugh and have a good time with Cole, Ryan, and my other friends. Victoria is the first. She texts me when she arrives at the school. She walks in to the gym, looking about the same. To give a reference, she looks like the actress that plays the crazy Asian girlfriend in The Social Network and London Tipton on that Disney channel show with the two twin kids. She hugs me and tells me that she’s missed me and that things got crazy. I don’t buy it, she’s just being polite, but I’m nice and I talk to her. We leave the gym and walk for a bit, then settle down on a bench. Victoria warns me of a few things. Namely, Casey and Amber.

“Casey is that girl that everyone falls for. She get’s guys interested, then dumps them. I mean, she’s only had one boyfriend and guess what? She cheated on him twice.” “Amber is just jealous of me. She thinks that she should be talking to you. It’s not fair. I was here first, you know?” She actually says these things. It isn’t hard to believe her story about Casey. I can see it. I don’t mention to her Amber talking about us being just friends. I guess I’m just trying to figure out what Victoria’s game is. Is she legitimately looking out for me? Is she just trying to ruin her friends’ chances? Is Amber really interested? If she is, why is she trying to play it off like she isn’t? After Victoria leaves, I’m far more confused than I was before.

Interlude II – Victoria That was my last significant encounter with Victoria. From here on, she entered the story two, maybe three more times. They aren’t that important, but still worth including, just for the sake of cohesiveness. I’ll get there.

Bachelor, pt. 2 (April) Amber texts me shortly after Victoria and I finished talking. She wants to see me and actually hang out. I am so excited. So excited. We agree to meet by this one building. I get there, like ten minutes early. My hands are sweating and I check my phone every few seconds. Finally she arrives. It’s my second time to see her in person. She looks phenomenal. I lose track of time with her. We spend hours walking around the campus. The sun sets as we talk. We talk about everything. I get that I already said that, but it’s different in person. It’s so much more real. That seems very obvious, but I guess you don’t get it until you’re there with someone. It’s hard to explain. A lot of you know what I’m talking about, a lot of you don’t. Those that get it, explain it to those that don’t. We laugh, flirt, push each other. At one point, she shuts me in a bathroom. I love every minute. We walk throughout the campus. I get dangerously close to holding her hand a few times, but I never do. Christ. I sound like a sixth grader. We end up on a bench inside a tall-ceilinged building. The sun is setting. We can see the orange light streaking through the glass. I’m sitting with my back against the wall; she’s sitting next to me, facing me. Our knees are touching. I want to kiss her so damn badly. Then she starts talking about Nick. Nick is her ex-boyfriend. She tells me that I’m a lot like him. He writes, just like I do. We both would be defined as “hipsters.” She talks about how much we need to meet each other. She talks about how she thinks we would make such great friends. She still hangs out with Nick all the time. They’re still best friends, even though she broke up with him in November. My gut reaction is jealousy, but I don’t show it. I smile and tell her that I think it’s great that she can still be such good friends with her ex. It soon becomes time for us to go back to our respective hotels. I give her the CD I made her and then we hug goodbye. The hug lingers for a while. I want it to become more. I sense that she does too. But it doesn’t. She slides her hands down my back and over my hips when we eventually pull away, mutters goodbye without looking at me, then leaves. I have no idea what to do. _________________________________________________________________________________________________

Bachelor, pt. 3 (April) I get back to our hotel, climb into my bed, and check my phone. I have texts from Casey and Amber. Amber is really happy that we got to hang out. She wishes we could do it more. She had an awesome time. Casey is pretty upset that I spent time with her two best friends and not her. I spend a few minutes smoothing things over, and then assure her that I’ll hang out with her tomorrow. I barely get any sleep. I just reply my day with Amber in my head. Over and over. The next day, we get up early. At the campus, I have a few hours until my event. The Ovilla girls are in a circle, hanging out and talking. Victoria is gone. She already left to go back home. Her event happened yesterday. No complaints there. I grab Ryan and we go over to the Ovilla circle. Amber and Casey are there, along with some other Ovilla people. They aren’t really important and to be honest, I don’t remember their names. We talk and laugh with them for a while. Ryan and Amber flirt a little. I hide my jealousy, but it’s still there. Eventually, Casey asks me if I want to go on a walk with her. I say yes, smile, and act excited. I try and catch a glance, see if Amber is giving a reaction. She isn’t. Casey and I walk away. The two of us end up in the same building that Amber and I sat in the day before. We sit on a couch at the end of the building, facing the window, overlooking the campus. The view is great and the building is large, empty, and quiet. I would give anything for it to be Amber on that couch with me. Looking back, maybe things would have turned out differently. We make small talk for a while. She really is very easy to talk to. She’s a smart girl, which is nice. Casey is also very good looking. Different than Amber. They’re both short with dark hair, but Casey is a different kind of attractive, as so many girls are. Casey tells me that she’s had a crush on me for a while. I think back to the video that Victoria sent me a while ago, the one of Casey. She tells me that talking to me, texting me has been great. She tells me that whenever her, Cole, Victoria, and I had gone to eat at Snuffer’s together, she had wished that it had been her and I together.

I asked her what had happened with Cole. She says that he’s nice and everything, but that she would so much rather be with me. I feel bad when I hear that. Cole and I are good friends. He’s a lot like me. I steer the conversation away from him. I don’t ask her about what Victoria said. I don’t mention Amber either. Casey tells me that she would really like to date me. Like, boyfriend/girlfriend type thing. I tell her that I don’t think that would be too good of an idea. I explain to her the situation with my last girlfriend. I tell her that I don’t want a relationship with anyone. I lie to her. After hearing about her past relationship from one of her best friends, and knowing that she had been talking to a good friend of mine for a while, I just want to keep Casey at arms length. My thought process goes a little something like this. If Amber only views me as a friend, then she’s off the table, disappointing as that is. In that case, Casey is a very viable option as far as dating goes. At the same time, though, she is a bit of a wild card, not exactly a safe bet. I don’t tell her any of this. I tell her that while I’m not looking for a girlfriend, I’d very much like to see her, hang out with her, and take her out on dates in the future. She tells me that she’s kind of disappointed, but still happy that I want to pursue something. As I leave her, I think she wants to kiss me. I don’t.

Change (April) I don’t get to see Amber after that. I get back to our bus right before it leaves. I sit with Cole during the ride back. I tell him everything that Casey and I talked about. He’s kind of upset, but he saw it coming. He tells me that I have every right to pursue Casey if that’s what I want to do. He warns me, as Victoria did. She can’t be trusted. I thank him. I should have listened. Victoria texts me, tells me that she had fun talking. I tell her thanks. After this, she only enters the story one more time. I’ll get there. I talk to Amber for a little bit. I tell her about the talk I had with Casey and that I think I might start pursuing something with her. I so desperately want her to say something, to try and convince me not to. To argue with me. To get upset. Anything. She doesn’t. Amber says that it sounded like a great idea. I tell her goodnight and text Casey for the rest of the ride home.

Interlude III – Hindsight That was it. That was where it all went wrong. Looking back it seems so clear what I needed to do. What I didn’t do. I would do just about anything to go back and shake some sense into myself. But we can never really go back. We delude ourselves into thinking that we can change the past, that what we do now can mend our actions. No. That just isn’t true. The past is written in ink. There is just no erasing or escaping it. Casey took Amber’s place over the next month and a half, or so. Let me clarify. I never really lost my feelings for Amber. I just put them on hold, if that makes sense. If that makes me an asshole, dating a girl while I secretly had feelings for her best friend, then maybe an asshole is what I am. I don’t know. Maybe that’s why things ended the way they did. All I know for sure is that the closer Casey and I grew over the next month and a half, the further apart Amber and I drifted.

Casey (April) There is a town near Flower Mound called Denton. While Flower Mound is pretty nice and preppy, Denton is a lot older and carries a much more “hipster” vibe. For those of you that don’t know what a hipster is, the barista at your local Starbucks with a nose ring, fake glasses, and a scarf in July is a great example. Moving along, Denton has this really great town square called, surprise surprise, the Denton Town Square. The square has some really great independent coffee shops, an awesome independent bookstore full of old books, and plenty of other cool shops. I want to take Amber there. She would love it, the hippy that she is. I can’t do that though. There is sort of a mutual understanding between Amber and I at this point. We knew that talking as much as we used to while Casey and I were together or whatever we were wouldn’t be a good idea. So we don’t. Simple as that. Two weeks after the state competition, as soon as we were both free, I take Casey to the Denton Town Square. It’s a Friday, I remember that. I picd her up at this old Taco Bell that’s located about halfway between Flower Mound and Ovilla. We go to the square and spend the afternoon there, looking at old books and picking up old records and talking about music. I don’t really want to have a good time, but I do anyways. Funny. After that, we go to Blockbuster. I work at Blockbuster, remember? I have since November. I hate my job, but I get free rentals, so whatever. Anyways. Casey and I decide on The Secret Window, which I had never seen. We drive back to my place and I take Casey inside. My parents are in the kitchen. My mom yells for me to bring my new friend in so they can meet her. I introduce Casey to my mom and dad and before the conversation goes on for too long, I excuse us to watch the movie upstairs. Casey and I sit down on the couch. She sits close to me and I put my arm around her as we start the movie. It’s a good one. Dark, trippy. I like it, but I’m honestly not that interested in it. Casey and I talk and joke around as The Secret Window plays. And then, we kiss. It isn’t a super romantic moment or anything like that. One moment, we get quiet while looking at each other and the next we’re making out on my couch. She’s a very good kisser. Much better than Victoria. I would be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy kissing Casey, but I would be lying if I said I didn’t feel bad about it either.

I feel bad about kissing a girl when I know I have feelings for another. I feel bad for kissing a girl that isn’t Amber. We make out for a lot of the movie and when it ends, I drive Casey back to her car. We make out again in the front seat of mine, leaning over the center console. Then she leaves. The drive back from the Taco Bell is about half an hour. I think about calling Amber. I decide to wait until the next day. When I do, she asks me how the date went. I say it went really well. She’s happy for me and she says that she loves the idea of Casey and I together. I talk to her for a little while more, then we both hang up. Casey and I plan to hang out in two weeks. I have tickets to a concert. The Maine. I’m planning on taking Scott. Casey really likes the Maine and says that she’ll get some friends to go.

Interlude IV – Prom That next weekend was my senior prom. I took my friend, a junior at the time, Courtney. We went with a big group of my friends, including Scott and Ty and had a great, stress-free time. This isn’t too important, just keep in mind that I took Courtney.

Dallas (April) April is almost over as The Maine’s concert arrives. It’s on a Thursday night at the House of Blues in downtown Dallas. Scott and I leave school on Thursday and head back to my place for some quick showers and then leave for Dallas. I drive. Scott and I arrive and park about an hour and a half before the show, an hour before we’re supposed to meet the girls. My best friend and I walk around the city and talk. Scott hasn’t met any of the Ovilla girls yet. I’ve mentioned them to him, but he doesn’t know much about the situation. I update him. Then I get a text from Casey. She’s on her way with two of her friends. A girl that I haven’t met named Rebecca is one. The other is Amber. I’m caught off-guard. I wasn’t expecting that. But I don’t worry about it. I don’t worry about the fact that I’m dating a girl and that I have feelings for her best friend and that I’ll be in very close proximity of them in about half an hour. Scott just chuckles and says that he’s interested to see how the night plays out. He has a girlfriend of almost a year. He doesn’t have to worry. Asshole. Scott and I go to stand in line. The girls get there soon after and meet us. Amber and Casey both look great. Rebecca is really cool, but isn’t that important to the story. The five of us talk, then the doors are opened and we go inside. We stand in the back while the shitty opening bands play. I try and balance how much I talk to Amber and Casey. Amber is kind of quiet throughout the night. Then the Maine starts their set. Casey and I move into the crowd, leaving the other three behind. The singer is wasted, stumbling around the stage. Casey and I stand in the crowd for the Maine’s show, my arms around her waist. We sing the words we know. When the band finished their set, we leave. The five of us pile in my car and eat at McDonalds. I sit between Scott and Casey. The conversation is fun and lighthearted. When we finish our burgers and fries, I drive the girls back to their car. Goodbyes are brief and they leave. Scott and I get back to my house at about 1. We’re both tired. Scott pulls our spare mattress into my bedroom and we’re unconscious within minutes. The next day, Scott and I skip school. We leave my house at about noon and drive to Einstein Bros. Bagels. While we eat our bagels, I ask Scott what he thought about

Amber and Casey. He likes Casey, didn’t know what to think about Amber. He says she was quiet last night. He thinks she just doesn’t like him. After bagels, we go see a movie. I’m pretty sure it was Priest, that movie about priests fighting vampires in the future. No, really, that’s what it’s about. The theater is empty, so we talk loudly. We leave the theater after the movie ends and Scott goes home. April ends soon after. My final month of high school begins.

Sugar (April-May) I’ve had my dog, Sugar, since I was in the first grade. She’s a Norfolk terrier, my very first pet. She’s also the best dog ever. Funny enough to make you laugh for hours and sweet enough to cheer anyone up from the worst mood. On Saturday, April 30th, my dad takes Sugar to the vet. She’s been breathing really heavily and walking really slowly. She’s pretty old, but something seems off. I’m not that worried. Sugar’s a tough old broad. My dad calls me after about an hour. He’s crying. I can tell as soon as he starts talking. My dad never cries. “We’re gonna have to put her down.” She has a tumor. She’s in pain. It’s the humane thing to do. I don’t want to, but I agree. I have a shift at Blockbuster that night. I don’t want to go, but I do anyways. I leave before Sugar gets home from the vet. I make it through my shift without losing it. I don’t know how. When I leave Blockbuster at midnight, I’m on the verge of tears. I get in my car. I need to talk to someone. I open my phone. I call Amber. Not the girl I’m dating. Amber. She picks up. I tell her what’s happening. She’s so sweet. She says she’s sorry, even though she has no reason to be sorry. Talking to her, I actually feel okay. I get home. I thank Amber and hang up the phone. Casey has texted me. I tell her about Sugar and that I’ll text her tomorrow. I go inside. Sugar is in my parents’ bedroom. She licks my fingers softly as I pet her. I finally lose it. I’m not a crier, but I cried for a long time that night. My parents have scheduled Sugar’s final appointment for Monday, May 2nd. They want to give her one last day around the house. That next day, we sit around Sugar, feed her marshmallows, her favorite food, and watch old family videos with her in them. We’re all sad, but she lived a good life. I don’t talk to either Casey or Amber that day. Monday, May 2nd. It’s a cloudy, cold day. I have school. I text Casey for a bit, but stop soon after. I feel weird.

I leave school early and meet my family at Pets’ Mart. As we wait with Sugar for the doctor in the lobby, a song plays over the radio. “If I Had Eyes” by Jack Johnson. The doctor comes out and talks to us. He’s a little Indian man. I don’t remember his name. We’re all crying at this point. We are lead back into a room with Sugar while the doctor prepares his medicine. We all say our goodbyes. I can honestly say, looking back, that this was the saddest moment of my life. I don’t really care if that sounds stupid. Sugar dies in that little room. The doctor offers his condolences and takes her away. To this day, I still can’t listen to that damn song.

Ovilla (May) I’m alright after a day or two. I’m over it. Now, I look back and I get sad sometimes, but I really am okay. It’s just one of those things. I talk to Casey every day, as usual. Now, aside from the odd conversation, such as the one about Sugar, I really don’t talk to Amber that much. I quit my job at Blockbuster after six months. Less than a week later, I’m hired at Snuffer’s as a waiter. Snuffer’s. The same place that Cole and I took Casey and Victoria on our first date. Funny. I work shifts at Snuffer’s almost every night after school. Casey and I arrange another date for that weekend. This time, she’s having me over to her place. I meet her at the Taco Bell and we take her car into Ovilla. I see the cell towers, the eyes, and I smirk to myself, thinking of Victoria. Casey and I stop for dinner. I forget where. Then, after that, she drives me to a nature trail and we go for a walk. We walk and laugh through the trees. It’s nice outside, the sky fading from blue to orange as the sun sets. We find ourselves in a glen, surrounded by trees. On the other side of the trees is a lake. In the lake is a boat with two old men, fishing. Like, these men are maybe thirty yards away from us. Casey turns to me, kisses me, and then takes off her shirt and bra without saying a word. No complaints. We spend our time in that enclosure, then leave. We smile as we get back into the car. I hold her hand as she drives us back to her house. I meet her parents. They’re nice people. We don’t talk long. Casey takes me back to her room. Before we enter, we stop and talk to her little brother, Samuel. He has some rock posters on his wall. I talk to him about music for a bit. Casey finally pulls me away into her room. We make out on Casey’s bed for a little while. She really is a great kisser. Something happens here that I have to explain. I’m not the kind of guy who goes around kissing everyone. At least, at this point, I’m not. What I’m trying to say is that I develop some feelings for Casey here. My relationship with Amber has all but faded and Casey is there and she’s smart and sexy. We have chemistry. I enjoy being around her. I like her.

We leave her house after a while. As she drives, she gets a call from Amber. Amber wants her to come over. She says she’s with me. Amber tells her to bring me along. So Casey and I go to Amber’s house. We don’t stay long. The three of us take a short walk and sit by a pond close to Amber’s house. We make small talk for a bit, and then leave. It’s kind of awkward. She drives me back to my car. It’s almost midnight. I’m not going home, though. Scott is over at Pres’s house and I’m headed there after I leave. We aren’t finished, though. Instead of going to my car, we park in some neighborhood near the Taco Bell, down some dark cul de sac. Casey and I crawl into the back seat. She’s fun. After a while, she’s lost all of her clothes, save for her thong. We lose track of time. In the middle of a kiss, headlights hit us. The two of us duck down, praying it isn’t a cop. She’s laying on top of me. The car makes a circle around the cul de sac and parks. Right next to us. No one leaves the car. After a minute, Casey whispers for me to peek and see who it is. I do. As soon as I look over the edge of the car door, I make direct eye contact with an old man sitting in a car with “Citizen Patrol” etched onto the side. I duck down again. “He definitely saw me. Definitely.” Casey nods, pauses for a second, then scrambles into the drivers seat and peels out of that neighborhood while wearing nothing but her thong. She’s something else. She drops me back off at my car. We re-dress inside her car, and then I leave after a last kiss. She smiles and says she had fun. I do too. It’s almost 1 in the morning as I drive from the Taco bell To Pres’s house. As I do, I see a text from Amber. She’s apologizing for the awkwardness. I call her. We chat for a bit as I drive through under the streetlights. She laughs at me when I get lost. WE discuss my night with Casey. I tell her that I had a great time. I leave out some of the more personal details, though.

She’s glad. I hang up when I arrive at Pres’s house. Scott and Pres are in Pres’s steam shower. Yes, he has a steam shower. The three of us stay up for the next few hours talking. We trade stories, as we usually do. I tell them about the events of my night. Call me a gossip. They’re my best friends. I fall asleep on Pres’s couch that night, smiling as I do.

Lancaster (May) The next weekend is Ovilla Christian School’s graduation, two weeks before my own. Casey’s the salutatorian of her class. She invites me to come and then to go to a graduation party after. I would, but I can’t. One of my friends, Joel, is having a birthday party that afternoon. The week goes the same. I talk to Casey constantly. School during the day, Snuffer’s after. OCS’s graduation is that Sunday. This was that Sunday that was supposed to be Judgment Day, remember? Some crazy preacher predicted that the world was going to end at 1 P.M. on that particular Sunday. I wake up at 10 on Judgment Day. OCS’s graduation is at noon in Lancaster, Texas, about an hour away. I dress nicely and leave. I quickly realize that Lancaster is hard ghetto. I’m not racist, but seriously. Hard ghetto. I park my car, lock it, and pray to myself that it doesn’t get stolen as I walk away. The ceremony takes place in some large church. As I walk up, a girl waves at me from the front steps. It’s Taylar, Casey’s friend that I met all the way back at Stone Gate. She says that Casey told her I’d be coming and to show me around since I wouldn’t know anyone. Taylar and I sit on a balcony overlooking the procession. To sit on the stage, all of the graduates have to walk right by us. As they do, Casey smiles and whispers “Hi” to me. Amber smiles too. There’s something off about Amber’s smile, though. I don’t think about it. The ceremony is boring. Casey gives a short speech. Finally, all of the graduates receive their diplomas. Taylar and I go to see Casey after the ceremony ends. We talk to her for a bit, and then she leaves to talk to her family visiting from out of town, telling me that she’ll meet up with me in a few minutes. I lose Taylar in the crowd. I don’t see her after that. Wandering aimlessly, I run into Amber. I approach her, happy to see her. We hug. She then calls three guys over. One I’ve never seen before. I don’t remember his name. The second is Dustin, the guy from the truck where Amber and I first met. He’s friendly, as he was when we met.

The third guy is Nick. Amber’s ex. The one she so often told me that I was so similar too. We’re about the same height, skinny. He looks older. He has blonde hair. He sees me and instantly views me with disgust. I’m not kidding. She tells the two of us to talk while she goes to find someone to take a picture of them. I try to strike up conversation with Nick. He simply turns and walks away, goes to talk to Dustin and his other friend. Amber comes back with a woman with a camera. She poses with the three guys, the camera flashes. She turns to me. “Thanks for coming! It was good seeing you!” She leaves. I’m shocked. Casey finds me soon after. I shake it off. She leads me through the crowd to a back room. Each graduate has made a board, much like a science fair board. She shows me hers. There is a picture of the two of us from The Maine’s concert on it. Casey shows me around the room. We run into Rebecca. She’s friendly, says hi. Victoria’s mom makes eye contact with me, doesn’t say anything. After a while, I check the time. I need to go to make it to Joel’s party. We run into Victoria on the way out. She hugs me, asks me how I am. We talk for a minute or two. We laugh about me making awkward eye contact with her mom. Casey walks me out to my car after that. It isn’t a long walk. I notice a hubcap is missing off my front tire. Go figure. I ask Casey if she knew why Amber acted so weird today. She said that she didn’t really know, maybe because Nick was here. I told her about my interaction with Nick. She tells me that he’s probably jealous. Amber talks about me a lot. I take note. Casey and I hug and I drive off while she returns to the church. The clock hits 1 after I’m about ten minutes away. The world doesn’t end. I keep driving. I try not to think about Amber.

Interlude V – Exits I never see or hear from Victoria after that. Rebecca, Taylar, Dustin, and Nick. All of them are gone from the story now.

End (May) The next week, I don’t get to see Casey. I’m too busy between studying for my final exams and work at Snuffer’s. I work the entire weekend. The week goes by. I talk to Casey frequently. I don’t hear from Amber. I have final exams on Monday and Tuesday, May 23rd and 24th. Casey and I make plans for that next day, Wednesday the 25th. After that, I graduate on Friday the 27th. I take my exams. Scott and I walk out of the front door of our school, arms held high. Wednesday arrives. I meet Casey early in the evening, at the usual Taco Bell spot. I take her to Grapevine Mills, a gigantic mall about 15 minutes away from my house. We eat a late lunch/early dinner at Rainforest Cafe. The restaurant that looks like a rainforest with all of the weird robot animals. It ‘s corny, but fun. After that, we watch Insidious at the Grapevine Mills movie theater. We both like scary movies and had heard that Insidious is really scary. It wasn’t. It was just kind of weird. We leave the theater and head back to my house. We talk to my parents for a little while. I think they like her enough. I take her upstairs and we sit on the same couch we had our first kiss while watching Secret Window. I put in a DVD. I don’t remember which one. We don’t watch the movie. After the movie ends, we continue to hang out. She has to be home at midnight, though, so I leave to take her to her car at 11. We laugh as I drive her. I tell her about my graduation on Friday. She can’t make it. One of her friends that I haven’t met, Cale, has a birthday party that night. She’s told me about him a few times. She apologizes. I understand. We kiss and say goodbye. I like this girl. I can’t help but miss Amber, too. I just miss her being my friend, you know? But I don’t think about it too much. Casey’s great. I work on Thursday, and then Friday arrives. Graduation day. Family from out of town come to visit. I smile broadly as I walk across the stage and my principal hands me my diploma in my navy blue cap and gown. I’ve finally graduated. Both Casey and Amber text me and tell me congratulations. They wish they could be there.

Interlude VI – Moments It’s moments like these that define us. I’ll remember the week of my graduation for my entire life. It’s been nice up until now. Confusing and weird, maybe. But nice. Not after this. Fuck. I should have listened to Cole.

Truth (May) Friday I go to a graduation party at Pres’s house. I have a great time with my friends. I see a lot of people for the last time. Saturday night, I have work at Snuffer’s. It’s a long shift. I don’t clock off until halfpast midnight Sunday morning. On my way home, I stop to get a Big Red-flavored Slurpee from RaceTrac as I usually do. As I’m filling up my drink, I get a text from Casey. I haven’t talked to her too much that day. She asks if I can call her. I drive home, park in my driveway, and sip on my Slurpee as I dial Casey. She picks up quickly. We make small talk for a few minutes; ask about each other’s day. I tell her a funny story that happened during my Snuffer’s shift. She laughs. Then she says she has something to tell me. I say okay. What she says next is a direct quote. Like, this is exactly what she said. Exactly. “I just want you to know that I hooked up with two other guys this week, but it’s okay because they’re guys that I’ve hooked up with before so it isn’t like I’m just hooking up with random people.” I’m silent for a little bit. I almost yell, but I manage to hold it in. I ask her why. She gives me some bullshit excuse I don’t even remember. She tells me she’s sorry. I ask her if either of these hookups had happened before Wednesday, when we had spent all day together. She says yes. I tell her that I don’t want to see her or talk to her again and hang up the phone. I sit in my dark driveway for a few minutes and laugh to myself. I laugh because I was so damn stupid. I laugh because Victoria was actually right. I laugh because I was played like a fool. I laugh because I had actually cared about Casey. I call Amber. Looking back, I don’t know why I did, really. I think I was just mad. Mad at Casey for doing what she did. Mostly, though, I was mad at myself. I’m mad at myself because I had thrown away a chance with Amber for a girl who didn’t give a fuck about me. Amber picks up. Again, I don’t yell. I asked her if she knew about Casey. She says yes. I say this next. “I think I’m done with you Ovilla girls for a while.”

She starts to say something. I don’t give her the chance. I just hang up on her instead. I don’t remember if it was later that night or the next day, but Amber calls me back. She says that she’s sorry. She asks me to think about it. I don’t want to hear it. I tell her that I think it would be best if I didn’t hear from her or Casey for some time. I can tell she wants to argue. But she doesn’t. She relents. I say goodbye and hang up.

Summer, pt. 1 (June-July) Time goes on. Spring gives way to summer. I don’t hear from either Amber or Casey. I don’t really expect to. I still have so many questions for Amber. I want to know what changed, from the very beginning, before Casey or state or any of it happened. I want to know what went wrong. I keep it to myself though. I try to think about other things. I stay busy to keep my mind off of it. I work a lot and make some really good friends at Snuffer’s. I spend most of my time when I’m not working with Scott, Ty, Pres, and my other friends. Scott broke up with his girlfriend. He’s now dating my prom date, Courtney. Fun fact. I start hooking up with girls. I never used to randomly hook up, but I just don’t really care any more. There are a few, not too many. Nice, casual flings. Come mid-July, I think it’s the 16th or 17th, I head out for my weekend-long freshman orientation at OU. While I’m there, during the first afternoon, I receive a text. It’s from Casey. It only contains one word. “Hi.” Okay, seriously. “Hi.” With the period and everything. I’m not expecting a wellwritten novel or anything, but that? That’s just bull. After cheating on me twice in one week, then going over a month and a half without speaking, at to send me that? I hold onto it and reply the next day. Because I’m at freshman orientation I don’t have much time to sit and talk. Casey and I have a short conversation about nothing. Just small talk. She asks how I am, I tell her I’m doing really well. The next day she texts me first. Again, another short conversation about nothing. Stilted. Awkward. When I have to go, she asks me to text her tomorrow. I tell her I will. I don’t. I haven’t talked to Casey since. She hasn’t tried to talk to me. That was the last time we spoke. I think it’s best that way.

Summer, pt. 2 (July-August) Freshman orientation ends. Summer goes on. I continue to work and hang out with my friends. I continue to see various girls. It’s a hot, slow summer. Everything seems to move at a snail’s pace. I want to reach out to Amber so badly. I think about it every day. It’s been over two months since I’ve last spoken to her. I don’t though. “If she wants to talk to me, she’ll talk to me.” That’s what I think, anyways. So I wait. Late July. I’m in my room, playing Xbox when I receive a text. It’s Amber. It’s actually her. My heart skips like seven beats. She tells me that tomorrow she leaves for her mission trip to China. She’ll be gone for a week. When she gets back, though, she’d really like to talk. I tell her I’d love to and that I hope she has a great trip. Funny how something so small could make me so happy. She spends her week in China and returns. July fades to August while she’s there. I would have loved to meet up with her as soon as she gets back, but I can’t. A day after she returns from China, I leave for Colorado with the guys.

Interlude VII – Colorado I know that sounds really random. Just bear with me. At the beginning of the summer, Scott and I started planning a weeklong trip for the two of us, Ty, and two of our other friends, Tanner and Balkey. The five of us spent that next week in Pagosa Springs, Colorado. No parents or anything. It. Was. Incredible. My week in Colorado was my last real time that I got to spend with Scott and Ty. All of us were heading to different schools, so we were all determined to make the most of this week. So much crazy shit happened over the course of that week that I couldn’t even begin to cover it all in this interlude. So, for your sake, I’ll only include what is important to the story. Maybe I’ll write one of these about that week someday.

Monday (August) While we’re in Colorado, the guys and I spend our days out hiking, fishing, or just goofing around in the wilderness. At night, the five of us stay in this cramped little duplex built to comfortably fit two. I talk to Amber every single night that week. It’s great. It’s different, from what it was. She flirts with me like she didn’t in the past. She says things to me that she never would have. The thing I remember most is what she texted me one night after most of the others had fallen asleep. “I have two kinds of crushes. 1’s and 2’s. A 1 is just someone I would kiss. A 2 is someone I would date. You were a 2.” This and other things. I want to ask her what happened so badly. I want to tell her how I really felt about her the whole time. I want to share the feelings that I kept to myself for months. I don’t. As always, I don’t want to wreck a good thing after just getting it back. So I flirt back, I have fun talking to her that week. But I keep my feelings out of it. The guys and I will get back into Texas on Sunday evening. Amber and I make plans to meet up and spend the day together that next day, Monday. And then that would be it. After that Monday, she would have less than a week before she moved away to Virginia. I would move out to Oklahoma a week after she left. So Monday would be all we had. I was determined to make the absolute most of it. Tell her everything. Monday will be great. She’s excited. So am I. I can’t wait to get home. I even burn her another mix CD to surprise her with. Finally, we do. It was a great trip. I say bye to the guys. I don’t see Tanner or Balkey after that. That night, I’m at my house. I had just gotten out of the shower when I receive a text. It’s Amber. She says that Nick, her ex, and Victoria went on a date without telling her. She didn’t really care that they went out; she had just gotten mad because Victoria was one of her best friends and didn’t tell her. I don’t connect the dots. She sighs and continues to explain.

She then felt that she should tell Casey about Monday. It was only fair right? She couldn’t get mad at Victoria for something and then do the same thing to Casey. It dawns on me as she says it. We won’t be able to do Monday. Casey doesn’t think it’s a good idea. I tell her okay. I’m short with her. I’m pretty pissed, but I don’t take it out on her. I do my best to hold it in. I try to be understanding. Until her next text. “I knew you’d understand.” Like it was no big deal at all. That one hurt. Looking back, those four words hurt more than anything else. I call her. I’m mad, but I don’t yell and I’m not mean. I’m nice. I talk to her about it, explain my point of view. She’s sorry. So am I. I ask her that if she can’t hang out with me, why are we even talking? What are we doing? What’s the point? She doesn’t know. I never got to give her that CD.

Goodbyes (August) I tell Amber that she won’t hear from me for a while. She understands. I wish her good luck in college and hang up the phone. I have two weeks after that. I had quit my job at Snuffer’s before I left for Colorado, so I don’t work. Over those next two weeks, I conducted all of my goodbyes. Ryan and I hung out at his house. Ty and I went to his little sister’s volleyball game together. Joel and I grab coffee. I didn’t get to see Pres before he left. Amber’s already gone at this point. I grab one last dinner with Cole. I tell him the entire story. He was closer to it than anyone. As we leaves, he tells me that he’s sorry. Scott and I get breakfast the day he leaves. We go to the small, dumpy Waffle House by our high school that we would always make midnight treks to. We have a good long talk. He already knows about the whole situation. He’s my best friend, after all. He and Courtney are still together. They’re a good couple. After we finish our hash browns, we shake hands in the parking lot and my best friend leaves for Baylor. The next day I leave for the University of Oklahoma.

Interlude VIII – Oklahoma I had a great first week of college. I went through Rush, met lots of really cool people. I loved it at OU. I still do. I tried my hardest to not think about it. To not think about her. But I still had so many questions. Why was she so weird at graduation? What changed, right before state? Why did everything stop when they felt so right to me? Why didn’t she tell me about Casey? I hadn’t wanted to face this realization for a long time, but I finally needed to know if she even felt the same way. I mean, I definitely felt strongly about her. But, honestly, I didn’t even know if she felt the same way. I prayed that it wasn’t all in my head. I tried my hardest to let it go. In the end, I made it 17 days. I can’t remember what it was that made me finally write her. Maybe she popped up on my Facebook news feed, as she so often did. Maybe I saw the playlist on my iTunes that I made for her and never got to give her. Who knows what it was. It doesn’t really matter.

Answers (August) It’s August 25th. A week exactly after I left for OU. It’s late, almost 1:30 in the morning. I’m alone, in a study room down the hall from my dorm on the seventh floor of the Walker Tower. And I write her. I create a new Facebook message and write. And write. And write some more. I write paragraphs on paragraphs. I tell her everything. I tell her how I felt about her when we first met, how I felt at State, how I felt about her when I was with Casey, how I felt about her when we didn’t speak over the summer, how I felt in Colorado, and finally how I feel about her now. In not as many words, I tell her what I just told you. It’s long. The longest message I’ve ever sent anyone. At the end of it, I tell her that if she doesn’t reply in a week, I’ll take the hint and she won’t hear from me again. It doesn’t take that long. She replies the next day. I still have those messages that we sent to each other. They’re still there, in my Facebook inbox. I’m sure they’re still in hers too. I see her message when I sign onto Facebook after class. I take a deep breath and I read. She answers every question I had. She felt the same way since day one, when we met in the back of Dustin’s truck when I was on my date with Victoria. She messaged me that dumb YouTube video that night just so she would have an excuse to talk to me. Casey and Victoria never knew that Amber and I were talking at first. She kept it a secret because I had been talking to Victoria and Casey had a crush on me too. She didn’t want to upset her friends, but she wanted to keep talking to me too. She was more nervous for State than anything. She wanted to kiss me there, just as I had wanted to kiss her. Then Casey found out and she backed off. Because Casey turns everything into a competition, and she wasn’t about to do that with me. She knew she couldn’t choose between Casey, her best friend, and me. So she “withdrew.” She would see Casey

texting me and talking to me all the time, going on dates, and she would get sad. But she just wanted everyone else to be happy, even though she wasn’t. She was happy to see me at graduation, but sad at the same time. She knew I was there for Casey, as Casey’s boy. She wanted it to be like it was, but she knew then that it couldn’t. She tells me about when she found out about Casey and the other guys. How much it had hurt her that she had given up a chance with me for someone who would do that. She was the one who told Casey to tell me. That hits me. Casey wouldn’t even have told me had it not been for Amber. She understood why I didn’t want to speak to her after that. She didn’t like it, but she understood. She couldn’t help but reach out again before she went to China. She didn’t know what to expect whenever we would meet up on Monday, but she was hopeful. She was determined to make the most of our last chance, just as I was. Then, the situation with Nick and Victoria. Amber wanted to, but she couldn’t bring herself to be a hypocrite when Casey didn’t want her to hang out with me. I get that. She tells me that she’ll be coming back for Christmas break and that she’d really like to spend the day that we never got to have together. She says she misses me. And just like that, all of my questions are answered, and I’m okay. We decide to talk every once in a while, randomly, not too frequently. Because no matter how compatible two people are, if they talk all the time without being around each other, they’ll eventually run out of things to talk about. I don’t want that to happen. Neither does she. We make plans to see each other over. If things go the way I want, that’ll happen often. So you could say that August ends on a very positive note.

Nineteen (September-November) And so, that’s how things go for a while. September comes and goes. College life goes on. I talk to Amber every few days, close to once a week. She’s doing well in Virginia. We send each other new music, like we used to do. We share stories of funny things that have happened to us in our first semesters at college. I turn nineteen on November 3rd. Amber wishes me a happy birthday. I go out and have a good time with my friends that night. I go back to Flower Mound for my high school’s homecoming. I get to see everyone. Scott, Ty, Cole, Pres, Ryan, Courtney, Joel, everyone else. They’re all doing well. I miss them, but it’s just one of those things. Things change as far as our plans, though. Her parents move to Pennsylvania a few weeks after she leaves for college. That means that she won’t be going home to Ovilla over the break. She tells me not to worry, though. She’ll be home for a week, the week of New Year’s Eve. She’ll be staying with her friends in Ovilla during that week, but she says that she definitely wants to see me, to get breakfast and then hang out around the Denton Square, like we never got to. I’ll take what I can get. If I had my way, I’d spend just about every second that I had with her while she’s here. But that just won’t happen. I can deal with that.

Expectations (Now) And so that’s where we are. I’m writing this now, sitting in the Great Reading Room inside OU’s library. It looks like something straight out of Hogwarts. It’s freezing outside. I’m dreading the walk back to the Walker Tower. I’ve been writing since the middle of October. I can’t remember the exact day that I started, but it’s been about a month and a half. It’s at this point that this stops being a story. It stops being memories, typed onto a computer screen. It’s happening to me now. I’m living it. I’ve learned something since January, way back when I met Taylar, Victoria, and Casey at the Stone Gate Speech & Debate Competition – Never have expectations. I wish I would have known this back then. I would have done things so differently. Who knows where I’d be now? But you can never go back, you know? As I said a while before, the past is written in ink. There’s no changing it. People change. It’s an eventuality. You weren’t the same person you were a year ago. Neither am I. Neither is Amber. I’m not stupid or naive enough to expect something to happen when Amber and I see each in about a month. We’re different people now, different then we were before. I’m not even entirely sure what I want to happen anymore. I’m ending my story now, even though it isn’t really over yet. There’s still more to tell. I don’t know if I’ll ever get the chance to go back to Ovilla, Texas. Hell, I don’t even know for sure that Amber and I will actually get to see each other. So I’m done looking back. Now, tonight, I look forward. And I expect nothing. I look forward and I hope. November 30th, 2011

Epilogue – Memories I feel like I have to add this. To clarify. It’s a funny thing about memories, you see. For example, if a group of people witness something, anything, and are all asked about it later, no two people will give the exact same recreation of what happened. Our minds play tricks on us. I didn’t lie. I wrote these things down, I told this story exactly as I remember it. Amber would tell this story differently, I’m sure. So would Casey. So would Victoria. I’m sure Scott would too, along with everyone else. And even then, none of us would get it exactly right. None of that really matters all that much to me though. What happened, everything that happened from January to now, it’s real. It’s real to me.

Music I love to write. Whenever I do, I always have to be listening to music. Below is a lot of the music that helped me write this over the course of the past month and a half. Blood Bank – Bon Iver Very Many – The Middle East This Place Is a Prison – The Postal Service Somebody That You Used To Know – Gotye A Lack of Color – Death Cab for Cutie A Crush to Pass the Time – Plushgun Love Vigilantes – Iron & Wine Whitechapel – Blue Rose Code To Whom It May Concern – The Civil Wars How It Ends – DeVotchKa Just Impolite – Plushgun I’d Hate To Be You... – Mayday Parade Our Sentence Is Up – Max Bemis We Will All Be Changed – Seryn Smile Like You Mean It – The Killers Swimming In the Flood – Passion Pit Northern Downpour – Panic! At the Disco Upward Over the Mountain – Iron & Wine Brothers on a Hotel Bed – Death Cab for Cutie The Trapeze Swinger – Iron & Wine Une Annee Sans Lumiere – Arcade Fire The Suburbs – Arcade Fire Growing Up – The Maine The Cave – Mumford & Sons Almanac – The Acorn Hero – Regina Spektor Bones – DeYarmond Edison Holocene – Bon Iver Epilogue – The Antlers Congratulations – MGMT Carousel – Iron & Wine Dancing In a Minefield – Plushgun Towering – Seryn Weekend Wars -- MGMT Deep Blue – Arcade Fire Daylight – Matt & Kim Woe – Say Anything Eyes – Rogue Wave Blood – The Middle East Suburban War – Arcade Fire Kettering – The Antlers Wolves (Act I & II) – Bon Iver

Characters Everyone that I mentioned in the last 50 pages is real. I wrote a lot of things about a lot of people. If you’re confused, here’s a guide to everyone. Key Characters Amber – The girl that changed everything. We met in the back of Dustin’s truck in March. Casey – The only girl to ever cheat on me. We briefly dated at the end of my senior year. Victoria – The girl that introduced me to the others. Without her, it’s likely that none of this would have happened at all. Scott – My best friend. He’s been with me through everything. He went to Guatemala over spring break with me, was at The Maine’s concert and organized our trip to Colorado. Cole – My good friend that I meet while performing in our high school theater, meets all of the girls, talks to Casey while I talk to Victoria, warns me about her. Supporting Characters Ty – One of my best friends, we went to high school together, went to Colorado with Scott, myself, and the others. Taylar – Good friends with Casey, we meet at Stone Gate, and again at the OCS graduation. Yes, her name is really spelled that way. Pres – My good friend from high school, has “that house” that everyone hangs out at on weekends, went to Guatemala with Scott and I. Ryan – My friend that performed in the high school theater with Cole and I. Rebecca – Friends with Casey and Amber, we meet at The Maine’s concert. Nick – Amber’s ex-boyfriend, doesn’t like me very much. Courtney – My date to senior prom, becomes Scott’s girlfriend. Dustin – Friends with Nick and Amber, it is in his truck that Amber and I first meet. Balkey – My friend from high school, went to Colorado with Scott, Ty and I. Tanner – My friend from high school, went to Colorado with Scott, Ty, and I. Joel – My friend from high school, has a birthday party on Judgment Day. Samuel – Casey’s little brother.

A Note to the Reader I wrote this as I would tell a story, how I would tell it if I were speaking. I genuinely apologize for my at-times atrocious grammar that I used. I promise you, I know how to write. I just wasn’t really focused on that. As I’m sure you gathered, I ended every “chapter,” or part, with a solid line. Okay, there was a weird thing that happened with my computer in the part entitled “Lancaster.” There are random solid lines in there that shouldn’t really be there and I don’t exactly know why. I can’t delete them, which is frustrating. Just ignore them. “Lancaster” is all one part and doesn’t end until “Interlude V – Exits” begins. Lastly, if I offended anyone by writing this, I’m legitimately sorry. It’s nothing personal. I didn’t write this for you. Thanks.

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