The Trouble with Emily Dickinson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CHAPTER "

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#ach student would be graded on both the writing and their stage delivery. +4e&ve got to do something about your outfit. who called her by name once he saw her. $idn&t I tell you=/ %% laughed. Somehow it had worked because . 0lark took pity on her and granted %% an e'tension. She had gotten an e'tension./ They walked as a group through the doors of the club under the bouncer&s watchful eye./ :ueenie told him. +4e&re going out. 9ut it really didn&t matter which poem she read. a dark-blue hooded sweatshirt and flip-flops with white socks. :ueenie happily pulled into valet parking. +Sometimes you just scream @I need a makeover&. She was wearing her basketball jersey pants. 0lark&s one stipulation had been that %% read the poem that she had already selected. It had been her last hope because she hadn&t even been close to being prepared last . and took the stairs to the second level where the entrance was./ said :ueenie. 2er ears were ringing from the stereo. #very person in the class had to select the best piece from their own body of work that they had accumulated over the semester. I feel like I&m with someone famous. At least. %% had agreed on the spot. 9efore they left the dorm. She didn&t have a choice. They were to read their pieces aloud in front of the entire class and whoever else was in the audience.rs./ %%% 4ith :ueenie&s help. %% emerged from her dorm room looking 1uite hip in faded jeans. +I swear. She was also in with the bouncer. +She&s with me.rs. she hoped she would be able to. They e'changed a half hug and a heartfelt slap on each other&s backs. She desperately tried to e'plain her stage fright and that she was doing her best to overcome it. 9y the time they arrived at the club. . +>ou are. she&d asked to speak to . . though at that moment she wondered if maybe she should have just stayed home. a form-fitting vintage long-sleeved T-shirt. %% couldn&t wait to e'it the sardine can that :ueenie&s lu'ury car had become. and proceeded to pick up three more people along the way into downtown 8ichmond. during e'ams. They s1uee3ed into :ueenie&s 9.4 with a few other members of the basketball team. the writing class held an open reading at The Spot. She figured that she&d be able to con1uer her stage fright by the time the end of the semester came around. At the end of the semester. +I&m the most popular lesbian in all of <irginia.rs. +It&s going to be a great night./ :ueenie teased. though.%% nodded./ She yanked %% off the bench. 9ut then :ueenie wrapped her arm around her and yelled. There&s no way I&m going to a club with you looking like that. +It&s fine.onday morning when she was supposed to read her poem out loud. +Sometimes when I&m out with you. And in a state of panic. She even had taken time to do her hair./ %% said./ %% regarded her clothes. since the bass had been turned up so loud. 2e watched %% suspiciously./ :ueenie shook her head. and her favorite pair of Adidas sneakers./ and %%&s doubt disappeared in an instant. :ueenie sprayed %% with her own cologne because she swore up and down that it made the ladies wild. +So it&s settled then. just as long as she didn&t have to read it out loud anytime soon. 0lark out in the hall.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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