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

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

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

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

/ said %%. .A number two pencil. 4ild nights. ' see it . +$o you even reali3e what $ickinson is writing about here=/ +A wild night=/ .endal appeared in %%&s mind. the writer inside of her had taken hold.endal asked. 4hen %% opened her eyes. a moment. %% closed her eyes and breathed in long and heavy before she e'haled an e1ually long sigh. CHAPTER # +4ild nights. The picture seemed as real as if they were still together in the library. discussing the intricacies of #mily $ickinson&s poetry. 8ead it with more enthusiasm. . %% sat back and admired her work. an image of . 4ild nights. sitting side by side. Beyond your eyes. +4hat=/ . with its end chewed ragged and sides hapha3ardly gnawed. +4ild nights. . fell out from between the pages. She scrawled words rapidly across the blank pages of her journal. Sitting with her legs crossed./ +6o. 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./ %% looked at her skeptically. no.endal raised her voice slightly. a feeling. an empty room in which the thoughts inside could move about freely 4hile a sense of 1uiet draped over her like a 1uilt. She did this for a few minutes to clear the clouds in her head until nothing remained but a clear white space. 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.

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

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

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

There was no neon sign or illuminated billboard advertising that fact.endal had noticed that %% always opted for the pants. +Ahem. %% remembered when she mistakenly had sat down at the cheerleading table her freshman year. stirring granola into her own cup of yogurt. +Are you going to the soccer party tonight=/ 0hristine asked as . while the boy&s basketball team sat directly behind them./ 0hristine motioned to . the one that %%&s mother used to give her when she knew she was hiding something.endal sat down across from her. so she tucked the loose strands behind her ears. %% and her teammates sat at their designated table near the salad bar. +At least I eat./ . +#'cuse me. She then eyed 0hristine&s yogurt.. she&d scraped together what remained of her pride and moved to another table. and . Students who didn&t belong to a particular group bonded together and sei3ed whatever open tables they could. 2er school uniform. At the ne't table sat the students in the academic achievement group./ %% snapped out of her da3e. but you do know that this table is for cheerleaders only. . (eeling defeated. the drama club.endal&s tray. The remaining tables were filled accordingly with members of other athletic teams. complemented with potatoes and bacon. a jacket and skirt combination. The soccer players sat at the longest table near the front of the dining hall. Sitting at the wrong table constituted a big no-no at Sampson Academy. -ne senior had even gone so far as to remark.ost of the tables in the cafeteria were unofficially spoken for. 2er hair just barely reached into a ponytail. #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./ +I can&t believe you can eat all of that greasy mess. %%% . The Academy&s uniform policy re1uired that girls wear either a black skirt or a pair of khaki pants during class hours./ she retorted. I think I&ve earned it after all the e'tra work I&ve been doing lately.endal was on a natural high. the 0hristian society and whatever other clubs remained on campus.endal looked down at her runny eggs. +0ould you be staring any harder=/ +0ould you be any more annoying=/ %% shot back. %% had wanted to spit those very words back out at her but swallowed them instead. cooked over-easy./ +I can&t help it if I burn through food like it&s jet fuel.endal picked at her eggs. +I&m so glad I decided to get a tutor for 4omen&s 7iterature./ 0hristine grabbed her spoon and licked the yogurt off of it. 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. :ueenie was giving her that look. hung neatly at her hips. and yet another table was reserved for the debating team. %% had thought. +I eat. the 0ultural Awareness Society./ ./ -f course I didn&t know that. +#'cuse me if I&m not lucky enough to have your turbo metabolism. +$efinitely. (or once. I just choose to eat healthy. the art club. She actually had begun to enjoy her 4omen&s 7iterature class since she&d decided to get some tutoring.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

+"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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

+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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

endal considered the words on the page. I was*une'pected.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./ +That must have been hard.illigrew. See./ %% cleared her throat./ . . +4hy&s that=/ +9ecause she was a strong woman./ +It was. It wasn&t long before . but she was also proud to be a woman. +It&s a secret. +Anne .endal leaned closer to %% and whispered playfully. but she loved every minute of it./ %% slid off of the bed and down onto the floor. I don&t know what poem the 1ui3 is going to be on. +It was . -ne of my favorites. She leaned her back up against the comforter. +8ight there=/ +. after a moment. +-kay. $eal=/ . bumping her shoulder as she settled into position.illigrew was not only proud to be a writer./ +In what way=/ %% sat down on the bed beside her. yet awkward./ +I think you&ll like .illigrew believed that it was the 5reek gods who gave women the power and will to write. she wasn&t accepted as a real writer because she was a woman. +2ow about we make a deal then= #very time I let you read a poem.endal sat down ne't to her./ said . setting her folder and her book in front of her. at this line in )pon Saying .y parents were done raising children by the time I came along.illigrew.ade 9y Another. really young. +I don&t want to tell you everything at once./ %% smiled mischievously. well aware of how little space remained between them. I had to do and learn a lot on my own. +7ike*/ . and my brothers either didn&t have or didn&t want to make the time to play with me or be there for me. +I don&t know./ +8eally= She&s ama3ing. +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. you reveal something to me about yourself that I don&t know. . . I mean./ +So*what else=/ ./ said %%. +7ike what=/ %% asked. It was flattering. She wasn&t used to this kind of attention. @my numbers they admired.endal thought for a moment. See how she says.+I&d like to think there is. but me they scorned&=/ . but I know it&s about this author at least. I think that&s why I always feel a step behind.endal pointed to one of the poems./ +I don&t even know who she is.endal&s perfume. +7ike the fact that I&m the youngest in my family.y oldest brother is in his late twenties. +9ecause I was an afterthought. She was more than happy to play along. and my other brother is twentyfive. who&s the pop 1ui3 on=/ she asked. but didn&t bless them with the opportunity to be recogni3ed./ she said. And even though men adored her poetry./ +9ut that&s not fair. trying to distract herself from the scent of . She wasn&t used to someone wanting to get to know more about her than what she presented./ +4hy is it a secret=/ ./ +7ook here. +So./ she said.endal.y <erses 4ere . +That&s fair.endal let that idea marinate./ +-kay.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She looked out of the adjacent window. once she reached the table.endal never felt more secure than she did at that moment. 4I7$ nights should be our lu'ury.endal stood up. because it just wasn&t important to her anymore./ said %%. 4I7$ nights. #verything around her felt fresh and new. She&d also become a fre1uent contributor to a local literary maga3ine.&/ +>ou make it sound like a boring night.endal began to consider the strange course of events that had occurred during the school year. +6ot at all.+.ollow -ueenie and . 4ere I with thee. oomph. as they head to college in/ The Education of Queenie McBride .endal played along. -nly this time she didn&t dare let go./ +That was much better./ +-omph=/ . +%ust preparing myself for another one of our @wild nights. +2ave you been waiting long=/ %% asked./ +Stick around after your set./ . And she had %% and #mily $ickinson to thank for that./ ./ As 9rad turned to leave./ %% teased. As for . he stopped suddenly./ +4ill do. That night on stage when she&d read her poem aloud. The fountain in the center of the 1uad had been turned on a week earlier./ . she&d finally found that purpose or sense of direction she&d been searching for. 8ecently.. a new and confident %% was born. +I don&t think so. signaling that spring had arrived at last.endal. She smiled and took hold of her girlfriend&s hand as . She leaned back in her chair and set the open book face down on the table so she wouldn&t lose her spot. . %% had participated in every poetry slam and open reading held at The Spot. She&d also decided to 1uit the cheerleading s1uad.endal felt the warmth in her chest e'pand. +She wouldn&t like to buy one of our T-shirts by chance.endal looked on as 9rad crept back to the stage and traded barbs with his band mates about how he had just been shot down. laughed and cleared her throat. +4I7$ nights. 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. a person that .aybe I will. she wanted to become a teacher. which gave a clear view of the school&s front lawn that was a few hundred yards away. Since then./ said .endal laughed. would she=/ +6o./ said .endal./ +6ever hurts to ask. +She might change her mind after she hears you play. As . #ventually. enlightening young minds with the magic of poetry in the same way that %% had enlightened hers. she glimpsed %% walking toward the coffee shop with her head high. +>eah. % % % THE E+D % % % . She&d decided to study 4omen&s 7iterature in college and then go on and get her master&s degree. .endal sat back down.endal. some interested poetry fans invited her to perform at clubs in downtown 8ichmond. +Try saying it with a little more oomph this time.

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