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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

+"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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

+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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I&ve got three words for you. +And before you go on rambling like you sometimes tend to do in these situations. I&m heading back to the dorm. three. She could only nod./ +She likes you. I&m talking on my i"hone outside. 4hen she reopened them./ %% cleared her throat.endal wants is an opportunity to e'plain to you what happened. I don&t know what she promised you in e'change for your services. +6o./ said %%. #njoy the rest of your.c0arthy didn&t offer me anything in return for talking to you. +This is a big deal for me. She removed her hand from :ueenie&s mouth. save your breath. (or some reason. she likes spending time with you. +4hat is=/ +4hat I&m about to say. and I don&t want to know./ %% sat down again. she took a deep breath. but the charming cheerleading darling somehow managed to convince me to do this out of pure goodwill. +-kay./ +>ou were wrong about what=/ +About .+That&s right. I&d like to make it known here and now that I am officially over T2# . in hopes that I might go speak to her./ :ueenie opened her mouth to respond and %% covered it immediately with her own hand. waiting for my ride downtown when she suddenly comes out of nowhere. So if you plan on trying to convince me that you were wrong about her for whatever reason.endal. you should know that .iss ./ :ueenie said before %% could even take a single step.endal . uh*cultural awareness meeting or whatever./ :ueenie admitted. +6ow./ %% stood up. 4hen she was satisfied that no other ears were in sight./ she raised three fingers forcefully in the air./ :ueenie sat back and swung a leg over the arm of the chair. +4onderful. she took another deep breath. 4as. +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. I got the impression that she even missed you./ :ueenie continued. +$o I have your attention now=/ %% didn&t answer. and says she needs to talk to me. 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 still don&t understand. I&ve got two. +9efore you go off on another pride-fueled @I&m over her& rant. taps me on the shoulder. It doesn&t happen too often.c0arthy once and for all. . +5ood./ +4hat did she say=/ :ueenie paused. +4hat I was about to tell you before you so rudely shoved your grubby little hand over my mouth was that all . I asked./ +4hich are*=/ +I. +And she wants to tell you herself. if you&ll e'cuse me./ :ueenie closed her eyes. 4rong. +4hat&s with the theatrics=/ %% asked. of course. +Are you through acting all high and mighty=/ :ueenie asked. The nerve of some people. Are we clear=/ :ueenie nodded slowly. one that I can&t 1uite put my finger on. She pretended to scour the school lounge to make sure no one else was listening in on their conversation.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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