The Trouble with Emily Dickinson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

+"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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

+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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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