The Trouble With Emily Dickinson | Emily Dickinson | Poetry

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

+"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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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