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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

+"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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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