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

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

but found comfort in %%&s encouragement. Some scholars tend to refer to her as a @private poet. +I mean./ she said.& because it wasn&t until after her death that her talent for poetic e'pression was discovered and ultimately became respected by others. .endal repositioned her body in the chair and cleared her throat. See./ +>ou mean what she&s saying in the poem isn&t really what people think she&s saying=/ +Sort of. (irst off*the trouble with #mily $ickinson is that she writes ambiguously. . %% looked up from the page. An independent one.endal struggled to make sense of most of them. fully aware that . wincing when she reali3ed what she&d said./ . more like the kind of nap you don&t wake up from. There are plenty of talented writers out there who prefer to keep their poetry to themselves. +-kay. to break the ensuing awkward silence. +>ou smell nice. bask centuries away ./ +5ood. +It smells like strawberries or something like that./ %% picked at the page with her fingers. 6ow you&re reading between the lines./ They discussed the poem at length./ said %%./ she said. I read this twice and I still don&t get it./ +To bask centuries away.endal said./ She paused and looked up from the page./ +Thanks. 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. That makes no show for dawn./ .endal switched chairs and accidentally brushed her leg against %%&s in the process./ said %%. my responses don&t even make up half a page. +It isn&t as important as you might think. It distracted her. she&s talking about death.+)nfortunately. . along with a few others for over an hour.endal bit back her words and proceeded to read the ne't few lines out loud. +I don&t think that matters. $ickinson wrote ambiguously because that&s just the way she wrote. +.endal wouldn&t be able to look at it upside down. not once look up for noon ./ +It seems like a waste of time. long sleep. +A long. And that&s one of the keys to reading poetry./ +)m*thanks. though./ %% turned the book around to face her and noticed that . pointing at the page. right= A long./ +All that I&m saying is*/ +0an we get back to the poem=/ . As soon as their eyes met she looked away. long sleep./ . ./ +That&s kind of depressing that she wasn&t discovered until after her death./ %% rambled on. +Is that about a nap=/ +4ell. yet something sweet lingered in the air around them. +%ust so we can read it together. stealing her attention away from the book momentarily. 4as she afraid to share her work or something=/ +I don&t know. looking up from the book. like fruity or something. meaning a lot of the words that she uses aren&t meant to be taken literally. +8ead the last two lines. %% followed the lines of the poem with her inde' finger./ %% heard herself say.endal was staring at her. a famous sleep. . +So. 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. She knew what the poems meant and that was all that mattered to her.aybe it&s better if you sit ne't to me. +I mean *your shampoo*it smells 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. you know. 9y stretch of limb or stir of lid. .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

+"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.

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

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

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

I&m serious./ +Said what=/ +That writing is your life.endal debated the 1uestion./ . without enthusiasm.yan.endal so easily. I can&t take that risk. desperately wanting to change the subject. I&m not ready./ +-kay. So maybe you can practice with me. I fro3e.endal momentarily./ ./ +9ut it might. I got on stage and played the only song I knew. She glanced at her cell phone and saw that 0hristine had sent her nearly a do3en te'ts since she&d arrived at the library. and I thought I was the best sa'ophone player in the world. and that no matter what happens while you are up on stage. +>ou sound like my mother. +I&m just saying that maybe we could work on it./ +. And when the contest came up. ./ ./ %% said. about this poetry slam thingy. what= I&m not going up on stage. I&ve never been on another stage since. And during the whole thing. Are you going to do it=/ %% shook her head. +I suppose I should./ +0ome on./ +4ell=/ +4ell./ %% closed her eyes./ +Are you serious=/ +>eah.endal hesitated then asked./ +That would never happen./ %% said 1uietly. and then averted her eyes./ +That&s the second time you&ve said that. And if something happened.endal put her hand on %%&s shoulder.endal said. if I got upset on stage.aybe./ +So=/ +So./ she e'plained. +9ut it&s different with this. because I kept playing the wrong notes and about halfway through the song./ . remembering the harsh sound of the contemptuous laughter that circled through the auditorium around her./ %% forced a laugh as she opened her eyes again. +I go to open readings and poetry contests all of the time. +They have one every (riday night.+So. I never played the sa'ophone ever again after that day. I mean. you know. +See. Are you going back to your dorm=/ . you&d never be able to give it up. releasing her hand from %%&s shoulder. +5ood thing I don&t plan on having a career in acting or anything. +I have a fear of being on stage. 4riting is my life. embarrassed at what she was about to admit./ %% rolled her eyes./ +4hy not=/ %% looked at .endal had a hunch they were about . +I ran off stage so fast. +It&s getting late. 4riting is my life. I wouldn&t joke about a thing like that./ +That is so sad. we had this talent contest one year at school. that alone should tell you how important it is to you. I used to play the sa'ophone when I was younger. She never thought she could have revealed something so personal to . . I almost ran into the wall in the hallway./ she said. I&m interested in your poetry and you need to practice sharing it. +It basically scarred me for life. everybody in the audience started to laugh./ said %% impatiently.endal said. I might freak out and give up writing altogether. maybe like ten or so*/ +The sa'ophone=/ +I&m e'plaining to you why I have stage fright. +>ou have a gift and you should be able to share it with other people. +$on&t you think it&s time to confront that fear=/ +I&m trying. I just don&t participate.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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