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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The other cheerleaders had taken a liking to her right from the start./ That was the school motto*Sampson Academy. 4ho knew such things e'isted in a town built around a soccer rivalry and the annual homecoming weekend packed with games and a lavish parade= . 9e Somebody. Across the backdrop .endal always thought the school motto should be*Sampson Academy. so you could sit in the palm. -ther factors included Sampson&s unblemished academic reputation and its ability to prepare students for college. big enough to accommodate just two to three people at a time. and the ne't thing she knew. -ne foamy apple-red chair off in the corner was built in the shape of a giant hand. <otive candles floated in bowls of water at the center of each table. . That. 8ather. (or that reason.endal&s walk had led her into town to buy some essentials. 9ut the appeal of friendships and social interaction sort of swept her up and spit her out.endal thought. They were afraid that if she attended a public high school she would be on the fast track to community college. insisted that she go to Sampson so that she could get into a good college. 9ut here was her hangout*a sweet and inviting coffee shop. She passed by The Spot and peered into the window. including tampons and a few snack items such as 8eese&s "eanut 9utter 0ups and her one major food addiction. humming original songs about the meaning of life. something of a hidden treasure where she probably spent her time having intellectual conversations with eccentric people.endal read the words. . 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. 9ay windows sat atop four-story buildings fronted by circular porches. . and overbearing drunkards challenged one another to games of pool and darts. . This wasn&t the type of place she would have initially guessed that %% would go to on a (riday night. she was a part of the cheerleading team. #ducation was far more important. To the right of the counter stood a stage. There were a few round tables in front of the stage and set off to the back of the room.endal had been attracted to the school in the first place. where everyone knows your name and your business. It didn&t matter to her parents that the tuition bill left them financially strapped. a very small stage that featured a solid black backdrop with a single brown bar stool in the center. 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. +fantasi3e reality. where every student could get to know his or her teachers on a personal basis. It was hands-on learning. At first she hated Sampson because she felt so out of place./ spelled out in big bold white letters.i'. 0he' . They invited her to sit with them at their table in the cafeteria and to social gatherings and soccer parties. like a hockey game with a bunch of her basketball teammates. All of the buildings were named after local heroes and students who had gone on to become +somebodies. So this is where %% likes to hang out. was why . She hadn&t planned on getting involved in any school activities. She finally felt like she belonged. the campus consisted of colonial buildings made of brick and grand white pillars. She pictured the place filled with random vagabonds and folk singers on the center stage.endal&s parents. she could see her at some sporting event. plus the beauty of the campus. She hated to disappoint her parents.endal felt pressured to get good grades.9uilt back in the DHFFs. .

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

+"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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

%%%
%% 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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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