I didn’t return home with George and Carol during the two weeks of
intense recovery. I didn’t spend Christmas at home either. My only
disappointment was not seeing the kids’ faces on Christmas morning. I
had always loved writing the letter to Santa and setting out the cookies
with them, and watching them open their presents. I wondered what
they were told when they asked for me. Staying with Janet was… quiet.
She didn’t ask questions about what happened to me, or about anything
at al for that matter. She gave me my space in her spare room,
periodicaly checking on me to make sure I was comfortable and had
plenty to eat and drink. The first week was excruciating, and the
slightest movement was debilitating. I relied upon the prescription
pain pils to cope, which usualy meant sleeping. As the second week
crept by, the sharpness subsided, and the aching dwindled. My
muscles were stiff from underuse, and my tailbone stil reminded me of
the impact whenever I’d sit - but at least I had some relief. I spent my
days reading, sleeping and texting Sara.
Over the school break, I received daily texts from Sara checking in on
me, then providing brief accounts of her day and updates on the basketbal
team. I missed seeing and talking with Sara despite our daily
communication - it wasn’t the same. I finaly got up the nerve to ask
Janet if Sara could visit the Saturday before we returned to school.
Janet didn’t even hesitate to say yes, so I probably could have asked
her sooner. It was strange how unlike Carol she was.
Sara tentatively entered Janet’s smal one-story house. She was not her
usual overly exuberant self, although I could tel by the spark in her eye
that she wanted to be. Janet found the need to go to the store soon
after Sara arrived. I knew it was her way of giving us time alone to talk.
“It’s so great to see you!” Sara exclaimed, giving me a gentle hug. “You
look good. So, do you feel better?”
“Yeah, I’m fine - just bored out of my mind.” I alowed a smile to relax
on my face – it had been so long since I’d felt the tightness in my
cheeks. “Tel me what’s been going on. I could only get so much from
the abbreviated texts, and some of it I didn’t understand at al.”
Sara let out quick laugh. “Okay, so you know about basketbal, right?”
“Yeah, I read about it in the paper too. That sucks about the two
losses, but at least they won the other two.”
“They’re looking forward to having you back, especialy Coach Stanley.
I went sking with my parents, Jil and Casey, but you knew that. What
else?” Sara flicked her eyes toward the ceiling, thinking of other news
she needed to catch me up on. “Oh, um, I guess Drew gave me flowers
to give to you. But… I forgot them. Just make sure you thank him so he
doesn’t know I failed.”
“Oh,” I said quickly. Having had this time alone, I had the opportunity
to consider what was happening between Drew and me. It was a whirlwind
relationship, and it was difficult to recal how we had gotten to
the point where he’d want to give me flowers. I could have convinced
myself that we were friends, except for the kissing part. I couldn’t get
“He asks about you whenever I see him leaving practice. We haven’t
had practices after them for a while, so the guys are gone by the time
the voleybal team gets on the floor. But he waits for me just so that he
can check on you.”
“That’s sweet,” I replied honestly. “I feel bad I haven’t been able to talk
“Are you stil interested in him?” she inquired, doubt lining her voice.
I let out a guilty breath, avoiding Sara’s eyes.
“Something happened that I didn’t get to tel you because I got hurt,” I
confessed. She raised her eyebrows, vehemently urging me to continue.
I took a second to decide where to start. It was a scene that I’d
been tormented with for the past two weeks - only second to the nightmares
that made sleeping through the night impossible.
“Evan found out that Drew and I kissed.” I hesitated to alow her to
“I figured,” she replied with a slight shrug. “Everyone else in the
school knows too.”
“Seriously?” I groaned
“His friends have big mouths. That’s something you realy haven’t been
a part of yet, huh?”
“What do you mean?”
“Gossip. Everyone knows what you’ve done before you do. I’ve heard
enough about what I’ve supposedly done over the years
– it’s so stupid. Funny thing is, they don’t know the half of it. Anyway,
there was talk about you and Evan before, but since no one knew anything
to keep the rumors going, the fascination died. But you and
Drew are a big deal for some reason.”
My stomach turned. Hearing this only added to my guilt.
“That’s not something I needed to hear,” I sulked.
“Sorry. Why, what happened?”
“Evan and I were yeling at each other in the hals after he found out
about Drew, and then I was yeling at him about Haley. He didn’t realize
I knew about them, and he wanted to explain, but I wouldn’t let
him. He shouted down the stairs that he stil loved me, and I kept walking.
To make it worse, he saw Drew kiss me after practice that night.”
“Wow, I missed al that?” Sara digested my story and shook her head.
“That explains the tension in the waiting room, I guess.”
“What are you talking about?”
“When we were waiting for you in the hospital, Evan and Drew stayed
on opposite sides of the room. Evan kept glaring at him, until Drew finaly
caled him out on it.”
“Please don’t tel me this happened in front of everyone?” I sunk into
the couch and put my head against the floral printed cushion, looking
up at the ceiling.
“Sorry,” she cringed. “The guys didn’t say anything specificaly about
you - it was more that Drew was fed up with Evan’s unwarranted hostility,
and it gave Evan the chance to get in his face.”
I groaned. This was difficult for me to imagine. Neither guy seemed
the type to pick a fight. I knew Evan was mad at me, and unfortunately
Drew was the conscious one he could yel at.
“So, what are you thinking?” Sara asked, examining my guilt ridden
“I feel horrible about Evan seeing Drew kiss me, especialy after what
happened right before that. But I was just so angry at him for trying to
hide the fact that he was doing the same thing with Haley.”
“What do you mean? He and Haley aren’t seeing each other.”
Sara sounded so sure of her words. My heart skipped a beat.
“Sara, I saw them at the bon fire,” I stated adamantly. “Evan had his
arm around her. That’s when I walked away with Drew, remember?”
“Em, you were on the other side of the fire. I was near Evan and he did
not have his arm around Haley. She came over to him, said something
stupid, like usual, and hugged him. He patted her on the back, humoring
her, and then walked away. She went off and started flirting with
Mitch. You must have only seen part of it.”
That couldn’t be true, could it? If it was true, then I would have never
walked down the beach with Drew, and I wouldn’t have been so distracted
that I alowed him to kiss me. This whole mess was unraveling
around me, and I knew I was at the center of al of it. What did I do?!
“But she said she was seeing him,” I whispered. “I was so pissed when
she told me at my locker that day.”
“I would have a hard time believing anything she has to say. You know
she hates you, right?”
“Please don’t make me say it,” she huffed.
“Sara, did I totaly screw this up?” The aching returned, but it was inside
my chest, instead of my back.
“What do you want? You know that you and Evan stopped talking before
Drew and Haley ever came into the picture – it had nothing to do
“But I didn’t help it any.” I sunk further into the couch.
“What about Drew?”
“I don’t know, Sara.” I was so confused about what I wanted and what
was best, I couldn’t think straight. “He’s so nice and, come on, just
look at him.” Sara smirked in agreement.
“But?” she encouraged.
I didn’t say anything for a minute. I was tormented by the thought of
never talking to Evan again, but that wouldn’t change until I told him
the truth – and that would never happen. So, where did that leave
Drew? For some inexplicable reason, and without me realizing it was
happening, Drew liked me. I couldn’t deny that, despite my inability to
“Being around Drew makes more sense,” I finaly said.
“That’s the strangest reason to date someone that I’ve ever heard,”
“We’re dating?” I asked in disbelief.
“Em, he’s kissed you in public, he bought you flowers, and he cals me
to check in on you – yeah, I’m pretty sure he thinks that.”
“He cals you too?!”
“Oh, yeah, sorry – I forgot to mention that. You’re right - he’s sweet,
thoughtful, and beautiful.” She paused.
“But…” I waited.
“I’m not even going to finish that sentence.”
“Why do I have be the one to say it out loud?!” Frustrated, she finaly
exclaimed, “He’s not Evan.”
I instantly recognized the truth in her words. But I also knew that the
truth didn’t matter.
“Can we talk about something else?” I pleaded.
“You can’t avoid this forever,” she warned. “We’re going back to school
on Monday, and they’re both going to be there.”
“Sara, Evan doesn’t want anything to do with me.”
“I don’t know, Em,” she said, reluctant to say anything more, but I saw
it in her roaming eyes.
“Just tel me, Sara.”
Sara took a breath, pausing before she revealed, “Evan was realy upset
at the hospital. I talked to him alone for a while. He was hurt when you
didn’t want to see him. He thinks he cares more about you than you do
about him. I could tel he wasn’t comfortable talking to me about it, but
I think he just needed to tel someone, if he couldn’t tel you. He wished
things were the way they were before that weekend we went to the
So did I.
“Emma, he’s not stupid. He pretty much knows what’s going on at
your house. You should have seen the way he looked at Carol and
George when he realized who they were. He stil cares about you. I
think if you just talked to him…”
“I don’t think I can, Sara,” I whispered. She didn’t respond, but when
she dropped her eyes to the floor, I knew that she didn’t like my decision.
I stil wouldn’t be able to tel him the truth, and I didn’t foresee
that ever changing. I couldn’t hurt him again. We sat silently for a
“Speaking of the unspeakable,” Sara said lowly, unable to meet my
eyes. “Do you have to move back in with them?”
“Yeah,” I breathed.
“We have to stop her,’ she insisted. “There has to be a way without
hurting the kids.”
“I don’t know…” I started, but was interrupted by Janet slowly opening
the front door to give us plenty of warning that she was returning
“So, what else do you have to tel me?” I asked over emphaticaly to cover
up the serious conversation.
Sara shrugged. Then her eyes got big. She hesitated, tormented whether
she should tel me.
“Just tel me.”
“I went out on a couple of dates with Jared this week,” she blurted.
She watched for my reaction, anticipating the worst. I wasn’t sure
what to say.
“Okay,” I said slowly. “That’s great, right?”
“It was really great,” she glowed.
“How did it happen?” I asked, trying not to think of our night at the
movies and how they hit it off, because then I’d have to think about
that night with Evan – and how I’d never get it back.
“I caled to return his flashlight. We started talking. Then he caled me
later that night, and we talked some more. He asked me out and I said
“Leaving out the details?” I noticed. A vague account of dates wasn’t
“I didn’t know if it was going to be weird for you since he’s Evan’s
brother. But I had to tel you, or else I was going to burst. I can leave
out the other stuff if you’d rather not hear it.”
“No, I want to hear everything,” I replied honestly. Sara went on to
talk about their dinner date in Boston and another in New York. Her
eyes sparkled as she gushed about her time with Jared. As much as I
was happy for her, this strange holow sensation filed my stomach. Was
I jealous? I pushed away the selfish emotion and smiled.
“And the second night, he kissed me. It was the most amazing kiss
ever. I thought I was going to fal over.” Sara beamed as the memory
danced across her eyes.
“What are you going to do now? I mean, he’s going back to New York,
“Yeah, he left this morning,” she sighed. “It was the best time I’ve ever
had, but he goes to colege in New York.” She shrugged, smiling
“Yeah, that’s it. Honestly, I didn’t expect anything else. I knew when I
went out with him that that was probably going to be it.”
“Then why’d you do it?” I questioned in confusion.
“Why not?!” she answered enthusiasticaly. “I’d rather have these incredible
memories of the two nights I spent with him, knowing that I
probably won’t go out with him again, than not to have had them at
“Huh,” I pondered, intrigued by Sara’s perception. Her words sat with
me long after she left that afternoon.
I continued thinking about what she said when I lay in bed that night.
Was it better to get as much out of the moment as possible, knowing it
could slip out from under you in a second? Was the actual experience
better than the inevitable conclusion? I guess I had to decide if the
conclusion was a broken heart, or a broken bone, in order to weigh the
I didn’t sleep wel that night. My dreams swirled together in an incoherent
jumble of images. I’m certain my restlessness was provoked by
the conversation with Sara. Then again, I knew George was picking me
up in the morning.
George and I sat in silence for the first part of the car ride – I stared
out the window and he kept his eyes glued to the road.
“It would be best if you weren’t around Carol very much,” he finaly
said. His voice drew my attention. I wasn’t surprised he refused to
look over at me. “She’s been under a lot of stress, and the new medication
she’s on is affecting her moods. You can stay in your room and eat
after we do, like you did before, but I’l take care of the dishes. You just
worry about getting your Saturday chores done while she’s out
“I spoke with the McKinley’s. They’re wiling to help us out by letting
you spend Saturday’s there, after you do your chores, and any Friday
nights when you have a basketbal game. They’re sympathetic to
Carol’s stress and are very thoughtful to have offered. So please don’t
make this any more difficult. Sunday’s you can spend at the library,
like you have been. Emma, I don’t think I have to remind you that
what happens in our house, stays in our house.”
I didn’t react to his subtle threat. He had just taken away the remnants
of the only family I had – regardless of how dysfunctional. I knew I
wouldn’t be able to spend time with the kids, and he’d speak to me
even less now than he did before – it sunk in that I was truly alone.
My world was delicately balanced, but the scales never hung even.
When something improved, something else had to crumble. Accepting
this would be the hardest thing I’d ever have to learn, and even when I
came to know it as true, it stil crushed me.