“You bitch,” Haley Spencer sneered from beside my locker.
“What did you say to him?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” I knew she was obviously
talking about Evan, but I had no idea what was going on.
“You must have said something to him to make him to leave,”
I heard her words, but I couldn’t comprehend what she was saying. I
stared back, stunned.
“He left!” Haley exclaimed. “He moved back to San Francisco, and I
know it was because of you.” Before I could respond, she stormed
I stood in her wake, unable to move. My books slipped from my hands
and fel to the floor. Was she teling the truth?
“Here you go,” a voice said, handing me my books.
“Thank you,” I murmured, absently taking them without looking at the
There’s no way she could be teling the truth. He had to be here. He
just wasn’t in school today. That was evident by his absent seat in English
class. He couldn’t have moved.
“Em, I just heard,” Sara said from behind me. “I am so sorry. I didn’t
“It’s true?” I asked, turning to meet her sympathetic eyes.
“Yeah, I heard it from one of the guys on the basketbal team.”
Sara stood in front of her locker, contemplating my expression. She
waited for me to react. But I couldn’t. I didn’t want to believe it. How
could he be gone?
Then something broke. Sara saw it the second it happened and rushed
alongside me, guiding me to the girls’ bathroom. The hals were relatively
empty since everyone had already gone to class, so there weren’t
many witnesses to the dramatic scene.
The pain crushed my heart. I sank to the floor, sliding my back down
the cool tile wal. I didn’t cry, and my eyes didn’t fil with tears, although
my insides felt like they’d been shred. I stared straight ahead,
unable to focus on the wal across from me. We sat in silence for a time.
I heard Sara breathing next to me, quietly witnessing my slow acceptance
of the truth.
“He’s realy gone?” The words were caught in my throat, and I breathed
them out in the faintest whisper.
Sara remained by my side without a word, holding my hand. The truth
sank in deeper and my heart released an aching sob. I colapsed onto
Sara’s lap and gave in to its grief. My chest heaved as I gasped for air.
Sara stroked my hair to sooth me while I cried into my folded arms.
“He can’t be gone,” I wept, wishing that saying it out loud, would make
it true. I released another cry of pain.
Exhausted and raw, I laid my head stil against her legs while the tears
dried upon my face. My eyes stung from the tears, and my throat
ached from the cries. My mind swirled with thoughts of why he left
and questions of how he could have done it so suddenly. The more I
thought about it, the more the pain turned to anger.
“I can’t believe he left without saying anything.” I pushed myself up to
sit, the tension drawing back my shoulders. “He couldn’t even say
good bye? Who does that?”
My rapid succession of emotions left Sara speechless, unable to find
the words to answer. I stood up and began pacing, clenching my fists
as I fumed at the thought of his selfish escape.
“Did the thought of being around me infuriate him so much that he
couldn’t even return to school? He had to run away to the other side of
the country just to avoid me?! He’s the one who stopped talking to me!
Was I not supposed to get over him? Did he realy want me to continue
waiting for him to forgive me for something I didn’t do? I’m sorry if he
didn’t like seeing me with someone else –
but to pick up and move because of it!”
I grunted in frustration. My mind raced while I continued my pacing,
unable to release my closed fists. I huffed and lost the words to continue
my rambling rage. I breathed in, considering his actions with my
heart strangled in my chest. The ire slowly subsided into a begrudged
“Fine, if that’s how he felt, then he should’ve gone. He obviously
couldn’t stand to look at me, so why should I care if he left?! Now I
don’t have to worry about him yeling at me, or making me feel guilty
for my decisions. I don’t care if I ever see him again.”
This was almost convincing, but my heart stuttered in panic at the
thought of not seeing his face in the hals.
“Do you realy believe that?” Sara asked tentatively. I blinked at her, recognizing
that she was in the room. “He didn’t hate you, Emma.”
“You don’t know that, Sara,” I shot back. “I hurt him. I couldn’t trust
him enough to let him in. Then I accused him of things he didn’t do.
To top it al off, I shoved it in his face by kissing another guy right in
front of him. Of course he hates me, and maybe he should. He couldn’t
even be around me anymore. He absolutely hates me.”
Sara remained silent as I convinced myself of this. The words stung,
and the anger settled. It was no longer directed at Evan but at myself. I
looked at my reflection in the mirror above the sink. The pain and
anger flickered in my eyes as I realized that it al circled back to me.
Now I was left holding the pieces of my heart, crushed by my own
I shook my head in disgust at the image in the glass. I stared at the
dark eyes, my jaw tightening, alowing the anger and revulsion to grow.
I accepted the blame for forcing him away. He had every right to hate
me, just as I hated myself at that moment. My stomach turned to ice,
and I looked away from the accusing eyes. Taking a deep breath, I
pushed the pain deep down, but I let the guilt and self-loathing fester
as a punishing reminder. I took another quick breath before facing
Sara. She remained a silent witness, concern etched in her eyes. I was
exhausted by the gut wrenching turmoil and couldn’t feel anything
“I pushed him away, so he left,” I confessed quietly, submitting to the
final truth. “I don’t have anyone to blame but myself – and now he’s
gone.” I shrugged my shoulders dismissively. Sadness settled in Sara’s
“Don’t worry,” I assured her. “I’m okay.”
“No you’re not,” she whispered with a smal shake of her head. After a
brief silence, she said, “I think this period’s about over. Are you going
to your next class?”
“Sure,” I shrugged. “Why not?”
We walked back to our lockers. My locker stood open, with my books
casualy tossed in the bottom. I grabbed what I needed as the bel rang.
“I’l see you back here before lunch?” Sara confirmed quietly, the worry
stil heavy in her eyes. I nodded.
I lingered at my locker for a second after Sara headed to class. I knew
what was waiting for me, and as much as I tried to convince myself I
was ready, I knew better. Smothered by anxiety, I couldn’t loosen the
tightness in my chest as I walked to Anatomy. I sank onto my seat at
the black table; the empty chair next to me screamed at me the entire
class. I couldn’t concentrate on the lecture. I kept glancing over at the
crushing reminder of his absence. By the end of class, I was irritated
with my sorrow. I didn’t have any right to grieve for him. I was the
reason he was gone. But it didn’t matter how much blame I took for
forcing him to leave or how much effort I made to push it away – I was
“Are you stil in pain?” Drew questioned when he sat next to me and
Sara at lunch.
I’d almost forgotten he was joining us, until he puled out the chair.
The guilt of being distracted by Evan washed over me with Drew’s
words. I obviously was not concealing my misery very wel.
“No, I’m fine,” I assured him with a forced smile. “It’s just weird having
everyone staring at me al day, that’s al.”
This wasn’t completely a lie, although it had nothing to do with my
pained expression. Everyone had been staring at me since I arrived at
school that morning. I expected some stares and whispers, especialy
after Sara’s account of the last time they saw me at the basketbal
game. But I wasn’t expecting so many gawking faces. It was as if I’d returned
from the grave. It was unsettling. Drew’s relief was evident
when I saw him in the parking lot that morning. I was too preoccupied
with searching for Evan’s car to notice him approaching with a huge
smile on his face. I suddenly caught sight of him and found his greeting
too contagious not to return. He startled me when he wrapped his
arms around me and held me gently against him. I hesitated before
hugging him back. Sara watched in amusement, knowing I was freaking
out on the inside.
I was more concerned that Evan might see us than I was about being
in Drew’s arms. It wasn’t realy a horrible place to be. I glanced around
at the eyes that turned our way as they walked by. I was stil trying to
accept that Drew realy did care about me. More importantly, I was trying
to figure out how I felt about him. So, as he sat at the lunch table
asking me if I was stil in pain, I decided I wasn’t going to think about it
I leaned over and kissed him firmly on the lips and said as I puled
away, “I feel much better, thanks.”
A grin emerged across his face and a subtle flush rose to his cheeks.
Behind me, Sara started choking. I turned toward her convulsions.
“Sorry,” she whispered, her face bright red. “Some bulshit caught in
my throat.” I raised my eyebrows at her words, hoping Drew hadn’t
“Are you playing in your game Wednesday?” Drew asked.
“It depends on how practice goes today and tomorrow,” I replied.
Drew moved his chair closer and rested his arm along the back of my
chair. I could feel his heat radiating along my side, but the proximity
of his body didn’t ignite the tingling I was searching for.
“I’l definitely play Friday,” I said, casualy leaning closer so my
shoulder touched his. I urged my heart to take notice, but it was too
busy moping and wasn’t about to be forced to flutter.
“Do you want to come over after the game to watch a movie?”
he asked. Suddenly realizing Sara would be there too, he looked at
Sara to include her in the invitation. “Or hang out or something?”
“There’s a party Friday night at Keli Muligan’s beach house,”
Sara informed him.
“Oh, you have plans?” Drew recognized in disappointment. I shrugged
apologeticaly, unaware of Sara’s plans for us on Friday night. I was stil
trying to get used to the idea that I had a Friday night. When Sara
found out that I was going to be staying with her on the weekends, al
of her worries about my returning home rushed away. In their place
was a revelation that she finaly got to bring me to al the things I’d been
missing out on. So my schedule defaulted to hers on the weekends –
which was a little overwhelming.
“I have computer class with Keli during second period; she invited us
this morning. We’re probably staying over,” she informed us.
I raised my eyebrows in surprise. Not only did I have plans on a Friday
night, but my sleep over had a sleep over? The thought of a party sent
a familiar sensation surging through my veins – panic.
“She mentioned something about it to me last week after our basketbal
game. I didn’t realy consider it at the time. Is she letting anyone sleep
over?” Drew asked.
“I don’t know,” Sara answered. This was not what she expected him to
say, and I could tel she was bothered. I grinned.
“Do you want to go to the party?” My invite caused Sara to kick me under
“I’l make sure it’s stil okay with Keli. I have class with her next
“Great,” Sara forced. Her false enthusiasm was glaringly obvious to
me, but Drew didn’t appear to notice.
The lunch bel rang and Drew walked us into the hal.
“I’l see you before we leave for our game?” he confirmed.
“Yes,” I replied with a smal smile.
Drew put his hands on my waist and puled me to him. The chatter of
voices and shuffling of feet surrounded us, but I didn’t resist his advances.
His soft lips were warm against mine as he held them there for
a prolonged moment. My heart refused to flutter, but I couldn’t deny
the warmth that spread through my stomach and the swirls that
danced in my head. I decided I could live without the rush, since kissing
him was by no means uneventful.
“Bye,” he whispered with a smal smile before walking away, leaving
me looking after him.
“Ready?” Sara asked, snapping me back to the noise of the hal. She
stared at me with wide eyes.
“Don’t look at me like that.”
“What are you doing?” she demanded incredulously.
“I don’t know what you mean. Aren’t we supposed to be dating?”
“I just sat with you for an hour in the girls’ bathroom –”
“Don’t, Sara.” I turned at the top of the stairs to face her. “This has
nothing to do with him. I like Drew.”
Sara raised her eyebrows, chalenging my statement.
“Realy, I do like him,” I insisted and continued walking toward our
“Fine, maybe you like him,” Sara conceded. “But it stil doesn’t feel
right to me. I don’t care how amazing you think Drew is, he’s not –“
“Don’t say it, Sara,” I threatened. “Stop mentioning him. He decided to
leave and I have to move on.”
“Just like that?” she chalenged. I shrugged. “Don’t do anything stupid,
okay? You can’t kiss your way through this.” I roled my eyes and left
her at the lockers to go to Art class. This ended up being harder than
Anatomy. Ms. Mier asked us to create an art piece depicting an emotion.
She chalenged us to unleash an emotion that could be felt
through our artistic interpretation. A thousand different emotions
surged through my head. I was fearful of exploring any one of them individualy.
Anxiety set in as I gathered a canvas and tried to select
some colors to begin.
“Having difficulty deciding?” Ms. Mier inquired. “Or are you afraid of
tapping into that emotion?” I glanced at her, recognizing her knowing
“I’m sorry you have to feel it,” she continued, “but I think you can create
something amazing if you let yourself explore it. It may not help
you heal, but it may help you process it.”
She paused, gently placed her hand on my shoulder, and whispered,
“It’s okay to miss him,” before walking away. I swalowed hard,
pressing my lips together. I grabbed shades of red and orange and returned
to my easel to begin processing. During the two weeks of that
assignment, I alowed myself to tap into the raw pain and drip it onto
the canvas. I was true to myself with each stroke. It was a draining
process, but the release was therapeutic. On several occasions, I fought
to focus through blurred vision as I added layers of color, developing
the pain with each shade. When I cleaned my supplies, I forced it al
back into the shadows. By the time I returned to the hals, nothing remained
except for the aching murmur that took over my heart the day
I moved on. I returned to playing basketbal, only sitting out half of the
first game after my return. I continued focusing on my academics, and
found it easier now that I could escape to my room each night without
the suffocating tension. I had the attention of a great guy, who easily
distracted my attention whenever he was within sight. And I had guaranteed
time with Sara. I was surviving as I promised I would.