Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Life by Zach: True colors

“Turkey for you and Turkey for meee…” Ben’s fraternity brothers were singing along to Adam Sandler’s Thanksgiving song which had been playing on a loop for the past hour.

I decided to just go to the house instead of texting Ben back; these are not the kinds of conversations that I feel should be had via text.

“Where’s Ben?” I shouted to one of the guys over the singing.

“He’s stuffing the turkey!!” Explosions of laughter.

The mood was jovial, everyone was about to head home for Thanksgiving and the thought process was to drink as much as possible before heading out.  I on the other hand could not afford to indulge in this debauchery, I had a flight home early tomorrow. I really wanted to talk to Ben before I left to clear up this whole Andrew thing. I walked through the house and finally found Ben in the backyard playing cornhhole with a few of the other guys and a crowd of girls. I was surprised to see Lauren there as well. I had not spoken to her very much since meeting her at the bar that day – the hearing had consumed so much of my time this past week.

“Zach!” Lauren’s cheeks were flushed as she came over and gave me a big hug. I think she’s had a couple of beers already.

“Hi Lauren. It’s good to see you. I’m sorry I haven’t been in touch, I had a lot going on this week.”

“It’s ok, I understand. Are you going home for the break?”

“I am. My flight is tomorrow. How about you?”

“No, I got an opportunity to go to Maine to participate in a wildlife study that is examining the rate of extinction for certain species. My parents are bummed but this is a good thing for me. “

“Yeah, it sounds awesome. Good for you! So…do you want to maybe try again and have dinner when we come back from break?” I asked.

“Yes!! I mean, yeah I’d like that.” Her face flushed again as she spoke and she looked down shyly.

She really is sweet, I thought to myself.

“Yo!” Ben’s loud voice broke my thoughts and I drifted back to reality.

“Hey Ben. We should talk.”

“Have a beer bro.” He insisted while shoving a Bud Light into my hands.

I put the beer down and looked at Ben intently.

“Fine, lets go inside.” He grumbled.

I couldn’t help but wonder why he was giving me such a hard time, he didn’t even know the full story. We walked upstairs to his room and he plopped down at his desk.

“So Andrew told me that you went to this hearing and basically accused him of stealing your paper.”

“Ben –“ I started.

“I’m just saying, that’s a pretty douchebag move on your part bro.” He cut in.

“Look Ben, I trusted Andrew when I gave him my notes and my paper to help him with his work. Instead of using my paper as guidance he simply put his name on it and submitted it as his own. I had no idea he was going to do that. Do you realize that I was going to get kicked out of school? This could have ruined my life.”

Ben rolled his eyes, “You’re being dramatic.”

I stared at Ben in shock. This didn’t seem like the friend I knew. Ben and I have been best friends since freshman year and he knows how important school and my future is to me. Getting kicked out would be devastating to me. Why doesn’t he see that?

“Listen Ben, I don’t really understand where you’re coming from with this. You know how much my future means to me. I work so hard, getting kicked out would ruin my chances for medical school!”

“You need to get off your high horse Zach. You think you’re so much better than everyone else.”

“Ben, I don’t know what’s going on with you, but I thought you as my best friend would understand.”

“Well, maybe things are changing. My brothers are my best friends and now we lost one because of your selfish actions.”

“What was I supposed to do?? Tell them that I wanted him to submit my paper? We would have BOTH been kicked out.  Come on man, think about this!” I rarely raise my voice but I was getting so frustrated with his reaction. What on earth was going on???

“Oh now you’re calling me stupid?” Ben jumped out the chair and started gesturing wildly.“Fine man, do what you need to, I’m going downstairs to be with my real friends.”

He slammed the door behind him, leaving me in disbelief. I sat down and tried to gather my thoughts. This past week has been full of so much turmoil, and now one of my closest friends has completely turned on me. I couldn’t believe that he would react this way. I know my dad said college was a learning experience but I didn’t anticipate these learning experiences to be so painful. What am I supposed to do now? Just let it go?

I walked back to my apartment slowly to pack for my flight, my heart heavy. I looked at my phone and scrolled through the contacts. My fingers hovered over Aleah’s name; I wanted to call her so desperately. I put my phone back down and put my hands in my head. She probably won’t answer I just didn’t want to deal with that disappointment too. I’m hoping a few days at home will make this all better.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Life by Zach: No easy experience

This feels like the longest day of my life. After the hearing, I had barely enough time to plug the hospital address into my GPS and book it over for my interview.  While I wasn’t exactly thrilled that I had to go to the hearing, I guess the good thing is I was already in a  suit and tie and ready for the interview. 

I managed to find parking rather quickly and ran into the hospital lobby in the nick of time.

“Hi, I’m Zach Andrews.” I announced breathlessly.

The young woman at the desk exchanged amused glanced with two nurses and looked at me with curiosity.

“Hello Mr.Andrews, can I help you?”

I know my face was flushed at this point, so I took a deep breath and tried to compose myself.

“Yes, I’m sorry. I am here for an interview with Dr. Connors for the student internship. I believe he is in the surgery department.”

Once again, she exchanged glances with the nurses and seemed to be holding back a smile.

“Am I missing something?” I thought to myself.

“Are you referring to Dr. Logan Connors?” she asked.

“Uhm. The paperwork  said L.Connors. I looked up the name on the hospital directory, it says he is head of surgery.”

This statement garnered a smug smile from her. “Yes that’s right. But I believe you’re looking for Dr. Leslie Connors. She is in charge of the internship program and is the head of pediatrics.”  

“Uhm, ok, that’s fine. Can you let her know I am here?”

This seemed to confuse her, and I was starting to get pretty frustrated. Am I in some kind of alternate universe here? Why is this conversation so weird?

“Yes, ofcourse. I will page her.”

After paging Dr.Connors, the young woman turned back to me.

“I’m Becca. I’m sorry if I was a little odd. It’s just that we have seen many of you young doctor wannabe’s and they’re always extremely upset that  they won’t be rubbing elbows with the hot shot surgeons. Yet you seem fine with pediatrics.”

Wow. I  just got totally stereotyped.  I can’t say that that hasn’t happened in the past, but this time it was so blatant. But making a big deal out of it wasn’t really my style. Shrug it off right? My dad always told me that people who jump to negative conclusions right off the bat shouldn’t be attacked, just prove them wrong.

“Actually I am happy with pediatrics. My dream of becoming a doctor is based on helping people, and a chance to work with kids during this internship would be pretty cool.”

I swear I think Becca blushed and once again that confused me a little bit, but I didn’t have time to figure out what her issue was because I was momentarily blinded by the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. She was walking towards me in a red dress  with a white doctor’s coat on over it. She had long, wavy brown hair and these sparkly blue eyes that seemed to be smiling at me even though her face remained serious. My hands instantly started to sweat.

“Mr.Andrews, good to meet you. I am Dr.Connors.”

Good Lord.

“Ni..uhm, nice to meet you, I’m Zach.”

“Let’s go into my office and talk for a bit, and then I can show you around the hospital.”

We walked through the lobby and up two flights of stairs towards the pediatric unit. As I walked through the halls, I caught glimpses of children in hospital beds, some alone and some surrounded by parents. I can’t imagine what it must be like to have a sick child and I was instantly touched with a  sense of gratitude that everyone in my family was healthy. Ofcourse, it also made me think of Aleah and what she went through when her dad got sick.  There always seems to be something that reminds me of her.

“Have a seat,” Dr.Connors gestured to the chair opposing her desk and I sat down.

“So, Mr.Andrews.  You have a long journey ahead of you. If you’re not willing to work hard and face many uncomfortable situations, I suggest to leave now.”

Whoa. That wasn’t what I expected. I assumed I was going to get the usual, so, tell me about yourself questions.

I took a moment before answering to gather my thoughts.

“I appreciate the warning Dr.Connors, I really do. But I am not here to waste your time. I want to work hard, I want to learn as much as I can, and most importantly, I want to be able to help people. And I understand that comes with difficult situations sometimes, but that is a part of life.”

Dr.Connors seemed to accept this answer, but I continued to see a bit of skepticism in her eyes.

“Very well. I have reviewed your transcript and you are clearly an excellent student. I am glad that you are here, because this type of experience is going to make you a more well-rounded candidate for medical school. The internship has been coordinated through your school, so a formal interview will not be necessary. You have already filled out the requisite forms.  What I would like to do is show you around a bit and have you start on Monday morning. You will shadow me all week in order to get an idea what the routine here is, and then I will provide you with a weekly assignment.”

“Thank you. I am looking forward to this opportunity.”

We spent the rest of the afternoon walking through the halls of pediatrics and Dr.Connors pointed out different patients and their diagnoses.  I was captivated by the way she spoke with such confidence and ease, and the way everyone that she stopped to talk to seemed to love her so much. One little boy in particular, who had just had heart surgery seemed to light up when she walked into the room.

“Zach this is Mikey, he had heart surgery two days ago and is recovering quite nicely.”

“Hi Zach,” Mikey said shyly.

“Hi Mikey, it’s nice to meet you.”

“I have a new heart.” He said proudly.

“You do? Well I bet I know something about this heart” I told him.

His eyes widened. “You do?”

“Yup.” I looked around as if checking to see if someone was nearby and then leaned closer to him.

“Your heart is a super hero heart. It’s the strongest one out there. So you’re going to leave here with the ability to do and become anything you want in this world,” I whispered.

Mikey’s face broke out into the same grin that I saw earlier. “That’s what mommy told me too!!” he exclaimed.

“Well there you go. Told ya I knew something about your heart. It was nice to meet you Mikey.”

As we walked out of the room, Dr.Connors looked at me.

“That was good Zach. I think you will fit in here just fine. But don’t forget, there are many difficult moments too.  This will not be an easy experience.”

“I understand. I am ready for this Dr.Connors.”

“Very well. I will see you on Monday then.”

As I walked back to my car, I couldn’t help but smile just as wide as little Mikey did. My day may have started out in fear and stress. But in the end, I was presented with not one, but two amazing learning opportunities. I can’t wait for what’s to come.

My phone vibrated just then and I glanced at it quickly. It was a text from Ben.

“Dude. You got Andrew kicked out of school!”

LbA: Sexy Time

Chase was hanging out with me in my apartment while I packed.  It was Tuesday evening and the next day I was leaving until the beginning of the following week for tennis.  I loved traveling, but I realized, while watching Chase try to name things I would need to take with me, that I was going to miss him.  We were to the point where we were seeing each other most evenings during the week.  I valued every moment with him.  And the days I didn’t see him, we would talk on the phone, or at least text throughout the day.

Sarah was at the hospital with her high school friend, Kate, who had an allergic reaction to some meth, apparently.  She had been there since the previous day.  I had tried convincing Sarah to let me come up there to be with them, but she had insisted it was not necessary.  I know that Sarah was really hurting for her, and I wanted to be there for her, but I also knew that even if I had wanted to be there, I couldn’t have stayed long since I was leaving for almost a week.  I’m not sure where Maddie or Nellie were, but they weren’t there.

“All finished!” I sang, happily.  I shoved my hand down on the mass amount of clothes in my duffel bag, and zipped it up to my wrist, and pulled it out and struggled to finish getting it closed.  I took it and dropped it by the front door, and skipped back to the bedroom.  Chase was lounged on my bed with his hands behind his head.  He was subtly looking me up and down, his lips slightly parted.  The desire was shining in his eyes.

I smiled, teasingly, at him.  “Oh wow, it’s getting warm in here...” I unzipped my hoodie, kicking the door closed with my foot, revealing only the sports bra I had on underneath.  I was thankful I had yoga pants on, so they would be flexible and form fitting.  I clicked off the overhead light and climbed on my bed and straddled Chase, but kept myself suspended above him on my knees.  There was just enough light coming in through the blinds from the street lamps that we could make out each other’s expressions, and see the glistening in our eyes.  “Flip over so I can rub your back!”

His eyes were darting between my eyes and my mouth.  He appeared to be contemplating if he was really going to flip over or not.  He started to sit up and roll onto his stomach when he grabbed both of my arms and pushed me sideways until he had me on my back, and he was leaning over me.  He brushed a stray lock of hair back behind my ear and left his hand lingering on my cheek as he leaned down and lightly kissed me.  I involuntarily rose up meeting him, pushing my lips hard against his.  He pushed back, moving my head down against the bed.  The kissing heated up, hands straying up and down, anywhere but where they really wanted to be.  Chase lifted up and I opened my eyes.  He was looking at me with questioning lacing his beautiful blues.  I slightly nodded my head, giving him unspoken permission. 

He leaned down and kissed me a little more tentatively, his hand trailing from the side of my head, all the way down to my breast, leaving it there, not moving.  Slowly he started massing over my sports bra, his kisses becoming more intense and passionate.  He was propped up on his other elbow.  I trailed my fingernails down his side until I got to the hem of his tshirt, and I slightly raised it, so my fingertips were on his skin.  I lightly scraped against his skin down the edge of his basketball shorts, and hooked my thumb inside of them, pulling his body closer to mine.  Through the thin material I could feel his arousal pressing against my thigh.  I moaned quietly, his desire turning me on.  I could feel myself dampen.  I rolled myself so I was on my side and put my upper leg over his waist, and he pressed against me. 

His kisses moved down to my neck and he motioned for me to lift up, which I did, and he rolled my sports bra up and over my head, freeing my breasts.  He lustfully eyed them, and put his lips around my nipple, sucking and licking.  I frantically grabbed the hem of his shirt and yanked upwards, causing him to pause long enough for me to pull his shirt up and over his head.  His mouth pressed against mine again, his bare chest pressed against mine.  There is something about skin to skin contact that just gets me.  He moved his hand down, placing it between my legs and rubbing through the cloth. 

Gripping the waistband of my pants, he started pulling them down, and I raised my hip off the bed, so he had easier access.  He looked me in the eyes and started his descent, kissing and licking down my body, pausing at my breasts, moving down my stomach, leaving a trail of kisses to my inner thigh.  He rolled me fully onto my back and positioned himself with my legs over his shoulders, his knees on the floor at the end of the bed.  He slowly and painstakingly teased me, kissing my inner thighs, licking the edge of where I wanted him, up and down.  Then he plunged his tongue into me and I arched my back and inhaled sharply at the immediate pleasure that seized my body.  “Oh, Chase,” I softly moaned. 

He lightly, and expertly, circled his tongue upwards.  I was so turned on, I knew this was going to be quick.  My breathing sped up, my hips thrusting.  He inserted a finger, and put his other hand on my stomach, trying to hold me still.

I was mere seconds away from exploding when the bedroom door flung open.  “Aleah, you in here?” We both froze as the light was flicked on and Nellie started casually strolling in holding a textbook in front of her.  She was looking over at my desk.  Unfortunately, I remembered too late that I told her she could borrow my laptop to write a paper tonight, before I left with it the next day.  And there it was, sitting on my desk. 

So there we were, paused with Chase’s head between my legs.  His eyes just as wide as I’m sure mine were.  When I tried grabbing for my comforter to fling over my naked body and his head, Nellie saw my movement and jerked her face towards us.  In one slow motion that felt like minutes but was literally seconds, her whole naive sense of being was stripped of its purity.  She dropped the text book, jaw dropped open, pushed her glasses up her nose, and turned on her heel to leave.  In her hurriedness, she caught her foot in the strap of my tennis bag that was laying haphazardly on the floor, and fell, lunging towards the door.  But she landed on her hands and knees, crawling out of the room. 

I lost it at that point, laughing hysterically.  Chase mumbled something and jumped up to help Nellie, and I wrapped my blanket around me.  Thankfully, Chase still had his pants on.  “Oh my gosh, Nellie, I’m so sorry.  I should’ve said something, but you surprised me!” I managed between giggles.  “Are you okay?”

Chase had given her a hand and was helping her off the floor.  She couldn’t seem to look me in the eyes as she muttered she was fine, but her face flushed, and appearance disheveled.  “I really should’ve knocked.”

“Yeah.  Yeah, you probably should’ve.”

Chase was apologizing profusely.  I didn’t know whose face was more tomato-like, his or Nellie’s.  I went and picked up Nellie’s text book and grabbed my laptop.  I walked out and put them on our table.  Nellie was sitting on the couch, and Chase was in the bathroom.  “Nellie, I really am sorry.  I just froze when you walked in, shocked.”

“No, I’m really sorry.  You appeared to be having... um, well... fun, I guess.  Sorry I interrupted.”

I motioned to the book and laptop and she thanked me.  I went into my room and waited for Chase.  He came in, shaking his head, his eyes still wide.  “Chase, I owe you an apology, too.  I guess I should’ve locked the door.”

He seemed to relax at that point, his shoulders dropped.  He chuckled, finally.  “No, it’s okay.  I mean, we are kind of in a dorm.  I’m just embarrassed.”

“You?!  You weren’t the one lying spread eagle, full monty!”

We then were able to laugh off the event.  He, sadly, watched me get dressed, as the mood was killed.
Before we walked out of the room, he wrapped his arms around me.  I asked, “So, do you think we’re just not meant to get, you know, intimate, yet?  I mean, this is the second time it’s started getting all hot and heavy, and this is the second time our plans have been foiled.”

He shook his head at me.  “I think it’s just been bad timing.  That’s all.  I’m sure it’ll happen.  Third time’s a charm, right?”  He smiled gently at me.

“I sure hope so,” I sighed. 

He laughed and we hugged.   I walked him to the door, he paused, kissing me and promising to talk to me the next day, and to have fun and good luck. 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

LbA: Victorious, Part 2

I felt like the walls were caving in.  I was going crazy.  Mad.  Maybe this is how it felt right before someone was committed.  I was lying on my back on my bed, my floral bedspread growing around me, making me feel consumed by a field.  I couldn’t breath.  I needed to get out.  Get away from this place.  Coming here was a mistake.  Coming to be with Luke was a mistake.  Coming to chase Aleah away from Luke, was a mistake. 

I jumped up like I had just been burned.  I slipped on my Crocs (they may be ugly, but damn comfortable), threw on a zip up hoodie, and snatched my keys off my desk.  I strode out of my shared room into the common area.  Only one of the other girls in my apartment was home.  She was making something that smelled like home.  Hamburgers being pan fried.  I paused, momentarily, taken back to a different time and place.

 “Hi, Victoria,” Cindy said softly.  I snapped back to reality.  I gave her a weak smile and started walking again.  “I made extra if you wanted to join me...”

I stopped, again.  I contemplated it.  I really did.  I could tell that all of my roommates walked on egg shells around me.  I think they were scared of me.  I was icy towards them.  I didn’t want to make friends.  “Um, I really have to go.”

I walked towards the door and put my hand on the doorknob.  I looked over at Cindy.  “It smells really good, though, thanks.”

I saw her grin at me before I walked out of the door.  I couldn’t help it.  I smiled, too.  Even though she couldn’t see me. 

I walked towards the door, feeling a little more free- a little less drowned.  But then I slowed.  There, coming in the door, was Aleah.  She hadn’t seen me, yet.  She looked really happy.  In all the times I had seen her, she didn’t look quite as naturally happy as she did at that exact moment. 

And then she saw me.  She glared at me, but moved out of the way.  Then I noticed the man coming in behind her.  He was smiling, and continued when he saw me.  A friendly smile.  He didn’t know who I was.  He didn’t know how Aleah knew me.  He nodded his head at me.

I suddenly felt timid and out of place.  Like I was interrupting something special.  “Uh, hi, Aleah.”

She looked at me like I had three heads.  But I’m sure me saying hi to her was probably the equivalent in weirdness.  “Victoria,” she replied icily. 

I felt incredibly nervous.  I don’t know what was happening, but word vomit started pouring out.  “I just wanted to tell you...” And I stopped.  I closed my mouth as quickly as I opened it.  What was I about to do?  I couldn’t tell her that.  Luke would never talk to me again, if I told her that.  Or worse, he’d cancel his devious plans for her and turn them around on me.

“What is it, Victoria,” she demanded impatiently.

I lost my nerve.  But regained my cool.  I sighed, as if I was bored with her, and she was the one who had stopped me.  “I just wanted to tell you, once again, to stay away from Luke.  He doesn’t want you.” 

And I burst through the door, before she could see the panic on my face.  That I was choking on my own breath.  That tears were threatening to flood my face.

~~~~~~~November 2009~~~~~~~~

I sighed, walking briskly through the grocery store.  It was the day before Thanksgiving, and my mom needed green beans for the green bean casserole.  Apparently, on her trip the weekend before she had forgotten them.  So she sent me.  And it was packed, and I just wanted to get home.  I was thankful to have the next two days of school off. 

It would be a much needed break.

It was hard being me.  Finding ways to pass without trying.  Jill and I ruled the school now.  We were looked up to and revered more than the senior girls.  And it was hard keeping up that image.  Always appearing effortlessly perfect.

I grabbed the cans of green beans, and shoved my hand into my jeans pocket to feel the crumpled dollar bills.  Making sure they didn’t fall out.  I rounded the corner of the aisle to head to check out and ran straight into a pole.

“Uff..” I moaned.  “Fuck.”

“Sorry.” So the pole speaks.

I looked up to see Luke.  I immediately thought back to the last night I had seen him.  His graduation.  I thought I would be back the next day, but I didn’t go.  And the day after that, I didn’t go either.  And with each passing day, it got easier and easier to not go.  And he never called or texted to find out why.  Or if I was okay. 

My mouth gasped open, and I took a step back, unintentionally.  He looked... haggard.  He looked at me... with pity?

“You look like shit,” I stated, simply.

“You look bitter,” he quietly replied.

“What are you doing here?”  I stepped to the side so I was out of the way of the hustle and bustle of people coming in and out of the aisle.

He rose a dark eyebrow at me.  “Probably the same thing you are.”

I sighed, annoyed.  “I meant, why aren’t you away at your big fancy college.”

His shoulders slumped, and he looked down at his feet.  THIS Luke, I had never seen.  The whole time we were whatever we were, I had never seen a side of him that even appeared remotely vulnerable. 

“Thanksgiving break.  I gotta go, Victoria.”  And with that, he was gone.

I got back home with the green beans to the usual sounds of home.  Oil spattering.  Overly loud television.  Sounded like Jeopardy.  My mom banging things around in the kitchen.  My dad snoring in front of the tv. 

I dropped the bag of cans on the raggedy kitchen table.  My mom turned around, timidly.  She smiled faintly at me.  The bags under her eyes, drooping.  Her red, once ferocious hair, dull and sad looking.  Years of abuse at the hands of my dad had done her in.  Once a beauty queen with the world at her fingertips, she fell for the handsome and cunning town drunk.  An abusive, philandering one, at that.  I had no respect for her, letting my dad walk all over her and put his hands on her like that.  I walked all over her, too.  Just not physically.  She let me do whatever I wanted, in hopes that I would like her.  Kind of like my dad.  That’s why she never confronted him about his infidelity.  She knew about it.  Hell, the whole town did.  But she just smiled and looked the other way.  Hoping he would stop hitting her if she would let him do whatever he wanted.

“Thanks, doll,” my mom said, trying to win favor with pet names.  I looked at her blankly as I let the single dollar left fall onto the table through my fingers.  Then I turned, and walked into the living room.

I noted four empty bottles on the side table next to the tattered Lazyboy he was lounging in.  And a bottle in his hand.  Five?  That wasn’t so bad.  He clearly decided to slow down for the holiday.  How generous of him.  Bastard.  Only at seven and more did he become physically abusive.  Eleven and more?  I stayed away.  He left me alone until he reached eleven.  Eleven was his lucky number.  And my unlucky number.  I became his slave at that point. 

I mean, I guess in a sense I was lucky.  It was usually just physical aggressiveness.  Only once had he groped me.  But I still think he just got my mom and me mixed up.  And he was way past eleven that time.  He probably would’ve groped the dog, if we’d had one.  I never spoke of it, and neither did.   

Unfortunately for her, my mom did.  She earned a black eye and 3 fractured ribs for that.  And for the next three weeks after, got accused of being a lying, jealous whore.

I tiptoed through the living room down the hall to my room, to make sure he didn’t wake up.  I shut the door and locked it.  They never required I eat with them, so hopefully they would leave me alone the rest of the night. 

I curled up on my twin canopy bed, and let myself think about Luke for the first time in months.

Thanksgiving passed uneventfully.  Whenever the grandparents were over, the dad and mom were on their best behaviors.  We appeared like the all-American, lower/middle class family.  After dinner, when the adults were all in the living room socializing over coffee (or Jack and Coke for my dad-he only drank liquor on special occasions), I went off to my room again.  I grabbed my neglected cell phone and checked the time, 8:43 p.m.  I started scrolling through Facebook.  I contemplated texting Jill, to see if she was done with family stuff and we could hang out.

I dropped my phone on my bed next to my head and drifted off to sleep.  I woke up to it pinging.  I let my eyes adjust to the light, which I’d left on.  I grabbed my phone and looked at the time.  12:18 a.m.  I saw I had a couple text messages.  The first one was from Jill.  She had the same idea I did.  It was several hours earlier, so I didn’t reply.

The second was from Luke.  Come over.

That was the one that woke me up. 

So I went.

I snuck through the house.  It was calm.  For the first time in who knew how long.  I grabbed my keys off the kitchen table.  I was only quiet to not wake my dad, who was passed out in his recliner.  My mom was in bed, I was sure.  I drove to Luke’s in silence.  It was like riding a bike.  Muscle memory.  Whatever.

I texted him back, finally.  Here.

He met me at the door and let me in.  Same shit, different day.  We silently flowed through his house to his bedroom.

I started unbuttoning my shirt, but before I could even get two undone, he grabbed my hand, stopping me.  He pushed me to sit on his bed and he sat next to me. 

He finally said, staring at his hands, “I didn’t go.”

“You didn’t go?” I asked, confused.  

"I didn't go to college."
 I sneered at him, somehow feeling superior in that moment.  “What happened to your all-star, full ride basketball career?”

He ignored my snide remark.  “Betty got sick.”  Betty was his little sister.  She was a surprise.  Way younger than him.  At his graduation she was 5.  Maybe 6.  I couldn’t remember.

“Sick how?”


My hand found its way rapidly to my mouth, covering it.  I gasped.  “Oh, no.  Is she at a hospital?”

He didn’t answer me.  He just kept looking at his hands.


He looked up at me.  He was crying.  Real, legit tears.  “She lost the battle.”

My face softened and fell.  I leaned over and automatically pulled him to me, hugging him.  I pulled his head down onto my shoulder.  “I’m so sorry, Luke.”

We leaned back on his bed, lying down.  Me holding him.  And we stayed that way until morning.