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["Words float up

"Me: Let me tell you about it."]

The words pour out. The words that have been swirling around my head all year just waiting for me to set them free have finally gotten out. Part of me could hardly be happier, but there's a small voice in my head saying, "Is this really a good idea?" It doesn't matter. It's too late to take it back. You can't unsay what you've already said. I know that by now.

Slowly, the words come to an end. There is nothing left inside of me other than memories-ghosts that have haunted me all year. They won't anymore. Not if I can help it.

We're silent for a moment. Mr. Freeman seems to be at a loss for words, and I just have nothing more to say. I wait for him to speak. I am not sure if I want to hear it, but it could not be worse than this silence.

Mr. Freeman: "So that's why. I knew there had to be something silencing you. Melinda, you are a strong girl, and you didn't deserve any of what happened to you. Don't let anyone stop you from speaking your mind. You have a lot to say."

I wipe my eyes again-wiping away the last of my tears. He continues. "If you ever need someone to talk to next year, you know where to find me."

I nod and turn to leave. When I reach the doorway, I stop and turn back to him.

Me: "Mr. Freeman?" He turns his gaze back towards me. "Thanks."

With those last words, I leave the artroom. I walk down the halls with a bittersweet feeling. Freshman year is over. Sure, it wasn't great (try horrible), but next year is my chance to start over. And I won't have to face it alone.

Speaking of next year, what will happen next year? Everyone knows my story now. This year, I was The Girl Who Called The Cops At The Party. Next year, I'll be The Girl Who Was Raped. In the long run, nothing will really change. People will still whisper behind my back-only this time, with pity, not hatred. They'll know my story. Just not my name. Not who I am.

"Melinda!" Hesitantly, I turn around, to see who said my name. Oh great, it's Heather. Did she not get the message last time we talked? She's a snobby Martha, I'm... me. I don't need-no, don't want-her friendship.

Heather: "Melinda, I am so so sooooo sorry for what happened. And I want you to know I forgive you for not helping me decorate for prom." Whoa, whoa, whoa, she FORGIVES me? Who said I was sorry?

I'm not really listening as she goes on and on about how she's "soooo sorry" and she "hopes we can go back to being friends". Finally, she ends the whole act with, "Do you think we can hang out this summer?"

I blink. Can she really be that pathetic? She might as well be begging. It's sad, really.

Heather: "Well?"

Me: "Thanks, but I think I'm gonna hang out with my friends this summer."

Heather: (frowning) "But we are friends."

I'm remembering now how when she had anounced that she did not want to be friends a few months a go, I had suddenly wanted-and needed-her friendship. Well, whaddya know. The tables have turned.

Me: "We were never really, really friends, were we?"

Her jaw drops when she realizes those were originally her words. I am on a roll here! Melinda-2, Heather-1.

Heather: "Fine! But don't expect me to welcome you back with open arms when you're back to being an outcast!"

I shrug and walk away. Even if I somehow did go back to being an outcast, I would never turn to Heather as my last resort. I know by now she can't be trusted. All she wants is to be a part of a clique, to feel like she belongs, and she will shove you aside if you are in her way. I did not share the same goal; therefore, I was in her way. It was a poisonous friendship. It took me far too long to figure that much out.

I haven't even left the building when I hear my name again. If it's Heather again, I swear-

David: "Melinda! Hey!"

It's David Petrakis My Former Lab Partner. He's running up the hallway to catch up with me.

David: "Can you believe the year's already over? Seems like time just flew by."

I could tell him how much this year dragged for me. I could tell him that this was the worst year of my life. I could also tell him why. But I don't. I just smile and nod.

David: "So... any plans for the summer?"

Me: (shrugs)

He tells me about what he is planning to do over the summer. I don't really listen. It's blatantly apparent that there's something he wants to tell me-that is, something NOT about science camp. For some reason, he seems uncertain of how to bring it up. Immediately the question "is he gonna ask me out?" enters my head. No. He can't. I can't say yes. At the same time, I wouldn't say no... but... what if he turns out to be just like IT?

There's an awkward silence. Then he takes a breath and says, "Melinda, I heard about what happened between you and that guy, Andy Evans."

My heart stops at the sound of IT's name. I know he's talking about what happened in the closet. My closet. My sanctuary that the Beast invaded.

David: "You're okay, right?"

Me: "Yeah, I'm fine. Well, mostly."

David: "What exactly happened?"

Me:

His eyes meet mine. He wants me to tell him. My throat closes up, and I can't speak. As we're just looking at each other in silence, I realize he has amazing eyes. They have this determined look to them. More than that, they seem to see beyond the Weird Girl Who Never Talks everyone else sees me as. They see who I really am. Now, why can't I?

David: "You don't have to tell me. But I know he did something to you."

He takes a step closer to me. Reflexively, I step back.

David: "Melinda, you know you can trust me, right?"

I almost burst out laughing. Trust. Everytime I trust someone, I end up getting hurt. I end up as Outcast. I won't be quick to trust anyone from now on.

Melinda one: "Come on, you never let us have any fun! Just trust the kid. What's the worst that can happen?"

Melinda two: "You know very well. It's already happened. And history can repeat itself."

Man, I wish they'd shut up. Finally, I come up with an answer.

Me: (clears throat) "Thanks, David."

He smiles. Melinda two is scared, Melinda one is smiling right back. Me? I have no clue how to react.

David: "Maybe I'll call you."

Me: "Maybe I won't answer. Maybe I will."

He laughs, and even I have to smile. Maybe I will...

Maybe. Just maybe.





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