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Cherry Cough Drops This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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It began purely as a pizza romance, biting into thick, greasy crust and tasting the sweet, garlic-infused sauce. It was centered on lemon ice waters and red-and-white-checked tablecloths. Canned, fake Italian music was our soundtrack. I would go home at night, smelling of restaurant hand soap and pizza dough. It felt like it was meant to be and completely wrong at the same time, like a delicious secret or a painting that was in a constant battle between hideous and beautiful.

He would greet me every morning in the hallway, his feet shuffling along the gritty floor as if his shoes were as awkward to wear as Kleenex boxes. He would peer out at me from under his shaggy hair with mournful eyes. His skinny fingers would finger the buttons on his gray pea coat that was perfectly and intentionally distressed.

He used to tell me that I was like the sound of his computer keyboard when he typed: soothing and relaxing. Just as his hands manipulated the keys, wrote out his depressed poems with a deeper, profound meaning I couldn't comprehend, I was wrapped around his finger.

We would sit cross-legged across from each other like kindergarteners. Our hands were in our laps, and we would simply stare at each other, foreheads touching. I could smell the freshly brewed coffee on his breath and see the sun glint in his eyes.

He would often stare off into space, thoughtfully sucking on a cherry cough drop. Whenever I would speak to him, he would startle like an ambushed kitten.

It was a Thursday, a rainy Thursday. It felt like an affair, the way we stole around, ducking behind vehicles in parking lots and hiding under black umbrellas. He fixed his eyes on me beneath the umbrella while licking the raindrops from his lips. His eyes darted like anxious flies.

“I can't be your ghost anymore,” he whispered in a raw voice, and ran away, leaving me with the umbrella in my hand.

The school psychologist didn't understand.

I don't eat pizza anymore. The school psychologist's world is composed of bottles of hand sanitizer on sale at Costco and vinyl seats with the armrests worn down to the foam padding. She couldn't possibly understand our pizza romance, just as I could never find the deeper meaning in poems about the lion statutes in front of our school.

We used to make hearts with our hands and peer through them to see each other, so the hearts were around our eyes like a Sharpie doodle in the yearbook. I couldn't peer through anything anymore. It all felt like looking through a spy glass, magnifying everything I did not want to see.

The school psychologist didn't understand.

She eyed my distressed thermal shirts and black skinny jeans with skepticism while tapping her fountain pen against her abnormally small chin. She held out the bottle of hand sanitizer, like a peace offering. I shook my head. Her facial expression became even more ridiculous.

We used to sit on the springy, moss-smothered ground in the woods behind school. Cross-legged, with eyes closed, we would meditate and feel the sun warm our faces. We would gulp the sun down our throats, drinking its sweetness and purity day after day. I would sometimes peek through my closed eyelids and watch the sunlight fall over his arms and shoulders, dripping and cascading in and around him. We would run together, holding hands, bare feet fleeing across the grass. It was intoxicating. It was like a high, an addiction we could not resist. We would never go alone; always together. It was a sacred ritual of mine.

The school psychologist didn't understand.

She took in my bruised arms with a concern that was more judgmental than caring. My rituals, like tapping the doorway three times before entering, seemed ridiculous to her. My addiction to him was nonsensical; my withdrawal symptoms were even
more so.

He embroidered my thoughts with pictures of him, so that when we were apart, he was always stitched into what I was doing, what I was saying, what I was thinking. He was permanently etched in my mind.

My head was being toyed with; he played me until I was nothing but a strand of string that used to be a ball of yarn.

All this was crashing onto me in the school psychologist's office, as a bulletin board across the room told me to stay positive and be accountable for my actions. Another poster showed me pictures of all the different emotions and facial expressions. It felt like a joke, a farce.

The school psychologist tucked a strand of her blunt, chopped-off hair behind her ear. The severe cut was not flattering. Her eyes probed and implored me to know more while her mouth, painted with thick pink, did not speak.

My head dropped and I closed my eyes. I opened my mouth and broke down.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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This article has 11 comments. Post your own now!

amesgriffey said...
Nov. 7, 2011 at 4:46 pm
I like how you took a kind of love story and changed it around so you can barley tell that it is! I like how it wasn't just another fairytale story. Its real.
alymarie3 said...
Mar. 9, 2011 at 4:37 pm

1) I can relate. It feels when i talk to the school counselr she doesnt get me. Like she's never been a student before. She gives simple soulution even though your problem isnt all. She's so convinced her advice willl work, when she has it all wrong

2)The details are amazing and vivid. Are you sure this is fiction? Its feels so real to you lived it!


Great great job! This my all time favoirte!

Kael96 said...
Feb. 27, 2011 at 3:20 pm
I absolutely loved this! So vivid! And I liked how you couldn't predict where it was going. It wasn't a happily ever after, which is good and makes the story stand out more in my head. I would really enjoy constructive criticism from you. Please look at some of my stuff and tell me what you think!
Krikette This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Feb. 25, 2011 at 7:09 pm
I really like the first line! And throughout the piece you conveyed the character's feelings well. I love all the original descriptions.
PythegreanTherom said...
Feb. 11, 2011 at 10:41 pm
This was amazing! It was deep and I liked the recuring, "The school psychologist didn't understand."
VintageFlapper This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Feb. 11, 2011 at 6:25 pm
This is fantastic. Wonderful use of language, a great look at the complexity of emotion.
agsmiley888 said...
Feb. 7, 2011 at 1:42 pm

one word


i loved it

outsidethebox said...
Feb. 2, 2011 at 11:14 am
this was awesome i really got into this piece i wish it was longer!
outsidethebox said...
Feb. 2, 2011 at 11:12 am
this was awesomei really got into this piece i wish it was longer!
stunstyle replied...
Aug. 24, 2011 at 8:43 pm
I feel the same way!
Macx14 said...
Oct. 11, 2010 at 4:26 pm
I really like this. Very deep and well-written!
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