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To Be Zach
“Zach, I just… I don’t see how this is going to work. I don’t…”
I sigh, closing my eyes as she talks for a few more minutes.
“Zach? Sweetheart, did you hear me?”
Reluctantly, I open my eyes, coming out from the safety of the darkness. I focus on the girl in front of me.
She tugs nervously at her red hair. “With me going to UCLA, and you staying here…”
“I get it, Allison.”
“I’m so sorry, Zach. I just can’t do a long-distance relationship.”
“I said that I get it, Allison.” I turn away from her and walk out of the park as quickly as possible. Walking down the street, I come to Barnes and Nobles. Of course I have to work now, right after getting dumped.
I walk in and nod to my boss, Jay.
Half an hour left. Only restocking the romance section, and I’m free.
As I kneel, putting books on the shelf, I hear my name whispered behind me.
“That’s Zach Simner. He got a scholarship to Stanford, and turned it down! He’s going to community college!”
“Why in the world would he do that?”
I glare over my shoulder and see Kelly Castle talking to her mom. They abruptly stop talking when they see me looking at them. I watch as they nervously walk away and complete my shift with a scowl.
As I walk out to my car, near the park, I breathe deeply. It’s a beautiful night—full moon, nice weather, perfect breeze—but I don’t notice. I’m too busy focusing on ignoring how empty I feel.
I jump in the car and start driving home.
Help! I need somebody! Help! Not just anybody!
I scan for cops before grabbing my cell phone and flipping it open.
“Dude, we need to hang out tomorrow! I just got back from Orientation, and it was AWESOME! I can’t wait for college!”
“David, man, calm down! I can barely understand you!” I say, feeling envy rise up inside me.
“Sorry, Zach, I’m just so pumped!”
I make myself laugh. “It’s cool. So basketball tomorrow? Nine good?”
“See you then!”
“B-” David hangs up before I get the chance to say anything. My eyes begin to burn and I bite my lip to hold back tears. I’m still trying not to cry as I pull into my driveway.
I open to front door and glance at the mantle where pictures of my family are sitting.
As I stare at the last family portrait, I imagine the end of Kelly Castle’s conversation.
“Well, Zach turned down an amazing scholarship because his brother and dad died in a car accident three months ago, and he doesn’t want to leave his mom alone. He’s giving up everything he wants to stay with her.”
I hear the sound of Mom crying upstairs and frown. It’s true.
I’m giving up everything I ever wanted to try to keep her sane.
The tears I’ve been holding back begin to fall.