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“I don’t get this.”
“Well, don’t you just switch these two to get your answer?”
“But that doesn’t- never mind I get it now.”
“So how was-”
He hadn’t stayed to talk.
“How’d you do on that test?”
“I missed a few.”
“Same, I guessed on a lot of them. It was pretty bad.”
“Yeah I probably failed.”
A nod. That was all she could come up with in response. There was so much more she wanted to say, but maybe she was no better than he in keeping the conversation alive. On seeing that she had nothing more to say, he walked off.
Ring. Ring. Ring.
Ring. Ring. Ring. Ring.
She was just about to hang up and tell, no comfort, herself that she had tried when he picked up.
“Have you done the homework? I don't get number 4.” She was taken aback by his abruptness but plunged into the conversation. She wanted to talk to him, yet she wished she’d never called. She also needed to know how to do the homework, but she could’ve asked anyone else. Most of them would more likely understand the homework than he.
“I don’t know.”
“Have you done it?”
“I don’t know. I’m stupid.”
“No you’re not. Come on, can you at least think about it?”
Silence from his end. The silence went on for a while. What was she to do? After a few more stabs at conversation, each weaker and more feeble than the last in the face of his determined silence, she hung up. And felt terrible immediately after.
“When angry, count to four. When really angry, swear.”
She laughed. “That’s funny. You didn’t come up with it yourself, did you?”
“Mark Twain said it.” There was that silence again.
“Writers come up with the coolest things.”
He smiled, but a smile that didn’t quite reach his eyes. Yet in all the silences and the coldness, it seemed so close to the real thing. It lingered for a while, enough for her to think that she was making progress before it slipped into the thin line she had gotten so used to seeing.
There was the silence again. She played with the dead pieces of skin around her fingernails. It was a nervous habit- she’d never learnt to deal well with such situations.
“You seem tired lately.” Tentative, she knew she had to be careful, at the same time taking the most direct path she dared. There was a piece of dead skin on her index finger, around her nail. She was tired of beating around the bush. She wanted to end all of it, things to be the way they were. Just friends. Nothing would ever need to happen, nothing at all. As long as they were still friends. If it wasn’t asking for too much, best friends. She lifted her head a little, trying to encourage him to open up. To trust her enough, to think of her enough as a friend, to tell her.
“I’m just tired.” His tone was dismissive and drained of energy, as it always was these days. She knew it wasn’t a change in character though. She’d seen him in class, where she could never help but steal a glance in his direction. There, amongst his other friends, he’d always seemed as he always was. A huge grin on his face that reverberated throughout the room. She wanted that smile and that laugh, directed at her again. Thinking about it seemed pathetic, but the effort to restrain herself, or, more accurately, the want to restrain herself, just wasn’t strong enough.
“Cheer up.” It took her a split second to decide to say it, a painful split second. It seemed with his abrupt answer the subject should be dropped, but she didn’t want to let it go like that. She wanted to fix things. Like that piece of dead skin on her index finger. That stubbornly refused to give in. That wouldn’t come off. At least, not without straight out ripping it. She tried to ease it off.
He mumbled something in reply, something she couldn’t quite catch, and stood up.
She wondered if she should ask again but decided against it. He’d already stood up. Their conversation was over. Once again, she’d accomplished nothing. Wouldn’t it be easy if she was Edward Cullen. Not in the sense of the vampire’s creepy stalking, but to read people’s minds. The endless probing with him would need not continue. She would even know what to do to fix things. Without realizing it, the piece of skin had come off her index finger. There appeared to be a small amount of blood. Strangely enough, it didn’t hurt now that it was off. As she came to think of it, it hadn’t hurt when she’d tugged it off either. She hadn’t even realized. How interesting, considering how much it appeared it would hurt back when she was trying to tease it off. Maybe it would be like that with him too.