Leaving Neverland

"I'm failing science." Hunter made the admission and then let it hang there heavily in the air between us.


For a few seconds, I just stood there, stunned. Sure, Hunter had never been as driven or as academic as I was, but still, "fail" had never been in either of our vocabularies--that is, obviously, until now. "What?" I demanded finally.


"And I'll be failing math and history soon, too, if I don't start turning in some homework." When I didn't respond, Hunter just kept going. "I want to graduate the same year you do, Rach."


In a less serious conversation, this was the part where I would have said, "Well, duh." But I said nothing--just waited for Hunter to drop the next bomb.


"If it were just one class, that would be one thing. But now that it's three . . . " He sighed. "I'm quitting the play."


"What?!" I shrieked, much louder this time.


"Quit with me. Rehearsals are h*ll anyway and it's not worth it. Don't try to argue with me--you know you can't." I hated to agree with Hunter on this, but he was right.


"Hunter, lead roles have been our dream since forever!" I wailed anyway. "How can you give up so easily on something you've wanted for twelve years?"


"Dreams change, Rach," Hunter argued. "Acting was what I wanted when I was younger. I've gotta grow up now, even if you don't." This was one of the few things I didn't like about Hunter. He always thought he was so much more mature than I was just because he'd had to grow up a lot when his dad died. Even though he probably was a lot more mature, at least in some ways, I wasn't naïve or sheltered either.


"Hunter, you're playing Peter Pan. The whole point of your character is to not grow up," I pointed out.


"Peter Pan is a load of bull. You have to grow up or you won't survive the real world!" Hunter insisted.


"Hunter, you're sixteen. How much of the real world do you have to survive?"


His face darkened. "Plenty, Rach. Plenty."


I let my voice grow softer. "You used to say acting let you become someone else for a while and forget reality. Couldn't you use some of that right now?"


"I can't afford to forget reality," Hunter countered. "There's too much work to do."


"Come on, Hunter, we perform in two weeks!" I begged. "Can't you hold on until then?"


"Tech week coincides with our finals. I have to ace all the tests just to pass my classes, and there's no way I can study that hard when rehersal doesn't get out 'til after ten."


"Hunter the tough guy, admitting defeat?" I gasped in mock horror, running out of ways to change his mind.


"Hunter the realist, making a decision," he corrected me.


"It's a decision you'll regret," I warned him.


"Not graduating on time is a situation I'll regret," Hunter argued.


"You can't hang on two more weeks?" I tried one last time.


"Nope," Hunter replied, only the faintest hint of longing in his voice. "Break a leg, Rach."





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