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I see her standing there, as beautiful as ever. The sight breaks my heart a little bit more. Her name is Chloe, and for seven months and five days she was my girl. That ended last Thanksgiving when she slept with my brother, and you know what the sick thing is? I’m still in love with her.
It was easy to avoid her all through Christmas break, harder since school started. I haven’t spoken to her in months, and still I can’t forget. I can’t erase the memory of her in Dylan’s arms, her face turned into his shoulder. Now, though, I can’t avoid her anymore, thanks to Mrs. Blake’s offhand, “Lucas, you’ll be Chloe’s study partner. I can’t wait to see what you two come up with.” Before either of us could object, she had breezed right on to her next victims. That is why I am here, standing in the library, about to spend the next hour with the girl who cut me into pieces.
I can’t help but notice that she has changed. She’s thinner, and she isn’t wearing the dangly earrings she always loved. She looks...tired. I’m scowling as she turns to face me. We stand there for a moment, completely still. I force myself to move forward.
“Hi,” my voice manages not to crack.
“Hi,” hers breaks a little.
We are silent for so long that I can’t stand it anymore. I pull off my backpack, using it as an excuse not to look at her anymore. “We’d better get started.” The topic was the life of Jefferson Davis, and we both buried ourselves in the Civil War, neither of us making a sound for a full half hour. I read the same page twenty-seven times. I ask her a question about his first wife. She responds with a mumbled answer. For ten minutes the only sound is the occasional page turning. The sound of Chloe’s pen hitting the floor makes us both jump. She scrambles from her seat, mumbling apologies and stuffing her things into her bag before she dashes away.
When Carter told me that Chloe was with my older brother, I didn’t believe it. So he led me to them. I didn’t believe it right up until the door opened and I saw her with her arms around him, her shirt unbuttoned, her lips on his. They looked up and saw me. She looked a little dazed. He grinned maliciously. I left.
I don’t know how I’m going to make it through the next week.
I don’t last a day. After a sleepless night and hours of staring at her through class, I’m on my last nerve. My foot beats an angry rhythm on the floor through the first fifteen minutes of study hour. I haven’t read a word. She hasn’t looked at me. At last, I burst.
“Why did you do it?” There is no need to specify what.
She looks up, her green eyes steady, unblinking. Her jaw is tense, and I realize she’s furious. What right has she to be angry? I clamp down on my own ire when I see that her anger is matched by grief. Her voice is less than steady when she speaks.
“How could you believe it of me?”
I cannot say a word. Something in my face must have shown how I felt, because Chloe pales. My voice is choked when it finally returns. “I saw you.”
All that is left of her color drains away instantly, and I feel a moment of triumph before her hand comes up as fast as lightning and slaps across my face. I am stunned as she begins to cry.
“You saw?” There is accusation in her eyes, “What did you see?”
I tell her exactly what I saw. She won’t meet my eyes while I speak, but when I finish she looks at me with such pain.
“You saw me there? You could have stopped it, and you left me there?”
“You seemed happy enough.”
“Happy,” she whispers. “I don’t remember seeing you. I don’t remember much of that party. I remember drinking with Dylan. I remember his face, and Carter’s. I remember waking up in my car four hours later. My shoes were on the wrong feet and I hurt.” I start to get a sick feeling at the bottom of my stomach. “I didn’t realize until later that Dylan must have put something in my drink. And you left me there.”
I wince at her voice, “Dylan wouldn’t do something like that,” but my voice is uncertain. She stares blankly at me.
“I called you later, but you didn’t answer. I left messages, but you never called back. The news had already spread and if you didn’t believe me nobody would, so I didn’t say a word. I never said a word.”
“Chloe...” I take a step toward her but she flinches away. I can’t blame her.
“Don’t touch me. Don’t talk to me. I don’t ever want to see your face again. See it and know that you saw...and you didn’t...Just stay away from me.” This time she didn’t even bother to pick up her books before she fled.
“Forgive me,” I whisper, but she is already gone.
I walk through the school in a daze, not answering when my friends call to me. I find myself at the basketball court, staring numbly as Dylan runs up to me, a smile on his face. His smile fades before he reaches me.
“Lucas, what’s up?” He looks worried, but I just continue to stare. “Lucas, you’re freaking me out.”
“I was just talking to Chloe.” Every trace of laughter disappears from his face and a flash of guilt crosses his face. I know then that everything Chloe said was true. “D*mn you,” I whisper, “D*mn you for what you did to her.”
“Hey, I didn’t do anything to her that she didn’t want to do,” he begins, but I don’t let him finish. My fist catches him squarely on the nose. The color of his blood is beautiful. I want to see more. My fist flies again. And again. I don’t even notice when he hits back; it doesn’t matter. I don’t care when I am bruised, when I start bleeding. I just keep hitting, intent on pounding Dylan into the dirt. There is shouting but I don’t hear any words. I keep swinging even as we are separated.
I’m suspended for a week, but Dylan will never come back. The school doesn’t know what he did, but our parents do. When I come back, everybody stares. Everybody whispers. Is this how Chloe felt? I can’t ask her because I don’t see her.
At lunch I feel her come up behind me and I start to turn, but she stops me. She still doesn’t want to see my face. But she looks at my hands. Takes one in her own.
“I’m not sure if I can look at you yet, but maybe I can forgive you some day,” she says from behind me. She sits next to me, and I am careful not to turn. But a piece of my heart fits back into place.