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What Doesn't Matter
"Any new developments Milo?" asked Dr. Sullen, crossing her legs at the ankles. Milo shook his head, pulling the sleeves of his sweater over his hands. Dr. Sullen's office was always so cold. He didn't understand why it always had to be below freezing in her office.
The office wasn't much, really. There were the shelves and the pictures on the creme colored walls. There were the family photos, including Dr. Sullen's daughter Annie, who went to Milo's school. There was her desk, and then there were the chairs where she talked with her patients.
True to her name, Dr. Sullen did in fact always appear sullen. Her mouth was always a straight line, and her eyes were always misty. Milo didn't know what could be wrong with her, but then again, it was her job to know those things, not his.
"Nothing new," Milo mumbled. He had his legs folded in his chair, his head bowed, fingers fiddling with the frayed ends of his jeans. Milo had become increasingly shy over the past three years, something that didn't bother him too much. Ivey was always the only one he really needed anyway. She got him like no one else did.
Dr. Sullen frowned, c***ing her head. Milo suddenly had the urge to itch. "Have you been writing in your Thought Journal as discussed?"
Milo reached into the tattered leather satchel at his feet, pulling out the worn notebook. Inside was his messy scrawl, all his thoughts and dreams and memories. He reached across to give it to Dr. Sullen, who skimmed over several of his recent entries.
"Here, April 15th. You wrote, 'I'm angry and I have no right to be.' Why is that, Milo?"
Milo took in a shuddering breath, crimson blotting his cheeks. That had been the worst day for him. First, he had been late for school. Since Ivey always picked him up, that in turned caused her to be late. After that, Milo had forgotten his homework for all his classes. The worst part came later. Ivey introduced him to her new boyfriend, Oliver.
It was hard for Milo to hate Oliver. Oliver was nice and hardworking. He had his dreams and his goals and could afford to take Ivey out to nice places. He didn't even mind Ivey's best friend was a guy. He was too nice. But Ivey needed nice. She didn't need someone troubled with social anxiety and asthma and dyslexia. She deserved better.
"Ivey," Milo said quietly. "Her boyfriend. I don't know. It's stupid of me. I broke my promise and she doesn't even know it."
Dr. Sullen scribbled on her notepad. When she was done she looked at Milo, her eyes narrowed. "What promise?"
"She made me promise not to fall for her," Milo whispered. Since it was just the two of them, it wasn't hard for Dr. Sullen to hear.
"Have you ever thought about telling her how you feel?"
Milo laughed, running a hand through his hair. He had grown out his hair, once, because he thought Ivey might've liked it. She had only laughed and said he looked like Shaggy from Scooby Doo. He never grew it out again.
"Many times. I don't want her to hate me. Ivey's the type of person who keeps her promises. I think she expects the same of me. Besides. She has a boyfriend."
"Telling her will make the feelings fade easier," said Dr. Sullen softly. Milo inhaled sharply. He didn't want them to fade did he? He didn't know. He was so confused and there never was anyone else to really talk with.
"I don't know if I want them to fade," Milo said truthfully. He untucked his legs - they were starting to cramp up - and took a deep breath.
Dr. Sullen handed him the thought journal back, her oceanic blues filled with sympathy. "Keep writing in your Thought Journal. Write about these feelings for Ivey. Why they might scare you so much."
Milo gave a curt nod of his head, slipping the journal back into his bag. He was certain he would have a lot to write about. Dr. Sullen stood, signaling the end of their session. Milo stumbled to his feet, shouldering his bag. Dr. Sullen held open the door for him, smiling. Milo suddenly he wished he'd had her as a mother, instead of the woman waiting for him at home. If you could call it that.
"Take care, Milo." Dr. Sullen gave him a small smile before shutting the door. Milo strode down the hall, his anxiety kicking in once more. He didn't want to go home, didn't see why he absolutely had to. However, he couldn't go to Ivey's; she had to attend Sunday Mass, which was the one thing her parents wouldn't let her skip. Ivey hated Mass, called it a waste of time. She'd rather pollute her body with liquid toxins and bad music. She didn't even believe in God, not that her parents knew that. Milo entered the waiting room, where Ivey sat with her legs crossed, her nose stuck in a magazine.
Milo didn't need to see her face to know it was her. Her almond shaped brown eyes and dark, glossy hair were as familiar to Milo as his own features. He had spent so much time memorizing the planes of her face, every curve, every crevice. He would be able to recognize Ivey anywhere. He approached where she sat, his mouth twisting in amusement once he read the magazine title. "Since when do you read Vogue?"
Ivey jumped, the magazine flying out of her hands. Milo chuckled, stooping to pick it up off the floor. He tossed it into the seat of another chair while Ivey caught her breath, glaring at him. "Since I've had to wait for your ugly mug to walk out of that office."
Milo took her hand, hauling her to her feet. He ignored the way his pulse sped up, racing at top speed underneath his skin. Ivey linked her arm with his, shooting a small wave at the receptionist before they stepped outside into the warm, mid-August air. "I'm in the mood for ice-cream. How about it?" Milo asked, shooting a sideways glance at Ivey.
Ivey had at some point pulled out her phone, and she was grinning girlishly at the screen. Oliver. Milo's stomach twisted, jealously flaring in his chest. It was supposed to be their day. This was the Milo and Ivey show, not the Milo and Ivey featuring her annoyingly nice boyfriend Oliver show.
Ivey's head snapped up, as if she hadn't heard him the first time. "Huh?"
"Ice-cream?" Milo gave a hopeful smile. Ivey glanced guiltily at her phone, then at the street. Milo knew what that look meant. He pulled his arm away, biting his tongue to keep from causing a scene. Don't fall for me.
Ivey reached to touch his arm, her eyes swimming with unspoken apologies and IOU's. "I'm sorry, Milo. Tomorrow?"
Milo looked away. "Not allowed out," he muttered. Ivey grimaced.
"Listen, I haven't seen Oliver in forever."
Milo stopped himself from rolling his eyes. He wanted to say, you just saw him yesterday. What he said instead was, "I know. It's fine. I'll call my mom."
Ivey eyed her best friend warily, her fingers nervously tapping the case on her phone. She was itching to go, Milo could tell. He waved her off, pulling out his battered Blackberry. Calling his mom wasn't his first choice, but it would have to do. He didn't have anyone else.
Ivey rifled around in her bag and produced her car keys. She threw her arms around Milo's waist, squeezing tight. Instinctively, Milo responded, his eyes wrapping around her small frame. "I'll make it up to you," she whispered. "I promise."
This made him feel better. Ivey never broke her promises. Milo couldn't say the same. With one last apologetic glance, Ivey darted down the street towards her car. Milo turned his back to her, pulling up his mother's name. He typed out a quick text.
Need a ride from doc.
Immediately, his mother was calling, her name flashing big across the screen. Milo took a deep breath before answering. "Mother."
"You were supposed to be with Ivey. What happened with that?" Sandra demanded, her voice saturated with annoyance.
"She had to go," Milo muttered. "Please. Are you going to leave me out here all alone?"
"I'm on a date," Sandra hissed. "This guy is good. Has money. I'm doing this for you!"
Milo scoffed. For him. Nothing Sandra ever did was for him. It was always for her benefit. Instead of paying bills, she bought expensive Prada bags she couldn't afford, all so she could attract the men. She'd been on ten dates in the past week. "Sure, Sandra."
Sandra breathed out angrily. "I am your mother, and you will address me as such."
Milo's hand curled into a fist. "My mother would come get me from my appointment, but I don't see her. Goodbye." Milo punched the end call button, shoving his phone into his pocket. He was walking home. He silently cursed his mother as he ventured down the hot pavement, shouldering past people, pinpricks of panic shooting through his veins. He hated his mother for being so unreliable, so non-maternal. He hated his father for leaving and not taking Milo with him. He hated everyone. Except Ivey.
Milo shoved his hands into his pockets, unease swirling in his gut. He hated being alone, especially somewhere as crowded as the street at the moment. Milo ducked into a narrow alley, slumping against the wall. He closed his eyes tightly, taking deep breaths. He tried to remember what Dr. Sullen had told him before, whenever he started feeling panicky. He couldn't recall a word. He opened one eye.
?There was a periwinkle blue car idling on the curb in front of him. The windows were tinted, so Milo couldn't peer inside to see who it was. Milo pushed himself off the wall, his hands shaking in his pockets. He slowly approached the car, prepared to run if it came to it. The window rolled down to reveal Annie, a smile splitting her face. Milo felt his shoulders relax a little bit. Annie was nice. Annie wasn't a threat. Annie's dark hair was pulled away from her face, soft tendrils framing her pale face. "Are you okay?" she asked.
Milo leaned down, stuck his head through the window. Her car was warm, smelled faintly of vanilla. It was also very clean, something Milo couldn't say for Ivey's car. Ivey's car was extremely dirty, old wrappers and fast food bags littering the floor. Milo shrugged, allowing himself to smile. "I'm fine. How are you?"
Annie leaned across the seat. "Just dropped my my mom's office to bring her lunch. How was your appointment?"
Annie was the only one, besides Ivey, who knew about Milo's weekly appointments. No one else at school knew. They'd give him crap for it. "It was fine, I guess," Milo mumbled.
Annie glanced at the clock on the dash, the tips of her ears going pink. "D–Do you need a ride? I don't mind," she said quickly. Milo grinned, reaching for the knob. He didn't want to walk, and Annie was as harmless as a baby bird. Annie unlocked the door, allowing Milo to enter. He settled into the clean leather seat, pulling the seatbelt across his chest. He gave Annie his address.
Thankfully, Annie wasn't one to fill the silence with mindless chatter. She allowed Milo silence. Milo leaned his head against the cool window, closing his eyes. He imagined he was somewhere else, anywhere else. Peru, maybe. Or London. Annie reached across the small space to turn the radio up, the soft sounds of Bach filtering into Milo's ears. His phone buzzed. He reached into his pocket to locate his phone. It was Ivey.
can we meet up l8r?
Milo shook his head, shoving the phone back into his pocket. He didn't have time to play Ivey's mind games. Annie cut a quick glance to him, making a sharp right. "Who was that?"
Milo looked at her. Really looked at her. She was pretty, he supposed. Nice hair, dark eyes, red lips. She was slim, not that tall and not that short. She seemed like someone Milo would have liked to date if he wasn't so hung up on Ivey. "Ivey," Milo said slowly. Annie blushed to the tips of her ears.
"Ivey," she mumbled. "Your girlfriend?"
It was Milo's turn to blush. He turned away again, hoping the redness of his neck would fade before she could see. "No. Best friend. Ivey has a boyfriend."
"Oh." Annie sounded relieved. "I see you guys together so much, and I just assumed..."
"It's okay. Really." Milo smiled at her, but Annie wasn't looking at him. She was focused solely on the road, her eyes gripping the steering wheel tight. Milo hadn't noticed before, but Annie seemed to be on edge while driving. Milo wondered if it had something to do with her father, who had died when they were in second grade. No one would tell anyone how, but Milo's mom had heard from Ivey's mom that it was a car accident.
They had finally made it in front of his house. Shame burned in Milo's gut. He never liked anyone coming to see where he lived. In the rundown part of town. The broken windows and peeling paint and the yard littered with old toys. The motorcycle in the tarp covered garage they didn't have the money to fix. Annie idled in his driveway for a minute before glancing at him, her fingers grazing the worn leather keychain attached to her keyring.
"Is this it?" she asked softly. She didn't dare look at the house.
Milo nodded. He tossed a quick thanks over his shoulder before scurrying out of the car, slamming the door shut behind him. Never before had he been so embarrassed. Deep down, however, he knew it didn't matter. No one would ever care enough to remember who Milo was, let alone where he lived.
Milo was no one. He would never be someone.