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September 25, 2017
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You see her backpack first.

Your stomach drops. You peer around corners and creep through halls on the way out of campus for lunch, terrified you'll run into her. As you start up the stairs, you have a sudden, irrational thought: She can't see me first. I have to see her first.

You relax a bit as you top the stairs and start across flatter ground. You become perfectly calm (at least, as calm as your socially anxious little self can get) as you buy your pizza and start to walk back.

Then she walks out of Whole Foods.

Right in front of you.

Jo's next to her, her hair is the same bright pink as last year and a small part of you, quiet in the ringing of your mind, wonders if she re-dyed it, or if the pink somehow managed to stay vibrant. You freeze for a millisecond, then dive into the store they're leaving. Your heart pounds and you gasp for breath, though you haven't run anywhere. You walk halfway down an aisle and back, then peer out the automatic doors, clutching your pizza box hard.

They're half a block away. You leave the store, dragging your feet and walking slow, then hide behind a building after crossing the street. You hesitate for a momet, then nervously text Eliza, If you're scared of seeing a friend does that mean they're not a good friend for you?

She responds, why are you scared

I don't really know. I don't know what to expect I guess, and also she wasn't very validating last year when I didn't have that many problems and now I have more

You wait for Eliza's response as you head back to school, keeping an eye on the pink hair and walking slowly to wait for her and Jo to enter the art room where you know they'll go. You obsessively check your phone, turning the corner just before the room and seeing Eliza's name pop up on your screen.

maybe see her with a group of people that you trust first and then if that's fine you can see her alone

Ok, you reply, heart sinking. Thank you

of course love

You know you have to go back into the room. You'd left your bag in there and you need to finish your summer sketch, and you can feel the dread.

But you have to go in.

So you do. She hugs you, and you're practically frozen with fear. You can't even look her in the eyes, but you agreed to help her make sets for Jo's production of Cabaret. How could you be so stupid? You're not going to be able to do this, you're not, something's going to go wrong, you know it will...

It's hard to calm down. Even finishing your sketch doesn't help. It's only once Jane starts class and tells you all to approach an easel for the first painting of the year and you pick up a brush to shakily dip it in a deep, deep blue that your heart stops beating the staccato rhythm it's been pounding for half an hour. Welcome back to school, you think miserably. Welcome back.






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