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I bet he doesn’t even know how much I love him. He doesn’t know the extent of my love, or the fact that I would do anything to keep him mine.
After school that one particularly bad day. “Avery!” He calls for me, his hands waving wildly, his smile wide and crooked and perfect, and it’s like the sun is suddenly blindingly brilliant, revealed from behind a cloud.
I smile back shyly, and wave, starting to walk over to his locker. He likes me. I hope. He wants to talk to me—!
And then I see her, coming fast from the opposite direction. The smile melts off my face faster than ice cream melts in our blazing SoCal summer.
My lip twitches in annoyance as I see her run over to him, gushing and grinning. She smiles at him coyly, touches his arm, and says something. She throws her perfect, highlighted head back in laughter, and he laughs too. Dang it, why did he laugh too?
Then, It’s not fair. He wanted to talk to me. Not you. Why do you have to go and make my day worse, when just talking to him was gonna make it better?
He sees me, and looks like he’s gonna say something, but she pulls him back. I turn away and rush off.
A small burst of anger blossoms in my heart.
She used to be my best friend. But then she kept trying to steal him, and I knew something had changed between us for the worse.
He called me over one day.
“Avery,” he said to me shyly, “Wanna listen to this new song I just found? It’s really good.” I accept the earbud from his hand and pop it into my ear. A wonderful song comes on, strong but delicate and sweet.
Then a hand snatches the earbud from my ear. “Let ME hear!” It’s her.
“I think Avery was listening, actually,” he says, and I’m happy to hear a twinge of annoyance in his voice.
“She doesn’t like this kind of music,” she scoffs and turns to me. “Go away and listen to your Bon Jovi or whatever.”
He tries to stop me, but I rush away angrily.
And then there was that time at his 16th birthday party. He whispers to me at the end, playfully tugging me into his room when everyone else is still eating cake and chatting.
“I really like you,” he murmurs in my ear, and I look into his eyes, and I know he is going to kiss me.
My excitement is palpable. My first kiss.
He brushes a lock of my hair behind my ear, and we lean in towards each other. I can smell his sweet breath.
And then she has to go and ruin it.
“HEY RONAN!” She explodes into the room like a particularly unwelcome atomic bomb, yelling. “READY TO OPEN YOUR PRESENTS? I BET YOU’LL LIKE MINE BEST! I—” She turns to me, wrinkling her nose. “What is she doing here?” Like she totally didn’t notice I was at the party the whole time.
There have been many, many more instances than these. She’s told everyone I know that I like him. She spreads horrible rumors about me behind my back. She’s humiliated me in front of him. And the thing is, there has to be some way to stop it. To make her stop tormenting me. To make her stop trying to steal what’s mine.
“Hey, can we talk?” I bite my lip, clutching onto my cell phone tightly. This has got to work. “Mmk, sounds good. Meet you down by the beach path in a few.”
She used to be my best friend. And the one vital thing that I learned through that ill-fated best friendship: She’s deathly allergic to peanuts. I hang up and pack the protein bars and energy drinks.
I meet her by the beach path. She’s all spunky and cheery as ever, acting like nothing’s changed between us, acting like she doesn’t always throw herself at my soon-to-be boyfriend. Acting like she doesn’t say those cruel things when I’m not there. But it’s all going to end soon.
“Look, we’ve gotta talk,” I say, biting my lip as we gingerly make our way down the rocks to the beach.
We stop a quarter of the way down, on a small precarious ledge overlooking a cliff. The beach is below us, spread out like a landscape from a postcard. She never was afraid of heights, a cockiness that will cost her. It’s a nice view up here; a scenic view. “I’m famished,” she complains. I open and hand her a protein bar, which she chomps into with vigor. “Kinda thirsty now,” she says. I hand her the bottle of peanut powder-laced energy drink. She opens it and takes three long gulps.
“What did you want to talk ab—” She gasps for air for a few agonizing seconds. Her mouth opens and closes like a helpless trout and she looks like she might be asking for help. Then her foot catches on the edge of the ledge, and she falls.
I watch as her body slams down the cliff, landing in a mangled, twisted pile in the soft sand. I watch as the buttery yellow sand gets a new stain of the brightest red.
“Shot through the heart, and you’re too late, darling you give love a bad name,” I whisper quietly.
Then I pick up my phone and hysterically call 911.
I attend the funeral with everyone else from school, and like everyone else, I weep.
Her parents, Mary and Ince, come up to me after the reception. “Don’t be upset with yourself, Avery,” they say to me sadly. “It’s not your fault. She wouldn’t have wanted you to blame yourself.”
“I—I know!” I wail. “B—but I still feel so b-bad!” My new official boyfriend Ronan comes over and gently encircles me in his arms, whispering sweet nothings in my ear.
I hide my smug laughing under renewed violent sobs. Three years of drama paid off.
I bet he doesn’t even know how much I love him. He doesn’t know what I did to keep him mine.