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Winter (Chapter Three)

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Tuesday, November 23rd



I yawn, stretching my arms up above my head. A childish excitement rose up in my chest, making me grin wildly. Christmas was in a month and two days. I was going to be getting my first car.

My right hand stretches out automatically and fumbles for my cell phone. I have three new messages.

Meg: ‘Heyyyy.’

Mark: ‘Good morning, Sara.’

Unknown number: ‘Sup.’

I glance at the last one. The number isn’t in my contacts, and I don’t remember it. I type back, ‘Who’s this?’

The reply comes. ‘Who do you think?’

‘I don’t know. Tell me!’

‘I’ll give you a hint- I’m a person.’

‘Oh! I should have known!’

‘Hahaha yeah u should have.’

‘Shut up and tell me who u r!’

‘… I can’t do both.’

I grin, shaking my head. ‘OK. Then just tell me who u r. Come on, plz?’

‘I can’t say no to u. It’s Kyle.’

‘Lol. Duh. I can’t believe I didn’t think of that.’

‘Yeah. U gave me ur number in the woods. Meet me there?’

‘Now?’

‘Yep. I’m waiting.’

I get up, sliding out of my bed and tossing my phone onto the covers, dressing quickly and throwing on my boots. “Mom! I’m going down to the woods!”

“Have fun!” she calls. I decide not to take my bike and I just jog down to the woods entrance. There’ a worn path from years of my having trekked through it, always to my favorite spot, the clearing. At noon, the sun shines directly on the spot, warming me.

I reach the clearing, and find nothing. I look closely and see some footprints, but they’re too dusted over with new snow that it would be impossible to follow. Then I notice something carved into a tree.

‘Go east thirty steps, then stop and whistle.’

I grin. Leave it to Kyle to make this out-of-the-ordinary. I look up at the sky, find where the sun is, and head toward it. One… two… I start thinking about Kyle. I know virtually nothing about him, except his name and where he lives. His parents are obviously divorced, since he’s staying with his dad for the year. Seventeen… eighteen…



I reach thirty. I’m in a similar clearing, except a bit bigger. I’ve been here before. I don’t think there’s an inch of woods I haven’t covered yet. But it’s empty. Smiling, I cup my hands around my mouth and whistle loudly.

“Hey, there,” comes a voice from right behind me. I jump hard, my teeth clinking against each other, and whirl around.

His long bangs are hanging in his eyes again, his hair combed to sleek perfection. He looks at me and smiles. “Fancy seeing you here,” he says jokingly.

“Yeah,” I say breathlessly. “Coincidence?”

He laughs, then suddenly turns serious. “Actually, I called you here to ask you something.” He pauses for maximum effect. “I like you, Sara. I’ve never liked anyone else this way, and I know that this is wrong, very very wrong for both of us, but I needed you to know.” His eyes meet mine. They’re wide, as if he can’t believe he actually just said that. I can’t believe it either.

“Kyle,” I say slowly. “I have a boyfriend.”

He blinks in shock, then his mouth becomes a thin, white line. “Of course,” he says furiously. “A girl as beautiful as you has to have a boyfriend.” He whirls and punches a tree so hard it rocks, then he stands there, staring at his bloody, splintered knuckles.

“Oh, Kyle,” I moan, running over to him and taking his hand in mine. “Come on. My mom has medical stuff back at our house. We need to get this cleaned.”

“No,” he says evenly. I stare at him, shocked. “I’m not going,” he says, and sits down, leaning against the tree. “Let it get infected. Let me die here. I’ll be in peace.”

“Kyle, you’re overreacting,” I say, a bit too loudly. “Just because you like me and I have a boyfriend doesn’t mean you have to kill yourself. There’s other girls.”

“I’d rather die here,” he insists.

I blink confused. Then I laugh uneasily. “Then where?”

“In the hospital.”

I raise an eyebrow. “You already have your place of death planned?”

He nods. I snort. “Talk about looking ahead!” I joke, but he remains deadly serious. “What the heck is wrong with you?” I shout suddenly, grabbing his jacket and pulling him roughly to his feet.

“I’m sick,” he says simply. I stare at him. “I’m going to die,” he says when I don’t respond.

“You hit your hand, not your head,” I snarl, trying to drag him back to my house, but he’s stronger than me and stays put.

“I really am sick,” he says softly. “I have been since I was young. It’s fatal. They said I’d be lucky if I made it to my twenties.”

“Oh my God,” I whisper, gaping. “I’m so sorry.”

“There’s nothing you can do,” he says quietly, stroking my cheek. “I get enough tears at home. It caused my parents to divorce. My mom wanted this one treatment… my dad said there were too many risks. There’s no cure, though,” he continues, his voice cracking. “So there was no point in their argument.”

He is in so much pain. I can tell that by looking at him. So I did the only thing that made sense to me. The only way I could ease his pain.

I kissed him.

When my lips met his, something electric moved through me, and I could tell he felt it too because he shuddered. But I kept my lips pressed softly to his, until I slowly pulled back. His eyes were wide, his hair messy and sticking up. I flatten it for him.

“I shouldn’t have done that,” I admit, guilt creeping it’s way through my system like venom.

“Yeah. Sorry.”

“Me too.”

We stare at each other for a minute, then he reaches out and takes my hands. I move closer, leaning my head against his shoulder, and he wraps his arms around me.

Shortly after, my phone buzzes in my pocket. I mouth sorry, and reach for it. Naturally, it’s from Mark.

‘Hey, sara. I’m thinking about u. ?’

Great. Just what I needed while I was kissing another boy. I look up at Kyle. “I have to go.”

“Your boyfriend?” he asks, his eyes darkening.

“Yeah,” I admit.

He smiles tightly at me. “You still want to get together this weekend?” he asks me, half jokingly, half desperate.

I wince. “I don’t know if we should.”

“So I’ll be at your house on Saturday at ten?”

“I’m counting on it.”





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