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After the End This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

Clump, clump, clump. The sound of my snow boots skidding on the tile floor is all I and everyone else in the hallway can hear. I walk toward my next class with my books pressed up against my chest and my face hidden behind my hair. They look at me; I can feel the trace of their eyes on my back like a bright red laser. At least I'm not wearing stilettos on this snowy day, like some of the girls in this school did. My eyes follow every pattern on the floor. I don't look up, because I know that I will meet your gaze as you strut past with your basketball posse like you rule the school.

I can feel your presence even though I haven't spotted you yet. You breathe hard and heavy, smelling of sweat and the rubber from your basketball. You carry it around with you like a trophy, along with the headphones that you blast in your ears during free periods, walking alone down long corridors where every footstep echoes. Sometimes I wonder if you think of me when you're alone and have nothing to distract you from the truth. Maybe you try to forget, try to blast music in one ear, hoping it all comes out the other – all the things I told you, all the secrets we shared. But that was then, and this is now.

I have distant memories, the kind you can see playing back in your mind when you're in a place you used to go. I remember sharing a piece of pizza with you while we sat on the bench outside in the blazing sun. Remember how you picked off the pepperoni, even though you loved them, because you knew I didn't? You were such a gentleman. You still are, but the awkwardness looms over us now.

Remember when you held my hand for the first time, in the auditorium, during a lecture on school lockdowns? Everyone in the seats behind us giggled, but your grip remained strong as if you couldn't imagine letting go. I felt like a prize then. I felt special, being paraded around school in your arms as my friends' faces turned a summer evergreen shade that still lingers when our bygone relationship comes up in conversation.

It doesn't come up much anymore. It's been months since our agreed-upon separation. I don't know what happened. I left for a week and came back to a torn page. Were we swallowed up by high school drama or did you just get scared? Did you think that if we stayed together for too long I would be the one to lose ­interest?

You meant so much to me. I had attached myself like a barnacle, and you tore me off unmercifully. I deny the pain now, claiming that I had lost interest. And I'm sure my story has made its way back to you, filling your heart with guilt and sorrow. But I wish I could make you understand that I'm just afraid of what people will think when they know I still have feelings for you.

I've always been the shy girl in the back of the classroom, the one who blends in. You knew that, and you put all your effort into helping me become the person I want to be.

You, of course, are the one who's front and center, not afraid to make a shot at a hoop in the dark just to know that you tried. I contemplate; you go for it. We are different species, you and I. But as every cheesy chick flick has made clear, opposites attract. You attract every girl in the school. You had your pick when you moved here, but you chose me. I never understood and probably never will unless I have the courage to ask you.

I know we can't start over fresh as Febreze. We could try, but that faint odor of our past would still pervade everything. I don't think either of us wants to waste the time and energy when we don't know if the other feels an ember that could spark. So we resort to those awkward sideways glances in the hallway, looking at the face of the one we used to laugh with, the lips we used to kiss, and the eyes we used to stare into. But those glances aren't enough. We return to conversations with our friends like those connections are long gone and meant nothing, but when I look at you, I can see you looking at me, and I feel it.

I don't want to feel it. I don't want to churn inside like the pool of water at the bottom of a waterfall. I want to be still water, passive and unchanging for my own safety. I don't want to go home at night and wonder if you feel that magnetic pull, that absence of every other thought but me.

And so this time, the first time ever, I don't look up as you pass. I chain my eyelids to the floor, resisting the temptation to look at you because I know I'll pay for it later. I hear you sigh, knowing that you expected a look. You walk off with your friends, feeling as though it's time we both moved on. But you haven't.

Why am I trying to drive you away when I really want to pull you closer? I clump-clump all the way to my next class with disappointment and resentment in every step that echoes for everyone to hear.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.




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PurpleBrass3rd said...
Jun. 16, 2013 at 1:42 pm
This story is outstanding! I'm trying to find good writers like you to help me critique my work for the future. could you maybe take  look at my work? 
 
Fresch-kidsThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Jun. 16, 2013 at 8:24 pm
thanks so much! and of course!
 
plebeian_dreamer This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Jan. 24, 2013 at 6:07 pm
It's well writtend with nice sentence structure and no grammar flaws, so I enjoyed it despite the teary-eyes :). Keep writing.
 
stopevanescence This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Jan. 18, 2013 at 1:54 pm
This is really good. I love how you trace your feelings back to where you first started in the story.
 
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