Before I start with chapter 2, I have to share my enormous gratitude for those bloggers who read and liked chapter 1 of “In the Words of Your Love!” I’m really thankful for Joe Warnimont, published author Ellis Nelson, consortiumofthecurious, onethousandsingledays, Lesley Carter of Bucket List Publications, and TheGirl for taking the time to look over my first entry and like it!
I know that I, like all unpublished writers, am obsessed with getting a large group of followers who praise my work, but more than that, I’m glad that I can offer bloggers a peek into the nuances of dating and emotional healing in high school. There is nothing more important to me than showing people that high school is about more than just petty breakups and cliques; it’s about learning to bounce back from heartbreak and help others along that journey of self-discovery.
I’m pleased to present a freshly edited chapter 2 of “In the Words of Your Love.” As always, I hope it’s a pleasant read.
“You awake, Ross? Yo!”
There’s a sudden tapping at my window, and I groan, pulling a pillow over my head to try and shut out this dream. But he calls again, in a place outside sleep. “Hey Ross! Open up man!”
I stand up with a sigh and peer through the blinds into the dark.
“Mark? Dude, my mom’s gonna be pissed if you stepped on her flowers,” I say as I open the window, a dark figure appearing from the shadows.
“Eh, I’ll plant her some new ones,” he says with peachy indifference, stepping over the window sill and tracking some mulch onto my white carpet.
“Seriously,” I say with a snort, “the front door has a purpose.”
“I figured you’d be asleep already. So I tried your window.” He shrugs.
I shake my head and tell him that he’s my parents aren’t off work yet. If it had been anyone else I would have told them through the closed window that I’d just called the cops, but Mark has a kind of naïve understanding of friendship, so him showing up like this doesn’t rub me the wrong way.
“So what’s up?” I ask, turning on my desk lamp and rubbing my eyes.
It’s never unusual for Mark to stop by unannounced, but now I can see that something heavy is weighing on his mind. I’ve barely known him for four months, ever since we had Spanish 3 together in the fall, but he’s already become one of my best friends. I never honestly thought I could have one of those after we moved here.
“Nothin’,” he replies, looking around my room at the Deftones and Olympic track posters on the walls. “Just thought I’d drop by and see what you’re up to.”
“Sleep,” I gesture at my bed.
He laughs. “Oh, dang. I’m sorry I woke you bro.”
“It’s all good,” I say, waving him off. “So what’s going on?”
He hesitates, rubbing his thumbs together.
“I asked her out,” Mark drops the words as smoothly as possible. He means Adriana Ochoa, a girl whom he’s been crushing on since November.
Holy crap, he finally talked to her!
But then I see the look in Mark’s eyes as he pauses again, and my excitement falters. Disappointment darkens his face.
“Yeah, she said no,” he goes on, half smiling. “I asked her out, and she said no.”
“What! What the hell!” I feel like banging on some windows myself. I had given Mark every single piece of valuable dating advice that I had come across in my entire 16 years of existence, from complementing Adriana on her looks and talents to getting to know her friends better to just being himself. I always stressed that last one the most. But that wasn’t enough?
“Yeah,” he continues, slouching on my bed, “but y’know what dude? I don’t care.”
He looks at me, his expression hard and confident, although I can still see somewhere in there that it hurt him.
“Yeah,” he says, “I’m over her. To be honest, I didn’t even like her that much. Just as a friend, y’know?”
“And she wasn’t even that nice either,” he goes on resentfully, “I gave her the letter, and she read it-”
“Whoa, whoa,” I stop him, “you asked her out in a letter?”
“Yeah?” His nonchalant smile falters.
“No, no, no, man! You should have done it in person!” I throw my head back in disbelief. “It’s way more personal to a girl if you ask her out face to face!”
“Ha, screw that!” Mark laughs as if I’d just asked him about his sex life. “I can’t do face to face yet.”
And with that he grabs my acoustic guitar and rests it on his lap, already past our conversation. As Mark strums a few chords, he looks up at me with somber eyes and his eyebrows raised, which is how he always looks when he plays. His short fingers are rough from all the times he’s strummed a guitar and clenched his drum sticks. At heart, the guy’s a huge musician, loves his drum set back at home.
“Actually,” Mark says, “Adriana’s not even as nice as I thought she was. Coming up to me at lunch and saying ‘Oh, Markie! Your letter was sooo sweet, but…’ That’s when you know you’re screwed, when the girl is acting all nice and you think she might just say yes. Then she says but and that’s it. The drop of the guillotine, swoosh¸ in just one word.”
I laugh. “Yeah dude, totally. Anytime you hear but, that’s when you know that she doesn’t really like you. Just as a friend, or so they say.”
“A friend,” Mark echoes, his fingers pausing over the strings. “Amen to that.”
As he begins strumming again, I think about asking him what he really sees in Adriana. But I look at Mark, peaceful Mark, and decide against it. When he’s ready, when he’s done enough digging inside, maybe then he can tell me.
“Well dude, I think I’d better hit the sack. You gonna be alright?”
“Sure am,” Mark says, standing up. “Yeah, it’s late. But it’s not like my mom will care.”
I laugh. I know Mark’s mom. She will care.
“Alright man,” I offer out my hand, which he shakes.
“Alright. Oh and hey, I was wondering.” He pauses and looks back at me, his deep brown eyes already hinting at a question along the lines of help with homework. I can read him like a parent who knows his kid is about to come up to him and ask for some cash.
“Do you think you can help me write an essay tomorrow man? It’s for English CP, so it’s pretty simple.”
What he’s really saying is, ‘With you in AP now, you are a beast and can probably write any paper I get for me. Never mind how much homework you have.’
I shrug and nod. “Sure man. At your place?”
“That’ll work,” he replies, looking relieved. “Just come on over whenever you can, after school I guess.”
“You got it.” I give him a light punch on the shoulder and turn to put my pre-cal papers away as he heads for the window. “And maybe we can talk about these girls. Figure out what they want from you.”
“Yeah, sure,” he agrees, but faint. Before I can say anything else he’s gone into the night.
Shutting my window, my phone lights up on my desk and vibrates.
I open the message and read slowly, then reread it. It’s from Ana.
Hey. We should talk tmmrw. Meet me at the swings.
I pause, wondering if I should call her. If it was really urgent she wouldn’t have just sent a text. I trust Analise. So I relax, sinking back into my bed and closing my eyes.
But a part of my mind stays restless for a long time.
It’s still halfway dark as mom pulls up to the high school at 6:24 a.m. As soon as the car stops I jump out, my legs immediately sprouting goose bumps in the fifty-three degree air. Hauling my backpack out of the back, mom calls “The weatherman says it’s supposed to get real humid and stormy by noon. Hurricane Eduardo made it into the Gulf.”
I pause, surprised by this bit of news. “I didn’t even know one was out there.”
“Yeah, it’s very unusual for this time of year,” she says, but smiles warmly at me. “Just be careful; the winds will start to pick up around noon they say.”
“I’ll try to keep my feet on the ground,” I reply. Mom laughs, a good sign that her late shift last night didn’t take too much out of her. “Watch out for yourself, my son. Have a good day!”
“You too.” Then I’m off.
The dawn brightens to shades of navy blue and orange as I cross the parking lot and into the stadium behind Bishop Lynn. A few guys are already gathering on the track, doing the usual stretches to warm up. Chris, Jacob, and Jose look up as I drop my bags and walk over.
“Chris,” I nod my head at him.
“’Sup,” He nods back. I greet the other guys too. Mark looks alright; not too heartbroken or anything.
I see Coach Jensen is here early for once. She yells at a couple of sophomores, glances at me as I get on the track, and continues hollering at them about stretching for too long. That’s Jensen for you; a detached balls buster.
After a quick stretch I get in line and lean down, my eyes focusing straight down the track in between the lines. Nothing else is in my mind except the distance I want to go. Then I breathe, exhale, and take off. It’s a good start, quick and graceful as my Nikes touch off and carry me. My legs thrust forward and I run, run, run.
The chill of the morning disappears as my legs and thighs warm up. Everyone else has started running behind me, but most of the guys are still out of it. I was one of the few who had supported Coach Lara’s, not Jensen’s, decision for morning practice, although some days I really regret that support.
Today is not one of those days, though.
I feel good as I make my first lap, breathing consistently. My whole body feels in sync, in shape, my mind sharp.
Chris is the first guy to catch up to me, keeping up a steady pace as he runs alongside me.
“Did you show up for Christmas practice any?”
“Yeah,” I breathe, “once.”
We both laugh.
“I didn’t go at all, but I practiced on my own some. Think coach’ll be pissed?”
“Probably not,” I say, although I can’t speak for Jensen. “Just tell Lara you were out of town and he’ll buy it.”
Chris nods and glances back at everyone else running behind us.
“Seniors aren’t here. Big surprise.”
“Tell me about it,” I mutter. Our Varsity senior guys, John, Steven, Andrew, and Tyler, haven’t shown up to morning practice since mid-November, at least. Chris, Mark, and I are the only three juniors here, Jordan being the last one missing. But the team is still tight, and we’re all optimistic about taking the District title from McAllen High this year. Hell, I’ve already dropped a few seconds in my 400 sprint and 1600 meter races. Jose, who is just passing us, has also stepped it up in his events. Most of us agree that LeRoy, however, has plateaued (behind his back, of course). He won’t settle for that, though.
Maybe, just maybe this will be our year.
Practice ends at a little before 7:40, and we head off to the locker rooms to shower and change. As Chris and I head out with our backpacks toward the school, I remember Analise’s text and feel a twitching pain in my stomach.
Three more hours until lunch.
In first block Pre-cal, time flies. Two lessons are, as always, taught by the sixty-four year-old Mr. Harrison, who just won’t retire. But he’s cool, and today’s lecture on sinusoids sinks into my brain well.
When the bell rings I head out the door to English and glance up at the sky. Dark clouds have already started to form in gloomy veils across the atmosphere, the cool morning crispness now replaced by warm, still air. Something’s coming.
I find Mrs. Greenly’s class, amused that I’m nervous about switching to an AP class.
The woman standing by the door is tall, with brunette hair and eyes that could soothe a convict. She offers out her hand, which I shake it. “Hello, I’m Noreen Greenly,” she says, her smile welcoming.
“Ross Chappell,” I say, glad that she’ll know my face.
“Glad to have you, Ross. I hope you’ll enjoy taking an advance placement class.”
I find a seat in the last row, next to my second longtime friend, Kristina, who looks surprised. I grin at her.
“Wow, you got into AP,” she says, widening her brown eyes. “I didn’t know you were gonna switch to AP.”
“Yup,” I say, fishing out my spiral as Greenly turns on the overhead for notes. “Gotta suck up to colleges somehow.”
Mrs. Greenly starts lecturing on The Glass Menagerie, asking us who was most at fault for the ‘family’s descent into degradation’: Amanda, Laura, or Tom Wingfield. Kristina says it was Tom, others say the mother. Personally, I blame all three of them.
Somehow I don’t get bored the whole hour and a half. Then before I know it, the bell rings and everyone gets up.
“Don’t forget your essays!” Mrs. Greenly reminds us as we walk out the door. “Rough drafts with at least the first two paragraphs are due next Monday.”
It’s as I’m walking out the side doors that I remember Analise.
A gigantic gust of wind catches me off guard as I step outside. Some girls cry out as the gust blows their hair wild. Everyone hurries east across the parking lot to the cafeteria to seek cover from the oncoming storm, but I break away and head north toward the swings.
The open field where the softball and soccer teams practice sometimes is empty, but to the north I see her sitting on the lone set of swings. Quickly I cross the playing field and smile at Analise, who looks up at me with those soft brown eyes.
But they’re not the same.
“Hey babe.” I smile at her and shrug off my backpack before taking the empty white swing.
“Hey,” she says softly, half smiling. “Glad you’re here.”
I extend an arm to hold her shoulders, but then Analise does something that I can’t believe. She pulls away ever so slightly, obviously not wanting to be touched.
I feel my smile snap in two.
“Ross, I…” she pauses to bite her lip. But her message is clear.
“Ana,” I say. “What? What’s up?”
Then she looks up, her eyes bright, and lets out a choked laugh. How can she laugh?
“I just wanted to say that…I think we need to stop.”
“Stop what?” Even though I know what she means. It’s clear as crystal.
Slowly, without thinking, I try and touch her again. She pulls back and says with more urgence, “This. I just…don’t think it’s working out.”
“How is it not working out?” My voice is weak, almost begging. Way too pathetic, but that’s how it comes out.
“I just don’t like you like I used to.” She assembles her words carefully, staring at the ground. “We should end it. Really.”
Then she looks up at me, her eyes expecting an answer.
It hits you hard, almost like an invisible force that slams into your heart and kills it for an instant, when someone breaks up with you. I expected it, somewhere in the back of my mind. But I hid it, stored it away as a highly unlikely reason for us meeting at the swings.
But it wasn’t unlikely. It just happened.
I look up at Analise, the girl I love, had loved.
“Sure,” I find myself saying, then: “Why? What did I do wrong?”
“Oh Ross,” she looks at me sadly, although a single tear hasn’t fallen from her eyes, “it’s not you…it’s just not what I wanted.”
“What you wanted…”
“Really, you’re a sweet guy, but things have changed. I don’t feel the same anymore.”
A sweet guy.
Suddenly I feel sick, nauseated beyond words.
That sweet guy just lost the girl of his dreams.
Slowly I stand up, my proprioception feeling off kilter as my arms seem to swing out of sync with my steps.
“Sure,” I say, forcing the words out and feeling like gagging on each one. “It’s over, then.”
Several things cross my mind at once, all the thoughts acting like an antibody that’s trying to fight off an invading virus. I have never yelled at her, never ever made her feel bad. I smiled at Analise all the time, every chance I got, and she always smiled back. When she was sad, I did my best to cheer her up. I knew her parents and got along with them pretty well, especially Mr. Barreras, who had always given me warm-hearted permission to take his daughter out to the movies or to get ice cream. I had never made a dramatic move on Analise or tried to score with her, because I knew I already loved her enough to wait.
And now it’s over?
“I’m sorry, Ross…”
But I’m already walking away with my backpack back on. Overhead, thunder growls intensely, but I hardly notice.
My feeling of sickness fades away the farther away I get from her, that heartless girl I used to know.