I didn’t reply. I didn’t reply for four days. I was such a baby. Such a fucking baby. Sure, I can text someone all weekend and let them completely consume my thoughts, but actually talk to them in person? Actually open up, get to know them, let them get to know me? No way. Totally out of the question. It was ridiculous. I was ridiculous. I almost hated myself for it. Hated myself for walking out of that shop without even a word. An apology, an explanation? I was pathetic. After that I knew it was too late. Even after Liam texted me again later that day. Again on Tuesday, once more on Wednesday, Thursday, and one last one on Friday morning when I first arrived to school.
Liam: I’m sorry I wasted my time. You’ve made it very clear. Sorry to have bothered you.
And that was it. It was over. Officially over.
I had tried to respond, tried to fix this, written out the words a hundred times before deleting them, putting my phone back, and starting all over again when he sent me another one of his messages begging for me to listen. Saying he had something for me, something to say. Apologizing for coming on too strong. And I wanted to give him a chance, I didn’t know how to. All my stupid insecurities got in the way of that. I wasn’t a risk taker, I wasn’t the type to jump when there were other options. I chose to sit.
On top of that I left my sketchbook at Rick’s. I knew I needed to go get it. It had some of my best work in it, I had to have it back. But I didn’t know what Liam’s work schedule was like, and I was too afraid to run into him. I thought about calling about it but what if he answered? I could make Harper go in and get it for me but then she would want the details of why I couldn’t go in and get it myself. There was nothing to do but wait and hope that I got the balls so to anything at all rather than be me.
In AP art on Friday I wasn’t feeling inspired. Not in the slightest and my Pre-calculus homework wasn’t making any sense so I pulled out the journal and read further, I had read at least one journal every day since I found it, except the first couple of days where I read more. The boy continued to talk about Rose and his complicated and frustrating home life. I took comfort in the boy being just afraid to talk to her as I was to Liam. But now that it was over, what did I have to worry about?
I flipped the journal open and began reading where I had left off. The entry taking place a few weeks after the one I read Saturday:
May 31 2011
So much is happening. Its the last week of school. Last week of eighth grade and then its summer for three lousy months where I have no idea what Im going to do because I have no friends and then Im on to ninth grade aka high school. It feels like I just started at this school and now the academic year is over. And yet, things are already changing for me once again. Its official, just as I predicted I am off to a private school. After some testing we did in a couple weeks ago I learned that apparently Im gifted(?) and mom and dad want to put me where I can work the hardest and succeed the most. I think thats just code for they are rich snobs and they can ruin my life if they want to. God I hope they never read this, I have been so terrible to them.
Theres been too much change for me this year. Im not sure how much more I can handle.
I’m in hell. Literal hell.
Then again, I’m
probably just being dramatic. I just dont want to take any steps backwards. All my life I’ve spent time in home school. now Im in public school, now I feel like Im finally adjusting. Im moving forward. This is the longest Ive ever stayed in one place before and despite my discomfort it doesn’t seem like that is going to change. I know mom and dad love me despite having the new baby in a few months, I know that that they aren’t going to ship me off, I know that change isnt a bad thing. Im just afraid. Im so afraid of so many things
I just wanna go to regular school with regular people, not ‘gifted’ ones, whatever that means, and I just want to feel regular. Ive spent too much of my life feeling like I was out of place and like I didnt belong. I don’t need any more of it.
And I don’t want to leave Rose. Especially that. Anything but that. God Im so into her. I’m only 14 how am I so into her? I need to say something before it is too late. Ill hate myself forever if I dont. Im probably not going to ever even see her again. So what could it hurt?
That’s it. Its decided. On the last day of school Im going to ask Rose out on a date. So what if she says no? I never have to see her again if she does! (But god. I hope she says yes.)
Short entry today. Mom is taking me to go see the campus where I will be attending school next year (Yippie.)
* * *
What? I thought to myself as the entry came to a close. No. No the boy in the journal wasn’t supposed to get a surge of courage and ask out Rose. We were supposed to be scared together. Miserable together. Jesus, that was awful of me to think but, I had to think that way, it was how I justified my own fears, my own insecurities, it made me feel like I wasn’t alone in them.
The journal had become sort of a companion to me, a friend, the way it paralleled my life in so many ways was almost scary if you thought about it too hard. Voodoo, I had thought once. If the boy in the journal was able to conquer his fears where did that leave me? Alone, pathetic (like always) because I had been too late. Much much too late. Liam had texted me this morning. He had ended it.
I shook my head and looked around the classroom, everyone was still diligently working on their art and Ms. Ludgate wasn’t hovering around to check on people’s progress like she usually did so I decided what would reading one or two more entries hurt before actually starting to work?
I dove in, reading on through the next few entries silently (they were all pretty short,) occasionally looking up now and then to make sure that Ms. Ludgate wasn’t watching me slack off, until I got to the one that recorded the details his last day of school. This was the one that I was itching to read, I needed to know what happened with Rose.
June 4 2011
Today started off just like any other, but ended like I cant even describe.
In movies you see the last day of school being exciting and exilirating and paper flying in the air but its not really like that. To me it was almost sad, school has become one of the most consistent things in my life and now its over. I’m just dreading summer, I like school cuz it gives me something to do, when I’m here and not at home I dont isolate as much, i read too much and spend too much time in my room. I like learning and having a schedule, a set time and place where Im supposed to be going somewhere and doing something every day of the week. Consistency is so important to me and summer is so unpredictable. And then when that is over Im off to a new school and I have to start all over again. I hate it, I hate my parents for doing this to me. it put me in a really bad mood nearly all day. Nearly being the key word here.
I got two signatures in my yearbook. and one was my english teacher. isn’t that pathetic? I feel like that is pathetic. Cuz not only did I get no signatures at all but one of the only two was a pity sign from my favorite teacher. So theres that……
I guess normally I would have been upset about something like that. But then again, I feel like the second person who signed kinda made up for the lameness of the first.
We had this stupid yearbook assembly on the last day where they handed them all out to those of us who paid and then we got to walk around the courtyard outside and have all of our friends sign them and as I said before I didnt really have much luck in that department. So instead of walking around asking for signatures from people I dont even like or know I sat under one of the only trees in the courtyard and read.
I noticed a rustling in the grass next to me and turned and saw none other than Rose sitting next to me, holding out her year book for me to sign. I was surprised no doubt about that i thought I might be dreaming and had to stop from pinching myself. she asked me if I would sign her yearbook and that was one of the first times we spoke since our french project all the way back in November.
I said yes and took it from her, grabbing the sharpy marker from my backpack as she asked if she could sign mine too that surprised me even more.
After I was done I handed hers back and she gave me mine and instead of leaving she asked if we could chat for a bit. (Im not kidding I thought I was being punked.) Of course I said yes I would be crazy not. (Im try to write this all down as accurately as I remember it but Ill probably forget some details.)
“So I heard you’re leaving school?” she asked.
“Yeah,” I said.
“That sucks,” she said.
“Why?” I asked.
“Cause we never really got a chance to get to know each other,” she said.
“You wanted to get to know me?” I asked. (And I was way nervous, my sweat was sweating. I had forgot that I planned to ask her out on the last day of school so this was all kind of crazy to me that this was happening)
“Of course,” she said, “You didn’t know?”
“I had no idea.”
“I guess maybe I sent some mixed signals,” she said. “I guess. what were you trying to say?”
“That I like you silly,” she said she did this nervous giggle thing and I think I blacked out for a second because I never thought in a million bajillion years that Rose would like me back or even aknowlege me. I kinda just sat there like a retard for infinity cuz I was so confused and finally I was like “I like you too.”
“I know,” she said and I almost died i think. How did she know? I never even spoke to her expect for like three times. Maybe four if you counted the time when she dropped her pen in biology.
After that we were both awkward for a little bit than she asked about the book I was reading and i told her all about it and then i asked what kind of books she likes to read and it turns out we have the same taste and we talked about music and we talked about movies and what we were going to do that summer and when she said she didnt have any big plans I asked if maybe she would want to hang out with me. It just kinda slipped out.
But thats okay I guess, BECAUSE SHE SAID YES!!!!!
We’re getting ice cream on Sunday and we might try and go to the water park if i can get mom or dad to give me some money!!!
I still cant believe it. I’m on cloud nine. It all just happened so fast, I don’t think I really even planned it it just happened. One minute we were talking about how awful the 4th Shrek movie was and then we were talking about our favorite flavors of ice cream and I told her I knew a really good shop down the street and would she like to go and she said YES.
I dont know if I can call it a date. But I am anyways. Who cares if I’m only 14. Romeo and Juliet were our age when they fell in love and killed themselves. Shouldnt I be allowed to do that if I want? Whatever. Its a date. Its totally a date.
I’m going on a date with Rose Gallagher.
* * *
Oh my god! My head flew up, looking away from the pages straight ahead of me. Rose Gallagher. I knew her. She was a senior, two years older than me. I knew her. She was in this class with me.
I turned my attention to the blond girl across the room who was painting intently, her eyebrows scrunched together in deep concentration. I mean . . . it could be her. Then again, how many Rose Gallaghers were in the world? In Arizona specifically. There had to be a ton. This might not be her. This very well might not be her. What was I supposed to do? Ask?
“Hi, I’m Scott. I’m reading this journal that doesn’t belong to me and I think you’re in it. Could you perhaps tell me if a boy ever asked you out on a date on the last day of eighth grade?”
I almost laughed out loud, I couldn’t do that. I would have to read on, I mean, that was always the plan, but I had never anticipated the possibility of there being someone in this I might know. Which was ridiculous that I hadn’t because I found it in the parking lot of this school. I was bound to read about someone that I knew. Maybe there were more. Maybe once I figured them out I could figure him out.
But then . . . how had it come to be at this school if the boy who was writing it transferred to a private school his first year of high school. Mesa High was public. Had he transferred back? I tried to come up with a few different scenarios in my head then: had he been visiting a friend, just passing through and it fell out of his bag? Maybe he didn’t transfer, maybe he convinced his parents that private school wasn’t the right fit for him, maybe he went here too, was a senior like Liam and Rose. Maybe I knew him, saw him every day, maybe I had even talked to him. I chuckled to myself at the unlikelihood of that, I didn’t talk to many people. Harper, Danny, and Ms. Ludgate were my only friends. So many maybes, no certainties. Again, I would just have to read on.
I shook my head. Remembering the most pressing matter at hand, I couldn’t believe the little traitor. Asking Rose out on a date, what was that? I closed the journal, deciding now I needed to get to work, the period was almost half over and I hadn’t even worked on anything. We were supposed to still be working on our first big assignment (for me it was the rendition of Starry Night) but I was already finished with that. So I pulled out my backup sketchbook—much smaller and thinner than the one I left at Rick’s—and began freehanding some figure drawings.
I really enjoyed drawing simplistic outlines of the human form, it was so complex, you couldn’t just draw it all out willy-nilly. Each separate part was dependent on all the others. How you drew the hand depended on how you drew the wrist, which depended how you drew the arm, which depended on how you drew the shoulder, and so on and so forth.
I drew for about ten minutes, thinking all the while about what I had read, how I felt about it. Maybe it was just me, maybe I was the only one in the world that was this afraid of the person that they liked. Maybe I was crazy. I had found comfort in the journal before in that I wasn’t alone in my feelings of fear. Fear of rejection, fear of failing . . . fear of falling. Fear of things getting serious because if that happened then they would have to inevitably crash back down and I wasn’t sure I was stable enough to go through heartbreak. I didn’t know if I ever would be. And surely, if this boy wanted to go on a date he would want more than that. What if he wanted a relationship? I wasn’t sure if I was ready to give anyone even a part of me let alone all.
I was halfway through a second figure when a dark skinned girl walked into the room then, distracting my train of thought, and walked up to Ms. Ludgate, handing her a slip of paper folded in half twice. She thanked the girl who smiled at her and walked out of the room just as suddenly as she had entered. I was just about to return to my art when I heard my name called.
“Scott?” Ms. Ludgate piped up. Huh? I looked up and she was holding the slip lightly above her head between two fingers, “You’re needed in the front office.”
“Um,” I said confused, trying to imagine when, if ever, the last time I was called down to the office had been. “Okay.”
I stood and walked over to Ms. Ludgate, taking the paper from her wiry, paint stained hand and headed out of the classroom. Did I even know where the front office was? I took pause, trying to remember and deduced that it was next to the counseling center . . . I hoped. Trying to remember the last time I visited the counseling center when I almost took the journal to the lost and found.
Mesa High was huge, the shape of an U with three floors and dozens of classrooms on each. On right leg of the school there was the lunchroom/courtyard. The theatre was located in the center of the U, just opposite of the front office and counseling center. Behind the school, inside the U, was theamphitheatere (which was where I ate lunch,) behind that stood the tech buildings, the places that taught woodshop and auto body and useless stuff like that. I was on the third floor, all the way up at the left leg so it took me a fun amount of time to get to my destination.
I walked into the front office and there was a wizened woman flitting back and forth behind the desk, a larger woman at the a computer with glasses the size of my face, and a walkway on the side that led back to the principal and vice principal’s office. Along the wall that held the door through which I just entered sat a row of cushioned seats where two girls sat nervously on opposite ends, obviously trying to look anywhere but at each other. The girl opened behind me then and the same girl that had brought Ms. Ludgate the note summoning me brushed past me and headed back to the office.
I looked at both of my options again and decided it was safest to approach the woman at the computer.
“Hello, my name is Scott Moore,” I said and the women looked up, her hazel eyes were huge behind the distorted glass, “and, um, I got this note asking me to come down.”
She took it from me, all her fingers the same size as her thumbs and eyed it closely, “It wasun’ me,” she said shaking her big head and bellowed, “Gloria!”
The thin woman with big, messy red hair stopped flitting around and walked up to us, “Yeah?”
“Did you send out this note?”
The small hand took it from the large one and the contrast made my stomach churn for some reason. “Um, nope. Not me. Must’ve been either Principal Gerrick or Vice Principal O’Malley.”
Shit. I thought. What did I do?
“Just wait right there and one of them will come to get you,” the larger woman instructed pointing at the seats in between the two girls and I nodded, obeying her instructions, my mind trying to come up with any reason at all that I might need to meet with one of the principals. I came up completely empty. I was a model student, I didn’t cut class, I didn’t get bad grades, I didn’t break the rules.
I sat there for almost fifteen minutes, waiting for nothing. The bell signaling the end of sixth period rang and normally I would be headed home now but still no one came. Five more minutes and Vice Principal O’Malley came and got the two girls who I could now hear screaming from back in his office.
I walked up to the front desk again and said to the woman with big everything, “I think I’m gonna go, I have to get to my next class.” She just nodded approval and I turned around to head out the door, making impact with a large mass before I was even passed under the threshold. I didn’t even have time to question it before I was pulled through the door, out of the office, and it was shut behind us so that we were alone in the hallway.
“What the—” I cried, ready to curse but my mind went completely blank when I looked up and saw who was gripping my arm with the strength that couldn’t belong to just one boy. His brown eyes were ones I could never forget, “Liam, I . . .”
“It’s okay,” he interrupted. He was wearing a sleeveless jean jacket over a black t-shirt that hugged the muscles in his arms superbly. I was mesmerized by them. I looked away, back up at his face as he spoke again, “I just needed to see you.”
“Liam—” I began again but he interrupted once more.
“Only to give you this,” he said quickly before I could detest and held out a very familiar sketch book.
“Oh,” I said, my face falling. Why was I upset that was all he needed? Hadn’t I wanted to get this back anyways? I took it from him and brought it to my chest, looking back up at Liam nervously, he was sweating slightly, “Thank you.”
“You’re welcome. I meant to give it to you the second you got here, but I got called down to the gym to help out for a bit. I’m a TA for the front office this period,” he explained between heavy breaths and I realized the gym was on the opposite side of the school by the theatre, so he must’ve run here to meet me.
I didn’t say anything, I had a knack of doing that, letting him lead the conversation. I tried not to think about any sort of deeper meaning that could have but the thoughts came flooding anyway. I shut them up and smiled at him.
“I really appreciate it,” I finally said.
“I tried to get it to you sooner,” he said, running his hair through his slightly damp hair, “I sent you a couple messages.”
Oh. So that’s what he meant by “I have something for you.” I thought he was trying to be abstruse.
“I, um, my phone . . .” I started and then shut my mouth tightly. I had done too much lying in the past week. To Harper, to myself, I couldn’t lie to him. He was nice, cute, sincere guy, he didn’t deserve that. He didn’t deserve a lot of a bullshit I had pulled so far. “I didn’t reply.”
“That’s okay,” he nodded and I knew it wasn’t really okay. I couldn’t help but wonder if he was also thinking about the message he had sent me this morning before school. The message that said he was sorry for bothering me, that said he would stop pursuing me, the message that said whatever this was was over, “I just needed to get that to you somehow so I had the other TA go get you.”
“Why didn’t you just come get me?” I asked, and I was genuinely curious, but I also think that I kind of knew.
I thought I saw a flash of pink cross his cheeks for a moment before he said, “I was rounding up those other two girls in the office.”
It might have been a lie. I don’t know. They were in the office long before he was, but he had been called to go help at the gym. So I would never know. I stood there for a moment looking into his eyes nervously. He wasn’t that much taller than me but still he seemed to tower over me, it was both intimidating and comforting at the same time. I thought again, just like I had the first time that we met that he might kiss me.
“Anyway,” he said shaking his head and I was pulled much too soon out of my fantasy, “I just wanted to give you that and say again how sorry I am. I came on way too strong and I’m done. I’m going to leave you alone now.”
My stomach seemed to shrink inside me. That was it then.
“It’s okay,” I breathed, barely able to make the words out.
“Um,” he said awkwardly, “I have to go to work.”
“Yeah,” I nodded, trying not to seem too disappointed. I was confused and mad at myself. The things I was feeling now were eons away from the things I had felt Monday morning and I silently wondered why I did this to myself. Why I let myself get so scared and so closed off. I wondered why, in the moment (like this moment right now) where I could reach out and say something, say that I didn’t want this to be over either, I didn’t. “Yeah I need to get headed home as well. Free period.”
Liam nodded, “I’ll uh, see you around.”
“Yeah,” I said weakly, “see you around.”
Liam smiled a small half-smile and let out a puff of air through his nose, patting my shoulder in a friendly way as he walked past me to head down the hallway towards where the school parking lot, and his silver truck awaited. I forced a smile of my own as he passed, pulling the sketchbook closer to my chest as he left me.
I closed my eyes tight thinking about the boy in the journal as a hundred emotions flooded me. I couldn’t be scared either. I couldn’t let my fear of being an outcast and being rejected dictate my every move. The boy in the journal was just thirteen years old and still he had a bigger set of stones than I did at sixteen. I was weak. I was afraid and I didn’t have any idea what I wanted in my life. Except that in the past week, when most of my life I felt like there was nothing really to look forward to, nothing to exciting or different or real or amazing, I thought of Liam. He had consumed me last weekend, every thought I had had been about him, about my feelings towards him, about what I would say to him.
“Yes!” I said boldly, and my eyes flew open in surprise of myself. It wasn’t a shout, but it had definitely carried. I flipped around just in time to see Liam turn around slowly a few yards away. I bought one of my hands to my mouth as we made eye contact. He cocked an eyebrow at me, eliciting an explanation for my outburst. I thought about walking towards him, but the hallways was empty. What the hell.
“You’ll see me around,” I said, dropping both of my hands to my sides.
A smile crossed Liam’s face, not one of happiness, one of craftiness, “Open the sketchbook.”
I raised an eyebrow in confusion and did as I was told, lifting the cardstock cover of the sketchbook up, a pieces of paper fell out and landed face down on the ground before me. I looked up at Liam for a second and he nodded at me, eyebrows raised so I leaned forward to pick the paper op, not taking my eyes off of him. I couldn’t help but smile just like he was,m except mine was out of amusement.
I turned the paper over in my hands and the details for the Phoenix Art Show looked back at me in bold letters and bright colors, examples of art scattered across the page. But none of that was what held my attention, in black sharpie, across the entire page, written in the same handwriting I recognized from the note left on my car were the words:
ONE LAST TRY.
I looked up and Liam was walking towards me, an expression of chagrin on his face. “So the text you sent this morning?” I asked amused and accusing.
“Total bullshit,” he smiled, shaking his head as he drew nearer.
“You think you’re hot stuff,” I shook my own head and he shrugged, shoving his hands in his pockets except for his thumbs, letting out a soft chuckle that made his wide shoulders bounce.
“So you’ll go with me?” he ignored, but we both knew the answer to the comment that I had posed: he did.
I looked back down at the piece of paper as he approached, the show was tomorrow at the Phoenix Art Museum, it would feature the works of many local artists as well as a main attraction: a showcase by a French artist Gäel Boutroux. My eyes went to Liam and he was right in front of me. I searched his eyes. This was not his definition of a Sunday afternoon out—not even close. He had thought about this, considered what I might want to do, factoring in everything he knew about me so far, using this sketchbook as a guide. Maybe he even did some research on art events happening around town. Then again, he could have just pulled this off of the Local Events board in the counseling center.
“What’s in it for me?” I asked assuredly, trying not to seemed swayed by his thoughtfulness. I needed to play hard to get—boys liked that, right?—but not impossible to get, not like I had acted over the past week.
“You get to spend an afternoon with me,” he offered and I almost scoffed, but I didn’t. The words could cave come off as arrogant, pompous, or cocky, but the way he said them almost made them sound reversed, like he would have the privilege of spending an afternoon with me.
“You’re really that good of company?” I asked, challenging him.
“I like to think I am,” he said, which translated to, “I hope you are.”
He was good at this, he had a tone in his voice that suggested that everything that came out of his mouth was my idea. It wasn’t manipulative or fake per say, more so alluring or enticing.
“And of all the things we could do you want to take me to an art show?” I asked and Liam’s face was a few inches from mine now, I could almost feel his nose against my forehead, like there was a current of electricity passing through him into me. I thought, once again, he might try and kiss me. Except this time I wanted him to, if we hadn’t been in a hallway where someone could walk out of a door any minute, I would lift my head up and invite him to—
The door to the front office opened then and one of the girls from before emerged, wiping her eyes with the back of her hand, “‘Scuse me,” she said feebly with a small hiccup and we stepped aside, the electric current breaking between us as she passed through.
“I uh,” Liam started awkwardly now, once the girl was down the hall a ways, keeping a two foot distance between us now, good idea, I thought, “just thought that maybe it would be something you would want to do.”
I realized now as he said this that he was much more attractive when he wasn’t trying to be seductive. I mean yes, he was a sex god when he wanted to be, but this awkward scratching of of the back of the head nervously was so hot to me. It made me see that there was more than just one side to him. More than just the suave playboy he tried to present himself as.
“I would,” I nodded, a shade of red invading my dark cheeks.
Liam’s face seemed to light up like a thousand Christmas trees. He truly had not expected this answer from me. I couldn’t blame him. No one could, if anyone had been watching our interaction through the past week they too would have placed bets on me running away again. But I couldn’t, not this time. I couldn’t let fear rule me, otherwise I would be stuck standing standing in the middle of the quicksand of life, slowly being dragged down until there was nothing left of me.
“Oh!” Liam said eagerly, a toothy grin taking up nearly half of his face, “In that case I’ll pick you up around four, the art show starts at five and we need to wait in line.”
I nodded, not really sure what to say but, “Okay, I’ll see you at four.”
Liam’s face was still tainted with that wide smile. My own had an embarrassed smirk upon it. “See you then,” he said.
There was an awkward moment where we both were thinking about what to do next, hug it out? Handshake? Fist bump? In the end Liam said once more, “Okay, I really got to get to work now.”
I nodded my head, gesturing with my forehead to the hall behind him, “Go, it’s fine.” Liam smiled again, “See you at four.”
“See you,” I said and he turned on his heel, immediately breaking into a jog towards the parking lot.
I watched him as he went, the bottom of his jean vest flapping back behind him. In that moment, for once in my life I wasn’t scared. I wasn’t nervous, I wasn’t thinking about running. In that moment all I was thinking about was how I had my very first date tomorrow and I had no idea what I was going to wear.