And I missed my friends who were still here. I missed them terribly.
Dary was still desperately trying to make everything normal, and Abbi hardly spoke to me at all.
Seeing my friends start to move on while I was still stuck on the cliff, half dangling off, wore on me. They were racing ahead, while I was still on the first leg. Dary and Abbi talked about the homecoming dresses they’d bought over the weekend, a trip I’d been invited to but had begged off. They were so...normal, so everyday, and I was so not, because I was stuck in the welling grief that I was just now experiencing.
And, oh God, I missed Sebastian so much.
Things were rough between us. He was around, but things weren’t like they had been. He still sat at our table at lunch and talked to me. He didn’t ignore me or pretend that I didn’t exist, but every interaction with him was superficial. His guards were up, walls intact.
Nothing was the same.
I’d hurt him.
I’d hurt myself.
And he didn’t even know the full extent of it.
My heart had felt like it was going to fall out of my chest when Skylar had shown up at our table on Monday. He was sitting with Griffith and Keith, who was, like usual these days, right beside Abbi. I once tried to ask her if they were seeing each other, and she’d just shaken her head at me like I should’ve already known.
But at that moment I wasn’t thinking about it, because I could hear Skylar’s laughter and Sebastian’s deeper chuckles and that drew my attention.
That’s when I fell in love with you.
Sebastian had nodded at something she said, and then slowly his head turned in my direction. Our gazes had met, his shadowed, and then he looked away, his jaw clenching down hard. Skylar laughed again.
He said he loved me, but it appeared he was also moving on. Moving right back to Skylar, and her pretty smiles and clean conscience.
* * *
After school on Tuesday, I was dragging myself across the parking lot out to my car. I’d gotten there late that morning, so I was all the way in the back of the lot, near the football field. The sun was out, warming what would normally be a cooler autumn day, and I was thinking about how this was perfect weather for practices. Coach Rogers liked to have us run on the track at the end, and it was so much easier when you didn’t have the hot summer sun beating down on you.
But I wouldn’t be joining them after school for that run. I didn’t miss those practices, but I did miss the game. Funny how I used to convince myself that the only reason I played was because of Megan. I knew now that it wasn’t true.
I sighed and picked up my pace. I was about halfway across the parking lot when I heard my name called out, a breeze catching Sebastian’s voice. I turned and saw him jogging toward me. He was dressed early for practice, in tights with nylon shorts over them.
My heart rate kicked up as I squinted up at him. “Hey,” I croaked out.
“Hey.” His arms were at his sides. “So, I had a question. I wanted to ask at lunch but forgot.”
“Are you going to homecoming?” he asked.
Caught off guard, I knew I was gaping at him. Was he seriously going to ask me to go? After what I’d said to him? After not really talking to me for almost a month? But if he was asking me, no matter how unexpected it was, I couldn’t say no. I wouldn’t, even though I had no business going to a dance when I...
Swallowing the rancid guilt, I shook my head. “No. I don’t have plans to.”
His blue eyes narrowed slightly. “It’s your senior homecoming. Last one.”
“I know.” Really, it just felt like it was my last year to play volleyball and to go to homecoming. But it wasn’t. Not for me. But for Megan and the others, it had been.
“So you’re just going to stay home?” He glanced over his shoulder briefly, and then his gaze settled on me.
I knew right then that he wasn’t asking me to the dance and heat blasted my cheeks. Of course he wasn’t. Why would he? I cleared my throat. “Yeah, I’m staying home.”
Sebastian stared at me.
“Is that all you wanted to ask me?” I asked, glancing away from his eyes and then focusing on his shoulder.
“Yeah.” Sebastian started backing up toward the school. “I was just curious.” He started to turn and then looked over at me. A moment passed before he said, “I’ll see you later, Lena.”
“Bye,” I whispered, watching him turn around and jog off. That had been our longest conversation in weeks.
I’m in love with you.
Standing in the parking lot, I squeezed my eyes shut. A car honked nearby.
He’d loved me, and I’d...I’d damaged our friendship and ended a possible future for us...before it even began.
* * *
Dary leaned against the locker beside me. Her polka-dotted bow tie matched the blue-and-white suspenders she wore. “You have to meet with Dr. Perry today?”
“Yeah.” I pulled out my History text. “I only meet with him Monday and Friday this week and next. Then I think I’m done with him in November.”
“That’s good news, then?”
I nodded and closed my locker door.
I guessed it was good news. I mean, either Dr. Perry thought I’d be in a better headspace by then, or his time he could dedicate on me was simply up. I knew in one of his follow-up calls with my mom he’d mentioned that I might benefit from outside, continuing therapy, but I was pretty sure Mom’s insurance didn’t cover that and we really didn’t have the money to spend on it.
Hopefully, I would be better by then.
But that was a bridge I wasn’t crossing yet.
“Can I ask you something?” When I nodded, she said, “What’s going on with you and Sebastian? I’ve been wondering for weeks now, but you always get all weird when he’s brought up, so I haven’t said anything.”
I hitched the strap of my bag over my shoulder. “Nothing is going on.”
“Really? Because he was all Lena, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, and then all the sudden he’s not sitting next to you and I haven’t seen you guys really talking.”
“He’s just busy. So am I,” I lied as I turned.
Dary walked beside me as I made my way to the front of the school. “So, I’ve heard a rumor,” she said, speaking each word carefully. “I debated on telling you, because I didn’t want to upset you, but I also didn’t want you to be blindsided if it’s true.”
The muscles in my back tensed. She could be referencing so many things. “What?” We stopped at the end of the hall, by the wall of really terrible art projects that I had no idea why anyone would showcase. “What rumor?”
Dary bit down on her lip as she shifted her weight from one foot to the next. “I heard... Well, Abbi heard this and then told me, so—”
“Wait. Abbi heard a rumor and told you but not me?” Exasperation raised my voice.
“Yeah.” Dary sighed.
“She couldn’t have just told me?”
“She could’ve, but you two aren’t exactly best friends forever right now, and I think she knew I’d tell you,” Dary reasoned, and then pointed out, “And you also aren’t really making much of an effort to repair that broken bridge.”
I opened my mouth to disagree, but Dary was right. I wasn’t doing much of anything. “Okay. What did she hear?”
“She was hanging out with Keith after practice—”
“Are those two together?” I asked.
Dary raised a shoulder. “Who knows? I think they are, but Abbi doesn’t want anyone to know, because, well, you know how Abbi is, but they are going to the dance as dates even though she’s driving with me. You’re being a loser who’s not going at all, but I know Keith asked her.” She took a breath and rushed on. “She was hanging out with Keith after practice and Sebastian was with them. Skylar was there, too. Not with them with them, but she was there.”
My heart splattered.
“Abbi overheard Skylar and Sebastian talking about homecoming. She said it sounded like they were going together.” Dary looked uncomfortable. “Abbi said she couldn’t be certain from the bits and pieces she heard, but that’s what it sounded like. And the last you opened up about him, you said he’d told you he loved you. So I thought you just needed to know.”