Time slipped away like the last breath of autumn. And then everything grew a little colder, and my heart grew a little fainter, and in all those quiet moments my head pounded with pain. October dragged past in slow days of agony. To me, Black Hills seemed a little more distant, a little more surreal. It was as if i was living on autopilot, my body present while my mind was in some far-off place.
For the first time, I'd truly begun to hate my life and everyone in it. I hated my parents for never being there. I hated Lexi for being a two-faced bitch. I'd come to realize all the drama she reveled in, all the chaos she created. I hated Melissa and Loren for being so goddamn happy, even as they doused themselves in misery.
There were only two people I didn’t hate: Xander, and Wynter.
But I'd come to resent Xander for everything he was. I loathed the way he walked the halls with broad grin when I so easily read the melancholy in his eyes. I wondered if I was the only one who realized he always wore sweatshirts, how he hid himself away from the world.
And I wondered if they noticed that I did too. I thought that maybe Xander could tell, if merely subconsciously. I told myself that he had his own battles to face, and it wasn’t his job to star in my wars as well.
But a large part of me was convinced that he simply didnt care. If someone were to force up my sleeves, they'd have seen the twisting pattern of scars, the tracery of lines so faded it was impossible to decipher them.
Just a month later, and I'd torn myself to shreds.
Wynter knew something was up. I could feel her watching me as I moved about the house in my jittery, anxious ways. Mostly I avoided her. It broke my heart to do so, but I told myself it was for her own good.
I convinced myself it was all a phase, one that would pass. I would be okay. Somehow, everything would come together.
"I need to talk to you." Melissa grabbed my the arm and all but dragged me away from the others. I bit my cheeks to stop from shrieking. No way I could alert her. When we stopped, I stared long and hard into her navy eyes. In that space where all the suffering was hidden, I could see that I wasn’t the only one who had fallen victim to the change in the weather. The sorrow went beyond me.
"Okay," I said slowly. "Then talk."
Melissa looked at me long and hard. I felt my chest tightening, but fought to keep myself composed. "Loren and I aren’t getting on very well right now," she said at last in a tone barely above a whisper. I didn’t say anything, because there was just nothing to say. If she thought they'd managed to keep it a secret, she'd been gravely mistaken. I wasn’t the only one who had noticed that every day they talked a little less, or that every day Loren snorted a little more, or that every day Melissa seemed to grow a little more restless.
"I don’t know what to do," she went on. I'd never heard her sound so helpless in all the time I'd known her. But in that moment, there was a sort of desperation in her that I hated so.
Reaching out hesitantly, I pushed back a strand of her cheaply dyed black hair. "Do you love him?" I asked her seriously. After a moment of hesitation, she nodded.
"Then everything is going to work out somehow."
Melissa forced a feeble smile to the surface, hugging me tightly before scurrying back to Loren. I could only watch as she threw her arms around his neck, and, catching him completely off guard, kissed him fiercely. That was the sort of impossibly magical connection I was searching for.
I didn’t bother to return to my friends, starting off instead down the hall, through the masses of people. It was Xander that was consuming my mind as I walked among the liars and fakes. Xander on my mind, and me wishing I could believe my own words