The ring of the last bell issued a sigh of relief from my stiff body as I rose from the desk and walked out of the classroom like everyone else. Friday afternoons were by far the most glorious time of the week because it was followed by a Saturday, which meant an instant in which your enslaved mindset could taste the sweet freedom of a weekend, though I wasn’t looking forward to this weekend. The students began dwindling and diminishing from the hallway but I caught merry words of partying and hanging out over at a friend’s house. I went straight to my locker without a parting glance to anybody. Leaning on my locker was Joey, with his head hung low over his chest and humming a new song we’ve been working on.
“Hey, what are you doing here?” I asked, turning the dial of my lock. It clicked open at the first try and I pull the locker door open, stashing my books away. “Don’t you have to walk her home or something?” There was reproach and distance in my voice. Walking her home was a former pleasure of mine; at that time, all I wanted to feel were her fingers entwined with mine. My silent joy was for Joey to continue now, for they were neighbors and friends. I wasn’t jealous toward him though, I was grateful.
Joey shrugged, “I told her to wait because I had something to do before leaving,” he said, then looked at me earnestly. “I want to apologize for what I said earlier. I know you’re under much stress and that I promised not to take sides on my best friends break up, but…”
There always had to be a “but” in everything concerning me. A long sigh escaped from me and my eyes gazed at my best friend, the one who knew me well enough not to be fooled by my lies, deceptions, and faked happiness and well-being. Nothing had changed between us, except that we talked less animatedly about her or tried to avoid mentioning her at all. Both of us confided in him and trusted him not to reveal what was said to him in confidence about each other. Why didn’t more people like Joey Wheeler exist?
“…I miss a part from both of you,” he finished. “I miss her smile and I miss your confidence.” His hands were in his trouser’s pocket, a sign of embarrassment for what he just confessed. Nobody could judge him for what he said, for his words were sacred to my ears and made me think deeply about the meaning everything played in my life. We stood there for some uncomfortable minutes just gazing at one another without uttering a word, as if trying to decipher thoughts by the simple act of staring at each other. She read me easily and I wondered if she had taught the art to Joey.
“I miss her too,” I said, “and not only her smile, I miss her presence.” There was pain in my throat as I said those words and a slicing suffering in my chest; the void that my heart had turned into this last week felt lonely and lifeless for the umpteenth-time.
“Why don’t you tell her so,” he suggested. That question, or rather idea, hadn’t reached my ears until this very moment. Perhaps the thought of telling me to try so had been wandering in my closest friends’ minds, but it never made it to their lips when they witnessed and pitied my silent and self-absorb misery. They didn’t want to point out the real loser and jerk I was either.
“Because I ended the last shred of light in her eyes and I can’t bring myself to face her again,” I said. I forced my lips into a sad smile before closing my locker. We hadn’t talked since the break-up and the hours of each day slowly died away with me trying to avoid her.
Joey just nodded. “Everything’s cool between us then?”
“Alright, see you on Monday,” he waved before setting his skateboard on the floor and skating away as fast as he could so as to not get caught by any school official. I mumbled a goodbye before walking out of the door and into the frosty winter air. The reasons behind our break-up were unknown, even to me, or at least bizarre. I didn’t cheat on her and she didn’t cheat on me, and as far as I knew we were a happy couple. For me that was on the outside; it tore me apart to know that sometimes I was making up this fairytale for her to live in, to shelter her from the chaos inherent in me. Failure never was an easy feat to overcome or live with, and experience had proved that to me countless of times. I failed to protect her from the sinister monster inhabiting deep in my soul, wearing it thin each passing day. I also failed at preserving her radiant smile; now her little sad smile would be the scar of her broken heart. The heart is the muscle that works the most and also the one that never heals completely.
My thoughts bothered me most of the time, especially when in solitude. It was hard to cool down the train of thoughts whose destination was past the horizon of doom, where the mountains of agony provided shadows of desolation. The white coldness wasn’t helping much in my despair either, except that the wailing wind was a symphony akin to the sobbing of my aching heart. Pathetic was the word most directed to me, it fit me well. My parents still have a hard time watching me skulk aimlessly around the house in my edgy and anxious manner when I wasn’t hiding in my room writing her name and generally making a mess out of myself and my room, much to my mother’s distress.
The house came into view; the paint was slowly peeling off the wooden structure and the windowpanes were foggy and frost-bitten. I trudge through the snow-covered yard and scrubbed off the snow from my converse on the landing. I turned the brass knob and push opened the door, allowing me into the orange warmth of the ceiling light and to the smell of freshly baked cookies. Without a greeting word or mumble, I quietly made my way to the stairs, in hope of getting inside my room without the usual questions asked about my day.
“Hey Elliot,” the cheerful voice of my eleven-year old sister rang loud in my eardrums. I walked back some steps and peered into the kitchen. When I saw her, I forced a smile upon my worn-down face to meet her ear-to-ear grin and her bright emerald-color eyes, so much like mine. “Guess what I’ve been doing all afternoon!”
“Baking some Christmas cookies?” I asked indifferently, anticipating the answer.
“Ding! Ding! Ding!” she cried, “they’re in the oven right now; when they’re ready I’ll call you. Mom and Dad aren’t home yet, I want this to be a surprise for them. Do you think they’ll like it?”
“Sure, Cindy,” I replied, rubbing my wearied eyes. “Just make sure to clean up everything before they get back.” The kitchen was indeed a mess, it was as if a tornado had gone through and the walls of it had hit against everything that was within reach. I started walking toward the stairs again, until her chirpy and loud voice stopped me abruptly again.
“Mom said you should start packing for the weekend,” her voice died away as I reached the landing of the second floor and disappeared like a shadow inside my solitary and bleak haven. I turned the volume dial of my iPod up and drowned my thoughts with the loud music streaming through my earpiece, deafening my head from thoughts of her.