He was joking. He had to be. ‘We can’t be friends anymore.’ Is that some kind of joke?
My mouth dropped open in shock, and I looked over at him. He was staring at me, face a mask; a cold, harsh mask. It was then that I realized he was being serious. He eyes told me the truth, and they were usually the thing that told me when he was lying. He wasn’t now.
“Why?” I whispered, knowing that I couldn’t muster anything louder than that. He sighed heavily, and I knew he just wanted me out of here. I wasn’t giving up that easy though.
“You’re holding me back, Car.”
I wasn’t expecting that.Holding him back?How the Hell, could I be holding him back?
“What from?” I asked incredulously.
“From beingpopular,” he hissed, his hands clenching into fists on his lap, and his jaw tightened as he stared out towards the Park.
“What?” my voice was breathless as I felt the breath being forced out of my lungs. My eyes were going slightly blurry as the first of the tears started to flow silently down my cheeks, not from anger, but from betrayal. He was breaking off our friendship to bepopular?
“I want to be popular, Carter, and you have held me back every time!” he cried, his voice getting louder and louder with every word. I cringed back from his tone, and the tears fell slightly faster. I tried to say something, but he just kept on ranting.
“Every time! Every time we had the chance to do something with the populars, you. Said. No!” he ranted, getting even harsher with every word.
“I was doing that to protect you, Jackson!” I cried, my voice breaking out of its carefully contained tone, and getting loud. I was letting my emotions out that I had built up for too long, and the tears were streaming down my cheeks, that were flushed with anger, “I was doing that so you didn’t get hurt by those girls. They would do anything to embarrass you because of me. Because you hang out with me, and because you stick up for me, you get the same treatment as me. So I'm sorry that has happened to you. But is their approval, theirtimeworth loosing our friendship over?”
He looked back at me then, and I knew I had lost the battle. He had made up his mind, possibly long ago, and had been searching for the right time to break it to me.
“Nine years. Nine years I haveenduredyou, Carleetah, and I can’t take it anymore. You have no idea how bad you were when you got here. You were a wreck. Your mom came over here the very hour you guys arrived, and practicallybeggedmy mom to have me become your friend. My momblackmailedme into becoming your friend. She said I couldn’t have a T.V in my room if I didn’t be your friend,” he looked over at me with a half-grin on his face, “I really wanted the T.V, so I did it.”
That was too much for me. He sold out our friendship for the populars, and even then, our friendship was over a T.V. AT.V!I couldn’t just sit there and listen to him tell me how much he resented me. It was hard enough hearing about my mother, my very own mother,begginghim to be my friend. That. Hurt.
I stood up, and walked over to the door. With my hand on the doorknob, I paused, and muttered the last words I would ever say to him.
“I need you, Jackson. You have been there for me for so long. Nine years. I’m never gonna forget that. You’re my rock; you kept me steady when things got so hard. I love you…” I took one last unsteady breath as the tears rolled in a constant stream down my cheeks, “But this is what you want. You have done so much for me; I am doing one last thing for you. Don’t text me. Don’t call me. Don’t talk to me at school. This is what you want.” I pulled open the door and stepped through, and was just about to close it behind me, when I muttered, “See you in Hell, Bitch.”
I made it home without Lara figuring out the truth. She stopped me in my tracks when she noticed I had tears rolling down my cheeks, but I downplayed it, saying that Jackson had just reminded me of something really sad. She smiled at me so caringly; it caused me to break down again, loosing my self control. I ran out of that house and stumbled towards mine, knowing that Lara will be storming up to her son’s room, and demanding to know what had happened. I almost smiled at that, but then I remembered why I had been crying, and the half-grin slid off my face.
I reached my door, and paused before walking into the house, knowing that my mother was bound to interrogate me about running off like I did, and I didn’t want to show so much weakness in front of her. I walked through the door, and I heard the conversation the adults were having drop off suddenly. I kept on walking; the only sounds were my heels clacking against the hardwood floors of my home. I had made it past the living room when my mother called.
“Carleetah!” I stopped mid-step, and cringed. There go my hopes of getting up to my room without a confrontation. I spun around on the balls of my feet, and walked back to the living room. I walked in with my head down and walked several feet into the room before stopping and looking up.
“Carleetah, why did you-” she broke off when she saw my face. It really must have been a mess, as she stood up with shock and worry on her face as she walked closer to me. She stopped several feet away with her arms half-raised towards me, “What’s wrong, darling?”
I shook my head, not taking my eyes off her face. I didn’t what to tell her what had happened, and she didn’t deserve to know, not in my eyes. She had forced me into a faked friendship.
“Carleetah?” a deep voice asked, placing one of his large hands on my shoulder gently. I looked up and Keelan was looking down at me tenderly. I wanted to get away from him, to get as far away as possible from him, but I needed someone to talk to. So that’s why I walked up to him and wrapped my arms around his waist, burying my face in his chest. It went against my better instincts, but I needed anyone else to talk to now that Jackson was gone. That’s why I didn’t want to go up to my room; it was filled with pictures and memories from the last nine years.
He returned my hug, and I felt the tears, that I was sure I had gotten under control, start to leak from my now red and puffy eyes.
Little did I know, that this was the start of a completely upside down and crazy year that I will look back and say was the most interesting of my life.
He looked up at me from where he was sitting beside me on the deck behind my house. We had our feet dangling in the pool, and I was preoccupied staring at the large Willow tree that was overhanging it. The slight breeze was making the loose branches sway hypnotically back and fourth, back and fourth.
I broke my eyes off the tree’s rhythmic swaying, and looked over at Keelan. His bright green eyes were twinkling in the late afternoon sun. The sky was a mixture of pale blues and purples, bright oranges and pinks, which made me feel happy and fuzzy inside for the first time in a long, long time.
“Can you not call me Carleetah at school. It’s Carter now.”
He looked at me intently, and nodded, and I smiled happily at him. He raised a hand though, and I raised an eyebrow at him, and he smirked.
“Only if you don’t call me by Keelan. Its Blake now,” he mocked me jokingly, grinning while his eyes were very serious. I knew he had done the same as me, and changed his name to release old ties.
“How about I call you Keelan and you call me Carleetah. I don’t care if people find out,” I said, over pretending who I was. He nodded, and I grinned at him, happy that things were going to be okay between us.
I remembered why I was sitting out here rather than listening to music in my room like I normally would, and I felt a single tear roll silently down my cheek. I bit my lip gently, avoiding my lip ring as that would hurt, trying to suppress the sobs that were building inside of me.
I only just succeeded.
“So why are we out here again?”
I rolled my eyes at Keelan’s obvious naivety, and shook my head, smiling to myself the entire time. He was sodensesometimes.
“Because, dearest Keelan, I don’t want to go up to my room right now. And shouldn’t we really spend as much time outdoors as possible?” I asked rhetorically, looking back at the last of the sunset. It was getting cooler, and we had moved up the lawn a bit so we didn’t catch a chill from sitting with our feet in the pool any longer. I had taken my hair out from the messy bun, and it now curled messily down to my waist, and it kept me warm, so I didn’t care what I looked like.
“What did he do to you, Carleetah?” Keelan asked after a lengthy silence. My head whipped around to look at him, and I shivered slightly as the breeze caught up to me. He noticed, and shrugged out of the hoodie he had been wearing, and draped it over my exposed legs. I smiled in thanks, and then went back to looking at him questioningly.
“Aw, come on, Carleetah. I bet that he did something to you to make you come home crying,” he reasoned, and I had to admit to his theory; it actually made sense. I sighed, and thought about how I was going to word this; I didn’t want to give him too much information. Not yet.
“Jackson… Well he… Sort of…” I was struggling with the right word, and Keelan must have noticed this, as he started rattling off suggestions.
“Kissed you? Hugged you?Proclaimed his love for you?” I laughed at the last one, as he had said it in a faux lovey-dovey voice that sounded so hilarious coming from him. I shook my head, and with a grin on my face, tried to explain.
“No. It was somethingwayworse,” I muttered, the grin sliding off my face by the end of the sentence. He was quiet for a few minutes, and in that time, I felt it get steadily cooler, which was odd for a May evening.
“Did he break up with you?” Keelan asked tentatively. I frowned and looked away as I thought that over.
“Well… sort of. I guess you could call it that,” I tried to say in an off-hand way, but the words got stuck behind the lump in my throat and came out jumpy.
“Sort of? Well, wasn’t he your boyfriend?”
I looked back at him then, and my eyes widened in shock. Me and Jackson? Aw, Hell no! I couldn’t contain the giggles any longer, and they burst out of me in hysterical laughter.
“Are you serious?” I choked out between giggles. He nodded, and that caused me to laugh even harder. How could he even imagine that? I mean seriously.
“Why would you think that?” I demanded, still trying to control the giggles that escaped my lips. I took an extra deep breath, and waited silently for Keelan’s answer, eager to understand why he’d jumped to such outrageous conclusions.
“Well, at school today, you came running up to him and then clung to him, looking scared shitless. Then you do all you can to get out of here this afternoon to go see him. All the signs point to a boyfriend/ girlfriend relationship.”
I sat there for a few moments before I replied.
“Okay. The ‘running to him looking scared shitless’ part, as you’d so kindly put it. You would be scared shitless too if the one guy that was constantly trying to drive you to suicide came up to you and asked you to Prom, even if it is over a month away.
“And the ‘doing everything I could to get out of here to see him’ part. Did it ever occur to you that I was angry at you? Ever? And that I was trying to get away from you so I wouldn’t get my heart broken when you leave me again? So I don’t form another heart breaking bond with you?”
He didn’t answer me, so I got up and was about to walk away when his hand caught on to my leg.
“Don’t leave,” he begged his eyes sad as he clung onto my leg. I looked him over, staring down at the boy who had broken my heart so many years ago. I sighed and walked back closer to him, but refused to sit down.
“Carleetah… Carter,” he corrected, “I’m not going anywhere. My mom wanted us to tie down some roots here, so we are staying here for a while,” he admitted. All I could do was just stare at him. He wasn’t leaving? I didn’t know whether to be happy or pissed off by this. I stared down at him for a minute more, and walked away, ignoring his calls as I ran up to my room. I hesitated outside my room, and took a deep breath before I walked through and just sat down on my bed. I felt my chest tighten, and I closed my eyes so I didn’t have to look at the imposing wall. I took a deep breath, and made up my mind.
I stood up, and started taking down every single picture of Jackson in my room, throwing them into the trash as I did. I tried not to think of what I was doing this for, and instead started singing a song to take my mind off it. ‘Animals’ from Nickleback came to mind, and tears crept slowly down my cheeks I sang along to the words.
An hour later, my walls were bare, and my scrapbook was empty. Every picture frame was vacant, and any of my school books with his name in it now resided at the bottom of my now overflowing trashcan.
I slumped onto my bed after I was finished, feeling scarily empty and fragile as I cried myself to sleep for the first time in 9 years.