A/N- Hey y'all! It's back! Yessireebob, "Ten-Eighteen" is back up. I had to take it down for awhile because, to be perfectly honest, the person it was absed on found this site and started reading my stuff. Hence, I flipped out and took it down. But I'm re-posting it now, since that person and I are on much better terms at the moment. I don't know if anyone missed this, but I know I sure did. Enjoy!

Take the Ten-Eighteen to Kansas

I wipe droplets of moisture from my eyes and fight back a sniffle. No fucking way am I going to cry over you. I've never cried over any guy but my father, and I'll be damned if I break that pattern now.

I march over to my window and close the blinds with a fearsome tug, but I still get a glimpse of you and her, all the same. Standing on the sidewalk, talking and flirting, you bending down for another kiss.

The blinds slam down and my room is in instant darkness. Perfect. Matches my mood. I pick up a copy of Seventeen from the floor and flop down on my bed, leafing through the pages without really looking at them. I'm still too focused on not crying.

What did I do? I know I did something wrong, but right now I can't think what it is. Is being afraid and apprehensive a crime? Is being uncertain a reason to shut me out of your life and turn to the whore next door?

It's not my fault that after you kissed me, I didn't know quite how to act around you. We'd always been friends, nothing but friends, though my perpetual crush on you since the third grade might have put an end to that.

But, me being me, it didn't because I never gave it a chance to. I fought it down every day. Made myself watch you change into your practice clothes, dressed in nothing but your boxers, heedless of the hundreds of little seventh graders watching, like you were only my best friend and nothing else. Watched you flirt with other girls like my heart wasn't being trampled on. Listened to you pour out your wrath against the whole world and everybody in it like I didn't want to throw my arms around you and make everything better.

So can you blame me if I got confused when you kissed me? The fact that you smelled like whiskey and too much spearmint didn't help my peace of mind all that much, either. And then I didn't see you all weekend. You left me along with my doubts, my fears, my insecurity. All my friends giggled and told me we'd be going out soon. And even though I denied it to them, secretly, I let myself live the moment over and over again, hugging myself in the dark and trying to let expectant glee annihilate my insecurity.

Somebody told me once, a well-meaning friend, that I built walls around myself and wouldn't let people in. At the time, I dismissed it as totally untrue. But now the analogy keeps coming back to me. I can see me, locked away up in a tower like Rapunzel, watching you fight your way up to the top, and then pushing you back down.

But maybe it's not me who's doing the pushing. Right now I feel more like maybe it's you.

And then when you didn't speak to me in school on the Monday after. It all came crashing down, my tower in the clouds, and it was all I could do to not burst out crying in the middle of Chemistry. Then I was scared, and that's when I told you to forget anything ever happened.

Like you remembered anyway.

But that didn't mean I stopped loving you, and, in some twisted backwards sort of way, I didn't mean for you to be allowed to stop loving me, either, if you ever had. I wanted you to be a mind reader, to push aside my request and come to comfort me, professing your undying love for the whole world to hear.

But you didn't. And, really, how could I expect you to? You found somebody new, somebody who's been kissed many times before, somebody who's not afraid and who doesn't live in a tower with no doors. This Rapunzel jumped out the window and threw herself into your arms, not being afraid to tell you how much she wanted you. She fed your ego exactly what it needed. It doesn't look to me like you hate the world any more. Or, at least, not everybody in it. Not her, anyway.

I look up from a picture of Ashlee Simpson and move over to my desk so I can find a permanent marker with which to defile her face. When I get there, I see the only picture I have of you and me together, carefully tacked at exactly ninety degrees to the top left-hand corner of my bulletin board, the corners flush with the corkboard sides. You're standing in the lobby right after a meet, wearing no shirt and your black Nike shorts, grinning in that reckless way you have. I'm thrown over your shoulder like a sack of potatoes, facing the camera, sill wearing my jeans and my uniform top. I'm shrieking with laughter.

We look happy. No insecurity, no hatred of the world, and, best of all, no next-door-neighbor girl peeking out from behind the scenes. The photo is from the newspaper, and the caption reads, Best buddies on the Morristown Varsity Cross-Country team pal around after a race.

I wish I could return to the way we were in the picture. I've read about status quo ante bellum in my US History textbook, and it sounds good. Back to the way things used to be. No more highs, no more kisses, because highs always have an inevitable low immediately following. I want to have the flat, even security of platonic friendship we had for so long, and that's now ruined due to poor communication, your heedlessness, and my self-destructive insecurity. I wish we were like Kansas, no highs and no lows, but a friendly, flat silence stretching into forever.

A shrill giggle pierces my window and the pulled-down blinds and I wince. I don't want to pull up the blinds to see what you've done to make her squeal like that. I'd really rather not know.

I feel vaguely nauseous as I black out two of Ashlee Simpson's teeth with my Sharpie. That giggle echoes in my head, over and over, until it doesn't even sound like a laugh anymore. It drives me crazy.

Without even knowing what I'm doing, I turn the page and see an article. How to Tell If He Likes You, a quiz in eighteen questions. From the kitchen radio, the oldies station plays, If You Don't Know Me By Now. I want to drive a knife through it.

I push away the article blindly, thrust it from me with a passion, and slam the door to my room as I leave. I can't live like this anymore. I don't know about you, but it kills me, and I need to make it stop.

I pound down the stairs, my heart thudding. Not because I'm afraid you'll still be out there with her, but because I'm afraid you won't be.

I run outside into the January cold without a coat, and I can see you walking down the sidewalk with your hand stuffed in your pockets.

The part of me that caused this mess speaks up, warning me against what I'm about to do, but I doom it to the fate of Ashlee Simpson's teeth and keep going. I run after you, trying not to think too hard because if I do, then I'll realize what a mistake this is.

I call your name as I run, and you turn around and stop, one eyebrow raised as you see me coming. I know I look like I've come undone, with one leg of my jeans rolled up the the knee, my belt unbuckled, and no coat on.

You stand still and wait for me to catch up to you. I can still see the red in your lips from all her kissing, but I try not to see it.

I stuff my hands in my pockets and shift from one foot to the other. Try to think of any other million times when you and I have walked down this same sidewalk together, best friends, the wind ruffling our hair as w laughed about something only the two of us knew.

I say, thinking desperately of corn fields, Dorothy, Toto, and the wonderful flatness that is Kansas. What's up?


A/N- Yeah, I know. It sucks. All my one-shots suck, but this one is the worst because it is truest to real life (though I took a couple liberties. . .) and my life isn't the sort of thing that makes good stories.
But please, please, PLEASE read and review, even if it's just to say you hated it. Some of my other one-shots are an awful lot better, especially The Best Kind of Crying.
And if you did like it, please check out my long one, Chasing Mussolini. It's my baby, and I'm exactly the sort of uber-dork that lives for reviews.
Thanks so much!