It's funny how cold your feet are. Your mom has seen to it that you've been bundled up as though you were suffering from hypothermia, and not a sore throat. Your feet have two pairs of woolen socks on, and you're buried under a mound of quilts, and yet everything past your ankles feels like blocks of ice.

You stare out the window. You think about that phrase, mocking you. Life is unfair, they said. Learn to accept it. They didn't remember the revisionist form of it: Life is cruelly unfair.

Cruel. You've read about truly malevolent characters, seen them portrayed on the television. Yet, never, not in your seventeen years of existence have you met someone really, consummately cruel, and you wish someday you will, because you think it would be fascinating.

You've had teachers with a nasty streak in them, met rude, inconsiderate people on the bus, and seen the bully exhort money from the wimpy kid with glasses.

But you always had outside information; you knew the teacher was going through a bitter custody battle, that Ambiosystech was laying off employees left and right, and that the bully's mother had a drinking problem.

You knew it didn't make their actions right, but at least, in some way, it made sense.

This, however, doesn't make sense. No matter how you try, you can't work your way through it. This twist of fate, or joke of life, you realize, this is simply cruel.

You've liked him since before you can remember. Watched him from afar. Engineered "just by chance" encounters with him to no avail.

You dejectedly shoved him into the recesses of your mind, focused on school, on soccer, on self-improvement. You studied the immune system, played in midfield, and read books on optimism.

You told yourself that you'd find someone later, in college, maybe, and ignored the tiny, whiny voice that reminded you that you already had.

Then came Laura. Laura the Magnificent. Laura the Fair. Laura, who you befriended in no time at all. Laura, with whom you shared everything––– clothes, books, CDs––– even your fantasies. Everything except for his name.

Laura, who, on the first day of tenth grade, took one look at him and set off to make him hers. Laura, the brilliant, beautiful girl who was met with success.

Your heart screamed betrayal, but your mind knew with whom the blame truly resided. And you learned to accept, just like they told you.

Life is unfair.

Though it hurt, it worked out. You saw more of him than you ever had before. You even started to converse with him, you made him laugh. He helped you with Spanish, and you baked him a cake for his birthday. Yet you couldn't forget that it was Laura's hand he was cradling when you told him the joke, that it was Laura's duty to administer the eighteen birthday kisses, after he blew out the candles.

Senior year came. You were excited. The soccer team was poised to sweep through the regionals and play at state. You trained every day of summer, worked through every formation. And true to your expectations, the team did sweep the regionals. But then the father of the talented goalkeeper was diagnosed with terminal cancer, and she was too overwhelmed to do more than stare at the balls that came her way.

Your heart went out to the poor girl, but you were devastated.

But you worked through it, and accepted it, just like they told you to.

Life is unfair.

You soldiered on through the year, the college applications, the scholarship forms, and the interviews.

You dated around, nothing serious. You took an Advanced Calculus class, and you fell in love with the idea of infinity. That something can grow without bound, beyond all comprehension. That something can be so huge and ineffable and will always beat out any other of the lesser functions that try to compete with it.

That idea seemed significant to you somehow, though you couldn't quite grasp why, until the day when he and Laura broke up, and you watched the entire thing with shock, and a fair amount of guilty joy.

Then you realized this meant he was lost to you forever, and you cried. You told yourself that it was absurd to wish the two back together for your sake.

Your mind saw the humorless irony, and you tried to mend yourself.

Life is unfair.

You didn't know what to think, when, two weeks ago, you opened your locker at saw flowers. Roses. You looked around, unsure of what to do next, when he appeared in front of you, with a bouquet in his hand, and hopeful expression on his face.

Thinking it was a dream, you blinked twice, and when he didn't vanish, you almost cried again, this time from happiness.

You scoured the city for the right dress, the right shoes, and the right purse. You knew that it was ridiculous to spend so much time fussing over your appearance, but you had waited far too long for this to happen to settle for anything less than perfection. You got a manicure for the first time. You started taking evening jogs around the city, so that your legs would be strong enough to support hours of dancing.

The rain was light, the day before Prom, when you set out for your jog. You continued anyway, your mind feverish with anticipation. Then, the mist became a downpour, and you arrived home half an hour later, shivering and drenched to the core.

You woke up this morning, sweating, with an unswallowable lump in your throat. When you tried to sit up, you felt a loud, angry jangling noise erupt in your head.

You gargled enough salt water to fill the Dead Sea, and drank all the orange juice produced by several of Florida's groves.

You thought you felt your heart cracking when you called him up, and told him, between two excruciating coughs that you couldn't go.

It was a false alarm––– the crumbling actually happened one beat later, when he asked you if it would be okay if he went with Laura, instead.

Your heart, smashed as it was, screeched no.

But your mouth opened, and you, in your gravelly, pitiful voice––– you said yes.

You turn your face away from the window when you hear the phone ring. You stretch your arm out, hoping that he was calling back to say that he changed his mind, that he was coming over with chicken soup and a cheesy movie and another pile of blankets to cocoon in.

"Hello?" Your voice cracks with eagerness, but you don't care.

"Hi, this is Laura."

You frown. "Hey, Laura, what's up?"

A pause.

"Well," she starts hesitantly, "I need a favor."

You wait. You feel the pain in your throat increase, but you wait for her to say it.

She clears her throat and continues. "Do you think, maybe, because you're not going anymore, that I could… have your dress? I wasn't planning on going, except that I've just been asked by… someone––– horribly last minute, and…"

Your mind reels.

No, you've never met anyone deliberately cruel.

And suddenly, you never want to.

An abrupt coughing fit makes you think that you would much rather be dead than sick.

"Hello? Are you okay?"

You close your eyes. You take a deep breath.

"Yes, I'm fine," You say. "Come right over."

A/N: Review Please! Any suggestions, or comments, or thoughts, or caught typos would be awesome. Oh, and anyone have any ideas for a better title?