"Savanna? Can we talk for a minute?"
Colby felt very awkward standing in front of his ex-girlfriend; giving her that mental title was harder than he thought it would be. He watched her face curiously, anticipating a rude remark and for her to rush away from him. That was had happened every time he'd gotten even remotely near her in recent days, but today he'd caught her unexpectedly after his last class.
And today, Savanna merely closed her locker gently, turned to rest her back against it, and looked up at Colby with blank eyes. "What is it?"
Suddenly shy, Colby looked down at his feet. Travis had coached him earlier in the day; hell, even Jared had offered a few words of wisdom. But the fact remained that confrontation was his weakest skill. Colby took a deep breath, ready to put it all out there in the name of love. "What's with you and Evan?" he asked finally, looking up to meet Savanna's eyes. "That's really fast, if you've moved on already."
Savanna bit her lower lip gently, her eyes still blank despite the glimmer of sadness on her face. "I know."
"Are you guys together now?" Colby asked. He was careful to not sound sad or worried, just matter-of-fact. "Or is it… What's going on there?"
"I don't know." Savanna looked away and sighed, a piece of her dark hair moving at her deep exhalation. She was quiet for a moment, which made Colby nervous. "Evan's just been there. For me. Since the breakup."
Visibly, Colby cringed at the wording. "Oh."
The cloud that had seemed to haze Savanna's expression cleared abruptly; she even seemed to stand up a little straighter. "Evan's been really understanding to me." She studied Colby closely. "He's been there, Colby…in ways that you haven't been there."
Vaguely confused, Colby's head tilted to the side. Was she implying what he thought she was implying? He swallowed, not sure that he wanted to know the details of such a story. "What do you mean by that, Savanna?" A slightest bit of panic crept into his tone. "How do you mean?"
Savanna's upper teeth mashed harder on her bottom lip than before, and she averted her eyes to the floor. "He and I had sex."
Colby stared at Savanna in shock, unable to believe what he was hearing. If he'd thought that her implication had stung his soul, actually hearing the words shattered his heart. Colby swallowed again, trying to absorb this knowledge quickly, but it just didn't make sense to him, since Savanna had been so adamant about giving her virginity to Colby—not some guy that she'd been talking to for less than a week. If she could do that, how much had Colby truly meant to her?
"But, Colby, it…" Savanna reached her hand out and laid it on Colby's forearm gently. "It really made me realize how much I love you. I miss you, Colb, and I want us to work things out."
Still staring in dumbstruck silence, Colby felt like he'd been slapped by her. Carefully, he moved his arm away from her grasp and shook his head slowly. "How did that…" He took a step away from her, feeling like his chest was about to combust. "How could…"
"It was an accident, Colby," Savanna explained, her eyes looking into Colby's pleadingly. "I was just so impatient waiting on you, and h-he just kind of took advantage of that." Savanna swallowed, appearing very much like she might cry. "I thought something was wrong with me, if you didn't want me. But he did."
Disgusted, Colby felt his fists clench subconsciously. "Savanna, it was never that anything was wrong with you or that I didn't want you." Colby tore his eyes away from Savanna, unable to bear the site of her. "It was always about you meaning so much to me that I wanted it to be special."
"I-I know that now," Savanna murmured apologetically. "I really do. That's why I've been too ashamed to speak to you."
Colby felt his shoulders go rigid. "I can't do this anymore." He turned away from her and walked as fast as he could out of the school, ignoring Savanna's pleas for him to return to her.
"How is your new medicine working?"
Kristin leaned back in the chair of her therapist's office; she didn't think she'd been so relaxed on one of her weekly visits ever. "I like it," Kristin admitted, enjoying the sound of Debra Bass's laughter at that comment. "I mean, I actually haven't freaked out a single time in the last week. I feel like I could drive in the rain, jump from crack to crack on the sidewalk, and settle for reading my homework just one time, instead of two, three, or four times."
Debra tried to hide the smile on her face, but the delight in her eyes gave it away. "I'm very impressed, Kristin." She made a few notes on her notepad. "Tell me how your schoolwork has been and about your family."
"Well, school has been fine," Kristin said slowly, thoughtfully. "I've gotten really good grades on every assignment. My mother is supposed to be home this weekend." Kristin shrugged. "I guess that's good."
Tipping her head, Debra bit the top of her pen for a moment. "Has your stepfather been nice lately?"
"Yeah. I guess he'll be glad to have my mother home too."
"How are your friends doing?" Debra paused hesitantly and then smiled slyly, as though she was about to tell a joke. "Any new boyfriends?"
Kristin frowned. "I didn't tell you about Travis kissing me, did I?" Debra's eyes widened, and Kristin's frown deepened. "I mean…I like to pretend it didn't happen. That's why I haven't mentioned it."
Alert, Debra lowered her pen from her mouth to her paper, visibly eager. "How do you think that's affected you? When did it happen? Is that why you were so stressed last week?"
"I don't think so," Kristin admitted. She shifted in her chair, drawing her knees to her chest. "It was probably a couple weeks ago. It's not that it felt weird. It just…was different. I hadn't been kissed in so long…"
Debra nodded slowly. "Do you ever miss Jeremy?"
"I used to." Swallowing, Kristin raised a shoulder half-heartedly. "But I know that it's best that we broke up when we did. That was good for both of us." She took a deep breath and rolled her eyes. "There's this kid—Ben—and he thinks he likes me, but I do not like him, like that at least. You see, Lexi's mom and his mom are trying to set him up with Lexi."
"I see." Debra laughed a light genuine laugh. "I'm sure Lexi loves that. Do you think that you would see Ben differently if he wasn't part of a matchmaking plan with Lexi?"
"No," Kristin answered honestly. "I think that I would still be freaked out by him regardless. Actually, Jared has been pretending to be my boyfriend lately to get rid of Ben." Kristin grinned mischievously, her green eyes lighting up. "That's been pretty fun. It's kinda interesting to see how Jared thinks relationships work. I feel like I understand him much better now."
Debra nodded slowly. "So you're in a pseudo-relationship with Jared. How is that working out for you two?"
Kristin shrugged nonchalantly. "I don't really think of it that way, to be honest. I just see it as being with Jared more and…I don't know… It's like acting when we're in front of Ben—like practicing my skills for the musical without singing." Kristin laughed lightly and shrugged again easily. "I guess I'm not really putting much thought into anything anymore."
Poised with her pen, Debra studied Kristin for a moment before she wrote down a few notes in her notebook. "Huh. This is interesting."
Suddenly worried that perhaps Debra didn't understand, Kristin's eyes widened slightly as she continued to explain, "It's not really romantic between us. Jared is only pretending to like me so that Ben won't."
Debra nodded slowly, making another note on her sheet of paper.
Defensive tension found its way to Kristin's shoulders. "And I don't like Jared either. It's just a game to play, to learn about how other people think."
"A game." Debra's eyes watched Kristin closely. "Are you enthused by this game of pretend because it allows you to hide from reality? By spending time in what is a fake land, are you pushing away stresses from your real life since they don't exist in your fake life? Is that why you haven't found yourself to be stressed out?"
Kristin's forehead wrinkled. She didn't think so; she really thought that her new anti-anxiety medicine was just working very well for her. "I'm not detached from reality." She crossed her legs and frowned. "That's not the case at all."
"I just wanted to make sure that there weren't other factors at play." Seeming thoughtful, Debra rested her pen against her notepad, studying Kristin attentively. "You say that you see the relationship as a fake one, that it's more like just spending more time with Jared."
Kristin nodded thoughtfully and then stopped as she recalled a recent event. "I almost started stressing out the other night," she offered quietly. "I thought about everything that I could be freaking out about. But then...I looked over and saw how relaxed Jared was, and I just didn't feel like worrying anymore."
"Jared has always been carefree, from your descriptions. Did his attitude ever influence you to calm down in the past?"
"No." Kristin looked down at her lap and fidgeted with her hands. "I guess it didn't." She glanced back up at Debra and felt her cheeks tinge with pink. "I don't know what the difference is, but I guess I find strength from him now. Maybe it's because I understand him better, and seeing that he doesn't freak out about anything helps me see that not everything has to involve stress."
"Platonic strength?" Debra prompted.
"Of course." Kristin looked at her therapist unblinkingly, her jaw tight with her conviction. "I've just grown closer to Jared lately." She softened as she added, "And that makes me nervous. I don't like that anybody has any control over me, even if Jared's just controlling me to be able to calm down."
Debra smiled weakly. "But Kristin...this is the first time in all of our years together that you've seemed so relaxed. And it looks like Jared contributes to that, based on you fighting off worry because of him."
Silently, Kristin nodded, her mind now racing with what exactly that meant in the scheme of things. Afraid of where those thoughts may lead her, Kristin stopped nodding and said stubbornly, "Or that new medicine is just a miracle."
"Damn, it's about time." Reanon Turk rolled her dark eyes in annoyance when Travis emerged from within the school's building; she started walking across the parking lot immediately, appearing very much to be on a mission and making Travis work to keep up with her. "I thought you weren't gonna show."
Travis lifted a shoulder and trailed behind the new girl, wondering where she was going. "Yeah, yeah." His eyes scanned the parking lot; was she taking him to her car? If so, why was she heading toward the baseball diamond, which was an area furthest from the senior parking section?
"You got my text?" Reanon asked, raising her eyebrows demandingly. "You brought the bottle?"
Vaguely confused, Travis lifted his left hand, which held onto an empty Dasani water bottle. "Yeah… Why would we need this?"
"Because it's safer."
Reanon's brief answer offered no explanation to Travis whatsoever, and his confusion only continued to grow when she stopped in front of the field house near the baseball diamond. She paused and glanced around before rattling the door handle and smiling successfully.
"It's still unlocked," Reanon announced as she opened the door and motioned Travis inside. She locked the door behind them and held out her hand. "Hand me that bottle?"
Travis did as he was told, and, when Reanon perched on a bench, Travis followed her lead and sat on an adjacent one, watching curiously as Reanon removed an orange BIC lighter from her backpack. She ripped off the label of the bottle, flicked the lighter, and swiftly burned a small hole in the plastic of the side of the bottle. Another hole, this one a little bit bigger, was burned just as quickly, approximately two inches from the first hole. Patiently, Reanon dug around in her backpack for a moment and took out a small piece of aluminum foil, poked a light sprinkle of holes in it with the tip of her pencil, and placed the foil over the bottle's larger hole. When a small plastic baggy of marijuana appeared in Reanon's hands, Travis's eyes widened.
"What?" Reanon asked, staring at him confusedly. "Would you rather be the one to pack it?"
"We are not smoking weed." Travis stood from the bench, glaring at Reanon. "What the hell are you thinking?"
Reanon shrugged. "You don't smoke?"
Sighing deeply, Reanon took a pinch of the leaves from the baggy and began tearing the pinch into pieces and placing them on the aluminum foil. "Sit your ass down, Webb. This is why you haven't gotten suspended."
"And this is why you're going to get expelled," Travis retorted angrily. "You're just asking for somebody to catch us right now."
"For a misdemeanor?" Reanon scoffed and raised the water bottle to her face. Sucking on the mouthpiece of the bottle, she lit the weed in the foil and inhaled deeply. Pausing before her exhalation, Reanon held the makeshift bong out to Travis. "Here. Don't be a pussy. Even if the headmaster came in right now, he wouldn't turn us in. He doesn't want that kind of reputation for his school, and he wouldn't give me the satisfaction of letting me actually get into trouble."
Travis stared at her, unsure of what to say. Even if they didn't get into trouble, Travis wasn't sure he wanted to smoke weed; he only drank casually, so marijuana was a big step up. How had he even gotten into this position?
"So that's a 'no' then?" Reanon asked, giving the water bottle a gentle shake in her hands to entice Travis.
Exhaling slowly, Travis frowned but took the water bottle in his hands and followed Reanon's example. When he breathed in the smoke, he thought his lungs were going to burst into flames. Coughing in splutters, he thrust the bottle back towards Reanon.
She grinned happily. "Nothin' like the first hit of your life." Reanon again sucked on the mouthpiece as she lit the weed, inhaling deeply and exhaling slowly. As the smoke from her lungs filled the air, Reanon smiled what appeared to be a genuine smile. "God, it had been too damn long."
Travis sat back down on his bench slowly, barely feeling as though he had gotten over his urge to cough and choke on the smoke. The pleasant expression on Reanon's face scared him into silence; he had no idea what he was supposed to be doing with her or why anymore.
"I don't get what's goin' on," Reanon declared suddenly, though her body language was so relaxed that she couldn't possibly be caring about anything with authentic concern. "I've been watchin', but I can't figure it out yet."
Travis accepted the water bottle bong when Reanon held it out to him. He lit it and inhaled, more carefully this time. The smoke seemed less intense, for which he and his lungs were very grateful. He exhaled easily. "Figure what out?"
"This school." Reanon took the water bottle back from Travis and let it rest on her lap. "Looks like everybody's got a hidden agenda."
Watching this strange girl in front of him carefully, Travis asked, "What's yours?"
Reanon laughed and lit the water bottle bong again. She closed her eyes when she exhaled and didn't open them until a solid minute had passed. "I just want to make it through."
"I guess I can respect that," Travis allowed slowly.
"But you…" Reanon looked up at Travis, that same mysterious smile playing on her lips. "You want the fame of the bad boy." She grinned again, which was beginning to freak Travis out because he had never seen her look happy ever. "And you feel threatened by me because of it."
Feeling intoxicated, Travis could not manage to summon the energy to deny her allegations. Evidently, he assumed, the marijuana made him care less about his pride and left him with no desire to defend himself. Instead, he just shrugged.
Reanon looked thoughtful. "You've got a girlfriend?"
"That's your problem." Reanon rolled her eyes, shaking her head knowingly. "If you had a girlfriend, you'd have less time to worry about fuckin' up. That's why I was happier when I had my boyfriend." She laughed lightly. "Then it was more about findin' ways we could be fuck-ups together."
Travis frowned. "I like a girl." Reanon looked entirely amused by Travis's short sentence, and he knew then that he was high from smoking the marijuana. No other reason could explain why he started babbling at her. "Kristin. I kissed her awhile ago. And now maybe I like her."
It was indistinguishable if Reanon raised her eyebrows in doubt or amusement. "Maybe you do?"
"Ben likes her," Travis said simply. "Sort of. That's why Jared's liking her. With so many people liking her...I don't know what to think."
Reanon laughed. "Hell, maybe you like her 'cause it's the cool thing to do right now. Jump on that bandwagon, kid."
"Then how come I'm not jealous of her with other guys?" Travis asked, his brow furrowing in thought.
"What makes you so sure you're not?" Reanon started to pass the water bottle back to Travis but seemed to reconsider when she studied his face. Instead, she lit it again for herself and then set the bottle aside. "What is jealousy supposed to feel like?"
That was a good question, in Travis's opinion. "I don't know."
"Then it sounds like you don't know anything at all." Reanon reached into her backpack and produced a bag of watermelon-flavored Sour Patch Kids candy. She tore it open and popped one into her mouth before offering the bag to Travis. "Kiss her again. Kiss her until you know that you like her."
Travis laughed lightly as he ate a piece of the candy and mused over Reanon's words of wisdom. "Maybe you're right."
"You never know what you want until you have it." Reanon's smile turned sad. "And you never realize how much you love it until you lose it."