A/N: Hey people! So, new here, or kinda sorta new. I'm also on Wattpad. Anyway, if you could, just skim through the prologue, the intended beginning was chapter 1. And I hope you enjoy!
~* Once Upon a Cliché *~
"You're just a kid."
Essentially, that was the reason why I started hating the word "kid" in the first place. Don't get me wrong, I'd been called a kid plenty of times before. Just not by the guy I'd been crushing on since I got over my "ew, boys with cooties" phase. Even then, I'd never seen him as just a boy. It was kind of like saying, "Oh, it's just Taylor Lautner. No biggie." In my eyes, Hale was pretty much his equivalent, minus the taking his shirt off every five minutes of screen time thing.
Which is probably why the rejection stung. Just a little.
Not the taking off his shirt part, of course. No, it was the fact that he'd also denounced any sort of semi-friendship between us and warned me that he'd never acknowledge my existence again. Ever.
Having the fragile heart of an eleven year-old only added to the painful blow. I couldn't remember feeling so devastated since my teacher had told me Pluto was no longer a planet, and I'd misheard her and thought she meant that Pluto, the cartoon dog, was dead.
If only I'd known Hale's true feelings the morning before I decided to sneak out of elementary school to see him. It's not like it was hard to sneak out. They didn't even have a gate. And I doubted the yard duty would've noticed—she was always too busy scarfing down bags of Corn Nuts she'd confiscated off the students.
Oh, and if only I'd known that morning, I wouldn't have carved a heart out of that apple I refused to eat and made a tiny H + E out of the leftover peel.
But I suppose that's why they're called "if only"s.
Like if only Hale wasn't giving me that look right then. If only I wasn't tearing up like a huge baby. If only the carved apple wasn't still sitting in my backpack. And if only he hadn't decided to go on and make me feel even more horrible than I already did.
"Emica…" he said guiltily, kneeling down so he was at my height. "Don't cry."
Even sixth graders had their dignity to protect. "I'm not crying," I sniffled.
"Oh yeah?" He swept his finger up to wipe away a tear from my eye. "Then what's this?"
My face contorted into a grimace as I tried to hold in the waterfall that was threatening to flow. "It's sweat."
A trace of a smile shadowed his features. But even then, it was pained. "I'm sorry, Em. It's just that…I'm in high school now. You're still in grade school. You're just a—"
Don't say it.
"Kid." Twice. He'd said it twice.
"B-b-but," I blubbered, "we can't still be friends?" For gosh sakes, I couldn't believe I was saying it. It's not like I proposed or anything. I didn't even tell him I liked him! All I did was run up and hug him…right in the middle of the busy hallway…in front of all his friends…
Now that I look back on it, it probably was a bad idea.
"Don't look at this as a bad thing," he continued. "Now you can hang out with friends your age."
My lower lip began to tremble. "But you and Hailin are my only friends!" And I was pretty sure sisters didn't count.
His guilty expression only looked guiltier. "Maybe it's time to make some new friends."
Ouch. Just stab me in my broken heart, why don't you?
"But I…you can't just…" There goes the dam of tears. "W-was it s-something I did?"
He shook his head consolingly. "Of course not. It's not your fault, Em. It's mine."
It's not you, it's me. This was going just like a breakup speech, except I was just a poor little kid naively chasing a teenage boy with teenage priorities. None of which involved entertaining my pathetic hopes any longer. "I-it is?" I hiccupped. "How?"
At that, he looked at a loss. But at the time, I didn't really notice seeing as my aforementioned sister decided to step in with an incredulous, "Emica?"
"Hailin." I could've sworn Hale sucked in a breath. For whatever reason, his expression seemed like a mix between relieved and anxious at her arrival. Why he would have ever been bothered by her being there, I didn't know. Not that I really cared at the moment.
It was moments like these when I wished my parents hadn't decided to be all unique and bestow upon their unknowing children names like "Hailin" and "Emica." They couldn't just have gone with "Haley" or "Kaitlin" or "Erica" or "Emma?" Seriously? No, apparently they had to combine the names so it made it impossible to mistake our names for anyone else's. So basically, when my sister called out, "Emica?" I couldn't pretend not to notice and go on with my potential sob story.
"What the hell are you doing here?" she demanded, stopping right behind me.
I sniffled again. "Oh, Hale? He goes here."
"Not him," she growled. "You, the troublemaking little Pippi Longstocking who should be in school right now."
Before I knew it, my vision started to blurry. Ah, here they come again. "I-I'm sorry! I thought that…I didn't know…and now he…" I gave up on finishing entirely and broke off into sobs.
Even when she walked around to face the front of me, my vision was too obscured by tears to make out much. I could only feel her arms as she enveloped me in a hug and sighed. "What's wrong, Em?"
"N-nothing," I choked up. "I-I should go now."
By the time my sob fest was almost over, Hailin had already backed away and was glaring at Hale. Hard. "What did you do?"
The next part I couldn't even begin to understand. I watched with hazy confusion as Hale crossed his arms and declared, "I made my choice. Happy?"
"Happy?" Hailin repeated, snorting derisively. "You made my little sister cry and changed absolutely nothing. I'm ecstatic."
Hale stared back at her wordlessly while Hailin offered a hand to help me up. I took it, and she wrapped her arms around my shoulders protectively as she said, "Why did you leave school, Em? Now I have to call Mom to pick you up."
My eyes grew as round and wide as tennis balls. "I'm sorry! Please don't tell Mom about this! I just wanted to…" I wiped a stray tear from my cheek, "I wanted to see you guys."
Hailin drew another heavy sigh, leading me back to the front gates. "I know. But you're still going home. Mom's going to find out eventually whether you want her to or not."
I bit my lip. "Okay." Reluctantly, I made myself follow her. We'd only made it to the end of the hallway when I finally decided to look back at Hale. He was still there, staring at Hailin's back just as intently as he'd been a minute before. But now that he'd noticed me looking back, his eyes met mine. For a second, it almost seemed like there was remorse painted in his evergreen eyes.
When Hailin noticed my hesitance, she tugged on my hand to urge me forward. "Come on, Em. Don't worry about him. He's just an asshole."
"An asshole?" I echoed, shooting her a reprimanding glance. But somewhere, secretly, I was already beginning to agree.
"Um, I mean butt-head," Hailin corrected. "Don't tell Mom I said that." Without waiting for my reply, she resumed her march to the front office. Reluctantly, I followed, but not before stopping once more.
Another look back confirmed that Hale had already left. "Hailin," I started, "did something happen between you and Hale?"
She froze for the briefest second, short enough so it wasn't obvious, but long enough that it caught my attention. She exhaled slowly, like the thought itself was painful. "It's nothing. It's a bit complicated, is all."
I could sense a second explanation coming. "But…?"
Hailin shrugged, as if it were that simple. "Let's just say you won't be seeing him around for a while." Then she kept on walking like nothing was wrong.
If only I could follow her example.
Later on, after being subjected to hours of the furious rants and desperate pleas of my livid mother, I was sent back to school—even though there was only an hour left. By the end of the day, I was exhausted and wanted nothing better than to roll up in my bed and cry. I kicked open the front door of the house and threw my backpack down on the floor, making a dash for my escape.
"Where do you think you're going?" my mother called after me, her voice already hoarse from so much yelling. "Pick this up."
Gritting my teeth together, I dragged my feet back and grudgingly slung my backpack over my shoulder. I made for the stairs again when I was stopped one more time.
"You forgot something."
On the verge of tears, I shifted my feet to face her. My eyes followed her finger to the ground where a dirtied apple laid, the bright red surface now dented in the side. I picked it up. "Anything else?" I asked, my voice just on the verge of cracking.
"No," she said. "I'm going to bed now. Don't forget to take your medicine."
I didn't open my mouth to ask why she'd want to sleep at three o'clock in the afternoon. I simply let her brush by, waiting until she left before I zipped up my backpack and set it down on a chair in the kitchen. After a pause, I tossed the apple on the counter and watched it roll. I couldn't help but stare at it, frowning at the perfect heart I'd carved into it just a few hours before. It seemed to sit there, mocking me and reminding me what a stupid child I'd been.
What a kid.
Finally, I got tired of looking at it. I found a knife, took the apple, and sliced it in half.
Right down the middle of the heart.
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