She wandered through the streets with no particular destination in mind, a notebook in her back pocket, just in case. She had long ago learned not to walk around "unarmed," for when the opportunity struck, she could get a phenomenal idea to help her get out of this godforsaken jungle. If she didn't write it down, she would be kicking herself later when she tried to remember and the thought had already drifted away into nothing.

She was only here for inspiration, or at least boredom. "It's a start," she thought to herself, since her free days would find her hunched in front of her computer or in bed, subsiding on apples and popsicles. Being out in the hubbub of the world was strange, but nothing completely new. If she was of the right mind, she could even be sociable and proactive.

Not today though. Something was different about today. Something crackled the air around her and made her feel the need to venture out of the cave she had created for herself, just to take a look around at the "normal world." Today she was an investigator rather than a spectator. She browsed aisle after aisle of books with clone covers, only one or two occasionally catching her eye. She would stoop to her knee; check the titles for something she recognized, or could pretend to; give a small sigh and move on. This went on for about three years.

The air was ripe with a hustle that normally wouldn't accompany a bookstore, but completely appropriate for a chain. The pretentiousness sent a ripple down her back and made the hair on her neck stand up the minute she walked in the door, all the while greeted by the smell of coffee and the accompanying tinkle of the hanging door bell. The salesperson looked at her expectantly and she tried her hardest to look like she belonged here. Her paranoia kept her hoping the salespeople couldn't sense the echo at the bottom of her empty wallet. Suddenly realizing she was being slightly foolish, she shrugged and let her goose bumps follow her all the way to the journals and writing section.

Handsome, leather-bound covers gleamed up at her, and she felt a twinge of nostalgia and longing. Memories of past journals and abandoned plans for future ones, made her mind wander everywhere from the bookshelf back in her bedroom, to her packed-away box of keepsakes, to somewhere in New Mexico. There, was surely a parchment-bound book half filled with scribbles, pipe dreams, and the kind of naiveté that can only be exchanged between teenage girls; most likely buried in someone's junk storage or else long since trashed or burned. Her heart suddenly ached for it.

That seemingly plain book was the embodiment of wasted potential. She had always been a collector of journals, and when she had won that particular journal in a campfire game during her freshman year, she was beside herself with giddiness and anticipation. Her friends never understood her compulsion, but how could she explain to them the symbolic significance she always associated with her journals? To her, it was a clean slate and a chance for self-improvement, for her frequency with writing in them always reflected the status of her life and feelings ever since she could remember. She wanted to save this endeavor for something special.

In the end, it became a life-raft, and a poorly constructed one at that. To save her friendship and avoid the growing animosity among their group, she desperately suggested a trade: her sanity for their loyalty. They merely saw it as exchanging a book back and forth over the summer to write in and keep each other company. She was always way more invested in everything for their sake, and they pretended to be for her sake. On graduation day, they said nothing to her.

It never bothered her much, but it always nagged at the smallest corners of her mind, to be aware of that unfinished piece left so haphazardly in the unknown. When she was caught unawares, she occasionally let the paranoia and loneliness slip into apathy and ignorance, maybe even more paranoia combined with a meticulous nature. It then started to drive away all her hopes for "recovery" and control of her future, and she developed a habit of leaving unfinished pieces everywhere for someone to find. She waited.

Two years later she got a call, "We'll all meet again and catch up," and in spite of herself she allowed herself a semblance of hope, though she had gained much reserve in the past few years. During the trip, she almost asked about the book, but she had the audacity to think she even had a right to it anymore, so she said nothing. She wanted to demand they return it so she could rip out the used pages. She wanted to burn the testaments and half-winded promises and blow the ashes in their faces so they could allow her to start from scratch. Instead, she sat there and let the time pass when they would all go back into nonexistence again.

Three years later, she pulled herself out of her wandering and resolutely walked away from the journals stand, out of the store, and back to her home. Her cave reached for her from the whispers of incoherence at the back of her mind and the throb on the side of her head, but she ignored it and proceeded to write in her new journal. Her new journal.