“No!” Dana shouted and I heard something shift above us, probably my mother getting out of bed to see what all the shouting was about. We had been at it for a good two minutes now, so I wondered how she was just now waking up. “No! This is ridiculous! I told you I needed the car today. I called you not even an hour ago and you said you’d be home with it soon!”

“And you said, no, you wouldn’t need it, you were too late anyway!” I shouted back, feeling my face burn.

My mom was down the stairs now, entering the kitchen. Her hair was messy so she was brushing it behind her as well as she could with one hand while trying to wrap a silky thin robe around her with the other. “What the hell is going on down here?!”

“Scott is so insensitive!” Dana shouted.

“No,” I retorted, looking to my sister and them my mom, first with angry eyes that shifted into desperate ones so she would be on my side, “Dana is being totally unreasonable.”

“I told him I need the—”

“She won’t even—”

“And now he says—”

“No! I never—”

“Oh, don’t even act like—”

“Stop! Stop it both of you, now!” My mom shouted, interrupting us with words that were just as harsh and angry as our own, “Your sisters are still asleep, or at least they were because I assume they’ve woken now because of the racket you two are making.” She huffed and crossed her arms across her chest. Looking at Dana, she raised her eyebrows, “Go.”

Dana took a breath and began crossing around the table to stand next to me, of course my mom would ask her first. Typical.

“Do you recall,” she began, her voice thick with passive aggression, because in the end, she already knew that we would both recall. She didn’t need to go about this in a roundabout way, yet, here she was still, “yesterday morning when I informed Scott that I would be needing the car this morning?”

My mom nodded and said, “I recall.”

This was so gross. Dana was so gross. Why couldn’t she just say, “So, Scott said I could have the car this morning and now it’s not here. What do we do about it?” Of course, I also never would expect her to be that calm and casual and healthy about confronting me, when had she ever been?

“And was Scott here when I woke up this morning?” Dana asked my mother, like she would know the answer when obviously she would have no clue, only an assumption. This finally brought me into the conversation when my mom turned to me.

“Were you?” she asked, her voice both confused and somehow accusing at the same time.

I had two options here, stick my head out on the chopping block and hope not to get cut, or defend myself. In this family, either way I was screwed. It was always about the girls before it was about me. Always. You’d think I would be used to it and most of the time I was, but times like these, times when I truly felt like I wasn’t in the wrong because I was doing something good and productive and not selfish, it sucked. It sucked bad.

“No,” I said trailing off before I could even really think of what to say next. That was all my mom needed. Unfair judgment was already on its way. I knew the rules and nothing I could say would change the fact that Dana told me she needed the car, I took it, and now it isn’t here. What was even the point?

“Well,” my mom started, “I don’t see the point of arguing now if he’s here. Just grab your keys and go.”

I could see in Dana’s eyes that she had been waiting for this exact moment, now she could pin a huge wad of crap on me. “Just cause Scott’s here doesn’t mean the car is.”

My mom’s eyes widened, “Where the hell is the car, Scott?”

Thanks, Dy. Couldn’t have started with that, could we?

“I got rear ended,” I replied quickly and justifiably, immediately wishing that I had started with something a little softer as well.

“Excuse me?!” My mother hollered, so much for keeping it down for my sisters. My mother’s normally calm and cheerful expression was now one of shock and anger. Well played, Scott. I sighed, nothing was going my way right now.

“Just,” I said, swinging my hands awkwardly at my sides, trying to think of a way to turn this back around, “just listen. So yes, Dana said she needed the car, but then yesterday after school I got to my car and there was a huge ass dent in it. And some dude left a note and some money and a mechanic to go to, and I dunno I just thought it was really important to get that looked at right away just in case the damage was more than cosmetic so I forgot that Dy said she needed the car, and I feel really bad and didn’t think they would take the car from me today, but they had an opening and I took it. I’m sorry, but I’m not sorry. I did what I thought was better than some stupid study group that Dana needed to go to every freaking Saturday.”

There was a silence that followed my lengthy explanation, I was surprised that I had even had gotten that much in, Dana had a constipated look on her face, like words of defense and anger were about to explode out of her. But she kept her mouth shut, waiting for my mom’s response. It was anyone’s guess now that she knew both sides of the story as to which side she would take. But that was sad to me, that there even had to be a side. That Dana and I had to be at this constant war with each other at all.

“I think…” my mom said, pursing her lips and crossing her arms again. there had been a lot of awkward shifting between the three of us as we stood here hashing it out. Now we just needed a verdict from my mother, she blinked and shook her hair back so it fell behind her shoulders and sighed, she hated this, I could tell. A mother’s job was to be a nurturer and a lover, not a mediator as it so often ended up being. She took in a deep breath once more and continued, “Scott, you should have told us where you were going first.” I thought Dana might scream, “But you’re right. That’s the only car we have for the two of you and it shouldn’t be driven around without being looked at first. Something internal could have been knocked out of place and it’s just better to know that to assume not.”

I thought I might scream, too. Scream for joy.

“But mom!” Dana tried to counter, taking a hesitant step towards my mom who put a single hand up, shutting her down. “No,” she said and put her hand back at her side, “No but’s, no nothing. Scott’s right. You can study from home, you have all the resources you need here, the car is most important. Hell knows what this family will do if that thing dies on us. We can’t afford it—no, Dana, no, don’t look at me like that this is finished.”

This was a first. A first in a very very long time. My mother was taking my side? My side. Did she realize that’s what she was doing? Someone needed to pinch me, and by the looks of her, someone needed to pinch Dana as well. Her eyes were buggy, wide with disbelief. I had to fight back a laugh. Not one of hilarity, but one of shock, a petty, in-your-face, she-took-my-side, laugh. A snort came from me and I tightened my lips into a fat line, Dana’s face changed at this, her eyes becoming sharp enough to kill me.

Silently we communicated while my mother stood by, waiting for things to calm. She was finished speaking but this was far from over. I knew, actually, I think we all knew that as soon as my mom went upstairs that this battle would not only continue but grow in intensity. Dana didn’t lose. And again, that was sad, that it always had to be a constant battle between us. But I guess we were both too old to change our pattern now. Just under two more years of high school and then I would be as far away from her as possible. That was for damn sure, so she had nothing to worry about.

“Can I leave you two down here?” my mom asked and then tacked on at the end, “peacefully.”

“You can count on me,” I said, my eyes not leaving Dana, but I could feel my mom watching me and feeling my sarcasm, she pinched my hip and I shrugged away from her.

“And you?” my mom asked Dana.

“What do you think?” she turned to look at my mom so I did too, and my mom sighed her tight shoulders dropping. It wasn’t much, Dana’s word seldom meant much, but it was something that my mom could cling to in the hope for peace while she went upstairs and got ready for the day ahead.

“Perfect,” she touched Dana’s shoulder, “sorry about the car, or your study group or whatever. But it’s important we get it looked at, that is most important.”

Dana nodded, “I understand,” and she faked a soft, reassuring smile.

My mom smiled back and I watched as my mom walked upstairs, looking away from my sister. As soon as she was out of view, suddenly my right cheek was burning. It happened so fast that I hadn’t had time to process or even feel the strike, only the afterburn. Dana’s hand was back at her side and mine was at my face, the tips of my fingers barely brushing the skin, but still I could feel the heat radiating. I looked at her, eyes wide and astonished. All the fights, all the screaming, everything that had ever happened between Dana and I and still she had never hit me before. What was so different.

My eyes narrowed into slits as I saw that there was no remorse on her face, but pride, joy even. “Fuck you,” I said suddenly between clenched teeth. It was a knee-jerk reaction. I didn’t even think about it. Yet another first between us, I had never openly sworn at my sister before. Only behind her back, there was no roomy in the already torn relationship for expletives. But we had already come this far.

“It wasn’t just some stupid study group,” Dana said angrily and I could see tears welling up in her eyes. Oh hell.

“Oh yeah?” I replied sarcastically, “what was it? Hot date?”

“A meeting with a university, I was up for a full ride,” Dana said and her words sunk deep into me, dragging my whole mood down, “But I guess it’s just stupid that I don’t want mom and dad to go into debt paying for my schooling anymore.”

I blinked and everything around me seemed to shift. Mom was upstairs getting ready for the day, I could hear Sasha and Wanda stirring below us, and Dana rolled her eyes at me, trying to fight away even more tears that were coming, and stormed off to help her sisters prepare for the day. It was over, for now, but there was no sort of closure. Nothing in this family ever felt resolved. Once we all ran away from an issue it hung over our heads after that, like an impending knife waiting to fall on us at the next sign of weakness. Just as we had seen today. My family was stuck in an immortal impasse.

I stormed up the stairs a few seconds after my sister waltzed down. How she was able to keep a level head about this wasn’t sure. It must be easier for people with no sense of morals. What a terrible person.

My face was starting to cool by the time I sat down in my room. Normally in a situation like this I would drive out of the city into the desert with my A/C on full blast and draw for three hours somewhere remote. But I had no car, and no other plans for today, so staying at home is what I had right now. The journal was on the floor. Right where it was when I left. Later, I thought, after I considered reading a few more entries. I needed to draw. Clear my head.

I walked over to my closet and pulled out my easel from the back, setting it up in front of my shut door, making it impossible for someone it enter my room without first going through me. I needed to be alone right now. Back at my closet I selected a canvas that was about half the size of my bedroom door and set it up at the easel, collecting my pencils, paints, and brushes. I walked to my bed and grabbed my bag by it pulling out the sketch from Thursday night, the one of London in the style of Van Gogh.

I pulled out my phone and grabbed some headphones from my nightstand, plugging them in and then playing my art playlist, consisting mostly of The 1975, Broods, some Ed Sheeran, and my favorite band alt-J. I’d listened to the damn thing about a thousand times, but I never got bored of if. Harper gave me such a hard time for my taste in music, like I purposefully tried to stay away from the hits. Which, honestly, I kind of did. What was the point of listening to what everyone else was listening to? Music was supposed to be personal, an expression of you. “Fallingforyou” by The 1975 flooded my ears as I began sketching out the outline of what I would eventually paint on my canvas in a light pencil and I became numb to the world.

I guess you could say my reasons for being an artist were unhealthy, but you could say that about a lot of things. Right now, for example, while I drew, all that was in my head was the pencil dragging across canvas. Gone was the stupid boy who hit my car and acted like there was nothing wrong, gone was the car itself and the stress that brought with it. No more could Dana’s fingers or words sting me, gone was my sexuality, and even the journal which had consumed my thoughts for the past two days, couldn’t touch me. It was just me and my art, and nothing else matter except for getting what was in my head onto paper.

My sketch was down, with slight adjustments to what I had originally planned. I wasn’t sure how much time had passed but the sun was certainly higher in the sky than it was when I began. I no longer needed my bedroom light to guide me so I turned that off when sunlight scattered across my room and pulled out my paints, running out of the room for just a moment to grab a rag and fill a mason jar with water for brush cleaning.

My phone vibrated twice when I got back to my room—a text—but I ignored it, I was too invested in my art and didn’t want to pull myself out of my concentration. The paints I was using were oil-based, which meant that they were harder to work with but you could work with them more since they didn’t dry as fast as water-based paints, such as acrylics. They went on thicker than water-based paints also, so I started with the darks of the sky and worked towards the lights, deciding I could add the city later and work with that more to make it look best. I layered the strokes on top of each other in short quick movements, trying to mimic the style of the inspired artist. It was proving to be much more challenging than I had originally thought. The strokes looked disconnected, individual, whereas in Van Gogh’s work they all came together. I discovered soon that my hand was too stiff, too precise and I needed to use my wrist to paint, not my fingers. This altered the way the paint looked drastically, probably not so much that just anyone would notice, but I certainly did.

My phone vibrated once, signaling an email and I decided that it was time for a bathroom break so I stuck the brush I was using in the mason jar and pulled the device from my pocket and saw the email and a text from an unknown number. I checked the email first, just a confirmation email from Utrecht about my order for new pencils. I deleted that on sight and went on to the message, nearly dropping my phone when I read its contents:

Hey, it’s Liam, just wanted to check in about your car and say hi. 😉

This boy, I thought, this boy had some serious stones. Updates he had called them. He needed my contact info to give me updates on the car and tell me when it was finished. Not to say hello and chit-chat. It would have been one thing if he said, “Hello, it’s Liam just wanted to tell you there is no internal damage on your car and I’m getting started on the repairs.” But no. He was saying “hi.” I shook my head, maybe I was jumping to gun here. Maybe the stress from everything that had happened this morning was getting to me and I was looking for the bad in him right now. I read it again, “check in about your car.” Okay. Maybe he did just have something to say about that. I took a deep breath. Everything was fine, I was just overreacting.

Then I thought suddenly about the boy who hit my car. His face, his hair, his eyes, the way he seemed to smile too much around me and lean in too close in an almost flirty fashion. Or maybe I wasn’t overreacting . . . I shuddered. There was only one way to know what he wanted. I turned and sat on my bed, letting my stomach slowly unknot from the tangle it had become when I first read the message and began to type out a reply:

Oh, hi. That was quick—I checked the time before I continued, it had been two hours since I left the shop, so I guess not too quick. I continued—what did we learn?

I hit send and waited for a reply. It came almost immediately and for some reason I couldn’t help but imagine him eagerly waiting for me to answer on the other end. I shook the thought from my mind. He had much more important things to do than wait for a text from me. I wasn’t sure why I had even considered that.

Liam: All good under the hood.

Had he really just rhymed on purpose? He seemed like the kind of person that would, actually. I could hear him saying it aloud to me know, in a phoney gangster-ish tone. I thought for a moment of Liam’s professionalism at the moment. If he was texting me it must have meant he was using a private phone. In my head however, all business calls should be made with a business phone . . . and should be calls not texts. Even more so, now I had his personal number. Again, an involuntary thought of him giving me his phone number flitted through me and I banished it immediately.

Me: So what does that mean?

Liam: I made a few calls, and a scrapyard downtown has a bumper for your exact model of car. They say its just like new so I’m going to head down there and look at it. If it is what they promise I think I can have it installed by the time we close tonight and have everything for you ready to pick up the car Monday morning.

Monday morning, I thought. School. He wouldn’t be there. I didn’t understand why that seemed to sadden me a little. All I cared about was getting my car back. Or at least, it was all I was supposed to care about. But lately I’d been concerned with things that normally I wouldn’t even bat an eye over.

Me: If that’s all then, thank you. 🙂

Was it stupid of me to add a smiley face to the end? I questioned. We weren’t friends; he hit my car for hell’s sake. I rolled my eyes. Whatever. All I cared about was that my car was okay. At least now Dana wouldn’t rip my head off. Part of me wanted to feel bad for her, I really had ruined her chance for a scholarship so it seemed. But then, another, more dominant part of me wanted to laugh in her face. She took it too far, crossed a line. She had been so vague and weird about it all, why couldn’t she just upfront tell me why she needed the car rather than make it this big ordeal? But then again, here was me, making a big deal out of absolutely everything recently. I sighed and my phone buzzed once more.

Liam: That’s it!

Me: Okay, thanks again.

I put my phone back in my pocket and returned to my painting. I swirled the paint brush around in the water to clean it off and tapped it against the lip of the jar to dry it off, dipping it in a few different shades of yellow and off-white, almost grey, to get a good dull shade that I needed and began applying that to the canvas where I was beginning to work in the stars and swirls. It was starting to look pretty good, to me. But I was pretty pretentious when it came to my own art. I acted like I wasn’t very good when someone complimented me, but the truth was it was the one thing I knew I was good at. The one place I actually had my voice, the one place I could actually be myself, the one thing I could pour nearly all of me into without risk of getting hurt. That was most important, yeah, maybe people could tell me I wasn’t very good, but no matter what they said they could never take art away from me. Of all the things, all the people that came and went and left, art was one constant in my life. I would always have a paintbrush, a pencil, and a canvas in my life.

My phone buzzed once more a few minutes later, probably a text from Harper, a belated apology for her bitter attitude this morning. Or something else entirely, I pulled my phone of my pocket and flipped it so that the screen was facing me:

Liam: So you got home okay then?

My stomach fell to the floor, I had to stop my jaw from dropping. Was he actually serious right now? Was this actually happening?

I went back to my bed, situating myself in the center and dropping my shoulders, taking a deep breath. I could feel myself mentally prepare for battle. This was ending now. I was going to figure out what this guy’s deal was. What game he was playing, because as of right now he honestly seemed to be getting some sort of rise out of me. Pissing me off and then flipping around and acting like a total saint. There was no need for his niceness, no need for him to ask if I got home safely, so there had to be some sort of ulterior motive, and as soon as I figured out what the hell it was, we would be done. I would call him out, he would stop, fix my car, and this would all be over. I could get back to my normal routine of not caring and being invisible just like at the football game.

Me: I don’t see how that’s any of your concern . . .

Liam: Just making sure some idiot didn’t hit you and then drive away. 😉

What. The. Actual. Hell?

Now he was making jokes. I . . . there weren’t words. I could feel all sort of anger rising up inside of me. So many foreign and strong emotions. I wanted to reach through my phone and punch him right in his plump pink lips. He was infuriating. I shouldn’t even give a shit. But then . . . why did I? I didn’t have to reply. The me that lived inside my skin not even three days ago would have blocked his number right away and told him to contact my mother when the car was finished, but something inside me almost wanted to respond. Felt almost challenged to.

I’m going to go now, I decided to say, realizing I shouldn’t be trying to challenge him. It wasn’t me. The internal monologue inside me was at an all out war with itself.

Fight him—No, turn around, it’s what he wants—Not even, he’s gonna run away with his tail between his legs as soon as you call him out—Someone as cocky as him? No way.

Liam: So soon?

Me: In what world is this appropriate?

Liam: In what world is it inappropriate?

I groaned audibly, wishing Liam could hear me, see the annoyance on my face. I threw my head back so I was laying on my bed now and thought of how to respond next. Why was I even responding? I asked myself again. Why did I care?

Me: What do you want?

Liam: I believe I already asked you what I wanted, you never responded.

I got home fine, I replied, hoping, praying really, that giving him what he wanted would shut him up. I wasn’t comfortable with whatever this was. I didn’t have a name for it. It kinda felt like a mix of flirting and annoying me, but then what would I know about the first thing? Answer: nothing.

Liam: I’m really happy to hear that.

I bit my lip for a moment, thinking and then typed out the response, Why?

Liam: Does it matter why?

Me: Kinda . . . 

The little thought bubble that meant he was typing showed up again and didn’t go away for some time. My breath was caught in my throat as I waited, slowly trying to process what was going on in my head while at the same time trying to figure out what the heck was happening in his. This didn’t make any sense to me. How many times could I say that to myself? Just once more: It. Didn’t. Make. Sense. I could go over it in my head a million times, but what would that do? The crash, the money, the note, the shop, the smiling, the leaning, the apology, this. None of it. I was on uneven ground right now, unfamiliar with anything and everything and I didn’t like it. Not one bit.

The thought bubble disappeared and was replaced by a longer reply:

Liam: I feel bad. I really truly do. I hit your car and I was a dick and left a note and a huge sum of cash thinking that was okay rather than doing what any normal person would do and just wait around or find you. Even just leaving my details rather than being condescending with the money would have been so much better than this. So I feel bad and I feel responsible and I just feel like I should be making it up to you somehow but I’m not sure how yet. But I can’t not try.

The words flooded over me with multiple emotions, the first confusions, I addressed that first.

Me: What happened to the unapologetic sweet-talker I met at the body shop?

Sweet-talker? Was that flirty? No. We weren’t flirting. The dude was so grossly straight. The truck, the greasy coveralls, the hair. So straight.

Liam: The narcissistic victim came and rained on his parade.

I smiled and said, I hear he’s pretty good at that.

Liam: A master.

I laughed and decided to address the second, more important thing: I forgive you.

Liam: What?

Me: Can’t you read?

Liam: Yeah, I’m just surprised is all. You were very… Open about your distaste with me at the shop. I didn’t think I’d so much as get a thank you when you got your car back.

Me: Yeah, I’m pretty good at being negative.

Liam: Thank you.

Me: For what?

Liam: For forgiving me.

Me: It’s okay, I know sometimes I can’t help but be an arrogant, pompous, ignorant, and demeaning douchebag either. So why should I hold it against you?

Liam: Those are some impressive words.

Me: I read a lot.

The texts were going back and forth so quickly at this point I wasn’t even really thinking about them, I was just saying what came to me naturally. I smiled. It was suddenly feeling very easy. But there was still something on my mind. What was this? What were we doing? Why was he texting me instead of prepping my car, or ordering parts, or doing something else, anything else that would definitely top the list of being More Important Than Texting Scott Moore? While Liam was in the middle of typing out his reply I interrupted him by sending a text of my own:

What do you really want from me? Really?

There was moment when nothing happened, the phone was still, there was no thought bubble and I thought for the first time in our brief but eventful conversation that maybe he was finally away from his phone and I might be left in peace for a few hours. That he had to go off and fix my car and wouldn’t be able to reply. For some reason, this saddened me and I locked my phone, throwing off to the side next to me on the bed.

I brought my hands to my forehead and rubbed into my temples with the heels of them, my eyes were closed and at the same time I let out a sigh my phone buzzed next to me. My chest dropped and my heart skipped a beat. All too quickly, almost embarrassingly so, I rolled over and picked up the phone, bringing it to my face so I could read his response:

I’m not quite sure, yet.

He didn’t respond after that, but then that was probably because I didn’t respond first. I didn’t really know what to say to that. What was there to say? “I hope you figure it out?” “I don’t know either?” I was just as confused now as I was when I got the first text. Confusion seemed to be a familiar emotion these days. I put my phone aside. I didn’t want to deal with this. I looked at my drying painting, I didn’t want to deal with that either. I didn’t want to deal with anything.

My head was spinning, so much was happening, things were changing and I didn’t know how to deal. I wasn’t even sure that I wanted to.

I sat up suddenly, and rolled to the foot of my bed eyeing the thick journal on the floor that had fallen. A distraction into someone else’s life was just what I needed right now. How disgusting was I? Maybe Harper had a point, maybe reading this journal was a bad idea. I snorted out a laugh and reached down to pick up the leather book. I was already five or so entries in. What more could it hurt?

He didn’t write every day as I had initially observed when I first found it, but very frequently (more frequently than I’ve ever written in a journal at least.) I opened up to where I left off and found that the next entry was only two weeks after the first I read. I settled into my bed and tried to unwind, my stress levels were so high and I wasn’t used to feeling this way. I tossed my neck from side to side, cracking it loudly. Shit, I needed a massage. Or a nap, either would work. I stretched my back out and began reading.

May 13 2011

Bad news. Moms pregnant. I know what you are thinking, oh no that should be great news. but its not. It only means one thing for me. Back into the system. Thats how it always goes, not with me specifically cuz Eden was so different but with other kids in the group homes and orphanages they always came back when there parents got a new and shinyer toy to play with. Im hopeful tho, despite what has happened in the past. I cant help it cuz I feel like I have to be in a lot of ways.

Turns out theyve actually knew for a while, since Febuary after they adopted me in November. So they knew and didnt send me away still. Im not really sure if that means anything but i hope it does. So the baby should be coming late october. Ive never had a little sibling before unless you count the little kids in the group home, which I dont. Its a girl. Maybe when she comes around is when mom and dad will decide to get rid of me. I wouldnt be surprised. Its a cycle im used to, even if it still hurts.

School is good. school is great actually. Its probably the best thing about living here. Certainly the most consistent thing. Whereas mom and dad cant seem to get a stable grip of having me here even after almost 6 months (they’ve fed me gluten like 5 times now) school never dissapoints. I guess you really can count on the education system despite what people say.

It was hard at first being the new kid. But I’m more used to that than I am being shipped around. New is easy. because eventually you arent new anymore. But no matter what I do, how long I wait I’ll always be adopted. Thats the sad reality. At the same time school is different. I’ve only ever been home-schooled before, the idea of a public school wasn’t even something to consider before. I think they want to put me in a private schopol tho, I heard them talking before and that idea is just insane to me. But mom and dad have a lot of money. Even tho I’m still not exactly sure what they do. Dad does something with reality he like owns lots where people build malls and mom publishes stuff. I really do need to get to know them better. If they don’t ship me off cuz of the baby theyll probably ship me off for not loving them. which I do. I think. I dont know. I still feel like a stranger in this house. There are birthday presents stacked in the back of my closet that I haven’t even opened. Because I feel like somehow they aren’t mine. They are someone elses.

I gotta go to bed. I don’t want to because I dont like my dreams. But I have to. Tomorrows friday and I have a test in french. I hope Rose is there. She’s been sick all week.

*     *     *

I smiled to myself, looking up at my room before me rather than continuing on and reading the next entry right away. He still hadn’t signed his name in any of the entries I had read thus far and for some reason that didn’t bother me. I liked having this faceless, nameless, person that I could read about. It felt less invasive, and not knowing much about them made me feel less weird about the fact that they were only fourteen when this journal started. Part of me wanted to flip to the last entry right then and see how old they were when this ended cause I couldn’t remember the dates from the other night. I also was curious to know how recently this extended, I felt like I had seen a 2014 somewhere but would be astonished if that were the case with how often he wrote. The journal was thick, but not that thick, so it couldn’t have had entries up until the day that I found it, that was at least three and a half years. The urge to read ahead became even stronger, to learn all his secrets. But I stopped myself. It felt wrong to skip ahead, read this boy’s life out of order. Like, I wasn’t respecting him somehow? I wasn’t sure why I felt that way.

I turned my attention back to the book in my hands, the words written there. Despite his misspelled words and lack of punctuation in places everything written exuded a sort of wisdom I couldn’t understand coming from a fourteen year old. Part of me assumed that his mind set needed to be that way because of his circumstances. You must have to grow up fast in the orphan system. You have to learn to take care of and think for yourself. Or so I would assume having never been in that situation myself. But I couldn’t base my sole opinions on it off of Annie. It did sound terrible though, from what I’d read so far.

The way he talked about the birthday presents stacked in the closet for someone else struck a chord. Today I was treated the exact opposite was a brother should be treated. I looked around my room, which often felt more like a hotel room than a joint part of this home. The feeling of being a guest in this family had always been a potent one for me. One that was, sadly, often reinforced by my sister. Sometimes I wondered if she knew about my secret, my sexuality. I mean, I wondered if a lot of people knew most of the time. But with your family it’s different, you wonder if you accidentally said something at dinner, or acted too feminine, or got too excited when Britney Spears played on the radio. I mean, I don’t even like Britney Spears but that’s not the point. Living in this home has always been a constant state of checking myself. Making sure I’m never too me. Because I was too afraid that being myself meant not being in this home at all. Honestly I wasn’t sure which was worse.

I went back to thinking about what I had just read: He might transfer to a private school. So then how had this journal come to be at Mesa High? It certainly meant he wasn’t a student there unless he transferred but I don’t see his family downgrading him. Unless . . . no. I didn’t want to think that he would be put back in the system just like he feared. That was too awful. Not after Eden. Which was another thing that was still sort of a mystery surrounding this boy. I tried to piece the timeline together in my head: when he was adopted, November; when his little sister was conceived, around February; his birthday, April; and now. When had he lived with Eden? And who was Rose? I smiled again at the thought of this kid having a girlfriend. He was two years younger than me and already more experienced with love than I was if that was the case.

My mind wandered to Liam then. The boy at the shop with the silver truck and the squinty eyes. I shook my head, sending the thought away. No, that was the exact opposite of what I wanted to think about right now. I didn’t like Liam. I didn’t even know him. He and his stupid pink lips should not have come to mind when I thought of love. He was just already in my head. I just related the interaction and the weird flirting to this boy’s situation cause I was already thinking about it. It meant nothing. Yet, it bothered me like it was everything.

I sighed and adjusted my position on the bed again and looked at the clock on my nightstand, it was just past noon. Last time I checked it was a little after eleven, I had been sitting and texting and thinking and reading for longer than I thought. Liam still hadn’t texted back. Not that I could complain, good riddance. I listened carefully for any sound of my family downstairs and deduced that they must not be home if it was this quiet. Funny, I hadn’t heard the garage open. Must’ve been while I was painting with my headphones in, which meant they’d been away now for over an hour. Thanks for the invite.

I decided then that the rest of the afternoon was mine and brought the journal tighter into my ribs as I crossed my legs Indian-style and let out a quick yawn, might as well read on. The next journal entry was from the following Monday, it read:

May 17 2011

I got an A on my french test. Il n’a pas ete difficile.

Trust me, I write with better grammar, spelling, and punctuation when I write outside of this thing. I just get lazy.

Rose was finally back at school today. She had swine flu. Still can’t believe thats a real thing happening right now, people are going insane. Shes better now which obviously makes me happy. She doesnt know that tho. I cant tell her. She probably doesnt even know I exist. Today when she asked if it was okay to retake the french test tomorrow Madame Bruchette told her to get the notes off of one of the other kids in the class. I immediately offered mine up and she didnt even take notice, went right to Brock Metinkis. Even though I was sitting right next to her and Brock was two rows ahead . . .

 Maybe I dont even like her. Yeah shes cute but I dont know. Ive never really liked a girl before so its all so new to me. All these feelings that I have. Its like I’m constantly on the verge of throwing up. Maybe thats it. Maybe she is so gross and ugly that i want to throw up when I see her?

No. I like her. I know I do. I know it the way that somehow all my thoughts turn to her; Everything, no matter what it is eventually leads to Rose. I know it in how I can’t stop looking at her when we have class together or thinking about how I wish we were when we aren’t. I know it because rose is the word I think about most when I write poetry, the flower I compare most things to now. But Rose isn’t even like a rose. She’s more like a lily, pale and fragile, with golden hair and a slim everything.

 I knew I liked her the day I met her. English class, all the way back in Novemeber. I loved and hated everything about her all at the same time. The way she smiled too much and laughed too hard. The way she leaned into people when she spoke to them, like the concept of personal space was completely foreign to her. She didn’t even realize how loud and obnoxious she was being because she was too busy just being.

We’ve only spoken once before, and not casually, we were paired together in an assignment for french class at the beginning of second semester this year. We were split into groups and all assigned a different moments in the history of France and we had to give a presentation on it. It was me, Rose, and some other redhead who still picks his nose. I don’t even remember his name. Probably forgot it the second he told me because I was too focused on the other person in our three-person group. I don’t even remember what we gave our presentation on, or what grade we got.

I’m only 14. I’ve only spoken to her once. I shouldn’t feel this way. But I do. The school year ends in a few weeks and still I haven’t said anything about how I feel. I probably never will.

*     *     *

The entry ended there, and I was grateful for it. Because I wasn’t sure how much longer I could handle my mind involuntarily thinking about someone, too. How much they smiled and how loud they spoke. How they also seemed to lean in as they talked to you and had no sense of boundaries in all aspects other than just proximity. I couldn’t help that my mind thought of him, in fact I hated that it did. Just like I hated everything about him almost nearly as much as it seemed to draw me in. And now I was angry. Angry that I felt this way because I didn’t even know his last name. But I wanted to and that was so stupid. I was angry because these feelings that I had fought for as long as I could remember suddenly surfaced all at once. And maybe they came all at the same time so strongly because they had been shut inside for so long. I had the strongest urge to run. Not physically, but emotionally. Run and hide away inside myself from these foreign feelings that were much too strong and made no sense.

I put the journal down and brought my hands up to my face, rubbing above my eyelids so hard that it almost hurt. This wasn’t right. Harper and I made fun of the type of people who obsessed over boys after one meeting. I wasn’t that type of person. I never had been. I had vowed not to be. So what was it? What was it then that was making me act and feel and think like this? It was a inner conflict the likes of which I couldn’t even get a grip on, it almost pained me. On the one hand everything about him that I knew so far was so infuriating, but I couldn’t help but crave to know more. On the other hand all I wanted was for my mind to quit him, and it seemed that that was the one thing it didn’t know how to do.


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