Authors: Monica Murphy
Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Genre Fiction, #Coming of Age, #Teen & Young Adult, #Love & Romance, #Contemporary, #Romance
“I do,” I say softly, pressing my lips together to prevent from saying anymore. “I’ve…had a hard time lately.”
“We’ve missed you,” Vanessa says, wincing once she made the admission. “Valerie would kill me if she knew I told you that.”
Valerie was the toughest of us three and the one who hated showing emotion the most. So I know Vanessa is right. “I’ve missed you too,” I confess. “I’ve been a real jerk lately.”
Vanessa raises an eyebrow. “You think? Hmm, let’s see. You’ve stopped hanging around us, ignored us when we call your name, act like the slut of the school when that’s the farthest thing from the truth…”
“It’s probably closer to the truth than you realize,” I mumble, earning both eyebrows raised on Vanessa’s part.
“I doubt that,” she says, reaching out to touch my arm. I startle at her touch, shocked that she’s being so nice.
“Why are you acting like this?” I ask.
“Acting like what?”
“Like you still care?”
“Because I do. We’ve been friends for too long for me to let a few months of you acting like a complete idiot to stop me from caring about you, Rev. Give me more credit than that.”
“Well, maybe you should stop. I might not be worth it anymore,” I say morosely.
“Oh my God, cut the crap.” I startle at the sharpness in her tone, the way she slaps the edge of the table with her hand. “Stop feeling sorry for yourself. This ‘poor pitiful me’ act is getting old. So your parents screwed up, so what? Who cares?”
“I care.” I jab my thumb at my chest, irritated that she would bring up my parents. “My parents didn’t just screw up, they screwed people over royally, including me and my brother.” I glance around before I lower my voice. “Supposedly they stole from the congregation, from the entire company. Everything we own has been seized, including their bank accounts. We could lose everything.”
The sympathy on Vanessa’s face is clear. She’s never been one to hide anything. She’s so pretty too, with her strawberry blond hair and freckled cheeks. Pale blue eyes that are staring at me like she wants to both slap and hug me all at once. “You’ll still be okay. You’ll make it.”
“Maybe I won’t,” I admit, my voice small. “ You don’t know what’s going to happen to me or my family.”
“I do know one thing.” She leans in close, her gaze direct, her hands clutching the edge of the cafeteria table. “You’re acting like a total baby. Stop with the whining and the acting out. Skipping class and doing like crap at school, acting like a total slut when we both know you’re not. You’ve made out with a few guys but that’s it so don’t tell me it’s something more.”
“It’s something more,” I whisper, my cheeks heating with embarrassment when Vanessa’s eyes go wide. “I met a guy this summer and…”
“And what?” she whispers back.
“I-I’ll tell you later. Just know that it got serious.” I drop my head, feeling ashamed for how I’ve treated my friends, the two girls who’ve stood by me for years. I wasn’t very nice to them. I don’t deserve Vanessa’s kindness. “I’m sorry for what I’ve done. I hate that I don’t talk to you and Valerie anymore.”
“We hate it too. We sort of hated you for a while but we’re over it. At least, I’m over it. You might have to work a little harder with Valerie.” I lift my head to find Vanessa smiling at me. “Do what you’re supposed to do, Rev. Act like yourself. This fake Rev sucks. I miss the old Rev.”
“I do too.”
“Then drop the act and be normal. You’ll be a lot happier I swear.” Vanessa reaches across the table and grabs my arm, giving it a squeeze. “Meet up after school at the café? I’ll have Valerie with me. I’ll tell her to go easy on you.”
Café Bella was our favorite spot to hang out at after school. We’d grab a drink and talk about our day. No one else from school would be there which was perfect. We could gossip freely. “I’d like that,” I admit softly.
“Good. Then it’s settled.” Vanessa smiles and nods toward my tray. “Now eat your lunch and tell me which classes you’re doing terrible in so we can figure out a strategy to get your grades up. Can’t have you flunking out your senior year. That’s just stupid.”
Tears fill my eyes and I blink them away, so incredibly thankful for my friend.
I need to find my way back to myself again. I think Vanessa—and hopefully Valerie—will be the perfect guides.
I always feel the need to say at the start of these stupid, pointless letters that you’ll never read this. I know you won’t. So it’ll go into my drafts folder in my inbox. I sit here typing on my phone in the dark, in my room. In my bed. The window is open, letting in a cool breeze but my skin is hot. I’m burning up with memories of you with me. In this bed. Naked and trembling and so pretty beneath me, your eyes closed, my name falling from your lips.
I miss you but I’m starting to wonder if I miss the memory of you and not the real you. Did we really know each other during our short time together? I know I certainly believed I was in love with you but I’m thinking maybe it all moved too fast. That maybe I should just hold onto our summer together as a great memory and let it go. Banish you from my mind for good.
It’s hard to do that though. I want to see you again. But how? I don’t know exactly where you are. I have no idea who can help me find you.
I’m going to try though. I want to know if seeing you again will affect me as strongly as it did before. If maybe we really do belong together. Or at least if we should try and be together. That’s all I want.
October 11th, later that afternoon
enter the café with trepidation, stopping when I see the back of Valerie’s head, her long, silky dark brown hair pulled into a perfect French braid. She and Vanessa are sitting at our usual table, iced mochas in front of them and one in front of the chair I always sit in. Vanessa must have ordered it for me already because I know Valerie wouldn’t have done so. She’s going to make this difficult, I just know it but I can’t blame her. I completely abandoned her.
I’m just lucky enough that Vanessa is willing to give me a second chance. Hopefully Valerie will want to as well.
Vanessa’s face brightens when she spots me and she waves me over. I start toward the table, nearly tripping over my feet when I see the withering glance Valerie sends in my direction. My head starts to slowly pound with the start of a headache and I hold the back of my chair with shaky fingers, forcing myself to look at Valerie, who’s watching me with a doubtful expression, her arms crossed in front of her chest.
“Do you mind if I join you?” I ask her, not sure what I’ll do if she tells me to leave.
Her upper lip curls into the slightest sneer. “I suppose you can. If you want.”
I deserve her anger, I tell myself as I settle in the chair, appreciating Vanessa’s welcoming smile and attitude. “Thank you for the mocha,” I tell her quietly.
“Thank Valerie. She paid today.” She waves a hand at my angry friend as shock courses through me.
“Thank you Val,” I say, my cheeks hot. I’m embarrassed. Not only because she cared enough to buy me a drink but also I don’t know exactly how I can break it to them that I can’t buy the drinks like I used to. I have very little money and what I do have has to go toward necessities. Definitely not expensive coffee drinks.
If Evan saw me right now he’d probably want to kill me even though I wasn’t the one who paid. He’s become some sort of budget Nazi, constantly telling me to take my lunch to school or yelling at me when he finds fast food bags that I threw away in the trash. He’s busting his butt to pay for everything and I know I’m a burden on him.
I should get a job. But where?
“So why do you want to suddenly be with us again, hmm?” Valerie asks, getting right to the point as is her usual style. And the girl has style I can give her that. She’s pretty with her pale skin and deep red hair, sparkling hazel eyes and the faint freckles that dust her cheeks and across the bridge of her nose. When I met her she always had her face stuck in a magazine, specifically fashion magazines. She loves
and swears someday she’s going to work at one of them.
“Val, stop,” Vanessa hisses, nudging Valerie in the ribs with her elbow. “I’m the one who harassed her first.”
Val’s gaze narrows as she stares at me. “Right. So
had to approach her. Why’d you do that anyway? She should’ve come to us first.”
“Come on, you know why. I told you I was going to do it…” Vanessa starts but I cut her off.
“Don’t blame her, Valerie. And don’t fight over me either. I probably would’ve never got my head out of my ass quick enough to come to you two and ask for your forgiveness. I would’ve kept up this stupid charade forever.” I clear my throat and grab my drink, taking a quick sip. They’re staring at me as if I’ve lost my mind, which they probably think I have. I never cursed before. Not really. But I’m tired of playing games. I did have my head up my ass. “I’m sorry for what I did. I have no excuse for ditching you guys. All I can hope is that you both forgive me for being an idiot.”
“I’ve already forgiven your idiocy,” Vanessa says chirpily, laughing when Valerie and I both send her a look. “What, it’s true. I’m over it. I’m just glad you’re back with us, Rev. The three Vs, together again.”
I smile but Valerie doesn’t. I guess she’s not so eager for our reunion.
“Why did you do it anyway?” When I send her a questioning look, Valerie continues. “You came back from the summer and completely ignored us. Started dressing like a tramp and hanging out with Rachel and Tally. It was weird,” Valerie says with a little grimace before she takes a drink of her mocha.