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CHAPTER 1 - Every time I look in the mirror, I see a different person
The August sunlight streamed over the green grass of my littered lawn. The skeleton of the garage stood with what little dignity it could muster with its naked frame, the weather-stained wood catching the evening rays. The beginnings of its transformation into a greenhouse flapped in the form of clear plastic in the late summer breeze. My mom climbed on the nonexistant roof to nail more plastic transparency onto its frame. The firepit was filled with doors and other miscellanious wooden, worthless junk waiting for its execution by fire. I never had my last-day-of-summer bonfire. My house was too embarassing.
Even though it was easy to ignore, and even though it was smaller than I had expected it to be, the hole in my heart was still there. And even though there was a dull ache of having let go of something huge in my life, there was not an ounce of remorse. He had lasted a miserable five months and sixteen days with me. That was plenty of time.
Okay, so it wasn't miserable. There really was a reason I loved him in the first place. There always is, with any real relationship. But he had changed. The first two months were great, better than I had ever hoped it would be. The other three months were a sickening roller coaster of love bipolar, as Katy Perry so perfectly states it. As I recall this, Hot N Cold, the theme song I assigned him began playing in my head. I shove it away, not in the mood for its upbeat and carefree tempo. Katy Perry had dumped her boyfriend's sorry ass like I had dumped my boyfriend's sorry ass, the only difference was that she didn't feel a bit bad about it. And then I recalled the real reason that I dumped his sorry ass.
I sat down at the lunch table next to Audrey and set my tray of food down. She instantly turned to me. "So what did you need to tell me?" I ignored my food completely and turned to face her. "I don't know how to say this. I feel weird saying it." "You know you can tell me." "Oh, I know." Audrey was someone who had helped me through my Boyfriend Hell. She was someone I could always rely on. And now I discovered someone else that I could always rely on, even though it scared me. I had started the long and painful process of falling in love with Andy when he started to help me through my relationship problems despite his desire to date me. "I- I like Andy." "You have to be kidding me. Okay, this has to stop. You need to break up with Jake. Now." It was only Wednesday, the second day of school, and I didn't want to break up with him mid-week. That would be absolute hell for him. "I can't do it now. I have to wait until Friday. After the game. He's been acting so much better lately, too.." "You should have broken up with him a long time ago. Now it's going to be hard because he's done nothing wrong lately." "I know, I know.." Plus, I still felt contaminated whenever he kissed me. I continued. "I was going to do it after school on Friday, but then he wouldn't go to the football game. And Lenzo would probably wring my neck or something. I'll do it after the game. For sure." "That's a long time away. Can you do that?" "Yeah. I just have to pretend like.. nothing's wrong." "This is gay." This is gay must be Audrey's favorite phrase. She used it for anything bad. I turned to my food and forced some down my throat, even though I genuinely felt like I was about to throw it back up.
That Friday night had been hard. I pulled him to the side after the football game. I remember that clearly too.
"Hey, LeAnn, I'm heading out. I'm going with Kelsey, don't want to keep her waiting." My heart fell right out of my body and I considered not doing it. But this was my last chance. It was now or never. His good mood would be obliterated in a matter of minutes. "Hey, wait up. I want to talk to you for a second." My voice didn't reflect the inner turmoil I was facing. I felt like a screw was being forced through my head and all the way through my body, blending my organs together in some sort of sick smoothie. "Okay," he agreed as I put my drumsticks in my locker and shut it. I tried to clear my mind. I needed to be strong and calm. I had a perfectly built facade of tranquility for him, and I couldn't ruin it. He followed me outside the door into the hallway. "Jake, this hasn't been working." I took a breath and continued. "Neither of us have been happy lately and you know it. It's time to do something about it." "Well, call me tonight and we can figure out what to do." How stupid was he? Didn't he get it? He started to turn and walk away. I panicked. "No Jake, this is it." He stopped abruptly and turned to face me. "It's over.. This is as hard on me as it is on you." He stared at me for a blank two seconds. I couldn't help it. Tears started to well up in my eyes. His blank stare continued, his dry eyes seeming to pierce me. "Okay," he finally said. I started my sobbing. Why wasn't he even reacting? "I'm sorry, I'm so sorry." "It's okay, LeAnn. I'll talk to you later." He bowed his head and turned to rush down the hallway. Broken hearted, I watched him leave before turning into the band room again to collect my stuff. I had to get the hell out of the room and into the bathroom where I could be alone. I hurried to the chair where my belongings sat, taking in every bewildered eye at my crying. I heard I few voices call "LeAnn, what's wrong?" and blatantly ignored them. I grabbed my stuff and quickly headed for the door. Greg Lenzo stared at me with the most sullen, sympathetic face I've ever seen. He knew exactly what was wrong. And he knew better than to confront me about it. In that split second stare, I gained enormous respect for Greg, and felt closer to him than ever before, realizing he was someone else I could rely on. I ran down the hallway and flung myself into a bathroom stall, sitting on the toilet seat. Why hadn't Jake even cried? How come I was the emotional one for once? I sat silently, my stream of tears slowly ending. Even if I was miserable, the biggest weight had been lifted from my shoulders. A weight I had carried on the brink of suicide for too long. This was my cure, like a shot you inject yourself. Stings at first, but it is your only cure. I listened to the color guard girls gossip without any interest, waiting out my emotional tide. "Who's in here?" I jumped a little. It was Andy's voice outside of the girls' bathroom. He knew exactly what was wrong too. A couple of preppy "Me!"'s sounded from the color guard. I knew he was looking for me, but considered not saying anything. The color guard didn't notice me come in, and I could stay invisible for a while. "Who's me?" he persisted. I instantly changed my mind. "I'm in here, Andy. Hold on." "Oh, okay." He sounded a little surprised, but said nothing more. I buried my face in my hands.
I climbed out of my reverie and glanced to my mother on top of the greenhouse. Andy had invited my over to see Signs with him at his house. We had planned on doing this a while ago, back in the days of hanging out in secret so my now-ex-boyfriend wouldn't become jealous. I figured he suggested that we go through with our plans tonight to help me get over the break up. (I learned later that Jake did cry, in Kelsey's arms. As I stood there in the yard, Jake was wallowing in depression over at his house.) I didn't want to mope alone all of Saturday night, so I decided while standing in the sunlight to go to Andy's house. I approached the stripped garage.
"Mom? Can I go over to a friend's house to watch a movie?"
"Who's going to be there?" she called back from above.
She knew about Andy and was suspicious of my feelings towards him. I quickly devised a lie to make it more probable that she would let me go.
"A group of people are going to Andy's. Audrey will be there, so will Emily, trying to convince Allie to come.. We're trying to get a big group together."
"Alright." I think she accepted so willingly because she didn't want me to wallow in depression over the break up either.
"I'll call Andy to come pick me up."
I strolled off and held down the 2 key on my cell phone. He was the first speed dial. It rang twice before he answered.
"Hey," he said, instantly knowing who it was.
"Hi. I said that I big group of people were going to your house, so if she asks, Audrey and Emily are going and we're trying to get more people to come."
"Sounds good to me. I think I'll need some sort of lie for my parents too." Since his parents would be there, it would be harder for him, but I had faith in his deception.
"You can come pick me up anytime."
"Okay. But I need to do a few things first. And actually ask."
"Alright. I'll see you soon?"
I hung up and told my mom that it would be a while before he could come pick me up. Taking advantage of the extra time, I went into the house to perfect my hair. I straightened it until it lay with only a little of its natural volume left. The hairs flipped out ever so slightly, accenting my layers. My blow-died bangs didn't lay flat on my head, but stood on end over my forehead with curved volume to match the rest of my hair. As I finalized my appearance, I remembered the one and only lie that I had ever told Andy.
I stood on the outside of his car looking through the open driver window at him. "Can I change my mind one more time?" I asked him. I had gone back and forth between breaking up with Jake and not, and he had become tired of my own bipolar tendencies. "I don't care. You don't even have to tell me." I was surprised as his dispassionate response. "I'm going to break up with Jake. For sure. No more changing my mind." I knew that Andy liked me back, and had for a long time. This was probably why my back-and-forth behavior was prompting his impatience with me. "Okay. Well, you don't have to. I mean, I'm not making you- you could stay with him if you wanted to, I don't care-" I interrupted him with a short laugh. "Sorry, bud, but I'm not doing this for you." "Oh, well, okay. Yeah. Yeah, that's good. That's what I want."
He hadn't been the sole reason I broke up with Jake, but he was definitely the number one reason, even before Jake's bipolar tendencies and calling me a slut.
It had been a good hour until I saw Andy's car pull into my driveway. I excitedly ran out the back door to inform my mother.
"He's here, Mom! See you later!"
"Okay, sweetie! Bye! Have fun!"
I ran outside to his white Toyota Corolla, my bouncing reddish brown hair catching the evening rays around my shoulders. I yanked the car door open and greeted him happily. The car ride to his house was pleasant with no talk about my new status of being single. I was excited to be with him. Even though I liked him and he had long liked me back, I had promised myself to go at least a week before admitting my feelings for him to him. It was going to be a long, hard week, but at that point it was too soon after Jake. Even still, I had every intention of eventually dating Andy.
CHAPTER 2 - Oddly enough, it used to be hard figuring out who to love
"So, I asked my parents if I could have a group of people over to watch Signs. Then later, I sort of walked up to them all angry and said you were the only one that was allowed to come."
"Brilliant!" I praised him with a smile. "What'd they say?"
"Oh, my mom said that she was sorry it didn't work out and said that we could have just you over." He took his eyes off of the road to smile at me.
"Awesome," I laughed.
I recognized his house instantly when we pulled into his driveway. I had been there four wheeling with him once, which was probably the most fun I had ever had since I had started dating Jake. His parents greeted me warmly when I entered the household. Andy cut the greetings and small talk short to set up his X-Box 360 to play Signs. I showed myself to a seat on his exceptionally comfortable couch to wait for him to join me. I noted how much the cushions sunk at my weight in comparison to my own couches. It made me a little sleepy.
I had never seen Signs before, but I thought it was a great movie. When I was supposed to jump at the alien's appearance, though, I didn't budge, which led to Andy teasing me about how it was lame that I wasn't scared and wrestling with me a little. He conspicuously (or what he thought was conspicuous) put his arm around my back to hold me down while he tickled me, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I was extremely happy, and had to fight the overwhelming urge to rest my head on his shoulder throughout the entire movie. There were points in the movie where I was so acutely aware of his presence beside me that I stopped my focus on the movie to watch him with my peripheral vision. I considered breaking my promise of a week of calmness and recovery to lean on him and feel the warmth that radiated from his side, only to remind myself that Jake was only a day behind me.
By the time the movie was over, I was too damn comfortable on his wonderful couch to even consider getting off of it to go back home. Andy tugged at me half-heartedly.
"LeAnn, we have to go.." he whined pathetically. I curled up in a ball in response.
He persisted a little bit with some begging, but I refused to leave my warm, happy spot beside him. He definitely did not make it easier for me to listen to reason when he leaned his weight on me, his face looking into the side of mine, and wrapped his arms around me to gently tug at me. I desperately wished that we would never have to leave this position. My heart felt whole and alive again.
"You're to bea-" He cut himself off.
I knew exactly what he was going to say. I waited in eager anticipation, hoping he would go through with saying it.
"You're to beautiful to move," he whispered.
This sent my heart in a catapult into my throat and I didn't even try to stop the delighted smile from spreading over my lips. I curled into a tighter ball, telling time to fuck it, that I was staying there all night. Nothing could have moved me from heaven. The dim glow of a table lamp was the only light of the room, and I closed my eyes to sleep.
"It's time to bring her home, Andrew."
We both jumped into an upright sitting position at the sound of his father's voice from upstairs. That was the only thing that could have moved me from heaven.
"Okay, Dad. Movie just ended."
We both got up and went out into his car, but neither of us wanted the night to end. Ever. It was after eleven o'clock when we came to my house, but Andy drove right past it.
"We're going somewhere to sit and talk." His voice was filled with decision and authority.
"There's a church at the end of the steet. We can park there."
He drove up to the empty church and parked in the middle of the lot, facing the road. He leaned his seat back and I followed suit.
"There's probably some preacher who lives here for some reason and thinks we're having sex right now. He's going to come after us."
He laughed. "You're right. He's going to walk out and the car is going to burst into flames."
I laughed back. "Then you'll see his face through the fire and the windshield, giving us a death glare."
"And he'll be holding a cross and throw it at us."
Our laughter filled the car along with our carefree energy. I had never felt quite as alive as I had that night. I still wanted it all to last forever.
"This is great. No one else would ever do this with me, just sit in a car at midnight and talk. I love this," he told me after a while of more happy talking and joking with each other.
"I love doing this sort of stuff. Doing nothing back laying back and talking is one of my favorite things. We should go camping."
"We should! With no electricity and a real tent."
"Of course. We wouldn't camp with a trailer and electricity like pansies."
And this was the beginning of my discovering of how much me and Andrew are alike in small ways that seem beyond coincedence.
After a while, we realized how late it was getting and decided reluctantly that it was time for each of us to go home. It broke my heart to admit it. He drove sullenly down the street and to my house. He didn't want me to leave either.
"I had a lot of fun, Andy. See you at band tomorrow. At the high school orientation thing."
"I completely forgot about that! Do you need a ride?"
"Yeah, my mom's leaving to see family in West Virginia tomorrow. I'm dog sitting. I'll text you."
"Okay. Goodnight, LeAnn. Tonight was great."
"Hey, text me when you get home, so I know you're safe." He looked tired, and I was afraid he'd fall asleep at the wheel.
"Alright, I'll text you. Bye."
"Bye." I got out of the car and silently watched the one I truly loved drive away from me towards his home.
CHAPTER 3 - My white flag is waving
After playing my bass drum for the welcoming of the tax payers to see what their hard earned dollar went into the construction of, I met Andy and waited for him to put his trumpet away.
"You can bring me home, right?"
"Yeah, no problem. Let me just put everything away."
"Well, I have to hide from my dad. I don't want him to know that my mom's in West Virginia and you're driving me around."
"Okay, I'll hurry."
Audrey saw me and strolled up.
"I'm about to find my mom and go home, so I'll see you later."
"I'm getting a ride home with Andy. I'm hiding from my dad, though. Have you seen him?"
"Yeah, apparently he talked to my mom. Have fun hiding! I have to go now, you know how my mother is."
"Oh, I know. Don't keep her waiting!"
"Oh, you know!" She laughed. "I'll see you later. Don't let Daddy find you!"
She left the band room just in time for Andy to be ready to head out the door with me, and we left through the back door so that I didn't run into my dad. We got into the car together and he reached for the CD player and turned it on. Everytime he turned a corner, he'd pull the wheel dramatically and yell "WASHAA," which sounds completely lame if I write it like this, but I laughed every single time. He brought light into my life with the silly things he did.
He pulled into my driveway, and because my mother was gone, I invited him to hang out a little bit. He cut off the engine and followed me through the front door into my small foreclosure buy. We wandered to my room. I turned on the stereo and got music going and laid down on my bed. I became slightly nervous when he laid next to me.
I can't remember a single thing that we talked about there on my bed. And I know you're waiting in anticipation for us to take off our clothes and go crazy. After all, we're two teenagers home alone on my bed. But what we shared was much more magical than that. Our faces lay close together, our noses almost touching. He quit the restrain he put on himself and laid his arm over my waist. He laid with his eyes closed and I breathed onto his skin faintly, watching his still features intently. After a length of time, he gained some sense and stood up to go. I laid on my bed, hoping it would trick him into staying with me.
"Aren't you going to walk to the door with me?"
I made a whining sound.
"I have to go, LeAnn.." More half-hearted tugging.
He laid back down, but this time on top of me. He rolled over with his arms clutching me, making us roll to the other side of the bed. He turned us completely over so that I was under him again, and before I could even realize what was happening, he pressed his lips into mine.
My eyes shot open and I stared, completely shocked, into his eyes. The shock gusted away as quickly as it had washed over me, and my insides caught fire, my blood became electric. A feeling that was long dead in me rose again and I kissed back, thrill filling me. I was going against Audrey's advice. Jake was two days behind me. I didn't care anymore. He caught me in a whirling spell that keeps me spinning today. His boldness had ignited me. He pulled back to gaze at me, and pressed his lips into mine again. I was aware of nothing except the beautiful light filling my lungs and body from his mouth. I would never be the same again.
After a moment, he got up again, and I lost all hesitation as I followed him feverishly at his heels. He wandered out the door and by his car before turning to me again. He pressed his lips into mine again. I held him happily. Releasing me, he walked around the Corolla to the driver's side, leaving me standing on the passenger side. He stared at me over the roof of his car.
I was negative, he was positive. And his magnetic field pulled at me like gravity. I wasted no time. I climbed on top of his car, on top of the roof, and initiated my first kiss with him. He stood there, neck craned up to me, me crouching on top of the car. We didn't move for a good amount of time. Finally, I pulled back and smiled at him. He stared silently for a moment.
"..I have to go. I'll get in trouble."
I climbed off of the roof and onto the ground again. He got in the driver's seat and rolled down the passenger window to talk to me through the car.
"I'm sorry, LeAnn."
"Why are you sorry?"
"I just am. I'm sorry." He looked ashamed, and I realized he somehow thought that I didn't thoroughly enjoy it all like I had. "I'll talk to you later."
"Oh. Okay." I stepped back from the car unwillingly. He started the engine and pulled the shifter into reverse. The car started rolling backward before I sudden irrational panic siezed me. I leaped after his car and grabbed the passenger door.
"Stop. I need to say something." I stood there, a new feeling, a startling fear taking over me. I took too long to speak, he jumped to conclusions.
"Look, I don't know, I'm really sorry-"
"Shh, you don't even know what I'm going to say."
I stood there, ravenously searching for courage in me to say the three simple words I needed to say. The scariest three words of my life. Three words of commitment, of no-turning-back-now. I stood silently for an eternity. He stared at me in patient anticipation, not blinking once.
"I love you."
I finally said it. Before I could mess anything up, I released his passenger door and walked several strides away before turning around again. His car didn't budge. After an extended amount of time, his car finally started to roll slowly backwards. It stopped without reason halfway down the drive, waiting there a moment, continuing again. He hit the brake again at the end of the driveway and waited there an exaggerated amount of time, even though there was no traffic to wait for. He finally pulled himself into the road, and drove away without a word. I watched the entire scene on the doorstep, grinning after he had left my yard and was gone down the street. I opened the door behind me and stepped into the living room.
I had never felt so sure of anything in my life.