Updated: Jan 26
Cover Photo © Rosalie Thorne
Editor – Z. V. Ezell
By Rosalie Thorne
“Since the invention of the kiss, there have been five kisses rated the most passionate,
the most pure. This one left them all behind.”
- The Princess Bride
Unfortunately, without proof, there isn’t actually much we can do in the take-down-Gabriella department.
Even though the mob mentality of a witch-hunt has not faltered, and the educated guess that it is Gabriella behind it all has spread like wildfire, (no one questioning it given their own run-in with her over the years) everyone is at a loss. With her spewing lies that she’s just as affected as the rest of us, there’s nothing anyone can directly do or call her out on (even though some have tried). Leaving all of us sort of knowing something must be done but not knowing what or how.
Cynthia and Jessica were both absent Monday and Tuesday, and Wednesday morning we found out why. Though their family knew and everyone at school knew, apparently the fact that they were dating – that Cynthia is gay and Jessica bi – was not public knowledge and when a picture was released with them kissing in the background the families needed time to follow through with damage control. It ‘was and is not a bad thing’ Jessica’s dad (the CEO of tech company that’s making major advancements in robotics for medical reasons) said on the news, ‘we both love our daughters with our whole hearts and have simply been trying to keep their private lives private’, Cynthia’s mom (Massachusetts’s version of Oprah) nodded next to him then adds ‘We have always been so pleased that our daughters felt not only comfortable enough but also brave enough to be themselves, it’s just that we are all too well how cruel some people can be’. After that, the headmaster held an assembly on equal rights and to further explain that there’s a no-tolerance policy on bullying of any kind.
The whole week and even in group-chat Toby has been unusually quiet. Keeping his head down, his eyes on the pages of the books he’s randomly been reading. When asked if he’s okay, if everything’s okay with his family, he just shrugs or texts ‘yep’. Only Chris knows who his parents are, and he promised Toby a long time ago not to talk about it. Toby’s very good at keeping it all close to his chest and we’re all smart enough not to pry.
Parker, on the other hand, loves giving us the play-by-play of his home life. His father, (who is a very well-known and very successful director, who is currently trying to find a movie perfect for Misses Hathaway), is busting at the seams to do some sort of documentary on everything that’s happened. ‘A social commentary on America’s youth, how social media is not just the byproduct of how we function, but a double-edged sword used in the worst of ways’ explained Parker. And his mother, (who actually is a partner at Charlotte O’Crosphen’s publishing house), is trying to hunt down an author who can not only write a book about it all but a screenplay for her husband.
Macen’s mom, too freaked out, hasn’t let up on the idea of moving. Using the past week to go so far as to have the house listed and different moving companies come to give quotes. She’s also been dragging Macen out of school around town from big houses to small houses, townhouses to full-floor apartments to see if there’s anything he likes. He understands her and her habits, how she needs a designated space for yoga and the type of feng-shui bull shit she’s into to help her and her ‘craft’. His dad, on the other hand, doesn’t care one way or the other if they move or don’t move as long as he has his own office and can take as much legal action against Buzzwire as he can figure out. (He hasn’t figured out anything yet but is trying.)
And then, with the announcement on Friday by every teacher every class every period that Mid-term Prep is starting, the focus is slowly shifting to our upcoming exams. There have been less messages, comments, and texts about the drama and more about our classes, what’s on the exams, and ‘can you help me with’.
Sophia, being the golden child she is, has worn her parent’s down enough to let her come out with Cynthia and Jessica and me today – since we have no school to observe Veterans Day – to have a Girl’s Day at the mall. Given that David stays with her, and we don’t meet up with any of the boys and she’s home by four o’clock sharp, we can shop and eat wherever we want.
And so, on this beautiful Veterans Day, we have our last day to blow off steam before exams. Bright blue skies above with puffy white clouds easing with the subtle breeze, the forecast calls for snow just before sunset. Wearing my favorite winter outfit – an icy blue turtleneck, black corduroy skirt, grey sweater-leggings, and black snow boots – I drape my black peacoat over my arm as we head into the mall. Having a full-blown Girl’s Day, we are totally using this opportunity of Sophia being allowed out of the house to shop for Winter Formal gowns and accessories.
“Would it be totally weird if I just find a dress so I can cosplay Emelia Clark’s character in Solo? You know, the black dress in the party scene.” Cynthia asks while bypassing the traditional too-poofy ball gowns.
“I can get behind that,” Jessica smiles and pinches her jeaned ass.
Cynthia laughs and swats at her hand. “I’m serious! It’s a classic black dress, a small slit, a deep-v, and then I can add the Crimson Dawn necklace thing.”
Jessica wraps her arms around her girlfriend’s waist. “Did I ever mention how much I love when you talk nerd?”
Her eyes roll but her cheeks blush up. Her eyes come to me and Sophia, “What do you think? About the dress, I mean.”
“It would be such a pleasant change from,” and I pull out a ball gown with a Barbie pink dress with massive Cinderella-like skirt and a bedazzled sweet-heart bodice. “You know how many girls will have this and this in other colors? Nobody cares about the Winter Wonderland theme, they just –”
“- use this as an excuse to dress up like Disney princesses?” Sophia, who’s already made it to the mermaids turns from where she’s holding emerald fabric, finishes for me.
Cynthia snaps and points to Sophia. “So, then it’s settled!”
As she heads for the evening gown section, I turn to Jessica. “What about you? What do you have in mind?”
She nibbled on her lip and looks around. Her eyes drop and her voice is almost too low to hear. “I actually really want to wear a suit. ‘Cause I’m just way more comfortable in pants. But… like,” she sighs, “I don’t want to be called ‘butch’ or a ‘dike’ or the ‘man of the relationship’ you know?”
Before either of us realizes it, I’m hugging her. “Oh Jess.” After a good moment, we step back. “You know what you should totally do?”
“I saw it in some magazine – last award season I think… what the actress had was like one-shoulder bandage top and then a skirt. But what was super fucking cool about the skirt is that it tied at the waist and sort of fanned out in front of the legs and underneath it was pants! Like skinny slacks and then this sort of flowy bustle, I guess. What about that?”
Her expression is skeptical, so I keep trying. “Or! You know what? I’ve seen Emma Watson or Anna Kendrick or even Rachel McAdams wear pant outfits, like, all the time. It doesn’t exactly have to be a suite, you know? Like with a jacket and all that. You could get a corset or just a really feminine but flattering top and the perfect pair of straight-leg slacks. With your gorgeous hair curled over your shoulder, that fantastic makeup I’ve seen on your Instagram, and a pair of strappy heels? Ah-mazing.”
“You really think I could make it work?”
“When in doubt look to Emma Watson, right?”
She finally smiles and pulls out her phone. “I should Google it, see what I can find.”
I call out “Totally,” as she walks towards her girlfriend.
“I don’t think anyone would actually call her those names, do you?” Sophia whispers. She has two emerald and one navy dress draped over her arm. Obviously waiting for me to find something so we can try everything on together, she follows me as I move towards the end of the ball gown section.
“No, I don’t. Not anyone at school, anyway. Maybe even our generation as a whole… we were just raised differently you know? More socially aware and accepting. But other people…” I shake my head. “That’s kind of what their parents were worried about, I guess.”
“It’s true though, about the celebrities. There’s a ton of women who don’t wear dresses. Hell, even Audrey Hepburn didn’t! That’s what you’ve told me anyway. And she’s just so… my point: even if a female wears pants that does not, at all, mean it takes away from her femininity.”
We look at Jessica showing Cynthia pictures on her phone. I nod and finally let myself shift through the rack of dresses. “Exactly.”
Finding exactly what I’d imagined since Chris asked me to the Winter Formal, I pull out a two-piece set. Silver lace from neck to wrists with a scalloped bottom for the crop-top with a black A-line tulle skirt, I hold it out for So-So to see. “What do you think?”
She points to my new bracelet next to the top. “It’ll go perfectly with your amethyst.”
“I was thinking amethyst and lavender accessories,” I agree.
She offers a knowing look, “Shall we try these on then?”
“We shall!” I giggle.
With our Winter Formal outfits bought, the four of us are now on the hunt for just the perfect underwear from Victoria’s Secret. Sophia landed on the sweetheart emerald mermaid so she needs a strapless bra; Cynthia found the black dress she wanted but needs a smooth enough fabric (t-shirt material, maybe, definitely not lace) that has either a low-enough cut or cups far enough apart to work; Jessica found a really gorgeous navy top with a square neckline and puffy shoulders of the three-quarters-length sleeves and wants a push-up bra of the same blue; and though a strapless would be easier with the see-through-ness of the lace, I know I’m going to need the extra support so I’m on the hunt for either a silver or grey bra or a multi-way bra I can add clear plastic straps to. And then, of course, for all our dates, we want pretty panties to go with.
Cynthia and Jessica off doing their own thing, looking for a bundle of stuff to try on rather than one or two items at a time, leaving Sophia and I being lead to the fitting rooms together. Having always shared a dressing room and never shied away from changing in front of each other, the staff member gives us the handicap room to share.
Shirts and bras off, I’m still trying to clip mine while she finagles her chest into the first strapless choice. “I mean, the bodice of that dress is really tight, you know? I don’t think I’ll really have to worry…,” she eyes herself in the mirror.
“Oh god, no. That dress had a corset back! I can totally get you secure in that thing.” I stand with my first option of a silvery bra. “What about this?”
She looks through the mirror to me. “Mmm, those straps are really shinny. They’ll be totally noticeable through the lace. Remember that gold bra and the Chi Chi London?”
I squint in the mirror. “Oh yeah… that’s true. Already, what about this one,” and I work to swap on the muted grey bra of the same size and style. “I just rather have the fabric straps than the plastic, you know? Those dig in and hurt after, like, thirty minutes.”
She tilts her head. “I bet that’ll work. Did you bring the top in? Just to double-check?”
Smiling, I can’t help but think how great minds think alike. Slipping the top out of the shopping bag I moved it into (from the garment bag with the matching skirt) I slowly unzip the hidden zipper. One arm in, the other arm, then I turn for So-So to zip me in. It slides with ease and there’s a comfortable tightness around my chest. Looking to the mirror now, I run a hand over the lace. “Look at that! You can barely even see the bra.”
“And if you have your hair down, there’s no way.”
She unzips me and we throw on the complimentary white tees. We both have to sit to get our bottoms off, her skinny jeans and my leggings so tight around our ankles. “So,” I look over to her. “You guys thinking of doing the whole hotel thing? Or were you guys going to wait for Junior Prom in the Spring?”
Her face is tense as she struggles to yank off the second pant leg, “Oh, we already got the hotel room, a king bed suite.”
“Do your parents think you’re spending the night with me?” I ask, not caring. We’ve had each other’s backs before, and I had no problem lying for her.
Holding different panties next to the strapless bra she liked, she looks over at me with confusion. “Huh?”
“Your parents? Do I need to cover for you so you can spend the night with Eric?”
“Oh! Oh, no. They know.”
Folding leggings in my lap, I eye her. “They do? I mean… like, you guys are planning on having sex, aren’t you? And your dad’s okay with that?”
She giggles and starts twisting her pearl earring slowly. “I mean, of course he’s not okay with it, but he’s okay with it… you know? Like, I’ve been on birth control since I was thirteen -”
“I remember. That’s why I could convince my mom,” I comment with laughter.
She giggles again, “So, like. I mean, we use condoms, too, of course.”
I throw my leggings at her. “Wait!”
Her nose scrunches and then she smiles wide. “I know! I know, I’ve been meaning to tell you.”
Throwing my skirt at her, too, I ask, “And why didn’t you? Oh my god! When did this happen?”
She bites her lips and looks to the side. A deep breath and then she looks back to me, her cheeks as red as her hair. “The night of the after-party, actually.” After she sees my look, she throws a hand up. “We were totally sober by that point, I swear.”
Something clicking in my mind, I limply point at her. “Is that why you’re grounded?”
Sophia busts a laugh then throws her hand over her mouth. “Yes.”
“But wait, so your parents found out and you were grounded but they’re letting you get a hotel with him?”
She does a little wiggle. “So, like, you know how your parents always say if you’re going to drink, either do it in the house or call them for a ride? Or even that one time you thought about pot, same thing? Like how it’s sort of… there; like ‘hello this is what most teenagers do’ but they just want you to be responsible? I guess it’s like that.”
Handing my clothes back to me, her brows are knotted, her eyes squinting. “There was this whole big discussion with my parents and me and my therapist and then even with Eric and his parents. And it’s just… healthy, you know? Like those countries where it’s normal for their kids to drink in moderation so they don’t get fucking alcohol poising on their twenty-first birthday like most people do here?”
“Yeah…. But So-So… more importantly, you want to, right?”
Her smile is little, soft, sweet, her gaze a little dreamy. “Yeah, Lori, I really do.” Her eyes get watery, and she dabs at the bottom lid. “For a long time, I just didn’t want to be touched. Not by anyone… not even my parents, not even you. Then, like, I had that really bad phase where my head got all messed up and thought maybe that’s all I’m good for. Which is why I wanted to quit cheerleading and chopped my hair off.
“But then I met Eric and he is so… nice. And Eric knows how serious Macen, my dad, and David are about beating him to a pulp if he ever did something wrong. Seriously, though, we held hands, we cuddled, we even fell asleep once on the couch, all before we even kissed. We had intimacy before anything sexual, which sort of means everything sexual thereafter has been really sensual. Eric has never pushed me… hasn’t even ever suggested something I didn’t want to do. He can read me like a book and he’s so thoughtful and so… kind.”
Fat tears roll quickly down her cheeks, and I know better than anyone they’re from happiness. I move over to her, sliding onto the bench next to her. Arms around her, I touch my temple to hers. “Oh, So-So. You totally love him, don’t you?”
A broad smile turns into a laugh and her hand comes around mine. “I totally do.
Feeling myself tear up I embrace her. “I am so happy for you.”
Close to an hour after our heart-to-heart in the Victoria’s Secret dressing room, Sophia, Cynthia, Jessica, and I are all comfy in our chairs ready for our mani-pedis to start. Chatting about nothing yet everything, I and Jessica keep having to lean forward from our end chairs.
“So, we’ve got the dates, we’ve got the dresses, we’ve got the hotel rooms. What else?” Sophia asks, looking through the notepad on her phone.
“Dinner!” Cynthia smiles. “Where are we all going?”
“Luca’s?” I suggest.
Jessica makes a face. “But it’s tradition to go down to the chain restaurants on Third!”
Trying not to roll my eyes, I shrug. “Chris and I won gift cards to Luca’s on Halloween. It might be nice to do something away from the mass population of our school, don’t you think? Plus, Gabriella will not stop going on-and-on about her Winter Formal plans which includes her and her army of skanks and their poor dates taking up one of those long half booths, half tables at Applebee’s.”
Totally turned off from the idea now, Jessica looks to her girlfriend and they both nod. “Luca’s is totally doable.”
Sophia smiles, shaking her head ever so softly, and types it down on her phone. “Who has more pull, you think?”
Cynthia looks up from the choices of pink nail polish. “Pull?”
“To get a reservation for ten on a Saturday night.”
Jessica smiles, “Not me, that’s for sure.”
“Count me out.” Cynthia nods. “What about you?” She looks to Sophia. “Governor’s daughter.”
So-So looks to me, “I think a princess out-ranks me.”
We all laugh and toss up my shoulders since I can’t throw up my hands. “Fine! I’ll call once we’re done here. Send a text out to the boys, would you?”
“Already sent it in the group chat.”
I smile at Sophia. “So, then what’s next? My mama already offered all the girls can get ready at our house. I think, between the five of us we can manage hair and makeup. And after the boys arrive, we need to give ourselves, like, forty-five minutes to get all the pictures.”
“Mmm,” and she carefully takes a wet-polish finger to slide up her screen. “Other than picking flowers for corsages and boutonnieres, all that’s left is the ride.”
“Is there even a limo that could fit all ten of us?” Cynthia asks.
I double-check on my nail-polish-less fingers, “Me and Chris, Sophia and Eric, you two, Toby and what’s-her-face, Macen, and Parker… yeah, ten.”
Sophia tilts her head, “Well, a normal limo has the backbench that seats three, then the two side benches that also seat three each. That’s nine. If we squeeze, we could all fit.”
“What if Macen and Parker bring dates?”
Cynthia looks to Jessica who looks to Sophia, who eyebrows go up, but she keeps her eyes down.
Jessica looks side to side then squints at me. “Macen and Parker are each other’s dates.”
“They’ve been going out for a while now,” Cynthia adds slowly.
My eyes shoot to Sophia. “What? No.” When she makes a non-committal gesture, I end up saying “No,” a little louder. Looking down the line of chairs, I shake my head. “He would have told me! He so would have told me.”
The only response I get back is a look with a hint of pity.
Length of hair in a knot, a fabric headband around the roots, my face freshly scrubbed and now with a Neutrogena ‘Clear Pore’ mask, I ease against my mountains of pillows. My Victoria’s Secret rose-print pajamas are loose but warm enough to where I only need my fuzzy socks in addition while the windows flanking the balcony are cracked open, letting the freezing air but no snow in. Candles lit, string lights on, TV muted, I have my phone in hand ready to cyber-creep on Macen.
I think the biggest reason why I didn’t know he was actually dating Parker is because their Facebook statuses are still set to single. I know that some people don’t care about that sort of thing, but with our age group doing that is like wearing a letterman jacket in the fifties. It’s a rite of passage, a sort of ‘hello world, this is a thing’. There are a lot of tagged pictures of them, though, and now that I’m actually taking the time to scroll through Macen’s Facebook, I notice how many times he location dropped with Parker.
Flustered, but not feeling like it’s so-obvious-how-could-I-be-so-blind, I switch over to Macen’s Instagram. When his pictures pop up on my feed, I heart it without question, most of the time not even looking at the shortened-to-one-sentence descriptions. Now going one-by-one with the pictures though, the descriptions are long and screaming in my face. Pictures with Parker not only have his account tagged, but the #TheBoyfriend (like Sophia and I do) is used. Going back weeks, just like Cynthia said. Their first date having been before that day I left them in the diner together.
Nose tingling, eyes watering, lip quivering, I slowly put my phone on my comforter. Wrapping my arms tight around my chest, there’s a painful lump in my throat. My eyes are unseeing as they stare forward, acid bubbling up from my stomach. The silence in my room becomes deafening and every gulp I make is sandpaper to my ears.
Reaching for my phone, I make a new text. A private text between me and Macen.
Why didn’t you tell me?
You didn’t ask.
Exam prep for AP classes is hard enough, then add the expectations of Excelsior Academy, and everything else that could possibly matter flies out the window. Minus the few hours my group forgot the world and ran off with Newt and Tina and Queenie and Jacob in Crimes Of Grindelwald, everything has been one-track. Even with the Winter Formal on Saturday night, given that the next week we have off for Thanksgiving, and then exam prep continues until the first block of mid-terms on that Friday? All Hell has broken loose academically.
All the students walk the halls like ghosts, each class is like trying to cram a semester’s worth of information in, lunch period has everyone silently glued to their textbooks, and by the time the last bell rings, people are either falling asleep standing up or crying into their lockers. I’d sworn last year that this year I’d be more prepared, just as I’d sworn Freshman year that I’d be more prepared last year.
And yet here I am, on the verge of anxiety attack.
Knowing I cannot miss any class this week, Mama scheduled my therapy appointment so that I’d only have to leave school fifteen minutes early on Friday. I tried telling her just to push it off entirely, she came back at me saying Doctor Renfield will be out of the office the week of Thanksgiving and she won’t have me miss any exams and then it’s my next scheduled appointment the first week of Winter Break, the day before we fly home to Benovia for Christmas.
So, as soon as my door closes behind me, I pull out my spiral notebook of a study guide and look at all the tabs. I’ve passed Drama just by showing up every day; if the practice exam meant anything I’ll get an A in Astronomy. Creative Writing is so easy that I’ve already finished the ten-page short story I’m supposed to turn in. The Journalism exam with being broken down into three parts: a read and respond, a persuasive five-paragraph essay, and then a critical editing portion, all of which I feel very confident about. I am only in AP Algebra II because my schedule didn’t allow for me to move into Trigonometry, and it’s been a yawn all year – Algebra being one of my favorite subjects since I was nine. Mister Wilson said because I got an A on my hydraulic arm project, all I have to do is show up to the scheduled block to get an A on my AP Physics exam. Then I have AP American Lit, which focused so much on Emily Dickenson that I really haven’t had anything to study this whole semester.
And yet my acid reflux is back, I’ve been having non-stop nightmares, and I’ve been obsessively checking my notes because I’m so certain I’m going to fail.
Losing time due to worry, the town car parks in front of Doctor Renfields’ office before I know it. Feeling a physical pain having to leave my school bag in the car, I start sliding my left thumb against my right palm obsessively. Ivan walks me into the office, and I’m surprised to find Mama waiting on one of the plush loveseats.
She stands and smile softly, “Iubit.” Her arms tuck me softly against her chest, her hands coming to my back, her lips to the top of my head. “Is it alright if I join you today?”
Off her now, I ball my sweater sleeves into my fists. “Yeah, I guess. Is something wrong?”
“I’m just worried about you, Anna.”
I shrug and brush the tip of my nose with my sleeve. “It’s just exams, that’s all.”
Trying not to think of the absolute fucking meltdown I had Freshman year and the over-taking of Clonazepam last year, I sit down, and my eyes keep shifting back and forth around the waiting room. It’s a fine enough area… dark wood paneling on the walls, clean but ugly blue speckled carpet, plush but ancient love seats and couches around a too-low coffee table littered in magazines. Off to the far side, next to the door to Doctor Renfields’ office, is an odd half-circle of a desk with the secretary. It’s the same women every time, the same women since the first time I came in eighth grade. Obviously, a bit older now, she’s still young with way too much makeup, oddly frumpy clothes, and listless expression.
“Miss Romenovf?” she calls softly. Our eyes meet and she nods, “She’s ready for you.”
I lift with Mama and head for the door. Like always, when I’m only a step away, the doctor opens the door. Her familiar-ness and constant presence in my life is a comfort. From her super freckled skin, shiny blond hair or painted nude lips, her silky blouses and pencil skirts, the way she kicks off her heels about five minutes into my session, and the way she always looks at me while I’m talking even if she was in the middle of taking notes. She’s made me realize that mental health should be taken as seriously as physical health and having my appointments is just as important as any other check-up I may have.
“Hi, Lorianna, come on it.”
We pass her and she shuts the door softly behind us. As we get settled on her long couch, she goes over to her computer chair across from the mini coffee table and sits down. Reaching forward for her notebook and pen, she keeps it closed on her lap and she smiles at us. “Hi, Naomi, long time no see. I’m so glad you could make it in today.”
My mom knows better than to reach for my hand, so she clasps hers over her knee. “Thanks for squeezing us in around her exam prep.”
“Of course.” She eases back in her chair and turns ever so slightly to me. “And how’s that going, Lorianna?”
I clear my throat, already feeling like I’m going to cry. “It’s stressful.” She gives me an encouraging expression and I shift in my seat. “I really thought after last year that I’d have a better handle on it this time. I’ve been doing that worry diary like we talked about and yoga before bed. I tell Chris and Sophia and my mama every time I take a Clonazepam. I’ve been really careful about not drinking coffee or soda or caffeinated tea. And I’m making sure to get enough sleep.”
She nods slowly. “Is any of it helping?”
Pressing a finger pad to the corner of my eyes, I sniffle. “I mean yeah. But also, no? I’m not freaking out like I was Freshman year and I’m not… like I was last year. But it doesn’t really feel like stress is alleviated, more like it’s just a new kind of stress.”
“Remember what we always say Lorianna, medication and therapy is not to make feelings disappear but to have them be in the range of healthy. Life is stressful. School is stressful. Being a teenager is stressful. Those stresses are not going to go away…. I’m here to make them manageable and teach you coping skills.”
Knowing she’s right, I pivot my elbows on my knees and rub my face with both hands. “I still don’t think my stress is in the range of healthy though.”
“And do you think that’s because of school or because of the attention you’ve been getting from Buzzwire?”
Unable to stop the tears now, I shake my head. “It’s just so much.
“Like, I’m already a princess. I’m already a daughter of a prime minister. I’m already spending most of the time not in my home country. I already have the stress of going to a private school and taking AP classes. I already have the stress of trying to have a mature relationship not just with my friends but my boyfriend. And then, you add all the Buzzwire crap, and the fact Gabriella is trying to destroy me it’s like what the fuck?
“And then! Add in, now, that Macen isn’t even talking to me, and I am so fucking lost. Like what the fuck is that about? He has a boyfriend and doesn’t even tell me and I’m, like, the last person on the planet to find out. And it’s like what the actual fuck. He was my first American friend and then all he replies back to me is ‘you didn’t ask’? That’s fucking bull shit!
“I am so fucking lost and I just,” I swallow hard and can’t see through my tears, “I don’t know what to do.”
Thirty-seven minutes later I come out of Doctor Renfields’ office completely spent but with a game plan. After actually talking about the main source of my anxiety, talking about everything going on with Macen for the first time, the stress I felt towards my exams has eased tremendously. Talking about Macen actually took up most of the time and the rest was us discussing coping mechanisms, calming techniques, and how I can approach the subject with Macen and find a resolution for how I’m feeling.
Knowing myself well enough, though, I keep my phone on silent even when we get into the car. I need to get home, either take a bath or a nap, eat something healthy but filling, maybe watch some TV and then I’ll be ready to be a part of the world again. Being so exhausted I nod off in the car, Mama wakes me softly and sort of guides me inside.
Eyelids heavy, chin down to my chest, I semi-float in my rose-scented bubble bath, the flickering of the candle flames leaving me with a sense of calm. Anastasia must sense I’m starting to finally unwind because I can hear her walk around then lower herself to the fluffy bathmat, her long hair making a soft fluttering noise.
Most of the bubbles gone, water fading to cold, candles completely liquid, I finally emerge. Happy I’m wearing close-toed shoes tomorrow, I don’t worry myself over the pealing polish. My fingernails, on the other hand, I know I’ll want to re-do lavender after I eat while watching TV.
Hair in a towel, face washed and lotioned, rose pj’s on again, I head downstairs to scrounge up some dinner. My stomach honestly not feeling up to more than a couple of sandwiches, chips, and apple cider, I carry my plate and cup up to my bedroom – being careful of Anastasia as she tries to keep my pace on the stairs.
Windows open with the winter air, candles and string lights lit and on, TV turned to HGTV, I sit crisscross on my bed with my plate in front of me. After reaching for my glass for a third time, I finally look down at my face-down phone. A small sigh and I grab it. Notifications from everything, I swipe them all away. Turning my phone volume up just one push of the button, I got for my texts first.
No new messages in the Three Musketeers group chat. No new messages in the Take-Down-Gabriella group chat. New messages about what time are the girls meeting here tomorrow in the Girl’s Only Winter Formal group chat. Private messages from Sophia asking how therapy went and if I want to video chat. Private messages from Chris also asking how therapy went and to text or call when I feel up to it. After sending So-So a ‘I’m starting to feel better’ text, I focus on my conversation with Chris.
I’m so tired.
It was that rough, huh?
Like a stupid amount.
The Buzzwire crap?
Something going on with your family?
Like a real fight.
He’s not talking to me.
Parker mentioned something about that.
I’m sorry, darling.
A new message pops up from So-So.
I tap over to her private conversation.
Still want to video chat or call?
I’m totally free.
I’m okay, for now.
I’m just not handling my stress well
Exams are crazy this year.
I can’t imagine how finals are going to be.
But I can’t bring myself to bring up Macen.
Sophia hates being forced into the middle of anything.
Maybe because she’s the middle child, she can’t stand it.
And I know, with it being the three of us, there’s that constant worry of will Sophia and Macen gang up on me? With Sophia and I gang up on him? With Macen and I gang up on her?
The Gabriella/Buzzwire shit.
It needs to end ASAP
Oh. Yeah, totally.
Back over to Chris, I finish off my second sandwich and sip some apple cider.
I just don’t understand.
Like, I know why I’m frustrated
‘Cause he didn’t tell me.
Like, never brought up ‘my boyfriend’
Or ‘our date’ or anything like that.
It’s like he was fucking testing me
Seeing if I was paying attention.
From what I can tell,
He felt very awkward about it all.
I think it was hard for him to talk about.
And yet he can post it on Insta?
How does that make sense?
If you can post it to the Public,
You can fucking tell your best friend.
Thinking of what was talked about in therapy, I start a new conversation with Macen.
But right as I’m about to send a simple ‘hello’, there’s a new text from the Girls And Boys Winter Formal group chat.
Chris-Cross: Hey everyone!
Tomorrow’s the big day.
All the boys are set to get ready at my house.
Then we’ll be at Lori’s at four.
With plenty of time for pictures and transport,
We’ll arrive at Luca’s for our 5:30 rez.
After dinner we’ll be fashionably late
To the Winter Formal!
After the dance we discussed