Look at the way he's stacking up the wood, like he's some type of macho man. Obviously trying to impress me. He's completely clueless that he's overrated in my mind. And his jeans are way too tight. You know, he's not as hot as he thinks he is with sweat dripping down his forehead. And his neck. And his chest. And- Stop it.

... News flash, Owen. We're history.


17. Seventeen

We don't talk, even when we get back to school. I see him all the time in the hallway with Ava, more than usual. And it almost makes me feel like he's doing it on purpose. 

Maybe he's done with me. Finished. I certainly gave him the impression that I'm done, and I kinda wish I hadn't. This is good for you, Presley. I tell myself, over and over again until I believe it. He has somebody, you don't. Period. I spend so much time arguing with myself in English class that when I snap out of it, my thumb nail is stinging and stained with blood. The bell rings a bit too loudly for my liking and walk out quietly to meet Nicole in the crowded hallway. "What's up with you lately?" is the first question she asks. I heard her say hello a second ago, but acted like I didn't so I didn't respond. I shrug. "Seriously Presley, we've been back in school for five days and I can count on one hand how many times you've said something out loud. Enough with the silence." Her black hair falls in front of her eyes and she slaps it right back where it was. I can tell that I'm walking slow, and it's only because I get distracted by whats in front of me. Ava is two inches away about to slam into me with Owen at her side. He sees my blank face and pulls her away before her body can come into contact with mine. 

I think about the time when Owen and I were walking in the hall, and he saved me from that guy with the tuba. He pulled my body out of the way in a split second to keep me from getting knocked out. There's a hollow feeling in my stomach as I watch him hold her little waist tightly.

"Gosh, I'm sorry." Ava says, touching my arm as we part ways. Owen is still looking at me and his expression is just as unreadable as mine. I shake my head lightly to show her that it was no big deal, a kind gesture of politeness, and I still can't seem to turn my head away as they walk hand in hand.

"That's what it's about?" Nicole uses her thumb to point back at him, and I look at her for the first time. "Him?" Her mouth is hanging open a little and I bet she's wondering why my eye brows are furrowed. I don't even know why, I think it's to stop myself from bursting into tears. So I keep them like that and shake my head. I mentally erase that gesture and nod to answer her question correctly. She puts her cold hand on my back and I can feel it through my blouse. I think she did that to get me to move faster, I wouldn't doubt that the people behind me are getting frustrated. "Honey what happened?" 

"I don't know." I say it so softly and so simply that I'm not sure if she hears me. "I don't really wanna talk about it." I say, and it's a lie. The truth is I do want to talk about it, but not with Nicole. I know she'll be understanding, but I'd choose to talk to my mother over her any day. 

Gosh, I'm sorry. I play it again once in my head when Nicole brushes off the conversation. Sorry. Sorry for what? For taking the guy that I had first? For officially ruining any chance of me having an actual relationship with this guy? Gosh, I'm sorry.

I know I'm being over dramatic, but I don't stop myself from thinking that way. But by the time I'm sitting in history class, Nicole is barking on about apple-cinnamon scented soap and I've put a cork in my thoughts. Then I sigh, because suddenly I'm tired. 


"Miss Brooks." My body is shaking, and not because I'm cold. "Miss Brooks." My teacher is nudging my arm too hard, and if he doesn't stop i think I might puke. But then I realize that I'm asleep so I sit up and open my eyes. I try to avoid all eye-contact with Mr. Hennard, and I'm dizzy from all the rocking back and forth. "Thank you for sleeping through my class." I look around to see that the class room is empty and I can easily hear the loud mobs in the hall shuffling to their next classes. "Off to your last period, you don't want to be late. I'll see you after school." He hands me a pink detention slip and I roll my eyes. I grab my bag and snatch the pass. Then I'm out.

I decide to skip Hazel's class, since I'm done with most of my work for the play. I don't feel like seeing Owen because I don't think he'd be able to avoid me as well as he has been for the past few days. He'll probably want to talk or make a stupid joke that I won't laugh at. 

The door to the apartment is open when i get there, and I hear stumbling. My body stands still as I wait for James and Kaylin to part, and when they do they're out of breath with big smiles on their faces. "P, come here." He doesn't ask me why I'm not in school, and I don't ask him why he's not at work. He looks happy, and I know what he's going to say before he says it because I can see the ring on Kaylin's finger. I bite my lip and stare at it with hard eyes. She holds out her hand for me to see it, clearly because she thinks I'm happy for them. "We're engaged." He says, loud so that it pierces my ear drums and my hands start to shake. I look at her finger for just one more second, and then I steal a glance from my brother. He's still smiling, unlike me. Kaylin awkwardly drops her hand and folds it with her other one. I watch carefully then as he pushes a piece of hair behind her ear and she nuzzles her cheek into his palm tenderly. James leans forward to kiss her cheek. 

"I can't believe we're getting married." she says, smiling hard enough to show her teeth. 




It's like they forget that I'm here because they won't stop looking at each other like they're about to rip each other's clothes off. And it makes me sick. "Excuse me." I say quietly, my fingers gripping my purse as I walk to my room. I pace for a few seconds until my butt finds a seat on the edge of my bed. Then my door opens, and I stand to my feet again. They hurt, but I try not to think about it. "P..." I walk to my big brother with my eyes glued to him. "Do you wanna talk?" I shake my head. 

"I have to get back to school." I give him a smile and I hope it doesn't look too pained. "I'll be late for detention if I don't leave now." I say without regret in an attempt to make myself seem rebellious. I only regret it when i see that it doesn't work and James does not seem phased by my words. I brush past him and walk -faster than I should- to the door. I don't dare to look at Kaylin but I know she's still standing in the same spot that she was when I left them. I don't know why, but I don't close the door behind me after I walk through it. 


My hands are wrapped around my warm coffee cup, and I'm staring at my chewed up finger. There's other kids in here, but I'm early even though I stopped for my beverage. My eyes are closed for a few minutes because I'm afraid I might cry, and when I feel okay i open them again. There are more people surrounding me, and one person seated beside me. My eyes close again after I hear the raspy voice. "Are you okay?" I nod and look away from him, then take a long slow sip of caffeine. There must be something wrong with my face because Owen asks again. "Seriously Presley, are you okay?" I imagine myself looking pale, or my eyes beaming red with dark circles underneath. 

"I said yes." I still won't look at him, and I'm perfectly content with my view of the white wall on my left side. I hold my cup tighter and lean back in my chair. I can feel my bones quivering beneath my skin, so I focus on the heat of my paper cup radiating through my fingers. That doesn't work so I allow my arms to slither around my torso in a hug and my eyes return to being shut until the adult in charge marches into the room. 

"Why didn't you show up to Hazel's today?" I feel lips almost touching my ear, and I shoot my body backward because he's too close. 

"None of your business."  I don't keep my voice as low as his, but it's still considered a whisper. Reese walks in and walks toward the first table he sees in the front of the room. Before he sits down he shoots me a wink, and I smile to look bashful. He has a scabbed lip and an almost healed cut above his eyebrow. 

"What did you get busted for?" Owen asks.

"None of your business." I repeat, this time with more of an edge in my attitude.

"Listen, I'm just trying to make conversation." He's trying to act innocent, like I'm doing something wrong. When all I did was give him simple answers. 

"I don't want to make conversation with you." I finally look at him and I notice the stubble on his chin is growing up to his lower cheeks. It's dark and scruffy, and I want to reach over to let my fingers wander on the hair. My eyes look away from the stubble to his eyes that have a purple-like hue across his bottom water line where his short lower lashes live. I don't know if he's tired or if he's been crying, but he looks away when he sees me gazing. "I don't want anything with you." Those words kinda stumble past my lips, and the voice didn't sound like it belonged to me. He looks back again like he's shocked at my words, and I'm shocked too because that strong aching feeling in my heart is telling me that it was a lie. 

"Tell me you're lying." I don't think he meant to say that out loud, because he purses his lips hard after he says it. I don't respond to him because the teacher scolds us for talking. But I don't know if I would have said anything anyway if the man hadn't yelled. 

One hour and a cup of coffee later, I feel like I'll burst if I don't stand up soon. My veins are jumping and my brain is screaming. "Okay you're free." the teacher says, and I shoot up out of my seat. Owen and I are walking at the same pace, but he lets me go out first. The words spit out before I can even process them. 

"I didn't think you wanted anything to do with me." He stops and I stop too, but it takes me a second. Now instead of him being next to me he's more than a foot away. 

"Pres, you don't understand." I'm relieved to hear him call me that again, but I push the relief away because I remind myself that I'm supposed to be mad. Actually, I don't know what I'm supposed to be. "I love you." 

I don't have time to process what he says and I speak again. "If you love me then why are you with her?" I don't mean to scream it, but I do. It feels like there's gravel in my throat, and my blood feels like its made of caffeine. "What, do you love both of us? Is that what it is?" 

"No, Pres. I can't be with you. I want to be with you but I can't." I can tell that he's trying to be calm, but I want to poke him until he explodes. 

"I gave you chance after chance and you never left her!" 

"Because I can't!" He shouts it ferociously, much louder than I even thought he was capable of. "I can't leave her!" He hit his boiling point and the look on his face should scare me but it doesn't. Red face and protruding neck veins.

 "You knew this whole time that you were never just a friend to me!" He's mad, and taking action in what looks like a pace. "You cant possibly love me if you can't let go of her." My finger is pointed at him and it's shaking. 

"She's pregnant." Those two words echo in my head just as loud as he spoke them. A loud boom that I can't get rid of. The next ones are quieter and familiar. "I can't leave her." He's shaking his head like he's about to cry. I bet he's been doing a lot of that lately. 

Ava's pregnant. 


I don't plan on asking if the baby is his because that's a stupid question.

Owen will be a father. 


Now that she's with child they'll probably get married. He'll buy her a ring just like Kaylin's. My future sister-in-law. Everybody will live happily ever after, and I'm nowhere to be found in either of these equations. "I love you." he says, and I surprise myself with what happens next. 

"I love you too." But then I walk away. And he doesn't follow me. Because he can't. 

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