16 year old Sophia Brooks has just lost her father. She's in therapy for depression and doesn't talk to her mom anymore since her dad's death. But when she leaves her notebook in class after having an emotional breakdown everything changes. Her boyfriend Derek distances himself from her and a mysterious boy dubbing himself "A.Q." writes back to her in her journal. Will Sophia get over her depression? Will she find out A.Q.'s true identity? Will love blossom between the two?


1. Entry One

                People will say “My life could practically be a novel.”

                Well, some people will say that. My therapist, Marilyn tells me that I shouldn’t say that or—what was the word she used? I should abstain from using that phrase. That it doesn’t apply to me, she says.

                I think she’s right.

                I don’t think my life is any harder or better than anyone else’s. I think I’m managing it better than I ever did. I’m certainly more consistent. Don’t get me wrong though, there are days I don’t want to take my medicine or drag myself out of bed for therapy. But I do it for myself. And I think that’s the application of growing up—the application of maturity. It’s recognizing that every action you do selfishly isn’t in actuality selfish it’s a demonstration of you prioritizing what’s right for you. Without the proverbial gun at your head, against your forehead, finger on the trigger, without all that, there are you and your own presented options and what you can choose to do. Then there are your outcomes.

                Marilyn told me to write my story to you. She said it would help. Part of me thinks that you would be proud to see how my life turned out. Part of me thinks there would be parts you’d shake your head at. Another part, my real self, it misses you so much. I’d tell you that over and over. I’d want you to read to my nine year old self again. I’d want you to cocoon us in our fort of blankets and comforters with snowdrifts outside. Part of me knows—my wise mind knows—that you’re gone and you’ll never come back but still … I write. This is for you.

                So this is how it started. Dad was in a coma. He fell into a deep Sleeping Beauty sleep. Then one day after his fingers twitched and atrophied, after, when you talked to him and his eyelids fluttered, he never woke up. Then mom cried nonstop and I, was never the same. That’s what happens when you lose a parent. It scoops out your everything, hollows you out, and leaves you in inky black nothingness. We had to pack up all of Dad’s precious things: his pressed suits, ties, fishing gear, his grandfather’s wedding band that he would’ve passed down to me … had I been a boy. All of his things were stored away but the memories haunt you.

                Dad died last year.

                It was a Sunday.

                Now mom is saying we’re moving to Winchester. Stepford Wives Ville. I’m dreading it. I miss our two story home in New York. I miss Dad’s too burnt lasagna. I miss the smell of his shaving cream when I hugged him. I miss him spending time with me in Grand Central Park for designated “Me and You” time even if he was in one of his pressed suits because it was right after he got out of work. I’m still ten at heart mom and I’m fucking sorry. I’m not leaving dad behind. I won’t.

September 1, 2012

                Everything is in a U-Haul truck.

                I took Dad’s ashes with me as a memento. It’s strange because all of our belongings are trailing behind us and rattling against boxes marked with “CAUTION” tape. Your life becomes this mobile sentient thing.

                I tend to philosophize a lot.

                Mom is texting beside me. She’s always texting. “Work,” she says. Work is at a law firm in New York. She’s a lawyer. She’s one of those hair pinned up in a messy French bun types. Tiny but every word is punctuated and meaningful. Ever word from her mouth carries weight and bites acerbically. Mom and I rarely talk since Dad passed. We usually communicate by Post It notes from Staples or Office Depot. “Be back later, in a meeting, spaghetti in fridge” or “Going to Derek’s to chill be back by 10” or “Clean bathrooms and mop kitchen <3.”

                We say “I love you” on rare occasions when it’s needed. Love isn’t something meaningless or said frivolously. It carries weight too.

                When we move in we’re greeted by the neighbors: Amy, Nick and Devin. Amy’s a single mom with two teenage boys. Nick reminds me of a taller Gerard Way pre-MCR. His eyes are a warm forget me not blue. Devin is a charming shorter twin of his brother. He’s far more timid whereas Devin is way more outspoken. Amy insists that we come over. She’ll be making tuna casserole and we can even watch some DVDs with the boys and her. It’s her welcome gift she tells my mom, trying to lighten her up from work. It’ll be a potluck, this weekend, mom says sure. Mom rarely goes out so I think it’s good that she’s socializing again. It’ll give me an excuse to get assimilated into the new neighborhood at least a little bit. But it’ll just be us Amy says.

                Mom says that fine. Amidst unpacking boxes after mom hangs up the phone, there’s the smell of well cooked lasagna. Mom is alive with the urgings to bake and cook. For a moment she’s like she was before dad died—she’s replaced with her vivacious former self. Cooking has always been her strength. She’s alive with the need to soothe our stomachs. It’s the first time she’s been truly happy in a long time.

                September 2, 2012

                It’s bizarre and discomforting waking up from a cheap cot, a futon to be exact. But mom and I sacrificed five hundred dollars for the thing at a local furniture store.

                I stayed up all night phoning Derek. I told him I missed him. I told him I couldn’t wait to see him. I missed his hugs. I missed the smell of his cologne. He said he missed me too and how was Winchester? And I thought of the cookie cutter vinyl siding houses with their manicured lawns. I thought of Nick’s sweaty palms and easy smile. I thought of Amy telling mom how she works two part-time jobs. I thought of the neighbors who we didn’t meet but saw already.

                I thought lastly of dad. I always think of dad during the cooler nights. When I was smaller we’d make blanket forts (I think I mentioned this in the very beginning). We’d make blanket forts with Gran-Gran’s old sewn and crotched quilts. We’d watch Disney movies until I fell asleep. On nights like these I’d want that even at sixteen years old. Instead, tonight, I take solace in Silver Linings Playbook and read until I fall asleep without the covers.

                In the morning I find myself draped in a green “I love Jesus” quilt smelling distinctly of mothballs. ‘I thought you’d get chilly. I love you. P.S. Frosted Flakes on the counter, case is @ 8:30,’ greets me from the white General Electric fridge in the kitchen. It hums quietly. I feel terribly alone. Moving sucks.

September 3, 2013

                Mom got angry that I wasn’t eating, that I wasn’t sitting with her to eat, more specifically. She said if I kept picking at the leftover lasagna that she’d phone Marilyn. I didn’t want to talk to her or process anything. I didn’t want to say that sitting in the dining chair by the bay window reminded me of dad because he’d usually sit there. That I waited for him to come through the door, kiss mom and I on our cheeks, put his suitcase down and make a stupid joke about the lasagna or that I was waiting and hoping for that for one full year now.

                So … instead … I packed my JanSport bag with the crap we’d gotten from Target. 5-subject notebooks, excess pens, mechanical pencils and standard solid color folders because I was a boring consumer. I tried to sleep but I ended up digging into my arm with a razor blade until I was numb. I did it until the tears mixed with the dried blood on my arm. Three lines, that’s it, and they were vertically slashed all jagged. I washed the disposable razor blade out in the sink, watching the blood swirl into a pinkish hue down the drain. Then I threw it out in the garbage can and applied bandaids to my tender arms. I pulled on one of mom’s old fall sweaters over my small body then I popped an Ambien in my mouth and dry swallowed. I prayed not to wake up. But I would … I always did. 

                September 4, 2013

                The thing about cuts is that they still smart and sting the day after. The memory of the blade against your skin persists. It’s the only thing I feel now.

                I wake up on Mom’s seventh insistent knock and exasperated, “didn’t you hear me?!” She watches me and a tired look pulls over her eyes. She looks old, older than forty three. Grief ages people, kills love, burns bridges and sometimes but rarely does it mend them. She tells me to get ready for school.

                Everything is monotonous and composed of gray since dad died. I look at everyone with an incomprehensible bitterness. Their fathers don’t have a clock measuring the span of their lifetimes above their heads.

                Frosted flakes are tasteless and soggy.

                On the bus I immerse myself in Green Day and pre-breakup MCR. I know eyes are boring into my head. I can feel them staring at me. I’m totally certain I’m being judged. Look at the girl sitting by herself. She doesn’t talk. She must be mute. She must be stupid. Don’t touch her or look at her too hard, she’s a freak. I burrow deeper into my seat. I withdraw further from everyone into myself. I dig my fingernails into my palms.

                Colors of verdant green grass and vermillion sky bleed and whiz past me.

                The world turns while worms eat dad’s flesh.

                Today will be another shitty day. Today I am unsure if I want to live and breathe with everyone else.

                September 5, 2013

                It’s the second day, third period in US History 2 that I see Amaya. She’s a seat across from me in the last row. Her cornrows are dyed every color in the rainbow: red, yellow, blue, green, indigo … She’s engrossed in me, watching as I fidget and bite my nails to the quick in my seat. I answer questions softly and avert my eyes only when our balding middle aged teacher asked me if I am okay. Of course I’m okay I respond. There’s nothing wrong, nothing to see. Blood splattered on my page. My fingers were bleeding. I sat there mouth agape with tears splotching the page. The ink ran like watercolor. “Freak,” “The fuck is wrong with the new chick?” “Psych ward for her,” “Ten bucks says she’s a cutter.” As soon as the last word processes in my head I’m over this shitty uppity school.

                A dozen pair of eyes stares at me. A pretty girl with blond hair, mousy, laughs at me with her algid blue eyes. The chair scrapes as I push it back, calmly get up and walk out of the room. Blood splattered the front of my Metallica hoodie like paint.

                I’m so done.

                I take out my cell phone and speed dial Marilyn with trembling fingers. I see Amaya fighting with the teacher. I hear the words coming out of her mouth but they’re all muffled as I tearfully cry to my therapist. I struggle to get the words out. Marilyn asks me what’s wrong what’s wrong but I can’t respond. “Trigger … new girl … be more understanding … peers are idiots!” I decide then I love this girl with her multicolored cornrows and chapped brown lips. She’s my only best friend.  

                September 7, 2013

                This is really awkward but you left your notebook in Mr. Fletcher’s classroom. Are you okay? Sorry I write like how I text. I jump around a lot. Anyway I have it.  Text me: 732-629-0777, text me if you want it back okay?

P.S. I always write in cursive.


                September 8, 2013

                A? Whoever you are, I need my journal back. I texted you last night while my mom was making dinner. I was hanging out on the roof thinking about things. I think a lot … I like to have my solitude. Anyway I’d like to meet so I could get my journal back, its part of my grief therapy. Please give it back, thanks.

P.S. I always bite my nails. It’s a nervous habit. And your cursive is beautiful. Just saying, yeah …

                Sophia A. Brooks

                September 9, 2013

                Amaya told me she finds you intriguing. Do you always read in class? Silver Linings Playbook is a pretty good book. My sister got it for me at a discount. She works at Barnes & Noble’s. You have any siblings? I just find you to be so mysterious. I know this is intrusive but … grief counseling? Someone died?

                I’m sorry for your loss whoever it is and all that. Don’t you hate when someone says that? Like the pity is an automatic response … something calculated? It’s fucking forced and meaningless. I lost my dad too but I was about eleven when he passed from stomach cancer. So I know how it feels to not have a parent, if that’s the case. Anyway text me again, I’ve decided I like this back and forth. I’m leaving your notebook in the library again just like I promised last time I texted you.


P.S. Amaya’s gay. I think she’s into you. She wants the P.

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