"I keep telling you," Liz said. "You should call him. You should say you're sorry and ask him if you guys can talk."
"Can we, like, not talk about this anymore?" Danielle said.
"Danielle, school starts tomorrow. We're going to be juniors. You'll have to see him, whether you want to or not." Danielle had been trying not to think about that either.
The remaining weeks of summer had been different than she'd predicted when her sophomore year ended. She'd thought she'd get a job, maybe, or take some classes; she thought she'd hang out with friends. That last part had certainly been true, and she could be nothing but grateful for the support Liz had shown her; she had even managed to get through to Liana French, one of Shelly's clique, and been informed by the Frenches' housekeeper that Miss Liana had received her message and would call upon her once the school year began. But she'd also expected to be spending time with David—laughing, talking, joking; watching TV, going to the movies, going to the mall, playing video games; leaving silly notes for each other on Facebook, sharing pictures of cute kittens or the latest YouTube folly. Kissing him. Making out with him. Sleeping in his arms. Making love with him, even. Instead all she'd had of him was their traditional fumbling and then a perfunctory first time which had been ruined by an immediate break-up. At least she wasn't pregnant.
"Maybe I'll see him," said Danielle, "but that doesn't mean I want to talk to him."
"Yes you do," said Liz. "You do, and you know it."
Danielle didn't answer that. Nor did she mention the times when she would jerk out of a sound sleep, cold sweat on her brow, tears in her eyes, the remains of some bloodstained dream in her head. The most recent time, she'd seen him flayed apart by shards of glass; the time before that, he had dissolved into a pool of blood and skin. Always his eyes remained, stricken, with a look of infinite sadness.
"But he hasn't talked to me," Danielle said. "I haven't heard a darn thing from him since the last time we spoke."
"You did say you never wanted anything more to do with him," Liz said, "maybe he took you seriously." Even through the phone's tinny buzz, Danielle could hear the reproach.
"Yeah, well..." Danielle insisted. "He should still be trying. He should still care."
She heard the sigh. "Whatever. Do you wanna drive, or shall I?"
That was the other big thing: both she and Liz had their licenses now, and parking permits newly furnished by the school. David, born in January, wouldn't get to test for months. Suddenly she remembered all the plans they'd made about what they'd do together when they could finally be alone in a car. Davey had wanted to try doing it in the back seat, and Danielle—assuming she liked sex, of course—hadn't seen anything wrong with experimenting. Evidently, this was not to be.
"Hello? Dani? You still there?"
"I don't care," she said. "Umm... Do you wanna?"
There was a silence. Then Liz said, "You were thinking about him, weren't you."
"Look, just stop it, okay?" said Danielle, getting angry now. "So we broke up. I'm allowed a little reaction, aren't I?"
"You're allowed a lot more than a little reaction, Danielle, but you aren't showing much of one. I've never seen you cry, or heard you be angry, or, or anything. Instead I just see this look of steel on your face, like you aren't going to let him defeat you. ...Come to think of it, maybe I should drive. I'm not sure I want to be driven with someone wearing an expression like yours."
"Fine, whatever," said Danielle. "Can you come like fifteen minutes early? I wanna see if I can change my class schedules so I'm not in all the same classes as him."
After a silence, Liz heaved another sigh. "Okay. I can do that."
"See you tomorrow, then."
"See you tomorrow, Danielle."
The next morning, she took a long shower, and then spent almost fifteen minutes trying to figure out what to wear. Eventually she settled on the tank top David had always liked, the one with the gather on the front to draw attention to her chest, and the jeans which he said made her bottom look good. Her hair she brushed out to perfection until it flowed like a river of gold. The whole thing was marred by the realization that her period should be coming in soon and that she had better stick a pad in just to be safe. But that was life; at least she wasn't pregnant from that little debacle in the field.
On her way out, she gave herself one last glance in the mirror... And wondered who she was kidding. The only person she was guaranteed to attract the attention of was David himself—and that was completely not the point; the whole point was to make herself look attractive to the other boys. ...Wasn't it? What did other boys like, anyway? She suddenly wished she'd thought to ask Martin.
Changing classes was harder than she'd expected: there was a line queueing up outside the registrar's office, some of them looking as though they'd been there for quite a while already. Liz gave the whole thing one look before clapping her on the shoulder—"See you in class, then"—a response Danielle found somewhat irritating, if completely understandable. Would she want to wait for this if she didn't have to? Liz had been a wonderful friend over the last few weeks, but Danielle guessed they'd found the limits of that friendship.
The faces of the other people in line were an interesting study: the older they were, the wearier they seemed, as though the seniors couldn't wait to get out of here. None of them had the open faces she associated with freshmen; presumably, none of those were smart enough to know you could petition to change classes, since it was their first day and (after all) they were freshmen. And amongst the many strangers she glimpsed several people she recognized: Mohinder Ramakandra, who was dating Jenny Slater; Ramona Brown, long-time girlfriend to track superstar Alex Field. And there was Seamus O'Reilly, who had been with Wendy Stern for as long as she could remember. Their grim expressions set a jolt through her: if any of them had broken up, how would she know?—she'd been out of touch for most of the summer. Were they here for the same reason she was? Was this the line where the debris of the summer's broken relationships relationships was finally swept out of sight?
It took nearly an hour to advance through the line and get her classes sorted out (Danielle wondered why it was taking so long until she actually got inside the office, where she saw Mrs. Jenkins and two secretaries working full steam to process everyone), and she was late to her first class, English, by a good half-hour. Even more than that, she couldn't rearrange her schedule entirely; AP Environmental Science was only being offered during one period this quarter, so she must either abandon it or face David in it every day. She sat there chewing her lip for a full minute, while the secretary tapped a pen against the table in irritation, before finally deciding that she would have to deal with it. Five minutes later she had to walk up to Mr. Emory and give him her pink excuse slip before the eyes of everyone in the room, before finding the only empty seat in the room (it was right in the middle) and sitting down.
There were people she hadn't seen since the end of last year—Aisha Wilson, Maggie Chung, Roger Brown, Manuel Gonzaga, Lettie Halder, and more, and more—who would accost her in the halls, ask her how her summer had been. That was bad enough to start with, but inevitably their next question would be about David. Maybe she should've expected it; after all, weren't they peas in a pod, two of a kind? But right then and there, it hurt. It hurt a lot. By the end of second period she had taken to just blurting out that he was okay, and then excusing herself. What hurt most was that nobody seemed to notice.
By break time she understood why the seniors had that look on their face. Liz, who (thank God!) was in the class with her, took one look at her face and then led her away. They ended up under a tree on the edge of the main quad; because Carmen, Heidi and Vanessa showed up shortly thereafter, Danielle assumed it must be their regular meeting place. "Gawd, Danielle, you look, like, rilly beat up," said Vanessa.
"You're telling me," said Danielle.
"Are you, like, seeing him in all your classes, or something?" said Vanessa.
"We got here early so she could get her classes switched around," Liz told her. "How'd it go?"
"It worked," said Danielle, "mostly." She explained about AP Enviro Sci, which she had wanted to take ever since she'd heard the class existed. "We were both excited—and even more excited when we both got in. Now..."
"I'm sure you'll cope," said Carmen. "It's right before lunch, isn't it? At least you can escape after that."
"I know," said Danielle. "I just... I don't know what it'll be like to see him now."
"What was it like when you broke up with your other boyfriends?" Heidi asked.
Danielle gave her a cold look.
"...What?" said Heidi. Danielle thought she had never met anyone quite as oblivious.
"She's never dated anyone else, stupid," said Carmen. And besides, Danielle thought, this was... a little more than dating.
But when the time came, there was nothing to worry about. She was a wreck all throughout French 3, dreading the upcoming fifth-period class... But when she got there, David was nowhere to be seen, and his name was not called. Or rather, it kind of was: the teacher, a rather disreputable-looking woman who went by the unlikely name of Moonsnow (not even Mrs. Moonsnow, just Moonsnow) started to say, "David Gla— Oh, that's right, he dropped the class, didn't he." When? Danielle hadn't seen him this morning. She felt a wash of relief. And a little pang of guilt that he had had to bow out of this class. She knew he'd wanted to be here.
She had planned to meet Liz and the others back at the quad for lunch, but as she was approaching her locker a shout rang out—"There you are!"—and she found herself accosted. It was Amy Plisken, who was the lowest on Shelly Baumgarter's totem pole after Danielle herself. "Where the heck have you been? We've been looking all over for you."
"Wh... What?" said Danielle.
"Yeah, totally!" Amy said. "We couldn't find you. Where the heck have you been?"
"I... Just..." It suddenly occurred to her that Shelly might not like hearing that Danielle had made some other friends. Especially if they'd been looking for her. I didn't tell anybody, but they must've heard somehow. And when I didn't show up... Wow, they went and tried to find me? She hadn't known they cared that much.
"Well, we've found you," said Amy. "Come on." And without another word she dragged Danielle back over to the corner of the Student Center, where Shelly always held court.
"Oh, Dee," said Shelly. Her hair was a dazzling red and by far her strongest feature—after, at least, her perfect boobs. They were full and well-shaped, with a lot of cleavage, and Shelly always wore push-up bras and low-cut tops to show them off. She was putting on weight, Danielle could see, but nobody would dare challenge her on it. Besides, she was carrying it well; it filled out her bottom and her breasts (which hardly needed the help, Danielle thought resentfully) and, combined with the artfully-applied makeup and perfect bangle earrings, made her seem older than she was, and glamorous. She gave Danielle a cursory once-over as she arrived. "Good, you're here. We need an opinion."
"An... Opinion?" said Danielle.
"Yes, we need you to break a tie. Chloe wants to date Angelo Navarre—you know, the one who cheated on Jessie Stimson last year? Liana and I think it would be a bad idea, but Amy and Missy say there might be hope. We need you to weigh in." Behind her, Chloe Reubens was practically jumping with anxiety.
"I... You need..." said Danielle, who was not being received the way she'd anticipated. "...But what about Davey?"
"What about Davey," said Shelly, with a cross look. She could be remarkably generous when she wanted, but today her dominance was at stake, and it was all cold business eyes and impatience. "We've wasted enough time waiting for you; Chloe promised she'd answer him by now. We've more important issues at hand than your little boyfriend problems."
She felt her eyes burning.
"Danielle," said Shelly, her voice like a whip-crack. "Pull yourself together. You're a good-looking girl when you take care of yourself, but we don't need friends who'll just go straight to pieces because someone hurts their feelings."
"Actually, speaking of David," said Missy Renquist, before Danielle could respond (before Danielle could even begin to think about responding). She had a clear, transcendent beauty, like living ice; her smiles never touched her eyes. "I have to submit a motion too. He asked me out after third period."
Danielle stared at her, hearing blood rush in her ears. For a moment the world swayed perilously.
Shelly gave Missy a cold, direct look. "Poaching another girl's boyfriend is against the rules, Missy. As is letting yourself be poached. You should know that."
"He said it wouldn't be a problem," said Missy. "He said he and Danielle were over." Her eyes cut to Danielle.
"Well, if it's over..." said Shelly. She turned to face Danielle. "As you know, you have the right to lodge a formal protest. If you think it's too soon— When did this happen, anyway?"
"Just... Just after July 4th," said Danielle.
"Oh," said Shelly. "Well, that's too bad. You were together for a while, weren't you?"
"That's outside the time frame of the formal protest," said Liana, who had always been a stickler for rules. "You told us that you can only lodge a protest if the rebound happens within a month. It's been more six weeks."
"Very good point," said Shelly, "I guess you're out of luck, Dee. Does anyone else have any more objections?"
Nobody did, though Amy Schulz did give her an apologetic look.
"All right then," said Shelly. "Missy, you're free to do whatever seems best to you. Maybe you can help shed some light on why he's still a virgin despite his long association with Dee."
"Oh, he's not anymore," said Amy suddenly. "Didn't you hear?"
Shelly turned to face her. She was the only one seated. "Hear what?"
"I heard it from Oscar Wentz, who said he had it from Scott O'Connor." Scott was one of David's oldest friends. "He says David's not a virgin anymore."
"Really?" said Shelly, sounding anything other than formal for the first time all day. "But who would he have gotten together with? If he was cheating, we would've heard."
"There was a series of shrugs or other gestures from her followers. Then, almost as if they were a single person, five pairs of eyes turned to Danielle.
Danielle tried to pretend her eyes weren't still watering. Did they have to dissect it now?
"What I want to know is," said Shelly, "how this relates to the break-up. Boys dump girls normally because of a lack of sex, not for getting it."
"What I want to know is what sort of shoes I'll have to fill," Missy said. "I mean, he hung on to that girl for years, he must've had some reason. And it might have colored his perceptions of the deed as well. Tell me, Danielle did he seem to enjoy doing it with you? Was there anything he particularly liked?"
"Maybe he dumped her because she was a really bad lay," said Chloe with a sharp little titter.
It was too much. Danielle turned and ran. Shouts pursued her, and she ran into someone, blinded by tears, but she didn't care. She took her refuge in the girls' bathroom, and if anyone heard her sob, they would just have to deal with it. She huddled in the cold, stale room, burying her face in her hands, trying not to make a noise, listening to the chatter of other girls and the flush of toilets, wishing she was like them, that her biggest problems could be so easy to dispose of.
"Danielle." Liana's cold voice rang through the room. "Shelly wants you to come out." But Danielle didn't answer, and after a minute Liana left again. Danielle knew she would probably never hear from any of those girls again.
She didn't want to face Liz right now, nor any of the others; Liz was a good friend but not a kind one, and the others were just too stupid to be borne right now. She stayed in the bathroom until the bell rang again. Three times someone rattled on the stall and complained about people taking forever on the toilet. Danielle didn't care. She hoped their bladders would burst and they would die.
By the time the final bell rang, she was ready for summer again; she felt as though she had aged a million years since she'd first set foot on campus. She wanted to go home and just fling herself in bed; her bed, she had always believed, was a magic bed, a place of safety where nobody could ever hear her or see her or bother her... Or hear her cry. Only, she was not a child anymore. She was sixteen, nearly an adult, and there were books to put covers on, syllabii to review, even some short homework assignments to complete.
All in all, it was not shaping up to be a great year.
She spread her things out in front of her, prepared to get to work, but—it seemed it was always this way nowadays—in a moment she was gone again, dwelling endlessly on what she'd heard over the lunch break. That David would tell his friends he'd finally done it—especially Scott O'Connor, his best guy friend—did not particularly surprise her; it worried her that everyone must know by now. She wondered if his popularity was going to soar. She wondered if hers would dwindle. Then again, she'd basically guaranteed that herself, by defying Shelly Baumgarter. She didn't know how Shelly's revenge would come, but she had no doubt it would; there would be a reckoning, and the price she would pay would be far out of proportion, it always was. She wondered if she would ever be asked out again before college started.
And David... Asking out Missy Renquist? Her Davey? He'd never expressed anything like interest in her before—not even ill-thought-out comments like the one he'd made about Shelly. To her knowledge, she wasn't his type at all; would they even get along? At least Missy had more of a figure. While David had never expressed dissatisfaction at Danielle's slimness, his comments about Shelly's bust (and Amy's) (and Renata Hindenmouth's) suggested a more voluptuous girl would be his preference. Carefully she went over the conversation in her mind (as much of it as she could recall), trying to reconstruct the circumstances, trying to figure out what was going on. Had she heard wrong? Was Missy lying to her, just to mess with her head? But why would she do that? Well, in revenge, possibly, for having held things up at break. Shelly brooked no insubordination within her ranks; if she wanted something done, it would get done, and anyone who hindered her would pay the price. It was within reason that it had all been a lie. Especially since dating Missy would bring him into contact with Danielle.
But it was about as reasonable that it might be true. After all, dating Missy right under Danielle's nose... It was a cold thing to do, but she thought he might have the balls to do it.
How on earth would she ever figure out what was correct anymore?
Suddenly Danielle found herself wishing David had not dropped Enviro Sci. At least she could talk to him about it then. Her whole world seemed to have gone topsy-turvy, and she had no idea how to stabilize it. David had been how she stabilized it. And now David was out of reach.
Maybe she should call him.
The idea took fire in her mind, fanned by the winds of hope. Yes, perhaps she could call him, and he would explain. Maybe he was dating Missy to get back to her. Maybe it was to hurt her feelings in revenge, or remind her of what she had lost. Maybe he wanted to talk to her and didn't feel comfortable just picking up the phone anymore (well, why wouldn't he, silly boy?). Maybe if she called, there would be an answer. Maybe, if she called, his oh-so-familiar voice would be on the other end. Maybe, if she called...
"Danielle!" someone shouted.
Danielle jumped. It was her mother's voice. Hurrying to the door, she called back, "What?"
Her mother said something, but Sonya—eleven-year-old brat that she was—overrode her. "Your boyfriend's mother's here!" she shrieked. "She wants to see you! What'd you do, give him coooooties?"
Sonya was gloating as Danielle stalked down the hall. "Little girl, I am going to fuck you up the ass with a hot knife," Danielle growled.
"I'd like to see you try." Sonya had taken martial arts lessons since she was seven, and she thought she was a boy. She certainly bullied like one: a rustle of sound, a whoosh, and something clipped Danielle's ear, slamming her head against the wall with an audible crash. A picture jolted loose and smashed to the ground, the glass shattering. Before Danielle could shake the stars from her eyes and prove that you didn't need a pink belt (or whatever the hell Sonya had) to kill with your bare hands, her sister had already gone. Sonya, of course, never attacked David: it had been he who introduced her to Taekwondo, and she always showed him the respect of an equal. (Besides, he would probably have won if she'd tried.)
"Danielle?" came her mother's voice, preceding her mother's head into the hallway by a moment. "Danielle? Are you all right?" Her mother's eyes alighted upon the smashed frame. "Did you do that?"
"You know me, the clumsiest motherfucker in the history of ever," Danielle snarled. Her parents did not believe that Sonya would ever be violent. The little bitch was certainly smart enough not to beat up her sister in public. Danielle had given up on telling the truth.
"Her mother crossed the hall in two mighty strides and slapped her across the face. "Danielle Sabrina Mayer, if I ever hear you use that kind of language again—"
"Mom, fuck you. I've had a terrible day and you're not making it better. Now either take me to David's mom or get out of my way." She pulled her head up and glared.
"No," said Mom, "no." Grabbing Danielle's ear and twisting, Mom hauled her back down the hallway. "You're going to your room, little missy, and you're not coming out until tomorrow morning. And don't think about seeing your friends either until next month. You're grounded. Disrespectful little girls like you shouldn't be seen in public." She slammed the door behind her and locked it.
Danielle wished her magical bed had wings.
It was some time before anything else happened. There was no way she could do homework, of course, stirred up as she was; she wanted to grab something and smash it against the wall, but there was nothing in the room she wouldn't miss if it were broken (or, in the case of her schoolbooks, be forced to buy again). But finally there was a knock at the door. "Come in, come in," Danielle cried, "the lock's on your side, for God's sake."
But it wasn't her mother. It was David's mom. "Danielle," she said.
Danielle jumped up off the bed, aware of how stupid she must look. "Umm. Hi, Mrs. Glass. I didn't think my mom would let me see you."
"She didn't want to," said Lydia Glass. She had the most understanding eyes of anyone Danielle had ever met. "But after I explained, she relented a little."
"Umm... Explained what?" said Danielle, who still wasn't entirely sure what Mrs. Glass was doing here.
Mrs. Glass sighed. "I explained about... what happened. Between you and Davey."
Danielle felt ice in her guts. Did David tell his mom about... Did his mom tell my mom about... "You explained about...?"
"How you and he broke up," said Mrs. Glass.
Danielle felt herself sagging with relief. There were some things her mom could know, just fine. There were others she'd prefer Mom never find out about. For instance, Mom could go on believing that her daughter was a virgin for the whole rest of her life, as far as Danielle was concerned.
"That's not the reaction I was expecting," Mrs. Glass remarked. "Evidently there's something else you wouldn't want me to tell your mother. But David didn't mention any— Oh. Oh, well. I guess this explains the package of condoms I found in his sock drawer."
Now Danielle's face was aflame. Lydia Glass had the most understanding eyes of anyone Danielle had ever met, but this was not always a good thing. At least she was nicer than Danielle's own mom.
"An unopened package, for that matter," said Mrs. Glass, "which, in conjunction with your sudden separation, brings about its own questions." She forestalled Danielle's protest with a hand: "I understand if you don't want to tell me about it. There are things I would never want to talk to my mom about."
"But you're not my mom," said Danielle. Though I wish you were. Mrs. Glass was so much easier to talk to than Bonnie Mayer. "All the time I've known you, I've always felt like you were also a friend."
Mrs. Glass smiled. "Well, thank you, Danielle, that's quite a compliment. I'm sure Davey wouldn't agree, since I actually am his mom. Though he does say I'm less strict than Bonnie is."
In the end, Danielle told her everything. Not everything-everything, of course; not the long build-up, not the excitement, not the last spike of fear as David positioned himself over her. But enough to understand. "I felt like I didn't know him anymore. Like... Doing it with him... Had changed things."
"Well, sex does change things," said Mrs. Glass. "That's only to be expected, I think. After all, when you've been... Intimate... With a person... Well, there are things about a person you only see when you become their lover."
Danielle didn't get it. "Like their... private parts?"
"Yes, like those; but also things about their heart and soul, and I think you know those are more important. But my point is, those things you've seen now start to affect how you think of them. You don't think of them the same way, and you don't relate to them the same way. Yes, I'd say sex changes things."
"It changes who the person is?" said Danielle, a little incredulous.
"Not quite," said Mrs. Glass. She sat down on the bed next to Danielle. (I should really get another chair or something in here.) "It doesn't change who the person is. But it changes who you see them as; your perception of them. And also, it changes how that person is willing to act around you. Most people will tell you that sex is the ultimate act of intimacy, that there is no more private or personal thing you can do. And, even if they're not right, it's certainly very high up near the top—a lot more intimate than, say, going to the grocery store together, or washing a car together, or even kissing. All the secrets are revealed when you make love. So the person doesn't feel like they have anything to hide from you anymore. They feel more comfortable letting it all hang out. After all, they already have."
"So I never really knew David at all," said Danielle. It was a depressing thought.
"That might not be true," said Mrs. Glass. "You certainly knew him well, more than any person alive—probably including me. I think you knew most of him. But there was always a little bit you were never going to see. And there was always a little bit he never saw of you."
Danielle gave a humorless laugh. "Which is really ironic, because it's not like either of us were shy about our bodies. We'd been playing around a while."
"Yes, I thought as much," said Mrs. Glass, "and Bonnie too. Did you know that when you started getting your periods, she wanted to stop the sleepovers?"
"She did? No, I never knew."
"Well, she did. She was concerned that you two would start having sex—which, as we're all now aware, was an accurate concern. I had the same concern, of course... But I also felt that our trying to stop you was really futile. We were fully aware that you two were fooling around, you know—we even knew that it wasn't really with, shall we say, 'carnal intent,' it was just two friends who were closer than most. But we also knew that, eventually, you would start doing sexual things with sexual intent; anyone could see that. And I felt that, no matter what we said or did, you'd find a way to do it. So why antagonize you and drive you away from us, when we could keep you close and maybe control some of the damage?"
"And you were right," said Danielle. "When we did do it, it wasn't here. Or at your house either."
"I won't ask you where, I suspect you'd like to keep that secret," said Mrs. Glass, smiling. "The point I made—and which your mother agreed with eventually—was that it was inevitable that you and David would consummate your love... And sooner rather than later. Actually, I'm rather surprised that you waited this long. And, to be honest, I'm much less disturbed by it than by the fact that you're no longer together."
Danielle sighed. "Well, like you said. He changed. Or my understanding of him did. Do you... Do you know what happened?"
Do you know what happened in David's heart, she meant, but Mrs. Glass answered more globally. "No, not really. All he said was that you had dumped him. In fact, you've told me more than he did. Though I still have some questions, if you don't mind answering them. I take it this was a response to your consummation?"
"Yeah, more or less."
"And it happened... Right after? Or was there a gap?"
"It was pretty much on the spot. We had barely..." Driven by some instinct, Danielle looked up. Mrs. Glass was sitting there with an eyebrow arched and an expression of cold, simmering rage. "Ohh, no. No. No, Mrs. Glass, it wasn't like that. You're thinking he, umm, forced me or something, right?"
"The thought had crossed my mind," said Mrs. Glass, her voice tight. "I like to think I raised my son better than that, but hormones and frustration are not good combination. And guilt could explain why the two of you were no longer together, especially on such short notice."
"No, it wasn't like that," said Danielle. "He wasn't escaping me; I dumped him. Besides, what we did was completely voluntary. I told him. And right before we did, he asked me if I was sure." Wish I'd said no. "Mrs. Glass, your son would never do anything like that."
"If you say so," said Mrs. Glass. "And I'm not saying he'd do it deliberately. It's just... Well, things can get away from you."
"No, he wouldn't, not even then," said Danielle. "I mean, if he wanted to—well—force the issue, he's had plenty of chances. Even after he started wanting to, umm, go all the way, and I said we needed to wait, we... We didn't stop fooling around." She felt her cheeks heat. Now she was blushing?—this conversation, with this person, and she blushed now? "He had... There were plenty of times when he could have... When he could have forced the issue. And if he had, I wouldn't've... I mean, there would be times when we'd be just inches from it, and I'd be like, Boy, I wish he would. I know it's a can of worms but I want to open it anyway. I wanted it too. I just... Also knew it was a can of worms."
David's mother fixed her with a careful glance. "Do you have any regrets?"
Danielle squeezed her eyes shut. What a complicated question! "Well, the can of worms is open, so..."
"Then let's simplify it," Mrs. Glass said. "From a physical standpoint, do you regret it. Do you wish you hadn't given him your innocence."
"Not at all," said Danielle. Her voice sounded hollow. "I always knew that he should be the one. And it was even better than I thought it would be."
She felt Mrs. Glass's hand on her shoulder, comforting.
"The only thing I do regret is that maybe we should've done it sooner," she said. "Maybe, if we had, then he wouldn't..."
"Or maybe he would have," said Mrs. Glass quietly. "It's impossible to know with things like this."
After a short time, Danielle said, "So... Why did you come here, then? To get the whole story? To... To deliver a message?"
"A message," said Mrs. Glass. "Yes. Actually, that's a good way to put it. I'm here on David's behalf."
"Why?" Danielle felt a soaring in her heart even as the leaden tone of Mrs. Glass's words sank in her gut. "What does he want?"
Mrs. Glass said, "He wants me to come over and get all his stuff back. He says you borrowed a number of his belongings and... Now that you two are no longer going out, he wants to set all that straight. He's at our house right now dredging up all your things."
Danielle felt as though someone had just smashed her with a lead weight.
Mrs. Glass stood up. "I told him that if he wanted to say something that cold, he should come do it himself, but he refused. So here I am, on behalf of my cowardly son. And, unfortunately, he mentioned several things he is really going to need, so we don't have any way to weasel out of it. So..." She sighed and pulled a list out of her pocket. "With your blessing, Danielle."
She hadn't realized she had quite that much stuff of David's. She hadn't realized he was keeping such good track. There were some she hadn't thought of in ages; one was the T-shirt she slept in, which some unreliable uncle had gotten for him, either too stupid to realize a kid would hardly need an XXL or (if David's description was accurate) having intended to keep it for himself. The shirt had a pastel-shaded image of Mount Rushmore on it; it had lain unattended in his closet for years until Davey showed it to her for laughs, at which point she asked if she could have it; it smelled like him, and she wanted it for that reason. Of course, it didn't anymore; now it was broken in, and faded from repeated washings. But she had always liked having something of his right there with her. And now it was going. It was all going.
By the time they were done, she felt like they had turned her room upside down, and Mrs. Glass had so much stuff she joked she'd need a wheelbarrow, even with Danielle's help. But Danielle didn't laugh, and after a moment Mrs. Glass didn't either. "Look, Danielle, I'm really sorry it turned out this way," she said. "I've hinted to him that maybe this is a mistake, but he says he's made up his mind. But just so you know, my door is always open to you—even if my son's is not."
"Thank you," said Danielle, and meant it. It was good to know there was one friend she hadn't managed to alienate yet—even if it was a friend she hadn't known she had. "Mrs. Glass, do you think you can... Talk to him for me?"
Mrs. Glass blinked at her. "In what way?"
"Could you... Could you tell him that I..."
"Hold on there, bucko," said Mrs. Glass. "I'm willing to assist in property acquisition, which is technically a legal matter. But if you want to talk to him, you do it yourself. That's the same thing I told Davey and I'm not going to tell you any different."
But..." said Danielle, helpless, "he—"
"Hon, if you want to talk to him, you should be brave enough to seek him out and do it," said Mrs. Glass. "And, if you can't be, then maybe you didn't want to talk to him that much." She gave Danielle a smile as she got into her car. "Chin up, kiddo, okay?"
But Danielle didn't feel particularly reassured. Some things weren't quite that simple.
She wandered back to her room, which was completely overturned, like the insides of a toy tossed end over end. Her life felt the same way: out of balance, everything out of place, and all the things in it that had once been familiar to her were now alien or even missing. She felt as though her life had been flipped upside down overnight.
And now the thing that she had been trying to ignore finally came pouring back down on her in some thundering flood: David was gone. She would no longer hear his voice over the phone, calling her at odd hours to comment on odd things; she would no longer see his smile or the way he turned red when she teased him. She would no longer feel the comfort of his arms around her, the solid reassurance of his flesh. She could not go to him with her problems or fears or frustrations anymore, and know that he would listen. She would never hug him again, never kiss him again, never smell the scent of his hair. And all the dreams they had talked about—the house they were going to buy, the careers they would pursue, whether to have a boy or a girl first and what to name them—all those things would never be.
There was no way she could describe what she felt. What would it feel like to be disemboweled, to have all her insides sliding out onto the floor? What would it feel like to have to walk around with all that hollowness inside her? What did it feel like to have a heart attack, to feel the pain under you and realize you were a walking dead man—at least until you passed out and fell down? What was it like to have some demon rip your soul away from you, to leave you glassy-eyed and dead to the world? It was as if all those things had happened at once. David was gone. David—her best friend, her lover, her soul mate, her other half—David was gone.
She felt tears burning on her cheeks. She clung to the pain as much as possible. The fire was better than the ice inside her.
David was gone.
And he was not coming back.
Leave me some feedback!