Feels like a bomb fell
And wave after wave
come the aftershocks
- Paul Simon, "Can I Forgive Him"


"Ian, slow down!"

Ian turned around and stood there ahead of her, watching impatiently as she trailed behind. Jenny was wearing her normal winter outfit: the weathered boots that replaced her sandals in cold weather, warm navy pants, and a charcoal shirt almost totally obscured by an oversized black pullover, which sharply contrasted the delicate, ghostly-pale hands that emerged at its cuffs. She kept walking toward him without speeding up, weighed down by overloaded backpack slung across her shoulders and the stack of books that she cradled between her black-sleeved arms. She didn't notice the exasperation in his face, nor his impatient stare; she looked straight down, engrossed in the patterns of the sidewalk. She had to tell him. Today. Just ... not yet. She could put it off a bit longer still.

When she finally caught up to him, he turned around and they walked ahead together. Soon he was hurrying ahead at his old rate and she was falling behind again. She looked up from the sidewalk and saw his back moving ahead of her, then lowered her gaze again.

"You walk too fast," she said quietly.

He shrugged. "You're just walking slower than usual today."

"Whatever. I guess I'm just ... preoccupied, or something."

"Oh? About what?" he asked, concerned.

She kept her eyes on the ground as she answered. "I ... I don't really want to get into it right now."

He nodded. "Okay."

She stepped up her pace a little to try to keep up with him, but it was hard to manage her stack of books and soon they began to slip from her grasp. Suddenly, her collection of Shelley poems completely escaped her clutching fingers and fell to the concrete. She stooped to pick it up. Her Picasso biography slipped out as she reached for the fallen book, and as she grabbed at that, the entire stack tumbled to the ground. Ian, oblivious to her troubles, kept pushing ahead.

With an exasperated sigh, she dropped to one knee and carefully gathered the books together, stacked them up, and clutched them again between her arms. She looked up and saw Ian's back as he ran across the street and hurried ahead on the opposite side. She watched him walk away as she slowly rose to her feet. Suddenly, she couldn't stand it anymore. She hated her books for slowing her down. She hated his back for shrinking into the distance. She hated herself for not saying it yet. She rushed ahead, not even looking for cars before she stepped out into the street, and didn't stop until she was only a few feet behind him. Before she even realized what she was doing, the words slipped irrevocably past her lips:

"Ian, I'm in love with you."

Ian froze in his tracks. He just stood there silently, back still turned, staring straight ahead, as if he were looking down the road for something to say. Jenny's ears thundered. Her head throbbed. She felt giddy, almost delirious, as if she should run away laughing into the afternoon. She could barely believe that she had spoken the words that had taken three years to even admit to herself. As her euphoria died down, she waited for Ian to respond somehow. After he just stood there for a minute, she realized that he wouldn't. She slowly forced out words to break the silence.

"I just ... I've been holding this in for too long, and I needed to be honest with you--for the first time in years. I guess I needed to tell you how I feel ... and to know how you feel, or whatever."

He turned around, and haltingly took a few steps towards her. His hand slowly rose to his head, brushing through the unkempt mop of red hair. He shifted weight to one leg, then the other. His grey eyes were turned to the ground, avoiding hers.

"How ... Jenny ... why did this come out just now?"

She looked down herself. "I promised myself that I had to say it today. Because I just ... I couldn't stand holding it in any longer."

He just stood there, saying nothing. He exhaled slowly. She could tell that he was trying to compose himself, to stitch together anything that he could say. Finally, he glanced up to meet her pale blue eyes.

"I--I guess ... I don't know. Are you sure this is, like, a love thing? And not, you know ... a crush or something?"

She sighed and anxiously pondered her answer. She remembered what he had said when he was finally willing to talk about Abby. When people say they love you they just want something. But she had to say it. She couldn't let him just ... brush it off as a passing crush. She knew that if she could just be honest and explain herself, he would understand. A sardonic grin weakly tugged at the corners of her mouth. "Crushes don't last for four years, Ian."

His brow furrowed and his lips pursed, as they always did when he was confused. She added quickly, "I mean I've been having these feelings for you for a long time, and maybe if you asked in ninth grade, then I could've said that it was just a crush. But not now, not after feeling like this for so long."

He sighed and nodded. Words came slowly from his mouth.

"Well, look. I just don't know what to say now ... I need some time to sort this all out. So ... I mean, just give me a while, okay?"

She nodded slowly. "I understand," she whispered.

They started walking toward his mother's house again. He shoved his hands into his pockets and stared at the sidewalk. She had no trouble keeping up with his slowed pace. When they reached the house, neither had spoken or even looked at the other. She remembered how quiet he had been the day it ended with Abby.

They walked through the yard, and on his doorstep, he finally turned around and looked at her. "Well, I ... I have to go." She sighed. Every other day they had walked home together over the past four years, he had invited her in.


She stayed there for a moment more. When she saw that he was still standing there, waiting on her, she finally gathered the courage to speak again.

"Could I ... is it okay ... if you would just ... hug me?"

He shook his head weakly. "I ... I just don't know. God, Jenny, I don't know what to do about anything anymore. Why did you have to drop this on me?"

"I just wanted to be a better friend. I needed to be honest with you."

He grimaced. "Yeah, well, honesty is overrated." He turned around and walked into the house, carefully shutting the door behind him.

She sighed and walked out of the yard, closing the gate as she left. She walked towards her house again, slower than ever. All the way home she found herself repeating his words in her mind, hoping to God that they wouldn't turn out to be true.

The next day at school, she hunted him down at lunch and sat down across from him. She smiled weakly and he nodded to her. A minute passed in dangling silence as she nervously poked at her food. She finally forced herself to say something, anything. "How'd you do on that Trig test?" She felt like an idiot as soon as she'd said it: he wasn't even in Trigonometry.

He sighed and put down his fork. Without looking up at her, he said, "Look, I ... I'm just not really ready to face you yet, okay? I mean, just give me a couple of days. Everything'll be fine."

Her face collapsed and she nodded grimly. She whispered, "Okay," and picked up her tray. She found a table across the cafeteria and sat down, alone. She kept glancing over at him constantly. Finally she had to put her backpack on the table in her line of sight to stop herself. When the bell rang, she hadn't even finished half of her lunch. She sat and waited until she saw him leave, then got up and threw the rest of the food in the garbage.

She waited until the next Monday to approach him again. He smiled at her when she walked up, but he said he needed to talk to his Psych teacher about his grades and quickly left. On Tuesday he waved meekly when she approached and they chatted for a few minutes about English before he abruptly departed to "make up a Biology quiz." On Wednesday, though, he turned and hurriedly walked away as soon as she caught his eyes. Worried and curious, she ran ahead and caught him.

He let out an exasperated sigh. "Look, I've got to get to class--"

"You always need to get to class when I want to talk."

"Yeah, well, I've been busy, okay?"

She looked down. "I guess things aren't ... really going as well as I thought they were."

He sighed. "Look, you're right. I'm ... I guess I'm just not ready. Yet. These things take time, Jenny."

"Ian, you said a few days, and it's been that. How much more time do you need? Days? Weeks? Months?"

He shook his head. "I don't know."

He turned around and started walking down the hall. She clenched her teeth and gathered her courage. In a rush she pushed the unwilling words out of her mouth.

"Ian, I need to know. I mean, how you feel. I need to have an answer."

He turned around slowly and looked at her. She was surprised as a flood of words suddenly rushed from his mouth all at once:

"Look, Jenny, I mean, I don't want to hurt you or anything--really, you're great, I mean, beautiful, and if I ... if I can't do this, I want you to know that it's me, not you. Because ..." The torrent began to slow down to his normal, languorous speech. "I guess ... I'm kind of afraid. I mean, I don't know if I can just, like ... open up like that anymore. Or if I want to."

She nodded. "I know. I just--I wanted you to understand ..."

He continued, barely acknowledging her words. "I guess I just don't know how to feel. And I don't want to ruin our friendship by leading you on. So I mean ... if I have to ... you know ... then it's just not personal or anything. Because, I mean, it's my problem, not yours."

She nodded weakly. "I know."

He stood there for a moment, then said, "Okay. Well ... I should get to Psych ..."

She nodded again, then stumbled, "Would it ... would it be alright, or whatever, if I ... if we--"

He shook his head. "Look ... it'll take time to like, adjust to this, okay? So I need you to just ... please, just wait until I tell you I'm ready. I'll call you, okay?"

She nodded weakly. "Okay," she lied.

He turned around and walked to class. The bell rang, but Jenny wasn't ready to go anywhere. She shuffled to the bathroom and sat in the stall for an hour until the final bell rang. It was the first time she had ever skipped class in thirteen years of school.

The next day she waited by the phone all night, hoping he would call. And the next night. And the next. After a week, she told herself to ease up, to acknowledge that he would call on his own time and that she shouldn't live in constant expectation. But she still held her breath every time the phone rang.

She saw him sometimes at school. She would smile weakly and whisper, "Hey;" he would give her a curt nod. Somehow she managed to push through day after day while he ignored her. She barely even saw him ... it really amazed her how easily he could avoid her when he tried.

She was lying in bed one night, three months after she told him, when the phone suddenly shattered the silence. Her heart leapt into her throat as she fumbled for the receiver in the dark. Glancing at the clock, she saw that it was still only 9:00.


Her head throbbed as she heard Ian's voice come through the receiver: "Jenny? Hey, do you want to go see a movie?"

"What? Ian? Uh ... yeah, sure."

"Okay. It's at 9:30. I'll pick you up in ... ten minutes or so?"

She was far too confused to say anything but, "Yeah."

"Okay. See you then."

She hung up the phone slowly and sat staring in the mirror. When she heard him pull up outside and enter the house, she suddenly realized that she still wasn't dressed. She yelled downstairs for him to wait a minute, and quickly pulled on her pants, took off the nightshirt she was wearing, and tossed on a t- shirt. She slipped her feet into her sandals, and pulled a light jacket as she left the room.

They were silent all the way to the theater. She didn't want to look like she was staring at him, so instead of staring at his face she found herself fixated on his hands. They were pale like hers, but with a pink undertone that kept them from her ghostly shade. His fingers were long and slender, like hers again. His nails stood out against the delicate fingers, unfiled and chewed short at rough angles. But the cold gleam of his class ring kept drawing her eyes away from the nails. She wondered distractedly if it was real gold.

When they arrived at the movie theater, he finally broke the silence.

"Do you, like ... have enough money for your ticket?"

Something snapped in her with the silence and she knew that he wouldn't say anything about ... it. She had to make him address the issue or it would just float along forever, unanswered.

"Is that it? Do you think you can just pretend that nothing happened?"

He suddenly became interested in everything except her eyes. Her anger welled up as she realized that he wouldn't give any answer until she dragged it out of him.

"Ian, I need to know. You've been stringing me along for three months and I'm tired of it."

"Jenny, look, I ..."

She glared at him, expectant.

He looked out the window. Words drifted slowly from his mouth. "Okay, well look. I guess I can't ... I mean, Jenny, I can't love anyone. It doesn't lead anywhere but getting hurt. And I don't want to screw over my friends like that. Look, Jenny. I know I love you ... as a friend. But I--I guess I just can't think of you ... the way you want me to. I'm sorry."

Her face collapsed and she looked away. Tears started to well up in her eyes, then trickle down, and finally began pouring out. In a distant, detached corner of her mind she noted that it was the first time she had ever cried over him. She leaned on the car door for support as she wept.

He just sat there, looking down at the foot-well. After a while, he slowly spoke. "Look ... I'd better take you home."

She didn't say anything and he started the car. He turned around and drove towards her house again.

She collected herself slowly, and finally gathered her resolve. "You ... you don't have to take me home just yet, or whatever. I mean, we can still, like, go to the movie."

He shook his head.

"Look, I ... I just need some time, okay?"

"More ... time?"

He sighed. "Jenny, I just can't face you yet. I don't want all of the guilt trips and ... knowing you feel that whenever you see me ... please, just give me a while to adjust, okay?"

She shrugged. "Whatever," she said, resigned.

When she got back home, Jenny trudged slowly up to her room and crawled back into bed. It was 9:18. She was asleep by 9:30. The next morning, she told her mother that she was sick and stayed in her room the whole day.

When she came back to school on Thursday, she ate lunch with her friend Eric. When she mentioned that she hadn't seen the new Robin Williams movie yet, he said, "Oh, I went to see that with Ian on Tuesday. It's really good."

She just smiled tightly and abruptly stood up. "I've got to, uh, make up a Government test. See you later." She quickly left the lunch-room, almost at a run. She had left her lunch half-eaten on the table. Blinking away the tears welling up in her eyes, she saw Eric throwing the food away for her as she left the cafeteria.

Somehow she trudged through the days without him. She kept telling herself that she was avoiding him, but she carefully timed where she went and when, just to see him--from a distance. Just seeing what he was wearing and how he was feeling gave her a tiny twitch of satisfaction, a short fix for the gnawing need to be near him. It seemed as though her entire life were scheduled around seeing and avoiding him. She was frustrated and found herself resenting him--not because of what he had done, but because it seemed that he was still going on with his life, without her.

After two weeks she finally gathered the courage to walk up and try to talk to him. He smiled wanly and said that he didn't have time to talk. She just shrugged and walked away, not even bothering to ask why. She was disappointed and yet invigorated; it had been so long since she saw him smiling that she was sure that everything was going to work out, if she could only be patient. She knew that if they could only sit down and talk about it honestly for an hour, then everything would be alright again.

The next day, she tried it again. She gathered her resolve and walked slowly towards him, against a rising tide of nerves. Somehow she forced words out of her mouth: "Ian, we ... I think we should, like, talk or something."

He became totally fascinated by the floor tiles. His voice was quiet and distant, but firm. "I don't really want to."

She was completely taken aback. She just stumbled, "Oh, okay ... whatever," and walked towards class, the same look of dumb shock staying on her face as she drifted through the rest of the day.

She gave him a weekend before she tried again. He had taken to driving home in the past few months, and she waited out in the parking lot. When he hadn't come out by 3:30, she realized that he had Quiz Bowl practice that day. She sighed and sank to the ground, sitting on the curb next to his car. She took her Shelley collection from the top of her pile of books and read while she waited for him.

At 4:30 she saw him walking towards her. She carefully got her books together and stood up, drawing in breath as she looked up at him. His expression didn't change any, as if he hadn't seen her. As he approached, she swallowed and tried to find something to say. He just kept walking, and when he got to his car, unlocked the door and sat down. She realized that he would just drive off if she didn't say something. She pushed words out of her mouth, just to say anything to him.

"Ian, I--I think ... um, I mean ..."

He sighed in exasperation and leaned over to unlock the passenger door.

"Okay, look. I'm going to give you one hour of my time. Because I'm tired of you following me around like this and not letting it die ... so just say whatever it is you need to say and get on with it, okay?"

She was too shocked to do anything but nod dumbly and climb into the car. He drove out of the lot and down the road. She leaned against the door and watched him out of the corners of her eyes. Something seemed out of place; she noticed that he wasn't wearing his class ring. He must have forgotten it that morning.

When they arrived at her house, Jenny climbed out of the car and walked slowly towards the door. She shifted her books under one arm and got out her key. It took her a while to juggle everything and she was awkwardly aware of Ian watching her impatiently as she fiddled with the lock and finally opened the door.

Still silent, they walked into the house and trudged up the stairs to her room. He sat down in her chair and stared at her. She sat on the edge of her bed and looked down at the floor. She tried to say something, anything, but she could find neither the words nor the courage. A minute plodded by before Ian broke the silence.


She glanced up at him. His face was tense, his eyebrows raised expectantly. For once, he was staring straight at her. She looked back down at the floor.

"I ... I guess I wanted to know ... how you feel, and what I need to do, or whatever."

He spoke slowly and deliberately, staring straight at her. "Look, I didn't ask for this, okay? And I think you're being really selfish just forcing this on me. I feel like you're trying to use your friendship as a weapon, to try to corner me into something that I don't want. So you need to just ... leave me alone for a while, until you can deal with this appropriately."

She stumbled over words, desperately trying to find some answer that would satisfy him. "Ian, it's ... I just want to be your friend again. And I mean, I wish it didn't have to be this way, but I ... can't just, like, take it back, or anything."

His voice was hard and insistent. "Why not?"

"What? Ian! ... I mean, it's the truth. And you ... you have to deal with it."

"Look, I don't have to do anything."

She tried to find something to say, but couldn't. She wondered how she had gotten herself into this. Finally she stumbled, "I mean ... you'd have--it'd be, like, in your court ... to deal with this, even if I didn't tell you ... because of the way it makes me act around you. And, I mean ..."

Ian interrupted her as she paused for a moment. "Look, you knew that I haven't gone out with anyone since Abby. And you know that I'm scared of rushing into that again, but you just go in and you keep pushing and pushing. I mean, what do you want from me?"

She started. Responses flashed through her mind that she knew would never come to her lips. For you to try to understand how I feel. For you to try to have just a little compassion. "I--I wanted--I just want ... I mean, I want--" Her voice was trembling. Tears made the world quiver before her eyes.

He got up. "Look, why don't you figure out what you want and then try to talk to me." He walked to the door, and she felt like the floor was collapsing under her. He was just going to just leave her to cry, so that he could rip her away, now that her feelings were inconvenient, and not bear the responsibility. In desperation, she got up and grabbed him. "Ian, wait! Please, just ..."

He shrugged her off and turned around, glaring at her. "What?"

"Ian, I ... please, I just want to be friends again." She had given up any pretense of holding back the tears, and they now ran down her cheeks freely.

"Look, you knew I already had more pressure than I could ever need, and you just selfishly forced this on me, okay? Without any concern for hurting me, or the friendship, or anything. You keep saying that you want to be my friend, but you know that I don't want any complications, and you still keep trying to shove your 'feelings' down my throat."

"Ian! I--I worried about that all the time. I mean, I used to ... just have it all worked out, you know? It was just, like, a matter of finding the right time. But whenever there was a right time or whatever ... I didn't realize it until it was too late ... and I just realized, I had to--"

He broke off her meandering explanation. His grey eyes were hard and flinty as he spoke. "Look, I don't care about your feelings or why you did things anymore, okay?"

Jenny felt like she had been punched. She had to say something, anything, but she didn't know what. She stared at the floor, the bookshelf, anywhere but at him. He continued, as if he didn't have any idea what he had just done to her. "I mean, I've already dealt with this. You said what you said because ... whatever. But now you keep shoving it in my face, because you just can't get over it. Well, that's your problem, not mine."

She suddenly felt very tired. Tired of having thousands of responses clashing in her head, and none on her lips. Tired of never knowing what to feel or do. Tired of trying to rationalize away his every hurtful word. A numb listlessness settled over her as she tried to think of a response.

"I think you should go," she said weakly.

"So do I."

He got up and left the room, then walked downstairs. As she listened to his muted steps sinking into the carpet, she realized that he didn't want a friendship. He just wanted a friend. Someone to hang around and wait for him, read Shelley poems, listen to all his complaints and never take offense ... but not something for which he'd have to make sacrifices. Not something which could become complicated and inconvenient. Every time he had tried, it had only hurt him, and he was determined never to risk it again, no matter what it did to those who cared for him. And when she failed to live up to his fantasy image of her, he would just throw her out, like a worn out shoe. Angry, frustrated, depressed, she ran down the stairs after him. He noticed her when he was halfway down the driveway to his car. He turned around, angry. "I told you to leave me alone!"

"You can't just act like this, Ian. People aren't shoes."

"What the hell are you talking about?"

Her eyes brimmed over with tears again and her voice faltered. "You wouldn't want to understand," she stumbled as she turned her back and walked away. He called her name apologetically, but she kept walking. She slammed the door behind her and ran up to her room. When she heard his car start, then drive away, her whole body crumpled and she sank to the ground crying. She quietly whispered, "I'm sorry Ian, I'm sorry for everything." She knew he couldn't hear the apology, which was exactly how she wanted it. She laid herself out on her bed, and the tears gradually stopped. They wouldn't come again, even when she tried to make them.

When she didn't come to dinner, her mother came upstairs, knocked softly on the door, and poked her head in the room.

"Honey, is everything alright?"

She didn't take her eyes of the ceiling. "I'm fine," she lied.

"It sounded like you had a ... disagreement ... with Ian. Do you want to talk about it?"

"No." She didn't want to talk about anything anymore.

Her mother nodded quietly. "Well ... if you want to eat something later, there's chicken in the fridge."

Jenny just kept staring at the ceiling, so her mother closed the door again and left her there, looking for nothing and not even finding that.

She drifted through the last days of school without him. She barely saw him but when she did she just looked at him, trying to scream at him and wail and cry on his shoulder by glancing just right. He would greet her quietly and she would give him a curt nod.

Summer came and she trudged through that too. She knew she was supposed to be excited and wistful and everything all at once, that she was about to make one of the most important changes of her life, that she was about to leave it all behind. But all she could really feel was that she was missing Ian and he didn't deserve it.

Five days before she was to leave, she was writing about him in her journal when the phone rang. She glanced up at it and her hand instinctively grabbed for the receiver, but she pulled it back in mid-air. The phone stopped ringing as her mother picked it up downstairs. She held her breath as her mother called upstairs, "Jenny! Phone!"

Her mind raced through the hundreds of different things she wanted to say to him and more reactions than he could ever possibly make, following absurd trails of conversation to absurd conclusions. Her face clenched as she slowly took the phone from the hook.

"I've got it," she yelled downstairs with a firmness that she did not feel.

She slowly raised the receiver to her ear and waited for the click of her mother hanging up. Finally, she forced the words past her lips:


"Hi, Jenny?" It was Eric's voice. She unwound suddenly and completely, all those months of tension rushing out and leaving her empty. After a long silence, Eric finally prompted her,

"Uh, Jenny? Hello?"

She snapped back into reality and slowly stumbled, "Oh, yeah, I'm here ... so what's up?" She tried to shove it aside, as if it were a perfectly ordinary mistake to just sit silently after a friend greeted you.

"Well, I was just thinking, you know ... all of us are leaving in a few days, and I wanted to see if maybe we could get together or something."

"Yeah. I'd like that. When?"

"Uh, I'm not sure yet. I still have to call Laura and Ian. Probably--"

"Who?" she asked, a little too shrilly.

"Huh? Oh, I was figuring you and me and Laura and Ian. Maybe Michael too, but I don't know if he can ..."

She let him talk for a while as her mind ran in the same maddening circles that it had before she heard his voice. She noticed suddenly that he was no longer speaking, and guessed that he was waiting on some answer from her.

"Say again?"

"I was just wondering what times you think might be good for you?"

"Oh, I just ..." She paused and took three slow breaths. "Eric, I don't think I can make it." She was aware of her voice trembling but she couldn't steady it.

"Jenny? Is ... is there something wrong that I should, like, know about?"

"No, no ... nothing that you should know about ..." she barely spoke at all.

"Look, if there's something you need to talk about--"

"No!" she cut him off, a little too firmly. "It's nothing. I-- I just can't make it."

"Okay. Well look, it's no big deal. Just call my parents with your new address and number when you get settled in at State or something. We'll get together later, okay?"

"Okay," she lied.

"Well, I'll talk to you later."




She hung up and put her head in her hands. Suddenly she grabbed at her journal, ripped out the three pages that she had written, and threw the wadded ball of them into the garbage.

About four months later, she found a letter in her mailbox from Ian. He had sent it to her house and her parents forwarded it to her at her dorm. Bewildered, she took it to her room and tore open the envelope. She pulled it out and read.

It was short, only a couple pages. He addressed it, "Dearest Jenny." He said he knew she might never want to speak to him again. He just needed to say that he was sorry and hoped that she could understand. He had thought a lot about all that had happened and realized how foolishly he had acted. He realized that he really did have some ... feelings ... for her and he tore her away because he was afraid of what they could cause. He hadn't believed that anyone could honestly love him. He had been a selfish fool and could only hope for forgiveness. He asked her to please write him back if she could and signed the letter, "Love, Ian."

She sat and stared at the letter for over half an hour before she even thought of answering it. She kept glancing over the same few sentences, as if to make sure that it really said what she had read. She flipped the pages back and forth as her head swam and emotions collided in her mind.

Finally, she pulled out a pen and paper. She tried to write a letter but it kept ending up muddled, clashing, and going nowhere. She didn't know what to say, because he had already said so much of it in his own letter. After seven sheets had been crumpled and thrown in the trash, she finally gave up on making sense. She addressed the letter "Ian," and began writing furiously. At first she was just yelling at him, screaming at him all the jumbled tangents and contingencies she had always planned out in her mind. Her complaints were all half a year old but she no longer cared. How dare he crush her heart for his convenience and try to call her selfish. How dare he string her along for months and then complain when she "forced" him to give an answer. He was so angry about her trying to push him into something he didn't want, but she was only trying to be his friend again. And if he didn't want that, then he should have just told her.

Gradually, her thoughts settled and she began to jab at him deliberately. She wrote that she didn't care about his feelings or why he did things anymore. He was making her so uncomfortable, forcing these letters on her. But fine, whatever. She'd write him back when it was convenient. Just wait a few days. Okay, weeks. Well, maybe in a few months.

But her barbs dulled and her yells softened, as they always did when she thought about him. By the end of the letter she was telling him to write her back and giving him her new address and phone number. She signed the letter, "Love, Jenny." She addressed the envelope and put the letter in, then set it on her desk. She couldn't mail it. Yet. When she was ready, she would send it to him. But she wasn't ready the next day. Or the next. She had a strange fear that the very day she dropped it in the mailbox, she would have to face him and all that had happened.

When she moved out of her room at the end of the year, the letter was still sitting there on her desk. She looked at it down and sighed, then picked it up. She licked a stamp and put it on the envelope.

As she walked out the door, she listlessly let it slide from her hand into the garbage.