Weeping Willow

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Chapter Eight - Don't Be Willow

I saved the diary entry and closed the document down just as a chat box opened, it was G.

G - Hey, Sorry I haven’t been around.

S - It’s okay, I was at a friends working on an assignment.

G - A boy friends?

S - He is a boy, and actually until today we hadn’t been friends since middle school. But I assure you. I’m not in the right headspace for anything more.

G - Oh. So still a no on the prom thing then?

S - G…

G - Relax, I’m kidding. Kind of. So why are you so sworn off dating?

S - I was never sworn in.

G - You don’t want to talk about it?

S - I’ve never talked about it.

G - Maybe you should.

My fingers hovered, but unlike the previous time, I began to type. I wrote and wrote and wrote… unsure the entire time if I was even going to hit enter. But after kalen lifting me off the ground and spinning me around, my father calling me a slut and horrible memories resurfacing, I couldn’t keep it in anymore.

S - A little over a year ago my friend I caught the bus to the city. We went to some kegger frat party. First one ever. We’d both decided that we hadn’t rebelled and maybe we should before high school was over. Long story short… some guys took advantage of our inebriation. I managed to fight the guy off…. But my friend… Anyway we came home and never talked about it again. I just… I have trust issues.

I hit enter and instantly regretted it. For the longest time, there was nothing. G wasn’t even typing. My stomach fell and I wanted to vomit. I hadn’t told anyone about that night…

G - S… I don’t know what to say.

S - It’s okay.

G - No.. it isn’t. I’m sorry that happened. I’m sorry that some guy thought he had the right to do anything to you, that you didn’t want… I’m sorry that some sicko did the same thing to your friend. I’m sorry that you’ve kept this to yourself for over a year. S…. If I was there right now, If you could see me… You’d understand why I don’t know what to say…

I didn’t understand why seeing him would help me understand, perhaps I’d shocked him, perhaps I’d made him cry. I didn’t want him to be sorry, it hadn’t been him that had done it, and although I barely knew him, I knew he wasn’t likely to be the kind of guy that would do anything like that, no matter how douchey he’d once come across in the beginning.

S - You don’t need to be sorry. You didn’t do anything.

G - Yeah… Uh, I got to go. Catch you tomorrow?

S - Oh yeah, of course. Sorry I went all dark and gloomy on you.

G - S, Please.. I’m glad you opened up to me, You can go all dark and gloomy on me whenever, if you need to talk, talk to me. I really do need to go is all.

S - Parents?

G - Yeah, we good?

S - Yeah. Bye G.

G - Bye S.

G signed out and I stared at our chat log. I tried not to overthink what I had said to him, but it was hard. Anxiety began to build the more I read over my words and then his. I’d known him… or at least the internet version of him only a few days and I was telling him things I couldn’t even talk with Stefanie about. Some friend I was. Frustrated and overwhelmed, I slammed the laptop lid shut and walked over to my bed, falling down on it with a loud sigh.

I must have fallen asleep, because when I opened my eyes again, it was light outside. I still felt exhausted, and although my sleep had been dreamless I wondered if my worries had filtered through and affected the quality of sleep I’d gotten. I forced myself up and walked to my closet. I grabbed a pair of ripped jeans and and old baseball t-shirt and walked across to the bathroom. The house was quiet, and I wanted to keep it that way, so I dressed as quietly as I could and then tiptoed downstairs and out the front door.

I should have known something was up as I approached the school and kids were pointing. I should have known to turn and run away. It seemed whenever I wasn’t invisible here, someone had to cut me down. But against my better judgement I continued to walk toward the gates of the school. Maybe I just didn’t want to care anymore, or maybe I just didn’t want to go home either I made the wrong decision.

The pointing turned to laughing and whispering the closer I got. Kids were holding pieces of paper, but I couldn’t see what was on them. I pushed through the nausea, and walked through the doors. I could feel eyes on me, my name being uttered. It wasn’t until I got to my locker that I realised what was happening.

Someone had painted the words Fat Slut in the blue paint I’d been covered in a few days prior, but that wasn’t the worst part. Below it, was a photoshopped picture of me, wearing lingerie and then a few photos of me and Kalen outside his home the day before. One of the photos made it look like we were kissing, but I didn’t know how, considering it hadn’t happened.

The nausea in my gut turned and I almost threw up. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out who was behind this, to know she was watching me, waiting to revel in my reaction. I’d like to say I behaved with grace, but my emotions did not allow for that. She had won. Tears rolled down my cheeks before I could stop them, and I felt like I had the night before when my father had called me a slut too. I turned and ran down the corridor and back out the front door, someone, probably part of the popular crowd made an oinking sound as I ran.

I ran out the front door of the school and across the car park, my eyes blurry from tears, I wasn’t watching where I was going so when I crashed into someone it shouldn’t have shocked me, but it did. Hands grabbed my shoulders to steady me and stop me from falling. A familiar face looked back at me, smiling at first, and then frowning. It was Kalen. As if by fate, I’d crashed right into him.

“I have to go.” I whispered attempting to push past. Of course, he shook his head and gently held me on the spot. His eyes searched mine, and I don’t think he really needed much explanation.

“What did she do.” He huffed, he looked up at the school.

“It doesn’t matter. I just need to get out of here.” I whispered. “Please.”

At that moment, Kalen’s phone went off and he lifted it up, he looked at the message and his face fell even further. His jaw clenched and he angrily shoved his phone into his pocket.

“I see.” He said. “Let me get you out of here.”

“Really? Fuel the fire? They’re watching us right now. They know we're talking. Can you imagine how tomorrow will be, if we leave here together today?” I said through a veil of tears. “I can’t do this. I can’t be your friend.”

Kalen let go of me, and I walked around him. It was better this way. I was bad news for him, and he was bad news for me. Maybe it hadn’t always been that way. But it was now. The worst part, was that with him, I’d felt the most normal I had around another person since Stefanie had left. I wasn’t sure how much of that was the fact I was talking with someone else online, or how much of it was because of Kalen, but it had been nice, however fleeting it had been.

“I don’t give a flying fuck what they think anymore.” Kalen called out. “And if we come into school tomorrow and they’re raining down the hate on either one of us. Let em. They’re nothing. You’re something.”

I stopped on the spot, but didn’t turn around “You don’t get it. They like you, she likes you. It’s me they’ll hate on.”

You don’t get it Willow. I like you, I want to be your friend. I’ll protect you from the hate rain. You can stand under my umbrella.”

I was unable to bite back the smile that surfaced, if only because he’d decided now was an appropriate time to quote Rihanna lyrics. He smiled back at me, knowing he had me.

“That would have had more impact, if you’d sang it as you said it.” I replied.

He shrugged and then without skipping a beat began to sing the entire chorus, word for word. As other kids walked through the car park he didn’t bat an eyelid or grow quieter, if anything it became louder.

“Ella, ella, eh eh eh.” he sang, moving closer to me. “Truce.” He said softly, standing little more than a metre away with his hand out.

I felt my eyes narrow, running from him, avoiding his friendship was the easy way out. The only way to ensure I once again became invisible, but if I was being honest, I was sick of running away, sick of hiding. It was easier, but it wasn’t much of a life.

“Okay.” I smiled. I went to meet his handshake, but he caught me and picked me up off the ground, hoisting me over his shoulders with ease. “Hey! Put me down!” I shrieked.

Kalen didn’t put me down until we got to his car, by which point we were both laughing. I’d almost forgotten about everything that had happened, forgotten about the people around us.

“Let’s get out of here?”

I nodded. “One tardy in how many years won’t hurt me.”

Kalen grinned and unlocked his car. “That’s the spirit.”

We got in the car and left as other kids were still entering. I wound my window down and leaned out, letting the wind travel through my hair and against my face. We drove without purpose, two kids skipping school with nowhere to go. At some point Kalen turned on the radio, old 90’s rock ballads began to play, filling my ears with soul changing sounds. I leaned back against the seat and closed my eyes. Aerosmith began to play, and I let myself sing along. Kalen joined in and it felt like this was how high school should have been, Stefanie, Kalen and I driving nowhere, singing at the top of our lungs. Except it wasn’t like that, it had never been like that. I stopped singing and leaned forward, turning the radio down.

“Why now?”

“Huh?” Kalen exclaimed, slightly distracted.

“Why now? Why be friends with me now?”

“You’re the realest person I know.” He replied.

I scoffed and shook my head. “That’s not true. I’m fake. I pretend to be okay with how my life has gone, but I’m not… not even a little bit.”

Kalen nodded and pulled over, outside the old candy shop the three of us used to frequent a lot as kids. “And yet, you’re still the realest person I know. At least you’re honest about not being okay. Most people, lie to themselves until they believe it. It’s how friendships get lost along the way.”

I turned and looked at Kalen and smiled. “I never looked at it that way before.”

“It’s one of the things I find fascinating about you.”

“One of the things?” I laughed. “Are you trying to inflate my ego Kalen Adams, because I should warn you. I don’t subscribe to bullshit.”

“Not bullshit. Truth.” He pointed to the shop and undone his seatbelt. “Let’s get all the old favorites and go see her.”

I tensed up and swallowed hard. I hadn’t been to visit Stefanie since she’d left. I hadn’t been able to bring myself to go there. It made it all so much more real. Writing to her was different, like pretending she’d moved and my diary were emails I sent and she received.

“I haven’t…” I stopped, my voice cracking.

“Neither.”

“I can’t.”

“We can.”

I looked down at my lap and withheld the urge to scream. Damn Kalen Adams and his annoying ability to see to the core of me. We’d barely said more than two words to one another for years, and somehow he still knew me… still knew how damaged I was by her loss. I dug my fingers into my thighs until my nails began to dig through the denim of my jeans. I was in control. I let go of my leg and undone my own seatbelt, grabbing my bag and opening the door in one quick motion I was out of the car before Kalen could say another word. I walked down the street, away from the candy shop and memories I couldn’t bare to face yet.

“Dammit, Willow.” Kalen huffed from behind me, I heard his car door close and his footsteps picked up as he caught up with me.

The air was brisk, which did nothing to quell the rush of broken emotion in the back of my throat. I was one comment away from falling apart.

“We don’t have to go.” He said finally. “Not until your ready.”

“I don’t think I will ever be ready.” I managed to reply without falling into a mess of tears.

“And that’s okay too. I’m sorry.” he replied, his voice soft and genuine. He placed a hand on my shoulder which caught me off guard. I barely had time to react however because the sound of my father voice boomed through the air from behind me.

“Willow!” he shouted, his voice harsh and cold.

I felt myself stiffen as I looked up and caught Kalen’s eyes with my own, concern was drawn all over his face and he frowned. His grip on my shoulder tightened and he shook his head. He moved in and pulled me close.

“Just play along.” he whispered. “Don’t be Willow.”

I nodded, desperate for my father to leave. Maybe he would if he thought it was a case of mistaken identity. He’d only seen me from behind, and I hadn’t instantly turned when he’d called my name. Kalen lifted his hand to my chin and tilted my head up. It was then that I realised he intended to kiss me. That he wasn’t just holding me close in an attempt to fool my father, he was planning to go the full mile…

I’d been kissed before, but it wasn’t really wanted… I was confused that somewhere deep inside of me, I wanted to know what it felt like. What Kalen Adam’s lips against mine felt like. I wanted to shrug the feeling off, but I didn’t have the time.

As he drew closer my eyes involuntarily closed, perhaps it was natures way of helping me to avoid looking like a fool when he realised I didn’t know what to do. Then, it happened. His lips were soft like butter, and they tasted like spearmint chewing gum. Those early notions quickly disappeared, replaced by volts of electricity that moved out of me and into him. I reached out, grasping at his chest, needing to ground myself. It was everything a first kiss was meant to be, I knew it was because I could feel it all over. My stomach rolled with butterflies and my heart pounded so hard I was sure Kalen could feel it. Then all too soon it was over, Kalen’s lips pulled back from mine, my eyes opened and reality came crashing back down.

“He’s gone.” he murmured.

I nodded and stepped back, out of Kalens space and back into my own. We’d only kissed to throw my Dad off. My first real kiss was 100% fake.

“Uh. cool.” I whispered.

“He’s still intense then.”

“Yeah.” I whispered. “You could say that.”

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