IF YOU HAVEN'T ALREADY, PLEASE READ "I, NEVER-", FIRST! This is the sequel.
I shove open the front door and make it to the back of the house in just a few long strides. I bound up the stairs and down the hall, passing my roommates open door along the way, but I don’t look up. Reaching behind me, I slam my bedroom door shut as soon as I step into my room. My fingers shake as I undo my belt and slide it from the loops and toss it to the ground. I step out of my jeans and lay across the bed, my eyes closed.
My erratic heart slowed on my drive home, but a trace of anxiety still remains. I run my hands over my face and push my hair from my forehead, then open my eyes and run them along the single, long crack that divides the ceiling.
“Holy shit,” I whisper to my empty room. My thoughts are in a million places right now and I can’t seem to pick one to focus on. “Holy shit,” I whisper again, and reach for my phone.
I have several missed texts from Lily, but none from the person whose name I was hoping to see. I don’t know what I was expecting. I only left Sare ten minutes ago. I tap Lily’s name and start typing, but I’m still so jittery that the letters land out of place. I give up, tap on her name again and wait for her voice.
“Hey,” she greets me after the fourth ring. Her voice is muted and scratchy. I woke her up.
“Hey,” I sigh into the phone.
“How did it go?”
“Good.” The springs of my shitty mattress squeak below me as I sit up and switch off the lamp next to my bed.
“Are you at your house?” Lily asks, as if where I am gives her a truer answer than the word I just responded with.
“Yeah.” I lay back and let my head sink into the pillow.
“Well, what happened?”
Slowly, one by one, my thoughts pull themselves from their millions of random places and begin to form a line.
“I told her I liked her,” I say quietly.
“And?” I can hear Lily smiling into the phone.
“And she said she likes me.” No need to get more detailed about Sare’s feelings right now. I don’t know if they are even still true, anyway.
“I knew it! I told you,” she says triumphantly. “So you finally have a girlfriend?”
“Yeah.” Do I? Those words were said, but that was hours ago. So many things have happened since then.
“Then why are you at home?” Lily is more perceptive than I give her credit for sometimes. I should know better, having grown up the same way she is growing up now.
I let out a long exhale, raise my hand to my eyes, and press my thumb and middle finger into my temples. How much do I want to tell Lily right now? She’s only 16. But she’s a 16 year old who has been through it, even more so than me. Nothing would shock her, but I don’t really want to be someone who adds to her troubled world.
“Never,” she says cautiously. “What happened?”
“Just felt like sleeping in my own bed.”
It’s weird. Lily and I have only been talking a little over a month and a half, but it’s like our minds knew instantly that we were related. I drop my hand and open my eyes to once again trace the long, twisted crack in the ceiling.
“Sare wanted some time alone,” I admit.
“That’s a weird thing to want after getting back together.”
The sight of Sare pulling away from my chest and lunging for the three pregnancy tests flashes before my eyes and makes my lungs tense.
“Maybe. I don’t blame her. I kind of need some time to think, too,” I lie.
“Huh. Well, I hope you two don’t over think yourselves back into being the only two people in the world who can’t see how in love you both are.”
“Shut up, Lily,” I tease.
I hear a whispered laugh turn into a long yawn through the phone, then silence.
Sare had gripped all three tests in her hand so hard that her knuckles turned white. The silence in that bathroom as I watched for her reaction could have been made of ice considering how frozen we both were. There was no air sliding through our lips or rustles from our shirts moving against our chests while we breathed. Fuck, there wasn’t any breathing at all. Nothing moved.
“I gotta go back to bed. School tomorrow,” Lily finally says, pulling me from my memory.
“Yeah, I should too,” I lie again. There’s no fucking way I’m getting any sleep tonight.
“I’ll text you tomorrow when I’m done. Can you still take me to the store?”
“Yeah, no problem.”
“Thanks. ’Night, Never.”
“Bye.” As soon as we hang up I glance at the screen, just in case I missed the vibration of a text while we were talking. There are zero missed notifications. I drop my phone to my side and close my eyes again.
The events of the last half hour play out against the screen of my lowered lids.
Sare’s death grip on the three sticks.
The frozen silence in the small bathroom.
Sare’s eyes moving from one test, to the other, to the other.
The century that passes before she looks up at me with the result.