Wrapping my arms around myself, I follow the road all the way to Jonas’ house in search of Brandon. He’s probably at the Shirt Shack—Saturday is the busiest day—but he won’t be for long, the sun is already starting to set. Thinking in the sand all day has left me with no other choice than to apologize. There may be a slight chance that Brandon can look past my brief relapse and still like me. I’m willing to find out, even if I resemble some corner-standing lowlife in my skanky dress and sandy hoodie, and I can’t forget my dehydrated and tired face. The smeared lip gloss tops it all off, though. I laugh a little while walking up the path to Jonas’ door. Ringing the bell, I then step back and stick my hands in the pocket of Lauren’s hoodie.
Jonas appears quick. He must see the desperation and depression in my eyes because his face falls.
“Ready to come back to earth?”
I nod, holding back a few built-up tears.
“Brandon’s at work,” he says, bringing me inside like an abandoned puppy. “Come on, you look like you could use a glass of water and some substance.”
He sits me down at the counter and slides a tall glass of water over to me. I hesitantly take it and sip and sip and wipe the stray tear from my cheek—one managed to spill. Before making me a sandwich, Jonas hands me a damp paper towel, and I clean all of the smeared makeup off that Lauren applied Thursday. Another tear escapes and I bring my head down into my palms.
“I really messed up this time,” I mumble into my hands. “Brandon probably thinks I’m a mess, my mom thinks I’m a druggy, Sally has probably fired me...”
I take a bite of the peanut butter and jelly sandwich and realize that I haven’t eaten a proper meal in two days.
“It always seems like the end of the world until it’s not. You’ll work everything out, you always do.” I smile at him, so grateful that he’s in my life. “Clean yourself up, I’m leaving.”
“Where to?” I ask, taking another much-needed bite.
“Presley and I are gonna grab some food then we’re heading to the bonfire. I should probably head out now. You know where everything is.”
“Yeah, and have fun,” I say as he walks off. “Jonas?” He glances back. “Thanks.”
I finish my food and clean up the dishes before handling myself. In Jonas’ bathroom, I shower, change into his clothes and brush my hair. I find an extra toothbrush under the sink and brush my teeth, happy to be out of that reeking-of-alcohol party dress. I take off all of my things—or everyone else’s things—and toss it in the laundry along with his other dirty clothes from the hamper.
Feeling refreshed, I head back into the living room but freeze when I see Brandon leaning against the kitchen counter. He clearly knows I’m here and he’s clearly waiting for me. Right as I walk in, his eyes land on me.
“You didn’t show up to work today,” he says, arms crossed.
Reluctantly nearing, I murmur, “I’ve been on the run.”
“Myself.” I find it hard to keep eye contact with him like he’s some principal and I’ve been caught spray painting the school. “You came looking for me? Yesterday?”
He nods. “Your Mom was worried. You shouldn’t leave without telling anyone where you’re going.”
“What did you see? What was I doing?”
“You were drunk, on a couch with Lauren and some guy. I tried to get you to come with me, but you wouldn’t. You were drinking God knows what.”
Feeling as if my insides are caving in, I murmur, “I’m sorry,” but know that the words are pointless. He’s given me plenty of chances.
“Look, Emma, I just don’t think things are going to work out between us. You clearly have a lot to deal with, and I don’t believe you’re in the position to be in a relationship right now.”
“You’re breaking up with me?”
It’s not me, Emma, it’s you.
Before he can say anymore, I swallow, take a step back and spit out whatever makes it out. “I-I’m gonna go. Sorry.”
“Let me walk you home.”
I shake my head and rush to the door.
“At least promise me that you’re going home, not back to Lauren’s,” he calls.
I slip out and jog across the lawn, slowing down once I’m far enough. Returning home—not for him, but for me—I feel safe once I notice my Aunts car is gone. Not having a key, I carry the lawn chair from the front porch to my window which I now keep unlocked. I climb up and tumble into my bedroom, closing and locking the bedroom door, scared someone will charge in and yell at me.
Looking from the shattered seashells that I knocked off the windowsill to the closet to my suitcase, I snatch the dried-up pen from the front pocket that carries my ID and old drivers permit. With pen in hand, I open the closet and get on my knees, crouching down to the three initials carved in the baseboard. Scratching in a fourth set of initials, I let the built-up tears fall. HJ. MT. KL.
And now EC.
This makes sense to me. The last one to break my heart shouldn’t be some guy—it should be me. Now I don’t have to worry about scratching in another set of initials. Now I can feel closure toward my era of heartbreak.
It may not seem practical to end my romantic life at eighteen years old—deep down I hope I can still be saved—but for now, this is for the best. I’m just sorry that Brandon was dragged into this—sorry that I wasted his time. He’s optimistic though; he’ll move on quickly.
Now that I have no boy to think about, no drama, no fantasies, I’m not sure what to think about at all. Maybe my mother. I’ll start with that. She deserves an explanation. I’ll make a list. I’ll write down everyone I own an apology to and ignore the tears welling in my eyes. I’ll see Sally. I’ll properly apologize to her. There must be another job out there for me. Keep me busy. Stop me from thinking. Thinking about boys. Boys. Brandon.
I’ll busy myself. I’ll make amends.