Destructively Oblivious

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Chapter 36: Heartbreak

Heartbreak

/ˈhärtˌbrāk/

noun

1. Something everybody goes through but nobody’s prepared for.

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*Chloe’s Point of View*

Monday, January 27th.

Chatter filled the cafeteria loudly as people laughed and gossiped and ate the questionable food they were provided. Every student was partaking in a conversation—every student except for me. Instead of protruding into whatever conversation the guys were having at our lunch table, I pushed the soggy croutons of my salad around on my tray.

I glanced at Asher’s empty seat beside me. When I had said the guy’s conversation, what I meant was Andy, Danny, and Blake. Asher had never joined us for lunch, despite it being half-over now. Solemnly, I scraped my fork against my styrofoam tray, wishing that Jamie wasn’t absent from the table as well. I cursed her for staying behind to talk with a teacher.

When I watched Andy search the packed cafeteria, his eyes dancing across each table, I sighed, knowing exactly who he was looking for. He drew his eyes to mine after a moment of observing the students.

“Where’s Asher?” he asked casually.

Usually, I would have known the answer, but today, his location was a mystery to me. In fact, I’d barely seen him at all this weekend. I didn’t see him Friday night, after our conversation in the kitchen. He didn’t come downstairs Saturday morning for coffee and I drank mine alone, wondering if avoiding me was what he meant by being friends.

I didn’t see him that night either. Prim went up to his room to ask if he wanted to watch a movie with us, but he wasn’t there. I hadn’t even seen him leave, and my stomach hurt just thinking about where he had gone.

Sunday morning was the first time I had seen him since we’d spoken Friday. I rushed down the stairs later than usual, having accidentally slept in, brightening when I realized he was standing at the counter, making coffee. He’d barely glanced at me when I had moved beside him and, after preparing his own cup, he headed back upstairs. I didn’t see him for the rest of the day.

This morning, I knocked carefully on his door to ask if he was driving me to school. A few seconds later, through his closed door, he muttered the first words I heard from him in days: “I can’t. You should ask Jamie.”

I assumed he meant he wouldn’t be coming into school at all today, but I stepped through my second-period doorway and locked eyes with him from across the classroom. He wasn’t in his regular seat. The one that was next to mine. The one he had occupied since he’d talked to me for the first time after returning my keychain. No. He was in the corner, in the seat he’d sat in before we’d ever met, surrounded by the bare legs of girls who circled the chair like crows.

One girl appeared to be talking to him, others listening in on the conversation. Another girl was simply dragging her finger along his forearm, hoping to catch his attention. But his eyes were elsewhere. He held our gaze as I remained stone still in the doorway.

Students trying to enter the classroom were forced to squeeze by me as my heart dropped into my stomach and simmered. It was like he was making a public service announcement with no words. His refusal to sit with me was all I needed for the tears to form in my eyes, but I urged them not to spill.

A boy, trying to get past me into class, accidentally nudged me too hard and forced me to take a step. I diverted my eyes from Asher for a single second merely to ensure I wouldn’t trip. When I’d looked back at him, he’d already looked away.

I pulled myself from my dismal weekend and morning memories and looked at Blake, who was frowning over Asher’s absence as well. “Yeah, I haven’t seen him since this morning.”

I shrugged. Danny, who had left space between himself and me in case Asher showed up, closed the gap by scooting across the bench to sit beside me. Softly, he questioned my dispiriting behavior. “Did you two get into a fight?”

I shrugged again, not making eye contact with any of the boys as I crushed a crouton beneath my fork and mumbled, “It was more of a one-sided agreement.”

Andy tapped my tray with his own fork, forcing my eyes to meet his, and asked, “What happened?”

I swallowed the lump in my throat as misery rippled through me at the memory of the conversation. I was relieved I was sitting because my legs surely would have given out below me had I been on my own feet.

“I don’t know,” I said.

Raising an eyebrow, Blake pulled my eyes to him. “How did the conversation end?”

“I don’t know,” I said again.

Danny frowned. “You two are still friends, right?”

Looking back down at my salad, my vision abruptly blurry, I raised my shoulders as I dropped the fork against my tray. “I don’t know.”

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Tuesday, January 28th.

Jamie drove me to school again Tuesday when Asher never came downstairs. I realized avoiding me in the morning assured he wouldn’t be forced to drive me to school, meaning he wouldn’t have to walk me to class or sit with me in English, or science, or Government. It meant he wouldn’t have to take me home, or have dinner with me, or sit with me on the couch. It meant he wouldn’t have to help me with my homework, or laugh with me, or smile at me or talk to me. It meant he wouldn’t have to acknowledge my existence at all.

I was silent in the passenger seat of her car, watching the blurry shapes pass me by as time ticked away on the clock. A melancholy mood had swept me off my feet and a black storm cloud resided above my head where ever I went.

My stomach was empty, but nausea swirled inside it like a hazardous tornado. My once rushing blood had morphed into tar, slowing my beating heart. I was inwardly falling apart over a loss that I’d had no control over and I didn’t know how to keep myself sturdy.

Jamie reached over the middle console to set her hand on top of mine when she’d slowed at a red light. I could barely look over at her.

“You know, C, what's meant to be will be," she said.

"Sure."

"Have faith. Everything will work out fine. Even if this is how the situation was supposed to play out, then it'll all work out fine in another way." She gave me a warm smile. "Think about how much your life improved after you kicked Devin to the curb. Not to mention your mental state. These things help you grow, you know?"

I agreed with a sigh. She was right. My breakup with Devin had been one of the best things to ever happen to me, and it was an experience I needed to grow and change, as cheesy as that sounded. But my feelings for him had shifted quickly out of admiration after my initial heartache. I understood immediately how terrible he'd treated me and how much my own self-respect had waned during our relationship.

The situation with Asher felt so different. I felt no anger towards his actions because I knew they came from a place of fear, not malice, which I was starting to wish I didn't know. I wished I could be angry. I wished he had given me something to be angry about during our final conversation. He didn't even yell at me.

Jamie looked over at me again after a long period of silence. "Chloe, it’s okay to cry,” she assured.

I nodded. I knew it was okay but I wasn’t going to. If I didn’t cry, maybe it wasn’t really heartbreak I was feeling after all.

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Wednesday, January 29th.

Wednesday played out the same way as the days before it, and that night while sitting alone in my bedroom across the hall from his, I finally allowed myself to break down and sob privately. It was really heartbreak.

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Thursday, January 30th.

As the days progressed, my opinions on everyday life factors began to shift, growing dimmer. Colors were too dull. Music was too loud. The sun was too bright. Nothing sat right with me anymore. I kept the blinds in my room closed because the fact that life went on as usual despite my heartache made me bitter.

I felt as if concrete was drying on the inside of my body. My lungs were tight from shaky breaths, my eyes felt incinerated from the tears, those both shed and unshed.

If the fact that Asher avoided me at school wasn’t enough, he also ensured we were never alone together at home. He stayed in his room most of the time and so did I, which made actually seeing him even harder.

When we passed each other in the hallway at school, or at home, he ignored me like I wasn’t there. Like I wasn’t staring at him. Like I wasn’t hoping he would say absolutely anything to me, even if it was something that would further my aching heart.

That Thursday, I watched him from across the room in class. The girl beside him said something into his ear and he smiled at her like his life was complete bliss. My nose was burning and I felt acid begin to flood into my abdomen. Like a thousand tiny needles were stabbing me from the inside out.

My hand shot up in the air after I’d watched the exchange and I excused myself into the hallway. When the classroom door had closed behind me, I broke into hysterics over how much I’d missed his smile alone.

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Friday, January 31st.

Andy walked with me to my final class on Friday, after he’d pointed out that I hadn’t spoken all day. We stopped outside my classroom and he smiled warmly, setting a friendly hand on my shoulder. “I know it doesn’t mean much but I’m really sorry about you and Ash.”

I nodded, allowing him to pull me into a loose hug. I had tried to smile at his generosity but my mouth simply wouldn’t allow me to. Heartbreak was cruel that way.

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