It's been two weeks since I last spoke to Theo. I make it a point to avoid him as much as possible. When I see him in the halls, I turn and go in the other direction. When I'm forced to walk by him, I act like he doesn't exist.
Throughout all this, Hannah and I start hanging out with Kitty and Eva more. It's weird becoming friends with them when I'm no longer anything with Theo, but they make a conscious effort to separate themselves from him. I think they know something happened between us, but they never bring it up which I'm grateful for.
"So you guys are definitely going on the class trip, right?" Kitty asks at lunch.
"Hell yes," Hannah replies. "I'm so excited."
I take a bite from my shrimp and avocado salad and chew, swallowing before speaking. "Where's the trip again?"
Eva stares at me incredulously. "Are you kidding? Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore! It's like one of the top ten most beautiful places in Michigan!"
"The waterfalls and cliffs," Kitty says dreamily. "It's picture heaven."
Honestly I hadn't been paying much attention to the details of the class trip. Between keeping up with my classes and ballet, there was little time to think of anything else. But this trip sounded exactly like the break I needed.
Unfortunately my mother doesn't seem to think so.
"I don't think you should go," she says that night at dinner. "I mean it's beautiful of course but the hiking trails...they're dangerous. What if you injure yourself?"
I roll my eyes. "Every time I dance I run the risk of injuring myself."
"Yes but that's different. I just don't think you should take any unnecessary risks."
"What's next, you're going to forbid me from walking in case I accidentally trip and injure myself?"
My mother gives me a sharp look. "Watch the attitude. I'm only looking out for you."
"By restricting me!" I yell. "You realize my entire life has always revolved around ballet! I am so sick and tired of just sitting down while my life passes me by! I want to go out and experience new things and have fun!"
"Fun?" My mother scoffs. "Please. You think I didn't have the same thoughts at your age? I wanted the same things you want. To go out and experience new things and have fun," she says the word like it's dirty. "And you know what happened? I got pregnant. That's what happens when you have fun. I had to grow up and take responsibility for the consequences of my actions. Now I have scarified too much for you to just throw it all away because of your little woe is me act."
I stand up from the dining table so fast my chair nearly falls back. "I am not you!" I shout. "I'm sorry that you had to give up on your dreams, but that sounds like your mistake. Your actions are not a reflection of mine! Just because you fucked up doesn't mean I'll do the same!"
The room goes silent.
My mother swallows, and my chest rises and falls rapidly from the adrenaline coursing through me. It feels like an eternity passes, neither of us saying anything, just staring at each other. Finally she stands up from the table and without another word walks out of the room. The click of her room door shutting behind her echoes loudly in my ears. I'm not sure how long I'm left standing there until somehow I force my legs to move.
I stumble into my room and grab my phone, my hands shaking. Immediately I open up my messages and text Hannah.
Me: i just got into a really bad fight with my mom
She responds five minutes later.
Hannah Banana🍌: omg are u okay??
Me: no...i think i fucked up this time
Even though what I'd said was true, it didn't mean it was right to say it. I'd never exploded like that on her before. But years of bottling up my emotions had taken a toll on me, and I snapped.
My phone starts vibrating with incoming texts but I ignore it. Instead I curl up in bed, hugging a pillow to my chest. I close my eyes and focus on breathing, squeezing the pillow tighter.
Why is it always when you need them the most, the one person you want to talk to isn't there?
Since that horrible night at dinner my mother hasn't spoken one word to me. We're like strangers occupying the same space, passing each other by like ghosts. I want to apologie, but every time I try the words get stuck in my throat.
The day of the senior trip arrives and I end up going to try and take my mind off how shitty life is right now. Since it's a almost a five hour drive we arrive at school by five thirty in the morning and are set leave at six.
"We'll be boarding the buses in alphabetical order!" A supervising teacher yells. "Please get in the correct line!"
Hannah rolls her eyes. "This isn't kindergarten. Why can't we just line up and get on?" Then she smiles and nudges me. "At least H is close to M. We're on the same bus."
I smile back. "Yeah and-" I'm interrupted by rambunctious laughter. Hannah and I turn to see Theo standing with Adam and Jack, who are cracking up at something oh so funny. The smile previously on my face slips and Hannah's lips form a thin line.
"Ugh. And so is K."
My emotions have been feeling extra raw lately, so seeing Theo looking happy when I'm clearly miserable kind of makes me hate him just a little bit in that moment. Theo turns and our eyes lock. His smile fades and we stare at each other, a million unspoken words and regrets floating between us. I'm jarred out of the moment when Hannah links her arm with mine.
"Come on," she glares at him. "Let's go get in line. Preferably as far away from him as possible." I let her tug me away.
Hannah and I sit at the back of the bus and we share headphones while listening to music the entire drive. I stare out the window and daydream, eventually falling asleep. It feels like I've only been sleeping for two minutes when suddenly I'm jolted awake as the bus comes to a stop.
"We're here!" Hannah squeals.
I yawn and stretch, peering out the window. We're parked in front of the visitor center, but I can already see the cliffs and water in the distance.
As we step off the bus I squint from the harsh sunlight. Students are clumped up in groups talking as we wait for further instruction. Kitty and Eva wander over to us, and to my dismay, Phoebe is with them. Hannah frowns and I cross my arms uncomfortably.
"Hey guys," Kitty greets us with a grin. "Doesn't the air smell fresher here?" She spreads her arms wide and inhales deeply.
"Yeah, the bus ride was pretty long," Hannah cracks her neck and stretches.
Phoebe laughs. "True. But it was so fun. Theo kept making these jokes about-"
At the mention of Theo's name the air becomes noticeably tense. Eva smiles awkwardly and I shift.
"You know what would suck?" Hannah says randomly after Phoebe is done talking. "It would really suck if someone was attacked by a bear on one of the trails. Gosh I just hope that doesn't happen to anyone," she looks directly at Phoebe. "That would be so tragic."
Kitty snorts then covers it with a cough. Phoebe shoots her a dirty look.
"Well I'm going back over to Theo and the guys," she says Theo's name pointedly then gives me a saccharine smile before walking off.
Hannah turns to Kitty and Eva. "I know she's your friend and all, but I hate her. I actually hate her."
Eva sighs. "I know it doesn't help, but she's only acting like that because-"
"Oh I know why she's acting like that," Hannah interrupts. "I still hate her though."
"Alright, attention students!" Mrs. Pomo claps. She's the AP art teacher. "Gather around!"
We all shuffle forward like a heard of sheep. Once she's satisfied that she doesn't have to scream to be heard Mrs. Pomo begins to speak again.
"We'll be splitting up into random groups. These will be your hiking buddies for the duration of the trip. And before you ask, no you cannot switch groups."
There's a collective groan.
"So if you don't know someone, this is a chance for you to make a new friend. Mr. Harrison will read off the groups," she directs our attention to him. "Pay attention."
Mr. Harrison clears his throat. "Alright so for group one we have..."
He starts listing each group and one by one students break off to go find their group members. I wait patiently for my name to be called.
"For group five we have Theo, Priyanka, Adam, Serena, Noelle, and Aurora."
I stand there frozen as he keeps on going and Hannah turns to me. "Wow. That is...shit luck."
I glare at her.
"You'll be fine," she squeezes my hand. "Stay strong."
"Gee thanks," I reply dryly. It's already bad enough being stuck in a group with Theo all day, but Noelle too? Ugh. The only thing that would have made this worse was if Lucy was in the group. Thank God she wasn't. My only saving grace was Priyanka, but since Noelle was around I wasn't sure how that would go.
I reluctantly turn to go find my group. Noelle and Priyanka are already standing together, so I decide to approach them. Priyanka smiles when she sees me, and so does Noelle, but of course it's fake.
"Wow I can't believe we're in a group together!" She exclaims cheerfully. "This is going to be so much fun."
Yeah. I sincerely doubted that.
Theo and Adam wander over. "Hey," Adam nods at me. I try and smile at him, I really do, but it comes out more like a grimace. Nothing against him of course, he's Kitty's boyfriend and a genuinely nice guy, but besides Kitty and Eva all of Theo's friends feel like my enemies right now.
I can feel Theo staring at me but I purposely ignore him and stare straight ahead while Priyanka and Noelle introduce themselves. Serena is the last to come over and then finally it's time to hit the trails. I thought maybe we'd have a tour guide or something but nope.
We're on our own.
Since we're seniors, we're entrusted with hiking the trails by ourselves, not getting lost, and making it back in time for lunch. All we get is a map and a pat on the back before we're left to fend for ourselves.
Noelle takes possession of the map. "I think we should start with Miners Castle Trail," she points someplace out on the map. "It's short, easy, and has a great view. Any objections?"
Serena shakes her head. "Nope. Sounds good."
Everyone agrees and we start on the trail path. At first all I can think about is how I really don't want to be here, but soon I become captured by the parks beauty. The air is crisp and clean, and even though it's cold it's also refreshing. Once we reach the cliffs Noelle asks Serena to take pictures of her and Priyanka. I wander away to take my own pictures of the view and scenery.
I stand by the edge of the cliff and breath in deeply, feeling a sense of peace wash over me. The waves crash down below and I look down. I know I should feel scared, but I don't.
"Don't do it."
I turn around to see Theo approaching me. My eyes narrow.
"I wasn't thinking about jumping you idiot."
He ignores me. "Come on," he holds his hand out and gestures toward himself. "Just give me your hand. I'll pull you back over."
Now I'm confused. "What?"
He raises a brow at me as if asking for my permission as he cautiously steps toward. I stare at him in confusion when he stops a few feet away from me.
"No you won't," he challenges me with his stare. I tilt my head at him. What? What is he-
I almost smile but bite my lip to suppress it. "What do you mean no I won't?" My voice rises. "Don't presume to tell me what I will and will not do you don't know me."
Theo shrugs. "Well, you would have done it already."
I stare at him before looking back over the water. "You're distracting me go away."
"I can't. I'm involved now. You let go and I'm gonna have to jump in there after you."
I look back over at him like he's crazy and scoff. "Don't be absurd. You'd be killed.
"I'm a good swimmer."
"The fall alone would kill you."
"It would hurt," Theo shoves his hands in his pockets. "I'm not saying it wouldn't. To tell you the truth I'm a lot more concerned about that water being so cold."
I hesitate. "How cold?"
Theo stares out over the water. "Freezing. Maybe a couple degrees over," his eyes slide back over to mine. "You ever uh, you ever been to Wisconsin?
I furrow my brows. "What?"
"Well they have some of the coldest winters around," Theo says. "I grew up there near Chipwood Falls. Remember when I was a kid, me and my father, we went ice fishing out on Lake Wissota,” he pauses. "Ice fishing is you know where you-"
"I know what ice fishing is!" I snap.
Theo holds up his hands. "Sorry. You just...seem like, you know, kind of an indoor girl," he clears his throat. "Anyway I uh, I fell through some thin ice. And I'm telling you. Water that cold, like right down there, it hits your like a thousand knives stabbing you all over your body. You can't breathe. You can't think. At least not about anything but the pain."
"Which is why I'm not looking forward to jumping in there after you," Theo shrugs. "Like I said. I don't have a choice," he gazes at me. "I guess I'm kind of hoping you'll come back over the rail and get me off the hook here."
I stare at him. "You're crazy," I dismiss him and turn away.
Theo chuckles. "That's what everybody says but with all due respect miss,” suddenly I can feel him close behind me, his voice a soft caress against my skin. “I'm not the one hanging by the edge of a cliff here."
I can't help it. I break character and giggle. "I can't believe you memorized Titanic lines," I laugh. "How many times have you watched that movie?"
Theo grins. "Probably as many times as you have. What can I say? I appreciate great cinema."
I step back from the cliff and Theo visibly relaxes. "Scared I was going to fall?" I tease.
"Something like that. You haven't exactly given me great faith," he references the party and I smile until I remember how it ended and the subsequent events after.
My smile fades.
"We should probably get back to the group," I start to brush past him when Theo stops me.
The nickname causes me to freeze in my tracks as a pang goes through my heart. I spin around.
"What?" I sigh.
Theo looks at me sadly. "I miss you. A lot. I miss talking to you and laughing with you and just...being with you."
I swallow past the lump in my throat. I miss you too. All I want to do is give in and forgive you, because having something with you is better than having nothing at all.
But I can't.
"You're the one who pushed me away," I finally reply, my voice thick. "You don't get to miss me."
Then I turn and walk away.
I keep my distance from Theo after that and somehow still manage to enjoy the rest of the trip. Serena is nice enough and the two of us stick together. She's a theater major and she tells me all about the play they're working on, Alice in Wonderland. I think Kitty may have actually mentioned it before since she's also in theater.
"The waterfalls were amazing!" Eva gushes when we meet back for lunch. We all sit down to eat and I unpack my food.
"It was really pretty," I agree.
Hannah leans in close to whisper to me. "Was everything okay? You know, with he who shall not be named?"
I nod. "Yeah. Everything was fine."
"Okay. Good. Just say the word and I'll take him out."
"Okay Nikita," I snort. "Chill."
We both laugh and start eating, talking about the different trails and the things we saw. All too soon lunch is over and we have to re-group.
Mr. Harrison checks his watch. "Okay!" He calls out. "Everyone has to be back here by four-fifteen at the latest. Do not make us send out a search party for you, or it's coming out of your tuition."
Adam takes the lead this time, spreading out the map so we can all see. "We haven't been here yet," he points out. "The hike is moderate, so not as easy as the ones we did this morning but it shouldn't be too bad."
"Sounds fun!" Priyanka chirps. Noelle grumbles but doesn't say anything.
Theo and Adam lead the group, Serena and I are in the middle, and Priyanka and Noelle make up the rear. Serena munches on trail mix as we walk and holds out the bag to me. "Want some?" She offers.
I shake my head. "No thank you," I say politely. I'm kind of full from lunch to be honest.
"Okay. By the way I've been meaning to ask-"
Before Serena can finish her sentence there's a scream. I whirl around to see Priyanka and Noelle far behind us. Noelle is on the ground holding her ankle.
"Guys!" Priyanka yells. "Help!"
I take off before my mind can even catch up, Serena, Theo, and Adam hot on my heels. I skid to a stop and nearly topple over. "What happened?" I demand.
"What does it look like?" Noelle shouts. "I fucking fell and now I can't walk!"
My eyes widen as Adam bends down next to her. "Does this hurt?" he presses on her ankle and she screams.
"Ow! Of course it hurts stupid!" Tears stream down her face. "Oh my God. I can't believe this is happening."
"It'll be okay," Theo tries to reassure her. "We'll go back to the visitor center and get help."
"It's probably sprained," Serena adds.
"Sprained!" Noelle shrieks and starts crying harder.
Adam awkwardly pats her back. "It's okay. I mean, it's really not as bad as it sounds."
"That's not why," I whisper and everyone turns to look at me. "If her ankle is sprained she can't dance..." I swallow hard, my mother's voice echoing in my ear.
I mean it's beautiful of course but the hiking trails...they're dangerous. What if you injure yourself?
"Help me Pri," Noelle sniffles and Priyanka helps her to stand. Noelle hobbles on her good foot. Noelle has always had this air about her, full of confidence and pride. It's strange to see her crying and weak now, enough to leave me shaken as we head back down the the trail. I lag behind and Theo slows his steps until he's next to me.
"You okay?" He asks.
"I- I don't know," I exhale. "My mom and I got into a huge fight before the trip. She told me she didn't want me to go because I could injure myself. I got mad and said some things I shouldn't have and now...that could have been me," I look up at him. "What if that was me?"
"Sometimes life hits you when you least expect it," Theo says. "What if that had been you?" He shrugs. "You'll never know. And it's better not to dwell on what ifs. You'll go crazy if you do."
"I guess...I don't even like Noelle. But I still feel so bad for her."
"She'll be okay. If it's really just a sprain, with some rest she should be back on her feet soon."
I nod and give him a small smile. "Thanks."
He smiles back. "You're welcome."
do we feel a little bad for noelle or nah?