Why I Can't Rule the World

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No. 2

"The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed." ~Carl Jung

The sound of an awful hacking woke me up. At first, I just thought it was my dad snoring, but then it became irregular and loud. Groaning, I rolled over to looked at my clock. It was four-thirty, a whole two hours before I needed to get up.

I tried to bury my head under the pillows and ignored it. Someone probably swallowed wrong or whatever. They’d live. It just wouldn’t stop. It sounded a little painful, as if maybe someone was throwing up.

Sighing, I got out of bed and opened the door to the hall to see if anyone’s light was on. Nothing. The coughing still went on and I realized it was small, and high pitched. With that, I went into Asher’s room, the one across from mine, to see if it was him.

“Brofer,” he whimpered as soon as I stepped in. His small hand reached for me and he grabbed at the air as he stood up in his crib. “Tin.”

“What’s wrong Squirt?” I asked softly, flipping on a lamp and walking over to him.

His cheeks were bright red as he coughed again, sticking his little tongue out a bit as he did. I picked him up out of his bed and he hugged me around the neck.

“Do you have a cough, huh?” I stated, taking his blanket out of his bed and handing it to him. He clutched it tight in his hand and snuggled his face into it, coughing again.

“Throat hurts,” he said as tears started to roll down his cheeks.

“Is Asher okay?”

I turned around to see Pearl, my sister, standing in the doorway. Her wavy brown hair fell over her shoulders, parts of it still wet from her shower only hours earlier. Almost instantly I was annoyed. Sometimes I could tolerate her, but since she was closer to my age and went to my school, I saw enough of her that my patience runs out when she bothers me.

“Yeah, he’s fine,” I said shortly, hoping she would take the hint and go back to bed.

“Can I help?” she yawned, crossing her arms over her old softball t-shirt.

“No,” I said, patting Asher on the back.

“I’m his sibling too,” she stated raising her eyebrows in irritation of not getting her way.

“Yeah, well, I’m his brother and I’m older. Plus you need to go to bed, you’re younger.”

“That’s not fair,” she mumbled.

“And why’s that? I’m giving you a break, I’m taking care of him. Dad’s wanting you to babysit him after soccer is over, you’ll get enough of him.”

“Girls are more mother-like,” she pointed out.

“So? Just let me handle it, go back to your room,” I told her.

“Fine. But don’t come crying to me when you can’t figure out how to give him his medicine,” she finally spat, turning away and closing the door behind her. I rolled my eyes in her direction.

Asher sneezed right as a huge glob of snot came out his nose. I made a face and tried not to gag for the sake of the little guy’s feelings. He could get offended if I threw up because I thought his snot was gross, which it was. He didn’t need to think I wasn’t going to take care of him.

“That’s a nice... Uh, nice product there, Squirt,” I said, crinkling my nose. He giggled a little at my facial expression and poked my nose.

I took a tissue from his dresser and wiped his nose.

“Better?” I asked. He just looked at me and blinked.

Taking the tissues, I sat down in his rocking chair and started comforting him. Every once and a while, he would start to cry again because his nose or throat was aching. Eventually, he fell asleep, taking in deep, hollow breaths in my arms. I leaned my head back, relieved he found some solace.

[] [] []

“Wake up!” someone snapped from in front of me.

I jumped in my chair and felt that Asher was gone from my lap. Peeling my eyes open, I gazed up at Pearl who had our sleeping brother cradled on her hip.

“What do you want?” I groaned, rubbing my eyes.

“It’s six-thirty, isn’t that the time you normally get up?” she huffed quietly, setting him down in his bed.

“Yeah..?”

“Well, you’re welcome. I wasn’t going to wake you you, but then Grandma called and said I probably should.”

“Why would she call this early?” I asked, getting up and walking into the hall. Pearl followed me and shut the door softly.

“I don’t know. Maybe mom was upset last night, who knows?” she said, flipping her hair over her shoulder.

“Whoa,” I said, peering closer at her face. “Are you wearing... Are you wearing makeup?”

“A little, yeah. What’s wrong with it?”

“Just makes you look... I don’t know, makes you look something,” I stated, shrugging and walking to my room.

“You’re so kind,” she remarked, going down the stairs.

“I try,” I called after her.

I threw on some clothes and looked in the mirror to check my hair. By the end of the day, there wasn’t a doubt that my name would be floating around. I smiled, but it seemed forced. The smile was too much, rumors would be enough. Finally, people might know me for something more than the ‘camera dude’.

[] [] []

We arrived at school and I parked my car, then exchanged a look with Pearl. She sighed, but she knew the drill. She took her soccer bag and backpack and threw them over her shoulder. Then, she stepped out and walked up the school’s lot. I waited a while after she went inside, then took my bags, and walked in after her.

Not too many people knew I have a sister. She was a little bossy and not always the nicest person to me. Plus she always seemed to want to be a ‘help’ in some sort of way.

We never mentioned the other to our friends and hardly even glanced at one another in the halls. Maybe I’m being a jerk, but it’s just part of the dance we do. She doesn’t complain, and neither do I. In a weird way, she acts like she understands and just rolls with it.

As soon as I step inside the school, Jimmy and Marcus are by my side.

“Wow, you guys. Waiting by the door and everything,” I said.

“I can’t help it, I want to see this for myself,” Jimmy reasoned, walking beside me up to the English wing, where Juniors had their lockers. Other students milled around us, some listening to headphones, others doing last minute homework. It was typically loud during mornings for some odd reason. Too many morning people.

“Did you actually do it?” Marcus asked, adjusting his backpack straps on his shoulders.

“Yeah,” I said somewhat proudly.

“I personally didn’t think you would,” he admitted.

“I had faith in you though!” Jimmy exclaimed, slapping me on the arm.

“Oh, shut it, you so didn’t. You kept asking me what I thought he’d do,” Marcus contradicted.

“Towards the end, I did,” Jimmy reasoned.

“Is she even here yet?” I asked.

As if on cue, I saw her walk out of the hallway we were about to pass.

“Does that answer your question?” Marcus smirked.

“Let’s follow her, I want to see this for myself,” Jimmy said. He was excited as a little kid on Christmas morning.

Neither Marcus nor myself objected and we sped up so we wouldn’t lose track of her. Honestly, I was nervous. So many things could’ve gone wrong. I could’ve pranked the wrong girl. Maybe there was another Alivia and I got the last names mixed up on accident. Either way, it was bound to be amusing. Hopefully Ace would be satisfied.

We casually stopped when she found her locker and started spinning the dial. Jimmy leaned up against the lockers across the hall from her, arms crossed, eyes wide with anticipation. Marcus checked his phone before he looked up and waited. I couldn’t do anything but watch.

Seconds ticked by as she finally made it to the last number in the combination. It seems as if I had found the right locker. My hoped were confirmed when she swung open the door and some shreds of paper fell out.

At first, she froze. Marcus and Jimmy exchanged a look with me, both of them trying not to laugh. The way she just stopped and stared like that for a moment unnerved me. I didn’t even try to smile. Didn’t even reach for my camera.

Slowly, she reached in and took a handful out, then examined it. After a few moments of her digging through the paper, she understood that those were her drawings. Something clicked inside her brain. A crowd was already forming around the girl with paper shreds at her feet. Some were trying not to laugh while others, like me, held their breath to see what she would do.

All of a sudden, she spun around, face tense with pure anger in her expression. Her eyes darted between the onlookers as they started to chuckle.

She swallowed and opened her mouth, then shut it again, seeming conflicted on to yell or run. Then her eyes settled on me and dread filled my stomach. Hurt flashed across her face and I could feel mine frozen with guilt. It kept me rooted to my spot, though I wished I could’ve run.

“Look at that, she’s pathetic,” Jimmy whispered to me.

I could see her hands shaking and her bottom lip trembled slightly as she opened her mouth to speak.

“How could none of you see this as wrong?!” she exclaimed, anger and hurt laced in her words.

My heart thumped in my chest and I could feel heat rush to my cheeks. I knew this was wrong, yet I did it anyway. How stupid was I to think that this wouldn’t hurt her? She was also a person with feelings and thoughts. Those pieces of paper meant a lot to her.

I was so dumb. It was more trouble than it was worth.

Glancing around, I saw everyone laughing. No one was standing up for her. Jimmy was doubled over, probably trying not to pee his pants. I only felt panic, guilt, and regret.

For some reason, I desperately wanted to run up to her and tell her that it would all be okay. Whoever did it was an idiot. Whoever did it didn’t deserve her reaction. Whoever did it didn’t deserve her time. I couldn’t though, because I was the one who did do it. Plus with Marcus and Jimmy and everyone watching-- I couldn’t be caught defending this girl. They would all judge me for it.

“You got her good!” Marcus said, elbowing me as the laughter grew louder.

All I could do was nod and turn my attention back to the girl. Her frantic blue eyes darted around the room, looking for some kind of saving grace to come to the rescue. I wish I could say I did. Again, I didn’t. Couldn’t.

“Alivia? What’s going on?” someone said.

I could barely hear it above the noise of the crowd but saw the person who said it push his way to walk up to her. I recognized him almost instantly. I ran into him yesterday. However, the smile that he had given me long vanished, now replaced by an expression of extreme concern.

Her explanation only went on for a second or two before she looked the older boy in the eye and walked off, pushing her way past everyone and taking off down the hall.

The guy looked absolutely baffled by what just happened. He sighed and pressed his lips together in what seemed like deep concentration.

“Alright,” he started in a loud, confident voice.

Everyone fell silent and he waited until there was hardly a sound in the hall. I could barely look at him. Clearly he was someone close to Alivia. Already my prank was having a ripple effect.

“All of you just need to move on. Either help the situation or just leave,” he said, his face stern. Surprisingly, everyone paused. No movement for a brief moment before we were set in motion all at once.

The chatter started up again, along with the laughs, and the sounds of lockers opening.

“That was great!” Hayden remarked, appearing by my side and slapping me on the back. I didn’t look at him. Triumph seemed like the completely wrong emotion.

“Yeah,” I swallowed, watching the boy who defended her bend down to start cleaning the mess. A few other kids started to help him.

“Hey, you got her good! It was awesome, Ace will be happy not to have a stalker. See ya around,” he rushed, hurrying away.

Other people pushed past me and I became confused with myself. Why was I so upset about it? I should be happy; the first prank I pulled by myself was successful and made everyone laugh. It didn’t feel right. Her reaction made me feel worse, not better.

I felt someone’s eyes on me and I looked back to her locker where the guy stood, leaned back, arms crossed. He seemed exhausted. The bell rang and the kids all filed into classrooms as he just stood there, staring at me.

He sighed through his nose and pressed his lips tight together. If anything, he seemed disappointed. Slowly, he shook his head at me and I looked away. When I glanced back up, he was still there.

Neither of us said a word. What did he want, an apology? I honestly didn’t know if I had the guts to apologize. Shame, pride, and fear for my reputation churned inside me, so I just kept my mouth shut.

Turning on my heel, I walked down the hall and paused to turn the corner. He was still there, staring at the floor. My first instinct was to get to class, but I wondered what he would do.

I waited.

Finally, he pushed himself off the lockers, and headed the opposite direction from me. He turned into the next classroom without a second glance back.

[] [] []

The day drew on and I felt terrible. If I would’ve known that this much guilt could be possible, I probably wouldn’t have done it. I thought it would be this glorious feeling that I did this for Ace. That I would be light on my feet and smiling about it. It was successful and I did prank the girl.

I couldn’t get her look of anger out of my mind. When she glanced at me and I saw the extreme hurt flash across her face-- it shocked me by how much it affected me. Every time I saw her in the halls, which I discovered was quite often since I was actually looking, she glanced at me and diverted her gaze. I found myself wondering if she was seriously that upset about it.

What if I made her cry?

“She deserved it,” a voice said reasonably. I tried to agree, but my gut told me what I had done went way beyond shrugging it off as just a joke. I think I actually hurt her. That made me sick to my stomach.

When I thought of that, I was swirling my school spaghetti around my plastic tray, waiting for the rest of my lunch group to get out of line. I sort of ditched Jimmy, Marcus, and Hayden. They were making the whole thing worse by continually bringing it up. I heard them go on and on about it all fifth period.

I just wanted this day to be over.

“Hey, mind if I sit?”

I looked up to see the boy who had stood up for Alivia. At first, I was shocked. Why would he of all people want to sit with me at lunch? To yell at me? I became nervous and sat up a little straighter.

“Uh, well, I...” I glanced around and saw my group was goofing off at the back of the line. “Maybe?” My answer came out shaky.

“Want to go somewhere else?” he asked calmly. I must’ve given him a weird look, because then he smiled gently and said, “I just want to talk, that’s all.”

“Look, if you’re here to yell at me for being a jerk, just do it,” I said.

“I’m not going to yell at you..,” he replied, shaking his head and chuckling a little. “I get it if you don’t want to be seen with me, but I want to talk to you about what happened.”

I raised my eyebrows at his assumption that I “didn’t want to be seen” with him. Did he think I thought I was too good for him? Did I think that I was?

Biting my lip, I came to a crossroads on what to do. The guy seemed nice enough, I don’t think he’s going to beat me up or anything. What would other people think? Should I care? Was I seriously too good for him?

Still, he waited. Marcus, Jimmy, and Hayden all had their backs turned and some of the girls who sat with us were laughing and coming toward me. If I wanted to give this dude a chance, I needed to decide now.

Against all the voices screaming at me not to for the sake of my reputation, I bit my lip and finally said, “Let’s talk, just not here.”

He nodded and turned to exit the lunch room from the back way that lead to the courtyard outside. I followed, not daring to look at any of my friends on the way out.

When we stepped out, I realized why no one was eating out here like usual. Dark clouds covered the sky while humidity stuck to my skin. A great way to lift up my mood. I sighed and gripped my lunch tray then caught up with the upperclassman who was already opening another door that lead off to the math wing.

We didn’t go far before he opened a classroom door and shut it behind me. He sat down at a desk in the middle of the room and propped his feet up on the book rack below the desk in front of him. The two of us were the only ones in there.

“Come,” he said, glancing up momentarily at me. “Sit.”

I hesitated, then walked over and sat beside him cautiously.

“I’m Mrs. Jules’ assistant during lunch period and she has lunch duty during third eating group. She lets me come in here during lunch if I want to study or something,” he explained between bites of a sandwich.

“Nice to know.”

“I’m Sawyer by the way,” he added, sitting up straighter in his seat, sticking out his hand to shake. “Senior. Alivia Olson’s brother. You’re Tin Tin right? Junior?”

“Uh, yeah,” I replied quietly, shaking his hand.

He took a few cookies out of his brown paper bag, pulled out an apple, and crumpled up the bag. A look registered on his face that I couldn’t read and he smoothed it out then reached in to pull out a blue sticky note. Smiling, he stopped chewing to scan it, then shoved it in his pocket.

“Is that from your girlfriend or something?” I asked.

“No,” he laughed, crunching into his apple like he hadn’t eaten in days. “Alivia. We’re pretty close.”

I just nodded and looked away, shame washing over me for what I did.

“Speaking of her, that’s kind of what I wanted to talk to you about,” he started, growing serious. I didn’t say anything as he took a deep breath and looked me straight in the eye. “Why?” was all he said.

“E-excuse me?” I said, taken aback. Out of all the things I thought he would do -- yell at me or beat me up or simply scold me -- I did not expect that question.

“Why did you do it?”

“Because Marcus and Jimmy and Hayden dared me to,” I blurted. “They said she was getting on Ace’s nerves and told me I should do it. I didn’t want to, okay? I knew it was wrong. She did nothing to deserve it, except bug Ace about religion or whatever, but she was innocent. They were being jerks. I was a jerk for doing it. But if I didn’t--”

“I know, I know. If you didn’t, you’d get accused of being chicken and not wanting to help your group out,” he interrupted quietly, almost a whisper. There was a weight to his voice that almost made me ask him how he knew, but I didn’t. I just met this guy.

A silence fell between us and Sawyer stared at his food, as if contemplating whether to eat it or not. He sighed and picked up his apple with a slightly shaking hand. Was he nervous?

“Tin Tin, I’m going to straight up tell you something.” He didn’t look at me. “I know you didn’t want to do it. I’ve been in your shoes before. I used to hang out with the Seniors in your little group back when we were Freshmen. So I get it. You didn’t want to.”

He swallowed and chewed a bite of his apple before finally looking at me and continuing.

“Alivia’s my sister. Ace and those guys have been getting into her business for a couple years. They always mess with her. Not her with them, them with her. I won’t tell you the whole thing, it’s not my story to tell. But the point is, she’s gone through so much with them, in my opinion it’s gotten to the point of bullying.”

“I don’t want--” I started to protest, my heart being struck as being identified as a bully.

“Tin Tin, it’s not your fault,” he insisted. “However, she doesn’t think it’s bullying, she thinks they’ll change for the better. Lately she’s been doubting that, and I honestly don’t blame her. She just snapped when she saw those papers in her locker.”

“And everyone laughed at her,” I mumbled, now feeling worse than ever.

“Yeah. Everyone laughed... That’s not the point. The point is, I think it would be in your best interest to apologize,” he finished in a tone that made me look at him. His expression was determined to make his point. All I could do was nod.

“She’s my best friend and family. Please don’t let this draw out. I know it wasn’t you, but you did do it. She didn’t ask me to do this, she’d get upset with me if she found out I talked to you, but I want to protect her. And this crossed the line.” He paused, waiting for my response.

I almost heaved a sigh of relief. This wasn’t bad at all. In the back of my mind, I knew I should apologize, but Sawyer seemed to solidify my decision that I most certainly should and will.

“Okay,” I said. “I’ll make it up to her and apologize.”

Sawyer smiled, relief coming across his face. He nodded as if over taken by gratitude.

“Thank you.” He was sincere about it. “She means a lot to me.”

We sat in silence and ate the rest of our food. I didn’t finish my lunch; I needed something to eat in other classes before school let out. Sawyer sure did eat all of his. His stomach growled even after he was done.

Before I could offer him any of my food, the bell rang. We both jumped up and headed for the door.

“See ya later,” I said, started to walk off.

“Hey, Tin Tin!” he called after me. I turned around and walked backwards a little.

“Yeah?”

“I forgive you for what you did to my sister. I know you didn’t mean it,” he said.

I didn’t know how to take it. No one’s exactly told me that I’ve been forgiven before. It sounded foreign to me, but as soon as I heard it, I was baffled by how much it sunk in.

I was speechless. So I gave him a thumbs up and let myself get swallowed by the crowd.

[] [] []

After school that day, I walked down the halls with my bag heavily weighted with books. I hadn’t seen Alivia. When I did, there were other people around, and I couldn’t get her alone to apologize. My promise to apologize to her had been nagging me since lunch. As I found myself being reluctant to saying sorry, I reminded myself that if I could do a dare I didn’t want to do, then I could gather the courage to do something I did.

Typically I have Cross Country practice after school, but it had started to rain in the middle of seventh period and hasn’t stopped since. Our coach called it off because he didn’t believe in running indoors. None of my teammates had a problem with it, sometimes running gets boring anyway. We would run outside in the rain, but thunder started.

“Hey,” someone said quietly, hitting me on the arm. I glanced up to see Pearl and nearly stopped in surprise. We never talked to each other at school.

“Yes?” I asked.

“We’re watching game film instead of having practice outside and one of my friends said she could take me home. Let Mom know,” she explained.

“Yeah, okay.”

I looked up and she was already walking away like nothing had happened. I shrugged it off as I walked the rest of the way through the school and out into the parking lot where the wind was starting to blow. Rain was coming down in sheets.

Taking off my backpack, I pulled out the hoodie I wore this morning to tug it on over my head and cover my camera. I ducked under the hood and braced myself, then splashed my way down the sloped hill to my car. I willed myself not to slip, and thankfully I didn’t. Diving into the car, I sat for a moment and shivered, shocked at the temperature drop.

I shed my sweatshirt and tucked my camera in my duffel bag before turning the keys in the ignition and driving away. Before this week’s over, I’ll make sure to apologize to Alivia. Without anyone around, of course.

As I pulled out of the lot, I thought about Sawyer. He was certainly different. Any other older brother who remotely cares would’ve yelled his guts out at me or beat me up, but he didn’t. He calmly asked me to apologize and even tried to make conversation with me. He was legit about having Alivia as his best friend.

The rain started to come down harder and I turned on my windshield wipers. As houses flew by that lined the roads that lead away from the school. I noticed someone walking in the rain on the sidewalk beside the soccer fields. Their arms were wrapped around themselves; I could only imagine how cold they were from the rain.

I could tell it was a girl with light brown hair. She was dripping wet as a backpack weighed her down. She looked straight ahead of her which let me get a glimpse of her face. My foot slammed on the breaks when I realized that it was none other than Alivia Olson herself.

First, she was pranked. Now, she’s walking home in a thunderstorm. Where in the world was Sawyer?

A bell went off inside my head. That was my chance. I had to take it, I had to apologize to her. I didn’t know she was getting picked on before. If this was just to mess with her, why didn’t Jimmy, Marcus, or Hayden tell me? Probably because they knew I wouldn’t do it.

I had to apologize.

Grabbing my sweatshirt, I took a deep breath and leapt out of the car. Rain immediately began to pound me and I was instantly soaked. I slammed the door to my car then quickly began to follow her.

“Hey!” I yelled over the pounding of the rain on the cement. She didn’t stop or even show any signs that she heard me, so I picked up the pace and nearly started running. “Alivia! Wait, I need to talk to you!” I called.

Finally, as she was about to cross the street, she caught sight of me. At first, she froze, then her eyes grew wide and she took of in a dead sprint through the rain. I was stunned that she was actually running from me.

“Go after her!” a voice screamed at me.

My feet began to move with the command. Soon, I found myself following her at an increasingly fast pace. She didn’t look back, she didn’t stop. I didn’t either; I was determined to catch up with her. I ran and forgot about the rain. I forgot about Marcus and Hayden and everyone else’s expectations. I even forgot about my reputation.

I just wanted her to know that I didn’t mean it. I didn’t mean to hurt her like that.

It felt like forever, but I knew it was only a matter of seconds by the time I caught up with her. I grabbed the sleeve of her shirt, pulling her back suddenly. She spun to me, chest heaving up and down with a mix of anger, confusion, and pity on her face.

“What do you of all people want?” she asked, sounding like she was trying to be mad, but failing miserably. Her tone was exhausted. She seemed to realize that she couldn’t play it tough and let her expression fall.

“I just wanted to talk to you,” I said, a bit winded from the unexpected sprint. I let go of her sleeve and she glanced to the ground.

“Okay,” she replied, barely audible above the rain.

“So, uh, I’m really sorry for, you know..? What happened this morning and stuff.”

She nodded and looked up at me, seeming conflicted.

“Nothing against you or anything-”

“Are you kidding me?!” she yelled, making me jump. Her eyes were suddenly on fire with anger. I took a small step back. “You shred my art to pieces, which I have been working on during and after school by the way. Then you let people laugh at me so it gets to the point where my brother has to stand up for me. I wanted to handle it. People teased me all day, and now you’re saying you did it even though you have ‘nothing against me’?! What kind of twisted logic is that?” she vented.

I could see her trembling by the time she was done. Her lip started to shake as if her teeth were chattering, and she returned to crossing her arms over her chest. I opened my mouth to speak, but then decided against it. What could I possibly say that would make it better?

“Did you think saying sorry would make this okay?” she said after a moment of silence.

I looked her dead in the eye and decided to tell her what I honestly thought. She’d probably like it, even though I hated to admit it.

“No, and you’re... Well you’re right,” I stated. She raised her eyebrows, seeming to calm down a bit, waiting for me to say something else. I didn’t have anything else to say, not knowing if I could convince her how truly sorry I was.

“So, uh,” I started, seeing neither of us had moved after a moment. “Why are you walking home? Alone, in the rain?”

“Because Sawyer had a FFA meeting and I couldn’t stand another minute in that place,” she spat.

“I really am sorry.”

She pressed her lips together in a thin line and looked away from me, water dripping from her eyelashes. I shifted the weight on my feet and looked down at the ground, then realizing I had a sweatshirt. To make it up to her, I could let her have it so she wouldn’t be completely wet as she walked home.

“Alivia?” I said tentatively. She looked up with the same wary expression on her face. “Here.” I held out my gray Ohio State sweatshirt for her to take. Her hand started to reach for it, but then she hesitated.

“What’s wrong with it?” she asked suspiciously.

“Nothing!” I said, trying to hold back a grin at her caution.

She gave me a small smile and I held it up. Stepping forward, I practically forced her to take it. I shoved it in her open hand, her fingers lightly brushing mine. I could feel the spot where she touched my hand moments afterwards.

Taking off her backpack, she held it under one arm while trying to get the sweatshirt over her head.

“I’ll hold that for you,” I said, taking it before it could slip onto the wet pavement.

“No, that’s okay,” she said, reaching for it while the neck of the sweatshirt was over her head.

“You don’t trust me?” I asked, moving it out of her grasp.

She huffed a bit in frustration and I allowed myself to smile a little. When she had pushed her hands through the sleeves, I started to give it back and she snatched it away, her cheeks a little red. Grinning, she looked away from me.

Thunder clapped overhead making us both jump.

“I-I better go,” she stuttered, sounding nervous. I wonder where that came from.

“Yeah, me too..,” I said, letting my voice trail off. We both turned away, but when I looked back, she was glancing over her shoulder at me. As quickly as I noticed that she was looking at me, she whipped her face around.

I dropped into the driver’s side of the car and sighed. Now I was wet with rainwater too. But it didn’t matter. What mattered was that I apologized and it felt good. Like a huge weight was being lifted off my chest. I began to drive the rest of the way home and noticed lightening crack across the dark sky.

I was passing Alivia, who had the hood of the jacket up, when it hit me-- she was walking home in a thunderstorm. I debated whether to offer her a ride or not. Well, I didn’t want her or Sawyer to think I was a total jerk for leaving her to walk home in the rain. Alone. Wet and carrying books. Not to mention the risk of lighting strike.

Once again, I slammed on the breaks and rolled down the widow, getting a spray of water in the face from the drops that splashed off the black, leather seats.

“Hey Alivia!” I called to her through the window. She turned to look at me, squinting a little in the wind. “Need a ride?”

[] [] []

It took way too much convincing to get her in the car. Apparently offering someone a ride during a storm is a crazy idea.

“Why would I need a ride?” she asked.

“Uh, because it’s raining and thundering. And you’re alone,” I reminded her.

“Maybe I like to be alone.”

“Maybe I’m just trying to be nice.”

“You could be wanting to kidnap me! After what happened today, I wouldn’t doubt it,” she said.

“That’s ridiculous! Do I look like a kidnapper to you?” I scoffed.

“Looks can be deceiving.”

“Alivia,” I said. “Why would I want to hurt you anymore? I still feel terrible about what I did in the first place! Let me make it up to you.”

She eyed the car as the wind picked up once more and tossed her hair.

“Please?” I prodded. I couldn’t believe that my life had come down to this; trying to make a girl I barely knew get in the car so she wouldn’t die of lightening.

She sighed. “Fine. But my house is really out of the way.”

“That’s okay.”

Pulling open the door, I rolled up the window and she sat down, clutching her backpack to her chest like a scared little kid. She shut the door as silence engulfed us.

“I’ll let you know that I have a boyfriend,” she stated, not looking at me when I pulled off the side of the road and onto the highway.

“Do you?” My heart fell the slightest bit. I shouldn’t even had been able to feel it, that’s how small it was. But I did.

“Yes. He’s from my church and his name is Tanner.”

A moment of silence passed and I looked over at her. Her gaze was fixed on the road, eyes glazed over with something deeper than I knew. She seemed upset.

“Do I know him?” I finally asked.

“No,” she said curtly, pulling the hood off her head.

“Oh.”

I kept my eyes glued to the road, the only sound being our breathing. I swallowed and waited for her to say something.

“Next right.”

“Got it.”

I pulled onto the deserted road and started down the winding path. We didn’t talk the rest of the way to her house. It was a gravel road that lead deep into the woods. I spotted a few driveways that went off of the path, some had really nice houses, while others went up hills and out of sight. They were spaced far apart. A few had fences for animals in front of them.

Finally, we made it to her house. A light was on in the front window of a large log cabin. Mud spots littered the yard and I could spot a shed out back. As I parked, she gathered her backpack, then looked at me.

“Look, I really am sorry about the whole prank thing. I didn’t want to do it in the first place, honestly. I was stupid and I did though. Just so you know, those were just copies of your drawings, not actually real things,” I apologized one last time.

She smiled slightly and turned to me in her seat.

“It’s okay. I get the peer pressure thing. I shouldn’t have overreacted and stuff. A lot of things have been going on at the moment, so this just made me snap. But you’re not as bad as some people say,” she said.

I laughed a little then looked back into her eyes.

“You want your sweatshirt back?” she asked.

“No, you can keep it until you don’t feel like having it anymore. I don’t want you to get sick from the cold anyway,” I said, almost cutting her off. She looked a little surprised. I hadn’t meant to say that last part. Heat creeped up into my cheeks and I glanced away.

“Thanks. For the ride and apology and everything,” she replied, getting out.

“Yeah, it was the least I could do.”

She smiled again-- a real one this time. She was about to shut the door for good when she paused and said, “It’s Tin Tin, right?”

“Well, uh... I mean, yes, t-that’s my name,” I choked out, wondering why I was stuttering.

She laughed, making my heart jump.

“My name’s Alivia by the way. Even though you already knew that,” she replied. “I’ll see you around.”

“Yeah... Yeah, see you around!” I called after her as she walked up to the side door. She turned and gave me one last wave.

I held my breath until I made it to the highway, then sighed a huge breath of relief. Never had I ever and interaction with a girl like that before.

Driving the rest of the way home in a daze, I turned on the radio to block out any thoughts about her. I couldn’t help it though. One thought ran through my mind over and over and over:

I don’t think I could ever use the excuse “she’s just a girl” again. Clearly people are deeper than anyone’s willing to look for.

And Alivia Olson-- she’s definitely something else.

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