Anadale, Connecticut | Three years earlier
I didn’t understand what was happening.
My cheeks were burning with embarrassment as I stood there, clutching my lunch tray in my shaking hands. The warm sun beat down on my shoulders, while the autumn wind sent a shiver down my spine. I could hear the pounding of my heart resonate in my ears.
Almost all of the students sitting at the tables outside were wearing some kind of mocking look, eyes boring into me as laughter slithered through the crowd. All I had done was step onto the courtyard grass, and then everyone fell into hysterics. Even with Valerie right beside me, I was being completely singled out. The spotlight was on me, and there was no way to escape its scorching heat.
"Ev-e-lyn,” a sweet voice cooed as a blonde figure lifted herself off of one of the stone tables and came towards me.
I narrowed my eyes. It was Grace—the girl I once viewed as a really close friend, and who was currently my best friend’s girlfriend.
Wait. Adam. Where is he?
I was just with him fifteen minutes ago, walking down the hall to the cafe to grab food before we went our separate ways. He had to be somewhere out here. This was where he usually ate lunch with his other friends who I wasn’t a fan of and who, frankly, didn’t care for me either. Lunch at school was one of the few times the two of us weren’t together.
Reluctantly, I brought my attention back to Grace.
She placed a hand over her mouth and cleared her throat while pulling a piece of paper from her back pocket. With a smile, she glanced first up at me and then to either side of her before reading aloud, “’Raven hair, chocolate eyes, a love for you I can’t disguise. Something about us feels like fate, but all I’m feeling is heartbreak. If only you could see that it’s you and me. Me and you. If you could only see that I do everything for you while she—”
My heart dropped into the pit of my stomach, and I cringed. I tried my best to tune her out, because those were my words.
That was my song.
“Wait, no. Grace, stop!” I dropped my tray onto the trashcan nearby and charged over to tear the paper from her manicured fingers.
As I got closer, Grace spoke the last line of the chorus. “‘And baby, it’s you. With me is just—” She let out a loud guffaw before she finished, “just where you belong.’ This is impressive, Evelyn,” she mocked when she looked back up at me. “Truly inspiring.”
Her comment was followed by a rumble of laughter.
When the two of us finally came nose to nose, I tried to grab the page from her to no avail. “Where did you get this?”
It felt like someone had punched me repeatedly in the gut. This song was never meant to be seen by anyone—ever. None of my songs were meant to be heard. I kept them hidden in the depths of my room in an old notebook buried under all of my socks. Grace shouldn’t have had any idea that the notebook even existed. No one knew it existed except for. . . Adam.
“Who’s it about, Evelyn?” Grace asked. “Read it.” She held the sheet up and pointed to the paragraph written above the song. “You spelled it all out right there.”
“Give me it back.” I attempted to take the paper from her again, and she pulled it away.
“I’ll give it back if you say it. Who’d you write this about? Who’s the ‘love of your life’? The guy who doesn’t see how much the two of you are ‘meant to be’.”
It felt a little harder to breathe, like the embarrassment was suffocating me. I knew where feelings like this could lead to. In fear, I surveyed the crowd again.
Finally, I found Adam.
He was sitting at a table with some of the other athletes. His face was a pale red, and his head was low. He locked eyes with me, and in that moment it felt like everything came to a halt.
Usually, the two of us didn’t need words. Seven years as best friends and having known each other since we were in diapers had us totally in sync, despite the fact we were so different. He was charming, confident, and popular, and I had a proclivity for awkward situations, was too shy for my own good sometimes, and lucky if people remembered my actual name around here.
But it worked. We worked.
And right now, I needed him to back me up. I needed him to be there for me, like we’d always promised we would for each other.
He looked away as if he didn’t know who I was.
No, no, no, no, no. My glasses were beginning to fog up, and my resolve was deteriorating. Oh God. This is not happening. Not here, not now.
“Say it, Evelyn.” Grace demanded again. “Say it’s about Adam. Tell him.” She nodded in his direction. “Tell him you don’t want to be just friends anymore. Tell him how in love with him you are. I mean, that’s not weird at all, right?”
The moment Grace said Adam’s name, everyone’s eyes went to him, and the guys at his table started to laugh, heckling him, trying to shake his hand in mock-congratulations. Adam didn’t move. He was looking down and ignoring them.
It felt like my legs were going to give out under me. “Where did you get this?”
When I reached for the paper again, Grace let me have it. “I have my ways.” She sighed and cocked her hip to the side. “You think you know somebody, huh?”
I couldn’t tell what she was alluding to. The fact I secretly had a thing for Adam, the fact I trusted him to back me up and he wasn’t, or the fact the he—
I looked over at Adam again. He was still frozen.
He was the only one who knew about my music. The only one who knew about the book. Even though he’d never read it, that didn’t mean he hadn’t snooped around my room when I wasn’t around, found it and given it to Grace.
Maybe our differences had gotten to be too much.
You think you know somebody. . .
Wetness rolled down my cheek, and I wiped it away quickly, hoping Grace wouldn’t notice.
“Aw, what’s wrong, Evelyn? Want some time to write a song about it?” She leaned towards me, and her voice was quiet. “Sometimes not everything can work out for Little Miss Perfect.”
I had no idea what she meant, but regardless, that was it. I was done.
It was then that a teacher finally came to see what the fuss was about, but it was too late. I ran away.
On my way to the stairs back into the school, I passed Valerie, who had been staring at me, dumbfounded, the entire time. She may have been my closest friend other than Adam, but she’d never known anything about how I felt about him. With her, I always made sure to act like the only girl in school who wasn’t enamored with Adam Fields.
When I was back inside and safely en route to the restrooms, my mind went wild.
All my deepest thoughts and feelings were wedged in the worn pages of that book. My greatest secrets were now property of the entire student body. My fear I’ll never be good enough compared to my older sister, my anxiety, my insecurities, my rejections . . . my “love” for the one guy I thought had ever really understood me.
I fought to keep my breathing under control as I turned into the girls’ bathroom and bust into an empty stall. Then I just bawled. . . and bawled. . . and bawled.
Because one of my greatest escapes, one of the things I was so passionate about and loved so much, had just been used against me, and the one person in the world that I counted on most was the prime suspect as the one who sold me out.