^ Link to Ch 15 because I know all of you have forgotten what the hell is going on in this story and I don't feel like recapping. Please skim it if you must.
Well, here is 16! You may think it is here so soon after the triumphant return of my laptop, but truthfully I had this much written before it broke. I just needed revising. XD Here goes.
Note: THESE ARE THOUGHTS!
Mary’s dreams that night were like a plague unto her, they invaded every dark recess of her mind and drug out memories and emotions that she had thought long ago buried. She didn’t want to remember Alex now. He should stay as stoically unmoved as his corpse, and the memories of him as cruelly unvisited as his grave.
Her body twitched awake in the near twilight around her. It was hardly brighter with her eyes open than when they were closed. The sun had yet to rise, and her room was as dark as midnight; darker actually, because the moon had moved away from her window as it orbited above the Earth’s surface. Now she struggled against the sleep that threatened to trap her once more inside her own head. She didn’t like the idea at all. She was quite glad that her dreams had awakened her. The last thing she had seen was Alex’s headstone covered in moss…
Mary scrambled out of bed and to her feet. She felt incredibly groggy and disoriented, and she was having difficulty erasing the last images of her dreams from her sight. She pressed her fingers into her eyelids until bright circles of light popped up and replaced the graveyard. It didn’t do much for her in the way of balance, but it did help her brain catch up with her body. Slowly she became aware of the creased clothes that hung loosely off her body, aware that she had fallen asleep fully dressed and with her tennis shoes still on.
Eugh…I’m doing real great in the dream department lately.
She crossed her arms in front of her, took hold of the hem of her T-shirt, and pulled the article of clothing up and over her head. Her upper body quickly chilled from exposure, though she did nothing to stop it. She merely tossed the thing aside and waited as her eyes adjusted to the semi-light. It wasn’t long before she noticed a sliver of faintly pink light coming through the folds of the loosely closed curtains. She eyed it without interest for a moment, then set to work removing the rest of what she was wearing. Slowly the light deepened its color, and it was a red stripe by the time Mary had finished tying her shoes again. Now fully dressed, she crossed her room and pulled back the curtain to peer out. The sun was halfway risen now. The sky was already showing the promise of a new day.
Today, Mary decided to head off for school early. Her backpack slung loosely over her shoulder, she filled the pockets of her fresh pair of jeans with her wallet, keys, and phone, and dashed down the stairs. She didn’t even turn back to check for her parents’ car in the driveway as she set off to school very early.
They were still serving breakfast in the cafeteria when she arrived, and Mary, feeling suddenly ravenous, got in the short line to grab something to eat. It seemed like forever since the last time she’d eaten before lunch. However, the small excitement of it quickly fizzled and died out as she saw her selections: pancakes, that weird corn dog thingy, and cereal. She wasn’t really a fan of pancakes but was of that slice of sausage that came with it, so she decided on fried calorie cakes. Her life seemed to be full of compromises like that.
The sickly-sweet aroma of syrup from the tray of food was making Mary feel vaguely ill. Scowling, she ditched the little cupful of it on her way to her usual bench in the corner. She was just getting over the nausea when she saw, after moving past a rather crowded bench littered with goths, a lone figure already seated at her destination. She almost dropped her food as she fully realized who it was.
Nicole was turning her plastic spoon over in her cereal absentmindedly, her chin resting on her hand. As Mary watched, she lifted a spoonful level with her shoulders, then let the contents fall back into the bowl. Mary had the impression (from how soggy the flakes looked) that Nicole hadn’t touched her breakfast at all. With this realization came the inevitable feeling that something was struggling in the pit of her stomach. She felt as though whatever the thing was was eating away at her. But Mary ignored it. She merely took in a deep breath to steady herself and crept a little more warily toward the bench. As she drew closer, she saw that Nicole had a vague expression on her face; her eyebrows were in their natural position, her mouth curved slightly downward, and her eyes seemed to be a kind of dull moss color. Nicole looked, quite frankly, thoroughly depressed.
Mary thought about turning back and leaving undiscovered, but before she could make another move Nicole’s eyes had found hers’, and they widened ever so slightly with surprise and comprehension. The struggling thing inside Mary’s stomach seemed to just reach into her throat, for she almost had to choke it back down. Perhaps it was those green eyes that made it so difficult for her to keep her composure. But she needn’t have tried, for at that very moment Nicole seemed to have lost all heart. She darted out from behind the bench and took off, completely abandoning both her food and her backpack.
It had hardly been more than ten seconds from the time Mary had first noticed her older friend to when she disappeared from sight, yet it took her another full minute to process what had happened. Her brain seemed to be working like a snail today. Her thoughts were like a million cars trying to get through Time Square at the same time, but they were stuck waiting for all the emotions to saunter across the street. It wasn’t long before tears swelled into her eyes and made them sting as Mary tried desperately to hold them back. She wasn’t really sure why she wanted to cry, but knew she would be damned it she let herself in front of all those people. Using her wrist to dispose of the evidence, she closed the distance between her and the bench and slumped down on it. Nicole herself had sat here only moments ago. The thought, far from comforting her, made it even more difficult to keep her pride. But still she would not let herself cry. It was a matter of life and death to her.
Ten minutes or so later Mary tossed both trays of untouched food into a nearby trash bin. The bell was going to be ringing in another minute, and she wanted to get to English early. She had seen Nicole head toward their first period earlier and guessed that’s where the pained girl had gone. It was unlikely, but still she had to try. Hoisting both backpacks unto her right shoulder, she set off. She had to fight her way through a group of giggling girls once she reached the double doors leading into the hallways, cursing that they choose to stand right in the way. One of the more girly teens gave her a rather dirty look and refused to move an inch. Oh em gee, stupid bimbos! But there was no time.
Finally inside, she hurried through the largely empty passages, crossing into the language hallway and following it to a door almost at the end. She paused before it for a moment, suddenly nervous. It had seemed such a simple thing to do not too long ago, but now that she was here she was feeling rather self-conscious and unsure. She felt her hand twitch once.
Damnit…what am I supposed to say? I should have planned this out already, I had plenty of time. I don’t even know if she will want to talk to me, though I have a feeling not. Crap…maybe I should rethink this…
Mary stood there indecisively, unable to make her body move any closer to her destination, and as she did, a familiar voice seemed to flutter up from the crack under the door and flirt with her ear. It was soft and fleeting.
"…can’t even stand to look at her, Phil. What am I gonna do?"
Mary’s heart jerked and caught somewhere near her throat.
"That’s to be expected really, everyone gets over things at their own pace you know."
"I just feel so damn pathetic. And what’s worse, she saw me freak out and run away. I was a coward…"
"I don’t think Mary thought that at all. She’s a smart girl, she knows that you’re going through a rough time. Actually, I don’t think she wanted you to see her either."
Blood pounded in Mary’s ears. Nicole was talking about her…with Mr. Phil! She really wished that she could melt away into nothingness and not have to listen to what sounded like a very private conversation.
"It’s so hard…it wouldn’t be if she wasn’t so amazing. I just…can’t help but still feel for her. I wish…well I wish a lot of things…"
"Hey, come on now. I don’t want to get your hopes up, but you never know what the future holds. You may end up with a really hot girl in the near future."
"I don’t want some hot girl…I want Mary…"
There was a slight creak, like someone had gotten off a chair. Then a gentle brushing. Mary strained to filter out the pumping in her veins and catch every sound, painfully aware all the while that she should not be hearing any of it. But she bit her lip and focused all of her senses on sounds of movement that did not come for some time, then came rather suddenly.
"There. Now keep those eyes dry missy, I know you don’t want the other students to see you like this."
Then they were silent. Mary listened with all her might, but again she couldn’t hear a thing. She guessed that the two didn’t want to say anything more so close to the time that everyone would be piling into the room for class. The bell was due to ring any moment.
Mary soon became aware that her shoulder was aching under the added weight of Nicole’s bag, and through that discovered that she was once again able to move her body. It would be alright to go in now, wouldn’t it? I could act like I’ve heard nothing…
She drew in a ragged breath and willed herself to place her hand on the smooth surface of the doorknob and turn it. It submitted to her push quite noiselessly, so that when it was fully open she had a moment or two in which to look upon the scene that, until that moment, she had had to imagine. Mr. Phil, clearly unsure whether or not his presence was helping, was standing somewhat near Nicole. She looked simply wretched. Her eyes were puffy and seemed to be tinted red, and her limbs appeared to be weak. They lay uselessly on the desk she sat at, seeming more like limp noodles more than anything else. It was with extreme difficulty that Mary suppressed the urge to go to her friend and embrace her. This was such a curious struggle for her, one that she had never before experienced. It didn’t seem quite right for her to have such an urge, but it felt so very natural and instinctive. Thinking about it left her feeling dazed and confused.
"Oh! Mary! You’ve never made it to my class so promptly before!"
Mr. Phil’s exclamation at Mary’s appearance, though sincerely full of surprise and wonder, sounded as though it was exaggerated slightly. Nicole looked up in fright and retreated notably in her seat.
"Morning Mr. Phil…" Mary replied bleakly. She had expected her voice to shake but was relieved that it was steady, even if not very strong or friendly. Phil made an uncertain kind of gesture, lasting only a moment, and then moved away from Nicole toward his desk at the front. Mary had the impression that he thought it better to give himself a little distance from his two students. Marking his prudence, Mary took the seat to the right of Nicole’s. The bell had yet to ring, so she could sit anywhere she wanted for the time being.
Nicole carefully avoided her eyes. Though Mary looked at her purposefully, she kept her own gaze firmly on the graffiti on her desk. The silence between them was thick and pressed on Mary’s eardrums. She knew she must speak, though, now that she had found herself in the position she longed to be in for a week, her mind was quite stripped of thought.
Then the bell finally rang. Both girls started in their chairs and Mr. Phil made a noise that was either a sigh or a groan, but either way plainly showed his feelings on the bell’s timing. He took his feet from his desk (a position in which he was often found lounging) and stood to write on the whiteboard. Mary watched him trace out block letters on it, feeling a kind of sinking in the pit of her stomach. She had missed her chance to make up with Nicole twice, and the day had only begun! Feeling supremely like a loser, she stood up, deposited Nicole’s bag at its owner’s feet, and went to sit at her own desk.
She let her head fell into her palms weakly. Her fingers pressed firmly into her eyelids until white dots appeared in them again and began to change color and form. I am such a loser! she thought desperately. Her brain had failed her. Even if the bell had not rung at that precise moment Mary knew she wouldn’t have been able to say anything even half-convincing. Her usual quick wittedness had quite evaporated, leaving her a kind of cheap imitation of her former self. It was just so very hard for her to be eloquent when she and Nicole were at odds! They were usually like two sides of a coin, one complementing and giving shape to the other. How could I have let things come to this? How could I have screwed up this badly? Mary continued to be plagued by her own thoughts as more students began making their way into the hall beyond the room, then into the class itself, and finally into their assigned seats. Some mouthed greetings to friends across the room and others openly shouted friendly insults to each other. It all seemed rather distant to Mary though. She kept herself quite detached from their leisurely chatter, trying to make herself feel closer to Nicole than she really was. But just then the bell rang out again, and Mr. Phil called the class into silence.