Me: There’s nothing to do.
I’m not going to cry. Even if the tip of my nose feels numb and there’s a lump in my throat the size of an apple.
Iris: Call him? Say you’re sorry?
The phone in my hand shakes as I suck in big breaths of air.
Me: He’s MOVED ON! OK!?! He moved the f**k on. End of story.
And so did I. It was over before it even began, and I’m fine. I’m fine.
When the phone rings, I pick it up out of habit. I don’t even say a word, just accept the call.
Iris’s voice comes through soft and hesitant. “Hey, girl. I’m sorry. That was harsh of me.”
“It’s okay,” I mumble. I’d rather run na**d through campus than talk to her right now, but hanging up would just make it worse. Iris would hunt me down eventually.
Iris sighs. “Look, I know you’re just trying to protect me, okay? And I love you for it.”
Kind of hate you right now, Iris.
Which she must know, because she keeps pushing. “And what I said about you and Drew…” She pauses. “I’m sorry. I’ve been an insensitive bitch about the whole thing. I didn’t realize… Just. Just take it easy this weekend, Banana. Okay?”
“Yeah.” I clear my throat. “Sure.”
“I gotta go,” she says. “Henry’s up and—”
“Right.” I toy with the handle of my mug. “Okay, then.”
We hang up with awkward mumbles of goodbye.
FOR THE FIRST time, I am not happy that it’s my birthday. I’m not in the mood to celebrate. Drew’s birthday was yesterday. And though I’m the jerk who pushed him away with both hands, somewhere in the back of my mind, I’d planned to celebrate our birthdays together. At the very least, I’d have found a way to be with him on one day or the other. Who did he celebrate it with? Will he think of me today?
Sitting on my bed in the empty apartment, I curl over on myself, pressing a hand to my chest. When is the pain supposed to end? I feel so hollow, yet so heavy with hurt that I can barely move. Sleep is no longer a comfort. Every moment I’ve spent with Drew plays in a loop in my head. When I wake, my pillow is damp and my cheeks are tight with dried tears.
I’m walking out to meet George downstairs when I trip over the box on my doormat. It’s a present, fairly large and square, and done up in plain white paper and a black ribbon. An envelope is tucked under the ribbon. I can’t see any writing on it, but instantly my heart is thumping so loud I hear its thud in my ears. I’m almost afraid to pick the present up. From outside, a horn blares.
Grabbing the package with clumsy fingers, I run out to the car.
“You aren’t supposed to get yourself presents, Anna,” George jokes when he sees the package in my hand.
“Ha.” I tried to laugh, but I can’t.
We drive off, the present cool beneath my sweaty palm. Staring out the window, I press my fingertip against the hard corner of the card until it bends. Should I open it now? At least see who it’s from? I think I know. But I might be wrong. I’m not sure what would crush me more, if I’m right or if I’m wrong.
Only one way to know. And I can’t wait until I get home. My fingers tremble as I pull the envelope free and rip it open. It’s a plain white card with “Anna” printed on it in hard, masculine script. My breath seizes at the sight and a crazed sort of snort leaves my lips. I don’t even know if it’s Drew’s writing. I’m only guessing. How sad it that?
Fumbling, I open the card.
I haven’t cried in weeks. I won’t let myself. But staring down at the wrapped present, I feel a familiar burn and tickle behind my lids. My throat constricts so hard that I struggle to swallow. I can’t bear to rip into Drew’s present. I want to keep it just as it is, in the precise way he last touched it. But something waits inside for me, and I have to know what it is. The car speeds along the highway as I carefully pull the ribbon free and attempt to open the present without tearing the paper.
Inside is a box, and when I lift my present free, a sob wrenches out of my chest. It’s a framed Siouxsie and the Banshees album cover—JuJu, circa 1981. And it’s signed by the entire band. A rare and wonderful thing that I don’t think anyone else in the world would know that I’d love.
Like that, I’m a veritable fountain of tears, snot, and heaving sobs as I clutch the frame to my chest.
George casts me a horrified look. “What the hell? Anna, talk to me.”
I can’t. Not without dying a little more inside. “I’m sorry. I’m PMSing.”
While George’s look of horror grows, I sniffle and search for a tissue in my bag. I find a crumpled cocktail napkin that scratches my face when I use it. “The present is from my mom,” I lie. “I guess I’m homesick.”
He doesn’t look convinced. In fact, I’m sure he knows I’m lying. But he lets it go with a shrug. “I guess it’s good you’re going home for break soon.”
But my home isn’t a place anymore. I’ve realized too late that it’s a person. And I’ve torn him from my life.
I TURNED TWENTY-THREE yesterday. Ever since my parents died, I’ve hated my birthday. It only serves to remind me that my family is gone, and I am essentially alone. Gray is clearly doing Anna damage control. He managed to talk me into seeing a movie yesterday—a completely lame ass way to celebrate, in his opinion. Now he wants to drag me out to do a birthday celebration with the guys, who aren’t taking no for an answer. I’d rather pretend birthdays didn’t exist.