I arrive at school an hour and a half before my first class and keep myself busy by reorganizing the instruments we used in the spring program. The last time I was here was for the performance, so my classroom is a complete mess. I’m grateful it keeps me busy until my students arrive. Since school will be ending within the next few weeks and summer vacation will begin, I planned to teach them the history of some of the greatest composers to ever live like Mozart, Beethoven, and Bach.

The day passes by quickly, and when I take lunch, I feel the stares of the other teachers, and all I can do is pretend nothing’s wrong and smile. When I heated my leftovers in the teacher’s lounge, I could’ve sworn I heard someone talking about me outside the door, and as much as I wanted to confront who was gossiping, I decided it wasn’t worth it. After I finish eating—or try to, considering my appetite is non-existent—it’s time for class to start again.

I feel as if I’m on a stage putting on an act for each of my classes as we talk about 18th-century composers, but I’m grateful I don’t have to sing right now, or I might burst into tears. Soon, the day is ending, and I’m relieved to be in the confines of the apartment. After I park and climb the stairs, I sit in the same place I’ve been sitting every single day. I lean my head back and close my eyes.

For a moment, I think I hear Brandon calling my name. My eyes pop open, and I look around. My blood rushes and pumps through my body, and I try to calm down, realizing I must have dozed off because I’m so damn exhausted, but it sounded so real. Before I’m able to get too lost in my thoughts, my phone rings, and I see it’s Maddie.

Each time she calls me, a picture of us when she first moved to California flashes across the screen. It brings a small smile to my face, and I hurry and answer the call before she’s sent to voicemail. There are not many people I want to talk to right now, but I’ll always answer the phone for my sisters anytime they call.

“Hey!” She’s excited; I can hear it in her tone.

“Hey, what’s up?”

She barely lets me get my words out before she’s squealing in my ear.

“I WAS PICKED! I GOT THE PART!” She yells so loudly I pull the phone away for a split second.

“Oh my God, Maddie!” I shriek right along with her. “I’m so happy for you! I’m so sorry, I totally forgot about your auditions.”

She scoffs. “Lennon. You’ve had a lot on your plate lately. But I had to tell you because we talked about it not too long ago.”

“Wow, I’m so proud of you, Mads. Seriously, you have no idea. If anyone deserves this, it’s you. You’re always pushing yourself to the limit and rehearsing all the time, and it’s really paid off.”

As she continues talking, the smile in her voice is so contagious, and I can’t stop from grinning right along with her. I’m so overjoyed for her.

“And guess what? They’re even paying me!”

I chuckle at her excitement. “Because you’re a pro! So happy for you,” I tell her, and she lets out a little screech again.

“Oh my gosh.” She sounds out of breath now, which makes me laugh. “I need to call Sophie. Then Mom and Dad. I think I need to celebrate. Maybe we can go out soon and do that?”

I grin. “Definitely. You’ve got it. I’ll let you go so you can tell the masses. Love you.”

“Love you too, Lennon. Bye!”

I end the call, and it’s the first time in a while I’ve felt real happiness, and it seems almost foreign. Eventually, I close my eyes and find myself drifting off again, but this time, I welcome it.

Soon, a strong hand on my shoulder gently presses me awake. “Brandon,” I whisper half-asleep, but when I slowly blink my eyes open, it’s Hunter I see, and there’s sadness on his face.

“I’m sorry,” I whisper, sit up, and immediately smell Italian. Every day, Hunter makes sure I’m eating even when I’m not hungry. My life has become routine, and today is no different. He graciously brings me food, and I barely speak to him, though he seems to be okay with just my company. Never in a million years did I ever think we’d be able to even sit in the same room without strangling one another, and now we’re having meals together.

“It’s okay. I picked up chicken fettuccine Alfredo and got some of those rolls you love,” he says with a smile. I appreciate how sweet he’s being, but I wonder when this will end, when he’s going to get sick of me and push me away.

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