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take it or leave it

Aug. 10th, 2006 11:50 am tell me what you think...

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Jul. 22nd, 2006 02:18 pm Cover Artist Needed!!!

Anybody know someone who would like to design the front/back covers of my book?  I will send them a FREE copy of the book [$10 value]... and maybe even more than that, depending on how successful things are.
I'm just looking for something fun and creative.  Maybe something that depicts the story, but not too literally.  Something that will catch the eyes of high school aged girls.  
Let me know if you're interested, or if you know anybody who is!

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Jul. 15th, 2006 11:34 pm lots of changes

i am in the process of changing a lot of things.  i am making this story as REAL as possible.  this means that i will be changing part of the story line.
i am going to write it EXACTLY as it actually happened... obviously the conversations won't be word-for-word, as there's no way i can remember exactly what was said an entire year ago, but the situations will be the same... even down to what country/city they happened in.  
Jeff and Anna will no longer be on a Spring Break trip to Florida - they will be on a Student Ambassador trip to France, Italy, Switzerland and Austria... the same trip I took last summer.  They will have met for the first time in London, not in Florida.  They'll have their big fight in Switzerland.  They'll break up on an airplane flying from Rome to Michigan.
i'm going to add actual entries from the journal that i kept while i was in europe last summer.  actual thoughts that were in my head while all of this was happening to me.  this is going to be as real and as raw as possible.
i'm not sure yet how long it will take me to make all of these changes/additions.  i am hoping to be done by the end of the week, but that is not a promise.

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Jul. 9th, 2006 09:14 pm Chapter 10, the end

Emma, Mary and I hung out in our room while the three of us finished packing. We trudged out to the bus around 7:30. When I stepped up onto the bus, I noticed that Jeff was sitting alone. I figured since the ride was going to be a short one, I might be able to get him to let me sit with him. 
Without saying anything to Jeff, I sat down in the empty seat. “What are you doing?” he asked. 
“What? Can’t I sit here? You said the ride was only like, an hour long…” I asked. 
“Yeah well, I want the seat to myself. I’m tired,” Jeff said. 
“Okay,” I replied, looking around the bus for another empty seat. I noticed that Suzy (the leader I had talked to on the plane) was sitting alone near the back of the bus. I was still curious to find out more about her relationship with Jeff. I knew that she was a really cool woman, but I was hoping that maybe she would be able to help me understand what was going on inside my boyfriend’s head. I decided that now would be just as good a time as ever to try and talk to her. 
I made my way to the back of the bus and threw my bag into the overhead compartment above Suzy’s seat. “Is anybody sitting with you?” I asked. 
“Not yet!” Suzy replied cheerfully, patting the seat next to her. “Be my guest!” 
“Awesome,” I replied as I sat down next to her. 
“You’re not sitting with Jeff?” Suzy asked. 
“He won’t let me…” I told her.
 “What do you mean? He doesn’t want to sit next to his own girlfriend?” Suzy sounded a little confused. 
“Yeah… I don’t know what his problem is. He’s been in an awful mood this whole trip so far… he doesn’t want anything to do with me,” I explained. 
“Are you sure he’s feeling okay?” Suzy asked. 
“I don’t know… I don’t think he’s sick or anything, if that’s what you mean,” I replied. “But there’s definitely something wrong… and he won’t tell me what it is.”
 “That’s weird,” Suzy said. “Jeff is usually such a happy guy. I really like him a lot – he’s a good kid.” 
“Yeah,” I replied. “He used to be…” 
“What do you mean?” Suzy asked. 
“I don’t know…” I said. Realizing that the bus had started moving, I looked around to see where Nicole and Laura had ended up. They were sitting up near the front, right behind Jeff. Ben was in the seat next to him, and Emily was sitting across from the two boys. All five of them seemed to be having a good time. 
“Look,” I said to Suzy, pointing towards Jeff. “He told me I couldn’t sit with him because he wanted the seat all to himself… but he had no problem letting Ben have the seat.” 
“What do you think is going on?” Suzy asked. 
“I don’t know…” I said again. “Before the trip started he kept saying that he wanted to make sure that he, Nicole and I all made new friends. He didn’t want the three of us to just hang around each other the whole time… and you know, I thought that was a really good idea,” I explained. Suzy was looking at me attentively and nodding her head. “But I didn’t realize that ‘making new friends’ meant that I wasn’t allowed to have any contact with him at all,” I continued. “I actually think he’s kind of mad at me for coming on this trip in the first place.” 
“Why would he be mad at you for that?” Suzy asked. “He and I went out to lunch a couple weeks ago and he made it sound like he was really excited that you and Nicole were coming. He was glad that you were finally going to get to meet me, and he was glad that he wasn’t going to have to go through another trip without you… he always said that last year was his least favorite trip, because you weren’t there,” she told me. 
“Interesting…” I replied. “He said quite the opposite to me. He told me that last year was so much better because he didn’t have to worry about me getting mad at him… he didn’t have to worry about paying attention to me and he was just free to do whatever he wanted with whoever he wanted… he actually asked me why I had to come on this trip… like I was ruining his spring break or something…” I said. 
After a few seconds of silence, I started talking again. “I’m sorry, Suzy,” I said. “You barely even know me, and here you are listening to me complain about Jeff…” 
“No, no, no!” Suzy replied. “Don’t worry about it, Anna. I’m a counselor… this is what I do!” she assured me. “Really, I don’t mind. You seem like a really awesome girl, and Jeff is really important to me… if there’s anything I can do to help you guys, I want to do it.” 
“Thank you,” I said. Even though Suzy did her best to make me feel comfortable, I still felt a little uneasy about talking to her about everything that was happening with Jeff. I was silent for a while as I tried to figure out how to handle the situation. After a few minutes of thinking, I decided just give in and tell Suzy everything. She really seemed like she wanted to help, and I was sick of dealing with Jeff on my own. 
“I’m worried about Jeff,” I blurted out. 
“Why are you worried?” Suzy asked me. 
“I think he’s changing,” I said. 
“How?” she asked. 
“Well, he’s got this new best friend…” I started. 
“Brandon?” Suzy asked. 
“Yeah,” I replied. “Jeff told you about him?” 
“He mentioned him a few times when we were out to lunch last week,” Suzy told me. “But he didn’t tell me very much about him.” 
“Did he tell you that Brandon is gay?” I asked. 
“No…” Suzy replied. 
“Well, he is,” I said. “And Jeff spends all of his free time around Brandon. Do you know The Corner?” I asked. 
“Isn’t that a coffee shop downtown?” 
“Yeah, a gay coffee shop,” I explained. “Jeff hangs out there all the time. He took me there with him last week, and it made me feel really weird. None of his friends there knew that he had a girlfriend. He kept introducing me as his ‘friend’ instead of his girlfriend. It seemed to me like the guys out there thought that he was gay…” I told Suzy. 
“Really?” Suzy asked. “That doesn’t sound right at all…” 
“It didn’t sound right to me either, but I really think that’s what’s going on…” I said. “Earlier today Jeff and I went for a walk into town… did you see what he’s wearing?” I asked, looking up towards the front of the bus at Jeff. 
“No… what is he wearing?” Suzy asked. “See for yourself,” I said, straining my neck so that I could see Jeff over the seats in front of me. 
“A rainbow striped shirt…?” Suzy commented. 
“Yeah… and a rainbow wristband and some gay-pride ring… he claims that they belong to Brandon, but I’m not so sure. I don’t see why he would bring them on the trip with him if they were Brandon’s… he told me that he was going to give them back to him before we left, but he never did… he wore the wristband and the ring when we went to The Corner the other day.” 
“Is the shirt Brandon’s, too?” Suzy asked. 
“No,” I explained, “The shirt’s Jeff’s. He said he bought it the other day on clearance somewhere. Something about needing a new dress shirt…” 
“You’d think he could have found something a little less… flamboyant,” Suzy commented. 
“Yeah, no kidding. It’s just so out of character for him, it seems like… I mean, when I first met Jeff he was so quiet… he dressed pretty normal… he was even a little homophobic, I think,” I said. 
“Yeah, I know what you mean,” Suzy agreed. “But he was also really overweight, he didn’t have any friends, he was so shy…” Suzy pointed out. 
“Yeah, that’s true,” I said. “And I’m glad that he’s more outgoing now. I’m glad that he has friends, and I guess I’m glad that he’s over the whole homophobia thing… but I just wish that he would have made different friends, I guess. I don’t really like the people he hangs out with now… He’s always with Brandon and Lucy, and they’re only fifteen… I mean, doesn’t that seem kind of weird?” I asked. 
“Yeah, it is a little strange,” Suzy agreed. “But Jeff’s always been a little immature, you know…” 
“Yeah, I know he has. But just a few months ago it seemed like he was finally starting to grow up. Things were starting to seem better.” 
“What does he do when he hangs out with Brandon and Lucy?” she asked. 
“I don’t know… he never lets me hang out with them. Whenever one of them calls and wants to do something he makes me go home,” I told her. 
“Well that’s a little weird,” Suzy replied. “Have you at least met both of them?” she asked. 
“Sort of… We ran into Brandon one time when we were out shopping, and then once I went with Jeff when he was just dropping some stuff off for Suzy at the park,” I said. 
“Dropping stuff off at the park?” Suzy asked with a laugh. 
“Yeah… cigarettes…” I explained. “I tried to talk him out of it, but I think he buys for Suzy and Brandon a lot.” 
“Does Jeff smoke?” Suzy asked. 
“I don’t think so…” I said. “At least, not very often. I’ve never seen him smoke. I know his mom does, and he always says that he hates it…” 
“Hmm,” Suzy said, looking at me attentively. 
“Yeah. I’m not so sure about the crowd that hangs out at The Corner. Not just because it’s a gay place… but because it just seems like everybody there smokes and has a lot of sex and stuff… I mean, the people I met seemed nice, but they’re not the kinds of people I would hope Jeff would want as friends,” I said. “He seems like he is a completely different person around them… like he’s almost living two lives – one with me, and one with everybody else,” I continued as tears started rolling down my cheeks. “I just don’t know what to do. It feels like all of a sudden I’m not good enough for him anymore. Like he’s got all of these other things he wants to do, these other people he wants to spend his time with, and I’m just getting in the way…” 
Suzy reached over and put her arm around me. “Have you tried talking to Jeff about it at all?” she asked. 
“Not really,” I replied. “I mean, back in December he tried to break up with me… but we talked, we figured everything out, we got everything under control. There hadn’t been any problems since then, until just recently…” 
“Why did he want to break up with you?” Suzy questioned. 
“He said that I was too jealous… that he just couldn’t stand the fact that I was constantly worried about what he was doing and who he was with… but we talked about it and I fixed it. At least, I thought I did. Things were better for a long time… we got along and we saw each other regularly and he let me meet some of his friends… But then just a month or so ago he started acting weird again. Spending so much time with Brandon and hanging out at The Corner… we’ve hardly seen each other or even talked on the phone lately… I almost wonder if he just thinks that maybe if he ignores me for long enough, I’ll just go away,” I said. By the time I spat out the last word, I was out of breath from holding back tears. I let out a huge sigh, and then just gave up. 
I sat in the seat next to Suzy and sobbed. Her arm still around me, Suzy hugged me. “Anna, I really think you need to talk to him. I know you don’t want to. I know you’re afraid of what he’ll say. But things are never going to get any better if the two of you don’t talk.” 
“I know,” I replied. “I want to talk to Jeff… but I don’t think he wants to talk to me. I can’t even say hello to him without him getting mad at me.” 
“Do you want me to talk to him?” Suzy asked. 
“No,” I replied. “I don’t think that would be a good idea. I need to do this by myself. What are we doing tonight after we get to the hotel?” I asked her. 
“Nothing. You guys just have a couple of hours of free time I think, and then room checks are at 10:30,” she informed me.
“Well… I guess I’ll try to talk to him tonight,” I decided. 
“Good idea,” Suzy said. “Let me know how it goes.”
 I was silent the rest of the time that we were on the bus. I was so afraid to talk to Jeff. What was I going to say to him? What was he going to say to me? I was scared that everything was going to come crashing down… that there would be no way to fix this. I was afraid that this was going to be the end. 
When we finally arrived at the hotel, I couldn’t even force myself to sit still long enough to hear who my roommate would be for the night. I looked my name up on the list, saw that I was in room 331, grabbed my bag and made quick work of getting up to my room. I threw my huge suitcase onto the floor next to of the two twin beds and went into the bathroom to think. It wasn’t until now that I realized how embarrassing the entire situation actually was. Everybody on this trip knew that Jeff and I were dating. We made a big enough deal out of it at the pre-trip meetings that I’m sure people were probably annoyed by it. But now, everyone could obviously see that everything was falling apart between us. The past two years of my life were crashing down right in front of these 35 people I barely knew. 
I wondered what Jeff was telling people. What did everybody think of me? Maybe he had told people that we weren’t together anymore. Maybe I was just his ‘friend’, like he said to the guys we met at The Corner. How stupid that must make me look, I thought. Here I was, proudly telling everybody that Jeff was my boyfriend… and I was sure he was disowning me to anyone who asked. And if not disowning, at least ridiculing. 
While I was in the bathroom, I could hear that my roommate had come in. I stared in the mirror for a few minutes, gathering my thoughts and trying to make myself look as though I hadn’t been crying. When I walked out into the room, I was shocked to see Emily standing there. “Hey,” I said. “We’re roommates?” 
“Yep,” Emily replied. “Looks like it.” 
“Cool,” I said, walking over towards my suitcase to do a little unpacking. Emily and I were quiet for a few minutes as we both rifled through our suitcases. When she had finished getting everything in order, Emily zipped up her bag and sat down on one of the beds. The entire time that we were silent, I was fighting with myself over whether or not I should try to talk to Emily about Jeff. She had spent much more time around him in the past couple of days than I had. Maybe she would be able to help me figure out what was going on. 
I decided that it couldn’t hurt. Just when I was about to open my mouth, Emily beat me to it. “So what’s the deal with you and Jeff?” she asked. 
“I was just about to ask you the same thing…” I said. “I don’t know what’s going on.” 
“Well,” Emily started, “he’s been telling people that you guys aren’t together anymore…” 
“Oh really?” I asked. 
“Yeah… I think he’s kinda hoping to get together with Ben…” she said. 
“WHAT?!?” I exclaimed. “Wait a minute… say that again?” 
“What?” Emily asked innocently. “You didn’t know that he was bi?” 
“Bi?” I asked, completely confused. 
“Bisexual…” Emily explained. “You know, he likes girls AND guys…” 
“No,” I said… “No, no, no… you must be mistaken. Jeff and I are still together. And Jeff does NOT like guys…” 
“No, Anna… I’m pretty sure he does…” Emily argued. 
“What has he told you? Emily… I need to know everything he’s told you…” I pleaded. 
“Well… I suppose you don’t know about Brandon then?” she asked. 
“I know Brandon. What about him?” I asked. 
“Well… uhm… Jeff told us that he and Brandon are sort of in an open relationship, or something like that…” she started. 
“What do you mean, ‘an open relationship’? Jeff is not in any open relationship! He’s in an exclusive relationship. An exclusive relationship WITH ME,” I said angrily. 
“No, Anna… he’s with Brandon. Basically I think they just have sex, but they’re both allowed to see other people… and I’m pretty sure Jeff’s got his eye on Ben,” Emily continued. “As far as Jeff’s concerned, I don’t think you guys are together anymore…” 
“Well it would be nice if he would have talked that one over with me!” I exclaimed. “How many people know about this?” I asked. 
“I don’t know…” Emily replied. “Not everybody… but a lot of people, I guess. Everyone just thinks you guys broke up…” 
I didn’t know what else to say to her. I was hurt and angry and doing everything in my power not to let myself erupt. I sat in silence for a few minutes, just staring at Emily, until we were both startled by a knock on the door. “Come in!” Emily shouted, and in walked Mary and Emma, the girls I had roomed with the night before. 
“Anna… we need to talk to you…” Mary said. 
“Yeah… and it’s kinda personal,” Emma added, turning towards Emily. 
“Okay…” Emily replied. “I’ll get out of your way in just a second.” She fished a deck of cards and a sweatshirt out of her suitcase and headed for the door. As soon as it shut behind her, Mary walked over and locked it. 
“Anna…” Mary began. “We’re really worried about you.” 
“What do you mean?” I asked. 
“I mean, you’re about to get your heart broken by this jerk right here in front of everybody…” she said. 
“What?” I asked. “What’s going on?” 
“Okay, Anna… I guess there’s really no good way to say this, so I’m just gonna spit it out…” Mary said, letting out a huge sigh. “Jeff and Ben are down in the lobby right now…” 
“Yeah?” I interrupted. “So, they’ve been hanging out the whole trip so far…” 
“I know, Anna,” Mary continued. “But just listen to me. They’re down in the lobby on the couch… holding hands…” 
“Holding hands?” I asked. “What do you mean?” 
“Anna…” Mary said. “We just saw them kiss. I’m not kidding you. Emma was right there with me. We went down to the vending machines to get some Diet Coke, and there they were, right out in front of everybody, kissing…” 
“No…” I said. “This isn’t funny, you guys. Seriously…” 
“She’s not joking,” Emma cut in. “Honestly, Anna. We both saw it. They’re still down there… you can go see for yourself. I promise we wouldn’t make this up. We care about you… we’re worried about you… we don’t want to see you get hurt like this.” 
“You need to talk to him,” Mary said. “Really. I think you need to just go down there, kick Ben out, and ask Jeff what’s going on. You at least deserve an explanation.” 
“We’ll go with you if you want,” Emma added. 
“No… that’s okay,” I replied. “I’ll go by myself. They’re just down in the lobby?” I asked. 
“Yeah… just take the elevator down to the first floor and they’re right there,” Mary explained. “At least, that’s where they were 10 minutes ago.” 
I stood up, walked into the bathroom and took a long look at myself in the mirror. My face was bright red with anger. I splashed it with some cold water, dried my face and headed for the door. 
“We’ll stay here,” Mary said. “Come back up when you’re done, okay?” 
“Alright…” I replied. I was shaking as I stood on the elevator. When it hit the first floor and the doors flew open, there were Jeff and Ben, right on the couch where Mary told me they would be. Jeff had his arm around Ben, and they were cuddled together much the same way that Jeff and I used to cuddle when we watched movies together. I was disgusted. I thought about chickening out. I thought about hitting the button, closing the doors, going back up to my room and sobbing. But I couldn’t do that. If I didn’t talk to Jeff now, things would just get worse. I stepped off the elevator and walked straight over to the couch where the boys were sitting. 
“I need to talk to you,” I said to Jeff. “Alone,” I added sternly, looking at Ben. 
“What?” Jeff asked, acting as though nothing out of the ordinary was happening. 
“You know what,” I said, grabbing his hand and pulling him up off the couch. “Come with me. We’re going for a walk,” I told him. “Good bye, Ben,” I added. 
I led Jeff towards the front door of the hotel. As soon as we were outside, I let go of him and looked him in the eye. “Tell me what’s going on,” I demanded. 
“What do you mean?” Jeff asked. 
“Cut it out, Jeff. You know exactly what I mean. What is going on between us? What is the deal with you and Ben? I’m not stupid, Jeff. Just tell me,” I said. 
“I knew this was a bad idea,” Jeff muttered. 
“What was a bad idea?” I asked. 
“You coming on this trip,” he explained.
 “What?” I said, angrily. “You mean if I hadn’t have come on the trip, you could have just had your fun with Ben and I never would have known about it, huh? You could have just come back home and pretended like nothing had ever happened. Is that what you mean?” I asked. 
“No…” Jeff said.
 “Then what?”
 “I don’t know, Anna. I just… I didn’t know how to tell you…” 
“Tell me what?” I asked. 
“We can’t be together anymore. I don’t want to be with you anymore…” Jeff started. 
“No, really?” I said, sarcastically. “I figured that out, Jeff. But why? What happened? What changed?” 
Suddenly, Jeff stopped walking. He stopped me next to him, placed a hand on each of my shoulders and gripped me tightly. “Anna. I’m gay.” 
“No you’re not,” I said. “Jeff, you don’t know what you’re talking about. How can you be gay? We’ve been together for two years, Jeff… TWO YEARS. What could I have possibly done to turn you off to the entire female sex?” I asked angrily. 
“Nothing… Anna… I’ve been gay since before you ever met me. All of that homophobia? I was trying to hide it. I was trying to deny it. I didn’t want to be gay… that’s why I started dating you,” he explained. 
“No,” I said. It was the only word inside my head. The only thought I could think. No, this wasn’t happening. No, Jeff was not gay. No, Jeff didn’t know what he was talking about. No, this was all just a bad dream. No, no, no. 
“So, what?” I asked. By this time I was so angry that I didn’t even have control over the words that were coming out of my own mouth. “Why now, Jeff? Why now, when we’re down here in Florida… when our lives are being watched by all of these people… why decide to tell me this now?” 
“I like Ben,” He said bluntly. 
“That’s it?” I fumed. 
“You like Ben. You like Ben… so that’s a good enough reason to just decide to stop treating me like a human being? That’s a reason to just ignore me, to avoid me, to act like I don’t exist…” 
“Yeah, Anna. Because I knew you would get mad if I told you…” Jeff said. 
“And you didn’t think I would get MADDER if you didn’t tell me? I’m supposed to not be mad that you’re cheating on me with a GUY in front of all of these people?” 
I couldn’t keep myself from crying any longer. Every emotion in the world was running through me. I was crying tears of anger, tears of sadness, confusion, pain, regret… I couldn’t hold them back any longer. 
Jeff stared at me in silence while I cried. He turned around and started walking back towards the hotel without me. 
“So this is it?” I asked. “We’re just done? You’re just going to go back in there and cuddle up next to Ben and pretend that none of this ever happened, aren’t you?” I asked. 
Jeff didn’t answer. He just kept walking. I stood still, watching his figure get smaller and smaller through teary eyes. This was it. This was the end. The last two years of my life were just gone. And what had come of them? I felt like it had all been wasted... like I’d done nothing but harm. How terrible of a girlfriend would I have had to have been in order for this to happen? What does a girl have to do to make a guy so utterly disgusted with females that he would decide he would rather be gay? I was certain that it was entirely my fault. I was disgusted with myself, and I expected that everyone else must have been, too. Did everybody see this coming? Was I completely blind? How long had this been going on? Emily told me that Jeff and Brandon were ‘together’. Why hadn’t I realized that before? What was wrong with me? 
Everything was so obvious now. All of the weird things that had happened all started to fall together. All of the worrying I had done was justified. I felt so naïve for ever trusting him.
 I stood alone on the street with my thoughts. Emotions I never knew I had were streaming through my body, but I felt empty. Jeff had been my entire world for the last two years. My whole life surrounded him, and now it was over. 
I felt like someone had just ripped everything out of me. I didn’t understand why my heart was still beating, why my lungs were still breathing… I was hollow. 
Jeff took all of me with him when he walked away, and he was never going to give it back. Here I was, completely alone and as far away from home as I had ever been. There was nothing left to do but start over. Jeff left me empty, and now it was up to me to fill myself back up.

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Jun. 29th, 2006 10:20 pm Chapter 9

Worn out from the flight, Mary, Emma and I all fell asleep pretty quickly. 
The next day while we were all down at the beach, I kept my distance from Jeff. I figured that if I just gave him some time to mellow out, things would get better. Nicole and I spent the day together, knee deep in the ocean picking out rocks and shells. We even caught a couple of small fish in our hands, but we let them go.
 When we all took a break for lunch, Nicole and I looked around for Jeff. We saw that he was sitting at a table with Emily, the girl I had been next to on the plane, and Ben, one of the guys he had been sitting between on the flight down. We decided it was safe to go sit with him, since there were a few “new” people over there, too. 
“Hey,” Jeff said to Nicole and me as we approached the table. 
“Hey, you,” I replied as I pulled out the seat next to him so that I could sit down. “How was your day?” I asked, rubbing his back the way I usually did. 
“Don’t touch me,” Jeff complained as he wiggled under my hands. 
“Sorry,” I replied, putting my hands in my lap. “But how was your day?” I asked again. 
“Good,” Jeff replied. 
“Did you find anything interesting?” I questioned. 
“Seaweed!” Ben exclaimed with a laugh. 
“Yeah,” Jeff agreed, also laughing, “lots of seaweed.” 
Everyone was silent for a minute before Jeff opened his mouth again. “Did you two spend the whole day together?” he asked, looking towards Nicole and me. 
“Yeah,” Nicole replied. 
“I thought we were making new friends,” Jeff said, sounding a little annoyed. 
“We did make a new friend!” Nicole exclaimed. 
“Well where is she?” Jeff asked. 
Nicole and I both looked around for Laura. Noticing that she was sitting alone on the other side of the room, I stood up to go see if she wanted to join us. “She’s right over there,” I told him. “Just a minute, I’ll go get her.” 
About a minute later I returned to the table with Laura by my side. I noticed that Jeff had moved and was now at the seat directly opposite from where I was sitting, rather than right next to me like he had been. “Jeff, Emily, Ben…” I interrupted, “this is Laura. She’s from Stanville,” I explained. 
“Hi,” Laura said quietly as she sat down in the empty seat next to me where Jeff had been. 
“Who did you hang out with today?” I asked her. 
“Nobody,” Laura replied. 
“Oh! That’s not good!” Nicole exclaimed. 
“You shouldn’t be by yourself! Come hang out with us for the rest of the day!” 
“Okay,” Laura agreed. 
“Sorry we didn’t think about that earlier,” I apologized. “We didn’t mean to leave you out.” 
“It’s okay,” Laura replied, a small smile growing on her face. 
I looked across the table and noticed that Jeff was totally engaged in a conversation with Emily and Ben. I threw my napkin at his face to get his attention. It hit him square on the forehead, and he looked across the table at me. “What was that for?” he asked. 
“What are you doing this afternoon?” I asked him. 
“We’re going into the city,” he informed me.
 “Who’s ‘we’?” I asked. 
“Emily, Ben and I,” he explained. 
“Oh, okay… I was kinda gonna ask you if you wanted to go into the city with me and do some shopping… but if you’ve already got plans…” I said. 
“Ugh. Anna…” he said, sounding disappointed. 
“You don’t have to go with me,” I said. “I’m sure I can find somebody else to go with.” 
“No, I’ll go with you,” he said with a sigh. 
“Well, Ben and Emily can come with us if they want. And Nicole and Laura, too…” I offered. 
“No,” Jeff said. “Let’s just go alone.” 
“If you say so,” I replied before Jeff turned his attention back to his conversation with Ben and Emily. The six of us all talked as we ate our lunch of chicken fingers and French fries. When we were all finished, we got back to work – Jeff, Emily and Ben went to one end of the beach while Laura, Nicole and I went the opposite way. 
“I don’t know what his problem is,” I complained to both of them as we looked for a spot to drop our stuff and start working.
“What do you mean?” Nicole asked. 
“He just seems like he’s so mad at me,” I explained. “I don’t understand why. I didn’t do anything to him…” 
“Maybe he’s still tired,” Nicole offered. 
“That’s no excuse to treat me like crap,” I said, growing angry. “He yells at me when I touch him and he doesn’t want to spend any time with me at all. He acts like I’m ruining his entire life just by being on this trip with him.” 
“Oh, Anna,” Nicole said. “Don’t say that. He’s glad you’re here. We’re both glad you’re here!” she assured me. 
“Thanks Nicole… but I don’t know. Maybe you should just speak for yourself… When we were at the airport yesterday, Jeff actually asked me why I had to come on this trip. It’s like he thinks he owns it or something. Like I’m intruding on ‘his thing’,” I told her. 
“Do you want me to talk to him?” Nicole asked. 
“It’s up to you… I don’t know how much good it would do,” I replied, “but I guess it’s worth a try.” 
For the next few hours I focused my attention on getting work done with Nicole and Laura. We walked around and cleaned up the beach – it was amazing some of the things that we found. It was almost as if people just dumped their trash on the beach and left. We worked until we noticed that the sun was starting to set. 
After I went up to my room and changed, I walked up the stairs to Jeff’s room and knocked on the door. Ben answered it. “I didn’t know you guys were roommates!” I said. 
“Oh, we’re not,” Ben explained. “We were just hanging out,” he said, motioning for me to come into the room. 
“Oh, I can’t come in,” I said. “We’re supposed to be setting an example,” I told him, purposely loud enough for Jeff to hear
“Yeah, whatever,” Jeff called back. 
I peered into the room and noticed that Emily was sitting on the edge of one of the beds. “How long have you been in there?” I asked her. 
“An hour or two,” she told me. 
“Be careful…” I warned. “The leaders like to do random room checks to make sure people are following the rules.” 
“Oh, come on, Anna,” Jeff said from the bathroom where he was changing and doing his hair. 
“I didn’t even think about the fact that I’m not supposed to be in here…” Emily said, standing up and walking towards the door. “I should probably go back to my room, anyway. I’ve got some stuff to do.” 
“Aww, don’t leave!” Jeff called out. 
“I’ll see you later,” Emily said with a laugh as she walked out the door and down the hallway. 
“Are you almost ready?” I asked Jeff. 
“Yeah, yeah… hang on,” he said, still in the bathroom. I stood in the doorway and chit-chatted with Ben for a while as we waited for Jeff to finish in the bathroom. About five minutes later, he walked out into the bedroom wearing his new shirt – the one with the rainbow colored stripes. 
“You’re wearing that out tonight?” I asked with a sigh.
 “Yeah, why not?” Jeff replied. “What’s wrong with it?” 
“Yeah! I like it!” Ben agreed. 
“Whatever,” I said, shooting Jeff a disgusted look. I examined him and noticed that he was wearing the ring and the rainbow wristband – the ones the he said belonged to Brandon. “You never gave Brandon’s stuff back to him?” I pointed out. 
“What?” Jeff asked. “Oh… you mean the wristband and stuff…?” 
“Yeah. I thought you said those were Brandon’s.” 
“Yeah,” Jeff explained. “I couldn’t get a hold of him to give them back.” 
“So you brought them with you?” I asked.
 “Yeah, why not? They go with my shirt!” he exclaimed with a laugh. 
“Whatever…” I said again, letting out another sigh. 
“Let’s just go.” 
“Okay,” Jeff agreed as he slipped on a pair of black flip flops. 
“Are you sure you want to wear those? It’s kind of a long walk to the city,” I told him.
“Well I’m not gonna wear those…” he commented, pointing at the dirty, worn out pair of tennis shoes that had been thrown into the corner of the room. 
“Why not?” I asked. “They would be more comfortable.” 
“Uh… they don’t go with my outfit,” Jeff explained. 
“Whatever makes you happy,” I said, deciding that it would be better to just give up. 
Jeff and I walked out the door and left Ben alone in the room. As soon as I knew that we were out of sight of everybody, I reached down to hold Jeff’s hand. 
“Anna!” Jeff scolded. 
“What? Jeff… there isn’t even anybody around!” I exclaimed.
 “I don’t care,” he said coldly.
 “What is your problem?” I asked. 
“Nothing,” he replied. “Why don’t we just act like we’re not dating this week, okay? It will make everything easier.” 
“What?!” I asked, shocked at what he had just said. “Why would we do that?” 
“It’ll make it easier for you to stop touching me, if we pretend like we’re not dating,” he explained. “As soon as we leave Florida we’ll be back together again,” he said. 
“No,” I protested. “I think that’s a terrible idea. You haven’t even told anybody that we’re together, have you?” I asked him.
“No. Why would I do that?” he asked. 
“…because we are?” 
“But so what? What do you want me to do? Introduce myself to people and say ‘Hi. My name is Jeff, and Anna is my girlfriend and I love her with all of my heart, even though she’s psychotic and possessive and won’t leave me alone’?,” he teased with a laugh. 
“That’s not funny,” I said. “And I’m not psychotic and possessive.” 
“If you say so,” Jeff said. 
“Whatever,” I replied. “As far as I’m concerned, we’re just as ‘together’ while we’re on this trip as we would be if we weren’t. I don’t see why that’s such a problem for you.” 
“It’s a problem because you don’t want me to make other friends,” he explained. “I had so much fun last year when you didn’t come, because I didn’t have to worry about making you mad. I could talk to whoever I wanted to, and I didn’t have to worry about you being jealous.” 
“Oh,” I said. “So it was more fun without me, was it? You didn’t miss me at all, did you?” 
“Of course I missed you!” he exclaimed. “That’s why I called you three times!” 
“But you just said that it was more fun without me,” I pointed out. 
“It was, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t miss you. Anna, I like being around you when it’s just the two of us. But you are impossible to be with around other people. You get upset if I even talk to anybody else.” 
“Not anymore, I don’t,” I said. “I know I used to… but you haven’t even given me a chance to change. I’m only mad at you now because you’re being a jerk,” I said. “If you could make other friends and still treat me like a human being, it would be another story.” 
“Fine, Anna. We’ll see. Prove to me that you’re not going to be a annoying and jealous when I make other friends,” he challenged. 
“Alright. I will,” I agreed. “But for now, can we just forget about everything else and have fun?” I asked. “Let’s do some shopping!” 
“Sounds good,” Jeff replied. We walked next to each other in silence for a few minutes before Jeff got excited and started pointing towards a shop on our left. “Do you remember that place?” he asked me. 
“Am I supposed to?” I asked. 
“Yes… Anna! Remember? The ice cream store?” 
“Oh my gosh! Yeah! Of course I remember that!” I exclaimed. The trip Jeff and I had taken two years ago followed a different order than what we were following this year. The beach we were at today was actually the one we had been at on the final day of our previous trip. Jeff and I had gone for a walk alone on our last night together two years ago. It was the first time we had ever been completely alone with each other. We had shared a huge cone full of Mackinac Island Fudge ice cream. 
Jeff led me into the ice cream shop and walked up to the counter. “We’ll have an extra large waffle cone with three scoops of Mackinac Island Fudge,” he ordered, looking back at me with a smile. 
“That’ll be $3.50,” the girl behind the counter replied, and Jeff handed her the money. The same girl scooped up the ice cream and handed the cone to us over the counter. 
Jeff and I sat in the table in the back corner of the room – the same table we sat at two years ago. I couldn’t stop smiling. “What’s that big grin on your face for?” Jeff asked. 
“Nothing. I’m just happy,” I replied.
 “Why?” 
“Because I’m here with you,” I answered. 
“Is that okay?” 
“I guess so,” Jeff replied. 
We sat and talked as we quickly finished off the ice cream. 
“Still no touching?” I asked after Jeff swallowed the last bite of waffle cone. 
“Well, not now!” Jeff replied. “Your hands are all sticky!” 
“Aww… well… what if I go wash ‘em?” I asked. 
“No… we should probably get back to the hotel…” Jeff decided.
 “Alright,” I agreed with a hint of sadness growing in my voice. We both went back to the bathroom and washed our hands before we left the shop to go back to the hotel. On the walk back, I made one last attempt at trying to hold Jeff’s hand. As soon as he felt my fingers brush his, he quickly shoved his hand in his pocket. 
“Aww… please, Jeff? Just for a few minutes?” I begged. 
“No, Anna. People might see us,” he said. “I don’t get it,” I replied. 
“We were having so much fun at the ice cream shop… that was really kind of romantic of you to remember that we ate there… to order the exact same thing we ate last time…” I said. 
“Oh well,” Jeff said, walking faster with his hand still in his pocket. We walked the rest of the way to the hotel in silence. 
“Do you know what time we’re supposed to be on the bus?” I asked him as we got on the elevator. 
“7:30” Jeff replied. “The next beach is only like, an hour away,” he explained. 
“Okay,” I replied, looking at my watch and noticing that it was already 6:00. The elevator made a dinging noise and came to a stop at my floor. I started to walk out of the elevator, and Jeff didn’t follow behind me. 
“You’re not going to walk me to my room?” I asked. 
“Do you need me to?” Jeff replied. 
“I guess not…” I said. “Can I at least get a hug then? There’s nobody around to see us…” I pleaded. 
“Yeah, yeah…” Jeff said, quickly wrapping his arms around me. “I’ll see you later.” 
“Alright,” I replied, stepping off the elevator. “Have fun packing,” I called out to him as the doors closed behind me. I walked into my room, pulled the door shut and let out a sigh. 
“What’s up?” Mary asked. She was sitting on the floor in front of her suitcase, repacking her things and getting ready to move on to the next hotel. 
“I just got back from hanging out with Jeff… we walked around down town and went and got some ice cream,” I replied.
“Oh, that sounds like fun!” Mary said. 
“Yeah, it was for a while…” I said. 
“What do you mean?” Mary asked. 
“Eating ice cream was fun… he took me to the exact same place we went two years ago… ordered the exact same thing we ate before… it was cute,” I explained. 
“Aww!” Mary said. “I wish I had a boyfriend like that!” 
“No you don’t…” I said. “That’s the only good thing I can say for the night… the whole way there and back he was weird. I don’t know what his problem is.” 
“What do you mean by ‘weird’?” Mary asked. 
“While we were walking there, he actually said that he thinks we should ‘break up’ for this week, and then get back together when the trip is over… he thinks that I’m psychotic and possessive and don’t want him to make any friends…” I told her.
“What? No you’re not!” Mary exclaimed. “I hung out with you guys all last night and couldn’t even tell that you two were a couple! That’s not being possessive at all…” she said. 
“I know. I’ve been trying really hard to give him some space. I know he wants to make other friends. He was hanging out with Ben and Emily in his room before he and I went out,” I told her. 
“Emily was in his room?” Mary asked. 
“Yeah, I know… I don’t think she even realized she wasn’t supposed to be in there. She left right away once I said something about it,” I explained. 
“Oh, okay,” Mary said. “Well, don’t worry about him. I’m sure things will get better when this week is over… you guys will go home and everything will go right back to normal,” she assured me. “But in the meantime, if you need somebody to hang out with I’m always here!” she offered. 
“Thanks, Mary,” I said with a smile. 
“I’m here for you too!” Emma called out from the bathroom. 
“I didn’t even know you were in there!” I called back with a laugh. “And thanks! I’ll definitely take you both up on that,” I said. “I’m really glad that Nicole is here to keep me company… but I do agree with Jeff that all three of us need to make new friends. Everybody on this trip seems so cool… I wouldn’t want to miss out on it just because my boyfriend is being stupid!”

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Jun. 29th, 2006 06:48 pm addendum

i added to chapter 8.  if you go to that entry and scroll down, you will see something that says ORIGINAL END OF CHAPTER 8.  everything after that is new... so... you probably want to check that out before i get around to posting chapter 9. ;)

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Jun. 26th, 2006 01:10 am Chapter 8

CHAPTER 8

Two days later I arrived at the airport with my entire family, including Ben who had finally moved home for the summer, in tow. We stood around for about half an hour while we got everything taken care of. Jeff and his parents showed up just as I was laying my suitcase on the conveyor belt to be sent off and put under the plane. I said a quick good-bye to my family, and they left as soon as they were sure that I had everything in order.
As soon as my family was out of sight, I went and stood in line with Jeff and his parents. “You sure you’re gonna make it an entire week with this dork?” Jim, Jeff’s dad, asked me with a laugh.
“Of course!” I laughed back. “I’ve been looking forward to it!”
“If you say so…” he joked. “I’m just glad to get him outta my house for a while!” Jeff’s dad took every opportunity he could find to rag on his son. When Jeff and I first started dating, it really bothered me to hear Jim talk about Jeff the way that he did… but now that I had become really comfortable around Jeff and his family, I found it all pretty amusing. Jeff really didn’t like his dad at all, but I thought he was a pretty cool guy.
“You guys are gonna have so much fun!” Mrs. Bradley exclaimed.
“Yeah, we are!” I agreed with a smile as I linked arms with Jeff. He pulled away from me, grabbed the handle of his suitcase and moved up a little further in line.
“You guys can go,” Jeff told his parents. “I know what I’m doing.”
“Aww, Jeff,” I said, “They’re not hurting anything.”
“Nah, it’s alright,” Jeff’s dad said. “We should probably get going, anyway.”
Jeff’s parents said their goodbyes to their son. Mr. Bradley even gave me a kiss goodbye on the cheek. “We’ll see you guys in a week!” Jim called out as he and his wife walked towards the exit.
I moved in closer to Jeff and linked my arm around his again. “Hey… none of that on this trip,” he ordered.
“Why not?” I asked.
“Inappropriate!” Jeff scolded.
“What? No it’s not… We always held hands and stuff on the first trip…”
“Yeah… but we’re alumni now. We’re supposed to be setting an example,” he explained.
“Alright…” I agreed reluctantly, letting out a big sigh. “Will I at least get a kiss good night?” I pleaded.
“We’ll see,” he said, pulling his arm away from mine and moving himself further up in the line. It had never occurred to me that Jeff would have a problem with being intimate with me during the trip. I had been looking forward to it as a time for us to be together. I was hoping it was going to make our relationship stronger, not pull us even further apart.
The fact that he wouldn’t let me touch him brought back the worries that I had the other night when we were at The Corner. I couldn’t help but feel like Jeff was ashamed of me. Why wasn’t he proud of our relationship? Why didn’t he want people to know that we were together? I wanted to scream it from the rooftops! I wanted to tell everybody that Jeff was my boyfriend – that we cared about each other, loved each other, and belonged to each other. But he wouldn’t let me do that. He wanted it to be a big secret, and I was supposed to be okay with that because we were “setting an example”.
I decided to wait a while before I really got upset with the situation. Maybe Jeff would change his mind. Maybe he was just saying all of this now, but as soon as we got back into that environment – as soon as we were back in the place where we first met, where we first fell in love – he would forget about ‘setting an example’ and focus on me.
After everyone had checked in and gotten their luggage taken care of, we had about an hour to wait around the airport before we could actually board our plane. Jeff and I sat together at a table with a friend of ours named Nicole who had also gone with us on our first trip. After the three of us talked for about five minutes, Jeff stood up and started walking away from the table.
“Where are you going?” I asked.
“For a walk,” Jeff answered.
“Can I come with you?”
“No.”
“Why?”
“We need to meet other people. We can’t just have it be you, me and Nicole the whole time… Don’t you want to make new friends?” he asked.
“Yeah, I guess so,” I replied.
“So don’t come with me… go walk around by yourself. Make some friends. We’ll talk later,” he ordered.
I sat back down at the table across from Nicole. “What was that all about?” she asked.
“I don’t know. Jeff wants to make new friends or something like that. He’s going for a walk.”
“Oh,” Nicole replied. “I guess that’s probably a good idea, actually.”
“Yeah,” I agreed. “You want to go introduce ourselves to some people?” I offered.
“Sure!” Nicole said. She was always eager to meet new people. Nicole was probably the easiest person to get along with that I had ever met in my life. She was always friendly, and there wasn’t a soul in the world that she didn’t like. I knew that as long as I stuck with her, I wouldn’t have any trouble making friends.
We looked around the room for a minute before noticing a girl who was sitting all alone at a table, looking through her carryon bag. Nicole turned to me and asked “do you want to go sit down over there?”
“Sure!” I said, and we both headed towards the table and sat down.
“Hi,” Nicole introduced herself to the girl. “I’m Nicole, and this is Anna. Is this your first trip?” she asked.
“Yeah,” the girl replied shyly.
“What’s your name?” Nicole questioned.
“Laura,” the girl replied, still fishing around inside her bag.
“Cool. Hi, Laura. Where are you from?”
“Stanville,” Laura replied, finally putting her bag down on the table in front of her.
“Oh, cool! I don’t think I know anybody from Stanville,” Nicole replied.
“Yeah, it’s small,” Laura said.
“Are you excited for this trip? I can’t wait to get on the plane!” Nicole’s bubbly personality never took a rest.
“Yeah, I guess. I’ve never really been away from home before…” Laura explained.
“Oh… Well, don’t worry,” Nicole assured her. “It’ll be a lot of fun. Anna and I have done this before… so if you’ve got any questions or anything, just ask us!”
“Okay, thanks,” Laura said.
“Have you met anybody else yet?” I asked her.
“No… you guys are the first to introduce yourself to me,” she answered.
“Oh. That’s no good! People need to stop being so shy!” Nicole exclaimed.
“Yeah, well, at least we beat Jeff to somebody!” I joked.
“Yeah,” Nicole agreed with a laugh. “Jeff is Anna’s boyfriend… but he’s being weird and saying that we all need to make new friends,” Nicole explained to Laura as she pointed across the room towards where Jeff was standing.
“He’s your boyfriend?” Laura asked me, sounding a little surprised.
“Yeah… for the past two years!” I responded proudly.
“Hmm…” Laura said. “Okay.”
Nicole, Laura and I passed the rest of the hour talking and getting to know each other better. We found out that Laura was only fifteen and a sophomore in high school – the same age I was when I went on my first trip. She played clarinet in the marching band at Stanville – they were actually known for being a really good band. I was excited that I had made a new friend so quickly. I couldn’t wait to tell Jeff about it.
As we were going through security on our way to get on the plane, I talked to Jeff. “Do you want to sit together?” I asked him.
“Probably not. We should meet new people,” he said.
“But its four hours… we’ve got all week to meet new people. I’d rather spend the four hour plane ride next to you,” I told him.
“No,” Jeff said. “Look at your ticket. What’s your seat number?” he asked me.
“L2” I answered.
“Mine’s D3” Jeff said. “We’re not even anywhere near each other. See? This is an opportunity to make new friends…”
“Yeah, because the guy I sat next to on the way down there two years ago was so talkative…” I teased him. “I mean, he and I hit it off so well on the plane, it was amazing!”
“Yeah, yeah… whatever,” Jeff said. “It’ll be different this time.”
“Yeah… well… maybe it’s not such a good idea for you to sit by somebody new… you might scare them off like you did to me!” I teased.
“Aww… but you’re not afraid of me anymore!” Jeff said with a big grin.
“I’d sure hope not!” I replied.
When we all boarded the huge plane, Jeff and I sat down in our assigned seats eight rows away from each other. I wound up next to a girl who introduced herself to me as Emily Maxwell. The seat on my other side was occupied by a passenger who wasn’t part of our group. Emily and I talked through the first hour of the ride down. I found out that she was also fifteen, just like Laura. She was from Alton, which was only about 15 minutes north of Morton where I lived. Emily would have been a really cute girl had it not been for the braces that overtook her mouth whenever she smiled (which was often).
When Emily and I ran out of things to talk about, I looked around the plane. I couldn’t help but wonder if Jeff had hit if off with whomever he was sitting next to. I strained my neck to try and catch a glimpse of the seats on either side of him. To my relief, I saw that he was between two other guys. There were only about 10 males traveling with us, versus the 25 or so females on the trip. I could see that Jeff was engaged in a pretty animated conversation with the guy sitting on his right side. I was glad that he was making friends – that’s what he wanted, anyway.
I didn’t even have to wonder if Nicole had found somebody to talk to. Whoever wound up next to her was lucky, I thought. I would have loved to have somebody as friendly and knowledgeable as Nicole to ease my mind on nerve-wracking trip down to Florida my first time around.
After a little more looking around, I realized that one of our adult leaders was sitting in the row right across from me. Her name was Suzy. She hadn’t been able to go on my first trip two years ago, but I knew that she had traveled in the years before that, and also last spring when I wasn’t able to go. Jeff and Nicole were both lucky enough to go last year, and they had so many good things to say about Suzy, so I was really interested in getting to know her. Seeing that she wasn’t really talking to anybody, I called out her name to get her attention. Suzy looked over in my direction.
“Hi,” I said, introducing myself. “My name’s Anna. I’ve heard so much about you from Jeff and Nicole…”
“Oh! Hi!” Suzy responded. “I’ve heard quite a bit about you, too!” she said.
“Oh really?” I asked.
“Yeah,” Suzy told me. “Jeff and I talk a lot,” she explained.
“Ah… so you’ve heard THOSE kinds of things about me…” I joked.
Suzy laughed. “No, no… nothing bad, I promise!”
Suzy and I spent most of the remaining time on the plane getting to know each other, or rather, validating the things we’d been told about each other. I already knew that she was a councilor at Eastbrook (Jeff’s school) and that she’d been involved with this spring break program for a really long time. She, of course, knew that Jeff and I had been dating for two years now, and that we had met on this very same trip.
I was glad to be starting a friendship with Suzy. Jeff seemed to have a really special relationship with her. After they had returned from their trip last spring, the two of them talked almost on a daily basis. Their correspondence slowed down after a while, but Jeff still constantly brought Suzy up in conversation. I was interested in knowing what it was about her that warranted so much of his attention. I hoped that becoming friends with Suzy would help me get more involved in Jeff’s ever-growing, seemingly secret world.
As soon as we stepped off the plane, Jeff, Nicole and I met up. “How was your flight?” I asked, giving Jeff a hug.
“It was good,” he responded, pushing me away lightly. “None of that though, remember?” he said, sternly.
“Okay, sorry,” I apologized. “Did you make any friends?” I asked.
“Yeah, I did,” he said.
“Who?”
“A couple of guys… Aaron and Dan,” he responded.
“Oh, good!” I replied, still glad for the fact that Jeff was making guy friends rather than the hoards of girls he seemed to have around him all the time. “What are they like?” I asked him.
“Dan’s gay,” Jeff said bluntly.
“Oh… your type, eh?” I teased.
Jeff laughed a little and then continued talking. “Aaron goes to Morton. Maybe you know him? He plays hockey,” Jeff told me.
“Hmm… I don’t think I know any Aarons,” I said.
“He’s a sophomore,” Jeff explained.
“Oh… well then yeah, I probably don’t know him. What is up with all these sophomores, anyway?” I asked.
“I dunno… we were sophomores on our first trip,” Jeff reminded me as we started making our way towards the baggage claim area. I stood back and watched while Jeff pulled my, his and Nicole’s suitcases off of the conveyor belt.
“Aww, thank you!” I exclaimed as he rolled my huge bag towards me. I leaned over to give him a quick peck on the lips, and he pulled away abruptly.
“Why did you have to come on this trip…?” Jeff mumbled, almost under his breath.
“What?” I asked.
“Nothing,” Jeff said.
“No… did you just ask why I had to come on this trip…?” I said hesitantly.
“I was just kidding, Anna,” he said, giving me a quick hug before walking over to talk to Suzy.
“Everything okay?” Nicole asked, noticing the worried expression that had grown on my face after Jeff walked away.
“Yeah… I mean… I don’t know…” I started. “I don’t think Jeff really wants me here…” I told her.
“What? Why would you say that?” Nicole asked, sounding surprised.
“I don’t know. He just seems really annoyed or something…” I explained.
“Aww. Don’t worry about it, Anna. He’s probably just tired from being on the plane. He’ll be in a better mood tomorrow,” she assured me.
“I hope so,” I said.
“But for now, don’t worry about him! We’ll have fun!” Nicole said, smiling.
As soon as everybody had retrieved their luggage from the baggage claim, we headed for the huge charter bus that we would use anytime we went anywhere as a group during the trip. The leaders roped a few of the guys into helping load the luggage underneath the vehicle. When we walked onto the bus, I started to sit down next to Jeff.
“Ah, ah, ah!” he scolded. “Sit with Nicole or something.”
“Why?” I asked.
“Because,” he said. “I want the whole seat to myself.”
“Fine then,” I said, reaching up to put my bag in the overhead compartment above the next seat back. I sat down right behind Jeff, next to the window. Nicole sat next to me. As the bus rolled out of the parking garage, I stared out the window in silence.
“Are you okay?” Nicole asked.
“Yeah… I’m fine. Maybe you should ask Jeff that question,” I told her.
“Aww. Anna… let’s just ignore him the rest of the day,” Nicole said in a voice that was purposely loud enough for Jeff to hear.
“Fine by me!” Jeff called back.
I decided to take Nicole’s advice and give Jeff some time to adjust after the flight. Hopefully all he needed was some time to relax and a good night’s sleep, and everything would be back to normal tomorrow morning.
Our first stop was a restaurant about twenty minutes away from the airport. Nicole and I walked off the bus without saying a word to Jeff. “Let’s sit with Laura,” Nicole suggested as we looked around the restaurant.
“Good idea,” I said, trying to locate Laura. I saw that she was already sitting alone at a table near the back of the room, and Nicole and I made our way over towards her.
“Hey!” Nicole greeted Laura as we sat down. “How was the flight for you?” she asked.
“It was okay,” Laura answered.
“Make any more friends?” Nicole asked.
“Not really…” Laura replied.
“Oh well,” I joked. “We’re the only friends you need!”
Nicole and Laura both laughed at that remark. A couple other girls ended up sitting down at our table, including Emily, the girl I had been next to on the plane. Nicole introduced herself and I to the rest of the table, making sure that everyone knew that we were alumni to the program. The other girls who were sitting with us asked a few questions, and we were glad to be able to answer them.
I managed not to worry about Jeff throughout all of dinner. I was having fun just sitting and talking with these girls… I didn’t even bother telling them that Jeff was my boyfriend. I figured they’d find out soon enough, anyway.
After dinner we all got back on the bus and headed to our first hotel. The way these trips were set up, we stayed at a different hotel every night. We would spend the night at a hotel near a beach, and then spend the next day studying it… then, that evening we would drive on to the next hotel, spend the night there, and repeat the process for the rest of the week. Changing hotels nightly meant that we also changed roommates every night.
On our first night, I roomed with two girls named Mary and Emma, who were both a lot of fun. The three of us sat around in our room for a while, talking about what we hoped the rest of the trip would be like. About 45 minutes after we had settled into the room, there was a knock on the door. I opened it up to see Nicole and Jeff standing in the hallway. “We’re going out to the beach… do you want to come?” Nicole asked.
“Yeah! Just a sec!” I replied.
“Your roommates can come, too…” Jeff called into the room so that Mary and Emma could hear him.
“Come where?” Mary called back.
“To the beach!” Jeff exclaimed.
“Awesome. I’m on my way!” Mary replied.
Emma decided to stay in the room and go to bed early while Mary, Jeff, Nicole and I headed down to the beach to watch the sun set. When we got there, we saw that there was a pier that led out into the water. The four of us walked out and sat at the edge, dangling our feet in the water. We sat and talked while we watched the sun set. About an hour and a half later, Nicole looked at her watch. “It’s almost 11!” she announced.
“Oh! We should probably get back to the hotel,” I said. We were all supposed to be in our rooms by 11:00, but Jeff, Nicole and I knew that the leaders would be more flexible since they knew and trusted us. Nonetheless, we stood up and walked back towards the building. We dropped Nicole off at her room, and then Jeff walked Mary and I down the hall to where we were staying. Mary opened the door and walked into the room before me, and I let the door shut after her.
“Aren’t you gonna go to bed?” Jeff asked.
“Yeah,” I responded. “I just wanted to say good night to you!” I said.
“Oh,” Jeff replied as I wrapped my arms around him to give him a hug good night. To my surprise, he didn’t object. When I pulled away from him and tried to give him a kiss, though, he turned his face away.
“What? There isn’t even anybody else out here!” I said.
“I don’t care… we can’t do that,” Jeff told me.
“Yes we can. We did last time! What’s your problem?” I asked.
“Nothing,” Jeff said, leaning forward to give me a very quick peck on the lips. “Now go to bed,” he said, walking towards the stairs to go up to his room on the floor above mine.
“Good night,” I called out.
“Good night,” he said.
“I love you,” I added, but Jeff didn’t respond.
ORIGINAL END OF CHAPTER 8. BELOW CONTENT WAS ADDED LATER.
I watched him walk away before I opened the door to my room. Once he was out of sight, I walked in and threw myself down on the small cot that was set up in between two queen-sized beds (I had already offered to let Mary and Emma take the beds).
“How was the beach?” Emma asked. She was lying in bed in her pajamas, with a book in her hand. Her light brown hair, even curlier than mine, was pulled into a tight bun at the back of her head.
“It’s really pretty,” I told her. “I can’t wait to get down there tomorrow in the daylight.”
“The sunset was awesome!” Mary called out from the bathroom where she was washing her face and getting herself ready for bed.
Emma and I chatted for a few minutes. I found out that she was from Eastbrook and knew Jeff from school. She was also a member of HEARTS – a Christian drama group that a few of my friends were a part of.
About the time that our conversation died down, Mary walked out of the bathroom. Seeing that I was sprawled out on my back on the cot, she asked “are you alright?”
“Yeah, why?” I questioned.
“I don’t know,” she replied. “Is Jeff your boyfriend?” she asked, a little randomly.
“Yeah,” I said. “We’ve been together for almost two years now,” I told her.
“That’s what I heard,” she said. “But I wouldn’t have known from the way you guys acted tonight.”
“Yeah…” I replied. “Jeff doesn’t want to be intimate or anything. He thinks that he and I are ‘setting an example’, so we’re not allowed to touch each other… and he’s on this kick right now where he wants us both to make new friends,” I explained.
“Ah, I see,” Mary said. “That’s gotta kinda suck for you, doesn’t it?” she asked.
“Yeah, I guess,” I replied. “I had to fight with him to get him to kiss me goodnight…” I said with a sigh.
“Aww,” Mary replied. “I bet it won’t last long. Maybe he’ll lighten up once everybody gets comfortable with each other” she offered.
“I hope so,” I agreed.
Emma had been quiet while Mary and I were talking, but the entire time she looked as though she had something she wanted to say. When it became obvious that Mary and I were finished, she piped up. “I didn’t even know Jeff had a girlfriend.”
“Yeah,” I replied. “I mean, it’s not like anybody at Eastbrook ever sees us together. I don’t spend much time out that way.”
“True,” Emma replied. “But I mean… I didn’t even know Jeff liked girls,” she said, letting out a nervous sounding laugh.
“What do you mean?” I asked, a little worried by her remark.
“Oh, I don’t know…” Emma said. “I mean, I don’t know him that well, I just know that he always hangs out with Brandon. Do you know Brandon?” she asked.
“Oh yeah, I definitely know Brandon,” I told her.
“Yeah. Well… everyone at Eastbrook knows that Brandon’s gay, and that Jeff is his best friend. Rumor has it they’re a little bit more than just best friends… but like I said, that’s just a rumor,” Emma explained.
“Yeah, well… people like to spread rumors like that,” I said. “Obviously Jeff isn’t gay… I mean… what kind of gay guy dates the same girl for two years?” I asked with a laugh.
“True…” Emma said slowly. “He’s about done with high school, anyway. I’ll try to make sure people stop that rumor when we get back to school,” she assured me.
“Thanks,” I said. “That’s a good idea.”

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Jun. 25th, 2006 09:04 pm Chapter 7

Two weeks later, school was out for Spring Break. I hadn’t seen Jeff since the day we went to Taco Bell together, and hadn’t even spoken to him on the phone in at least the past week. We never did get around to the shopping trip we had talked about. I ran her errands on my own, and hoped that Jeff had gotten everything taken care of on his end, as well.
When I got home from school that Friday, I decided to try to give Jeff a call. His phone rang twice before he answered it. “Hey! Haven’t heard from you in a while!” I exclaimed, excited by the fact that Jeff had actually answered his phone.
“Yeah, I know. Sorry. That geology class has been kicking my ass… and I’ve been working a lot and running around getting ready for our trip,” Jeff explained.
“Yeah, it’s okay,” I replied. “I’ve been pretty busy, myself… So, are you ready for Sunday?” I asked.
“Yeah, I think so. I’m gonna pack tonight I think,” Jeff told me. Every time Jeff went on a trip, it was a ritual for him to pack at least two days ahead of time. He liked to have his suitcase completely ready to go on the day that he left, so that he didn’t have to run at the last minute trying to make sure that everything was in order.
“Oh, cool. So you don’t have to work tonight, then?” I asked.
“Yeah, I do… I got stuck on 3rd shift tonight… 11:00pm to 7:00am,” he answered.
“Oh, geeze… that sounds like fun,” I joked. “Do you want to take a break from packing and go grab some dinner with me?” I offered.
“Yeah, I guess,” Jeff replied. “What time?”
“I don’t know… I could come over now and help you pack. I don’t really have anything to do. I’m not gonna pack until tomorrow night… I still have some laundry to do,” I said.
“If you want to…” Jeff offered, not sounding too excited at the idea.
“Alright!” I said, excitedly. “I’ll be there in about half an hour! Love you! Bye!”
“See ya,” Jeff called back before we both hung up.
I walked into Jeff’s house to find him sprawled out in the living room, his suitcase wide open in the middle of the floor and his clothes spread all over the place. “How’s the packing coming?” I asked.
“Pretty good,” Jeff replied. “Except Carmen keeps getting in my way,” he added, motioning towards the dog a bit agitatedly.
I looked over to where Jeff had pointed and noticed that Carmen was lying down inside of Jeff’s empty suitcase. “Aww!” I replied. “She’s just trying to help.” I walked over, picked the little dog up out of the suitcase, and sat down on the floor next to Jeff. I played with Carmen while the two of us caught up on the past week.
“So that geology class is getting pretty tough?” I asked.
“Ugh. Yeah, it is,” Jeff replied. “The most work I’ve ever done for any class in my life.”
“How did Brandon make it into that class?” I asked, curiously. “I thought it was an advanced class or something.”
“Yeah, I dunno,” Jeff said, seemingly trying to avoid my question.
“Isn’t he a sophomore?” I asked.
“Yep,” Jeff said, focusing intently on folding the shirts he was about to pack in his suitcase.
Realizing that Jeff wasn’t about to get into a conversation about Brandon, I decided just to help him pack instead. I grabbed the pile of shorts that was on the floor next to me and starting folding them. “Are you bringing all of these?” I asked.
“Yeah, I think so,” Jeff replied.
“I don’t think I’ve seen half of these!” I teased.
“Yeah,” Jeff said with a laugh, “I’ve been shopping.”
“I noticed,” I commented, grabbing a shirt from the bottom of the pile that Jeff was working on. I held the long sleeved, rainbow-striped, button-up shirt up for Jeff to see. “Is this new?” I asked.
“Yep,” Jeff said with a huge grin on his face.
“Rainbow?” I asked, with a disgusted expression on my face. “Isn’t that a little… gay?” I asked, playfully throwing the shirt at Jeff.
“Maybe. But so what?” Jeff asked, sounding a bit defensive. “I needed a new dress shirt, and it was on clearance… only $7! And I like it,” he said, indignantly.
“Hmm… okay,” I said. “You can wear it with that rainbow wrist band that’s on your nightstand… and that ring in the bathroom, you know, the one with the purple triangle on it?” I teased.
“Oh whatever,” Jeff said. “I told you, those are Brandon’s. He keeps forgetting to take them home. Thanks for reminding me. I’ll have to bring them over to him before we leave.”
“Excuses, excuses,” I joked, turning my attention back to folding the pile of shorts that was next to me. “At least you’re not homophobic anymore,” I added.
“When was I homophobic?” Jeff asked.
“As long as I’ve known you…?” I answered, sounding a little confused. “Don’t you remember how you used to make fun of Travis when we were in Florida?”
“Ohh… Travis. That little queer!” Jeff joked, remembering his favorite target.
“See?” I said with a laugh. “Homophobic!”
“Yeah well. Not anymore. Now I just like making fun of Travis,” Jeff laughed. “Brandon’s broken me of any homophobia I might have had.”
“Yeah, that and hanging out at The Corner all the time,” I added.
“True,” Jeff agreed.
“Speaking of The Corner… I still haven’t been there!” I pointed out. “We should go sometime!” I suggested.
“They have really good drinks,” Jeff offered. “You’d probably like them.”
“Geeze, I’m hungry,” I said, folding the last pair of shorts and laying them inside Jeff’s suitcase.
“Yeah, me too,” Jeff said. “We can go eat as soon as I finish folding these shirts.”
“Good,” I said. “Where do you want to go?”
“I don’t know… we’ll see,” Jeff replied.
I helped Jeff fold the rest of the shirts that were in the living room, paying special attention to his new rainbow dress shirt. I folded it as neatly as possible, laid it on top of the rest of them and looked at Jeff with a grin. We both laughed, and then stood up to get ready to go out for dinner.
Jeff picked Carmen up from where she was sitting on the couch and locked her in her cage (there was nobody else home to watch her, and Carmen tended to make a mess when she was left home all by herself). He went into his room and grabbed Brandon’s rainbow wrist band, and then into the bathroom to pick up the ring Brandon had left there. Jeff walked back into the living room wearing both of them. “Geeze!” I exclaimed. “You should put on that new shirt of yours and make it official!” I joked.
“What? You don’t like my new jewelry?” Jeff teased, walking over to give me a big hug.
“I love ‘em,” I teased back as I pulled on my shoes. “You’re wearing those out to dinner?” I asked.
“Yep! Don’t worry… I’ll fit right in where we’re going,” he said.
I gave Jeff an odd looked and then asked “where are we going?”
“Surprise,” Jeff said, opening the front door and ushering me outside. We both sat down in Jeff’s car. Jeff pulled out of his driveway and headed towards the highway.
“Okay really… where are we going?” I asked, very confused. Most of the restaurants in the area were just down the road from Jeff’s house. We rarely ventured past the main road when we went out.
“Down town,” Jeff replied. “Don’t worry.”
“Alright…” I said slowly.
“It’s somewhere you want to go, trust me,” Jeff assured me.
About ten minutes later we pulled into the parking lot of a building that I didn’t recognize. As we walked up to the door, though, I noticed a small sign. “Ohhh… so this is The Corner?” I asked.
“Yep! Told ya I’d fit in,” Jeff joked, flashing Brandon’s jewelry in my face.
“Oh geeze,” I said with a laugh. “I didn’t know they served food here,” I commented.
“Yeah,” Jeff replied. “They’ve got really good salads and sandwiches. And you have to try one of their smoothies! They’re so good!” he told me.
“Alright,” I said, looking up at the huge menu that was hanging from the ceiling. “But you’ll have to help me… I have no idea what to order!”
“Don’t worry. I’ve got it,” Jeff said, walking up to the counter to order.
“Hey Jeff!” the girl behind the counter greeted him.
“Hey Jenna. How’ve you been?” he asked. It was obvious that the two of them knew each other. “I haven’t seen you here in a while.”
“Yeah, I know,” Jenna replied. “I haven’t been working as much lately. Who’ve you got with you?” she asked, looking over towards me.
“Oh, that’s my friend, Anna,” Jeff answered. “She’s never been here before. I’ve gotta get her something good!” he told Jenna.
“Hmm… What are you thinking about getting?” Jenna asked.
“I think we’ll have two Asian chicken salads, a strawberry-banana smoothie for me, and an apple-grape smoothie for Anna,” Jeff said, looking back to make eye contact with me. “Sound good?” he asked.
“This is your place,” I replied. “You know what’s good!”
“It’ll probably be about 10 minutes,” Jenna said, handing Jeff his change. “I’ll bring it out to you.”
“Alright,” Jeff replied, turning back towards me. “Let’s sit down.” He led me over to a small booth tucked back in the corner of the dark room. Right next to us was a table where four guys were sitting and talking loudly.
“HEY JEFF!” one of the guys called out just as the two of us were sitting down. He was good looking, I thought, though he was obviously gay. Average height with deeply tanned skin and blond frosted hair, he looked like he was about the same age as Jeff and me.
“Who’s that?” I asked my boyfriend.
“His name’s TJ” Jeff replied, turning his attention away from me. “Teej!” Jeff exclaimed, standing up to give his friend a hug. “How’ve you been?” he asked.
“Good, good!” TJ replied, turning back towards the other three guys sitting at his table. “Have you met my friends?” he asked.
“No!” Jeff exclaimed. “Introduce me!”
“This is my EX boyfriend, Matt,” TJ started, putting a strong emphasis on the word “ex”.
“Ex?” Jeff asked. “I thought you guys just got together a couple weeks ago!” he exclaimed.
“Yeah, yeah… we’re just friends now, though,” TJ explained. “And this is Alan and Dominic,” TJ continued, motioning towards the other two guys at the table. Alan and Dominic were sitting next to each other, holding hands and looking pretty cozy.
“Are they together?” Jeff mouthed to TJ, not wanting to ask the question out loud. TJ nodded his head ‘yes’ in response.
“And who’s this?” TJ asked, looking towards me.
“Oh,” Jeff replied. “That’s Anna,” he explained, sitting back down. He placed his hands on the table, and I set her hands on top of his. I could tell that Jeff was a little bit uncomfortable. He almost pulled his hands away from mine, but after a bit of fidgeting he left them where they were.
“Aww!” TJ exclaimed. “Are you guys like, best friends or something?” he asked.
“Yeah,” Jeff replied, looking towards me.
“We’re a little more than that!” I piped up.
“What do you mean?” TJ asked, sounding confused.
“I’m his girlfriend,” I explained.
Jeff let out a nervous laugh, followed by a sigh of relief when he noticed Jenna walking towards us with our salads and smoothies. “Here you guys go!” Jenna said, setting the food down in front of us. “Enjoy!”
“Thanks, Jenna,” Jeff replied, turning his attention towards his salad. “Trust me, you’re gonna love it,” he told me.
“It looks really delicious!” I said as I unwrapped my straw so that I could try my apple-grape smoothie. “Mmm! This is sooo good!” I exclaimed after sucking down about a fourth of the drink. “Nice choice!”
“I knew you’d like it,” Jeff said. “Do you want to try some of mine?” he offered, pushing his strawberry-banana smoothie towards me. I took a sip and then smiled. “Good?” Jeff asked.
“Yeah!” I replied. “Now I’ve gotta try this salad,” I said, picking up my fork and shoveling a huge bite into my mouth. “Oh my gosh! Jeff! This is great! You should have taken me here forever ago!” I teased.
Jeff laughed. “Well, I’m glad you like it,” he commented, turning his focus towards finishing the food in front of him. “But we’ve gotta get back to my house pretty soon. I want to get some more packing done before I have to go to work. I was thinking we could pop in a movie in the living room while I work on getting stuff together.”
“Alright, sounds good,” I replied, still eating my salad. “What movie were you thinking?” I asked.
“Mary Poppins?” Jeff offered, with a big grin on his face.
“Again?” I teased. Jeff had a tendency to obsess over one movie for a few weeks. Right now, that movie was Mary Poppins. He had bought it on sale about a month ago and hadn’t stopped watching it since. “Didn’t you say you just watched it last night?” I asked.
“And the night before that, and the night before that…” Jeff joked.
“Geeze!” I exclaimed. “How can you watch it that many times and not get bored?”
“Because it’s a great movie!” he answered. “I thought you liked it!”
“I do,” I replied. “I don’t care if we watch it. I haven’t seen it in a while, anyway.”
“Good,” Jeff said, still smiling as he shoveled the last bite of salad into his mouth. We finished up our dinner and then brought our dishes up to Jenna at the counter.
“Leaving already?” Jenna asked.
“Yeah,” Jeff replied. “I’ve got some stuff to do before I go to work tonight,” he explained.
“Aww, alright,” Jenna said. “I’m working a few days next week, though. You should come in and hang out!”
“Actually, we’re leaving for Florida on Sunday,” Jeff explained.
“Ohhh!!!” Jenna replied. “Well, have fun! And stop by when you get back! It was nice to meet you, Anna!”
“Nice to meet you, too,” I replied before Jeff and I turned towards the exit. We got into Jeff’s car and started the ride home. I was unusually quiet, and Jeff decided to break the silence.
“You okay?” he asked.
“I dunno,” I replied. “I didn’t really like it there,” I explained.
“What? I thought you said the food was really good! What happened to ‘you should have taken me here forever ago!’?” he teased.
“Yeah, the food was fine. But the rest of it was weird.”
“What was weird about it?” Jeff asked. “Too many gay guys for you?” he joked.
“No, it’s not that…” I replied. “You know I don’t have a problem with gay people.”
“Well then, what is it?”
“It’s just… well… you kept calling me your ‘friend’. Almost like you were ashamed of me… like you didn’t want anybody to know that I was your girlfriend…” I explained.
Tonight had not been the first time Jeff had introduced me to somebody as his “friend” rather than his “girlfriend”, but in the past I had always found it in myself not to be bothered by it. I was starting to get sick and tired, though, of feeling like Jeff didn’t really want to be my boyfriend. I couldn’t understand why he had such a hard time owning up to his relationship with me. It made me wonder what could possibly be wrong with me… Did Jeff suddenly find me unattractive? Was he embarrassed to admit to people that he was dating me? Or was he trying to hide something from somebody else? Was there some reason why he would want people to be under the impression that he was single? Tonight I decided just to come straight out with it and ask him.
“Oh, come on, Anna. You know it’s not like that,” Jeff said, sounding frustrated.
“Well what is it, then?” I asked. “You introduced me to Jenna as ‘your friend’. TJ asked if we were ‘best friends’, and you said ‘yeah’. What was that all about?”
“I don’t know,” Jeff replied. “Don’t worry about it. I love you. You know that.”
“Okay…” I said, letting out a big sigh. “But I don’t think I really want to go back there ever again…”
“Okay then,” Jeff said. The rest of the ride home was silent.
When they pulled into the Bradley’s driveway, I asked “do you still feel like watching Mary Poppins?”
“I guess so,” Jeff answered, stepping out of the car and walking towards the house. We parted ways as we walked through the door – Jeff, to his bedroom to grab the movie, and me, towards the laundry room to let Carmen out of her cage.
“I think we’re here alone,” Jeff teased, putting his arm around me as I was standing in the living room holding the dog.
“Ooo… great,” I joked back. “Sounds like its time for a romantic night of packing and watching a children’s movie.”
“Whatever,” Jeff replied with a laugh, walking over to pop in the DVD. He started the movie and then sat down on the floor behind his suitcase.
“What else do you have left to pack?” I asked.
“Hmm…” Jeff ran through the list in his head. “Underwear, bathing suit, shower stuff, razor… I think that’s it,” he replied.
“Oh, bringing your own razor this time?” I joked, remembering how, during our first trip together, Jeff had forgotten to bring a razor. He ended up borrowing one Stephanie. The two of us girls had teased him for the rest of the trip about the pink razor and raspberry-scented shaving gel he’d used.
“Yeah,” he replied. “I don’t have Steph to borrow from this year!” The two of us laughed.
“Have you talked to Stephanie lately?” I asked. Although Stephanie was one of my closest friends while we were in Florida, it seemed that after we came back, Stephanie stayed more in touch with Jeff than she did me.
“Yeah, she was out here last weekend,” Jeff replied.
“She was?” I asked, sounding confused.
“Yeah… you know how she is. She just shows up and then makes me let her spend the night,” he explained.
“Oh…” AInna said. “You guys could have called me… I would have liked to come hang out with Steph. I haven’t seen her in forever.”
“Sorry,” Jeff said. “It was really late… she showed up at, like, 11:00 and then made me take her out for food, and then we just came back and went to sleep and I had to work in the morning, and she left while I was gone,” he explained.
“Oh. Weird,” I replied. “I wonder why she never calls me when she comes out this way. She’s not mad at me, is she?” I asked.
“Not that I know of…” Jeff answered. “Don’t worry about it. Steph’s just weird. I really wish she’d stop coming out here. I don’t answer my phone anymore when she calls.”
“Well, why don’t you just not let her in when she comes over here, then?” I asked, sounding a bit angry.
“Right, Anna… like I’m just gonna tell her to turn around and drive home after she drove an hour out here.”
“Well?” I said. “It’s rude enough of her to just show up without telling you and then expect you to let her spend the night. Why not just be rude back? I would…”
“Maybe I will next time,” Jeff replied. “But shh!!! You’re missing the movie. I thought you wanted to watch this!” he pointed out.
“Alright, alright…” I said, scooting closer to Jeff and resting my head on his shoulder. “Let’s watch the movie.”

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Jun. 25th, 2006 08:23 pm Chapter 6

All throughout the next day, I couldn’t stop thinking about Adam. I found my mind wandering during history class, daydreaming about what it would be like to actually meet up with him and trying to convince myself that I had enough courage to do so and enough decency and willpower not to do anything I would regret if the meeting ever actually occurred. I had never even dreamed of cheating on Jeff before – I promised myself a long time ago, even before I had a boyfriend, that I would never cheat on anybody. But for some reason, things were different with Adam. I knew that if I ever really did meet him, I would want to kiss him. The two of us had talked about it before, just playfully. I had confessed to Adam the big crush that I had on him when I was younger, and he was flattered by it. Ever since then, he always found a way to tease me about it whenever they talked.
“Guess who I talked to last night?” I said as she I eating lunch with Molly and Christine.
“Who?” Molly asked, paying more attention to her tuna fish sandwich than to me.
“Adam… do you remember him?”
“Adam Carlisle?” Christine asked.
“Yeah,” I answered.
“I didn’t know you guys were friends,” Christine stated. Her older brother Jason had graduated with Adam. The two of them hung around with the same crowd, but weren’t really close friends… just enough for Christine to know who he was.
“Yeah,” I replied. “He was on Ben’s baseball team a long time ago… when we were in like, sixth grade,” she explained.
“Ohhhh… ADAM!” Molly exclaimed, looking up from her lunch. “Didn’t you have a crush on him?” she teased.
“Yeah, yeah…” I responded. “Who didn’t I have a crush on in sixth grade?” I asked, playfully.
“True!” both Molly and Christine replied with a laugh.
“What did he have to say for himself?” Molly asked, curiously.
“Not a whole lot,” I replied. “He’s coming home for the summer pretty soon, I guess. He said he wanted to hang out.”
“I don’t remember you guys ever hanging out before…” Christine observed.
“Yeah, we never really did…” I explained. “We just used to talk online a lot… and I hadn’t even talked to him in like, a year before last night… But I was so bored and he was online, so…”
“Well, if you end up seeing him, let me know… I’m sure Jason would want to say hi or something,” Christine said.
“Alright,” I replied, finally digging into my backpack for my lunch. I pulled a ham sandwich and a bag of potato chips out of the bottom of my bag and turned my attention towards eating.
I spent the rest of the day thinking on and off about Adam, but trying not to talk about him to my friends. I didn’t want them to have any idea that I had never actually shaken that old crush I had on him back in junior high. By the time I got home, I felt so bad about all of it that I decided to give Jeff a call. After a few rings, he answered his phone.
“Hey,” Jeff said.
“Hey, how are you?” I asked.
“Kinda busy… I thought I told you I couldn’t hang out today,” he commented.
“Yeah, I know. I just wanted to talk to you for a few minutes. I miss you!”
“Aww, okay,” Jeff said.
“What have you got going on tonight anyway?” I asked.
“I’ve got a huge geology project due tomorrow, and I have to work again at 6:00” he explained.
“Ohhh… sorry to bother you,” I responded.
“It’s okay. I needed a little bit of a break from this homework,” he said. I thought I heard laughter in the background… not Jeff’s laughter, but somebody else’s.
“What was that?” I asked.
“What?”
“Did somebody just laugh?”
“Oh,” Jeff explained, “Yeah,” he said with hint of nervous laughter in his voice, “That was Brandon, sorry.”
“Ah. What’s he doing over there?” I asked, curiously.
“He’s my geology partner… we’re working on that project together.”
“Oh, cool,” I replied. “Tell him I say hi!”
Jeff turned his head and cupped his hand over the phone. “Anna says hi,” he called over to Brandon, who was sitting on the leather couch in Jeff’s basement.
“HEY!” Brandon called out, loud enough for me to hear him clearly.
I laughed a little and then started up again. “Do you remember me ever telling you about my friend Adam?” I asked.
“I don’t think so…” Jeff responded.
“Oh… yeah I probably never really told you about him. I haven’t really talked to him much since I met you,” I explained. “But I talked to him again last night. He’s coming home from school for the summer pretty soon… I think I might hang out with him.” I didn’t really know why, but I felt a strong need to be sure that Jeff knew about Adam. I wasn’t going to tell Jeff about the fact that I was so attracted to Adam… but I at least wanted to make sure that he knew I was talking to and hanging out with him.
“Ohhh… hanging out with other guys, eh?” Jeff teased.
“Oh, come on!” I protested. “You hang out with Lucy all the time… so what’s wrong with me hanging out with Adam?”
“Nothing!” Jeff replied. “I was just teasing you! Don’t worry about it. But anyway, Brandon and I really need to get back to work on this geology thing… I have to leave for work in like, two hours… there’s no way we’re gonna get this done…” I heard Brandon’s laughter once again in the background.
“Alright, good luck,” I said. “Tell Brandon I said goodbye!”
Jeff cupped his hand over the phone again and turned to look at Brandon. “Anna says goodbye,”
“BYE ANNA!!!” Brandon called out, once again in a voice loud enough for me to hear him clearly.
“Jeff?” I asked, trying to get my boyfriend’s attention once again before he hung up the phone.
“Yeah?”
“I love you.”
“Love you, too… Bye,” Jeff replied before hanging up the phone.
I sat in my bedroom for a while after my conversation with Jeff. For some reason, I was bothered by the fact that Brandon was over at his house. I thought I remembered Jeff telling me that Brandon was only a sophomore… Jeff’s geology class was an advanced level, senior course. Science was the only subject Jeff was really interested in, and he was very, very good at it. I didn’t understand how Brandon could have possibly been in that class with him. Unable to come up with an explanation, however, I just dismissed the entire thought and decided to ask Jeff about it the next time I talked to him.
Deciding to ignore my homework for a while, I signed myself onto the internet. I checked her e-mail, and found an unexpected message from Adam. I opened it up and read it.

Hey Anna.
Just wanted to say that it was cool talking to you last night! I really think you should give some thought to the idea of us hanging out when I come home. But don’t tell your boyfriend… you know… everybody’s jealous of my sexy body. JUST KIDDING! But seriously… it was good chatting with you… I hope we can talk some more!
-Adam

I decided not to bother writing back… I would probably just catch him online sometime tonight. I glanced at my buddy list, noticed that Christine was signed on, and decided to talk to her for a while.

AnnaBanana05: Hey.
AARChristine: Hey, what’s up?
AnnaBanana05: Not much… just got off the phone with Jeff… now I’m trying to avoid homework… ugh.
AARChristine: Haha. What class?
AnnaBanana05: Calculus… sigh.
AARChristine: Can’t help ya there… That’s what you get for taking advanced math classes!
AnnaBanana05: I know, I know… what was I thinking, right?
AARChristine: How’s Jeff?
AnnaBanana05: Really busy… I guess he’s working on some geology project with that Brandon kid.
AARChristine: Geeze… they sure hang out a lot.
AnnaBanana05: I know. Oh well.
AARChristine: Do you think you’re actually gonna get any of that calculus done?
AnnaBanana05: Sigh. Not if I can help it. Why?
AARChristine: My dad was asking about you the other day… he says you don’t hang out here enough anymore! He was talking about putting in a movie… would you want to come over?
AnnaBanana05: Sure. I don’t really need to do this homework, anyway… haha. I’ll see you in a few minutes, okay?
AARChristine: Sweet. See ya!

I slipped on a black hoodie and a pair of flip flops and ran up the stairs. “I’m going to Christine’s!” I called out to my parents in the living room on my way out the door. I spent the rest of the night with Christine’s family in their basement watching a couple of movies. I loved hanging out over at the Wilson’s house. I always felt really welcome and comfortable over there - they were some of my favorite people to be with. My time in their basement had always been my getaway… a chance for me to forget about everything else that was going on and to just have fun with some great people.
After we’d finished watching both Pirates of the Caribbean (Christine’s favorite movie) and Sweet Home Alabama (Mrs. Wilson had managed to talk her husband into letting her watch a romantic comedy for the first time in ages), Christine’s dad turned off the television. Zach, Christine’s younger brother, had fallen asleep halfway through the first movie, but Christine, her parents and I were all wide awake.
“Why aren’t you spending Friday night with that boy of yours?” Mr. Wilson asked, turning around in his chair to look at me.
“He had homework, and then he had to go to work…” I explained.
“Darn,” he replied. “I was hoping you’d say you finally called it off with that loser!” he teased. Christine’s dad had always joked about Jeff, but I usually got the feeling that he actually harbored some kind of dislike towards my boyfriend, although I wasn’t entirely sure why. “I mean, come on, Anna… go out and find yourself a real man,” he said with a growl, trying to sound as rough and masculine as he could. “You can do better than that little queer boy,” he said with a laugh.
“Hey!” I protested, picking up the pillow that was next to me on the couch and throwing it at Mr. Wilson. “Don’t call him that!”
“Aw, Anna… I’m just kiddin’!” he said. Still laughing, he grabbed the pillow that had just been thrown at him and hurled it back at me, hitting me unexpectedly square in the face. I grabbed the pillow and hugged it tight to my body, laughing. I was so happy to have such a close relationship with Christine’s family. “You bunkin’ with us tonight?” Mr. Wilson asked me.
“I dunno… I could…” I replied.
“Aw c’mon… I’ll make you breakfast in the morning!” he offered with a grin. Mr. Wilson loved to cook, and I was glad for it, because he was excellent at it.
“Well, in that case…” I said with a laugh. “Let me call my parents and make sure its okay with them.” I picked up my phone and gave my parents a call to let them know that I was going to spend the night over at Christine’s. As soon as I snapped my phone shut, I let out a monstrous yawn.
“That tired already?” Mr. Wilson teased.
“Yeah, actually…” I replied, turning to look at Christine, who was sitting at the opposite end of the couch. “You want to go lay down?” I asked. “I’m exhausted.”
“Sure,” Christine complied, standing up slowly off of the couch. She looked about as tired as I felt.
“Good night, you two,” Mr. Wilson called out as we walked up the stairs towards Christine’s bedroom.
I opened the door to Christine’s room and stopped abruptly in the doorway. “Do you think there’s room for me in here?” I teased, observing the absolute pigsty that was my best friend’s bedroom.
“Eh, no problem…” Christine said, walking past me and into her bedroom. She shoved the big mound of clothes that was taking up the entire center of her floor into the back corner of the room. “See? We’ll just put the mattress right there…” she said with a grin.
I laughed. “Works for me.”
We worked together on hauling a mattress out from underneath Christine’s bed. The thing was big enough for both Molly and I to sleep on – we had done it many times in the past. But tonight it was just me. “I don’t know if I’ve ever slept on this thing without Molly next to me!” I pointed out, pretending to wipe a tear from my eye.
“Aw,” Christine responded. “Well… I bet Slider will keep you company!” she said, petting the old golden retriever who was half asleep on her bed. Slider awoke and sat straight up in the middle of the bed. “Go by Anna!” Christine commanded the dog, pointing towards the mattress where I was laying out a few blankets.
Before I could even get the covers smoothed out, Slider had himself all settled in at the foot of the bed. “Aw, are you sleeping with me tonight?” I asked, petting the old dog. I finished making my bed and we both got ourselves ready to settle in for the night. As soon as Christine turned off the light, I looked over and noticed my phone, which was glowing in the dark as it usually did. “Maybe I should give Jeff a call… I think he should be out of work by now,” I said, noticing that it was past midnight already.
“If you want…” Christine said, adjusting her pillows and turning on her side to face me as I dialed Jeff’s number on my phone. Four rings went by and then Jeff’s voicemail kicked in, as usual.
“Hey, it’s Anna”, I said, leaving him a message. “I just wanted to say I hope you had a good night at work and that you and Brandon got that geology project done! I’m sure you’ll get in A on it! I’m spending the night over at Christine’s… give me a call tomorrow when you get a chance. I love you! Good night.”
“Does he ever answer his phone?” Christine asked, sounding almost annoyed.
“Once in a while,” I replied with a bit of a laugh. “He’s kinda weird about it… but whatever.”
“Isn’t Brandon a sophomore?” Christine asked, after a few seconds of silence.
“That’s what I thought…” I answered.
“But he’s in Jeff’s geology class?” Christine questioned.
“Yeah, I dunno… I thought that was kinda weird, too,” I replied.
“What are they doing homework on a Friday night for, anyway?” Christine asked.
“I don’t know…” I said, sounding a bit confused myself. “I hadn’t even thought about that… he kept saying that there was no way they were gonna get it done before he had to go to work… I wonder if he realizes they’ve got all weekend,” I pondered, letting out a nervous laugh.
“Who knows…?” Christine replied. “But I’ll tell you what… I don’t think I like Brandon…” Christine offered.
“Why not?” I was curious. “I think he’s pretty cool.”
“I dunno… I just get a strange feeling about him. And I don’t really understand why Jeff would hang out with some 15 year old kid…” she explained.
I let out a sigh. “Yeah… I know it’s a little weird,” I admitted. “But Lucy’s 15, too… you know, that girl he’s always hanging out with…”
“Yeah. I just don’t know about that. I think it’s really weird… That and, well, Brandon’s gay…” Christine said, shuddering a little. She had always felt slightly uncomfortable around homosexuals, even though she had no real reason to be. Brandon was one of the few she had ever actually met.
“What’s that got to do with anything?” I asked defensively. Despite my conservative upbringing, I had always been one to defend the alternative lifestyle.
“Nothing, really,” Christine replied, backing down.
“Yeah,” I said. “I don’t know. I think its kind of a silly thing to worry about. I’m glad he has friends, even if they’re kinda weird friends… I mean, when I first met him, I don’t think he really had any friends at all. So I’m just glad to see him hanging out with anybody… I don’t care if he’s only a sophomore of if he’s gay… at least Brandon’s a friend, and a guy… I was really getting sick of Jeff just hanging out with girls all the time.”
“Maybe,” Christine said. “If a gay, fifteen year old counts as a guy,” she joked. “How does a fifteen year old kid know that he’s gay, anyway?” she asked.
“I dunno,” I replied. “But I’m pretty sure Brandon’s got it figured out. I mean… geeze, you’ve met him. It doesn’t get much gayer than that…” I said with a laugh.
“True!” Christine agreed, also laughing.
For the next hour or so, Christine and I stayed awake in the dark talking about the same things we usually did. I tried to steer the conversation away from Jeff, which was pretty easy to do as soon as I got Christine talking about Mike.
We were awoken in the morning by Slider, who was scratching loudly at the bedroom door. Christine was the first to get up. She stepped over me and walked towards the door to let the dog out. When she came down the stairs to open the front door for him, she was greeted by her father in the kitchen. “Oh, look who’s awake!” Mr. Wilson announced, looking at the clock behind him. “And it’s only 11:30!” he teased.
Hearing all of the noise downstairs, I decided to get myself out of bed and go join everybody. I followed the inviting scent of fresh blueberry pancakes, bacon and fried eggs down into the kitchen. “I told ya I’d make breakfast!” Mr. Wilson said, waving his spatula in the air for me to see.
“Mmm!” I exclaimed, taking a big whiff of the air. “I can’t wait! I dreamt about it all night!” I teased, reaching into the cupboard and pulling down five glasses. I grabbed a carton of orange juice from the Wilson’s refrigerator, filled the glasses and set them at the table. I felt so much at home with Christine’s family that it was only natural for her to help out the same way I would at my own house.
A few minutes later, the Wilson family and I sat down to enjoy an amazing breakfast. Even Slider got in on the action, sitting, as he usually did, right underneath the dining room table in order to pick up any food that might be dropped on accident.

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Jun. 25th, 2006 07:25 pm Chapter 5

I arrived home about twenty minutes later and was met with disappointment by my father when I walked in the door alone.
“No Jeff?” my father asked.
“No, something came up,” I responded. “He had to drive a friend of his somewhere or something. I don’t know. I’ll see him Thursday.”
“Well… I guess we’ve got more than enough food now…” my father said.
“GOOD!” Ben chimed in from the living room. “Now I can fill myself up on some good food before I head back out to school,” he said excitedly. On the weekends that he came home, Ben tended to stay until after dinner on Sunday nights so that he could take advantage of our dad’s delicious, signature Sunday evening dinners. “Is it almost ready?” he asked eagerly.
“It’ll be a few more minutes before this corn is done,” my mom replied from the kitchen where she was checking on the six ears of corn on the cob that were boiling on the stove. “But you could come set the table,” she offered, playfully.
“Alright, alright,” Ben complained a little, making his way into the kitchen. I grabbed some silverware and helped my brother.
Our family enjoyed our dinner together and talked, as we always did, about everything that was going on in our lives. I had made it routine for me to give off the image that everything was fine regarding my relationship with Jeff, even if that meant that I had to lie a little bit. I knew that my brother was overly critical of my boyfriend, so I didn’t like to give him any more opportunity to say anything bad about Jeff.
Ben packed his clean laundry into his car and headed back to school soon after dinner. I helped my mother clear the table and clean up the kitchen after I said good bye to my brother.
“So, are you starting to get excited for your trip?” my mom asked as she placed the family’s dinner plates in the dishwasher.
“Yeah!” I exclaimed. “I can’t wait! Jeff and I are going to go out sometime next week and do a little shopping, I think. There are still a few things we need,” I explained.
“Do you think Jeff’s excited?” my mom asked.
“Why wouldn’t he be?” I questioned. “Of course he’s excited! It’s all he ever talks about anymore – I can’t get him to shut up about it!” I lied.
“Well, I hope you guys have a lot of fun,” my mother said. “And I hope spending that much time together won’t be hard on you.”
“Why would you say that?” I asked defensively. “Molly said the same thing the other day. What’s up with you guys?”
“Don’t worry about it, Anna,” my mom conceded. “I’m sure the two of you will have a good time.”
I finished cleaning the kitchen and then headed down to my bedroom to work on the homework I’d neglected all weekend. I decided to give Jeff a call before I got started on it all, but was met by his voicemail after a few rings. “Hey Jeff, its Anna,” I started, deciding to leave him a message. “I was just calling to see how you were. Dinner was sooooo good – too bad you had to miss it! I’m just gonna be sitting around here doing homework all night, so give me a call when you get back from Brandon’s if you want. I was wondering when you wanted to go out and do some shopping for our trip, and what kind of stuff you still need. Have a good night. I love you!”
I let out a sigh as I sat down at my desk and pulled my calculus book and my calculator out of my backpack. The rest of the night passed and I managed to finish all of my homework, but didn’t hear from Jeff at all. When I laid down to go to sleep that night, I decided to do something I hadn’t done in far too long – I said a prayer.
“Dear Lord, I just want to ask for Your help with Jeff. I know that things are starting to change between me and him, but I don’t know how or why. I know that whatever’s happening, it’s all part of Your plan and You’re going to make it turn out for the best… but right now it’s frustrating because I don’t understand it. I guess I’m just asking that You help me to understand what’s happening and to know how to deal with it in the way that You would want me to. I pray that whatever happens, both Jeff and I are able to enjoy our trip to Florida in a couple of weeks. I know that I should trust You with every part of my life… I am trying to put my relationship with Jeff in Your hands. Amen.”
I barely finished my prayer before I fell fast asleep. Before I had met Jeff, I had always had a very active spiritual life. I’d gone to church regularly and spent a lot of time around other supportive Christians. I had never had trouble praying or reading the Bible – in fact, they had been things that I enjoyed doing all my life… but when I started dating Jeff, who wasn’t a Christian, my spiritual life started to become less and less important to me. Unlike all of my other friends, Jeff wasn’t interested in my relationship with God. He didn’t urge me to read my Bible or to ask for God’s help in my life. Because I was spending so much time with Jeff and so little time with my Christian friends, my lifestyle had changed dramatically. I was still the same good, upstanding, moral girl I had always been, but my relationship with God was seriously lacking.
There had been a time, a little over a year into my relationship with Jeff, when I had realized how much of a drastic change dating him had caused in my spirituality. I tried for a while to go back to the way things used to be. I started going to church and to a couple of different Bible studies. I started talking to my friends about my spiritual life, and had even, at one point, thought about ending my relationship with Jeff because he was not a Christian. Instead, however, I tried to bring Jeff into my spiritual life. He began going to a Bible study with me and came to church with me on the few Sunday mornings when he didn’t have to work. Things were starting to look really bright for Jeff, and any thought of needing to end my relationship with him had totally left my mind.
As time went on, the Bible study that Jeff and I attended together started to fall apart. A few people graduated from high school and moved far away to go to college. Eventually, the pastor who led the study left. A couple of students tried to keep it up without him, but it just didn’t seem to work out, and we stopped meeting all together. I got a job, which made it hard for me to go to church because I often had to work on Sunday mornings. The importance I had once placed on my relationship with God was gone again, and all that mattered to me was having Jeff as my boyfriend.
Once Jeff turned 18 and was able to work more, all of the free time that he used to spend with me was spent at the grocery store instead. I had thrown myself full force into my relationship with Jeff, and because of that I had neglected a lot of her friendships. Now that I was spending less time with my boyfriend, I didn’t know what to do with myself. It was rare for me to spend an entire night with Molly and Christine like I had this weekend. They had gotten used to leaving me out of their plans because I usually turned them down anyway to spend time alone with Jeff, but now I was making a point to spend time with my friends.
I woke up on Monday morning and went through my day at school as normal. The next few days were nothing special. I had a few short phone conversations with Jeff, and went to the mall after school on Wednesday with Molly and Christine. When Thursday finally rolled around, I gave Jeff another call to see if we were still going to be able to spend some time together. To my surprise, he actually answered his phone.
“Hey,” Jeff said.
“Hey. Are you still free tonight?” I asked.
“Sort of…” Jeff replied, slowly.
“What do you mean, ‘sort of’”? I sounded a little worried.
“I have to work at 6:00… but you can come over until then if you want to,” he said.
“Jeff! Seriously! When are you going to stop doing this?” I exploded. “We haven’t spent more than a couple of hours together in the past month!”
“Anna…” Jeff tried to defend himself, “I just can’t say no to people at work. They need me… nobody else will take these shifts.”
“Well it seems like you’ve got no problem saying no to me, and I need you, too,” I said.
“Well, come over until 6:00 then,” Jeff offered. “A couple of hours together is better than nothing at all, isn’t it?” he asked.
“I guess so… I’m on my way out the door,” I replied.
“Okay, I’ll see you soon,” Jeff said before hanging up his phone.
I sat down in my car and looked at myself in the rearview mirror. My face was red with emotion… everything from anger to sadness to disappointment. I was barely able to control myself when I was on the phone with Jeff. I feared that if he bailed out on me one more time, I would completely lose my temper on him. For today, though, I decided just to make the best of what I had. I’d go over to Jeff’s until he had to leave for work, and I wouldn’t even bother to talk about being upset with him. Talking about emotional things with my boyfriend never did either of us any good – it was much easier, and, I thought, more effective, just to pretend that everything was okay, at least until another problem came up.
A while later I pulled into the Bradley’s driveway, hopped out of my car and walked right into the house. “Jeff’s in his room,” Mrs. Bradley informed me as she shut the front door.
“Alright, thanks!” I said, making my way down the hallway and into Jeff’s bedroom. I walked in to see Jeff lying in his bed, watching television, with Carmen in his lap. “Hey,” I said, walking over to the other side of Jeff’s queen sized bed to lie down next to him. “What are you watching?” I asked.
“Oprah,” Jeff responded, not even bothering to take his eyes off of the television. Jeff had a propensity for talk shows. Even so much so that he would record the Regis and Kelly show since it was on during the day while he was at school. I laughed and settled myself in on the bed, patting the empty space next to me to get Carmen’s attention. The dog stood up and walked over to my side of the bed, curling up in the space between me and Jeff.
“How was school?” I asked.
“Shh!” Jeff ordered, pointing at the television. Sometimes I wondered why Jeff even bothered with having friends or a girlfriend… it seemed like all he really needed in order to be happy was his TV.
A few minutes later the show went to a commercial break, and Jeff finally turned his head to look at me. “School was good, sorry,” he said, leaning over to give me a kiss on the cheek.
“What time do you need to leave?” I asked.
“5:30,” Jeff replied.
“Do you want to go get something to eat?” I asked.
“Sure. Taco Bell?” Jeff offered.
“Sounds good to me,” I responded.
“Okay… once Oprah’s over!” Jeff exclaimed, turning his attention back to the television.
Jeff and I laid together in his bed for about another half hour - Jeff focusing on his television show and me playing with Carmen, the sleepy chihuahua who was lying in between us. Finally, four o’clock rolled around and Oprah ended. I reached over for the remote, turned off the TV and hopped out of the bed. “Let’s go eat!” I exclaimed.
Jeff stood up slowly and began looking around his room for his work uniform. He pulled his khaki pants out from underneath his bed, but had no luck finding his blue polo shirt. After a few minutes of searching, Jeff was frustrated. “MOM!” he shouted down the hall. “WHERE’S MY WORK SHIRT?!”
“I washed it…” she called back, softly. “It’s in the dryer.”
Jeff sighed and stomped out of his bedroom, down the hall, through the kitchen and into the laundry room where he pulled his freshly washed shirt out of the dryer and put it on. “Okay, let’s go,” he called to me, as I was standing in the living room playing with Carmen and talking to Jeff’s mom.
“Why do you need to get dressed for work already?” I asked as Jeff walked into the living room.
“I dunno. I just felt like it,” Jeff responded.
“Where are you guys going?” Mrs. Bradley asked.
“Somewhere,” Jeff responded, shortly.
“I think we’re going to Taco Bell,” I offered. I never understood why Jeff was so rude to his mother. She was such a nice woman, albeit a little hard to tolerate at times. Mrs. Bradley had been in a bad car accident a few years after Jeff was born. She lost the use of her right arm and suffered from some mild brain damage due to the crash. Jeff seemed to have no patience for her, and I often found myself trying to make up for how poorly Jeff treated his mother.
Jeff and I walked out the front door and stood on the porch for a minute. “Let’s drive separately,” Jeff decided, looking around the front lawn.
“Why?” I asked.
“I think I want to go straight to work from Taco Bell,” he answered.
“But it’s the opposite direction,” I contested, “You’d have to come back by here to get to work anyway,” I pointed out.
“I know. But this is easier,” Jeff replied, walking towards his car. I walked past Jeff’s red Grand Prix and sat down in my own car. I closed the door and waited for Jeff to pull down the long driveway. I followed Jeff down his street and out onto the main road, all the way to Taco Bell.
When I pulled into the parking lot, I parked my Buick right next to Jeff’s car and stepped outside, enjoying the unusually warm weather. I walked over to where Jeff was standing, at the back of his car, and reached down to hold his hand. We walked together into the restaurant, but as soon as we were in the front door, Jeff quickly let go of my hand. I never understood why he had such an issue with being intimate around other people. It was rare that I could even get him to hold my hand like that out in public. I counted myself lucky that he gave in and walked through the parking lot with me like he had just done – that wasn’t an everyday occurrence for the two of us.
Jeff ended up paying for my meal along with his own. He quickly devoured four tacos, while I struggled to fight down just two of them. When we were finished eating, Jeff and I sat in our booth and talked for a while.
“Do you know your schedule for next week yet?” I asked.
“Yeah. I’ve got stuff going on every day,” Jeff responded. “I work Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. Wednesday I have to go to Mandy’s softball game, and Saturday my dad and I are going fishing,” he explained.
“Oh…” I replied, dejectedly. “So I guess I won’t see you at all next week then.”
“Probably not,” said Jeff. “Actually, probably not until we leave for Florida. Things are just so busy right now, Anna. Sorry. But we’ll have an entire week together soon… so you really don’t need to get worked up about not seeing me now, do you?” he asked.
“I guess not. Florida will be fun,” I said with a small smile, “but are you sure we can’t see each other at all the next two weeks?”
“Not next week at least,” Jeff answered. “I’ll try the week after that, but I don’t know. I’m trying to work as much as I can so we can have some spending money while we’re in Florida.”
“Alright,” I said, sighing. “I guess just give me a call if you ever have a couple of free hours,” I offered.
“I will,” Jeff replied.
The two of us sat around in the restaurant, talking and joking about the same things we usually did, for about another twenty minutes. Finally, at about 5:20, Jeff looked at the clock that was hanging behind him on the wall. “I need to get going,” he said, standing up to throw away his garbage.
“Okay,” I said, also throwing away my trash. Jeff and I walked out the door and into the parking lot. Jeff walked me over to my car and held open the driver’s side door with his backside as he gave me a hug. “I love you,” I told him before kissing him on the lips.
“Love you, too” Jeff replied, giving me one last peck on the lips and a great big hug before letting go and walking towards his own car.
“Have fun at work,” I called out before he shut his door.
“I will!” Jeff called back, closing the door to his Grand Prix and starting the engine. I followed Jeff out of the parking lot, and we both turned separate ways – Jeff left, towards the grocery store and me right, towards my house.
When I got home about twenty minutes later, I walked in the door to see my parents both in the living room watching TV. “I thought you were going over to Jeff’s tonight,” my mom said.
“I just came from there,” I replied.
“Why are you home so early then?” asked my dad.
“Jeff had to work at six,” I explained, sitting down on the opposite end of the couch from my mother. “We just watched some TV and then went and got dinner and then he had to go.”
“Oh, alright,” I mom said, turning her attention back to whatever she had been watching on TV before I arrived. I stood up off of the couch and went downstairs to my bedroom. I sat down at her computer and signed on to the internet, hoping that somebody interesting would be available for me to chat with. I scanned my buddy list and noticed a few familiar screen names – Molly, Christine, Mike and Steve were all signed on, as usual, but I didn’t really feel like talking to any of them at the moment. I decided to check my email instead, but wasn’t met with anything exciting. Finally, after a few minutes of staring blankly at my computer screen, I got a message that somebody had signed on. It was a friend of mine I hadn’t talked to in a while, a guy named Adam.
I had a crush on Adam all through junior high, but he had never really paid much attention to me because he was a few years older. Finally, halfway through my freshman year, I got a hold of Adam’s screen name and had started talking to him on the internet. The two of us quickly developed a routine of chatting every day, and I really thought that I felt a connection between the two of us. We never actually met up face to face, though. Adam had moved away to go to college on the other side of the state, and Anna had never had the means or the courage to go visit him.
When I started dating Jeff, I stopped talking to Adam. The fact that I was as romantically interested in Adam as I was made talking to him feel like a guilty thing to do, but I didn’t completely erase him from my life. Every once in a while I would send him an e-mail to see how he was doing, and he would reply. I always noticed when he signed onto instant messenger, but never felt right about starting a conversation with him. Today, though, I was just bored enough to try it.

AnnaBanana05: Hey, stranger. How’ve you been?
AdamS1984: Woah! I thought you’d disappeared! Where’ve you been hiding?
AnnaBanana05: Oh, I’ve been around. I guess I’ve just been pretty busy.
AdamS1984: Yeah, I know what you mean. So… you still dating that Jeff kid?
AnnaBanana05: Yeah, I am. We’re going to Florida together in two weeks!
AdamS1984: Oh really? Cool. Sounds like fun.
AnnaBanana05: Yeah. So what have you been up to?
AdamS1984: Not a whole lot, really. Just school and stuff. I just broke up with Rachel.
AnnaBanana05: Aww. That’s too bad. She sounded like she was pretty cool.
AdamS1984: Nah, no big loss. She cheated on me. It was time I got rid of her.
AnnaBanana05: Haha. Oh well. That’s life.
AdamS1984: Yep, sure is. So everything’s going well with you and Jeff then, I take it?
AnnaBanana05: Ehhh… I don’t know. I hardly ever see him anymore…
AdamS1984: Really? You mean to say he’s got an amazing girl like you, and he doesn’t spend every spare second of his day with her? That man’s crazy!
AnnaBanana05: Yeah, I know. What’s he thinking, right? His sister tried to convince me that he was cheating on me like a year ago… but she’s so mean. I don’t really think she was telling the truth.
AdamS1984: Obviously, if you’re still with him. I mean, if you really thought he cheated on you, you’d break up with him wouldn’t you?
AnnaBanana05: I suppose so.
AdamS1984: I’m coming home for the summer in a few weeks. We should chill or something.
AnnaBanana05: Maybe. Jeff and I leave in two weeks for Florida. I don’t know what things will be like when we get back.
AdamS1984: Ohhh… so you’d actually be up to hanging out finally? I was kind of kidding… you always said no when I offered before…
AnnaBanana05: Yeah, but I’m getting braver! I don’t see why we couldn’t just hang out. I mean, Jeff hangs out with his friend Lucy all the time and I’m not allowed to get jealous of them… so I don’t see why I can’t hang out with you!
AdamS1984: You think you could handle it? Haha. I mean… you’d be able to withstand my overwhelming sex appeal? Haha. JUST KIDDING!
AnnaBanana05: Oh, I’m sure I’d make due…
AdamS1984: Hey, I gotta get going for now. I’m going out to dinner with some guys. But we should talk later! I’ve missed you!
AnnaBanana05: Definitely. I’ll send you a message next time I’m online. It’s been fun talking to you!
AdamS1984: See ya later, babe.
AnnaBanana05: See ya!

Talking to Adam started to bring back some of the old feelings that I had for him. I had forgotten how good he made me feel. Adam always complimented me and made me feel special – something Jeff had never been very good at. I was looking forward to getting my friendship with Adam back, but I knew that I had to be careful. I was older now than I was before. A few years ago, a relationship between Adam and me couldn’t have been anything more than a dream, but now that I was almost 18 and finishing high school, it wasn’t quite as laughable as it used to be. Regardless, I was devoted to Jeff. It was okay to talk to Adam and to let myself feel important and special once in a while, but I probably wouldn’t take it much further than that. I probably wouldn’t even actually meet up with him when he came home for the summer – I was hoping to spend the entire summer [minus the time when we were both working] with Jeff.

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