The next day Alicia was outside riding her bike around the neighborhood, thinking about things. Her scars from cutting hurt with every move she made, but after two years of periodic cutting, she was used to the pain. Alicia was approaching her own driveway when she saw her next door neighbor Malinda wave to her. She turned into Malinda's driveway and came to a stop on her bike beside her. "Hey!" "Hey Alicia, how are you doing?" "I'm doing good, how are you?" "Good. I was just wondering if you would be interested in walking? I met another neighbor of ours, Trisha, and we decided we're gonna work ourselves up to walking maybe a mile or two around here. You wanna start walking with us? Maybe in the afternoons or early evenings?" "That sounds wonderful! I would love that! I need to do something like that." Alicia was thrilled to find a new outlet, something healthier than cutting and also social, so she could get her mind off her problems. "Okay, great! Maybe this evening? Around six o'clock or so?" "Awesome!" "You got walking shoes, right?" "Oh, yeah. That's what I'm wearing now." "Great! Well, I gotta go do some laundry. I'll meet ya out here around then!" Alicia waved as Malinda walked inside her house.
The afternoon passed without incident or a word from Mat. He still had not contacted her about his birthday plans for the next day. A month ago she had already bought his birthday presents; some specialty multi-colored drawing pencils and drawing book, a gorgeous black and white pinstripe fedora hat he had mentioned several times that he wanted, a boyfriend/girlfriend bracelet set and the soundtrack to one of his favorite movies. She didn't know whether to throw it all in the trash or give it to him. Certainly seeing it sit in her room was a painful reminder. She decided if she did not receive a message or a phone call from him, that she would get online that evening after walking.
Around a quarter before six p.m., Alicia was sitting in a chair at the kitchen table tying on her walking shoes. "I'm going to go for a walk with Malinda and a neighbor she met, Trisha. We're just gonna walk around the neighborhood a bit to get some exercise." "Okay, be careful." Alicia grabbed a water bottle out of the refrigerator and threw her cell phone into her pocket. She walked outside and smiled and waved at Melinda. "Hey there!" "Oh, hey!" Melinda was petting her dog who sat near the porch of her house. "Ready to walk?" "Yeah, I'm excited!" Alicia smiled, walking over to her. "Trisha lives down the road, this way." They started walking down the sidewalk. "Oh, okay." Alicia had met Melinda only a few times before and didn't really know her, so she was a bit shy. "So, are you still in high school?" "Yeah, my junior year." Alicia didn't bother to mention she was trying to finish early. Deep down she was ashamed of herself for slacking off so that she could spend more time with Mat. "That's good. How do you like it?" "It's alright. I'm lucky I don't have too many corrupt teachers." She laughed playfully as she joked. "That's a blessing. I hated school when I was there." Alicia smirked to her. She was beginning to relate. "School's definitely gonna be a bitch from here on out." She thought to herself. "Hey!" Trisha yelled and waved as she was walking towards them. "Hey!" Melinda and Alicia yelled and waved back. As they met up with her, Alicia introduced herself. "Hey there, I'm Alicia. I live next door to Melinda." "Oh hey, it's nice to meet you! You still in high school?" "Yes, ma'am." "Psh! Don't call me ma'am, call me Trisha! I'm not that old." Trisha laughed. "What grade are you in?" "Eleventh." Alicia spoke quietly. She's always shy when she first meets someone. "Oh God, I had the worst science teacher in eleventh grade. He made us dissect mice and shit. Ugh, I hated it. I'm still recovering." Trisha laughed. "Oh, God, that's terrible!" Melinda gasped. "It was, too." Trisha shook her head. "Well, I'm glad we're doing this. I need to lose some weight, bad." "Me, too." Alicia and Melinda agreed. "I hope we can make it through the summer doing this. The humidity kills me." "What's humidity?" Alicia asked nervously, embarrassed she wasn't sure what she was talking about. "You know, how hot and sticky and thick the air gets in the summer." "Oh, yes. That drags me down." "Me, too." Trisha sighed. "It gives me headaches." Melinda added. They continued making casual conversation as they walked, getting to know each other and occasionally stopping for a break, before making their way back.
Alicia walked in the door and saw her mother walking towards the dishwasher with an empty plate in her hand. "Dinner is on the stove." "Thanks, but I'm not hungry." "You alright, Alicia?" "Yeah, I'm fine." She faked a convincing smile. "Just walked about two miles, I'm not that hungry anymore. I’ll eat in a few minutes." "Alright. But if you eat, don't eat too late." "I know." Alicia rolled her eyes and walked in her room, sitting her things down. She checked her cell phone again; still no messages or phone calls from Mat. She decided to get online.
Once her computer started up, she signed onto Messenger, and of course he was online, as he seemed to always be. She sent him a message. "Hey." "Hi.", he replied. "Are you still doing something for your birthday tomorrow?" She asked. "No. I don't feel like it. I'm just gonna stay home." "Well…could I come over?" "I don't want to be around anyone." "Why?" "I usually don't do anything for my birthday because it's usually very miserable. My parents always make sure it is." "Well, we could go out or something…get away from here, you know?" Alicia offered. "I don't want to." "Well, you don't deserve to have a miserable birthday." "There's something you don't know about me, Alicia. I'm manic-depressant." "Is that…like Bipolar disorder?" "Yes, it is. I get depressed a lot, especially on my birthday. It's best that I'm alone." "Sweetie, that scares me. I want to be there with you. I don't want you to be depressed. I got you all these presents I want to give you. Can we at least go out for dinner?" "No. Take them back. I don't like presents for my birthday." "Damn it, Matheu. Snap out of it!" "Why should I? I'm a jerk." "No, you're not. You're a sweetheart who's just been through some rough shit. Who hasn’t? It doesn't mean you have to cut all of your friends and the people who truly care about you off." "I'm not trying to. I'm just being honest." "Is that why you broke up with me? Because you're feeling depressed and insecure?" "I don't know, Alicia. I know that I can't give you any answers right now. I'm sorry." "Do you know how selfish that is? Here I am worried sick about you, about what I may have done to cause you to want to break up with me, scared I've hurt you or something!" "Alicia, after meeting you my life has gone on a rollercoaster of emotions, and frankly, I'm sick of it." Alicia could feel her own fragile heart crack and crumble into pieces. She felt so guilty. She was sure all of this was her fault. He was depressed because of her, because of something she did. She was confused but she wouldn’t dare question him when he was already angry. "All right. I'm sorry. I understand. I'll leave. I won't bother you anymore. I promise." "I'm not trying to hurt you, Ali. I don’t want you to go. I want to be friends at least." "Mat, listen, please. I screwed up your life. I get that. I accept the blame. I'm sorry, but I do not want to continue to do that. I don't know what I did wrong, to be honest. But okay, I'm sorry. Maybe I pressured you too much. You haven't hurt me, sweetie. I am sorry, though. Take care of yourself. Remember, if you ever need a friend, I'm here for you, regardless." "Please don't go, Alicia. I need you. At least as a friend." She felt like she in a tug of war, being pulled in two different directions. "What do you want from me!? You tell me I ruined your life yet you want me to stay? If I've hurt you that bad then I don't want to stay. I don't want to continue to do that to you." "It's your choice, but I want you to stay." "I can't. Knowing that I've hurt you somehow…I just…that's not who I am. It’s not in my biology. I'm sorry I ruined your life. I hope things get better for you and you find someone who can love you without hurting you." She started crying, the tears pouring from her eyes like the heavy rain that fell outside her window. She added him to her "block" list and signed off and turned off her computer.
She cried tears of anger, at both herself and at Matheu, and tears of pain. She threw the things she bought him for his birthday against the wall and crumbled onto the floor, holding herself like a pathetic mess. Sleep wouldn't happen that night.
The next morning she got on the bus and saw Melissa. She went to sit beside her. "Hey girl! How's it been going with Mattie?" "We broke up last night." Alicia crossed her legs and folded her arms. "You what? Why?" "He told me point blank that I had made his life into an emotional rollercoaster and he was sick of it." "How is that even possible? You two were so happy together. I thought I would need a chainsaw to rip you two apart." Alicia smirked. "Well, don't worry, we're apart now. I don't know what's with him, or me. I don't know who to blame. Honestly, I don't know where I may have gone wrong." "You didn’t. You loved him. There’s no crime in that. He's just acting like an idiot. He'll realize he lost the girl of his dreams and come looking for you." "I'm not sure I'd take him back. I mean, how dare he do me this way! I'm taking back his birthday presents after school. I'm getting my damn money back." "Good. Fuck him; except when computers need fixing." Melissa smirked as she scrambled through her purse for her lipstick. "No, I don't want to depend on him for anything anymore. Neither should you. If you need computer help, just come to me. I'll figure it out or find someone who knows about it." Melissa shrugged. The bus stopped at the school and opened the door. "I'll see ya later, girl." Alicia sighed, picking up her book bag and made her way to her first class.
After school she took back all of the things she had bought for his birthday and got her money back. Luckily, she was within the time period allowed to take back all of the merchandise. As she walked out of the mall, her cell phone rang. It was Bridget.
"Hello?" Alicia answered. "Hey girl! Guess what?" "What's going on?" "That band we like, HIS, is coming to Atlanta on your birthday! Do you want to go?" "You're kidding. You're fucking kidding me!" Bridget giggled. "Then it's settled then! We're going! I'm getting tickets now. How are you doing?" "Oh my God! That is so sweet! At least let me pay for my ticket. I came into some money a few minutes ago." "Oh really? How?" "Mat and I broke up, so I took back the presents I had bought him." "Well, the concert will be on your birthday, so consider it a birthday present. Save that for spending money. Geez, you two weren't together but what? A week?" "Yeah, pathetic, huh?" Alicia sighed as she sat in her car. "Maybe you two just don't work together." "Apparently we don’t." "What happened?" "He just told me that I had put him on an emotional rollercoaster. Whatever. Maybe I'm better off without that in my life. It still hurts, I'll be honest, but I know I don't deserve that." "No, you don't. And I'm proud of you that you realize that. Are you going to be friends?" "No. Not when he told me that I basically ruined his life, even though, strangely, he begged me to stay friends. I don't know. I just couldn't do that. He'll get over it. We both will." "That's true, girl. Well, let me let you go, I gotta go run up to the store to get some stuff for dinner. Take care!" "Alright, you too, and thank you! I cannot wait!" Alicia hung up and smiled to herself. She knew she was going to have an amazing birthday to look forward to. Things were beginning to look up.
A week passed, and though she knew she didn't want him in her life, she still had so much pent up anger towards him and wanted so much to curse him out. She couldn't get over how someone could treat her that way. One night she gave in and sent him a message online, thanking him for treating her like he did. She let him know that treating her like shit made her a stronger person and she was grateful for it. Occasionally, these things would lead them into mini-conversations. She couldn't resist chewing him out for the son of a bitch she felt he was. A particular night in the last week of April, she read his online journal. The final line read:
"Oh, and Alicia, if you read this, I would like to talk to you soon…please…"
She sighed to herself, and gave in. "Fuck it.", she thought. She decided she would hear what he had to say. She sent him a message via Messenger. "You wanted to talk to me?" "Yeah, I did. I want to apologize for hurting you. I know I was wrong. I was stupid. I usually am." "I'm not gonna just sit her and listen to you ramble on about how insecure you are." "Look, I'm sorry. I was completely in the wrong. I take the blame. I want to make it up to you. Can we at least be friends? I miss you. I need to see you again." She sighed to herself. She knew she shouldn't give in, but damn it, she couldn't resist him. Knowing that he missed her, that he wanted her, that he needed her, won her over. "Okay. Maybe we just rushed into a relationship too fast." "Yeah. I don't know that I want to be in a relationship again but I know for sure I don't want to lose you." Alicia blushed on her end. "I don't want to lose you either." "So, you want to hang out soon?" Alicia smiled. "Yeah, all right. Maybe this weekend?" "Aww. You don't want to see me before then?" He teased. She smiled. The more she talked to him, the more she wanted him back romantically. She would be patient, though. "Of course I do, but let's just hang out then." "Alright. Maybe go out to a movie together?" "Sure, I'd like that." Alicia smiled. "Can I at least take you out to coffee tomorrow after school? So we can talk?" Alicia sighed to herself. She was so worked up with so many different emotions. She needed time, but she convinced herself she was ready to face him again, though deep down her heart told her otherwise. "Okay." She agreed.
As school was letting out Alicia stood near the front doors, waiting for Mat to come by and pick her up as he told her he would. She knew she was making a bad decision, but she didn’t want to give up on him. Love was a double-edged sword for her. It cost her so much pain and anguish, but dear God, the rewards…the smiles he would give her, the kisses on the cheek, on the lips, their emotional intimacy, how they would share things…the list went on and on in her mind. She prayed she could win him back. As much hell as he had put her through, she still loved him. But she wouldn’t tell him this. Not for a while. She saw him walk up to her, adjusting the back pack he slung over one shoulder. “Hey, sorry; I got caught up talking to a friend of mine.” “It’s okay.” She smiled softly. “I’m parked over here.” He started walking down the parking lot. “I figured we could hang out for a bit and I can drop you off here later.” “Oh, yeah. That’s fine.” She walked beside him. She spoke up softly, her nervousness painfully obvious. “So, um, how were your classes?” “Same old shit, you know. How about you?” Alicia smiled a little and looked down, concentrating on her footsteps and the pavement. “Fine, I guess.” With each passing moment she realized she wanted him more and more. She couldn’t have him though. “Maybe this is how men play hard to get.” She sighed to herself. They approached his car and he unlocked the doors and threw his book bag and hers into the backseat. He took his driver seat and she sat in the front passenger beside him. She pressed her lips together nervously. “I’m sorry I said all of those horrible things to you, before.” “Truthfully, Alicia, it hurt. I mean, I hate myself enough already, I don’t need you to add to that.” “I know. I’m sorry.” “Let’s just put it behind us and try being friends.” Alicia nodded. “Alright And I know I shouldn’t ask this…but how did I go from being your girlfriend to someone who brought you such pain? Where did I go wrong?” “I thought it over,” Mat looked to her and saw that she was about to cry, then back at the road, “…you didn’t. I was just going through a thing, that’s all. I’ve told you I’m a jerk, and that’s why it’s best that we not do that. It would only hurt you.” “But it doesn’t mean that the next time we try couldn’t be different.” “Alicia, we’ve already had this conversation. No. I’m sorry.” She nodded. “I’m sorry. I’ve just never loved like this before.” “Maybe I’m just cold.” He shrugged. Alicia looked away. He pulled into the parking lot and parked his car and they both got out. They walked inside to the bar and he got out his wallet. “What do you want?” “Oh, um, a small Caramel Macchiato, please.” He nodded and ordered a regular iced latte for himself and paid the barrister. They went to sit at a table. He folded his hands together and she fidgeted her fingers under the table. “So, what else has been going on with you?” He asked her. She wouldn’t dare bring up the fact that she took all of his presents back. “I started a new walking routine with some friends of mine. It’s only been a week and a half and already we’re seeing results! Also in a couple weeks, for my birthday, I’m going to Atlanta for a concert with one of my girlfriends and we’re spending the night up there.” He nodded. “That sounds like fun.” He stood and went to get their drinks and returned. “Thank you.” Alicia took a sip. “I can tell you’ve been doing something. You have a healthier glow to you.” Alicia smiled with a slight blush. “And I like your new clothes, very cute.” She blushed a little more and chuckled. “Thank you. What about you?” “Getting everything ready for graduation. Having a hard time trying to order my graduation gown. I just want to rent one and order the hat, but looks like I’m going to have to just buy a cap and gown.” Alicia nodded. “When is your graduation?” “It’s at the end of May. You can come, if you want. And make up for my birthday with a graduation present.” He chuckled. Alicia smiled, and then turned sincere. “I’m sorry I ruined your birthday.” “As I said they’re never that exciting.” He shrugged. “Doesn’t matter.” He took a sip of his drink. “I hope you have a nice one, though.” She reached for his hand and rubbed it softly. “I missed you.” He smiled to her and looked her in the eyes, sincerely, stroking her hand with his thumb, and then folded his hand in hers. “I missed you, too.” She smiled a little brighter.