You were my hero

You were able to do anything

You were a star in my eyes

You were making me happy

You changed

Now you disappoint me

Now you break my heart

Now you worry me

Now you lost my trust

Now you are different

I see you for how she saw you

When the split occurred

I don’t see you the same way

anymore

One day of the year

When people are more loving

When everything feels more special

When new sparks are found

One day of the year

Where the lonely are lonelier

When longing feels like forever

When past heartbreaks feel more painful

One day of the year

That should affect everyday

That shouldn’t be different from the rest

That should be just the same

What really is Valentines Day?

Some people think falling in love can only happen once, with the person they spend the rest of their life with. Some people think that they’ll fall in love, become heartbroken, and repeat both until they aren’t heartbroken anymore. Some people think falling in love is a myth.

You can fall in love as many times as you want. Because each time you fall in love, it’s different.

I fell in love with the boy who gave me a single rose. Not a dozen like most girls would expect. Not along with a box of chocolate. A single rose. The rose had a deep red color, with black fraying the ends of the petals, as it grew old. The green stem was slightly bent from being carried around all day until he saw me. He saw me walking and quickly fell into step with me, saying an awkward ‘hello’, as we both hadn’t expressed our feelings to each other yet. And then he pulled the rose out. That single rose with the withering black ends and the bent stem. From there, he became the boy I fell in love with who kissed me on the forehead even though I was soaked from the rain. The boy who lay by my side on the grassy hill, just looking at the sky. The boy who would take my hand gently whenever he was close to me. The boy who was unafraid of hugging me and kissing my cheek in front of my family. The boy who stroked my hair in the quiet moments. The first boy.

I fell in love with the boy who took me to dinner with the green eyes. Even at such a young age, sharing chicken tenders and laughing about politics we didn’t understand made my heart leap. I fell in love with the boy who tried his best to impress me every day from the color of his tie, to the surprises he would leave me. The boy who jumped on his bed until a bed leg broke because he was so excited to hear my voice on the other end of the phone. Even though it was such a short time, I fell in love with him as well.

I fell in love with the boy who tickled my knee during class and would talk to me every time my friend and I fought. The one who decided to go to the dance just to see me. The boy who would watch scary movies with me and cover my eyes every time he knew something scary would pop up on the screen. The boy who texted me a picture of food every time he remembered. The boy who forgot about me a week later.

I fell in love with the boy whose heart was broken. It wasn’t even my place, but I would tell him that he would find a better girl after the girl he liked rejected him. I always hoped the girl he found would be me. The boy who was misunderstood just because he was a hopeless romantic and wouldn’t give up on her. The boy who would joke and flirt with her, as I watched by them. The boy who would tell me what he liked about her, as I just listened and nodded. The boy I gave advice to, so that he could try to be with her. The boy I just wanted to be happy, even though it made me sad inside. The boy who didn’t see me.

I fell in love with the quiet boy who sat at the other side of the class. He never spoke, unless he was called on, and when he spoke, all the other sounds in the class disappeared. The tapping of a pencil on a wooden desk from an impatient student waiting for class to end. The sigh of the girl sitting next to me as she tried not to fall asleep. The zipping of a backpack opening. The crinkle of a bag of chips being opened. The giggle of two gossiping girls in the back of the room. His voice was a wonderful low tone. Quiet, but so smooth. The boy who said ‘hi’ to me every time we were walking into class, even though we had hardly spoken before. The boy who signed my yearbook as I passed it around the classroom. The boy I should have spoken to more.

I fell in love with the boy who I never imagined I would meet. The type of boy who would usually annoy me to the point of telling him to ‘shut up’ in front of the whole class. The boy who surprised me by sitting with me in the library even though he had a whole table of his popular friends waiting for him. The boy who would leave me snacks in my backpack without me knowing, because he knew I never ate breakfast. The boy who gave me gloves because my hands were always cold. The boy who left me small notes where I would least expect them. The boy who leaned against the wall waiting for me when class was over. The boy who suddenly held my hand in front of all his friends, shocking them all. The boy who cried quietly to me when he needed someone to talk to. The boy who would scare me at the end of the day by suddenly hugging me from behind. The boy who was unashamed of showing me off to his friends. The boy who kissed me and made my palms sweat. The boy who would randomly ask me strange questions. The boy who wondered why I even fell for him. The boy who stopped grabbing my hand. The boy who became slower to respond to my messages. The boy who confessed to me late one night. The boy who cheated on me. The boy who told me goodbye at the end. The boy who made me drive home in tears and cry all night. The boy who broke my heart for the first time.

I fell in love with the boy who was mature and understanding. Someone I had a crush on just because he was well known. I was just like a typical fan. But he paid certain attention to me, and would always make me smile, even though my heart was just broken. The boy who would ask me every day if I had a good day. The boy who would message me every time I wrote something sad online. The boy whose voice made me laugh, and smile to the point of tears. The boy who understood my teenage heart. The boy who always complimented me on everything. The boy I would never have been with anyway.

I fell in love with the boy who asked me to cheer him on. Who messaged me randomly one day and gave me his phone number. I hadn’t hung out with a boy one on one since the one who broke my heart. The boy who could tell when I was nervous. And the boy who told me he liked my dimples. The boy who would text me when he was about to sleep. The boy who told me secrets. The boy who sang to me even though he was a terrible singer. The boy who suddenly kissed me on the cheek one day when I was feeling down. The boy who suddenly transformed into someone I didn’t know. The boy who put me down and told me I disappointed him. The boy who showed me his true colors. The second boy to make me cry. The boy who changed.

I fell in love with the boys who made me laugh. The boys who I could always just enjoy myself with. The boys who made me realize what being truly happy was. The boys who could make me laugh until my cheeks were sore. The boys I could do anything with. The boys I told everything to. The boys I knew would be my best friends for the rest of my life.

I fell in love with the boy who smiled at me whenever he saw me. The boy who would shyly say ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’ as I came and went. The boy who showed himself as fearless. The boy who was romantic. The boy who knew exactly how to make a girl blush just with words. The boy I realized needed someone better than me.

You can fall in love as many times as your heart lets you. You may still have more falls to come. One day, I hope I’ll fall, and that boy will catch me and won’t let me go and fall again.

“What is it that you dislike about yourself?”

            Aria scrunched up her nose at the question. “What does this have to do with therapy? You always ask this.”

            The therapist looked at her over his circular-rimmed glasses. Aria’s mother had decided that seeing a therapist once a week every Saturday would help her get out of her room more and find herself. Aria preferred thinking of therapy as her mother forcing her out of the house for an hour each week just to torture her.

            “Aria, your mother wants you to discover who you are. We all know you are a very bright girl who deserves more than to keep herself hidden away in her own home,” he said.

            “I know who I am, Doctor La Fleur,” Aria replied with a sigh, “I know who I am, and I like staying inside. That’s all.”

            He leaned forward at his desk, propping his elbows up to rest his chin on his hands. “Is that really who you are, Aria? There has to be a reason why you don’t like going out.”

            “The reason is that I just like it inside, okay?” Aria tugged at the sleeves of her sweatshirt with a frown.

            Doctor La Fleur rubbed at his right temple. “How about we start with the easier question then? What do you admire about yourself?”

            “Is that really supposed to be easier? It seems to be equal to the last question.” Aria said, raising her eyebrow with a smirk.

            She knew she was giving Doctor La Fleur a hard time. And she was doing it on purpose too. Aria was annoyed that her mother made her come here to just talk to some man who claimed to be able to help people “find themselves”, which is what the advertisement in the morning newspaper said. Doctor La Fleur is a skilled therapist, helping all kinds of people find themselves and leading them to realize who they truly are. Aria’s mother grabbed her cellphone and immediately dialed the number, scheduling an appointment.

            “I know it’s hard coming here, Aria, but talking to me will truly help you,” Doctor La Fleur said.

            Aria sighed again and looked down at the ink stain on her fraying sleeve. “I don’t know what I dislike or like about myself, Doctor La Fleur.”

“How was the session today, honey?” Aria’s mother asked cheerfully as Aria got into the car.

            “I don’t know, Mom, ever heard of the word confidential?” Aria replied sarcastically.

            Aria’s mother shook her head and turned on the radio. She didn’t reply. She never did.

            Instead of going straight back home, the car pulled into the parking lot of the grocery store.

            “Why are we here?” Aria asked sharply, “I’m not going in with you.”

            Aria’s mother sighed. “Please, Aria, just come. I’m not leaving the keys this time.”

            “I’ll be fine in here with or without the keys,” Aria snapped.

            “It’s ninety-eight degrees outside, Aria! You cannot stay in here! Who knows how long I’ll be inside!”

            “It’s a grocery store, not an outlet mall!” Aria argued.

            “No. I’m done with the attitude and the resistance, Aria Rose Brien. Get out of the car.”

            With a groan, Aria pulled her hood over her head as far as she could, opened the car door, and slammed it shut.

            “Thank you,” her mom said curtly.

            Aria pushed the grocery cart behind her mom with her head down low. Her mother went from aisle to aisle, contemplating between organic or regular, which bunch of spinach looked fresher, or just turning apples in her hands examining the color of the skin.

            In the cereal section, Aria’s mother asked her if she wanted the honey-nut Cheerios or the multigrain, to which Aria replied, “I don’t even like Cheerios, Mom.”

            “Cheerios are good for you, Aria. Much better than those chocolate puffs you are always eating.”

            “They’re called Cocoa Puffs!”

            Her mom waved her hand. “It doesn’t matter what they are called.” Then something caught her mother’s eye.

            “Oh, hello there Skylar!” She exclaimed, waving her hand more excitedly than when she was waving Aria’s remark away.

            “Hey there, Mrs. Brien,” a voice said.

            Aria groaned quietly and hung her head even lower. Why would her mom even think to wave a person over when she very well know that she did not like human interaction?

            “Skylar, I’m trying to get my daughter to eat healthier than those Chocolate Puffs she’s always snacking on. Now do you prefer honey-nut or multigrain Cheerios?”

            “Well honey-nut is pretty good, considering that it’s still pretty sweet. I had no idea you had a daughter, Mrs. Brien!” the voice said, from about two feet away from Aria.

            “Oh, I’m sure I’ve mentioned her before!” Aria’s mom exclaimed, “Aria, stop being so shy and say ‘hi’!”

            Aria turned her head up just a little bit to look at the two cereal boxes her mother was holding right by the person called ‘Skylar’ and said, “hey”.

            “Hi there!” he said in an overly-friendly voice, “I’m Skylar!”

            “You two should be around the same age,” her mom said in an unsure tone.

            He chuckled, “I’m eighteen. How about you?”

            “Seventeen,” Aria said back, still not looking at him.

            “Cool,” he replied, “anyway, the honey-nut should be good, Mrs. Brien. I have to get up to the cashier, but I guess I’ll see you later!”

            “Oh yes, thank you so much Skylar! I’ll let you know how Aria likes it!”

            “Will do,” he said, “It was nice meeting you, Aria.”

            “Yup,” Aria answered.

            After he was out of earshot, Aria’s mother said happily, “well he’s such a nice boy, isn’t he? He goes to your school, you know?”

            “Whatever,” Aria said, “Can we please just hurry up?”

            After going through checkout, Aria lifted her head to look at the whole grocery store. I’m never coming back again, she thought. Suddenly, a waving hand caught her eye. She looked towards the cashier with the blinking number four, at a guy waving towards her and her mother. His hair was dark, and he looked around her age, as he smiled a lopsided grin. “See you two later!” he called out in the same voice as in the cereal section. Aria turned, pulled her hood closer around her face, trying to cover her cheeks, and walked as quickly out as she could.

            “Aria, make sure you don’t forget your lunch today!” her mother yelled down the stairs.

            “Got it,” Aria said in a bored tone as she stuffed the brown paper bag into her backpack. She was wearing jeans and an old sweatshirt from the beach. “I’m leaving now,” she called up the stairs as she grabbed her car keys.

            “Have an amazing day, sweetheart!”

            “Amazing day my ass,” Aria mumbled.

            She was at her locker putting her bagged lunch inside and grabbing a textbook when she heard a voice say, “I knew I had seen you before!”

            She ignored it, figuring it was a person talking to someone close by, until the same voice said her name. “Aria, right?”

            Aria turned to the direction only to face Skylar from the grocery store. He was standing at the open locker next to hers pulling a granola bar from the inside, and he grinned the same grin at her.

            “Yeah,” she said, as she turned back to her locker, letting the locker door block her face.

            “How was the honey-nut?” he asked.

            “Honey-nut?” she asked, still shuffling around her locker, pretending to look for something.

            “The cereal your mom got for you?”

            Aria closed her locker and looked at him indirectly. “I haven’t tried it yet.”

            “Try it soon and let me know!” He said cheerfully, “I can’t believe I didn’t realize you were right next door!”

            “Next door?”

            He raised his eyebrows as if she was supposed to know what that meant. “Locker neighbors?”

            “Oh, right,” she said.

            “Try it for breakfast tomorrow and let me know when you get here!”

            “Sure,” Aria could feel her stomach turning knots.

            “I’ll see you tomorrow, Aria,” he said as he turned and walked down the hallway.

            She looked at her textbook she was holding and closed her eyes, taking a deep breath.

            “Don’t forget the Cheerios,” she heard him call.

            She looked up towards him and met his eyes for the first time, seeing his striking green eyes. And she felt her face immediately burn up. Her throat closed up and instead of replying, she raised her free hand and gave him a thumbs up.

            The next morning, Aria tried to get her locker as last minute as she could. She had tried one Cheerio the night before, surprised at the sweetness, before pouring herself a whole bowl and bringing it back up to he room.  To her relief, he wasn’t at the lockers. She quickly dropped off her lunch and grabbed her textbook as usual and hurried to class.

            The getting to her locker as late as possible and avoiding Skylar thing had gone on for the rest of the week. Before she knew it, the box of honey-nut Cheerios was empty, and it was time for her weekly therapist appointment.

            “How are you today, Aria?” Doctor La Fleur asked as she settled herself in the cushioned-leather seat in front of his desk.

            “Okay,” she said, “despite getting out of bed at eight-thirty in the morning just to come here.”

            “Your mother says she’s seen a change in you?”

            “A change,” Aria repeated blankly.

            “She says you’ve stopped eating some sugary cereal called chocolate puffs? That you are starting to eat healthier?”

            Aria snorted, “Cocoa Puffs? Is she seriously saying there’s been a change in me with cereal?”

            “A change in diet can affect the way a person is, Aria. It isn’t too much out of the rectangle,” Doctor La Fleur said calmly.

            “Out of the rectangle? Is that something people are saying nowadays?” Aria asked.

            “Back to the real subject, Aria,” the doctor said, not answering her question, “has anything special or unusual happened this week?”

            “Like what?” She asked, sitting back in her chair.

            “Perhaps you’ve noticed a change in yourself, noticed something about yourself? Or you had interactions with people other than your mother?”

            Other than her mother. Aria had to agree that it stung a little. Did she really not talk to anyone but her mother?

            “No,” she said quietly.

            “No one at school or anything?” He questioned.

            A thought popped up in her head suddenly. “There is someone my mom tried to introduce me to at the grocery store last week. He helped her pick out cereal. And I just found out that his locker is right next to mine.”

            “So you are talking to some new?”

            Aria thought for a moment and replied, “I wouldn’t say talking. He found me on Monday and talked to me after recognizing me. He told me to tell him how honey-nut was.”

            “Honey-nut? Is that a slang word kids are using nowadays or…?” Doctor La Fleur asked.     

            “Cheerios,” Aria said.

            “So cereal does have something to do with your change,” he said, scribbling something into his notes.

            “No it does not have to do anything with my change! I’m not changing – hey don’t write that down!” Aria sputtered.

            “Aria, you may not realize it, but you have actually had an interaction with someone. And, if you may realize, you are a lot more talkative in this session than any other session we’ve had, and I take that as a positive change that you are starting to come out of your box. Meeting this boy, whatever his name is, has sparked you to become a smidge more social due to a box of cereal.”

            “Stop writing all this down! His name is Skylar!”

            Doctor La Fleur stopped moving his pen. “Aria, it’s my job to take notes on my patients. And you know each other’s names?”

            Aria groaned, “He knows my name just because of my mom! That’s it!”

            Doctor La Fleur nodded and scribbled more in his notes as Aria sat and watched his pen move across the page.

            After he put his pen down, he folded his hands on his desk. “Now Aria, I’m going to continue with the questions from last week. I feel that reminding you each week will help you to keep it in mind. What do you like about yourself, and what do you dislike about yourself?”

            Aria folded her arms across her chest and replied, “no comment. I still feel the same.”

            “It was worth a try,” Doctor La Fleur sighed.

            When time was up, Aria got up and smoothed the wrinkle in her t-shirt down. She was just reaching for the door when Doctor La Fleur ahem-ed. Aria turned around and raised her eyebrows.

            “Aria, I know our session for the day is up, but I just want to end with one more thing.”

            “What is it, Doctor La Fleur?” Aria asked in a hurried tone.

            “You said Skylar asked you to tell him how the honey-nut Cheerios were? Correct?”

            “Yeah,” she said.

            “I want you to try to talk to him about them. I feel that it would be a small step to more change.”

            Aria sighed. “Great. Thanks Doctor.”

            As her and her mother sat in the car with the radio on between them, Aria squeezed her eyes closed.

            “Aria honey, is everything alright?” Her mother asked in a concerned tone.

            She opened her eyes again. “Yeah. Mom?”

            “Yes?”

            “Can you drop me off at home before going to the store? I have a big project I need to work on.”

            “Are you sure? I’ll be quick in the store today, I just need to get coffee and lettuce.”

            Aria looked out her window. “Yeah. Would you get another box of Cheerios please?”

            “Of course.”

            On Monday, Aria didn’t see Skylar at the lockers. On Tuesday, she had a dentist appointment so she stayed home from school. On Wednesday, Aria walked to her locker at regular time. She slowly went through the same routine of pulling her textbook out and putting her bagged lunch in.

            “Haven’t seen you in a while! How’ve you been?” Skylar’s voice suddenly asked.

            Aria jumped out of shock and placed her hand over her heart, feeling it pound. “Fine. I’ve just been getting to school last minute.” She breathed.

            “True,” he said, as he opened his locker.

            Aria stood staring into her locker with just the locker door between them.

            “I want you to try to talk to him about them,” she could remember Doctor La Fleur’s words repeating in her head. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath.

            “They were good,” Aria said.

            He looked over her locker door. “Sorry, what?”

            She looked at his bright green eyes. “The honey-nut. They were good,” she said as she closed her locker door, getting rid of the barrier between them.

            He laughed. “I’m glad you like them! I have a bowl every morning!”

            Aria couldn’t help but notice his eyes sparkle when he laughed. She looked down at her feet feeling her face burn up again.

            “I was starting to think that you were avoiding me because you hated them or something,” he went on saying.

            Aria snapped her head up. “No, I just, I was late and I- ”

            He laughed again. “No worries, I’m just kidding!”

            She looked down again, embarrassed for making such a big deal out of it.

            “Hey wait,” he said. Aria looked up seeing his hand reaching to her face. She quickly stepped back.

            “Whoa, sorry,” he said raising both hands in the air. “Bad habit. I have a little sister and every time she has hair in her face, it’s just an instinct to push it back. Big brother habits, you know?”

            Aria shook her hair out of her face. “I don’t have siblings.”

            “Oh, that’s right! Anyway, sorry about that.”

            “It’s okay…” she trailed off, “I should get to class.”

            “Right,” he said.

            As Aria turned to walk down the hall, he called her name.

            “Aria!”

            She turned to face him again.

            “We should uh, hang out sometime.” He said as he shoved his hands in his jean pockets.

            “Um yeah, sure,” she said.

            On Friday, Aria went to the lunchroom to buy a bottle of water. She usually ate lunch in the library. No one spoke to her there and it was quiet. The loudness and crowdedness of the cafeteria made her nervous.

            As she was approached the lunch line, she heard Skylar’s name call her.

            “Aria, come over here!” he yelled over the loud buzz of the cafeteria.

            She turned towards his voice and saw him waving from a packed table. She shook her head and pointed to the lunch line as if trying to let him know that she was busy. Then he got up and walked towards her.

            “Aria! Come meet some of my friends,” he said loudly.

            She could feel herself turning red. The people from his table were looking at her, and he was just drawing more attention. “I – I can’t,” she stuttered, “I’m getting water.”

            “No problem, you can have my water bottle. I just got a can of soda.” He motioned for her to follow him and started walking back towards his table.

            Aria sighed. She had already been noticed. There was no way to get out of this now.

            As they neared the table, Skylar put his arm around Aria’s shoulder. Aria’s eyes widened and she felt her face turn red again.

            “Guys, this is Aria! The girl I’ve been telling you about!” he exclaimed.

            “Aha, so this is the mysterious Aria that Skylar won’t stop talking about,” a blonde guy said in a bemused tone.

            He talks about me? Aria thought.

            “Shut up, Brad,” Skylar laughed.

            He dropped his arm from Aria’s shoulder and motioned to an empty seat. “Want to sit with us?” He asked.

            Aria widened her eyes at him. “Really?” she questioned in a small voice.

            He laughed the same laugh he always did. “Of course!” Then Skylar turned back to his group of friends. “I told you all, she’s a little shy. Go easy on her.”

            I’m shy, Aria thought. A sad thought popped into her mind but she quickly pushed it out.

            He placed his hand on the small of her back and gently pushed her toward the seat. “They won’t bite. I promise I won’t let them.” He said with a soft smile.

            Aria took a small breath and slowly sat down. Doctor La Fleur’s voice was suddenly in her head again. A small step to more change.

            “How was school this week, Aria?” Doctor La Fleur asked.

            Aria pulled at the hem of her sweater. “It was… different.”

            “Different bad or different good?” He asked her.

            “I don’t know,” Aria said.

            He wrote in big letters at the new sheet of paper in his notebook, “Different this week.” “Continue, if you would,” he said, motioning for her to keep talking.

            “I didn’t see Skylar the first two days. But I saw him Wednesday morning and told him about the cereal like you said to.”

            “How did he respond?”

            “He was glad, he said. He laughed a bit.” Aria replied.

            “Laughed at you?”

            Aria shook her head. “Laughed in a friendly way. He has a little sister,” she said, suddenly remembering how his eyes sparkled.

            “And?”

            “He said that we should hang out.”

            “What did you say to that?”

            Aria blushed. “I said okay.”

            Doctor La Fleur leaned back in his chair and smiled. “I have to say Aria, for just one day seeing him, I am very proud of you. I know I told you to take a small step, but I feel that you took more than one. It thrills me to see this kind of change.”

            “Doctor La Fleur?”

            “Yes, Aria?” he answered.

            “How do you see this change?” Aria asked.

            He smiled a little more. The skin around his eyes wrinkled. “Aria, I know it’s hard to understand how I see all this, but I can just see it. You blushed at the thought of Skylar when I mentioned him. And even you seem to be much happier with yourself.”

            “On Friday…” Aria said.

            “You met with him again?” Doctor leaned forward, interested in what Aria was about to say.

            “He brought me to sit with him at lunch. He put his arm around me.”

            Doctor La Fleur’s eyes were suddenly shining. “Wonderful!”

            “But,” Aria said.

            “Oh,” the doctor’s smile fell.

            “I figured out what I disliked about myself then.”

            “And what was that?”

            She sighed. Admitting what she didn’t like felt harder than she thought it would be when she rehearsed it over and over in her head on the ride to the office.

            “I don’t like how shy I am around people. It’s like I’m scared of them. The cafeteria makes me so nervous. I feel like a coward.”

            “Aria, you are not a coward, you‘ve been taking so many steps lately, you are far from being a coward. Does Skylar help at all with how you feel?”

            “While telling me to sit with him, it was like he knew how nervous and scared I was. He told me he wouldn’t let them bite me.”

            “So he made you feel safe?”

            “He made me feel safe,” Aria repeated with sudden realization.

            On Monday, Skylar was waiting for Aria at the lockers. His face brightened when he saw her approaching.

            “I was waiting to see when you’d show up!” he said.

            “Good morning,” Aria said.

            He grinned. “Do you want to come sit with me again today?”

            Aria stopped turning the lock on her locker and looked at him. “You want me to sit with you again?”

            “You don’t have to if you don’t want to,” he said as his face fell a little bit. “I’d love it if you came though.”

            “You would?” Aria asked.

            “I know it seems weird,” he said, “I just think you’re really cool. I know you’re kind of shy, but I like that about you. The guys thought you were cool too… and cute.” His face blushed and he shoved his hands into his pockets again.

            He likes me? Aster felt herself blushing as well. “I guess I could try sitting with you again.”

            His face lit up. “Really?” He reached out for her hand and grabbed it excitedly. “That would be great!”

            At the sight of Aria’s wide eyes and deepening pink glow of her face, he quickly let go of her hand. “Sorry, I forgot how you felt about that. We’ll give it time,” he said, grinning.

            Aria sat with Skylar and his friends for rest of week. And slowly, his signs of affection grew. Aster would look up from her peanut butter and jelly sandwich to find him watching her with his warm eyes. He would brush her arm while they were talking. He would touch a piece of her hair gently. And she would always catch him smiling at her.

            Friday, Aria was walking to her car after school. She was just getting into her car when another voice yelled out her name.

            “Aria, wait up!” She saw the blonde guy Skylar hung out with running towards her.

            “Hey,” he breathed, “Whew, you walk fast.”

            “Hi.”

            He scratched his head and squinted up at the rest of the parking lot. “I want wanted to know,” he started, “You do know Skylar really likes you, right?”

            Aria just stared at him blinking. “We all can tell. I know he’s always saying you’re a little shy, but cut him some slack, you know? Be fair to him. He’s trying pretty hard.”

            Aria didn’t know what to say. She was about to say she had to go instead of replying to anything he said until Skylar’s voice yelled out, “Brad, what the hell! I told you not to do anything!” Aria saw Skylar running towards them. When he got to them, he was out of breath. “Aria, I’m so sorry. I told him not to say anything. Whatever he said, ignore it okay?”

            Brad started sidestepping away. “I think this is my cue to go,” he said slyly.

            Skylar whirled to Brad and punched his arm. “Seriously man, just go. This wasn’t cool at all.”

            He turned back to Aria. “Just ignore it all, okay? Sorry he’s a jerk.”

            “Ignore that you really like me too?” The words came out of Aria’s mouth faster than she could think.

            “Aria,” Skylar started to say.

            “No, I get it,” Aria interrupted, “I’m not doing so well with this ‘like each other’ thing, and your friends think you’ve been trying too long. This is why I don’t want to be around people, Skylar, it’s not working at all.”

            “Aria, that’s not it at all!” Skylar said, “I don’t want to rush you. I want you to feel comfortable before we actually move on. I care about you, okay? I know how you are, and I’m okay with it.”

            He reached for her hand. “I do really like you, Aria. But I don’t want to rush it at all.”

            Aria felt herself blush. “I don’t know what to say.”

            “You don’t need to say anything. Once again, to hell with Brad. He doesn’t have any say in us taking anything slow. Just think about it this weekend.”

            Aria nodded.

            “I’ll see you Monday?” he asked.

            “Monday,” Aria said.

            He let go of her hand and walked away, putting his hands back into his pockets. The tips of his ears were red, and Aria smiled to herself.

            “Another eventful week, Aria?” Doctor La Fleur asked.

            Aria nodded. “I think that Skylar and I are going to date… or we’re dating already. I don’t know.”

            Doctor La Fleur raised his eyebrows. “All this in one week, you are making lots of progress. I can hardly recognize you from our first session.”

            “His friend came up to me yesterday and told me I wasn’t being fair to Skylar. Because I was being too shy.”

            “There are people who won’t understand the way you are, Aria. Just be glad that Skylar understands you.”

            “He told me that he cares about me and that he’s okay with the way I am,” Aria said, smiling to herself.

            “He seems like a great young man.”

            “He is,” Aria said.

            “Aria, I feel that we’ve almost fully made it to the goal we wanted to reach when we started these therapy sessions,” Doctor La Fleur suddenly said.

            “What do you mean?”

            “The purpose of these sessions was to help you find yourself. Your mother and I wanted to guide you to immerse yourself with other people and to establish relationships. You used to cover yourself with sweatshirts to avoid people, and now you are comfortable in t-shirts. You were emotionless and replied with single words. Now you actually speak to people.”

            “All this has already changed?” Aria asked incredulously.

            “All of it. I only need you to do one last thing, and I feel that you won’t need to come to see me anymore.”

            “What is that?”

            “There were two things I asked you to find about yourself every week. You found one. I just need you to realize what you like about yourself. Something special that you find about you.”

            “What I like,” Aria repeated.

            “When you do that, you never have to come here again,” Doctor La Fleur said.

            “I don’t know,” Aria replied, “I kind of like coming here to just talk now.”

            “If you want to do that, it’s completely acceptable. I want you to find yourself first. Just one more step. Aria.”

            Monday. Aria is looking in her mirror at home. She leaves her door open now. She eats with her parents and has conversations with them. Instead of sitting in silence with her mother in the car, she actually talks to her. Her sweatshirts have been sitting in their drawer untouched for the past two weeks. She finally sees all the change.

            “Mom, I’m going now,” Aria calls to her mom’s bedroom.

            “Oh, Aria, make sure to get the container of fruit I prepared for you from the fridge!”

            “Got it,” Aria answered.

            Just as she reaches to open the front door, she remembers something and runs two steps at a time up the stairs.

            “Mom! I forgot to tell you,” Aria exclaimed as she sat at the end of her mother’s bed.

            “What is it? Don’t you need to leave now?” Her mother asked her with a wondering look.

            “You remember Skylar right?”

            Her mother smiled. “How could I forget?”

            “He likes me a lot,” Aria said.

            Aria’s mother smiled warmly. “That’s a bit obvious honey, I was just at the store yesterday, and he told me himself.”

            Aria blinked. “You did get me the Cheerios, right?”

            “How could I even forget at this point?”

            With a smile, Aria stood up and started to the door of the room. “Of course everything started with a box of honey-nut Cheerios.”

            Her mother beamed. “Left the Cocoa Puffs behind and moved on to something better.”

            Aria rolled her eyes. “I can’t believe you didn’t call them chocolate puffs.”

            Just one more step, Aria, Doctor La Fleur had told her.

            Aria walked into the school immediately looking to the lockers. Skylar had his locker open, and he was leaning at the side looking down at his phone.

            As Aria neared him, he flicked his green eyes up and smiled at her. She reached her hand out and took his.

            What I like about myself is that I’m shy. I can be shy, and I know that Skylar will still care for me and like me, she thought. My last step is a leap.

“I believe in you,” he told me.

He was holding my shoulders, his forehead resting on mine. I was crying. The stress from work had finally gotten to me to my limit of holding it all in. When I had finally walked into the apartment after being screamed at by my manager and sitting through the worst traffic, I looked at him and burst into tears.

“Vi? What’s the matter?” He asked me, as he set his laptop aside and stood up from the couch. He worked from home doing graphic design logos for companies.

“I can’t do it anymore, Aidan,” I cried, “it’s just too much for me! Mari is always screaming at me about the littlest things! It’s too much.”

He walked over and took my hand, leading me to sit down. “Violet, it’s okay. It’s going to be okay. You’re heading towards that promotion, aren’t you?”

“I don’t want it anymore! Not if I’m still going to be screamed at everyday!” I sobbed. I knew I was a mess. I knew my mascara was streaking down my cheeks, and my hair, once in a clean and business-like bun, was disheveled and falling all over my face.

“Baby, I know it’s hard. Life is hard. But you are such a strong person. You can get through everything,” he whispered, rubbing the back of my neck.

My sobs started to fade away as I whimpered. “You can’t keep telling me that, Aidan.”

“Telling you what?”

“You can’t keep telling me that I’m strong. It’s a lie. I can’t be strong,” I said, reaching over to the crumpled, but clean-looking napkin on the coffee table.

“I know you’re strong. I’m not lying,” he replied.

“Aidan, stop,” I said as I felt a sob forcing it’s way through my chest.

He was sitting by me on the couch, as his hand slid from the back of my neck to my hand. I clutched his fingers as I felt them close around mine.

“I am not lying, Violet,” he said, then he slid from the couch to the floor and kneeled in front of me.

His hands reached for my shoulders and he touched his forehead to mine.

“Violet, I believe in you.”

“Aidan, please,” I cried.

“How hard have you worked for this job? You’re just going to quit and throw all that work away?” He asked.

My tears fell from my eyes as one of his hands wiped them from my cheeks.

“You are so close to that promotion, Vi. They announce the promotions tomorrow. You told me a week ago that Mari said that you were doing really well on your way to the next level. Don’t leave it now. Fight for it.”

I sighed. He was right. He was always right. And he was always the best for always knowing what to say.

“You’re my rock,” I said, “What would I do without you?”

He kissed me quickly on my nose and said, “You wouldn’t do without me at all.”

And I knew he was right.

Later that night, I was showered, my stomach was full of Chinese take-out, and I was laying on the couch watching a re-run of one of those home makeover shows I strangely loved so much.

Aidan opted to do the dishes and let me rest the day off. He walked into the room drying off his hands and leaned over to kiss my cheek.

“I have to run out for an hour or two,” he told me.

“Right now?” I asked, “It’s already nine-thirty. What could you be going out for at this hour?”

“I’m running to the software place for a new design I have due soon. I’ll be back quick, I promise.” He said as he walked back to the kitchen.

“The software place is open this late?” I questioned, as I sat up and turned to face the kitchen.

He walked back out and sat at the armrest of the couch. “For me it is. I have my connections.”

I never liked questioning him any further. I knew how much he hated interrogation-like situations. So instead, I leaned my head on his arm and said, “Don’t be out long. Please.”

“Of course,” he said as he ruffled my hair. I watched as he stood up and grabbed his car keys off the coffee table. He opened the door and looked back at me staring at him. “Two hours, tops,” he told me. I smiled, saying, “I love you.”

“I love you too,” he said as he shut the door behind him.

I don’t remember falling asleep. One second, I was shaking my head at the messiness and ruin of a house on the television, the next I was suddenly waking up to the door opening.

“Aidan?” I said in a sleepy tone.

“Shit!” he yelled, “Vi have you been waiting for me all this time?”

I sat up and stretched my arms over my head. “No, I fell asleep watching the T.V.,” I said. Then I noticed that the room was dark and the sky outside was still black.

“What time is it?” I asked.

He groaned as he sat on the couch, tossing his keys on the table. “It’s almost three in the morning.”

“Three? I thought you said you would be gone ‘two hours, tops’,” I said as I made air quotation marks with my fingers.

“I know what I said, Violet,” he said exasperatedly, rubbing his forehead as he laid his head back.

“I thought you went to get software, Aidan. Where is it?”

“Jesus, Violet, the place didn’t have it, so I had to place an order!” he snapped.

“Why did it take you this long to come back then?” I said.

He slapped his hand onto the couch cushion. “Damn it, Vi, I ran into an old friend and we went and got drinks!”

I pulled my legs into my chest. “Couldn’t you call me to let me know?”

“Do I have to tell you everything? It was just a random meeting! I didn’t think to call you!” he yelled.

I looked down at my knees from the loudness of his voice.

“I wish you would tell me the truth,” I said softly.

“Tell you the truth?” he yelled, “I am fucking telling you the truth! Why do you always have to interrogate me like this?”

I stood up and walked over to the bedroom door. “I was worried, that’s all.”

“Well stop being worried,” he growled, “you’re not my damn mother.”

I could feel tears prickling in my eyes. “Please sleep on the couch,” I whispered.

“Glad to,” he snapped. I shut the bedroom door, laid myself under the covers, and cried silently.

I woke up to the brightness of the sun peeking through the window blinds and a hand on my arm. When I turned my head, Aidan was sitting on the other side of the bed watching me.

“I’m sorry,” he said.

I pushed his hand off my arm. “You don’t have to be, it was my fault for being worried, wasn’t it?”

“Violet, come on,” he pleaded, “I screwed up. I should never have yelled at you like that, I should have just called you, and I’m sorry.”

I sat up in the bed and tangled the sheets with my fingers. “Were you really out with a friend?” I asked, turning my head to his face.

“I was really out with a friend,” he said, looking straight into my eyes.

I wrapped my arms around his neck. “I’m sorry that we fought,” I mumbled.

“It’s fine,” he answered. Then he pulled away and grabbed my hand. “Big day at work, isn’t it? Promotion day for sweet, sweet Violet!”

“Oh stop,” I smiled, “I’m worried and you know that! It’s more nerve wrecking than exciting!”

“I know you’ll get it, Violet,” he grinned, “go on and get ready!”

“I can never stay mad at you, you know that, Aidan?”

He shook his head, “it’s because I love you and you know it.”

I rolled my eyes and hopped out of the bed. Maybe I was starting to believe him. I was going to get that promotion.

“Good morning, Kathy,” I said to the woman sitting at the desk next to mine. She was sipping at a foam cup of coffee. It was nine in the morning, and I had gotten to work with no problem thanks to the positive mood I was in.

“Violet,” she said nodding, “you look nice today.”

“Dressed for the part!” I smiled at her.

She put her cup down and squinted her eyes with a tight-lipped smile. “I hope Mari goes easy on you,” she said. Then she turned back to her computer and punched a couple keys.

“Me too,” I said hesitantly, “I guess.”

Two hours into answering phone calls and typing reports on my computer, I was interrupted.

“Violet!” a voice snapped from across the room.

I looked at Kathy with wide eyes. She shrugged at me and turned back to her desk once again.

I hurriedly stood up and walked towards the office where the voice came from. Mari’s office.

“Is there anything you need, Mari?”

“What I need is for you to sit down and stop asking meaningless things,” she stated.

“Oh, right,” I said sitting onto the chair facing her desk.

She walked around to her own seat and folded her hands on top of a stack of papers. “Now Violet, I’m sure you’re wondering what you have been called in here for.”

I nodded. “Yes, I am a little curious,” I said, even though excited thoughts were whirling around in my head.

“I understand that you and two other employees have been competing for the promotion to assistant manager of this company.

“That is true,” I said.

“You’ve been doing just fine,” she said with pursed lips. “However, I am afraid that you are not suited to the job.

All the excited thoughts in my head halted. “Wait, what?” I asked in a shocked tone.

“I know it is a disappointment to your hopes, but I believe that your performance will not be in this company’s favor.”

I stared at her incredulously. “Last week you told me I was doing great on my way to reaching the next level!”

She chuckled to herself spitefully. “Oh Violet, haven’t you ever heard of a white lie?”

I stood up and shoved my chair to the desk.

“What the hell are you doing, Violet?” Mari exclaimed.

“I quit,” I snapped.

She shook her head in disbelief. “You can’t just quit in anger of not getting what you wanted, Violet. Life is not fair.”

“No, Mari, I’m quitting because I’m ‘afraid’ that I’m quite done with your bullshit.”

She stared at me with a shocked expression, and I turned on my heel and walked out of the office.

I decided that I would come back later to pack my desk up. I got into my car and drove to the apartment.

“Aidan, you’ll never guess what I did! I quit today! I didn’t get the promotion and I quit!” I exclaimed while opening the door.

To which I saw Aidan in mid-kiss with a woman I did not know.

His eyes flew open and he pushed the woman away. “Violet! Oh shit, why are you back so early?” he hurriedly asked as his face turned red.

“You’ve got to be fucking kidding me,” I quietly said.

The woman next to Aidan grabbed a purse from the coffee table then pushed past me in the doorway. As she passed me, she whispered, “Shit, I’m so sorry.”

Aidan sheepishly scratched his neck as he said, “Violet, let me just explain - ”

“No!” I screamed, “Get out, Aidan! Get out now!”

He rubbed his head with both his hands. “Violet, please.”

“Leave!” I screamed.

He took his car keys and walked to the door as I stepped aside.

“Violet, I’m sorry,” he started to say.

“Please, just go,” I said softly.

After he went through the door, I slammed it shut, sunk to the floor, and cried.

I cried for my job. I cried that I had found Aidan cheating on me. I cried that he lied and told me that he loved me. And most of all, I cried because all this time I had believed him.

Aidan moved out. With the job I once had, I had paid for most of the apartment anyway, so I remained in it. After he left, I bought a new couch. He would call me repeatedly, and I ignored all his calls.

One day, while stirring a pot of cream of mushroom soup in the kitchen, my phone rang with an unknown number.

“Hello?” I answered uncertainly.

“Violet, what are we doing?” His voice breathed.

I stopped stirring and turned off the stove. “You shouldn’t be calling me. You need to stop calling me.”

“Violet, come on, I miss you. I made a mistake.” He said in a straining voice.

“No Aidan, it’s over.”

He groaned on the other end. “You can’t be over me like that already.”

I sighed, “I’m not going to be over you that quickly, but I can move on from you.”

“I thought you said you could never stay mad at me,” he replied.

“Oh Aidan, you’ve never heard of a white lie?”

Then I hung the phone up.

What’s it like?

Being in love

Is your heart supposed to beat faster?

Do your hands suddenly sweat?

Does your face get hot?

Is your stomach supposed to flutter?

I wouldn’t know

Because the last time I felt that way

It didn’t end in love

But in brokenness

What happened?

What separated us?

What made you drift away?

I fell for you

I dreamed about you

I enjoyed being close to you

Then we fought

Then we became distanced

Then we didn’t speak as much

They said you still liked me

They said you still had feelings for me

They said I should talk to you

So I talked to you

So I tried to mend us

So I tried to make everything back to normal

We weren’t the same

We couldn’t change what had happened

We looked at each other and didn’t know

You were more distant

You decided you had waited too long

You decided it would be best to forget what we had

What did I do wrong?

I made you wait too long to work up the courage to show you how I felt

Then I distanced myself to figure my feelings out

They said you couldn’t wait much longer

So I finally tried to see you because I finally knew my heart

We had grown too far apart for things to be the same

You had already decided to move on

And so I was too late

I took too long

Sneezing as soon

As you step outside

Pollen floating

In the open air

Rubbing your eyes

To chase the itch

Clearing your sore

Itchy throat

Springtime brings

All of these things

Constantly staying

Until the flowers fall

Hearts keep beating

When attraction hits

Leaving a throb

In your chest

Spring is like 

A new found crush

Finally blooming

Constant and going

Until the flowers fall

And the heart breaks

is this how it feels

when you stay awake thinking

thinking about this one person

and you imagine things that would never happen

but thinking about this one person

makes you happy

is this how it feels

when you’re in love?

When he always makes excuses

When he looks away

When he shoves his hands in his pockets

When he distances himself

When he says he’s too busy

When he doesn’t recognize you 

When he forgets you

When he isn’t the same

Let him go.

When he holds you tight

When he holds your hand to his chest

When he looks deep in your eyes

When you’re his first thought

When his hugs linger

When he does his best

When he drops everything

When he is your best friend

Don’t let him go.