Authors: Nessa Morgan
Tags: #young adult, #flawed, #teen read, #perfectly flawed
That is my final answer, dude
With that said, I start walking, heading toward the music hall to
grab my violin from the storage room before making my way to the
parking lot, leaving Ryder to watch me walk away. Just like
Only, he didn’t watch me leave this time.
. He decides to get in on the action and chase me down
like they do in the stupid movies. Those stupid movies that I never
like to watch.
“Joey, wait!” He calls after me, his voice
getting closer with every syllable. Ryder must be running to catch
up with me.
. I don’t like that, like, I’m
not a fan of that in the slightest. I know that a lot of girls
might like the thought of a guy chasing after them; I am not one of
I don’t. Wait, that is. I don’t wait for him,
in fact, my speed increases.
Thankfully, the crowd of students in the
front of courtyard is thick enough that I can dodge him easily. I
slide into the passenger seat of Jamie’s car, spotting Zephyr
lounging in the backseat, and beg her to speed out of the parking
lot. Her tires squeal on the asphalt as she literally stomps on the
gas. Zephyr still doesn’t speak to me and I’m stuck listening to
Jamie ramble on about Marcus and their plans for later tonight. I
love her, but there are other things on this planet to discuss
other than Marcus Heatherton. The following morning, Zephyr doesn’t
even stop by my house like normal. Jamie tells me that he’s in the
“He had a late start this morning,” Jamie
says as she drops two slices of bread into the toaster, her head
practically in the clouds as she talks to me. Jamie doesn’t even
notice when I roll my eyes. “He said that he’ll be ready by the
time we leave.”
Of course, he will.
avoiding me. Well, as
best he can when his sister drives us both to school.
start, my ass
. He needs to work on his ability to lie. Even if
I can’t see him.
As she said, he’s sitting in the car—the back
seat again—when we leave for school. Zephyr doesn’t say much in the
car, but he does smile at me when I look back at him. A little
relieved, because it’s more than I received from him since two
nights ago, I return it, but that’s it. In class, we both take
notes studiously, only focusing on the teacher’s discussion on the
focus of the start of World War I and what he writes on the board
rather than each other.
However, I think that he’ll actually talk to
I’m tempted to test this theory of mine, but
don’t want to start whispering to him, so I debate my next option:
Hangman. Zephyr and I used to love playing hangman when we were
kids–I still do—when it was raining outside—which was a lot back
then—and his parents wouldn’t let us play in the collecting puddles
for fear that we’d track mud in the house or catch pneumonia. So
we’d just sit and think up random words and phrases, starting games
of hangman that would go for hours because his hangmen were
elaborately drawn, even as a kid, and my words were too long, but
I always won but his drawing of the hanging
man were always too realistic, his parents made us stop playing
after a while when they saw how descriptive the hangmen got. He got
red markers in various shades, that is how detailed he got—the
Apparently, he has the same idea or he can
read my mind. He might even be remembering the same moment, because
he slides over a sheet of paper with a pristinely drawn one-person
gallows—with far too much detail, I’m talking about the grain of
the wood—and six groups of lines. As I start every game, I guess
followed by the remaining vowels, and that includes
for me to cover all bases. He draws a head,
wrong. My next guesses are
, he fills in six
blanks and after a few minutes of speculation, I fill in the
SORRY I AM SUCH AN ASS
stares at me
from the page.
I turn my gaze to him, ignoring the lecture
at the front of the room, and shrug my shoulders, my way of telling
him it’s okay, even though it wasn’t at the time, before I go back
to my notes. We still need to talk about it. I really want to know
why he was being such an ass to me.
Class ends, the bell ringing loudly overhead,
but Zephyr takes his time today, slowly placing everything in his
backpack, unlike yesterday when he just carried everything to his
next class to speed his escape.
“Wanna study for the quiz together tonight?”
Zephyr asks. It’s the first quiz of the class tomorrow, and I know
that Zephyr’ll need help. From a random glance or two, I can tell
that his notes aren’t as specific as mine.
Wait a minute, he isn’t just making up with
me so he won’t fail the quiz tomorrow, is he?
Nope, I squash the idea before it can take
root; Zephyr isn’t that big of an ass.
“Sure,” I tell him, remembering my
appointment after school today. “I have something to do after
school but I’ll text you when I get home,” I promise him. Then
we’re off to our next classes.
Calculus goes by without incident, like
normal, only I ace the random pop quiz about last night’s homework.
I’m smart enough to actually
the homework. In gym, we
play dodgeball, my team wins by collecting the entirety of the
opposing team. Lucky me, I was on the same side as Zephyr and the
rest of the football players. In AP Chemistry, someone set their
tabletop on fire. By lunch, the entire school knows who did it and
will not stop pointing and laughing at Gerard Matthews when he
passes in the hall. They mostly do it because his face turns an odd
bright pink akin to a sunset in the summer.
Harley slides into the seat across from me—my
seat yesterday—and rolls an apple my way. I thank her before taking
a large bite, feeling the juice run down my chin. That’s when
Kennie shows up, taking the seat next to me. She smells like
lavender, floral and heavenly, with a flip of her hair, the scent
is drowned out by strawberry and vanilla, her shampoo. I’m still
sniffing the air as I use the sleeve of my sweatshirt to wipe up
the juice running down my chin.
She leans close to me, asking, “Is it true
that Gerard Matthews set his table on
in your chem
class?” She’s trying to soak up every bit of juicy gossip she can.
Anything that she can share at cheer practice later in the
afternoon will work just fine, whether it’s arson or some person
accidentally ripping their pants while at their locker. It’s all
the same to her.
I nod, my mouth too full of apple to speak. I
was raised not to speak with my mouth full.
“How funny was it?” Her thrice-pierced ears
are eager for information and her mind is eager for a descriptive
I think of the fire—the flames licking higher
and higher toward the ceiling, the sight of Gerard Matthews and his
chemistry partner, Lacey Gallagher, screaming and bolting for the
door, Gerard shoving her to the side so he can seek the safety of
the empty hall. We, as a class, watched the fire instantly devour
their paperwork before someone, who paid attention to the safety
demonstration not even two weeks ago, calmly grabbed the fire
extinguisher from the back of the room, and put out the fire. They
lost all their data from the past week and a half but gained a
hilarious reputation, especially Gerard.
I still answer truthfully because honesty
the best policy.
“Hilarious.” No one was hurt, that’s the good
thing, the fire was quickly extinguished, the school is still
standing, we’re all still alive, but watching Gerard run, scream,
and manhandle his way through the door was a sight I’ll never
forget. I wonder if anyone got that on video, and if so, will they
upload it to YouTube? I make a mental note to check that later.
We spend the rest of lunch laughing, actual
gut-clutching laughter, laughing so hard that we cry, like we used
to do. Kennie relayed a story about last night’s cheer practice
when the entire squad, not steady on their hands, collapsed on top
of Alexia Cavanaugh. Someone, as in Kennie, took a video showing
Alexia’s dyed-blonde head bouncing up and down as she screamed and
demanded for someone to help her up. That kept us laughing long
after the bell rang, leaving all three of us late for our
respective classes. Before long, classes were over and I was home
digging the keys from the bowl and driving to Dr. Jett’s office for
Dr. Jett, in her stone gray designer
pantsuit—that isn’t all that flattering on unusually tiny her, is
waiting for me when I enter the lobby.
, I think
to myself, biting my tongue so the words don’t escape my closed
lips. She walks with me, more like following behind me, to her
beige office at the end of the hall and we take our usual seats
once she flips the
tag and closes the door.
“Nice to see you, Joey,” she begins, grabbing
the legal pad from the table separating us. The first page I see is
blank except for the date written in the top left corner. Moving
the notepad reveals the tape recorder with the green light on. We
are officially recording. “How are you doing today?” she asks.
There’s no hint of kindness in her voice. She’s in business mode. I
remember the brief time when she said everything with kindness.
Dr. Jett should know how I’m doing, or at
least have the faintest idea—the smallest of guesses, maybe. I last
saw her on Monday, three short days ago. This is my first
twice-a-week since I was around nine years old. That was when I
started showing signs of good improvement with my
I still never spoke about it but I
sleep through the
night back then.
“You know I have nightmares,” I state. I
don’t even trying to hide the obvious, stating the fact that we’ve
exhausted time and time again throughout our sessions.
When the nightmares started, at least as far
back as I can remember, I was eight and new to Washington. That
really is all I can remember. My aunt had started taking more
classes that scheduled at random times during the day or night so
she could complete her degree in a shorter amount of time, she
started letting me stay over with the Kalivas’ family nightly. The
nightmares weren’t too bad in the beginning, I wasn’t thrashing
around or kicking the covers from the bed, but they were scary
enough to leave me wondering what was going on inside my head. I
thought that there was something about me well hidden, something
about my mind that I just couldn’t handle, and
reasons the nightmares started. I never remembered one. Not even
the tiniest blip.
Throughout the years, they just got worse and
It got to the point where I couldn’t stay
with Jamie anymore; I was too scared that I would wake her up one
night with my screaming. I started staying up later and later,
sometimes falling asleep in class until a teacher finally called my
aunt to tell her about my daily naps throughout history
When Dr. Jett realized how poorly I was
sleeping, she signed me up for a sleep study. I had to stay a few
nights—I can’t remember how many—in a sleep clinic in Seattle with
electrodes stuck to my head. It was hard to fall asleep when I knew
that someone was watching me. It was even harder to stay asleep
with all the equipment
throughout the night.
When I finally fell asleep, the results were
inconclusive. Like I knew what that meant at such a young age. I
still don’t, not in the psychological sense, but I didn’t have
nightmares for a while. It was as if I was cured of something. But
they started up again little over a year later. They started
slowly, and just like in the beginning, I wasn’t screaming and
thrashing through the night, I didn’t wake up covered in sweat
missing the blankets from my bed because they were piled in a heap
on the floor. I didn’t feel like I was drowning. No, all that
started up around six months ago.
Six long months of trying to stay awake
through the night, finding any reason for a shot of espresso, a
Monster energy drink, I even tried 5 Hour Energy to see if that
would keep me awake through the night.
None of it worked.
Everything just seemed to get worse, and I
don’t know what changed, what made everything get…
“Yes, nightmares that you can’t remember,”
she continues with a slight nod of her head in understanding. I
doubt that she
any of what this actually means.
For me, for my life. She doesn’t get that at all.
My hands, almost by their own will, wring and
wrench together in my lap, clasping and unclasping, my fingers
threading and unthreading together, as I endlessly fidget. I’m not
sure how to begin, how to let her into my nightly terror, but I
have to say something to make this meeting—this session—worth it. I
mean, I called her—scared, terrified—practically begging to see
her. But how do I start?
Well, like any other story, might as well
start from the beginning…
“They started so long ago,” I begin slowly,
feeling the rush of the memory take over, that first night flashes
briefly in my mind, filled with fear and anxiety, before I continue
with, “that I just thought they were a part of life. A milestone
for everyone to overcome, that whole
Pass Go, Collect Two
thing.” Dr. Jett, like usual, starts her notes,
but hesitantly, taking occasional glances at me. From her eyes, her
usually steely gaze, I can tell that she’s in disbelief, as I am,
because I’ve never been this open during our sessions. “After a
while, I knew it was wrong, I knew that something was wrong with
me. People would tell me about their dreams, delving into vivid
descriptions, leaving me with something beautiful from them. And I
began to think that something was wrong with me.” I bark out a
little laugh. “What wouldn’t be wrong with an attempted murder
victim?” I mutter quietly with a shrug of my shoulders.