20. Broken friendships

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Noemi stormed out of the classroom and I immediately followed her. Dario and the others looked at me confused as I left the room. I didn't care about any of that. I saw her disappear behind the corner and ran after her until she entered a room. It was the library.

"Noemi, wait. Just wait! What is it? What did I do?"

"What did you do? Are you serious? You know exactly what you did. You humiliated that guy in front of everyone."

"He started it."

"Oh, really?"

"Yeah, he insulted my friends. You weren't there but – "

"It's Enrico. Don't pretend like his words actually hurt you."

"It's Enrico! What kind of logic is that? Just because he's a loser doesn't mean he can't also be a bully."

"Loser. Great. Another magic word. Oh, he's a loser! He's never kissed anyone! Well guess what? Neither have I.''

I paused, confused. I knew I had no right to think about it now, but I couldn't help it. I couldn't believe no one has ever kissed her lips.

''I've never kissed anyone, so what? Are you going to ignore me now? Pretend like we were never friends? Am I a loser too now? Are you going to make fun of me? Humiliate me in front of everyone? Make me feel like –''

"No, stop. Why would you say that?"

"Why did you say those words to him?"

"Because... I don't know, Dario was there and he was looking at me and –"

"Oh, stop!" she yelled. "Stop blaming everyone except yourself."

I looked at her confused. "I'm not. What do you mean?"

She sighed deeply. Anger disappeared from her face, but there was something else hiding in her eyes now, something I was afraid to look at.

"I don't know, it's just that... everything you do, you always find an excuse. And it makes me angry because you could... you could be so much more, Pit. And you can say it's peer pressure and fitting in and your friends, but... at the end of the day it's just you. Your actions, your responsibility. I don't know, maybe now you're thinking that I'm some random stupid girl and I have no idea what I'm talking about and I might feel like I know you, but I actually don't. It doesn't matter because my point is, what happened out there, that was you. You decided to say those words, you decided to go to that party and you decided to kiss whoever you kissed. It's a choice, but it's your choice, Pit, not anybody else's."

She said those words, she waited for my reply, but I stayed silent. This wasn't about Enrico. This wasn't about my friends. This wasn't about anything but me and my excuses for mediocrity. This was Noemi Defelice confronting me on something I refused to see. And it was heavy, somehow, all that truth she spilled on me. Not that it was brutal, because Noemi didn't know how to be brutal, but her truth was too sincere for it to not burn at least a little bit. My throat felt strangled by all the mess inside of me and I wished I could say something, anything, to show her that I understood, that I agreed, that I wished I could change right there in front of her and stop being this coward that hid behind comfortable ignorance. I wished I could say it all and more, but my mouth didn't make a sound and she nodded in resignation and turned around and walked away. Just like that.

It was shitty. The rest of the day was complete utter shit. When I came back in class after the bell ring, I felt lost as I couldn't find a place to sit. Physically, there were many empty chairs that were just waiting for me, but there were also classmates still strangers to me who were anxious to ask me a thousand questions, regarding my friends, regarding my grades, regarding my Saturday nights. And perhaps the worst of them all was Andrea Fioretti, my ex best friend, and yet he was the one I chose to sit next to. At least we weren't strangers (but maybe we were worse than that). Indeed we were. As soon I put my backpack on his desk, he glared at me with flaming eyes and moved away, sitting next to Noemi. How bitterly ironic was that?

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