Chapter 24

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I recognized the voice immediately and momentarily froze dead in my tracks, lit cigarette still in hand.

"Mitch? What are you still doing here?" I asked nervously.

Great, now he's going to think I'm a doper.

Luckily my back was turned from him so he couldn't see what I was doing, or about to do, rather.

"I was just waiting on my dad to pick me up when I spotted you over here. Is everything okay Scotty?" He added the last part quietly.

"No, yeah yeah. I just needed some fresh air. Cafeteria is pretty crowded, you know?" I laughed nervously.

I could feel him getting closer to me so I panicked, my reflexes telling me to drop the cigarette as I began to stomp on it to extinguish the flame.

I finally turned around and gave Mitch a nervous smile.

He just tilted his head to the side. "What was that?"

"Oh-uh. Just a.... Spider. I hate those things, give me the creeps." I lied, scratching the back of my neck, which I had a tendency to do every time I lied. Not many people knew that about me, just Esther and Avi.

"Right. You sure you're okay?" He asked, concern etched on his face.

Mitch is worried about me too, just like Kirstie was. That must mean he was there when Esther talked about my grades! Dammit.

"Why is everyone so fucking worried about me today?!" I finally shouted, surprising both Mitch and myself. The familiar feeling in my chest known as my breaking point was on the verge of bursting out and I could already feel the anxiety rushing through my veins.

Mitch didn't reply, he just stared into my eyes as I stared back at him.

"Scott, I'm gonna need you to take a deep breath, okay?" He said softly.

Only then did I realize that I was taking very short breaths, almost full on panting. It felt like I was breathing but not getting any oxygen into my lungs. I felt trapped in my own body as I suddenly couldn't move or speak. I wished more than anything that I could ask for a cup of water, but I couldn't speak.

"In through your nose, out through your mouth, okay?"

I tried to follow his instruction but I couldn't take a proper breath. After a few minutes of struggling, I just shook my head in frustration.

"Like this, Scotty. Do what I do."

He audibly took in a breath through his nose and released it through his mouth. Somehow I eventually began to breathe with him.

-

I suddenly came back into reality.

We were both sitting down on a curb, knees touching, as I held a bottle of water in my hands.

How much time passed by? I shook my head.

"Scott?"

"Hmm-what? Oh, yeah?" I mumbled.

He let out a sigh of relief. "Are you okay now?"

"Define okay..." I laughed nervously.

He wasn't laughing though. He made an upset face and smacked me on the shoulder.

"Ow! What was that for?!" I place the water down and grab my shoulder.

"You scared me! That's what it was for. Why did you come out here alone if you were going to have an anxiety attack?!"

He looked genuinely upset and my heart broke at the sight of sadness on his face.

"Oh, Mitchy..." I engulfed him in a hug.

He didn't hug back but he didn't push me away either.

I looked down at the boy in my arms who was already looking back at me.

"I'm sorry for scaring you. Also, I didn't know I was going to have an attack. I just needed fresh air, promise."

"Okay..." he mumbled before removing himself from my arms and standing up.

He grabbed his phone out of his pocket and gave it a quick scan before slipping it back in.

"How long were we sitting there?" I asked.

"Oh, hmm... 15 minutes maybe? It wasn't too long, but you were really going through it Scotty. I've been worried about you since what happened in choir."

I huffed in irritation. "Yeah, so has everybody else."

"I'm sorry. D-do you want to talk about it?" He asked nervously.

"Maybe later Mitch, I can't right now. I should hurry and get back to class actually. Why are you still here anyway?" I asked, trying to change the subject.

"Okay, you don't want to talk about it... obviously. But, can I ask you something?"

"You just did." I snapped.

"Scotty..." he frowned.

I sighed. "Ugh, sorry Mitchy. I'm just so incredibly stressed right now. I didn't mean to snap at you." I said, running my hand through my hair.

"N-no, it's okay. Promise. Just, is what what happened in choir... did that? Um... t-trigger your panic attack?" He asked both carefully and quietly.

He was staring into my face and once I met his eyes I couldn't lie to him.

"Maybe." I replied shortly before looking down at my shoes.

"Okay, I won't press the subject any further but if you need a friend, I'm here, okay?"

Friend? Right, friend... Because why would smart, beautiful, intelligent, pure, talented Mitch Grassi want to date the guy who got pulled out of his elective for failing a class? It was in that moment that I knew I blew my chance with Mitch. It was impossible to pull off being smart for him.

"Okay, thank you Mitch."

I stood up and pulled him into another hug. This one felt different though, it felt as though I were saying goodbye to what could have been.

-

That evening after school I felt awful. I hadn't said a word to Esther since our argument earlier at lunch and I couldn't get the thought of having to tell Shelly and Michael that I might fail high school YET AGAIN off of my mind.

I excused myself from dinner and Shelly and Michael made confused faces to each other but let me go to my room.

About two minutes after I shut my door, there came three quiet knocks, which I immediately recognized as Esther.

"Go. Away." I mumbled, face stuffed in my pillow.

Of course she translated that as a "come in" and let herself into my room, sitting down beside my laid out body and placing a gentle, soothing hand on my back.

"I'm sorry Scott. I really, really am. And I want you to forgive me so bad." She whispered.

I couldn't take arguing with her and the stress that came with it, so I sighed and rolled over, now laying on my back as I pulled her down into a hug, kissing the top of her head.

She smiled. "So you forgive me?!"

"Mmmhm."

"Yay!" She exclaimed. "I love you!"

"I love you too. Just, please promise me something now that I've forgiven you?"

"Anything, Scotty."

"Don't say anything else to anybody about my grades. Please."

She sighed in relief. "I promise."

-

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