❖Chapter Five❖

Start from the beginning

       Art class. Oh, joy.

       The class was currently painting a portrait of the flower vase in the front of the room that our art teacher, Mrs. Richardson, instructed us to do. I stood up to get more paint, passing by Evan's easel. His painting looked as if a kindergardener had drawn it, which made me laugh. He looked up, then looked at me. His eyes narrowed slightly. "What's so funny?" he asked in a full-out jocky tone.

       I was taken aback by him noticing me. I stood silently for a moment, then moved next to him. I kept a good space between us. "Err, y-you're painting them wrong. The flowers aren't just, like, solid colors," I explained to him in a whispery voice.

      "If you're such a 'professional', then you do it," he grumbled.

       I took the paintbrush from my easel and went back over to him. I mixed a white and yellow together, then made small lines over the orange flower. It looked much more realistic with each bit of technique I added to it. "See?" I asked him, revealing the flower that I'd repainted.

      "Damn. That's awesome," he said in a sincere, shocked tone. He stood up from his seat, then went over to my easel. "You're a real artist, broski," he said, nodding his head at my almost-finished painting.

       Broski?

      "Thank you," I said in a quiet tone.

       He stared down at me, then shrugged. "Whatever," he said, returning to his seat.

       And then, he went back to ignoring me. Just like that.

       The first of January came all too fast for my liking. Today was the New Year's party at Mrs. Quigly's house. While my parents bustled about downstairs, I laid in the middle of my room, staring up at the ceiling.

       A month.

       A whole freaking month had past, and I was beginning to go back into my shell. I've turned afraid of the slightest noise. I'm terrified when someone I don't know says something to me. I completely lose it when someone brushes against me.

       My mother would occasionally ask me about Evan. I would just reply with a simple 'We were never friends' and drop the topic. But she never really got the hint and would pick the conversation back up and ask about our periodic table we had to do together. I said that we finished it, and moved on with our lives.

       Of course, that wasn't the truth.

       The truth was, I finished it by myself. And Evan didn't even offer to help.

      "Gabriel, sweetheart, your father and I will be over at Mrs. Quigly's, right down the block. If you need us, give us a call, okay?" my mom called from downstairs. I didn't reply. I heard her sigh before shouting a faint 'I love you'. I listened as the front door shut behind my parents as they left for the New Year's neighborhood house party.

       It was at least an hour before I finally left my room and went downstairs. I wondered what Evan was doing. Was he out getting drunk at the party? Or was he at another party? Or perhaps, he was at home? I leaned against the door of the bathroom, the same one Evan and I had been in what seemed like long ago. Where he'd saved me from dying. Where I'd seen him nearly naked.

       That was when I realized something.

       I still had his clothes from, what, one, two months ago? I forgot.

       I raced to the basement and went into the laundry room. Folded in a neat, small pile on the white shelf were Evan's dark blue faded jeans and gray t-shirt. I picked them up and held them to me. Even though they had been washed and dried, and they've been in the house for a while, they still carried a faint scent of him.

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