He Knows

60 14 5

“There's something that
we need to talk about,”
Seth tells me the next day.
We're at his house,
like always; the TV
drones on in the background
as we do our homework,
quiet and monotonous.
It gives voice to the turmoil
that has run through my head
all day, through classes and
lunch and the one time
a teacher called on me to
ask if I'd fallen asleep -
which, for the record,
I hadn't.
Should I break things
off with Seth?
Shouldn't I?
I can't figure out
what I need to do
for the life of me...

Apparently, I don't hear Seth
the first time he tries
to get my attention, so he
has to repeat his statement
several more times.
Normally, he would look
concerned, and might ask me
what's wrong, as Natalia would.
Instead, his face is flat, emotionless,
as though someone had wiped it clear.
But I don't realize it,
not at first.
I'm too lost in my own
problems to recognize his.

I say at last, still
not paying much attention.
“What's up?”
I've been working on the
same math problem for
at least ten minutes now;
my pencil swings back
and forth in my fingers as
I stare down at the page, as if
hoping that the correct answer
will just miraculously pop
out of nowhere and
surprise me.
The answer to this question,
and to so many others -
none of them are forthcoming.
It's hopeless.
What do I do?

I guess Seth must be
tired of my lack
of focus on him, because
he suddenly reaches out to
snatch the fidgeting pencil
from my hand, which finally
succeeds in grabbing my attention.
“Seth?” I ask, frowning,
reaching out to grab
it back from him,
“give it back, please.
I need to work on this, I
don’t have time for
homework later tonight-”

“I know you've been
hanging out with
Natalia again.”
It's not the answer
that I've been looking for,
but it does come out of nowhere
and surprises me enough
that I'm left speechless
for a good ten seconds.
My arm falls back
onto the table with a
useless thump.
Seth's expression is unchanged,
but the longer I look, the
more clearly I can see
the hardness in his eyes -
jealousy, maybe?
But I've spent more time
with him in the past few months
than I have with Nat, so
why should he be?
And he’s been sick for
the past week or so, besides.
I know he doesn't like
Nat very much -
but does he really have
to make it such an issue?

“Yeah?” I say -
and I surprise myself again
with the flippancy
of my tone.
“She's my friend -
my best friend, and you
were sick, so I was bored-”

“So you thought it
would be a good idea
to go behind my back and
spend time with her instead
just because you
were bored?”

“You're my boyfriend, Seth,
not my dad,” I deadpan;
Seth flushes with irritation.
“And you were sick, and I wanted
you to get better - which
usually involves sleep.
I can't really spend time with
you if you're asleep, can I?”

“Whatever,” he mutters.
“It still doesn't change the fact
that you intentionally didn't
tell me about it.
That's the same thing
as lying, Matty.
You know I
don't like her, so
why would you do it?”

I don't know if it's
his tone of voice, or
the fact that he thinks
he can just boss me around
and get away with it -
or maybe it's the buzz of
the TV behind us or
this impossible math problem
nagging me to the point
of irritation -
but whatever the reason, I
realize all at once that I
don't want to deal
with his self-righteous
any more.
I can't handle it.
I can't handle him,
and it's like a cork that's
been stuck in the neck
of a bottle for
far too long:
it has to pop sometime.

And now is
that time.

“I don't care whether
you do or don't
like Natalia!”
I grind out at last;
even Seth seems
a bit taken aback.
“Or whether you want
to be with me
twenty-four seven, or
feel the need to drive me to school,
and walk me to every class
and take up all my time
every single day.
I don't care whether you want
to control my life, but
it doesn't mean you can,
okay? I feel like I'm
suffocating, Seth.
I want my own life, and
I don't want you to
run it for me.”

I finally run out
of breath and stop short.
He sits there, stares
at me, and I almost
think I've actually
reached him, and maybe
now I won't have to make
the decision whether or not
to break up with him.
I almost think that,
for once, he's
listened to me.
But then he
opens his mouth again.

“I knew it,”
he says, laughing softly.
It's not a good laugh.
It scares me, especially since
I have no idea what
he's on about, what he
now knows that my
rant had told him.
That hard glint is
back in his eyes, and
I still don't know
what it means.

When he doesn't answer, I
lean forward towards him,
ignoring my math textbook
as my elbow knocks it
off the table.
“What are you
talking about?”

“You and Natalia,”
he laughs again.
My heart stills.
“God, how didn't I
see it before?”

“See what?”
Someone on TV
laughs, long and loud
and obnoxious.
Suddenly, I want
nothing more than to throw
something at it to
shut it up.

“You always paid
more attention to her
than to me,” he sneers,
“didn't you?
You never cared
about me. I
was just there because
she wanted me to be -
and now that she doesn't,
you don't want me here, either.”

That's not true!
I try to say -
but the words stick
in my throat, rough and
dry like sandpaper.
What's going on?
my mind screams.
What's going on?
Does he know
how I feel
about Natalia?
Does he know?
Does he does he
does he-

And then it reaches
a consensus, just as
Seth laughs his
sarcastic little laugh and
says, too cruelly:
“You've been in love
with Natalia this
whole time, haven't you?”

He knows,
my thoughts whisper
It's too late.



UnparalleledWhere stories live. Discover now