nineteen

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N I N E T E E N

The bell dinged as a customer came in the building, a girl with a grin on her face as she glanced quickly at the counter, only for her gaze to find her friends all sitting together at a corner table. I sighed inaudibly in relief that she wasn't coming up to order just yet. Today was one of the first days I handled the lines at Sassy Cupcake without Dylan's help in a while and it was so hard getting used to it. He told me that he needed to heighten his commitment to his sports for the time being, especially of he wanted to be team captain, so I was left to cover about seventy-percent of the shift on my own unless Dylan decided he was too beat up and worn out and I would have to take care of the whole thing.

Dylan was a lot more involved with the takedown than the others, but he also seemed to be a lot more genuine with me, so the growing distance between us shouldn't have unsettled me, but it did. Maybe it was the voice of Becca and Veronica in the back of my mind, telling me to D.T.R. that was driving me up the wall, especially since I wasn't sure if we were on terms to talk about stuff like that anymore.

It felt that at this point, I was now left to my own devices to make my own decisions and that was possibly the worst thing that could happen. Now I was stuck all alone with Issa's secret and it wasn't like I could talk to her about it, but I didn't feel like telling the It-Crowd yet either.

Well, I had to start somewhere.

Hearing the group of girls giggle about some television show they liked, I took that as a cue that they didn't need any service, so I dipped down behind the counter and pulled my phone from my pocket. Opening up the old group chat I had with Becca and Veronica, I saw that the last message we had sent in it was from November and a chill ran down my spine. But I couldn't worry about that now, instead I texted out everything I had been holding in since the Governor's Ball in what turned out to be a rather lengthy paragraph. My fingers hovered over the send button for a few seconds, as if wondering what could've been worded better in the text or what was too much information to share, but I decided to go with my gut and just send it.

Something washed over me like a wave, something undefined, but it made a world of a difference to me. Maybe this was what I needed. Maybe this was salvation.

Minutes later, I felt my phone vibrate in my pocket. Feeling a rush of desperation, I quickly grabbed for it, pulling it out and checking the notifications that were alit on the screen. And my heart sank a bit when I did.

BECCA: I'm sorry, babe, but you're gonna have to help yourself!

VERONICA: Yeah. She's right about that.

ME: Why? She did such a horrible thing to us!

VERONICA: Because this whole thing has been about you, to be honest. Now's not the time to make it about what we feel, you idealized Issa the moment she got popular, and then what happened just happened. And now you have to decide how to cope with it. We're not trying to get revenge on her, we just accepted how fate worked out.

I groaned, placing my phone down on the counter to massage my temples, hoping it would help alleviate the headache that was coming in. But of course, my efforts were to no avail. Because maybe they were right about everything. Yet in the end, it was always different how Issa and I's friendship worked in comparison with Issa and the others'. Not to sound conceited, but we'd always been closer and it just showed. They were the first ones to stop idealizing Issa and how long she would last in our friend group, and when she finally did leave us for dead, they were more upset about losing the chance to go to the dance than the fact that Issa was gone for good.

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