After the Goodbye - Part 3

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Selena left for Ottawa two days before me because she had a shift at her job. As soon as I came back from dropping her off at the airport, I confronted my mother in the kitchen. "What did you say to Selena about Alex?"

My mom looked at me stubbornly. "She thought he had died, so I said you grew apart. And I told her not to bring it up to you because you had healed. Apparently, she doesn't listen."

"Healed?" I repeated, upset. "Healed? Healed? Like it was me trying to get over his death or something?"

"It really was," she snapped. "What are you afraid I would say to Selena about Alex, Liam?" She put a hand on her hip.

I paused. "Something weird. Like that they look alike. That's really weird, you know. What is my girlfriend supposed to think when you tell her she looks like my former male best friend?"

"I didn't tell her that, Liam. Lily did, and don't you dare take it out on a seven-year-old." My mom sighed loudly. "Liam... " She closed her eyes. "Liam... Please, love that girl for who she is."

"Angie." I looked up behind my mother to see my dad enter the kitchen. He was shaking his head and he gave her a look with both his eyebrows raised.

"He came to me!" She turned around to stomp out of the kitchen. "You say something to him, please."

My father sighed.

"Why is she getting angry?"

"Liam," my dad said calmly. "Sit down."

I glared at him but sat down in a chair at the table anyway.

He sat too and I silently watched him try to figure out what to say. Finally, he seemed to give up. "It's okay if Selena reminding you of your childhood best friend is what first caught your eye. It's okay. But make sure you're friends with Selena, that you're dating Selena for the right reasons."

"Their personalities aren't even similar," I replied.

My dad nodded.

"They're not alike in that way at all."

My dad nodded again.

I stared at him and he stared at me.

Then he said, "Overall, we think Selena is a good thing. You finding her is a good thing."

Selena was a good thing.

***

The semester ended, leaving me with Bs and no spirit. Then school started again. January passed. It was nearly Valentine's Day. I couldn't feel excited, though. Selena had been a bit distant. Or maybe I had been a bit distant.

She texted me one evening, asking to meet. I waited for her at the benches beside the small pond near the library. The fear of failing kept me procrastinating on my homework and Selena's message felt like a better excuse for my delay. It was night, but the lamp right beside the bench was bright. I watched it reflect off the sparkling grains of the concrete like sunlight.

Hearing footsteps, I looked up to see Selena. Her waist-length hair was gone and in its place was a curly pixie cut.

I stood up and grasped at the empty space where I used to grasp chunks of her hair to slide between my fingers. "Where's your hair?"

"I donated it."

"Oh. That's kind." I wasn't sure what was wrong with me. My reaction was lackluster, I knew. But I really couldn't bring myself to feel anything more.

There was a silence.

With her hair so short, she did actually look a little like Alex. Ha. I didn't like it. "It's cute." She was cute. But I didn't like it.

Another silence.

"Liam... I'm bi."

My expression didn't change. "Did you fall in love with a girl?"

"No. I didn't. I love you. But... I need to face who I am.... I want to explore."

Only then did my eyes widen. "You're breaking up with me."

She nodded.

And I was full of bitterness. Everyone I cared about I'd lost to Coming Out and Same-sex Love or whatever. It was irritating.

Her eyes were sad. "We can still be friends?"

"Yeah..." I agreed, just for the sake of it. "Does you cutting your hair have anything to do with you being bi?" I waited for a response but got none.

"I hope things fall into place for you, Liam."

"Thanks," I replied, not thinking about the meaning of her statement.

She hugged me and I forced myself to hug her back. I went back to my dorm and laid down, deciding I'd do my homework in the morning.

Morning came and I didn't do it.

**

My mental health gradually got worse after that.

I was slow. I couldn't find inspiration as fast as others.

I was clumsy. I took twice, three times as many pictures as other people before deciding on which to submit.

I was unoriginal. Nothing, nothing was special about my photographs.

"The composition is technically perfect," a professor said. "But that means nothing when it lacks substance."

Photography was starting to piss me off. My parents heard of my grades and said "Bs are fine" and my relatives joked "Cs get degrees." But it wasn't fine when I had classmates making As and getting their pictures put in the school gallery.

I was useless.

I was alone.

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