Everything Goes Black...

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"You seem to be in a much better mood." Drew gives me a friendly smile as I take my seat beside him. He was right, I was smiling and I couldn't stop, it felt foreign but I was loving it. I was loving that I could openly be happy and not have guilt dragging me down anymore. I was slowly going to put this past year behind me - I was going to survive this thing. 

"I am." I return his smile. Drew and I haven't talked much since the day that we passed our apologies back and forth in class, but as long as he doesn't try to kiss me again, I think we could be good friends. 

Mrs. Holloway enters the classroom just as the bell rings, and mentions how close we are to finals. When the entire class groans at the subject, she gives us the entire class period to do some reading for the reading list. Ian and I share an eye roll before opening up our books. 

During my free period, I walk in to the cafeteria and go through the line, purchasing a salad and a free ice cream for Ian. Neither of us can hide the smiles on our faces as I take my seat beside him and pass the frozen chocolate treat to him. 

"Nice to see your back, Annie." Colby gives me a welcoming smile. 

"Nice to be back. Thanks for not giving my seat away." 

For the rest of the hour I fell back into easy conversation with Ian and his friends, the group of us laughing and joking like the past week hadn't happened. This table used to be labeled as the "outcasts" back when I was sitting at the "popular" table, but now that I'm sitting here with them, having more fun that I ever had at my old lunch table I realize how wrong that title was. This group isn't a bunch of outcasts - it's a table of people who know exactly who they are and they're proud of it. I'm proud to sit here and be accepted by them. 

I wave goodbye to the guys as they get up to head to their next class once the bell rings. The next lunch crowd starts to spill through the cafeteria doors and I turn to Ian. We haven't really talked much today, other than our short reunion this morning in the hallway. We haven't had enough time between classes and just now there were too many people around, but now it's just the two of us. 

"Want to go somewhere?" Ian's tone is a little more serious that it was minutes ago when there were other people around. I knew that we needed to talk, sooner rather than later, so I nodded and we packed up our stuff before heading out of the cafeteria and down the halls and out to the bleachers in front of the football field.

We climb to the top and I stare out at the empty field, thinking back to all the nights I used to spend on the sidelines, the cold air giving me chills as I cheered on our team. Ian is staring at me as I look out at the field, and after a minute he slips his hand into mine. I sigh at the immediate comfort his touch brings me. 

"You know Harper's offer is still good." He breaks the silence and it's like he can read my mind. 

"I know."  I look down at our hands and then up to his face, which is still watching me with a soft smile and eyes full of nothing but love. I was so stupid to throw this away, even if it was only for a week.

"Annie...don't take this the wrong way, but...what happened? What changed?" 

He didn't have to explain, I knew exactly what he was asking me. "I finally took my therapy session seriously. I told her everything and I listened to what she had to say. I was so sick of the way I was feeling and so sick of missing you, I just wanted it to end...so I told Dr. White everything on my mind and it was like something clicked after that, like I finally heard and believed what I didn't before." 

Ian lets go of my hand and puts his arm around my shoulders, pulling me closer to him and kissing the top of my head as I lean in to him. 

"I know I still have a lot of stuff to work through, but I'm done punishing myself and blaming myself. I miss River and I'll always miss him, but I have to live my life...he would want that. Being miserable and hating myself won't bring him back or make missing him any easier, I realize that now."

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