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THE FIRST DAY of winter break is spent in solitude

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THE FIRST DAY of winter break is spent in solitude. Saturday morning is eerily silent in a way that makes my heart heavy. The sheer quietness of my house allows me to think clearly for the first time in weeks. I've constantly been surrounded by my friends. So much that I could almost make myself forget why I've been so depressed in the first place.

Lucas...

Is it possible to miss someone, but fear them at the same time? To hate and care for them?

I roll over in bed and scoop my furry pillow into my arms. The mere image of him terrifies me. Being in the same space as him fires vibrant alarms that throw me into an irreversible flight mode. My muscle tense and burn. I forget to breathe, think, or even move. It's torture. Thinking about the night of the dance makes me sick to my stomach. I block out all of the images just so I won't have to remember. I don't have to remember why he hurts me so much.

If I don't remember, it didn't happen.

Instead, what's left is an old friendship that I long to return to.

Is that pathetic?

Sometimes I think about asking Amber, but I already know how she feels about Lucas. If only I were as strong as she wants me to be.

The gentle scratch of Mom's slippers against the carpet drifts by my room. I perk up and rustle out of my sheets. Maybe she'll know how to answer. Defeat immediately sinks into my spine and my shoulders slump. Asking her would mean her returning my question with some of her own. It would mean risking remembering that night and I just can't do that. Still, I slip out of bed and peek out of my room to catch her climbing downstairs in one of her cotton robes. She mumbles something about the furnace as she reaches the first floor. Just be vague. Not too specific.

"Mom?" I call and make haste in trailing after her.

I catch her groggily turning up the temperature before her fresh eyes find mine. She manages to smile briefly before strolling to the kitchen. There's an essence of excitement in her posture now. I haven't approached my parents about what happened, but they've been waiting ever patiently for me to explain the past events. "Good morning, honey. You just missed your dad."

"I know." I fold my arms behind my back and follow as she begins brewing a pot of coffee. The essence of mocha beans greets me kindly to awaken my senses. "I had a question for you."

With a yawn, she leans against the kitchen counter, favorite mug in hand. "What is it?"

"Let's say somebody hurts you...really bad."

"Mhm." She narrows her eyes and alertness breathes across her fatigue.

"But you also really cared about that person. You had a strong relationship...but they kept doing things to hurt you until you couldn't take it anymore. Is it wrong to miss that person? D-does that make you weak?"

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