by Cynus

Chapter 7

Adding It All Up

"Good morning."

I rolled over and looked at Clint. He smiled at me, watching me with a content expression and love in his eyes. It was certainly a great sight to wake up to. If I had to choose a view to see first thing in the morning, it would definitely be this.

We had spent the night together in my bed, but did not spend any more time engaged in sex play. We didn't need it. The brief physical release we experienced in the pool was enough to sate our appetites for the evening, although, now that we were awake again, it didn't sound like a bad way to start the day.

My hand reached beneath the covers and found Clint's hip and from there dropped down to grasp Clint's dick. He hissed at the touch and pulled away, and I stared at him like he was crazy, wondering what I had done wrong.

"Sorry," he said, "morning wood. I seriously need to pee, and it's super sensitive."

I pulled my hand away nodding in understanding. "Oh. I'm sorry, I didn't even think about that, but now that you mention it . . ." I threw back the covers and looked down at our naked bodies. Clint was just as beautiful as he'd been last night with his erection standing at attention making my own penis throb. But I had the same problem Clint did, and I needed to take care of that sooner rather than later.

Glancing around for my leg brace, I lost track of Clint's movement for a moment until I felt his arms around me and a quick peck on my cheek. I turned towards him and smelled his morning breath, then immediately turned away. "What's the matter?" He asked.

"Did you bring your toothbrush in that bag you brought over?" I asked, grinning at him to try and take the sting out of the words, hoping he would take no offense to it. "Your breath smells like we left that pizza out overnight for a few days."

Clint put his hand in front of his mouth and breathed into it, and scrunched his face up as he sniffed it. "You're right. Though yours isn't much better. We both forgot to brush our teeth after the swim."

"Speaking of swimming," I said, "after we take care of our mutual problem, would you care to join me for my morning swim?"

Clint nodded enthusiastically and replied, "Definitely. As if you even have to ask. By the way, your leg brace is on the left side of your bed."

I glanced over the side and saw the edge of my brace peeking out from underneath Clint's T-shirt, several feet away from the bed. Before I could figure out how to get to it, my cane came into view as Clint handed it to me. "Thanks," I said and put my weight on the cane to stand up. It seemed Clint was still living up to his promise to continue to support me. I could get used to that.

After grabbing my leg brace and returning to the bed, I embarked on a new quest to find my boxers. Clint stood and stretched as I searched floor for them; I became momentarily distracted by his movements. I love watching the way his muscles contracted and relaxed, the ways his skin tightened in certain areas, and the way his erection became even more prominent as he leaned backward. I wanted to walk over and swallow him whole.

"See something you like?" Clint asked, laughing as he turned towards me.

I grinned and said, "Oh, I see a lot that I like. But at the moment I'm looking for my underwear, have you seen it?"

"What?" Clint's expression became blank but his eyes remained mischievous. "You don't want to be naked with me anymore?"

I shook my head vigorously. "No, that's not it, but in order to get to the bathroom, we have to cross the hall, and I'd rather do that wearing at least something."

"Aww . . ." Clint said, pouting. "Do you really have to wear clothing?"

"No, I suppose I don't," I said. "The only person coming down the hall today at this time would normally be my dad, but he's out of town. So I guess we're good. Just let me get my brace on and I'll be ready to go."

"We're going together?"

"Unless you don't want to."

Clint grinned wide. "Better get that brace on quickly, or I'll pick you up and carry you to the bathroom . . . that might get awkward real quick."

After I finished laughing, I donned my brace, and joined Clint at my bedroom door. He opened the door quickly, and we stood in the doorway together looking both ways down the empty hallway. There was no sign of any oncoming traffic so we instantly crossed the hallway and opened the door to the bathroom.

Although I didn't think I would've been opposed to standing side-by-side, I let Clint go first and then went immediately after him. I was again reminded of that domestic feeling I'd had when Clint helped me with the dishes. It was nice having him there with me, performing basic functions of life. He felt like he belonged there, and I wouldn't have it any other way.

Once we finished, we raced back across the hall to grab some clothes and towels to take with us to the pool. After checking the empty hallway again, we walked naked down the hallway, stored our supplies in the locker room, and jumped into the water.

A short time later, we began repeating our antics from the previous night. All of our antics. Turns out some things are even better the second time.

I had to live off the memory of that weekend for two full weeks. Circumstances made it difficult for Clint and me to find time alone together. Part of it was my fault, part of it was his, but timing just didn't work out.

It started that Saturday night, hours after Clint left my house, and he had a quick run in with his dad. Despite my tutoring, Clint still had not yet improved his math scores. Mr. Fjeldsted checked Clint's grades online periodically and found out about the 'F' Clint received on the math test he took on Thursday. Hoping it would teach his son to be more responsible, Mr. Fjeldsted grounded Clint for a week. He still let Travis and me come over to help Clint study, but only under supervision.

I didn't get the impression that we weren't trusted, only that Clint's dad wanted him to focus, and he thought if he removed all of Clint's distractions, then Clint would be able to find that focus. The problem with Clint was that anything in the world could distract him from doing math. He found the subject less interesting than watching paint dry. No matter how many times I tried to offer real-life examples of how the knowledge could be applied, he just didn't care.

To make matters worse, he didn't seem to understand that his lack of interest was what was preventing us from having time together. As the days passed, this fact continued to frustrate me more and more, and in order to escape it, I began to distract myself with other matters.

Chief among these was preparations for my Halloween party, to be held the weekend before the holiday. I'd selected my costume months before and already had all of the supplies for it, but I still needed to plan activities for the party. When I wasn't tutoring Clint, I was working with Greg and Celeste on party preparations, though both of them were strained by other matters that complicated being around them.

It started as early as the Monday after my weekend with Clint. I went to the store with them to purchase some disposable plates, napkins, cups, and a few Halloween decorations to replace some of the worn-out ones I already had. As I walked down the aisle ahead of them, I heard them talking about the same discussion they'd been having at lunch the week before.

"Honestly, I don't think I'm going to go to church at all anymore," Celeste was saying. I tuned into the conversation, knowing that Greg wasn't going to be pleased by this declaration.

Greg's tone was distraught as he asked, "Why? I know you've been struggling with your faith, but don't you think that's a little drastic?"

"Why can't you just support me as my boyfriend?" She returned, annoyance plain in her voice. "Why does it have to matter so much to you what I believe? It's not like I'm telling you how to live your life, unlike what you're doing to me right now."

"I'm not trying to tell you what to do, I just think you're being a little hasty," Greg replied with a rare dangerous edge to his words. "Why does it always have to be a battle with you? I recommend patience and you always assume that I'm trying to stop you altogether."

"Maybe because I know you think if I take more time to make this decision, you'll have more time to change my mind."

I decided this was the right time to enter the conversation, because as soon as I turned around to see their faces, I knew Greg was about to explode. He usually wasn't one to be quick to anger, but whenever he did, it never ended well.

"You guys really think the middle of the store is the best place to have this conversation?" I asked, planting my cane in front of me and leaning into it with both hands. "Everyone is starting to stare at you."

It was an exaggeration, since this part of the store was practically deserted, but it did distract them long enough to think about their situation before saying anything else. They turned away from each other at the same time, wearing matching glares.

"Now, can we please get back to shopping?" I asked. "Seriously, the way you two fight all the time, it's like you're already married."

"Pfft . . . Greg would have to want to be with me for that to even be a possibility." Celeste walked toward me and then past me, then said, "I'm going to go look for cauldrons. I'll meet you guys at the checkout line."

Greg watched her go in silence, an atypical behavior for him. He didn't even open his mouth to speak or start after her. Instead, he turned around and said, "I'm going to go look at the Halloween candy. See you later, Zane."

I shook my head and sighed but returned to the shopping I'd come to do. This fight between them was starting to get old and, while I tried to avoid letting it get to me, I found that more difficult than I expected. These were my two best friends in the world, and I cared a great deal about how they were feeling. Both could be stubborn about the most idiotic things, but I knew they cared about each other and hoped they wouldn't allow this disagreement to disrupt their relationship.

Despite all that, though, I also knew I had to stay out of it. The more involved I got, the more stress it would cause me, and I could already feel my tension mounting in my life. They, like everything else, had to take a backseat to my own mental health. Considering everything else going on, they were the least of my worries.

I had a short planning session with the GSA Council on Tuesday night at my house, the day before our first official meeting. It went smoothly, all things considered, because our enthusiasm outweighed our inexperience. We talked about running a few get-to-know-you games, and I offered to foot the bill for a pizza delivery, hoping the food would attract more people.

We also managed to plan with Ms. Singh to announce the club's meeting and the food over the intercom with the morning announcements on Wednesday. Travis, Rebecca, and David offered some great ideas and I was happy to be working with them.

Greg and Celeste were still avoiding each other, and to my knowledge they hadn't spoken since the argument in the store. This distracted me somewhat from participating fully in our discussion. I let the others suggest most of the games and planned to weigh in only when it seemed the others were having a difficult time making a decision. It probably wasn't the best course of action for the president to take, but I couldn't help but let my mind wander.

Travis made a suggestion: we hand out basic questionnaires for the members to fill out anonymously then read them to the club to see if anyone could match them with their author. Rebecca quickly shot that idea down because it sounded too much like homework, and then countered with the idea of playing the game Never Have I Ever.

David was quick to point out that although her suggestion was more casual, it was almost too casual, and that the game was better played in a less professional setting. He then made the case for a game called Two Truths and One Lie.

"See, with this game, our players would be able to choose what they reveal about themselves, unlike the other two games. Isn't one of the points of a GSA respect each other's privacy?" David said in a quiet and unassuming voice.

Travis nodded slowly, "Yeah, I see your point. Although I am still fond of my idea. Is there a way we could do both? Maybe only those who want to participate in the questionnaire do so, or something like that?"

Rebecca shrugged and said, "Yeah, and then after that, we can go out for drinks and can play my game. No offense, Travis, but I do think we should keep it a little bit simpler, especially since this is the first meeting where we are genuinely trying to attract interest. This is supposed to be a meet and greet not some three-hour long conference."

I knew they needed my help now; the look in David's eyes told me that and more. Quiet wisdom and the confidence he had in me radiated from those piercing eyes of his, telling me that this was the opportunity to prove I could be the leader of the small group, and do it well. And so I did.

"All of these ideas are great, but I really liked David's point," I said before Travis could respond to Rebecca's remark. "We need to protect our members' right to privacy, to keep it simple like Rebecca said, and we also need to respect our members' right to choose not to participate, as Travis was saying. I think a simple game like what either Rebecca or David suggested, would be the best route to go, but to respect privacy we should definitely go with David's."

Seeing that Travis was a little disheartened by this decision, I felt the need to throw him a bone. "Travis, I do think your idea is really good, and perhaps we, the Council, could all fill out those questionnaires, and our members could guess some things about us? That is, if everyone is willing to participate . . ." I looked to Rebecca and David for confirmation and received a nod from each.

Travis' face lit up, and he nodded enthusiastically. "I'll go home and find a questionnaire tonight!"

"Sounds good," Rebecca said, "but remember that we also have to have time to fill them out. Are we going to do this tomorrow, or are we going to have this ready for next week?"

"As long as we can get them by lunch, I'm sure it won't be that big of a deal to fill them out tomorrow. Does that work for everyone?" I asked. Everyone nodded and we quickly adjourned the meeting.

Travis left the room first, and David walked out after him, leaving Rebecca alone with me for a moment. After a few seconds, I saw that she was watching me with a thoughtful expression. "Is there something on your mind, Rebecca?"

"I was just thinking you do a really good job as president, Zane," she said. "You made all of us feel good about our ideas, while managing to choose the one you thought was best. No, the one that actually was best. David's a smart guy."

I grinned at her. "Yeah, but we all knew that already. I'm sure he's going to be valedictorian this year."

Rebecca snorted. "Who could beat him?"

We shared a laugh and I walked her to the front door, where, to my surprise, we found David waiting for us. "I thought you'd left already. You forget something?" I asked, smiling fondly at my older friend.

David shrugged and blushed, then coughed awkwardly as he glanced at Rebecca. "Uh, I was just thinking that a woman shouldn't have to walk home alone in the dark."

"Ah, so you're a gentleman and a scholar?" Rebecca said, barely stifling laughter. "Very well, nubile David. I will let you accompany me, but only if you take my arm like a proper gentleman."

I stared at Rebecca as if she'd lost her mind, and said, "Wait a second, did you just say nubile or noble?"

Rebecca winked at me, knowing full well how nodding the gesture was in this context, and said, "You're not the only one who uses fancy words, Zane. I know a thing or two, especially when addressing noble —" she enunciated the word for emphasis, "—men such as David."

David went through four different shades of red in a matter of seconds, but then he did offer Rebecca his arm, and she took it with the dignity of a queen. She glanced back one more time from the front porch, giving me another sultry wink, then let her hand drop to pinch David's butt cheek hard. He yelped in surprise and stared at her like she was completely bonkers. She just laughed and took his arm again then began skipping down the street, pulling a confused David with her.

I closed the door after them, and felt a presence behind me. My dad, leering over my shoulder once again. Was this his new favorite game? I had to wonder, considering how often he seemed to be showing up lately. A pity his presence was always negative.

Whether it was a game or genuine interest, this situation made me sicker every time it happened, and I wasn't going to have any more of it. "What do you want?" I asked without even turning around.

"Is that any way to talk to your father?" My father asked. I found it an incredibly strange question to pass through his lips. It was rare enough that he even acknowledged his parentage of me, for him to question the way I spoke to him after all the years of disinterest he'd shown me . . . That made me angrier than I'd ever been.

I turned slowly, eyes sharp as daggers ready to pierce through whatever stony defense he chose to pull up tonight. I found that same smug expression he'd worn regarding Clint on his face, and my mind filled a dozen fantasies of how I could remove his narcissistic smirk. But I still had self-control, and my rage didn't make me stupid, so instead of attacking him, I answered his question.

"I don't have a father," I replied, keeping my tone even, "I have a sperm donor who happens to be married to my mother."

His reaction disappointed me. He didn't seethe with anger. His eyes barely shifted all, except to acquire that same distant glaze I'd grown to detest. Whatever anger he'd held before, it was gone now, and he replaced it with that same disinterest, as soon as I challenged him.

I shouldn't have been surprised when he just walked away without another word, but I was. In that moment I'd hoped we would finally hash out all the pent-up feelings we had been storing up for over a decade, but we didn't, and I let him walk away.

I was done chasing after him. I was done following in his footsteps. I didn't have a father, and I had to get used to the fact that I never would.

The brief encounter with my father, and the realization it led me to, kept me on a low simmer as the rage and anger inside of me slowly cooked my soul. I wanted to scream in frustration, to vent my anger in some violent display of emotion, but all my years of proper upbringing prevented me from doing any such thing.

I tried to keep other people from noticing or from letting it affect my schoolwork or my relationships, and at the beginning I did rather well. It helps that Greg and Celeste finally made up and were talking again, so they didn't pay much attention to me. It helped that Clint was worried about school, and some sort of tension going on between Travis and Angie, so he didn't notice either.

Rebecca, who told me in a brief moment between her giggles that she'd left David with a goodnight peck on the cheek, had other matters on her mind as well. She told me she was breaking up with her girlfriend, and that it was final, and then thanked me for everything before skipping off to thank David again for walking her home.

It didn't matter to me that none of them noticed. I've been ignored by my dad for so many years, that the fact of anyone else ignoring me seemed rather insignificant. I kept my cool all the way through to our second GSA meeting, riding on the bitterness of the world which didn't understand me, but which I wouldn't give the time of day to explain myself to, either.

Several new developments occurred during our second GSA meeting which did give me a shred of hope. We had several new students in attendance, including a couple people I didn't expect to see, who appeared as if they might even have come together as a couple. Shane Blankenship and Parker Reid entered the room side-by-side, though they quickly separated afterwards. They could've simply been close because Shane was on crutches and Parker was helping his friend, but I swore before they parted that Shane's hand was in Parker's back pocket. I never had any indication either was gay, and, the more I thought about it, the more I realized I shouldn't make assumptions despite their behavior. I didn't know either very well, but at least now I would get the chance to learn more about them.

Regardless of their sexuality, having new members gave me at least a bit of satisfaction that I might be doing something right. In one week our club had already increased its membership, and the members we were attracting were good people as far as I was aware. Hopefully, that trend would continue.

Everyone enjoyed playing David's game, and we ended the meeting with the questionnaires we had filled out at lunch. Mine was guessed fairly quickly, which came as no surprise considering most of the members in the room were already very familiar with me. Rebecca's was guessed easily as well, but Travis took the longest until Clint finally managed to figure it out. David, on the other hand, was randomly determined to be read last, and so by the time the others were guessed, was easy to determine which one was his by process of elimination.

With Clint still grounded, Greg and Celeste engaged in the distracted motions of making up after fighting, and with the rest of my friends all busy with other aspects of their lives, I spent the next weekend alone. It wasn't so bad, really, as the more stressed out I became, the less I wanted to be around people. The only problem with spending so much time in my house was that I had to spend the entire weekend avoiding my dad.

In the end, I even chose to avoid swimming just to prevent the possibility of running into him. This, of course, actually had a counterproductive effect on my stress levels. Not only was I stressed from having to avoid my father, but also from not having the release my sanctuary normally offered me. I craved the water, and every day without it made me a little more anxious.

I finally returned to the pool on the Monday morning of the week before my Halloween party, but the fleeting relaxation the water offered me wasn't enough to restore me to any level of tranquility, and I started the school week in a bad mood.

People definitely noticed my state of mind now, and both Greg and Celeste tried to talk to me about it, but I waved them both away and explained I was just tired because of preparations for the Halloween party and being in charge of the GSA meetings. This was a short school week, with both Thursday and Friday off from school due to some sort of teacher conference or something of that nature. I didn't know why and didn't really care; I was simply ready to be done.

At the end of school on Wednesday the last thing I wanted to do was run the GSA meeting, but it was my responsibility and so I held to it. I'd originally planned on doing some sort of presentation, but instead I opened up the room to a discussion on an important political issue affecting LGBT people. A prominent right-wing politician had recently made some sort of remark about how he planned on restricting our rights, and I knew it would generate plenty of participation from our membership. That allowed me to sit back and watch it happen, without having to interact with people.

After a while, I took command of the group again and said we would have some time to mingle and talk, instead of always having to focus on some sort of restrictive meeting structure. I turned on some music and let everyone go to have their own conversations, then retreated to my own private corner of the room to sulk.

Unfortunately, Clint noticed my departure and followed me. By the time I was seated in the corner and turned around to face the rest of the room, he was standing right in front of me. He had a happy expression until he saw my eyes, then gradually his excitement disappeared from his eyes as his smile retreated.

"Hey, you've been really quiet lately. Is everything all right?" He asked.

"Peachy." I don't know why I chose that particular word to describe my state of mind. Maybe it was the irony of saying such a sweet word with the bitterness I felt.

Clint knew I was being sarcastic but didn't press the issue. If I was reading him correctly, then he didn't know what to say, and so he left it alone. "Well, that's good, I guess . . ." He said awkwardly, "um, I wanted to tell you that my dad ungrounded me late last night. So I'm going to be completely free this weekend, so, if you want, we can like, hang out or something."

I shrugged. The way I was feeling then, it didn't really matter to me what I did, I was going to approach it with the same level of apathy. "Sure," I heard myself saying. "How about we go see a movie on Friday?"

There must've been more enthusiasm in that line than I realized, because Clint's face lit up instantly, and he replied, "Awesome! Do you want to choose the movie, or should I?"

"You choose. I don't care what we see, as long as we can spend some time together." Maybe it was a lie, or maybe it was some shred of optimism trying to reclaim my perspective. I wasn't enough in tune with my feelings to discern the answer to that question. Although, the more I thought about it, the more eager I was to get out of my house and do something different for a change.

"Great!" Clint said, "and are we still on for tutoring today?"

I smirked. My old friend, the expression I'd worn for so many years of unhappiness, was back. But at least it was comforting to know that some things never changed. "Yeah, I guess so. You have a big math test coming up next week, don't you?"

Clint rolled his eyes, and said, "That's right, unfortunately. I don't know if I'm ever going to get the hang of it."

Sighing, I replied, "Well, we'll take another crack at it, won't we?"

"You sure you're okay?" Clint asked.

I thought about lying, but in that moment I felt a bit of my resistance fade away. "No, I'm not okay. Things are complicated right now."

Clint nodded slowly. "Is there anything I can help you with?"

"No, it's just . . ." I paused, feeling a sudden wave of emotion threaten to overcome me. Taking a deep breath to calm myself, I continued, "My father got to me recently, and it's been affecting my mood for the last little while."

Clint smiled consolingly and took the seat next to mine, taking my hand and squeezing it gently. I could only reward him with a smirk, but he didn't seem to mind, and a second later he leaned over and gave me a light but lingering peck on the cheek. "You want to talk about it?"

"No, if it's all right with you, I would rather just sit here and hold your hand."


And so we sat without talking and simply observed the others interacting around us. I didn't know which part was more therapeutic, seeing other people enjoy themselves and living vicariously through them, or holding Clint's hand. Whichever one it was, by the time the meeting was supposed to end, I was starting to feel just a little bit better.

I excused myself from Clint to turn off the music on the iPod on the other side of the room, passing almost everyone on my way, and drawing their attention momentarily away from their conversations. By the time I reached the iPod, nearly everyone had taken note of me, and stopped talking when the music stopped, expecting me to say something. Only one couple, who sat in yet another corner of the room, didn't seem to notice and continued their conversation when the music stopped.

"I just don't think we should date each other anymore." Angie's words resonated through the now silent room. She blushed a bright shade of crimson; for the first time that I've ever known her, she was truly embarrassed to be the center of attention.

Travis looked like he wanted to die, and I couldn't blame him. Angie had reached into his chest, pulled out his heart, and stomped on it in front of all of his friends. I quickly turned the music back on, distracting everyone for just a moment from Travis' and Angie's private conversation. Instead of turning the music off completely this time, I turned it down so I could be heard over it, and then spoke as if nothing had happened.

"Thank you for coming, everyone," I said, meeting everyone's eyes and forcing a smile, "I hope you will remember that I have a Halloween party this Saturday, and you're all invited. If you need my number, address, or have any questions, please wait around for a minute after the meeting, and I'll be happy to provide you with any information you need."

The distraction paid off, and Travis and Angie managed to make a quick escape as the meeting came to a close. Clint followed immediately after them, and I sent him a quick text, telling him he didn't have to wait for me, and I'd meet him at my house later.

With that matter under control for the moment, I pushed it to the back of my mind, as several people approached me, asking for my address and phone number, and the details of the party. Despite my recent negativity, I truly did hope they all could come, and made every effort to appear welcoming as I interacted with my potential guests.

A short time later I began my walk home alone, trying to prevent the ever present sadness from overwhelming me once again. Unfortunately, the longer I had with nothing but my thoughts to keep me company, the quicker I lost the battle. By the time I reached my house, I couldn't even smirk any more.

Things didn't get much better when Clint arrived, despite the quick kiss and hug he gave me as soon as he walked through the door. This time we went to my room to study instead of going to the dining room, on the off chance my father would be home and would choose to intrude upon us. We sat side-by-side at my desk and pulled out the math books.

I could tell there was something on Clint's mind, and I wanted to get that out of the way before we started studying, so I asked, "Is there something bothering you?"

He hesitated, then said, "Zane, I know we were planning on getting together on Friday night, but I think Travis needs me. Are you okay if I cancel this time? I promise we can do something special after the Halloween party. Maybe I can sleep over or something?"

Oh, he was blowing me off for Travis. That definitely didn't improve my mood. But if Clint didn't want to spend time with me, I supposed I didn't want to spend time with him either. "Sure. Whatever," I said testily, "Can we just get the studying done?"

"Are you okay?" Clint asked.

"Yeah," I said dismissively, "I'm just tired."

Clint eyed me skeptically, but said, "Okay, if you're sure."

"Yeah," I replied avoiding his gaze, "we just need to get this math done."

Clint acquiesced, and we finally got into the books. I was completely distracted by the simmering rage in my mind. I felt as if the world was against me, though a small portion of my rational brain knew that wasn't the case, and that I was overreacting. Unfortunately, that part of me was quickly losing to my surging emotions.

Despite that, I continued to try to help Clint, realizing it really wasn't his fault. Each passing moment, however, frustrated me further. He would ask a question, I'd explain it as well as I could, he'd do another problem and get it wrong, and then ask the same old question all over again. Rinse and repeat for 45 minutes.

And then he asked me the same damn question about finding 'X' and I completely lost it. The words left my mouth in a tidal wave of pure wrath. Every pent-up frustration with my father, every feeling of abandonment by my friends and boyfriend, and every little thing that was wrong with the world was channeled into the string of hurtful words that left my mouth. "Jesus Christ, Clint! This is so goddamn simple! Are you a fucking idiot? What the hell is wrong with you? Why can't you fucking do this, you piece of shit?"

The sheer venom in my voice would've been enough to cause anyone to recoil the way he did. He stared at me as the reality of what I'd just said sunk in. His eyes were filled with hurt, betrayal, and a mix of other emotions I couldn't identify, but ones which I absolutely hated seeing in his eyes. Instant guilt washed over me, and my mouth worked wordlessly as my mind raced to frantically figure out how to fix the mess I'd created.

Clint stood and left the room, leaving his math book on my desk, and seemed only absentmindedly to remember to grab his backpack before stepping through the doorway. It took far longer than I would've liked for me to remember how to use my legs, and he was already to the front door by the time I grabbed my cane and made it to the hallway.

"Clint!" I shouted, and he started to turn but didn't quite finish the movement. Instead he twist ed the doorknob and pulled the door open as I hastened after him. "Clint, I'm sorry! Please, don't go!"

But then he was through the door, and slammed it behind him, with the resulting shudder shaking the entire house. It was nothing compared to the trembling in my legs or the tremor in my heart. I collapsed against the door, crushed by the weight of years of negative emotions pressing down on me. The best thing that ever happened to me had just ended, and I was alone again.

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