Gus stared down at the phone in his hand, hesitating for a few moments before dialing. Should he really do it? Again? The boy bit his lip for a moment, then finally pressed the phone against his ear.
She’ll probably hang up on me again. He thought sadly. If she even answers at all…
It rang twice, then went straight to voicemail.
He didn’t bother leaving a message.
Gus sighed softly as he returned his phone to the pocket of his jeans. It had been more than a month since he’d ended things with her, and Emma was still barely talking to him, even after all this time.
He’d been hoping and hoping that things would get better once school started again, but nothing changed. They only had one class together anyway, and Emma made a point of sitting as far away from him as possible.
He tried almost every day to catch her eye, or stop her in the hallway after class and talk to her. But the few times he was successful, Gus always seemed to blow it. Every single time, she asked him the same question…
And he was never able to give her a straight answer.
I just wish she could understand! He thought bitterly. But I’m too much of a coward to tell her the truth…
Gus was called back to the present by a soft beeping from his computer. He crossed the room quickly, and when he pulled up his browser window, he felt his heart almost leap from his chest.
His excitement vanished almost as quickly as it had come.
She still hates me.
There it was again, the same question that had haunted him, ever since he’d broken up with her all those weeks ago — Why?
Why had he ended things with her?
Why had he broken her heart?
Why had he been such a damn coward that he’d done it through a text message?
Gus wanted to tell her. He wanted it more desperately than he’d ever wanted anything. But he couldn’t. He just couldn’t.
Gus had been so ashamed that he deleted the texts from his phone the same day he sent them. But he could still remember every one, almost word-for-word.
“Look, Em. I’ve been thinking… And I really don’t think we should date each other anymore. I think we’re better as friends.”
Somehow, foolishly, he’d hoped she’d agree. It would have been so much better that way. So much easier.
Instead, everything fell quickly and hopelessly into pieces. Emma demanded to know what she’d done wrong. “Am I not good enough for you?! What’s wrong with me?!” She’d asked him.
The answers were “no” and “absolutely nothing”, of course. Emma was the most beautiful, kind, intelligent, funny girl in the entire world.
She’s perfect… It’s me that’s the problem.
Gus held his face in his hands for a long time, willing the tears away. This whole thing was tearing him apart.
He was lost, confused. Scared, almost. How could he even begin to explain to Emma what he was going through? I can barely even explain it to myself…
But without her… Who else could he possibly turn to? She’s my best friend in the entire world. Or at least, she used to be. Gus really didn’t have many others. He was never very popular in school… Not like Lucas.
He’d always thought of himself as a strange hybrid between his sister and his aunt. More outgoing than Jocelyne, and less rough-around-the-edges than Clara. But also a little bookish and geeky too. He always got along well with his classmates, but he never seemed to attract many close friends. Except for her…
But now that the one person who even had the tiniest chance of making him feel better hated his guts, Gus wasn’t sure what else he could do.
There was always his siblings, and Clara… None of them had stopped bothering him lately, it seemed. But could he really talk to them about what was going on?
Eager to turn his eyes away from the painful conversation, Gus clicked on his mailbox to view the other messages he’d received lately.
The offer was tempting. So tempting. It’s already getting dark… He thought to himself. I bet I could sneak out in a couple of hours… Gus still had some money tucked away from his summer job. Plenty for a train ticket out to Falkenburg…
Just a phone call away… Gus sighed.
Jocelyne was right — Lucas would probably be the next person he’d turn to, after Emma. Not that his brother had any first-hand experience with what he was going through, but they’d always been really close. He’d understand. Maybe he’d be able to help me figure out what to say to Emma…
Gus almost laughed as he re-read his brother’s message. He knows me way too well. Despite everything, the thought of the massive pizza was enough to entertain him, at least for a few moments.
It was so tempting to pick up the phone and call, or write back some giant message explaining everything that’s going on. But Gus knew he couldn’t bother his brother with something like this. He’s supposed to be having fun, not worrying about me. And besides, Gus wasn’t entirely certain this was a conversation he’d like to have over the phone or through Facebook anyway…
Hearing from Florian had been the biggest surprise… But not an entirely unwelcome one. He’s such a great guy. Gus thought. He’s so nice and easy to talk to… Handsome too. Clara doesn’t know how lucky she is…
His cheeks grew warm as the thought crossed his mind.
Gus wished he could be honest. He wished Emma could understand why they couldn’t be together. He wished he could talk to his family. He wished he could tell someone — anyone — how he was feeling.
Why? It was Gus’ turn to ask. Why can’t I just be normal?