A hand grabbed my shoulder and I
jumped violently in surprise. Jessica leapt back from me, not
expecting my dramatic response. After a moment she rolled her
eyes and tossed her perfect blond hair indignantly, regaining
her pristine composure.
"Honestly, Alice, are you ever
tuned into Earth?" Jessica sighed, handing me the updated game
and practice schedule.
"Sorry," I mumbled, but she had
already moved onto the next person.
I stuffed the schedule into my
As I pulled out my CD player, I
wondered if people who had different names were destined to be
different. I mean, all the smart kids had names like Edith and
Edward. Old fashioned names. They could solve math problems
that usually required a calculator easily in their heads.Then
there were the Hopes and Trinity's, all such nice girls who
talked to everyone and stopped to help a kid pick up his books
that he'd dumped all over the hallway. And Quinton would be the
only kid in school whose name started with a 'Q'. He would be
the class clown, and would probably be a rich stand-up comedian
with a show on Comedy Central before he was thirty-five.
But what about the girl named
Mercury who asked to be called by her middle name so she could
feel normal? What was my special talent? The ability to be
anti-social? I glanced around the bus. As usual, I was the only
girl curled up against the window all by her self, while the
other twenty-one Varsity and JV girls filled the bus with the
awful racket of mindless chatter. On top of that, I was the
only one with a CD player, which had been on the endangered
species list of technology for at least five years now. Also,
there were probably only two or three other girls on the bus
who willingly listened to the Beatles. There were the
fashionable blonds, the funny brunettes, and the good-time
red-heads. Me? Natural black hair. How dreary.
So these are my talents: I'm
anti-social (by choice), crappy hair, appreciation of
technological dinosaurs, and an eccentric music taste.
My sister's name was strange too.
Andromeda. The farthest thing that can be seen by the naked
But she was right across the way
from me, squished into the seat with her two BFF's of the week.
Blabbing gossip, pausing on occasion to answer a text. Andy
seemed normal enough. Lucky girl.
My gaze shifted back to the
window, the pine trees, the cornfields, the black and white
cows flashing by. Then I was lost in my music, drifting out of
Earth's orbit and closer to Mercury's.
As much as I love Andy, watching
JV volleyball from the eyes of a third-year Varsity player is
like watching Modified: dull and frustrating. So I went to the
top bleacher seat so I could do my homework. There were only
three other people up there. Two other homework-goers, and a
native boy to the school sitting on the other end of the seat.
I decided on a spot that was a respectful distance away from
him and sat.
And of course, when I pulled out
my chemistry binder, the corner of my Beatles CD was stuck on
it. So it went skittering across the bleacher right to the
I smiled apologetically to him as
he handed it to me. He stopped mid-reach and pulled the CD back
to his face, his hazel eyes reading the title.
"The White Album? I've always
wanted a copy of this!" He exclaimed.
"You're a Beatles fan?" I
"Is the sky blue?" He answered.
Sarcasm. This was my kind of kid.
So our conversation started with
music. I found it hard to believe that someone was listening to
me. My parents never seemed to hear what I say, and Andy has
selective hearing. I only have a few close friends, and we
either have long conversations or sit in silence. I could have
to this guy all day, and I'm pretty sure he would listen to me
the whole day. The only other guy I had ever known like that
was Sam, my boyfriend. But we were at a point where we had run
out of things to talk about. This kid was like a breath of
fresh air. I didn't feel so alone.
The conversation switched to
volleyball. He was on Varsity, and he had come after practice
to see his sister play.
"Which one is she?" I
"Fifteen is mine." I said,
"What's her name?" He asked
brushing a stray brunette lock from his eyes.
"Yeah, it stands for Andromeda." I
"You're kidding me." He laughed. I
whirled my head to look at him. I had expected a surprised
reaction for her oddball name, but that was a tad rude. I
opened my mouth to defend her, but he spoke before I
"Are your parents space freaks
too?" He sounded excited.
"They both majored in it in
college. They love that stuff." I answered, not sure where this
"I thought I was the only one!" He
exclaimed. "My sister's name is Pandora. I'm Jupiter. Most
people just call me Peter though."
"My name is Mercury. I prefer
Alice- it's my middle name"
By now JV was almost done with
their second game, and the realization about our names had
sparked a fresh conversation.
"See, Mercury, Andromeda, and
Pandora are actually pretty cool names. But Jupiter? That's
just stupid." He complained.
"I like Jupiter better than
Mercury. There's too many R's in my name. It just sounds like a
slur of noise."
And so it went on like that. It
went from names, to our parents, to family vacations, and by
the time the third game was over, we were on childhood pets. We
were both dog lovers, and with dogs come lots of funny
I said goodbye to Jupiter. Her
laughed and said he wanted to stay and watch the Varsity game,
so there was no need to say goodbye yet.
The game went surprisingly well.
We hadn't been doing very well at all this season, but
regardless we won the first three games. I was immensely proud
of myself. I had six kills, four blocks, and I had some great
back row saves that involved diving and rolling. I only missed
one serve. Coach even complimented me for my awesome
When I went to grab my things from
the bleachers, Jupiter surprised me by waiting for me at the
bottom with my bag.
"It was nice to meet you,
"You too, Jupiter." Then he shook
my hand like a gentleman and went to retrieve his sister. As my
team left the gym my sister raced over to me.
"Who was that?" She giggled,
elbowing my side.
"Oh, calm down, Andy. I just met
him. He's not even from our school."
"Well he was cute! Did you get his
"No!" I cried. "Andy, I have a
"So? Oh my god, Alice, you are so
not boy savvy!" She exclaimed, throwing her arms in the
"Savvy? Wow, that's a big word for
you, Andy." I snickered.
"Ugh, whatever, Mercury!" She
jeered, flouncing back to her friends. She loved to call me
Mercury as a come back to anything mean I said to her. She knew
it ticked me off.I walked ahead of everyone else, eager to get
to the back seat on the bus first.
I felt a little empty on the ride
home. I probably wouldn't ever see him again. Going to
different schools was like living in separate worlds. I was on
Mercury, he was on Jupiter. Andy was right, as much I hated to
admit it. I should have gotten his number. I would miss this
friendship we had found so randomly. I pressed myself tight
against the window, my legs curled up, trying to hide from the
And then, like a bowling ball
hitting me in the chest, I realized he had called me Mercury
and had gotten away with it. There were only two other people
on Earth who could do that; my grandpa and Sam.
"It was nice to meet you,
Sam came over on Saturday to hang
out with me for a few hours. When he came in he said hello to
my mother first, polite as always, then hugged me and kissed my
neck. We settled down on the couch to watch a movie, his arm
around my waist. I tried to think of something to talk about.
I'd open my mouth to say something, then think better of it and
stop myself. When I finally came up with a good conversation
idea I turned to him, but he was so deeply absorbed in the
movie I didn't want to interrupt.
"Kids, I'm going to the grocery
store. I should be back in a half hour. Be good." Mom said as
she grabbed her keys of the table.
"Okay, ma." I answered, pretending
to be focused on the movie. As soon as the door shut, Sam
stood, taking my hand, his attention to movie gone. Dad was at
work and Andy was at a friends. It was the first time we'd been
alone in a while.
He picked me up and carried me to
my room in his strong, football player arms while I giggled
into his neck. He tossed me gently onto the bed and climbed
over me, kissing me deeply. I felt my stomach twist in
excitement, but my heart didn't beat faster like it used to.As
he kissed my neck and pulled my shirt away, his fingers
trailing over my skin, nothing happened. The tingly feelings
refused to present themselves. Something was missing. He'd
barely said a word to me the whole time he had been here, and
my body just wasn't responding to him like it used to. I didn't
want to believe it. So, as I helped him remove his clothes, I
kissed him with everything I had, hoping that maybe, somehow,
it would hide the truth.
A week or so later I was opening
up my locker between classes to get my science binder. A hand
shot out and slammed it shut as soon as I opened it.
I whirled to see my friend Derek,
a big grin on his face, his blue eyes shining under his mop of
"Hey, are you coming to the game
"Hey, are you ever going to learn
how not to be obnoxious?" I laughed, ruffling his hair.
"I will if you come to the game,"
he answered, giving me his best puppy eyes. He looked quite
ridiculous, and I couldn't help but laugh.
"Who are you playing?"
"The Raiders! They beat us last
time, so we're gonna cream them tonight!" He said in the best
scary voice he could muster, flexing his biceps.
My heart jumped as I realized this
was Jupiter's school.
"Uh… um, yeah! Yeah… I'll be
there." I spluttered. Derek looked at me oddly, then shrugged
and ran down the hall to attack one of his friends from behind.
Normally I would have viewed this comical show and laughed, but
I was too excited to care.
All day all I could think of was
my spurt of luck. I had so stupidly walked away from the first
person in a long time to understand me and listen to me… to
really care. I was being given a second chance. I wrote my
number on a piece of paper and slipped it in my pocket,
promising myself I'd give it to him.
That night when I walked into the
gym, I was so intent on scanning the faces in the bleachers
that I ran into an elderly woman, who glared at me and walked
off muttering about the rudeness of young people.
I finally spotted him, sitting a
little ways apart from his team that was waiting on the
bleachers for the JV team to finish. I came as close as I
dared. I stared at him for a minute while he watched the game,
not sure how to approach. My stomach was churning and making me
feel sick. I nearly turned and walked away.
"Oh my god, Alice, you are so not
boy savvy!" I gritted my teeth and forced myself to walk up to
"Jupiter!" I called, wondering too
late if I should have addressed him as Peter instead.
He looked towards me, and his
whole face lit up. He waved me over and patted the seat next to
It didn't take long to get the
conversation started. Again I was amazed at how intently he
listened to me as I caught him up on the games I had played
since we had first met, his eyes carefully reading my every
expression. And when it was his turn to talk, I returned the
courtesy. I wondered if he always threw himself into
conversation like this. Or was I like a breath of fresh air
too? Was I someone who understood and cared in a lonely
When the second JV game started,
we snuck a ball out of the cart and left the gym. A few of his
team mates pointed after us as we left, talking amongst
themselves. I led the way to an empty hallway, and we engaged
ourselves in peppering. The ceiling was low, and we kept losing
control of the ball when we passed it too high and it came
hurtling back down at us. But that's what made it fun. Soon we
were diving and leaping. Jupiter even made a save with his
foot. Finally, the ball hit the ground when he crashed into the
wall in an attempt to save it. I went over to see if he was
okay, and he started to laugh. Then I was laughing. We sat
there and laughed ourselves into tears. After we calmed down,
he scooted a little closer and we switched into conversation
with surprising ease, leaning intensely towards each other as
we listened to the other's stories.
After a while of this, there was a
pause in the talk as Jupiter ended one of his stories. I caught
myself looking into his hazel eyes, and I realized he was
looking into mine too. We both had this idiotic look on our
faces. My nose was inches from his. My cheeks prickled as I
turned crimson, and I jumped to my feet awkwardly.
"Umm… I, uh, we should check on
the game. I- I think yours is going to start soon." I hated it
when I stuttered. It made me feel so stupid and…
We arrived at the gym, and not a
moment too soon. The Varsity teams were starting warm ups.
Jupiter waved to me and hurried to join his team. One of the
guys nudged him and nodded towards me, laughing. Jupiter
blushed and ignored him.
As I watched the game, I wondered
what made us click so well.What was it that we found so
interesting? Why did it seem like I'd known him before? It
didn't take me long to realize who the MVP of the team was.
Jupiter was all over the court, making sure nothing hit the
ground. He had a perfect jump serve and a viscous spike. They
won the first two, lost the third, and then won the fourth. His
coach put him in for all four games.
I was so busy watching Jupiter's
team pack up that I didn't notice Sam come in. A pair of arms
wrapped around me. I jumped.
"Sam? What are you doing
"I came to pick up Tony." Of
course, his little brother Anthony was on the JV team. I
wondered how today would have been different if Sam had come to
watch the whole game. "You?"
"I came to watch a friend," I
answered, meaning Derek but knowing it was really for Jupiter.
Sam leaned in and kissed me gently, taking me by
"See you Monday, Alice. Love
"Love you too." Why did that feel
like a lie? I watched him go with Tony.The old Sam would have
stayed, stalling until it was absolutely necessary to go. I
frowned when I realized he'd called me Alice.
"Ahem." My head shot up to see
Jupiter standing a few feet away.
"Who's he?" He asked
"How long have you been together?"
He added too quickly.
"A year and a few months."
"Ah, so pretty serious then?" Only
he didn't ask it as a question, more of a statement. He looked
away. I searched for something to fill the awful quiet.
"Do you have a girlfriend?" He
"No. I'm not necessarily the
choice cut at my school."
"I find that surprising."
"Thanks, I guess." There was
something off in his voice. He glanced at the door. His team
was exiting the gym, and his coach was waving him over. "I've
I was surprised when he hugged me,
a lock of his hair brushing my cheek. My breath caught and my
heart sped up a little. After a moment I returned the
"See you around, Mercury."
"Bye, Peter." I don't know why I
called him Peter. But I could tell by the way he glanced at his
feet with… disappointment, that he hadn't wanted me to. So I
was one of the rare few people in the world that could get away
with calling him Jupiter.
I watched him go, the slip of
paper in my jeans burning a hole through my pocket. But my feet
were rooted to the ground, and I felt sick. As he walked out
the door I saw him reach into his pocket and throw something
small to the ground.
I went and retrieved it. It was a
crumpled up piece of paper with a number on it.
I stared at it for a long
Finally, I let the little paper
fall back to the ground, and I left the school.
I thought about Jupiter a lot
after that. Something was missing without him. My friends
suddenly didn't seem like friends compared to him.
That weekend I went to Jayda's to
spend the night along with my other best friend, Carrie.
At first it was fun. We walked
around town and messed around, skipping across the crosswalk
and giving each other piggy-back rides down the sidewalk. We
stopped at our favorite café and bought smoothies and cookies.
Carrie's sister was the waitress, so we got a family
But after we returned to Jayda's
house, it all went downhill. Jayda sat us in front of the T.V.
to watch one of her favorite teen soap opera shows that Carrie
was into too. I wasn't into the whole teen pregnancy drama
thing… so I wandered up to Jayda's room to read one of her
Manga graphic novels. I remembered back to the day's before
Carrie had moved here. Jayda and I would spend hours discussing
our story ideas (we're both aspiring writers), and we would
trade books and talk about life and draw. Then, when Carrie
moved in, the three of us would go to the park together. Carrie
liked to draw too and we would spend our time drawing and doing
crafts together and singing along to our favorite songs.
But they had changed. Or maybe I
had. I wasn't sure. They liked spending more time in front of
the T.V. now. My quiet, intellectual personality usually
remained quiet around them, when it used to be shared and
appreciated by them. Not to mention Jayda showed a tad bit of
favoritism towards Carrie. I wasn't jealous, because I loved
Carrie, and I wasn't angry at Jayda, it's just how life goes.
But… it just made me feel bad, especially since I was Jayda's
friend first, since fourth grade. I tried not to think about it
Eventually they came
"Why are you so anti-social?"
Jayda demanded jokingly.
"I don't like watching a bunch of
snotty girls get in cat fights and have mindless sex with
douche bags. It's kind of insulting and gives teens a bad rep.
Not to mention it makes it seem okay and normal to viewers who
look up to the actors." Jayda rolled her eyes at my response
and flounced over to the mirror.
"Make-over time!" She
"You alright, Alice?" Carrie
asked. It was funny how different Jayda and Carrie's
personalities were, yet how well they got along.
"Of course!" I said from the bean
bag chair in the corner of my room, not looking up from the
"Carrie, she does this all the
time. She's not sad." Jayda said, rolling her eyes. I felt my
face grow hot. I felt like telling them that they do that all
the time and I'm the normal one of the three.
"C'mon, Car, let me do you first.
I just got a new shade of purple that'll look great with your
Jayda never used to care about
make-up. Now, she tried to give me a make-over every time I
came over, no matter how much I told her I didn't want
"You guys don't need make-up." I
sighed. "You're beautiful already."
"Oh, don't give us the whole doom
and gloom speech about how stupid make-up is again. It's just
for fun." Jayda moaned.
"Yeah, and I'm sure you guys wear
it to school for fun too. Not to impress guys who don't deserve
you anyways. No, not at all."
"Honestly, Al, have you seen me
without make-up?" Carrie asked rhetorically. "Believe me, I
"Yes, Car, I have seen you without
it. And you still look gorgeous."
Carrie barked a sarcastic
"And that's why I hate make-up.
Because it becomes a self esteem thing and you feel like you
need it to be beautiful. That's how the whole damn world is
today. Self-conscious and materialistic. No one can just be
"Why do you do this every time we
have a make-over?" Jayda said. She wasn't mad, she asked it
This lighthearted argument
occurred at almost every sleep over. And we usually just
laughed about it and agreed to disagree. But for some reason,
this time I ticked.
"Because I hate how you guys are
changing and you aren't the two girls I knew and used to have
fun with!" I exclaimed, getting to my feet and throwing the
Manga book to the floor.
Carrie and Jayda stared at me,
We were silent, staring at each
other. The quiet was straining. Carrie made a choking noise,
like she was trying to say something but it didn't come out
right. Suddenly Jayda's expression grew dark.
"Maybe you'd have more fun with us
if you didn't spend so much time being anti-social." She said
it quietly, but her words were harsh and deliberate, cutting
I felt my blood start to
"I'm not anti-social with my
friends. The ones I used to share interests with and be able to
talk with all day. But apparently they left the building and
were replaced with a couple of girls that got caught up in the
high school bullshit like everyone else. God forbid anyone in
this world have any self-respect or intelligence
Carrie started to cry. She was
much more sensitive than Jayda, who at times seemed like she
had a heart made of steel. Carrie's tears pissed off Jayda even
"Are you calling me stupid? And
how dare you think I hate myself like those wrist cutting emo's
at school? I'm quite happy with who I am! You have a piece of
mind, Mercury!" I hated it when Jayda pulled the Mercury thing
"Scratch that. Caught up in high
school bullshit and judgemental." I balled my fists. "I'm
friends with one of those emo's. I'll have you know that she
doesn't cut her wrists. In fact, I've had more fun with her
than I've had with you for a while now! That's all it takes
doesn't it? Dress in black and suddenly you're a dreary Goth
who cuts themselves."
"With how you've been acting
lately I almost feel like asking if you cut your wrists." Jayda
sneered. Carrie sobbed.
"Guys, stop!" She
"You know what? I do have some
issues I'm going through right now. I don't cut myself, but you
wouldn't know, would you? You never feel like asking me about
my life any more. It's all about you and how you're mom's a
bitch and you're sister is a slut and your brother smells and
your latest one-week-long-relationship was a waste of time and
the guy was a douche. When really, you're mom is a bitch to you
because you never do what she asks. You're sister isn't a slut,
but she could probably use some family support that you aren't
willing to give. Your brother is neglected and pushed away and
no one ever wants to play with him. He's eight, for God's
sakes! And the guys you date realize a few days in that you're
just like every other catty girl in the school and they bail
early. I don't blame them!"
Jayda glared at me, her eyes
blazing and her face red. Her fists were clenched.
She snatched the door handle and
stormed from the room, slamming it loudly. I heard her
footsteps on the stairs.
I stood there for a few minutes,
listening to Carrie cry. Finally she stopped and stood.
"You hit a rough spot with Jayda."
She sniffed. "And you know how she holds grudges."
"Yeah, I know."
"I'm sorry, Alice." Carrie said.
"I- I miss the old times too. And… you're right, to a
"I'm sorry for making you cry." I
"It's okay… I think I needed to
hear it. And I think I should go find Jayda before she does
"I think I should leave." I
whispered, suddenly feeling like I needed to puke.
"That's probably best." Carrie
When we got to the bottom of the
stairs, we stopped and looked at each other. I thought about
hugging her. But although Carrie had said she needed to hear
it, I could tell my words had cut her. I could see it in her
eyes. So I just uttered an awkward goodbye and left, wondering
if this would be the last time I'd be in Jayda's house.
My tires squealed as I pulled out
of the driveway. I wasn't even angry anymore… I just had to get
out of there.
When I got home I sat in bed for a
long time, thinking about Jayda, trying to figure out where it
had gone wrong. While Carrie was guilty of some of the things
that I had accused Jayda of, she wasn't all bad. And I hoped we
could come out of this as friends still. But I knew Jayda was a
lost cause. Once you pissed her off, there was no going back.
She'd hate you for the rest of your life and try to turn people
against you. I'd seen it happen to most of her friends, and I'd
always prided myself that I hadn't been rejected and was
probably her only real friend. Now I realized that maybe not
being her friend was healthier.
I thought about Sam, and how more
and more being with him was becoming an instinct, not a want.
I'd been with him for so long and had given him everything, and
I mean everything, safely, of course. So the thought of
throwing it away and trying to find another decent guy in a sea
of sexist, egotistical, jackasses scared me. The thought of
trying to find someone else I could trust enough to give myself
to. It almost seemed preferable to fake it.
But what scared me more and that I
didn't want to admit was that deep down I knew that I would
have to start over, because there wasn't anything left to Sam
and I anymore, and there was nothing worse than trying to
pretend that something was there when it wasn't.
I blasted music so my family
wouldn't hear me break down into my pillow.
Everything I knew and had built
myself on was crumbling. I was falling.
As I sat there crying with snot
streaming down my face, I found that I wasn't missing my love
with Sam. I wasn't missing the old days with Jayda and
I missed Jupiter, because he was
the only one that would understand all of this and care enough
to help me.
What are the odds that my last
game was against Jupiter's school?
My mind was spinning as I drove to
our school, Andy in the passenger's seat. Would he be there?
Would he bother to drive all the way out to my school to watch
his sister play?
I smiled without thinking when I
saw him in the stands. Why did my heart flutter?
As I walked towards him, I thought
about Sam. I had fallen for him for a reason. I loved him for
who he was. I didn't understand why that was changing. What had
changed? Our infatuation with each other had faded to… well,
boredom. But I still loved him, didn't I? My heart shouldn't be
skipping beats at the sight of Jupiter if I loved Sam. But it
was as Jupiter turned and saw me walking towards him, a smile
breaking across his smooth face.
"I can't believe you drove all the
way out here for your sister's game!"
"Well, my parents were too busy to
bring her… so I volunteered." He said.
"Well that's nice of you." I said,
trying to hide my disappointment. He smiled at the look on my
"Well, um… I think I would have
come anyways." I looked at him, my breath catching. He had this
crooked smile on his face that made me want to explode.
And it was like we had never been
We picked up conversation so
easily, right where we had left off. Why was he so easy to talk
to? Since when did a guy actually enjoy chatting the day away
with a girl?
Again, we snuck off with a
We had been peppering for a good
five minutes when I tripped on my shoe lace, sprawling across
the floor before I could get the ball. Then it bounced right
off my head.
With anyone else, I would have
been utterly embarrassed.But with Jupiter, I started to laugh.
He laughed too, and soon we were gasping for air, our sides
still heaving with glee.
He came and sat next to me, and
after we had a chance to catch our breath he said; "You know,
I've never met someone quite like you."
"Is that a compliment?" I laughed.
"Of course it is."
"I just find it hard to believe
that you actually listen to me and care about what I say.
Everyone else in this school doesn't even see that I'm here
except Sam and my two…" I stopped before I said friends.
"Same here. Sometimes I wonder if
I actually came from Jupiter. I thought that there had to be
something wrong with me. I only have a few close friends who
understand me. You proved me wrong, I think. How can there be
something wrong with me if I can make friends with someone like
you?"I didn't know what to say to this. I opened and closed my
"I guess… I guess you just need to
find the right people in life." I finally reasoned.
"Oh, I think I have." He said
softly, brushing a strand of raven hair from my face.
As his fingers brushed my cheek,
something bloomed inside my chest, a something I can only
describe as a flower of passion. It started in my core, and
then spread through my limbs and left my fingers, toes, and
scalp tingling. The last time I felt that… was with Sam, when
we were first together. Maybe I wasn't remembering it right,
but this seemed different somehow right now with Jupiter.
In that moment I knew that I
wanted him. He was so perfect that I couldn't help but wonder
if we had met by chance or for a reason. He was right here, so
close to me, waiting.Holding his breath. He wanted me
"I know that you have Sam… but
Mercury, I still have to ask. I'd be a fool if I passed you up.
You're… you're perfect, and I promise, I'll give you all I
have. I'll treat you right and I'll…" He paused, smiling and
shaking his head. "I'm babbling. Mercury, is there… is there
any part of you that wants me?"
I took a deep shaky breath, my
mind reeling. I wanted to reach out and touch his cheek. I
wanted to tell him that he was perfect for me.
Then I saw Sam's face in my mind.
Even if there was nothing left to us as a couple, Sam had been
my friend for as long as I could remember. I couldn't end our
relationship, not like this. It had to be the right way. With
"Jupiter… I like you, a lot. I do
want you. But I just can't do that to Sam. Plus, we're so far
away…" I choked on my words, a tear escaping my eye. "I'm
sorry, Jupiter. I- I have to go…" I dashed to the bathroom and
curled up in the corner of the stall. I sobbed quietly until I
heard the warm-up music start for Varsity. I gave myself a few
moments to breathe and wash my face.
When I walked into the gym,
Jupiter wasn't in the stands.
Time after that went by quickly.
It was my senior year of high school, it was expected to
happen. Before I knew it December had come around. I didn't
play a sport in the winter, and I found myself missing
It was a week before Christmas
break when Sam pulled into my driveway on a Saturday,
unannounced. I pulled on my coat and came outside, the cold air
biting my skin, and the thin layer of snow on the ground
crunching under my slippers.
"Sam?" I asked blearily. I had
only just woken up a few minutes ago. I clutched my coffee cup
tightly in my hands, shivering in the cold. He came forward and
"You look so cute when you first
wake up," he said with a slight smile. I smiled back, not sure
what to say. It had been a while since he'd complimented me
like that. He had been so quiet lately. Andy had started
calling him the King of Quiet.
"What are you doing here, honey? I
just got up, I-"
"That's okay. Will you, um, come
for a ride with me?" He asked, gesturing to his Jeep that was
idling quietly in the driveway, melting the snow around the
I knew it then, by the tone in his
voice, the worried look in his eye, how he hadn't kissed me
when he greeted me. I stared at my feet for a few seconds, then
looked at him and nodded. We climbed into the Jeep and he
pulled out of the driveway. I shot my Mom a quick text to let
her know where I was in case she woke up soon. But she and Dad
would probably be asleep for another hour or two. It was only
He pulled out of the driveway and
found the back roads. He drove for ten minutes without saying a
word. I could feel the blood rushing in my ears. But I waited
patiently. When it came to emotions, Sam needed time to find
his words, if he found them it all.
Finally, he took a deep breath and
reached over, taking my hand. I gave it an encouraging squeeze.
He smiled a little at this.
"Mercury, it's been… it's been
great. My life is better because of you. You're my first love.
You've taught me so much. But lately, it's been…. It's been…"
He stuttered awkwardly.
"It's been different." I finished
for him. "I know, Sam. I feel the same. It hasn't been quite
Sam pulled over. He turned to me
and reached out, holding my cheek in his palm.
"I've been telling myself for
weeks that I need to do this. That it's better this way.
Whatever we had, it's faded, too much for it to keep working.
But now that I'm here, it's harder than I thought it would.
It's hard to let go of something that's become such a big part
of my life, such a big part of me. I want our love to still be
there. But, in truth, I know it isn't."
I had never seen Sam cry before.
But his eyes were watering now. Up until now, I had felt
nervous, but not scared or sad enough to cry. I had accepted a
while ago that this day was drawing near, and I had prepared
myself for it. But seeing Sam- this big strong guy with
emotions that he hid so well- tear up like this made something
inside me break. Moisture came to my eyes, and I felt tears
fall down my cheeks.
"It's okay, Sam. I'm scared too.
You're my comfort zone. It scares me to think I'm going to have
to go through so many thorns before I find another rose like
He pulled me gently over the
center console into his arms and held me tight. We cried
together for a while, I'm not sure how long. We both stopped at
about the same time, and he let go of me so I could crawl back
into the passenger's seat. Then he leaned over and kissed me
softly, carefully. His lips were warm and soft on mine. A small
part of me hoped that maybe this kiss would be different from
all the ones in the past few months. That it would be
meaningful, that it would cause little flutters.But it didn't,
and when I pulled back and looked in his brown eyes, I could
tell that he hadn't felt anything either.
He dropped me off at my house, and
I stood there in the driveway and watched him pull out and
drive down the street till he was out of sight. I stood there
for a few minutes afterward, clinging to my now cold coffee
cup, until the cold was too much to bear and I went
The house was still quiet as my
family slept, unaware of this morning's excursion. Unaware of
the emotions spinning inside me.
As I walked into my room, I picked
up the picture frame from my bedside table and sat on my bed,
pulling the covers over my cold legs. I stared at the photo of
Sam and I for a long while, remembering the day we had taken
it. When our love was still fresh and beautiful. In the
picture, I had my head on his chest, and I was looking up at
him while he was looking down at me. Our eyes were dreamy and
sparkly, and our whole faces were smiling, not just our lips.
We were so wrapped up in each other in that moment that nothing
could have interrupted our infatuation with each other, no even
an explosion or a herd of elephants.
I unhooked the back of the frame
and pulled it off, carefully removing the picture from the
glass. I re-attached the back onto the frame and tucked it away
in my closet. I pulled my photo album down from my bookshelf
and added the picture, labeling it:
First Love Sam Cooper
I closed the album and put it back
in its place on the shelf.
And so ended my relationship with