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But are you absolutely sure it was Aaron? Like, one-hundred percent positive?” Jackie asked as we drove towards her house, my hands gripping the steering wheel, anchoring me to my sanity as I stared at the unoccupied road ahead. I had never been so positive in my life. There was no mistaking what I saw, and what I did see in the reflection of my mirror was Aaron. I wasn’t going to deny it no matter what anyone believed.

“One-hundred percent positive.” Mistaking a face like Aaron’s was definitely uncommon, and I would be able to recognize his face anywhere. It was the kind of face a male model would kill for and, as much as I hated to admit it, nobody could compare to Aaron’s athletic build, meltingly dangerous heat-filled midnight eyes, and self-assured grin that turned even the sturdiest girls weak at the knees. The whole verity and realization made me sick as my eyes pinched at the corners with this newfound establishment.

“Whoa. What do you think he was doing there? I mean, no offense to him, but he doesn’t seem like the kind of guy who would be hanging out in the oldest part of downtown Hawthorne near the library,” she pointed out.

I shrugged one shoulder indifferently and kept my eyes focused on the road, refusing to let Aaron’s image once again play itself in front of my eyes, annoyingly taunting me. I couldn’t allow myself to fall for him, for fear of being crushed by the pointy, jagged rocks below the cliff I hung on. My grip on the steering wheel lessened as I pulled into Jackie’s driveway, breathing a sigh of relief as I cut the engine of my gray BMW 2005 Volkswagen and turned to look at her. Something in Jackie’s smirk and the gleam of mischief in her cobalt eyes had me questioning her sanity as I leaned back from fear.


“Do you think Aaron may have been following you?” she asked, that same light shining in her eyes growing more pronounced at the thought about it. Like the thought was in no sense creepy.

Following me? Why would you even think that, Jackie?” It was official. My best friend had completely lost it. No part of me wanted to even consider her words, because honestly, they did not even make a bit of sense. Aaron could be titled as a lot of things, but stalker was incontrovertibly the lowest of them all that I would ever have branded him as.

She shrugged her dainty shoulders and unbuckled her seatbelt, rotating her body towards me as her expression ignited. Something in her eyes had died down, but the mysterious glint of excitement was firmly still there for me to visibly see from three feet away. “Think about it. He was in the same place at the same time as you, and he was already staring at you in your rearview mirror by the time you actually looked and saw him. Heaven knows the guy would never be caught dead at the library, nor would he ever be hanging out in Downtown Hawthorne. That part of our town is just way to uncultivated and old to be the first place a guy like Aaron Safford would even think of going!” Jackie kept track of each statement, marking them off on her petite fingers. If I knew my best friend as well as I thought I did, then I certainly knew that she would have treasured the thought of Aaron “stalking” anybody she knew—especially myself.

Of course it almost stunned me to see Aaron there as much as it did Jackie.


But the way Jackie droned on and on about Aaron left my chest tightening, my stomach uneasy, and bile rising to the pit of my throat. I could tell she was not going to give up on this argument of a conversation effortlessly or at any time soon, no matter how many times I begged her to drop it. The whole idea of seeing Aaron sitting there in his car, meeting my gaze in my rearview mirror, and leaving a minute after we pulled out of the parking garage after having sat there doing nothing for the time that he had, was just way too bizarre and conspicuous for her. Evidentially, it shocked me too.

More than it should have.




Jackie skipped to the kitchen and rummaged through each cabinet, her fingers running along the edge of the top cabinet and pulling down a package of Movie Theater Buttered Popcorn. I made a face at her choice of sustenance and wandered to the living room, settling on to the cushioned, maroon couch and switching on the small television set that sat behind a large coffee table in a country style home. There was a large window overlooking their small backyard—a quaint patch of yellow grass and a flowerless garden—with very few family pictures on the walls and a sheer lemon yellow curtain. The house was very bare on most normal standards.

“You want some coffee?” Jackie called from the kitchen over the popping that came from the microwave oven. The crashing sound of opening and closing doors sounded, having once a long time ago caused me to jump at the unexpected sounds radiating from her teeny kitchen. But now you could surly call this my second home, I had been here so often.

“Since when do you drink coffee?” I asked, glancing quizzically towards the kitchen doorway as the clock on the wall ticked leisurely above an old recliner.

“Since my erratic, work-a-holic, crazed mother started waking me up at night and early in the mornings from her insane work schedule. Those small times between shifts when she’s not at the factory are probably the only moment I actually see her and she believes we need our “mother-daughter bonding time” even in the wee hours of the night and morning.” Jackie rolled her eyes and plopped down into the brown recliner, sipping her coffee as she pointed at the television. “Turn to channel thirty-one. I hear Titanic is previewing tonight, and I am not missing Leonardo Dicaprio over talking about my lunatic mother.”

I eyed her but obeyed, silently laughing at her peculiar request. “You hate Titanic. Why are you wanting to watch it if every time you freak out? You throw a fit whenever you watch Rose attempt to rescue Jack from that flooding basement, for fear she’ll whack his hands clear off with that axe. You know what’s coming!”

“Yeah,” Jackie responded, ushering for me to turn up the movie. “But I love Jack Dawson. I swear the guy’s a freaking artist!” she exclaimed with a dramatic sigh.

Perhaps Jackie was crazy—boy crazy—but it was one of the things I loved about her and had come to accept in our friendship. “You do realize Leonardo Dicaprio didn’t actually draw those pictures you saw in Titanic, right? It was all premade for the movie so that they could better develop and express the character of Jack Dawson.”

“Whatever. I’m just saying the guy can wear a tux.” She giggled and waved her hand in the air as a dismissal for the conversation. “But enough about Leo. What kind of girl do you think Aaron Safford goes for? Does he like the hard, gothic type? The overly dramatic, theatrical drama queen? Or maybe the girly, breathy, soft-spoken type? I can totally do all of the above, but the last option bugs the crap out of me, so I’d rather pass.”

“What?” I demanded, gaping at her as she pondered those options.

“You’re right. I’m thinking more of the clingy, drop to your knees whenever he walks in the room type. I mean, did you see the way he was looking at you? It’s like he was undressing you with his eyes and just waiting for you to give in to him. And his smile is so seductive, I just about melted. Someone needed to get up there and pop that boy’s eyes back into their sockets—”

“Jackie!” I complained, pressing a hand to my forehead. She had completely lost it! My best friend was totally and completely insane. I shook my head. What on earth was she even thinking about Aaron Safford paying any form or type of attention to me? It just didn’t add up. The fact obviously wasn’t true. It couldn’t be.

“Don’t get me wrong, babe, you’re definitely not the type of girl who would fall to her knees for some guy. The complete opposite, in fact. Remind me to take you birthday shopping tomorrow for a new wardrobe and teach you some socialism—”

I put my hand up, my eyes begging her to stop, my head throbbing. I had been having a headache on and off since that morning, but I feared Jackie was only making it worst. Particularly from all of this Aaron talk. I had had enough of it, and dreaded the idea that the talk would never go away, especially from the girls at school. He was practically a celebrity. It would take a miracle if the news about him died in a month. Nothing like this ever happened in Hawthorne.

“I honestly don’t care about Aaron Safford. I don’t know his type, nor do I want to know. I hardly know the guy! If you want to go for him, by all means, go. But from what I’ve seen the guy’s a jerk and you could do so much better,” I said in a rush, frustration creeping into my voice. Jackie eyed me, visibly appalled at my words as she clutched her coffee mug in her hands, her blue eyes wide from both my words and the unnecessary caffeine in her veins.

Silence passed between us, the only noise radiating through the room caused by the screaming of Titanic passengers and the ticking of the wall clock about Jackie’s head. I immediately felt horrible for bursting at her like that, my anger and impatience once again getting the best of me. I would just have to get used to all of the Aaron talk now if I was ever going to survive junior year to any amount of succession.

I took a deep breath and opened my mouth to apologize, when everything around me started to…buzz? My head snapped up at I looked at Jackie, who watching my face with strange suspicion. Like I had gone crazy and she was seeing two heads instead of one.

“Do you feel that?” I asked her, staring at her face, masked with an expression that clearly entitled me as insane. The buzz in my veins grew louder and more forceful, piercing my eras as my head throbbed with pain. I gripped the sides of my head, bending over as the excruciating pain overtook my mind and caused me to collapse onto the floor. I suddenly felt the urge to be sick, nausea rolling over uneasily in the pit of my stomach, over and over. I swallowed back the bile in my throat and clenched my fists against my head, my eyes pinching tighter together, straining my vision.

The sparking sound of electricity fired through my ears, light bulbs exploding and sparks flying around the room. I wanted so desperately to pry my eyes open wider, to make sure Jackie was okay in the midst of the small fire that had come from the flying sparks, but found the pain too endearing to even open my eyes for a split second.

Jackie’s voice was distant in my ears, her words echoing strangely in my brain as I held my breath, praying for the pain to go away, if by some sudden miracle. It felt as though fire was licking my insides, setting my limbs on a rampaging burn as I fought for the cool surface of escape and relief. The pain was too much to bear…

My breath came in shallow gasps, tears forming in the corners of my eyes, the fluid hot on my icy skin as Jackie’s voice faded in the background and I started to give into the fire in my head and in my ligaments. Anything to get me away from the suffering and unbearable heat that flooded through me. An escape.

I stopped, relief flooding thought me as Jackie’s voice sounded nearer, clearer, and the fire started to subside and flee my limp body, leaving a still sensation in its wake as my eyes slowly cracked open to full view. Jackie was leaning over me, shouting my name right into my face, making my head abundantly hurt. I looked to the carpet, half expecting to see a trail of sparks and orange dim flames around us, but was deftly surprised to find only Jackie’s spilled coffee stain and mug and an otherwise clean carpet around the black mess. I glanced around at the television, lamps, outlets—nothing. Everything was the same as it had been when I arrived thirty minutes ago.


I slowly looked at her and my eyebrows furrowed in confusion. I blinked twice as an image shot across my vision of my mother laughing, lookier happier than I’ve ever seen her as she stood talking to an unidentifiable man. A boyfriend? I shook my head. That was unquestionable. My mother did not have a boyfriend, or anything close to that. I had never seen this man before, or anyone remotely close to resembling him.

So then why did I feel the image was so familiar and vivid that I have seen this man before?

Claire Adams!” Jackie tried again, completely unaware of what had just happened. Come to think of it, I wasn’t completely sure either. What happened to all of the flames and sparks? Where had the picture come from?

And why did I feel it was so familiar?

“Just…give me a sec, Jack,” I requested once I found my voice deep within the base of my swelled throat. My heart was thumping a complicated dance long and hard in my tight chest, throat dry and constricted as I swallowed once, all trace of nausea gone left with a sore and aching burn.

“What the heck happened?” Jackie persisted, bringing me to my feet as my eyes focused on the furniture and living space around me, sluggishly one at a time. “I thought you were having a seizure of something, you were shaking so badly!”

My eyes widened in wonder as I recalled my past experience within the last few minutes. “I was?” I brought a hand to my forehead.

“Talk about adding a little drama to the moment. Leonardo Dicaprio was just about to—”

“Enough about freaking Leonardo Dicaprio, please!” I choked, coughing at the roughness of my voice as I sat back down on the couch and brought a hand up to my chest. The movie had ended, I presumed, for Jackie had muted the television and was moving to sit next to me.

“Sorry. I’m just a little shaken. I thought something terrible was happening to you and so I panicked. Gwen is expecting a call from you,” Jackie added as a matter-of-fact, apology thick in her soprano voice as her expression turned sheepish. “Sorry,” she said again.

I let out a quiet groan and reached for the cell phone I kept in my jeans pocket, the memory of Jackie ever moving to call anybody vacant as I sent Gwendolyn a quick text, dreading the sound of her worried voice if I were to call her right now.

I’m fine. Just a headache. You know how I am. Jackie overreacted. Staying at her place tonight. Be home tomorrow morning around ten. Love you, I text out before moving to my top contacts.

I stopped dead in my tracks, my thumbs pausing over the little circle in between each of the arrow keys on my ancient Blackberry. My eyes widened, surprised to see the computerized print typed visibly before me.


Aaron Safford.


“Again, sorry about that,” Jackie apologized, not at all noticing my pause as she quickly tacked on, “But you couldn’t blame me for worrying or panicking about you or—”

“It’s fine,” I said through unmoving lips, cutting her off as I glanced at the wall clock, the time reading an hour until midnight. “I think I’m going to try to sleep now. I’m just tired. I’ll be better by tomorrow morning. I’m pretty sure it’s just from all of the stress of school and biology lab…” I stopped and stood up mechanically, shoving my phone deep into my jeans pocket as I walked down the hall with robotic steps.

“Love sick,” I heard Jackie sing in her high-pitched voice lovingly from the living room before she turned up the volume on the television, seemingly trying to avoid the coffee stain left on the brown carpet.

Normally I would have jokingly shouted at her to shut up or something practical and predictable, but I just kept moving towards Jackie’s room at the end of the hall. Even though the situation was utterly ridiculous, there was just no way.

I couldn’t be falling for Aaron…



Submitted: May 18, 2015

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