I feel my heart rate speed up as I cross the hallway towards him. The butterflies in my stomach seem to be doing odd little back flips as they sense the impending heartbreak that I know will resonate from my next sentence. There he is at his locker, chatting to Carson, his best friend. Carson seems to sense the urgency in my pace as I draw near and he makes a quick excuse that he has to go and see Mr. Jones before his Legal studies class. Hart automatically turns around ready to embrace me as he has a hundred times before. I see the smile on his lips drop as he sees the fear in my eyes and tense muscles in my body as I prepare to break Hart’s heart. How ironic.
“Hey, Bryton, what’s the matter?” he asks gently. Of course he’s being sweet and caring what with my anxiety but he must know he’s only making this harder.
“I need to talk to you about something,” I say quietly, “something important.”
“Yeah? What is it?”
“I think we need to break up,” The look of absolute disbelief spreads harshly across his face. It’s as if I’ve literally taken a sledgehammer to his heart and I’ve shattered it into a million pieces. I can see the red rushing to his face as he comes to terms with what I’ve just said. He stares at me quizzically, testing how long my fragile mind can handle this. “I’m sorry, you know I never meant to hurt you, I love you and I care for you so much-“ His stare of pure hate stops me before I can utter another word. “Oh, you care about me? You love me? Bullshit. If you cared you wouldn’t be doing this.” He shakes his head at me as he slowly turns around to walk away. On a whim I reach out to his hand to stop him from leaving because I have to explain, I have to make him see. “Hart, please-“ He rips his hand out of my grasp as he growls, “Leave me alone Bryton.” I can feel his eyes boaring into me, threatening to tear me apart. I can’t handle this, I can’t handle this. I feel my heart rate increase even more and my chest tighten as I wait for the panic attack that will become me in a matter of seconds. I feel my legs weaken as I slowly drift to the floor, a head full of worry and pain. And I let it take me into oblivion.
Someone had found me in my panic and must have eventually managed to make me breathe normally again. I don’t really remember. I sit in the comfy chair in the office while the first aid woman calls my mum. Actually, comfy is a bit of a stretch. Unless of course you like sitting on a chair that’s half lumpy and the other half bare. The first aid woman, Lara I think her name is, walks towards me with a fresh smile on her face, as if the sun has just given her a big old hug and told her she looks beautiful. “Your mum said she’ll come and get you in about half an hour. Until then just relax and take some sips of water,” she hums. I smile weakly back at her as she leaves again and glance towards the cold cup of water on the table next to me. The water is so clear and so unlike my mind that it makes me sad. I think about Hart and the look on his face as he turned away from me. Surely he hates me now. He must. I’ve broken his trust and betrayed his love for me in the worst way possible, with no explanation. Of course I love him and of course I care but in my cluttered state of mind how am I ever going to be good enough for him when I’m not even good enough for myself. If only he’d have let me explain then maybe he would understand that I never intended to hurt him, that this was just a horrible twist of fate in our lives. We weren’t right, not anymore. But he left too quickly with the anger and the hurt rising in his body, threatening to boil over at any moment. I focus my attention back on the cup of water. I can see a drop of water lazily rolling down the side of the cup. I sit back in the chair and stare at it as it falls to hit the table and add to the tiny ring of water that connects the bottom of the cup with the table. I feel my strength and energy release as it hits the table and allow myself to fall into a state of depression as I think about my comfy bed that’s not lumpy and half bare. After about 25 minutes Lara is back and telling me my mum’s here.
By the time I get home I’ve resolved to do nothing but sleep. As I walk into my room I suddenly notice how many of the photos on my walls are of Hart and I. There’s one of us on the first day of Year 12, one from Year 12 retreat, from the swimming carnival, from my birthday dinner last year, from Carson’s 18th. Everywhere I look I see him. I see the version of him before I took his heart and trampled it into the dirt. The thought of him so upset brings a fresh wave of depression over me and I can feel my pulse thumping in my head over and over again. It doesn’t stop like most things. There will be no end to my pulse until I die. I decide to focus on it and the unsteady beat of my heart as I lay down on my comfy and definitely not lumpy bed. I lay facing my wall where Hart looks at me from every angle. I look into the eyes of every one of the photos. It dawns on me how big of a mistake I’ve made. He loves me. I love him. So what’s the problem? What’s eating away at me? My mind feels too cloudy to start dissecting and analysing the last hour. So, instead, I let the sweet invitation of sleep take me away from my sadness and into a restless sleep.
I wake to a soft knocking on my door. “Bryton, would you like some dinner? Maybe a smoothie or something?” Mum asks gently. I slide myself up into a sitting position and nod gently. “I’ll come down for dinner in a minute, thanks mum,” I say as loudly as I can manage in my post sleep daze. She smiles and shuts the door as she leaves again. For some reason I feel so utterly alone. Maybe it’s because I know I am. Instinctively I reach for my phone to check for messages from Hart. Nothing. How could I think he’d actually want to talk to me after today? I push my phone away from me as if the force of it can take away this new unhappy version of myself. I find myself glance towards the photos that decorate my walls again. Hart is in so many of them. His watchful eye carefully tracks my movements as I grab my dressing gown from my desk chair and wrap it around me as if it can protect me from the pain of losing him. It’s a common misconception that when a break up occurs, the person who ended it doesn’t suffer as much. I think that idea is absolute bullshit. Just because I ended it doesn’t make it any easier and it sure as hell doesn’t make it any less painful. I steal one more look at a photo of Hart and I hugging and laughing from Carson’s 18th and force myself to reach for the door and leave him behind.
As soon as I reach the kitchen I know mum has informed dad of my panic attack today. He looks at me with such a pitiful look that I feel ashamed and embarrassed as if he sees me as a weak, fragile bird that needs saving. Dad doesn’t understand anxiety. He sees me as a flimsy little child every time an attack hits me. The sight of him makes me remember my first big attack. It was May last year and I had to get a flu injection. As soon as I walked into the room I knew I wasn’t going to handle it. I’d had a huge fear of needles and injections for as long as I can remember. I even fainted a couple times just from talking about them. The nurse looked at me and saw the pure terror reflect in my eyes. She tried to talk rationally to me but the heavy breathing and dizziness had already begun to take over. I couldn’t stand and I couldn’t hear anything. Everything became one big block of noise and it flooded my senses. I faintly remember falling to the ground in a hyperventilating mess as dad and the nurse puzzled over how to help me. Eventually they decided I wasn’t going to get that injection. Dad took me home and I remember him not knowing what to say to me. He’d obviously never seen anything like it before and he didn’t know how to react. Neither did I. “Hey Bryton, you hungry?” Dad’s voice brings me back to the present time and to another panic attack that dad doesn’t know how to deal with. I smile the best I can and pat my stomach to indicate that indeed I am hungry. Sleeping takes a lot of energy apparently. I sit down to a dinner of chicken enchiladas and potato gems. My favourite. The table stays silent while we eat which always proves that a meal is good. Just as I start to scrape up the remainder of the enchilada sauce off my plate, mum finally breaks the silence. “So, Bryton, what happened today?” She doesn’t say it in a malicious way but it still rubs me the wrong way.
“Oh, just a panic attack, no biggie,” I say sarcastically. Dad gives me a disapproving look. “Okay, fine, I broke up with Hart.” The reaction is immediate. Both mum and dad start firing questions at me so quickly I can’t keep up. After a few seconds I lose my patience. “Oh my god! Shut up! It’s over, okay? Just get over it!” I realise that I’ve risen to my feet and stand with my hands in the air. Mum and Dad both look angry. Now I’ve done it. “Sorry,” I mumble as the blood rushes to my face. I trudge back to my room and reach the door just before the tears overwhelm me.
So far today I’ve managed to ruin 3 relationships with some of the closest people to me. The only person I have left is Jayde. As soon as I’ve slammed the door shut behind me I grab my phone and type in her number as I’ve done a million times before. After three rings she picks up. “Hey, Bry, what’s up? Are you okay?” She asks. I open my mouth to tell her everything because I need to, I need to get it out, but all that comes out is a strangled noise that strangely resembles a pterodactyl that’s just choked on something. Jayde patiently listens to my strange noises while reassuring me that everything will be okay. She knows me too well to know that I don’t believe it but still she whispers comfort to me. Eventually I calm down a little and start to tell her what happened. How I approached Hart, the look on his face, the panic attack. She doesn’t interrupt me. When I finally finish, all I hear is silence. “Jayde?” I ask.
“Bry, what have you done?” She whispers. Immediately I go into defence mode.
“I did what’s best for me. Isn’t that what everyone always tells me? ‘You have to put yourself first Bryton’, ‘Bryton, always putting others needs ahead of her own needs’, ‘Bryton needs to look after herself more’.” I could keep going but I can sense Jayde’s growing annoyance.
“So, what, you just couldn’t be with him anymore? Is that it? He’s an amazing and caring guy and you flicked him off, just like that?”
“Flicked him off? Jayde, I can’t handle it anymore. Not with Year 12 and work and everything else that’s going on in between. I feel so trapped and claustrophobic. I feel like I can’t breathe every second of every day. Hart, I’ll always love, but right now I need to focus on me. I need to be happy with myself.”
“What do you mean happy with yourself?”
“I just; I don’t know. I feel uncomfortable in my own skin? I don’t really know how to explain it.”
“Okay. Well for the record I think you’re making a mistake.”
“Gee, thanks for the support Jayde.” I try to hide my frustration but I can feel it seeping out of me with each new word.
“I’m sorry Bry but he’s my friend too. I can’t take sides, I just have to be honest. With both of you.” I decide to let it go. I’ve burned enough bridges today already, I don’t need to add my best friend to the list too.
“Okay, well, thanks. I’m just going to go to bed, I’m exhausted.”
“Sounds like a good idea. Night.” I hear the beep as she hangs up on me.
“Night.” I whisper.
I lay awake, staring directly above me, searching for any new marks or scratches on the ceiling in between the old marks. I guess that’s what we do in life. Search for new scars when the old ones still haven’t faded. I slide my finger to my forearm where I know I’ll find my scar. The white skin is raised slightly, even after a year and a half of healing. Sometimes I wonder whether it’ll ever go away like the doctor said it would. Maybe I’ll have to live with it for a little longer. A lasting reminder that the pain never really goes away. Not fully at least. I sit up as I accept that sleep won’t be coming tonight. I reach over to my bed side table and grab my favourite book, The Little Things by Renee Thomson. I’ve read this book about a billion times and I never get sick of it. It reminds me to be thankful for everything I have in life and to simply enjoy the little things while we have them. I love Renee’s writing. She always manages to communicate my thoughts and feelings in the wonderful sequence of words in her books. I just love her so much. Of course, I’ve never actually met her, but still I somehow feel connected to her. I open my book to page 176 and read my favourite quote, highlighted in bright pink highlighter. ‘Although we may never get what we want in life, it always gives us what we need to become who we are supposed to be’. I repeat the words in my head and think about their meaning. This break up with Hart is for the best in the long run. I need to find myself and I need to be who I am. Maybe my pain won’t be leaving me anytime soon, but I know I will move past it eventually. Until then, I trace the scar on my arm as I repeat the quote over and over to myself. One day I’ll be happy, truly and completely happy.
I groan as my alarm goes off. I groggily roll over and glance at my clock. 7.30. There’s a light knocking at the door and mum slowly sticks her head in. “Morning, you going to school?” she asks. I think for a few seconds and nod. I really don’t want to go to school but I’ve already missed so much in the last few weeks. Plus I need to talk to Jayde. I still don’t quite understand why she was so defensive of Hart last night but I need to make sure everything’s okay. The last thing I need right now is to lose my best friend. Mum smiles and shuts the door again. I push my blankets off my legs and force myself out of bed. It’s harder today than usual which doesn’t surprise me. Whenever I get too stressed or anxious my mental self usually responds by making me even more depressed. Fantastic. It takes me ten minutes to bring myself to put my uniform on. I look back at the photos of Hart and I again, as I did last night. His smile taunts me as I think about what I’ll do and say when I face him today during free period. I just hope he’s okay. I remember when we first got together I asked him why he never seems to show his sadness. He told me, “Sometimes I just can’t handle the pity looks and the attention. So, instead, I keep it to myself.” At least Jayde is there for him. The next half hour goes by in a blur and I suddenly find myself sitting in the front seat of the car on the way to school. As mum’s pulling into one of the parks outside the office, I see Jayde and Hart walking into building B. They appear to be in deep conversation and I can only assume it’s about me. “You okay Bry?” Mum asks. I try to conjure up an answer that she’ll believe. “Yeah,” I sigh, “ just tired I guess.” She gives me a disapproving look as if to say ‘Yeah, right’. I force a smile. “I’ll see you after school, love you,” I say quickly before she can stop me from jumping out of the car. I shut the door before she can reply and walk quickly towards building B. I climb the stairs to level 2 where my locker is. As I’m turning a corner, I bump into Hart. I immediately avert my eyes from his gaze. “Sorry,” I whisper. He looks down at the ground and walks around me as I stand there wondering what to do. I hear his fast paced footsteps as he descends the stairs. It’s all I can do not to cry as I continue on my way to my locker.
I reach my locker in record time after escaping the scene of the encounter with Hart and shove my bag into it. I grab my psychology books from the top shelf and as I thrust my hand into my bag to get my pencil case, I notice a photo sticking out from under my bag. I don’t remember putting it there and it can’t have fallen from my collage in my locker as all the photos are still tacked to the inside of the door. All of a sudden a wave of dread fills my body and my heart begins skipping beats. For some reason this photo is giving me a really bad feeling. I tentatively inch my fingers closer to the exposed corner and pull it out from under my bag. It’s another photo of Hart and I. It’s not one from my locker door or from home, but it is one I had developed. It’s what I gave Hart for our 2 month anniversary. I remember the day as I hold the photo in my hand. That morning I had asked him to come with me to my locker with a sneaky look in my eye. “I have a surprise for you,” I whispered as we walked up the stairs. His smile was so wide and full of joy as we raced up the flight of stairs two at a time. Once we reached my locker I brought out the black and white photo in a simple white frame. “Oh Bryton, I love it,” he sighed. He pulled me into his sturdy arms and while my chin was resting on his shoulder, he whispered the three most important words anyone has ever said to me. “I love you,” he said. I pulled back from him and with a smile I giggled, “I love you too.” I trace the lines of pen on the photo now with my forefinger, gingerly testing for anything that will give away who did this. The photo that once brought so much joy to Hart and I is now bringing so much sadness and hatred. Someone has taken a black pen to it and scribbled all over my face. Deep down I know who did it. The one person who has decided to scribble me completely out of their life. Hart.
I spend the first two periods in English. I try to listen to Mrs. Hock babble on about some book that I still haven’t read but I find myself staring out the window at the trees blowing in the wind instead. My thoughts drift to the photo in my locker. Why would he put that there? Was it to scare me? Let me know that he officially hates me? I just don’t understand how he can go from loving me yesterday to hating me today. Feelings can’t change that quickly…can they? Before I know it, the bell’s ringing to indicate it’s recess. Great, now I can go and talk to Jayde. I whip my phone out of my pocket and text her to meet me at my locker ASAP. I end up waiting a good 5 minutes while anxiously checking my phone for any new messages before Jayde makes her way around the corner. “Hey, what’s up?” She asks. She seems happier and more patient today and not at all like the girl I was talking to on the phone the night before.
“Hey, not much really, just had English. How was your frees?” The good thing about the year 12 timetable is that I can always know when Jayde has each class. When I have English, she has frees. When I have frees, she has photography. It’s pretty handy, especially when I can’t be bothered checking my diary.
“Oh yeah, Carson and I just mucked around a bit and then I worked on my folio. Nothing exciting happened. Anyway, how are you? Have you seen Hart today?”
“Yeah, sort of. We bumped into each other on the stairs. It was extremely awkward. He didn’t look happy with me.”
“Yeah, well, you guys did just break up yesterday.”
“I know. I just didn’t expect such a cold response.”
“He’s hurting Bry. You have to give him time to get over it.”
“I know, it’s just hard to see him like this. I just wish he didn’t hate me.” Jayde looks down at her scratched leather school shoes. “What? What is it?” I ask.
“Just…Hart feels like you don’t care about him.” She raises her hands up as if surrendering.
“What? Why would he think I don’t care? I just want him to be okay. He’s the one putting scribbled out photos in my locker, not me.”
“Wait, what?” I shake my head to silently tell her that I really don’t want to talk about it at the moment. Jayde gives me a sympathetic smile that says ‘I understand’.
“Look, I don’t know. He wasn’t really making much sense this morning. Maybe you should just talk to him. Let him know you still care.” I nod in agreement. I really don’t think he wants to see me but I need him to know that I care. Maybe while I’m there I can confront him about the photo too.
I walk into the common room for period 3, my free period. Hart has his free now too so I sit in my spot at the table and set up my psychology books. I know I’m not going to do any work until I’ve talked to him but I have to look like I’m doing something to distract myself. Every time I hear the door open my eyes shoot up hoping it’s Hart but as 10, 20, 30 minutes go by I slowly start to realise he isn’t coming. A fresh feeling of depression waves its commanding hand over me. Of course he isn’t coming. How stupid I must be to think he’d actually put himself in a situation where he has to see my face. I can feel my eyes welling with tears that threaten to spill onto my cheeks as each new second passes. I need to talk to someone. I stand unsteadily on my feet and walk out of the common room and towards the photography room where Jayde has photography now. I brush away the leaky tears and pick up my pace. Just as I’m about to reach the photography room, I glance through the glass windows and find my eyes resting on Hart. I stop dead in my tracks as I watch him talking with Poppy. Poppy and I used to be really good friends but this year we’ve drifted apart because of how busy we’ve both been. I watch them for a few seconds as they laugh and smile and continue chatting. I guess Hart’s in there to do some Vis Com work but I can see his books on the table, closed. Untouched. So why is he here if he’s not doing any work? I shift my eyes to the left to where Jayde is sitting at the computer. I take a deep breath and push through the glass doors into the room. I walk quickly towards Jayde, making sure to keep my eyes away from Hart and Poppy. I walk straight past them and I can hear Poppy giggling at something Hart has said. I grab Jayde on the shoulder and she turns to look at me, “Oh, hey, I was just editing the shoot we did the other day,” she looks at my face and her smile instantly drops. “What’s wrong? What happened?” In response I release a small hiccup and nod my head towards the door. Instantly she guides me back past Hart and Poppy and back through the door. The moment we’ve passed through my face contorts into a scrunched up version and I allow myself to sob into Jayde’s shoulder. “Hey, it’s okay. It’ll be okay. Shhh, just breathe,” she whispers while hugging me. As I cry I imagine Hart being happy. While I want him to be happy, it finally dawns on me that he doesn’t need me to do it.
I walk through the front door and make a beeline for the couch. I reach the comfortable couch that never denies me its loving embrace and allow it to swallow me up in its soft cushions as I flop onto it. I lay there still for a few minutes thinking about the crazy day that has been today. After I went and saw Jayde, she took me to my next class, gave me a big hug and whispered, “Chin up, it’ll get better,” with a sympathetic smile. I felt so secure in that moment that I almost asked her about the weird moment on the phone the night before but my resolve for that dissipated with my enthusiasm for legal studies. I sat through legal with Carson constantly glancing my way with a concerned look on his face. At first I thought he was mad at me and was trying to ignore me over the break up with Hart. But, I soon realised it was him not knowing what to say to cheer me up that kept his lips shut and mouth silent. Jayde and I sat together in silence at lunch time, which was fine. Sometimes just being with each other is enough. For the last two periods I had art. I absolutely love art. I worked on my final while listening to my iPod. Time flew by. At the end of the day I saw Jayde walking with Hart and Poppy to the buses which at first shocked me until I remembered that Jayde had to catch a bus to her dad’s place for his birthday. I didn’t quite understand why Hart and Poppy now seemed to be glued at the hip but I didn’t have the energy until now to contemplate the possibilities. Maybe they’re catching the same bus, maybe they’re really good friends and Hart just never told me. There’s one option that seems to be in the back of my mind that I really don’t want to consider, but because my brain is my brain, it brings it forward to be thought of. Maybe, possibly, they’re actually together. Maybe, but surely not. Hart was mad, but mad enough to hurt me so much? And in this way? I don’t know. People do weird things after break ups. I remember a girl in my year wrote her ex a 3,000 word letter explaining why she didn’t like him and how he’d hurt her so much back in year 9. He’d said she was crazy after that. Surely Hart couldn’t move on that quickly. But now that I think of it, Poppy and Hart have always had this weird spark between them that always made me slightly uncomfortable. I shake my head to get rid of all the insane possibilities that have crept into my mind. I focus my attention back to the couch. I exhale slowly and shut my eyes, letting all the negative thoughts out with my breath. Even if Hart and Poppy are together, it doesn’t have to get me. I don’t have to let it control me or the way I feel. With a new sense of peacefulness, I stand up and make my way to the kitchen to start making dinner.
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