18 Chapter 18

When Vic officially left campus . . . that was the day that everything really started to hurt. I laid on my bed in my dorm room, spread out and staring at the ceiling. I had an art board propped against the wall with nothing on it. My eyes were heavy from crying too much and from lack of sleep. Sometimes all I could do was lay there and it was so frustrating.

How the hell did I end up like this? I didn't understand how everything could go so perfectly and then get fucked up so quickly. Usually I had no trouble coming up with ideas, but my mind was just a blank slate. I disappointed myself.

I didn't talk to Justin anymore. Whenever we were alone together, I found an excuse to leave. It was ridiculous, but I found myself waiting for him to fall asleep before I even thought about trying to get to sleep. And even when I tried to sleep I couldn't.

I think I'm broken.

It was a thought that crossed my mind many times a day. Even when I spoke to Vic on the phone, I didn't actually feel happy about it. I mean, yeah, I loved hearing the sound of his voice and the fact that I could still talk to him and that he was still my boyfriend was at least a little comforting. But I couldn't get the negative side to shut up, reminding me that he was far away and I couldn't hold him or kiss him or see him.

"Hey," Justin said to me one day, and I automatically froze. I didn't look up at him. I just braced myself as an automatic defense. I was always on the defense lately. "Relax, I'm just letting you know that I'm going home for the weekend. I won't be here."

I didn't answer him. I just stayed still, silent. . . Maybe if I didn't react to him, he'd just go away. Just leave me alone.

"Okay, whatever," he said, annoyed. He knew why I wasn't talking to him. Justin wasn't my friend anymore. He was the reason I was raped. It was his fault and I would never forgive him for that.

Once he was gone, I let go of a shaky breath. I sat up slowly and turned back to my art board. I was so behind in this class and it was ridiculous. I loved art so much, yet I couldn't even find the inspiration to paint the crazy things I used to paint. Just looking at the blank canvas made me so sad.

I needed to turn something in, though, so I ended up drawing a black-and-white portrait of Vic. I had a picture of him on my phone. He was pretty much the only person I trusted, and the only one who could make me smile anymore. I mean, it wasn't a painting by any means. But paint was messy and I also didn't feel the motivation to mix colors and all of that, and I definitely didn't have the motivation to clean it up

afterward. I mean, I was still good at pencil drawings. I was pretty sure I could still manage a decent grade.

I turned the drawing in to Alex the next day and he frowned immediately, which was no surprise. I guess I was always just ready to be disappointed. He was disappointed, too, which I knew I deserved.

"This is . . . I mean, it's good, don't get me wrong it's just . . . " he said, looking for the right words to describe the piece. It was a terrible piece in comparison to my other works; I knew he was just trying to soften the blow.

"It's okay, I know it sucks," I mumbled, looking away from him.

"No, don't say that," he said, softly. "It's just . . . this isn't you, Kellin."

"I'm sorry," I choked, quickly wiping a stray tear away with the sleeve of my sweater. I didn't want Alex to see me cry. He was my TA and that would make me look so childish and immature.

"Hey, hey, it's okay," he said, in a soft and reassuring voice. He at least looked genuinely concerned. "Is everything alright?"

I shrugged as I noticed the other students packing up to leave. I chewed my bottom lip anxiously, trying to come up with an excuse to get out of the conversation.

"I'm fine," I lied. I was so, so far from fine.

"Clearly you're not . . . do you want to talk about it?" he offered.

"No . . . I have to go to my next class," I insisted. He sighed and pulled a sticky note from his desk and scribbled something down on it. He then handed me the sticky note and I glanced down at it, confused. "What is this?"

"That's my cell phone number. I'm worried about you, Kellin," he said, honestly. I bit my lip and stuffed the paper into my pocket. I felt guilty for making him worry about me.

"Thanks," I whispered, before finally leaving. I took my bike and rode to the philosophy building. I had to sort of scramble to get inside because I was running late. Part of me really didn't care if I was late, but a

bigger part of me didn't want that professor to call me out. I couldn't cope with that confrontation in the state I was in.

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Honestly, though, philosophy was even harder than it was before. When Vic was there, I would always look forward to sitting next to him and talking to him, and now the empty seat next to me was just a big reminder that I didn't have him anymore. I mean, I did, but he wasn't physically here with me when I needed him most.

It had already been a couple of weeks since he left campus, and I still couldn't shake this feeling. I missed him so much it was actually painful. As lecture dragged on, I tried writing down everything the professor wrote down, but I didn't feel as though any of it stuck in my brain.

After what seemed like forever, I stood up from my seat and lazily shuffled out of class. I went over to the bike rack to grab my bike and ride it home.

But it was gone.

"No," I gasped, going over to the bike rack and looking around as if it could have been possibly hiding from me. Well, that was just perfect. The most perfect thing just had to happen now in my obviously perfect life. "Fuck!"

I screamed that out loud and I didn't even care that other students were staring at me as they walked by. Maybe they thought I was crazy, but they just didn't fucking get it. I wanted to just break down all over again, and really, the only thing stopping me was that my phone started ring. I looked at the caller ID and it made me want to cry for a whole different reason.

"Why the heck are you so perfect?" I whined, commenting on my boyfriend's impeccable timing.

"Oh, well you know me - hold on, are you crying? What's up?" he wanted to know, concern growing in his voice. I knew he was worried about me, too. Hell, I was worried about me. I remembered he commented on how down I apparently sounded the last few times we talked. I was just disappointing everyone I knew, wasn't I?

"Someone stole my bike," I said, my voice cracking again. I took a deep breath and started walking back towards my dorm. It would be a long walk now, but I guess I could manage.

"Oh no, baby, I'm sorry," he sighed. "How did that happen?"

"Because I'm stupid and forgetful and I forgot to lock it," I choked, pulling my hood up over my head as I walked so that passersby wouldn't notice me crying. I probably looked like a mess either way, but still. "Why am I so fucking stupid?"

"You're not stupid, Kellin," Vic said, firmly. It just made me feel worse because I knew Vic hated it when I spoke badly about myself. I just kept upsetting him more and more.

"I'm sorry," I said, in a small voice.

"Don't apologize . . . I'm so sorry you're having a bad day, Kells," he said, softly. His voice sounded apologetic, and almost sad. "I wish I could be there to hold you and kiss you, okay?"

"Me too," I said, sadly. I tried to think about what it felt like to hold him close, but it all felt so far away. "I miss you so much."

"I miss you, too," he returned. He waited a beat before changing the subject. "Hey, I was calling because my mom wanted me to invite you over next weekend."

I had a slight glimmer of hope as he spoke those words, but it immediately left when I realized what next weekend was.

"That's Thanksgiving, I'm going home that weekend," I sighed. I considered maybe asking my mom if I could just stay here. I could just tell her I'm behind on projects and that I'll see her at Christmas. Yeah, that sounded good. Besides, dinner with Vic seemed much more soothing than dinner with my parents. "Never mind, yeah, I would love to visit you that weekend."

"Really? Are you sure? What about your family?" he asked. I sighed. I knew I should see my family, but I knew that the only thing that could even possibly make me feel better was Vic.

"Yeah, I'm sure, they'll understand," I explained, brushing them off. "I can just tell them there was a change in plans."

I actually smiled to myself a little, and the smile almost felt foreign to me. Everything sucked, but at least I had something to look forward to. I just needed to keep telling myself that if I made it through the week, I would get to see Vic, and that was more important than anything.

"Well, that's great news, I can't wait to spend time with you," he said, and I could hear the smile through his tone. That was definitely nice to hear. "I love you so much, Kellin."

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