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When I'm Gone; Chapter 11
Chapter 11-August 11, 2001 (Michael)
I couldn’t get my mind off of her. She consumed my every thought, overpowering me. I found myself remembering even the little details of her; like how whenever she was annoyed, she twisted a lock of her short cinnamon hair around her finger.
I wanted to see her again, but she wanted nothing to do with me. I thought I had gotten through a little bit that Wednesday night. However, she was avoiding me more than ever. Whenever I saw her in the lobby or in the hallway, she would look away and hurry off.
“Herring, where are you?” Somebody snapped their fingers in front of my face and I snapped out of my trance. I looked over at Andrew who was lowering his hand. His eyes detected a hint of confusion, but it may have been sadness too.
“Sorry, my mind has been going in a million directions,” I confessed. Andrew laughed and slapped a hand on my back.
“We all know that, Michael,” he said, gesturing to the rest of the men there. They all nodded and some chuckled.
“Oh,” I paused, trying to come up with an excuse.
“Claire on your mind?” Andrew guessed. I was about to lie, until I saw his expression. I cast my eyes downwards and looked at my socked feet.
“A little,” I complied and Andrew let out another laugh.
“A little?” He repeated with doubt in his voice. Rolling my eyes, I groaned.
“Okay, a lot,” I admitted. Andrew nodded.
“See? Now that wasn’t so hard, was it?” he asked.
“No,” I replied. I eased into a seat and faced Andrew. He gave me a sad smile and sighed.
“What’s up, bro?” he inquired sincerely. I shrugged.
“Honestly, I don’t know,” I started. All of a sudden the bell started ringing. I let out a moan and stood up.
“We’ll finish this conversation later, okay?” Andrew asked as we ran to the truck. I jumped into my pants and nodded.
“Okay,” I said and pulled on my coat. We jumped into the firetruck and sped off into the night.
“That was a bad fire,” I commented as we walked upstairs to the bedroom. Andrew and Seth grunted in agreement behind me. After finally reaching the top, I flopped onto my bed. Andrew and Seth did the same and we sat in silence for a few minutes.
“Ugh, I smell like smoke and fire,” Seth groaned sniffing his shirt.
“Don’t we all?” I muttered. I heard Andrew stand up and I looked over at him. He grinned and motioned towards the locker room.
“I’m going to take a shower. Anyone with me?” He laughed and Seth jumped up.
“I’ll go too,” he agreed and they turned to look at me. I shook my head and shrugged.
“I like the smell of smoke,” I said and they laughed.
“Peace out,” Seth shot back and they walked off. I smiled and leaned back on my pillow.
“I’m glad they are gone,” I mutered to myself. “Now, I can get some peace and quiet, even if it is just for a little while.”
I closed my eyes and drifted off.
I was running. At first, I didn’t know where I was. It wasn’t until I noticed the trees blurring beside me, that I realized that I was in a forest. The greens and browns all blurred into one disgusting color as I ran past them.
“Michael,” someone called out behind me. I let out a shout and picked up my pace. There was the sound of footsteps coming up behind me. I felt a hitch in my ankle as I almost tripped over a branch.
I had to run faster. I didn’t know why, but I knew I was in danger. I could see a bright light ahead and I ran towards it. As I got closer, I could see grass and a bright blue sky.
“Michael,” the voice called again; it was high-pitched and playful, a girl’s voice. I shuddered violently as I ran.
“Leave me alone,” I yelled over my shoulder. A soft laugh drifted towards me and I willed myself not to stop, to see who it was.
I burst throught the light and stopped suddenly. The light had led me to a cliff that hung above a dark abyss. I swallowed loudly and heard the soft crunch of leaves behind me.
“Michael?” she inquired. I spun around to face her when she attacked me, knocking both of us off the cliff. I screamed for help as we tumbled into the darkness, her hand wrapped around my wrist.
I could feel a pair of lips at the base of my neck.
“Michael.” A loud voice yelled into my ear. I sat up quickly, knocking my head against someone else’s.
“Good God,” I yelped and opened my eyes. I saw Seth rubbing a hand against his forehead, his sandy blonde hair still wet from the shower. I squinted and saw Andrew behind him, smothering his laughter with his hand.
“Told you not to yell at him while he’s sleeping,” Andrew warned him. Seth shot him a look and sat on the bed next to mine.
“Yeah, usually Andrew just throws something at me,” I explained. Suddenly, a pillow hit me on the side of the head. I flicked my eyes to Andrew who stood with his hands behind his back, whistling. “Just like that.”
“What?” Andrew looked back at me, a glint in his eye. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Sure, you don’t” I muttered sarcastically. Andrew laughed and sat at the foot of my bed. I sat up and ran a fist over my eyes, making any sleep disappear.
“So,” Seth started, making the room get a little awkward.
“So,” I repeated.
“So, about Claire,” Andrew finished for us.
“What about her?” I asked a little over-protectively.
“Michael, you have been thinking about her for days on end, now. You get distracted easily and you are heard in your sleep, mumbling her name,” Andrew said softly.
“I do not!” I exclaimed, looking at Seth for reassurance. He shrugged and gave me an apologetic smile.
“Actually, you do,” he reavealed. I sighed and put my head in my hands.
“Oh, that is fantastic,” I mumbled.
“Could he be...you know?” Seth asked. I glanced at him; he was looking at Andrew. Andrew shrugged and comtemplated Seth’s question. Suddenly, he snapped his fingers.
“You know, I think he is,” he said and smiled. Seth’s face lit up in a grin and Andrew laughed.
“I’m what?” I interrupted them. Their laughter subsided and they studied me. “I’m what?”
“Do you want to tell him?” Andrew gestured to Seth.
“I might as well, since that is the way I felt too,” he replied and turned to me.
“What?” I raised my voice, getting aggravated.
“I think that you’re in love,” Seth whispered. I stared at him with a confused expression on my face.
“You think I’m what?” I asked, not believing him.
“We think you are in love with Claire,” Andrew restated. I shook my head.
“That can’t be possible. I’ve only known her for a week and a half,” I stated.
“Michael, how do you feel about Claire?” Seth asked. I felt my cheeks heat up and I looked down. I started to fiddle with my leather bracelet.
“Well, when I think about her, my stomach flips upside down, my mouth turns dry, and my palms get sweaty. And when I see her, all I want to do is wrap my arms around her waist and press my lips against the base of her throat. Her eyes always leave me breathless and when she speaks, it’s like I’ve gone to heaven.”
“Michael, face it. You’re in love with her,” Andrew said. I sighed and watched him. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see Seth nod.
“So what if I am?” I shot back. “I know she doesn’t like me.”
“You are in love,” Seth said, raising his voice.
“So what?” I yelled back.
“So, go do something about it!” Seth and Andrew shouted at me and walked out of the room.