Fragmented
classroom to signal the start of class, but the space beside me remained empty. I bent my head closer to my notebook page as the instructor began his lecture, and I did my best to concentrate on his voice instead of the fresh memory of slightly parted lips and corn silk blonde hair.
     
    + + +
     
    I dumped my lunch tray at a vacant place at our usual table in the cafeteria. Maia and Kelley looked up from their own lunches and their conversation stopped at the sound of the ugly plastic rattle. Lauren had yet to arrive.
    “Hey, Harper,” Maia greeted. “How was your weekend?”
    “Fine,” I curtly supplied. “Kelley, was Raleigh in World Literature this morning?”
    My friend’s features scrunched in confusion momentarily before recognition settled there. I realized that Raleigh’s name might not be on the tip of Kelley’s tongue as it was my own. “Nope. Why?”
    I bought time by opening the cap of my bottled water and taking a drink. “I borrowed a notebook from her,” I said as impassively and noncommittally as possible. “She wasn’t in anatomy this morning, and I wanted to give it back.”
    Kelley shook her head. “I haven’t seen her since class on Friday.”
    My phone buzzed and my gaze slid to the cell’s display. My immediate reaction was hopefulness that Raleigh was responding with her whereabouts.
    I don't want to do this anymore. It was a text message from Jenn.
    I frowned at the words. What was she talking about?
    I sent a single question mark back as my response.
    “Is everything okay?” Kelley asked.
    My eyes snapped up from the text message. “Yeah. Why?”
    “You made a face.”
    “It’s nothing,” I insisted. “That’s just my face.”
    I was about to send a more detailed text message asking Jenn to clarify what she meant, but she was a step ahead of me: I can’t be in this relationship anymore. You're closeted and you're too busy to spend time with me. It’s just not working for me.
    My throat tightened. Was Jenn breaking up with me? Over text message ?
    I jumped up from the lunch table. “I’ll be right back.”
    “Is everything okay?” Maia asked. “You seem a little jumpy today.”
    “More than usual,” Kelley added with a sympathetic smile.
    My friends appraised me with curious eyes, but I didn’t have enough information to explain myself to them. This could be a false alarm—Jenn trying to scare me into action with an ultimatum. “I have to go to the bathroom.”
    I called Jenn’s phone as soon as I got to the closest women’s bathroom, but the call went unanswered and her voicemail picked up. I hung up and tried again, but this time my call was sent directly to her recorded message. My thumbs flew across the text keyboard, and I sent a flurry of text messages, each imploring her to answer her phone. I could feel the cold, clammy sweat in the small of my back as seconds passed, feeling more like hours, without a response. I called another half a dozen times, but she still refused to answer. By the time I gave up, I was vibrating with anger.
    I turned on both of the bathroom faucets and let the water rush down the sinks. I stared at myself for a few moments in the wide vanity mirror much as I’d done earlier that morning. No change.
    The tears that pricked the corners of my eyes were a surprise, and I struggled to suppress the sudden sense of sorrow and despair that had wallowed up my throat. I knew things hadn’t been as solid as over the summer, but what did she expect? I had school. I was working. I had responsibilities. I didn’t have the time or the emotional energy to deal with this right now. I resisted the urge to leave a nasty text or voicemail saying as much.
    My thumb hovered over our last text message conversation. Jenn had been trying to get a hold of me on Saturday evening, but I’d been out in the country painting pumpkins with Raleigh. She hadn’t tried to contact me on Sunday and I’d been too busy with homework to reach out to her.
    I

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