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agentclue77

Branch: Ekaterina

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She's in eighth grade, like Elliot, Nina, and Marty were in TATWATM. Cool! It's actually inspired by an ancestry project I did in the fifth grade.

 

Simon Gillespie

 

“So, you snuck in?” I asked.

 

          Corinne was telling me about her and Violet’s daring break-in to the White Orchid orphanage.

 

          Corinne nodded, “Yup. You know how she talks about that Ms. Flannigan lady?”

 

          I nodded, “You met her?”

 

          “Well, not formally, but I saw the way she acted. She wasn’t very nice.”

 

          We kept talking about it, for a little while. Then – for some reason – the conversation shifted to school and relationships.

 

          “Can I ask you a question?” I asked Corinne.

 

          She nodded, “Yeah, sure, whatever you want.”

 

          I just came right out and said it, “Do you like Chuck?”

 

          Corinne was startled for a moment, then said, “Well, he’s a great friend, and I’ve known him since kindergarten, and–”

 

          I shook my head, “You know what I mean. I mean…” I took a deep breath, because talking about crushes was never an easy thing to talk about with Corinne. “Do you like him in the way that I like Violet?”

 

          She crossed her arms, “In what way do you like Violet exactly? Do you like her in the way that Nancy and Anne like boys at school?”

 

          My eyes widened, I knew exactly in what way she was talking about. And yeah, maybe a little part of it was there – because according to the video we were shown in fifth grade stronger feelings for people would start to develop around the ages of thirteen to fourteen. I mean, it was nowhere near as much as I heard some kids talk about it at school, but it was slightly there. Which was normal, right? Corinne and I were turning fourteen next week.

 

          “I’m taking that as a yes,” Corinne said.

 

          “No!” I protested. “I-I mean, maybe a little…” gosh, this was not how I wanted this conversation to go. “But not like how they talk about it. Like, do you want to kiss him again?”

 

          “Do you want to kiss Violet again?” Corinne asked me.

 

          I blushed, “You’re deflecting the question!”

 

          “So are you.”

 

          We sat, glaring at each other a little longer, before Corinne sighed and said, “No, I don’t want to kiss him again.”

 

          I sighed, relieved. “Do you want to date him?”

 

          Corinne shrugged, “Maybe? I think I do. But…I don’t want to kiss him, and I definitely don’t want any more than that.”

 

          I’d never heard of that before. I mean, I wanted to date Violet, but I also wanted to kiss her again. Don’t worry, I didn’t really want to do anything too uh…weird.

 

          “It’s weird, I know,” Corinne muttered.

 

          “It isn’t weird,” I told her. “Maybe you just aren’t quite there yet. Maybe you’re a late bloomer.”

 

          I could see Corinne roll her eyes and she just muttered, “Yeah, maybe I am.”

 

          I winced. I didn’t want Corinne to be mad at me. I wanted to keep talking to her. The two of us used to be really close, but once we hit middle-school, we just kind of…drifted apart? Corinne became friends with Nancy and Anne, and middle-school just made my anxiety get worse, so I retreated into my own little shell. We still talked and stuff, but nowhere near as much as before. Plus, it always made me nervous when she got mad at me.

 

          Corinne sighed and said, “Anyway, how’s the project going?”

 

          “Good,” I said. “Grandma’s stories were really interesting.”

 

          Corinne nodded, “Yeah, she’s told me a few of them.”

 

          Grandma’s told Corinne stories? “When?” I asked.

 

          “When we’ve been to her house,” Corinne responded. “I just ask.”

 

          We were silent again. Corinne knew how hard it was for me to ask people for things.

 

          “I’m sorry,” Corinne said. “I didn’t mean it that way.”

 

          I was looking down at my sketchbook now. I’d been trying to recreate the picture grandma gave me. It was difficult, and I could never seem to do it justice. This drawing was like a perfect snapshot done in pencil. I hated that with mine, you could tell a middle-schooler drew it.

 

          “It’s okay,” was all I said.

 

          Corinne stood up from the floor and walked towards the door. “Anyway, I uh, I have to continue with my project.”

 

          “Yeah,” I said, and watched her leave.

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butterflyamber887

Branch: Lucian

Hey me too I'm like Simon!

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I wish  all the misery, pain, worries, EVERYTHING, time itself, would stop, just pause a bit...

                                                                                                                     

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agentclue77

Branch: Ekaterina

Bracha-

 

Glad you could relate to him!

 

Corinne Gillespie

 

Latest Tack Pinned: Belgium

I tried explaining to Simon what I was feeling about this whole Chuck business, but he just didn’t understand. He tried to tell me I was a late bloomer.

 

          You may think, yeah, Corinne, you’re just a late bloomer. Here’s the thing though: I’d started going through all this puberty garbage in the summer between fifth and sixth grade, and it seemed to be going exactly the way they told us it would in school. Except for the part about boys and relationships.

 

          You might be saying, hey, Corinne what if you don’t like boys, what if you like girls instead? That could be true, except…I’d tried seeing if I felt the same way about girls that Nancy and Anne do about boys. News flash, I didn’t. Plus, I liked Chuck. A lot. I just didn’t want to kiss him or do anything that the kids at school talked about.

 

          Would I ever figure this out?

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butterflyamber887

Branch: Lucian

You gave Simon social anxiety, and you also have that. Now Corinne is feeling this way and you're asexual. Hmm....

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I wish  all the misery, pain, worries, EVERYTHING, time itself, would stop, just pause a bit...

                                                                                                                     

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Branch: Ekaterina

Bracha-

 

Interesting observation there

 

Violet Alvarez

 

I told Marty the news at dinner that night. He had ordered Chinese food, and we were eating it straight out of the cartons.

 

          Marty looked sad like I hadn’t just told him some wonderful news.

 

          “Violet,” he started.

 

          “What?”

 

          “I wouldn’t get my hopes up. Do you know what happens to people after they leave a place like Cuba, and get sent back?”

 

          The truth was, I didn’t really know all that much about what happened to people after being sent back. I’d never researched it, and we hadn’t learned about that in history class yet.

 

          I shook my head, knowing I wasn’t going to like his answer.

 

          “They get sent to concentration camps, and most of them don’t make it out alive.”

 

          I hung on to that word: most. Not all. He said most. There was still the chance that they were alive.

 

          I looked up from my food, “I’m going to go do some research, and I’m going to prove that they’re alive. They just have to be.”

 

          I took my Chinese food carton and got up from the table.

 

          “Violet,” Marty called.

 

          But I was already out of the room.

 

***

 

 

The text blurred.

 

I couldn’t believe it.

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butterflyamber887

Branch: Lucian

What! I want to know!!!

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I wish  all the misery, pain, worries, EVERYTHING, time itself, would stop, just pause a bit...

                                                                                                                     

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agentclue77

Branch: Ekaterina

Bracha-

 

Don't worry, you'll find out...eventually

 

Simon Gillespie

 

The presentations were today, and I was even more nervous than I thought I’d be.

 

          It wasn’t just the presentations that were today, we also had the cultural fair in the morning, which I just knew was going to be full of people.

 

I was sitting on the edge of my bed, not even bothering to pull my shirt on, staring at my closet, dreading the events of today. First, the gym with the entire school packed into it. And then, oral presentations in front of the whole class.

 

          I heard a knock at my door, and Dad walked in. “How you doing there, kiddo?”

 

          “I’ve been better.”

 

          Dad gave me his half-smile and sat next to me, “Let me ask you something, kiddo, did you do the assignment?”

 

          I nodded, “Yeah.”

 

          “Do you have your presentation ready?”

 

          I nodded again.

 

          “Then, you already have some of it down.”

 

          “I guess.”

 

          Dad put a hand on my back, “As for the fair, just stick close to your sister and Violet, and if you need to leave, just let Corinne know.”

 

          “Sure,” I said.

 

          “You’ll do great today,” Dad told me.

 

          Once Dad left, I pulled a t-shirt on, and really hoped Dad was right.

 

***

 

So far so good. I did take some of the vitamins in the car, so I wasn’t completely freaking out. My hands were really sweaty, though.

 

Corinne had left to go check out a bunch of other booths with Chuck, so I was with Violet, looking at the Germany booth.

 

“Did I tell you that my great-grandparents lived in Cuba for a while after leaving Germany?” I asked Violet.

 

Violet had seemed quite distant the whole time – much like the time I first tried to ask her about Bethany Baker – and she didn’t seem to fully be paying attention. “Did they?”

 

I nodded, “Yeah.”

 

After we left the Germany booth, I turned Violet and asked her if she wanted to go check out the Cuba booth and learn some more stuff about her heritage.

 

She shook her head, “No, I-I think I know a little too much already.” And with that, she walked off, leaving me wondering what was up with her.

 

I took a deep breath, and followed after her, not wanting to be left alone.

 

I’m not sure if I was short of breath from looking for Violet, or if it was from being anxious, but whatever the case, I needed to head to the bathroom right now. I bolted out of the gym and into the nearest boy’s restroom.

 

I was hoping for an empty bathroom, but no such luck. I had the wonderful privilege of running into Josh Voss.

 

Apparently, back when my parents and Marty were in middle school, Josh’s mom – Rhiannon – had a big crush on Dad. I heard they even kissed at some point in high school. According to Dad, Rhiannon had had various boyfriends throughout the years – Marty being one of them – and never really settled down and got married, so Josh doesn’t really know where his father is. I felt sorry for him, but that didn’t change the fact that he was a jerk.

 

“Well, if it isn’t Pedro Picasso.”

 

“It’s Pablo Picasso, Josh,” I said. I wanted it to come out strong and witty, but it instead came out shaky. “And anyway, I’m not here to talk.” I tried to push past him into a stall, to have my anxiety attack in peace.

 

Unfortunately, because Josh was a jerk, he didn’t let me. He stuck his leg out and I tripped over it, my face hitting the bathroom floor, hard.

 

I heard him chuckling, and I heard, “Hey, leave the kid alone, will you?”

 

          Chuck. God, why can’t I just dislike this guy? But he just had to go turnaround and do something like this. Although, for the moment, I was grateful.

 

          “Why should I, Loski?”

 

          I started to get up, but Josh put his foot on my back, pushing me back down.

 

          I heard Chuck step closer and say, “I think you’re forgetting whose captain of the wrestling team, and who’s the one who thinks he’s tough when he isn’t.”

 

          I heard Josh laugh again and say, “You know what? I don’t have time for you losers, I’ve got better things to do.”

 

          I felt his foot lift off my back, when, and then, when I heard the door close, I slowly stood up.

 

          “Why was he giving you such a problem?” Chuck asked.

 

          I shrugged, “Because he’s a jerk, that’s why.”

 

I felt a tear escape my eye, and I hastily wiped it away. I didn’t want Chuck to think I was crying because of this encounter with Josh, because I wasn’t. Not really anyway. It was almost like the fact that I was already pretty anxious when this encounter happened that had shaken me.

 

Chuck put his hands on my shoulders, “Hey, hey, don’t cry. Do you want me to go take you to Corinne?”

 

I knew he meant well, but it bothered me that he thought I needed my sister (who wasn’t even that much older than me) every time I broke down.

 

I shook my head, and pushed past him into the stall, and allowed the tears to flow. I had to get it together before the presentations, because there was no way I could do this during my presentation.

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agentclue77

Branch: Ekaterina

UPDATE: I’m going on a trip and won’t be back until Tuesday, and from what I know, the hotel won’t have Wi-Fi, so I won’t be able to post upcoming chapters until Tuesday, sorry

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butterflyamber887

Branch: Lucian

It's okay. And, wow, that was really good.

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 trying

 

 

I wish  all the misery, pain, worries, EVERYTHING, time itself, would stop, just pause a bit...

                                                                                                                     

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agentclue77

Branch: Ekaterina

Bracha-

 

Thanks!

 

Corinne Gillespie

 

Latest Tack Pinned: Egypt

The Cultural Fair was incredible. It was all so amazing how they put all the booths together.

 

          My favorite one was actually the Cuba booth. The Cuban culture was just so fascinating, and the food was amazing. Like at every booth, they had a small sample of a type of food from that heritage, and the one for Cuba was incredible. I picked up a recipe sheet for one of the dishes for Mom to make.

 

          Right around the time that I was looking at the Morocco booth, Chuck told me that he saw Simon in the bathroom, and he didn’t look too good. I know exactly what was going with Simon, but I knew very well that he didn’t want Chuck to know about the anxiety, so I just shrugged and said that I was sure he was fine. Chuck gave me a weird look and then shrugged and agreed.

 

          I found Simon by his locker shortly after that, flipping through his sketchbook.

 

          “Hey,” I said.

 

          He looked up, “Hey.”

 

          “How’s everything?” I asked

 

          He shrugged, “Fine. I ran into Josh in the bathroom.”

 

          Oh god. “What’d he do?”

 

          Simon stared straight ahead, “Tripped me, kept me down on the floor while Chuck stood up for me.”

 

          That jerk. I guess there was a reason he wasn’t the most popular guy in school.

 

          I put a hand on Simon’s shoulder, “Are you alright?”

 

          Simon nodded, “Yeah, I guess. It kind of pushed the anxiety attack over the top. I’m just…tired now.”

 

          That always happened. He was always tired after an anxiety attack.

 

          “I just hope I’ll be good for the presentation,” he said.

 

          “I’m sure you will,” I told him.

 

          “You really think so?”

 

          I nodded, “Yeah.”

 

          And I was telling the truth.

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agentclue77

Branch: Ekaterina

Violet

 

Simon gave his presentation. He seemed kind of nervous at the beginning, but then he got into it. He even showed he class a picture that his great-grandmother drew of Cuba when she’d been.

 

It was a beautiful picture, but it just reminded me of what I’d learned.

 

After Simon went, it was Corinne’s turn. She talked all about how her ancestors had moved from Ireland to England in the very early nineteen-hundreds.

 

“A few years after my ancestors settled in England, they boarded the Titanic,” Corinne showed a few pictures of the massive ship on the smart board. “As everyone knows, the Titanic sank, and many people died. Unfortunately, my great, great grandfather did not survive the sinking, but his wife did.

 

‘And from there, she made it to America, where she had her son – and my great-grandfather – and many, many years later, my dad was born, and from there…me.”

 

Corinne talked a little more about the history of the Titanic, and her ancestors and dad and stuff.

 

Then, it was my turn.

 

I took a deep breath. Here goes.

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butterflyamber887

Branch: Lucian

I'm so proud of Simon! And I hope Violet does just as well. Oh, you realize mbladiesman is the only one not married?

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I wish  all the misery, pain, worries, EVERYTHING, time itself, would stop, just pause a bit...

                                                                                                                     

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agentclue77

Branch: Ekaterina

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Yes, I do. What happened with Marty in the stuff that I didn't go into detail on in TYIB is that, like Rhiannon, he had various girlfriends over the years, being a flirt and whatnot. But after Simon and Corinne were born, and Kimmy died, he didn't really feel like settling down. He did have a girlfriend that he thought was "the one" but it didn't end up working out.

 

Corinne Gillespie

 

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Everyone seemed fascinated with my report, and frankly, I didn’t blame them. It was a fascinating story, and I was sure that there was more I could learn about it.

 

          Violet went up next. I was excited to hear her story.

 

          “It took quite a bit of investigating on my part to find out my story since, as most of you know, I don’t live with my parents anymore, but here’s what I did find.” Violet pushed a button, and a picture of a man and a woman appeared on the screen.

 

“These are my parents,” she said. “Samuel and Melanie Alvarez. My mom came with her family to the U.S. when she was about thirteen. A few years later, my dad came, alone, when he was in his early twenties.” She paused. “I never knew them, since they were deported back to Cuba when I was a baby. Hence why I ended up at White Orchid Orphanage.”

 

Violet pressed another button, and a picture of a Cuban concentration camp came up on the screen. “When people get sent back to Cuba, this is where they end up.”

 

I heard some people gasp and murmur.

 

 “I’d been holding out on the fact that they weren’t dead, and that they were going to come back for me someday.” Violet looked down at her shoes, took a deep breath and said, “Unfortunately they passed away after a few years of being tortured in the concentration camp.”

 

Dead silence. Although, I did see Bethany roll her eyes and whisper to Lindsay Alvaran. Did they not have any respect?

 

Violet quickly wiped her eyes and said, “Any questions?”

 

Chuck raised his hand, “Why are they so mean to people who get sent back?”

 

“Well,” Violet began. “Since Cuba is a communist country, they get offended that you’d even dare to leave their ‘perfect government’. Hence the torture.”

 

Chuck nodded and looked down at his hands.

 

Bethany’s hand shot up in the air. “I have a question,” she said. “Why do we care what ended up happening to them? This is about you, not them.”

 

“Bethany,” Mrs. Hewitt scolded. “Need I remind you that your report barely consisted of anything at all?”

 

Bethany scowled.

 

I couldn’t believe this girl. Why do we care that the most interesting part of your story was about cheese? I wanted to tell her, but I bit back because I knew that it’d just make the situation worse..

 

Violet, though, looked defeated. “I-I’m sorry,” she murmured. Then, she picked up the folder that held her report and walked out the door.

 

I raised my hand, “Mrs. Hewitt, could Simon and I…?”

 

Mrs. Hewitt sighed, “Yes, go ahead.”

 

Simon and I stood up and walked towards the door, out of the classroom. We found her sitting on one of the benches staring at the picture of her parents.

 

Simon and I sat on either side of her, and I put an around her shoulders. She leaned her head on Simon’s shoulder.

 

“Your mom is really pretty,” Simon said, pointing the picture. “She looks just like you.”

 

“Thanks,” Violet said.

 

“Bethany Baker’s stupid,” I said, staring straight ahead.

 

“Calling her names won’t change anything,” Violet muttered, lifting her head from Simon’s shoulder. “But yeah, I agree.”

 

“Just so you know,” Simon said. “She was wrong. We all cared about your story.”

 

She looked at him, “Really?”

 

He nodded.

 

“Absolutely,” I said. “And if you ever want to talk, we’re here. And so are my parents and Marty.”

 

Violet nodded, “Thanks.”

         

          We sat there a little longer, grateful that we had each other, and hoping that Bethany would stop bothering Violet soon.

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Urg I hate her!!!! Looks like Simon's getting way better.

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I wish  all the misery, pain, worries, EVERYTHING, time itself, would stop, just pause a bit...

                                                                                                                     

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agentclue77

Branch: Ekaterina

Bracha-

 

Yes, he's definitely trying to get better. He had a good day that day.

 

Corinne Gillespie

 

Latest Tack Pinned: Latvia

“Why are we cleaning out the attic again?” I complained.

 

          “Because we haven’t done it in years, and it’s quite messy up here.” Mom chided.

 

          I rolled my eyes and opened the box I had pulled out. I took out a picture of three kids about my age – who I’m presuming were Mom, Dad, and Marty – sitting at the edge of a pool, their feet in the water.

 

          “Oh my god, I remember that!” Dad took the picture from my hands and showed it to Mom. “It was the summer before freshman year.”

 

          Mom nodded, “Yeah, I remember that day. Allison invited us to go swimming in the pool at the apartments.”

 

          Dad switched the pictures to the one under it. This one was basically the same, but in this one, Mom was kissing Dad on the cheek, and Marty was smirking at the two of them. Dad’s face looked about as red as Mom’s bathing suit.

 

Mom laughed, “Do you remember how flustered you got seeing me in that swimsuit.”

 

          Dad nodded, “Yup. Marty wouldn’t let it go.”

 

          I took another look at the picture. “How come you got flustered? She’s just in a bikini.”

 

          Mom and Dad exchanged a look.

 

“Well, at the time, feelings were starting to develop between your mom and me. And at a certain age–”

 

          I gagged. I had no interest in hearing this conversation again. I still wasn’t exactly sure why I still acted like a nine-year-old about this whole thing, but I did.

 

          I picked up another picture, this one of Mom and Dad a little older – maybe sixteen – standing in someone’s room, kissing.

 

          Mom laughed, shaking her head “I can’t believe Marty actually printed this picture.”

 

          “I can’t believe he actually took the picture,” Dad said.

 

          “When was this?” Simon asked.

 

          “It was the first time we said, ‘I love you’,” Mom said, and I could tell she was grinning.

 

          Dad looked at Mom, “Time has been good to you, Nina.”

 

          “Likewise.”

 

          The two of them leaned in and shared a quick kiss.

 

          I quickly averted my eyes and looked at Simon. He shrugged in a what can you do? way.

 

          “We should call Marty and Violet to come over to help us,” Dad suggested.

 

          Simon and I brightened. Mom nodded, and Dad dialed Marty.

 

          Maybe cleaning out the attic wouldn’t be so bad.

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FUN FACT: I'd actually started to write the pool scene for TYIB

 

Violet

 

“Oh, we’ve got to frame that one,” Mrs. Gillespie said.

 

          It was a picture of Mr. Gillespie and Marty presumably on their first day of kindergarten. Both Mr. Gillespie and Marty had big, toothy grins on their faces.

 

          “Hey, Nina,” Marty said. “Scan these pictures and send them to me.”

 

          Mrs. Gillespie nodded, “Absolutely.”

 

          I found one of the three of them at high-school graduation, smiling. I smiled. I liked seeing these pictures of Marty when he was younger. It felt like I was getting to know him better. And that was important after the presentations.

 

          Marty looked over at the picture and laughed, “Why didn’t anyone tell me that that haircut was not working for me?”

 

          Mr. Gillespie shrugged, “No one thought that it wasn’t.”

 

          Mrs. Gillespie put her hand up, “I beg to differ.”

 

          Marty rolled his eyes, “If I could go back in time, I’d tell my younger self to listen to your opinion about my hair.”

 

          We laughed.

 

          After Mr. Gillespie found his old telescope from when he was thirteen, he insisted that we all go up to the porch and try and see what we could see. He even baked cookies for it.

 

          Today was a good day, and I was going to hope for another one like it.

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The Holmdale Carnival had been a tradition here in Holmdale for fifteen years, and I went every year. This year, though, everyone at school seemed to be really obsessed with going with someone as a date.

 

          In fact, I was asked today. Honestly, I wasn’t opposed to going with someone. I just wanted that someone to be very specific. And the person who asked was not that person.

 

          It was Josh Voss.

 

          “Girl, you should totally go with him!” Nancy told me at lunch that day.

 

          “Why?” I asked. “I don’t like him like that.”

 

          “Maybe he’ll kiss you,” Anne said.

 

          I cringed. “I don’t want him to kiss me. I don’t want anyone to kiss me.”

 

          “Maybe after you kiss him, you’ll change your mind,” Nancy said. “I’m telling you, Corinne, he’s an amazing kisser.”

 

          I didn’t like where this conversation was going, but I kept my mouth shut.

 

          Maybe they were right about this.

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What's brown and sticky?

 

...

 

A stick

 

Simon Gillespie

 

I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned to see Violet behind me, hugging her books tightly against her chest.

 

          “Hey,” I said.

 

          “Do you want to go with me to the Holmdale Carnival?” She blurted.

 

          It startled me a little, but once I realized what she had said, it made me feel all warm and happy inside.

 

          Before I made an idiot out of myself, I asked, “Like, together? As dates?”

 

          Violet nodded, “Corinne was asked by Josh Voss, so I thought that…”

 

          I nodded, “I-I’d love to.” I couldn’t believe it. I was going on a date with Violet! Then, the beginning of her sentence sunk in, “I’m sorry, who asked Corinne.”

 

          Violet looked confused. “Josh Voss…?”

 

          “Excuse me,” I said, and pushed past Violet.

 

          I felt like such a jerk leaving Violet like that, but I had to go talk to Corinne. I didn’t want Josh Voss anywhere near my sister.

 

          I found her sitting outside, reading the book mom gave her when we were cleaning out the attic.

 

          She didn’t notice me until I was right in front of her. “Hey,” she said.

 

          “Did Josh Voss ask you to the Holmdale Carnival?” I asked her.

 

          Corinne looked confused for a moment, then rolled her eyes. “Yeah. I don’t really want to go with him anyway, I’m just going for Nancy’s sake.”

 

          “But you’re going on a date with him,” I prompted.

 

          Corinne nodded, “Yeah, but I’m really trying not to think of it as a date. I’m just trying to think of it as hanging out, despite what Nancy and Anne keep saying.”

 

          I thought that was a good plan. But I still asked her a very important question.

 

          “You’re not gonna kiss him, are you?” I asked.

 

          Corinne’s face twisted like she just smelled the mystery meat in the cafeteria. “Gross! Heck no.” She lowered her voice and said, “Look, if I don’t even want to kiss Chuck, and I like Chuck, what makes you think I’m gonna want to kiss Josh?”

 

          I sighed, relieved. “Don’t let him do anything you’re not comfortable with.”

 

          Corinne nodded, “Wouldn’t dream of it.”

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I'm back! That was very good. But please, Corinne, say no, say no, just say no!

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Bracha-

 

Don't worry, Corinne's a smart girl.

 

Violet

 

Marty was driving me to the carnival, and he couldn’t stop fretting.

 

          “I just, I can’t believe you’re going on your first date,” he said. “Are you sure you’ll be fine?”

 

          “It’s just Simon. I’ll be fine, Dad.”

 

          We both froze. The word Dad hung in the air between the two of us. It was the first time I’d referred to Marty as my dad, and it suddenly made things super awkward.

 

          I cleared my throat, “I’ll uh, I’ll be fine…Marty.”

 

          Marty nodded, “Yeah…we’re here. Have fun.” He kissed the top of my head, and I got out of the car.

 

          I stood there a moment, thinking about what just happened. Did I really mean what I said when I called Marty my dad? Or…was I just feeling sorry for myself because of what I learned about my real dad last month?

 

          Whatever it was, I decided to push it out of my head, and enjoy my first date.

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Corinne Gillespie

 

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Josh was fine. We’d hung around Simon and Violet for a while at the beginning, but then Simon pulled me aside and told me that he kind of wanted to be alone with Violet.

 

          “Alright,” I’d told him. “Just don’t make out too often.”

 

          Simon then turned a bright red and muttered, “Yeah, whatever.”

 

          I had no idea what they were doing now. I tried not to think about the possibilities.

 

          Josh grabbed my hand, “Where do you want to go now?”

 

          I resisted the urge to wriggle my hand free. I was actually fine with the idea of holding hands with someone. Just not Josh.

 

          I figured that on a ride you couldn’t hold hands with anyone, so I suggested that. We rode on pretty much everything. Stuff that we never would’ve ridden on if I was with my parents and Simon since Simon was such a weenie about heights.

 

          I saw Nancy and Anne with their own dates at some point, and they waved me over.

 

          “So,” Nancy asked. “How’s it going?”

 

          I shrugged, “Fine.”

 

          “Just fine?” Anne pressed. “C’mon, give us details! Has he kissed you yet?”

 

          I shook my head, “No! We’re just…hanging out, that’s all. It’s like if I was hanging out with you guys. Except I don’t hold hands with you guys.”

 

          To be perfectly honest, I’d much rather be with Chuck.

 

          Nancy put a hand on my shoulder, “I’m sure it’ll get better later. If he’s walking you home, he might kiss you.”

 

          I resisted the very strong urge to look into an imaginary camera like we were in The Office. Why couldn’t Nancy and Anne just get it in their heads that I didn’t want to kiss him? I didn’t want to kiss anyone!

 

          At this point, I didn’t really feel like staying at the carnival. I just kind of wanted to go home.

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Simon Gillespie

 

I saw Josh holding hands with Corinne. She didn’t appear to be uncomfortable, so I didn’t rush over there and make them stop, but heck, I wanted to.

 

          I was glad I didn’t though, because right around that point, Violet slipped her hand into mine, and my thoughts were suddenly occupied with the prospect of hoping my hands didn’t get too sweaty.

 

Knowing that my hands would do something if I got anxious, I was leaning more towards the hope that my hands would get cold.

 

You know, also hoping that I wouldn’t get anxious today. Although, I wasn’t getting my hopes up.

 

Violet wanted to go on the Ferris wheel, and I didn’t want to tell her that the one time I’d been on a Ferris wheel, I cried until the ride was over. And that was when I was ten.

 

Once on the ride, my mind suddenly ran through all the possibilities of something going wrong. The Ferris wheel could get stuck. The bar could be unstable. There could be a loose screw and it could fall apart. The possibilities were

 

I guess Violet noticed that I wasn’t too thrilled about being up this high because she put her arm around me and said softly, “It’s almost over, you’re going to be fine.”

 

Now, I definitely wanted to tell her about the anxiety. It’s just…she was just helping me with a fear of heights right now. I didn’t want her to react negatively to a mental illness.

 

Eventually, though, we managed to make it don to the bottom without, you know, dying. Violet suggested that we play some of the games instead. I liked that idea.

 

Violet was actually pretty good at the ring toss, she managed to win one of the big prizes. A giant panda. She looked at it, and then to a little girl struggling with the game.

 

Violet tapped the little girl on the shoulder. “Do you want this?” She asked her, holding the panda up.

 

The little girl beamed and nodded. Violet handed it to her, and the little girl went to show her mom.

 

Violet looked at me and shrugged, “I don’t have a need for a giant panda.”

 

God, now I felt like I had to win something for someone. It’s weird, but I felt it.

 

Needless to say, I was terrible. The only prize I won was a small rubber rat toy. Not exactly a giant panda, but it was still a toy. I tried handing to a little boy next to me, but he ran away screaming.

 

Violet put a hand on my shoulder, and I could see that she was trying to hide a giggle. She took the rat in her own hands. “Well,” she said. “You certainly did try.”

 

I snorted, “Yeah.”

 

A few games (and losses) later, Violet spotted a photo booth and decided that we had to take a few pictures.

 

“To remember this day,” she said.

 

So, we stepped inside.

 

Now, this is where it starts to get a little fuzzy, so, here are the first three pictures.

 

Picture one: Basically just the two of us smiling, nothing really to that one. Other than the fact that Violet’s smile still turned my knees into jelly.

 

Picture two: This one was the classic “make a silly face” photo booth picture. I always look like a velociraptor in those.

 

Picture three: In this one, Violet had leaned in and kissed me on the cheek. And yes, if you look at the picture, I basically look if someone had put glasses on a ripe tomato.

 

After Violet kissed me on the cheek, she looked at me and smiled sheepishly. I don’t know what came over me, but I wanted to, just had to kiss her. So I did, and the last picture turned out to be us kissing. Except…I didn’t just give her a quick peck on the lips, it was more like at Nancy’s party.

 

Momentary crazy is all I can say about that. I mean, sure, I thought about kissing her all the time, but I’d never actually brought myself to do it. But now that I had kissed her, I couldn’t stop, and I don’t think Violet could either. Don’t worry, nothing more than that happened, it was just a really long kiss.

 

We didn’t stop until someone banged on the outside of the photobooth and shouted, “Give someone else a turn!”

 

I snapped away from Violet, and the two of us stepped out of the photobooth, blushing bright red. We picked up the pictures that we took in the photobooth and stared at them, not saying anything.

 

I had no idea what any of this meant. You were supposed to kiss on dates, right? But…were we an official couple now? I wasn’t sure what to think of that, and honestly, it was too overwhelming.

 

Needless to say, it was a very awkward walk home.

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Oh my gosh!!! Whoa!!! I really loved how you showed Simon's thoughts, and Violet calling Marty Dad.... That was good!

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Bracha-

 

Thanks!

 

Corinne Gillespie

 

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Finally. Josh and I arrived at my door coming back from the carnival. I’m not even sure why I agreed to go with him. Everyone was just saying how maybe I’d like kissing if it was someone “hot” like Josh. I just gave in.

 

I would have much rather been with Chuck.

 

“Well,” I started. “We’re here.”

 

Josh smirked, “Yeah, we are.”

 

I nodded awkwardly. I wasn’t sure what to do now. I’d heard that you were supposed to kiss when you got to your doorstep, but I wasn’t sure.

 

He just kept looking at me, which made me slightly uncomfortable. Then, he started to close his eyes and lean in. I knew it then. He was going to kiss me. To kiss me!

 

I then realized that I didn’t care how “hot” he was, I still didn’t want to kiss him.

 

When my hand found the doorknob, I twisted it open, ran inside and slammed the door in Josh’s face. I slumped against the door and sighed. Why did I have to be like this? Why didn’t I like kissing and stuff?

 

“Everything okay there?” Dad’s voice made me jump and I realized that he was sitting in one of the chairs in the living room.

 

“Where’s Simon?” I asked.

 

“He’s still at the carnival with Violet.”

 

“Oh.”


Dad looked at me again, “Is everything alright?”

 

I wanted to just say yes and leave it at that, but I just sighed and shook my head.

 

Dad motioned for me to sit on the couch near the chair and told me to tell him what happened.

 

“Well,” I started. “Josh tried to kiss me.”

 

Dad’s brow darkened. “Is that so?”

 

I nodded. “I didn’t let him though.”

 

Dad sighed, relieved.

 

I didn’t think I was free to go upstairs yet, so I kept talking. “Remember last month at Nancy’s party? Where it turned into this big make-out session and I got paired up with Chuck?”

 

Dad nodded.

 

“Well, ever since then I’d been having all these confused feelings, but not how you’d expect. After the party, I couldn’t stop thinking about why I didn’t enjoy kissing Chuck. I mean, I kind of like him. But I didn’t like kissing him and I didn’t understand why. And when I told some of the girls at school that like Nancy and Anne, they just said that it was because Chuck wasn’t as good-looking as someone like Josh. But, I had no interest in kissing him either. And I have no interest whatsoever to do anything beyond kissing.

 

“They also keep talking about things like…how you’re supposed to feel a certain way when you look at someone good looking, and I just don’t feel that way. About anyone.”

 

Dad just stared at me, and I was afraid that he was going to say something like, you’ll like it when you’re older or you just haven’t found the right guy yet or it’s just a phase. He didn’t say that though.

 

“When I was in high school, shortly after your mom and I got together, there was a boy – Chad Fefferman – who didn’t understand why all of that stuff was so appealing. A lot of the boys made fun of him for it. And then one day, I was talking to him about it, and he told me that he didn’t understand how he still liked girls, and still wanted to date one, but he didn’t want to do anything too intimate and he didn’t feel the same way about girls that the other guys did. He said that he didn’t feel what the other guys described when he looked at girls or guys for that matter.”

 

That sounded just like me. I wasn’t opposed to having a boyfriend – in fact, I wanted to have a boyfriend, someday at least – but I just didn’t want to do anything intimate. And honestly, the way girls at school talked about the feeling they got when looking at cute boys…I didn’t feel any of that.

 

Mom’s voice came from the stairs, “Are you telling her about Chad?” I guess she’d been listening to the conversation.

 

Dad nodded, and Mom came to sit down next to me on the couch.

 

“I was there that day that he was talking to your father and me,” Mom said. “He seemed so conflicted about it that I decided to research it, and I found a term that I think described him.”

 

“What was it?” I asked.

 

“Asexual,” Mom told me. “It meant someone who didn’t experience attraction in that way and that most of the time, didn’t have interest in doing all the intimate stuff in a relationship.”

 

I could just feel all the confused feelings I had starting to fade. There was a term for what I was feeling. I was asexual. I wasn’t the only one who felt like this.

 

Mom put a hand on my knee, “Whatever happens with this, we will continue to support you. You hear me?”

 

I nodded, smiling.

 

I couldn’t wait to share this news.

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Violet

 

I couldn’t sleep that night. I just kept thinking about that kiss with Simon. I hadn’t planned for it to happen, and yet it did. And the rush of emotions I felt thinking about was all very confusing. What I felt after Nancy’s party was nothing compared to this.

 

I was a scientist, I wasn’t an expert on emotions.

 

I turned to my side for what seemed like the millionth time and finally, closed my eyes. But I was met by the memory of how I felt with his lips pressed against mine.

 

I groaned and buried my face into my pillow.

 

I know, we kissed at Nancy’s party. That was different, though. At the party, Nancy paired us up, so we felt kind of obligated to kiss. What happened today was more like…like it was all up to us.

 

I’d kissed him on the cheek, and he’d just carried it further and kissed me on the lips.

 

Maybe I could talk to Marty about this?

 

I checked the time. 1:35 am. He was probably sleeping, I could always talk to him in the morning.

 

***


“Long night?” Marty asked as I strolled into the kitchen that morning.

 

I nodded, “I couldn’t sleep.”

 

Marty took a bite of the muffin he as eating. “Sucks. Have any idea why?”

 

I almost shook my head and just denied everything. But I remembered how much I’d wanted to talk to him about this, so I nodded.

 

He looked at me quizzically.

 

“I, um…I kissed Simon at the carnival yesterday.” I blurted.

 

Marty put down his muffin and stared at me. “You’ve kissed him before, right?”

 

I nodded, “But…I don’t know, this one was just…different. And I can’t stop thinking about it.” I grabbed a muffin out of the box we had on the counter, put it on a napkin, and sat down at the table. “What should I do? I’m not really sure what to do with all these new feelings.”

 

Marty took another bite and said, “When I was about your age, Elliot and Nina had a few kissing incidents of their own. Couldn’t look at each other for a month after that. They eventually talked it out, and the awkwardness faded between them.” He pointed at me, “You should talk to him.”

 

I nodded. Marty was right. That was the only way any of this was gonna get resolved.

 

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“Asexual?” Nancy asked. “What’s that?”

 

I know it’s dumb, but I wasn’t prepared for them to have questions about this. I was just kind of hoping that they’d have researched this beforehand.

 

Mom and Dad helped me talk to Simon, and he seemed pretty okay with it. I think it relieved him that I had no plans of doing any of that stuff.

 

I tried to think of an example, “You know how you guys talk about guys like Josh and Randy in that um…weird way?”

 

“You mean in the normal way to think about people when you’re going through puberty?” Anne asked me.

 

“Well,” I started. “It might be the normal way for you guys, but it isn’t for me.”

 

Nancy sat down next to me on the bench. “What do you mean?”

 

“Well, I don’t feel any of that. And to be honest, the whole kind of grosses me out. Like when you’re five and your parents kiss, and it seems like the grossest thing the world? Kind of like that.”

 

“Do you mean celibacy?” Anne countered. “I mean, everyone gets those feelings.”

 

I sighed, “No, celibacy is if I’d still get those feelings, but I just decide to not put them into action because of some sort of reason. Asexuality is just my sexual orientation. Like when people come out as gay. I literally don’t get those feelings at all.”

 

“But you said you liked Chuck,” Anne said, sitting down next to me. “How can you be asexual if you still have a crush on someone?”

 

Now, this I could answer. “I looked that up,” I said. “There’s asexual, which is where I fall. And then there’s aromantic, which is when someone doesn’t experience romantic attraction.”

 

Nancy looked like she was trying to process this, “But what about when you said that the main character in that movie we saw in English class was good looking?”

 

“That’s different,” I explained. “It’s like when I say the view from my maple tree is beautiful. It’s a gorgeous view, but I’m not attracted to it. The same thing goes for a lot of people that I say are good looking.”

 

Anne still looked like she didn’t understand what the heck I was trying to explain.

 

Nancy put a hand on my arm, “Cor, I’m glad that you found this out. I’m just, confused, that’s all. But…I’ll do my best to understand it.”

 

I was just glad she was accepting of it, but I was kind of scared on how others would react.

 

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Violet

 

“Simon.” I decided to talk to him after school. He was getting his books out of his locker.

 

          He turned around and instantly turned pink. “H-hi.”

 

          “I need to talk to you,” I said, shifting my books to my other arm.

 

          Simon nodded, “So do I.” His voice lowered, almost like he didn’t want me to hear this next part. “I don’t think we should see each other.”

 

          Okay, that was not what I was expecting him to say.

 

          “What?” I was dumbfounded.

 

          He didn’t respond. He just kept his eyes on the floor and walked off.

 

          That went well, I thought, kicking a piece of trash into the open doors of the cafeteria.

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Yay for Corinne! But... what happened to Simon? Is he scared because of his anxiety?

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Bracha-

 

Simon’s reasons will be revealed soon enough

 

Corinne Gillespie

 

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“What did you want to talk to me about?” Chuck asked, swinging his leg up so he could sit on the branch that I was perched on.

 

After he was settled I asked, “Do you know anything about asexuality?”

 

He looked at me quizzically, “Kind of. There’s a character in a show that I watch that’s ace.”

 

“Do you…have a problem with it?” I asked.

 

I didn’t want to just come out to Chuck like I did with Nancy and Anne. I wanted to make sure I wouldn’t get a thousand questions thrown at me that tried to debunk this newfound discovery.

 

Chuck shrugged, “No. I don’t see why people do.”

 

I smiled.

 

“Cor…” Chuck started. “Are you ace?”

 

I just looked at him, then nodded.

 

“You know,” he said. “I kind of suspected it. After you told me that you didn’t like kissing and stuff, I did a little bit of research. And then the episode came out with the character that I’m telling you about.”

 

I asked my next question. The one that I was dying to know. “Would you be okay to be in a relationship with someone where none of that stuff is done?”

 

Chuck stared at me, “Of course. I think that there’s so much more to romance than just kissing and all that other stuff.” I guess what I had said finally registered with him because his eyes widened. “Are you asking me to be your boyfriend?”

 

My face warmed, but I was grinning, “I mean…if you want me to be your girlfriend, then…”

 

Chuck nodded. “I do.” He smiled, “You know, I’ve had a crush on you since the fourth grade.”

 

Now, I definitely hadn’t known that.

 

I leaned in and kissed him on the cheek. Cheek kisses didn’t bother me so much.

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Simon Gillespie

 

Okay, here’s the truth about why I pushed Violet away.

 

I was scared.

 

She’d never accept the anxiety.

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Aww I am melting right now that was so cute! And it wasn't yucky romance like most books....

 

Ohh I knew it! But now I feel like giving Simon an (air) hug (I'm not a huggy pperson, you know?). 

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I wish  all the misery, pain, worries, EVERYTHING, time itself, would stop, just pause a bit...

                                                                                                                     

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Bracha-

 

Thanks! I was melting just writing it. Yeah...Simon’s working to get better

 

Spring
May

 

 

Simon Gillespie

 

“I can’t believe you guys get to go to the planetarium,” Dad said. “I wish we had gone there in eighth grade.”

 

Corinne and I were packing to go on the eighth-grade overnight trip. Apparently, they used to take them on a nature retreat, but once the hotel right next to the planetarium started funding school trips five years ago, they’ve been taking the eighth-graders there.

 

I was worried about a few things, like having to talk to Violet again, keeping an eye on Corinne and her new boyfriend…but I was most worried about the anxiety.

 

never spent a night away from Mom and Dad. What if I got an anxiety attack and I wasn’t prepared? Although…I’d been doing really well with the anxiety. I hadn’t gotten an anxiety attack for a while.

 

I really hoped that I’d be okay on this trip.

 

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Violet

 

I was excited about this trip. That is, until I found out who my roommate was going to be for the next two nights.

 

          I looked over the list. Corinne was with Nancy, Anne was with Lindsay, Simon was with Chuck, Randy with Josh. Then, I found mine. My heart dropped.

 

          Violet Alvarez/Brewer…Bethany Baker.

 

          I was hoping for Corinne. Or even Nancy or Anne. Anyone but Bethany.

 

          It’s going to be fine, I told myself. You’ll be at the planetarium during the day and you’ll never notice her when you’re sleeping.

 

          That’s what I thought anyway.

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Oh no.... but it's a good cliffhanger.

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I wish  all the misery, pain, worries, EVERYTHING, time itself, would stop, just pause a bit...

                                                                                                                     

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Bracha-

 

*dinosaur ye meme*

 

Corinne Gillespie

 

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Everything was amazing. Seeing everything here made me realize why Dad loved astronomy so much.

 

          My favorite part, by far, was the downstairs area where you saw the mass of each planet, then weigh yourself to see how much you’d weigh on different planets.

 

          “I like that they have Pluto here,” Simon said.

 

          I smiled at him, “Me too.”

 

          After Violet finished writing down all of this information in her notebook, we went to go look at the big transparent ball that showed how constellations will sometimes look different depending on where you are.

 

          “It’s crazy,” I told Chuck, staring at the screens. “We have the universe, the Milky Way galaxy, Earth, the United States, and in the middle of all that, Holmdale.”

 

          Chuck nodded, “I know. Next time I start to think that I’m all that, I’m gonna remember this diagram.”

 

          I laughed, “Someone should show this to Josh.”

 

          Chuck laughed and nodded again, “Definitely.”

 

          Even though we weren’t technically going to buy stuff from the gift shop until tomorrow, I still wanted to look. Simon and I were sure that we’d find something in there for Dad. It was the least we could do to make up for him not being one of the parent chaperones on this trip.

 

          Most of the stuff was t-shirts and glow in the dark stickers and stuff. But there was one that I was sure he’d like.

 

          It was a medium-sized glass tree, with the trunk painted a dark blue and the leaves painted bright yellow. From the tree were different planets hanging on strings. I found all nine of them (yes, Pluto was there too).

 

          Part of me thought Simon could just make another like it, but his main forte was in sketching.

 

          “Are you thinking what I’m thinking?” Simon asked.

 

          I nodded, “Yeah, we have to get that for Dad.”

 

          “How much is it?” Simon asked.

 

          I shrugged, then went up to the cashier. “Hi, excuse me. Um, how much is that glass tree right there?”

 

          The cashier looked from the tree, then back to me. “One-hundred dollars,” he said.

 

          Perfect.

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Not gonna comment on your comment..... So, 1oo dollars? That is one lucky dad. have you read the Wonder book with the Julian Chapter, Pluto, and Shingaling? This brings back the memory.

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I’ve read THE JULIAN CHAPTER but I haven’t read Pluto and Shingaling

 

Simon Gillespie

 

Everything was great. Everything was good. Everything was all nice and dandy.

 

Why, why, why did I have to get called up to go on stage?

 

Okay, so we were watching a presentation on the stars and the big bang and stuff – I still found it hard to believe that the whole universe was created in a single explosion – when the announcer suddenly wanted a volunteer to go on stage as an example to further explain something. I sunk down low in my seat, praying that he wouldn’t choose me.

 

Did that work?

 

Well, what do you think?

 

“Uh, the wavy-haired brunette kid with the glasses,” the announcer said into the mic. “Come up here, son.”

 

I took a deep breath. My hands shook. I forced myself to put one foot in front of the other. So far so good. The minute I got up there, though, things fell apart.

 

I looked out at the sea of eighth-graders. Big mistake. Five hundred pairs of eyes. One thousand eyes. All staring at me, waiting for me to mess up. You know that old trick of picturing people in the crowd in their underwear? Well, whoever said that worked is feeding you a load of baloney. All it does is make my face heat up, making me more anxious.

 

The next thing I knew, the microphone was in front of me. I didn’t even hear what the guy said. Everything blurred. I had to get out of here.

 

To my horror, I took off. Running off the stage and past the class. I ran to an empty room that was quiet, and sat down, letting the angry tears fall.

 

I was good. I had been fine. I hadn’t had an anxiety attack like this in weeks. It was almost like my anxiety had gone on vacation but now came back and said, “Hey, I’m home! Did ya miss me?” No. I did not miss it one bit.

 

I breathed heavily. The whole eighth-grade saw that. I was sure what they were all saying about me now.

 

I heard footsteps and cowered deeper in the corner. I didn’t want to be found.

 

“Simon?”

 

Violet.

 

I didn’t answer. I didn’t want her to see this side of me.

 

Suddenly, she was right in front of me, her pretty face looked concerned. “Is everything okay?” She asked. “What happened?”

 

“I’m fine,” I said.

 

“Simon, you don’t seem fine.”

 

I turned away from her. “Violet…really, I’m okay. Just go away.”

 

She kneeled down to look me in the eyes. “Look, Simon, I know I may not be the person you want to talk to right now, but…I can’t just walk away and pretend like I didn’t see you like this.”

 

Taking every bit of courage I had, I told her. I finally told her all about the social anxiety and why I’d been acting so weird.

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Violet

 

Social anxiety. Simon had social anxiety. That’s why he’d been acting so weird ever since I’d met him.

 

          But it didn’t make him any less special.

 

          When he finished telling me all this, he just glanced at me and then started to get up. “I’m sorry for bothering you with this, I’m sure Corinne wants me to go with her right now.”

 

          I caught his arm. “Simon,” I said. “You’re not bothering me with this. I’m glad you told me.”

 

          All he did was stare at me. “You are?”

 

          I nodded.

 

          “Do you think I’m weird because of it?”

 

          I shook my head, “Absolutely not.”

 

          He smiled, which made me grin too.

 

          For a while, we just stared out at all the stuff in this room, and then, Simon broke the silence.

 

          “Would you ever date a person with a mental disorder?” He didn’t look at me when he said this, he just kept staring off into the distance.

 

          I nodded, “Of course.”

 

          He looked at me now, face reddening. “But you’re brilliant and beautiful, you could choose the ideal boyfriend. Why would you choose to have an unnecessary burden?”

 

          “Well,” I started. “Sometimes we just have to love people for who they are. Because, whether it’s a mental disorder, or questioning who you are, or a bully, everyone is going through something. So, we have to love people for who they really are, and just hope that they love us too.”

 

          He smiled again, “Thank you, Violet.”

 

          I smiled back, “No problem.” I bit my lip, “Can I lean my head on your shoulder?”

 

          He nodded, and I did, and it was nice.

 

***

 

 

The other surprise came later at night, already back at the hotel, ready to go to sleep.

 

          I was finishing up braiding my hair, so it wouldn’t be a mess when I woke up in the morning, when Bethany stepped into the bathroom, bumping into me, so I’d hit myself on the counter.

 

          “Oops,” she said flatly.

 

          I looked at her. I had dealt with her all year. I wanted answers. “Can I ask you a question?”

 

          “No,” she said.

 

          I pressed on, “Why are you so mean to me? I mean, I never did anything to you.”

 

          Bethany looked up, staring at the ceiling. “You’re right. You never did anything to me.”

 

          The way she said you was like…almost like someone had done something to her. Or was doing something to her.

 

          She stared at her reflection. “Let me ask you this, Science Barbie.”

 

          I had no idea where that nickname had come from, but I didn’t think she meant it as a compliment.

 

          Bethany continued, “How often is your ‘father’ nice to you?” She made air quotes when referring to Marty as my father.

 

It’d been a month since I’d referred to him as my dad, but I did like to think of him that way.

 

I shrugged, “Like a regular dad would be, I guess.”

 

Bethany scoffed, then shook her head. “That’s exactly what I mean. He isn’t even your real father and he treats you like a decent human being.”

 

Wait a minute. I knew where she was going with this.

 

“Bethany,” I said. When she didn’t look up, I repeated myself, “Bethany.”

 

She looked up at me, her eyes glossy with tears. “What?”

 

“What does your dad do to you?” I asked her quietly.

 

“Why should you care?” Bethany asked, pushing past me out of the bathroom.

 

I caught her arm and spun her around, putting my hands on her shoulders. “I care. I want to understand you better.”

 

Bethany’s glare hardened, but she sighed, “Then you have to promise never to tell anyone.”

 

I didn’t want to make any promises. If this was something serious, then I had to tell someone. I just nodded.

 

Bethany took a deep breath, “He gets…drunk sometimes. And I’m usually the victim of who gets hurt when he does.” She lifted her shirt a little bit, revealing a big purple bruise on her side.

 

My eyes widened. “Oh my god,” I muttered.

 

She pulled her shirt back down and said. “I get them on my face sometimes, but…I’ve gotten pretty good at covering them with makeup.” Bethany’s face turned angry them. “I’m his real daughter and he treats me like this. You’re Marty’s adopted daughter, and he treats you like his real daughter. It. Isn’t. Fair!

 

I was stunned. I mean, none of this excused what Bethany did, but I did feel a pang of sympathy for her.

 

“Bethany,” I said. “I have to tell someone about this.”

 

She shook her head rapidly, her eyes welling with tears. “No! My mom doesn’t know about any of this. If she does…I don’t know what she’ll do.”

 

I didn’t care what she said. I needed to tell someone.

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Whoa. That's big. 

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I wish  all the misery, pain, worries, EVERYTHING, time itself, would stop, just pause a bit...

                                                                                                                     

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Yeah...

 

Simon Gillespie

 

After I told Violet about the anxiety, it seemed crazy that I had never told her. How could I think that she wouldn’t accept it?

 

          We were on our way home now, I was sitting next to Corinne on the bus, who was hugging the bag that Dad’s tree was in like it was the old stuffed panda she sleeps with. I hoped Dad liked it.

 

          I looked back at where Violet was sitting. She was resting her chin in her palm, staring out the window. I wondered what she was thinking about.

 

          I felt a kick behind my seat, and Josh said, “Quit staring at her, you look like a stalker.”

 

          I blushed and quickly turned away. Had I really been staring that long?

 

          Corinne rolled her eyes at Josh, “Yeah, like you stare at me.”

 

          Josh’s face turned a light shade of red, and he sunk back in his seat muttering, “Forget it.”

 

          I was glad Corinne didn’t like Josh in that way. I was glad that she didn’t like anyone in that way. I mean, she was dating Chuck now and everything, but I was glad that she realized her asexuality.

 

         
          “Do you think Dad’ll like the tree?” Corinne asked me.

 

          I nodded, “Yeah.”

 

          When the bus finally stopped back at Holmdale Middle, I saw Mom, Dad, and Marty trying to wave at us through the windows. We exited and found the three of them. Mom engulfed the three of us in hugs.

 

          After Mom released us, Corinne held out the paper bag that was hosting the tree to Dad.

 

          “This is for you,” she said. “Don’t open it until we get home, though. I don’t want it to break.”

 

          Dad smiled and took the bag, “Thanks, kiddos.”

 

          Marty hugged Violet, “How’d it go, Vi?”

 

          Violet looked like she’d just been snapped out of a trance, “What? Oh, uh, yeah, good.”

 

          The fact that she was acting like this made me nervous. What if she had had time to really think about my anxiety and decided that she didn’t want anything to do with me?

 

***

 

The fact that I had the audacity to think that she was thinking about me instead of what she was really thinking about, still makes me angry at myself.

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