Cutting Off

By Devan Petersen


I cut him off mid-sentence,

reach out with a knife of words,

and slice his lips from his face.

His eyes grow wide and scared,

as he stares disbelieving,

at the mouth he used to have,

tightly in the grip of my fingers.

I clutch it so it cannot leave,

so that he could not try to wrestle it,

viciously from my fingertips

no matter how much he wants to.

“Listen,” I hiss at him,

but he doesn’t look at me

his eyes roll around wildly

darting all over the room

his attention on all but me.

So I reach out and take his eyes,

scoop them right out of his head,

in great jelly-like globs,

that glisten in my fists,

so that I’m staring at his face,

blank of smiles and sight.

“Pay attention,” I implore him,

begging him to not make me,

take anything more from his face.

Trembling he turns an ear at me

and I open my mouth

but I find all I can do is scream.

 

 

Death of Friendship

By Devan Petersen


We’re breathing in our hellos,

catching them by their tails

as they drift out of our mouths

like little rats pattering mindlessly,

our pink tongues drunk on nostalgia

and I’m standing here wondering

just when did this become so hard?

So we stand grasping at sentences trying to

haul them back like it can somehow change

the stagnant and fetid air that is heavy between us,

this reeks of the death of friendship

the carrion of what were once easy words

and the gentle brushes of fingertips.

I long for the sweet innocence

that lets me chant words like “forever”

as if they mean nothing and everything

without this shadow hovering

and the knowledge that there is no such thing

as eternity when it comes to people you know.

Love never lasts it, likes to curl up under beds

until it has gone putrid and the air is sweet

with the smell of its passing long since gone.

Storm Rider

By Devan Petersen


She wants to ride lightning,

walk into rain heavy clouds

and twine her arms around

the thin neck of electricity.

 

She wants her skin to sear,

shrivel and burn on contact

until the air was heavy with

her smell and nothing else.

 

She wants to tame storms,

to quell the wildness

that roamed dark in skies

so she could call it her own.

 

 

Betray

By Devan Petersen


BETRAY (verb be·tray \bi-ˈtrā, bē-\)

  • Forget who you are, breathe in deep the poison of your words… Lies, deceit, lead me forward like a dancing puppet. Tug me with your string, promise to carry me higher and higher. Drag a razor’s edge over my lifeline, watch me crumble in front of millions. Lie prone on the ground in front of them. Join in their laughter so that I know you were with them all along. Stab fingers like daggers in my direction, point and chatter at your audience. You only ever built me up to watch me fall.

The Room

“I wrote this poem to raise awareness of school shootings as well as to focus on the effects it has in the classroom.”

By Colton Brunson


Walls plastered

with educational posters,

where once innocent minds focused

on the brilliant teacher.

All lay lifeless

drooped over their little chairs

red, velvet red

deeply staining their Minute Maths.

John’s football cards

scattered over his desk

still clinging to the smell of the package,

now cling to a new smell, death.

Uneaten lunches stacked neatly

in the bullet filled cart.

The room that once contained learning and laughter

now grasps a stale silence,

all due to one heinous act.

 

One Last Cigarette

“The main character is opposite of me in many different ways, the main one being morals. This isn’t the kind of story I would usually write, so I decided to try and branch out a little. I’m hoping that by not using any specific names for my characters, I am helping the reader connect to the story and not taking away from it.”

By Callie Wollenburg


I couldn’t remember his name. It was Andrew or Austin or something equally forgettable. He’d fallen asleep with one arm flung over my waist while I stared at the ceiling. The cell phone next to the bed lit up with a message. The screen had a picture of the boy with his arms wrapped around a beautiful girl. I looked back up at the ceiling. It wasn’t my problem.

I moved his arm and slid out of the tangle of sheets. He snored softly. The floor was cold under my feet as I shuffled to the door. I grabbed a pack of cigarettes and a lighter from a drawer and stepped outside. The cold air curled around me, it was still dark. A pair of headlights appeared at the far end of the street. They illuminated the spot on the cement stairs where I sat. The car passed and I heard the door behind me open and close again. I didn’t turn around.

“I um… I should get going probably.” He sounded sad.

“Yeah,” I agreed as I flicked ash from the cigarette.

He walked past me then turned around. “I’ll text you?”

I closed my eyes and exhaled, “Yeah.”

I kept them closed until I was sure he was out of sight. If we were lucky we’d never see or hear from each other again. I drug the cigarette across the ground until the embers were dark and then tossed it into the brown lawn. I wrapped my arms around myself against the cold. I stayed that way until the sun began to creep into sight.

It wasn’t until a few weeks later that the real problem arose. The two red lines on the bathroom counter glared up at me. Mom’s voice on the phone said, “I raised you better than that.”

“Yeah.”

She said “Your dad isn’t gonna talk to you.”

“Yeah.”

She asked what I was going to do with it.

“I don’t know,” I said.

“Have you called him?”

“Who?”

“You know who,” she said.

“I don’t.”

“Are you going to?” There was hope in her tone, like maybe I would call him and everything would work out and we’d be a happy little family.

“I don’t know.” I could call him, but then I remembered the girl on the front of his phone. It wasn’t worth ruining a relationship. “No.”

“What happened to you?”

“Everything. Nothing. I don’t know,” I shrugged.

“You could go back to school, it’s not too late.”

“Yeah,” I said. We both knew I wouldn’t.

“I love you,” she said. There was pause as she waited, then “Bye.”

 

I hung up the phone and pushed the test into the trash. The reflection in the mirror looked back at me with disapproving eyes. In the glass they weren’t rimmed in red, they were the sharp eyes I’d had before my life spiraled out of control.

I hadn’t been back to campus since he died. I didn’t want to think about him, but I found myself doing it anyway. I knew what he’d say right now. He had always been the careless kind. The night he died I remember him telling me, “Things always work out the way they’re supposed to.” That’s bullshit.

People like him aren’t supposed to get shot for the money in their wallet, they’re supposed to finish school and save people’s lives. People like the naïve, ambitious girl I had been aren’t supposed to press useless fingers to a bullet hole and watch someone’s life drain away. I should have been able to do something.

I opened the small cabinet next to the mirror and grabbed one of the small orange bottles lining the shelf. I slipped one of the yellow and green pills from the container and let it sit on my tongue for a moment. I don’t think they ever really helped, but it did take the edge off. I picked up the phone. Set it down again. Reached for a cigarette, then stopped.

Months after that conversation with my mom I stood behind the counter of a small coffee shop, the strings of the uniform apron barely tying behind me. The bell above the door rang as a couple slipped through. They brushed snow from each other, their noses red from the cold and faces smiling. The burst of winter air from their entrance met me at the same time I recognized the man.

“Miss? Excuse me miss, are you alright?” A middle-aged woman stood in front of me with soft eyes.

“Sorry ma’am, yes I’m fine. What can I do for you?”

She smiled kindly at my rushed words. “I was just hoping for a cup of hot chocolate please.”

“Of course.” I smiled at her but didn’t meet her eyes. As I poured the steaming drink into a cheerfully decorated mug, I let my eyes wander back toward the couple. They sat at a corner table with hands casually linked across it. He looked happy. Not like the sad, lost man who’d walked past me on the stairs all those months ago.

I wanted to hate them for their happiness, but I couldn’t. I envied them. Those were the kind of people who could raise happy, healthy children. Not me. I couldn’t give anyone that kind of love. Anything I had to offer would be broken in comparison.

I slid the mug across the counter and this time sought the woman’s eyes. “This one is on me,” I smiled.

I found my thoughts drifting back to that moment frequently. Maybe I should have told the man, he did have a right to know. But I couldn’t force myself to take something that didn’t belong to me, and his attention wasn’t mine. I could only hope I made the right choice. God knows I’d already made enough of the wrong ones.

Now, with my fingers looped through a chain-link fence, I’m glad I put the phone down and didn’t light a cigarette. The cool metal of the fence presses into my forehead as I watch her tumble down the yellow plastic slide. Her cheeks are red and a smile lights up her face. She looks over to where I’m standing and sees a stranger watching. Her pudgy little hand waves to me, and I can’t help but smile back at her. She is beauty and innocence and all the things I’ve lost in life.

A woman’s voice behind me asks, “Do you want to meet her?”

Without looking at her I shake my head. “I can’t. I shouldn’t have come.”

“It’s okay,” she whispers, placing a gentle hand on my shoulder.

“She’s beautiful,” I say. I finally look at the woman, hot tears sliding down my face.

“I know,” she says. “We love her more than anything, you know?”

I nod, and as I turn to walk away, I light one last cigarette and hope like hell I never have to see that angel face again.

Snapped Back to Reality

“I wrote this about growing up and how people get more realistic with every year of their life that passes.”

By McCall Hasquet


As you grow up, reality sets in

No mystical man behind North Pole gates

No monster hiding under the bed

 

A bully won’t punch you in the face

Professional athlete isn’t your fate

As you grow up, reality sets in

 

That boy you met isn’t the one

Neither are your next 50 dates

Feeling alive is only there when you sin

 

You major in a degree you aren’t interested in

Your parents weren’t actually soul mates

As you grow up the reality sets in

 

You lose all faith, have no religion

You live off a piggy bank

Comfort can be a half gallon of Pendleton

 

You take a deep breath, you’ll be okay

Because once you’ve grown up and reality has set in

There’s a glimpse of hope something better awaits

Bad News

“I wrote this about a situation I was once in. I’m a notorious keeper of diaries, so to write this I just looked at some of my past entries and got easy inspiration to write about how I felt about this boy and the overall situation.”


By McCall Hasquet

He’s bad news for you. He said so himself. You told him how you felt and that was all he said. He doesn’t love you, this is nothing serious. Those words constantly run through your mind. You had your way out but you didn’t take it. You didn’t want to take it. Now here you are, nothing’s changed. His bed has become more familiar than your own. His invites are always late but you always wake up and go. You know this is going to end with your broken heart. This whole scenario is a time bomb. You don’t care, you can’t resist. It’s his smart-ass personality and his subtle smile. He’s worse than a bad habit, he’s an addiction. You’re addicted to the way he treats you like shit. You love it and you don’t know why you love it. You hate that you love it and you hate that you love him. You knew you should have walked away. Now you’re in too deep. Yeah he’s bad news for you, but the thing is, you’re not looking for any good.

The Geese and the Gift

“This story is about a high school aged boy in a rural town, who loses a friend to suicide and how his loss affects his life.”

By B (Anonymous)


I remember sitting on one of those rock-hard wooden benches at the Methodist Church in town on a crisp November morning. I was sandwiched tightly between two people I didn’t know. He sure had a good turnout, I thought to myself looking around at all these people squeezing together neighborly for my late friend, Thursten. Several gentlemen leaned against the wall in the back of the chapel, sacrificing their seats so that their wives and children could sit comfortably. I think that that, was the only lovely thing I’d seen since I’d arrived. Everyone whisper’s drew out into silence as Thursten’s father took the floor. He was holding an earthy looking ceramic vase near his heart with pain in his eyes.

“This morning, my family and I left our home with heavy hearts full of grief for our beautiful son Thursten. Thursten used to love geese. As a boy he’d chase them around the pond at my parent’s ranch in Jordan. In his teens they became his favorite game to hunt. The Canadian geese should be long gone at this time of year. However, this morning, my family and I were enlightened by the sight of a flock soaring over our house. We needed a sign that our boy was okay,”

It didn’t matter if this was a heavenly effort to show the family that Thursten was safe and at the end of all his suffering, or a mere coincidence. The story stuck with me. I listened, captivated. I wept, sniffled, and most of all, I believed.

It had been 10 months since the funeral. My last year of high school was supposed to spill over with drunken keggars in the mountains, epiphanies, good vibes, and ultimately the graceful finale to my boyhood. When Thursten died he took that rite of passage from me, or more so, enabled me to take it from myself. I decided being alone was better than forcing myself to smile or laugh with my friends. I didn’t want to hurt them during this time of reminiscence just because nothing was funny or worth my smile anymore. I created my own lonely existence. Now that life was plain and season less, and weekends came and went. I could blame no one but myself and I didn’t care enough to blame in the first place.

In the months following Thursten’s death, I spent most of my time at school in the welding shop. I had three bumpers and one sign to finish by myself after Thursten left. His designs were intricate and hard to understand. This made all our projects nearly impossible to finish without him. Then again, I never thought I’d have to. After school on week days, I continued to work at my uncle’s body shop as I did before Thursten’s passing. My mind was so clouded, I was shitty and slow at everything now. My uncle never said a thing about it but I know he wished he could fire my broke ass. On the weekends, I didn’t have Thursten’s expert blueprints to fuss over or any cars to climb under so I spent a lot of time on the back of my horse, Lucy. We never ran, or even trotted, we just walked for miles and miles until the stars and moon were all that lighted our way. It was then, when the darkness and emptiness of the night matched my insides, that I thought of Thursten the most.

I thought back on all the early mornings he’d drag me out of bed to go hunting.

“Get the fuck up Tuck, there’s a big ole flock of Canadian geese out by the south end of the lake! Let’s bring em’ home boy!” he’d yell, busting through my bedroom door at four in the morning.

“Come on, get the hell up you limp sac, I already saddled up Lucy and Ruger’s all ready to go.” Thursten only hunted on horseback. As a matter of fact, he only hunted on the back of his favorite horse, Ruger. Who according to him, was the best and fastest stud in the county. He was trim, dark, and pissed energy, just like Thursten.

I remembered all the times Thursten would sneak just enough of his dad’s Jack to fill this old, nasty canteen he carried everywhere. I remember him pulling me off Beau Harvey the quarterback, when I drank too much of the stuff one night at a keggar.

“He’s not worth the bloody knuckles Tuck. Fuck Baleigh too man, if she wants to be with that meat head over you, she’s just not fuckin’ right man.” Thursten swore a lot, but his words were never wasted, at least not to me.

Thursten never slept. He’d pick me up from the body shop after work most days and we’d drive late into the night. After so many nights like that our parents quit calling the cops. Thursten always wanted to talk about life, or some big idea he had. He always had something to say.

“Everyone should ride horses, hunt their own meat, work for every penny, and pick their woman up at the door! Don’t ya think Tuck? Hell, I’ll never conform to all these modern day, horse shit ideals. We’re pioneers man! We gotta go out and make our own destinies just like the men before us.” Thursten knew all about history, and math. Hell, he knew a lot about everything but he never did his homework. He said it was a waste of his limited time. He was right.

I sunk into the driver’s seat in a foggy trance. I fiddled with the keys for a moment before turning over the engine in my pickup and speeding out of my driveway. I was apprehensive heading down the long dirt road that connected Thursten’s place to mine.

I had so much time to anticipate the day I’d walk into that beautiful house and give my gift to the parents of my fallen friend. I couldn’t control my tears, even after so much time and training. I’d made them a memorial in the shop class that I used to share with Thursten. It was a cross made of Ruger’s horse shoes. It had three steel geese flying in a circle around it, with hand painted beaks. It took me three tries, three weeks, and three geese to perfect. I was proud of it at first, but I couldn’t bring myself to deliver it for a long time. After all, I didn’t expect a mere object to heal them, or make them cry less at night. I didn’t expect it to impress them either. It was just a piece of art and could never compare to the things Thursten made. I only hoped they could look at it and be reminded of how loved their son was. I wonder if it would make them cry more wishing their late son knew that.

Class was always less painful with Thursten. He was always goofing off, sporting that bright white smile and contagious high pitched giggle. Not even Mrs. G could get mad at him, even when she caught him chewing dip in the shop once. Boy he ran like hell, giggling the whole damn way. G gave up eventually. She always did with Thursten. I guess he was just too bright to be angry with.

I called before going there. His mother met me at the door with a smile that was noticeably forced, and tear drops hanging in her eyes. I stepped into their house with high ceilings. Thursten’s hunted animals were mounted elegantly on the walls. I’ll never forget shooting my first buck with him and packing it out on Lucy. He guided me to the perfect shot, made me be patient. I would’ve never hit it without his help. He was so good that way. I was forced to take a bite of the heart because according to Thursten, it was tradition and I couldn’t trample tradition. When I finally did he just laughed and laughed at the sour face I made and called me a girl.

It smelled crisp and warm inside, like fall in there though it was August. My house smelled like lawnmower gas at this time of year. His father slipped out from the kitchen. He stood emotionless, locked up, like a sealed safe. The rumor around town was, he hadn’t cried since the funeral when he told the story of the geese.

“This is for your family. It was the best way I knew to pay my respects. These are Thursten’s horseshoes. He left them at our ranch a few years ago when we went hunting,” I said nervously, with a lump in my throat for the tears that begged to follow.

“Thank you so much Tucker. It’s beautiful. We’ll put it right above the fireplace. It will be treasured forever, as will our Thursten,” His mom smiled at me with light and tears seen clearly in her eyes.

“Thank you son,” said Thursten’s father running his fingers across the geese. His face was still blank.

For a moment, I felt Thursten there with me, as I gazed at a picture of my handsome friend hung above the window in the kitchen. I felt his blue eyes staring directly into mine and then past them, into my heart and soul. That photo was alive for a moment. It broke me in two knowing someone so beautiful eliminated himself on purpose.

Fused

By B (Anonymous)


I found myself staring out of the dirty window of my dad’s place that summer. My eyes were always scanning, looking beyond the yellow fields scattered with black cattle. I’d look onward to the sunlight beaming off the shallow waters of Lake Helena. I’d watch the slim sliver of lake for hours though it was as far as my eyes could see and miles away. One day my trance was interrupted, but not by a regular customer buying a six pack or a gallon of milk. This time it was someone extraordinary, someone who little did I know, would shape and affect my life forever. The first time I saw him, all I saw was a huge pair of eyes. They were dark eyes that bore mystery yet a deepening warmth at the same time. He was the son of my father’s best friend Ryan, his name was Bellamy.

“Hey Scot. How’s business today man?” Ryan smiled brightly shaking my father’s hand.

“Good! Better than yesterday, Ryle actually showed up today,” my dad affirmed with sarcasm heavy in his voice.

“What’s going on today?” My dad questioned further

“Bastard. How late this time? Oh you know me just workin on junk,” Ryan knew everything about us, the business, and the gossip in our small community.

“Oh an hour or so of course. Can’t afford to fire him though man, no one that applies here is worth a damn, and Brittany’s already putting in the afternoon hours,”

“Hey well that’s what I came to talk to you about! Bellamy is looking for some work, kid’s about to go into high school, needs to save for a truck. You got anything for him to do man? Hell, he’ll pick up butts outside, he’ll do shit work, just needs something to do,”

Bellamy stood quietly next to his father, eyes awake, compliant with all his dad had said.

“Hell yeah man! Anything for this family, we’ll put Bell to work!” dad said slapping Bellamy’s shoulder playfully.

Bellamy smiled genuinely squinting his eyes that still looked big when he did so. His eyes were deep tunnels and though they were dark, seemed to fill with the light that came with his laughter. His eyes turned to me for a moment and I felt my face grow hot. Though I’d just met him, he looked at me in a way that said he knew all about me. I looked at him the same way.

He began work at my dad’s store soon after. For the first month or so, few words were spoken between us. He’d bag the ice and I’d run the register, our eyes would lock powerfully for long periods every time he made his way to my section of the small building. Somehow it wasn’t strange when it happened, it was just us. Occasionally dad would assign us some stupid task and we’d have to verbally communicate which made my anxiety spike viciously. I would’ve rather been robbed then be told to face Bellamy and his soul swallowing eyes.

One sweltering afternoon in early July, I was told I’d have to spray weeds in acre long field behind work. I walked out back in cutoffs and summer sandals feeling unprepared for this messy and flavorful work. There I saw Bellamy who had already filled up a large tank with weed killer and strapped it to the back of the four-wheeler.

“Alright Britt you drive the quad and Bellamy you spray both sides. Now Brittney don’t go too fast it’ll fuck up our operation here,” my dad said jokingly.

This was no joke to me. I reluctantly started the quad, my hands shaking. I was not prepared to talk to Bellamy. He grabbed the sprayer. I looked back in a light way to see if he was ready to go. He’s the kind of boy who’s too shy to make the subtlest directory statement so he just stood readily, glancing up at me, and seeming almost as nervous as I was. The throttle was a bit touchy or perhaps it was my shaky hand that made me lunge forward on accident propelling myself almost over the handlebars before slamming on the brake. I looked back at him red-faced, embarrassed and nervous all at once. That was the first time he smiled at me, lifting his head and squinting his eyes like he did. We both laughed nervously but genuinely still looking at each other. The moment passed and I finally got the hang of the machine as he steadily sprayed behind me, teasing me to slow down on occasion. I curse my shaky right hand for again, lunging us forward this time powerfully enough to rip the nozzle from the hose, kicking Bellamy to the ground and spraying weed-killer all down my leg. It burned, but my stomach burned more from laughing. I suddenly felt comfortable with myself and in his presence. This feeling was foreign to me. He advanced to his feet laughing, as he hurried over to my side. He kept apologizing and his laugh became nervous. He ran his hand up my shin catching the drips of chemical running down my leg, and then wiped it onto his shirt. He looked up to me with a look that told me his touch made us both giddy. The shameless hysteria I’d felt for a moment subsided. It turned to a familiar bashfulness as his bashfulness turned into bravery. We grew very close after that and I couldn’t help but think it must’ve started with his smile.

The two months left of summer came and passed. Our long looks turned into many long meaningful conversations and long nights of talking on the phone. In the fall we went into high school together and became caught up in our own guff, but when we returned to work the next summer we picked up right where we had left off. I fell harder for him than before. My shifts were long, hot and miserable those three months and I’d find myself gazing across at the water as I often did. Now when I gazed I could only picture swimming with Bellamy in there, laughing at his weird brave heart impersonations, and looking at those eyes like I loved to do. He’d always interrupt my gaze with his noisy cart full of bagged ice, followed with a smart comment and the grin I loved.

“Who’re you creeping on B?”

“Oh, just Mark from the trailer park. Smoke is pouring out of his blazer right now but what’s new I guess haha,”

“Fuckin’ Mark. That guy’s got enough ganj to get a dinosaur high,”

Bellamy always said weird things like that. He always made me laugh at the clever absurdity of everything he said. Then, he’d tilt his head back and laugh genuinely and handsomely, making my tan face turn red.

“You two quit flirtin’ that ice is gonna melt and you’ll both be cleanin’ it up!” Dad popped in the back door.

“Alright boss we’re on it!” Bellamy said saluting to me and dad making both of us smile.

It was so easy for him to make people smile, to make an impact on people. Come to think of it, it was probably just me.

Bellamy’s dad, Ryan, was a mechanic and my dad had lots of cars. We’d always be dropping them off and picking them up at their house especially that second summer, my station wagon was constantly overheating in the hot weather. I always went over there with my dad. We’d sometimes be there for hours. Bellamy and I would listen to our fathers talk about cars, bills, and their blue-collar lives. We’d feed the horses apples through the window of the garage and laugh about everything even if it wasn’t that funny.

It wasn’t long until school rolled around again and I started drowning in distraction. School was hard, home was hard, everything was hard and as soon as the leaves began to fall I stopped seeing Bellamy all the time. He faded out of my life as if my heart hadn’t skipped a beat every time I saw him. As if I hadn’t felt that summer after summer. The thought of him was something so foreign now. However, my already turbulent life set fire the night I overheard Dad say Bellamy had ran away. It bothered me every day after that wondering where he was and if he was okay. It was sixth months later when I saw him again. I was driving. At first I couldn’t tell who he was, he’d lost around 30 pounds and had deep dark circles under his bloodshot eyes. I was too busy staring at him to slow down. When we locked eyes I slammed on my breaks and threw my car in park in the middle of the street. Luckily there was no traffic, not that I would’ve cared. I opened my door aggressively and slammed it shut walking over to him. Uneasily waiting for me, he didn’t move, he’d never seen me upset.

“Where the hell have you been?” I asked him enraged. “You need to come back. Your family misses you and I miss you Bellamy,” I yelled pushily.

“Come on just let me take you home,” I pointed to my car anxiously.

“Fuck them,” he sneered.

Those words cut me apart inside as I struggled to understand how he could say that about the people he loved, people I loved equally.

“Get in the car please!” I begged him trying to hide my rage.

He turned around sharply and walked away from me. Tears welled in my eyes as I walked hard back to my car. I whipped my door open and slammed it as hard as I could. The tears finally fell. I sped off in the opposite direction as fast as my wagon would go. I peered Bellamy in my rearview hoping he’d turn around. He did for a second and I kept driving telling myself he didn’t. I cried because I knew it was ignorant of me to attack him. I cried wishing he knew how I felt. I cried because he was a monster now and I cried because I still loved him. I knew I did because the look in his eyes flooded my body with numbing despair, anger and heartache in its rawest form.

He came and went about three more times after that, each time lifting me with joy at his arrival and then letting me down with his departure. Every time he came back it was like he’d never left. It was like he was never on drugs or living in the unknown elsewhere. Then he’d leave again and I’d blame myself thinking that somehow confessing to the way I felt could have kept him around. I’d tell myself that it was worth a shot and that I’d tell him when he came back, and I waited.

After another episode of being gone, he came home again just before school started. I had spent that summer without him. Ryan, his three other kids and Bellamy came into the store while I was working. It was so busy and customers were lined all the way down the aisle but I threw down the scanner at the sight of him anyway and ran to him. I held tight to his tall stature and he ran his hand down the length of my hair before crossing his arms around me like he needed it. He looked so much better. We started school together once more. We walked to class for a couple weeks together and I was finally able to answer my own question. How could I love him?

I loved him for the way he looked at me when I talked, for the time he spent with his little brother, for holding his little sister’s hand, for the fact that he always opened the door for his mother. I loved him because words were never wasted with us and listening to him always made me feel understood. I didn’t see him around for a few weeks and knowing him, I assumed the worst. My friends waited for me outside one of his teachers classrooms.

“What are you up to kiddo?” Mr. Vee asked me eagerly. He was excited to see me.

“Hey Mr. Vee, not a lot, I was just wondering, has Bellamy Raymond been in school?” I asked nervously, hoping I didn’t already know the answer.

“No, no he hasn’t hon. If you see him, let him know Mr. Vee misses him!” he said cutely. He obviously didn’t realize what was happening.

“Okay . . . Um . . . Uh . . . Thanks,” I blurted out not knowing what to say. I rushed out of the classroom.

“He’s gone again,” I told my friends while staring at dirt stained white tiles that lined the floor beneath our feet.

Of all the times he’d left I always knew he’d come back but this time, I wasn’t so sure. He’d been gone for a month and a half and since, I’d been seeing things every day. Sometimes from a distance, or from the back, or out of the corner of my eye, I swore I saw him. Every boy on the street with a heavy walk made me look twice. However, the time I really did see him, I knew for sure. I got this weird shiver in the left side of my neck, and my stomach contracted so harshly that my whole body stiffened as if it was squeezed flat. I was walking out of the sandwich shop with my friends, my friend Destri pushed open the first glass door to exit and I suddenly became stiff as I tried to make out a tall dark boy pulling the second glass door to enter.

“Hurry Britt we gotta get back to school,” another friend of mine said without looking back at me.

I ignored her and walked hesitantly though I was the last one out the door. He was high again and I couldn’t get a good look at his face between his restlessness and the shadow of his brim. It wasn’t until I met him at the door and saw those eyes that could only be his. I knew it was him.

“Hey Bellamy!” I blurted out awkwardly stepping in front of him which barely hindered his rush.

“Whaa…what are you doing?” I asked masking the real answer I was looking for that didn’t concern him getting a sandwich.

“Oh just gettin’ a BLT,” he passed me by, hurried and anxiously.

“Buu. . .” I choked out.

He was already inside and the door had closed in my face. I turned around bumping into all five of my best friends who had been standing right behind me. I walked through them and they dashed to catch up to me. Tears have never fallen faster. Within seconds one ambled down my left cheek, taking its time before drying to my neck. It left a noticeable red runway or irritation. I collapsed into the passenger seat of the car we had driven, with them still trailing close behind me. I stared into my own green eyes in the narrow mirror on the visor. They always illuminated when I cried.

“Let’s go,” I told Destri when she got into the driver’s seat.

“No you have to go talk to him or you’ll regret it later,” she urged

“Yeah come on you don’t know when you’ll see him again,” another friend reminded me. They all knew our story.

So I waited brave and willing for him to come out. My friends withdrew and carried on conversation as usual, leaving me to briefly buck up. The glare of the glass veiled him from sight, but I still nervously jostled to open the car door and hurried gracelessly out of the car as soon as I saw the door swing open.

“Hey come here,” I muttered awkwardly.

He stopped and turned around impatiently waiting for me to come to him. The vessels in the whites and water lines of his eyes were bulging and bloodshot.

“Where have you been?” I finally gathered my words, staring at this seemingly stranger.

“Staying with a friend,” he answered as if he was having a sleepover.

“Oh, I just haven’t seen you around . . . school,” I spilled sheepishly.

Things were weird now.

“Um . . . I do . . . miss you,” I choked out.

He blushed, looking down but when he looked back up at me I saw a knowing look of guilt. The boy I knew with a light heart and a flawless face was now cold and broken out with sores all over.

“Um . . . so . . . let me know when you get back to school I guess,” I nodded terminating my awkward confession.

Why the fuck did I keep talking about school.

“Alright,” he said, in a tone that somehow told me he would be back. We looked at each other for another few seconds and conclusively parted ways even though there was still so much more I wanted to say.

The next time he slipped back into my life I wanted to leave him in my past but couldn’t just as I couldn’t shun him before for all the wrong he’d done. The only reason he was back this time is because he was on house arrest. Everyone saw him as a burden to me but I wanted nothing more than to help him, I wanted to fix him. I spent yet another summer with him at his house. I spent most of my time there and saw him almost every day. I’d go spend hours with him and his family after work. I’d play with his little sisters, talk to his mom, and Bellamy and I would listen to Nirvana all night and watch Adam Sandler movies. Being locked in his house with him helped me get to know him better than I did before. I knew everything. He was allowed to leave his house to work and began working for my dad again. He worked hard, long hours trying to prove himself. He refused to take anything from anyone and insisted on walking to and from work even when it was late. I saw him begin to change back into boy I fell hopelessly in love with four years ago. We were best friends and nothing more to my dismay. Not that I ever planned on revealing how I felt, I couldn’t risk losing him. Then one day, an all familiar feeling caught up to me as I glared at my phone that hadn’t heard from him all day.

“He fucking left again, up in the middle of the night while we were sleeping just like last time. I’m so sorry man, I shouldn’t have let you take another chance on him. Piece of fucking shit kid,” I overheard Ryan on the phone to my dad. My heart sunk to my feet as it had so many times before.

I was done being betrayed and used by Bellamy by my senior year of high school. I had the most amazing, memorable, nostalgic year of my life, even though Bellamy wasn’t in it. I was constantly reminded of him at work where his parents bought gas. Or driving down York road and passing his mom’s truck with the two unmistakable red stripes. I thought of him constantly but forced myself to leave him behind.

I tried to avoid his house but right before I left for college I had to go over and have Ryan take one last look at my car. It felt hard being at this all too familiar house without Bellamy. I hadn’t heard from him in almost a year. August reminded me of him and how he always wore pants even if it was 100 degrees. I felt a hand touch my shoulder. It was Ashley, Bellamy’s mom.

“Brittany, honey how are you? We miss you girl! You excited for college?”

“I’m pretty nervous! Never left Helena, I’ll miss this place and everyone. I’ll miss you guys. I already do,”

I was trying my best to avoid talk of Bellamy, I was trying to spare myself some pain.

“How’s Bellamy?” I asked anyway, knowing she might not know the answer.

“He’s in Wyoming at treatment. He stopped showing up to meetings with the probation officer, he really fucked up this time. Ryan’s done, I just can’t give up on him as much as I should. He’s my son you know? I love him even when he doesn’t deserve it,”

I knew exactly what she meant.

“He’s been trying to write you Britt. Have you not gotten his letters yet?”

“No I haven’t. I didn’t even know he was trying to write. I didn’t know he was in treatment,” I replied my heart feeling empty and heavy at the same time.

“You and I are the only ones he wants to talk to. I gave him your address, I hope that’s okay? Maybe you could write him if you’d like. Do you want his address?”

“Yes I’ll take it,” I replied shortly, masking all the emotions that were flooding back to me.

It took me a week to complete the letter for I didn’t know what to say. I finished it on a Sunday at 4 a.m. after awaking from a dream about Bellamy.

Bellamy, I don’t know where you are right now or why you’re there. What did you do? I hope you’re okay as I always do. I hope you’re getting what you need now. I think of you every time I hear a Nirvana song. I miss our summers together. I’ve loved you for nearly five years and I think its misfortune, but I know I’ll love you forever.

Love always, B

My letter was strange, short and honest but it was the best I could do. All we’d been through was too much for words.

I woke up in my dorm room on a crisp fall morning to a call from Bellamy’s mom. I answered it reluctantly. I hadn’t heard from her since I left for school.

“Hello,”

“Britt. Hey how are. . .” it was Bellamy.

“Bell?” I cut him off, responding in utter shock.

“Hey I just got back, are you going to be home this weekend?”

“Yes, uh yeah. Yes I’ll be home on Saturday.”

“Would you like to come by I’d love to see you,”

We talked for a while longer and it felt like it always felt. The following Saturday, I drove down the familiar dirt road to his house that I’d taken a hundred times but not recently. Moments belonging to Bell and I flooded my memory and a pit in my stomach began to form. I pulled into the driveway parking in front of the garage door as I used to. I walked inside, forcing my every step forward. Bellamy met me at the door looking better than ever, as sober as he did when I first met him. He pulled me into his arms and I felt so safe despite the fact that I was in the arms of the most unstable, untrustworthy person I knew. We walked into the living room to a room full of strangers who knew who I was. I spent the rest of the night catching up with Bellamy and his family. I left when the time felt right and that was when I began to feel in love again. I couldn’t fall into this again.

The next few months Bellamy texted and called me constantly. We made plans to see each other over Thanksgiving as friends. He was eighteen now and had moved out of his parents’ house for good to live with some friends. For the first time it seemed Bellamy had his life on track, he was going to school now, working and paying rent. It was all very new to me. I was very immune to the damaged individual I’d known before. For the first time in forever, the way we talked felt like it had before everything fell apart. After much skepticism, I began to believe he was changed. I arrived at his new place the night I came into town. It was so clean in the room. Art, posters, signs of home hung on the walls. It wasn’t what I’d expected. After talking and laughing for what seemed like hours the conversation turned serious. We talked about Wyoming and I asked why he never wrote me back.

“B listen okay, what I said in that letter needs to wait. It’s not time yet,”

“No fuck that. I deserve to know?”

“It’s not right. The time is not right yet that’s why I didn’t send it,”

“Tell me or I’m leaving. I’ve wondered for long enough Bellamy,”

“I love you Brittney. I love you so much you don’t even understand. I have forever, I have. But you have to understand I couldn’t have you then. I couldn’t. I was fucked in the head we all know that and I still have a long ways to go to be what you need. You’re my soulmate. I knew it the first time I saw you smile. I knew it the first day. If it’s not you B, it’s no one. I promise you I’ll never give up on you. You’re what kept me going, you’re the only one who’s never given up on me, even when you should have. I want to be everything for you because you’re everything for me. I love you,”

Tears streamed down my face and into my open mouth as I tried to comprehend what had just happened. I felt his rough fingertips wipe away the tears under my eyes.

“You can’t do this to me Bellamy. I don’t trust you! I don’t believe you! You left me so many times. I tried so hard to love you and you up and left every single time. How am I supposed to do this? What did I do to deserve this?” I yelled as tears streamed down more rapidly now.

“I love you Britt and you’ll never know how sorry I am but I couldn’t bring you down with me. Look at all you’ve done, look at all you have ahead. I wasn’t about to fuck your life up and I didn’t know how to change okay? I didn’t know until you came into my life. You’re everything I love you. Please tell me somewhere, in some fucked up way, you love me too,”

“Of course I do! I never stopped because I couldn’t. I can’t”

Tears were still streaming when he took my face in big, bony hands and kissed me for the first time. When his lips met mine, the tensions in my back loosened, the stress of my life vanished, and I felt so uncannily at peace. It was everything.

It was two months later when I got the call. I was laughing over take out with my roommates.

“You’re receiving a call from an incarcerated prisoner. Press 1 to connect. Press 2 to disconnect,” a feminine automated voice stated.

Clueless and curious, I pressed 1. It was probably just a misdial.

“Connecting to Lewis and Clark County Detention Center,”

What the fuck? Who’s calling me from jail in Helena?

Anxiety overcame me and I started to shake with bad feelings. I hadn’t heard from Bellamy all day and that was not like him.

It couldn’t be, he’s good now, he has his life straight now. Right?

The phone rang its tone for what seemed like forever and finally the muffled sound of many masculine voices at once came over the line.

“Brittney, are you there?” the sound of Bellamy’s voice from jail stung my ears.

“What the fuck? What happened? Why are you in jail?” I whimpered. Tears came quicker than my words to him.

“I’m in trouble,”

“What happened?” I interrogated him.

“Okay, just please listen okay? A month ago I sold this guy some weed, quite a bit of it. Well turns out the guy was an undercover cop. The cops have been watching me since I got back, they picked me up on my way to work today. I just needed some money, really, really bad. I was in trouble,”

“What the fuck Bellamy? Are you fucking kidding me? What the fuck is wrong with you! You’re a fucking liar! You had me so convinced you’d changed! You had a chance at a fresh start, a clean record. Why do you keep hurting me and yourself? Why don’t you care? Why the fuck did you call? I don’t have the money to bail you out of jail” I shouted through salty tears filling up the back of my throat.

“Britt I’m sorry, I’m so sorry. This is the last straw. This is what I need I think. And no, no, that’s not why I called. I can’t get bail. Britt, I’m looking at some time.”

Call ending in 1 minute.

“What kind of time?” I asked hyper focused.

“6 months to 10 years,”

Tears washed my face like a fast falling waterfall. I couldn’t breathe.

“Brittney listen, just listen okay I haven’t cared about my life in a long time. I don’t care what happens to me. You’re all that gets me through. You’re the reason I want different for myself. If it wasn’t for you I’d have put a bullet in my head a long time ago. I love you and nothing else,”

A long beep and the piercing “Goodbye” of the automated feminine voice ended our call before I could respond. The last thing he said lingered with me. I made myself sick wondering if he would really hurt himself if I stepped out of his life. I was too sick to eat, to sleep. I was trapped in my own empathetic way, in my own love. I received another call from the jail. I was tired of feeling fused. I searched for the number two on my dial screen through tears and pressed it, disconnecting once and for all.