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Excerpt for From The Window by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

From The Window

Ariel McMillan

Published by Ariel McMillan at Smashwords

Copyright 2018 Ariel McMillan


Discover other titles by Ariel McMillan

Pathfinders Rebellion


This is a work of fiction. All of the characters, organizations and events portrayed in this novel are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. In accordance with the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, the scanning, uploading, and electronic sharing of any part of this book without the permission of the author constitutes unlawful piracy and theft of the author’s intellectual property. If you would like to use material from the book (other than for review purposes), prior written permission must be obtained by contacting the author, Ariel McMillan. Excerpt From: McMillan, Ariel “From The Window.” 01/01/18This material is protected by copyright.



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I have a habit of setting myself up in a comfy chair, preferably with arms; I sit there with my flavored iced-tea infusion, because I’m extra, and I just sit and watch people from the window. If people are in my spot on a particular day, I can’t get into a good daze.

I love watching people walk by and looking into the windows of drivers doing a terrible job parallel parking. The bustling city is prime territory for people-watching and that’s all I do for hours at a time most weekday afternoons.

Another thing I like to do is watch is how people walk. If a person’s gait is more aggressive and fast-paced, they are either type-'A' personalities or late for a meeting that they don’t want to go to. Sometimes, I try to change my own walk so I take on the walk of someone I want to be. I stand tall and walk confidently in long strides with my shoulders down and my chin higher than necessary. For a moment, I am a super model on her day off. The model me just got back from a shopping spree at Forever 21 and I’m headed home to my chic apartment on the top floor of that huge apartment building getting built on the intersection. My dinner for that night would be a kale salad with white bean soup. Tomorrow I have a photo-shoot at the park where I am posing to be in Cosmopolitan modeling the ‘Garden Goddess’ line by some famous fashion company.

I try not to freak out when I realize that I’m actually not a super model. I casually stop at the foot of some fancy apartment building and try to act like I wasn't about to walk in. I am somewhat content with my muscular, borderline-masculine figure and small breasts. I am also totally content with my small eyes and frizzy brown hair, but I’m getting away from my point. I'm content with watching and assimilating other people’s lives. My friends tell me that my interesting hobby makes me more empathetic than the rest and maximum levels of empathy equal top-notch observation skills, which then equals smartness and who doesn't want to be smart? My logic doesn't make sense, but I'm sticking with it!

Today, I was sitting in my usual spot that has a permanent mark from my butt. I had stared at the menu at the counter trying to order something different than my usual iced tea.

I found this cafe when I first came to college. I was bored during orientation, so I thought I would walk around the city during one of our breaks to get a feel for my home for the next four years. I only walked a few blocks down the street when I saw this beautiful gem-of-a-cafe. When I walked through the glass door, a bell jingled which was satisfying. The cafe was very cozy. All of the couches and tables looked like they were made to be relaxed in and the atmosphere was cheery, warm and peaceful. People weren't talking loudly and phones weren't constantly going off. I knew I found a place to escape the city. I picked the seat closest to the window because it was a little crowded that day; the empty seat in front of me would serve as a foot rest on nap-days. That same, puffy and warm seat wasn't taken the next few times I went there so I claimed it in a way. I overheard some girls ahead of me in line talking about their favorite iced teas the day I discovered the cafe and that's how I discovered my favorite order.

I went with a caramel frappe because I wanted something with abhorrent amounts of sugar that day for some reason. Looking back, that is probably what caused this strange phenomenon. I was just sitting and laughing at people and making up stories in my head, when I saw someone staring from the window at the business across the street. I looked around to see if someone was waving in his direction, but after some people and cars passed by and he was still staring, I knew something was off. Before I could feel creeped out, he smiled. This caused my heart to go into overdrive. I’d never seen anyone of the opposite sex smile at me like that. It was like I was back in middle school; my old crush, George, from seventh grade (I was in 6th grade) smiles and says good morning, causing me to swoon and assume he is in love with me.

I didn’t keep my cool at all. I just sat there with my mouth half open and waved back like I was walking in on a surprise party. He giggled and looked back at whatever he was doing. I was kind of horrified because no one I looked at had ever paid attention to me. Being on the other side was weird and this encounter messed up my vibe.

A part of me wanted that encounter to be the end of it, but every time I went to that café, I would order a different drink as if that would summon him. I would watch people like usual, but my eyes would always wander to that spot in the window across the street. I didn’t see him for a while so, I formulated a picture of his life as a coping mechanism.

In my fictional world, he was 21 and an art student. His name is most likely Peter? No, he makes me think of someone named Aidan or Jake (his strong, bad boy features justified my name decision). He goes to poetry club every Thursday (of which he is the student government rep, if they have one) and writes poems about girls he makes eye contact with in the window across the street. When he’s not at a slam poetry reading, he’s watching meme compilations on his bed and listening to bad pop music.

I was surprised that I hadn’t made him into an awful person. It was like my unconscious mind wanted me to like him. But how could I hate him? He smiled at me, a masculine mess that spends her free time in her head. He was also way too attractive. He had chestnut hair and a slender, but muscular build. I couldn’t tell his eye color because I’m not an eagle, but I imagined they were green or a deep grey.

I was still formulating my weird story of his life, when I saw him walk into the cafe I was in. The bell rang softly (the sound wasn't as satisfying at that time) and he shuffled in looking at his phone. He was wearing jeans that were skinny, but not skinny enough to call him a rock star, converse, and a sweatshirt for a college that was far away from here. I couldn’t stop looking at him and he obviously noticed my staring, so we naturally met eyes and to my utter surprise, they were a murky brown.

I was terrified and lightly sweating as he walked over to my safe haven and sat down. He gave me the same shining smile that sent warm chills down my spine when I saw him last. His eyes almost glistened when they looked in my direction.

“Hey there,” he said. His voice was deeper than I had imagined it, but I wasn’t disappointed.

“Um... hello?” I responded trying to retreat into myself. I had no time to emotionally prepare for this, and so I was just waiting for my socially awkward self to come out for a visit.

“Do you come here often?”

“Almost every day,” I said quickly. Should I act like I know him even though I don't. We made eye contact once. does that mean something?

“I’ve seen you a lot from across the street. I thought maybe I should change things up and come here instead,” he said.

“That’s nice...” I trailed off unable to invoke my small-talk skills.

“So when you come here, do you always watch people?”

“Um... yeah. It’s kind of my thing.” My normal voice returned from the grave. I went from an unsure, shy bud to a slightly confident daisy.

“I think that’s cool. Mind if I join you sometimes?” He was such a smooth talker. I was already overwhelmed by the fact that a member of the opposite sex (especially someone this attractive) would want to talk to me outside of my head, but now he was actually flirting with me!

“Yeah, sure. I hope you can keep up. My story making skills are on another level. Sometimes I'm more super-computer than human.”

“Oh no. Now that you say that, I don’t think I can hang out with you.” He said jokingly. What do I say next? I was running on nothing but luck! I finally sprung an idea from the basket of life-saving conversation starters in the back of my mind:

“I’ll teach you the ropes then,” I said.

“Oh, okay. I love to learn.” He sat back in the puffy chair across from me and got comfortable. It was weird seeing someone fill that space and I couldn’t copy his calmness at all so, I crossed my legs and sat on the edge of my seat.

“Okay, so look at this guy.” I pointed to a man in a long, grey trench coat that looked like someone from the Matrix. He was walking a small corgi with stubby legs. His shoulders were so scrunched up that I thought he was cold, but he wasn’t shivering, so he must have been nervous.

“Okay. This guy lives in a beat-up apartment south of the city. He comes all the way out here to walk his dog, because his neighborhood is a little strange. He hears alarming noises coming from his house that scares him and the dog. Ever since he found this prime walking spot, his dog gets really excited for walks. Him being a loving owner, he goes out of his way for his furry friend. However, this poor man forgot to relieve himself before taking the dog out to do his business, so he's far from home with no bathrooms because businesses are unforgiving to nonpaying customers.” He laughed after I finished. He actually laughed? I started to loosen up; my confidence level went up five whole points. I pretended to drop something to hide my reddening cheeks.

“That was good but, let’s say this guy is a professional dog walker that got his certifications off of some sketchy website. He’s only walking one dog today because his competitors are bleeding him dry. He’s so nervous because he can feel the dark, cold looming presence of student loan bills following him at a distance getting closer with every dog he doesn't walk.”

“I love that!” We were both laughing at that point. Whatever this was, it was going great; my mind couldn’t come up with something like this.

We spent hours playing our game. I ended up winning of course, but I didn’t care about winning. I found out his name soon after our twentieth laugh. I was completely wrong about him. His name was Jonathan. I was right about him being an art student. He was a graphic design major with a deep love of all things food and art related. He wasn’t a student government rep, he was the president of the game design club at his college and he was 19 (I was 18), not 21. He did, however, appreciate the occasional meme compilation; I got that right as well. Also, his favorite color was red, his sign was Taurus (I’m an Aquarius, so we weren't completely meant to be together). I didn’t want to tell him about the story I made up about him, but the subject came up eventually.

“So your name is Riley?”

“Yeah. It's pretty plain.” I said.

“I don’t think it is. I like it.”

“Thanks...” I said quietly.

“So, when you saw me from the window, what story did you make up about me?” Jonathan asked. We had been talking for so long that the sun was pretty much done for the day. I had class early the next morning but, all logic and time-management escaped me when I was talking to Jonathan. It was official; I was smitten and had fallen into the tangled net known as a crush.

“I don’t know. It doesn't matter since you didn’t match any of what I had in mind,” I said.

“You want to know what I thought when I saw you?” Jonathan said, leaning in like he was telling a secret, but before he could, the man at the counter told us it was closing time and we had to leave. Thanks Mr. Barista, I thought. It was actually closing time and we were pushing past it. Other employees were putting chairs on tables giving us annoyed glances occasionally. I was embarrassed but fulfilled at the same time. I unlocked a special achievement that day. I spent so much time talking with a guy that time got away from me. Before we parted ways, we exchanged numbers and agreed to meet up again. As we walked away in opposite directions, I looked back every few seconds to watch Jonathan walk away. A couple of times, when I looked back, he did as well. What was happening?

After my romantic encounter, I anxiously waited for some sort of message from my prince. At this point, I would have taken an awkward phone call. The vines of the crush grew in my chest with each passing day as I recalled each moment we spent laughing at each other's wild stories. We shared something I knew was special. I ordered a new drink every day. In fact, I think I went through every drink they had on the menu (sometimes I would stop by twice a day). I wanted to see him again and I thought these small rituals were going to get him to come back somehow.

I started to think of reasons as to why he hadn’t called me yet. First, he got into an accident; second, he had a family emergency, or the worst possible thing that could happen: He realized he didn't like me. The rational side of me (aka, my mother’s voice) told me that I hadn't known him long enough, so he couldn't dislike me. Plus, my small-talk skills were way too powerful. I figured he must be busy and I’m over thinking things.

After a week had gone by, my suspicions sounded more and more believable. I stepped into the realm of madness and started the process of figuring out how to text my crush. I was always being told by friends and my mom that the guy should be the one to contact you first, hold the door for you, pay for dinner, etc. However, this guy was too awesome to let slip away because of my pride. I mustered up the strength and agonized over what to say for an hour before I settled on: hey haven’t heard from you in a while are u ok?

I honestly felt like I was in Cinderella (the cartoon, not that live action garbage). I was the prince looking for the love of my life, Jonathan left me with nothing but a slipper (his number), we parted ways at the stroke of when the café closed and I’m pretty sure we shared a connection at the ball. We danced together locking eyes under the low light of the crystal chandelier, the crowd faded from the dance floor as we waltzed to the romantic sounds of a violin. Of course, I wouldn’t walk in heels if you paid me, let alone glass slippers. Also, I'm closer to the character Gus-Gus (the talking mouse) than the handsome bachelor prince. None of this even mattered; I just wanted to skip to the part where we, the newlyweds, ride off in that beautiful, white carriage into the sunset.

I wasn’t a patient person, so I made up a scenario in my head to cope. That day, I was in the library “studying.” I was really looking at my phone every five seconds willing a text from him. The library was silent, prime territory for spiraling thoughts. I should have been anywhere but there, but productive me still thought the library was the only place on campus you could get things done.

I imagined Jonathan and I met in the library despite the fact that we go to different colleges. On this particular day, Jonathan walked in and stripped off his oversized sweatshirt that I yearned to wear. My heart fluttered and I felt nervous as all crushers do when in the presence of the crushee. We couldn’t talk in the library, so we studied together without saying a word. We exchanged a few long glances, laughing at the ones that became contests. My phone buzzed and I looked down. I had a new message, but I paid no attention to it. When I looked back up, Jonathan was gone. My phone buzzed again angrily. This time I actually looked at it. It was him! The real Jonathan finally texted me back!

Hey! I’m so sorry I’ve been ghosting you

No big deal. What’s going on with you? Are u okay?

Yeah. I’ve been really busy at this game tournament and the guys wouldn’t let me near my phone the whole time. It was fun, but gaming day and night is exhausting. I just got back and saw your message.

Well that’s crazy. Aren’t those game competitions for professionals?

Yep... I’m nowhere near as good as those guys though. It was more of a club thing that we take way too seriously.

"Lol :)” He made me laugh again. I felt like I hadn’t laughed in ages.

Where you at right now?

I’m at the library being productive; Adulting stuff u know?

I don’t know anything about that.

You should learn soon. Midterms are coming up...

Why don’t you take a break and meet me at the park? I’ve been dying to see the sun.

Okay.

My message was bland, but I was silently squealing. It was like I had won an Amazon gift card or my favorite song came on. I had to stop myself from dancing like an idiot, but I jumped and clicked my heels as I rushed out of the library.

We agreed to meet at Green Hill Park which was a few blocks from my campus. I still had no idea where Jonathan lived or what school he went to, but it must have been close by.

It was warm and brighter that day, but some angry clouds peppered the sky. Small patches of blue peeked out between the grey splotches. There was a light breeze gently blowing the trees when I walked up to the park. I wasn’t wearing anything cute that day because I wasn’t planning on seeing Jonathan, but luckily, I had a jacket to cover up my nerdy Minecraft tee shirt that I should have stopped wearing years ago.

Jonathan was sitting at a bench not far from the small fountain at the center of the courtyard. Squirrels scurried across the fountain’s edge and lots of cute doggos were playing on the grass surrounding us. When he saw me, his eyes lit up and he stood like a true gentleman. Sometimes I thought he was too good to be true and a part of me was waiting for him to evaporate.

“Hey! It’s been a while. You want a drink or something?”

“No, I’m fine.” I said. We sat on the bench. I played with my fingers, while Jonathan looked at me with his beautiful brown eyes. He kept a reasonable distance between us and didn’t put his arm around me like most guys did in movies. I was super surprised.

“So how have you been?” Jonathan asked.

“I'm good. What about you? Did you win the tournament?”

“Nope. I was getting my ass handed to me the whole time. I think I was distracted...”

“Really? I hope I didn’t have anything to do with that,” I said silently scolding myself. That was too cocky even for me.

“Actually, you were a huge reason. I kept thinking about my phone the whole time and what I wanted to say to you when we saw each other again. I wanted to tell you this for a while. It’s been nagging at me since the café,” Jonathan said.

“What is it?”

“I wanted to tell you what I thought about when I first saw you.”

“Oh really? I hope it wasn't bad...” I said this jokingly, but I was actually really nervous about what he was going to say.

“I thought you had cow eyes.”

“What!” I said loudly. Jonathan started to laugh at me and this time I couldn’t help but blush openly.

“No... you don’t get it. Cow eyes are beautiful, because they are so big and bright. When I saw you from that window, the first thing I noticed was your eyes. They were the most vivid features I could see from across the street.”

“Go on...” I said.

“What I’m saying is... the whites of your eyes are like pearls.” He started to use arm gestures and I could tell he was having a hard time getting out what he wanted to say. He paused at his loss of words and I couldn’t help but giggle.

“You thought my eyes were pretty?” No one had ever complimented my eyes before except my mom, but that didn’t count. Whenever I looked at them in the mirror, I saw bleak, dull orbs of grey that didn’t sparkle the way my insides did.

“Yeah and... I thought you were some sort of model or a successful student. This is sounding really weird.”

“No, don’t stop. I like this-keep going...”

“Okay. Lastly, after all that, I thought ‘I have to talk to her!’ because it felt like I had seen a phantom in that window; a beautiful ghost. Like, if I looked away, that amazing person would vanish. I did look away and I was convinced I’d never see you again, so when I went into that café and saw you again, I felt like I got a second chance.”

“Wow... I don’t know what to say. That is so sweet.” Jonathan could no longer make eye contact with me.

“That sounded really weird and sappy. It sounded way better in my head,” he said.

“It always does.” We both laughed.

It was just like the last time. We talked for hours about life, made up stories about joggers, dog-walkers and the families the squirrels went back to after they scurried up a tree to their nests. By the time we were momentarily drawn away from our personal world, the sun was gone and we didn’t know how long it had been gone, only this time, we had no café to be kicked out of. So, what did prince charming and Cinderella do after they got married and drove off into the sunset? What do couples even do again? Are we a couple yet?

“Hey, can I kiss you?” Jonathan asked. I heard him clearly, but he was so quiet. For a moment I didn’t register it at all because the thought of someone so amazing wanting to kiss me and in real life just didn’t match up.

“What?” I asked absentmindedly.

“Can I kiss you? Or is that weird.” This time I really heard it. I looked at him and my face turned so red, I could almost feel the heat radiating off my skin.

“Um... sure.” I said.

He leaned in, I closed my eyes and I felt his lips on mine. It was faint and it felt good. This was the second time I had ever kissed anyone. The first wasn’t the best, because the guy who did it wasn’t a good kisser and didn’t know what boundaries were. I felt gross after that kiss, but this one was different. My entire body felt like it had been given a jolt of electricity and it was so natural kissing him. I opened my eyes and we were both blushing.

Shortly after, Jonathan walked me back to my school. We walked close to each other, pinkies intertwined. I couldn’t stop grinning. I was like a kid in middle school again, except this didn’t suck. Time went by so fast and when we got to my school, we both didn’t want to leave each other, so we stood there holding hands refusing to look at my destination. Jonathan leaned in and kissed my forehead, causing another serious case of the blushes.

“See you later, I'll text you soon,” he said before turning around, the remnants of a smile traced his cheeks. I smiled and watched him until he turned the corner. On my way back to my room, I checked my phone. It was midnight!

And so that night marked the beginning of “Jonathan x Riley”. We were an actual couple and it felt right to be with him. As I got to know Jonathan overtime, I realized a few things that made him seem more real: One, he was a very messy person and as our relationship progressed, I wouldn’t go over to his dorm unless we both cleaned it so I could find the couch. I heard somewhere that people get out of the lovey-dovey faze around a few months of the relationship, but I never really felt any from the time of our first kiss. I hoped he felt the same way.

Jonathan didn’t want me to see the art he was working on from his graphic design classes which was discouraging so I sometimes felt like I didn’t know a part of him. From the little I know about art, I knew that the more art you saw from a person, the more you learn about them and I wanted to really know Jonathan. He also wanted to know me as well but, the life I had in my head was obviously far more exciting than my actual life.

I went to an all-women’s college a bus ride away from Jonathan's school. My roommate hated me for some reason so we didn’t talk and the few friends I did have were always busy with their difficult majors, so I only got to see them on the weekends. It may sound lonely, but I actually preferred being left to my own devices in this bustling city over living back at home. It was always hot and the people were set in their ways so you can imagine how small my social life was.

My parents moved me over there because they are really serious about thinking ahead. There weren’t any property taxes in Florida and the weather was warm so their future aching joints wouldn’t get soar from cold weather. Since I was just a kid, I didn’t have a say in the decision to move, so I threw fits whenever I could the first few years we lived there. I would lock myself in my room and if I didn’t do that, I had to stay in my room because I was grounded. Those years sucked.

So, I guess I compartmentalized all of my frustrations (my current therapist told me this, I didn’t make this up) by retreating into my head. I would play with dolls and picture books with paper characters you could play with. I gave them all have their own lives. I did this until I started to think playing with dolls was lame and moved on to journaling. I would write stories about my least favorite teachers and try to figure out why they were the way they were. One time I got caught and spent two months in detention. I learned to write pseudonyms in place of their actual names (I still can’t believe I used their actual names) and made the stories super outlandish. My crusty chemistry teacher’s pseudonym was Mr. Beastly. I wrote that he was recently divorced and had vitamin D deficiency so he yelled at kids for breathing wrong because he was chronically fatigued and felt lonely.

I didn’t make many lasting friends in high school and I kind of became the social pariah of the class. I was the kid that no one wanted talk to but acknowledged once in a while because they felt bad for me. I honestly didn't care though. In my mind, they all had really tough lives or a difficult family situations and that’s why no one wanted to hang out with me. Because of my mind set, I didn’t try to make friends. I eventually made it through and graduated with high honors because it’s not like I was going to house parties and getting high like everyone in my class.

I knew I wanted to do something that involved storytelling so, I decided I wanted to do creative writing. I didn’t realize the whirlwind that dream would cause when I told my parents. Them being the kind of people that were never inside their heads, they only thought about career, income and what investing in this degree would actually do for me and I didn’t have the answers they wanted. All I did know was that if I didn’t have the support of my parents, I wouldn’t be able to go to school at all and I would be stuck in this awful small town in hot, moist, lonely Florida. I wanted to actually make friends and see what the world had to offer besides school drama and the desire to be free; I wanted to be free.

My parents and I made a compromise. I would study something that I didn’t want to. I begged them to let me major in business instead of medicine. That is how I was getting through college and how I lived comfortably during the summer. I might have been drowning in debt and dissatisfaction, but I was out of there most of the year. I resorted to making up stories in my head again in that café because I was usually busy studying for a tough class I didn’t even want to be in. It sounds pretty bad, but I had friends a boyfriend and I was in such and interesting place.

A part of me knew that I was being unfair by not telling Jonathan about my life before college, but it was genuinely uninteresting and I wasn’t completely proud of my past. Every time he asked, I would tell him that it was nothing worth mentioning. His face would scrunch up like a kid's and he would always looked away for a moment and face me again with a relenting “okay.”

“I just want to know what you were like.” Jonathan said gently one night. We were eating at our favorite restaurant called “Panned Cake.” I had just gotten out of a boring and unfulfilling economics class that I was starting to fail and I was in a pretty bad mood.

“I get it, but like I said. There isn’t anything interesting about the me back then.”

“Well at least tell me where you’re from...”

“Florida. Nasty, humid, hot, conservative Florida.” the words stung. Just saying the word put a bad taste in my mouth.

“Where you popular in high school?”

“No.”

“What are your parents like?”

“They’re severely calculating.”

“Can you give me a better description?”

“Life back then was unbearably simple.” Jonathan sighed loudly and leaned back in his chair running his hands through his hair. i knew he felt defeated. “I’m being serious...” I said. Jonathan nodded and looked out the window. I knew he was upset with me. He becomes incredibly hard to read when he’s upset.

“Okay,” he said.

“Why do you need to know every detail of my life? Some things are better left in the past. I didn’t enjoy those years. I wasn’t popular because kids thought I was weird, my parents value the future more than they value me and the only thing I have going for me is my overdeveloped imagination and a future bachelors in business!” The words came out harsher than I wanted.

The waiter came up to our table and didn’t read the heavy atmosphere. “Can I get you something else?” The waiter asked with a fake smile. “Yeah, the check,” Jonathan said calmly.

“Jonathan...” I said softening up.

“Riley...”

“I’m sorry. It’s just that I’m not interesting at all and I hate that. I didn’t mean to yell at you.”

“Riley. I really like you and to me, you are the most interesting, quirky, funny girl I know and all of those boring details you hate so much matter to me and I would never look down on you because of them. How can I trust you to see my art when you don’t trust me enough to tell me simple things?” I sat back silent and felt a painful pang of guilt. A thin layer of tears coated my eyes.

The check came soon after. We both got up and left without saying a word. Jonathan walked me all the way to the bus station and waited for me to get on before he left. We didn’t say goodbye. Afterwards, Jonathan didn’t text or call me for a while. My mind was telling me he was done with me and this was his way of breaking up. I was filled with anxiety and everyday he didn’t text me; I felt the cloud of suffocating smoke grow thicker around me.

It was around the time I had to go back home for the holidays. I left pretty swiftly since I didn’t exactly have a lot of people that would miss me or care if I was gone. The train ride was long, my mood was black and Jonathan still hadn’t contacted me even after two weeks of break had passed. I wasn’t worried that he was dead or hurt, because my mind told me he wasn’t busy, he just didn’t want to talk to me. I missed him, but I deserved this.

I had spent most of my break in my room eating junk food and watching Netflix. Surprisingly enough, my parents said they missed me and hugged me when they opened the door to let me in. I told them about school and Jonathan, but of course, when I talked about him, I gave as little detail about him as I did school. They actually listened and didn’t make any remarks whenever I said I didn’t enjoy a class and they didn’t say anything about me having a boyfriend. This was strange, but I appreciated the lack of stresses.

“Riley. We need to tell you something.” Mom said. Dad and mom both walked into my room and sat at the edge of my bed smiling. I was freaked out.

“Yeah what is it?”

“Your mother and I are getting a divorce.”

“What?” I was more shocked than upset. It didn’t make sense for my parents to separate; they wouldn’t get as many tax breaks and they would have to go through an expensive legal process.

“We thought it would be the best action. It’s no secret that your father and I disagree a lot, so to save ourselves mental exhaustion and future regret because we didn’t go our separate ways, we thought this was the best option.”

“So, you are divorcing each other because you don’t get along? Why don’t you get couples counseling?”

“Our careers are far too demanding for us to take a bunch of time off for that and we both agreed that our careers take priority so we can retire well.”

I didn’t cry about it. To be completely honest, I didn’t get the feeling that my parents even loved each other. From a more cynical standpoint, it doesn't affect me much since I’m an adult now and I could get a job and an apartment. They asked me if I had any questions, but I was far too emotionally exhausted from my own issues to take on a whole other storm.

We had dinner that night with all of my favorite things; mac and cheese (a dish my mom never cooked because she said I would have bad cholesterol and get fat), hotdogs and soda (dad forbade me from ever drinking soda because he said I could get addicted and catch caffeine dependency). I assumed they felt some amount of guilt considering how often they would remind me of the benefits of marriage financially and in the long term.

“I want to major in creative writing.” I said suddenly. Dad almost spit out his food at my comment.

“Riley... we agreed that you would study business so you could go to college with our support.”

“I know. I just feel like I’m wasting my life. It’s not the salary of a CEO, but at least I would want to get up in the morning.”

“Riley. Do you have a counselor at your health center?” Dad asked.

“So now I’m crazy for wanting to do something I actually want to do!”

“We can’t support you if you’re going to waste your life with some low-income degree.”

“Then don’t! I’ll take out more loans, look for scholarships, get two jobs. I don’t care! I can’t imagine spending another day going to a lab class or some statistics lecture that makes me want to blow my brains out. I want to get out there and make friends and see things and I can do that without some fancy business degree.”

“Is this because we are getting a divorce or because of Jonathan?” Mom asked.

“It’s about me mom! Not about you, not about Jonathan, it’s about me!” They looked defeated. For once in my life, my mom had tears in her eyes, but I knew her tears weren’t genuine. She was crying because her investment decided to pull the plug.

I left home early with no plan and no money. The only reason I could get back was because I didn’t pay for the train ticket. I assumed this would be the last time my parents did anything for me. Jonathan still hadn’t contacted me and I couldn’t ask him for a place to squat because he was most likely at home with his family. Despite this, desperate me decided to call him. Why did I call him? He wouldn't answer-

“Hello? Riley?” Jonathan said groggily.

“Jonathan? I didn’t think you answer.” I was starting to cry.

“What’s wrong are you okay?”

“Yeah, I’m fine. I just had a rough time with my family. I think they disowned me and I have nowhere to go because the dorms are closed, but I’m fine.” I said in between sniffles.

“Hold on I’m coming.”

“What? Aren’t you at home?”

“No. Couldn't’ afford to go.” I was immediately relieved, but filled with anxiety. How should I act around Jonathan now? I missed him a lot, but how do you talk to someone you may or may not be broken up with?

Jonathan and I agreed to meet at the entrance to his resident campus; I didn’t mind getting there myself. The walk was short and I could mentally prepare myself for this severely awkward situation. I grabbed my stuffed duffle bag filled with all of the stuff I needed and could grab from home. Luckily my prized stuffed animal and blanket was still in my dorm of which I didn’t have access to. I checked my phone expecting mom to have left messages, but I remembered that we might never speak again and the sharp stabbing loneliness that came with the thought made me stop and embrace myself. I felt like I was about to vomit, like the city around me was a cage and I was the only one that lived there. The city was so large, but all of it was my home; empty, dark and spacious. For the first time in my life I wondered what I was living for and I was worried I wouldn’t be able to come up with an answer.

I was crossing the street when I heard screeching tires coming my direction. The car was turning, skidding on the pavement unable to stop and I wasn’t able to get out of the way. I felt the worst pain I had ever felt in my entire life all over my body and it all faded to black as the headlights were inches from my face.

“Wake up!” The voice sounded like Jonathan. I felt groggy and struggled to open my eyes against the blinding light. I covered my face and yawned loudly. It took me a while to sit myself up and when I did, the first thing I noticed was the grass around me that felt like a cloud; it wasn’t that golf-course kind of grass or the fake stuff, it was grass that felt like a bunny's fur. The sun was bright and the warmth from it was so calming and a slow breeze stroked my skin. I wondered if I was dead, but I didn’t feel like it.

I decided to explore this beautiful limbo and looked around for any signs of people. There was nothing but the field, the sun and the clouds. I was alone in these plains and I didn’t know where I was. My heart started to race and I broke out into a cold sweat. I took to running and bolted towards what I thought was north. I wanted to go back to school. I had so much to do to get my life back on track, I couldn’t be dead.

I ran for a long time and got nowhere. After crying, then freaking out and getting mad at nothing, I felt a calmness rush over me. Instead of running, I sat in the grass and laid on my back. The sun was starting to set and as it did, I shed one last tear at the sight of yellow, pink orange steaks covering the horizon. I was about to fall asleep in acceptance of my fate when I felt a powerful gust of wind around me. I was in my dorm room lying on the cold tile floor. I jumped up in excitement. My water kettle, favorite blanket, stuffed animals and my bed were all there unmoved, but I knew it wasn’t all real when I looked out the singular window next to my bed and saw the field and rising moon through it. The bed that belonged to my roommate was empty; all of her stuff was gone and that side of the room had a strange darkness despite the light coming in.

I looked around out the window and then at my bed. Exhaustion overcame me and without giving another thought to the situation, I climbed in and pulled the covers over me. They were warm like someone had slept in them and my mattress cushion was there too. If I was dead then why was I so tired? I guess they call it eternal sleep for a reason.

Over a period of days that I kept track of on my calendar, I slowly started to learn things about where I was. Firstly, I could make anything I wanted, except for a way out of wherever I was. I could make my favorite café, my college, my house and the whole city if I wanted (the parts I actually visited) and even people. I never thought up a Jonathan. I started thinking that maybe I wasn’t dead; I was most likely on life support in the hospital mostly-dead. When I came to this realization, I wondered immediately if Jonathan knew I was in a coma and if he did, had he visited me? Had he moved on? I wanted him to move on despite the fact that I really, really liked him. How could he keep up a relationship with a girl that was actually stuck in her head? It was for the best that he moved on (if he even did).

So instead of moping around, I created a world of my own and instead of filling it with people, I filled it with dogs, restaurants that only served my favorite meals, theme parks and theaters. Whatever I could make, I made it and I was actually happy. In a sick way, I was glad I had gotten hit by that car. I could live in my head and not have to worry about anything. Life was just starting out for me out there, but now my new life in here was just beginning.

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Thank you so much for reading! If you like this story, please leave a short review at your favorite eBook site. I love feedback! I love writing and I want a lot of people to read my stories so please mention this short story and my novel Pathfinders Rebellion to your friends and family. I really appreciate all of my readers.

Thank you again,

Ariel McMillan


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