'I'm not sure. I need to think about this.'

'Clay, I...'

'No, it's alright Sheri.'

Was it alright? Of all things that could happen today I wasn't expecting this to happen. It had been weeks, if not months since I last spoke to Sheri. Things had quieted down after the tapes and I had made it a point not to go looking for trouble, but I should've known better. I never was able to stay out of trouble, no matter how much I wanted it. What were her motives? Did she just want to get a clean slate? Have me forgive her. Did she want my friendship, or something more? Judging by the fading light, we must've missed all our classes in school. I briefly wondered how it was possible we were here for so long. Sheri had done most of the talking, but even she was silent most of the time, somewhat haunted by the Presence of Hannah. Hannah. Sigh. I watched her grave. Months. Almost a year. The grave looked like it had been here since the beginning of time. The color on the stone already fading, and the weather settling into its pores. There was a fresh bouquet of flowers, the kind she liked. I suspected her mother did it. The wind picked up, and rumbling sounded in the distance.

'I think we should go.'

'I'll walk.'

'Clay, it's a long walk. I'd be perfectly happy to get you...'

'No, thanks Sheri. I'd rather walk. Clear my mind.'

I watched Sheri. Her hair wasn't in its usual lush curls, and the bags under her eyes were clearly visible. She was still struggling after all this time. I still was. We were all still struggling. The storm Hannah had caused destruction none of us knew how to fix. And maybe some things weren't meant to be fixed.

'I'll see you at school, Clay.'

I didn't respond, instead opting to look at the horizon. The waves of thunder were rolling in now and I would need to hurry if I wanted to make it home before the worst of the storm hit. The first drops of rain hit my face but I couldn't make myself stand up and leave. I wasn't sure if I felt better, or worse now that Sheri wanted to say sorry -genuinely- for all that had happened. If there had ever been anything between us, it was long since gone. At least for me. But would it be so bad to give someone a second chance? The rain was coming down hard and fast again now and I moved to stand, willing away the tears that formed in my eyes.

'Bye, Hannah.'

I touched the headstone briefly before making my way out of the graveyard. The sky darkened quickly and I regretted not having my bike with me. Maybe I should call Tony. No. I had already bothered him more than enough and he really seemed out of it this morning. He didn't need me with my trivial problems to add to all of his. I wanted to help, desperately so, but I could do nothing if I didn't know what was going on. The road in front of me was deserted. Illuminated by the faded yellow of the streetlight. It would at least be another half an hour of walking before I even made it back to my neighborhood. I would definitely be drowned by the time I got home, but it was better than spend another 15 minutes cramped with Sheri in her car. If Hannah was here she'd have probably made some snarky remark about my social capabilities, but then crack a joke to make me laugh. She was good at that, both insulting you and making you feel good at the same time. Definitely a gift I didn't possess. I knew I was incredibly awkward, and terrible at every form of social interaction. My sneakers were soaked to the core and I was slopping around as if in a small personal pool. I tried to keep up the pace, for I was afraid that if I stopped I might drown. Was this how Hannah felt in her final moments? When she finally stopped, and the waves engulfed her. I shuddered. No. Shouldn't think about that. I forced myself to think about Tony instead. How sweet he had been last night. How he had held me tightly, stroking my back. How he had stayed the night, and I had slept well for the first time in weeks. I faltered when I remembered how cold and distant he was today. Unwilling to tell me anything, hurrying to get away from me. Of course, he was still sweet and caring Tony. Getting me breakfast, taking me to school. But aside from that, he just seemed eager to get away from me after his 'duties'. What if he was eager to get away from me? If I was just holding him back, preventing him from doing what he wanted to do. I had claimed a lot of time from him lately. Maybe he was just sick and tired of me. I was so occupied with my thoughts that I hadn't noticed the car pulling up behind me. I turned around. A flash of red in the dark night. Tony. A figure appeared.



Moments later I was engulfed in a hug. Cool leather against my wet clothes. I returned the hug, immediately feeling better than I had all day.

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