Leaning Into Discomfort

I was hoping to get my blog post in before midnight, but since I was busy working all day I will allow this one slip of my 28 days of blogging. (And so early on in the month, too! đŸ˜«).

I’m going to keep this post brief. Today I found myself especially irritable. On Thursday I had negative experience at work that left me distracted and jeopardized my ability to coach well and to have fun while teaching. Instead I felt on guard, insecure, and most of all ashamed. Then today I felt that my time had been disrespected by an employer who showed up twenty-five minutes late when they knew I had a hard out time. On top of that I’m worried about my family’s health and well being and my own financial stress.

I felt angry. Frustrated. Hopeless. Anxious. Like I attract very specific people and behavior and this is all my fault. I brought all of this upon myself. Even the things that didn’t have anything to do with me. Somehow I found ways to feel guilty because of them.

Thankfully, instead of blowing up, I vented to my therapist about the way I was feeling. I confided in a couple of friends. None of these people provided me with answers, but I didn’t need them. I just needed someone to listen and relate.

Thanks to The Craving Mind, one of my February reads, I refrained from my usual food binge or compulsive Amazon purchase. I simply forced myself to sit with and EXPERIENCE the emotions that were coursing through me. As excruciating as it is to acknowledge the awful inside of you–we can all agree it’s far easier to distract ourselves with instant gratification–it’s when we confront our fears and pain head on that the most progress can be made.

As great quote I read recently by Jonathan Fields goes:

“The butterflies always fly when you’re pushing into something that matters deeply and that requires growth. The reframe is to learn to experience the sensation as a signpost that cool things are happening and lean into it, rather than as a signal to run.”

It is so important to walk toward the scary parts of life. If we aren’t uncomfortable, we aren’t growing.

And you know what happened when I sat with the pain? The jumble of negative emotions inside of me disappeared. I’m still affected by all of this week’s events, but my mind is clearer and I’m ready to tackle it all with reason and compassion

As Fields says, I’m ready to lean into it.

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How I Outline My Stories

Outlines play a moderately critical role in the writing process for me. I like to begin a story with a blank page and just start writing what’s in my head. Then when I feel like I’ve found a storyline that’s worth running with, I’ll begin my outline. 

I’m not a strict planner when it comes to storytelling. I only outline a few chapters at a time because I know that I have the tendency to stumble upon new ideas organically as I’m writing. I don’t worry too much about organization or abiding by the outline like it’s canon. I like to let the story flow freely and getting lost in my own words is why I write. Sometimes that means I have to scrap ideas that simply don’t work anymore, even if I initially loved where the story would have gone. I think that’s a positive, though, because as an artist  I try to avoid falling too in love with my ideas. Marriage in the drafting stage is artistically limiting. Don’t get married to your work until your work has committed to you and has assured you that you’re the only writer in its life; that there is no other writer who brings out the best in it like you do. 

Okay, enough of that. Here are some shots of what my outline for A Fantastic Mess of Everything looks like. They’re messy and disorganized, but that’s how I like them. 





If you’re read A Fantastic Mess, you might notice that some things from the outline did not make it into the book (Fran never gets a dog, nor does she drop out of college), but that was originally the plan. Outlines are great tools to to use as guidance when writing, but that’s what they are to me: just helpful guides.

Do you use an outline when you write? How strict are you with it? 

Listen to the ‘Or Best Offer’ Music Playlist 

Music plays a big role in my ability to be a productive, creative person. Sometimes I like a song because it’s fun and contagious. Other times the lyrics inspire me to write exactly what I need to say. 

Here’s the official playlist for Or Best Offer, my short story that’ll be available to my newsletter subscribers for free on April 20th. 

You can listen to it on Spotify

OR BEST OFFER Cover Reveal

Stoked to *finally* reveal the cover to my upcoming short story Or Best Offer, available for free exclusively to my newsletter subscribers on April 20th, and for purchase online for a limited time beginning on May 1.

You can subscribe to my newsletter for exclusive Or Best Offer content, giveaways, and more.

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New Short Story Title Reveal

I am releasing an exclusive short story to my newsletter subscribers on April 20th titled…

 

*drumroll*

 

Or Best Offer! 

Or Best Offer is a contemporary romantic comedy about Cara, a junior in high school and a relentless boy chaser pining for her dream guy Noah. After yet another failed attempt to get Noah to ask her out, Cara reluctantly takes the night off from chasing to go on a date with a charming boy from her past. Will Cara finally learn what love is like beyond fantasy? We shall find out soon enough!

Every Friday I will be sending you new content leading up to the reveal via email, including a cover reveal, music playlists, character blogs, and so much more. This week I’m asking my subscribers to vote on a name for our male protagonist!

As of right now, I have no set plans to release Or Best Offer anywhere else, but it’ll be available to newsletter subscribers until the end of time. Click here to get in on all the fun.

Empathy & Twilight Excerpt

“You were trying to do what?!” Principal Hazeltine shouted. She didn’t have to be so loud; there was only four of us in Mr. Holliday’s hobbit-sized office. Mr. Holliday was the school counselor who mostly handled the upper level students. I mean, he didn’t handle anyone, but he dealt with us. He’d only started dealing with me since a year ago when my urge to crime fight descended off the pages of the comic books I liked the draw and into the real world.

 It had been three days since the false alarm shooting, and I had been summoned to Mr. Holiday’s office at the start of first period. When they called my name on the loud speaker, a couple of girls–I’d never bothered to learn their names– in my Government class laughed under their breaths amongst themselves. 

So I was sitting in the hard plastic chair with the metal legs that I’d sat in many times before, and Mr. Holliday was sitting across from me with his hand on his desk, playing with a pencil absentmindedly. His wild hair was especially curly today, I noticed, like he had conditioned it in this new way that made it all luscious and bouncy. I wish there had been an opportune moment to compliment him on this. 

“Daniella?” Principal Hazeltine said, her hands on her hips, awaiting my reply. 

Mr. Isaac stood beside her, leaning against Mr. Holliday’s cluttered bookshelf that was so stacked with books it looked like it would collapse at any minute. 

I looked at Hazeltine, my eyes peaking up at her. It felt like death was calling to me. 

“Well?” she said. 

I cleared my throat. “I was trying to stop the shooter.”

Mr. Isaac exhaled and all this air came out his body like he had monster-sized lungs.

“How were you expecting to stop a person with a gun?” Hazeltine clenched her fists 

I shrugged. “By tackling them when they weren’t looking?” It wasn’t meant to be a question, but that’s how it came out.

“Is everything fine at home?” 

I rolled my eyes. I wouldn’t ever say things were fine at home. I was an orphan. I lived with a bunch of orphan girls. Everything was…tolerable. “Yes,” I said. I wasn’t a good liar, and this moment was no exception. 

“How are your feelings?” Mr. Holliday finally spoke, his head leaning to the side a little bit. He always talked like you were a kid, no matter how old you were. It was surprisingly comforting. 

“My feelings are okay,” I said, and crossed my arms. 

“Are you not being challenged enough academically?” Mr. Isaac said, his bony shoulders making his head look too narrow. “Should we load you up with tougher assignments?”

“Trust me, high school is challenging enough as is,” I said. “I don’t need more homework. Homework isn’t how I want to spend my days.” 

“Well,” Mr. Holliday said to me. I was the kid in the room to him. “How do you want to spend your days?”

“Fighting crime.” 

Mr. Isaac’s eyes widened, then he shook his head.. “Calculus is a far safer assignment for a sixteen-year-old.” 

“I’m calling Miss Rosa.” Hazeltine reached for the landline that was hardly visible on top of Mr. Holliday’s messy desk. It was an endless collection of things he never threw out.

No!” I threw my hands out. I almost knocked the phone out or Hazeltine’s hands, but refrained. “Please, she’ll kill me. I mean, not literally, but she’ll ground me for the rest of my life for this.” 

Hazeltine kept the phone pressed against her ear but didn’t dial a number or anything. After staring me down for several seconds, she set the phone back down on the desk. “Detention. This afternoon. You can explain everything to Miss Rosa yourself. And if you don’t, I will.” 

I nodded. Detention wasn’t so bad. It was just sitting silently in a desk in Mr. De Luca’s history class for an hour. It reminded me of Quiet Time, the designated hour that Miss Amarosa, the woman who used to run the Dresden House (the orphanage I live in) with Miss Rosa before she left because supposedly we all drove her crazy and made her cry all the time, would enforce whenever we would get too rowdy. It happened a lot over the summers. 

When I arrived at Mr. De Luca’s room, there were already a couple of students sitting in desks scattered across the room so no one would talk to each other. And they all watched me, like mute people who had their voices stolen from them. So much was being screamed at me with their eyes, but the words didn’t come out. 

“Daniella Sinclair,” I said in my lowest voice to Mr. De Luca, who sat at his desk with an issue of The New Yorker open in his hands. He nodded and pointed for me to sit in this seat toward the back of the classroom. 

I sat down, and I could feel the boy behind me watching me. 

I peaked behind me to see that it was Wren Wilder, a boy a grade above me who I’d never really spoken to. He and I were the only two people who were seated so closely we were practically neighbors.

Wren never ceased staring at me with his head tilted to the side; his big brown eyes rich with curiosity. A part of me wanted to yell that he could just ask me what I was doing here. It’s clear that that was the motive he was sleeping on. I just glanced at him through the corner of my eye every minute or so. It wasn’t really a warning or an invitation, but more of an awkward acknowledgement that I could see what he was doing. 

“Hey,” he said, softest whisper. Because after at least three minutes of straight staring, a simple greeting in a sing-song voice that was all uphill at the end of his sentences was all he could muster up. 

“Hi.” I raised my brows and nodded.

Wren: “You’re the girl who tackled Cheryl, right?” 

Me: “It was an accident.” 

Wren: “Were you really trying to catch the shooter?” 

Me: “Maybe.” 

Wren: “Why on earth would you do such a thing?”

Me: “I don’t know.” 

Wren squinted his eyes to figure me out. “Are you suicidal?” 

I huffed. “No.”  

“Are you crazy?” 

“How so?”

“Like…” his voice trailed off, and he looked toward the whiteboard, his hands gripping the far end of his tiny desk. “Harley Quinn Crazy.”

“Definitely not.” I turned my head away and opened my binder to pretend to do homework for the remainder of detention. I didn’t think it sustainable to feign an assignment for forty-five minutes, so I took out an Adventures of Empathy digest I’d had since I was a kid. The cover had tears and missing corners and the pages were rusty. It was the digest that I kept in my backpack and took out when I needed to run away.

“My guess is that you’re Harley Quinn Crazy.” 

“I’m not,” I said, nose shoved into the digest. 

“There’s always one weirdo in school that everyone remembers,” Wren said. “Why can’t it be you?”  

“Because that’s abstract.” 

Wren laughed to himself, then leaned forward over his desk so his face was closer to me. “Well, when you drop words like abstract…” 

“Why are you here?” I said, a tad ruder than I meant to be. Obviously I wasn’t trying to be rude at all, but Wren was being super irritating. 

“I like to do stupid things for attention,” Wren said, and he almost sounded disappointed in himself if it wasn’t for the smirk he was trying to hide. “According to Hazeltine, at least.” 

His leg was shaking uncontrollably under his desk. Miss Rosa always told us Dresden girls that shaking your leg like that meant you were iron deficient. I was compelled to tell this to Wren, but didn’t think he would care much. 

“What’s your name?” he asked. 

“Danny.” 

“Is that short for Danielle?” 

“Daniella.” 

Wren smiled, and his face lit up like there was a lightbulb inside of his head that had just gone off. 

The next forty minutes couldn’t go by any slower. 

A Fantastic Mess of Everything, Now Available

Hey friends!

My book A FANTASTIC MESS OF EVERYTHING (originally titled THOROUGHLY UNMODERN here on this blog) is now available for purchase in paperback. You can buy it over at Amazon for $12.99

The Kindle version will be available on Amazon on Monday, August 15. 

Let me know if you buy it. Hope you enjoy!

Best,

Beck 

Unthoroughly Modern Excerpt 

Here is an excerpt from my upcoming novel Unthoroughly Modern. More details on it coming soon. 

A month after she met her dad, Millie had mostly returned to normal. Everyone stopped asking her if she was okay every time they saw her, and Fran chilled out on acting so motherly. It was hard enough having one overly concerned mom smothering her all the time, so two was just too much for Millie. 

 Sam didn’t tell her again that he loved her either. He must have felt really sorry for her and figured she needed to hear those words from someone–anyone–so he made himself the martyr. And then there was the kissing thing. Sam kissed her everywhere but her mouth. Forehead. Cheeks. Neck. Hands. Whenever Millie got too close to his lips, he would turn his head just enough so their mouths would fall short of touching. She tried not to let it frustrate her too much, but it was all she ever thought about. 

 “It’s getting super weird,” Mike said over breakfast in the dining hall one February morning. 

 “You need to have a talk about it,” Fran told her. 

 “I can’t.” Millie crinkled her nose. 

 Mike: “It’s an awkward conversation for sure.” 

 Millie: “He might tell me something really heartbreaking.” 

 Fran: “About him?” 

 Millie: “About me. Like maybe my breath smells. Or I’ve got bad teeth. Or my lips are too dry. Or–”

 “There isn’t anything wrong with you, Millie,” Mike interrupted her. “If a guy wants to kiss you, he’ll overlook those things.” Fran punched him in the shoulder. Mike didn’t realize what he said was bad until he said it. He looked at Millie apologetically. 

 That was what Millie dreaded the most. That Sam just didn’t want to kiss her. It didn’t make any sense. Why would he spend so much time with her if he didn’t want to be intimate? There was something mysterious festering deep within Millie that demanded physicality to keep from becoming dangerous. It was the Mr. Hide to her Dr. Jekyll. Sam gave her some of him, but she needed all of him. 

 “I’ll talk to him,” Millie said, running her fingers through her hair. Why not? She was treading far too close to the dark side to let herself fall completely. 

 “Hey, are you still a size extra small with this?” Mike asked, pointing at his own shoulders. 

 Millie clenched her face. “What does this”–she mimicked his shoulder pointing–“mean?” 

 Mike shrugged, desperately trying to phrase himself correctly. “Well, you know, now that your shoulders are bigger.”

 “My shoulders aren’t bigger.” 

 But her shoulders were bigger. She’d gained ten pounds since she began her tire flipping class, and her clothes were fitting a little more snug. Her shirts fit tighter and would make weird ripping sounds whenever she leaned forward or tried to take them off. And jeans…She’d stopped wearing jeans entirely. 

 “They’re not like huge or anything,” Mike added. “You can just tell you’re strong.” 

 Millie made sure her shoulders were covered by her cardigan. “I guess I’m not totally an extra small anymore.” 

 “You look awesome,” Fran nodded. It was easy for her to say. She was Audrey Hepburn thin. 

 “You do,” Mike said. “If I was some creep I’d worry you’d be the one to attack me.” 

***

On the first night that Millie stayed in her dorm room with Ophelia sleeping in Fran’s old bed, she got very little rest. The second time she stayed awake for awhile but eventually dosed off. By the third night she was sleeping more than half the night. She just thought so much about the person on the other side of the room, being very aware of Ophelia’s existence from the way she breathed in heavily and exhaled through her mouth while she slept, to the way that she seemed to switch positions every thirty minutes. 

 Millie didn’t really act this way with Fran on the count that Fran was such a silent sleeper. She didn’t move or make a sound. If Ophelia had been a silent sleeper, then Millie wouldn’t be so obsessed with listening in agony as Ophelia tossed and turned throughout the night. 

 And Millie didn’t have a problem with Ophelia. Ophelia was a nice girl. She was always trying to hang out with Millie, inviting her to this vegan place called Cafe Veinticinco every time they would cross paths in their room, which Millie ensured didn’t happen very often. Millie just didn’t want to live with anyone. Maybe she would live with Sam, but they didn’t even kiss. Living with him would be like having a platonic roommate that you spooned every night. 

Millie’s morning class had been canceled, so she stayed in her room to read a book for her Unconventional Fiction class.

After an hour of reading, she set her book on her bed. She took out a can of furniture spray from the closet and cleaned off her dusty desk. She thought it might be nice of her to clean Ophelia’s desk, too, so she removed Ophelia’s only desktop belongings (her laptop, an empty fruit bowl and like seventeen crystals), wiped the desk clean, then put everything back. She even sort of wiped the crystals down so they were shiny.  

Ophelia walked in with a recyclable grocery bag. “Hey girl,” Ophelia smiled at Millie and placed the bag on her desk, pulling out two clear bottles of organic shampoo and conditioner. She was breathing heavy, a sign that she walked to the farmer’s market a mile away from campus. Everything was a mile away from campus. 

 “Hi,” Millie said and went back to reading. 

 Ophelia was silent for a minute, taking out all of her market finds, when Millie heard her ask, “Did you touch my crystals?”

 Millie looked up from her book. “Um…”

 “They’re facing away from the window.” 

 “Because I wiped your desk.”

 “With what?”

 Millie shrugged. The book moved with her shoulders. “Furniture spray.”

 “You put chemicals on my desk?” 

 “Your desk has had chemicals on it before,” Millie said, getting defensive. “A few more chemicals won’t hurt it.” 

 Ophelia held her hands up in disbelief. “My crystals are facing away from the window.” She took a deep breath. “And that’s bad luck, child.”

 “One, I’m not a child, I’m a year older than you, and two, you can make it all better by facing them toward the window again.”

 “How long have they been like this?”

 “Twenty minutes or so.” 

 Ophelia screamed. She shuffled all the crystals so they faced the window once more, then she turned to face Millie. “Don’t touch anything on my desk again. I can buy something to clean it with. Open the window.” She walked over to the tiny window and opened it, putting a little force into pushing it up. “To get the chemicals out. Our lungs deserve more love than that.”

 “My lungs get plenty of love, thanks.” Millie went back to her book. 

 “Doesn’t it bother you that you’re breathing in deadly toxins?”

 Millie kept reading. “Not really.” 

 “I’m bothered for you,” Ophelia walked back to her desk. She said some things about how awful it was that we were still using chemicals to clean our homes (they should be treated like temples) and called Millie a child again when there was a knock at the door. 

 Ophelia, still talking to herself, went to the door and opened it. Sam was standing outside with his hands behind his back. He smiled at Ophelia. “Ophelia,” he said. 

 “Hey, boo boo,” Ophelia said with distress in her voice. She turned around and headed for her bed. 

 Sam walked in, looking at Millie sitting quietly on her bed, and Ophelia frantically trying to gather her things to get far away from their toxic space. “Did something happen?” Sam asked cautiously. 

 “Millie cleaned my desk with furniture spray.” Sam raised his brows. “And she faced my crystals toward the wall.” 

  Sam gasped. “Millie, how could you?” 

 Millie threw her hands up. “How was I supposed to know?” 

 “It’s bad luck.” Millie rolled her eyes. Sam sat down at the foot of her bed. 

 “I’ll be out for the rest of the afternoon,” Ophelia said, swinging a tote bag over her shoulder. “That imposter smell of lemon should be gone by the time I get back.” 

 “Stay safe, Ophelia,” Sam said. 

 “Thank you, boo boo.” Ophelia shut the door behind her. 

 Sam turned back to Millie. He tapped her foot with a pointed finger. “Do you know what this weekend is, particularly this Sunday? It’s a very big day.”

 Millie thought about it. “February fourteenth?”

 “Which is…”

 “Valentine’s Day.”

 “Precisely.” Sam held up his index finger. “But this weekend is a very special weekend. Because not only is it Valentine’s Day, it’s also someone’s half birthday.” 

 Millie furrowed her brows. 

 “It’s yours,” Sam smiled. He was talking like a commander giving an inspirational speech just before battle. “There’s more. I got to thinking about the awesome things we could do on your Valentine’s Day/half birthday weekend, when I realized that we’ve been together for two months now and we haven’t even had a proper date since North by Northwest. Where I take you out and pay for everything.” 

 Millie didn’t say anything. She just listened, so Sam continued, “So then I got to thinking about what great things we could do for Valentine’s Day/your half birthday/our second real date.” He titled his head to the side after he listed off each event. “And I got an idea.” 

 “What are you thinking?”

 Sam’s mouth grew wide. “Dinner and a movie.” 

 “We did that last time.”

 “Exactly.” Sam placed his hand on hers. “And I want to do it again.”

 “So dinner and a movie for Valentine’s Day/my half birthday/our second date?”

 “That’s just Friday. On Saturday I want us to go camping at Pyramid Lake.” 

 Millie lowered her chin. What was he thinking? “In a tent? With like, bears and snakes?”

 “In a tent with nothing to be too concerned about. The bears and snakes will be outside.” 

 “Um, okay. Let’s do it.” Millie nodded enthusiastically.  

 Sam smiled. “Great,” he said, his smile fading as he looked into Millie’s eyes. He leaned forward, his curvy lips going into a pout. This was it. It was finally happening. They were going to kiss, and it was going to be awesome. Millie leaned in closer, and shut her eyes. Then she felt a quick gush of air blow in her face. She opened her eyes. Sam was staring at her attentively, but his focus was on something below her eye. “You’ve got an eyelash that won’t come off.” He wiped it away with his finger, then gave Millie one nod of accomplishment.

 Seriously?  

An Afternoon at Clementine’s

 What was he doing here? He wasn’t allowed in here. This was my place. He didn’t know that this was my place–my sanctuary really–but he didn’t have to. You should just know these things about the people in your life. Like the high school basketball star has the park down the block from his house, the one with the courts that he can occupy himself in the quietude of the early weekend morning before the rest of the world rises. Or the surfer who always finds herself at the surf shop on the boardwalk just outside the ocean, even though she has no intention of getting a new board anytime soon. 

 Much like these dignified people, I–Clementine Schwartz, writer, reader, coffee drinker–have Gideon’s Cafe and Bookstore. Okay yeah, it is a public space which does technically make it up for grabs, but that doesn’t discount the natural urge within man to claim his space in the world. 

 When I approached Steve I placed a couple of fragile fingers on his warm arm, in fear that too much contact would give away that my hands were shaking a little nervously. He turned to me so vacantly that I worried his lack of surprise to see me meant that he saw me ordering my latte, rummaging through my purse to find the loose bank card that I had tossed into the tiny bag moments before leaving my house. I was hyper aware of how impatient the barista/cashier at the counter was getting with me and how I kept apologizing to her, one hand shoved into my purse, because I knew Steve was just right across from me quietly browsing a shelf labeled New Releases. And if he had witnessed that atrocious transaction, then he must also have had no intention in greeting me. He was to let me on my way, ignoring the universe’s grand attempt at bringing together two stars that normally orbit different parts of the galaxy. 

 “Hey,” he said breathily, extending his arm out like it was already in his arsenal to brace me in a hug (the kind of equipped when you’ve already seen the person). 

 I pressed myself against his chest, wrapping my small limbs around his narrow body, feeling the hardness of his thinness. It gave me the sensation that I’d crashed into a wall. I pulled away.

 “How are you doing?” he asked. Then suddenly he wasn’t looking at me anymore, but at the front counter. “Sorry,” he told me. “I’m looking for a book.” 

 “Which one?” I asked, as if I could offer him a hand. “Actually, I can’t help you,” I corrected in case he thought I was serious. 

 “Do you work here?” he joked and made his way to the counter, just as an artsy looking barista/cashier (a different one from the impatient woman for which I’d dealt) was steaming milk from a silver cup. 

 He told the barista/cashier (his name tag read Mike) about this book he had reserved. Then he gave his name, Steve Munson. Mike informed Steve that they had set a copy aside for him, and he proceeded to pull the book off a little rolling cart behind him. 

 “How’s your sister?” Steve asked me as Mike rang his book up. 

 He may as well have asked, “how’s the only thing I know about you?” Everyone knew that my sister was sick–stage IV leukemia–but Steve was the only person I had confided in that she may not have much time to live and that she would be be going in for surgery in a week’s time. That was two months ago. She was doing okay. Alive, but just okay. 

 “She’s well,” I informed him. I felt a surge of anger at Steve’s question. He was merely trying to make conversation, and perhaps he was concerned about my sister’s aliveness, but it bothered me that he’d made no attempts to ask about it for two whole months. It was just another reminder that our kiss meant little to him. The kiss where he held me close so that our noses touched even after our lips broke away from one another, his fingertips sliding down my cheek as he exhaled a breath that felt warm amidst the coldness of that January night. It was a reminder that my hand in his didn’t incite the fluttering butterflies in his stomach as it did in mine. And when he drove away after dropping me off at my house for the last time, that I wasn’t on his mind like he was on mine ever since. 

 He was completely unaware of the way he made me feel. That he had more power over me than anyone, to some extend even myself. And I know that I should be careful about who I hand over such power to. I was reminded of this when the very sight of him sent me crashing into a madness of my own doing. 

 “That’s good,” he said and grabbed the book from off the counter. “How’s the coffee here?”

 “It’s okay.” I shot my eyes over at Mike, hoping that he wasn’t expecting me to hype up Gideon’s mediocre coffee simply because I was here almost every every day after school. 

 “I truly have to go,” Steve said. It was just like him to use words like truly, an otherwise unnatural adjective that sounded perfect coming from his lips. The way he spoke could be its own unique form of poetry. 

 “Yeah,” I said. “Me too actually.” 

 “I’ll see you soon,” he said, even though the moment we parted ways meant we were returning to our respective posts on opposite ends of the galaxy to serve our roles in orbit, he thinking little of me, and me thinking very much of him. 

Unthoroughly Modern #1

Sam was here. 

Anxiety began to stir up in Millie’s stomach as she heard the rubber sole of Sam’s old, dirty shoes tread lightly down the stairs. She could see them make their way down now. All Millie could think about was how much she hated those shoes, scuffed up from daily wear, probably as a means to distract her from the confrontation she’s been dreading all day. 

Sam stepped down from the stairs and made his way toward her. Millie darted her eyes to the ground and smoothed the tips of her hair nervously. It was much more attractive than biting her nails, another nervous habit she couldn’t seem to break. 

The urge to see if Sam was just as afraid as she was overpowered Millie’s fear of eye contact. She glanced up quickly, as if to get it over with and her eyes locked with Sam’s. He looked down at her, his brows raised expectingly. He was as calm and patient as always, to Millie’s disappointment. Why was she always the only anxious wreck in the room? 

“Thank you for meeting me,” Millie said to the ground. 

“Sure,” Sam shoved his hands into his jean pockets. 

He was effortlessly cool. Probably because he’s older, Millie thought. 

Millie copied his stance by sliding her hands into the pockets of her hoodie. It made her feel protected, but not cool. 

“I wanted to apologize last night, but I’m not very good at these things.” 

“I know,” Sam said, matter-of-factly. 

Millie shot her eyes at him. 

“And it’s totally okay,” he added. 

“It was unfair of me to be upset with you the other night. I acted out because I wanted you to notice I was angry.” 

“I definitely noticed,” Sam nodded as he recounted the other night. 

Millie saw Sam with another girl. A blonde girl she had never seen before. Sam and Millie were not dating, but there was an undeniable connection between the two of them, an unspoken truth even.  Millie couldn’t help but storm out of the theater after her poetry reading at Sam’s weekly talent showcase. The standing ovation from the audience after pouring her soul out on stage. The praise from Sam as soon as she stepped off stage. It all meant nothing to her as the foolishness seeped in upon witnessing Sam sit next to the blonde and wrap his arm around her.

 
“I wanted to ask you what was wrong, but I didn’t want to overstep any boundaries,” he told her. 

Boundaries. Since when were there boundaries between the two of them? Since the mystery blind showed up. That’s when. 

And Sam knowing Millie was upset explains why he was so accommodating to her last night. Asking her if she needed anything. Making sure she was comfortable. He wasn’t head over heels for her. He was afraid of making her angry again. 

“I know I can be a bad friend,” he said.

Friend was the only word Millie absorbed. 

“Don’t be so hard on yourself,” Millie said lowly. 

“Millie?” 

Millie looked up at Sam. His voice was gentle. Kind. Loving. Things she didn’t want it to be, because it was a reminder that Sam wasn’t in love with her, he was just a good friend. 

“Don’t ever apologize for your feelings.” 

Millie nodded, tears swelling in her eyes. She removed a hand from her pocket and wiped her tears away with her hoodie. 

She knew that this was the end. Not indefinitely, but their friendship wouldn’t be the same again. They wouldn’t go on lunch dates anymore, and she would cease coming to his talent showcases. The ones she would only go to to see him. The showcase she signed up for to impress him. That definitely had to stop. 

Things would have to be quiet for awhile, and it was a shame because Sam was a really good person. He wasn’t like Fran and Mike, Millie’s best friends, who always had something negative to say. Sam had a good energy. Always had something witty to say. He made sure you had something to drink. That you didn’t walk to your car alone. Even when you were mad at him.

Sam was refreshing. Millie had never met a person like that before.

 
When Millie realized she hadn’t thought those words, but actually said them aloud to Sam, she was even more shocked. She didn’t tell guys how she felt about them, because it was always unrequited. 

“Thank you for letting me know how you feel,” Sam nodded assuringly. 

Oh, God. Millie just poured her heart out to Sam and he didn’t know how to respond except to be polite. 

Millie waited for the embarrassment to hit, but it never came. Instead she felt relieved. Finally she told Sam what he meant to her, and even though he didn’t think of her the same way, all the bad stuff that Millie thought had permanently made a home inside of her evaporated.

Anxiety must be withholding information, Millie thought. 

“Promise me this,” Sam continued. “You stop apologizing for how you feel, and I won’t be so hard on myself. Deal?”

 
Millie forced a smile and agreed. Sam gave her a tight hug, resting his chin on her head. Millie recalled the first time Sam did this: he held her, hesitating at first, but when he finally tapped his chin to her head and searched the right spot, they were a perfect fit. 

The heartache was afloat after Sam left, but nothing overwhelming. Millie wanted to live with it for a little while. And she especially wanted to be alone. She owed herself some loneliness.