Hello! If you're just tuning in or need a refresher, it's marching band season and Summer (drumline) has a crush on Micah (drum major), but she was too anxious to talk to him or tell her friends about it. She made a profile on Chat With Me (you can only talk to people at your school and the conversations can't be tracked) and they've been talking (except Summer is pretending to be someone named Anna). They've grown close, Micah wants to meet her, and Summer knows it's time to come clean, but she's terrified.
This is draft 2, and I'm more interested in big picture comments than sentence level/grammar comments. Thanks for reading! <3
After our critique, and after I’m able to retreat back to the band trailer and take off my sweaty uniform and people start to disperse either to the buses or into the stands, I beeline for the bathroom.
I’m not on the list for the buses, so no one will be looking for me. I doubt anyone even wants to talk to me.
I go into a stall, sit on the edge of the toiler, and put my head in my hands. My heart pounds, my stomach hurts, I just want to curl into the fetal position and cry, but I’m in a gross public bathroom and that’s not the smartest idea. Today has already been a nightmare and I’m not even to the hardest part yet.
My phone buzzes in my pocket.
I almost don’t look, thinking it’s probably Taylor sending a long string of texts about how disappointed he is and how there’s no way he can recommend me for section leader now. Or it’s one of my friends asking where I am and what’s wrong with me.
But I look. And it’s Micah.
Welcome to Chat With Me!
Saturday, 03:28PM - You’re chatting with: MICAH TURNER.
Micah (03:28PM): Hey! Are you here? I’m done for the day and I’m sticking around to watch some of the other bands (and hopefully meet you). Would it be easier to pick a time and and place to meet, or do you want me to tell you where I am and you come to me, or I can come to you. Whatever is easiest.
I’m going to throw up. It’s a good thing I’m already in the bathroom because I feel it coming. Sweat is dripping down my back and my hands are shaking and I’m 100% out of control of my mind and body. I also might be dying.
There are a million things I need to do outside of this bathroom stall right now, but I’m also glued to this toilet seat and I can’t do a single one. But if I don’t do a single one, I’m just going to keep letting people down today, and I don’t know if I can keep doing that to myself.
Anna (03:36PM): I’ll come to you?
Maybe that will buy me a little more time to get myself together.
Micah (03:39PM): Okay! There’s a main concession stand close to the entrance. If you’re looking at the field, I’m in the stands to the right, sitting by myself ten rows up wearing my band t-shirt.
Anna (03:46PM): Is it possible to do this where there aren’t as many people around?
Micah (03:47PM): Sure! How about still by the concession stand, but going in the opposite direction of the field, right outside the main fence?
Anna (03:49PM): That’s fine.
Micah (03:49PM): When do you want to do this?
Anna (03:51PM): Now?
Micah (03:52PM): Works for me! Heading down now. See you in a minute.
I really am going to throw up. I stand up off of the toilet seat, but my legs are shaking so bad it might be smarter to sit back down again.
Am I really about to do this? Am I really about to unlatch this stall, walk out of this bathroom, find Micah, and say “hi I’m Anna”?
With shaking hands, I pocket my phone and free myself from the stall.No one else is in this bathroom, but I still go to the sinks and wash my hands to stall a little bit more. I look at myself in the mirror and can only see my disheveled hair falling out of its ponytail, my sweaty face, my acne popping out, the bags under my eyes, and how red my nose looks from holding back tears. I’m a mess.
I try to think happy thoughts and tell mirror Summer that everything is going to be okay and May might be right, he might still like me. But those thoughts are clouded by the probably more realistic this is all about to blow up in my face and there’s nothing I can do about it.
He’s probably already standing there, waiting for me, looking over his shoulder thinking every girl that passes could be her, the mythical Anna. He’s probably been out there so long he’s afraid I’m not going to show. So I leave the bathroom.
I manage to put one foot in front of the other and leave the safety of the women’s bathroom and pass the concession stand. The fence is only a little farther away, and through the fence, I can just barely make out Micah standing near a tree off of the main path. It’s the perfect spot. No one else is around.
It’s too late now to turn back and change my mind. He’s waiting for me. So I keep walking towards the bomb that’s about to go off.
He doesn’t notice me coming. And why should he? He’s not looking for me, for someone he seems every single day. He’s looking for a stranger. For Anna.
I should have tested my voice in that empty bathroom. I’m not convinced that when I open my mouth and say “hello” that any words will come out at all.
I pause when I’m a few feet away and wait for him to turn and notice me here. I don’t know exactly what I’m going to say, but I’m here.
He must hear how loud my heart is thumping, because he turns and says, “Hey Summer.”
My heart somehow sinks to new, further depths. I don’t say anything for a second. I sort of hope that if I just stand here and wait, that he’ll put the dots together on his own.
After a beat of silence, a look of recognition starts to show on his face. Now or never.
“Hi,” I stick out my hand. “I’m Anna.”
He doesn’t take my hand, and I quickly let it fall back to my side. I can feel my heart beating in my ears. Micah just stares at me. I don’t know what to say next.
“What?” He finally says.
“I’m sorry,” I squeak.
He shakes his head in slow disbelief. “What is this? Is this a weird practical joke or something?”
“No. I’m sorry. Let me explain.”
“I don’t believe this.” He turns to walk away.
“Please!” I nearly scream. “Please let me explain.”
“Nothing you say will make sense or justify this. You were right there this entire time. Right in front of me, pretending to be a new student named Anna. You didn’t want to meet me because you were too anxious,” He puts air quotes around the word and lets out a short laugh. “How stupid can I be? You didn’t want to meet me because you were living this weird fantasy life where your name is Anna Blackwell. What is wrong with you?”
The words sting like little individual daggers cutting through my heart and gut.
“It wasn’t all lies,” I manage to choke out.
He lets out another short laugh. “Oh great. That makes it all better.”
“Can I please explain?”
He takes a second to answer and for a that one short second, I think maybe he’ll let me explain and maybe I can smooth this out just like May said.
Until he says, “No. Don’t ever talk to me or message me again.”
The world blurs. I don’t even see him walk away.
Is everything spinning or is that just me? Am I even standing?
Don’t ever talk to me or message me again.
Out of all of the worst case scenarios I ruminated about, reality is around catastrophic levels.
I need May. I need to go home. I need to erase this day.
I stand there under the tree and try to focus on one step at a time. I need to call my mom. My mom will come get me.
I grab my phone out of my back pocket. Chat with Me is open. No. Home screen. Call icon. Mom. Call mom. Focus. Make hands stop shaking. Relax. Call mom. Say you’re ready to get picked up. Don’t cry. Cry at home. Push the button. Wait for mom.
“Hey Summer,” She says. “Are you ready for me or are you going with a friend?”
I bite my lip so I won’t cry. “I’m ready.” I think I sound normal enough.
When I get home I’ll call May. I need her. She’ll tell me what to do. She said it would be fine, and it wasn’t, so now she has to help me fix it. Only May can help me fix it.
It’ll take at least a half hour before my mom will be here. I’m almost tempted to try and find Micah and explain. If I could just explain. I can’t figure out if he needs space to cool down, or if this is my last chance to smooth things out and after tonight he’ll completely write me off and never speak to me again.
This is why I need May. But if I call May right now I’m going to ugly cry, and I can’t do that right here and now.
So I sit. And I wait.
If faking happy was a form of art, I would win awards. When my mom picks me up, and for the entire ride home, we talk about the competition and the band and school, but she never realizes that I’m a tightly wound string that’s about to snap. Which is perfect because I’m not trying to go there right now.
I need to go home. I need to get in my bed. I need to call May. I need a way to fix this. There has to be a way to fix this.
I screwed this up and embarrassed him and hurt his feelings and broke his trust, and I’m the dumbest, worst person in the world. I understand why he’s upset. I would be if I were in his shoes. But the finality of don’t ever talk to me or message me again is hard to shake.
I try to imagine how it’s going to be going from talking to him whenever and confiding in him and feeling so comfortable with him, to nothing at all. It hurts.
Once I’m safe in my bed, band clothes off and sweat pants on, under the covers with my blanket pulled up high, I try May’s cell. It’s Saturday night, so I don’t have high expectations, but I have to try.
Her phone rings once and I allow myself to hold on to the glimmer of hope that she’ll answer and everything will be okay.
Her phone rings twice and the pit starts to settle back into my stomach.
Her phone rings three times and the lump in my throat comes back. I’ve been holding back the tears all afternoon, and pretty soon I won’t be able to contain it any more.
Her phone rings the last time, and I dig my nails into my thigh. I don’t want to be alone with this.
“Hi! You’ve reached May Rhodes! Sorry I can’t come to the phone right now! Leave your name and message and I’ll get back to you soon!”
I was with her when she recorded that. We must have rehearsed it fifty times and recorded at least a dozen versions before she was satisfied. She’s always been a perfectionist.
“Hey,” My voice is thick. “It’s me. Um…I know you’re probably out right now. I just…I…told him May.” My voice finally breaks. “It didn’t go well. So, um…please call me. I need you.”
I leave my phone right next to my pillow so I’ll hear when she calls back. Until then, I’m going to lay here, and I’m going to cry.