Inner Musings of a Teenage Girl: It Seemed

“Well, you have to give all this back to him, don’t you? Casey, are you listening to me?”

She could hear her sister talking. She spoke in a barely contained tone that was stained with urgency. She imagined that if they hadn’t been in a library, her sister would be yelling.

So she heard her sister, yes. She just wasn’t listening to her.

“Casey, focus!”

She was focusing. She was focusing on her breathing, trying not to hyperventilate. She was focusing on the ringing in her ears, trying to tamp it down to a dull hum rather than an overwhelming, seemingly ever-present buzz. She was focusing on her hands, trying to keep them from shaking, trying not to panic.

Because it seemed that, somehow, she’d stolen a stack of papers from a boy she barely knew. Homework and notes and doodles and permission slips for a field trip and she had to give them back.

“Casey?” her sister said, softening her tone. “Are you okay?”

She nodded, not at all okay.

“I know where he is right now,” her sister said, her voice tinged again with a bit of urgency. “He’s in the cafeteria, by the windows.”

“Can you give it to him?” she asked.

“No!” her sister said. She was too loud. Much too loud for the library. She looked around, hoping no one else had noticed her sister’s outburst. It seemed that they hadn’t. “I’m not the one who took his stuff! Besides, I don’t know him at all. That’s weird.”

If her sister, loud and spunky and rude and sarcastic, thought this was weird, how was she meant to do it?

“I don’t know him either,” she said emphatically.

Her sister stared blankly at her. “He’s in your grade.”

Yes, but that doesn’t mean I know him. It doesn’t mean I can just go up to him.

“Beth, please,” she said, her hushed tone laced with an almost tangible desperation. “Don’t make me do this.”

“You could always just not give it to him,” her sister suggested.

“Please don’t do that. I kind of need those.”

Every single part of her body seemed to run cold. Her blood seemed to slow and panic welled in her chest.

She dared to take a quick glance at him.

He was smiling. It didn’t seem to be a mocking smile. It seemed like a good-natured smile. She wasn’t surprised. He’d always seemed that way: nice, funny.

“I was wondering where I’d find you,” he said. “You weren’t in the cafeteria.”

She shook her head. No. She didn’t eat in the cafeteria. It was too loud, too many people.

Her sister grabbed her bag suddenly and Casey looked at her, panic in her eyes.

“I just remembered I had to go see a teacher. See you later, Casey.”

She watched in horror as her sister retreated with a wink. It seemed that she was being left alone, being abandoned.

“You okay?” he asked and Casey looked up at him. She nodded jerkily and he laughed softly.

“You don’t seem okay,” he said.

She wasn’t.

She couldn’t exactly tell him that.

“I’m fine.”

Or, at least, she’d do her best to seem that way.

Jamie Ryu