/Ah… Time to move on, don't you think? I think Laura has figured it out now. Welcome to the final chapter. Imagine, all that work just to get one girl to ask another girl out.

Oh, and the book isn't mine. It's Peter Straub's. …He's not mine, either./

Like the Sky Was Falling

It's amazing how, just after those periods where everything in the world seems against you, everything and everyone is suddenly on your side again, whether they realized that you had been lost in the dark or not. It's like life is trying to make it up to you, or maybe you're just so grateful you didn't do something terminally stupid that everything seems that way. Either way, it's nice.

When my mother heard I stayed up all night, she wanted to call me in to school. Any other day I would've jumped at that, but I had spent all night long gathering my courage. There was no fucking way I was going to waste all that time. Mom, exasperated and amused, finally told me that I should stay home until lunch and then go back to school.

I gave in. What else could I do? I was practically falling asleep where I stood.

I knew this wasn't going to last; this easiness between my mother and me. But it was nice enough when she went out of her way, making me something for breakfast and making sure I was all right before dashing off to be late for work, that I wanted it to last. I wanted to work at it, and make it something constant in my life. Is this what making yourself real does to you? All my strength, my independence, was falling apart.

But if it had been real, then it wouldn't be crashing down. I hadn't really been strong; just stubborn and uncompromising.

But I had all my life to figure out how to truly be strong, how to really be happy.

When I went to bed, ready to grab five hours of sleep before heading back to school, I dreamed of white birds flying into a sky that was falling down all around me, revealing something brighter than the sun.

For the first time in years, I didn't cringe at the sight of my high school. Instead, I waited outside for a while and kicked my shoes off, peeled my socks off, and walked in the grass to the side and front of the building. The grass was very warm. Of course, there had been no clouds all day to shelter it from the sun's heat.

But with all the deep green around me, I don't think the grass minded. Plants strain for the sunshine. They wait most patiently for the clouds to break away and fall back to the ground, feeding them and revealing the light.

I heard the bell ring, announcing the end of lunch, and pulled my socks and shoes back on. Time to go in and face whatever life had waiting for me.

Apparently, this would have to be tedium. Three afternoon classes and they all dragged by like they were trying to get me to run screaming out into the hallway, only to stop and start dancing in the doorway of whatever room I could find Chris or Natalie in. And that thought struck me as so psychotic and so humorous that I was nearly sent out of history for giggling through a lecture on Chernobyl.

I managed to get my own back, though, and kept up the smart replies to every sarcastic question Mr. Linne sent my way. He's the one teacher who seems to like smart-asses.

I couldn't sleep as I usually did in Study Hall, and so was forced to witness the moronic freshmen try to reconstruct some battle or other on the desk to my right. The main problem was that they only had so many army men, so they spent ten minutes convincing one kid to grab the stapler so they could use the staples as the opposing army. When they managed to steal some girl's packet of fake nails to use as siege weapons, I gave up all hope for the future.

Tension was gnawing on my insides, so I focused on anything and everything else in my immediate surroundings to ignore it. There wasn't anything I could do until after school, and unlike some people I knew, I wasn't able to push the inevitable out of my mind. Natalie always managed to stay perfectly calm about anything at all until those last ten minutes beforehand, but I let my nervousness have free reign.

Strange, how everyone thought she was the excitable one, and I was always so composed.

When Spanish had finally pulled itself out of its eternal rut, I was certain I was getting an ulcer. Several people had already remarked that I still looked sick, and should have stayed home the rest of the day, while making comments about my parents at the same time. I hadn't said anything, so they assumed, of course. Idiots.

But the rancor wasn't there. Not that time, as much I wanted it to be, just so it could distract me from my worries.

And then the bell rang. I wondered if everyone gets those moments where time seems to skip, leaving out whole chunks of life. I could not, for the life of me, remember walking down the hallway to my locker. I was just suddenly there, and making some sarcastic quip at Natalie, who was looking very surprised to see me. Perhaps she was asking me questions; I didn't really pay attention. And then my locker was open, and I was shoving my homework into my book bag. And then Natalie was hissing something and darting away, and a hand was tapping my shoulder.

I turned and smiled and all my fear seemed to crystallize. Chris looked down at me with wide, sweet eyes and even sweeter smile.

At least I finally understood the feelings that raged through me when I looked at her face.

"I, ah, finished that book," I said, ignoring the greeting I thought she gave. I held out Ghost Story, smiling with a little more strain. She raised one thin eyebrow and then smiled, remembering her ruse to have a chance to speak to me.

Yes, I'd realized it was a ruse. I wasn't totally stupid.

"Oh, thank you," she said, her smile growing brighter. I could see Natalie peeking around a group of students farther down the hallway, watching with wide eyes. I'd have to hit her for that. She saw me glaring slightly and actually blushed before winking and ducking out of sight again. "I've heard nothing but good stuff about Peter Straub."

"You know, they made a movie out of that," I said casually, feeling as if my heart were beating outside of my body, out where everyone could see, thundering so loudly that everyone could tell what I was feeling. And it wasn't all fear. "When you finish the book, do you want to check it out with me?"

I may have found fear, but that didn't mean I'd entirely abandoned my courage. Some habits are hard to break.

If I thought her smile was bright before, now it shamed the sun. It was like watching that star break out of the sky, shatter all the laws that held it up there and so far out of reach, and fall into one beautiful girl's face with utmost grace.

"That sounds great," she said, and from the light in her eyes, perhaps my smile was just as light.

/Review if you like, flame if you have to, blink in confusion if you just don't get it./