Sorry if this chapter is a bit short. I got ideas for the third one before I even started this, and now I just really want to get to it.

CHAPTER 2 – Victoria

"Victoria! You can't sit there, that's where your aunt Beth is going to sit. I've already planned where everyone's going to sit, I won't have you mess this up." My mother marches around the huge dining room table, and dramatically places her hands on the back of two chairs. "You will sit here." She holds up a folded piece of cardboard with Victoria written in only the best cursive. "See, it even says your name." She places the card down lightly before proceeding to giggle and clap in her "youthful" way.

I grab Brian's arm and lead him to our seats, not that he couldn't find them himself. "Ooo, you're sitting next to Suzan." He rolls his eyes. I look at the name card next to me. "Ugh, seriously? I have to sit next to uncle Frank?" My mother nods impatiently. "But he smells really bad and he elbows me whenever he thinks something's funny."

"Victoria. Do not talk about your relatives like that. And why on earth are you two sitting down? Dinner's not for another 5 hours. Everyone will be here in about 3, and I do expect you to be social." I sigh, giving her a short nod before I drag Brian to my room.

Music has never been an issue with us. He likes what I like, I like what he likes, it simply works out. Topic of conversation, however, is not the easiest of decisions we make. He likes to talk about math (don't ask me why), while I like to talk about anything but. Of course, I indulge him sometimes, nodding when he says words that could be Russian for all I know. I think he appreciates it, and I'm good at faking enthusiasm. His mother, however…not so easy to talk to him about. Death has never been something I like to talk about. I'm very awkward when it comes to that kind of conversation. See, even there I automatically jump to death, when the chemo is helping her a lot. OK, I guess I'm not as bad as I say, but when pressured into a conversation I'm as jittery as a crack-head in the winter.

And sometimes he even wants to throw religion into the mix. I mean, I guess I believe there's something "bigger" than us out there. But, even so it's just so…forbidden. It's so beyond me trying to decipher who this god person is makes me want to solve Blue's Clues…at least then I know all the answers. He's tried analyzing me before. He told me things I don't have control of scare me. And despite the fact that I've told him countless times he's totally right, he thinks I'm ignoring it to make it easier for myself. That has to be his one and only fault—over judgment. Not that I'm any saint in that department, but hey, at least I'm not saying anything to his face.

Instead I lay sideways on my bed, flipping through the case CDs he brought over to my house. "You have Eels?"

"Yeah. Why, is that…—"

"No, no, it's cool. I just don't know anyone younger than 20 who listens to them."

"Well…you do."

"Yes, yes, I realize I do, I'm talking about other people I know."

"You don't know anyone."

"Oh, right. I knew I was forgetting something." He blinks slowly, laughing in that tired way that makes blush. I turn back to the CDs so he doesn't notice. Not that he ever does. He's oblivious to anything done by the opposite sex.


"Victoria, your father's home. Come say hello."

I groan, rolling my neck until Brian comes into view. "Come on. We have to say hello to father dearest." I get up and he follows obediently. "Hi, dad."

Brian waves his hand nervously. "Hi Mr. Crohner."

"Hey, Brian!" My dad throws his suitcase to the side and loosens his tie to show Brian how young and hip he is. "You keeping my daughter smart?"

"Uh, yes sir."

My mom steps in front of my dad, not allowing him to be the cool parent. She makes no attempt to made herself more desirable, but she makes sure my dad doesn't give us the full effect. "Honey, why don't you and Brian play in the snow."

Play in the snow? "Sure. C'mon Brian." We step outside and I turn to him. "Do you think my dad knows he's being a giant ass?"


"'Are you keeping my daughter smart?' Like I'd be totally incompetent if you weren't around?"

"He's just trying to bond with his daughter's friend. It's nice…not, of course, with out it's repercussions."

"Whatever. What it ultimately is, is annoying. I don't need my parents to bond with, or even accept my friends."

"Oh, you're so defiant."

I glare into space, pushing him aside. "Defiance is for people with the need for attention."

He turns to me, putting his hands on his hips in a facetious way. "Have you been reading bumper-stickers lately?"

"I really do hate you."

He turns back away, smiling widely. "No you don't."

"I do."

"No you don't."

"I so, so, so, so, so do."


"Would you like more ham, Vikki?"

My name isn't Vikki, it's Tori. "No thanks Uncle Frank. I'm a vegetarian, remember?"

"Oh, that's right, you kids are so cute." He proceeded to elbow me in my already-bruised side, spitting chunks of meat with his over-dramatized laugh.

Brian nudges me. "You having fun?"

I stare forward with a glare. He laughs at me sitting back in his chair. His phone starts ringing, but luckily it's on vibrate. He stands up quickly, apologizing to my parents and our guests. He steps out of the room to answer the phone, but he stands in a way so I can see his face. I watch it looking for clues. His face is neutral at first but now it's changing. I can't quite tell what it is; fear, maybe? I take the napkin out of my lap, setting it on the table in front of me, and walk over to Brian. He nods to the phone a few times, before saying "Yeah, okay." His jaw clenches, and I think he's going to cry. He hangs up the phone and turns his attention to me, though avoiding eye contact. "I, uh…" He stares down the hall for a moment before finally looking at me. "I have to go to the hospital. My mom, um, well they wouldn't tell me.

I nod and walk over to my mom, whispering only minor details into her head. She nods sympathetically before telling me where the keys to her car are. She knows I'm not going to drive, which is the only reason she allows me and Brian to go by ourselves. I grab the keys and we stride quickly out of my house. We get to the hospital after an eternity of driving on slippery roads behind what seems like all the old people in Maine. We rush into the hospital where Emily paces impatiently. "Brian!" She ignores my existence as she talks to him. "They haven't told me anything about mom's condition. I don't know what's wrong with her, everything was normal. Then she fainted, and I took her in here, and this is taking way longer than normal."

Brian sighs, pressing his hands to his temples like he always does when he has a headache. He sits down and I sit next to him, placing a hand on his shoulder. I happen to catch the glare that Emily sends my way, like I'm contaminating her brother. Even in a situation like this she can't suppress her hate for me. We sit uncomfortably for at least an hour before a doctor appears with a frown. Bad news.

"We did all we could." Brian's face instantly drops into his hands. I rub his back with one hand and stare at the doctor waiting for more information. "Your mother had food poisoning. You couldn't tell because with the chemo it just seemed normal for her to be acting like that. Her immune system weakened critically leading to this. I'm so sorry."

Emily nods, holding her tears back. "Well…thank you."

The doctor nods. "Someone will be in a few minutes to talk to you." The few minutes he described lasted well over a half an hour. Not a word was spoken in the waiting room the whole time. The man he talked about finally comes and discusses Brian and Emily's financial situation, and what they're to do next. I listen in and out, trying to be supportive, yet trying to stay awake. He starts talking about where Brian is going to go after the funeral, so I listen in. He rambles on for a few minutes, talking about nothing important, but then he says it. Arizona. The word hits me like a bullet and I take a step back, sitting down. Brian glances over before turning back to the man deciding his fate. I take that as a sign that there's not much more I can do to comfort him, and I shut my eyes. The world around me suddenly seems so big, like this momentary rest is so I don't get lost in it. I close my eyes and, unable to help it, fall into a much needed sleep.


My phone rings waking me up after an hour of sleep. I see Brian, Emily, and the lawyer still talking, but this time in a small room in my line of vision. I answer my phone groggily and my mother sighs loudly, obviously relieved. "Are you OK, it's past midnight?"

"Really?" I sign, rubbing my face tiredly. "I'm…I don't know. I'm gonna be here for a little while longer."

"OK, well call me to report if you're not going to be home in an hour."

"Yup. Bye mom." She says nothing else, but I hear a scratchy noise on the phone and assume that was her nodding her goodbye. I hang up the phone and walk over to the window of the room they're in. At least I can be closer to him. A half an hour passes and they're finally done. They shake hands and they lawyer leaves, as well as Emily. Brian and I stand about a foot away; neither of us know what to say. He nods toward the door and we walk out into the falling snow. He drives us to my house. I don't bother to announce my arrival; my mother always can tell. We go straight to my room, where he instantly falls asleep on my bed. I take the floor. I don't sleep. I lay there, listening to his rhythmic breathing, rapt in the sound. I lay awake for hours. The time passes by so quickly sometimes I just wish it would stop. It, of course, doesn't, so I'm stuck with wasted nights.


Since few words were spoken between Brian and I the night before, he was left to fill me in today. He explained to me that he would be staying with his father and his new wife and kids in Arizona. His lawyer was going to set him up with a flight a day after the funeral, which would be held in a day. So that means I have 2 days to spend with my best friend, which, as you can probably imagine, just isn't enough. Luckily it's winter break, so we don't have school to interfere with our little time as it is. My time issue comes to light as the funeral approaches like a train. I dress all in black and sit next to Brian for the viewing. He gets up and says a few words, before his emotions overwhelm him and he apologizes and sits down. I again rub his back, realizing how sad it is that this is the only comfort I can provide him. The viewing ends and the burial is next. He rides in my parents' car, and my parents try awkwardly to make conversation. I ask them if we can be quiet because I'm not in the mood for talking. Brian glances over at me and I can tell he's grateful for the silence. He's never been one to fill the silence with false comfort; he'd rather just accept the fact that something's wrong.

I hold Brian's hand as his mother's casket is lowered into the ground. He goes home with his sister, but promises he'll see me before he goes to the airport. And that's when my time issue is always reversed. A second feels like a minute, and minute like an hour, and every hour like a day. I'm finally able to sleep, but I awake regularly every 10 minutes. This night is not working in my favor.

I've decided looking at the clock just deceives me, so I don't. My phone rings some time after that decision. I answer it frantically, desperate for his voice. "Hello?"

"Hey." I don't speak, silently urging him to go on. "Would it be OK if I came over. I have to be at the airport soon, and I want to see you."

"Yeah, of course."

"OK." He hangs up the phone and I quickly do the same. I drag a brush through my hair and wait by the door. When he finally arrives I keep my face soft, though every part of me wants to break down at his feet. We walk to my room and it takes him a moment before he finally speaks. "So, I looked at colleges last night, and there's one right by here that I really want to go to."

I smile at his thoughtfulness, though over-anticipated. "That's two years away."

"Well, of course I'll come and visit in the meantime. And you can visit me too. You can experience warm weather." I let out a short laugh and my smile widens. We stare at each other for a second too long and our smiles fade. Despite the sudden change in moods, our eyes don't move. It's like we're locked in a stare-down. Then he kisses me—hard. His hands start to travel down my neckline, and I let him. Soon neither of us are clothed, and I realize my first time is neither the romantic fantasy I dreamed, or the awkward nightmare I dreaded. I'm just numb. Here I am with my best friend in what's supposed to be the time we say goodbye, and instead the only words spoken are the muffled "I love you's" he whispers faintly in my ear. The weirdest part of it is how we're doing it. Not to be lewd, but it amazes me. We've had that insanely awkward conversation and discovered—surprise—both of us are virgins. But we both seem experienced now, neither one of us missing a beat. It's probably due to the fact that he's doing everything and, like I said, I'm numb. But I forbid myself to tell him to stop, even though my brain screams at me, telling me I'm in pain. No, I can't do that to him. I just lay back and hope he doesn't see my tears.

Sorry if that was a bit rushed, I wanted to finish it tonight.