Chapter Two

Saying Sorry

Nina shoved her backpack in the backseat of Dessy's old, rust-covered Toyota before slamming herself in the seat, wearing an obvious pout. Dessy struggled to suppress her laughter.

Even when she's angry, she looks like a little kid!

Dessy thought maybe Nina was mad enough to stay silent the entire ride home, and for half the car ride, she was right. She could practically feel the fumes emanating from Nina and Nina didn't seem to want to talk about it. As if it was a big secret why she was angry anyway; Dessy knew her comment in the hospital must have upset her.

"look-" Dessy started, beginning to feel uncomfortable with the silence. The sweat from the heat was turning cold and unpleasant against her skin, and the heavy quiet was irritating her more. Plus, Nina had turned red as a tomato, her lips pressed tightly together in a pout.

"Don't, Dessy. I don't want to talk about it."

"Wow, you're-really mad, aren't you?" Dessy had never seen Nina so scarlet out of frustration. Nina usually didn't let anything upset her, and if something did, she shrugged it off three seconds later.

"What you said to Sandra was rude." Nina crossed her arms, and pressed her back against the imitation leather seat.

"Rude?" Dessy again tried to suppress her laughter. It seemed like such a childlike word choice, she barely contained herself. She cleared her throat, making sure to maintain her serious expression. Afterall, this was the first time Nina had showed her such anger, and she didn't want Nina to think she was belittling her.

"Okay, but I don't understand why you're so beat up about it," Dessy said in a calm, collected voice.

"Because-because it was really horrible, she might even be crying right now, and you didn't even say sorry!"

Dessy could practically see the steam coming out of Nina's ears.

"You did, though." Dessy shrugged, still not understanding why it was such a big deal, since Nina apologized for so many things that weren't her fault on a regular basis. Storm clouds were gathering above the safety of her vehicle, she noted. It could start raining at any moment.

"Of course I said sorry! How could I not say sorry?" Nina screeched, not even really trying to hold herself together anymore. She couldn't believe how nonchalant Dessy acted about the whole thing.

With a quick glance at the passenger seat floorboard, Dessy spotted her designer Italian sunglasses right below Nina's feet and made a quick decision. She swerved into the closest parking lot and slammed on the brakes as she sped into an empty spot in the back row.

The cracking of plastic accompanied the squeal of the brakes.

Nina lifted her foot to see the busted lenses and the sunglass' frame snapped in two right at the nose piece.

"I am so sorry!" she cried, scooping up the pieces of the broken shades and examining them frantically, as if she could piece it back together again.

"I don't accept it."


"I don't accept your apology, Nina," Dessy repeated, her teeth clenched as if she were really truly angry.

"But, I didn't mean to-" Nina blubbered, her eyes glossing with tears. Between the hospital incident, and now this, honestly, how could she keep up her usual bubbly and happy act?

"Don't care, those were my favorite shades." Dessy snapped, ripping the broken pieces out of Nina's hand and throwing them out her car's window. "And now I can't use them anymore. And it is your fault because your foot crushed them."


Dessy could see Nina's hands balling into fists at her side.

That's right, just get a little more angry, Dessy urged, come on, Nina.

"But-I said sorry," Nina muttered.

"Those were designer shades, Nina. You can't afford to buy me a new pair of designer shades to replace them, can you?"

"No, but-"

Dessy felt bad, she could practically see the tears about to spill down Nina's cheeks, but she pressed on. "If you buy me a new pair, then I'll accept your apology."

"That's-that's not fair!" Nina cried, her eyes widening with terror at the prospect of buying a pair of thousand dollar sunglasses. "If you hadn't swerved like that, if you hadn't slammed on the brakes, I mean, really, what the hell is your problem? This was your fault!"

Dessy finally let out the laughter that she'd been holding in for the car ride.

"What? Why are you laughing?" Nina's face contorted into a look of disbelief and shock, uncertain of what to say or do next.

"Because it was entirely my fault. The swerving, slamming on the brakes, I caused you to smash the sunglasses. My fault. But you still apologized like crazy."

Nina's chest heaved up and down in newfound anger. "So it was a joke?"

"Do you remember what your first words to me were?" Dessy asked, flashing Nina a soft smile and leaning her head against the seat's head-rest. Nina felt she was being made fun of, but she didn't quite know why.

"I don't-remember that. Exactly."

"I do." Dessy looked out the car's window to an empty parking lot. "I was late for class, and I had just transferred to your school. Three months ago to be exact. I didn't want to be late and I was having-well, I was having the worst day. I rounded a corner in the hallway, not paying attention to anyone or anything. And I bumped into you."

Nina's face fell. "And I said 'I'm sorry.'"

"That's right. You are always apologizing. For everything. All these little things that are out of anybody's control, you apologize for them as if they were your own screw ups."

Nina opened the car door in rage, and stormed across the parking lot, unable to think straight. She almost expected Dessy to follow, but she didn't.

Why would she? Nina thought bitterly. She probably drove off the second I entered the double doors of the store.

So Nina spent hours wandering the aisles of the grocery store. She even grabbed a cart, as if she were actually there to shop. The squeaking of the cart's tires against the scratched-up, white-tile floor grated against her nerves, which was good. It distracted her, redirected her anger to the cart instead of Dessy. Except, deep down, she knew it wasn't that she was angry at Dessy; she was angry at herself. Angry that Dessy so easily pointed out her flaws, so easily saw what Nina tried so desperately to keep hidden.

I can't help saying sorry, Nina thought. Because everyone messes up, but sometimes they don't apologize at all, and that really hurts the people they should apologize to. I would know.

Running off like that, Nina felt bad that she'd acted so rashly now that she'd had time to cool her head. To say it was out of character for her was an understatement, but ever since she'd met Dessy three months ago, she'd been doing a lot of things that were out of character for her. Like telling her mom to "back off", like switching from the chess club to the art club-like dying her natural blonde hair a dark chestnut brown. Only the thing was, these things weren't out of character-they were her true character finally having some breathing room. And that was all thanks to Dessy.

She found herself in the dairy aisle again. She'd lost track of how many times she passed the huge cardboard cutout of a cow wearing a frilly tutu. Whatever brand of milk that was advertising, she certainly wasn't interested in purchasing it now. And she kept walking. The only thing that kept her anchored to her presence in the real world, the only thing keeping her from slipping off the edge and drowning in the thoughts in her mind, was the squeaking of the carts' wheels.

She took another mindless lap around the store, this time cutting through the snacks aisle and taking a sharp turn back into the dairy aisle. She bumped into the cardboard cutout this time, and didn't even notice until she ran over the wide cardboard base and the cart nearly tipped over. With a shocked expression, she quickly righted the cutout and decided just so there were no hard feelings to purchase a half gallon of the pink tutu brand of milk. The tutu was kind of cute anyway.

Suddenly she was in front of a sunglass stand, admiring the many different pairs of shades. They were inexpensive, but she could still see Dessy wearing the chic black ones with strategically placed silver rhinestones on the side. Or maybe the silver shades with extra dark lenses. Or maybe-

What am I doing? I am not buying a new pair of sunglasses for her, end of story!

As if this thought jolted her back into sanity, she rushed to the cash register, realizing night had fallen outside the wide grandeur store windows.

She gave a quick glance at her cellphone, and barely contained the squeal of terror that rose inside her throat. It was 8:30 now. She'd been wandering aimlessly around the store for four hours now. Not only that, but she had a dozen missed calls from her mom asking where she was. Even if she left right now and walked home, she wouldn't be back until 9:00 at least!

With this conclusion in mind, she zoomed through the entrance at break neck speed, leaving the milk she just paid for in the plastic bag

She didn't even glance at the last row of the parking lot, where Dessy had parked; Dessy wouldn't be there, she was certain.

A loud honk caused her to jump in the air.

"Hey!" a voice called. A familiar voice. Dessy!

Nina stopped mid-sprint to see Dessy had pulled up behind her.

"Well, it took you long enough to calm down," Dessy said with a slight smirk.

"You-you waited for me?" Nina's lower lip quivered a bit, so she bit it, not wanting to cry in front of her best friend. It was ridiculous to cry because Dessy was nice to her, but it also was overwhelming to feel so cared about. Unfortunately, that wasn't a feeling she experienced very often. In fact, when she thought about it, she hadn't truly felt that way in six years.

"Just get in, will you?" Dessy urged,

Nina complied, sinking into the passenger side seat. Now she'd be home in fifteen minutes, thank goodness. For the first few minutes it was a silent, tense ride. Nina focused on the trees whizzing by, trying to count them without much success.

Dessy let out a heavy sigh that caused Nina to lose count.

"I just wanted to say that I'm sorry."

Nina looked at her in awe, realizing she hadn't heard Dessy apologize once since she'd known her.

"I was kind of a jerk, with the whole sunglasses thing, and I caused you to feel bad." Dessy's grip tightened on the steering wheel so much so that her knuckles turned a ghastly white, so Nina imagined it couldn't be easy for Dessy to be apologizing like this, but nevertheless she was.

Nina's eyes watered to the point they stung, and the first tear fell down her cheek. It was no use holding them back anymore.

"Hey, hey, why are you crying? Don't cry," Dessy ordered, a look of panic spreading across her mature facial features.

The tears spilled more forcefully, much to Dessy's dismay.

"Stop crying, I'm sorry, I didn't mean anything-" Dessy had no idea what to do, but she hated seeing her friend crying like this.

Nina took a deep breath, trying to calm herself.

"You…said…sorry," she cried between gasps of air.

"Yeah," Dessy muttered, not sure why it was such a big deal. She turned left at a stop sign, now only three blocks from Nina's house.

Thank goodness…

Nina wiped her tears away furiously, in between trying to take meditative, deep breaths. They pulled up to her house just as she had stopped the waterworks. She reached behind the seat and grabbed her pink backpack and fished through it for her makeup bag. Dessy turned the car light on so Nina could see what she was doing.

After thirty seconds of shoving things around in the backpack, Nina pulled out a white pouch with the power puff girls on it. She sniffled a bit as she wiped the last few tears away and rubbed a creamy foundation over her nose and cheeks to cover up the redness.

"Are you-okay?" Dessy asked cautiously.

"I'm sor-" Nina choked a bit on the word, but she cut herself off. She looked Dessy straight in the eye, with a new determination lighting up her face. Unlike most people who just finished bawling their eyes out, she didn't look weak or defeated. She looked stronger.

"I say sorry twenty-five times a day, most days. More than that if I'm having an off day and end up bumping into light poles or stop signs and I just instinctively say sorry. That's ridiculous, isn't it?"

Dessy remained quiet, knowing a rhetorical question when she heard one.

"But Dessy, you're the first person, since I was like, six years old who has honestly and sincerely apologized to me."

And with that, Nina stepped out of the car and walked to her doorway, stopping and turning around to face Dessy before going inside. Underneath the soft glow of the porch light, she smiled brightly and waved goodnight, as if nothing had happened at all.

As if on cue, the sky opened up and poured.