She had never before felt so betrayed. Every one of his words, his smiles, everything had been false, unreal. Her cheeks burned hotly as she narrowed her stinging eyes in helpless anger. She stared at him, his arms wrapped around another, a cluster of girls preening and squealing surrounding his chair. Her hands clenched, then fell lax to her sides. None of that would help her get him back. He would never return to her.

She held back a sob as her brother neared, a pretty older girl named Caryn holding his crooked arm with only the tips of her fingers. She refused to be seen crying. A mask of artificial merriment slid over her face and she turned to face him, banning the dejected slump of her shoulders in a moment.

"Hey, what's up, Lexy?" His handsome face broke out into her special smile, the one he only displayed for her. "Liking the dance?" He waved at the couples twirling on the dance floor. She shrugged nonchalantly. He frowned. "Isn't David here?"

She hesitated for a moment. "No." The lie spurted from her lips. He noticed the give-away crumpled cloth of her dress near her carefully relaxed hands. His scowl deepened as he scanned the room, his eyes lighting on the ever-increasing crowd of girls milling about the far corner.

"The little—"

Lexy urgently signaled at his girlfriend to take over before he blew his top. Caryn dragged him away hastily as he began spluttering indignantly, muttering about "boys and their pride..."

She shuddered at the thought of David when her brother caught up to him, thinking how she would kiss away all his pain and fear, hold him until all was well... But all was not well. And David was the cause of it all. The tears rose unbidden, filling her eyes suddenly before she had a chance to force them back down. A droplet trickled down her cheek, and she hastily made her way out of the dance hall with her hair conveniently shielding her face before anyone could question her appearance.

Nobody bothered her as she ran as fast as she could for her car and safety, her high heels discarded by the bushes near the door. In her car was safety from all pain, betrayal, emotions. She slammed the door and revved the engine of her cherry-colored sports car, racing out of the high school parking lot with a surprisingly loud squeal of tires.

And then she was flying down the highway, a lone wisp of her golden hair blowing out the slightly open window as she followed the dark road and the cold stars back home.

"You have mail." David smoothed his hair as he pulled on his old worn t-shirt, thankful that the stiff tux was removed. He swung his leg to straddle the chair placed in front of his computer, then clicked the little button on the screen. His eyes widened as Lexy stared at him accusingly out of the polished screen. He didn't even bother to listen to her message, walking to the living room and turning on the television as loud as he could bear.

"It's time that I should let you go..." Her words lingered in his mind as the news reporter barked into the silence of the house. No matter how he shoved his hands over his ears, he heard her words: "But it's alright now. I don't need you anymore. Go find someone else."

He slumped into the shabby couch, trying to curl up into a ball. A moan escaped his lips. "Lexy, don't leave me..." But it was useless. He already knew her response, as he had known the responses of all the others. Her voice hammered his skull as he lifted the nearby dark-tinted bottle and gulped down its syrupy contents.

Lexy spoke the final words into the camera on her computer, then clicked "Send." Her hands trembled with conflicting feelings. She still felt so tender towards David... She shook her head hard to clear his face from her mind. He had done something unforgivable, something she could never forget.

The boy wiggled uncomfortably on the hard cot. He couldn't remember his name, why or how he'd gotten here. But the hostile white of the room was familiar. He moved his arm to help lift himself up, and looked down, surprised, at the clear IV tube pricking his arm. What had he done this time?

A nurse squeaked her way into the room, the disapproving look from her tired eyes filled with daggers. "This is your fourth time, young man. The next time you do that you are going to the asylum." As she helped him sit upright and removed the tube from his arm, she muttered, "They ought to have done that four years ago." She plunked a tray of food in his lap and ordered, "The doctors have been good enough to let you eat. So eat." When he picked up the battered metal fork, she sharply spun on her heel and exited the room. "I'm watching you, young man."

His tongue tasted nothing as he gulped down the food, his mind whirling. He dimly recalled a beautiful blonde girl... His heart wrenched with pain. He frowned, then tried to remember more. But even her face had faded from view in his mind. His head spun sickeningly from the effort, and he threw up over the side of the bed. Before his mind slid back into unconsciousness, he heard a heavenly voice. "I love you, David."

It was a week later already. She'd cringed every day since when she'd returned to school, but to her puzzlement, David was nowhere to be seen. Her brother acknowledged the fact that he'd never laid hands upon him, adding a few more unsavory phrases under his breath. She didn't know whether she should be relieved or disappointed. She wondered how he'd reacted when she'd sent that email.

Peter, a school-famed basketball player who was in her history class, appeared by her side. She'd noticed that he disliked David. Now she could see why.

"Hey, Lexy, what's up?" He grinned, the enormous stack of books he carried easily slung under one arm. His free arm drifted over her shoulder, shaking her out of her thoughts.

"Huh? Oh, hi." She winced inwardly as his arm became overly possessive, reminding her of David's gentle clasp, and she slid out of his grasp as the bell rang. "Don't call me Lexy. My name is Alexis." At his strange expression, she hastily added, "I have to go." She walked quickly to the classroom and deposited her books, then excused herself and left to the bathroom, noting with bemusement the slightly injured look on his face.

He'd only hated David because he was jealous. She felt like laughing and crying at the same time. How was it that boys only wanted to possess girls? She stiffened her resolve never to give her heart to another.

I need your help. Please. He crossed out the words, sighing. He didn't even remember her name; how would the message get to her? When he heard the telltale squeaks, he quickly stuffed both napkin and pencil stub under his pillow. The frowning nurse squelched her way into the room, followed by the stern-faced doctor. He groaned inwardly. If they found the napkin... The doctor pulled the nurse out of the room to write some more "observations" into the chart posted on his locked door. He quickly stuffed the written part of the thin paper into his mouth, chewed, swallowed. The pencil he stuck into the crack between the thin mattress and the metal framework, making sure his fingers would be able to worm it back out. No matter, anyway. He could always steal another from the hospital library when it was "silent reading time."

The doctor pulled the sheets off his body, then yanked him roughly upright. David self-consciously pulled the hem of the hospital gown as far down as it would go, covering him down to mid-thigh. The stiff man in the white coat rapped him sharply on the shoulder with a pen to get his attention.

"Open your mouth, boy." He stuck his tongue out obediently as the wooden stick probed in his mouth. He nearly gagged as the doctor poked the stick too far. His mind distanced him from his body as he thought once more about the blonde girl...

"Lexy..." The name sprang to his lips from the deepest recesses of his brain. His eyes lit up in his emaciated face. He hadn't eaten or participated in any of the "ward activities" since his awakening in the hospital. Now that he knew her name, he felt almost alive again. He repeated the name over again, the word rolling off his tongue smoothly as if it fitted there. "Lexy. Her name is Lexy."

The doctor stared at him incomprehensibly and shook his head, turning to the nurse. "Wilma, he's starting to mutter something."

She barked, "Speak up, boy." But David's mind was already with someone else. Someone else with long blonde hair.

Lexy began to feel uneasy when David wasn't in school for the third week without reason. A flare of anger had passed through her for his cowardice in facing her, but she knew deep within that he wouldn't be out of school for that long just because they'd broken up. She decided to pass by his house after school, and as soon as she could, she jumped into her car and sped down the road.

The door was locked, and nobody answered the bell. She knew that his parents had left on vacation weeks earlier, and wouldn't be back until the weekend. The mail was left untouched in its carrier. She resisted the urge to check the mail and slowly walked back to the car, her situation no better than before.

"David, where are you?" she whispered into the cool breeze that teased her hair away from its half-ponytail. She grasped the tiny heron locket David had given her, strung on the delicate gold chain she wore about her neck. "Please come back."

The letters were useless. David threw the last napkin into the garbage can with disgust after shredding it and soaking it with leftover gravy from his meal. He only knew her nickname, and how would he find her address? There weren't any phones or indexes anywhere he could find. He slouched back against the pillows. The doctor wouldn't be letting him out so easily this time, no matter how badly he had to find her.

He could only hope that she had passed by his house and read the hospital note the doctor had sent home. And he would wait.

She wove quickly through the throng in the hallway, trying to lose Peter before he caught sight of her. No such luck.

"Lexy!" She ignored his shout, ducking into the chemistry lab just before the bell rang. She didn't want to be near the boy. His overconfident passes were beginning to annoy her. And besides, it had only been a month since she'd lost David. How could he expect her to love another?

She sighed with relief as he passed the room, frowning as he tried to find her seat. She put a book in front of her face as he walked by and he missed her. Good.

She smiled then, looking up at the board. Today was Friday. Maybe when David's parents returned they would find out something about their missing son. She was getting worried.

He was in despair. No word had come from Lexy. He'd bribed another patient to find something-anything-which would take him away from his prison. The patient had given him a bottle of poison, exactly what had gotten him into his situation in the first place. But now that he'd lost everything, even Lexy, he would be driven to use desperate measures.

His heart was torn between sliding off into that relaxing, dreamless sleep he'd known while poisoned and staying conscious and maybe finding Lexy again. Something nagged him at the corner of his mind about the date, but he couldn't remember... He gave up all hope. Lexy would never look for him; he'd been too stupid to fend off all those sickening girls...

His trembling fingers unscrewed the bottle cap and he tipped the contents down his throat.

Just as her alarm wakened her, her telephone rang. A sleepy hand shut off the alarm and grabbed the receiver. Lexy scrubbed the bleariness out of her eyes and answered.

"Hello?" The message was totally unexpected. Her dark brown eyes flew wide with shock. "What?" The nearly hysterical caller hung up after a last scream. "Oh, my god." The phone fell from her nerveless hands as she sprang up, trembling, and began dressing.

Her brother came in. "Was the phone mine?" She pulled her dark green sweater over her head, her face still stony. "What happened?" He picked up the fallen telephone and placed it back in its cradle.

"No time to explain. I have to get to the hospital. Now."

"I love you, David." The heavenly voice swirled around him, then turned accusing. "I think it's time I should let you go. Go find someone else. It's all right now." He nodded this time instead of refusing to understand.

"I see now. Goodbye, Lexy." But the darkness would not open, would not let him in. "If I'm gone I'll never hurt you again. Why won't you let me go?"

"I love you, David. I could never let you go."

"But you did!" He was getting confused. Then a speck of light widened in the midst of the black.

It was the unfriendly white of the hospital again. He forced himself backward into the darkness once more, hearing an echo in his head: "He's waking... No, he slipped back into the coma..."

The voice surrounded him once more and bore him back into the bottomless pit.

He lay on the stark white sheets, so frail, so pallid. His blue eyes, no longer blazing with feelings, were half-open, looking at her. She longed to put her arms around him, hold him close, kiss him. But the doctor had warned them away from him. He was still drugged; nothing they did would get through to him anyway. Her brother lounged against the wall. His previous wrath had dissipated long since when she'd explained David's actions on the long drive, and he was sympathetic rather than furious at the prone figure. She grasped his big, rough hand tightly, her other hand caressing the still, pale one on the bed, as her unchecked tears began to flow down her face. She forgave him for everything now. She'd always loved him, and always would.

The haunting image of her face flickered before him again. He reached out to touch her, tried to wipe away the sorrowful tears that flowed down her face, only to find his muscles unresponsive, uncooperating. He whispered, "I love you, Lexy," as the image departed once more for the last time.

"He's gone." Lexy shook her head in disbelief.

"He can't be... He just told me that he loved me!" She hated the nurse at that moment, the starch of the uniform seeming to have left its imprint on its wearer. How could the woman be so unfeeling? But the pulse monitor read true. The once irregular waves were now gone.

Her mind was blank, her body frozen in time. Her eyes held and locked with David's. But no, David was gone now. He was dead.

No! This can't be happening. She squeezed her eyes tight, but the image of his corpse was still imprinted on her mind, the flat black-and-green screen showing no sign of life. An animal-like whine slipped from her throat, and she threw herself out of the room, pelting down the winding corridors, leaping into her car and speeding away before her brother could catch up.

In the car she was safe. She could barely see the highway through her dimmed eyes but she knew the road too well. She didn't look down at the speedometer climbing past eighty miles per hour. She didn't look to the sides as she flashed through a red light. She didn't see the truck barrel, horn blaring, into her little car until it was too late. And then it was all over.

The dimness engulfed her. She wondered if David had felt this before he'd died. The pain was blotted out, the fear. She lay calm and drifted in the weightless suspension. David... Then he was in front of her, healthy, as she'd known him before. "Lexy."

The single word was enough to pull her away from the light, away from the sounds of sirens and shouting voices. Not even the sound of her brother's voice could loosen the embrace the two held as they drifted away into the dark.