Going Under
Author:S. Walden

I heaved again, this time producing a bit of bile from deep within my stomach that burned my throat on the way up. I turned on the faucet and cupped a hand underneath the running water, bringing it to my lips. The water was adequate in soothing the sting in my throat but not in erasing the vile taste in my mouth.


I stood up and plunged a shaky hand into my clutch searching for the tin of mints. I found it and popped a peppermint into my mouth. Then I began the task of fixing my eye make-up. I was wise enough to pack the essentials in my purse. I retraced the upper and lower lids of my eyes with black liner, rubbing a finger over the lines to smudge them, soften them. I reapplied mascara and swiped my lips with tinted lip gloss.


I exhaled sharply when it came time to fix the damage to my hair. I pulled a wide-tooth comb out of my bag and all the pins out of my head. It was instant relief, and I stood massaging my scalp for a few seconds before running the comb through my tangled locks. It hurt, and it took forever. I gathered my hair in a low ponytail. It was too late to pin it up.


I could see Beth nodding her approval now that I looked presentable again. I took one last look in the mirror, glimpsing the imitation gold chain reflecting the overhead light on my pale neck. I reached down the front of my dress and pulled out a half heart, split in a jagged line down the middle, my portion reading “Be Fri.” I imagined Beth’s half, the half that read “st ends” and smiled at the memory of my eighth birthday. She gave me my half of the charm, made me swear to always wear it, and I did until the metal started turning green and we grew older. Years later, we discovered one day that we no longer wanted to wear jewelry from each other. We wanted to wear jewelry from boys instead. I felt a pinch in my heart remembering the day I stored away the necklace for good. Until now.


I left the bathroom in a hurry, turning the corner for the foyer and slamming into him. The force of the hit was so great that I stumbled backwards, nearly falling on my bottom if not for his outstretched hand. I grabbed it before going down and wobbled on my too-high heels, clutching him as I worked to regain my balance.


“God, I’m sorry!” he exclaimed.


I looked at his face then, unprepared to see something so beautiful. I think I gasped. And then I averted my eyes out of sheer embarrassment.


“I really should watch where I’m going,” he said.


He still held my hand, and I let him. I couldn’t remember who I was or where I was going. I couldn’t remember where I had just been. I only knew that a very cute boy . . . no, he was more than cute. He was gorgeous. This very gorgeous boy was holding my hand, and I had only one thought. I wanted to make our handholding more intimate. I wanted to lace my fingers with his.


“I think I should,” I mumbled.


I chanced another look at him. I made a conscientious effort not to gasp as I took in his light blue eyes. I’d never seen eyes that color. Jared Leto had nothing on this guy’s eyes, and Jared’s eyes were the color of the Mediterranean. No, the eyes I looked into now were so light blue they looked translucent. I thought if I stared a little longer I could see right inside his head, to his brain, and I don’t know why that turned me on so much. I wanted to witness the workings of his mind, the firing synapses, information traveling safely inside neurons to different parts of his body. A few made it to his hand, and they must have told him to keep holding mine because he didn’t let go.


I stared shamelessly, licking my lips at one point. He stared back just as boldly. I wanted him to like what he saw. I wanted him to think I was sexy. I wanted him to feel the same instant attraction I did. I’d never felt it before. Not really. Not even with Finn. It was unsettling, and I wondered how people functioned after being smacked upside the head with it. Instant. Physical. Chemical.




Just rip my clothes off, I thought. Just rip my clothes off and do me right here in the hallway!


He smiled and released my hand. I thought he did it reluctantly, like his brain ordered him to and he finally acquiesced. I smiled back, a flirty grin. I pulled my ponytail forward over my shoulder and played with the strands. I bit my lower lip. And then reality came crashing down like a hailstorm, large lumps of ice banging my head and screaming at me in unison.




I looked at the gorgeous guy, and my face went white.


“Oh my God,” I whispered.


He stared at me for a moment before saying, “Are you okay?”


I shook my head and started towards the sanctuary doors. He followed behind.


“I’m awful, I’m awful, I’m awful,” I whispered over and over. I didn’t care if he could hear.


What the hell was I doing? Trying to flirt with a guy at my best friend’s funeral? How could I even forget for a second that I was at a funeral? I was supposed to be carrying around heavy, black sorrow to match my black dress and black heart, not batting lashes and fantasizing about sex with a stranger. Was I so ridiculous that a hot guy could make me forget to have any kind of decency? Or shame?