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The Hollow Days

Chapter Nine

I couldn't believe that I had spoken to Emma so openly. I couldn't believe I had even looked at her normally, couldn't believe I was capable of being, well, exactly that. Normal. But I think she was too good of a person to have to go through what I'd put her through. When I got off at my stop I put my phone in my pocket, and let our dog Marcy out to go to the bathroom. I wasn't supposed to, but I did because I was too lazy to take her for a walk. Allyson was with a friend so I was home alone for a couple of hours. I sprint upstairs and drop my bag off on my bed before getting out the phonebook. I look up Emma's name and dialed the number, hoping, just hoping, it was hers.

"Hello?" A woman answers. It didn't quite sound like Emma. It sounded like one of those fourty-year-olds that still loved life.

"Yeah, hey. I'm Elliot, Emma's friend. Is she there?"

"Emma? Oh, she's right here. Hold on." I could hear the smile in this woman's voice.

I heard my name used in a hushed tone, then I heard her soft voice. "Hey."

"Uh, hey. It's me, Elliot." Oh god, why did I do this...

"Yeah, what's up?" I could just picture her biting her lip right now.

I keep the phone snug against my ear and my mouth as I murmur. "I think you should come over."

"Right now?" She seems uncertain and I know it's a bad idea now.

"Never mind." I say through clenched teeth and shake my head.

"No! Elliot, I want to. I will. Address?"

I rake a hand through my hair and tell it to her quickly, then hang up and fumble with my room, frantically picking things up or kicking them under my bed. For some reason, I couldn't let Emma think I was some slob, or some freak. I couldn't let her see the depressive cave my room has become since last year. I used to keep it so clean, and proper, organized. I was such a sorted person, especially for a guy, but I liked it that way. But it's this feeling in my chest that makes my muscles ache and my brain shut down and lock everything out as if the world were toxic. It was called not caring. I don't care about anything, anyone. And I can barely make myself care anymore. Maybe I sound like a total girl, but that's how I am. But I'm not about to admit that to some girl that has her life ahead of her, some girl that was pretty and well-kept.

Emma arrived a half an hour later, and I was just finishing brushing my teeth. Brushing my teeth. For some girl. Or not for her, but so that she can see that I'm clean. I quickly put on a dab of cologne here and there and rush downstairs to answer the door. She smiles at me lightly, and I can sort of see her nervousness.

So I wasn't the only one.

"Uh, hi." She says after a moment.

I raise my eyebrows. "Yeah." Yeah? What? "Oh! Come on in." I lead her inside and shut the door behind her. She looks at all the antique paintings on the walls that my mom liked to put up. I liked my mom's artistic side, she had so much taste. It could be something so simple, and still look elegant. I watched her put her index finger to her lips, intrigued in my house decor. I let her take it all in, shoving my hands in my pocket and looking sheepish as I watched her eyes sweep across the room and finally land on me. "You like the living room, huh?"

"Your family has good taste."

"You mean my mom has good taste. My sister, dad, and I couldn't pick out tasteful art if our lives depended on it." I hear her giggle for the first time. It's sort of like music to my ears, but I try not to let it make that warm tingly feeling in my chest that it was. I wanted it to disgust me, so that this could be easier. "You wanna go upstairs and see my room?"

"Uh," she smiles and sits down on the couch. "I think I'm fine here."

Did I seem like the type of guy that would invite her into my room right after meeting her and make a move on her? "Alrighty, then," I sit down across from her in a chair, "I have to tell you something."

She sits on the edge of her seat with so much anticipation that it kills me. "Yeah? I'm all ears."

I lick my lips, twiddling my thumbs nervously. "I don't think we should be nice to each other, or even talk to each other anymore."

I could see her practically deflate. I smile to myself, but don't let her see. "W-what?"

"You're no good for me."

"What?" She exclaims, balling up her fists. "I'm no good for you?"

I wince. "Not what I meant, Em-"

"I don't care. It's not fair that I'm so nice to you and you just treat me like crap!" The way she wrinkled up her nose when she got mad was almost cute. I do smile now.

"I know. But you won't be nice to me now, will you?"

I could see the wheels slowly turning in her head. "I'm not going to stop, you know."

I study her, the way her lips puckered in determination made me want to be determined. It made me want to be as sure of my words as she was or hers, but I didn't think I had it in me. I guess I could try but a part of me thinks no matter what it is I'm setting myself up for failure. "It won't be that way for long, I promise."

"What's so bad about you that could make me completely dislike you in a moment?" She asks incredulously.

"You'll hear soon enough."
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Still not that long. Oh well. Back to Anna.