that brittle voice adults have been using around me lately, and there is a catch in his voice like he might cry. Everyone liked Conner. I freeze, biting my lower lip, then shrug. “He was depressed, Dad.” I don’t want to think about it. I don’t want think about Conner crying to me about his mom dying or Conner slapping me or seeing Conner’s broken body on the carpet or me screaming on Conner’s porch. I guess my father understood this and didn’t push it. Instead, he just nods, and he keeps nodding even after I have retreated back to my room. Once again, my school life has been affected by Conner. Peter with the awkward hair from down the street had been behind the tape at the scene and saw me run off screaming, so he took the liberty of telling anyone who would listen in the cafeteria. They, in turn, took it as their birthright to tell all their friends, and the cycle continued. Between periods four and seven, the whole school found out that Andrew Coleson had run off crying like a baby after watching his best friend blow his brains out. Now all the boys avoid me, seemingly afraid of “catching death” or that I might turn psycho again. Girls convene for hushed whispers upon my entering their field of vision, and the more outgoing ones have started acting really nice to me, pretending like we’ve been friends since kindergarten. The teachers must have heard the kids talking, because they have all started giving me better grades even though I haven’t gotten any smarter. The guidance counselor is the worst, though. I think I make her nervous, and that she is afraid I might try to off myself, so every time she sees me in the hallway she asks how I’m ‘holding up.’ Incidentally, I learned that Peter with the awkward hair is capable of remorse, as two days later he found me in the hall, cast his gaze to the floor while twisting a mechanical pencil in his hands, then mumbled “Sorry ‘bout tellin’ everyone cuz, well, you know.” Subsequently, and without moving his eyes up (I think they actually sank further down), he walked away stiff and quickly, his face turning red. Incidentally, my parents, especially my mom, seems to be convinced that seeing my dead friend has scarred me and has caused permanent damage to my ‘lovemap,’ whatever that is, so I now go to the psychologist Dr. Grossbard every Monday. I can’t even tell you what we talk about, not because I don’t want to, but because I can hardly remember half the time. I don’t know if it’s the fact that it’s a total stranger or that I really am damaged or if it’s because it is actually possible for someone’s name to be Grossbard, but I kind of shut down in that office. I mostly come up with stuff that seems like the right thing to say or that I think might make him tell my parents I’m ‘cured,’ or whatever it is the goal is. But I think that’s been kind of retroactive, because he told my mom that I seem very ‘cold and detached.’ I tried convincing her that that is just my personality, but she got freaked out even more with that comment. I really screw up later, though, when my parents start talking about how horrible it was when people kill themselves and that it should never be the answer in a not-so-thinly-veiled 36

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