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Fiction High School

   “C’mon Ryan, I know you want to be with me,” Carissa whispered in Ryan’s ear.


   “No, I don’t! Please leave me alone!” Ryan pulled away, but she grabbed his shoulders.


"Come with me now, Ryan. Ryan!”


  Ryan gasped and opened his eyes; his father was standing over him with his hands on his shoulders.


   “Ryan! You alright, buddy?”


   Ryan rubbed his eyes. “Yeah. Just a dream.”


  “Want to talk about it?”


   “No. I really don’t even remember it.”


  He lied. It was the same dream he’d had every night since Carissa died. Since he’d killed her. He couldn’t tell his parents, or his shrink, not even his best friend Chase or they’d all think he was nuts. Maybe he was.


###



   Ryan first saw Carissa in their first year of high school. She was perfect – beautiful in a natural, understated way, and way out of his league. He harbored a crush on Carissa, along with most of the male (and some of the female) students, and probably some of the teachers, at Jefferson High. But he never talked to her until their senior year.


  It was then, after four years of hoping and praying with no luck, that they finally had a class together. Drama. It was a filler class that Ryan needed to complete his credits, an elective that everyone knew was easy to pass. Ryan didn’t really want to take the class because it required public speaking and acting, both of which he was terrified. But Chase convinced him with his persistence that the teacher was easy on seniors as long as they showed up most of the time.


  Ryan and Chase were seated in the back of the classroom that first day when Carissa walked in, and Ryan nearly died. On the one hand, he couldn’t believe they finally had a class together. On the other hand, why did it have to be this class. He started to sweat imagining having to perform in front of her.


  Chase nudged Ryan. “Oh man, look who’s here!”


  Of course, Ryan had already spotted her. How could he miss her? He’d looked for her and studied her from afar for years – in the hallways, cafeteria, courtyard. But never this close. She smiled at Ryan, pointed at the empty seat next to him, and asked, “Anyone sitting here?”


  He felt his face burn. “No, go ahead,” he said and turned away from her. Chase kicked him under the desk, and when Ryan looked at him, Chase had the biggest grin.


###



  There is an unwritten rule that the seat you choose the first day is the seat you keep all semester, so every day for Ryan was torture. He dared not ask Chase to switch with him because, well, he would look like an idiot. Next to him sat the girl of his dreams, but he could barely look at her. If she spoke to him, he flushed, so he tried to act nonchalant and quickly turned away, while his insides jittered like a frog on crack. He had to get psyched up every day before class, telling himself this would be the day he would speak to her without embarrassment; just two people having a conversation.


 “Dude, stop being a dork, just talk to her. I think she likes you!” Chase said one day after class.


  “Whatever,” Ryan said. He didn’t believe it was possible she could like him.


  About three weeks into the semester, the students were assigned a dramatic reading. On the day Ryan was to perform, he skipped. He wanted to kill Chase for convincing him to take this class; it was bad enough having to perform in front of the class, but in front of her. He couldn’t do it; he would take the zero for the assignment.


  The next day, Carissa sauntered into her seat next to Ryan and looked him in the eyes. “Where were you yesterday?”


  Ryan looked down. “I was busy,” he said with hot cheeks. Calm down. Just talk to her you idiot. Chase’s kick under the desk said the same thing.


  “You don’t like me, do you?” Carissa asked.


  Ryan shrugged. “I don’t know. I don’t really know you.”


  “You never talk to me; how could you know me?”


  Ryan looked at her, despite his burning ears. “What do you want to talk about?”


  She smiled. “You don’t have to be embarrassed to talk to me.”


  “Who said I’m embarrassed?” He knew very well his tomato face gave him away. Just push through it.


  “I think it’s cute, the way you blush,” she said. Her pointing it out made it all the worse.


  The teacher walked in, and as she made her way to the front of the class, Carissa asked Ryan, “Do you have a car?”


  Not sure where this was leading, he said hesitantly, “Yeahhhh…”


  “Take me to Starbucks after school today. We’ll talk.” It wasn’t a question. “Give me your phone.” Ryan complied, and she entered her number. “Call me later, I’ll tell you where to pick me up.”


###


  Ryan remembered nothing else of that day until school ended. Hands shaking, he dialed Carissa’s number.


  “Hey Ryan. I was afraid you’d bail on me. Pick me up in the parking lot by the courtyard in five minutes.”


  He was there in two. His heart beat against his ribs like a caged, wild animal as she walked to his car and let herself in. “Hey,” he said as casually as he could. He wasn’t sure if the word actually came out of his mouth.


  “Hey.” She replied. “You know where the Starbucks is?”


  “Of course.” He wasn’t a coffee drinker and up until an hour ago had no idea where it was.


  “Okay then, let’s go!”


  Ryan drove, but couldn’t remember getting to where he was. He actually thought he might be dreaming. Was Carissa really in his car? Was this a date? What would they talk about? Would he take her back to her house? Would she ask him in? Would they kiss? What would Chase say?


  All of these questions rattled in his head until his head was literally rattled. He didn’t see it coming; his car was t-boned on the passenger side. Carissa was dead on impact.


###


  For weeks, Ryan was a zombie. He must have eaten, because he was still alive, if you could call this living. He was in the hospital for a couple of days with a concussion and some broken bones, but physically, he was recovering. Once home, he mostly stayed in his room, curled up on his bed in a fetal position. He went to Carissa’s funeral, and all he remembers is the cries of her parents. The first time he met them was at the hospital. They wanted to know what had happened, and he told them he didn’t know - the car came out of nowhere. The investigation later revealed that Ryan had actually run a red light.


   His parents made him see a psychiatrist, so once a week he was forced to talk about his feelings and relive the best and worst day of his life. But he didn’t tell anyone about the dream.


###


  Every time he managed to fall asleep, she was there.


  “Talk to me Ryan,” Carissa would say. In his dream, he wasn’t any more eloquent than in real life. He would stumble with his words, and she would smile and say, “Sweet Ryan. Come with me.”


  “I can’t; you’re gone.”


  “Not gone - just somewhere else. You can come too, Ryan. C’mon, I know you want to be with me. I promise, you’ll love it here.”


  Ryan wanted to give in, to just say fuck it and go with her, but every time he tried, he woke up in a sweat.


###


  Usually, she was her beautiful self, but this time, she was bloody and mangled, the way she was the last time he saw her.


  “C’mon Ryan, I know you want to be with me,” Carissa whispered in Ryan’s ear.


  “No, I don’t! Please leave me alone!” Ryan pulled away, but she grabbed his shoulders.


"Come with me now, Ryan. Ryan!”


  Ryan gasped and opened his eyes; his father was standing over him with his hands on his shoulders.


  “Ryan! You alright, buddy?”


  Ryan rubbed his eyes. “Yeah. Just a dream.”


  “Want to talk about it?”


  “No. I really don’t even remember it.”


  The irony besieged Ryan. The girl of his dreams was the girl in his dreams every night, taunting him; but he couldn’t be with her and couldn’t get rid of her. This is my worst nightmare.

September 25, 2021 18:36

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1 comment

Bruce Friedman
20:08 Oct 07, 2021

Excellent job on this. I was propelled through the story which, for me, is very important.

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