hi again,
yeah, i know i posted the first chapter of a totally different fic and disappeared for a month. should i have focused on that fic and tried to write it? yes. did i get sucked into writing this after listening to all too well by taylor swift? yes. yes i did. hope y'all can forgive me ;-;

Chloe tugs on my arm, summoning me back to reality from the daydream world I was lost in. I turn to face her, and she's frowning, like she does when she's worried about me. I smile back, letting her know I'm fine. I'm actually in a good mood today.

We're heading up the front steps into the entrance hall of the high school we both attend. It's the start of senior year, and I have an unusually positive attitude towards it. Usually the start of a school year is my least favourite time of year. The holidays are my favourite time, because I don't have to spend my time surrounded by people I don't like all that much. School just reminds me of how few friends I have.

There's Chloe, obviously, my best friend. She's unnaturally smart, and pretty, but also kind of shy, and likes to keep mostly to herself. Totally contradictory to her bubbly, loud, outgoing girlfriend Dawn who's captain of the cheerleading squad and seems to naturally be the centre of attention at all times.

Then there's Gary, I guess. He's very popular, and we used to be close, but in the last couple of years we've drifted apart, and now he hardly speaks to me at all. He's constantly surrounded by a gaggle of girls.

Other than that, I don't have anyone else. It's not because I'm unpopular, or nasty, or anything like that. It's just because I don't feel like I need anyone else.

"What class do you have now?" Chloe asks, pulling out her new lesson plan and squinting at it.

"English," I say. I memorised my schedule yesterday so I wouldn't need to pull it out between every class. "You?"

"Biology," she sighs. "Looks like we're not in the same class."

My heart sinks a little, but I try not to let it ruin my good mood. It's okay that Chloe's in a separate class this year. Maybe it's time to make a new friend anyway? Besides, maybe Dawn will be in my class. We haven't seen her yet this morning since she was running late this morning so told us to leave without her. No doubt she's running here now, a piece of toast sticking out of her mouth. Of course, even if she slept in, she'll have spent as much time as she needed to fix her hair, consequences be damned.

"I'll catch you later, then?" I say as we reach the stairs I need to ascend to reach the classroom my class is in. Chloe's still frowning, like she's worried I won't be okay without her. It makes me feel a little pathetic. I want to prove to her that I'm fine on my own, because I really am. I'm eighteen, not twelve.

"Alright. See you soon." She gives me a little wave before heading down the corridor, disappearing from view. I suck in a deep breath and climb the stairs, weaving through the hallways until I find the classroom. I know it like the back of my hand, because it's the same classroom I had my English lessons in last year, too.

Unfortunately, Dawn's not in my class either. When I step inside all of the seats are already filled but one beside a noisy, infuriating guy that's known for winding everyone up at every given opportunity. I pinch the bridge of my nose in annoyance. It's fine, Goh. You can just ignore him.

"Yo," he says as I take the seat beside him, swinging my bag over my shoulder onto the floor. I incline my head in greeting, then go back to ignoring him, waiting for the professor to start the class. I really don't want to waste any time socialising with someone.

The professor walks in a moment later. I don't recognise him, which means he's new here, but he doesn't seem nervous at all. He strolls right in front of us, holding a book up in one hand. I squint to read the title and see it's called After Dark . I've never heard of it.

He introduces himself as Professor Frost. He's barely older than us by the looks of it, and already a lot of us have our arms crossed over our chests, uncertain about the new face.

"This semester, we're going to be taking a look at this book," he says, holding up the book with one hand. It doesn't seem to be that long, thankfully. " After Dark. Have any of you ever heard of it?"

There's a resounding silence, and it's so awkward I slide a little lower down in my chair, arms still crossed over my chest, frown firmly plastered on my face. He sighs, and shakes his head.

"Alright. Well, I think it'd be best if we just got started on the first chapter." He reaches under his desk and pulls out a whole pile of the book, and starts walking down the rows, placing a book in front of each of us, talking as he does.

"The main theme of this novel is nostalgia," he says as he places the book in front of me, our eyes connecting for a second, before I turn away, face burning with embarrassment. "The protagonist is an older lady, thinking back on the life she's lived and all the people she met in it."

It sounds boring. I bite my lower lip nervously as the kid beside me starts nudging my arm unsubtly. "Hey," he whispers. "You got any gum?"

"No," I whisper back a little harshly.

"Damn, alright," he says, shrugging and opening the book, flicking through the pages like he's going to find something interesting between them. I sigh and open up to the first page of the first chapter.

"Alright," the professor starts, standing at the front again. "I first want you all to read the first chapter of the novel. Then write down a list of things that you feel nostalgic about. It can be absolutely anything. No answer is stupid."

I may not be as smart as Chloe, or as interested in any of the subjects, but my fear of failing any class keeps me from disobeying or not studying, so I shift a little in my seat to get comfortable and start reading.

Within the first page, I'm completely sucked into the story. The words flow beautifully over the page, making me really feel how the narrator feels, and my heart clenches painfully as, surprisingly, it brings back strong memories hidden in the back of my mind.

It feels like no time has passed before I turn the page and see the start of the second chapter. I consider reading ahead, but the professor is watching me, and my notebook is empty in front of me.

There's one word that comes to mind when I think of this list. A name, actually. But I can't write it, can I? That would be silly.

I click my pen and lean over the paper, my throat suddenly dry as his face burns bright in my head, his infectious smile beaming at me. Fuck.

I write Summer camps with Chloe on the first line. It's an easy answer, but truthfully, I don't miss those camps at all. It was like school away from school. More time around people I hardly know.

On the second line I write Corny pop songs from the last few years because they tend to remind me of us all sitting in someone's house, screeching out the lyrics even though we're all tone deaf. I don't really like hanging out in a group much, but somehow he made me want to.

I don't realise the professor is standing over our desk until he clears his throat. I jump, but he's standing over the guy beside me. I wish I could remember his name.

I glance at his paper, and see he's written smoking weed behind block B with Kenny . The professor's brows knit together. "You have the right idea, Barry, but maybe don't admit something like that in class next time, yeah?"

"Oh, right. Yeah." Barry's scratching the back of his blonde hair, grinning sheepishly. "Sorry."

I groan loudly and throw back my head as the professor straightens up and leaves us. Barry turns to look at me, a goofy smile on his face. "You're Goh, right?" He asks, his short curls flopping as he tilts his head. I purse my lips. This scene is starting to resemble my first time meeting-

"Yeah," I say, unsure what else to say. Somehow, I can't see a magic friendship blossoming between us, so this conversation is likely where the similarities end.

"Well cool," he says, scratching the back of his head again. "My friend Kenny had a crush on your friend Dawn for like, years, y'know."

I raise both eyebrows and cross my arms, leaning back in my seat. I really have no idea what he wants me to do with that information. I'm not entirely sure Dawn even knows who Kenny is, but I do. He's not exactly... her type. And not just because he's male.

"Huh," I say, completely uninterested. Barry nods, his face suddenly grave.

"Yeah. Oh, but don't tell her I said that. Kenny would totally kick my ass."

Kenny is shorter than the average guy, while Barry seems to be taller, so I highly doubt that, but I choose not to comment. Instead I stare back down at the mostly unfilled page in front of me. I pick up my pen and write the name of a song. It's not a particularly good song. I remember the first time I heard it, I thought it was super annoying, and changed the radio station. But now, even though I still find it annoying, I can't bring myself to turn it off. The lyrics have no real meaning to me, but as soon as it comes on, I'm transported back three years, to when it played non-stop, everywhere we went, me and you.

"Is there someone in particular that song reminds you of, Goh?"

I jump, bumping my knee on the desk and hissing. I had zoned out, and didn't notice the professor approaching me. He's smiling down at me. I feel my face heat up and frown, shaking my head. "Not really, no," I lie.

"Hmm," he hums, like he doesn't quite believe me, then moves on, walking to stand in front of the class again. He clears his throat, and the rest of the class looks up at him. "I have an assignment for you all. I want you to write a short essay. It doesn't have to be long- just a thousand words or so. Describe something that makes you feel nostalgic and why. There are no wrong answers, so just have fun with it."

The bell rings, and I race to pack my things up, wanting to be out of the room before Barry has a chance to start up another conversation with me. I'm sure he's a nice enough guy, but I have plenty of friends.

The rest of the day passes by without incident. School is just as boring as it was the year before, and I want to bang my head off the wall most of the time. At lunch, across the room, I make eye contact with Gary, and he raises his hand in a wave. I wave back, a guilty feeling rising in my stomach, making my chest clench painfully. I neglected my friendship with Gary, and now we're like strangers, and I can't help but feel like too much time has passed for us to fix it.

Usually after school I walk home with Chloe, but today she's going to Dawn's, so I walk home alone, lost in my thoughts. I could write the essay about Ash. It would be so easy to write a thousand words about him. I'm pretty sure I could write a hundred thousand words about him. I smile up at the sky, thinking about how funny it is that he snuck into my life without even really trying.

Several people have tried to befriend me over the years. I'm pretty anti-social, and I don't mind being that way. I'm never rude, I just make it pretty clear that I'm fine on my own. But when Ash came along... Well, he took me by surprise, and consumed me. And it was the best thing that ever happened to me.

It's just a shame he disappeared as quickly as he appeared.

When I get home, mom and dad are still at work, so I let myself in and head upstairs. I throw my bag down onto the floor and fall back into bed, sighing. I hold my phone up over my face and open the photos. It doesn't take much scrolling to find the photos of us, because I hardly take any. It was always Ash, taking my phone from my hand and snapping a photo before I could stop him. Later, when I asked why he always did it, he said it was to capture the memories, so they'd never disappear. After that, I started taking them myself, too.

There's so many. Photos of Ash, Chloe, Dawn and I. Some are blurry, taken when someone's trying to swipe the phone from a hand. Some are when we're happy. Some are at the beach, some are at the park. One is of us sitting at the outdoor bench at school, and everyone's frowning but Ash, who's a little too close to the camera, grinning madly.

Then there's my favourite. It's Ash and I, lying back on my bed. Ash is holding the phone high up over us. Our bodies are apart, but our heads are angled so they're touching. I'm smiling shyly, and Ash is beaming. My heart always skips a beat when I look back on this photo. He's just so attractive in it.

I close my phone and put it down on the bed beside me. I don't know if I can write the essay about him. I'm scared the professor will be able to read the unspoken words hidden between the lines.

It doesn't need to be finished for a week, anyway. I can shove that to the back of my mind and deal with it closer to the time. For now, I stay lying in bed, still scrolling through the photos until I reach the end. My heart is pounding against my ribs.

Every now and again, I'm reminded of Ash, and it's always just as painful. I thought we were best friends, and would be for life, but he didn't seem too bothered when he left. I wonder if he ever lies there and thinks about me, like I do about him.

My phone pings, the notification lighting up the screen again. It's Dawn, asking me if I want to meet her and Chloe. They're hanging out with Gary and Serena, and possibly going bowling. The text makes my throat dry up, and I stare at it for a while, my brain spinning. I owe Gary a lot. I owe it to him to be a better friend.

I still say no, making up the excuse that my parents have made plans for us. She texts back 'No worries', and I shut off my phone, sighing again. I just don't feel like forcing myself to hang out in a group tonight. Not when my brain is stuck on Ash.

We met three years ago. It was on the first day of high school. He was only here for that year, before he left again. Supposedly, his mom had to move around a lot for her job. That's what he said when he told me he was leaving, anyway.

He just happened to show up when I was going through a lot. I was starting to realise I wasn't like all the other guys in my class. They were all starting to get girlfriends and go out with them, and talked about them nonstop, but I wasn't interested at all. Chloe would ask me if I had a crush on anyone all the time. I think she was trying to get me to confess to something I didn't even know about myself yet. I remember the first time I had a vague idea, when I was watching a movie with her, and realised I found the guy in it more attractive than the girl. But I still wasn't sure. And I was scared to accept it, too. I thought that maybe with time, I'd realise I'd been wrong. I told Chloe eventually about my suspicions, and never really had to confirm it with her. I think we'd both known for a while.

Then Ash came along.

I'm just glad he was gone before the rest of the school found out. It was the school year after he left when someone found out I was gay and told everyone. At the start of the day, I wasn't aware anyone knew. By the end of it, I'd been approached by loads of people, and someone had written a slur on my locker in permanent marker.

I was terrified. Even with Chloe there, I felt so alone, and like everyone was staring at me. A few of the older guys were pointing at me, and saying something amongst themselves. I wanted the ground to open up and swallow me. I felt isolated, and mocked, but most of all I just wanted Ash back. He'd know what to say. He'd stick up for me. He'd probably kick the shit out of anyone that looked at me slightly funny.

I suffered through hell for months. I found it infuriating that the same people that had been so supportive of Dawn were ridiculing me for no reason. It didn't matter what she or Chloe said, there was always a few people that saw it as a good enough reason to harass me. Then one day, in the cafeteria, someone stuck out a foot and tripped me up, making me go flying, the food skidding across the floor. I had closed my eyes and stood up, ready to ignore it as usual, but Gary was standing up, his brows knitted together. We'd stopped talking pretty much right after Ash left, but I could see now how angry he was.

He stood there, in front of most of the school, and told them all that they were evil, hateful bastards, and that if they didn't stop mocking me because I was gay, he'd kill them. I know he didn't mean it, but I had to turn away to hide the tears forming. Half because I was thankful he was helping me, and half because I felt pathetic for not being able to say that for myself. After that, hardly anyone bothered me. In fact, after a while, most of the people that had bullied me apologised. I got the feeling that Gary forced them to, but that didn't matter.

I wonder if I could have had as good a friendship with Gary as I did with Ash, if I tried. I doubt it, though. I don't think anyone could really come close. I think everyone has somebody that they meet and think 'this is my person'. The two of you just fit together like puzzle pieces, and you can't imagine life without them. That was what Ash was to me. He was my missing piece.

I sigh to myself. I've put myself in a bad mood. I should never have started thinking about Ash, or my traumatic outing, or any of it. No, in fact, I should never have let myself get so attached to one person in the first place. I'll never make that mistake again.

Screw the assignment. I'll start it another day. I roll over onto my front and grab my laptop, pulling it open and opening Netflix.

I'm trying to distract myself, so I carry on watching the cringe vampire series I'd been bingeing over summer, and let myself completely zone out.

I end up making dinner for myself after my mom texts me saying her and dad have to stay at work late. They probably won't be back until after I go to bed, but that's pretty typical now, so I'm not surprised. I'm okay with it, anyway. It just means no one will harass me about laying around and doing nothing all night. Plus, I like being alone.

Despite managing to distract myself all night, the moment I close my eyes to sleep, I picture Ash's face again. If I fall asleep, I'll probably dream about him, but I'm not sure there's anything I can do about that now. Rolling onto my side, I press the side of my face into the pillow and give in to the resurfacing memories of the day we met.