Too clear


When Hannah snapped at us, Jess glared major daggers at her, but quieted down despite that. I just felt like a huge loser. He obviously wouldn’t feel okay. Now he was laying in bed on his side, not talking to anyone. Not even Jess. Not even Hannah. It worried me. He wasn’t calling me stupid or annoying, he wasn’t calling me anything. Diane had other patients to look into but she’d promised she’d return. I was wondering when my mom and Rosa were going to get here, maybe one of them could talk to him.

Although, if I was honest, if Hannah couldn’t rouse even a small smile on him, then nothing anyone else could do would probably work. But when Rosa’s face bobbed into view on her super high heels and wearing one of my sweatshirts, I instantly felt a bit of a load off my shoulders. And then I instantly felt guilty because what I was going through wasn’t even a shadow of what Isha was right now.

He was hooked up to an IV and might have died if Hannah hadn’t found him when she did and neither of his parents had come to see him. It made me angry, and sad. And I was confused because weren’t parents required to love their children? Didn’t biology make parents love their kids? I knew mine loved me, and Hannah’s mom loved her - but then again, where was her dad? Her dad walked when she was pretty much born. And then there was Rosa and Julian. Both their parents were MIA and I’d never been brave enough to ask why or where.

I hated when the world didn’t fit together right.

I explained everything in detail as best as I could and hugged Rosa, I told myself it wasn’t for my own sake, but it probably was. She gave me so much strength. Best friends did that for you. My mom and Diane were talking, both had their arms folded, Diane’s curly hair was twisted back into bun, fly-aways around her face fluttering a little as she shook her head. “I tried to talk to him - he basically threatened to have me fired if I kept pushing the issue, the weasel. Hannah was there. I practically had to drag her off before she started in on him. I could see her face, she was seething.”

“What awful human beings. Their son is amazing and they treat him like garbage -”

“I know! Hannah tells me how his mom makes him slave at housework!” Diane cut in.
“Exactly. The kid gets perfect grades, he’s musically talented, can dance better than anyone I’ve seen. He’s polite, well-mannered, he can cook - these people are crazy. He’s amazing.” My mom shook her head, shoulders sagging.

“Of course, you can’t tell him that though.” Diane shook her head again, massaging her temples, “He denies it, shrugs it off - does that adorable head bob thing.”

“I love the head bob thing!” My mom finally smiled and Diane’s lips perked up into a little grin that reminded me so much of Hannah I was a little startled.

Diane sighed, “It’s the same for Rosa too you know, and Julian. She’s saddled with these awful foster parents and he’s out there on his own trying to finish high school and work for a living wage. It’s terrible. I’ve been throwing around this idea that they-” Diane looked up, shooting us a fake smile that also reminded me eerily of Hannah and pulled my mom down along the hall where we couldn’t eavesdrop. I hugged Rosa a bit tighter and opened the door so she could go in to Isha’s room.

Hannah stood up, “Come on, Blonde Ambition, lets let them have the room. We can go try to find some decent food downstairs for him for the morning.”


“Don’t be a bitch.”

Jess rolled her eyes and stalked out of the room, Hannah squeezed Rosa’s arm as she passed by and we were left alone with a silent Isha.

I felt awful for Isha. He and I were kinda strange friends - we had a pretty light relationship most of the time, full of sarcasm and bonding over being brown kids. We made a lot of white people jokes with Julian, most of the time about Miles and Jackie. They were such easy targets. But we sort of got each other in a way, and I could understand how he felt right now. Miles and I sat by him on the bed, where his back was to us.

"Oh Isha," I said. I brushed my hair back with my hand, trying to figure out what to say. "I get it, you know. Well, you wouldn’t know. But I get it. Julian gets it too, but he’s at work right now. You never really get over the feeling that its your fault. Even when logically, you know it shouldn’t be." I looked hard at the floor, avoiding Miles completely. "And you get super jealous, trying to figure out why other people are so deserving. You can try to get over it in other ways like buying shoes or dancing or getting drunk." I thought about Julian. "Or getting high. We just can’t lose you when you try to lose yourself okay?"

There was silence for a moment, and then a quiet but unmistakable “Okay” from the other side. He shrunk smaller under the cover and I stood up, walking over to him. He had his face covered but I was almost certain there was a wet spot on the sheet. My heart broke for him and my chest tightened from my own memories. I bent and placed my lips on the exposed part of his cheek. It seemed like the right thing to do.

My throat started to form a lump as I thought of my mom, of how deluded I had been, and how young. The way Julian had pretended everything was okay for me. Before my headspace could get darker I forced myself to look at Miles again. “How about we go on a trip to get him some new clothes? Hospital gowns suck.” I was pretty sure Hannah had a key to his house we could bum. “You and I.”

Too clear




I was just dodging a splash from Joseph, jumping out of the way and wishing I hadn’t just made that cross between a scream and a squeal. I glanced at Rosa but she seemed to be okay with it. Laughing along with me, apparently not AT me. So I was fine. Jess raised a skeptical eyebrow in my direction but I couldn’t stop laughing. A few people didn’t seem to care that it was raining a bit and had hopped into the pool to cool off from the stifling humidity. My dad had been ousted from the grill under the overhang on our patio and Julian had taken over - which was probably a good idea, the first package of Hebrew National hotdogs he’d put on were now in the trash as over-cooked charred twigs. No one in my family could cook.

My phone jangled off in the distance, playing some Top 40 song and I jumped towards it, not entirely dodging another slop of water Joseph launched at me. I was laughing as I answered but Hannah’s strained voice stopped me mid-chuckle. I could hear the trouble she took to keep the fact that she’d been crying out of her voice, someone unsuccessfully, glancing back at the laughing Glee club behind me, I stepped through our sliding glass door into the kitchen and shut the door behind me. “Is everything okay?”

“No. I found him but he’s got alcohol poisoning. They’ve got him hooked up to an IV and we’re waiting for him to wake up. They’ve got him on oxygen, just to make sure he’s breathing okay. I-” She broke off and I could hear her struggling not to cry again. “I think you should be here when he wakes up. I suppose you should tell Jess too… but we should keep it quiet right now I think.”

“I’ve got it. I’ll have my parents entertain. I’ll be there soon, okay?” She mumbled a watery consent and I hung up with her.

My mom looked over at me, peeling the lid off more store-bought fruit for our guests, the rain had dissipated and more people were jumping into the pool. “What’s going on? That didn’t sound good.”

I leaned against the counter. I’d known that something was messed up earlier. Hannah hadn’t given me many details but I relayed what I knew and my mom’s face crumpled with concern. “Can you and Dad keep the company… company? I’ll see if Rosa is okay helping and then you guys can come later? I’ll come back and take over once I know he’s okay.”

“Okay. Just, keep us in the loop, I’ll tell your dad.” She rubbed the back of her hand against her forehead and with a deep breath, took the fruit out to everyone.

I grabbed Jess and Rosa, filled them in and I squeezed Rosa’s hand, “You don’t mind? My mom will bring you when she goes.”

Her hands in mine made me feel stronger, warm despite everything. “No, it’s okay. Just make sure Hannah knows I’ll come.” She gave me another squeeze, pulling me tight against her.

“Thank you so much for helping my mom and dad keep everyone happy.” I gave her a smaller version of my usual lopsided grin.

Jess was silent the entire ride and I didn’t feel much like talking either. I parked and we went up to his room. Hannah was sitting beside his bed. The plastic mask fogged with each breath he took. Her fingers were laced with his, her thumb circling against his knuckles. She was humming something but abruptly stopped when Jess pushed passed me and went to his other side.

The IV bag hung up next to him swayed slightly as Hannah stood up, her fingers reluctantly slipping from his. I could see how her eyes and nose were red from crying and I went in for a hug, but she swept my arms aside, “I’m fine, glad you’re here though. It’ll mean a lot for him to see you when he wakes up. My mom was just in here, she said with the IV and the oxygen, he should wake up soon.” She looked back over her shoulder at him, her eyes lingering on the hovering Jess for a moment before turning back to me. “They think he should be fine.” That sounded more like she was saying that for her own sake, rather than mine. She stepped back so I could go in, nodding to a nurse that passed when she gave a questioning look.

I couldn’t figure out where I was when I woke up. I felt like I had been hit by a truck. I moved my arm slightly and a sharp pain stabbed me under my skin. Moving back, I looked to where an IV was hooked up. Looking around, I could feel my stomach hit the floor at the worried faces of Miles, Jess, and Hannah. I looked at the expression on Hannah’s face as I remembered, vaguely. She had been there. She saw me.

“Shit,” I started, and suddenly there were too many words. Too many people talking. My head still hurt and so did my chest. The empty space my mom had ripped out.

Suddenly familiar hands were on me. I saw Diane gently leaning back. “You’re still hooked to the IV, don’t get up.” I didn’t think I could get up if I wanted to. I couldn’t stop thinking, and that wasn’t what I wanted. Miles and Jess wouldn’t be quiet either.

“Are you okay? What happened?” So many fucking questions. Was I okay? I was conscious. I felt far from okay though. Fuck okay.

“Hey guys, shut the fuck up  up,” Hannah finally cut in. I wanted to thank her but my mouth felt full of cotton and I couldn’t form any words. “You don’t have to talk, Shelly.” She understood.

Diane kissed my forehead, and it was surprising. It was definitely never something my own mother did, or would do. Definitely not my father. The thought of my father made my head reel and I looked up at Diane in a panic. “Is my dad here? Does he know?”

It was a big hospital, and he worked over in the oncology center, where he spent all his time. The only way I would see him was if I got cancer. Who knows, with those cigarettes I stole every once in awhile from my mom.  But getting cancer would probably be better than the disappointment in his eyes. After all, I was the problem child he never wanted to deal with.

“He knows you’re here,” she said. The silence after said everything I needed to know - he didn’t want to see me. I couldn’t tell if that was better or worse. There were too many people around me, too many feelings, and all I really wanted to do was hide away, or make it go away. I gripped the sheets by my side tightly, avoiding looking at anyone.


I kept a good fake smile on for the rest of the party, even though I really wanted everyone to just leave. I was also really good at making excuses for why Miles wasn’t there. Playing hostess was a little bit fun though - my brother and I had never lived anywhere long enough to really have people over. Aggie helped keep the conversation light, despite most of the seniors being gone. When Jackie realized that Miles wasn’t coming back, she left, which made my life easier.

Julian did a better job than me, making everyone happy with his hidden grilling skills. Nobody cared about the missing people when there was a hot dog or hamburger to shove into their mouth.

“I remember when I could pull of a bikini like that,” Aggie said enviously, which made me laugh. “I could make all the boys fall in love.”

“You’re still beautiful,” I giggled, kicking a beach ball with my foot. Even though the whole point of the tiny bikini was moot when I couldn’t show it off to the person I wanted. When the weather turned cold and people finally left, I grabbed my shorts and one of Miles’ sweatshirts before hopping in the car with Aggie, Bruce staying behind for cleanup.

When I got there, it was definitely after visiting hours but Diane let us in anyway. The two mothers started talking in quiet voices and Miles came out to talk with me.

“How’s he doing?” I asked.



Paolla Rahmeier


Paolla Rahmeier


Paolla Rahmeier


Paolla Rahmeier


Paolla Rahmeier


Paolla Rahmeier

Too clear



The sun was just going down as I pulled up to Isha’s house, tucking the slip of paper with the code into his neighborhood away under my visor. I was riding high off our win the night before at regionals.

There was an obvious bounce in my step, a spring in my posture, stupid grin on my face that I couldn’t get rid of. Pride filled my heart, swelling my chest in an almost pompous way. We were awesome. We weren’t perfect, we didn’t all get along the greatest, but we were a team, and we proved that.

I could still hear the roar of the crowd when we’d finished. I couldn’t wait to pick Isha up for some revelry and fun. We were all meeting at my house for grilling and swimming, probably dancing too. Everyone was planning on camping out down in the entertainment room and watching musicals until we passed out.

I knocked on his door and waited.

And waited.

I looked around and something made me feel kind of ooky. Something wasn’t right. Stepping back, I pulled out my phone and called him. It jumped straight to voicemail and I felt my stomach sink. I clicked the doorbell again and there was no answer. After a moment I clicked it twice. Finally Preveena’s cold regality answered looking thoroughly peeved.

“Whatever you’re selling, I’m not interested.”

“Mrs. Dosanjh, we’ve met multiple times…”

“What are you disturbing my evening off for exactly?” She folded her arms and looked up at me with obvious disdain.

I smiled like a golden boy, “I’m picking Isha up, we’re celebrating our win at regionals.”

She frowned deeper, “He’s not here.” She moved to shut the door in my face, but I shoved my arm in before it closed.

“Do you know where we went then? His phone’s going straight to voicemail.” My brows creased with worry.

“Get your arm out of my door, Mr. Thompson. Now.”


She snapped the door closed in my face and I jogged back to my truck once the disbelief wore off. I pulled my phone out again and tried Isha’s cell once more without luck. I pounded my fist on the steering wheel, teeth grit tight.

From what I knew about Isha’s mom, she was the ultimate ice queen. Maybe they had a fight? I didn’t think he’d leave without telling me though. I called my mom and he hadn’t showed up there either. Where could he have gone? Maybe he was walking to my house and I’d missed him along the way?

I scrolled through my contacts and clicked on Hannah’s photo (which was her flipping me off with a sugary sweet smile) and called her.

“Go for Hannah, Jockstrap.”

“Hey, have you seen or heard from Isha?” I tried to go for a light tone, but she saw right through me.

“What’s going on?” Instantly serious.

“I just went to pick him up and he wasn’t there. His mom doesn’t know where he is either.”

Hannah made what sounded like a snarl, “She’s such a fucking bitch. They probably fought and she was probably the awful bitch she is. Ran him out. UGH. I could fucking kill her. I swear!” I heard another voice distantly on the other end and I thought it was Rosa. “Did you try calling him?”

“Yeah, twice. It’s going straight to voicemail.”

“Fuck… Okay, you come get Rosa, I’ll check a few places for him. I might know where he went. You guys can start the party without us.”

I frowned, “Are you sure? Should I call Jess?”

“Fuck her. She won’t know where he is.”

“Alright, if you’re sure, she is his girlfriend.”

“Emphasis on ‘girl’ friend not ‘best’ friend. I’ll find him. She won’t her head from her ass in this case.”

“Alright, tell Rosa I’ll swing by your apartment and pick her up then.” I couldn’t help smiling just a bit, Rosa was my favorite person. Car rides with her were super fun, even if we were only going to be driving for a little bit. Even so, I couldn’t get the twisted feeling in my gut to go away, I was worried about Isha.

I was sitting as still as I could, feet on the coffee table, careful not to wiggle my toes. Rosa had painted them for the pool-slash-general-shenanigans party we were attending that night as a well-earned celebration. She was munching on her favorite brand of snack food - the kind that made your breath reek - while we watched bad TV. Her snack habits were inexplicably adorable to me.

I swung myself toward her and cuddled her thigh with my face, “Did you decide on which bikini you’re wearing?” I rolled over, feet sticking straight up into the air, finally wiggling my toes, “I was thinking of wearing the black and silver one, but god! My boobs fall out of it so bad, it’s a bit old - however, that may not be a BAD idea given the fact that you know Jess is going to be preening like she does…”

I was about to open my mouth again when my phone started belting out vocals and I shot a pesky grin at Rosa before answering. But suddenly it wasn’t a joke. Suddenly it wasn’t fun-and-games it was serious and I was scared, sitting upright and nagging my lip as I listened, easily seeing right through Miles’ poor attempt to play light-hearted.

When we hung up, I lurched toward my discarded socks, “Hey, Miles is going to come pick you up for the party, okay? You don’t mind right?” I tried for a smile, failed I’m sure. “Isha’s apparently in a bind, you don’t mind, right?”

“Sure, riding to a party with the sexy football player, devastatingly awful.” She rolled her eyes and settled back into the couch again. “Good lucky finding him.”

I hopped out the door, trying to get my sneaker on, nodding to the long-legged girl on the couch. There were a few bastions that Isha and I took refuge in. The library would be closed, so would the mall. I didn’t think he’d be at the temple, that was a bit of a haul for him and I was usually the one driving him there.

A damp wind promising rain whipped through my hair from the open windows and I chewed my nail before shifting into fifth gear. I knew where he’d be, I just had to calm myself enough to figure it out. I stopped fast at a stoplight I hadn’t noticed and the thought struck me. I did know where he was.

It was way after dark when I pulled into the little parking lot in front of the playground that was pretty much halfway between both our houses. It was dark and there was only one streetlamp illuminating the area, but I thought I could see his silhouette up on one of the pieces of play equipment. I wasn’t sure when my hands started to sweat but I rubbed the clammy things on my jeans as I slowly approached my friend.

He was singing the words to some Bollywood song under his breath, it was familiar but I couldn’t sing along. I boosted myself up and cautiously crawled toward him.

“Shelly?” I cleared my throat, something definitely felt a bit off and I wasn’t sure why my pulse was racing. “Nice place you got here, as usual.” His hand was tightly clutching a bottle of what I knew wasn’t water. It looked like it had a couple sips left in it and my heart kind of melted like someone had poured acid on it. When he heard my voice he sat up, a bit startled. He slowly blinked, like he couldn’t quite figure out who I was,

I had to bite back my emotion, keeping my voice light. Even in the dim light I could tell he was drunker than was healthy. His every movement was swaying, his head looked like it was on a swivel instead of his neck. I stretched my hand out to cup his cheek, forcing a smile. “Shelly, it’s Hannah.”

I tried not to be too obviously excited as I waited for Miles to come pick me up. But I failed, chewing on gum to try and get rid of the funyun remnants on my breath. I hoped I only looked slightly slutty with my bright orange bikini underneath a loose white tank top that was worn thin, and denim shorts. I hoped that Hannah would find Isha okay but I was pretty focused on the boy who was coming to pick me up. I self-consciously looked at my boobs and tried to make them bigger by tying my halter tighter when the doorbell rang.

“Hey!” he said, when I opened the door. He had bright blue eyes that happily looked me over. “You look great!”

I felt a stab in my chest that was a mixture of hope and longing. Damnit. “Hey bae,” I answered, wrapping him in a tight hug. I was sprung. It was hard not to ignore how strong his arms were. “Ready to head out?” He nodded and I grabbed a bag, wishing I could put a pair of heels on. They made my legs and butt look so much better, but there was really no excuse to wear heels at a pool party. So a worn out pair of sandals it was. Heels were the only piece of clothing I splurged on. Almost everything else could be found at a secondhand store - even if it was a ‘boutique’ someone had probably worn it before.

In his truck we often played his Celine Dion, Top 40, or my Salsa and Bachata music. We settled on Celine Dion since he already had it in the stereo. “Is everything alright with Isha?” I asked, pushing the seat back so my legs were mostly on the dash, my toes swinging out the window.