I looked it up that first night, when I couldn't sleep because Fulton's snores were too loud and unfamiliar, and because the knot in my stomach wouldn't relax enough to let me breathe, much less get some rest, and because my chest hurt too much to ignore-or maybe that was my heart.
I didn't have a dictionary; I'd always relied on Russ's, but it was gone now, out of my reach and untouchable. For the first time, I realized just how much I'd gotten used to having it around, and how much I could have used it right then. Of course, if the dictionary had been in the room, I wouldn't have been awake to use it.
Instead of staying in bed, crumpling my sheets, and straining my eyes to see what wasn't really there in the dark, I got up, and went in search of something to help me calm down. At first, I wasn't even thinking about a dictionary, but by the time I'd made it to the classrooms, keeping to the shadows as best I could, and avoiding the main halls, I couldn't get the word "alone" out of my mind.
I'd never been out on my own at night, not while at school. If I wasn't with the team, I was with Russ, and we were off to cause some trouble that would get us hauled into the Dean's office and maybe even detention, but in the end the punishment was no big deal because we were together.
That night, though, I was alone, and I was sure that I'd get in more trouble on my own than with any of the others around. I twitched at every rustle of my flannel pajama pants, and got more upset, instead of less.
When I heard a footstep down the hall, I ducked into the nearest classroom, easing the door shut, and leaving the lights off. If a teacher was patrolling the hall, I didn't want to be caught in cow print pants, which I'd only brought to sleep in because Russ had given them to me, and I'd planned on using them to start a conversation with him, to bypass any discussion of what had happened before the break.
The windows were uncovered, the shades pulled up to the top of the glass. The moon outside was bright enough that I could see, and walk across the classroom without banging my knee on a chair and making enough noise to be discovered.
I sat down at the teacher's desk, and tried not to think. Instead of drumming my fingers on the fake wood, I grabbed a book from the top of a stack of them, a Merriam-Webster Dictionary. I flipped through pages, paying more attention to any noise in the hallway than to what I was doing.
When I looked down, "alone" leapt from the page, and I couldn't stop myself from reading about it. Alone. An adjective, which describes a noun. Like when Russ used to call me the dopest Duck. Dopest would be an adjective. Alonest Duck now.
Alone. First definition-separated from others, isolated. Alone in a classroom after lights out, hiding from what might or might not have been a teacher, obsessing over a dictionary. Separated from others, left in isolation, check.
Alone. Second definition-exclusive of anyone or anything else, only. The only Duck awake this late, missing what he still couldn't put a name on. The only one who cared about what I'd had with Russ, before he'd abandoned me to Fulton, because if he had, he wouldn't have left. Why had he? He hadn't even said anything to me about it, not one word of warning. Of course, why would he?
Alone. Third definition, a-considered without reference to any other. I hadn't been considered in reference to anyone, had I? Russ hadn't cared if I was hurt or not. He was too bothered by being found out-too ashamed of me. What did I do that was so wrong, to deserve to be left like that?
Alone. Third definition, b-incomparable, unique, alone among their contemporaries in this respect. I alone am the biggest, the clumsiest, the easiest one to ignore among my teammates. And Russ-I thought Russ was different, but even he turned on me, abandoned me, and left me in solitary confinement in a classroom, at just past two a.m.
The dictionary also told me that the word solitary can mean choosing to be alone, but it is more likely to suggest sadness and a sense of loss. As if I needed to be told that. My boyfriend-my thoughts stopped, abruptly, and the world twisted hard, to an angle I wasn't familiar with.
I had never called him that, not once, not to his face, not alone in my room, not even in my most private thoughts. And now, when he's gone and I was so sad I didn't want to eat or sleep or breathe, my mind betrayed me.
I was lonely, without Russ. He left me, my best friend, and my boyfriend, and he did it without saying a word to me about anything at all. Maybe we were found out, yeah, and maybe we couldn't have left it a secret any more, but does that mean we had to not see each other at all? Not say hello or good-bye or fuck you, I was just toying with your emotions?
Because I love him, damn it, and he left me all alone with that knowledge. I'd be better off if I'd never left my bedroom, never stayed late in the locker room, never let him come over and drink with me, because no matter how good it was, it hurts too much, and he didn't do a thing to help me, to save us.
He left me all alone.
Author's Chapter Notes:
Dedication: To Sarah!Star for the title, and for being the best damn person in the whole world. Thank you, ever and often. And to everyone who has given me feedback on these stories-thank you more than I can say. This isn't a fandom or a POV that I'm comfortable with, but your words make it all worthwhile.