Home > Breakable (Contours of the Heart #2)(13)

Breakable (Contours of the Heart #2)(13)
Author: Tammara Webber

On my fourteenth birthday, I’d endured two weeks at a new school, and I had four months to go. Next fall, I’d move up to the high school. I had no delusions that it would be an improvement. Sometimes I stood on the weathered planks of Grandpa’s back porch and stared out at the water, wondering how long it would take to drown, and what it would feel like.

Like Christmas, I woke certain of no gifts. I wasn’t sure Dad or Grandpa would even remember, and I sure as hell wasn’t going to remind them.

Pulling the door to my pantry room open, the smell of frying pork and cinnamon greeted me. Most mornings, Dad and Grandpa were already gone when I got up. I’d emerge from my cocoon, get ready in the one bathroom we all shared and walk to school. January was chilly here, but nothing like what I was used to. Grandpa laughed when I asked if it ever snowed. ‘Once in a blue moon,’ he said. ‘Don’t hold your breath or blink.’

I missed the seasonal changes and the blanketing white from the window, but I wouldn’t miss trudging through it when the novelty wore off, or the bite of the wind slicing through my clothes and making my eyes water to keep my eyeballs from freezing over.

Dad was gone, but Grandpa was in the kitchen, sliding sausage links and French toast on to two plates. I usually ate cold cereal or microwaved a packet of oatmeal, so I didn’t waste time beyond mumbling a barely-awake thanks before grabbing a fork and digging in.

‘Thought we’d head over to the Thrifty Sense today,’ he said, and I glanced up, mouth full of toast and syrup. ‘You’re lookin’ like a scarecrow in them short pants. Unless that’s some sorta new fashion with your demo-graphic. I’m not exactly up on all the trends.’ He plunked his plate across from mine and angled a brow, waiting.

I shook my head in answer while confirming what day it was in my mind. Thursday. ‘But, school?’

He waved a hand. ‘Bah. They can do without you for a day.’ They could do without me every day. ‘I’m gonna call you in sick. We got some birthday shoppin’ to do.’ We shovelled a few bites in silence before he added, ‘Don’t suppose you’d go for a birthday haircut?’

I shook my head again, fighting the smile that pulled at the edge of my mouth.

He huffed a long-suffering sigh. ‘Thought as much.’ Patting a hand over his short, silver bristles, he added, ‘If I had it, I guess I’d flaunt it, too.’

I came home with several pairs of worn jeans and cargo pants, two pairs of grungy sneakers and battered-to-hell western boots, and a faded black hoodie. Nothing cost more than five bucks. Everything fitted.

Dad had come and gone while we were out, leaving a small case on my bed containing a dozen good-quality charcoal pencils in different degrees of hardness, two erasers, a sanding block and a sharpener. I recognized the case; it had belonged to Mom. Under it was a new sketchpad with finely perforated pages, the type Mom gave me for drawings I wanted to remove from the pad and display.

I pulled my tattered sketchbook from my backpack and opened it to a drawing of a seagull sitting on the hull of Grandpa’s boat. I spent the rest of my birthday testing the pencils, recreating the simple sketch and shading it until the seagull looked a little sinister – more like Edgar Allan Poe’s raven from a poem we’d read in English last fall, my first week back.

The raven had tormented a guy who was going crazy over the death of someone he loved. Everyone was supposed to write a short essay analysing the poem, but my teacher, staring at a point right between my eyes, gave me permission to choose something else, though I hadn’t asked to be excused from the assignment.

I chose an Emily Dickinson poem about the balance life keeps between bad things and good. I’d had thirteen years of good. I wondered if I would survive the thirteen bad required to pay for them.


A week or two into any given semester, overall class attendance falls off, especially in large intro courses like history or economics. This semester was no different. Unless there was a scheduled quiz or exam, the classroom exhibited an ever-changing pattern of empty seats. But Jackie, and her boyfriend, I admitted grudgingly, didn’t cut class. Not once in the first eight weeks.

Which made her first disappearance noteworthy, and the second – the very next class period – significant.

During a homework break, I checked Kennedy Moore’s social-media status, which now stated: single. Jackie’s profile no longer existed – or she’d temporarily deactivated it.

Holy shit. They’d broken up.

I felt like a complete dick for the jolt of straight-up joy that gave me, but the guilt didn’t prevent me from hypothesizing one more step: she’d stopped coming to class. Maybe she was planning to drop economics … at which point she’d no longer be a student in the class I tutored.

By her third absence, Moore was openly flirting with the girls who’d been fawning over him the past several weeks. The following week, Jackie missed the midterm. I waited for an updated status to come through the system, telling me she’d officially dropped the course, but it never did. If she forgot to officially drop by the end of the month, she’d get an F at the end of the semester.

I knew damned well she wasn’t my responsibility or my concern … but I didn’t want her to fail a class, in addition to whatever that douchebag had done to her by ending their three-year relationship. But after more than a week of scanning and dismissing every girl on campus remotely resembling Jackie Wallace, I started to believe I’d never see her again.

Francis gave me a How’d that get there? look as I lifted his butt off my buzzing phone.

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