The loose knot that I felt in my stomach the entire time I was in Connecticut seems to tighten with a tug as Mom pulls the car onto our street in Fort Myers. I’m anxious and tense, and I can’t wait to get into my own room and back to my normal life.
"Almost home sweet home!" Mom sings. I roll my eyes and bounce my leg up and down nervously. It feels like Mom is driving ridiculously slow.
We finally pass Brandon's house on the way to ours. My eyes scan every inch of his peeling gray bungalow before we go by, hoping it will give me a sign of what I've missed since I've been away. But the house is as silent as Brandon has been for the past two weeks.
Finally, we pull into our driveway and I step out into the hot Florida sun. I take a deep breath of the familiar air, tilting my face toward the cloudless sky. Home. At last.
After I help Mom unload the car, I rush to my room and slam the door. Then I frantically call Katie's cell phone. It takes five rings for her voicemail to pick up.
“Hi Katie! I'm back!” I practically squeal into the phone, my voice straining with fake lightness. “Um, call me!” I hang up, cringing at how stupid I sounded. I stare at my phone in my hand, willing it to ring right back.
Two minutes pass. I lie down on my bed and stare at the ceiling. I listen to my mom opening and closing drawers in her room. And then I pick up my phone and call Brandon’s cell. Eight rings and a mechanical voice states that he is unavailable – Brandon was never one to bother setting up his voicemail.
“Hey, it's me. Just wanted to see what was up." Luckily I’m able to better control myself for this message, although now I'm feeling close to hysterical.
Another few minutes go by and still nothing. So I pick up the phone again and call Katie's house. Mrs. Heeley picks up after two rings.
“Hi Mrs. Heeley, is Katie there please?" I ask tensely.
“Oh hi sweetie. No, she's out with her friend." Mrs. Heeley says absentmindedly. "Want me to tell her you called?"
"Um, yeah, sure. Thanks!"
I throw my phone down on my bed and lie back down. Why am I stressing out? I ask myself. Nothing even happened! What am I worried about? Am I worried they're avoiding me? Because that would be ridiculous – they're my best friends. Why would they be avoiding me? I didn't do anything wrong.
I'm just not going to think about it, I tell myself resolutely and force myself to stand up. I'm just going to unpack my suitcase and then go read and not think anything of it, because it's stupid.
I unzip my suitcase and start pulling out handfuls of crumpled clothes, throwing them on my bed. It takes about thirty seconds before I start thinking again… Or maybe they're not avoiding me, but they just aren't thinking about me. Maybe they're off having fun and forgot today was the day I was coming home.
Suddenly I freeze, a pair of shorts in my hand, as a brand new thought enters my cluttered mind. Maybe they’re off somewhere together, and they don’t want me to interrupt.
A seagull screeches outside my window and snaps me back to reality. I dig through the layers of clothes on my bed to find my cell phone, just to make sure it’s not on silent mode or anything. But no, it’s on. No missed calls.
“That’s it, I can’t take this anymore,” I grumble. Slipping my phone into my pocket, I rush out of my room and out the front door, and then start running to Brandon’s house.