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Say When
Author: Micalea Smeltzer





When I was younger and thought of graduating high school it seemed like such a big deal. I was certain I’d feel like an adult. So smart and ready to take on the world. Instead, I feel like a child playing dress up in the itchy atrocious blue gown. I’m nowhere near ready to be an adult, but apparently turning the ripe old age of eighteen qualifies me as such.

As I sit there, the principal droning on and on about the past four years, I wring that horrible gown between my fingers.

I should’ve done more.

Instead of burying myself in books and schoolwork I should have gone to parties, gotten drunk, stolen a car—hell, lost my virginity.

I eye my best friend Molly across the way, and she gives me a thumbs up. I wonder if she can sense my panicking all the way over there.

I’ve done nothing to prepare for the real world.

Not only was interest lacking, but I wasn’t in the popular crowd. I didn’t like attention and being a wallflower suited me fine, but in this moment, I’m hating myself for that fact. How can I expect to start college this fall with so little experience? Am I going to spend another four years of my life throwing away chances?

A tug on my sleeve has me realizing that names are already being called and it’s our row’s turn to stand, make the trek through the auditorium, and be handed our diplomas. A flimsy piece of paper that’s supposed to give us freedom, but I don’t feel free at all. I feel chained down by all the should haves I’ve let pass me by.

When my name is called my parents cheer and whistle, my older brother by their side smiling like a goof. I flash them all a smile, hoping they can’t see that it’s fake.

They wouldn’t understand my worries anyway. I don’t think even Molly would. Like me she’s quiet, shy, willing to fade into the background.

I take my seat once more, waiting for the rest of the class to be called.

When I toss my cap up into the air, I close my eyes, making a wish on it, more like a vow. Stupid, I know, but in the moment it feels right.

Take risks, Emilia. Don’t be afraid of every little thing. Push your boundaries. Do what scares you.

When I open my eyes, my classmates have dissolved into cheers and my cap, at least I hope it’s mine, sits at my feet.

Picking it up, I dust it off and whisper beneath my breath, “Here’s to change.”



Chapter One



So much for change. Summer comes to an end and I still haven’t taken one risk. Fear has its sticky fingers embedded deep inside me and I find it impossible to take the plunge off the cliff. I always find a logical explanation to avoid anything that might land me in trouble.

Getting drunk? I’m underage and it’s illegal.

Parties? It’s just not my thing and what if it gets busted—I don’t need an arrest on my record, no thank you.

Sex? How do I know he’s not a raging lunatic and isn’t going to murder me?

See, totally logical.

I let out a sigh as I set the box in my hands down in the condo.

It’s fancy, way nicer than I expected, but Molly’s and my parents insisted we stay off campus together. They’re covering the costs for rent while we have to take care of the utilities and things like food. I’d say it’s a fair bargain considering how nice the digs are.

Floor to ceiling windows overlook the sprawling city of Tysons located between McLean and Vienna in Virginia. Having lived in the country—mountains, farms, wide rolling hills—this feels like a whole new world. But when both Molly and I were accepted to the new university, Tysons Met, we jumped at the chance. We’re still in our home state, but hours from where we grew up, which gives us much-needed freedom but the ability to go visit if we want.

“What do you think?” My dad asks, setting down a Target bag full of utensils. Our moms’ insisted on stocking the condo with necessities before they leave. I think they’re afraid Molly and I won’t bother and will live off paper plates and cheap toilet paper if they don’t do it.

“It’s beautiful.”

When you first walk into the condo, you’re greeted with the living area immediately in front of you, the kitchen to your left with a long bar and enough space for four or five barstools. Past the kitchen there’s a bedroom, a bathroom, and two more bedrooms with a bathroom attached to what I assume is the master. I told Molly she could have it, opting for the room nearest the kitchen. True, I won’t have an en-suite, but I struggle to sleep a lot of nights and would rather be able to use the rest of the condo without disturbing her.

“Glad you like it, Sweet Pea.” He drops a kiss on the corner of my forehead and turns to go back for more stuff piled in the hallway.

My job is to start unpacking as they bring stuff in. Grabbing the bag my dad set down on the shiny white counter I pull out the boxes of utensils and get to work taking them out of the box and loading them into the dishwasher.

Molly comes in with a box and heads straight back to her room with it, huffing and puffing the whole time. When she comes back out, hands on her hips she says to me, “Thank God for elevators, because getting groceries in here is going to be a nightmare.”

I laugh, taking out a stack of pale blue plates. Flipping them over I get to work on peeling the stickers before they join the utensils in the dishwasher.

“I know, right? Can you believe it? This place is all ours.”

When our parents leave, it’s just us, for good. Neither one of us has ever been without our parents for long.

“Yeah.” She tucks a piece of flaming red hair behind her ear, showing off the numerous piercings there. “It’s weird. Tell me you feel it too?”

“Definitely weird. But I’m excited.”

For the next hour more stuff comes into the condo, along with furniture deliveries our parents arranged so we have a couch, T.V., desks, some bookcases, and beds.

“You guys have done too much,” I whine, feeling guilty.

My mom passes me books from one of my numerous boxes so I can add it to the sleek black bookcase. I opted for a simple black and white theme with just a pop of an orangey brown in the blanket and some throw pillows on my bed. Molly’s room on the other hand looks like the color wheel threw up in it. Not that I’d ever tell her that.

“We want you to be comfortable here,” my mom argues. “This should feel like home. This is your home now.”

“I know, but it’s a lot.”

Contrary to popular belief, I hate being spoiled. Loathe it more than just about anything else. I don’t like things handed to me. I want to work for what I have. Like with grades—I heard the whispers in the halls of teacher’s pet and that I was a suck up. I knew it wasn’t true, but that didn’t lessen the hurt I felt.

“It makes us feel better to know you’re in a safe building and have everything you need,” my dad offers his input behind a grunt, struggling to hold onto the mirror he’s hanging beside my bed.

“Oh, honey.” Mom drops the books she was holding on my bed and hurries to help him. Over her shoulder she says to me, “God knows your brother won’t let us do anything to help him.”

My older brother, Atlas, is what I would call a free spirit. He didn’t exactly excel in school. Not because he’s dumb, actually he’s incredibly intelligent, but being confined isn’t for him. He needs to be on the move, out in nature, going on adventures. I know it killed our parents when he told them he wasn’t going to college. I think they both nearly had a stroke when he announced he was buying a tiny house trailer and traveling all over the country.

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