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Basic Things Like Guilt 4
Basic Things Like Guilt 4

Basic Things Like Guilt 4

ThomastheRayThomas Ray


In my bedroom, I watch another episode of Doctor Who. I’ve only started rewatching the season today, and I’m already done with episode four. If I tell Kennedy what I did all day she’ll probably remind me of how she was gone all afternoon with her friends. I don’t need to hear it from her, I already know.

My phone’s clock reads 10:23. I know I should get ready for bed, and before I can talk myself out of standing up, I lurch off my bed, feeling the blood rush away from my head from the sudden motion. After a moment I’m steady enough to walk and leave my room.

Kennedy is asleep at the table when I go downstairs to get water, head resting on her arms, brown hair spilling over the table. I feel a stab of pointless anger, directed at her even though she hasn’t done anything to me. She just— just always— always assumes things about me.

I see two college-ruled papers on the table next to her, one folded. A mechanical pencil is still sitting halfway on the paper, so I would assume she was writing something. I think about walking over there, picking up the paper, reading it. I don’t just think it, I consider it.

It probably isn’t important, right? And even if it’s private, Kennedy deserves to feel the same as I do. The same as she makes me feel.

Before my anger gets too strong to resist, I grab my cup, draining the whole thing in four painful gulps. I leave the room without looking back, closing my bedroom door once I’m in the safety of my own space, the darkness of my haven. My anger still writhes inside me, unwanted and unsolicited. Kennedy was just being Kennedy, it doesn’t have to make me feel this way.

But it does. And deep down, under all the memories of her snappish or bossy comments, her callous responses to my real questions, so deep inside me that I can only feel it when I try, I just want to know why. Why do I feel this?

I change into my most comfortable pajamas without even focusing on my movements, just doing what I've done every day for years. I slip under my blanket and shift into my side, feeling every breath shift the mattress under me. I think of the floor under my bed, and the fact that there's another room beneath that. I imagine I can feel the walls around me, protecting, watching.

I picture all the other walls in our neighborhood, holding up the ceilings that block the stars from view.

My body relaxes with my imaginings, so I imagine some more.


I've managed to get my shoelaces tangled on both shoes. My stomach is empty, and my hair still looks like I just woke up, which I did. Seven minutes ago.

"Haley, you're going to be late!"

"I have time." I growl to myself, trying harder to unpick my stupid mistake. How did I even get them so tangled? This should be easy!

My bedroom door opens, flooding the room with light. Kennedy stands in the doorway, one hand on the doorknob while the other reaches to the lightswitch. I close my eyes right before the light blinds me.

"Kennedy!" I blink my groggy eyes open, squinting from where I sit. "What is your problem?"

"You're going to be late."

"I have ten minutes!" My throat resist each word.

"No you don't," she counters, "We need to be earlier today, so I'm not late for work. All three days this week, I've been—"

"Alright! Okay? I'll hurry. My stupid shoe won't—" Kennedy turns with a sigh, rubbing her fingers across her closed eyelids.

"Look, Haley, if you want to wait so long, you can go to the bus stop by yourself. But if I keep being late to my job, it will be a lot less fun than waking up a few minutes earlier than you’re used to. Help me out, okay?"

I close my eyes and try to breathe my anger away. My hair blocks the light as it falls between my face and the lightbulb.


“Thanks. I cooked some eggs if you want them.” I bend down to attack my shoelaces again. “I doubt I’ll be able to eat them all before we have to go,” She says from the hallway.

The drive to the bus stop is cold. I really don’t need the ride; I could walk if I wasn’t such a wimp. I hop out of the car and trudge towards where the small group of students are huddled, freezing in the January air. I take my usual spot behind the big tree and start wondering, waiting until the bus comes and I climb up the three steps and find a seat.

Three seconds later. my music drowns out everything I don’t want to hear.


The sound of snow crunching under my feet mixes with the droning tone of the bus’s engine, which completely drowns out the sound of the breeze whipping through the bare branches all around me. The breeze that’s making my nose ache and each inhale torturous. In the back of my mind, I can hear the excited after-school chatting of the people who are lucky enough to have the same bus stop as their friends. Kennedy is waiting by my tree, and I walk past her, slamming the car door to get her attention. My nose throbs as I crank the heater all the way up. I am done with winter.

Through the foggy windows, Kennedy motions to wait before turning to disappear behind the three huge trees that frame the single wooden bench at the stop. For being a commercial bus stop in addition to being where the school bus comes, it’s surprising there aren’t more. My tingling fingers absorb warmth as it blows out of the vents, and I let out three long breaths in time to the engine’s rumbling.

In, out. Repeat.

Still a jumbled mess, my thoughts stray toward the abstract, to a world where I can escape. Run away from myself, and Kennedy, and the mess we are together.

My head snaps erect at the click of Kennedy’s door opening. She slides into her seat, rubbing her hands together and hunching her shoulders as she scrutinises me. Her gaze is searching, penetrating, and secretive. Discomfort wells up inside me, a wave of sick that’s normal in the aftermath of a school day. Judgemental looks are far from scarce.

“What?” My skin wants to slip off of my bones and under the seat. Anything to avoid those looks.

Kennedy looks at the steering wheel, places both hands on it, and puts the car into drive.


I’m tired of lies. Especially from Kennedy—I’m sick of her telling me that everything is fine, and that Mom is okay, that things are getting better. I know they aren’t, and I can tell when she’s lying.

So, like always, I do nothing.

The next morning, tucked between the roots of my tree, there’s a response to my letter.

Author Notes: It's been a while.

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About The Author
Thomas Ray
About This Story
21 Oct, 2019
Read Time
5 mins
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