Lliam Conway was Koren’s longest-term boyfriend to date. He had started at Wharin High School at the beginning of the fall semester, a victim of a subtle and yet controversial adjustment of the border between the Wharin School District and their hated rivals of Lower Christopher River. Unlike the twelve other new students, who had tended to keep their heads down at first, Lliam stood out like a bright light in the darkness. A head taller than most of the boys around him, Lliam had long brown hair and piercing hazel eyes. Very careful about his appearance, he always dressed a notch above the usual t-shirt and denim pants or shorts. In addition, he carried himself with a confidence and maturity that made all the other boys in school seem like, well like schoolboys in comparison. As soon as he’d appeared at school, every girl melted and every boy hated. Very quickly, the competition for his attention was on and, of course, Izzy was right there in the forefront of the pack.
However, Koren had found that she possessed a secret weapon, an advantage that Judith quickly and wholeheartedly urged Koren to press. As it turned out, Koren happened to be on the Dance Committee for the Fall Harvest Dance and knew that the dance would be a rare “girl’s choice.” Therefore, right before the posters went up, Koren managed to get Lliam alone and let slip the secret, asking him to the dance.
Right after the announcement of the dance’s theme, Izzy immediately went in for the kill, only to discover that sweet Koren Shaw had slipped in before her. Izzy, to say the least, was furious. Still, she couldn’t do a thing about it, but vent to her minions and vow her vengeance.
Well, the dance turned into dating and dating turned into Koren’s first truly long-term, romantic relationship. Then Koren found herself in the privileged position of being the most envied girl in school. In the past, on and off since she began dating; Koren had been involved with other so-called boyfriends. After all, she was both pretty and bright. So plenty of boys flocked around her, and she always had her pick when she wanted the attention. However, those relationships were mostly childish crushes with some handholding and kissing. This was the perfect match. Everyone who wasn’t busy hating commented on how good the two looked together and what a cute couple they made. She and Lliam never seemed to argue, never had a serious disagreement. They shared the same thoughts and attitudes about life and school. Therefore, as far as Koren was concerned, what existed between her and Lliam was love.
Meanwhile, Izzy waited for her opportunity and, apparently, one came over the weekend. Koren and Lliam had their usual Saturday night date, a little dinner, and a movie. Everything seemed copasetic. They had fun and enjoyed some good kissing and a few laughs during the slow parts of the movie. Then Sunday evening, while she and her dad were grilling dinner, a series of text messages screamed across Koren’s phone. Each text, from a half-a-dozen different friends, demanded that she look up Izzy’s social page and personal photo-wall.
With a forced disdain, Koren brought the social site up on the kitchen computer and clicked on Izzy’s page. Posted on her photo-wall was a series of photos showing Lliam at some party dancing and chatting up Becky Sheerer, one of Izzy’s skaggy girlfriends. Apparently, the party pictures were from that very afternoon. Lliam was to have been with Koren and her dad that afternoon, a further attempt on Koren’s part to get her dad “comfortable” with Lliam. However, Lliam had begged off at the last moment due to some sudden “family thing” he had to go to
The title of the photo series was “Always the Last to Find Out.” With “poor, poor Koren” tagged to each photo.
Koren ended up dashing to the privacy of her bedroom, slamming her door so hard that the house shuddered, and recklessly calling Izzy. Thus began a ten-minute screaming match. Or rather, Koren screamed while Izzy smugly soothed and commiserated, without denying the photos, which just made Koren angrier and louder. Ultimately, the phone call ended with Izzy suggesting calmly that Koren put her money where her mouth was, and Koren roaring, “Fine!” and hanging up.
She spent the rest of the evening trying to call Lliam, getting only his voicemail. Eventually she received a text from Lliam that informed her that his phone was screwing up, that he could only text, and that he would see her Monday morning. His text ended with his usual “luv ya babe,” so she felt a little better.
Now, within sight of Lliam’s locker, Koren saw him standing there with several of his friends. He was smiling and laughing as if he hadn’t a care in the world. Yet he must have seen the photos! Koren tried to tell herself that his ease was a good sign. Still, the contents of her stomach seemed suddenly to congeal into something like lead. Koren began to regret the large breakfast that her dad had insisted she eat.
“Hey, babe,” greeted Koren with a smile, as she boldly stepped up to Lliam.
She coiled an arm around the back of his neck and tippy-toed up to kiss him. However, instead of leaning in and offering himself, Lliam turned his face away slightly so that her kiss met his cheek.
Instantly, everything in her stomach began to churn.
“I was thinking,” she said, trying very hard to ignore the platonic greeting they had just exchanged, “that we need to start planning for the Spring Social coming up.”
“Yeah, about that…since we really hadn’t made any plans, I wasn’t sure that you and I were going to go together…”
“What’re you talking about? Of course we’re going together!”
“Well, after…you know…how the last couple of weeks have been kinda rough…”
“Rough, rough how?”
“…I thought maybe it would be best that we, you know…we go our own ways?”
Koren let go of Lliam and backed off a step, her mouth open in shock. Her stomach, as his words sank in, began to boil like a kettle of acid. She could feel her throat and sinuses burning.
“So I asked Becky Sheerer to go to the dance with me.”
“How could you!”
“How? I thought you’d be fine with it.”
“Look, it’s not like I totally didn’t take care of you. I hooked you up for the dance.”
“Hooked me up…who?”
Lliam reached out and pulled a boy forward. He was a tall, lean, ginger-haired boy with freckles. Koren recognized him as one of Lliam’s many friends.
“Hank! I told him all about you, and he’s eager to get to know you.”
Koren stared at the freckled-faced boy in disbelief.
“Hi!” said Hank, smiling broadly.
Koren opened her mouth to answer. However, the only thing to come out was a loud belch.
Later, how much later she wasn’t too sure, Koren found herself staring down into the bottom of a toilet. Suspiciously, the water was clean and clear, looking strangely refreshing. Yet Koren’s mouth still burned and had that metallic, acid taste of vomit. She looked up from the toilet to see Judith, back against the closed toilet stall door, watching her.
“I think I threw up.”
“But there is no vomit in the water.”
Koren instantly had a vision of emptying her stomach all over the front of the ginger-haired boy.
“Don’t tell me that I…
“Lliam’s boy, Hank.”
“Oh, my god!”
“Your aim was quite impressive.”
“Oh, my god!”
“What did you have for breakfast?”
“One of dad’s specials; couple of fried eggs on a piece of French toast, some bacon, a big glass of orange juice, a cup of coffee. No two cups.”
“Yum, though I imagine all that tasted better going in than coming out.”
“Har, har, very funny.”
Koren tried to push up off the toilet. Judith was there in an instant and helped her up, dropping the toilet seat ring so that Koren could sit. Then Judith stripped off and handed to Koren a large wad of toilet paper, which she used to dab her eyes and wipe her nose.
“For some reason I suddenly really miss my mom right now,” said Koren. “I’m so stupid! I thought it was love, you know?”
“I know, Kor.”
“I don’t know which is worse, being dumped or being handed off to his friend like an old doll.”
“And you were both.”
“An old, blow-up doll.”
“And you figure old Hank was eager to give the doll a poke, do you?”
“I could see it in his eyes! Lliam had told him everything.”
Then Koren snorted. “When my dad gave me, you know “The Talk” he said that a girl’s virginity is a very special gift that can only be given once. So make sure I don’t regret to whom I give it. I hate it when he’s right.”
“Typical male propaganda,” Judith said. “Look, kiddo, no regrets. What’d you expect? That Llaim was going to be the only boy you’d ever be with, that you were going to marry him, spend the rest of your life with him?”
“I had my dreams, I guess. Mainly, at least, I’d find out what love is. Jude, I want to know what love is! To know what it is to feel the kind of feelings that my mom and dad have…had.”
“For one thing,” said a male voice from other side of the toilet stall door, “it’s a song by Foreigner.”
A Wounded World is available at Amazon.com.