"Shall we do this?" I asked Toby, referring to having Cole stuff him in a trash can. He stepped up close to me, so close that our noses were almost touching, and my heart began to beat faster.
"I just realized something. I know why you have them beat up on me everyday," he said. Did he really know? Of course he didn't.
" 'Cause I hate you?" I asked. But I didn't hate him. Far from it, actually.
"Bacause you love me," he said. My eyes got wide, and he smiled, and I saw something in his eye. A glint of hopefullness? Was it really? No, Hel, you're fooling yourself. How could he like you after all you've done to him. He looked into my eyes, and saw the truth.
"That's right, isn't it? We're both outsiders, we're both ignored, we both have railroad tracks for braces. We're lonely and boring and always getting in trouble because there's nothing better to do. So, you're head-over-heels in love with me, and that makes you furious! Am I right?" he asked, hitting the nail on the head. For a second, I felt like nodding, and let myself fall into his strong arms. But then I thought better of it.
"How about…No!" I lied, as I painfully watched Toe Thompson stuffed into a trash can by Cole. I loved Toby. But what the mind and heart wanted, the body couldn't have. If everybody saw me weak, and flimsy, then they would pick on me, and I would let Daddy down, and no amount of comfort from Toby could console me. I walked away regretfully, imagining myself running back, pulling Toe from the trash can, dusting trash from his shoulders, and have him hold me.
I replaid that fantasy again and again in my mind, and finally I actually did slow down a little. Just a little.