"Isobel, it's been the third time this week." Gwen said, exasperated. Isobel didn't look at Gwen but instead, over the lonely, abandoned track. It was too cold now for running out here and track season was over. The snow was melting; it was early March. Gwen was ranting and she could tell that Isobel couldn't hear her. Isobel was really getting into the habit of tuning people out. Gwen, being as observant as she always was, had noticed this before among other things. Isobel, whether she was aware of it or not, was starting to develop traits that mirrored Varen: tuning out, carrying a notebook, smiling at the strangest times, and speaking in cold, icy sentences. "Isobel, I know you're not listening." It was a scoff and a plea at the same time.

"Sorry." Isobel muttered, her chin resting in her hand. She didn't really need to listen to Gwen's ranting because she had heard it before. Isobel got kicked off the cheer squad, again, and now she was having "hallucinations" as Gwen called them. She hated when Gwen or anyone else called them that. It was hard enough knowing that she had failed Varen twice and the added pressure of the rumors, name-calling, and stares added brutal insult to an already brutal, painful injury.

"Isobel, stop being so passive about this or trying to play it off like it's normal because it isn't." Gwen retorted. Ignoring Gwen's statement, Isobel asked a question.

"Gwen, have you ever been in love? Truly?" Isobel asked, looking at Gwen. Gwen shook her head; her on-and-off (mostly physical) relationship with Mikey didn't really match up to the tragically epic love story of Isobel Lanley and Varen Nethers. Plus, Gwen really didn't want to be that committed to a guy who gets his jeans off the girls' rack at Target. "I am, right now." Isobel said with a sad smile. Even though Gwen liked to think she was being supportive of Isobel, she secretly thought that Isobel could a little indulgent at times when it came to Varen but Gwen didn't blame her; Varen was probably just as indulgent or maybe more when it came to Isobel. Add the Romeo and Juliet complex and it's a match made in Teenage Wasteland Heaven. Oh, the irony.

"No offense, but what does that have to do with you screaming and crying in the girl's bathroom whenever you look in the mirror?" Gwen's merciless wit betrayed her and the minute she saw Isobel's expression, she regretted having said that.

"It's hard to understand..." Isobel trailed off for bit before regaining her indulgent, Varen-centric bravado, "When I first met him, I had no idea any of this would happen. I thought that we would do the project so we could go back to being at the opposite points of the popularity spectrum and maybe at Christmas, he'd leave a dead bird on my porch or something as a gift." Gwen's eyebrows knitted together in confusion at the last statement and how stereotypical it was but she let Isobel go on, "But he was so much more than that. He captivated me like no one else had ever before. He was so magnetic and mesmerizing and intelligent and beautiful and different. There's not enough adjectives in the English language to describe him; he's so lovely." After saying this, Isobel's eyes had gone soppy and Gwen see the emotions swimming in her All-American blue eyes, "He was like an intelligent, worldly person and a mixed up, angry teenage boy all at the same time. He was like a breath of fresh air and an angry slap in the face at the same time. And I loved all of it." Isobel, even more soppy-eyed than she was before, felt the dam break and soon all the memories came rushing back to her like furious, running water; things she couldn't tell Gwen: the little thrills she got whenever she saw Varen, the way he held her hand, her fixation with his dark hair, his arm around her waist, his eyes, and that kiss. Her eyes teared up. She could almost feel his piercing gaze and his warm hands; she missed him so much, "Everyone wrote him off as passive and cold and uncaring but I knew that he was so sensitive and fragile. And all I wanted to do was to reach out and hold him but I was always so shy around him." At this point, rivers of warm tears spilled down Isobel's face and Gwen wasn't good at comforting people but Gwen was hanging on every word, "I won't be like that anymore. Our time together is so short and, and, and I want him to know..." Isobel had begun loud but then trailed off.

"To know what?" Gwen was practically on the edge of her seat at this point, dying to know.

"That..that...that I love him." Isobel replied, soft but sure of herself, "I always will." At that moment, Isobel could have sworn that she feel the cool press of a metal ring against her lips.