During the day they sometimes worked on different sites, so they made sure that they spent the evenings together.  They went for quiet walks under the summer stars, or watched movies in the local theatre, went out for ice cream in town, and talked until they were too tired to think.

            Ethan found that he could talk to Faith about things in a way he couldn’t with his other friends, revealing to her that he didn’t think they knew him at all.  In his need to serve the people he cared about, he had surrendered his own identity.  Sometimes he himself wasn’t sure of who he was, so how could his friends know?

            He allowed himself to be vulnerable for the first time in his life, slowly bringing down the walls he had built between himself and the world after years of being unable to fully trust anyone.  She was patient with everything, and found ways to remind him that she wasn’t like his friends, and that he could trust her.  Faith seemed to devote herself to finding subtle ways to build his confidence without expressly saying that she was doing so.  Part of it was how much time she spent with him, which implied devotion and loyalty.  After seeing so many friends turn their back on him, this touched Ethan deeply.

            Ethan had never known someone that wanted to be so much a part of his life.  He seemed to come first in all things.  She would forgo trips into town with their other friends in favour of spending a quiet evening with him, and only went anywhere with the others if he suggested that they both go.  It was like she never wanted to be away from him, and he found that endearing.  Everyone else he knew always had other places to go, or people to be with.  He had never come first with them.  Not even Hope had been so devoted, and she had been his best friend.

            He knew that she was helping him to fill the hole inside himself, that pit of self-loathing that said he didn’t matter.  Ethan had begun to fight that battle himself in the last year of high school, and had found it a daunting task.  He never gave up, but it had always been difficult.  Faith made it easy, because she believed in him.

            The summer drifted by without Ethan noticing, he was so caught up in his feelings.  When he finally realized that they were approaching the end of the season, it hit him like a physical blow and panic set in.  A powerful sense of dread overcame him, and paranoid thoughts kept surfacing.  What if she decides to leave me?  What if we break up because I have to go to school?  Why should she stay, if no one else ever has?

            He didn’t realize it until months later, but until this moment of doubt, the voices in his head had been silent.  His time with Faith had brought him peace and happiness for the first time in years, and he failed to notice or appreciate it until it was gone.  It was as if the instant he doubted her, he allowed a doorway in his mind to open.  One that released all his worst fears and nightmares.  And once the door to Hell was opened, he couldn’t get it closed again.

            He withdrew from her, and she noticed.  She would sit beside him, and he would almost imperceptibly flinch away.  It was distressing, because Faith knew that he was shutting her out, and she wasn’t sure that he knew, himself.  It was an instinctive thing for him to do that with almost everyone else.  Their friend Laura had taken to calling him “Bubble Boy” because he was very sensitive about his personal space and rarely allowed people into it.  Faith was the only person always welcome, because she was who he trusted most.

            Now she was shut out, and she knew that it was unintentional.  It was a trained reflex, one of his defence mechanisms from school, something he never thought about.  She knew they were there and had aided him in taking a lot of his barriers down, but now they were all back in place, and she thought she knew why.

            “This isn’t working,” She told him one night, when they could be alone together. 

            Ethan had felt his stomach drop and a horrifying chill grip him at those simple words.  His paranoia had been growing, and to his increasingly depressed mind those words leapt out like they were on fire.  His paranoia told him that she would leave, that these words meant that she was ready to, that now she would turn on him like everyone else.

            “What?”  He asked, fear creeping into his voice.

            “You’re pulling away from me all the time, and you hardly talk to me.  It’s been getting worse all week.  Unless something changes, this isn’t going to work out.  You’re falling apart on me, and I can’t help you unless you talk to me.”

            It seemed like a white-hot knife had been thrust into Ethan’s guts and then twisted, for his fear felt almost like physical pain.  Certainty came to him that things were over, and that there was no way to stop it from happening.  He saw the joys of the past few months falling away from him into a chasm of darkness and despair.  It was a pit that led to madness, and he was on its edge, barely hanging on by his fingertips.

            “I can’t help it,” he said, the steel within him rebelling against the fear and making an attempt to salvage the situation.  The only way it could see to save him was by being honest:  “I’m afraid.  All my friends have abandoned me, whether they know it or not, and I’m terrified that you will, too.  I need you, I don’t know how to do this on my own.”

            “That’s the problem.  We can’t work because of that.  You don’t like yourself very much.  When you go to school, you’re going to hate it there unless you can learn to live with yourself, and I can’t do that for you.  I can’t handle that, it’s not fair to either one of us.  You have to do it yourself.  It’s not like I don’t care about you, I just can’t handle things the way they are.”

            He was sobbing, crying in front of someone else for the first time since he had become an adolescent.  It was brought on by the conflict between that dark depression and despair that had grown out of the paranoia created during school and the ability to love that Faith had been nurturing all summer.  The conflict was over now, and all he could do was mourn the side that seemed to have lost.

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