The houses in my neighborhood sit in perfect rows on perfect streets, all alike, all filled with perfect people living perfect lives. But I'm not like that. I'm not pretty or perfect, I'm only me, Laurie Joanna Johnston. So I pretend I'm perfect and I tuck all the different messes away inside me. I try to be good for my mother, who works two jobs so we can keep our perfect house. I don't talk about my father, or how he looked when I found him there in the bathroom, when what I really want to do is to scream "Why?" over and over and over again. I never mention the stains that aren't there, but that I see every time I take a shower. Keeping my eyes closed is easier than seeing. Keeping my fingers in front of my mouth is easier than talking. Pretending to be perfect, and never letting out everything I keep hidden, is easier than letting people see the real me.

And then we're there, and I'm sitting with Benji, watching Avery and Jenna kissing and making out, wondering how far they'll go with us there watching, Benji takes my hand and pulls me out of the room. He's embarrassed too, saying that Avery does that to show off, rubbing it in Benji's face cause he doesn't do the same thing. After that, Benji doesn't really scare me any more, and even though we don't talk much as he walks me home, it feels right being with him, it feels safe.