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Panic

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     Evan Hansen had finally gotten up the guts to confess his feelings to Zoe Murphy. And she had, very apologetically, told him that she was, in fact, a lesbian. So, they were friends. And sometimes Zoe’s brother even hung out with them too. He wasn’t as bad as everyone made him out to be. But he still made Evan a little nervous.

     Today though, it was just Zoe and Evan. They were at Evan’s while his mom was at work. Zoe wasn’t sure what started it really. Things had been going great. Evan wasn’t sure what started it either to be totally honest. All he knew was once he started hyperventilating all he could think about was how weird Zoe probably thought he was and how she was probably uncomfortable and these thoughts only made him wheeze harder.

     Zoe was trying not to freak out. She tried to calm Evan but he didn’t seem to hear anything she said. She was starting to panic. She had no idea how to help him. She’d never seen Evan have a panic attack before. Then she remembered. Jared. He’d known Evan forever. He’d know what to do.

     She scrambled for her phone and dialed Jared’s number.

     “Yellow.” He answered, she could hear the TV on in the background.

     “Jared! I need your help. I’m at Evan’s and he’s having a panic attack I think and I don’t know what to do to help him. I’m really worried.”

     “Be there in five. Touch his arm or back but don’t hug him or anything that makes him feel restrained.” And then he hung up.

     Zoe followed Jared’s instructions. She rubbed Evan’s back lightly until she heard the front door open as Jared let himself in.

     “Evan.” He immediately crouched in front of the shaking boy. “Breathe with me okay?” He took loud, slow breaths. Evan gradually began to copy him.

     “Okay.” He panted. “Okay.”

     “Okay?” Jared tilted his chin up slightly. Evan nodded. “Okay.” He stood up, gently took Evan’s hands and led him into the kitchen. He patted the counter and Evan pulled himself up to sit on it. Zoe trailed behind, not sure if she should intervene.

     “Now Evan,” Jared started rummaging around in the fridge. “How many types of trees can you name?” He grabbed a package of sliced cheese, ham, and bread and spread them across the counter. Zoe was about to berate him; how could he start making himself a snack when Evan was clearly still freaking out. But then, Evan started doing it. He just started… listing types of trees.

     “And birch and…” His breaths got shorter again. “I can’t- I can’t think of anymore. I can’t…”

     “Hey.” Jared placed his hands on Evan’s knees and looked up at him. “Did you like the first or second Star Wars better?”

     “Uh, the first had a better plot.” Evan calmed down again. “But the second had better graphics.”

     “Like which graphics specifically?” Jared returned to his sandwich.

     Evan began rambling about Star Wars while Jared finished making his food and then started pouring chocolate syrup into a glass of milk. He didn’t wait for Evan to run out of things to say this time.

     “I read something the other day that said you can cross pollinate pretty much any type of trees. That true?” He asked as he stirred the chocolate milk.

     “Uh yeah.” Evan nodded. Jared held out his hands and Evan absentmindedly took them and let Jared pull him off the counter and lead him to the couch while he went on about trees.

     Zoe watched Jared return to the kitchen, grab his sandwich and drink, and return to the couch to pass them to Evan.

     “You good?”

     Evan blinked, looking surprised. “Yeah? Yes. I’m good.”

     “Good.” Jared smiled and punched his shoulder lightly. He stood up and headed toward the door. Zoe followed.

     “How did you…?”

     “I’ve been doing it since like fifth grade. I’m a pro.” Jared shrugged. “Got to the point where when he started, teachers would just send him outside with me.”

     “That’s… I mean it’s good that he had you. But damn.”

     “Yeah.” Jared snorted.

     “Well anyway thanks for coming.” Zoe stared at her feet. “I didn’t know what to do. I tried the breathing thing and it didn’t work.”

     “Yeah…” Jared rubbed the back of his neck. “It usually works better with someone he’s really comfortable with- not that he’s not comfortable with you! But you know…”

     “Yeah.” Zoe nodded. “But I mean what about all that other stuff?”

     “It’s not too hard. Just get him to stop hyperventilating and then give his mind something to think about and let him ramble. Once he gets going, he’ll calm down usually.”

     “Usually?”

     “Yeah. There’s been a few times that it didn’t work. When he was really bad.” Jared whispered.

     “What do you do then?”

     Jared suddenly flushed pink. “Uh, I just um…”

     Luckily, he was saved from answering by a shout from the living room.

     “I know you guys are talking about me.” Evan yelled.

     “He’s annoyed. Good sign.” Jared snorted. Then he raised his voice. “Not everything is about you Evan!”

     “Can you guys just come back here already?”

     “Oh uh, I was gonna go.” Jared called back.

     “Why?” Evan appeared in the doorway. “Just stay and hang out.”

     “I…” Jared looked to Zoe but she was nodding too. “Sure. I guess.”

     He let them drag him to the couch as they settled in to watch some nature documentary. Evan sat in the middle of them but that didn’t stop Zoe from eyeing Jared behind his back. Jared wasn’t sure he liked the look in her eye or the way her lips twitched upward whenever Evan leaned closer to him.