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hiding in your hands

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First day of senior year. Evan trudges through the hallway, keeping his eyes on his feet and willing himself to turn invisible. It doesn’t work. Alana marches right into his face with a huge bright smile.

“Hey. How was your summer?”

Evan jumps with a start and turns around, assuming that Alana is talking to someone behind him. Apparently not.

“My…”

Before he can say anything else, Alana interrupts him.

“Mine was productive. I did three internships and ninety hours of community service.” She says, smile plastered on her face. “I know, wow.”

“That’s —”

“Even though I was so busy, I still made some great friends. Or well, acquaintances, more like.”

“Do you wanna maybe, uh, sorry, I don’t know if you have to, uh, but do you want to sign my cast?” Evan blurts out, holding out a black Sharpie before Alana can say anything else.

“Oh my god, what happened to your arm?”

“Oh, I broke it. I was climbing a tree —”

“Really, my grandma broke her hip getting into the bathtub back in July.” Alana states, nodding her head understandingly. “That was the beginning of the end, the doctor said, because then she died. Happy first day!” She exclaims before skipping off to homeroom.

Evan sighs before shoving his Sharpie back into his pocket. It was barely ten seconds before he heard an obnoxiously loud yet familiar voice. Of course it was Jared Kleinman.

“Is it weird to be the first person in history to break their arm from jerking off too much? Or do you consider that an honour?”

“It’s not, I wasn’t, I wasn’t doing that.”

“Paint me the picture. You’re in your bedroom, you’ve got Zoe Murphy’s instagram up on your weird off-brand cell phone —“

“Shh! That’s not what happened, obviously. I was just, well, I was climbing a tree, and then I fell.” Evan anxiously looks behind him and cuts Jared off before someone else overhears.

Jared blinks. “You fell out of a tree?” He starts chuckling. “What are you, like, an acorn?”

“No I was, I don’t know if you know this, but I worked as an apprentice park ranger, um, at Ellison State Park. I’m sort of a tree expert now, I mean, uh, not to brag, but...” Evan starts rambling as Jared stares at him. “Well anyway, I tried, I tried to climb this forty foot tall oak tree —“

“And then you fell.” Jared intercepts with mirth twinkling behind his eyes.

“Well except, well it’s a funny story, though, because there was a solid ten minutes after I fell where I just lay there, um, uh, on the ground, waiting for someone to get me. I was just, any second now, here they come.” Evan turns and is faced with a blank look on Jared’s face. He hurriedly tries to make himself understood.

“Uh, I was saying to myself, any second now, here they come.”

“Did they?”

“No, no that’s the, uh, that’s what’s funny...” Evan looks down at his feet.

“Jesus Christ!” Jared chuckles, looking like he was embarrassed for Evan.

“How was, what did you do for the —“ Evan takes a deep breath to calm himself down. “Did you have a good summer?”

“Well, my bunk dominated in capture the flag, and I got to second base under the bra with this girl from Israel that's gonna be in the army, so yeah, hopefully that answers your question.” Jared turns to leave.

“Uh, do you wanna sign my cast?”

Jared slowly turns back around. “Why are you asking me?”

“Well, just, I thought, because we’re friends…”

“We’re family friends. That’s like a whole different thing and you know it.” Jared punches Evan’s arm gently to lighten the mood. “Hey. Tell your mom to tell my mom I was nice to you or else my parents won't pay for my car insurance.”

“I will.” Evan promises. At least Jared has taken the time to talk to him.

Jared opens his mouth to say something but closes it again as his eyes catches on something much more interesting.

“Hey Connor. I'm loving the new hair length. Very school shooter chic.” Jared sounds like he is going to burst into laughter at any second.

Evan turns around and sure enough, Connor is there. Six foot tall, Connor Murphy is in a black hoodie and black pants. He is wearing black boots and is carrying a worn brown messenger bag. He has long, unkempt hair and his black nail polish on his nails. Evan looks back at Jared when he hears his nervous chuckle.

“I was kidding. It was a joke?”

“Yeah, no, it was funny. I'm laughing. Can't you tell?” Connor says flatly. Jared doesn’t say a word. “Am I not laughing hard enough for you?” Connor menacingly steps forward.

Jared laughs nervously. “You’re such a freak.” Before Connor can say anything, he quickly leaves for class.

It is just Connor and Evan now. Evan laughs softly, feeling the awkward tension as none of them does anything to acknowledge each other.

“What the fuck are you laughing at?”

Evan flinches. “Wh— What?”

“Stop fucking laughing at me.”

“I’m not.”

“You think I'm a freak?” Connor is walking towards him now, anger in his eyes.

“No. I don’t —”

“I’m not the freak.”

“But I wasn’t —” Evan tries to make himself smaller as Connor gets in front of him.

“You’re the fucking freak!”

Hands slam into Evan’s chests and his legs give way beneath him. He squeezed his eyes shut. When he opens them he catches sight of Connor storming off in a rush. But he sees something else. Not just anger. Was it frustration? Hurt? Or maybe guilt?

Before he has time to do anything else, Zoe’s in front of him.

“Hey. I'm sorry about my brother. I saw him push you... He's a psychopath. Evan, right?”

Evan can barely talk. Zoe Murphy is talking to him. Or is she? “Evan?”

“That’s, that’s your name?”

“Oh. Yes. Evan. It's Evan. Sorry...” He can feel himself losing control of his breathing. He shuts his eyes and wills himself to take deep breaths.

“Why are you sorry?”

“Well, just because you said, Evan, and then I said it, you know I repeated it, which is, that is so annoying when people do that.” He starts to ramble.

“I’m Zoe.” She holds out her hand.

Evan starts to hold out his hand, but remembering how sweaty they were last time he tried to talk to her, he immediately shoves it back into his pocket. “Yes. No, I know.”

Zoe slowly lowers her hand. “You know?”

“No, no, no, just, I mean, I’ve seen you play guitar in jazz band. I love jazz band. I love jazz. Well, not all jazz. But definitely like jazz band jazz. That's so weird, I'm sorry.”

“You apologise a lot.” Zoe laughs. Evan can practically feel his face heating up. Oh god, how is she so perfect?

Before he can help it, he blurts out, “I’m sorry.”

Zoe smiles. “Okay, well, I’ll talk to you —”

“Do you wanna sign my cast?” Evan mumbles and thrusts his hand towards Zoe as she turns away, but regrets his decision and lowers it immediately when she faces him again.

“What?”

“What… what’d you say?”

“I didn’t say anything, you said something.”

“Me? I... No way... José.” Evan cringes at how lame he sounds.

“Um, okay… José.” Zoe leaves and Evan forces himself not to call her back, and at the same time mentally yells at himself for being such a dick. He wasted two perfectly good chances to talk to Zoe, just because he’s stupid, annoying, useless…

Evan jolts out of his self-condemnation as his phone rings.

“Shit, honey. I know I was supposed to pick you up for your appointment today. I'm stuck at work. Erica called in with the flu and I'm the only other nurse’s aide on today, so I volunteered to pick up her shift…”

“It's fine.” Evan sighs. Why is he not surprised?

“It's just, they announced more budget cuts this morning, so anything I can do to show that I am, you know, a team player.”

“It's fine. I'll take the bus.”

“Perfect. That's perfect. Oh, and I'm straight from here to class, so I won't be home until late, so please eat something. We have those Trader Joe's dumplings in the freezer.”

“Maybe.”

“Did you write one of those letters yet? Dr. Sherman's expecting you to have one. “Dear Evan Hansen this is going to be a good day and here's why”?”

“Yeah, no, I already finished it. I'm in the computer lab right now printing it out.” Evan lies.

“I hope it was a good day, sweetheart.”

“It was... Yeah, it was really great.” More lying.

“Great. That's great.” Evan can almost feel his mum struggling to find a perfect response. “I hope it's the beginning of a great year. I think we both could use one of those, huh? Shit. I have to run. Bye, love you.”

He has a free period, so he heads to the computer lab to do the letter Dr Sherman wants him to write.

Evan drops his bag onto the floor, opens his laptop and starts to type.

Dear Evan Hansen:

It turns out, this wasn't an amazing day after all. This isn't going to be an amazing week or an amazing year. Because... Why would it be? Oh, I know. Because there’s Zoe. And all my hope is pinned on Zoe. Who I don't even know and who doesn't know me. But maybe if I did. Maybe if I could just talk to her, then maybe... maybe nothing would be different at all. I wish that everything was different. I wish that I was a part of... Something. I wish that anything I said... mattered, to anyone. I mean, face it: would anybody even notice if I disappeared tomorrow?

Sincerely, your best and most dearest friend, Me.

He sighs. This isn’t what Dr Sherman wants. He knows. What did his mum say last time? Something about ‘building confidence’? He scoffs. These letters have hardly been helping and his mum clearly knows. In his annoyance, he prints out the letter. Just to see Dr Sherman’s reaction when he reads it.

Evan hears footsteps, but he doesn’t turn around, hoping whoever it is will get on with their own work and pretend that Evan is invisible.

“So…”

Evan flinches. He recognizes that voice anywhere.

Wh— What happened to your arm?”

“Oh. I, um, I fell out of a tree actually…” Evan clenches his fists tightly to stop them from shaking.

Connor laughs. Nervously? He can’t tell.

“You fell out of a tree? That is the saddest fucking thing I've ever heard.”

Evan tries to hide his hurt and forces a chuckle as well. “I know.”

“No one’s, uh…” Connor takes a step forward, but seems to regret it and moves back, resigning to just pointing at Evan’s cast. “No one’s signed your cast.”

“No, yeah, I know.”

Connor remains silent for a few seconds, then looks up and mumbles, “I’ll sign it.”

“Oh…” Evan wasn’t expecting that. “You don’t, you don’t have to.”

But Connor wasn’t going to back down now. “Do you, um, have a Sharpie?”

Evan hesitates, then slowly takes his Sharpie out of his pocket and hands it over. Connor wastes no time taking the cap off, and lifts Evan’s arm up.

“Ow.” Evan winces as a sharp pain travels through his arm.

Connor looks up blankly for a second and proceeds to sign his name on Evan’s cast. Or no, scrawl. In huge letters.

Evan stares at the letters covering his cast and tries to make them disappear. “Oh...great...Thanks.”

“Yeah, well, now we can both pretend that we have friends.” Evan realises that Connor’s hands were shaking too, and he was breathing unevenly. Did he have anxiety too? It is then that Evan realises Connor is still waiting for his response.

“G— good point.” He slowly starts to leave.

“Is this yours? I found it on the printer.” Connor adds hurriedly, holding out Evan’s printed letter before Evan could get out of earshot. “‘Dear Evan Hansen’”, that’s your name, right?”

“Oh, that's just a stupid, it's a paper I had to write for a, um, for an assignment…” Evan reaches out for the letter, praying that Connor won’t read it.

Too late. “‘Because there’s Zoe.’ Is this about my sister?” Connor holds the letter out of Evan’s reach.

“No. Not at all.”

“You wrote this because you knew that I would find it.”

“Wh— What?”

“Yeah, you saw that I was the only other person in this computer lab, so you wrote this and you printed it out, so that I would find it.” Evan could literally hear the gears in Connor’s head turning.

“Why would I do that?”

“So I would read some creepy shit you wrote about my sister and freak out, right? And then you can tell everyone that I’m crazy!” Connor starts yelling.

“No, wait. I don’t even— what?” Evan sees the hurt in Connor’s eyes.

“Fuck you.” Connor starts storming off.

“But I really, I need that back. Please. Can you just, can you please give it back?” Connor doesn’t look back. At that, Evan knows he has to tell him. The truth. “I— I have a crush on Zoe.”

Those black boots stop hitting the floor. Connor doesn’t look around though. Evan continues in a rush.

“The, the letter is for my therapist. He wants me to write letters about my feelings to boost my confidence. I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to write about Zoe. She just, I like her, and... ” Evan gets greeted with Connor’s expressionless face as he finally turns.

“How is this boosting your confidence?” Connor stares at the letter. “This is so fucking sad.”

“No, yeah, I know. I don’t know what I was thinking.”

Connor looks blank. Evan takes that for judgement, so he quickly proceeds with his explanation. “And yeah, I like her, but obviously she doesn’t like me back, I mean, why would she?” Evan nervously chuckles and starts to ramble. “I’m nobody and she’s perfect, and, um, my hands are too sweaty, because I have anxiety, and she’s in the jazz band so she’s cool, so why would she like me? I mean, she probably doesn’t even know who…”

Evan slowly trails off as he realises Connor is no longer listening to him. Connor, seeing that Evan has stopped, looks up. Awkward silence hangs between them.

“Did you…” Connor cautiously starts, before clearing his throat and shaking his head. “Never mind.”

“No, no, it’s, um, it’s okay. You can ask.”

“Okay.” Connor puts his hands in his pockets and looks down before blurting out, “Did you say… um, do you have anxiety?”

Evan swears in his head. Why did he let that slip? He can feel himself starting to panic as he fumbles for a response. “Wh—, um, I, uh…” He starts to take deep breaths to calm his racing heart.

“No! No, it’s okay if you have anxiety. I didn’t mean to, y’know, try and expose you.” Connor looks frantic seeing Evan hyperventilate. He thinks for a bit then mumbles, “I’m sorry.”

“It’s fine. I— I do, actually. Have anxiety. Um, anyways, can I, it’s almost second period, so can I, I need to go to class, and I need my letter back…”

“Oh yeah, here.” Connor hands it over.

“Thanks.” Evan mutters before walking out of the computer lab as fast as he can without looking suspicious. He can feel Connor’s eyes still burning into him as he turns the corner, but he misses the faint smile growing on Connor’s face and the glint of hope in his eyes.