Chapter Nine - S, I like you.
We started walking back toward Kalen’s car, and I made sure to stand as physically far apart from him as I could. I still hadn’t quite recovered, and I didn’t know what to make of the residual feelings circulating through me.
“Could you take me home?”
“What about your dad?”
“Oh uh, he’ll be on his way to work. It’ll be fine.” I murmured.
“Oh yeah of course.” Kalen replied as he unlocked his car.
We sat in the car for a few minutes in silence. Kalen was about to speak, but instead of saying anything he put his key in the ignition turned the car on. I put my seatbelt on and we drove across town, to my place in absolute silence, not even the radio was on. Kalen pulled into the drive and turned the car off.
“I shouldn’t have kissed you without your permission Willow.” Kalen said softly. “I’m sorry.”
I swallowed hard as I gripped the straps of my school so tight my knuckles turned white. I wanted the ground to open up and swallow me whole, just so we could avoid this conversation.
“It’s okay. You were only trying to help me avoid my father.” I murmured.
“Yeah…” He said slowly. “See you at school tomorrow?”
Part of me never wanted to return, not after today. The thought of walking into the building tomorrow made me want to coil up in a ball. Realistically though, not going to school wasn’t an option.
“Yeah. For sure.” I took off my seat belt and opened the car door. “Thanks for the ride home Kalen.”
I got out of the car and walked up the path to the front door. I turned it, but found myself surprised at it being locked. I dug my key out of my pocket and put it in the lock as Kalen’s car pulled out of the driveway. I stepped inside and closed the door behind me.
“Mom?” I called out, expecting to hear her reply, only it never came. It was odd for her not to be home. She barely left the house these days, unless it was to go grocery shopping. I frowned and pushed the idle concern away. I was glad she was getting out more, maybe it would change her poor view on love. I walked up to my room and dumped my bag on my bed before sitting down in front of my laptop. I lifted the lid and opened my emails. I had a new one, from one of the many out of state colleges I’d applied too. I clicked open and waited for the email to load. The email was generic, thanking me for my application, advising me to open the attachment for my outcome. My heart raced as I clicked download and I waited a few seconds for the file to copy to my computer.
When it opened, a new world of possibilities opened their doors.
Dear Willow Hartford.
We are pleased to offer you a partial scholarship to Edmund University. You’ve impressed us with your various extracurriculars and think that you would be an asset to our school.
If you choose to attend our fine educational establishment please return your course choices and apply for a dorm before the summer break.
Thank you and well done
Edmund University Scholarship Coordinator and Admissions Manager.
I closed the email down and stared at the background of the computer, conflicted about how I felt. I could run if I wanted to. A partial scholarship meant having to work myself through college, with student loans to make up the shortfall, but it had been an outcome I’d expected and planned for. All my hard work had paid off and if I wanted to leave I could.
I opened the chat box and typed a message to G, even though I knew he was probably at school.
S - Hey, so home sick today. Was kind of having a crap morning… but I just got some amazing news.
I waited, not really expecting a response yet, so when one came straight away I was pleasantly surprised.
G - Hey… me too. Think there is some nasty bug spreading through the school. What’s the news.
S - I got an acceptance letter to one of the colleges I applied for!
G - S! That’s amazing. Congratulations.
S - Yeah, just the idea I can leave and have a life is amazing… I don’t know what my plans are yet… but I have options now.
G - So you’re not going to go?
S - I have other applications I put in, and you know… my Mom needs me. I might take a year off and help her out.
G - Really?
S - Don’t judge me. Things can get hectic here… she needs me more than she thinks she does.
G - You’re a good person S, you shouldn’t hold yourself back though. You have so much to offer the world.
S - Why do you say things like that? We’ve barely been in contact a few days and you’ve gone from uber douche to a sweet guy… nobody changes that quickly.
G - Maybe I was never an uber douche.
S - Maybe.
G - Look, I’m really happy for you.
S - Thanks, so uh, why are you replying? Aren’t you at school?
G - Sick… shouldn’t I be saying the same to you?
S - Also sick.
Sick of people…
G - Well, that’s unfortunate, maybe there is a bug going through school.
S - Yeah sounds about right. The bullshit bug, bullshit people spew vile nonsense at you and it leaves you incapacitated for the day.
G - Sounds heavy. Want to talk about it?
S - Nah… I’ll be rehashing the entire day in my head for the rest of eternity… I don’t force that on you too. I uh, I might go shower and stuff. Talk later.
I closed the laptop down before reading G’s response. I knew I’d said to much, and if he kept asking questions he’d figure out who he was talking to. I couldn’t risk him knowing and rejecting me. I needed him, like I found myself needing Kalen. A week ago I’d been invisible and alone and while I’d told myself it was what I wanted, now I wasn’t so sure.
I grabbed different clothes from my wardrobe and walked across to the bathroom. I didn’t expect my father to come and check up on me once he was home from work. He never did usually, but just in case I wanted to look completely different than I had this morning with Kalen. I folded my barely worn clothing up and shoved it in a drawer in my room.
I spent the rest of the day working on my essay assignment, which really just meant I sat there staring at a blank screen for hours, typing then backspacing over and over again. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to say, I wasn’t sure I could even say anything. High school had been hard, I didn’t want to remember it, I didn’t want to remember how it had shaped me into the person I’d become.
At 5 pm on the dot, I heard my father’s car pull into the driveway. Mom still wasn’t home and I knew that he wouldn’t react well to that. He was stuck well in the 1950’s, expectant of a meal cooking and a cold beer poured. The absence of those things had caused arguments before… I swallowed hard and idly wondered if I should have taken her place to keep the peace. Maybe I could’ve cooked or something. I closed my eyes and shook my head… appeasing him only led to me starting the cycle over… not stopping it in its tracks.
I listened as he walked through the house, the slamming of doors and mumbling of various swear words as he paced around. Finally my door flew open and he stood there, his large figure ominous and threatening. He eyed me suspiciously as he looked me up and down.
“Where’s your Mother?” He asked
“I don’t know, I haven’t seen her since yesterday.” I replied… Although I was unsure if it had been yesterday or the day before. Where was she?
His lip curled and it was like he was about to accuse me of lying again. Except he didn’t. He raised his eyebrows and folded his arms across his chest. “I thought I saw you at a park today… with a boy.” his voice was deep and danced on the edge of anger. He studied me, probably gauging my reaction.
“I was at school.” I replied, the lie slipped out easier than I thought it would.
“Good.” he muttered before walking away.
I let out a staggered breath the moment he was gone, despite all my confused feelings about that moment in the park, for all intents and purposes it had worked. That didn’t help me figure it out any better though. I needed to talk to someone about it. I opened the laptop and read the last message G had sent me.
G - You can talk to me about anything S.
S - You there?
G - I’m here. Whats up?
S - I need to work something out. You’re probably the only person that can help me.
G - I’m all ears… or eyes…
S - Something happened… with a friend. A kiss… it wasn’t real. At least I don’t think it was meant to be. My father was going to catch me somewhere I shouldn’t have been and I guess my friend wanted to stop him from seeing me. I’ve been conflicted ever since.
G - Woah.
S - I’m sorry you probably don’t want to hear about my fake non real love life.
G - No.. I do. I just, I struggle to believe that kissing you could be faked.
S - The kiss wasn’t fake, the emotion and feeling behind it… that was, at least I think so.
G - oh your behalf? On his? Did you ask?
S - I don’t know. All I know is that I felt all the things I never felt the very first time. When that guy forced it on me…. Which leads me to believe that deep down, I wanted it.
G - So you like him?
S - Its funny, a week ago I couldn’t stand the guy.
G - Look, S, a kiss with you could never be fake. If you felt all those things, then you can bet he did too. Chemistry doesn’t just go one way. If it had been me, I would have been lost in you. I would have struggled to maintain reality from fiction. It would have physically hurt to stop. S, I like you…. A lot. I’m captivated by you.
S - Woah.
G - Sorry, you’re talking to me about some other guy and I dump that on you. I’m a tool.
S - You don’t even know me.
G - I want to know you. More than you realise.
S - Maybe one day. I don’t really know what I want anymore. I used to want college and to get away and now I feel like I’m stuck and I’m being pulled in every direction… and I don’t know which one I want to go down. I need you though G, I need your friendship. Its like you came to me at a time I really needed you. It’s only been a few days… but it feels like forever.
G - You will always have my friend S. Always.
S - I’ll talk to you later G, I need to think for a while.
G - Bye S.
S - Bye G.
So much has happened and I don’t even know where to begin. Sometimes I feel like days go on forever, like time has no concept of itself. I’ve know G only a few days and he’s become such a pillar of support. I thought he was ass at first, but now… I’m not so sure. Teenage boys don’t usually say they’re captivated by you do they?
I want to know who he is, but I’m scared than if we took that leap of faith he’d be disappointed when it was me there. I know it’s stupid because I know I won’t be disappointed… Still.
Today at school was write off. I walked in and there were photos all over the place of me photoshopped wearing lingerie… attached to pictures of Kalen and I leaving his place… and they’d painted slut on my locker. I ran out. I wanted to be sick. Kalen and I ran into one another and I tried to shake him off. Which is hypocritical of me. I mean he ditched us all those years ago because he thought he needed to be someone else. I tried to ditch him because I didn’t want to be seen with him so that I could be invisible again.
Anyway, he talked me round and we ended up driving to the old candy shop. I’m sorry. I can’t. Not yet.
We were talking and, well my father called my name. So to keep him from thinking it was me, Kalen kissed me.
Stef, nothing in my entire life has felt as real, and yet it was fake. He only did it to help me.
I’m so confused. I wish you were here.
Talk Soon, Willow.