Chapter 3 | Picture Perfect
“Here you go.”
Jeremy sits a fresh cup of hot chocolate in front of me on the counter. I reach my hands out and cup them around the ceramic mug. It’s warm against my skin, so I smile.
“So, how have you been? It’s been forever since I’ve been home.” He smiles, sitting beside me at the island in the middle of the kitchen. It’s quiet, so his parents must be out at work still.
I used to love coming over here with Liam when we were younger. He, Ethan and I would stay up late most nights during the summer playing video games and watching sports. Jeremy would normally be out, but whenever he’d return home, he would usually join us. We haven’t really hung out since he’s been away at college, so it’s nice to catch up.
“I’ve been alright. Not so much recently though.” I sadly smile, trying my best to cover my emotions.
“Yeah, I heard about your mom. I’m really sorry.” He frowns while placing his large hand over my arm.
He starts rubbing small circles against my skin with his thumb. I should be happy at the gesture, but for some reason, it makes me feel uncomfortable.
“Thank you. I’m just happy she’s no longer suffering.” I reply while slowly starting to move my arm away. I use both hands to lift my mug of hot chocolate and take a drink. Any excuse to move my arm away from his grasp.
“Absolutely. So tell me more about you. Any new boyfriends I should know about?” He smirks at me, and I smile back, though I’m not sure why he’s asking me this. He’s never been interested in my love life before.
“Nope, single as a pringle.” I lightly laugh, though it comes out a little strained.
“What a shame. Gorgeous girl like you should have guys lined up for miles.” He smiles wide, and I smile back, though it never fully reaches my eyes.
“Thank you.” My cheeks redden, and I curse myself for having no control over it.
“Seriously if you looked this good when we were younger, I might have tried to get at that.”
My eyes widen as I take another sip of my drink. “Uh, really?”
“Oh definitely.” He nods. His smile only grows and I discreetly glance at my phone to check the time.
“It’s getting late, I should start to head home. My dad should be home soon and he’s going to help me with my car.” I explain before standing up. “It was nice catching up with you.” I smile.
Before I can walk away, Jeremy takes hold of my wrist, stopping me in my tracks.
“Hang on a second, I want to show you something.” He gets up and leads me into the living room. As we start to head for the stairs, I begin to feel nervous.
“Where are we going?” I ask.
“Upstairs, it’ll only take a second.” He assures me, so I nod and follow along.
Once we reach the stairs, he leads us down the long hallway to a bedroom. He pushes the door open and we both walk inside. I step around him, and that’s when I hear him close the bedroom door.
I guess I missed it when he locked it.
“So, what are you trying to show me?” I ask, while looking around his childhood bedroom. Ethan, Liam and I used to play hide and seek all the time growing up. I remember Jeremy used to yell at us if we tried to hide in his room without his permission.
“I found this old picture, it’s here somewhere.” He says while walking over to his dresser. He starts fumbling around with a few things before he turns back toward me.
He walks over and hands me a picture. “Remember this?” He smiles.
I look at the picture and let out a small laugh.
“Gosh, yes. That was a fun day.” I smile.
Jeremy has me up on his shoulders, while Liam and Ethan pose beside us. We were all outside in the backyard. It was during Ethan’s tenth birthday party.
“I miss how close we all used to be.” Jeremy sighs. “Growing up isn’t exactly fun.”
“You’re telling me.” I agree.
I don’t notice when Jeremy takes a small step closer to me.
“You were such a cute kid Dallas. Almost makes me want to pick you up and put you on my shoulders again.” He smirks while eyeing me up. “You are picture perfect.”
“I’m sure.” I laugh, though it’s forced.
Before I even realize what’s happening, he’s leaning down and grabbing my face. I have no time to react before feeling his lips pressed against my own. It takes me a second to realize what’s going on, and when I try to move away, his arms go around my waist pulling me closer.
He forces his tongue inside of my mouth, and that’s when panic starts to set in.
I finally manage to push him back a little, and when our lips disconnect, I take a few deep breaths.
“Jeremy, what the hell?” I glare while wiping his saliva from my lips.
“Oh come on. I know you’ve had a crush on me forever. It’s been pretty obvious.” He smiles, taking another step closer toward me.
“I’m sorry if you misread something, but I do not nor have I ever, had a crush on you.” I say, taking another step back. My back hits the wall and I realize he has me cornered.
Something shifts in his deep brown eyes, and suddenly I feel very anxious to get out of here.
“I don’t believe that for a second. The way you always used to look at me or touch me when we would play. I only wish you still did that now.” He smirks again, and that’s when my stomach drops.
He finally closes the gap between us and presses his body up against my own.
Immediately I feel a bulge in his pants, which makes me feel very uncomfortable.
“Jeremy please move. I want to leave.” I say in a stern voice. I don’t want him to know that I’m scared.
He may react poorly if he senses my fear.
“But you just got here.” He whispers against my face. His hot breath wafts around my nose, and I have to physically keep myself from looking disgusted.
“Jeremy, I mean it. Move.” I try to push him away, but he takes both of my wrists in each one of his hands before pinning them against the wall above my head.
“Don’t pretend like you don’t want this.” He smirks. He licks his lips seductively, though I feel anything but seduced.
“I definitely don’t.” I dryly state which causes his eyes to turn to slits. His grip tightens around both of my wrists as he forces his lips against my own again. I try to move my head but I have nowhere to go.
My body starts to shake with fear as he releases my wrists and drags his fingertips down my arms and sides. Luckily, I’m still wearing my sweater so he never touches my skin.
Before I have time to react, I feel his fingertips lift my sweater up and when I feel his hands run along my stomach and waistband of my jeans, I immediately turn on my defense mode.
“Jeremy stop!” I say a little louder, but soon regret it as he punches me directly in the stomach, knocking the wind out of me.
I gasp for air and wince at the immediate pain throbbing against the skin of my stomach.
He reaches for my jeans and just as he undoes the button and starts to grab the zipper, I decide that this isn’t going to happen to me today. I use all of my strength to lift my knee up and hit him in the groin area. His hands immediately fall to his private and as he falls back, I make a dash for the bedroom door.
It’s locked, which slows me down, but once I unlock it and yank the door open I run.
I hear him running down the stairs after me, so I push my legs as fast as they will take me as I make it to the front door.
I pull it open and slam it shut behind me as I run down the driveway and down the sidewalk to my own house.
As I reach the porch, I realize that I left my bag inside Jeremy’s house. My bag which contains my house key.
I sigh and sit down on the porch chair. There’s no way in hell I’m going back there for my bag.
Luckily, I have my phone in my back pocket so I text Liam and tell him to come home.
About twenty minutes later, a random car pulls beside the curb and I watch as Liam and Ethan jump out of the car and look up to the porch. Once they see me, they both wave and head in my direction.
“Why are you sitting out here?” Liam asks.
“I uh, left my house key at school.” I lie. “Can you just open the door?”
“Okay, weirdo.” Liam laughs and I notice Ethan eyeing me.
“You alright?” He asks me, and I nod without looking at him in the eyes.
I cannot look at Ethan in the eyes right now. They resemble Jeremy’s eyes too much.
“Oh where’s the jeep?” Liam asks and that’s when I remember that it’s sitting down at the end of the street near Ethan’s house.
“Oh yeah, I had a flat tire so dad told me to just walk home. Feel free to go take care of that.” I say while heading into the kitchen.
“Want to come with us? We can teach you how to change a tire.” Ethan smirks. “You know, so you’re prepared in the future.”
“I’m good. But you two have at it.” I fake a smile before grabbing a water bottle and heading for the stairs.
“Are you sure? I was going to ask if you wanted to come with us anyway. Jeremy is ordering pizza and he wants us all to come over for a movie.” Ethan says and I look anywhere but his face.
“I said I’m good.” I snap a little too harshly.
“Uh, okay. See you tomorrow.” Ethan replies with a confused expression.
Before I make it upstairs, I hear Liam say, “Don’t mind her. Must be that time of the month”, and then the two of them laugh before I hear them walk back out of the house.
When I finally make it to my bedroom, I slam the door shut and lock it. I lean against the door and take a few deep breaths just as fresh tears fall down my cheeks.
If I hadn’t of kicked Jeremy, he could have raped me.
I shiver at the word.
Why Jeremy? He was always so normal and fun when we were all growing up. Never in the history of our entire lives have I ever questioned his judgement or felt uncomfortable around him. He was almost like another older brother to me.
What the hell happened?
I shake my head and stand up straight. I wipe the tears from my cheeks and set the water bottle down on my bedside table. I plug my phone into the charger and head into my bathroom. I shut the door and lock it as well.
I immediately turn on the sink water and grab my toothbrush. I can still feel his slimy tongue moving around inside of my mouth. I hurriedly brush my teeth as goosebumps appear on my skin. I brush my teeth for probably ten whole minutes, and then I strip out of my clothes and step into the shower once the water is warm enough.
I spend twenty minutes in the shower just washing my body. I feel so disgusting after what just happened today. Thankfully, it didn’t go any further than a couple of kisses and a punch to the gut. It probably could have been so much worse, had I not fought back.
I look down at my stomach and see light shades of purple. It will be darker by morning. The warm water almost hurts as it hits the tender spot where Jeremy punched me.
When I get out of the shower, I grab my bottle of Motrin and down two of them for the pain, before laying down under my covers.
I don’t want to talk to anyone. I don’t want to see anyone.
I’m not hungry. I’m not thirsty.
I just want to be left alone for the rest of the night.
The next morning I wince as I sit up in bed. My stomach is throbbing and it pains me to know why.
I look at the clock and notice I’m early waking up, so I use the extra time to prepare myself for the long day ahead.
I skip a shower, since I took one before going to bed. Instead, I brush my hair out and then put it in a side braid, not at all in the mood to style it.
I pull on a pair of grey sweatpants and a simple black V-neck T-shirt before pulling my black hoodie over it. I pair it with my black Converse and then I grab my phone from its charger before heading downstairs.
I don’t even bother with any makeup. I’m not in the mood for anything.
“Well aren’t you nice and gloomy this morning.” Liam comments after looking over my outfit.
“Just lazy today.” I shrug. I walk over to the coffee pot and debate making a pot before school.
I really hope Lexi gets us a Keurig for Christmas.
I end up skipping the coffee, and settling for a bottle of orange juice.
“I’ll meet you in the car. You’re driving.” I say to Liam. Before he can reply to me, I walk out of the kitchen and outside of the house. I unlock the jeep and sit in the passenger side. I stick the key into the ignition and start the car. I turn on the heat and let it run before blasting it and turning up the radio.
I’m not in the mood for small talk today either, so hopefully the music gives Liam a clue.
“You’re very cheerful today.” Liam says as he buckles himself in and backs out of our driveway.
“Just not in a very good mood.” I reply.
“Care to elaborate?” He pushes for answers, answers that I don’t want to give him.
Liam drops it after that, knowing when it’s time to leave me alone.
He stops outside of Ethan’s house, and my stomach drops again. I bring my knees up to my chest and hug them to me as I look out of the window the opposite way from Ethan’s house.
I hear footsteps from outside and as I glance at Ethan, I see Jeremy in the doorway behind him.
He instantly sends me a smile and a chill runs down my spine.
I immediately avert my gaze and face forward, looking straight ahead.
“Hey losers.” Ethan says once he’s seated inside the car. He shuts the door and Liam waves to Jeremy before pulling away and heading to school.
“Hey Dal, you left this at my place yesterday. You didn’t mention that you saw Jeremy. Why didn’t you wanna come over last night to watch the movie?” Ethan reaches forward and hands me my bag that I left at his house yesterday.
“Just didn’t feel like it. Thanks.” I say while taking my bag from him.
“Okay seriously, what’s up? You’ve been in a mood since yesterday.” Liam says and I do not want to answer him, but I know that I have to.
“Honestly, I just don’t feel too good. Nothing serious.” I brush off.
I don’t know why I’m not telling them what happened. I should be.
One look in the mirror at Ethan, and I realize that I just simply don’t know how to tell them. Jeremy is Ethan’s brother and Liam’s childhood friend. How am I supposed to just destroy their image of him and ruin Ethan’s family?
I’d much rather try to forget it ever happened and avoid Jeremy at all costs.
Probably sounds insane, but that’s all I can handle doing right now. I still need time to process everything and time to get over what happened. I don’t know how far Jeremy would have gone, had I not fought back. A million different thoughts are clouding my mind, and until I sort them out, I don’t want to start something that may backfire on me.
I mean, who knows what Jeremy is capable of. He could easily lie and say I came onto him. Or, he could say it never happened and that I’m just crazy and making up lies about him.
Of course his parents would believe him over me. Ethan and Jeremy’s parents are so sweet and kind and love their sons with everything inside of them. There is no way they would believe for a second that Jeremy is capable of doing something so heinous.
Even I didn’t believe it to be true.
I guess you never really know someone, the way you think you do.
When we arrive to school, I skip small talk with Liam and Ethan and head straight inside to my locker. Lexi is already at her locker, and she smiles at me once I step beside her.
“Hey! I didn’t hear from you last night.” She says and it takes me a couple seconds to register her words versus the thoughts running rampant through my mind.
“Oh, sorry. I fell asleep early. Was tired I guess.” I shrug while pulling my locker open.
“Okay, well do you want to hangout tonight? My place.” She asks, and I nod.
“Yes. I’ll meet you at your place after school.” I smile and she shuts her locker before giving me a side hug.
“See you in third!” She says while walking away.
“See you!” I shout back, but the smile on my face instantly disappears the second she’s out of sight.
“Hey, I’m not sure why you won’t talk to me, but Jeremy asked me to give you this. Said you left it at our place whenever he tried to give it to you.” Ethan suddenly says from behind me.
He reaches out and hands me the picture Jeremy showed me of Ethan’s tenth birthday party.
My stomach twists and I hesitantly take the picture before mumbling a thanks, and turning back to my locker.
“Okay, see you.” Ethan sighs before turning and walking away.
I look at the picture, and the longer I stare at it, the worse I feel. Tears well up in my eyes, but I do everything in my power not to let them fall.
I grab the picture from the top and rip it in half. I toss the pieces into my locker before slamming it shut. A few students walking nearby glance at the loud slam.
I wipe the sleeves of my hoodie under my eyes to dry the unshed tears, before turning and walking to class.
I really miss my mom.