A cloud hung over my head while walking out of the locker rooms and entering the building connected to the gymnasium. I wasn’t planning on skipping my English class, but I had lost track of time with Dakota. I wish I had a cooler story to tell someone about what happened in the locker room.
Out of all of the girls who had skipped class with a guy, I probably spent my time in the most uninteresting way.
Instead of swapping spit behind stairways, he held me in his arms until I told he that I felt better, and even after I said that, we remained in that same position, enjoying each other’s warmth.
The entire time, he twirled his fingers into my hair and softly combed through it, holding me close and humming under his breath an unknown song that soothed more than his presence alone.
Despite the undeniable surge of emotions Dakota evoked out of me, that didn’t change the trust issues we had engraved in our relationship. Our brief discussion only messed up my emotions more than they already were. I cared about Dakota and wanted him in my life—of course I did—but that didn’t mean I was ready to rush back into a relationship.
Moving too fast was our flaw from our first try at being a couple. I expected too much from him and wanted a picture perfect relationship whereas he was seldom to express how he felt about anything besides showing me how angry I could make him.
There was so much conflict going on inside of me. My heart fought against my head, declaring that nothing bad would happen if I did get back with him. But right as that settled into my mind, a new train of thoughts penetrated that statement, proving it to be wrong and saying I was an idiot if I fell for his tricks. I didn’t want to make the same mistake twice.
“What’s wrong?” Dakota’s voice called at me as I got lost in my own head. We were on our way to his locker so I could have someplace to put my wet clothes.
He paused before turning the corner. The hallway that would lead directly to his locker was close by. His stare hardened when I didn’t respond right away. I watched silently as he brought his hand to my face, cupping it.
“I’m fine. I’m just thinking to myself.” I brushed his hand off and sauntered past him, going towards his locker. “We need to get to class.”
I was afraid that I’d miss another class because of him. He was thoughtful enough to bring me the spare clothes, but I couldn’t ditch anymore classes with all of this talking. Whenever Dakota was in close proximity, I always did dumb things or got dumb ideas that I’d regret later.
Dakota reached the locker after me, taking his time to unlock it. He kept his eyes on the lock, putting in the combo while saying: “Are you doing anything this weekend? Do you have any plans?”
My mouth opened, hesitating on my answer. “I’m going to ask Ronnie if she’s busy this Saturday. I’m hoping on getting some help with our Trig homework. There’s a few things that I need to work on and yesterday she offered to help me if I ever needed it.”
“I already finished Trigonometry,” he said, letting the door swing open. He shifted his books around to make room. “I’d be a far better tutor than Ronnie.”
“Doubtful,” I scoffed. “You’re not patient whatsoever.”
“I have patience,” he defended. “I’d be a great teacher. Can’t you imagine me as a teacher with a button-up shirt and a brief case, always looking like I’m going somewhere important?”
“You’d be one of those teachers everyone fears because of the amount of assignments you’d throw at them,” I supplied in a matter-of-fact voice.
Picturing Dakota as a teacher was laughable. Half of the students would probably fantasize killing him while the other half would fantasize sleeping with him. I could already see it in my head, playing out like a movie.
I shook my head. “When did you do the course?”
The motions of his hands inside the locker slowed. “Hmm, I think I was in Freshman year. It’s not that big of a deal. I remember it being easy.”
I placed my towel in the small corner he had left open for my stuff. My wet clothes were inside the towel.
“Your memory must be distorted because it isn’t easy. I was able to get a B in the end,” I said, “That’s mainly because I had to go to nearly every study hall Ms. Fisher offered.”
“You went to every study hall?” he repeated, baffled. “And you still only got a B? I never went to any of them and I had a ninety-eight in the class by the time I finished the course.”
“I hate you,” I gritted my teeth. “Honestly, I do.”
He knocked his head back, chuckling even louder. “Aw, don’t take it personal. Getting a B isn’t so bad. I kinda thought you’d get something lower, to be honest.”
I did my best not to scold him. wasn’t the worst academic student at Crescent High. I had to keep my grades high in Middle School when I was on the track team and also when I was a Freshman High School. Now that I was back on a sports team, I had to remain at a C grade level or higher. I wasn’t complaining about my markings, but I always disliked the fact that he wasn’t shy about bragging about he’s great grades and belittling me.
“For once, I thought you were different and we could actually go at least a day without you insulting me in someway. But I was wrong.” I tossed the wet clothes on the floor and begin to walk off.
Dakota swiftly linked his arm to his, pulling me to the side and gently backing me into him. He circled around me, looking down with a frown on his face. “I didn’t mean that. I was teasing. I’m sorry.” I broke eye contact, but he redirected my gaze by softly tapping his fingers to my chin, lifting it up. “I’m sorry, Silvia. I wish could say sorry for a million things I did to you. For starters, I wish I told you how incredible you are more often. You’ve only been here at Crescent High for one semester and you’ve already broken track records that have been at a school since the 90s.” He tilted his head, stroking his thumb along my cheek. “Your unbelievably funny without even knowing it and bold. And ah, how can I forget your impressive skills with a Swiss Army knife?”
I clear my throat, fighting back the tears. “You say all of that, but still its undeniable that academics achievements are easier for you than for me.”
“You make it seem like I came out of my mom, shouting about the Pythagorean Theorem.” He shut the locker and threw his head back. “I practiced, day in and day out. I can prove it to you. If I help, by the end of the term you’ll be able to— ”
“No,” I said, jerking my head and getting out of his reach. His hand fell to his side.
“I didn’t even finish my sentence. You don’t know where I was going with that idea.”
“Yes, I do. You were going to suggest helping me study and we both know how stupid that idea is.”
“Why? Because your dad?”
“Oh, I’m not worried about my dad. I’m more worried what my brother might do. He doesn’t like you at all and he’s gone in detail on how he’d beat you up.”
In the matter of three seconds, Dakota’s expression flickered a wide vary of emotions. He was dumbstruck, astonished, and then sudden a pale complexion settled on his face.
Gradually, he regained color on his face. “Um. So your place is off the list? Yeah?”
“I don’t think it was ever on the list,” I remarked. There wasn’t anyone I could name that liked Dakota. I was sure it was the same for him when it came to me. Turning around to the opposite direction, I walked to my next class before the bell would ring and the hallways would be crowded with bodies. There was no point in going to the class I basically ditched. I went to my next class instead and planned on waiting outside the room until the bell rang.
Dakota wasn’t too far behind. “You could come to mine. That is an option.”
“Dion would be okay with that?”
He barked a laugh. “Oh, I’m not talking about his apartment. He’s been staying a lot over at my mom’s place, but he recently started going back to his place. It’s the Saturday tomorrow though which means I have to take care of Ophelia. He has late meetings on Saturdays.”
“Well, doesn’t your mom always take care of her?” I asked in a whisper.
“Yeah, but she needs a break. I mean, she’s always home but that doesn’t mean she always needs to babysit,” he replied with a small grin. “Frankly, I don’t mind.”
I zeroed in on the carpeted floor, finding interest in the different specks of color intertwined with the gray fibers. One of the main people who didn’t like me lived in that house. She didn’t go as far as to say it, but her opinion spoke echoes to me through the things she didn’t do.
What did I know though? I had only met her once. It could be better the second time around...it could also be worse.
Sensing the change in my mood, Dakota prodded me with his elbow, “What is it? Is it about having to babysit?”
“No, it’s not about that. It’s not a good idea in general for me to go to your place at a time like this.”
"A time like this?” He tilted his head. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
I came to screeching stop at the front of the first step that led to my Trig class. My thought from earlier resurfaced.“If I ask you something, can you give me an honest answer?”
“How many people do you know who don’t like us—I mean, me?”
Dakota blew out a long breath. “That’s a long ass list.”
I elbowed his stomach. “Hey.”
“I’m kidding,” he smirked. “My friends over at Boulder Valley High haven’t met you so I’m not going to include them. They don’t really have an opinion on you, or at least none that I know of.”
“How about Heath?”
His hand shot up, scratching the back of his head. “Heath’s a difficult case to discuss.”
Heath was the one person I thought that liked me or at least didn’t mind me. And I wasn’t just saying that because he had slept with my best friend. The way Dakota missed my gaze on purpose told me that Heath wasn’t on my side. “He doesn’t even like me?”
“He doesn’t hate you or like you,” he clarified, “but he wouldn’t go as far as to convince me to not be with you and go for someone else despite the feelings I have.”
I squinted. “I doubt that he wouldn’t do that.”
“Okay, maybe he suggested it, but it’s all harmless. Ronnie did the same thing with you—I know that for a fact. Why else would you go out with that irrelevant guy in theater?”
I playfully knocked my shoulder into his. “You know his name is Gabriel.”
“Yeah, like I said. The irrelevant guy in theater,” he said nonchalantly. “You shouldn’t take any of it to heart though, Silvia. Heath isn’t someone who will make your life hell. If he knows I’m happy, that’s all he cares about. He isn’t like your friend Ronnie who says rude things to me on a daily basis.”
Taking the first step, I covered my mouth with my hand to hide my smile. Ronnie had only showed me the comments on Dakota’s profile after she posted it. She refused to remove them. “I’m sorry about that. She’s really...opinionated.”
“If opinionated is supposed to be a code word for rude without reason, then by all means, used that word,” he proclaimed and started to go up the stairs with me. Seeing that he wanted to walk me to class made me my smile widen, but I fought against it.
When he coiled his hand around my hip, it sprang a grin on my lips that I couldn’t fight off as easily. Prickles ran up and down my arm at the contact and my heart picked up speed. He knew what he was doing and he was doing it well.
Distance, Silvia. Keep the distance, the more logical side of my brain sneered.
We safely reached my class without being stopped by a teacher. Neither of us had hall passes but we were lucky enough to not get caught. To be honest though, I wasn’t entirely sure if students received write ups for not having a hall pass. They didn’t seem that strict.
Dakota didn’t leave me after reaching the classroom. He was still there, almost like he was waiting for something.
My stomach churned while my feet shuffled to the door. I came to an abrupt halt and so did Dakota. We weren’t awkward in the locker room, but suddenly now that we were going to separate into different classrooms, a new sense of tension began to build up my shoulders.
We weren’t together, but I wouldn’t call us friends either. I was never friends with Dakota. Maybe that was another one of our downfalls? If we were friends first, perhaps we would’ve had more respect for each other.
Still uncertain on what to do before going our own ways, I faced Dakota without directly looking at him at first. I could sense him observing my every move. I took a leap backwards, “Eh, I’ll see you later then?”
“Hold on.” Dakota’s brows lowered and he reached for me, enclosing my body with his arms wrapped around me. He brought our bodies closer. My lungs contracted as I stumbled to where he was standing, forgetting my original intentions with my insincere farewell.
His right hand lifted my chin so our lips would meet. We were inches apart, but I stopped anything from happening. I snapped out of the trance I was in and took a precautious step backwards. “This isn’t a good idea either, Dakota.”
His hands flew up with a faint air of disbelief. “What? First, I couldn’t help you out with math homework now I can’t kiss you? Is there anything else I can’t do?”
“Yelling at me isn’t going to fix the problem,” I said in a calmer voice. We were in the middle of a hallway with classes going on at every corner. “Keep your voice down before you get us caught.”
“I’ll be as loud as I want to be,” he said defiantly, taking a step forward. “What problem are you going on about? You can’t say something like that and not expect me to ask.”
“This problem,” I commented, pointing to him and then back at me. “Us. Or whatever this is. I’m not sure what it is, but I don’t want to get into anything I’m not ready for. I care about you, Dakota. But simply because I care for you, it doesn’t change the fact that I get anxiety whenever I think of the all the things you might’ve told...” I looked around, worried anyone was near by. My voice fell to a whisper, “what you told Segg.”
“I don’t understand you, Silvia. A few seconds ago, you didn’t stop me from touching you, but now I’m not allowed to. Where is this all coming from?” He scoffed. “You really still don’t trust me after everything?”
“Honestly speaking, no I don’t. I want to trust you - badly. But I don’t want to make the same mistakes that I’ve already made. I want to take things slow and let things happen on their own. Rushing back into anything I’m not sure of will only get me back in the mess I was in before.”
He leaned back and dragged his palm down the side of his face, letting out a deep groan. “I’ve said sorry countless times. You know why I did what I did and I’m very, very sorry.How much longer are we going to do this?”
“You can’t put a time frame on something like trust, Dakota. It’s happens on its own or it doesn’t happen at all. I can’t even wrap my head around the timeline of what happened when.” I sighed, bringing my back up against the wall. My voice is still low in fear of anyone hearing us. “Last year, Heath told me you set money on me for Segg, showing me a recording of you going to a party, then not too long after, Ronnie suggests that it was done to protect me. And then you tell me a completely different side of the story that’s so confusing that I don’t know what to believe anymore.”
He matched my whisper, lowering his voice. “I’ll tell you everything then. From the beginning.”
“How am I meant to believe it? Telling me for a second time isn’t going to change anything.”
“I-I’ll bring proof of what I did in Segg.” he stuttered, looking around. “I could do that and have Heath use something to show proof that I was where I said I was or show things that will help you believe me.”
“You’d do that?” I asked, dumbfounded on what I had heard. “Wouldn’t that be hard to do?”
“It wouldn’t be hard, but I could get in a lot of trouble. If Finn found out...” he trailed off. “I don’t want to think about what he’d make his friends do to get back at me. But if it means it’ll get you to trust me again, then I’ll take the risk.”
I lifted off the wall. “I can’t let you do that if there’s a risk factor in it.”
If something did end up happening to him, I would hate myself for putting him through it and technically being the cause. I wanted to trust him, but I didn’t want to get him hurt in the process.
“You don’t have to go that far,” I insisted and grabbed his hand out of impulse. “Finn is the last person I want to mess with this year.”
Dakota’s lips tugged into a small smile, darting a look down at my hand that covered his. He leaned in and pecked my creased forehead. “Don’t stress over it. I’ll be fine.” He assured me and moved away from me, causing me to drop my hand off of his. Just as he walked off, the bell rang above our heads and a large mass of students hurried out of classrooms. I lost him within the sea of bobbing heads, rushing to their next class and not bothering to say “excuse me” after bumping into someone.
Down the hallway, I caught a glimpse of Dakota before he turned the corner and he looked back at me, flashing a determined smile on his face. I knew what that smile was meant to mean. He wasn’t going to back down after taking on this challenge to prove himself as trustworthy person. And that probably scared me even more than before.
“Please don’t do anything reckless,” I muttered to myself as fear overcame me. I had a bad feeling that this was going to end tragically, and not just for him, but for the both of us. Even if it was Dakota who only got hurt in the end, I’d forever hold the guilt in my heart, knowing I was the reason to why it happened.
I couldn’t let him go through with it.