Strangely, over the course of a few weeks, I have found myself liking Michael more and more. It’s nice to have someone take an interest in what I’m doing.
We started off on the wrong foot, but now I feel like we’re getting on the right track. It’s becoming second nature to me, sitting with my dad in a coffee shop and having a normal conversation about life.
At the back of my mind, I’m still feeling guilty that I’m here with Michael and Grayson isn’t. This is his dad too and he acted as if I’ve stolen him away.
“I’m sorry that this is happening – that Grayson is choosing to go halfway across the country to distance himself from us both,” I tell him, picking at a loose fingernail. “I feel like I’ve broken up a family.”
Michael hovers his hand over mine and it’s oddly reassuring. “Skye, don’t be sorry. All of this was meant to happen for a reason. If it hadn’t, I would have continued not knowing who you really were. Grayson is leaving because he isn’t ready to hear the truth yet. Right now, he’s only listening to his mother because he feels sorry for her and thinks that I’m the bad guy.”
I guess I can’t be angry at Grayson for assuming that. He’s just defending his mother because he doesn’t want anyone accusing her or hurting her, which is what I would have done if the roles were reversed.
“Have you tried talking Grayson into staying?” I ask Michael, swirling the straw around in my milkshake.
“I’ve tried to talk it through with him, but he’s too angry to even speak to me. I’ve attempted to explain my version of the story, but he doesn’t want to hear it. He only insisted that I make amends with Linda, and when I told him I couldn’t do that, he said that he hated me…”
His head drops and I can see how much this is affecting him. He’s gained a daughter and lost a son in the process. He’s torn between two worlds and he shouldn’t have to choose between them. It shouldn’t be that difficult. But Linda has made this complicated for everyone.
My fingers twitch underneath his hand. He looks up at me, sadly. “You could always go with them,” I suggest, not really meaning it. “You’ve been in Grayson’s life for much longer than mine. It makes sense.”
His eyes remain fixed on me. “I’m not going to leave now, not when I’ve only just found out about you. Grayson will come back. He just needs space.” He grips my hand tighter.
I somehow doubt that Grayson is looking to return anytime soon. He’s the type of person that can hold a grudge forever.
“I want to make this work Skye,” Michael continues, “I am just starting to get to know you and I’m enjoying this… aren’t you?”
I pause for thought and then nod. “Yes.”
His face relaxes. “Have you spoken to Rory yet?”
Rory showed up at my house last night… again. But I refused to let him in. I haven’t forgiven him and I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to.
“No. I don’t want to see him.”
Michael nods. “Can I be honest with you?” No. “He’s not a bad kid. Why don’t you give him a chance to explain himself?”
“There’s no point. He’s just going to tell me that he’s sorry and that he shouldn’t have done what he did. It’s not going to make a difference.”
“I know that he was wrong to lie to you. But, I shouldn’t have placed that much pressure on him. It wasn’t fair.”
“But he still went along with it! He didn’t have to. It’s not like you blackmailed him…” I think it over, “Actually, you sort of did when you offered him the money and everything but he had a choice. He could’ve said no. Instead, he took the money and made me believe that he genuinely just wanted to be my friend.”
“I understand what you mean. Looking back though, were there any moments you felt that he was trying to tell you the truth?”
I think back to that one drunken night, when he kissed me on the head and told me he was sorry. I didn’t think too much into it at the time, because he could have been apologising for anything. Then there was the time he said he needed to tell me something and my mother interrupted us before he could.
And then the other time was when we were in the supply closet in college, which was only a couple of days after we’d cleaned Grayson’s pool. He’d asked me to meet him outside the gym. But then he chose not to say anything when we were face to face and mentioned the friendship thing instead.
It was all fake.
The truth is, he had plenty of opportunities to confess what he knew. But, he didn’t.
I look at Michael, sadly. “Yes. And that’s the worst part.”
I always make sure I leave slightly earlier from college to avoid bumping into Rory. But, as I’m walking towards my house, I find him leaning against the wall, waiting for my return.
I freeze, feeling the fear burn a hole in my chest. I attempt to turn around. However, he is not going to disappear. And if I don’t deal with him now, then I never will.
It takes me a few seconds to gain enough courage, but slowly I approach him and it doesn’t take long for his eyes to find me.
I’ve never seen him look so unlike himself. Bags are under his eyes. He clearly hasn’t been sleeping, not that I’ve had much luck myself. His hair hasn’t been brushed and some light stubble is growing along his jaw, making him look a lot older.
I stop in front of him and we stare at each other. For someone I thought I knew so much about, he resembles nothing but a stranger to me now.
It feels like a lifetime before he fills the silence. “I know you don’t want to see me. And I know that you hate me. I hate myself.”
I turn my head away. He’s not getting the sympathy vote. Not a chance.
“I wanted to tell you so many times Skye. It’s no excuse, but when Michael first asked me to start being friendly with you, I agreed to it because I was only thinking of myself and I needed the money. I mean, who could refuse such an offer?"
"I was getting paid just to be friends with someone. It was no skin off my back and it wasn’t as if we already had a strong connection before I agreed to it.”
He sniffs and it’s then I realise he’s starting to get emotional. “I didn’t know you. I thought I had this idea of you from school. But, I was wrong. After hearing your story, I felt bad about what I was doing. I didn’t know why Michael wanted me to keep seeing you. I didn’t know that he was your dad. I need you to know that.”
I give him a single nod. “Michael has already told me the ins and outs.”
“Oh, that’s good then.”
More silence. It’s unbearable.
“You have to know that as soon as I started catching feelings for you, I stopped going to see Michael.”
“Is that supposed to make me feel better?”
“But what? What if you hadn’t caught feelings? Would you have still had the decency to stop? Or would you have continued to mess with me?”
I can see the hurt in Rory’s eyes and it just makes me want to hurt him even more. “Skye, I don’t know what I can do to make any of this better.”
“There’s nothing you can do. Nothing,” I spit.
A wave of emotion crosses his face and then he starts crying. Never in a million years, did I expect to see this side of Rory. It’s not just small sobs either, he’s full on crying in front of my house, where all my neighbours can see. He doesn’t seem to care.
“Just go home Rory.”
He wipes his eyes continuously. “Skye… please,” he begs, making it difficult for me to swallow. “I love you.”
He’s making this so much harder. “No, you don’t.”
“Yes, I do!” he cries. “I - I’ve never felt this way about anyone. I haven’t been able to eat or sleep these last couple of days. It’s been driving me crazy not being able to talk to you.”
The blood instantly rises to my cheeks and I am unable to do anything but listen and stare into his green eyes. I remain as calm as I can, despite wanting to wrap my arms around him and tell him that I feel the same way.
He scans my face with deliberate hope, waiting for me to say something. I don’t.
He takes a step towards me and holds each side of my face. “Please can we start over?”
It takes all my willpower to push his hand away. “It’s too late.”
He grabs onto my arm and tears sting my eyes. “It’s not. Don’t say that.”
“It won’t work Rory.”
He runs a hand over his face, defeated. “You mean the world to me Skye.” As I stand there, deep in thought, Rory takes me by the arm and my eyes fix on his. “I can’t lose you.”
His eyes search mine again. I can’t think of what to say. I am a goldfish in this scenario, only able to open and close my mouth at will.
“You’ve already lost me. I want you to go,” the words pour out of my mouth before I can think them through.
Rory is devastated. He takes a step back and hangs his head. “Do you love me?” he asks.
I stare him right in the eye and say, “No. I don’t.”
Surrendering, Rory backs up, nods his head once before vanishing down the street.
I quickly open the front door and close it quickly, tears streaming down my face. I’ve lost him for good, but it’s for the best.
I cross the living room, only to be greeted by my mother. She floats towards me, arms wide. I walk straight into her embrace, allowing her to hold me as I continue to let my emotions out.
She moves us over to the recliner and we sit down together.
It’s done. He’s gone and I have to accept that.
But I miss him already.
Stop whining over him.
You didn’t tell him you loved him back.
He’s not good for you.
Let him go.
My eyes feel heavy and sore from crying. Despite the whole thing being a hoax, Rory did become a close friend. He seemed to understand me.
I’ve gotten so used to having him around. And now he won’t be there anymore.
I cover my eyes with my hands, groaning into them. This is so confusing.
“So, what happened? I saw you and Rory talking outside. He looked awful,” mum is saying.
“He came to say sorry.”
“Well, that’s got to count for something, hasn’t it?”
I shake my head. “Not really. I don’t care.”
She shoots me a look that says, ‘don’t think you can lie to me.’ “Come on, we both know that Rory means a lot to you. I’m not saying that I support what he did, but he made you happy for a short time.”
He did. But he also made me the mess I am today.
“I just can’t get over it mum. He really hurt me.”
“I don’t think he meant to.”
“He wants another chance. He said that he loves me.”
“Wow. And what did you say back?”
“I told him that I wanted him to leave and that I don’t love him.”
Mum’s hands drop to her knees in disappointment. “Skye!”
“What on Earth did you tell him that for? It’s obvious that you’re in love with the boy. If you weren’t, you wouldn’t feel as hurt as you do now.”
When she puts it like that, it’s hard to disagree with her. “But how do you know when you’re in love?”
Mum runs a hand through her wild curls, trying to tame them. They’re a lot bouncier than usual. “Love is a powerful emotion Skye – it’s wonderful and daunting at the same time. But to love someone is like you’re floating on a cloud and when it rains, it doesn’t dampen your mood. Love brings two people together. It’s not smooth sailing or perfect, because nothing ever is. There’ll be fights and arguments and drama, but when you love someone you can’t bear to be apart from them. You miss them, even if they’re gone only for a few hours. You can’t live without them. That’s what love is.”
The way she describes love, is almost tragic, bittersweet and at the same time… wonderful. She must’ve been really in love with my father.
“Michael hurt you though mum. If you could turn back the clock and erase him from your past, wouldn’t you do it? Look how much pain he caused you. If that’s what love is, it’s not worth it.”
“Skye, it’s better to love than not to love at all. Think of how lonely a place that would be. Rory is a kind and handsome young man. A boy like that won’t stay single for long.”
She’s right. It’ll only be a matter of time before someone else snatches him up. The idea of him having another girl on his arm is making me hot with anger.
“As for your father, I would not erase him from my memory if I was given the chance, because that would mean I never would have had you.”
Hearing her say all of this makes me think about all the fun times I’ve had with Rory and I already know somewhere along the way, I started falling for him, except he turned out to be the wrong person after all.