The Rose Collection (18+)

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04 | the costume party (A,F)

Tonight I was getting ready to attend an end-of-the-year costume party thrown at the house of one of the most well known guys at Riverside high school.

Elijah Hemmings.

He also happened to be a guy I had intense feelings for. Yeah, it sounds cliche but it was easy to fall for him, although it wasn't my intention. He'd been one of the first people I met as a freshman, aside from my best friend Jace. We were even lab partners for a semester, and the more we talked, the stronger my feelings grew.

His personality was warm, and if I'm not getting too confident, I'd say he may have even liked me too. At lunch he would always call me over to sit with him and his friends. He'd make me laugh so hard that I could barely focus on eating.

I did a pretty good job at keeping my feelings under wraps, but I wanted to finally make my move at his party. It was a long shot, but I figured if we wore similar costumes, I could approach him with a smaller amount of nerves. This way we'd have something easy to start a conversation off of.

A source told me he'd be wearing a pumpkin costume, and that is the very reason I squeezed my big head into the rather small opening of the top of a pumpkin suit.

"Olivia!" my best friend called out to me. His booted footsteps neared my bedroom.

"Jace, don't come in! I'm having technical... er- difficulties."

"Um, okay?"

I heard him sigh dramatically on the other side of my wooden door. Right on cue, the floor boards creaked at the top of the staircase. The telling sign that he took a seat and pulled out his phone to play racing games. He did it whenever he was bored.

In my defense, he was always arriving to my house super early. Wasn't my fault I needed more than 15 minutes to get ready. I don't know how he did it.

Once the thick orange fabric was over my head, I pulled the remaining length of the suit down to my lower thighs that were clad in sheer black tights. My plain black vans were simple enough to tie the look together.

The last thing I needed to do was smooth down my wavy chestnut colored hair and put on my green stem headpiece. It had a security strap that took just a second to slip on. Waddling to my mirror, I gave myself a once over and sighed.

"The things I do for lo-"

"Olivia, I just won 15 drag races in the time you've been in your room. What are you doing? A pirate costume doesn't have that many components."

I paused, listening to him through the door. From the extra clear sound of his voice I could tell he was standing directly in front of it now.

"All you need is a skirt, boots, a top with puffy sleeves and an eyepatch. You don't even have to do your hair 'cause pirates aren't lookers," he continued.

I rolled my eyes, a slight grin playing on my lips. I forgot to notify Jace about my last minute costume change. Grabbing my phone off my bed, I took one last look in the mirror.

"I'm coming out now, relax."

He blinked once upon seeing me, which suddenly made me feel self conscious. But, I quickly pasted on a confident smile and raised my chin high. I looked fine. My plan would work. Tonight would be the start of a new friendship... maybe even something more later down the line if things went well.

"Your pirate costume is under that bulbous thing, right?" Jace questioned, pointing at me.

I jabbed his right shoulder. "I'm not gonna be a pirate tonight. This is my costume," I said, gesturing from my stem to my feet.

He stood there unfazed as if the wind had lightly tickled him instead of my fist colliding with his shoulder.

"Huh. Well, let's get going then. We don't wanna be too late. In this case you wouldn't even be able to say it was fashionably."

That earned him another jab, but this time around he just laughed at me.

"You're an ass." I said, glaring at him.

It was hard to keep a straight face because I actually wanted to laugh along with him. It was funny. The pumpkin suit wasn't doing me any sort of justice.

"And you are... adorable." He accentuated the word with a wink before making his way down the stairs and out the front door.

I stood at the top of my staircase, shaking my head. I couldn't believe I spent the last four years every day with that kid. Then again, it's probably because I learned to love him somewhere along the way.

~*~

The ride to Elijah's house was about 20 minutes. I spent the majority of it trying to guess what Jace was supposed to be for the night.

He wore a long, tattered brown robe that went down to his calves. There was a hood attached to the robe that was draped over his layered black hair. Underneath it he had on a pair of black jeans. His naturally warm olive skin was painted a ghoulish grey color and his brown eyes were rimmed with thick circles of smudged black makeup.

"Okay, okay. I got it! You're a homeless zombie."

"Wrong," he replied, chuckling lightly.

"Are you kidding?! I swear I had it this time," I exclaimed in shock.

"Give it up, Liv. All of your guesses sucked," he said with his eyes on the road ahead of us.

"... you could have totally been a zombie cult leader," I said, casually crossing my arms.

"I think you're the only person who'd ever guess something like that."

"Well maybe if you picked an easier cos-"

Before I could finish my sentence, my phone beeped, catching my attention. A user by the name of 'QueenLexyy1207' requested for me to join her livestream on Instagram. I had no idea who this was or why she was contacting me out of all people, but that's what prompted me to accept her request.

When the app opened up, I presumed the video stream footage was from Elijah's party. I watched as the person holding the camera showed a few different angles of the grand entryway with a spiraling staircase, before traveling to the living room area.

There were people bumping and grinding, drinking and laughing. But when my eyes focused on the couch in corner of the room that's when I saw it. That was the moment I physically felt my heart split in two jagged pieces.

"Alexa, slow down before you swallow 'em whole, girl!" the cameraman shouted.

The blonde girl dressed in a tight black catsuit with black feathery angel wings and thigh high boots, was in fact the source I talked to earlier in the week. She was the very one who told me Elijah would be dressed as a pumpkin.

Alexa was the one who encouraged me to pursue him. Yet there she was making out with him, running her rhinestone tipped nails through his long champagne colored hair... and there Elijah was, his hands copping a feel of anything he could drunkenly find. Her behind, her breasts, her neck, her hair...

He wasn't even fucking dressed as a pumpkin. Instead, he was an angel dressed in all white.

Alexa's perfect match.

Before I realized, a thick tear slipped from my eye and splattered onto the screen of my phone. My vision got blurrier with every tear I tried to stop from falling. It was no use. They wouldn't let up.

Jace's eyes were on me. They burned holes into the side of my head. He knew. If only he didn't always pay such close attention to me.

A minute later he completely pulled over to the side of the road and shut off the car engine. I ripped of my headpiece and threw it at my feet before assaulting it with angry, heavy footed stomps.

"Hey... what's wrong?" Jace asked.

I didn't reply. Instead -to my luck- my face heated to a hundred degrees as a fresh batch of tears flooded my eyes. Right there I sobbed. God, I couldn't believe how much just one guy affected me.

"If you're upset because of what I said about your costume, I'm sorry. I didn't mean for it to be anything other than a joke."

"It's... I- it's not you. Elijah...he-"

"What did he do?" Jace's tone was angry, but I could hear the worry underlining it.

The air finally returned to my lungs and I leaned my head on the seat, taking a few deep breaths to calm myself. I didn't trust my voice not to break, so instead I rewinded the video and handed him my phone. He watched about one third of it before looking back at me with a confused frown on his face.

"Personally I wouldn't want intimate videos of me and my girlfriend on the internet. But, um, I don't understand why you're showing me this."

The word "girlfriend" made me wince. I wasn't sure if it was because he was insinuating that Alexa was Elijah's girlfriend or that he himself had one. But I shook the thought away.

"I've had a crush on Elijah since- well, forever and seeing him with Alexa hurts. Especially when she was the one who gave me the push to go after him."

Jace went dead silent. When my eyes met his, they were cold and angry. His jaw was clenched tightly as he clutched and released the steering wheel.

"Jace?"

"What the fuck is wrong with you?" he spat.

My mouth pulled into a rigid grimace at his harsh tone and choice of words.

"Excuse me? What the fuck is wrong with you?!" I shouted, flailing my hands. "I just got my heart broken and this is how you react??"

He simply stared out ahead at the dark, empty road.

"You're not acting like my best friend right now, Jace. You're actually pissing me off."

I watched as he crashed his fist into the steering wheel, setting off the horn.

"I'm sorry. I didn't mean it like that," he said.

"Then what, how did you mean it?" I asked, folding my arms over my chest.

"Why did you have to fall for him? Of all guys it just had to be Elijah, the pretty faced man-whore. Why not..." he shook his head. "You deserve better than him."

One of his hands left the steering wheel and found mine, squeezing gently. "So much better, Liv."

This time when I looked into his eyes, I didn't see anger. But instead pain. He stared at me as if I'd just ripped his heart out and feasted on it right in front of him. Utter devastation.

"I- are you okay?" I stammered.

His hand never left mine as he spoke. "This isn't about me, it's about you."

"But I think it is about you now. Why are you looking at me like that, Jace?"

"Like what?"

"Jason Anthony, don't play dumb with me."

He sighed, mashing his cheeks with both of his hands. "Okay... it's because I love you."

"I love you too, but-"

"No. Olivia, I'm in love with you. I have been since freshman year."

It was as if time slowed down to a full stop. My pulse banged in my ears as my mind played his confession on a loop, over and over and again. What the hell?

Without thinking, I pushed open the passenger side door and bolted down the road. Jace immediately followed after me.

"Olivia!"

I ran till my feet hurt from pounding into the rocky pavement below them. Doubling over, I rested my hands on my knees trying to catch my breath. The last time I ran like that was two years ago as a sophomore when I did track.

From underneath the curtain of hair covering my face, I saw my best friend's feet stop in front of me. Returning to my full height, I noticed the hood of his robe had fallen off, revealing his mussed black hair.

"Jesus, what were you thinking running off like that?! It's dark and anyone could be out here.”

"... I'm sorry. Running was the first thing that came to mind."

"Right after I tell you I'm in love with you? Ouch."

Like a child, my hands flew to my ears, trying to block out the sound. "Ugh! You don't mean that. I think you're mistaking our closeness for something that it isn't."

"Are you seriously trying to tell me how I feel right now?" He took a step toward me. Then a couple more until he was just inches away. I had to crane my neck upward to meet his unwavering gaze.

"Olivia..." his voice was low and uneven.

A tremor rocked my body as his hands, strong and warm, slowly slid up my bare forearms, gripping them gently.

"Give me a chance to show you that my words are true. I'd do anything for you, and I'm more than certain I'll make you happy. I'll treat you better than he can. I'll make you laugh harder and I'll make you smile wider. Sweetheart, I'll make you feel things you've never felt before."

"Jace..."

"But only if you let me."

My head was reeling. I couldn't breathe. My heart violently thrashed around in my rib cage. Was this really happening?

Before I could think about it any longer, Jace snaked an arm around my torso and tugged me up against his chest. His free hand traveled upward from my spine to cradle the back of my head, and in the same instant, the pair of lips I always thought of as forbidden descended on mine. Like a statue I became stiff. My eyes were wide in disbelief as he continued to move.

"Please... kiss me back.”

An involuntary sigh escaped my mouth at his gentle command. Finally letting my eyes flutter closed, I leaned in and kissed him back. It was odd at first. The thought of him being my best friend kept swimming to the front of my mind, but I fought hard to push it back. When I did, I was able to lose myself in him.

Our lips moved together in a slow, sensual rhythm. I draped my arms over his shoulders and pulled him in closer, the gap between us now sealed airtight. Jace groaned, lightly nibbling on my lower lip. We were both breathless and dizzy by the time we pulled apart.

“Damn... that was better than I dreamed it would be.”

A tiny smile spread across my face, but Jace, on the other hand, palmed his face. I don’t think he meant to say that out loud.

“So you’ve dreamt about me, huh?” My tone was teasing and he knew it.

“A little bit. Most of the time it was me sacrificing you to the monsters in my closest,” he replied, shrugging.

I clutched my chest in feigned hurt. “That’s cold. But you’re 19, haven’t you grown past the monster stage?”

“Some things just don’t change, Liv.”

“You’re such a fool,” I said, shaking my head.

“A fool for you.”

“Oh no, you’re corny too! I want my asshole best friend back.”

He chuckled lightly. “C’mon, let’s get back to the car.”

~*~

For a while, the two of us sat in silence. There was no doubt that things had changed. But I really didn’t know where to begin, so I didn’t say much at all.

“I meant what I said earlier, and I want to give this a shot.”

I stared at my lap, weaving my fingers in and out of each other. “But I don’t wanna lose what we have.”

“Who says things have to change?“

“I dunno, the laws of physics?? Best friends don’t kiss.”

“How about you stop with that label. We can be two people who want to make the other happy, and if something were to go wrong, I don’t think either of us would let it get to the point of ruining our friendship.”

He was right. We’d be able to bounce back. Maybe being together wouldn’t be as bad as I thought.

“So...” Taking his hand in mine, I rubbed the back of it with my thumb. “What if I said I wanted to give this a shot too?”

Jace’s eyes lit up with pure delight. “I- I would be so damn happy. Please tell me that’s what’s happening.”

“Yeah, it’s happening. But I wanna take it slow right now, I’m still kinda hurt.”

“I understand, I don’t wanna rush anything anyway. You’re worth the wait.”’

Leaning across the armrest of my seat, I placed a sweet kiss on his cheek. “Thank you.”

“So, what do you wanna do about the party?” he asked, tapping the steering wheel.

“I really don’t wanna go anymore, but that doesn’t mean you can’t.”

Jace looked at me “If I go, I’m dropping that motherfucker to the ground.”

Knowing he was talking about Elijah, I laughed and shook my head. “And the last thing we want is you in a holding cell. Wanna grab a burger and fries?” I suggested.

“Always down for a burger.”

“The diner?”

“Yeah, let’s do it.”

We buckled up and pulled back out onto the open to road, this time in the opposite direction. I thought I’d end tonight with Elijah on my arm, but I walked away with someone so much better. Someone I know who’d never hurt or betray me. Someone who’d been right beside me the entire time.

Fuck that costume party.

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