Just A Little Dare
"I dare you to," Mark Salling nudged his costar playfully as he looked over at the small coffee shop across the street. Sitting alone at a small table by the window was a young girl with light brown hair that was pulled back into a sloppy bun. A pair of thick, plastic framed glasses sat on the end of her nose as she looked down at the screen of the laptop in front of her. He couldn't tell what colour her eyes were as they were too far away and they were currently squinting as she stared at the screen, reading something that she had just typed there.
"I don't know, man," Darren Criss sighed, running his fingers back through his loose, curly brown hair. "It seems kind of like a mean thing to do."
"Are you backing down from a dare?" Mark scoffed. "What are you? A chicken?"
"I am not a chicken!" Darren snapped back. "It's just not nice to lead someone on like that!"
"It's just a little fun," Mark rolled his eyes as he crossed his arms in annoyance. "Come on, Dare! Take one for the team!"
"Fine!" Darren sighed, hanging his head in defeat. "I'll do it."
"Awesome!" Mark grinned successfully, patting Darren on the back. "I knew you'd make the right choice! Now go get her!"
Darren slowly stepped down off the curb, quickly checking both ways before crossing the street and opening the glass door of the small coffee shop. The shop's name, Cups, was written in a dark cursive across the glass of the door.
He slowly walked over and stood in the short line, ordering a medium drip once he reached the counter. Once he had his coffee in his hand, he slowly turned towards the girl at the window. Taking a deep breath, he slowly made his way over to her.
"Hi," he put on a smile as he stopped beside her. She looked up, startled by his voice. Her bright, hazel eyes widened tenfold as she realized who was talking to her.
"H-Hi," she stuttered back, blinking rapidly as if she believed that he might disappear at any moment.
"Is anyone sitting there?" he pointed at the chair opposite her. She quickly shook her head no, quickly moving her laptop so that he could set his drink down. He smiled again as he sat down.
"Hi, I'm Darren Criss," he said, extending his hand to her. She slowly lifted her hand and took his to shake it.
"I'm Elizabeth, umm, I mean, you can call me Liz or Lizzy or really whatever you want-" she stopped suddenly, realizing that she was rambling. Her cheeks flushed with heat, turning them a deep pink shade.
"Liz is a pretty name," Darren smiled, relaxing her. "So what were you doing, Liz?" He tried to peek over the top of her laptop to see the screen. It looked like a Word document was open.
"I-I'm, uh, writing," she blushed again. "Fan fiction."
"Oh?" Darren said, looking interested. "What kind of fan fiction?" Her blush instantly deepened.
"Um, a-a bunch of things," she stuttered slightly, avoiding his gaze. "Characters from books, TV shows, movies-"
"TV shows?" Darren grinned. "Any Glee stuff?"
"Um, maybe," she couldn't meet his eyes. She was too embarrassed that she was actually admitting all of this to him.
"Maybe I'll have to start reading fan fictions then," he winked at her when she sneaked a glance at him. "What's your account name?"
"Um, here," she quickly tore a piece of paper out of the notebook that had been lying on the table beside her laptop. She jotted down something before passing the paper to him. He took it with a smile and looked down at the name on the paper: LonelyGirl11.
"Thanks," he replied, looking back up at her as he slid the paper into his pocket, not really thinking too much of it.
"S-So what are you d-doing here?" she asked suddenly. Darren took a slow, unnoticeable breath before answering her.
"Well, my friend and I," he pointed out the window towards where Mark stood waiting across the street. "Saw you sitting here all alone and we thought that maybe you'd like to join us for dinner." Darren watched her peer through the window, her eyes squinting slightly as she sought to find who Darren had pointed at. Her eyes widened slightly as they spotted Mark, her breath catching slightly in her throat.
"Mark," her voice was barely audible, but Darren was able to catch what she said. He smiled at the look of awe in her eyes, though inside his stomach was twisting into anxious knots. He couldn't do this. He couldn't go through with it. He glanced back out at Mark and knew that the older man wouldn't let him live this down if he backed out now.
"So," he said, turning back to her. "What do you say? Want to join us?"
"I-I would love to!" she exclaimed slightly.
"Alright, let's go then," Darren replied, standing up.
"N-Now?" her eyes widened again. Darren just smiled and nodded, so she quickly closed her laptop and slid it, along with the notebook, into the bag sitting on the floor beside her. She stood up and put her coat on that had been hanging over the back of her chair. It was a simple, long, black coat, perfect to protect against the fall's cool breeze. She picked up her bag and slung it over her shoulder.
"Ok, I'm ready," she said, looking at him excitedly.
"Then let's go," Darren grinned, offering his arm for her to take. She cautiously stepped forward and gently looped her arm through his. She seemed to be shaking slightly, which Darren chalked up to being nerves. He could tell that she was slightly intimidated by him, but he could understand why. He would have been anxious and nervous too if a celebrity had suddenly come up to him and asked him to join them for dinner.
Darren quickly led her out the door and across the street to where Mark was waiting.
"Mark, this is Liz," Darren introduced them. "Liz, this is Mark Salling." Mark gave her a flirtatious grin as he extended a hand to her.
"It's nice to meet you, Liz," he said as she gave him her hand. He gently shook it, though he didn't let go for a couple seconds afterwards. He gently rubbed his thumb up and down her hand, making her blush at the flirtatious gesture.
"Very nice," he grinned, giving her a quick wink.
"L-Likewise," Liz smiled back shyly.
"So, the restaurant we were going to is just a couple blocks away," Darren said, pulling her attention back to him. "You don't mind walking a little ways, do you?"
"N-No," she replied, shaking her head.
"Good," Mark grinned, looping his arm through hers and pulling her away from Darren as he started walking. "So tell me about yourself, Liz."
Darren started to zone out as they talked. He followed a few steps behind them as they walked, feeling more and more guilty the closer that they got to the restaurant. He didn't understand how Mark could do this so easily, like it really was just all a game and no one was going to get hurt from this. But Darren knew that that wasn't true.
It didn't take them long to reach the restaurant. It was a fancy place, probably more fancy than anywhere Liz had ever been before, judging by the simple clothing that she wore. Mark didn't waste any time standing outside, leading Liz right into the restaurant like as if he owned the place. Darren quickly followed them inside.
"Table for three, please," Mark told the man standing behind a small podium. The man took one look at Mark, then back down at something on the podium, before looking back up at him with a smile.
"Of course, Mr. Salling," the man smiled, picking up three menus. "Right this way." The man quickly led them towards the back, where there were fewer tables and it was more private.
"And here we are," the man announced, placing the menus on one of the tables in front of each chair. "Your waiter will be with you shortly."
"Thank you," Darren smiled at him before he left, before turning to Liz. "Shall we?" He gestured towards the table.
"Here, allow me," Mark said, pulling out a chair for Liz, which she quickly sat down on. Mark gently pushed her chair in for her before sitting down on the chair beside her. Darren followed suit and sat on the chair on her other side.
"So what do you do for a living?" Mark asked after they had all removed their coats.
"I-I'm currently between jobs right now," she replied, fiddling with the menu in her hands. "I'm not really sure what I want to do career-wise yet." Darren felt his stomach twist again. She was unemployed.
"And how old are you?" Mark continued with his questions, oblivious to Darren's rising anxiety.
"I'll be twenty-three next month," she replied, keeping her eyes down on her menu. Her eyes danced over the items listed, like as if she was unsure of what to get.
"The pasta is really good here," Darren offered. She looked up at him and smiled.
"Do they have lasagna?" she asked softly. "It's one of my favourite dishes."
"Yep," Darren nodded, happy to have made her smile.
She really has a pretty smile, he thought to himself, suddenly feeling more guilty than he ever had before. He couldn't be the cause of her grief. He couldn't be the one to make her lose her smile.
He quickly pulled out his phone and sent a text to his friend.
Darren: I can't do this to her. She's too nice.
Mark: You backing out? Chicken?
Darren didn't get a chance to respond because their waiter was suddenly there.
"Hi, I'm Kyle, and I'll be your server tonight," the young, blond man smiled. "Can I get you anything to drink? Any appetizers?"
"Actually, I think that we're ready to order," Mark answered first. "I'll have the steak and ribs entree."
"I'll have the chicken parmesan," Darren said next.
"And for you?" Kyle turned his attention on Liz.
"Lasagna?" she replied tentatively.
"Alright, is that everything?" Kyle asked, quickly jotting down their orders.
"And a bottle of red wine," Mark added, giving Darren a side wink that went unnoticed by Liz.
"And some water, please," Liz added quickly.
"Alright, your orders will be out shortly," Kyle smiled before turning and walking away to put their orders in. Once he was gone, the two men turned back to look at her.
"So, tell us something interesting about yourself," Mark said, giving her a flirty grin. "I'd love to know all about Liz... Wait, I just realized that I don't even know your last name!"
"It's Haven," she replied softly. "My name is Elizabeth Haven."
Haven... the name sounded familiar to Darren, but he couldn't remember where he had heard it before.
"Well Miss Haven," Mark grinned, interrupting Darren's thoughts. "What's something fascinating that you can tell us about yourself? What's something that no one else knows about you?"
Something flickered across the young girl's face. What was that that Darren noticed in her eyes. Sorrow? Grief? But it was gone just as suddenly as it appeared.
"I'm a closeted Gleek," she admitted, smiling shyly at the two stars she was with. "No one knows that I watch your show... except for the random strangers that I talk to on Twitter."
"Oh really?" Mark laughed. "And who's your favourite character?" The two men both leaned in closer to hear her answer, making her more flustered.
"I don't want to offend anyone!" she stammered, looking back and forth between the two men.
"You won't offend us," Darren replied encouragingly, reaching out and gently placing his hand over hers. She was startled by his touch, but smiled after a second.
"As much as I loved Puck," she said, looking at Mark. "I couldn't resist a man in a blazer." She turned back to look at Darren again with a playful grin.
"Oh, so you like Sebastian then," Darren sighed, pulling his hand away as if he really was offended.
"No!" she cried, putting her hand over his, stopping its departure. "I think Grant is an amazing actor, but I despised Sebastian!"
"Alright then maybe it was Wes... or Nick," Darren continued to name off the list of Warblers. "Or maybe Thad... No, wait! It's Jeff, isn't it? Girls just can't resist that blond hair-"
"It's Blaine!" she exclaimed, laughing slightly. "Blaine's my favourite, okay? Happy?"
"No," Mark pouted slightly, though the other two just ignored him.
"Yes. Very." Darren joined in her laughter. Oh how he was starting to love her laugh. It was such a light, beautiful sound...
"Your chicken parmesan," Kyle's voice suddenly declared as a plate was set in front of him. He quickly pulled his hand away from Liz's as he looked down at his meal. It looked delicious!
"Thank you," he grinned at the young waiter, who just nodded in reply with a smile.
"If you need anything else, don't hesitate to ask," Kyle said before turning and leaving them alone again to eat their food.
"Oh my gosh!" Liz exclaimed suddenly, making the two men look at her. Her fork was clutched in her hand, hovering in front of her mouth, but it was empty. Her eyes were closed as she continued to chew, pure elation emanating from her face.
"This is amazing!" she continued after a moment, opening her eyes. "Here, try some!" She scooped up another piece of her lasagna and held the fork out to Darren. He quickly leaned forward and opened his mouth, quickly closing it around the end of the fork. He slowly pulled back, the fork sliding back out of his mouth, now empty. Darren slowly chewed the food, savouring the blend of flavours.
"Mmmm," he sighed. "That is good!"
"You want to try?" The question was directed towards Mark, to whom Liz was now extending the fork with a new piece of the pasta entree on it. Mark mimicked the moves that Darren had done just moments earlier, but he made his movements slower and more seductively flirtatious. Instead of just closing his mouth around the fork like Darren had done, he proceeded to slowly drag his tongue along the utensil, his eyes never leaving Liz's face, before he finally took the fork in his mouth.
"So good," Mark smiled after he had pulled away and chewed the morsel. Liz was blushing slightly from his actions, flattered and awed that he was flirting with her.
"I propose a toast!" Mark declared suddenly, picking up the bottle of wine that had been brought and pouring it into his glass. He filled Darren's next before moving to fill Liz's, but she quickly place a hand over the top of her glass, stopping him.
"I don't drink," she said softly. "Sorry." Mark gave her a puzzled look before shrugging and setting the bottle down. He swiftly picked up her water glass and poured it into her wine glass.
"There," he grinned, lifting up his own cup in a toast. "I toast to dinner among new found friends!" His comment made Liz blush.
"I toast to chance encounters," Darren declared, lifting his own cup. "And to fate!"
"I toast to second chances," Liz said softly, lifting her own cup. "And to hope for the things to come!"
Darren felt guilt slip back in at her words. To hope for the things to come. Little did she know what was to come.
"To us!" Mark declared suddenly, tipping his head back and quickly draining his glass. Darren quickly followed his example, though he did not empty his. Liz took a couple small sips from her glass before setting it back down on the table.
"I'll be right back," Liz said suddenly, standing up from the table.
"Alright," Mark grinned at her. "We'll be waiting." She smiled as she turned away, heading towards the back where there was a small sign that read: Restrooms.
"Alright, now's our chance!" Mark exclaimed, standing up and grabbing his coat. "Let's go!"
"I don't know if I can do this..." Darren replied softly as he slowly stood up. "She seems like a really nice girl and-"
"Are you really backing out now?" Mark scoffed. "After everything we just went through, you're gonna back out now? Wow, you really are a chicken!"
"I am not!" Darren snapped, grabbing his coat. "Fine, let's go." He quickly stormed out of the restaurant, Mark following quickly behind him. They swiftly made their way down the street, putting as much distance between them and the restaurant before they hailed a cab to take them back to the apartment that they shared.
Darren leaned his head up against the window of the cab as soon as they climbed into it, his body heavy with guilt. He could picture Liz coming back to find them gone, and their waiter, Kyle, suddenly returning with the cheque, which she would have to pay. He could picture the hurt flashing through her eyes as she discovered that she had just become the victim of a "dine and dash" prank.
Can she even afford to pay for it? Darren wondered as he stared out at the buildings that passed by in a blur. What will happen if she can't pay? Darren felt completely and utterly horrible. He wished that he had at least left some money there or something to help her pay for it.
Darren glanced over at Mark, who was chatting animatedly with the driver about a recent sports game, seemingly unnerved by the cruel thing that they had just done to that innocent girl.
And it's all because she was alone and wore glasses... Darren sighed to himself as he reflected upon Mark's initial dare.
"Look at her!" Mark scoffed, pointing at the girl sitting alone at the coffee shop. "Four eyes there is the perfect type of person to play when you're doing this. They're loners, so they will instantly be willing to go anywhere and do anything with you, especially because you're famous. They need all the attention that they can get because no one else will give them any."
Darren couldn't believe that he had allowed himself to be talked into such a stupid dare. He had known that it was wrong and the things that Mark had said about the girl were uncalled for, but when Mark called him out as a chicken, Darren just couldn't back down. Now he wish that he had. He would much rather be called a chicken than a mean jerk who had done something so cruel to such a sweet girl.
Darren's guilt stayed with him long after they arrived back at their shared apartment and long after they had each retired to their own rooms. Darren laid awake in bed, staring at the ceiling, unable to fall asleep, unable to stop thinking about her.
He finally gave up on trying to fall asleep and quickly pulled out his laptop. He opened it to Google, and subconsciously started typing something in: Fan Fiction.
He clicked on the first link that popped up, a site called fanfiction.net. He scrolled up to the search engine and found himself typing in the name LonelyGirl11. He got an instant response, his page filling with pages of stories. Most of them appeared to be stories about Kurt and Blaine, or Klaine as their fandom had lovingly come to call them.
He clicked on one at random and read the first couple lines:
Blaine felt himself go numb. It was official. They had broken up.
How could I be so stupid?! Blaine cursed himself. Kurt was everything! And I went and blew it!
Yes, you did blow it, Darren sighed, burying his face in his hands. Liz was a great girl and you could have had a great friend, but you went and blew it. He quickly hit the back button to return to the list of stories, noticing that there was suddenly a new one there. Curious, he clicked on it.
Complete and utter betrayal coursed through her body as she stared at the empty seats. They were gone.
"Oh dear," Jake, the friendly waiter exclaimed as he walked over to her. "It looks like you're the one getting stuck with the bill." He handed her the piece of thin, white paper and she could barely suppress her gasp as she saw the total.
"Eighty-six dollars!" she exclaimed in alarm. "How am I going to pay for this?!"
"I'm sorry," Jake said softly. "I wish I would have realized what they were going to do sooner. But I'm afraid that you're going to have to find some way to pay for this. I would help you if I could, but I left my wallet at home and I can't risk losing my job..."
"It's okay," she sighed softly. "I understand. Here, I've got the money." She quickly pulled her wallet out of her pocket and took out the two twenties and the fifty, the only bills in the small wallet. "It's not much of a tip, but that's all I have."
All I have, she sighed to herself as she took her coat from the back of the chair. Now I don't have any money to pay my rent tomorrow... What am I going to tell Mrs. Peters? What if she kicks me out? Where will I live?
With another deep sigh, she bent down and picked up her bag, quickly slinging it over her shoulder before leaving the fancy restaurant. She had known that it was all just too good to be true. Why had she let herself get her hopes up that things were finally going to start getting better for her? The hurt and pain slowly started to turn into anger, anger towards the two men who had tricked her.
Who do they think they are? she screamed in her mind. I did nothing to them, and yet Noah and Harry decided that I should be punished like that.
Darren wince slightly at the obvious references to him and Mark. Mark was Noah, linking him to his character on Glee, while Darren was Harry, linking him back to his days of performing A Very Potter Musical when he had played Harry Potter. He was slightly surprised that she had used fake names instead of using their real names. Even though they had done that to her, she was still sort of protecting them. He couldn't help himself. He had to keep reading.
These guys that I practically worshiped, that I looked up to, did the most cruel and hurtful thing that I've ever had the misfortune to experience. This was even worse than that one time in seventh grade when the girls locked me in the janitor's closet, or that time the boneheads in high school threw their food at me. At least I already knew that they were cruel. But having someone you trust betray you like that is something that you can never forgive.
A few drops of rain suddenly hit her head.
Oh great, she sighed. Just add to my misery.
Five miserable, rain-soaking blocks later, she arrived back at her apartment, which she was afraid she would not be able to call home for much longer. She quickly dumped her soaking wet coat on the floor, not even caring to hang it up, and quickly went straight to her extremely small bathroom.
She slowly looked at her reflection in the mirror and frowned. Her wet hair was plastered to the sides of her face and tears ran down her cheeks from her red, puffy eyes. She slowly sank to the floor beside the sink and buried her face in her hands and let herself continue to cry. She didn't know when she had started to cry, but she wasn't going to stop herself now.
After a couple of minutes of sobbing, she slowly lifted her head and pulled open the small drawer under the sink. Her fingers quickly closed around the old razor, which she pulled out and cradled in her hands. She hadn't touched this in months. She hadn't needed to. Things had finally started to get better for her... but now? Now she didn't care anymore. With one final sob, she slowly dragged the blade along the length of her arm, a morbid type of relief filling her as she was finally in control of her pain again. Now she was the only one who could cause herself any pain. A pain that was hers, and hers alone.
Darren didn't realize that he had been crying until one of his tears fell onto the keyboard of his laptop. If she was writing this from her own experience, did she do that to herself too? He quickly scrolled down, but there were no more words. Darren felt his heart sink in his chest. What had he done?
I need to apologize to her, he realized. He moved his cursor over the review box at the bottom of the page, but he couldn't find the words to say. How do you say I'm sorry for doing that to you? For putting you through that humiliation? For causing you to lose the only money that you had, your rent money? Darren sighed as he moved the cursor away. This wasn't something that he should apologize for over the internet. No, he had to tell her in person.
I'll go to the coffee shop and find her tomorrow, he decided, closing his laptop and setting on the stand beside the bed. I'll find her and apologize and repay her so she won't lose her home. Yeah, that's what I'll do. I'll make this right.
And with that final thought, Darren drifted off into a deep, restless sleep.
The next morning, Darren woke up with a pounding headache. Probably from my pounding guilt, he sighed as he got out of bed. He slowly made his way out to the kitchen where Mark was already sitting, drinking a cup of coffee.
"Hey, man!" Mark grinned when he walked in. "So there's this wicked party tonight that we should totally hit up and-"
"I'm going out," Darren cut him off, grabbing his coat from the hanger by the door.
"Ok..." Mark gave him a quizzical look. "Where to?"
"To get coffee," Darren replied, putting his coat on.
"Umm, dude?" Mark raised his cup in the air and gestured towards the half full pot of coffee on the counter. Darren just ignored him as he slipped out the door. He quickly hurried down the three flights of stairs, not caring to wait for the elevator. Once outside, he quickly hailed a cab and told the driver where to go.
While he sat in the back of the cab, Darren pulled out his phone and looked up the fan fiction site again. Again, he typed in LonelyGirl11, but there were no new posts. This slightly worried him. What if she had really hurt herself? What if she was...
Darren shook his head, as if to shake away the dark thoughts. He didn't know how often one would post on this site, and it had not even been a full day since her last post, so she may not post again for a while. He sighed as he leaned his head against the window, closing his eyes as if he could shut out the world.
"Sir?" the driver's voice made him open his eyes. "We're here." Darren looked out the window to see the coffee shop from the previous day.
"Thank you," Darren said as he got out, handing the driver some money through the open window before turning back to the coffee shop. The first thing that he noticed was the absence of the girl in the window.
Maybe she's just sitting in a different spot, Darren hoped, quickly making his way over to the door and inside. He quickly looked around the nearly empty shop and was disappointed when he didn't find her.
With a sigh, he walked up to the counter and ordered a medium drip. Once his coffee was in his hand, he quickly went over to the table where he had first seen Liz and sat down in the same chair he had the previous day. He sat there, sipping his coffee, for hours, hoping that she would show up. But she never did.
He did the same thing the following day. And the day after that. But she never showed up.
Five days after the day they had met, Darren was again sitting at the table by the window, his laptop open on the table in front of him. The cafe had free WiFi, so he was on the fan fiction site again, back at Liz's page. There hadn't been any new updates since the night that they had met.
The door to the cafe opened and, for once, Darren didn't look up to see who had come in.
"Oh and speak of the devil!" a familiar voice chuckled. "Hey, Darren!" Darren looked up at the owner of the voice and smiled.
"Hi, Chris," Darren replied. "What are you doing here?"
"Oh, just coming to get some coffee with my two friends here," Chris smiled, gesturing to the two girls with him. "I believe that you've met my friend, Erica, before, right?" He gestured to the girl to his right. She had medium length, dark brown hair that was currently tied partly back. Her eyes freakishly resembled Chris', the bright, glasz colour that he knew so well from having to stare into them for endless hours while filming. The girl smiled as she extended a hand to him.
"Erica... Grandel, right?" Darren asked, taking her hand and giving it a light shake.
"That's right," she nodded, gently removing her hand from his. "We met last March when I was interning on your show."
"Right!" Darren exclaimed, the memory quickly flooding back into his mind. He remembered how his on-screen boyfriend had quickly taken a liking to the young, new intern, and had developed a fast friendship with her.
"And I believe that you two know each other as well," Chris said, bringing Darren's mind back to the present day. Darren turned to look at the girl on Chris' other side and smiled at her. Light brown hair fell softly down around her face. Her eyes were downcast, avoiding his gaze, and he noticed that she was biting her lip slightly, as if she was nervous to be around him. Finally, she slowly looked up at him and Darren found himself caught under the intense stare of a pair of bright, hazel eyes, eyes that looked so familiar...
"Liz?" Darren gasped, his eyes widening in shock as his heart skipped a beat. He had been waiting for days to see her again, wanting nothing more than to apologize for his cruel actions, but now that she was standing before him, Darren couldn't find the words to do it. He couldn't find any words at all, actually. He was stunned into silence. But luckily, he didn't have to speak first.
"Hello, Darren," Liz said softly, dropping her gaze again.
"L-Liz, I-" Darren stammered, trying to find the words to say. But he couldn't. His mind was in overtime, trying to process everything, especially how he hadn't realized who she was the moment that she walked in. She looked a lot different than the girl he had met five days ago. The glasses were gone, the hair was down and free, and there was something else about her... She looked...
Confident, Darren realized. She looks confident. When Darren had first met her, she had looked nervous and self-conscious, but now, despite her lowered gaze, she looked more confident. Her shoulders were straight and she stood up tall, and, when she looked up, she kept her head held up high. Even her clothing seemed to project her confidence, the bright, fashionable style making a clear statement. She was definitely not the girl that Darren had pictured her to be right now. His mind wandered back to her story with the girl sitting alone in her bathroom, cutting herself.
"I'm so sorry," he finally managed to say, dropping his head in shame. "Mark talked me into doing it and I felt horrible the moment that we left there and-"
"Stop," Liz said suddenly, making Darren look up at her. A small flash of anger flickered through her eyes. "Don't blame Mark for this, because you had the choice to say no. Just as you had the choice to come back, if you really felt that bad afterwards. But you didn't."
"I-I know," Darren winced slightly at her words. "I was a prideful idiot who didn't want to be called a chicken, even if it meant hurting a girl who had been nothing but totally sweet and amazing to him. I know that my words may mean nothing to you, but I truly am sorry and I wish that I could take it all back."
"I don't," she replied softly. "Darren, that was one of the best dinners I've ever had, well, up until I got ditched by the guy that I had only ever dreamed of meeting. But you know what they say, everything happens for a reason. If it weren't for what you had done, I would have never met Erica, or Chris."
"What?" Darren blinked in confusion. "How do they fit into this?"
"I can explain that," Erica said, turning their attention on her. "I was visiting my cousin at her apartment and when I was leaving, I heard someone crying. Those walls do nothing for privacy, which turned out to be a good thing. Anyways, so I followed the sound to one of the doors and, taking a chance, I knocked on it. It turned out to be Liz's apartment."
"To hear someone knocking on my door was a total surprise," Liz admitted, continuing the story. "I was... I had been... Umm, I had just-"
"I know," Darren said softly, earning him a confused look from her.
"How?" she asked. In response, all Darren did was turn his laptop towards them. He saw surprise flicker through her eyes as she realized what site he was on.
"You remembered..." she said softly.
"I did," he nodded slowly, his voice just as soft. "And reading your story made me feel ten times worse. I thought... I thought that might have... You never came back here and I was worried that..." He couldn't finish his sentence. He couldn't say those words.
"I might have," Liz admitted, dropping her gaze. "After I had posted that, it was my intention to, and I might have gone through with it if Erica hadn't shown up. She... She kinda saved me."
"I could tell what she had been doing the moment that she opened the door," Erica said softly. "I'd been in that type of dark place before and I instantly noticed the way that she was trying to hide her arm, hide the evidence of what she'd done. So, I ended up talking my way into her letting me in and we just sat and talked for hours. And then Chris called me because I was supposed to be meeting him, and so I invited her out with us."
"And as soon as I met her, I knew that she could use a friend," Chris continued, putting his arm around her and giving her a light hug. "She just had this look in her eyes, and I just knew... The first thing we did was give her a complete makeover, which definitely help with her confidence, which finally allowed her to be comfortable enough to tell me about what had happened. And when I heard about what you had done to her... well, let's just say I wanted to rip your head off. I knew that that wasn't like you. That's not the kind of guy you are. But anyways, Liz convinced me not to murder you and made me promise not to confront you about it, though I really wanted to. But then Mark called me and told me about what happened and how you weird you'd been acting lately, staying out all day and then coming home looking dejected and smelling of coffee, and I put two and two together and figured out that you would probably be here."
"I didn't know how else to find you," Darren said softly, looking at Liz. "This was where I met you, so I was hoping that you came here a lot... I've been here every day since that night, waiting, hoping that you'd show up so that I could apologize. I'm so sorry, Liz. I don't care how long it takes, but I want to make it up to you."
"Alright," Liz nodded slowly.
"Alright?" Darren echoed, looking at her with hopeful surprise.
"I'm not ready to forgive you yet, but I accept your offer to try to make it up to me," she replied, a slight smile slipping onto her lips. "And you can start by buying me a coffee." A smile slid onto Darren's lips as he leapt up.
"One coffee, coming right up!" he declared, quickly going over to the counter to order it. While he was gone, Liz sat down in the chair across from Darren's seat and turned his laptop towards herself. She quickly logged onto her account on the site still on the screen and went to her uploaded stories. She selected one that hadn't been posted yet and quickly added a few more lines to it before clicking the post button. With a smile, she logged out of her account and slid the laptop back to where it had been.
It wouldn't be until later that night, when Darren returned to his apartment, that he would notice the new story. He skipped through most of it, as it was basically a retelling of the story that Erica and Chris had shared with him, but when he reached near the end, he slowed down and started reading it, a flicker of hope flashing through him as he read to the end.
I could see him sitting in the window seat, in the exact spot where I had first met him, and my heart skipped a beat. I was so scared to talk to him again, to confront him about what had happened. I felt a soft hand slip into mine and give it a comforting squeeze. I looked up at its owner and smiled.
"You ready?" Paul asked, gesturing back over to the curly haired boy in the window. I slowly nodded, slightly tightening my grip on his hand. "Alright. Don't forget that we're both here to for you." He gestured to the other girl with them, the girl that she had come to call her best friend.
"You can do this!" Megan said encouragingly.
"Alright," I said, taking a deep breath. "Let's go." We quickly crossed the street and entered the small coffee shop. As we walked over to where he was sitting, I noticed how different he looked from when we had first met. His shoulders were slumped and his hair was a wild mess. His eyes were glued to the screen of his laptop, staring blankly at it, as if he was waiting for something to happen.
"Oh and speak of the devil!" Paul laughed as they moved over towards the curly haired boy. "Hey, Harry!" The boy looked up with surprise and I was just able to catch the sad, depressed look in his eyes before it slipped away and was replaced with recognition.
"Hi, Paul," Harry smiled at him. "What are you doing here?" I slowly started to zone out as Paul started talking to Harry. My eyes ran up and down over the boy seated before us. His clothes were wrinkled and unkept. His eyes had dark bags under them, suggesting that he hadn't been sleeping well.
I quickly dropped my gaze as I heard Paul turn the conversation towards me. I was afraid to look at him. How was he going to react? He didn't seem to realize who I was yet. Would he even care? Did he even remember what he had done?
I finally forced myself to look up and the moment our eyes met, I could see recognition flash through his eyes as they suddenly widened.
"Cass," he exclaimed softly.
"Hello, Harry," I replied, looking away. I couldn't bear to look at him. All he had done was say one word to me, my own name, and I could already feel myself starting to fall for him again. He started to try to say something to me, but he stumbled over his words. I could hear the pain and sorrow lacing through his words as he tried to apologize.
He really is sorry, I realized suddenly. I was still mad at him, and snapped at him for it, but his words were genuine and I could feel just how sorry he was. His emotions just seemed to flood out of him.
"I'm not ready to forgive you yet, but I accept your offer to try to make it up to me," I said in response to his offer to make it up to me. A sudden idea popped into my head, making me grin. "And you can start by buying me a coffee." His face instantly lit up at my response, and he quickly stood up, eager to do as I had requested.
"One coffee, coming right up!" he declared, before quickly going over to the counter to order the drink for me.
I think that we're going to be alright, I decided to myself as I watched him approach the counter. It may take time, but I think it's all going to work out. They say that time heals all wounds, so it may take some time, but I think that we can get back to a place where we can be friends again... A small smile slipped onto my lips. And maybe someday, we could even be something more.