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| Five | Is That You?

I woke up, expecting to feel Tyler holding me but when I turned to look he was gone. Next to me was a note. I opened it and saw the best script I have ever seen. It read:

My Heart Zoe,

I apologize for leaving your side, my dear. I had to settle some things with George and I didn’t want Margret to find you in my arms. I will be waiting for you downstairs.

I love you, Zoe.

Yours forever, Tyler.

I smiled and held the note close to my chest, squealing. Last night was amazing, and Tyler was no less. Looking down, I noticed that I was naked. Looking at the clock I saw that I only had a few minutes before Cassie came to pick me up. But I have to go to school with Tyler. I owe him that much.

I jumped up out of my bed and grabbed my phone. I sent a quick message to Cassie saying that I was going to go to school with Tyler. Grabbing my undies, I headed to the bathroom and took a shower. I really wanted to soak in the tub and let the jets melt the tenderness away, but I had no time. I cursed in my head and then climbed out of the shower, dressing fast.

I rummaged through my closet until I found something that I thought Tyler would like me in. It was a red lace blouse, with black jeans. Out of instinct, I put my hair into a ponytail and then stop. I smiled as I remembered that he liked my hair down. I pulled the ponytail holder out as my phone vibrated. After running the comb and brush through my hair, I applied a little lips gloss, pulled on my fave flats, grabbed my chemistry homework and my bag, and then ran out the door.

I heard people downstairs talking in the kitchen and smiled as I heard Tyler’s voice. Running down the stairs, I jumped off the last one and entered the kitchen. Tyler was eating an apple, Mom was making herself some coffee, and George was rubbing his temples. My eyes caught Tyler’s for a quick second and he smiled at me. I smiled back and looked at Mom. She was looking at George, her hand on her hip.

“Good Morning everyone.” I chirped and walked to the table, grabbing a peach.

“Good Morning Zoe. How was your night?” Mom asked and smiled at me as she took a sip of her coffee. I looked at my mother, looking at her features and came to the conclusion that she was beautiful.

“It was amazing,” I said and then bit into the peach. She raised an eyebrow and stirred her drink.

“Oh?” she said. “What made it so amazing?” I felt Tyler looking at me, and I smiled.

“I had a great dream Mom. You would never understand if I told you anyway.” I laughed at her and she laughed with me. “You’re right.” She said and then placed the empty mug in the sink. She looked up and smiled.

“Wait. Isn’t Cassie going to pick you up?” she asked me as she grabbed an apple and dropped it in a paper bag.

“Nope,” I said and grabbed a sausage sticking it in my mouth. I looked at Tyler and saw him looking back at me, a smile was on his face and I blushed looking down.

“Well Then. I’ll see you later guys.” She gave Tyler a hug, George a kiss, and then she kissed the top of my head.

“I’ll be home pretty late tonight everyone, have some more things to do on the job.” She smiled again and blew a kiss, running to catch her cab.

I smiled and George groaned. I turned around and looked at him.

“Uhh. George are you okay?” I asked and walked over to him rubbing his back. He looked up and smiled his eyes a little bleary. “I’m fine. Just a slight hangover that’s all.” He said and rubbed his head again. I straightened up and walked over to Tyler.

“Good Morning Dear.” He said and caressed my face. He leaned in and kissed me on my lips.

“Good Morning.” I smiled and kissed him back. I didn’t care if George saw us.

I took a step back and looked him over. He was wearing a black turtleneck with black slacks, and black dress shoes. He had a brown crossover bag. His hair looked better than it ever did, and his eyes were sharp and piercing.

He smiled at me and then touched my hair. I smiled and looked down at the floor. “It looks nice. Very nice.” He said and then took my hand. I grabbed the money mom left on the table and my bookbag.

“Okie doks George. I guess we’ll see you later?” I asked and shrugged. He looked up and nodded.

“Will you be going to work today George?” Tyler asked. He touched his back in almost the same way that I had done.

“Frankly, I’m not sure yet. I still have to sleep this off. But Zoe,” he said and then looked at me. I stopped eating my peach and looked at him.

“Yeah?” I said, not to certain of what he was going to ask me. He got up and went to the fridge.

“I would like to talk to you when you come home today. Maybe while you’re making dinner? That way I won’t be bothering you while you’re doing homework.” He poured some water out and looked at me.

“Ok,” I said and looked down at the ground. Tyler stiffened next to me and then he spoke.

“Should I be present as well George?” The way he said it was more of a question than a suggestion.

George closed the fridge door and looked at Tyler. He shook his head and took a drink of water.

“No, and anyway, don’t you have soccer practice today? They will wonder where you are Tyler.” I looked at Tyler who didn’t seem to be too happy with the decree given. Even though he was a king, he obeyed George and gave him the uttermost respect.

“Yes, sir.” He said and gave a nod of his head. George nodded back and then waved his hands at us.

“Now go. It’s almost 8:00 and you both have early classes. Tyler? I don’t have to tell you to be careful. You are already familiar with this.”

Tyler nodded again and his lips were formed in a thin firm line. George waved us goodbye and after grabbing an umbrella and jackets, we left. It was a bit chilly outside, but Tyler didn’t seem to feel it. We walked to his car and he opened the door for me. I hopped in and looked into his face, trying to read signs of what was going on.

He came around to the driver’s side and got into the car. After we got on the road, I couldn’t take it anymore. Tyler hadn’t said anything. He hadn’t even spoken to me about last night and I began to feel like we weren’t feeling the same things. I looked down at my shoes and tried to swallow the lump that had formed in my throat. A tear slipped out and I quickly wiped it away. I took out my phone and saw a message from Cassie.

’We gotta talk A.S.A.P. When you get here, find me.”

“That is not true Zoe, and you know it is not,” Tyler said and I looked up at him. The tears I had begun to flow out of me, choking up my voice.

“How did you- oh. The bond.” I said and then wiped my tears away. Tyler pulled over and put the car in park.

“How could you even think that?” he said and l looked at him. He seemed quite mad. “I love you, Zoe. I had told you this last night, even while I was claiming you and you still have doubts. What else is there for me to prove my love, Zoe? What?!” his voice began to get higher and higher and I couldn’t face him. I put my hands in my lap and began playing with them.

“Zoe?” he said and he lifted my chin and directed it to look at him. Even though he was upset, he didn’t generate that anger when he touched me. I closed my eyes and tried to squeeze a tear back in. But it slid out and I felt weak and stupid.

“Look at me.” I opened my eyes that time and saw him looking at me. I felt anger swirling around him and saw the anger etched into his eyes. But beneath all that were feelings being hurt.

“I love you. And there is nothing in the world that Is going to stop that from happening. I love you. Not your body, not your hair, not your charm but you Zoe. If not, I would not be sitting here with you.” I nodded and another tear slipped down my cheeks. He wiped it away and I leaned forward. I wrapped my hand around his neck and brought him closer to me, kissing him.

“I’m....I’m sorry... I-I’m such a klutz.” I said and half laughed. He smiled and hugged me. “It is alright Zoe. I just do not want you to feel used. No matter what.” I nodded and then just asked.

“What does George want to talk about? What is it that made him say it that way? And why did he refuse you when you asked to be there? What’s going on? And since when did George drink?” I stopped myself from asking any other question. Tyler leaned back and sighed. It hurt for his body to be away from me and I felt my body screaming for him to bring it back.

“Tyler?” he wasn’t answering me and he turned his face away, putting his hand to his chin.

“George wants to talk you out of marrying me.” He said. It was a simple sentence, yet a wave of emotions hit me. How could he do this to me? To Tyler? But maybe then again that does make sense since he is my stepfather. And what would Mom say? Is he doing it to save her?

“He does not want me there because he does not want any amount of influence on you. He wants for you to make the decision, which is only fair. I am not to have a say in it.”

I sighed and leaned back into my seat with a thud. So it was my problem now. I had to say if I wanted to marry Tyler, leave all of my friends, family, and current life behind or Leave this current life for a future life with Tyler. One where I would be a queen loved by many, and most of all loved by Tyler.

“Hmm,” I said and then sighed. “Does Mom know about you and George?” I asked, scared of the answer.

“No, although that is another reason why he wants to talk to you. Margret is getting more observant and her questions are starting to shake George’s confidence. I would help, but he wants you to decide. He does not want the situation to get any worse than it already is.”

I sighed. “So he doesn’t want to lose Mom. He doesn’t want something bad to come out of this. I understand.” Tyler looked at me and I smiled. I couldn’t believe this was all me now. I would have to think this through. Really deep.

Tyler pulled the car back out into traffic and we made it to school right before the bell rang.

By lunchtime, I had already thought of too many excuses, too many runaway plans, and too many rebellious plans. I hadn’t seen Cassie when I got here and I looked at her as I sat at the lunch table. Tyler wasn’t in any of my classes and I was starting to miss him.

Scanning the crowd, I saw a short black bobbed head. I jumped up and shouted over the loud cafeteria.

“Cassie!” She turned around and then ran over to me. She was wearing blue jeans and a gray blouse today with Dr. Martin’s.

“Hey.” She said and then slid into the seat opposite of me. I noticed that she was wearing her studs. She smiled at me and then looked from side to side, looking for someone.

“So,” I said and figured that she was looking for Ni. “What did you want to talk to me about so urgently?” I laughed to myself and noticed that I was talking like Tyler.

“It’s about Ni. He came over to my house last night.” She said and pushed her mac and cheese around on her plate. “Well, he didn’t even come through the door. He came through the window.” She laughed and then looked up at me. I tried to look happy but the truth was, I was still thinking of this whole situation with Tyler.

Cassie waved her hand in front of my face. “Hello? Are you in there?”

I focused on her and then nodded my head. I gave her a smile, but it was messy. Cassie dropped her fork and reached across the table to grab my hand. “Zo? What is it? Are you okay?” Her hand was warm and I looked into her eyes and nodded. Then shook my head. I couldn’t trust myself to speak; I knew I would have started waterfalls.

“Do you want to talk about it?” she said and then moved from where she was and came to sit next to me. How could I tell her what it was? She would never understand. She would say I was a liar or senile and laugh. Even though she was my best friend.

“No.” I managed to push out. At that same moment, I saw Tyler enter the cafeteria. He had changed from his slacks into a polo shirt and jeans with timberlands. He scanned the room for me and then walked over to where I was seated.

Tyler walked past the cheerleading table and the popular girl’s table. I couldn’t help but notice that they looked at him when he passed and the captain of the cheerleaders, Mayan Simmons looked him up and down and bit her bottom lip. I felt anger flash through me and looked away.

Tyler finally reached the table and after seeing me crying, he slid into the seat on the opposite side of me and held my other hand.

“Zoey? What is it?” he said and a tear dropped. This was the second time I had cried in front of him. He must have thought that I was a complete soft cake. I sniffled and looked at him, but instead of him looking at me with care, he was staring at Cassie with a shocked look on his face.

I knew it. I knew he would have found her more attractive than me. I stifled a sob that was part happiness and part anger.

“Cassandra?” He whispered and I whipped around to look at Cassie. Her mouth was in a thin line and she was frowning. I raised an eyebrow and then looked back at Tyler, trying to read his face but it showed nothing except surprise.

“Tyler. It’s been a long time.” She said. I looked from her to him again and again but no one was giving me any answers.

“Yes. It has.” He said and then sighed.

“Uhm Excuse me!” I squealed. My voice still wasn’t strong. “How do you know each other? And why didn’t you, Cassie tell me that you knew him?” Cassie looked at me and then sighed.

“I met Tyler when we were back home. He...” she stopped and I understood.

Cassie wasn’t even human. I had known this girl for so long, and I couldn’t even believe I had not known that.

“You were one of the girls that he dated at the palace weren’t you?” I said anger in my voice. She looked up, kind of surprised.

“How do you know about that? Did he tell you? Did he tell you the same lie he told me? How he wanted me to be his queen and that he loved me?” She shook her head and I sagged into the seat. I felt absolutely crushed. Tyler had lied to me. And I fell for it. I gave myself to him, told myself that I loved him, only to find out that he had dated and maybe even screwed my best friend.

She looked at me and then smirked. “I take that as a yes.” I looked at Tyler who was shaking his head at me.

“Zo. Do not believe her. She is telling a lie. I did not tell her that. I never told any of them that.”

“Don’t think you can get yourself out of this one Tyler Lemmings. You can’t. You’re caught and now you have to apologize to me. Apologize to Zoe too.” I shook my head and tears ran down again. My heart felt like it was breaking over and over again. I got up from the table and looked at Tyler who was still shaking his head.

“No Zoey. It is not true. I swear on everything that I love and hold dear.” He pleaded and tried to reach for my hand.

“Which doesn’t really include me does it?” I ran from the table, through the cafeteria doors and out into the rain. I kept on running. I didn’t care that I wasn’t supposed to be outside of the school campus, I didn’t care that it was freezing outside and that It was raining. I didn’t care that my shoes were getting wet or that my hair was getting wet. I didn’t even care that I was going to get sick afterward. I just ran. I ran and ran and ran until I couldn’t even see the school’s flag in the wind. I ran into my already broken heart felt like it was going to explode.

Soon I couldn’t run anymore. I collapsed into the mud and realized that I had run into the forest.

Tears streamed down my face and mixed with the rain. At first, all I could feel was sadness and pain. Then I began to feel anger and rage. I screamed into the wind and slammed my fists into the earth again and again until the sides of my hands were bleeding. Then I crumpled onto the ground and cried, and cried, and cried. I lay there crying and then even began to cough up blood. I stayed there until darkness claimed me.

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