Watered Down

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Chapter Thirty One

In the blink of an eye, six days had come and gone.

Time is such a strange thing, always fleeting one moment and dragging the next, never giving any type of warning in the morning when you wake up which kind of time you’ll be dealing with for the day. Things were going my way again, and I was slowly getting back in the hang of my life. I still had some good days, and some bad, but I figured that after everything I’ve been through, that is to be expected.

My phone rang and I rolled over in bed, stretching a little before pulling it out from under my pillow and smiling when I saw Asher’s name. “Good morning.” I yawned into it, even though technically it was after 11am.

“Good morning, sleeping beauty.” He laughed. “You got any plans today?”

I rolled over to look at my ceiling, not wanting to even think about leaving the comfort of my sweet loving bed. “Nope, what about you?”

“Just school, and speaking of, shouldn’t you be getting ready to go?” He asked.

I groaned a little. “I’m about to.”

I had decided I did want to go back to school, but I still needed to go and talk to the counselors to see how that was going to work for me. I’d called them yesterday to set up an appointment and I was supposed to have gotten up an hour ago to get ready.

“Alright, babe, well I have a pretty big surprise for you, so text me when you are on your way to the school, and I will meet up with you after.”

I shuffled into my bathroom, turning on my curling wand and getting my toothbrush ready. “Aren’t you at school today?” I asked.

“Nope, blew it off to hang with you.”

I smiled. “Alright, I will text you when I’m almost done there.” I groaned again, rolling from beneath my comforter and letting my purple socked feet take me to the bathroom.

I set the phone aside on my black counter tops and looked at myself in the mirror. Despite the many times I’d washed my hair since I left the island, it still holds these loose beachy curls without me having to do anything to it. I shrugged at my reflection. “Thanks, Alana.” I whispered sarcastically and turned off the iron.

I quickly brushed my teeth and slapped on some minimal makeup. I used to wear tons, but I had gotten over that, preferring my more natural look now. I went to my closet and pulled out a little yellow sundress and a white cardigan to throw on over it, got dressed, slipped on my tan wedges, and ran out the door.

“Heading out!” I called when I reached the front door, picking up my car keys off of the little table.

I hopped into my red BMW convertible, lowered the top, plugged in my phone and hit play on my sunny day playlist. I let the music blast loud enough to keep me from getting too caught up in my own head. Blocking out all the unpleasant memories and the happy ones both.

The traffic was minimal, but it still took a little longer than I’d hoped it would. But finally I pulled into the enormous lot of my sprawling high school. From the road it looked more like a freaking college from its size, white stone walls, and greenery growing up over the walls. I sat in my car for a minute, waiting until I heard the bell ring, then I waited five more minutes and hopped out. I wasn’t in the mood to run into a ton of people right now.

So far I had only really spent time with my closer friends and Asher. Anytime I see other people they always hit me with thousands of questions or just stare at me like I’m a freak show…well, more like they look at me and fawn over me like I’m a rock star. I hate the attention though because I know I don’t deserve it, they have no clue what things I have sunk low enough to do.

The hallways are pretty much empty when I walk in, only a few stragglers who are too busy rushing to their classes to notice me are left. I was surprised by the rush of nostalgia I was smacked with from walking the halls, it all felt like it was from another life, and in a lot of ways it kind of was.

The counselor wasn’t please by how tardy I was, but we did end up coming up with an arrangement that would work for me. I can come back to school, and just kind of jump in with where things are at now, and then I can make-up everything I missed in summer school so that I can still technically graduate this year, just a few months behind my class. I thanked her and took my schedule from her before heading back out into the hall.

I groaned when the bell rang and the halls became flooded with bodies, all pushing and swaying to get to their lockers and back to the next class. I walked confidently, able to feel their stares boring into me. “Serena?” I heard a familiar voice and I turned to see Frank rushing up the hall.

I waited for him to catch up, shooting Asher a quick text that I was about to leave here.

“Hey, Frank.” I smiled warmly when he reached me, having to shoulder through a group of freshmen girls and making them all turn to look at him with big goo goo eyes. I can practically hear their thoughts. “Oh my god, Frank Reed just touched me.” I had to try hard not to roll my eyes.

He grabbed me up, hugging me a little too tightly. “Serena.” He said again. “Long time no see.” He joked.

“Yep.” I smiled back politely.

“What have you been up to?” He asked, flipping his hair out of his dark blue eyes. “You look good.” There was that hint of flirtation in his eyes.

“Thanks.” I said shifting my weight from one foot to the other. “I haven’t really been up to anything.” I shrugged.

He put his hand on my shoulder and grinned coyly. “Oh, come on.” He said. “Serena Sullivan is always up to something.” He joked. “I’m onto you, you know?”

My face flushed a little. I always feel like people are going to see through me to what I’ve done. “Huh?” I asked, playing dumb.

He nodded his head. “Yeah, I know you just really wanted to get away from that boyfriend of yours and blow off school for a while.” He said. “What, a three month vacation wasn’t long enough for you? You needed a little extra time?”

I was a little relieved that he was joking and that he wasn’t actually onto me. “You’re ridiculous, Frank.”

He threw his head back and laughed. “I bet you only came back because you heard the big news.” He shrugged, taking his hand off of me.

“What news?”

“Oh, you know, about pretty boy.” He said looking over my shoulder. “Had to come back and lock down your man?”

This was another reason I’ve avoided some people. I feel so out of the loop. “I literally have no clue what you’re talking about.” I admitted and he looked at me strangely.

“Asher didn’t tell you?” He asked surprised.

“Tell me what?”

Frank looked up behind me again and backed up a little. “How much I love you.” Asher said from behind me. I turned around quickly to see him standing there, giving Frank a hard look.

“Catch you later.” Frank said. “Party coming up, right?” He asked Asher as he backed away.

“Yeah, couple weeks.” Asher called back, smiling now, then he leaned down to kiss my cheek. “How did your appointment go?”

I sighed, turning back to watch Frank rushing away. “I, uh, I start school back Monday.”

Asher hugged me close to him. “That’s great, Serena.”

I pulled away. “So what was Frank talking about?” I asked, raising my eyebrows.

Asher shrugged his shoulders innocently. “No telling, Frank is always talking crazy.” He dismissed it. “Come on, I want to show you something.” He said as he grabbed my hand and pulled me towards the exit.

I couldn’t stop from running through things in my head. Eve was going to say something about Asher the other day, but he interrupted her, and now he just did the same to Frank. He also seemed weirded out when he realized I had my phone back. Asher walked ahead of me, smiling at people as we passed them and I trudged along behind him. Only one thing kept popping into my mind. Frank said I came home to ‘lock down my man’, like I needed to lock him down from someone.

We were almost to the football stadium’s field house when I pulled my hand from him, stopping in my tracks. “Asher?” I said, making him stop and look at me.

“What’s up?” He asked. “It’s just a little further.” He tried to pull me back down the sidewalk but I shook my head.”

“You can tell me the truth, you know?” I said and his eyes widened.

“What are you talking about, Serena?” He asked warily, obvious worry etched into his usually perfect face. “What truth?”

I looked down at the ground, not wanting to see his face when I asked. “Did you…I don’t know, hook up with someone while I was gone?” I asked him softly.

What?” He said. “Did Frank say that, because that is a lie?”

I looked up at him. “Look, it is fine if you did.” I told him. “You thought I was dead, and there was even a freaking funeral.” I pointed out. “It isn’t like I would have expected for you to be faithful to me even after I was gone.”

“I didn’t cheat on you, Serena.” He said seriously, but I just couldn’t believe him. It was way too obvious that he was hiding something and that other people knew the truth too. I just wanted to not be the one walking around with no idea.

I stepped forward, hugging him, but I was really only doing it so that I could hide my face. “Please just tell me the truth.” I told him. “I promise not to be mad, and I totally understand, Asher.”

“Serena, I swea-.”

“Listen,” I said, cutting him off. “I met someone too.”

He grabbed my shoulders and held me out in front of him, looking down at me like I was a stranger, his brows pulled together and his mouth hanging open. “You did what?”

I wanted to hide my ashamed face, but he wouldn’t let me. “That’s what I’m saying.” I told him, my voice shaking as I spoke. “You can just tell me the truth, because I met someone while I was on the islands.” I explained. “So I understand, and it’s ok.”

He shook his head. “You met someone?” He asked dubiously. “How did you even find time to do that?” He demanded. He took a step away from me and shoved his hands into his pockets so that I’d stop reaching for them. “I was here mourning you, and you were on an island with some other guy?” He asked.

“Well,” I said softly, my heart racing in my chest. “It wasn’t like that, exactly.” I tried to explain. “Nothing happened between us, but I’d be lying if I told you that I didn’t want it to. I had feelings for him.”

Asher crossed his arms over his chest and continued to shake his head. “I can’t believe this.” He murmured.

“I’m so sorry, Asher, but I wanted you to know the truth, and now you can tell me the truth too.” I said, my voice quivering slightly still. The last thing in the world I wanted to do was hurt Asher. He grabbed my wrist roughly and drug me behind him until we went inside of the locker rooms in the field house and he dropped my arm and stomped to the other side of the room. He waited by the lockers with his arms crossed for me to catch up to him. “What are we doing in here?” I asked confused, trying not to mention that it smelled like stinky boy sweat in here.

“Look.” He snapped, pointing at the locker beside me.

I turned around and looked at the locker and read the sign over it.

Dunkin #32

“I don’t understand.” I said, shaking my head. “Why is you name on here?”

Asher nodded, looking angry and hurt. “Yeah, obviously.” He said. “It was supposed to be a surprise.” He shook his head. “I go here now.”

“You go here?” I repeated him.

He hit his hand against the locker. “Yeah, Serena.” He said angrily. “A few months ago my father got a new job and he has been doing really well and we have money now.” He explained. “I transferred here, and I play on this team.” He motioned around the smelly locker room. “I thought you’d be excited because we don’t have to be a secret to your family anymore, we can be together. Really be together.”

I wanted to shrink into the corner like the cockroach I felt like I am right now. “Asher,” I said sadly, taking a step towards him but he backed up. “I’m so sorry, I just thought…I could tell you were keeping a secret and I just assumed…”

He laughed cryptically. “You just assumed I was lying about having another girlfriend?” He snapped. “You know, it sounds to me like that was just your guilty conscience trying to get rid of your guilt by convincing yourself that I was the one who cheated.”

The absolute truth behind his words literally hurt. “I’m so sorry, Asher.” I told him. “I should have trusted you.”

His eyes widened and he sighed loudly. “That is what you’re apologizing for? For not believing me? Not for the fact that you had some kind of fling with some dude on an island?” He laughed to himself. “This is unbelievable. I was prepared to wait for you, but you just forgot about me the first chance you got, didn’t you?”

“No!” I told him. “Of course not, it wasn’t even like that at all.” I tried to explain. “I didn’t plan to have feelings for him, we were just friends and the feelings just grew on their own.”

Asher held up his hand. “I’ve got to get to class.” He said lowly.

“Asher, please, can’t we talk about this?” I asked and he just shook his head.

“I can’t even look at you right now.” He said sadly and walked by me, leaving me all alone in the locker room.

I turned with tears in my eyes to stare at Asher’s name over the locker.

I have royally messed this up.

I plopped down onto one of the benches and pulled the little black phone out of my pocket and tried to call Theon, but he didn’t answer. I had tried to call him almost every day, and he never picks up. Each night I send a text, just a simple ‘I miss you’, but it always goes ignored too. Today was the day we were supposed to talk, so I called again, praying in my head that he would answer, but no such luck.

The phone pinged instead.

Theon: Tally isn’t with me right now, I will get her to call you when she gets home.

I sighed to myself, he is obviously still avoiding me.

I want to talk to YOU

Theon: I already told you I don’t think that is a good idea.

I started to cry a little harder, which was when I realized I had been crying at all.

I told my bf about us.

I waited impatiently for his response, and it took longer than usual.

Theon: I don’t know why you would do that. There is no “us”

I put the phone away in a hurry, not wanting to feel anymore hurt for today. Everything was so screwed, and I may have just messed up things with Asher, who loves me, for a guy who tossed me aside the second I was out of his hair. The longer I’ve gone without getting to talk to Theon, the more I have started to wonder if it was always one-sided. Maybe I had imagined that we had feelings for each other, when really he was just trying to be nice and get me off of his island.

I stood up, wiping my face of my tears. I’m done being the sad one, and being the victim. I’m not giving up on Asher, I never should have before, and I never should have doubted him. Somehow I have got to figure out how to make things right again.

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