Watered Down

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Chapter Thirty Three

I spent the next two days googling, and calling every single place on the island, minus a hand full I’d have to try tonight when I get home from school, trying to find Theon. I simply refuse to believe that what he and I had was all in my head, or that he would talk to me that way after we got to know each other. I just can’t. Maybe that makes me desperate, or clingy, or just stupid, but until I hear it from his own mouth that he wants me to leave him alone, I’m not giving up.

The weekend was long, boring mostly, but definitely long.

There were more parties, but I didn’t go. Asher said he understood that I just wasn’t ready to be back to the usual lame stuff. He, however, didn’t miss a single moment of it all. We’d mostly just communicated by texts over the weekend. As much as it breaks my heart to admit it, I think we have kind of grown apart. I’ve definitely changed, but so has he. He didn’t used to be Mr. Popular, or the football star. He was just sweet, adorable, Asher. Now he’s Asher 2.0.

Today was the day.

Back to school time. Over the weekend I spent just about every moment that I wasn’t busy looking for Theon, on catching back up on my school work. I’ve always been alright at school, but my teachers would always say I would do better if I would just apply myself, and actually try. As much as I hate to admit this too, my teachers were right. I’ve been making 100’s on all of my practice tests, and the homework has been a breeze. If I can buckle down and spend all of my free time doing school work, I don’t see any reason why I can’t catch up and graduate on time with my class. I don’t have anything better to do anyway.

I groaned as I lazily got out of bed and went to hop in the shower.

I’d forgotten about my welcome home party. It wasn’t supposed to be for almost two more weeks, but Davey’s parents decided to leave early for their trip, so the party is going to be this Friday night. Even though it is only Monday, I am already dreading having to go to that. I’m hoping that it will be low key, but knowing Davey, it will probably be the opposite.

As I went through my closet to look for something to wear, I was struck by how much I missed Tally, and helping her pick out her outfits. Then, thinking of Tally leads to thinking of Theon. I checked the time, knowing that it was ok if I was a little late to homeroom. I quickly grabbed my laptop and called two more places on the island.

“Never heard of ’em.”

“Nobody here by that name.”

Two nos. One last place to call.

“Thank you for calling Surf and Slurp, how can I help you?” The woman asked.

I cleared my throat. “Hi, I’m looking for Theon?”

“Theon?” She repeated.

“Yes, Theon.”

“Sorry, he doesn’t work here anymore.”

My heart leapt that I’d found someone who knew him, and then fell when she said that.

“Ok, well, do you know where he is?” I asked. “Or a number I can call him at?”

She paused. “No, sorry.”

Her voice sounded a little familiar. “Hey,” I said. “Are you the girl I ran into leaving Theon’s house?” I asked, crossing my fingers.

“Um, yeah…I guess.”

“Oh, thank god!” I cheered. “Please do me a huge favor?”

“I don’t do favors for people who aren’t paying me.”

“I will pay you, just please go and give him a message for me.”

We worked out how I was going to wire her the cash, and she seemed much nicer now that she was benefitting from this. “So what do you want me to tell him?” She asked.

“Ok, well, this is a little awkward, but could you just write this down and then take him the note?”

“I guess.”

I sighed, trying to find the right words. “Write, I miss you. I miss you so much, Tally too. I’ve been trying to call, but I don’t think I am getting through to you. Someone is responding to texts, but I’m hoping to god that it isn’t you saying those things. I can’t stop thinking of you, and I just miss you.”

“That it?” She asked when I sighed again, she probably thinks I’m insane.

“Yeah, I guess so.”

I hung up the phone with her, hoping that Theon would be getting my message soon. Hoping even more than that, that he wasn’t the one who was texting me. My face reddened a shade when I thought about it. If he was the one texting me, then getting my note is going to be extra embarrassing, but I’m trying not to let myself focus on that right now.

“You better get going or you’ll be tardy!” I heard my mother call from somewhere in the house when I was walking down the halls.

“I know!” I called back. “I’m leaving now, love you guys!” I shouted, and both my parents called back to me from wherever they are.

I got to class right as the bell rang, and I settled into my desk, loving the way it felt to be back here. As the day went on, I listened intently to my teachers as they spoke, I took notes, I asked questions, I was hungry to learn and to focus on something other than my own screwed up life.

There was now the added bonus of having Asher here with me throughout the day to walk me to each of my classes, and kiss me on the cheek at the door, making my fellow classmates swoon at how perfect of a couple we were. If they only knew the things going on in my head. I may not have made any finalized plans as far as he and I go, but I’m pretty sure when I am honest with myself, that Asher doesn’t hold my heart the way that he used to.

Lunchtime was uneventful. My friends chattered on, everyone careful not to say anything too mean, and glancing at me curiously whenever something little did slip out. It was like they were watching me to see if I was going to go hulk on them or something. I’m not the bully police, I just don’t want to be involved in that anymore.

After school I headed home alone, Asher had practice anyway, and I did my homework, ate dinner with my parents, and then went to bed.

That was how every day of this week had gone, but tonight would be changing things up. There’d be no dinner with parents, or hitting the bed early. Tonight was my party. All day long the ‘Pity Party’ song was stuck in my head and I kept imagining myself tonight on the docks outside of Davey’s beach house crying into a bowl of ice-cream.

The day that I hoped would drag by, prolonging my time before the party, was unusually fast. My classes flew by and before I knew it I was at home with Eve getting ready. “This is your party, so you’ve got to be looking fierce.” She told me with a hair flip. I let her do my makeup and hair, then I slipped on my favorite little red party dress with the sparkly black stilettoes that have been begging me to wear them since I got home.

“Damn, Eve.” I smiled when I looked into the mirror. “You should be a makeup artist, this looks flawless.”

She beamed under my praise. “Oh, girl, I don’t want to be the makeup artist, I’m going to be the famous beauty that the makeup artist is working on.” She giggled as we left.

Asher called to say that practice had run late and that he was going home to get cleaned up and that he’d meet us there. Eve drove while I looked out the window with a sinking feeling in my stomach. It had been days now since I had my message sent to Theon, and I hadn’t heard anything back from the chick at the bar. Realization has really started to kick in that he really might just be trying to get rid of me. Out of sight out of mind.

I got chill running up my back as we drove up the strip. It was the first time I’d seen the ocean since I left the island, and as much as I used to love the beach, wanting to spend all of my time there, now it creeped me out. I watched as the medium sized surf lapped up to the shore, the water not quite as pretty, and our sands a lot darker, but the never ending expanse of it made me feel connected to it again, and that was not a feeling I wanted to be having.

Thankfully when we pulled into the drive of Davey’s sprawling water front mansion, I remembered that his house borders more on the bay than it does on the actually open ocean. From here I can smell the salt, and feel that ever memorable breeze, but in the distance I can see more land, so I don’t feel as lost out in the open when I look at it.

There were hundreds of people here, and although it was my party, I sure didn’t know more than half of the people here. Some girls walked around in their bikinis, others were dressed up like me, and then the more laid back ones were rocking their chucks and shorts; a look I always wished I could pull off, but everyone always told me that they weren’t me. I remembered how nice it was to just lounge around at Theon’s in an oversized sweat shirt and sweat pants.

Asher showed up late, and already buzzed.

I had already endured two hours of mindless small talk with everyone, and I had somehow managed to avoid having a cup forced into my hand, but Asher was downing them as quickly as he could find them. He’d been everywhere but with me tonight. I sat with my girls and just watched him. He’d grown to be so different in such a short amount of time. He tossed his head back laughing with guys I’d never met before, he’d make dirty jokes that caused those same guys to bust their guts laughing too. I saw him wink at group of pretty freshmen as they walked around in awe of everything around them and swooning at his dreamy face.

When I saw him then turn to his buddies and cough, ‘sluts’, under his breath when the girls were gone, I got up and walked out onto the back porch. Davey’s backyard was buzzing with people. The beer pong table was set up on the deck, and down below it and off to the side there was a fire pit with couples making out around it.

I walked through everyone, like a ghost that no one noticed, and I headed out onto the dock. The moon was high in the night sky, and it reflected on the black water, rippling slowly, morphing the shape like a funhouse mirror.

I held my shoes in my hand as I walked down the wooden planks and sat at the end of the dock, my feet dangling above the water. I sat there for a long time just thinking. I do that a lot now. Since I’ve been back, I have become quite the contemplator. I shook out my curls and glared up at the moon. Everything should be right. I am home, I am free, but yet, everything is wrong. I don’t want to be here, and Asher is a person I don’t feel like I really even know anymore.

The little voice in my mind perks up, making me wonder if I ever did know him, or if I had always been too enamored by his perfect face, and the way he treated me so sweetly, to ever actually get to know the person behind the good looks and nice actions.

“This is your life.” I whispered to myself. “Get used to it.”

Theon wants nothing to do with me, and Asher still loves me, even though I’ve changed, so I need to at least try to love him even though he has changed too. I pulled out my phone and stared down at the screen, the little red bubble beside the call button letting me know that I still have a voicemail to listen to.

Maybe this is just what I need. I’ll listen to Asher’s message and maybe seeing what he had to say to me will be the push I need to remind me how much we mean to each other.

I took a deep breath. This isn’t really something I should be doing at a party, but whatever. I hit play and the speaker button, holding the phone out in front of me.

His voice was enough to shatter my heart.

“Serena, baby.” He cried loudly, sniffling in between sobs. “Oh, baby. Oh. What have I done?” He shouted. “I am so so sorry, Serena. I didn’t mean it. I didn’t mean it. I wish I could take it back.” He said over and over. “I never actually thought…and now you’re gone. Oh, god, I am sorry, Serena. Please forgive me I just can’t believe I-.” The message was cut short when a big hand slapped my phone out of my hand and it dropped down into the water with a little plop sound.

“What the hell, Asher?” I shouted at him, spinning to look at him.

He stood behind me, one hand in his hair and the other balled up in front of his mouth. “Oh, Serena, I’m sorry.” He said shaking his head and looking down as the light of my phone got dimmer and dimmer as it sank. “I don’t know why I just did that. I’ll get you a new one.”

I stood up and faced him. “I literally just got it back and you tossed it into the freaking ocean?” I snapped. “What was it you didn’t want me to hear, Asher?” I demanded angrily, my face burning. “What were you apologizing for?”

Even though he was drunk, the guilt was clear on his face too. “Serena, I’m sorry.” He said again, shaking his head.

“If you don’t want to tell me, that’s fine.” I snapped. “We’re over!” I screamed and pushed passed him to walk up the dock, but he grabbed my arm, pulling me back to face him.

“Please, baby, no.” He said urgently. “I love you, so much, I do.” He hiccupped.

I bit my lip hard and then gritted my teeth. “Then you better tell me the freaking truth, Asher! What did you do?” I asked him, almost afraid to hear the answer.

He covered his face with his hands and sighed sadly. “I did it.” He said. “I cheated.”

I crossed my arms over my chest. “Why would you lie to me about that?” I asked him, still pissed, but not like I should be. “Why didn’t you just tell me the truth? I told you that I had messed up too, and I told you I’d forgive you for it if you had. You thought I was dead.”

He lowered his hands and looked down at me, his eyes wet. “Serena, I should have told you. I just didn’t want to upset you after all that you had been through.”

The pitiful look on his face, and my exhaustion from this day started to get to me. I reached out for his hand, but right before I grabbed it, I remembered. “No!” I shouted. “No, wait.” I said remembering what day and time the message said it was delivered. “That message was from the day after the accident!”

“Serena, I can explain.”

“No!” I yelled again. “You cheated before you thought I was dead? That was why you were feeling so guilty. You cheated on me, and then you thought I’d died.”

His cheeks were flushed and I didn’t think it was because of the beers. “Serena, I-.”

“Who was it?” I snapped. He started to shake his head. “Who was it?” I asked again.

“Marcy.” He whispered lowly.

I had to laugh. Of course it was Marcy. Why wasn’t she my very first guess?

I took two deep breaths and then let them go. “Asher,” I said evenly. “You and I are done.” I said calmly. I turned around to walk back up the docks, but I stopped dead in my tracks.

“Serena.” He said. Standing there all tall, dark, and handsome.

I had to blink hard to make sure I wasn’t just imagining that he was really here, right in front of me. “Theon.” I whispered hoarsely. I was in a perfect moment when I looked into his eyes. All of the stress and anxiety that I have been carrying around seemed to lift off of me, and in his eyes I found some peace and my mind finally stopped running in circles and it just stopped to admire him. He opened his arms, his eyes glue to mine and I double stepped to get to him.

Everything was perfect until Asher opened his mouth again.

“What the hell are you doing here?” He snapped at Theon.

I stopped and turned to look back and forth between the two of them glaring at each other.

“Wait.” I said hollowly. “You two know each other?”

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