The Angel,The Devil,The Nerd

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Chapter 32 - My Reason

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CHAPTER 32 - MY REASON

NATALIE'S POV

My mother is starting to think I'm insane. Because with this one, it makes three days in a row that I wake up early, even when going to sleep late. You can easily guess I now spend a big part of my nights at home texting my boyfriend. I swear, it still feels strange to call him that.

When this morning I arrived at school, there were few people swarming in the hall, but enough for me to have to pretend I didn't spot Eric beneath the stairs and didn't crave to run to him and let him engulf me in one of his protective and yet tender hugs.

So I acted like nothing, walking to my locker, people not acknowledging my presence in the slightest bit, as it's always been and I like it to be. But not much passed before I felt the usual slap on my shoulder, even more energetic this time, Aisha all but shouting her good morning. I turned around and smiled at her, who was beaming, and I soon understood why when she showed me her new necklace, which apparently her dad had bought her out of sense of guilt.

"Sooo ... how did it go? Did you guys make out? Did he get too touchy? If he did and you didn't want him to, just tell me, I can handle it. I will beat the shit out of him if he dared." I giggled as she said that, shaking my head.

"Aisha ..."

"No, seriously. Just one word and I will kick his white ass for you, Cookie."

I shook my head once more, chuckling. "No need, thanks. It was all perfect." That gave her the go to ask for details, but I was a bit reluctant on telling her ... I haven't known her for long, but I already feel like I can trust her, and even if she has a big mouth, maybe she won't talk ...

"Aisha, can you keep a secret?" I asked as people kept swarming around us. I glanced at my watch, only to see I had a few minutes left before the bell rang. She grinned from ear to ear, bobbing her head.

"Tell me, tell me." She started demanding, tossing and turning around me like a puppy wanting to play. I grinned and stopped her, especially because she was making my head spin.

Inhaling deeply, I recounted her everything. I could read every emotion on her pretty face, but she was silent all the time. In the end, she opened her mouth and I wrapped my hand around it, conscious that she might scream, attracting much attention. She did scream a little, but my hand muffled it much. Phew.

Yet when I pulled back my hand she couldn't retain herself: "I knew it! I knew Eralie was meant to be!" I would have grimaced at her exclamation that attracted the attention of the couple of kids around my locker, but the name she used made me giggle.

"Eralie?" I asked, confused. She grinned widely, then raised a hand, behind which she hid the finger with which she pointed at Eric standing down the hall with his friends, and then at me.

"It's the perfect name, isn't it? I came up with it when I decided I ship it."

"You ship it?"

"Yes! I ship Eralie. Definitely. I mean, Katalie was cool too, but Eralie is better, much, much better!"

I frowned, confused, so she explained that she'd given the ships involving me a name, Katalie being me and Kyle, while Eralie being me and Eric. She said that she liked Katalie because Kyle is cute and sweet, but she preferred Eralie because, not only was Eric incredibly hot, but he also was clearly in deep for me. Normally, I would have laughed of it, but with all that Eric's been telling me, about me being all that he wants, us being a dream come true and everything ... well, I couldn't doubt, could I?

Aisha burned my ears with her babbling all the way through the hall, only to silence when we reached the stairs. I'll admit my heart was beating fast, even more when, imperceptibly, Eric winked at me, distractedly listening to his friends, hands stuffed in his pockets, looking as handsome and hot as always with his light blue jeans and dark green t-shirt with grey hoodie. I did my best not to blush neither smile and just climbed the stairs, acting like nothing while Aisha beside me kept her grin as much as she could.

I'd just made it to the first floor and was walking to class with Aisha when he texted me: Try not to break too many hearts, princess. You look too blindingly gorgeous for a little human to take it. Giggling, blushing, heart racing ... all the natural reactions I'm gonna have to get used to if he keeps on being so adorable.

***

I was in the middle of my third period, trying hard to find interesting the documentary Mr. Danes, our Biology teacher, was showing us, but in reality ending up bored and joining my peers as they played with their phones. Well, I was actually chatting with Aisha. She was having Chemistry instead, and the teacher was explaining some stupid reaction, as she said, so she was bored.

All of a sudden, someone knocked on the door and a pretty flustered kid, most probably a freshman, peeked inside, barely daring to show himself to the class. He gulped before talking, I bet also intimidated by the teacher's harsh gaze.

He hadn't stopped the projector, so the kid was forced to enter to talk, since he couldn't be loud because "the students were busy watching a very interesting documentary". Yeah, something about the enthralling life of frogs. Wow. So interesting ... I followed the kid with my eyes as he approached Mr. Danes. I couldn't hear what they said, but I gulped when their gazes landed on me and the teacher gestured for me to stand up.

"There's someone for you in the administrative office. You're free to skip the rest of the class, Miss Watson, but I will expect for you to catch up." I blinked my eyes but nodded and he told me I could go, so I grabbed my things and got out with the kid, feeling actually worried, because it could only be mom and if she was here, it meant something big was up and I had no idea what to expect.

But the freshman, once we were out of the class, nervously asked me to follow him. I argued that I know where the administrative office is, but he repeated the same phrase and I rolled my eyes, although not too displeased, already knowing who was to blame for this.

In fact the kid led me along the hall and to the janitor's room, by which stood, guess who, my bad boy in all his glory. Eric smirked as he looked up at me. He was leaning on the wall, arms crossed, a pretty hot sight even in such a natural position.

"Hey, princess ..." He greeted me, grabbing my hand to pull me into the open room, but before entering with me, even though he'd already engulfed me in a warm hug, he whistled to the freshman that was all but fleeing.

"Remember what I said, Gary?" Eric asked him as the kid turned around. Gulping and swallowing, clearly frightened, the freshman nodded as he spoke, like he'd memorized those words for life: "One word I say about this, and I'm dead."

Eric smirked, clearly pleased to hear that. "Good." He stated as he pushed me inside the room and closed the door behind him.

Before his lips could attack mine once he'd cornered me against the wall, I argued: "Did you really need to scare that poor kid like that?"

Eric chuckled, his lips nearing mine. "He's fine. I just teased him a little."

I rolled my eyes at that. "He was scared to death, Eric. One more word from you and he'd have either peed his pants of fled." I argued, but my boyfriend just chuckled as he pecked my lips.

"Yeah, ok, I'm gonna apologize to him later. Better?" I wanted to give him a dirty look, but only a grin came out, and I let him engulf me in his kisses and hugs, letting myself go, feeling quite excited at this kind of violating the rules. Yeah, such a badass I am, huh?

Eric's hands were on my hips, his grip enough tight to let me know he had no intention of letting me go so soon, as we kissed, deeply and passionately and yet tenderly, my arms around his shoulders, hands tangled in his hair.

I was wearing, just for a change, a grey pullover that actually belonged to my mother and that, even if she's skinnier, fitted me only because her breasts are not as plump as mine (odd, right?). It highlighted my curves a little, as Aisha gently made me notice earlier, and considering my boyfriend, during the few breaks from making out, would peek down, I have to believe my Thelma and Louise were a bit exposed, weren't they?

"You know, princess, it's hard to retain myself from trying it when you so gladly expose the merchandise for me." Eric commented, amused. I giggled, a bit flustered, yes, at his pretty alluding tone, but amused nevertheless. I am not even nearly ready for such a big step, and while it feels like we've been always headed here despite everything, we've been together since barely four days.

Four days are nothing. Really, really nothing. I don't mean to sound prude, but ... well, I need to live this a little more before I just give up my most precious gift to him. I know, I know, I sound old fashioned, but you see, with my mother and grandmother repeating me, over and over again, that only when I am really ready and the boy is the right one I should give up my V-card, it's hard not to stick to that belief that waiting is better.

Besides, Eric said he doesn't mind and it'd be really stupid for real to just do it after four days of relationship. I mean, I've waited so many years, I can wait a few months more, can't I?

Eric kissed my lips once more, his hands now coming to cup my cheeks, not sure if just for the sake of it or to keep himself from peeking down, but whatever. I just let myself go, raking my hands through his hair, tugging on it when his lips lowered to my neck and I moaned, lowly, but I did. Not another hickey, I hoped when he nipped down on my skin. The last one is gone, but there's no need to replace it so soon, is there?

"Eric ..." I called, well, moaned, when his nibbling became more intense. He continued a little more but in the end growled as he pulled slightly back, cursing, which made me giggle.

"Sorry. I'm gonna have to try and ... slow down, but ... understand me, I've been waiting for this for so long that it seems impossible to resist now." I blinked my eyes, a little confused, as he said that, implying that he'd been wanting me since ages and I never realized, but ... I can't have been that blind, right?

I mean, all of this started barely a month ago or something of the sort, when we were paired up for that project, a project we still need to work on, by the way, because the recital will be in two months and we have to write the script. Then there was his tutoring me for Math, which he'll be still doing, you can bet on it, because I'm a slouch, although, as Aisha kindly made me notice, hardly will we be studying, to which I blushed, but more at the fact that she might be right than at her assumption.

Eric smiled, grazing my cheek which his thumb. "I know I will sound pathetic, but ... I've been wanting you for more than you could ever imagine, baby. Not in that sense. I've just ... been wanting to be with you for so long that now it seems impossible that I truly have you."

My heart skipped a beat at that. So he's ... he's been liking me since long? Just pretended not to have ever even noticed me? It was ... all an act? Wow. Just ... wow. Yeah, I know, you were expecting anxious Natalie to freak out about this, because it explained why has he always known so much about me, how he ... wait, could it be that ...

"Eric, you know that in sophomore year my ... my grandma passed away, right?" I asked, feeling my heart race at the thought. All these years ... it was him?

He nodded, gently caressing my cheek as the other hand was now wrapped around my waist, a sweet and tender smile etched on his lips.

"And ... well, you know I spent four days crying my heart out for her, right?" He once more nodded. He did tell me, back to that day in the gym, when he freaked me out with his confession, that he knew about that too, but I had to be sure about something now, especially because while back then I would have never imagined it, now it only made sense.

I inhaled deeply, leaning my head on his chest, silently asking him to cradle me in his arms, which he did, quite gladly too, as he rested his chin on my head after having placed a gentle kiss on my hair. "It was you, wasn't it?" I asked, once more inhaling deeply, halfway between sadness because I recalled how brokenhearted I felt those days, and joy because that little thing did really enlighten my mood.

"That letter in my locker. That friend who wrote those sweet words ... it was you." I pointed out, abandoning myself to the warmth and protection of his hug.

Eric smiled, placing another kiss on my hair as he rubbed my back soothingly. "I couldn't stand seeing my princess so sad. That was by far one of the worst periods of my life." He admitted, once more kissing my hair as my arms wrapped around his torso, gripping him tightly, because I needed his embrace, even if I wasn't truly sad, I needed him to cuddle me like that.

"Because you were broken and there was nothing I could do about it." He cupped my cheeks and made me look straight into his blue eyes, which now as ever reverberated with a sweet and caring light I've barely ever seen. Like he was letting go of every caution, like he was tearing down every wall that hid his real emotions, exposing his own heart for me.

"You are, always have been, more important for me than you could ever even imagine. And it dug a hole in my chest too, seeing you so broken, especially without anybody doing anything for you and me not being able to fix it for you. I ..."

ERIC'S POV

I swallowed, trying to breathe properly, but also biting my tongue not to spill out those words. It's like now that I have her all those feelings have reached a mad force and while till a couple of days ago they were close to tearing me apart, now they were using that force, that strength to break down my walls and push me into declaring, into telling her what I truly feel, which I will ... not just yet.

I remember the day she mentioned like it was yesterday. Those four days were hellish, and for once, it wasn't because of my crappy life, but because every morning I would see her drag herself down the hall like a zombie, eyes clearly bloodshot, I could see it even from afar, I could see she was truly broken and as unmanly as it sounds, it broke my heart too to see her like that.

So I thought of something to do to cheer her up a little, but there was nothing. In the end I wrote those words out of need and exasperation, because I couldn't take it anymore, I couldn't stand seeing her like that when normally, she would smile and giggle with her best friend, lighting up my day just with that.

So I slipped that letter in her locker and even creepily watched as she found it and read it. The light smile that curved her soft pink lips warmed my heart, making it smile too, simply because she was.

I have been loving her since always, guys. My heart, my stupid, corrupted heart has been hers since my eyes first landed on her and every day those feelings just grew, eating me alive but also giving me hope. She is my hope. She is, always has been, my reason.

My reason to wake up everything morning and fight. My reason to endure everything with my head held high, hoping for a brighter future where I wouldn't have to hide, but I could hold her in my arms like I was now and cuddle her, kiss her, caress her and soothe her every time she needed it.

Three years ago, uncle Sam came to know about his brother-in-law actually being the head of a vast, sustained criminal organization that had roots in our town but extended its powers much beyond that, he came to know that the man his sister married was in truth, the head of a criminal organization that they, FBI, along with the Marshalls had been hunting down for years. 

After much fussing and threatening to walk all the way here if it was necessary and kill the bastard with his own hands, especially as Robert's one time sloppiness resulted in his scarring me too deeply, so much that it remained even after a week and when uncle Sam came to see me in the reformatory noticed it, after much fussing, when he calmed down, thanks to his wife too, who's FBI too, he started reasoning. 

Although, while she called their superiors, he assured me, quite darkly, that while he would follow the official channels, if he got to Robert Dillinger before his colleagues, he would be happy to spend the rest of his life in a cozy cell whatever jail.

I retorted that we'd be sharing it, but he didn't have time to reply because his wife came back and gave us the good, or half good news: a huge hunt was to start and I had to play a big, big role in it.

When they told me I had to go undercover in my stepfather's organization, work for him while trying to dig all the dirt possible on him, but gave me a choice, I thought over it for a moment, but then I pictured Natalie and her smile and the chance of a really possible future with her taunting me, so close, a mere inch from my fingertips ... well, I just decided that if I had to dip into Hell, I may as well do it for a good reason, and that reason was, of course, my Natalie.

Swallow the hurt, swallow the dirt, focus on the good. Focus on the reason. Focus on her.

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