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Chapter Nineteen

“Are you sure you don’t want to wait in the car?” My mom asks as the rehab facility comes into our focus and dad searches for a parking space. She’s been on edge ever since we left the hotel. I know she’s trying to avoid this reconciliation from going terribly wrong but she’s not going to stop it from happening at all.

“It’s going to take forever for him to sign the release forms. I’m coming in mom.” I say, swinging my car door open. My mom is pacing beside the car impatiently for me and my dad.

“Can you guys please hurry up? I want to see my baby.” Mom urges, bugging us both to speed it up. I roll my eyes. Honestly her nervous energy is rubbing off on me and I don’t want any of it. My heart is already in my stomach and I just need to see Alex and make sure he’s okay. Visions of him passed out on the floor and lying almost lifeless in a hospital bed is flickering in my brain and I need to replace them with whatever Alex is behind those glass doors. I hope it’s a healthy, happy Alex. A forgiving older brother.

I walk behind my parents as they walk through the automatic doors into the facility. I hang back as they go to the front desk and speak to the slightly older woman sat there. They exchange a few words and the lady is on the phone for a little while before my parents both sit next to me in the tiny waiting area.

“Alex is gathering his stuff and she said he’ll be down in a while. Please don’t bombard your brother when you see him and don’t force him into conversation. This is going to be a relaxed, drama free day, understand?” I hold back a sarcastic retort and nod my head in agreement. I got here at least so I’m not going to push my mom. If she ever let’s Alex out of her sight tonight I can hopefully get him alone to talk.

The elevators adjacent to us open, and I see a muscular, lean body exit from it’s confinement. His long fingers run through his short hair that was long and shaggy the last time I saw it. His hazel eyes scan the room before landing on our parents. His eyes brighten, a smile I missed desperately encompassing his face. My mom is up and running towards him and Alex swoops her into his arms, swinging her around as she cries out gleefully. He’s taller than her now, and his newly acquired muscles lift her above the ground. She’s crying and he’s shushing her. My father waits patiently behind them and when mom lets Alex go he grins at dad and they embrace each other, patting one another’s backs.

“It’s good to see you son. I missed you.” Dad’s voice is gruff with suppressed emotion as he regards Alex.

“I missed you too dad. I’m glad you and mom both came.” Alex grins, his smile faltering when his eyes meet mine. I feel my breathing cease, all air swooshing from my body. Did he not know I was coming? Surely mom would have told him. What if she didn’t?

I stand up slowly, taking a few steps towards where Alex stood. His eyes watched me warily and before I knew it I stood directly in front of him. He looked the same, yet different in some ways. He was obviously more built and he towered over me like he always has. Those hazel eyes of his haven’t changed. I didn’t realize until a few moments ago how much I missed the sound of his voice. His voice is deeper now, commanding your attention and seeking all ears in a room. He’s grown some facial hair, making him appear older. Despite any changes in him, he was still my brother.

“Alex,” I say quietly, waiting for him to possibly yell, demand that I leave, or ignore me altogether. What he does next I think shocks us both. I gasp as Alex pulls me into his chest, squeezing me so tightly I can barely breathe. My arms wrap around his waist and I lean my head on his shoulder, taking in his scent that hasn’t changed. God I missed him so much. Alex sooned voiced my thoughts.

“I missed you flower.” I tear up at his childhood nickname for me and a huge grin splits my face.

“I missed you more big bro.” Alex laughs, his chest vibrating.

“Not possible Lilly,” We soon let go of each other as Alex begins signing his release papers and our parents speak briefly with his doctor. I sit contently, a large weight being lifted from my shoulders. We still had a lot to talk about but seeing him has gone better than I ever could’ve imagined. He was alive and healthy, and I couldn’t of asked for anything better.

Eventually we were able to leave and drove back to the hotel. Alex kept what belongings he had in dad’s hotel room and we all three then drove out to a restaurant to sit down for lunch. Walking inside, I was pleasantly surprised by the warm atmosphere of the place. I could hear my mom’s heels click on the black and white linoleum floor. Each wall was painted either a light beige or a blood red. Adorned on the walls were elaborate rococo paintings that were eye catching, each varying in vibrant shades or dull landscapes. The low lighting of the establishment made it feel very seclusive. We were led to a mahogany table and sitted. After we ordered drinks the waiter left in a flourish, leaving us to our own devices.

“So, how have you guys been? Surely what you guys have been up to is more interesting than what I’ve been doing. Which has been mostly nothing.” Alex smiles and I can’t help but grin back because i missed his smile. Even when he was home months ago he rarely ever smiled. He seemed happier this time, freer somehow. It made me happy.

“Nothing really interesting has been going on with me and Karen. We’re just excited for you kids to come over on Christmas Eve. Frankie is especially excited for it. She asks about Lilly all the time.” Dad says, and I refrain from saying anything crass, my promise with my mom circling my brain. I suppose she was right anyways. It was the holidays and the least I could do is be civil.

“I’m looking forward to it dad.” I say, smiling when he’s clearly taken off guard by my words. I reach into one of the baskets on the table and spread butter on the rolls we were given as appetizers.

“What about you mom? Anything new you didn’t say over the phone?” His teasing smile causes the corner of his eyes to crinkle. My laughs loudly, shaking her head.

“Nope, still your same, boring old mom. What you should be doing is asking your sister about her new boyfriend.” My mouth falls open in shock at my mother’s words. She completely threw me under the bus, and she lied!

“This is news to me!” My dad exclaims. “Who is this boy Lilly? Is it the one Karen told me about? Who picked you up from the dinner after your ugh.. Dinner?” My dad throws question after question at me and my cheeks catch flame in extreme embarrassment.

“He’s not my boyfriend.” I mumble. Everyone gives me a look of disbelief.

“Right. So when do I get to meet him? Hopefully he’s nothing like that Bryce kid. I might’ve been fucked up back then but even I knew he was no good.” Alex says.I kind of flinch at the casual mention of Bryce’s name, not wanting to talk about him to my brother I haven’t spoken to in six months.

“Justin is nothing like Bryce. He’s sweet, and caring. I can be myself around him and he doesn’t ever judge me. He’s a good guy.”

“He better be. I’d hate to have to kick his ass.” Bryce says noncommittally, making our mother gasp.

“Alex! You won’t be harming anyone, understand me mister?” Mom demands, going into full on mama bear mode. I laugh.

“Knowing you, you’d enjoy that. Too bad I wouldn’t let you put a hand on him.”

“Don’t worry, I won’t hurt your little boyfriend unless I have to.” I groan.

“He’s not my boyfriend!”

“Not yet.” Mom winks. She actually winks. My own mother. I am ashamed.

“Justin really is a charming boy. They go out often and I’ve met their whole group of friends. They’re very good kids. That Shane boy is especially sweet.” I almost choked on my sweet tea. Shane Rikers, sweet? On what friggin planet?

“Shane who?” Alex asks curiously.

“Shane Rikers,” I answer shortly, smiling at our waiter when he finally brought the food we had ordered. I saw Alex immediately scowl and I laugh because I can totally relate.

“That guy is an ass. You’re friends with him?”

“If you can even call us friends, but yeah I guess. And I know, he pisses me off daily but he’s Justin’s friend, so.” I say shrugging as I bite into my parmesan chicken.

“Well I still want to meet Alex. I think I’ll pass on Shane since I um, threatened to beat his ass when you guys were sophomores.” Alex says and I try to suppress my laughter but fail miserably. This is what older brothers are for. Disliking the same people that you do.

“Okay. I’ll see what I can do.” Conversation finally shifts from me to random topics as we have a nice lunch together as a family, something we haven’t done in a long, long time. Before Alex spiralled down he was always the glue that kept us together, and even when he doesn’t try he knows how to make things right. That was the brother I remembered before his addiction. And I hope we get to keep this version of him.

The version of my brother who I grew up with. Not tarnished by the harsh reality of the world or the affliction of drugs. He was just a boy. He was Alex. And he was my brother.

“Really? Mom did that?”” Alex throws his head back in laughter, tears dripping from his eyes. I slap his shoulder, trying to hold back my own giggling fit.

“It’s not funny!” I yell, even though peals of laughter are falling from my lips. “Mom cursed out my french teacher because she called so many times mom thought she was a bill collector! Mrs. Pettit hates me now!” Alex howls with laughter and the sight is truly breathtaking. He’s always had an amazing laugh, and growing up I’m sure many girls fell in love with that same laugh. Alex always left a trail of broken hearts wherever he went. Vacations during the summer as a family was always a prime time for Alex. He’d date so many different girls when we were on vacation, and he had too many summer flings for me to count.

My brother is the type of heartbreaker to not really know or acknowledge what he’s doing. He’s always liked to party and have a good time. He was that fun, laid back guy who you felt comfortable with and who you could trust. I guess somewhere along the way the parties became too much, the situation at home began chipping away at his fun nature and he became the guy who hunted after a high every night, fixing for a hit.

“Alex?” I speak up after our laughter had died down and we sat quietly for a moment. We were sitting outside on the balcony of dad’s hotel room, since he had gone out to pick up fast food for dinner and mom was in the shower in the next room over. Alex looks up, waiting for me to begin speaking. Taking a deep breath, I prepare myself to speak what’s on my mind.

“What happened this summer? I mean, obviously I know what happened but I mean…” I begin to stumble on my words, frustration pooling in my belly. “I-I thought you were better? You seemed like you were finally happy. What drove you over the edge?” I see Alex take a deep breath, scratching the back of his neck. His eyes close for a minute, and he exhales shakily.

“Are you mad at me? Or were you? I wrote so many times, I wanted to call and visit but… you didn’t want to see me. God Alex I had nightmares about that day for months. Then I couldn’t even see you. You shut me out. And i-if you blame me for that day, it’s okay. I blamed myself for so long… most days I still do.” I whisper, sobs crawling up my throat, trying to scratch their way to the surface. Suddenly my face is pressed against Alex’s chest as he starts soothing me, my sobs echoing into the night around us.

“I’m so sorry Alex.” I cry, my small hands almost ripping into his shirt, not wanting to let go, not wanting my brother to leave me again.

“No no no, don’t apologize flower. None of it was your fault. You didn’t force those pills down my throat. You didn’t cause my addiction. You didn’t cause the helplessness I felt or the crippling depression that weighed me down everyday for months, and soon those months turned into a year. It wasn’t you fault Lilly.”

“B-But I saw those pills in your drawer! And I didn’t say anything! I knew you were hanging out with fucking Tony Baker who got you taking shit in the first place! I didn’t tell mom or dad. If I would’ve just said something.” I growl, hating myself all over again for my decisions months ago. I was just so angry and I wanted to hurt Alex the way he hurt me. But I was stupid and selfish in my own vendetta. Despite his lying I should’ve realized the severity of the situation sooner. So many things could’ve been prevented that day and the what ifs have been eating me alive ever since.

“Stop Lilly. I know you were going to tell mom after you confronted me about the pills. I didn’t blame you then and I sure as hell don’t blame you now. I made the wrong choices not you. I never blamed you for any of it.” Alex says sincerely, and I pull away from him so I can look him in the eyes.

“Then why have you been punishing me?” my voice quivers. Alex’s eyebrows furrow.

“What do you mean Lilly?” Confusion laces his voice before realization peaks his features.

“I was never ashamed of you. I was angry at myself. I was so embarrassed that you had to be the one to find me like that. I knew how much I hurt you, mom, and dad. I couldn’t even look at myself in the mirror for weeks after they released me from the hospital and I went to Vincent’s.” Alex looked so sad in that moment, his face downtrodden. He looked so… defeated.

“I got all of your letters and I loved them. It made me happy to know you were still writing, and I cherished what you shared with me. Anytime I started to write a letter back, I wouldn’t send it. I wanted to have positive news to tell you. I wanted you to be proud of me and believe in me again. I couldn’t write to you that I still woke up and thought of drugs. That pills were the first thing I thought about in the morning and that they plagued me at night before I went to sleep. I didn’t want to talk to you about the withdrawals I suffered through. The only reason I got through them was because of the thought of being a better brother to you and a good son again.” Alex face was now passive, and I hated that he had to go through all of that alone. I wanted to be there for him.

“I didn’t want to talk to you or for you to see me until I was truly better. I wanted to be worthy enough to be your brother again. I wanted you far away so I couldn’t hurt you again. I’m tired of ruining people.” Alex’s voice breaks and I hug him tightly.

“You haven’t ruined anyone. Shh. It’s all okay now. You’re okay. We’re okay.” We stay like that until our father returned with dinner, slowly mending what we once thought might be broken.

Welcome back Alex.

Alex moved back into his old room when we finally got back to the house. He has been mostly settling back in the past few days. Mom took him shopping for new clothes and items for his room. He’s been job hunting, wanting to find something to occupy his time. He told me once he got settled in he wanted to start taking college classes online for a business degree. I can’t even begin to explain how proud I am of him. Since he’s been home he’s had something he didn’t have seven months ago; drive and determination. He had actual goals and an idea of what he wanted to do for himself and his future. His actions proved that this time around, things will be different.

Today everyone would be at Jasmine’s house to exchange gifts and say goodbye. It sucked that she was leaving, I’d really come to like her and the calmness she brought to our wild group. I haven’t known her as long as everyone else, but I’d miss her nonetheless.

Shane’s present was in a gift bag, since I really couldn’t be bothered to wrap it and he’s not worth the effort anyways. He’s not big on gifts and has been bashing our secret santa exchange ever since Lou brought it up. They’ve done it every year since Lou and Gracson got together, so I don’t understand his deal.

I think his recent tantrums can be contributed to the fact that Jasmine was moving away. Seeing Shane heartbroken made him more human to me, as awful as that sounds. Heartbreak is the only way I can actually empathize with him and help me try and understand him as a person. I’ve only ever seen Shane be an asshole and a player; he’s never shown me any other side of him. I know there’s something more to him but I’m honestly clueless. I only know what he’s allowed me to see.

I say goodbye to my mom as she pulls away from Jasmine’s driveway. When I knock on her door an older woman answers, smiling widely.

“You must be Lilly! It’s so nice to meet you sweetheart. I’m Caroline.” Jasmine’s grandmother gushes, pulling me into a sudden hug. I laugh and return the hug. Jasmine’s grandmother has brown hair lined with the silver fingers of aging. Her expressive brown eyes were warm and welcoming and I entered her home very willingly. The aroma of fresh baked cookies greeted my senses and my tummy grumbled in desperation. I’ve been craving something sweet ever since I saw the pies my mother bought for Christmas dinner that I wasn’t allowed to have.

“Lilly! My bi-” Lou immediately stopped speaking when she saw Caroline behind me. I smother a laugh into my hand.

“My, my best friend! You’re finally here so we can get started!” Lou attempts and fails to correct herself. Everyone laughs and I sit by Justin when he beckons me over. I grin at him and place Shane’s presents in my lap. Lou and Gracson are sat stoically by one another, clearly avoiding conversation. Shane is sat beside Jasmine, and Amiyah is sitting in a recliner chair. Biting my lip, I lean forward and snatch a chocolate cookie off of the platter in front of me.

“I knew you were too busy eyeballing those cookies to pay attention to me.” Justin whispers in my ear, chuckling. I swat at his shoulder.

“Leave me alone. My mom bought a turtle pie and I’ve been craving something sweet ever since.” Justin doesn’t stop laughing at me and suddenly his thumb is swiping at the corner of my mouth and he suddenly sticks his finger in his mouth, his pink tongue swiping at the chocolate remains on his thumb.

“You had a little something right there. Chocolate is pretty damn good off of your lips though.” Justin smirks, immediately setting my cheeks aflame.

“Stop it,” I grumble, listening up when Lou starts speaking again.

“Okay everyone! So this has been a tradition in our group of friends since middle school for the boys, and high school for Amiyah and me when I started dating Gracson and equally befriended Shane and Justin. This may be the last time we’re all together during the holidays, and the last time we’ll get to hang with Jasmine before she moves back home with her family.” Lou’s smile falters but she shoots us a hopeful smile.

“I love all of you guys. I’m going to miss Jasmine so damn much. I can’t explain how blessed I was to have met her this school year and call her my best friend. I’m also so happy I got to meet Lilly and it feels like I’ve known her all of my life. Merry Christmas guys, and also, happy hanukkah to our little boy Shane. Let’s get started!” Everyone begins laughing, and I see Jasmine swipe at a tear on her cheek. Lou’s words warmed my heart immensely and I don’t know where I’d be without her or anyone else in this room.

“Okay!” Amiyah says, clapping her hands together, “as you know, this was supposed to be anonymous so no one should have a clue that you were the one who bought them a gift. So, who wants to start?” She asks, and everyone is quiet for a moment before Lou speaks up.

“Ooo! I’ll go.” She says, laughing a bit. “So, I got Amiyah.” Lou hands Amiyah over her gifts and asks her to open a long box first. We watch as she pulls out a short sleeved dress, gasping in surprise.

“Lou this is gorgeous.” Amiyah gushes, admiring a light gray vintage skater dress. It was completely covered in lace and the bottom contained lace only. It was beautiful.

“Lou, thank you so much. I love it.”

“Okay, you can open your other gift.” Lou says, clearly excited. Amiyah laughs, tearing off the decorative wrapping before gasping once again.

“A polaroid camera! Oh my god I’ve always wanted one.” Amiyah holds up the box, a pink polaroid camera pictured on the front. Amiyah stands to hug Lou, squeezing her tight.

“I love it. Thank you so much. I can’t wait to use it.” Amiyah laughs before sitting down again. After that, Justin gets a LSU t-shirt from Amiyah and a $20 visa. Gracson bought me the newest released book from my favorite author that I gushed about for weeks during lunch and a $15 iTunes gift card. Gracson got a new basketball, a gift card to bdubs, and a bunch of car air fresheners from Jasmine, who laughed and explained that she can’t count how many times Lou complained about the way his car smelled, which instantly sent everyone into hysterics.

It was my turn to give Shane his gift. Without warning I chucked them at him, and he caught them unfortunately before they could hit him in the face.

“Thanks for that Lilly. Your aim sucks by the way.” Shane grumbles. I roll my eyes and gesture for him to just open his damn gifts. He first unwraps the cologne I bought him, which I broke the secret santa rules for to beg Justin to tell me the kind Shane uses. I had to promise to watch him during practice one day before I got my answer. I bite my lip as Shane begins opening his next present. His lips part in shock when a box of condoms are laying in his lap. I try to keep my laughter back as I speak up.

“Read the note aloud.” I demand, putting a hand over my lips so I don’t spoil this moment.

“Please use wisely. Having one of you around is enough. We don’t need mini Shane Rikers.” Everyone bursts into laughter and even Shane can’t help but smile.

“You’re insufferable Lilly. But thank you for both the gifts and your concern.” I tell him he’s welcome and we all turn towards Justin as he hands Lou a bag.

She smiles and begins to pull a few things from the bag, and simultaneously unwrapping them.

“Wow! Mascara, lipstick, bath bombs. You’re so sweet Justin, thank you.” Justin has one more gift in his laugh that he hands over to her.

“I wanted you to save this one for last. It’s very special.” Lou raises an eyebrow, pushing her curly red mane behind her ears.

“Okay Justin, whatever you say.” She carefully removes the wrapping paper, laughing in delight and holding it up so we could all see.

“This certificate is hereby awarded to Louisa Denerise to be granted the godmother of Justin Grey’s baby. Oh and there’s subtitles too!” She cackles, leaning close to read them more clearly. “Whether that child be with Lilly Alvarado or someone else. This is amazing Justin!” Everyone is either in tears or absolutely shocked. I am in the latter category.

“Justin what the hell?” I ask, shocked. Did he seriously just promise our nonexistent child to have Lou as a godparent? God bless that child.

“This is the best gift ever. You’re the best Justin.” Lou coos, kissing his cheek. “And this child better be a product of stinlly or I will cry.” Everyone laughs while I groan. Lou means well but she’s so goddamn embarrassing. And Justin just encourages her.

“Don’t worry Lou. That’s the plan.” Justin says, earning a punch from me.

“Quit or you two! We are not having a baby anytime soon or ever. Just, just no.” I shudder. I can’t even imagine having a baby right now or ever really, and just the thought of having a baby with Justin… I shouldn’t even be thinking about it.

“Last but not least. Shane’s gift, which is obviously to Jasmine since she’s the only person left.” Amiyah says. Shane rubs the back of his neck nervously, smiling shyly at Jasmine. He gets up to sit beside her, handing her a miniature box. His hand lingers on hers for a moment before he lets go, waiting anxiously for her to open his present.

Jasmine lifts a chain from the box, smiling softly when she sees the silver J pendant.

“It’s beautiful Shane. Thank you. Would you, um, mind helping me put it on?” Shane nods his head, helping her push her hair to the side as he clips the necklace around her neck.

“Beautiful.” He murmurs and she blushes. It’s as if none of us are sitting around them watching their every move. They were stuck in their own world until Jasmine cleared her throat.

“Right. Um, there’s one more thing.” Shane hands her over a medium sized teal blue box. She opens it and gasps, and I can see her lips quiver.

“It’s a box of memories, from your time here. I filled it with pictures and different mementos of all of the stuff we all did together this semester. I wanted you to have something to remember us all by.” Tears stream down her face as she tackles Shane in a hug and he begins to comfort her.

“I don’t know what to say. This is the sweetest thing someone has ever done for me.”

A series of “aw’s” are heard as everyone begins passing the box around, laughing and smiling at its contents. When it reaches me, I grin. A lot of it was from before I started hanging out with them. There were pictures from a bunch of different places they all went. The skating rink, bowling alley, the park, fairs, and so many other places. There were tons of group pictures and I laugh at the ones I’m in. Picking through the photos, I stumble across one of Shane and Jasmine. She’s grinning at the camera while he’s staring down at her. They were very close together, and the pictured seemed intimate in a way. Shaking my head I pass the box on, and suddenly the doorbell rings.

“Jasmine, did you invite anyone else over?” Her grandmother asks, and Jasmine shakes her head and everyone else attests to the fact that they didn’t know who was at the door. Chatter resumes when Caroline goes to answer the door. A bit of shuffling is heard from the foyer and I can hear a distinct male voice. I glance up when someone enters the room.

He’s tall, with short cropped brown hair. His green eyes sweep the room, settling on Jasmine. He looks oddly familiar, but I can’t place why. I’ve never seen him before in my life but I can’t let go of how familiar he looks. No one else has noticed him enter yet. Justin looks up at him, recognition immediately lighting up his eyes.

“Braxton! Oh my god, dude, what are you doing here? I thought you and your mom wouldn’t be here for another few days!” They hug, patting each other on the back like old friends. Who was this guy?

“We drove up early. My mom wanted to see your dad and talk to him about something. It’s so nice to see you though! I’ve missed you.”

“I missed you too man. How did you know I was here though? Did you talk to my mom?” Justin asks, confusion clear in his voice.

“Actually, no. I had no idea you’d be here. I actually came here to speak with Jasmine.” Jasmine’s mouth was wide open in shock, and she kept blinking rapidly. She looked as if she’d seen a ghost.

“Wait, how do you guys know each other?” Justin asks, sounding just as confused as we all feel. What was going on?

“And who the hell are you?” Shane growls, standing and attempting to take a threatening step towards Braxton before Jasmine stops him.

“Shane, please don’t.” She begs.

“Shane, relax. This is my cousin Braxton, remember? I told you about him. Every time he visits you’re usually out of town.” Justin says, attempting to diffuse whatever situation is about to blow up. Everything suddenly makes sense. Justin had told me about his cousin who was coming to visit and how excited he was.

“Braxton, you shouldn’t be here.” Jasmine whispers. He pushes past Justin and Shane and walks up to Jasmine, cupping her face. He looked frantic, his face screaming of desperation.

“You know why I’m here. I need to talk to you. Please Jasmine. You’ve ignored me long enough.” She looks so torn, staring at him longingly but she’s also so… guarded. Was he the mysterious guy she left voicemails for?

“She clearly doesn’t fucking want you here. So take a hint and leave.” Shane’s face is dark and impassive, staring Braxton down with nothing but disdain. This can only end badly.

“This is none of your business. This is between Jasmine and I. Come on Jasmine, let’s talk outside.” Braxton grabs Jasmine’s wrist, attempting to pull her with him before Shane intercepted.

“You have fine seconds to let her go.” Shane’s voice is thunderous, his eyes darkening in I suppressed anger. Braxton ignores him, tugging Jasmine forward. I gasp when Shane shoves against him, pushing Jasmine aside.

“You apparently have a hearing problem. She said she didn’t want you here, why haven’t you fucking disappeared yet? Because I’ll drag you out myself.” Shane gets in Braxton’s face, and Braxton laughs.

“Who the hell are you? And I’d like to see you try and make me leave.” Both boys are in each other’s faces, the tension thick and reaching its boiling point. Justin is trying to pull Braxton back and Gracson is trying to get Shane to back off but he’s immovable. Jasmine finally pushes through both boys, shoving at Shane’s chest.

“Stop it! Both of you. I don’t even understand why you’re here Braxton! And Shane, you have no business, or right intervening when I never asked you to!” Jasmine is fuming, her face red with the exertion, her chest rising and falling rapidly.

“I begged Nathan to tell me where you’re grandmother lived. You never returned my texts or calls. I had to see you, make sure you were okay. When I found out you lived by Justin I begged my mom to let us come here early so I could see you. Please Jasmine I have something important to tell you. Something I should’ve said months ago.” Braxton’s face softens when he looks at her, and it immediately hits me that he’s in love with her. Just like Shane is. Jasmine is looking at him tenderly but the moment is broken when Shane speaks up.

“That’s him, isn’t it? The guy you said is from your past. The one you didn’t know how to let go of. He’s the reason you never gave us a real goddamn chance.” Shane’s voice is raw with emotion as he looks at Braxton with so much hate and… jealousy.

“Shane, please. Don’t do this here.”

Jasmine begs, her lips trembling.

“He’s the reason you could never truly be with me. Is it because of him that you wanted to sneak around for months? The reason you refused to admit that you might actually fucking feel something for me if you weren’t so goddamn stubborn and afraid?” Shane’s voice is gradually raising until he’s finally yelling, uncaring of who’s hearing or the damage of his words.

“He’s the reason you ran away the night I told you I love you! It’s always been him! He’s all you ever think about. And he’s the real reason you’re fucking leaving.” Silence befalls at Shane’s last words. Grabbing his stuff, he leaves, Jasmine calling out for him to wait but only the slamming of the door can be heard as a response. She’s crying now, turning frantically to Braxton who looks so… betrayed.

“That’s why you never called.” He muttered.

“Braxton, no. Please let me explain!” Jasmine cries.

“You were seeing someone else. I am so fucking stupid. I spent five months only thinking about a girl who doesn’t give a shit about me.”

“You know that’s not true. I do care.”

“Not enough. Not the way I want you to. I spent five months loving a girl who ignored me for someone else. I’m done Jasmine. I’ll go now, since this is apparently what you wanted. Don’t fucking talk to me ever again. Not that it’ll be hard, since ignoring and crushing people seems to be a pattern of yours.” Braxton also makes his way to the door but Jasmine actually runs after him, begging him not to go. Pleading for him to stay and allow her to explain.

But the same resounding slam of another boy leaving her life is all that’s heard.

She enters the living room again, loud sobs racking her body. Lou immediately stands to hug Jasmine, Amiyah following suit.

“What just happened?” I mumble, shell shocked.

“I have no idea. But I should go after Braxton, make sure he’s okay. Here, I got you a gift. Merry Christmas Lilly.” Justin says, handing me two wrapped presents before standing.

“Justin, you didn’t have to buy me anything.”

“Don’t worry. I wanted to. I’ll see you later.” He kisses my cheeks before leaving, Gracson following suit after saying goodbye to Lou and Jasmine. I stand, walking over to the girls. Jasmine was no longer crying but he face was puffy and she was breathing deep.

“You and Shane dated? And you never told anyone?” Amiyah asks softly. Jasmine sniffles, wiping her nose.

“When I first moved here I felt so lost, and confused. I was still struggling over my mother’s death and leaving Braxton behind. I felt isolated from everyone and I didn’t know any better on how to make friends here than I did back home. When I befriended you guys and met Shane, despite his reputation and attitude I knew he was a good person deep down. When he finally trusted me and let me in I saw the amazing, sweet guy he could be.

I can’t deny that I felt attracted to him. When he asked me out I asked for it to be subtle and on the down low. We all had just become friends and I didn’t want to jeopardize anything. Our first date was absolutely amazing and we so much time together. I genuinely liked him but,” She shudders, taking a calming breath. Her eyes were so sad and heartbroken and it made me extremely sad.

“There was still Braxton. I tried to ignore how much I missed him. I wanted to move forward, leave the past and the meek person I was behind me. I felt guilty when I was dating Shane and I just ignored Braxton and quit calling him back. But when I realized I couldn’t truly let him go or quit thinking about him, I tried breaking things off with Shane. He never understood, he still doesn’t. Before I had a chance to say anything he told me he loved me. But all I could think about was the fact that I loved Braxton. So I ran away.” Tears streamed down her face once again and Lou gently wiped them away.

“Why didn’t you tell him that then? Why didn’t you run after him and fight?” Amiyah asks.

“I could see it on his face. It was too late. Five months too late. There’s no explaining dating Shane away or making right the promise I made to keep in touch. He deserves better than me. Him and Shane both do.” Jasmine cries, her voice laced with defeat.

“Don’t ever say that. You’re amazing Jasmine. You’re a beautiful, sweet person who’s made mistakes. But that’s okay. It’s human to mess up sometimes. If Braxton really loves you like he claims he does you can make this right. If he doesn’t want to talk then just give him time. He’ll come around.” I murmur and she grants me a tiny smile.

“Thank you guys. You all should get home, and don’t worry about me I’ll be fine. I need to apologize to Shane and see if I can get Braxton to let me explain things.”

“Well good luck girl. I love you regardless of whatever you did or didn’t do. I wish I’d known you and Shane had dated! I would’ve shipped it so hard.” Lou grins and we all laugh. We all bid Jasmine farewell, and when my mom arrives I slip into the passenger seat with a groan. What a day.

I look down at Braxton’s gifts to me and begin opening them. I smile widely at the lily pendant necklace he gave me and the beautiful lilac notebook with my name engraved on it.


Thank you so much for these gifts. I love them x hope Braxton is okay.


I’m glad you like them. And I think he’ll be okay, in time. It was nice seeing you today, felt like it’s been forever since we’ve hanged.


We should hang just the two of us soon. Hope you have a great Christmas Justin


I hope you do too Lilly Bear

I laugh, shutting my phone off. Christmas is in a few days, and I hope it isn’t as crazy as our secret santa exchange. I’ve had enough drama this week.

It can’t get any crazier than this.

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