Chapter Twenty Three
Gaudy eyes. Chapped lips. Pale speckled skin. Hair matted against my skull. I am physically and emotionally a mess but there is nothing to been done about it. Sighing, I reach my hands underneath the numbingly frigid flow of water and splash my face repeatedly. If I could I’d just skip out on school today I most definitely would, but as life has it it’s the second semester of my senior year and I need to actually show up. I shouldn’t let a relationship or lack thereof stop me from getting good enough grades for university. No matter how awful and hurt I feel.
Stretching, I futilely attempt to remove the cranks in my neck. I slept horribly last night despite taking Lou’s offer to sleep on her comfortable bed. My mind was overflowed with thoughts as I tossed and turned the entire night. I left my mom a cryptic text that I was safe and with Lou late last night before leaving my phone on do not disturb. I’m hoping to not have to face Justin in school but since I know him I know that he won’t leave me alone until we talk. But I’ve had enough talking with people and I only learn things that break me.
“Hope you’re dressed doll or we’re gonna be late!” Lou’s once again glittery voice chirps through the bathroom door. I smile at her ability to be positive despite her pain. That was never something I had ever managed, being able to fake happiness or muster up joy through the darkest of moments. When I feel emotions I experience them full fledged and whole heartedly.
I’m never just happy I’m ecstatic. It’s as if the whole world has brightened and everything is cloaked in a beautiful melody. But, when I’m upset I am a tidal wave of suppressed thoughts and emotions that resembles an overfilled glass; a risk of tumultuous water overflow. I drown in my sorrows and my glass is never just half empty it’s an echoing vast of loneliness and pain.
I have never known a healthy balance between those emotions until Justin forced himself into my space and life. He centers me, puts me back on course when I stumble too far. He perfectly blends the colors of my life into a beautiful, healthy hue. But now I don’t know the difference between red and blue and I’m so far from where I’m supposed to be that I can’t tell if there’s even a course for me.
“I’m coming!” I yell, running Lou’s brush through my scattered hair and strolling out of the bathroom. We stopped at my house yesterday so that I could grab an extra set of clothes and my bookbag. I follow Lou out to her car and slide into the passenger seat. I’m praying that I can survive this day and deal with the aftermath of my actions towards Alex once I get home. 8 hours. 480 minutes. 28,800 seconds. That’s how long a school day is and also how long I have to continue avoiding Justin for as long as humanly possible.
Ready, set, go.
The school is buzzing when we get there. There are people whispering everywhere, others are having loud raucous conversations as they yell across the hallway, and others are just staring. Everyone knows about Lou and Gracson’s split, I’m not sure if they know that I kind of sort of broke up with Justin, and the baseball team’s first game is this Saturday. Any of those things could be making everyone this inane. A lot has been going on this week.
My eyes keep darting everywhere and I am so anxiety driven at the prospect of seeing Justin. A part of me, as much as I hate to admit it, wants to see him. Desperate even to see him. To listen to what he has to say. To forgive him. To apologize for the way I acted and how I always manage to push every single person away. But an even larger part of me wants him to stay away. I want to sort through these muddled emotions without letting my love for him cloud my judgement. Because despite how I feel for him he lied to me and I don’t know what he could say that would ever make that okay.
Every time I saw a mop of brown hair I flinched, and I just desperately want to escape to class so each person in this hallway murmurs wouldn’t echo in my ears and the shadow of Justin can’t haunt me. Even the prospect of him makes me a mess.
“I’m going to head to class. See you Lou.” I smile faintly at her but her little frown stops me short. “Class doesn’t start for another five minutes though. Are you sure you’re okay? Because we can go back to my place and sulk. Fuck this place!” She shouts, uncaring of all the odd stares she receives. She is gorgeous and triumphant, and I almost give into the weak and pathetic side of me and go along with her offer. But I don’t. Because if I want to prove to myself that I can be without Justin then I need to survive this day. It’s only eight hours. Four hundred and eighty minutes. Twenty-eight thousand eight hundred seconds.
“Yeah, I know, but I really don’t have anything better to do. And truth be told the last thing I want is to see Justin right now so I’m going to be a coward and hide away.”
“Have fun!” She says as I turn around. Laughing, I shake my head at her antics and make my way to first period. I’m able to get to my class without running into Justin thankfully. This class bores me to death though, and typically I would text Justin to pass time. I can’t do that obviously so I’ll probably just die of boredom.
“Hey,” I flinch when a guy I don’t even know pokes my shoulder. I’m feeling a strange sense of dejavú here. I look towards him questionably. He’s real scrawny with thick framed glasses adorning his face. He’s cheekily adorable and I’m beginning to question how he’s even a senior. Seriously he looks so young. “Is it true that Justin broke up with you?” I blanch at his question.
“Excuse me? Is that really any of your business?” The nerve of some people. He doesn’t even know me yet he’s concerned about my relationship status. Unbelievable. “I’m sorry! That’s what everyone is saying and I saw him talking to Amy earlier-” Once her name leaves his mouth I’ve heard enough.
“Stop. I don’t care about him, Amy, or either of them together. And to fact check this story I ended things. I don’t understand why you care.”
“It’s not that I care but like I said everyone is talking about it. Its as if everyone in that group is going their separate ways. You can’t date someone in their group and expect to not be talked about.”
“I didn’t know agreeing to be their friend came with a contract to make my life some high school reality tv show.” He cracks a smile.
“You’re snarky but it’s endearing. Once again I’m sorry for what I just said and that you guys broke up. I was curious I admit because you both really seemed to care about each other and I thought you deserved to know about him talking with Amy even if it were nothing.”
“Thank you I guess. Honestly all I want right now is to fade in the background and be left alone. I want things to go back to how they used to be before I met Justin and his friends.”
“That’s the thing Lilly,” This guy says, and I suddenly realize I don’t even know his name, “you were never truly invisible before. You may have thought you were but all this time you’ve been stuck inside this one way looking glass where everyone could see you but you just couldn’t feel their stares. Justin demanded you to see him back.” I, left speechless for a few seconds.
“Who are you?” I ask dubiously,p from this guy who seems to know all of these things about me that I didn’t even know myself.
“My name is Jared.” He grins. “I’m not offended you don’t know my name because many people don’t. I’m the truly invisible one between the two of us. I have a knack for observing other people and during these past four years a lot could be learned or said about the kids in our class.” The bell rings. “Well I’ve got to get going because my boyfriend is waiting, but I’ll see you around Lilly. High school is almost over. Don’t regret the decisions you did and didn’t make. Meet people. Learn to forgive Justin for whatever he did. Life is too short.”
I watch Jared leave, astounded by his wisdom and quirky way of going about talking to me. Here’s a guy who I’ve probably passed by in the hallway for years yet never took notice of him. How many times have I done that? Floated through life unaware of the people around me? It makes me wonder how many potential friendships or experiences with people I could have had but we never had the chance to meet. When I exit the classroom with Jared’s words buzzing around my head, I am unaware when a certain green eyed liar catches up to me. I am startled when his hand grips my shoulder.
“Lilly,” His deep voice rumbles and I feel my stomach drop. Biting my lip, I know I can’t just walk away from him.
“Justin,” I sigh, feeling pitiful. He nods his head over to an empty classroom and, knowing what he wants, I follow him inside. We’re standing awkwardly apart and I cross my arms over my chest. This tension is stifling.
“What do you want Justin? I’m going to be late to my next class and I’m not being stuck in a detention room with you.” He smirks a little. “Unfortunately that’s not my angle. But we need to talk.” He’s serious again, trying to make eye contact with me but my eyes are focused on his chest. I can’t find his eyes because as soon as I do I’ll give in and forgive him. And I don’t really want to.
“Talk then. You have less than three minutes.” His hands find my cheeks, their calloused exterior rubbing my skin. I squeeze my eyes shut. “Justin… don’t.” I pull back and I’m crushed when I see the hurt look on his face even though it shouldn’t matter because his previous actions have hurt the most.
“I am so sorry. I know how much you’ve trusted me by telling me about Alex and how much you care about him. I never said anything because it wasn’t my place. Hell, I wasn’t even supposed to know Lilly.” His eyes are earnest yet they can’t tame the sudden flare of anger that sparks up inside of me.
“I don’t care if it was your place or not Justin! You know that this would make me upset! You purposefully kept this from me. How are we supposed to be in a relationship if we’re keeping secrets from one another?” My chest is falling up and down rapidly and I’m trying to hold ears of frustration back.
“Technically we weren’t dating yet.”
“As if that makes much of a difference.” I say rolling my eyes. I am sick of this conversation.
“Why are you being so stubborn? I’ve already apologized and explained things to you. What more do you want me to say? I can’t change the past.”
“I’m hurt Justin. My brother is leaving already after only being here for a month. After all that time he was away and I couldn’t even talk to him yet here he is leaving again. And on top of it I find out the guy I trust and lo-, like more than anything kept it from me. I just need some space and time alone to sort through this.” Seeing the time on my phone I know I have to get to class if I seriously don’t want to be late. “I’ll see you later Justin.”
“Wait!” He calls out, clutching my hand. I think I’m about to draw blood from my lip from biting it so hard. “Are we good? Why does this sound so much like a goodbye?”
“I don’t know Justin. It’s a bye for now. Please don’t chase after me anymore. I’ll come to you when I’m ready.”
“Answer me this Lilly; why? Why can’t we just move past this?” I wipe furiously at my eyes when a few tears slip out.
“Because Justin!” I cry. “If I can’t trust your words, how can I ever trust you with my heart?” I let out a frustrated huff when the bell rings and I let the door slam behind me when I finally become the one who does the leaving. I don’t know if he stands there staring after me or if he goes right after I do but I force myself not to care.
Because I already car too goddamn much.
“So I guess we’re all single now.” Amiyah says in wonder as she, Lou, and I sat at a lunch table separate from the guys, something I don’t think Lou has done since her and Gracson started talking in the first place. Lou laughs.
“Please Amiyah don’t be coy; I know you’ve been hanging around a fine ass lightskin college student.” Amiyah has the nerve to blush as we start teasing her mercilessly. I’m happy for her though, we don’t all need to be miserable.
“He who shall not be named keeps glancing over here.” Before I can stop myself I’m looking back upon Lou’s words at their table and see Justin staring directly at me. We stay like that for a few seconds before I turn my back once again. So far he’s respected my wishes to stay away but only time will tell if he sticks to it. Stirring my chicken lo mein mindlessly, my attention is stuck on the college applications I still need to send out before the deadline creeps up on me. Being a senior is stressful. I’ve started some applications to in state colleges but admittedly I’ve also thought about applying to LSU. It wasn’t a difficult decision before, because that’s where Justin is going and I love him. But now I’m so unsure about everything concerning him and I.
“Let’s all three hangout this weekend. I am sick of boys and high school drama. I only need my girls.” We’re all grinning as Lou makes sure she squeezes Amiyah and I tight. I can’t imagine better friends than these two and I am eternally grateful that they’re in my life. When lunch is over I have to stop by my locker to grab a textbook for my next class. Dialing my combination, I’m surprised when a piece of paper floats out of my locker, landing on the floor. Bending down to pick it up, my curiosity gets the best of me and I unfold it. I begin to read over the words scrawled on its surface.
I’m no good with words, and I think that’s a well known fact between the two of us. Maybe that’s why I couldn’t say the right thing over the phone Thursday night when your world fell apart. The same world that included your brother. Or perhaps it was best shown when I couldn’t even admit to you earlier that I love you when you followed me into that classroom. Couldn’t admit that all I wanted to do was kiss away your pain, the hurt I’ve caused, and the lies I’ve told. I love you Lilly, so goddamn much that it terrifies me. It seems like I’ve gone about everything wrong with you.
You have a problem with people never choosing to stay with you, but I’m terrified of ruining things. I didn’t want to ruin our friendship when my feelings for you got stronger and stronger everyday. I didn’t want to ruin our relationship either but I managed to do just that by not being truthful with you.
I love you Lilly. I am in love with you. I mean it, and I might’ve ruined things but I want to be better. For myself. For you. For us. Come to my game Saturday if you feel the same way and want to work things out. What we have is real and I’m willing to fight for us. You’re the only person I want cheering me on. If you don’t come then I guess there’s not a chance anymore and I’ll leave you alone. But I hope you can give me a second chance. I’m sorry I had to write all of this in a letter in the middle of Mr. Dylan’s class but I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t try. I’m willing to stay if you let me.
My head is spinning and I can only focus on three of his written words. I love you. The six words that were even better. I am in love with you. Justin Grey is in love with me. He loves me and I love him back yet we’re technically not together right now. When did things get so complicated? I know what I have to do despite everything because right now my heart matters more than my pride. Grabbing my phone, I start to put things into motion.
I know what we’re doing this weekend. What time does the baseball game start tomorrow?
I’m wearing a dark blue long-sleeved top with pink and white flowers. The leaves of the flowers are a navy blue and roses and other types of flowers are adorned on it. The back of the shirt hangs low, exposing my shoulders and upper back. I feel exposed in this top, but Lou and I quote said, “You can’t look like a bum when you tell Justin you love him.” So here I am freezing my ass off out in the stands to watch Justin’s game. I have on way too much makeup for a baseball game and my hair is curled down my back. But there will probably be a party for the boys when they win, which everyone is confident about since the opposing team sucks, so I won’t be overdressed for that. Yesterday I went to the library and finally submitted all of my college applications, my one to LSU included. Not only do I have acceptance letters to worry and stress about, but also the outcome of me admitting to Justin that I love him and want to be with him.
“Ooo! There’s Justin! Lilly look! On third base!” I curse as Lou continuously shoves me before I finally look towards the field. My breath hitches when I finally catch sight of Justin in all of his uniformed glory. He looks so goddamn good in his baseball uniform that I might just melt in this freezing ass weather. Biting my lip, I lean forward to get a better glimpse of him and pray he turns around so I can catch sight of his backside. I frown though when a certain something, or should I say someone, blocks my vision.
“Scoot your fat ass over.” Shane demands before forcefully pushing at me. Grumbling, I unwillingly make room for him on our bench. He’s smirking triumphantly when he sits beside me, pulling his sunglasses over his dark eyes. My eyebrows crinkle in confusion.
“Why are you wearing sunglasses? It’s cloudy.”
“Don’t question me Lilly.” I throw my hands up in defeat.
“I was just saying.”
“Mmhm. You broke my boy’s heart when you ditched us during lunch. I had half a mind you’d go and burrow yourself in the library somewhere but you were with these two.” He points a thumb back at the sheepish Lou and Amiyah. I purse my lips.
“Well I’m here now to make things right.” I declare.
“It’s about time I am so sick and tired of your and Justin’s stubborn asses. It’s mind numbing to see you two together but it’s even worse when you’re apart. Please spare me the job of dealing with his heartbroken whining.”
“Don’t worry I can take care of him myself.”
“Stop talking you two, the game is starting!” Amiyah hisses and I direct my attention back to the field. It’s the first inning with our team in the outfield. Our opponents began strong and managed to get some of their players on a few bases. But once our pitcher ups his game they start striking out, and by the time we’re up to bat they’ve only had two home-runs. Our first two batters both strike out, and I cringe when it happens in succession. Our third batter hits it and manages to make it to third base. Everyone is whooping in cheers and I join in, anxious and delirious when Justin finally goes up to bat.
He looks amazing as he slightly squats to get into position, swinging his bat over his shoulder. I bite my lip as I admire him, wondering to myself why I’ve never gone to one of these games before in all of my high school years. The view of all the players is worth this chilly weather. I only have sights for number 31 though.
Justin hits and makes it to third base while the other team is concerned with the player previously on third who made it to home base. The game continues like that with each team alternating on the field. I find myself yelling enthusiastically every time we score, and I swear my cheers resonate when Justin is up to bat. He’s amazing at the game, his hits fluid and his focus clear when he travels from base to base. He’s fiercely determined on the outfield, and an amazing team player. He never excludes anyone and doesn’t completely dominate the field. He’s amazing.
The game eventually ends 20-14, our team coming out triumphant. Everyone is buzzing about the after party at Shane’s yet I’m shaking at the realization that I’m about to come face to face with Justin and tell him how I feel. I know it shouldn’t matter so much because he loves me back yet it doesn’t help me calm down at all. I’m going to be completely vulnerable and my mind won’t stop trying to convince me of everything that could go wrong. I just have to focus on what’s true and what’s already happened. Justin loves me. I love him. That’s all that I can focus on right now.
“Go and get your man!” Lou and Amiyah yell when Justin exits the field, his eyes scanning the risers. My heart is in my throat as I descend down, coming closer and closer to his looming frame. I start shaking out my arms, trying to release some of this pent of tension. Breathing deeply, I pray I don’t stutter when Justin finally catches sight of me, waiting patiently for me to come to him. Like I said I would. Like I am.
Standing in front of him, I force myself to keep eye-contact. He traded his uniform for a pair of low slung jeans and a coral blue polo with the buttons undone. He looks edible. “I’m already missing your uniform. You look good in it.” I admit, holding my breath as he steps closer, his eyes smouldering and intense. He’s suddenly invading my space, his cologne rich and addicting. He consumes my senses.
“Really now?” He asks, his voice nothing more than a husk, deep and alluring. I gulp, nodding quietly. He traces my jawline, caressing my cheek as my eyes close. I just want him. Every single piece of him. Mind, body, and soul. My eyes open once again and clash with his. He steps even closer, his lips so close to mine. I open my mouth, ready to let everything go once and for all.
“I love you Justin.” It’s nothing more than a whisper, but the smile that overtakes him is large, expansive. He’s grinning now, staring down at me with hope and happiness.
“You mean it?” He asks, his warm breath hitting my chilled lips. I nod. His hands sink into my hair. “Say it again.” He demands. He begs. I oblige.
“I love you. So much it’s insane.” His lips envelope mine suddenly and we’re now kissing passionately, not wanting to slow down or let one another go. His kisses are mind numbing, and leave me in a state of absolute bliss. His grip on me tightens, and when he goes to deepen the kiss I pull back, gasping for air. He’s smiling once again, nuzzling my nose with his.
“I love you too.” Those words melt me and I wrap my arms around him, laughing when he picks me up and swings me around. When he places me back on my feet we meet up with the girls to go to Shane’s for the victory party. He left thirty minutes ago so he’d have time to set up and remove anything valuable before allowing a bunch of potential drunk teens into his home. Things are already in motion when we get there, the whole house reeking of beer, sweat, and weed. I’m surprised by the sheer size of Shane’s house, it could arguably be a mansion. That’s not something you expect from him by his looks.
“I can’t believe there’s already so many people here.” I gasp, craning my neck to keep looking around and observe the sheer amount of people in attendance.
“Shane always throws lit parties with a large turn out. His parties are always memorable.” Amiyah says, sauntering off with Lou who claims she’s dancing with Hennessey tonight. I shake my head. Whatever floats her boat.
“Dance with me?” Justin asks, his puppy dog eyes luring me in and convincing me to say yes. He drags me to where everyone is dancing, and letting the music fill my veins, I start moving my body against his. As the songs continue to switch and shuffle Justin and I just get closer, every single part of him rubbing against me. Once were both exhausted and tired of dancing we go and seek out drinks, both opting to skip alcohol because we didn’t want to deal with a hangover in the morning. When we pick something from the very limited options that didn’t contain alcohol, we find a seat, plopping down on a couch.
A game of beer pong, spin the bottle, and various others of that nature are going on around us but we’re both uninterested. Justin can’t seem to tear himself away from my neck, pecking it with kisses and nibbling on it every chance he could get. Lifting his head, i combine our lips, butterflies tramping through my stomach, a gasp caught in my throat when his tongue enters my mouth. I’m burning, the lack of air in the room and Justin’s kisses getting to me. His hands start traveling over my body, grappling my waist and reaching downwards to squeeze my butt. I moan, feeling an intense need for him and anything he will give me. Except there’s far too many people around and I don’t want anyone to have a show from us. I lean up to Justin’s ear, peppering kisses on his skin before whispering to him softly, “Take me upstairs.” He obliges, gripping my thighs and lifting me from the couch.
We somehow manage to scramble upstairs, finding an empty guest bedroom to continue our ministrations in. He deposits me on the made bed, straddling my waist as he reconnects our lips. My hands travel down his torso, gripping the hem of his shirt and tugging at it; signaling that I want him to take it off. Sitting up, he tugs the polo from his upper half exposing his impressive chest to my eyes. His body covers mine once again, and as more and more clothes litter the floor, our hands continue to explore one another, kisses exchanged interchangeably. His bare skin moving sensually against my own is exhilarating as he takes me to places I’ve never been before, all the while his touch setting my body on fire.
In that moment of time we are one; I’ve never felt so blissful and so loved. I am in love with this boy, and no matter his flaws or my own, nothing can change that. He is mine and I am irrevocably his.