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Chapter Eight

I sigh, causing a piece of hair that was in my face to fly out suddenly before settling against my forehead once more. I tap my pencil against my paper rhythmically, hearing a constant beat in my head. My essay for English was only halfway done and I was completely stuck on what to write next. I had mastered being able to focus in this loud cafeteria each day so I’ve gotten a good chunk of it finished. But I suck at supporting statements and good conclusions. I can start out a story or paper easily but endings are so hard to write and accept.

“Why do you write everyday you nerd? Is that a diary? You’re probably writing about how hot you think Justin is,” Gracson says, wiggling his eyebrows suggestively. I roll my eyes at his idiocy, getting ready to kindly correct him before his girlfriend spoke up.

“I know what it is! She’s probably writing smut! Preferably about her and Justin. But if not I highly suggest Jensen Ackles because have you seen the ass on that man!” Lou squeals and I grab a few french fries from Jasmine’s plate and chuck them at her. Thank god I convinced Justin to wait in line without me today. This conversation is horribly embarrassing.

“Hey man! Lilly is writing a steamy sex scene about you!” Gracson shouts, grabbing not only Justin’s attention as he came barreling towards us all, but also the attention of anyone within a five mile radius.

“So that’s why you won’t let me read your journal. It’s filled with your sick fantasies,” Justin smirks, and if I wasn’t so annoyed I’d analyze his lips because goddamn they’re so perfect.

“Listen here you hormonal fucks. Its an essay for English. No sex whatsoever. I mean honestly is your guy’s sex life so lacking you have to live vicariously through my nonexistent one?” I ask in exasperation.

“I’ll have you know that Lou and I keep very busy and it is more than satisfying-” Amiyah cuts Gracson off.

“Gracson we don’t want to hear about your dick in any relevance towards Lou! Now leave Lilly alone, jeez I don’t see how she hasn’t attacked you already!” Gracson immediately closes his mouth. Amiyah can be pretty terrifying when she wants to. She turns to me.

“Hey, you need any help with your essay? I know how Mr. Dylan has been on your ass lately about assignments.”

“Yes I need help!” I groan. “Ever since I read that stupid poem to him that one day he thinks I have “potential” and won’t leave me alone.”

“What poem?” Justin asks with curiosity peaking in his green eyes.

“It’s nothing really. Just an assignment I did for English,” I reply, brushing his curiousity off.

“It wasn’t nothing,” Amiyah interjects, “her poem had an actual meaning to it. Everyone else just wrote shit poems about the sun or other dumb things. Myself included,” I blush as Amiyah praises me. That poem was honestly nothing. I’ve written so many way better than that one.

“Can I read it?” Justin asks. I feel a bit reluctant. I know I read it to a whole classroom full of people, but their opinions of it or me didn’t matter. I cared a great deal of about what Justin thought of me. And that thought was terrifying in itself.

“Okay,” I say quietly, flipping to the page it rests on before sliding my notebook over to Justin. I watch as his hands firmly grip the edges of the notebook, his eyes flickering quickly over the page. I find myself staring at his hands, remembering the way they took ahold of my wrists. The way he pinned me. His eyes had been burning brightly with something that day. But what? Admiration? Interest? Lu-

My thoughts are interrupted by my notebook being slid back over to me. I glance up and meet Justin’s appraising eyes. He looked... impressed.

“That was really good. I don’t know why you sell yourself short. If you write stuff like that in that diary of yours, then I don’t understand why you don’t want anyone reading it,” Justin says, his gaze scorching.

“Because it’s personal and private. I don’t want anyone invading my thoughts,” I say, choosing to ignore his diary comment. He only says that to get under my skin.

“Whatever you say. I bet you still have some naughty things in there somewhere,” Justin laughs but he immediately stops when he sees what I’ve done. His chicken sandwich is no more.

“Did you seriously take my sandwich? Chicken is my favorite too,” He groans, pouting his lips. Oh god. This was a bad idea. How can him pouting make him even more attractive?

“You’re the one who said I need to eat a better lunch. And I happen to love chicken too,” I say, winking while I take a huge bite out of his sandwich. I heard Shane groan from beside Justin.

“God your guy’s flirting is revolting. There is nothing sexy about chicken.”

“I wasn’t trying to sexualize chicken?” I ask him, baffled. I don’t understand the brooding enigma that is Shane Rikers.

“Fuck it man. I’ll see you all later,” Shane says, leaving our table and the cafeteria abruptly.

“Someone is on their monthly,” I mutter, rolling my eyes.

“As much as he is a dick, Shane’s been through a lot of shit. He is a good person deep down,” Lou says.

“Way, way down,” I reply, smiling playfully. We all laugh and then Amiyah reads over my essay and gives me some helpful suggestions. Thank god for this group of idiots.

“You should come over,” Justin says, leaning against my locker. The final bell of the day had rang and everyone was rushing out of the school. I was putting away my textbooks I had used for the day. I raised an eyebrow at him.

“Why? Is everyone else going to be there?” I ask him curiously. I’m sure everyone would have talked about it today if they were.

“Nah, I just invited you. As much as I love them all, their crazy and can’t be around each other too long without arguments or a fight.”

“So let me get this straight. You want me to come over, just the two of us, alone? Are you sure you’re not trying to have sex with me?” I teased him, facing him fully so he could see the amusement on my face.

“No! Lilly no, that’s not what I was implying... dammit,” He mutters, and I am amazed to find that his cheeks have turned slightly pink. Justin Grey was blushing. I made him blush. He starts coughing awkwardly, rubbing the back of his neck. His lips are pursed tightly in discomfort. I find myself appraising him. A pair of dark washed jeans clung to his legs and hips, and his toned arms were outlined by his baby blue button up shirt. He dressed nicely and that was something I liked very much about him. I liked a guy who cleaned up nicely and didn’t appear sloppy.

“Ignoring that insanely awkward moment, I just wanted to spend some time with you. Just the two of us. No ulterior motive at all. I kind of miss when it was just you and I alone in the library,” he admits shyly, “I’m extremely glad that you and my friends get along, but yeah. Look it’s not that big of a deal. We can just hang or even study if you want. I know you’re struggling in some of your classes so I could help you.”

“Sure,” I say noncommittally, laughing at the bout of shock that crosses his face.

“Really?” He asks me.

“Yeah. You’ve already made me miss the bus by now anyways,” I tease, walking beside him and out of the school.

“You’re a senior and still ride the bus?”

“Hey don’t judge! It saves me gas money and I don’t have a car so,” I shrug, “I don’t mind the bus. The kids on my bus are funny and entertaining.”

“Well I’m not letting my friend ride the bus during her senior year. Come on,” We climbed into his car and I admired it appreciatively. Justin turns on the radio and I watch in odd satisfaction as he jams out to every pop song that comes on.

“You know, for all your talents, singing is definitely not one of them,” I laugh. As entertaining as his singing is, it’s quite horrible. Justin is great at a lot of things though. He was incredibly smart and it was no secret to everyone that he was going to be valedictorian. He also was amazing at baseball, and when I went to a few of their games with Alex one time I was seriously impressed. I also heard rumors that he was a good dancer, and after his teasing at Gracson’s I wanted to find out if there was any validity to it.

“Hey! Don’t insult me when you’re in my car.”

“You basically asked me to be here though,” I point out, laughing at his stupidity.

“You know what Lilly nevermind. I will ignore how mean you are to me since we’re here,” I look up from my phone’s screen to see a nice quaint home in front of me. It was a two story, baby blue house. The front porch was gated and his front door was white and gold. A sort of monochrome. Only one other car was parked on the blacktop of the driveway when we pulled in. The engine stopped and I glanced over at Justin.

“What are you waiting for?” He asks. “Let’s go.” Opening the driver’s side door, he climbed out of his midnight blue 2016 Dodge Charger. His car was so nice and I was extremely jealous.

“I want to steal your car,” I comment admiringly.

“I don’t think my parents would like you very much if you did that,” He quips, his hand settling on my back as he pushes me in front of him to enter his house first. I feel butterflies rampage my stomach at his touch. He moves his hand all too quickly though, but his warmth feels seared into my skin.

“I’m home!” Justin yells through the front foyer, kicking his tennis shoes from his feet. I follow his example and slip off my sandals and straighten them nicely by the door. Justin’s shoes were askew on the tiled floor and I smiled secretly at his carelessness. I follow him into a living room that was quite large, and I felt my bare feet sink into the plush cream carpet. There were two nude sofas angled around the flat screen television, and a glass table in the center of the room. My eyes scan the white walls adorned with picture frames and other memorabilia. Beautiful quotes about love and families were spread on the walls and I saw little angel figurines sat on the end tables. Before I could examine any of the pictures closely my attention is drawn to the gorgeous girl who enters the room. She had dark black hair clinging to her face and the clearest blue eyes I have ever seen. She was extremely pale and petite and her smile was small yet mischievous.

“Who’s this?” The girl asks, obviously referring to me.

“Lilly, this is my younger sister Charlotte. Charlotte, this is Lilly. Now that that’s over come on Lilly,” Justin goes to one of the longer couches and all but collapses on it. I sit down beside him and I can tell his sister wants to question about me further but she turns around and leaves the room instead.

“I didn’t know you had a sister,” I say, feeling quite surprised about it. I’m positive she was only a year or two younger than us and I hadn’t seen her around at school.

“Yeah, she goes to the high school on the other side of town. So I guess it makes sense that you don’t know her. Here, grab out whatever homework you have and I’ll help you,” He insists, rushing me to pick up my bag. I stare at him incredulously.

“You were being serious about studying?” I ask in disbelief.

“Yes! Any day now,” He persists and I roll my eyes while grabbing a few crinkled assignments I had thrown in my bag.

“I knew you were smart and everything but I never realized how much of an actual nerd you are,” I laugh, dodging his attempts to hit me with a couch pillow.

“Here I am being an excellent friend by inviting you to my house and helping you with homework yet you insult me. Now I see why you had no friends.”

“Hey! I chose to not have friends. It had nothing to do with my ability to make them,” I reply, feeling slightly angry. I didn’t ask for him to bug me incessantly everyday or force him to introduce me to his friends.

“No, that’s not what I meant. Shit. I’m sorry,” Justin became a rambling mess when he saw the look on my face. We were silent for a moment as I got out everything I needed to complete my work.

“Why didn’t you want friends anyways?” He asks quietly, afraid to make me upset. I sighed.

“It’s not important,” I lie, “now can you help me with math? It’s easily my worst subject.”

We did our school work for the next thirty minutes which were filled with jabbing and sexual comments from Justin and sarcastic and rude comments from myself. It wasn’t long though until I heard a feminine voice interrupt one of our rare silent moments.

“Justin, who’s this?” A woman with strawberry blonde hair and dark brown eyes asked. I felt my eyebrows furrow when Justin replied.

“Oh, hey mom. This is Lilly, I invited her over to just hang out and study,” This was Justin’s mom? They look nothing alike though. And I couldn’t help but notice how this woman bore no resemblance to his sister Charlotte either.

“Oh! I didn’t know you were bringing anyone over! Hello, I’m Suzanne, it’s very nice to meet you,” She smiled brightly at me and I couldn’t help but return it. She seemed like a very warm and friendly person. She was dressed beautifully in a yellow summer dress and her hair was curled elegantly.

“It’s nice to meet you too,” I say, standing up to stretch out my legs. Thirty minutes of work with no break was too much for me.

“I know!” his mom exclaims, “you should stay over for dinner tonight. I have a pot roast cooking and there will be plenty for you.”

“I don’t know,” I say unsurely. Did I really want to sit down with Justin’s family for dinner? That sounds horribly awkward.

“Mom seriously. You don’t have to stay if you don’t want to Lilly,” I could tell how nervous he was and it made me smile. Who knew the charismatic Justin Grey could blush and be flustered all in one day? Because of her of all people? No matter how weird I felt about this dinner, I knew deep down that I wanted to spend more time with Justin.

“That actually sounds great. I’ll have to call my mom though,” I say, slightly embarrassed. My mom acted like she had to know my every move and where I was at all times. I was going to be eighteen and graduate soon yet she still treated me like a child. But I guess I don’t blame her after everything that happened with Alex. I was the child she wanted to do better with I suppose. But I am not going to be her charity project and allow her to keep me on a leash. I start dialing her number and end up being on the phone with her for over five minutes. She even made me put Justin’s mom on the phone and my cheeks burned with embarrassment. She didn’t even act like this last weekend when we all went to the movies. When I finally got her to hang up I was thoroughly horrified.

“I’m so sorry about her. She worries a lot,” I explain, but Justin’s mom waves me off.

“It’s fine honey. Mother’s tend to worry a lot, it’s something I can understand. I’ll yell when dinner is done,” With one last smile she swiftly exited the room, leaving me and Justin sitting on the couch.

“So I guess you are already meeting the family,” He says cheekily, breaking the awkward atmosphere immediately.

“Shut up!” I laugh relaxing a bit. Hopefully this dinner thing would be fine and I already knew it’d be much better here than at my own house sitting with my mother and noticing the lack of two important presences.

“Where’s your dad?” I ask him curiously. I saw pictures of a man that looked exactly like Justin yet he was nowhere to be found.

“He just got off from work about thirty minutes ago. He should be home soon though,” Justin says.

“Oh,” I say quietly, standing up to observe the room some more. I stop at each photo frame and a smile flits on my face at a younger Justin smiling with missing teeth. His hair was noticeably lighter and I noticed a light patch of freckles covering his nose.

“You have freckles?” I ask, jumping slightly when I feel him breathe beside my ear. I didn’t know he was looking over my shoulder. I was suddenly nervous that he was so close to me, but it wasn’t the type of nervousness that left you worried and uneasy. It was the type of nervous that made your heart beat frantically and made you hold your breath in anticipation.

“Yeah I do. They become very noticeable in the summer months when it’s warmer and the sun is out frequently,” His voice was husky and I felt like my whole body was wound tight. His arms suddenly came around me as he leaned forward and grabbed the photo frame we were both looking at. I could feel the rise and fall of his chest behind my back and I suddenly forgot everything but him.

“I remember this day,” he says, “this was right after I got in trouble actually. My dad had caught me eating cookies before dinner after he told me not to. He yelled at me that day and I didn’t talk to him at all during dinner. He felt bad afterwards and took me out for ice cream. This was taken after that,” You could hear the smile in his voice as he recalled that day with affection splattered in his tone. I turned around in his arms and glanced up at him.

From this close, I could faintly see the same freckles. I had to squint to make them out clearly, and I project myself up on my tiptoes to be closer to his face. I watch as his eyes widen and his eyebrows arch. If I leaned even slightly closer the tips of our noses would bump each other, having no space left between them. I could count every light freckle dotting his skin.

One, two, three, four…

“You were a cute kid,” I say aloud to him, smirking at his baffled expression. He was staring down at me with confusion, probably wondering what was happening and what the hell I was doing. I honestly don’t even know what I’m doing myself.

Five, six…

“I’m not cute now?” He smiles crookedly. Even when he’s nervous he remains cheeky and holding the upper hand. His eyes kept moving, glancing around my face. What was he looking for? Looking at?

“I’m still undecided on that,” I say, lying through my teeth. One look at him could confirm that he was absolutely more than attractive. He came even closer to me, our chests rising against one another. I stopped breathing. What was he doing to me?

“What are you doing to me?” He groans, his voice gruff as he voices my thoughts. What were we doing to each other? What storm was brewing between the both of us?

“Hey I’m home- who’s this?” A man’s voice calls from the front foyer, causing us both to flinch in surprise. Justin immediately backs away from me, running a hand through his hair with his posture stiff. I bite my lip, wondering what the hell just happened. Why do we both end up in position like that? We were friends. That’s it. Nothing else.

This man was obviously his father, with black onyx hair and calculating eyes that were watching his son and I. He was dressed in a pressed suit that made me think he might work at some type of business. It wasn’t long until he started smiling at us both, with a teasing glint shining in his hazel eyes. His smile was the mirror image of Justin’s.

“Dinner’s probably done,” Justin grumbles, turning to walk into the kitchen. I saw no other object than to join him, because I was already horrified at being caught in that position by no other than his father. Talk about embarrassing.

“Oh hey honey was just about to get you and Lilly dinner’s done,” Justin’s mom, Suzanne says upon our entrance in the kitchen. When Justin’s father follows in behind us her whole face lights up and she immediately hugs him affectionately. I watch as he promptly kisses her lips as she wonders about his day. It was obvious how much they loved and respected one another. That’s the way a relationship should be. A relationship isn’t staying at work late every not. A relationship isn’t setting a plate of food for a man who wasn’t coming. A relationship isn’t taking someone back after they have hurt and cheated on you countless times. This here right in front of my was my portrayal of a true relationship. And I wish so bad that it was the type of thing I could have witnessed growing up.

But I got slammed doors and cracked photo frames. And now it’s shuffling from house to house to sit in the wake of our brokenness.

I ended up seated between Justin and Charlotte with his mother across from me. She had made a delicious pot roast dinner and I enjoyed every bite of it. I hadn’t had a meal this nice in a while since I tended to not eat what my mother cooked because I was usually angry. Like always.

“So,” Justin’s father says, interrupting my thoughts. They had all been talking amiably while I sat quietly and watched them interact. I didn’t really know what to say honestly. I was more of the type to speak only when spoken to our about. And my moment to shine was coming.

“Son, I didn’t know you had a new girlfriend!” He winked not so subtly in my direction and my face lit up like a fire truck. Oh god.

“Dad,” Justin coughs, “we aren’t dating. She’s just a friend of mine.”

“Oh really?” He asks unconvinced, “I’m not as old or easy to fool as you kids think.”

“Darrel leave the poor kids alone! How did you both become friends?” His mother asks. I start to laugh a little.

“He followed me around like a lost puppy,” Justin scoffed.

“Yeah right Lilly don’t flatter yourself. I tried to talk to her in detention but she wouldn’t tell me her name.”

“Oh yeah I remember when you had to stay after for detention! Honestly honey you need to stop embarrassing and challenging your teachers so much,” Suzanne says, looking at Justin sternly.

“Oh give the boy a break and let them finish their story,” Darrel says, putting his hand on hers on top of the dinner table. I smile at the sight as his thumb strokes the back of her hand.

“Justin let’s not forget how you followed me to the library every day during lunch and wouldn’t leave me alone. You threw all of my stuff on the floor one day!”

“I only did that because you put your bag, folders, and books on every available seat around you!”

“You clearly couldn’t take a hint!” I laugh at his bewildered expression, his cheeks were reddening with frustration and his lips were puckered cutely.

“You both are adorable,” Charlotte pipes up from my left, interrupting whatever Justin may have said next. I take my eyes off of Justin and glance around the table. Everyone’s eyes were glued to us with secret smiles and expressions being exchanged among them.

“You both are totally dating,” His dad mutters, and everyone but me and Justin laugh when we both shout the same thing in synchronization.

“No we’re not!”

“Your family is really nice,” I say, smiling at the sight of Justin on my front porch. After being interrogated about the extent of our relationship, dinner had flown nicely and I discovered that Justin’s family were extremely sweet and accepting people. They all had asked me about school and my home life. I didn’t say much about my family though, just that my parents were split. My complicated family tree wasn’t something I liked to discuss with anyone. We could all barely sit down and have a civil dinner as a family, let alone have an important discussion about all the decisions my parents have made. As I sat with Justin’s family tonight, a part of me ached to have any sense of normality like that once again. Their house truly was a home. I haven’t had a real home in years. Just a house where I slept among the shards of a shattered family.

“My parents really liked you. I think Charlotte finds you interesting. She never talked to Amy when she would come over. I’m glad you stayed for dinner,” Justin says, and I feel my chest tighten at the mention of his ex. I know he probably didn’t mean it that way, but it felt like he was comparing me to her. Amy is a vivacious blonde who is honestly stunning. She’s the type of person who everyone adores and wants to befriend. She’s our student body president and captain of the volleyball team. Her and Justin were the most gossiped about couple at our school and she basked in the attention and glory that brought her. I knew I couldn’t hold a candle to her in regards to being with Justin or really anything.

I became a social recluse after our Freshman year and cut off all of my friends. Some of them were genuinely good people who tried to cling to our friendship and reached back out to me, yet others were never really my friend to begin with. They said nasty things about me after I stopped hanging with them and we haven’t talked ever since. Most of them are friends with Amy now anyways. But I believe I found a genuine group of people in Justin’s friends and hoped that they felt the same about me.

“Right,” I reply to Justin’s comment, deciding to not comment on his mentioning of Amy. Their relationship was none of my business and his feelings towards her weren’t either. I was dying to ask him if he still cared for her though. Despite cutting things off last June, did he regret letting her go? Is he still in love with her? But I only said one last thing to him that night.

“Goodnight Justin.” I open my door and close it softly behind me, watching him as he stands there alone on my porch for another few seconds. I watch as he shakes his head and bounds down my driveway before entering his car and leaving dust in his wake.

But, unbeknownst to him, he left his mark on my mind as I replayed everything that happened between him and I tonight. I find myself desperately hoping that his feelings for Amy ended just as quickly as summer left. And I desperately hoped that my reasons for hoping that reconciled with my insistence that we were only friends.

And we would never be anything more.

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