Perfect Illusion

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Chapter 17: In a Totally Platonic Way

I tell Daniel not to bother driving me to campus today. I’m going to take a ride with Cara in my baby today.

“I bet Daniel didn’t like it that you guys weren’t driving together,” Cara says as she slides in the passenger seat of my car. I back out of the parking lot and start to drive. “Didn’t you tell me he’s like obsessed with carpooling or something?”

“Yeah,” I sigh, my hands sliding over the steering wheel. “He’s weird like that.”

“Watch out!” Cara shrieks as I almost run into a stop sign. I almost jump out of my seat before getting my head out of my ass and swerving my baby away.

My baby was seconds away from destruction. It’s a mystery to me how I even passed my driving test.

“Holy shit, we could have died.” Cara takes in a few deep breaths, her hands clutching her handbag real tightly.

“But we didn’t!”

“I think it’s time for me to get a car,” she sighs against her seat, “you are a driving menace, Alex. It’s amazing how I’m still alive.”

“Hey! My driving skills are not that bad!”

About a minute after I said that, I almost got run over by a truck.

Well.

We arrive on campus with about an hour to spare. Cara insists that we get here early so she can do some assignment with a few of her friends from class. So, while she’s off doing that, I got plenty of time to kill.

I decide to find a nice shady sport under the tree and making it my own space.

Placing my bag on the base of the tree, I sit cross-legged and contemplate on what

I am going to do now. It’s been a while since I read something. I take out my paperback copy of the newly released ′Blood of Olympus′ and open to the page where I stopped last week.

It’s times like this that I find slows down the pace of my now hectic life. These past few days have been hell for me. Daniel and I have been very busy planning out the engagement party that is going to happen in two day’s time. I can tell you that it’s been a breeze planning something as huge as this with Daniel, but even I know it’s a lie.

It’s not fun doing something with Daniel Kerrington. I see a little bit of his father’s hardened personality bleed through every single day I’m with him. He gets super control freak on me at the littlest things -whether it is to tell me I had ordered the wrong type of champagne or if I had managed to snag a caterer for the party. He is constantly telling me what to do- and I hate it.

I hate him.

But what can I do? He’s my freaking fiancé so I have to deal with it.

Sigh. Only two more years and 11 more months to go.

I start to lose myself in the story that is in front of me, forgetting all of the undying urge to ring Daniel’s skinny little neck. My eyes dance over the words in supersonic speed, immersing myself in the beautiful world that has been created for me.

Then, I hear someone clear his throat.

I look up from my book and the first thing I see is the denim jacket.

My mouth hangs open.

“Are you... Busy?” Nate asks me, his eyes searching mine.

He’s here.

He’s actually here, standing in front of me, talking to me. I feel all the relief seep out of my heart and unto the grass I’m sitting on.

“N-no.” I stammer.

“Can I sit?”

“Yes. Please.” I scoot to make some space for him. He places himself next to me, his backpack settled next to him.

For a while, neither of us talk.

It’s like there’s so much to say, but neither of us want to break the comfortable bubble that is our silence.

Finally, Nate does.

“I’m sorry,” he whispers, “I’ve been giving you the cold shoulder this entire week and I feel bad about it.”

“No!” I stop him. “No, you shouldn’t feel bad. It was my fault- completely and utterly my fault. I should have told you about Daniel-”

“And I should have asked you if you were involved with anyone first before making any move-”

“I should have forced myself not to like you-”

“And I shouldn’t have walked out on you like that. I was so angry-”

“I didn’t mean to hurt you-”

“And I should have talked to you about it after I cooled down-” We stop talking.

Then, we burst out laughing. It’s strange how Nate and I can be mad at each other, but we still find ways laugh about it.

I like it. I like him.

“Looks like we had a lot to say to each other,” he smiles, and it is the same smile that made my heart flip the first time I saw him outside his apartment.

“Yeah,” I nod. “I’m sorry, Nate. Really. You have no idea...”

“Me too. I’m sorry too. What I said about how you were naive and how you aren’t any different because you’re engaged to Daniel...”

Yeah. Those words he uttered to me that afternoon still hurt a little bit.

His eyes look at me with sadness. “Can we just… put all of this behind us? Bury the hatchet? I really missed you, Alex. As a friend. I missed your craziness, your clumsiness and your smiles. It drove me crazy this week not talking to you.”

“Me too,” I lean into him, my head touching his shoulder. A huge smile creeps on my face. “But I’m really sorry, Nate. I really am. I put you in a situation that was totally not okay.”

“That’s... well... it wasn’t fine, it hurt like hell a while, but I’m fine now,” He sighs. “Honestly, I really don’t want to talk about the whole thing. Probably ever.” I put that hurt in him.

God, I want to erase what I did to him really badly. He’s probably still confused over the whole engagement thing and how he played a part in it. I just want to tell him that it was all a lie and that I’m not actually in love with Daniel.

The words are at the very tip of my tongue. But I just can’t force myself to open my mouth and let them slide out of me.

“But I guess I’m about 80% over it,” he adds quickly. “I don’t want to push you to talk about it. I just want us to start fresh again. Of course, in a totally platonic way.” “Yes. Totally.” I confirm.

“So, what have you been up to?” He lays back more casually, pressing half of his body against the grass with his arms supporting him from behind.

“Engagement stuff,” I say without much thought. Then I realize I shouldn’t have mentioned anything regarding the whole engagement thing with Daniel. I wasn’t sure if he wanted me to. “Sorry, if you don’t want to talk about it, we don’t have to-”

“No, it’s fine.” He brushes me off. “It’s a part of your life now, right? The whole thing about us being friends as that we can tell each other things. So, you know you can tell me anything.”

I release a small breath.

“Thank god,” I breathe. “Because I don’t want to withhold anything from you.”

He nods. “So, you were talking about engagement thing.”

I tell him everything that I had been worrying about this entire week. The whole engagement party- down to the details. I can’t help it, everything comes tumbling out of my mouth. It does not bother Nate, though. He listens patiently, and I like him even more for that.

“I’m sorry, I’m rambling.” I say after a while. “I just hate planning stuff. This whole party is going to be a disaster.”

“No it will not,” Nate sits cross legged now, and he reaches forward to tuck a lock of hair away. “It’s going to be fine. You will be fine.”

“You should come,” I automatically say, and then I immediately regret it. Oh god. The rules. Daniel said that I can’t invite him over. Ever.

But our engagement party is an exception, right? Nate has to come over. He’s my... friend.

“Nah, I can’t,” he looks down, “you and Daniel have your fun without me. I really don’t want to intrude.”

Screw Daniel. His rule was stupid anyway.

“No, really. Come.” I smile. “Cara’s coming too. It will be so much fun when you’re there.”

“Really?”

“Absolutely.”

Daniel is so going to kill me.


After Nate walks me to class, I gave him a huge hug. He is taken aback by it, but after a while, he eases into the embrace.

“Alex...” He murmurs.

“Thank you for forgiving me, Nate.” I pull away from him. “I know it was hard for you to do that considering what I did to you.”

His lip curls slightly, but it was slightly forced. “I may not know exactly what is going on with your engagement with Daniel but I’m trying my best to be okay with it.” I cast him another small smile before turning on my heel and walking to my seat.

Daniel is already waiting there beside my seat, his pen clicking against the table. When he sees me, he shakes his head.

“I didn’t expect you and lover boy to make up that fast,” he says with an annoyed tone as I slide into my seat.

“He says he’s over it.” I reply without looking at him.

“Is he really?” He lifts in eyebrow. “Or perhaps he’s trying into ease his way into a friendship with you and then make his move on you?” Is he shitting me right now?

“Are you serious?” I laugh. “You said that you were completely fine with Nate and I being friends.”

“I am. But that doesn’t mean I trust him,” he growls in a not so subtle way that catches the eye of a few students in front of us. He ignores them.

“Well, I do. I know he has good intentions so stop trying to make him a villain.”

Class begins and we fall into an uncomfortable silence. I constantly shift around my seat and concentrate on the lesson, but the tension between Daniel and I has increased.

It’s like an itch on the back of my head that won’t go away.

After a while, I sneak a glance at him. He doesn’t seem to be concentrating either. Instead he’s staring right at me.

He frowns, then focuses his attention in front of him. But his lips start to move.

“He doesn’t deserve you.”

I think I may have imagined it, but I hear a hint of something in his voice.

Jealousy.

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