Perfect Illusion

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Chapter 32: I Don't Deserve Nice

The next morning, Daniel and I barely talked, although I think we’re making progress. We fall back into the usual routine- He makes pancakes and I make the hot chocolate. We eat breakfast together in a very awkward silence, neither of us wanting to talk about what happened at the Halloween party.

I think the both of us established the fact that we’d rather not talk about the problem. What problem, you ask? I’m not exactly sure. The rift between us. The tension. The ugly feelings that we caught since we left that party. Everything rolled into one.

Nevertheless, we don’t talk about it. Not even a slight hint of it. I think that it’s because we think that if we don’t say anything, it will fade away soon enough. But I know that will never happen.

“Thanks for letting me use your bathroom,” I say to Nate as I towel off my drenched hair. Before that, I have already slipped into a nice cropped top and some high waisted jeans. I stuff all my dirty clothes into the bag that I had brought over from the penthouse.

After I came back from campus today, I decided not to head back to the penthouse. I’d rather not repeat the whole awkward silence thing with Daniel. It messes with my brain. So instead, I headed over to Nate’s house with a towel and some clothes, avoiding the stiff atmosphere that is in the penthouse.

After I pack my stuff, I pass the hallway and catch Simon in his room, his face glued to the computer. He has a mouthpiece strapped to his face and he’s yelling “Open fire! Open fire!” to the screen while constantly tapping on his keyboard. He doesn’t see me as I pass by his room. I close the door for him, and make my way to the living room.

I lean my body against the wall, my arms crossing over my chest, wearing a smirk on my face.

“No problem,” Nate replies me, only a minute later. I laugh quietly at his late response. He must be really busy. The smell of food consumes my nostrils, and I smile when I realized how much effort Nate had put in order to make me dinner.

I catch a glimpse of him as he takes the lasagne out of the oven with a cloth. He lays it down on the table for it to cool. When he notices me watching him, he flashes me a huge grin.

“Did I mention I find guys who can cook super attractive?” I say as I approach him.

He forgets about the lasagne, turning his back on the table, and faces me. Then, he wraps his arms around my waist to pull me closer to him. I bite my lip nervously.

“Did I mention I find girls who bite their lip super attractive?” He murmurs, his nose grazing my cheek. I squirm in his arms, and manage to duck under to avoid his embrace.

“Don’t do that again.” I warn him. “It’s ticklish.”

Nate throws his head back and laughs. “Only you, Alex. Only you.”

“So, are we going to eat or what?” I say instead, trying to steer him away from the topic, “Because I’m famished.”

“Yeah let’s eat. Sorry the food took so long,” He says as he pulls out a seat for me to sit, “I wanted everything to be perfect.”

“It doesn’t have to be perfect, stupid.” I take my seat at dining table, and Nate does the same opposite from me.

“Calling me stupid when I prepared all of this?” He gestures to the display of food on the table. The aroma tickles my taste buds.

“Ground beef casserole?” I lick my lips when I see it, “Damn. Spaghetti. Lasagne. Roast chicken. You really outdid yourself, Nate.”

“Let’s just hope it tastes as good at it looks,” He says, rubbing his hands together. “Shall we?”

We devour the food. God, every single dish is good. I didn’t realize how much I missed home cooked food until now. Daniel and I usually order takeout- whether it was Chinese, or Japanese, or (HAHA) McDonalds. When we get bored of all three, we would go to some nearby restaurant that served less than average meals. We didn’t really care about the food. It was the company that kept us going most of the time.

Stop comparing everything to Daniel. Your life is with Nate now.

Funny how I feel like I’m being torn in half; one with the past that is Daniel, and another with a future with Nate.

Funny how just a week ago, the roles were reversed.

As we eat our food, we talk about anything and everything. This is not a usual date where two people got to know each other. Nate and I already knew each other all too well. So, the topics we talked about varied a lot. We talk about his classes, my classes, my progress in writing ‘Blankets’, our favourite movies, and books.

We talk about books a lot.

“I manage to read a couple of books this month, all thanks to you,” He twirls his fork, gathering the spaghetti. “My favourites are all the Mitch Albom books.”

“Yeah, I love him.” I gush. “He’s amazing. Definitely one of my favourite authors out there.”

He raises a curious eyebrow. “Damn girl, is there any book that you haven’t read yet?”

“Do you really wanna know the answer to that question?” He shakes his head, chuckling.

After we’re done with dinner, I help him clear the plates. He tells me he’d handle it, but I don’t want to feel like I’m not doing anything. So I help him anyway, even without his permission. We take our time washing the dishes, lightly chatting up each other.

“Thanks for the dinner tonight, Nate.” I smile as I scrub the plates. “The food was amazing. You’re not as bad of a cook as I thought.”

“You thought I was a bad cook?”

“Well no, but Cara told me she was an amazing cook, and I sort of believed her for a while. But then, she cooked me noodles, and it was the worst food I ever tasted. Yuck.” I stick my tongue out.

“Thanks for the heads up. I’ll make sure to pass on the opportunity if she ever offers to cook for me.”

“You hang out with Cara?” I ask him.

He shrugs as he wipes the table. “Sometimes I’d catch her when she’s leaving the apartment. We talk about stuff.”

“Stuff?” A playful smile forms on my face.

“It’s not what you think,” He chuckles lightly. “She asks about Simon a lot.”

“I know she has a crush on him.”

“I think they’re still in the whole friends phase.” He shakes his head. “Simon really likes her, though. It’s pretty cute. I swear I’ve never seen him talk as much as when he talks to Cara. It’s a miracle.”

I snort. “Why doesn’t he want to make a move?”

Nate pauses for a while. “He thinks Cara is out of his league.”

“No.” I turn back to look at him. “Really?”

“Yeah. If I were him, I’d feel pretty intimidated too. She is, after all, very beautiful.”

I pretend to pout. “If she’s beautiful, then why don’t you go date her.”

He chucks the cloth aside and walks towards me. “Because I don’t want to.”

I smile mischievously. “And why is that?”

“Because I have you.” He smirks.

And then he leans down to kiss me.

I nudge him away from me, pretending to be appalled. “You don’t get to kiss me when you just called my best friend beautiful. It doesn’t work like that.” I laugh.

“Dammit. I was hoping it would.” He snaps his fingers.

After I’m done with the dishes, Nate brings me to the couch so we can have our desert and watch a movie. He picks out some blockbuster action film that I don’t actually like, but I don’t want to tell him. He has done so much today and the least I can do is to spend two and a half hours watching some movie I don’t like.

I lean my forehead against his, his body curling with mine. I close my eyes, and for a flicker of a moment, want to think that it’s Daniel’s arms that are wrapped around me, not Nate’s.

What an ugly thought that had crossed my mind.

I gulp, and look away from the screen, feeling utterly disgusted. I feel ashamed. That I would think of Daniel that way. That I would hurt Nate that way by thinking of Daniel.

Nate notices that my mind is somewhere else, and he pauses the movie.

“Are you okay, Alex?” He taps on my shoulder. I swivel my head around and sigh.

“I guess I’m not in a mood for a movie tonight,” I pout, “I’m sorry, Nate.” “It’s fine.”

God damn it, why is Nate so forgiving? I want him to tell me that it’s not fine. I want him to yell at me, demand what the fuck is going on with me. For once, I want him not to be nice to me.

I don’t deserve nice.

At all.

“Come here,” Nate coils an arm around my shoulder and I press my face against his chest. Why can’t I just be perfectly happy with Nate? Isn’t this what I wanted? I wanted Nate. He’s good for me. We are good together.

Right?

He presses a small kiss on my forehead, then on my cheek. God, I don’t deserve his kisses.

I don’t deserve anything from Nate. And I definitely don’t deserve him.

I look into his dark chocolate eyes. He stares down at me with such interest, such vulnerability, like he’s already planning to share everything with me. He caresses my cheek, whispering soothing words to my ear, making me feel wanted and loved. He presses a small kiss on the edge of my lips, and lingers there.

I wait for what’s coming next.

He moves his lips right over mine, and kisses them.

It’s slow at first but I can feel the fire slowly burning. His lips start increasing its pace and starts to move in a steady rhythm. They are soft and loving and treat me with such care. His hands found their way to my back and his fingers starts aimlessly tracing on my shirt. I try to kiss him back with all the tenderness he is kissing me with but I can’t.

He is the perfect one for me, yet some part of my heart knows he isn’t. These thoughts swim in my head like sharks in water, eating away anything in its path.

I gasp and scramble away from Nate. He looks at me, confusion written all over his face.

“I’m sorry,” I squeak, tears threatening to swim in my eyes. “I- I... I can’t. It’s not right. I need to...”

I grab my duffle bag filled with my clothes and I stand abruptly.

“Alex?” Nate reaches for me but I don’t let him.

I make my way for the door. “I’m sorry. I need... I need- I’m sorry, Nate.”

And then I disappear.

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