Porcelain Skin

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I Don't Hate You

I’ve been lounging in the solitude of my dorm room for two hours feeling completely depleted of energy. Trevor has a way of doing that. Just sucking my energy dry. Physically. Emotionally. He wrecks me. All I want to do is crawl into bed and sleep until next year. Unfortunately for me, that isn’t going to happen. A thirty-minute nap will have to do because I have a buttload of homework that I’ve been putting off until precisely the last minute, which happens to be now.

I had just settled my head against my pillow, pulling my blankets up around my neck, when my phone beeps next to me. I dig through my sheets and blankets until I find it buried. I groan aloud when I see that it’s a message from Trevor. He probably wants to schedule a time to finish our project. Honestly, this project shouldn’t be taking us this long, but I guess he could only handle me in small amounts.

I click on the message and my brow dips in confusion.

I don’t hate you.

My heart flutters inside my chest at the same time that my chest decides to squeeze the life out of me. First of all, this was good news. Right? Second of all...what? I am so confused. This is so out of the blue. And after all the subtle insults he’d thrown my way lately, why did he suddenly feel the need to reassure me that he doesn’t hate me? Why even go through the effort of being rude just to turn around and say that it doesn’t mean anything?

I’m about to send a quick message to Lindsey about Trevor’s odd behavior when it dawns on me what has happened. Suddenly everything clicks into place, and I feel my entire core combust into flames as his text immediately makes perfect sense.

My computer. I’d left it behind in my rush to escape Trevor’s apartment.

As I’d waited for Trevor to write his little paragraph about himself, I’d been surfing the net and messaging Lindsey. I can feel my body flushing, and I feel stupid for blushing in the privacy of my own dorm room, but the shame igniting beneath my skin is forcing its way to the surface, fighting for release.

I’d basically given Lindsey a play-by-play of mine and Trevor’s encounters. All of them! And how I felt in those moments, as well as how I thought he felt about me. All in all, it was completely mortifying. Somewhere in there, I had mentioned to her the amount of hatred I could feel radiating from the core of Trevor’s being. Like, if a scraggly dog and I were in the middle of the road awaiting sure death by semi, Trevor would undoubtedly risk his life to save the mutt before even glancing in my direction, and then happily allow the dog to fertilize my remains. Or, if he had to choose between losing his baby toe and shooting me in the head, my head would be smithereens. If I was the last woman on the planet, and we were forced to do the repopulating, he’d probably drown me in a bathtub before allowing my DNA to be spread among the earth.

Anyway, you get the picture.

I grab my phone again and just stare at the message completely unsure of how to respond. Thankfully, I am saved from having to answer when my phone chimes again. Another text from Trevor.

I might save you over the dog.

My chest blossoms with warmth, which seems stupid. I shouldn’t feel so relieved by the fact that I possibly rank higher than a dog. And then that mushy feeling dies twenty seconds later when his third text comes in.

Definitely not losing a toe for you, though.

So chivalrous. My phone beeps again with a new text from Lindsey, followed seconds later by one from Trevor.

Hey. Drop your homework and come hang with me. I’m at Distilled. No excuses.

I sigh and click on Trevor’s message.

Unless you want me to continue unearthing your deepest, darkest secrets, you better come get your laptop.

Uh... choices, choices. I know there is no getting out of having drinks with Lindsey. She is a persistent little booger. So I respond with a quick “fine” to both messages before digging through my closet to find something appropriate, yet still modest. I settle for a fitting dress that hangs loosely at the top allowing the fabric to droop off of one shoulder. I throw on a pair of black pumps and brush my fingers through my hair. After touching up my make-up I head to Trevor’s place. I would just grab my computer before heading to Distilled.

I knock on his door five minutes later. It takes a whole minute before the door opens to reveal a shirtless Trevor with a toothbrush hanging from his open mouth. He looks at me closely, frozen in place, and I’m pretty sure my expression mirrors his own as my eyes sweep over his slightly wet torso.

He must have just emerged from a glorious shower. My cheeks heat at the realization that I’m staring, and I force myself to focus on what I came here for. I clear my throat after noticing that he is still standing there frozen.

His eyes drift over me casually before flickering up to meet mine.

“That waash fasht,” he mumbles around his toothbrush.

I only smile in reply. He steps back for me to enter and shuts the door behind me. I stand awkwardly in his living room while he goes to grab my computer. A minute later he returns with my computer, a shirt, and no toothbrush.

“You got a date?” he asks while handing over my laptop. I grab it and hold it to my chest feeling ninety-eight percent more secure now that I have something to occupy my hands with. I glance down at my outfit trying to see myself the way he might be seeing me. Sexy dress. Heels. Shiny hair. Perfume. Make-up.

“Naw,” I answer. “Just hanging with a friend.”

He gives me a quick nod of acknowledgment. Tension fills the space for a couple seconds too long before he clears his throat. “You free to meet up tomorrow? We can finish our assignment.”

“Yeah. Sure,” I agree, feeling extremely uncomfortable, especially since I’m not entirely sure just how much snooping he’s already done on my computer. And I refuse to ask because it’s more comfortable to lie to myself and say that he didn’t actually read anything embarrassing then for him to admit the truth.

I hadn’t outright confessed my undying love for the guy, but there was no doubt I was interested. No one chats with their best friend for hours about a guy if they have no interest.

“I’m heading out now,” he finally says, as he glances at his phone. “But I’ll text you tomorrow.”

“Yeah. Okay,” I mumble as I hurry to the door.

He opens it for me and I make my escape while he locks up. I don’t even wait for the elevator because the quiet ride down the metal contraption with him would have been far too awkward. I dash down the stairs wishing I had my tennis shoes on so I could move a little quicker.

“Lindsey!” I holler when I see her sitting in a booth towards the back of the bar.

It’s more of a classy bar, with fancy lighting and decent food. It’s a good place to go on dates because it’s quiet and intimate. It’s definitely not where you’d go if you’re hoping to get sloshed, which is something I don’t do anymore.

“Hey, girlie!” she greets, as she stands to give me a giant hug.

I’m not really a touchy-feely type person, but her hug is so warm and caring that I actually wish for it to last a tad bit longer. I never realized how badly I needed a friend in my life until the day she spilled coffee down my shirt. Instant friendship.

“You okay?” she asks me once I’ve gotten seated across from her. I look at her for a moment wondering why she would think something’s wrong.

“Yeah... ” I answer hesitantly. “Why?”

She gives me a look that I can’t quite decipher. “Well, your messages started getting really weird when we were talking earlier,” she explains.

Messages? What messages? And then it dawns on me. My entire body tenses up and my blood begins to whirl as it surges inside my veins. Veins that suddenly feel much too small for the increase in fluid volume.

“Oh no... What did he say?” I groan as I try to hide my panic. It doesn’t work.

“He?” She quirks a brow at me.

I bang my head on the table, leaving my face smashed against the cold surface. “I accidentally left my computer at Trevor’s place,” I mumble into the wood. I glance up to see her reaction.

A small ‘oh’ forms on her lips and understanding twinkles in her bold, blue eyes. She starts laughing, and I refuse to join her, seeing as how none of this is actually funny. I sit up, crossing my arms over my chest as I wait for her to get the hilarity of the situation out of her system.

“You’re going to have a little surprise for you when you check your messages later then,” she blurts out once she’s calmed down slightly. She’s still smiling as she wipes her eyes.

“Please just tell me what he said,” I finally beg; the suspense is killing me.

She chuckles to herself a few more times and then gives in to my pleading eyes with a sigh. “Fine,” she says with a smile. “So, after you told me that he looked like a ‘studmuffin’,” she says, pausing and using air quotes.

I rub my hand down my face in humiliation, but she ignores my reaction and continues on, “even when doing something as monotonous as lounging in his chair while staring daggers at you, I replied by saying that one of those daggers must have lodged itself in your brain because most people don’t compliment someone who’s threatening their life.”

I laugh, remembering her saying this, and I don’t deny that she is correct. Complimenting your potential murderer is quite stupid.

“That was pretty much the end of our conversation because you didn’t respond for awhile,” she goes on. “So, I went to take a shower, and when I came back there was a whole heap of messages that you had sent. All of them praising Trevor for... his gentle spirit.” She starts listing things off with her fingers. “And superb sense of humor; and his yummy body, and yes, he did use the word ‘yummy’, which wasn’t actually funny at the time, but now that I know he said it...” She pauses while shaking her head in amusement.“Anyway, he went on and on talking about his silky locks; abs of steel; scent of seduction; lips of passion; skin of velvet - which made me really confused because what were you doing touching each other? Seriously, I think he even gave his leg hairs some kind of sexy adjective. So, I decided I needed to see what was going on between you two for myself, which is why I invited you here,” she finishes with a blinding smile, evidently proud of herself for remembering all that.

I can actually see the full row of top and bottom teeth. I should probably warn her to never use that smile on a guy. It’s terrifying.

“Well, now you know that exactly nothing is going on between us,” I inform her.

The smile falls off her face only to be replaced with guilt. I eye her closely. Uh oh. What is she not telling me?

“Uh, actually...” I see her eyes flicker to something behind me. “There’s a little something I didn’t mention...” She trails off when I turn around to see what had grabbed her attention, and literally almost slither off my booth to join the puddles of spilled beer on the floor. This would be the perfect moment to disappear, but it’s too late.

Mike and Trevor stand at the entrance. One of them wearing a proud smile while the other glowers. They’re both looking directly at us. I swing my head back around to glare at Lindsey. She has the good sense to look sheepish.

“Lindsey...” I growl under my breath.

“I kinda, sorta, told Mike to bring Trevor here without mentioning that you’d be here.” She tries to smile at me, but I don’t return the gesture. I’m about to start lecturing her on the stupidity of that idea, but Lindsey’s over enthusiastic voice interrupts me,

“Hey guys!” she bellows. “Join us!”

Mike goes out of his way to sit next to Lindsey, leaving Trevor nowhere else to sit but next to me. We don’t make eye contact, but it’s obvious that we are both fully aware of the other’s presence. An entire country could fit into the space between us. Trevor is basically falling out of his seat trying to avoid any accidental contact of skin. Too bad since I would love to know if his skin really is velvety.

“So...” Lindsey begins, but I abruptly cut her off.

“Waiter!” I bark, causing Trevor to lean further away from me while rubbing his left ear. The man stops at our table, clearly unnerved by my sudden demand for his attention. I smile sweetly at him as he approaches. “Can I get a lemonade please.” He takes out a notepad and scribbles down my order.

“Water,” Trevor tells him.

“Water with lemon, please,” Lindsey beams.

“Root Beer,” Mike states simply.

Once the waiter leaves, our table falls into an awkward silence. I finally can’t take in anymore, so I reach my hand across the table towards Mike.

“Hi,” I greet, “We’ve never officially met. I’m Emma.”

“Mike.” He smiles back, giving my much tinier hand a solid shake. “We went to high school together, right?”

I nod. “Yeah, but our circles never connected,” I tell him. There’s a moment of silence. I decide not to admit that my ‘circle’ only included me, myself, and I.

“What made you decide on Greenville College?” he inquires.

I smile at his curiosity. “It was close to home and had the program I was interested in,” I explain. I can tell that both Lindsey and Trevor are listening intently.

“Which is?”

“Music composition,” I proudly tell him.

His eyebrows lift in shock or interest; I can’t tell which. “You play an instrument?” He seems genuinely curious about me, and I can feel the tension leave my body and my muscles loosening.

“Violin,” I smile at him. Our drinks arrive then, and our conversation is cut off.

“Beep beep,” Lindsey says, making a ‘shooing’ motion with her hands for Mike to move. He obeys and she scoots out of the booth informing everyone that her bladder is nearing eruption, and scurries off.

I don’t think anything of it until ten minutes later when she still hasn’t returned. Things get more suspicious when Mike suddenly excuses himself saying he left something in his car. That’s when I realize that Lindsey never went to the bathroom because the bathroom happens to be in the exact opposite direction of where she went. All at once I’m aware that this was all part of Lindsey’s evil plan.

“I’m going to murder her,” I mumble under my breath as Trevor and I both watch Mike disappear out the front door.

“They set us up,” he concludes as he turns to face me. He looks pissed, but only for a moment before his face relaxes into a neutral expression and he takes a sip of his water. Several beats of silence pass before he speaks again.

“Guess it’s just you and me,” he says while staring straight ahead at the seat that Lindsey and Mike had once occupied. Somehow he doesn’t seem at all peeved by this realization, and I’m very curious as to why. I’m staring at him when he finally turns towards me while taking another sip of his drink. He lifts a single eyebrow at me while looking over his glass. He catches me obviously frozen in place gawking at him, and I glance away quickly.

“We could uh... finish our assignment?” I mention, the phrase sounding more like a question.

Trevor groans. “No, thanks,” he says while leaning back in the booth and stretching his legs out underneath the table. He’s loosely holding onto his glass with both hands while one hand fingers the rim. He’s staring into his drink, apparently lost in thought.

“Okay...” I respond slowly, wondering why he’s not leaving. There’s no reason for us to stay here since he obviously doesn’t want to.

“I say we take a break from homework for a bit.”

“Oh,” I respond, slightly shocked. Is he suggesting that we actually hang out... together? Just for the heck of it?

“We could just leave,” I suggest at the same time Trevor announces we should order some food.

He looks at me quickly with question in his eyes. “Yeah,” he responds, rubbing a hand through his hair messily. “You can leave if you want. I just figured that since it’s dinner time already we might as well eat.”

I pull my phone out to check the time and am surprised to find that he is correct. It suddenly makes sense why I’ve been feeling the need to gnaw off my own arm. I’m starving!

“Good. Yeah. Okay, that’s a good idea,” I stutter out. I’m excited to be spending unplanned time with him, but that doesn’t mean I have to bumble like an idiot. I run a hand down my face feeling stupid. He doesn’t seem to notice.

“I hear they have all day breakfast.” He quirks a brow at me in question, asking me if that sounds good without actually asking.

“Yum,” I respond a bit too enthusiastically and I’m suddenly reminded of him calling himself ‘yummy’. Oh man! If I keep embarrassing myself like this I will crawl underneath the table, dig a hole through tile floor with my fingernails, and bury myself alive. Trevor would probably help me too. Not the best way to be remembered, though.

We both end up ordering the same thing. Scrambled eggs with rye toast, fresh avocado and strips of crispy bacon. We manage to survive some small talk while we wait for our food, and it is entirely excruciating.

He’s being unexpectedly polite, but not overly interested in anything I have to say. He orders another drink and continually sips it while listening to me jabber. By jabber, I mean that it would appear I’m jabbering compared to his one-word answers to each ridiculous question I can muster. I finally give up the effort, and thankfully our food arrives a moment later.

We eat in silence for a few minutes and I can’t help but notice that he has yet to move to the other side of the booth. We are still sitting next to each other, and I hate this because we probably appear to be one of those couples who decide we want to cuddle while we have dinner.

Seriously, I’m trying to eat. Why would I want to snuggle at a time like that!? Obviously, we aren’t snuggling, though. We’re still keeping as much distance as possible between us, and I’m about to tell Trevor to move his butt to the other side if I’m that disgusting to sit next to.

I watch him shovel food into his mouth and find his technique very interesting. Instead of eating each thing separately he piles everything on his toast and basically makes an egg, avocado, and bacon sandwich.

He must feel my gaze because he pauses mid-bite to turn his head my direction, “What?” He asks and actually sounds more curious than rude.

“Nothing,” I say and, of course, I giggle. He brings out my inner schoolgirl apparently. He gives me a threatening look that tells me I better spill or else. “I’m just amazed at how you eat.”

“What’s wrong with the way I eat?” he asks while taking another large bite from his sandwich.

“I mean, why not just order a breakfast burrito if you’re going to turn your entire meal into a sandwich?” I giggle again but I just can’t help it.

He actually smiles around the food in his mouth, causing his cheek to bulge out, before answering. “The breakfast burrito didn’t come with bacon or avocado,” he explains innocently. “Plus,” he adds, sounding a bit more serious, “I prefer the rye bread over a tortilla.” He takes another bite before eyeing me closely. “Why? How do you eat?”

“I eat like a normal person,” I tell him.

He guffaws but I continue on before he can make fun of that statement. “I like to savor each thing on my plate separately. Eating the way you do is about as bad as putting pieces of bacon in your pancakes. Who wants bacon teasers in their food when they could eat full strips of the heavenly goodness?”

“Well...” he begins to explain but then cuts himself off with a thoughtful look on his face, “Actually, you’re right on that one. Bacon should never be shredded into pieces.”

I glance at him after taking a bite and nearly choke on my eggs when I see a full smile dancing on his face. The pale green of his eyes shines with humor. He must notice my shock because the smile disappears quickly to be replaced with a look of displeasure.

Silence once again engulfs us, and I’m reminded of the one topic we haven’t discussed. I excuse myself to use the restroom before finishing my plate. Trevor doesn’t even hesitate as he scoots out allowing me to exit the booth. I don’t actually need to pee, but I do need to muster up every ounce of courage I can find.

I sit down on the toilet seat and take a few deep breaths. I try not to over think what I’m going to say to him because planning too much only makes me more nervous. I don’t want to have to spill my guts out to him, while at the same time, trying to remember every word and detail of how I’d planned on spilling those guts.

Without feeling any more prepared or relaxed I make my way back out to our table. A part of me is expecting not to find him there. Maybe he took my leave as a chance to escape. But instead, I find him lounging against the back of the seat. His plate has been emptied and pushed to the center of the table, and he’s sipping on his water.

I quickly take a seat across from him before he can even make a move to let me back in beside him. I look at him closely. The need to confess overrides the need to eat, and I know my stomach will punish me for abandoning it later, but at this moment Trevor is priority.

Trevor has a strange look on his face as he watches me from across the table. I can tell that he knows I have something important to say because he waits with his drink forgotten in his hand where it hovers near his mouth. He slowly puts it back down on the table and crosses his arms over his chest. There is concern mixed with suspicion hidden in his tense expression.

I tuck my hair behind my ear. I hate that he has a straight-on view of my face while I’m feeling so completely vulnerable, but I’d rather him see the honesty that is sure to spill from my eyes than to watch me cower in angst beside him. I clear my throat before meeting his penetrating gaze.

“I’m...” my voice instantly cracks, and I’m forced to start over after squeaking out a whole whopping one word. I clear my throat again. “I’m sorry.” I know it comes out much quieter than I intended, but I also know that Trevor heard me, and I can tell he is fully aware of just what I’m apologizing for.

He searches my face for a moment, and I see his expression soften if only the slightest bit. He’s still analyzing me, and I can feel my body sizzling underneath his scrutiny. His eyes are so intense. “Why?” He finally asks, his muscles rigid with tension; and, like him, I’m fully aware of what he’s asking.

It’s a question I’ve often asked myself. What caused such hostility? What did she ever do to deserve the venom birthed by my bitterness? Why?

Why did I ruin Trinity’s life?

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