I miss my baby.
It’s been three days since she left for Japan, and I’m realizing how much her presence has become an addiction for me. The room feels empty without her sitting next to me. I don’t have anyone to annoy when I don’t wanna listen to the teacher. And I miss her scent, most of all—that sweet green apple scent that wafts in the air whenever she’s near.
She’s been active in her Instagram account, posting pictures of the places she’s visited. Every picture looks professionally taken, following the aesthetic of her feed. One particular photo caught my eye. It’s a picture of her in front of the enormous Mt. Fuji wearing a very familiar navy blue hoodie with the caption, ‘comfiest hoodie ever.’
Did I mention she also followed me back?
We’ve been FaceTime-ing every morning before I go to school. Japan is thirteen hours ahead, so it’s nighttime there whenever she calls. Today, however, there’s no call—just one text.
Jan is here.
That’s the message I woke up to and it was enough to ruin my day. Since then, I haven’t received a single message from her except for that one.
Troubled thoughts start to form in my mind. What if Jan planned it out to be a way to get Julia back? What if Julia realizes she really does love Jan and I’m nothing more than a fling?
I shake my head furiously. No. I trust Julia. I’ll wait for her to text back and let me know what happened and why she’s with her ex. God, what if they’re sharing a room together for the next few days? I know it’s not likely since they’re stinking rich and can afford one penthouse suite for each one, but what if?
What if Janelle somehow managed to book the entire hotel they’re staying at and somehow got Julia to share the room with her? I’ve seen Janelle, and I’ve seen how calculating those green eyes are.
I’ve seen how she looked at me like I was inferior to her, someone not worth her attention. I concede, of course, clearly she’s more gifted on the physical aspects.
Another thing surfaces at the back of my mind. We never talked about her, did we? I never asked Julia if she’s over her ex. I never asked why Janelle suddenly just disappeared and stopped showing up. Julia didn’t see the need to tell me about it.
Am I just a pastime while her lover’s away and she’ll dispose of me the moment she comes back? How could I have been so blind?
My lunch doesn’t seem that appetizing anymore. I stand up from my lunch table and start walking away.
“Hey, where you going?” Alyssa asks.
“Out.” I don’t wait for her reply and bolt out of the suffocating cafeteria.
I make my way to the only place in the school where I can relax with no one around to bother me. I push the metal door open and find myself in the landing of one of the fire exits of the school.
This has been my safe haven from the chaos of school whenever I feel down and shitty. Like now.
I light a cigarette and lean on the railings. Below is an alley that leads to the back of the school where the soccer field is located. No one actually dares to take this path because it’s creepy.
The only people who know about this place are me, Kris, and Antonio the guard. He caught me smoking here once. He let me off easily because I was crying my eyes out. Other than the three of us, no one else knows I come here. Or at least that’s what I thought.
I hear the door creak open. I turn around abruptly to see Diane standing on the door frame. “Dee. What are you doing here?”
She looks at me for a moment, then her eyes flit to the cigarette in my hand. “Why are you smoking inside campus?”
I shrug and take a hit from my cigarette. “I’m stressed?”
The door closes behind Diane as she walks towards me. “Yeah, I can tell.” She eyes my cigarette. “Mind if I try?”
“The fuck? No.” I crush my barely lit cigarette on the underside of the railings and put it inside a beer bottle by the side of the stairs. Dee doesn’t smoke. Smoking destroys your lungs and she can’t have that if she wants to reach greater heights. Her dedication to basketball never let her do anything to ruin her health.
Diane looks around, scanning the place. “How come you never told me about this place?”
“I come here to clear my head. And to relax.”
I sit on one of the steps leading to the fourth floor’s fire exit. “Why’d you come here, Dee?”
“When you left, my feet just started moving by itself. I had no idea following you would lead me to your secret hideout.” She laughs, the light, easy one I remember. “So, wanna tell me what’s bothering you?”
“Nah, I’m good.”
She leans with her back to the railing and faces me. “How are things between you and Alexis?”
“Why do you wanna know?”
“Why not? We’re friends.” She runs a hand through her hair. “You used to tell me when you were going to take a shit. You can tell me.”
I shake my head. “It’s petty. Nothing to worry about.”
“Does it have to do anything with the manipulative ex?”
“How’d you know about that?”
“Georgia told me about it.” She pauses. “You should trust Alexis more. She wouldn’t have turned down the girl if she wasn’t serious about you.”
I narrow my eyes at Diane. “Turned her down? What do you mean?”
Diane looked surprised. “You didn’t know?”
Julia turned Janelle down? For me?
Hope swelled in my chest. I feel like an idiot for doubting Julia. I should be able to tell from the way she looked at me. The way her gaze softens when I talk to her.
I blow out a breath and run a hand through my hair. “I had no idea.”
“Well, now you know. Stop sulking. I might not know Alexis that much, but I can see how much she cares for you.” She looks away.
“I thought you didn’t like her.”
“I envy her.” She peels her gaze off the distance and looks me straight in the eye. “When I saw you two together on your birthday, I knew I had to abandon any hope of ever getting you back.”
Even after everything, a part of me still aches whenever I see her hurting because of me. Those brown eyes are holding too much emotions that are threatening to burst. I avert my gaze. “I’m sorry.”
“You don’t have to apologize for anything,” Diane says. “I hope she treats you better than I did. You deserve nothing less.”
I stand up just as the first bell rings, signaling that we only have five minutes left of our lunch break. “Our relationship wasn’t all bad, you know. I know you loved me. I felt it. I’ll always be thankful I got to experience how it feels like to be loved by you.”
“Damn. Alexis Gray is one lucky girl.” She smiles genuinely. “I’d ask for one last kiss before letting you go for real, but you’d probably hate me for that. How ’bout a hug?”
I tackle her and give her a fierce hug. “I wish you’d stop hurting because of me.”
Her body vibrates as she laughs. “That’s not helping, man. It would be a lot easier for me if you just told me to fuck off and leave.”
“You know I’m not like that,” I mumble against her shirt that oozes the strawberry scent that I’d know anywhere I go.
“I love you, Alex.” She tightens her hug, then lets go.
On our way back, I decided to tease her a bit. “So, you and Georgia? You guys make a good pair.”
“Please. She’s insufferable.” Diane waves a dismissive hand. “Not to mention cocky, and nosy.” She gives me a rueful look. “But we do agree on one thing.”
“I see.” I don’t have to ask what thing they agree on. Taking into account Georgia’s amorous nature and Diane’s past, it’s not hard to guess which area they’d both give what the other wants. “You should get to know her better. She’s more than what meets the eye.”
“I’ve already gotten past what meets the eye,” Diane says with a smirk. Confirmed.
As I was on my way back after escorting Diane to her classroom, David appears from a corner. “You really have the nerve.”
“So while the other girl is gone, you go around and screw your ex? I wonder what Alexis will think when she finds out.” He smirks, a malicious smile on his lips.
I stop in my tracks. “Dee and I are just friends. Your insecurity’s dripping. Might want to mop that up.”
“I’d stay away from Alexis if I were you.”
“Dude, seriously. Mind your own business.”
“I’ve been seeing you two together a lot lately. There are rumors going around that you’re dating, which is ridiculous.” He towers over me as he steps closer.
“Why do you think so?”
David looked like he resisted the urge to roll his eyes. “Because you’re a dyke, obviously. It’s a wonder she even hangs out with you.”
I snort. Poor guy. “If you say so.”
“What’s so funny?”
“Nothing.” I continue walking towards my classroom.
“Alexis Gray is mine,” David growls just as I get past him.
It’s funny how I can picture Julia’s reaction when she hears this. She’ll definitely make a face of disgust, then tell David to go fuck himself because she belongs to no one. I turn back around. “The fuck are you saying? She belongs to no one.”
“She will be mine.” He sneers. “So get your little dyke ass out of the way before I do anything unpleasant.”
“You call that a threat? My three-month-old puppy’s bark is more threatening than that.”
David’s hand flies to my neck, choking me. For a moment, I was frozen. It doesn’t matter how many years you’ve spent training in self-defense. Once you’re in the situation, shock will render you immobile, however brief.
Once I got over the shock, instincts take over my body. I strike his arm with enough force to lose his grip on my neck. He loses his balance and stumbles, leaving his back open. Finding the opening, I wrap my arm from behind his neck and squeeze.
David slaps my legs like the pussy he is and I squeeze a little harder before letting go. He doubles over, coughing like an 80-year-old with lung problems. His face is red when he looks at me. Whether it’s because of anger or the disrupted flow of his blood, I couldn’t tell.
I drill a dangerous look at him. “Touch me again and I’ll break your fucking arms.” I inject as much hostility as I can. It’s one thing to talk shit to me, and it’s an entirely different thing when you get physical.
“You fucking dyke! I’ll fucking kill you!” If for David, killing me means running in the opposite direction with his tail between his legs, then he’s definitely out for blood.
I rub my neck gently, hoping to ease the slight throbbing that resulted from his chokehold. What did Diane ever see in him? Not to blow my own horn, but the only thing the guy has that I don’t is the thing between his legs that apparently does the thinking. How disappointing.
Even by the time I get home, there was still no response from Julia. I decided to call her. After three rings, she picks up. “Julia.” I let out a sigh of relief.
“She lets you call her by that name?” Came a surprised familiar voice.
I can almost see her smug smile when she says, “The one and only. Sorry, Alex is in the bathroom right now. We’re going around the city today, then have dinner with her dad. I’d appreciate it if you don’t disturb us.”
“I think Julia would appreciate it if you stop touching her things without her permission. Why are you in her room, anyway?” I try my best to hide the irritation in my voice, but it’s hard when your girl’s ex is provoking you.
“We’re sharing the room, of course.”
“Can’t afford your own?”
Janelle gives me a humorless laugh. “I can buy this entire hotel if I wanted to.” She sounded bored. “No, that’s not the issue. I just wanted to spend more time with Alex.”
With the newly acquired information from Diane, I inject poison in my words. “Oh, so you’re forcing yourself on your ex who doesn’t want you anymore? Sounds tough.”
“You piece of shit,” Janelle growls.
I laugh heartily, knowing it will get into her nerves more. “A hot, sexy piece of shit that Julia wants.”
“You’re never going to be good enough for Alex. I saw it in your eyes. You know you don’t deserve her, and you know deep down that whatever you do, you’re easily dispensable.”
Her words were a splash of cold water. She really knows how to hit where it hurts.
I was about to say something that would’ve dug my own grave, but Julia’s voice stops me. “What the hell, Jan?”
“I was just about to hand it to you.” Jan’s sweet voice replies.
A sharp noise, then came Julia’s voice, “Al?”
“I’m so sorry I haven’t been able to talk to you.” I hear the regret in her voice. “I was going to call you before I head out today.”
Julia sighs. “I didn’t know Jan was going to be here.”
I try to make myself sound cheerful. “Hey, it’s okay. You don’t need to explain.”
She pauses as if considering something. “I’m going home tomorrow. Can you pick me up at the airport?”
Jan’s faraway voice chimes in, “You’re going home already? I thought you’re staying until the weekend?”
“Change of plans.” Julia’s icy voice replies. “I’m sure my dad wouldn’t mind.”
“Are you sure it’s okay for you to leave? I thought you were supposed to attend a conference?” I ask, worried.
“Doesn’t matter.” In a hopeful voice, she asks again. “Pick me up?”
How can I say no to that? “As if you have to ask.” I feel my mood lift. “Send me the deets.”
The sound of a buzzer echoes in the room. “I gotta go.” I can almost see Julia smile. “I’ll see you soon.”
“Take care. I’ll see you soon, baby.”
As I put down the phone, Jan’s words echo in my mind. One of my greatest fears surfaces once again. Once you get cheated on, it just kinda sticks with you. No matter how hard you try, there will always be that fear—that doubt—that you will never be enough.