Three days have passed since the scene in the cafeteria. I haven’t seen Roman much, mostly because I keep my distance each time I spot him anywhere in the vicinity.
Delilah keeps shooting me dirty looks in the hallway and I know that I’ll have to face her wrath soon.
I haven’t sketched anything since that wretched day. Each time I hold the pencil in my hand, Roman’s blue eyes keep popping up in the front of my brain and it shuts down effectively.
I can’t believe I was naïve enough to think he could actually feel something for me. Was it so far-fetched?
My brain screams, Yes!
I mean, look at him. He’s so smart and beautiful and has the bluest eyes I have ever seen. He isn’t cute like the other guys. No. He’s different in a much much better way. He’s really tall. And lanky. I think my arms are chubbier than his.
Ugh. But what does it matter?
He isn’t mine. He never was. And never will be. Overthinking about him will only end up with me getting my brains fried and hurting my fragile heart and pride in the process. I should have nipped this infatuation with him right in the bud.
So what if I can’t bear to think about never seeing him again once we go off to college? And even if we both end up going to MU, it isn’t as though we’d be hanging out together or anything.
I slam the door to my locker with harder force than necessary.
I really need to get my head out of my ass. It’s stupid and a total waste of time to mope around after someone who doesn’t think I matter that much. I guess he was just being nice to me when he invited me over to his house the other day for the movie. Maybe he does this with everyone he meets.
I shake my head as I put my Geometry textbook into my bag and hitch the strap onto my shoulder.
Of course, that’s it.
Roman is a nice guy, that’s what he does for others. Being there when he thinks he is needed. Why can’t I have him all to myself?
I give a mental eye roll. I’m unbelievable.
Maybe if I pretend to be nonchalant about all of this, I’ll manage to convince myself that I’m fine without him. Fake it till you make it, right?
Then why does my chest hurt when I think about it?
I head out of school and walk across the parking lot. Looking down at the small cracks that have started to appear in my sneakers, I pull out my keys from the pocket of my pants.
Someone steps into my path and I gasp in surprise, almost tripping over my own feet in the effort to halt suddenly.
I feel a solid grip on my upper arms and I freeze when I look up into the eyes of the one person I was successfully avoiding all these days.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to startle you.“, Roman’s low voice is the sweetest sound I have ever heard.
I shake him off and begin to move away.
“Leave me alone, Roman.”
He takes my hand again and I pause. His hold is far from tight, his fingers loosely wrapped around my bicep. I could pull away easily. But the pleading look in his eyes makes me falter.
“Why are you angry with me?“, his words are soft, hurt.
I look around the parking lot. There are a few students present but none of them seem to pay us any attention.
I turn back to Roman.
“I need to leave.“, I try to sound firm.
He stares at me with a hint of frustration for a moment and then he surprises me. Taking the keys of my truck from my fingers, he goes over to the vehicle.
“What are you doing-”
Without looking at me, he opens the door to the front seat and slips in over to the passenger side. Then he places the keys on the seat next to him and gives me a glare.
My mouth is open in disbelief.
“I’m not leaving till you tell me what exactly I did or said to piss you off.“, he sounds angry and that surprises me beyond belief. I have never, ever, not once, seen this side of him.
“Get in the truck, Isabel. I’m not leaving till you speak to me. I’ve stayed out of your way all these days and let you think whatever it was that you were thinking, but not anymore.”
His tone makes me gulp down in nervousness. I don’t know how to handle this Roman.
Slowly, avoiding looking at him, I climb into the truck and shut the door.
The silence in the space is heavy and my ears are ringing.
Beside me, Roman is rigid, his hands folded across his chest. I can feel his gaze burning into the side of my face and I am suddenly conscious of how badly I wish circumstances were different.
That he was sitting here, in my truck, inches away from me, because he couldn’t wait to kiss me after a long day at school. That he was staring at me with such intensity because he thought I was beautiful and because he liked me as much as I did him.
I panic when I feel the slight sting of tears in my eyes.
Forcing a breath through my lungs, I place my hands on the steering wheel and lightly tap my fingers on the curve, looking away, out of the window, to avoid the horrible possibility that he might spot the mental breakdown that’s just around the corner for me.
A few seconds pass by and then I jump when something touches my hair.
I whirl to the side to see Roman move away quickly, his hand outstretched. I stare at him for a second before I realize it.
He was tucking my hair away.
“I’m sorry.“, I apologize quickly, wishing he’d touch me again.
My heart plummets in disappointment when he places his hand back down on the seat. But he doesn’t take his eyes off me.
“I startled you again.“, he says.
“What are you thinking?“, his eyes seem as though they are searching mine, looking for a way to read my thoughts.
This is killing me. Why do I have to feel these things?
Even with the warning running through my head that I need to make him leave right now and control the rapid tattoo of my heart in my chest, all I can think about is how badly I want to have him wrap his arms around me and hug me till everything is okay once again.
It’s killing me to pretend that I don’t feel anything toward him but friendship.
I look back at my hands on the wheel and the words slip onto the tip of my tongue.
What’s the worst that could happen?
He’d probably stop talking to me. But that’s okay, right?
I mean we haven’t chatted much before and I can go back to living like that once again, can’t I?
So what if I’ll still have to see him every day and try not to cry my eyes out each time I spot him with another girl? A girl who would never be me.
I’ve managed before. I could manage again, couldn’t I?
“Isabel, please. Talk to me.“, Roman’s earnest voice draws me out of my thoughts.
I gulp down the knot that is rapidly forming in my throat and push the hair out of my face.
I have to end this torture that I’m putting myself through.
Taking a deep breath to try to dispel some of the pain in my chest cavity, I focus my gaze on the nail of my right thumb and blurt out quickly.
“Are you dating Clare?”
The worst is over. My breath leaves me in a noisy whoosh.
A whole second passes by and when he doesn’t answer I feel doomed. Is he trying to think how to let me down easily?
I turn to look at him and I see that his face is scrunched up in an incredulous expression.
My eyes widen when he looks at me like I’m crazy.
“I asked you if you’re dating Clare.“, I say. “That day in the cafeteria, Delilah told me that-”
“Why the fuck would you believe Delilah?“, he raises his voice.
I’m frozen in my seat.
Woah. Roman used slangs?!
His eyes are bright behind his glasses and now he looks purely pissed.
I stammer out a response, “I didn’t know what to think, she said that-”
Roman turns in his seat and somehow he seems much taller and I’m dwarfed. Why do I feel like an idiot right now for not speaking to him before?
“I don’t give a shit about what she said, Isabel. I give a shit about what you thought. Why would you even think about me dating someone else?”
I’m unable to respond to that, my mouth opening and then shutting itself. What was he saying?
Suddenly, Roman moves forward and grab both my knees, turning me to the side and then shifts so that he’s mere millimeters away from me.
“What were you thinking about me these past three days, Isabel? I need to know that right now.“, he reaches out and takes both my palms in his and begins to smooth his thumbs over the tops of my fingers.
I am going to have a heart attack right now. He’s too close for my sanity.
My brain refuses to work and I just stare at him in confusion, wondering why he is doing whatever it was that he was doing.
When he sees that I’m not going to be answering anytime soon, he purses his lips and then gives my hands a little shake. “I need you to open that glorious mouth of yours and answer me.”
And my pulse drops low in my belly.
Did he just-
My brain chooses that moment to make itself known. “I thought you were dating Clare. Delilah called me your side hoe.”
Roman winces and looks away.
I stare at his face, the light stubble that is beginning to grow on his cheeks. How would it feel against my fingers?
The fading light out of the window highlights his features and I’m struck by how much I like him holding my hands. When he looks back at me, his eyes look hard. “Delilah is a bitch, someone you are never ever going to believe ever again. Because I’m not dating Clare and I don’t plan on dating anyone..”
My hopes drop and I quickly look away before he can see the disappointment reflected in my eyes.
“Oh.“, I say softly, already moving my hands out of his.
But he grips them tight and his next words floor me.
“Except you. If you’ll have me.”