Acceptance

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Chapter Twenty

[ETHAN]

“There!” Devein screeched as we spotted her group of friends in the mall’s parking lot.

“Okay then, stay safe,” Andrew said as he pulled the gear to temporary parking so that Devein could get out of the car. I watched as she undid her seat belt and ran out the car towards her friends.

“I can’t believe you let her go,” I muttered, earning a nod in response from Andrew. I bit my lip, turning away from him as he set the car in motion to find a parking spot. Although Andrew had said he’d forgiven me. The way he acted towards me seemed to say otherwise. He didn’t have much to say with me anymore and all forms of endearment in the way he spoke to me outright disappeared.

I looked out the window as Andrew drove around looking for a parking space. I couldn’t help thinking that Andrew had taken more than a hundred steps backward and we weren’t even in square one - he was treating me like a complete stranger.

Andrew pulled the gear on the brake when he properly parked in a spot. He turned the car off, before opening the car doors.

“I’m going to check around for a new phone case and an external hard drive,” Andrew said, looking from me to the steering wheel. “You can stay here if you want, or you could go to the mall.”

I watched as he got out of the car as I contemplated over my options. Devein was supposed to be waiting at the entrance by three noon after she’d watched the movie with her friends.

I bit my lip, trying to come to a conclusion. I didn’t want to be stuck here in the car for three hours, and I didn’t want to wander about the mall alone. To be frank, I wanted to be with Andrew, and I wasn’t sure how to tell him.

“Are you staying here?” he asked as he shut the door behind him.

“No,” I stated finally. Andrew gave me a calm look before nodding. I got out, shutting the door behind me so he could lock the car.

“I’ll meet you and Devein at the door by three,” Andrew said as he made to leave.

“Wait!” I called making Andrew pause in his tracks.

“Can I tag along with you?” I asked when I got his full attention, my voice getting smaller as I thought of the possibility of him refusing my request.

“Well, okay,” Andrew replied as he looked towards the entrance. He checked again to see if He’d locked the doors before turning to leave. I awkwardly quickened my steps to catch up to him; walking by his side as he ignored my presence.

I looked at his blank expression from the side of my eye and sighed. It was obvious he was still mad at me, and it was nerve-racking that I didn’t know what to do about it.

We got into the mall, heading straight for one of the tech-inclined stores. Andrew immediately separated from me to talk to one of the attendants about getting a hard drive.

I watched him as he continued to converse with the attendant, feeling largely abandoned. I sighed with a dramatic shoulder slump. I had been right where I wanted to be with Andrew in a relationship and I just had to open my big quick to defense mouth and blow it.

I left Andrew behind, wandering about the store to check if I could pick out anything for myself. From time to time I’d swipe the screen of my phone so it’d light up and show me the time. I’d sigh every time, finding out it was only a few minutes since the last time I checked, and that there was still a long way to the end of Devein’s movie.

“Oh, there you are,” I heard Andrew say behind me, making me jump.

“Sorry for startling you,” he chuckled lightly as I tried to rearrange myself. I could feel my chest warm up from Andrew’s laughter. It’s been a while since I heard it. I mentally slapped myself for standing there and smiling like a goof at the thought of Andrew’s laughter.

“I-Err-it’s okay,” I finally decided on saying as I rubbed the back of my neck. I’d become a stuttering mess around him since the incident in attempts to pick the right words, but as anyone could tell, it wasn’t working. There was no way I was letting my anger and fear get the best of me again. I hurt Andrew, and I never wanted to do it again.

Andrew gave a hint of a smile at my answer before stretching two boxes out to me.

“I’m not sure which one to pick, which one would you pick?” he asked as he placed the boxes into my hands. I looked down at the boxes, looking at the brands of the hard drives. I couldn’t help feeling that this was sort of a peace offering. Andrew hadn’t willingly talked to me in a week and here he was asking my option on what to buy.

“I’d avoid the HP if I was you, I had one and it crashed like an ass,” I said, staring at the box with a grudge. Andrew gave a small laugh, making my chest warm up again.

“Okay, so I should take the Lenovo?” he asked, taking the boxes from my hand. I watched him exam the packaging of the Lenovo hard drive. He ran his thumb across the box making the craving for his hand on my chest stir.

I soon let out a breath I didn’t know I was holding that sounded like something between an embarrassing gasp and a whine. Andrew’s eyebrows knitted into a frown as he looked up at me.

“Is something wrong?” he asked, placing the boxes on a nearby shelf. I paled considerably before shaking my head.

“Okay then...” Andrew trailed, turning to the shelves to pick up the boxes. My eyes widened as he picked them up and let them fall to the ground.

“Andrew?” I called out, looking down at the boxes before looking back at him. I followed his gaze to find a blonde haired man with a pair of blue eyes staring right at us. The man smirked before making the ‘I’m watching you’ sign. I heard Andrew’s breath hike at that as his eyes followed the blonde man’s figure as he walked out the store.

“Andrew...” I trailed, turning to look back at him. He was still staring at the exit of the store. His face was pale - as if he’d seen a ghost.

“Andrew,” I called again, shaking him slightly by the shoulder this time. He blinked turning his gaze to me before looking down at the boxes that had dropped to the floor.

“Shit,” he cussed, squatting to pick up the boxes, “I hope they’re not broken.”

“Are you okay?” I asked more concerned about him than the idea of two hard drives getting broken. He nodded as he checked the hard drives for damage. I frowned at his answer, knowing he was far from okay.

I watched as he tried to comport himself before heading over to the counter to pay. He could fool everyone, but he couldn’t fool me. He was still visibly shaken and looked in a hurry to get out of the store.

“Call Devein, she has my phone. Tell her we have to leave,” he told me as I came up to him receiving the hard drive in a paper bag.

I frowned, looking down at my watch, “It’s not even two yet.”

I watched as Andrew bit his lip as he gave me a guilty expression. “I remembered something I had to do.”

“You can leave. I’ll catch a bus with Devein when her movie’s over,” I said, turning to look up the stairs. The cinema was on the top floor and I could wait for Devein while catching a short movie.

“I...” Andrew trailed, looking from me to the direction of the mall exit. “I can’t go home alone,” he admitted, giving me a pleading look.

“Well, why not?” I asked, giving him a questioning look. He ran a hand through his hair before sighing as he looked from me to the door.

“He’ll follow me,” he suddenly muttered under his breath, making it hard for me to hear him clearly. I frowned in confusion when my brain finally registered what he said. My frown then softened when my mind went back to the blond man that had been eyeing Andrew in the tech store.

“Oh,” I muttered, watching Andrew shake with panic.

“I’ll stay with you in the car until Devein is done with her movie, okay?”

Andrew nodded giving a sigh of relief as we headed out the exit and into the parking lot together. I watched as he checked to see if the windows and doors were locked more times than I could count on my fingers when we’d gotten into the car. I didn’t call him out on it though. I watched as he gave the clock frequent stares a lot of dismay clouding his face each time he looked. The movie wouldn’t end in another fifty-five minutes and Devein might want to spend some time with her friends.

I looked from him to the clock, not knowing what to do. I was used to Andrew being occasionally paranoid but my method for handling that would be considered as crossing the line now. I looked at his paranoid figure from the corner of my eye and decided to help in the little way I could.

“It’ll be fine.” I tried to assure him as I looked down at my fingers. I soon felt his gaze on me, briefly followed by a sigh.

Twenty awkward minutes passed before I decided I couldn’t take the silence anymore.

“Andrew,” I called, turning to face him. He looked up at me with reddened eyes. His eyes were visibly swollen and tired looking from the silent crying he must have been doing. I was about to mutter a quiet ‘don’t worry’ before I shook my head, deciding against it.

If I wanted to confront him it had to be now that he was dependent on me and not ignoring my existence.

“You said you forgave me,” I started, suddenly feeling timid, “but you haven’t, have you?”

“Ethan, this really isn’t the right time-”

“Then when?” I asked, cutting in, “You’re breaking down in front of me and I can’t do anything about it because it’d be crossing the line.”

“Just stop, okay? I’m not in the right mindset for this,” Andrew sighed rubbing his forehead with the back of his hand. With the way he’d been crying, I wouldn’t be surprised if he had a headache.

I gave him a small smile, turning away in a decision not to say anything. Silence fell on us as Andrew fell into quiet sobbing.

I was angry at Andrew and I was angry at myself. It was terrible being around him at times like this and not knowing what to do.

I went ahead and pieced one and two together concerning his state as I decided to talk to him even though he might not want to talk to me.

“Was that Christopher?” I asked, picking at the lint on my shirt. I didn’t get an audible answer just a loud spasm of sobs.

“I’m right?” I said, looking over at his crying figure in concern. Andrew nodded in a silent answer as he attempted to rub the wetness from under his eyes.

“Do you know why he’s here?” I asked, looking at him as he gained his composure. He shook his head.

“Damn him, only God knows! I’m sure he just feels like torturing me, that’s all he’s ever done, damn it!” Andrew cursed, saying his words so fast that I could barely make anything out of them.

He soon fell into another season of sobs as he rested his head against the headrest of his seat.

I could see him giving me an odd look through his tear-filled eyes. He seemed as if he was in contemplation before I felt his hand reach out to touch mine. I wasn’t sure what he wanted to I just laced our fingers together. He continued to sob quietly as I squeezed his hand occasionally in comfort.

“Hold me,” he muttered all of a sudden, making me look up at him in alarm.

“I...” I mumbled. I wasn’t quite sure if my brain had just heard what it wanted to.

“Please...” he begged in a croaked voice, making me nod. I couldn’t deny him what he wanted in this state. He smiled as if in relief before proceeding to crawl over to me from his seat. He rested his head on my shoulder as he nested himself on my laps.

I held him close as he continued to sniffle and occasionally full out sob. He soon calmed down, trying to find a comfortable position to rest his head. My head was hazy with emotion. I wanted to punch the man that made Andrew cry like this with only his presence, and I felt anxious and panicked over the fact that Andrew was so close to me. We hadn’t been this close since I got him mad and he wouldn’t let me touch him platonically.

“I’m sorry about the way I’ve been acting towards you,” Andrew muttered into my shoulder, surprising me.

“I-it’s okay,” I said, trying to get over my shock. “I shouldn’t have said any of that.”

“No, I was the one being so oversensitive,” Andrew insisted, pulling his head away from my shoulder. “It’s kind of selfish to ask you to hold me like this when I’ve been set on ignoring you for the past week.”

I felt my cheeks heat up at his statement. He’d indirectly admitted that he had never truly forgiven me.

“Ethan,” Andrew said as he took my face in his hands, “thanks for taking care of me,” he muttered before smiling lightly. He gave me an odd look before bending forward to give my forehead a peck, making me gasp like the sexually depressed person that I was.

Andrew pulled away, raising a brow at me before laughing. “Now, it hasn’t been that long,” he teased, making my face turn a deep crimson.

I was glad when he stopped with his teasing laugh and full on kissed me. I moaned into his mouth, pulling him closer as we kissed, earning a laugh for him when our teeth knocked. I smiled, readjusting my head a little to continue the kiss, I really didn’t care how tactless I was being right now.

A loud knock on the window made us pull apart. I almost burst into flames at the sight of Devein giving us a knowing look.

“The movie ended a while ago and I didn’t find you guys at the door,” she said as she got into the car after Andrew had unlocked the doors using the central lock.

“Did you have fun?” Andrew asked as he got back to his seat. His hair was a mess from the way I’d tugged, pulled, and ran my hand through it as we’d kissed.

“Yeah,” Devein muttered with a smile, stretching her hand out to put Andrew’s hair in place, “you know, I really don’t know what happened in the movie since we were all talking instead of watching...”

Andrew laughed at that as he started the car. I smiled - glad that he could overcome such a break down in a short while. That, or he was masking it because if Devein’s presence.

“So, are you two are talking again?” Devein asked suggestively as she put on her seat belt. I kept quiet because I wasn’t so sure, but sighed in relief when Andrew muttered a small ‘yes’.

Devein’s lips broke into a full-on smile. “Good, it was kind of depressing having the both of you so moody and cranky.”

I coughed in guilt, and Andrew gave a shy chuckle. Devein rolled her eyes at us before fishing within her pocket for Andrew’s phone. She handed it back to him before falling into a brief silence.

“So,” Devein started as we drove into the main road. “In celebration of this, can I have a phone?” she asked, as she tried to make eye contact with Andrew through the driver’s mirror.

“We’ve talked about this,” Andrew pointed out, making her pout.

“Everyone has one!” She whined throwing her head against the car seat in distress.

“It’s not everyone if you don’t have one,” Andrew replied in response, making Devein sigh.

“I don’t want anything expensive. I just want something that I can make calls with, text, go on the internet and play games on,” she pleaded as I watched her bat her eyelashes from the driver’s mirror.

“You can call and text using the landline, and you can play games and use the internet on the desktop. You are not getting a phone - period,” Andrew said in a firm tone. Devein crossed her arms in defeat before giving the face I used to give when I was much younger that meant ‘I’ll try again later’.

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