REALLY

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The High Hopes


T A Y A

“What is this place? Am I being kidnapped?”

I had lived all my life on this island, but I never knew of this narrow dirt road Judah drove into. Once we got to the end of the road, he parked the bike and killed the engine, before motioning for me to get off.

“Blondie, I can’t kidnap you even if I want to. You’re too much work,” he joked.

I rolled my eyes and I was struggling to get off the bike. Next thing I knew, I slipped, falling butt-first on the ground. Because of course I would.

“Ouw!” my hand instinctively went to rub my backside.

Judah just stood there and he had the audacity to laugh at me.

“That’s not very chivalrous, don’t you think?” I muttered as I pulled myself up without his help.

“Chivalry’s dead, princess,” he replied, before turning towards the woods.

We had arrived in some sort of secluded area filled with trees. There were no one in sight, and the only access in here was this narrow dirt road no one would even notice.

I might die here and no one would know.

“Are you coming or what?” I heard Judah’s voice from behind the trees.

I took a deep breath and followed him into the woods. We walked around for a good ten minutes. Judah seemed to know exactly where he was going, as if he had been here a million times before.

Finally we arrived at an opening, Judah moved the tall bushes aside, and in front of us laid this amazing view of the ocean and clear skies. My eyes widened instantly as I realized we were standing on an area of land at the top of a cliff.

“Whoa,” I gasped and Judah smiled at my reaction. “I’ve lived here all my life and I never knew this place existed! How do you know this place again?”

“I used to live here,” he shrugged simply.

“Wait, what? You lived here?”

Judah ignored the puzzled look on my face and just kept on walking until we came across an old abandoned building at the end of the cliff top. It looked like it was supposed to be a two-story house—except it was unfinished, tattered, and old.

Judah walked right in and climbed this obscure wooden ladder until he reached the second floor of the house. There were no walls up there and he just stood there with his head held high.

“Come on up Blondie, the view’s amazing!” he shouted down to me.

“You want me to go up there? Oh no... no, I don’t do heights. I can’t get up there! There are literally no walls,” I shook my head violently.

“You were fine last time when you jumped from one,” he made a point.

“That doesn’t count,” I shouted back.

Judah made a complaining noise and reluctantly walked back down to my level. Once he was in front of me, he whisked me up suddenly, throwing my body over his shoulder in one swift move.

“Hey! Put me down!” I yelped and squirmed, but he ignored me completely. He climbed all the way back up the second floor, before finally letting me down once he found a cozy spot on the side of the house.

“You’re crazy!” I half yelled, half whimpered.

I retreated away from the edge as much as I could, while Judah sat down and let his feet hung loosely on the air. As scared as I was right now, I had to admit this was one of the most beautiful sights I’d ever seen. We had the entire ocean and blue skies on full display.

A small smile spread on his face as he saw my reaction. He patted the spot next to him, motioning for me to sit down.

“What is this place?” I said as I sat down, careful not to look down as my head was starting to spin.

“This was supposed to be our family house, believe it or not,” Judah answered, and I gave him a puzzled look, waiting for him to continue.

“I used to live here in Hawaii, until I was about seven. That’s when my dad, uh died, and my mom and I moved to California,” Judah kept his gaze on the ocean as he spoke.

“My dad was a contractor. He worked on this house. We dreamt that someday the three of us would live here, my dad, my mom, and I. He used to take me up here all the time and I saw him work. But as you can see, he didn’t get a chance to finish it,” he smiled bitterly.

“You never said anything about living here before... and about your dad...” I said cautiously.

“Yeah, they’re not all great stories,”

From the way he was talking, I could tell this was a difficult topic for him. Not wanting the air to get more melancholy, I put on a smile and said, “Well, this is a lovely home! Best view in the entire island, for sure!”

Judah smiled and nodded in agreement.

“Exactly. See there, that’s the family room. This would be the master bedroom. Bathroom over here. And there... my room,” he pointed to an empty area in behind us.

“Could use some walls,” I commented and he laughed.

“Who knows, maybe someday I’ll fix this place up,” he said, looking up to the nonexistent ceiling. “When I was little, I used to watch my dad work and I thought someday I was gonna be just like him,”

“Yeah, you totally could. You can study to become an architect or something,” I said encouragingly.

Judah smiled bitterly at my words. He glanced away as he took out a cigarette pack from his jacket pocket.

“What about you? What do you wanna do in the future?” he said as he stuck the cigarette on his mouth.

“I don’t know yet, honestly,”

“Maybe you can be an actress. You’re pretty good at it,”

I laughed at his words, thinking he was joking, but his face was just serious. So I shook my head lightly and said, “No, I’m not. I’m just lucky I got a good cake-eating partner,”

He smiled and I smiled back. A puff of white smoke escaped his mouth and I found my gaze was glued on those lips.

“Likin’ what you see?” he teased and I glanced away quickly.

“You smoke all the damn time, Judah. At this rate, you’re not gonna make it ’til Christmas and we’ll have to find someone else to play Jack,” I joked in response, an attempt to save my face.

“Why do you like them so much anyway?” I said again.

“It’s like breathing fresh air to me,” he replied, letting out a long satisfactory breath. “You wanna try?”

I gulped at his words. I gotta admit, I was curious, at least to know what it taste like. I nodded my head slowly in response.

Skipping classes and trying cigarettes, Taya 2.0 was on a roll.

Judah leaned closer as he put the cigarette in front of my lips. But as I leaned forward with my mouth slightly open, he had pulled the cigarette away and replaced the area with his face instead. His lips slammed onto mine, and his one hand was quick to hold the back of my neck, locking me in place.

His tongue grazed my lips and I got it—the strong and bitter taste of his cigarette. I cringed and pulled away.

“Ugh, that’s not what I meant!” I groaned and he laughed. “I meant actually smoking it,”

“Yeah, that’s not gonna happen. Lung cancer’s mine. You can pick another deadly illness,” he grinned and I rolled my eyes in response.

“It’s not like I’m gonna get addicted to it. It’s just a taste,” I said defensively.

“That’s what I said at twelve when I first tried it,” he said it as if it wasn’t a big deal.

“You started smoking at twelve?” I gaped and he nodded.

“And I started drugs at thirteen,” he added. My eyes widened at his words and I waited for him to continue.

“My therapist got me on antidepressants. But those sucked the life outta me. So I started experimenting on my own. Cannabis at first, then downers and uppers,” he paused for a while to gauge my reaction and said, “You wanna know what drugs feel like?”

He waited for me to respond so I nodded my head slightly.

He leaned closer, and I thought that he was going to kiss me again. But instead, he pulled me in his arms and secured me tight.

“They feel like a long, warm hug,” he murmured as he buried his head deep on the nook of my neck.

That broke my heart a little. I had not expected this at all. I was just frozen in shock as I felt his strong body being pressed up against me, heaving up and down with his breaths. My hands instinctively went to his back, holding onto him there.

It didn’t take a genius to know that he’d been through a lot. And although I didn’t know all the details, I just wished I could do something about it.

“If that’s what it’s like, you know you can just come to me for that?” I said, half joking, half serious. And I could feel him smiling a little.

Judah pulled away slightly and he took the cigarette off his mouth. Tilting my chin up with his other hand, he started to lean his face closer to me.

RING RING RING

But the sudden noise of my ringtone pulled us back to reality. I was almost mad at it too, for a split second I thought of throwing the damn phone to the ocean.

Blake Calling– the screen said and I stared at it for a few seconds before I finally hit the reject button. It had only been an hour since the incident at school and I thought he could use a bit more suffering.

“Playing hard to get, I see?” Judah commented.

Ignoring his remark, I put the phone away and said, “Hey, can I ask you something?”

“Shoot,”

“Why’d you do it? This whole practice-kissing arrangement thing. I know what I’m getting out of it. What are you getting out of it?”

He looked at me for a second and stifled a laugh.

“Simple. I get you. I don’t know if you’ve heard, but you’re a damn good kisser, Blondie. It’s hella fun making out with you. Gave me a damn boner on the first day too,” he shrugged.

“Oh, please,” I rolled my eyes at his exaggeration. Up until a few months ago, I never even kissed anyone. So I couldn’t possibly be that good.

“You don’t believe me? Have you seen yourself in the mirror? Lookin’ like a damn snack,” he smirked and I blushed. It was getting so embarrassing, I had to shove him and smack his arm a few times to get him to stop.

“How many guys have you kissed before me?” he asked me suddenly.

“One,”

“One—What?” his jaw fell open.

“Yeah. Blake was my first kiss,”

“And I’m the only other guy you’ve ever kissed other than him?”

“Well, yeah. But we’re just practicing, so...”

They don’t count. Right?

“Interesting,” he muttered, pausing for a beat before saying, “So, you must really like this dude, huh?”

I thought about his question for a while and gave him a small nod. He scoffed at my reaction.

“I don’t get it, Blondie. You’re a cool girl, but why him? I mean, the dude’s boring. He’s got no sass. All muscles and no personality, it’s like talking to a punching bag,”

I knew I wasn’t supposed to laugh at that—I should be defending Blake, but I could kind of see where he was coming from. I couldn’t help but smile a little as I remembered the incident an hour ago.

“I still can’t believe you stood up to Blake like that. Very creative, I’ll give you that—′Yeah, I’m trash’,” I mimicked his words from before and he just laughed.

“I am though. I pretty much run on sarcasm and cigarettes,”

“Yeah, your only redeeming asset is your self-deprecating humor,”

“Oh wow, that hit a little too close to home,” he faked a heart-attack and rolled to his side, earning a laugh out of me.

“You suck sometimes, Judah... but not all the time,”

“Part human, part trash?”

I knew he was joking, he was always joking. But the more I talked to him, I was starting to see the man behind the crude jokes and filthy mouth.

“You don’t have to keep doing that, you know? Using humor as wall to keep people away. I don’t care what anyone says, you’re a good kind of trash, Judah Hudson,” I said to him suddenly, and he was caught off guard.

Perhaps even the best one.

“The world needs more people like you. So, make sure you stick around long enough, alright?” I took the cigarette pack in his hand and shoved it deep inside his jacket pocket, somewhat hoping he would never take it out again. “Can you promise me that?”

He just watched me for a few seconds and I waited for him to answer.

“I promise I’ll stick around. At least until Christmas,” he was joking again, but I could tell at least his smile was a genuine one.

“You know what I like about you, Blondie? You listen and don’t ask annoying questions. You’re awesome,” he said suddenly and air was caught in my lungs.

He... likes... me?

As a friend, you moron. Pull it together, woman!

We just stared at each other for a moment again. I looked at him and there was this warm, aching feeling in my chest. I wanted so much to reach my hand out to his face, touch those cheeks, kiss those lips, and make him feel all right.

Whoa there. What was that all about?

“Why are you looking at me like that?” he looked at me quizzically.

No, this is not love. It’s not. This is my heart and I have full control of it. No one can just come in here and take it without my permission.

“I’m thinking... it’s time for cake?” I grinned and he laughed.

His hand then reached for my face, his fingers resting lightly on my cheek. He ran his fingers along the side of my face, before pulling me closer to him.

Our lips stood a few inches apart, as his eyes darted from my lips up to my eyes. I just watched him in bewilderment, waiting for his next move. He took his time, inhaling the air around me and letting me inhale his familiar scent.

Somehow I didn’t want to wait anymore. I leaned to him and found his lips with mine. I started kissing him, slow and soft, and he let out a muffled growl in response. He kissed me back, hard and full of fervor.

His kiss made me lose my senses. And my decency.

But, this is just kissing. This is just...



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