This Isn't What It Looks Like

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I promise I tried to make it work. I really did. But life has a way of biting you in the ass, and then what? I guess I just didn't fight hard enough. I wish I could say that this isn't your typical tragic story about a girl who falls in love with a boy and gets her heart broken, but that would be a lie. My life isn't anything special, so I'm not going to pretend that it is. This is just me trying to make sense of things that should never have happened. This is just the story of a girl who's trying to understand why life will shove you to the ground and then kick you before you can get back up. Why you can do everything humanly possible to make things okay and in the end, none of it matters. The universe doesn't care if you struggle, and there's nothing you can do about it.

Romance / Drama
4.7 3 reviews
Age Rating:

Chapter I

A soft moan escapes my lips as he nibbles on my neck. Gabriel grinds even closer to me and I run my hands down his back before moving his face to my lips could meet his.

“I want to make you scream,” he breathes and I bite my lip in response before pulling him into another deep kiss and running my fingers through his hair. His hands are everywhere. I--

Okay, I’m just gonna stop this here. This isn’t what it looks like. I’m not involved in some passionate moment with some handsome boy. Hell, I haven’t even had my first kiss. But a girl can day dream can’t she? In reality, I’m sitting on a chair with my typewriter on the desk in front of me. You see, I’m a writer. Or at least aspiring to be one. I’m only seventeen, so I’m still stuck in high school, but my motto is “practice makes perfect” so I write every day. For my sixteenth birthday, my mom got me this beautiful vintage typewriter that I’m practically glued to whenever I’m home. They used to love hearing me type. Mom used to say I was her little prodigy. But now that she’s gone, my dad hates it. Every few minutes he comes in and asks me to keep it down. I don’t mind too much. As long as I’m not around when he’s drunk, my dad isn’t much of a bother. Right now he’s downstairs watching old reruns of Ren and Stimpy on his new sixty-five inch Smart TV in the living room. We used to have this old funky TV that my mom loved and my dad hated. It was the first thing he got rid of after the accident. At least he thought he did. That night I went down to the dumpster and hauled it back up into my room and now I use it to watch Mom’s old DVDs.

“Charlotte, come eat dinner!” my dad yells from at the bottom of the staircase. I clack a few more words about the taste of Gabriel’s mouth before practically sleepwalking to the kitchen to wash my hands. “Leftovers are in the fridge,” Dad says. I groan. ‘Leftovers’ consist of last night’s cream of mushroom soup, which I can’t stand. Mushrooms aren’t my thing. I load a bowl of it into the microwave and turn to my dad.

“I got my math test back today,” I say. Nothing. “I failed it.” Still nothing. “Dad?” Finally, he glances over.


“Is the TV that important?”

“Oh I’m sorry kiddo, did you say something?”

“Uh, yeah. I got a ninety-four on my Calc test,” I start to smile in anticipation for his praise.

“Oh, that’s great sweetie.” His attention is already back on the TV and my smile dies.

“Mom would’ve been proud of me,” I mutter and get my disgusting soup out of the microwave. I shove a few spoonfuls in my mouth before pouring the rest down the drain. I grab an apple and trudge back up the stairs to my room. Just as I sit down at my desk, my phone dings. It’s my best friend, Terra.

Did you hear what Zayn said???
He and Micah got back together!!
And that’s a good thing because...
It’s not, doofus. It’s a bad thing, a very bad thing. Don’t you remember? I was planning on asking Zayn to the winter formal dance.
Aw I’m sorry Ter. That sucks. Sorry I’m a little out of it right now.
Your dad?
Who else?
Wanna come over?
Do you even have to ask? Hold on a sec I just gotta finish this chapter.
You and your writing, I swear.
Lol love u.
Yeah yeah.

I smile and adjust the ribbon spool on my typewriter. I write a few more sentences and throw on a light jacket and some boots before grabbing my car keys. I take the stairs two at a time and grab some granola bars from the pantry.

“I’m going to Terra’s!” I call to my dad before heading out the door. It’s a little chilly out and the sun is just starting to set, blinding me. I start my dumpy Toyota and turn on the heat, shivering and watching my breath create little clouds of steam in the air. Then I back out of the driveway and head down the street.

I used to think I would never drive. After what happened with Mom, I was afraid to. But with a lot of encouragement from Terra and our friend Brett, and some stern lectures on getting over fear from my dad, I finally got behind the wheel. I still get a little nervous right when the engine starts, but once I’m actually moving it usually melts away. In truth, I actually like driving. It’s a nice freedom to have.

I pull into Terra’s driveway and slide the key out of the ignition. Terra’s waiting for me on her porch.

“Hey,” I say. Yeah I know, great conversation starter.

“I have one question for you,” she says as I slide out of my car and shut the door. I look up at her. “Did you bring the granola bars I love?” She stares me down with a threatening glare. I raise my eyebrows in mock alarm.

“Oh no. I’m so sorry Ter, I--”

“You forgot them?? I trusted you! I thought you were my friend!” She exclaims. I laugh.

“Honestly, do you really think I’d forget them?” I ask and pull one out of my shoulder bag. Terra frowns and swipes the granola bar from my hand. As she munches, I sit on the stair of the porch.

“You okay?” Terra asks. I nod.

“Yeah, just my dad. I told him I aced my Calculus test, but he didn’t seem to care. He’s just so out of it. I mean, I get it. He lost the love of his life. But it’s been a year. You don’t see me ignoring everything and everyone in my life,” I say. Now it’s Terra’s turn to nod. “But enough of that, are you okay?”

“I guess. I just really thought this would be my chance with Zayn. I mean, we’re seniors now. We’re gonna be out of here soon. What am I gonna do?”

“Oh, hon. Zayn’s a dickhead anyway. He doesn’t deserve a goddess like you. You’ll find someone. What about some college hotties at Humboldt State?”

“I’m sure there are some great guys there, but I’m not gonna be there until next year. I want someone now. I’m lonely. I miss--”

“Oh no. Uh-uh. I won’t let you say his name. Look, Tobey was great, but you and I both know that had to end. It was for the best. You guys both decided to end it so you could focus on your chemical engineering career without the burden of a long distance relationship dragging you down. As your friend, I won’t let you call him,” I say sternly.

“Charlie, I wasn’t going to. I’m just saying I miss him. I miss being in a relationship,” Terra frowns and fiddles with a loose thread on her ripped jeans. I sigh.

“Yeah. I know.” We lapse into a comfortable silence, deep in our own thoughts. After a few minutes, Terra breaks the silence.

“Wanna go inside? I’m freezing.”

“Hell yeah,” I say and we get up, rubbing our numb butts. Inside is the smell of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies and I catch a glimpse of Terra’s mom in the kitchen with oven mitts on her hands.

“Ter, you didn’t tell me your mom was making cookies!!” I exclaim. Terra’s mom’s cookies are my favorite thing in this universe.

“I didn’t realize.” We grab a plate of cookies and head down the hall to Terra’s room. Terra shuts the door and we slump onto her bed, side by side.

“I have a question since we’re on the topic of boys,” Terra starts. Uh oh.


“Do you ever think about getting back together with Chris?” Oh boy. I had almost forgotten about Chris. At the beginning of my Sophomore year I was at this party. It was actually the same party I met Terra at, and a handful of us girls were in the hostess’s bedroom gossiping. We were talking about our first kisses and first loves, and when the conversation rolled around to me, I panicked. I didn’t want to seem immature because I’ve never kissed anyone or been in love, so I made up Chris, my Freshman romance. According to my story, we had met at a summer camp when I was fourteen and fell in love, and then had to tragically break up once camp was over. I was actually pretty vague about the whole thing, but everyone bought it, and I never seemed to be able to bring myself to admit to Terra that it was fake.

“That was a long time ago Ter. I don’t even have his phone number or anything,” I say.

“I know, but if you did. Like, you’ve never thought about what it would be like if you had stayed with him?” I sigh.

“Not really, no.”

“Oh.” An awkward silence ensues.

“So, how did Zayn even get back with Micah in the first place? Didn’t she cheat on him?” I ask finally. Terra sighs and rolls over to face me.

“Apparently she planned this whole romantic dinner for him and had this elaborate speech prepared to apologize. In my opinion, she’s just being fake. Zayn’s too good for her.”

“Maybe. I’m sorry you can’t ask him to the dance.”

“Eh, I’ll get over it. But hey, what about you? Are you planning on asking anyone?” I scoff.

“Me? Are you serious? You know I don’t do dances. Or boys. It’s all just overrated.”

“No it’s not. I think it’s fun. Besides, don’t you want to find someone? Don’t you want to find that same love you had with Chris again?”

“I don’t know, Ter. Maybe not. I have all the romance I need in my writing.”

“And therein lies the difference between us, my friend,” Terra says and we pause, finding comfort in each other’s breathing. After a while, Terra speaks again. “Have you given any more thought to what college you want to go to? Applications are ending soon.”

“Yeah actually. I’ve decided I want to go to UC Berkeley. I did some research and apparently they’ve got a great creative writing program there. As long as I keep up my current grades and get a good SAT score, I’m set.”

“Berkeley? But that’s like, four and a half hours from Humboldt State. We’ll never get to see each other.”

“That’s not true. I’ll visit you I promise. Besides, we don’t even know if I’m gonna get in yet. You already got your acceptance letter to HSU, so you’ve got nothing to worry about.”

We fell silent. After a while, I unlock my phone to find a text from my dad that I missed.

Hey kiddo, you coming home any time soon? Could use your help with this resume I’ve gotta write. I took your advice. I’m going to look for a new job.

That’s great dad. What job? I hope it's better than the shitball job you have right now.

I wait a few minutes, watching Terra play a game on her phone, and when my dad doesn't respond, I sigh.

“My dad needs me at home,” I say to Terra and get up, slipping my boots back on and zipping up my jacket. I send another quick text to my dad.

On my way.

“So soon?” She asks.

“Yeah, well it looks like he might actually be taking some initiative in his life. He’s looking for a new job. You know how much he hates his current one. Anyway, he wants me to help him write his resume,” I explain.

“So, in other words, he wants you to write his resume for him.”

“Yeah, pretty much,” I admit. She huffs.

“Well I’ll see you tomorrow, bright and early for school,” she says with false positivity. We both hate high school.

“Yay, fun.” I throw my hair up into a messy bun and grab one last cookie before heading out the door.

“Love you, Char!” Terra calls from her porch.

“Love you too!” I answer before starting my car and heading home.

When I get home, the night is heavy with fog. Gotta love Humboldt weather. I shiver and unlock the front door, before stopping in my tracks. The living room is wrecked. I step in quietly and glance around.

“Dad?” I call shakily. I step over a broken lamp and head upstairs to his room. He’s inside at his worktable. The only light is coming from his computer screen. “Dad?” He turns around and I can see his eyes are bloodshot. I can practically taste the alcohol. “Dad, you’re drunk,” I say. I can hear the disappointment in my voice.

“A little. Now are you gonna write this thing or what?”


“What dear.”

“What happened downstairs?”

“Oh that? That damned chair your mother liked kept taunting me so I wrecked it. You can hardly blame me darling.” I silently fumed and curled my hands into fists before taking a deep breath.

“Okay. Why don’t you change into some more comfortable clothes and take a bath, okay? Tomorrow I’ll stay home from school and clean up downstairs, and we’ll write this resume when you’re sober,” I say.

“When I’m sober? No, we’ll write it now, God damn it! We’ll write it now!” And then he’s crying, great big sobs that make his body convulse. It used to affect me, but he’s done it so much that by now, I’m immune. I sigh and wrap him up in a hug like I always do, even though the smell of rancid beer makes me want to barf. Then I gently guide him to the bathroom, where I run a bath for him and wash the salt streaks from his face. Once he’s settled in the bath, I close the door and head downstairs to survey the damage. It’s not as bad as I initially thought. It’s really just the chair and the one lamp. I check the time. 10:44. I let out another sigh and sweep up the glass with a broom and dustpan and dump it and the torn lampshade in the trash. I set the lamppost up and start to pick up stuffing pieces from the chair. I try to stuff some back in the chair, and once I’m satisfied, I carefully stitch up the tears in the fabric. By the time I’m done, it looks almost just like it used to. When I go back upstairs, I see that my dad managed to get himself out of the bath and into bed. I drain the tub and go into my own room, shutting the door before I collapse on my bed. I pick up my phone. Three texts from Terra and one from Brett.

T: How’s that resume coming along?
T: Charlie?

B: Hey Char, I heard about your Calc score! Congrats dude!
C: Hey guys sorry I didn’t respond earlier. Dad had an incident. I’ll tell you about it tomorrow. Goodnight.

I toss my phone on the floor and shut my eyes, breathing in the warm air from the heater.

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