Chapter 16 | Growth
I just left my first class for the day, and I’m walking through the quad when I hear my name.
I turn and see Connor approaching me, a suspicious look on his face.
Crap, he knows.
“How was class?” He smiles.
“Fine.” I nod.
We stop by a picnic table, and the both of us sit down.
“So, anything you’d like to chat about?” He raises an eyebrow, clearly telling me that he’s fishing for information.
“What do you mean?” I laugh, “You approached me.”
“Right. Well, what’s up? How are things?” He smiles again, and this time I know he’s up to something.
“Are you trying to get information out of me for Mark?” I deadpan.
Connor sighs, his smile gone. “Fine, I told Mark I would talk to you. He thinks something is up because of how you acted this morning.”
I knew it.
“Listen, something may have happened, but it was totally and completely not my doing.” I defend myself immediately.
Connor frowns. “What happened?”
“So you know how Dylan is with Riley now, right?” I begin to confide in Connor.
Wow, I’m confiding in my ex for relationship advice. What is this world coming to?
“Yeah, Mark may have mentioned that.” Connor nods.
“Well, this morning I thought everything was fine, since Mark and Dylan actually spoke and were civil to each other. Apparently, I got it all wrong. Dylan approached me in the kitchen after Mark left and Riley went back to her room to get ready. It was super weird. First he tells me he really likes Riley, and the next thing I know he’s planting a kiss on me and telling me that I’m just ‘buying time’ with Mark until I realize that I want to be with him.” I say, all in one breath.
“Wow, that Brit is bold.” Connor says dryly, clearly angry about how Dylan behaved.
“You’re tellin’ me! I did not see that coming at all, and I don’t know if I should just tell Mark and deal with his wrath, or tell Riley first and deal with her. Once again life has placed me into a horrible situation.” I sigh.
“We went over this. What happened last year wasn’t life, it was you and Mark.” Connor chuckles. “But yes, this time around, life has indeed screwed you.”
“Thanks for that.” I mumble. “What do I do? I love Mark and I don’t want to ruin our relationship. It’s still fresh and we’re still working through some trust issues. This is going to put a strain on everything. I don’t want Mark to second-guess me or my feelings for him.”
“Alright, take a deep breath for starters.” Connor replies. “Second, Mark is head over sneakers in love with you, so I’m pretty sure he isn’t going to disown you if you tell him the truth. Honesty is always the right choice. Lies and secrets are what strain a relationship and break trust.”
“... Head over sneakers?” I try to hold in my laugh.
“Mark is a guy, I’m not going to say head over heels.” Connor rolls his eyes. “But thanks for only taking that part out of what I said.”
“No, no, I’m sorry. I heard everything and you’re right. I just need to be upfront about everything. That’s the only way this relationship can work.” I nod with a smile. “Thank you, Connor. I really appreciate this.”
“No problem. Happy to help. Despite everything that’s happened in the past, I truly believe that you and Mark are meant to be.”
“That’s really sweet. For the record, you and Marissa are adorable as well. I’m sure you’re head over sneakers for her too...” I trail off, letting out a snort.
“Okay bye.” Connor glares while standing up and walking away.
“See you later!” I smile wide, laughing as he continues to walk away from me.
Connor is completely right. I keep forgetting how smart and helpful he can be. I do miss hanging out with him, so we need to all get together one night here soon.
I get up from the picnic table and head to my next class. I need to make sure that I find Mark later, before anyone else does. I need to make sure I tell him what happened before someone else does.
I don’t want to lose him, after just getting him back.
| Mark’s POV |
I’m sitting in the library, reading and waiting for my test results to post online, when Jessica approaches me.
Great. Just what I needed.
“Hello Mark.” She smiles wide.
“May I help you?” I look up at her, placing my book mark into my book to keep my place.
“Why so formal?” She laughs.
“Because, I know what you did to Naveah a few weeks ago. Telling her I was at work when I wasn’t. I didn’t peg you for being childish.”
Jessica glares, but soon recovers, smiling again.
“I apologize, I was just trying to protect you. I’ve heard about what happened last year with her cheating on her boyfriend. I suppose, once a cheater, always a cheater.” Jessica shrugs.
“First of all, you don’t know anything about what happened last year, so cut the crap. Second, what do you mean always a cheater?” I raise an eyebrow, because now I’m intrigued.
“I just saw Naveah out in the quad with Connor Gaines.” She replies.
“And?” I deadpan.
“And, I heard her tell him that she shared a kiss with a certain Brit this morning.” Jessica smirks. “I mean I was walking up to go around her table, and once I heard that, I needed to stick around to make sure I heard correctly.”
“Why should I believe you, when you’ve clearly tried to mess with our relationship before?” I challenge, not believing for a second that Naveah would kiss Dylan.
“Just verify with Connor, he knows.” Jessica says, before standing up. “Despite everything, I still care about you and I just want to make sure she’s treating you right. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.”
I watch Jessica as she leaves the library, now feeling a little weird.
I gotta find Connor. He will tell me the truth.
I gather my things and race out of the library. I go to the quad first, since that’s where he was last spotted.
I see him sitting with Marissa, both of them laughing.
I walk up to them, and they both look up at me.
“Hey man, what’s up?”
“I know you talked to Naveah this morning. What did she say?” I immediately ask, my heart pounding in my chest.
Connors smile falters, and that just about puts me into a panic attack.
“I think you should talk to her first.” Connor says.
“Just tell me what she said, for fuck sake!”
“Hey, watch it.” Marissa glares, “Don’t snap at Connor.”
“Shut up.” I growl toward Marissa, and Connor stands up.
“Hey, don’t speak to her like that! If you want to know what happened with Naveah, then you need to talk to her yourself.” Connor glares.
“Fuck off.” I mutter before turning and storming away.
“Cool down before you talk to her! Don’t fuck this up!” I hear Connor shout as I continue to storm off campus. I decide that I’ll just head to Naveahs place and wait for her there.
Once I finally pull into the driveway, I notice Dylan’s car beside the curb.
I walk up to the front door and knock. Riley opens the door.
“Didn’t you have class today?” I ask.
“Already finished and I only had one class. What’s up?”
“Is Naveah home yet by chance?”
“No, she’s riding home with Lucy. They should be here soon. What’s going on?”
I peer behind Riley to see Dylan lounging on the couch.
Mark from last year would have stormed inside and beat the crap out of him.
It’s a good thing I’m not Mark from last year.
“I’ll just wait out here for Naveah.” I sigh. “Thanks.”
I turn and go to sit on the chairs resting outside of the apartment door.
“Suit yourself.” Riley shrugs, closing the door.
I try to control my breathing. Maybe it’s nothing but a giant misunderstanding. Maybe Jessica heard wrong, or maybe she just completely made it up.
I distract myself with a game on my phone before I hear Naveah and Lucy pull into the driveway. I immediately shove my phone into my pocket and stand up.
They both are laughing when they approach the door, but Naveah immediately stops when she sees me.
“Mark, what’s up?” She asks.
“We need to talk. Now.” I all but glare at her. I take another deep breath, trying my best to remain calm.
“Okay...” She says slowly before turning to Lucy, “I’ll meet you inside.”
Lucy nods, walking to the apartment and shutting the door.
“I agree, we do need to talk.” Naveah admits.
Okay, that isn’t helping the irregular beating of my heart.
“So it’s true then?” I raise an eyebrow.
“Wait, what do you mean?” She furrows her eyebrows.
“That you kissed Dylan?” My voice breaks.
Her eyes widen, and a frown makes its way onto her face.
“What the fuck Naveah?” I raise my voice. “Seriously? We’ve only been together two goddamn weeks!”
“Would you relax and stop shouting at me? Let me explain!” She urges, setting her bag down onto the empty chair.
“Why the fuck would you kiss him? Why would he kiss you? Actually, I know why he would kiss you, but isn’t he with Riley? What the hell...” I trial off, working myself up.
“First of all, I didn’t kiss him, he kissed me!” She begins, “And second, you should really let me explain the situation before making assumptions!”
“Well excuse the fuck out of me, after everything that happened last year it’s kind of hard to separate fact from fiction.”
Naveahs eyes widen. “Are you saying you don’t trust me because of last year? Need I remind you, that it was also you who lied to everyone and hooked up with me behind Connors back?”
I look down to my feet. She’s right. Dammit.
“I’m sorry,” I begin, “This just kind of caught me off guard. Put yourself in my shoes.”
“Believe me, I’ve been thinking about this all day. I didn’t even focus in any of my classes. I wanted to tell you the second it happened, but I was scared. Everything was going so great between us, and I just didn’t want to lose you. I lost you once, and it was the worst thing I’ve ever had to go through. I just wanted to do this right, and I screwed up.” She admits with a frown. “I’m sorry.”
“So tell me exactly what happened.”
We both take a seat on the chairs just outside of her apartment, as she tells me everything. Dylan approached and cornered her in the kitchen, basically kissing her against her will. I can’t believe that piece of trash. Not only is he playing Riley, who’s a very cool girl, but he made moves on my girl.
It’s pretty simple, Dylan is going to die.
Okay, I’m just being dramatic, but I am going to kick the crap out of him.
I’m glaring by the time Naveah finishes with the explanation.
“Say something.” She urges.
“I’m going to murder him.” I seethe, standing up and storming into the apartment.
I hear Naveah shout my name, but I ignore her. I find Dylan still lounging on the couch when I walk up to him and yank him up off of it.
“Who the fuck do you think you are, cornering my girlfriend and kissing her against her will?” I glare while holding Dylan by the collar of his shirt.
“Pardon me?” He raises an eyebrow.
“Are your Brit ears not working properly, mate?” I ask, clearly taking a jab at him being British.
“Mark, what the fuck is your problem? What do you mean he kissed Naveah against her will?” Riley demands while standing up to push me away from Dylan.
I let go of his shirt, as Riley steps between us. Naveah rushes into the apartment, walking over to me and grabbing me by my arm.
“Mark don’t.” She insists.
“Well?” I glare at Dylan again, just as the smug bastard decides to smile.
“I can assure you, I have no idea what you’re talking about. I never kissed Naveah.” He immediately declines responsibility for his actions.
“I highly doubt Naveah would just make this up.” I defend my girlfriend. “You’re caught, just admit it.”
Dylan sighs, crossing his arms over his chest.
“Is this what you people do? Go around accusing each other of ridiculous scenarios?”
“You people?” I raise an eyebrow.
“Yes, you people. As in, your group of friends.” He rolls his eyes, clarifying that he didn’t mean Americans.
“Naveah, are you sure you’re telling the truth?” Riley suddenly asks, turning to my girlfriend.
“He did kiss me. This morning in the kitchen. It was right after Mark left and you went back into your room. He told me that he knew I still wanted him basically, and that I was just buying time with Mark until I figured that out. Which makes zero sense since he also said he really likes you.”
Naveah then turns to Dylan.
“Look, I don’t know what kind of game you’re playing here, but it’s not going to work. I’m in love with Mark and always will be. I’m sorry that I hurt you, that wasn’t my intention at all, but you don’t have to do this. You don’t have to ruin my relationship, as well as hurt Riley just to get even with me. You said everything was fine between us. I don’t understand why you have to scheme and lie.”
“Because, we had an amazing summer together, and I even moved out here to be with you... but the second you see Mark, you just drop me like I’m nothing.” Dylan finally admits. “You’re lower, than low.”
“You told me you didn’t move out here to be with me, you told me you moved out here because of your mom and because you wanted a change of scenery. You cannot place that blame on me. You’re right, we did have an amazing summer, but I can’t help how I feel. I’m sorry that I lead you on, and I’m sorry that you thought we were something more serious. That’s on me. But please, don’t be this way. You’re not a bad guy, Dylan. I’ve seen how sweet you can be.”
My God, it’s like we’re on a TV show or something.
“Listen, I’m willing to overlook this, if you promise to keep your distance.” I finally say, looking over at Dylan. “I’m trying to be a better person myself, and I need to start learning how to forgive and forget.”
Dylan’s eyes widen, clearly shocked at my statement.
“Uh, yeah, thanks.” He scratches the back of his neck. “Won’t happen again.”
“Grand, now let’s go.” I grab Naveahs hand, pulling her down the hallway and into her room.
I don’t know how he’s going to save whatever he had with Riley, but I hope she at least puts his ass on probation before getting any more serious with him.
Once Naveah and I are in her bedroom, I shut the door and lock it.
“I’m really sorry...” She says again, a frown on her face.
I hate it when she frowns.
“Everything is out in the open now, and I’m sorry that I immediately thought the worst. We still have a long way to go in order to make this relationship work, but this just makes me trust you that much more. Next time though, tell me something right when it happens. Don’t wait, because that’s when things like this can happen.” I let out a small laugh, reaching up to push a piece of hair behind her ear.
Naveah nods, leaning her cheek into my hand.
She looks up at me, and I stare into her light brown eyes. God, she’s so beautiful.
“I love you.” She says, reaching up to peck my lips.
“I love you more.” I say against her lips, “Always.”
This progress in our relationship just proves that we are meant to be together. To grow together.