Reluctantly Yours

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Chapter 13

We walked inside to see a lobby like room with a front desk. The woman who stood there smiled politely at us and we walked over. I gave her my name after a quick hello and she directed us towards the end of the hall.

We went through the left door, as were the woman's instructions, and the large room was filled with people. I barely had time to look around before Mrs. Carter appeared in front of me, a wide smile on her face as she looked between us.

"Jasmine, I'm so glad that you made it. I need to introduce you to some people and then you may feel free to have a look around, okay?" I nodded in confirmation to her plan and she looked over at Shane.

"Hello Shane. Nice to see you here as well. I also must say that your piece was surprising. I wasn't expecting that type of art and the emotion it poured out was awe inspiring," she exclaimed. I looked at Shane. I had no idea what was even on the canvas that he turned in. I was assuming that it was some form of photography.

Before I could voice any questions, Mrs. Carter pulled me away to see a woman in the corner of the room who was conversing with a middle aged man. She noticed us standing there and her words trailed off.

She was a tall woman, but a little older. Her silver streaked hair seems like it used to be along the lines of a strawberry blonde, but now it was mostly a faded gray color in most places. She wore a dark red cardigan that matched her blood red lipstick. She reminded me of a librarian.

"Estella, this is one of my students who are in the showcase this evening, Jasmine Johnson. Jasmine, this is Estella Williams. She is a professor at the art institute," Mrs. Carter introduced. Estella held out her hand, which I took and we shook hands.

"It is a pleasure to meet you Jasmine. Mrs. Carter has told me quite a bit about you. I've been looking forward to meeting you ever since the art show of your freshman year I believe. I don't think you remember me though. It was quite uh… quite an experience I must say, but your art was absolutely beautiful," Estella told me.

I knew that I was expected to say something now, but my mind went back to my eighth grade year. I knew exactly what she was talking about, even though I wasn't yet a freshman. It was one of the most humiliating experiences of my life. I squeezed my eyes shut, not able to shut out the memory of the art show.

Flashback

It all happened before I had found any medication for my schizophrenia and it was also in the early stages. This meant that I didn't really know much about them, or how to control them. They were completely random, and I believe that that was the most terrifying part.

It was the day of the art show. Everything was normal, and I was having a good life, you know, besides going through puberty. My mother hadn't left yet and she was giving me a hug before I went onstage to present myself, just like every other kid had to do, which completely sucked.

"Okay. Now don't be nervous. You'll do just fine, and I'll be right there in the audience, okay? You will be absolutely amazing Jazzy. I love you," she said gently. She gave me a kiss on the forehead before hurrying back to the audience.

Dad wasn't there that day. He had a business meeting, so Mom decided to come instead. I had no problem with this, but in all honesty, I wanted my dad there.

I fidgeted neevously until finally, my name was called. I walked out to the stage, as shy as ever. My hands were trembling as well as my legs. I knew that if I was sitting down, my leg would be bouncing a mile a minute. The microphone I held in my hands was being squeezed between my hamds. As I looked at the audience, I felt sick to my stomach.

I scanned the crowd, looking for my mother. When I found her, I was incredibly shocked. There was more than one of her. She was surrounded by her clones, all doing different things. Some chatting with each other, some sitting quietly with their hands in their laps, some had wandering eyes, while some gazes were fixed readily on me. I had no idea what to do. I just knew that this wasn't normal.

I was going to just ignore it at first and continue with the presentation so that I didn't make a fool of myself in front of Mom. Instead, I dropped the microphone and practically screamed bloody murder when I saw what happened next.

I didn't know what the thing was. It was large and hunched over in a blood red cloak. It's yellow eyes glowed through the dark hood and its pointed brown nose stuck out a little, with fangs hanging from its mouth. It had spikes sticking out of its spine through the cloak along its spine and its claws were easily seen. The creature looked to be made of wood almost, but very very life like.

It came closer to me, weaving through the crowd very quickly. It found the stage steps and hurried up the stairs. It gained speed as it came closer and I dropped to the ground, screaming and crying, begging it not to hurt me as tears ran from my face to the stage floor.

What happened after that was all a blur. I remember waking up in the hospital room, my mom pacing back and forth at the end of the bed. When she saw me sit up, she rushed over to my side and that's when I noticed Dad stand up from the chair on the other side of the room and join her. He clicked the nurse call button next to my bed and they each sat on one edge of the small hospital bed. Mom pushed my hair out of my face with shaking hamds.

"Hey baby," she said softly. "How are you feeling?" I nodded in response, which meant that I was okay. My throat felt a little sore from all the screaming, but other than that, I felt fine.

"Do you mind telling us what happened up there," Mom coaxed. I was hesitant at first when I looked at her in confusion. Didn't she see the monster that was trying to get me on the stage? Surely she saw it because the beast was hard to miss.

Instead of asking her this, I told her everything that had happened, starting with seeing her clones filling the auditorium. Her eyes grew glassy as tears formed there when I finished my story. Dad stayed silent, only staring at me. I didn't know what was going to happen now. Did they at least catch the monster?

Without saying anything, my mother gave me a kiss on the forehead and left the room but I saw her stop and talk to a doctor. After a few nods from the woman, Mom walked away.

That's when I was "diagnosed" with schizophrenia. They put me on pills, new drug trials, anything to see if it would help in any way possible. My dad was worried about the side effects as the doctor explained them to us, but I wasn't paying attention. I was wondering where Mom had gone.

She had called Dad and told her that she needed some space and she would get a taxi home so that she could have some time in peace. But when we got home, something didn't feel right. There were a few things missing, but it was very subtle. We walked through the house and I knocked on their closed bedroom door. There was no answer.

"Mom? Can I come in?" No reply. I opened the door just a little but then opened it all the way and stepped inside. That's when Dad came in behind me and we both stared at the room in shock. All of Mom's stuff was gone. Her drawers were pulled out and empty, there were empty hangers everywhere, and her jewelry boxes were gone. There were two envelopes sitting on the bed. One had my name written on it, while the other had Dad's name written in Mom's elegant cursive.

Mom had left. According to Dad's note from her. I cried all night that night after throwing my letter in a drawer and slamming it closed. I still have never read it. I couldn't bare to. My mother was a selfish coward and I wanted absolutely nothing to do with her after that.

End of flashback

I opened my eyes, tears filling them as I held them back. I locked my jaw at the memory, not sure how much time had passed. Estella looked at me with worried eyes. She placed a hand on my arm as Shane squeezed my hand in comfort.

"I am so sorry dear. I didn't mean to bring back unwanted memories," she said softly. I blinked a few times, sniffling and shook my head.

"It's okay. Really. I just forgot all about that," I assured her. But it was a lie. That memory comes to my mind quite often. That was the last memory I had with my mother and I thought of the letter that still sat unopened in my desk drawer.

I quickly wiped my eyes and plastered a fake smile on my face. "Let's get this done, shall we," I said lightly. They all nodded and Estella and Mrs. Carter parted ways, leaving Shane and I alone. He had a brooding look on his face, obviously deep in thought. I was surprised, and grateful, when he didn't ask me any questions. Instead we walked around the room, looking at the art and sometimes making comments about it.

Finally, we arrived at my piece. I suddenly felt self conscious. Shane stood quietly, staring at the canvas as his eyes roamed over it. It was obviously mine, because I had signed my name in the bottom corner. Suddenly, a wide smile grew on Shane's face, showing a dimple that I hadn't noticed before. He looked at me, his eyes had many emotions running through them so quickly that I wasn't able to read even one.

"This is amazing Bambi," he exclaimed. I smiled at his appraisal. I had gotten a better reaction than I thought. He brought up our intertwined hands and kissed the back of mine.

He smiled again before looking back to gaze at the painting again. He gave comments about the little details that he liked the best and I felt happier than I did ten minutes ago. Instead of looking at the painting, my focus was on Shane.

He pointed at some things, though I couldn't tell what as he described how he felt about them. The smile on his face was extremely contagious and it felt as something shifted inside of me. A warmth filled my body and it felt as though my heart and chest were expanding to make room for him.

Finally, his talking came to an abrupt stop. He looked down at me, his smile slowly fading. Our eyes were trained on each other, never leaving the others until Shane's eyes shifted down to my lips and moved back up. Without saying anything else, he leaned down and brought his mouth to mine.

Our lips moved together, the feeling of his lips were so familiar and I never wanted to move from this moment. Then he pulled away and I looked up at him. He leaned in again, but instead of kissing me like I thought, more like hoped, his mouth brushed against my ear to whisper into it.

"Let's go. I habe a surprise for you, remember?" I smiled and nodded as he took my hand again and led me back outside. We got in the car and sat there for a few moments before doing anything. We looked at each other at the same time, and I could see the lust in his eyes, as it reflected my own.

He nodded once and quickly put on his seatbelt and started the ignition. "We should go before we do something stupid," he murmured. I nodded in agreement but also felt a little disappointed. If he thought it was stupid, then maybe I was getting my hopes up. Maybe he didn't want me like I wanted him at that moment. I swallowed, keeping the disappointment hidden the best I could. I twisted my fingers in my lap, fidgeting.

His hand came over and rested on my thigh, with his palm turned up. I gave a small smile and placed my small hand in his bigger one.

"So where are we going," I questioned. He smiled again and chuckled softly while lightly shaking his head.

"You'll see miss inquisitive," he teased, which made me blush as I turned to the window. I could hear the smile in his voice as he continued to speak. "So Bambi, tell me about yourself. That's what you do on first dates, right? Get to know each other better," he asked.

I looked at him, feeling a smile tug on my lips. "What do you wanna know," I asked. He glanced at me and shrugged.

"Let's start with the basics, I guess. Favorite color, favorite animal, favorite pastime. Just random facts. That sort of stuff," he explained.

I took a deep breath, thinking over my words before I spoke. "Well, um… my favorite color is scarlet, like the color you'll see in sunsets. My favorite animal is a dolphin because well, they're adorable. My favorite pastime is drawing, or writing, of course. Um… I've never been on a date before. I'm a vegetarian and-"

He cut me off with a squeeze to my hand. I looked at him and he returned my gaze with wide eyes. He turned his focus back to the road. "Oh my gosh," he said quietly. "I can't believe you're a vegetarian." He looked back at me, a puzzled expression on his face.

"So you just don't eat meat, like at all?" I shook my head. "How? It's like, the best thing ever! You're telling me that you don't eat bacon, or fried chicken, or pepperoni pizza," he asked. I shook my head again.

"No. I became a vegetarian when I was fourteen. My dad took me to a farm and they explained what all the animals were for. After that, I couldn't eat meat without thinking of the cute little pig rolling in the mud, or the chickens running around the pen, or the cow grazing in the field. After that, it just didn't appeal to me anymore," I explained.

This was mostly true. The main reason I stopped was because every time I ate, my mind went crazy. I literally saw the animals right in the kitchen, just staring at me. Their beady eyes watching me as I ate, and every time I moved the meat to my mouth, they would make a noise, which terrified me and I stopped eating meat after that.

"Well then I guess I kind of see your point," Shane concluded, snapping me out of my thoughts. I nodded once and looked back out the window as he gripped my hand. He asked me endless questions about myself, all of them random and unimportant, like favorite movies, books, etc. Time had seemed to pass quickly when we finally pulled up to a little beach house in the middle of nowhere. I looked at him and cocked an eyebrow in question.

"It's my cousins summer house. He let me borrow it tonight and I came earlier and got some help from Isabel," he explained. I smiled a little and looked around. There weren't any other houses in sight, and the little beach seemed secluded as well as the area.

The thought of being here, alone with Shane, left butterflies that felt like they were going on a rampage in my stomach. I looked around at the white sand, the full moon shedding light on the crystal like sand. It was beautiful and the scene looked like it came straight from a movie. On the wooden posts, there were white fairy lights, strung from one pole to another, illuminating the area a little more.

Shane got out and rushed around to open my door for me, like a proper gentleman, and I stepped out with a smile on my face. Once I was standing, he took my hand in his and led me to the house so that we could go through to the beach.

The house was empty and open, and Shane flicked on lights as we walked by. Without warning, he pulled me upstairs and I felt my heart speed up.

"Shane? What are you doing? I thought we were going to the beach," I asked. He smiled over his shoulder and kept walking up the stairs.

"We are, but we have to dress the part, don't we," he said. I was confused but I said nothing else as I followed him. He stopped at a door at the end of the hall and opened it. There were bags on the end of the bed and he led me towards them.

"Isabel said that this would be in your size," he said as he handed a bag to me. "Apparently, I can't see until you put it on. Her words, not mine, but I will gladly wait in anticipation. Get dressed and meet me downstairs on the back patio when you're done," he instructed. He pointed me to a bathroom and I walked inside before locking the door.

I reached into the bag and pulled out a bathing suit. It was actually my size, but it seemed like there would be more skin than fabric. I sighed and stripped from my clothes anyways.

I pulled on the two piece, glad that it didn't show as much as I had initially thought it would, although it showed a little more cleavage than I thought necessary. The light gray swimsuit was simple, and I actually liked it. I tied the strings and slid my foot into the size five flip flops, wondering how Isabel knew what sizes I would need.

I quickly left the room and walked downstairs and found the sliding glass door that led to the patio where Shane was standing. He let turned and let out a low whistle, but I ignored it, instead ogling his bare torso. Not that I hadn't seen it before, but now that his bruises were already healing, it was easier to appreciate his muscled toned body.

I finally looked up at Shane's smug face and looked away, my face burning. "Well, let's go, shall we," he asked then took my hand and we started walking towards the shore. The night was warm, not hot or cold, it was perfect. Shane looked at me, seeming to analyze my face for a few seconds.

"You can swim, right," he asked and I nodded. He smiled and then we waded into the water together. I felt goosebumps rise all throughout my body. Though the water wasn't exactly cold, it was colder than the air and I wasn't used to it yet. Once I decided we were out far enough, I let go of his hand and dunked under the water.

As soon as I came back up and breathed, I felt Shane's hands grip my torso and throw me under again. I quickly emerged from the water again and looked at him, gasping for breath. He shook out his hair like a dog with a huge smile on his face that was hard to ignore.

"So you want to play like that, huh," I asked rhetorically. He laughed and I jumped on his back. He could have easily carried me, but since the weight was unexpected, he was dragged underwater with me.

We both came up for air and Shane tried to pull me back down but I somehow managed to stay up, pushing his head underwater. He came back up but when I tried to submerge him again, he cried out in pain. I immediately let go of him, alarm shooting through me. I had forgotten about his injuries.

"What's wrong," I asked, trying to stay calm and not panic.

"Nothing. It's just that you're too gullible," he said with a Wolfson smile. Before I could comprehend what was happening, he grabbed my ankles and I fell under the water, but he caught my head before I could hit anything. I came back up and wiped the water from my eyes and then glared at him, his body shaking with laughter.

"That was cheating," I said indignantly while splashing him. He only laughed harder.

"That wasn't cheating. You fell for it… literally," he said, still laughing. I rolled my eyes and lay back, floating on the water and relaxing. I grew wary when he came to stand beside me in the clear water. Instead of dunking me though, he just looked at me and I felt his hands underneath me, supporting me in the water.

I lay there, peacefully floating, but then a breeze came into the air and I got chilly. Goosebumps rose on my skin again and Shane saw it, trailing his finger across them.

"Let's go inside," he said quietly. I stood back up and he put his arm around my waist as we walked back to the house together. He opened the door and we walked inside. We parted ways when I went to go vhange back into my warm, dry clothes. When I came out of the room, I was still cold. The temperature had dropped and my skirt did nothing to help that. Shane was in the living room and I noticed the two steaming mugs on the coffee table. He held a large blanket in his hands and smiled when he saw me.

"Would you like some hot chocolate," he offered. I laughed at the formality and nodded. I plopped down next to him on the couch, grabbed my cocoa, and he wrapped the blanket around both of us, which I was grateful for. He turned the large flatscreen on and he flipped through the movies, finally deciding on one that I had never seen before.

I leaned on him, lightly blowing the hot chocolate in an effort to cool it down, but it didn't help much except to keep my hands warm. Finally, I gave up and set it down next to Shane's untouched mug. He chuckled a little but I ignored him, instead leaning back on him to get comfortable and watch the movie on the tv screen.

"I don't know about you but as far as first dates go, I think this one is going pretty good," he said. I smiled and nodded in agreement. "I have a confession to make," he announced. I turned my head and looked up at him. "I've never been on a date before either," he confessed. I felt my eyebrows raise.

Shane seems like the type of guy to get all the girls. But he also seems like the type of guy to break a girls heart. So it didn't surprise me that much because he seemed like the kind of person who was more into hookups than actual dating. I instantly felt bad at the thought. I was judging him again. Making assumptions without knowing the facts, just like I did last time, and we had just barely recovered from that argument.

"Really," I asked in faint surprise. I felt his chin move up and down as he nodded. We were silent as we sat there, staring at the tv but I don't think either of us were really paying attention to the movie.

"Hey Jasmine," Shane whispered softly. I looked up at him. "Isn't this somewhere around the part of the date where we do the first date kiss?" I laughed in amusement. His face was hopeful and he was smiling. I nodded in consent and he leaned over and joined our lips together.

This kiss wasn't like the other ones. This one was... different. It felt like it held more weight, more meaning. It was more passionate. Yes, that was the word that I was looking for. My whole body seemed to tingle with his touch, and I didn't want him to stop, even though I knew that he should before things got too heated.

He was the first to pull away. My mouth felt the absence of his warmth but I said nothing, not wanting to speak and ruin the moment. He smiled his wide, dimpled smile that I loved so much, showing his straight white teeth.

"I don't know about you," he whispered. "But that felt perfect to me." I smiled at his happiness, which was contagious at the moment. I felt giddy and bubbly and I wasn't sure if I ever wanted the feeling to go away.

"Bambi," he whispered. "You don't have to say it back, and it might be too early, but I don't know because I'm not really experienced in this kind of stuff, but… I think I'm in love with you." I stared at him for a few moments in shock. I wasn't expecting him to say that. At all.

"What makes you say that," I asked quietly after a pause of biting my lip in thought.

"I can feel it. You consume my thoughts everyday, all day. If I'm thinking of food, it somehow leads back to you. If I'm thinking of paper, it somehow leads back to you. You're like my thought magnet. I love everything about you. The way you smile, or laugh. The way you look when you're concentrated and you scrunch your nose a little. The way that you seem to be fighting a battle that's unknown to the rest of the world everyday. I love that you're kind but only to those who you feel deserve it. I love that you give second chances because without that, I probably wouldn't be here with you. It's just… everything. You are absolutely amazing, and I know for a fact that I'm in love with you Jasmine Johnson," he proclaimed.

I felt my eyes water. I shouldn't let this happen. If he finds out the truth about me, then he won't love me anymore. He'll leave, just like mom did. I don't know if I could take that, because I knew that I was starting to fall in love with Shane Lewis, and it would only end in heartbreak.

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