Reluctantly Yours

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Chapter 7

"Jazz," came a familiar voice. He did not help the situation at all. He was probably the one that was after me.

"Jazz? Look at me, its okay. What's wrong?" I turned my head and looked at Cooper, who was kneeling in front of me. I blinked and the water was gone. My clothes weren't even wet. There were no words on the wall and the lights were perfectly fine and obviously the door worked.

My eyes widened in realization. The schizophrenia was getting worse. Either that or the pills stopped working. I needed to tell Dad, he'd know what to do. But I would wait until I get home. I was cowering in the corner and looked back up at Cooper.

"Jazz? Why did you scream?"

"I- uh- I thought I saw a rat, over there," I said, pointing towards the far wall. He glanced over and then looked back at me. His panicked expression turned into a lopsided smile.

"Afraid of rats Miss Johnson," he teased, his eyebrow raised. I nodded vigorously and he let out a chuckle. He stood up and held out his hand, which I latched on to so he could pull me to my feet.

"Come on, we need to get to class. We're already late," he said. I nodded and followed him out. If it were under different circumstances, I would have felt strange coming out of the girls bathroom with a guy, but now I didn't think much about it. He asked me if I would be okay, and when I nodded, we parted ways to go to our different classes.

At lunch time, I sat directly across from Cooper, just as I had every other day. This time though, he smiled at me and made conversation with me. We talked about random stuff for a few minutes, like our interests and our parents. It was easy to tell that he loved his mom, the way his hazel eyes lit up when he talked about her.

Finally, he asked me a question. "What's with the outfit and the hair today?" He waved a french fry up and down, pointing at my clothes. I glanced down and shrugged.

"I wanted to look pretty today, I guess," I mumbled. He smiled and shook his head a little.

"You look pretty every day, Jazz," he said. I smiled but felt my cheeks warm up anyways. I was glad that I chose to forgive him. I needed a friend to talk to and distract me, and he seemed like he really was starting afresh.

"I've gotta say though, your hair looks better when it's down. The ponytail shows your face better, but when it's down it looks… right. Like you're not supposed to keep your hair trapped in a rubber band like that. Don't get me wrong though, either way you're still beautiful," he complimented.

My cheeks were on fire now. Though I appreciated the compliment, I did not want it. I didn't know what to do with the attention. My wide smile slowly slid off of my face when Shane sat down. Right beside me. I narrowed my eyes.

"Why are you sitting here?"

His eyebrows raised to his hairline. "What do you mean? I sit at this table everyday," he said.

I snorted. "Yeah, but why are you sitting next to me? There are a dozen other seats at this table," I pointed out.

He leaned closer, his brown, golden flecked orbs holding mine. "Maybe I wanted to sit beside you because I'm attracted to beautiful people," he said with a smirk. Unlike with Cooper's compliment, I didn't blush. I glared at him and then stood up, taking my tray with him.

"Maybe I don't want to sit by people who cheat, lie, and manipulate other people," I snapped. I walked away after a brisk nod to Cooper and threw my tray in the trash before storming out of the doors to the courtyard.

It was raining lightly, which meant that there was no one sitting outside. The rain slid down my face and I was glad that I chose to wear waterproof makeup. I shoved my hands in my pockets and kept walking away from the cafetorium building. I wasn't leaving or running away this time. I just needed to take a walk and relieve the tension that was coiled inside me like a snake ready to spring and attack.

The rain was loud enough that I didn't hear the splattering footsteps until they were right behind me. I already knew it was Shane. He always comes after me, even when I made it clear that I was trying to get away from him. But it surprised me when a different voice spoke to me.

"I'm guessing that something happened between you two," Cooper acknowledged. I glanced at him and nodded once after looking straight ahead again. I pursed my lips and thought. Why was he here?

"You don't have to, but you know you can tell me anything. I'm not one to judge or share secrets. I just wanted you to know, even though you have no reason to trust me yet," he said quietly.

He was right. I didn't trust him yet, but it felt good to hear someone say those words. I gave him a small smile and nodded. He walked with me in silence, neither of us speaking, but it wasn't an awkward silence. It was peaceful actually. I stole glances at him, but every time I turned to look at him, his head was down, he was staring at the ground, and though it was hard to detect, he had a slight redness to his cheeks, as if he were embarrassed.

His dirty blonde hair was darker due to the rain and it fell into his face. He ran his hand through it to push it back and the gesture reminded me of Shane. His tongue darted out to wet his lips, which were slightly parted and his eyebrows knitted together like he was thinking about something. Then he looked up at me and I held his hazel gaze.

"Are we going to keep taking turns looking at each other," he asked with his lips pulling up at the corner to give me a lopsided smile. I stopped walking at the same time he did.

"What do you mean?"

He chuckled lightly and his smile grew. "I mean the thing we've been doing. I look at you when you're not looking and then you look at me when you think I don't notice. Are we just going to keep doing that?"

I couldn't help the smile that appeared on my lips. "You've been looking at me," I asked. He nodded once and I laughed. "Well, I don't know. There's not much else to look at," I said, in answer to his question. I blinked to get the water off of my eyelashes and when I opened them, Cooper was still smiling at me. He jerked his head back the way we had come.

"You wanna ditch," he asked. I looked back towards the school and contemplated my choices. I could stay here and feel miserable about Shane or I could go mend broken friendships with cooper. It was an easy decision. I turned back to him and smiled.

He held out his hand and I grabbed it, then we ran through the rain to the parking lot. When we got to my car, I looked at him, the rain had gotten heavier and it was difficult to look at him without squinting through the fallen water over the hood of the car.

"What about your car," I asked.

"My mom dropped me off. She took my keys after she bailed me out," he said with a shrug. I smiled and unlocked the doors so we could both climb in. It was a lot colder in the car. I flung off my wet jacket and threw it in the backseat while Cooper did the same to his hoodie. I turned on the heat and put my frozen fingers in front of the vent, trying to warm them. Cooper smiled and grabbed my hand before rubbing my shivering fingers between his warm hands.

My stomach flipped as I smiled. Though he did it so casually, my heart was pounding like it was anything but that. After feeling came back into my hands, I put the car in drive and we both clicked on our seatbelts.

"So where to," I asked him. He shrugged his shoulders, apparently clueless.

"It's your call princess," he said. I smiled and pulled out of the lot. I needed to get these wet clothes off of me, so I drove towards my house. We rode in silence for a little while until Cooper looked at me. "Mind if I turn on the radio?" I shrugged.

"Go for it," I said. He nodded and turned it on but left it on the current station. It surprised me when he started singing along to the song that was playing.

"I've got issues but you've got them too.

So give them all to me and I'll give mine to you.

Bask in the glory of all our problems.

Cuz we've got the kind of love it takes to solve 'em

Yeah I've got issues.

And one of them is how bad I need you."

I couldn't help but laugh. He had to have been tone deaf, but at least he knew all the words. He continued to sing and I quickly joined in after my laughter had subsided. We belted out the lyrics to Julia Michaels song and I felt happy as we laughed and sang together.

I parked in front of my house and made sure to turn the windshield wipers off. We got out and ran through the rain to get to my door. Once we were safe under the awning of my porch, I got the house key and unlocked the door.

When we got inside, I locked the door back and stepped out of my ballet flats. We weren't the kind of household to walk around barefoot, but the shoes were wet and I didn't like my feet being trapped inside them. "Awww," Cooper said. I raised an eyebrow at Cooper, wondering what he was talking about.

He gave me a huge smile and pointed at my toes. "Your nails have cute little kitties on them." I looked down and sure enough, I had Hello Kitty on each of my big toes, even though all my toes were small, it felt weird to call it a big toe.

I felt my cheeks heat lightly and smacked him playfully on the arm. "Shut up, Cooper. Leave my toes alone."

He laughed and I walked towards the stairs. "There's some food in the fridge, so feel free. Just don't sit on the furniture with your wet self or my dad will be mad. I'm going to go take a shower and I'll be back," I explained. He gave me a two fingered salute. "Ma'am yes ma'am," he mocked. I rolled my eyes and walked up the stairs.

Once I got to my room, I locked the door behind me and stripped out of my wet clothes, throwing them in the hamper. I got in the shower and quickly washed my body with soap after rinsing out the rose scented shampoo and conditioner in my hair. I got out and threw on a pair of jeans and a stretchy blood red, v-neck tee shirt. I slid on my other pair of red ballet flats before walking back downstairs.

Cooper was sitting at the kitchen table, drumming his fingers on the edge of the table. He looked up when I walked in and smiled. "Your turn," I told him. I led him to my bathroom and showed him where the towels were.

"You and my Dad seem about the same size, so I'll get you some of his clothes while I wash yours. Just throw them in that hamper," I instructed, pointing to the basket in the corner. He nodded in understanding and I left out of the room. I heard the shower start and walked down to my dad's room at the other end of the hall.

I hesitantly opened the door and stepped inside. I haven't been in here in years, but I've also never had a reason to either. I went to the closet and looked through the clothes. I saw a lot of suits and dress shirts, but I finally managed to find a plain white tee shirt. Then I rummaged through his drawers and found a pair of jeans after seeing all the dress pants and slacks.

I folded them into a pile and walked back to my room. I set the clothes on the bed so he could see them and looked in the corner to see that his wet clothes were already there. I picked up the hamper and carried it downstairs to the laundry room.

After I started the wash, I busied myself by cooking. It was almost two in the afternoon but seeing as I didn't eat much at lunch, I was ravenous. I made some grilled cheeses for both Cooper and I, and even a little extra because I knew that Dad would be home soon.

A few minutes later, I heard my name being called from up the stairs. I turned the cook top off and went upstairs. I walked into the room, where Cooper was standing, almost completely naked, the towel hanging loosely from his waist. I couldn't help but notice that Cooper was more built than I thought, his muscles rippling as he shifted his weight. I quickly looked up at his face, not wanting to be caught staring, but it was too late.

Cooper looked back at me with a smug smile on his face. "Yeah, I know. I'm pretty hot," he teased. I laughed even though the blush on my face was evident. "What do you want Cooper," I asked.

"Thanks for the clothes and all, but will my boxers be dry anytime soon?" I slapped my hand to my forehead. I didn't think about underwear and he probably didn't want to dangle, especially in jeans.

"Give me a minute and I'll see what I can do about that," I said quietly. He nodded and I walked back out and downstairs. I went into the laundry room and quickly threw the wet clothes in the dryer. They should be done soon, but it would still take about half an hour. I bit my lip and then went back upstairs.

"Just give it like, half an hour I guess. I made grilled cheese sandwiches too, so they're down there," I told him. He nodded and I walked back out. Cooper joined me downstairs a few minutes later. The tee shirt looked way too tight. It stretched across his chest, but the pants seemed to fit.

"I'll just go commando for now. Also, this shirt is messing up my breathing." I giggled and shook my head. He reached back and pulled his shirt off, once again showing his hard muscles. He handed me the shirt and I swallowed.

"Here. You can take that back," he said. I nodded and set it over the chair. "Your clothes should be dry soon," I told him. He flipped his hair back out of his face and I pulled his plate out of the microwave, where I had set it. He smiled when I handed it to him and I sat across from him at the table.

"So," he began after swallowing the first bite. "My mom has a new boyfriend and she's making me go with her to meet them for dinner. He has a daughter around my age apparently, so I guess she'll think I'll make friends or something. She should know better though. I don't make friends easily."

I smiled a little, knowing how cold he acted towards other people that he didn't know. We talked for a few moments and then the front door opened. I stiffened, mid-bite. I had forgotten about my dad coming home early again.

"Jazz? You here?" For a second, I thought of jumping up and dragging Cooper with me out of the back door. I almost did too, if it weren't for the fact that Dad walked into the kitchen right at that moment.

He stopped when his eyes roamed over Cooper. "Hey kiddo. Who is this," he asked tightly. To Cooper, it might seem friendly, but I knew that I was in trouble. I don't think Dad approved of my new friend, especially when his hair was wet and he was shirtless.

Cooper looked at me with wide eyes before standing up and turning to face my father. That's when I noticed the tattoo on his back. It was one giant tree that covered his whole back and I could see that there were names on the branches. It looked like it was a family tree.

"Hi. I'm Cooper sir," he said with an outstretched hand. My dad took it and shook twice. "Call me Mr. Johnson," my dad rumbled. I wanted to shrink as small as possible and fall into a hole. "Jasmine," my dad said, directing his words towards me.

"May I ask why you've brought another friend and if he's as bad as the other one?"

My jaw clenched and I glared at my dad. "I wasn't feeling well, so I came home but Cooper wanted to come with me. And no Dad, Cooper isn't like Shane and you won't have to worry about Shane anymore," I said with a white lie. Only the part about me not feeling good was a lie.

Dad's eyebrows raised in surprise, but he still looked a little angry. He looked back at Cooper. "Where are your clothes son?"

"I'm washing them. It was raining earlier, so our clothes got wet," I cut in quickly. It wasn't a lie, but I didn't want Cooper telling my dad that I gave his clothes away. I turned and held out my dad's plate to him.

"I made grilled cheese," I told him. He nodded and took the plate with him upstairs. Cooper turned to me and gave me a small smile. "That went better than I thought it would," Cooper said light heartedly. I nodded in agreement and took my empty plate to the sink.

"Sorry to cut this short Jazz, but I need to go. I have to get ready for that dinner with my mom tonight. I think it's best to leave now anyways. Do you… mind taking me home," he asked. I looked at him and nodded. "Of course. Let me go get your clothes," I said.

I went down the hallway and turned into the small laundry room before opening the dryer and pulling out his clothes. I folded and stacked them before bringing them to him. He smiled and we went out to my car after I grabbed my keys. I sent Dad a text, telling him that I was taking Cooper home but he didn't respond, though it showed that he opened it.

It was still raining hard and we ran out into the rain together and quickly jumped into the car. Cooper shook out his wet hair and water droplets pelted me in the face. I squealed and covered my face and a minute later, he was laughing. I found his laughter to be contagious and I joined in. Then I finally started the car and let him direct me to his house. We were heading towards the north side of town and I noticed that he kept shifting in his seat.

"You can just drop me off here," he said when we got to a red light in front of a store. There were no houses around. I looked at him. "This isn't your house though," I pointed out.

He grimaced and looked out the window. "I know but…" He trailed off and when he started to open the door, the light turned green and I drove forward.

"Where's your house Cooper?" He still wouldn't look at me. "Cooper," I prompted, glancing from him to the road and back again. "You do have a place to stay, don't you," I asked with a quiet worry. His eyes widened and he looked at me.

"Of course, but I just don't want you to look at me differently," he mumbled, so low that I barely heard him. "Cooper. I'm not going to look at you any differently than I am right now. You have no reason to be embarrassed or ashamed, so just tell me where you live or we'll be riding around all day," I said honestly.

He sighed and locked his hazel eyes with my brown ones. "You promise," he asked in a whisper. I nodded. "Of course. I promise." He gave me a small smile and then told me to turn to the right. Finally, he told me to stop here. I saw Cooper's black mustang in the driveway, which confirmed that it was indeed his house. I gaped at the building in front of me.

"You didn't want to tell me where you lived, and you were ashamed, because you live in a freaking mansion," I exclaimed. He looked down at the clothes in his lap, his cheeks a rosy pink. I bit my lip and he looked up at me.

"I just… didn't want you to see me differently. Like I was a rich kid who had everything they wanted," he said quietly. I felt my face soften and I released my lips from between my teeth. "I'm not that guy. Yes I'm have money, but I still have problems and there are things that I want, but I know I can't have. Like you," he whispered.

He was no longer looking at me. I wanted him to though. I wanted to look into his eyes and try to figure out and read the sea of emotions that I know was displayed there. I reached out my hand and grabbed his in mine.

"I won't see a different person. It'll just be you. You won't change just because of the material things. You'll still be Cooper, whatever your middle name is, Smith," I said with a smile. He chuckled and squeezed my hand. He just sat there, staring at me with all the seriousness wiped from his face.

He slowly crept across the console, his eyes never leaving mine until our lips connected and mine involuntarily fluttered shut. This wasn't like kissing Shane. This was somehow softer, and more timid less demanding and possessive, like Shane's kiss was.

He pulled back and I slowly opened my eyes. His were still tightly closed and when he opened them, his hazel orbs were filled with pain. His eyes searched my face and I saw his eyes water a little.

"I'm so sorry for hurting you," he whispered. Before I could say anything, he jumped out of the car and ran to his house, quickly shutting the door behind him. My lips were still parted with the words that he didn't let me speak.

I don't know how long I sat there, but I finally collected myself enough to pull away from the curb and drive away, my mind replaying what just happened, but I couldn't help it when my mind drifted back to Shane.

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