Then You Look At Me

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Next To Me

~I want you, I’ll colour me blue, anything it takes to make you stay. Only seeing myself, when I’m looking up at you~ Troye Sivan & Alex Hope.

Chapter Theme Song: ‘Blue’ by Troye Sivan ft. Alex Hope.

°°

Rainey

After breakfast, I assisted Ansel with clearing the table, and even though he told me that he didn’t need help with the dishes, I decided to pitch a hand in any way.

We stand side by side at the kitchen’s counter, both our hands buried inside the sink of soapy water. Ansel seems intently focused on scrubbing the dishes, but my mind is consumed with what happened earlier.

Ansel hugged me, and although to some it may seem like a simple gesture, it wasn’t that way for me. The hug didn't feel casual. It felt surreal and heavenly, and I felt so comforted. Is it silly to wish he’d hold me that way again?

My mind is unfocused, and I blindly feel for another utensil in the bubbly water only to mistakenly grab onto Ansel’s hand instead. I release it quickly, a deep red surfacing my face.

“Sorry.”

He smirks, his eyes focused on the dish he's washing. “Thinking of scrubbing my hand too, Rain?”

I smile awkwardly, keeping my eyes on the white suds as I reach for something that isn’t his fingers. “It was an accident…”

He titters, finally shifting his eyes to me. “You seem distracted. What are you thinking about?”

I wouldn’t tell him that. I can’t tell him that.

I shake my head. “Nothing…”

My face is on fire, and his curious gaze on me is making it far worse. Luckily, my cell begins ringing in my jeans, diverting his attention.

I wipe my hands on a towel then slip the phone from my back pocket. As soon as I see Mother on the caller ID, I roll my eyes. Her phone calls are never something good.

I pick the call up reluctantly, taking a deep breath before answering. “Mother?”

“Where the fuck are you?!”

I remove the cell from my eardrum as her vulgar tone bursts through the line. Ansel brings his attention to me. I am positive he must have heard her; the entire neighborhood probably did.

Returning the device to my ear, I sigh in frustration. “I’m at a friend’s.”

“How old do you think you are, young lady? Jeff told me you didn’t even tell him where you were going. You just left the house with that little delinquent friend of yours. I need you home right now!”

I frown, shifting my weight in annoyance. “What for?”

“What for? Tonight is the Fashion-Walk Annual Banquet, and you know you must be there, child.”

I should have known that the reason she called, pretending to care about my absence is that tonight is the stupid luncheon thing the fashion industry hosts every year. She wants me to attend just so she can ‘save face’, make everyone thinks she has this perfect family when in truth, she doesn’t.

“Now get home now, and don’t let me have to send Jeff to get you. I need you to pick out a nice dress, preferably not something black, you’re always wearing dull colors.”

“I’m not going,” I oppose.

“You don’t have a choice. Now get your ass home, I won’t call twice!”

I do have a choice, and she knows this. I am already a rebellious delinquent in her eyes, so objecting to her request will not be out of character. But the thing with my mom is when you disobey her commands, she makes your life a living hell. She will torment me day and night, argue with me over the simplest of things, and might even go as far as to ban Riley from coming over.

She hangs up before I can pitch in my protest. I hiss, jamming the cell back into the pocket of my jeans. After high school, I will certainly be leaving that wretched house.

“You okay?” Ansel asks, his eyes are narrowed while he stares at me in concern.

“Yeah…” I sigh, lowering my eyes to the sink. “It’s my mom…”

“What did she say?”

I bite my lower lip, whipping my hair from my eyes. I don’t open up to people, but with Ansel, I feel safe.

“She is just so annoying, you know. She has the stupid dinner thing every year and she’s always forcing me to attend. She wants me to be this fake replica of her. Plus, stupid Jeff will be there…and I don’t want to be in the same space as him…”

Ansel is quiet for a while, taking a minute to absorb my rant. I hear him sigh. “What are you planning to do then?”

I shrug. “Maybe I won’t go. But then, my mom will make my life a living hell. She’s really vindictive.”

He nods his head, a contemplative expression on his face while he nibbles on his lower lip.

“Uhm, well, if you are planning on going maybe I could accompany you," he says finally.

I turn my face to look at him. I wasn’t planning on attending the event, but if Ansel will be there with me I will gladly take the opportunity to spend time with him. Life feels better when I am around him.

“Would you do that?” I ask quietly, wondering if I heard correctly.

He half-shrugs. “Of course. I think I have a tuxedo somewhere in my closet.” He smiles.

I offer one back, my puffy lips pulling back in a genuine beam. “Thank you, Ansel.”

“Don’t mention it,” his smile stays in place while he turns back to the dishes. “Let me say for the record, I am not a good dancer though.” He chuckles and I do too.

“Don’t worry I am not one either.”

As he focuses on scrubbing the bowl in his hand, I can’t help staring at him for a few seconds. This guy, whom I have only known for just a few days, makes me feel better just by a smile.

°°

Riley and I slothfully waltz into my house, upset that we couldn’t stay longer at Ansel’s place. My mom is the epitome of a ‘mood crasher.’ She knows how to ruin a good vibe.

She sits at the kitchen’s island, speaking on the phone to whomever, while she eats chips from a glass bowl, oblivious to our entrance.

“Yes, I will be picking up my dress at one in the afternoon. No, no I don’t like the heels you showed me last time, Natasha….” Then she chuckles, her signature fake laugh that she does quite often. “Yes, Nat. My whole family will be there, you know the tradition.”

Riley looks at me, and I shake my head. My mom is so fake.

Her eyes drift to me, and she quickly ends her call as if she’s grateful for the excuse to get off the phone. She’s always using me for the benefit of her comfort.

“My daughter is here; I have to go.” She hangs up, grimacing at the cell before throwing it onto the counter. My mother is quite hypocritical towards her so-called friends and associates. I wonder why people still hang around her.

“Oh, there is my prodigal daughter,” she says, getting off the stool and sashaying her way over to us. “Oh, Riley, your mother called.”

She has a tightlipped smile after she announces this. Riley’s mom—Valerie—and my mom does not get along. They are always having a stare-down whenever they cross paths. My mother believes that Riley is a bad influence, and she said this to Aunt Valerie at the ninth grade Parent/Teacher’s meeting at Freetown. This caused a rift between them, and Riley’s mother ended up grabbing my mom by the hair. You already know who I was rooting for in that fight.

Aunt Valerie is nice. She’s the type of mom that would bake cookies for me and Riley whenever we had our sleepovers at their place. She’s the mom I wish I had. She’s humble and doesn’t go looking for trouble, so needless to say, it’s my mother who is the bully between the two, and I say that with no remorse or guilt whatsoever.

“She did? What did she say?” Riley enquires eagerly.

“Something about you needing to return home now because your grandmother is visiting in from the country, and something about a kitten choking on a ball of skittle.”

Riley’s eyes widen, terror overthrowing her features. “My poor baby, oh my God. Is he dead?”

“How would I know that, child? Head on home and see for yourself. Rain, you need to go upstairs and pick out a dress, the dinner starts at six.”

My mom walks away, and I shake my head at her disappearing figure before laying a hand on a distraught Riley’s shoulder. I can tell my mom is happy that Valerie called so Riley could leave.

“I’m sure he’s fine, Ry.”

She sighs. “I will be killing Bailey. Pick out a dress for his funeral while you choose one for your mother’s luncheon, I’ll come back next weekend, bye Rain,” she scowls as she turns away.

I sigh, a gloomy expression on my face as I watch her move to the door. I am always this pathetic when Riley decides to leave.

“Okay…would you like me to drive you back?”

“No, it’s okay, I’ll take the bus. I’ll call you, Rain.”

“Okay.” She closes the door behind her, and I am now left alone with my mom and that pervert Jeff. I recall that Ansel will be accompanying me to the luncheon, and it sets my soul at ease.

“Rainey! Go pick out a damn dress!” My mom’s voice sounds from upstairs, and I curse a profanity under my breath. She’s lucky Ansel decided to come with me.

°°

I hate dresses, I hate formal settings, I hate make-up, and I hate high heels.

I am standing in front of my closet for almost an hour. My collection of clothes consists only of the colors: black, brown, gray, and dark blue. My mom said I should wear something bright, but I don’t own anything bright, and it’s either she accepts what I choose to wear, or I don’t go to that stupid banquet.

I get dressed in a black simple dress that hugs my figure and stops just a little above my knees. I decided against wearing a bra since it’s strapless, and I always jump at any opportunity to get a break from the discomfort of that padded undergarment.

I try to put a little effort into my hair, sleeking it back with strawberry-scented gel and pulling it into a slick ponytail. I try to do my edges like those girls on Instagram, frowning the whole time at having to be someone I am not just so my mom can keep up her reputation. I don’t know why statuses and appearances are so important to her.

I attempt to make eye wings with my eyeliner and smile a little when I realize that they don't look too bad. Riley would have applauded me if she was here, she knows I am not good at doing my makeup.

For the finishing touch, I put on just a small dab of lip gloss. I am not really a fan of those dark red lipsticks. It looks nice on other girls, but for me, it just looks a lot like I am trying too hard to be sexy.

Just as I am finished getting ready, my cell dings from my bedside table. I take it up and slide it open to see a text from Ansel. My heart skips a beat involuntarily.

I’m here.

-Ansel.

His name brings my thoughts back to our close contact in his kitchen. I can still feel his breath against my neck, and the way his arms felt around me hasn’t left my mind since. I smile to myself, grabbing my black clutch from my bed and slipping my cell inside.

As I approach the stairs, I can hear my mom babbling away about how surprised and elated she is that Ansel has decided to come along. I spot Jeff at the entrance to the kitchen, glaring at him in disapproval while his hands are jammed in the pockets of his brown trousers.

My heels, hitting against the wooden steps prompt everyone’s head up. My eyes land on Ansel’s as I slowly descend the stairs, holding onto the railing for support to avoid falling headfirst down the stairway. I am bad at wearing heels, which is why I’ve had this pair in my closet, unworn since I was thirteen. I have small feet, and I don’t think they will be getting any bigger; therefore, I am without an excuse to throw them out anytime soon.

Ansel’s smile stretches across his lips, as he stares at me with a bright gleam in his eyes. The glint they hold is as if he’s watching an angel descending from the heavens. I am far from that, I don’t think angels wear full black, with a huge tattoo on their back while their earlobes have three piercings on each now, do they?

Ansel is dressed in a close-fitted black tuxedo. He’s not wearing his glasses, and his blue inside shirt compliments his eyes perfectly. His hair is a bit tousled, but it fits well with his attire, and even though he’s not wearing a tie, he looks perfect.

I walk over to him, and he’s watching my every step, his smile not wavering one bit. I come to a stop in front of him, and the pinkness on his face makes me blush too.

“Wow,” he breathes.

“Thanks for coming, Ansel,” I say truthfully. His presence offers such solace.

My mom clears her throat, her face contorting as she leans down to my ear. “I told you not to wear black, Rainey.”

Ansel, however, hears her remark and decides to object. “No, I think she looks beautiful,” he states, his eyes not leaving mines. “You look beautiful, Rain.”

I smile. “Thank you.”

I hear a scoff from Jeff before my mom claps her hands together. “Okay, let’s all head out. My car is parked—”

“It’s okay,” Ansel interjects. “I drove, so I’ll take her.”

“Oh…” She nods. “Do you guys know where the venue is?”

“Yeah, Mom. We go there every year.” I roll my eyes discreetly.

“Oh good, well, Jeff-baby? Let’s head out.” My mom lifts the hem of her shocking pink dress from the floor, guiding her steps as she moves over to Jeff, whose eyes are busy watching us as he clenches his teeth.

Ansel turns to stand by my side, then raises his arm to me with an expectant expression. I look at him questioningly, and he smiles.

“You know in the movies, the guy usually does this, and then the girl tucks her arm in, and he escorts her out," he titters.

I chuckle. “Oh.” I link my arm with his, my palm resting on his toned bicep.

He leans down to my ear. “You’re the prettiest in the world right now, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.”

I bring my eyes up to look at him, and I get that he’s hinting at my Mom who is still grimacing at my choice of dress.

I smile at him, tightening my hold on his arm. He makes everything feels…okay.

°°

“Alex told me I could take the car for today,” Ansel says while he opens the door to the passenger’s seat.

“Thanks.” I offer him a smile as I get in.

He closes the door, then quickly moves around to the driver’s side. His mild cologne fills the confined space as he gets in next to me. He starts up his engine, the air conditions instantly coming on and chilling the atmosphere. He pulls his jacket off and swings it over his headrest, then proceeds to unbutton the sleeves of his shirt, rolling them up to his elbows. His strong biceps come into view, and the tattoo peeks out from his bunched sleeve. As much as the sight is pleasing, I look away to avoid being caught like that last time in his room.

“Oh…I have something I’d like to give to you,” he begins. I turn my face to look at him. The night has fallen, and inside of the car is unilluminated, the dim headlights only offering little lighting. However, his milky teeth and white sclera is a huge contrast to the gloam.

“I don’t know if you’ll like it.”

I tilt my head to the side. “What’s that?”

I watch him as he reaches over to his dashboard and retrieves a small box, extending it towards me. The slim ring on his index finger glistens amidst the dark. He seems to like jewelry a lot, but with such nice hands, it’d be a waste not to adorn them. The notion pulls my mind back to how I accidentally grope his hand while we were doing the dishes this morning, and I carefully take the box from his grip to avoid the accident repeating itself.

I gently open the small case, and as soon as my eyes recognize the content laying perfectly inside, my eyes gleam with admiration.

“Wow…” I mutter, totally lost for words as I gawk at the jewelry.

It’s a sparkling silver necklace with diamond studs. Where did he get the money to buy this?

I am speechless, unsure of what to say as Ansel shifts in his seat. “I just thought since you were going to this luncheon thing that it’d be nice if you wore it.”

I take the jewelry from the box, scrutinizing the beauty of it. The pendant in the shape of an eagle has silver diamonds engraved inside it. The symbol reminds me of the shackled eagle tattoo on my back, and I can’t help but wonder if he got this for me with that in mind.

“Do you not like it?” He sounds quite skeptical, almost worried.

I shake my head quickly. “No, it’s not like that. I love it…a lot.” I smile at him. I feel a weird burn in my eyes. I am quite emotional about this gift, the pendant touches me a lot deeper than he probably intended.

“It’s really pretty,” I say, hoping my voice doesn’t break. “I like it a lot, thank you, Ansel.”

His lips stretch in a smile, his flawless dimples sinking perfect holes in his cheeks. “Do you want me to put it on for you?”

I smile and nod. “Thank you.”

He moves in a little closer, the gearstick barring him from getting too close. I shift so my back is facing him while I hand him the necklace. His warm minty breath sweeps against my neck as he puts my hair over my shoulder, my uncovered back now open to his view.

The car is quiet, so quiet that I can hear our breaths as it leaves our mouths. I try to keep my heart under control, so my breathing doesn’t appear irregular as he brings his arms around me. His fingers graze my neckline as he pulls the necklace up to clasp the notch at the back. I close my eyes, he’s so close, and all I’m thinking about is the hug we shared in his kitchen.

He’s finished and gently sets my hair back into place. I turn around to face him, rolling the pendant of a flying eagle on my fingers.

He smiles, his eyes shining with acclamation. “Well, at least the eagle is no longer shackled.”

I chuckle a little at the humor in his tone, and he cutely facepalms himself, shaking his head.

“God, that line was so lame.”

“It’s not lame, it was actually pretty neat.” I giggle.

“If it was you wouldn’t be laughing, Rain.” He titters, shifting to the steering wheel as he adjusts the hand break.

“No, I am laughing because I just think it’s funny how you would find something so sweet, lame.”

Just realizing what I said, I lower my eyes to my lap as the car takes off.

“You think it's sweet?” He asks softly, glancing over at me.

“Yeah…” I mutter, staring at a loose thread on my dress. The car is suddenly quiet, and the high air conditions are not enough to eradicate the heat on my face. Maybe what I said came out sounding a bit too deep. I don’t want to scare him off thinking I am now in love with him because he bought me a necklace.

“But like not in the way you’re-uhm, thinking, I meant like—”

“In what ‘way’ am I thinking, Rain?” He smiles, taking a quick glance at me.

I baffle over words. “I-I don’t know…I just—I just think it is really nice of you to get me this necklace bearing in mind that strange tattoo on my back. I really appreciate it, thank you.”

I say the last part in one go, shifting my eyes to the window and closing them in humiliation. This is just too awkward. I open my eyes with a quiet sigh, watching the cars racing past us with flashy headlights. However, the transparent window reveals Ansel’s reflection, and I am pleased to see a soft smile on his lips.

^A/N: Hi😊 Thank you so much for reading!❤ Your support is greatly appreciated💜. Stay safe, and lots of love from Tiffany to you!

P.S: If you like my novel, don't forget to hit that like/heart at the bottom, thank you!💜☺

-Tiffanyluvss❤

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