Expecting Love

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Chapter 4

I pushed my way past a group of students to gain access to the office. I knew their eyes were on me, the new kid, and I couldn’t help but shrink at that. Riley wasn’t here. Neither was Jessica or anyone else I knew from my old school. I wished that even Sidney was here, though we’d only talked if we were assigned a project together.

The lockers were jammed into the walls and made the spacious hallway even more crowded than it was supposed to be. They were a dark navy blue, and my stomach churned at the sight. It reminded me of the blue shirts Mom and Chelsea had bought for the baby. They didn’t know the gender, but I knew both were hoping for a boy, while Evan and I were rooting for a girl.

The floors were dusty and tiled, looking like the school hadn’t been fixed in a long time. Banners and streamers from forgotten parties hung across the tops of the school like vines in a rowdy jungle. I kept walking straight, clutching my backpack straps as I made my way to the office.

It was small, yet quaint. A brown desk where the assistant sat decorated with family portraits and other supplies. Behind her was a dark brown door labeled: PRINCIPAL

The lady at the desk leaned over the tall frame as I neared her. She pushed her falling glasses up the bridge of her nose and smiled gently at me, which somehow made me feel welcome already.

“Good morning sweetheart. What can I help you with?” She asked politely. I bit my lip, glancing around nervously before replying.

“Uh...I’m new here...and I don’t really know what to do?” I said, trying to sound smart but failing miserably. The lady licked her lips and smiled at me again, typing briefly on her computer.

“Everly Cage?” She asked. I nodded hastily. She typed some more, then I heard the sharp buzz of the printer coming to life. She glanced at me briefly before turning to a small com by her desk, ringing a class up. I shifted in my spot, nervousness building up inside my stomach.

“You can sit if you’d like,” she offered. I smiled and shook my head.

“No thank you,” I said. She nodded, and an awkward silence ensued after she explained my schedule to me. I was to have English, then gym, science, math, French, and finally, social studies. I silently thanked the gods for giving me my favorite class last. I loved social studies, but I could only pray that I wouldn’t have Damen in my classes, even if my brain and heart fought with me to accept him. It hurt me, but I didn’t feel like, especially after Liam, anyone could mend me together. Besides...Chelsea.

As I contemplated my life up to this point, a tall, beautiful blonde with striking blue eyes sauntered into the office. I could feel waves of negative energy roll off her, but she plastered a fake Barbie smile to both me and the assistant, neither of us falling for her trap.

“Stacy,” the assistant regarded. Stacy smiled.

“Anything I can help you with today Ma’am?” She asked. The assistant sent me an apologetic glance and nodded.

“Yes, actually. Stacy, this is Everly, our new student. She’ll be in these classes. Do you know anyone in them? Or are you in them?” She questioned. Stacy thumbed over the page with her heavily applied mascara eye.

“I’m in...last period with her...but-” she sneered, her face twisting in disdain “Damen’s with her every period.” The assistant’s eyebrows raised in surprise and I my heart began to do somersaults, with my trying desperately to calm it down.

“Damen? Damen Reeds?” She asked. Stacy nodded, thrusting me the paper.

“Yes Ma’am.” She said. The assistant sighed and wiped her hands over her face.

“Alright,” She finally said. “Stacy, can you show Everly to her locker and to her class? Then I’d like you to head directly back to class. Am I clear?”

“Yes Ma’am.” Stacy said. She gestured for me to follow her, and I already knew one bully I’d be having in this school.

Stacy quietly led me down the hall by the gymnasium, where my locker stood. She inspected her perfectly manicured nails while I gathered my books for my classes and bade e to follow her once I was finished. I felt my jaw twitch at her nonchalance, but I pressed my lips into a thin line and remained quiet throughout the whole exchange.

Once we got to the brightly colored door of Ms. Suckow, Stacy pinned me to the wall by the covered window and I gasped, shocked at her sudden change in behavior. Her sharp nails dug into the exposed skin of my arm and I flinched.

“What?” I asked. “What do you want?” Stacy’s blue eyes narrowed.

“You know what I want Everly,” She hissed, digging her fingernails deeper. I winced. Talk about total 360 attitude! Sure, I had been expecting this, but I didn’t think she’d confront me so soon! She had really taken me by surprise!

“No, I don’t.” I said, keeping my voice level and my breathing even. Stacy growled.

“Stay. Away. From. Damen.” She snarled. My eyebrows shot up. That’s all she wanted? Well, then that was easy! I planned on doing that anyway! I shrugged my shoulders.

“Sure.” I said. Stacy did a double take, probably shocked about how easily I had agreed. What? Was she expecting me to put up a fight? I didn’t want to become like Chelsea, but if she wanted to , then that was completely fine with me! Go ahead! Take my place! Gladly!...Even if it did hurt my heart.

“Really?” She asked. I didn’t answer, simply shrugging again. Stacy licked her glossy lips, doing a one over on me, before releasing me and plastering that fake smile on her face again as we entered the room.

“Ms. Suckow?” She questioned, her voice sickly sweet. I gripped my books tighter in an attempt to refrain from cringing.

“Yes? What do you need sweetheart?” The strawberry blonde, glasses bared teacher hummed, looking up from her book to us. Stacy grit her teeth as she spoke.

“You have a new student.” She said, giving me a not so gentle shove into the class. I stumbled, but managed to catch myself at the last second, smiling shyly at the young lady.

“Um...hello.” I said. Ms. Suckow grinned, wrapping her arm around my shoulders as she stood. She nodded to Stacy, who left the room with one final glare at me. I slumped, but quickly straightened.

“Class, this is Everly Cage. She’ll be our new student and I expect you all to make her feel welcome.” Ms. Suckow said, glaring pointedly at some students in the class. They all laughed sheepishly or ignored her, which I could tell irritated her, but she decided not to show it.

The desks were really wooden tables big enough for two, like a church pew. I glanced around the room as Ms. Suckow began to name student names. There were posters all over the place filled with helpful phrases for writing or the meaning of words such as verbs or adverbs. I briefly cast my eyes over my classmates, unfortunately catching the eye of a certain Damen Reeds. His blue, oceanic eye gazed into my dark chocolate one and he winked at me, the gesture sending a pleasant shiver through my spine, which both warmed me and irritated me.

“...Okay. Everly, you can sit next to Damen.” Ms. Suckow finished. I blinked.

“Huh?” I asked. She smiled gently at me. I guess she didn’t mind rephrasing her sentence, or maybe she just thought I was stupid. Either way, she pointed to the first row, to an empty seat next to Damen. I nodded dumbly and shifted my books, sliding quietly next to him. Once Ms. Suckow turned to grab an extra book for me, his arm slithered around my waist, earning a startled squeak from me as I was pulled closer to him.

“D-Damen!” I squeaked. He inclined his head slightly to me and gave me a lopsided grin.

“What’s up belle?” He asked. I wrinkled my nose and scowled.

“My name is Everly. Not...Belle!” Damen laughed.

“No! I meant belle as in beautiful. Y’know? French?” He pointed to my schedule lying on the desk. I looked over the paper and flushed.

“Oh.” I mouthed. Damen licked his lips and turned his head away.

“What? What did I already do?” I asked, now getting irritated. Damen blinked slowly, like a lazy cat waiting for their owner to leave the cream and them be.

“Huh? You didn’t do anything Love. I was just...” He groaned slightly, and a boy behind us shoved his shoulder playfully. I glanced down as Ms. Suckow handed me my book, and out of the corner of my eye, I saw Damen with his eyes closed.

“Damen?” I asked. Damen took a few moments to respond, but when he did, his arm was returned to my waist and I was once again pulled flush to his side, something my body did not mind. I fit perfectly into the small curve of his chest, so much that it irritated me how touchy I was letting him be.

Remember I thought Chelsea. I didn’t tug his arm away, but I did make sure to keep my distance from his face, even if his terms of endearment sent a shrill up my body, and he knew it. Yet, Stacy’s warning replayed over and over in my mind, and I felt my brain tying itself into knots. Why was my life so hard? Somebody explain to me! Why?

The bell rang maybe after forty-five minutes. Anxious to avoid Damen, I practically grabbed my books and shoved my way in the hallway, running to my next class. I was puffing by the time I reached the large gym by the cafeteria. The girls and boys split up, each heading to their separate locker rooms, so I followed a group of girls to the girls dressing room. I nodded to the gym teacher, who gave me a warm smile and told me if I needed anything to just ask. I thanked her and rushed into the changing area as the late bell rang.

The locker room looked just like any movie locker room would, except the lockers were a dusty pink color and had labeled names on them. My locker was the closest to the door, next to a girl named Valentina. I sighed tiredly and hustled to spin the lock on my combination, unaware of a presence next to me until she made herself known with a cough. I jumped.

“Sorry! I didn’t mean to scare you!” A jumpy, almost frightened voice apologized. Next to me, I now noticed, was a brown skinned Italian girl with reddish hair and grey eyes. She had a splash of freckles across the bridge of her nose and a golden hoop piercing on her bottom lip. She was chubby in a cute way, her hair in a messy ponytail and dressed in a pair of gym slacks and a shirt.

“You didn’t scare me. Nice shirt by the way.” I said, retching my locker open. The girl giggled.

“Thank you,” She said, somewhat hesitantly. “I...couldn’t help but notice that you were new here and didn’t have any friends. I...wanted to know if we could be friends?” I paused in my dressing, looking up from my thick locks to the girl.

“What’s your name?”

“Valentina. You?”

“Everly.”

“Nice name.”

“Thank you.” I threw my gym bag into my locker and slammed the door shut. Pulling my scrunchies from my wrist, I began the process of tying my hair. Valentina waited patiently by my locker. Finally, I sighed.

“Are you sure you want to get mixed up in my life?” I asked. Valentina nodded fiercely.

“Of course. I wouldn’t be asking if I wasn’t up for a challenge!” She answered cockily. I grinned at her, offering my hand.

“It’s a deal.” We shook on it, and as we walked to the gym, I realized I had made my first friend.

Maybe moving here wasn’t such a bad idea.

*****

When I got home after school (Successfully avoiding Damen), I walked into a clean, spotless house. I blinked and checked the front porch, just to make sure this was the right house.

“You can come in, you know? It is your house too.” Evan said from the kitchen, making me jump. I held my hand to my chest, glaring at him.

“You scared me!” I exclaimed. Evan shrugged, rubbing the tired bags under his eyes.

“I was up with Chelsea. Pregnancy hormones and all,” he said. “How was school?”

“Alright.” I said. I threw my bag on the couch and plopped next to him. “I made a friend.”

“Did you?”

“Yeah. Her name is Valentina.”

“Italian?”

“Yes...so?”

“No reason, just asking.” I was getting up to clean my lunchbox when Mom dragged herself into the kitchen. Although she was in her house clothes, she still looked utterly exhausted and weak. She acknowledged me with a nod, turning sharply to Evan.

“Chelsea has a craving for banana’s,” she stated blankly. “Can you go get some?” Evan sighed tiredly, and I watched as he struggled to pull himself from the couch. He slumped.

“Yeah, sure.” He said, the jovial mood from earlier gone. I bit my lip in thought. It was a gamble, I thought. Surely I would catch Damen if I went, but Evan looked so tired and so did Mom, and I bet Chelsea was sleeping and Dad working, so what other choice did I have? Homework could wait a while.

“I can go,” I offered.

“Don’t you have homework?” Mom asked, albeit a bit rudely, but at the time, I just guessed that she was tired and wasn’t thinking straight. I nodded.

“I do, but I can always do it later in the night. Besides, Evan looks tired and needs rest.” I said. Evan smiled weakly at me, offering no thanks of protests as he dropped back on the couch. Mom clenched her jaw, her only signal that I could go, before she returned up the steps. I frowned. No hello, no hug, no kiss. Even Evan was seeming distant. Was everyone that tired?

I yawned, almost dropping my cup. I let the water trickle into the clean basin and dumped the rest of my dirty dishes into the sink. I rubbed my eyes, feeling much like Evan, and cleaned my backpack. I grabbed my wallet and keys and headed out the door, shutting it with a creak behind me. Once outside, I took a deep breath of fresh air and leaned against the door, basking momentarily in the damp sunlight. The salty fresh air drifted to my nose and my hair blew gently in the evening wind.

Reluctantly, I pushed myself from the door and began to trail my path from the beach to the docks to the road that paved through the small town. It reminded me of pictures of Venice, Italy. The road to me was like a river and the tall houses stood imposingly on either side. Shops were hastily strewn in front of house doors and vendors were all over the market, yelling in hopes of attracting attention for their food. I walked over to a small vegetable stand and stuffed some banana’s and extra food into the free clear bags they were offering and paid with some of my money, hoping my parents would be thankful for that. As I collected my bag, a tap on my shoulder startled me from my quiet thoughts.

“How can I-Damen? What are you doing here?” I questioned, surprised. Or, I acted surprised. Deep down, I had a feeling I’d see Damen if I visited here, and judging from the smirk on his face, he knew I had hoped so. He grinned roguishly.

“A little bird told me that a fair maiden was lost in the busy streets of the city, and as your knight in shining armor, I took it upon myself to help guide you through this busy maze,” he explained, vocalizing his British accent. I couldn’t help but chuckle at his antics, and my heart began to pound haphazardly in my chest.

“Seriously Damen! What are you doing here?!” I asked, expaturated. Damen chuckled, leaning closer.

“I told you,” he said, his sandy blonde hair ruffling his eyes. “I came to help a damsel navigate the city streets.” I scoffed and rolled my eyes, even if my heart swelled at his declaration.

“Okay then, if that’s all I’m going to get from you,” I said. Damen winked at me, and offered me his arm, which I glanced skeptically at for only a moment before my body betrayed me once more and I let myself be swept into his arms.

“What are you doing here Everly?” He asked, leading me through the bustling streets. I shrugged and swallowed a yawn.

“Oh, you know, shopping.” I said, trying to be nonchalant. Unfortunately, being nonchalant was only Damen’s forte, not mine. His eyes narrowed and for a moment, there was no kind, oceanic blue eyes Damen portrayed. Only icy cold ones, searching for the truth. I squirmed in his arm, and Damen relented, but only a bit, his skepticism still obvious.

“Shopping? Now? Shouldn’t your parents be doing that? You do know Ms. Suckow’s giving a test on that book tomorrow, right?”

“Yes, I know Damen. I was in the same class.” I snapped. “Sorry...I didn’t mean to snap at you.” Damen shrugged.

“It’s okay. I can tell you’re stressed. Tough day?” He asked. I nodded.

“Yeah. Between my family drama and Stac-” I stopped. Damen’s eyes narrowed at me and I gulped, realizing how predatory he could look in a flash.

“Stacy bothering you?” He asked gruffly. I wanted to say no, but if you had looked into Damen’s eyes, he was so stern I was almost afraid to lie to him.

So I didn’t.

“Yes.” I admitted. “She threatened me this morning.”

“What did she tell you?”

“S-She told me to stay away from you.” Damen made a low sound in his throat, his anger visible. I squeezed his hand, and his blue orbs swiveled to me.

“Hey, it’s okay. I-!”

“No, it’s not okay.” Damen said harshly. “I’m gonna talk to her tomorrow morning at school, see if I can knock some sense into her.” I giggled.

“Literally or figuratively?” I asked. Damen smirked.

“Probably literally.” He said. I laughed and smacked his arm.

“Damen!” I scolded. Damen chuckled, turning to grasp my arms. My footing faltered and I tripped (cliche) onto his chest, which this time was covered by a white cotton tank-top. Not that it did much to hide his biceps. I blushed.

“Here we are.” Damen’s voice had dropped, almost to a sultry purr and my insides warmed. His hands gripped my elbows, my own hands gripping his arms. My fingers rippled under his muscles and my eyes were held captive by his own, ocean blue eyes. His eyes that showed kindness and compassion, laughter and naughtiness, and maybe...just maybe...I saw love in them.

Gods no! I thought! This can’t be happening! I c-can’t be falling in love with him! I-I’ve only known him for a day!

But, as it turns out, a day was all it took. A day was all I needed, all I got.

I was falling for Damen.

I couldn’t believe it. It was like my resolve to ignore him and win this game had flown out the window once I spent not even a day with him. My mind was screaming at me, scolding me for giving in to Damen’s temptations, but in reality, I couldn’t not give in. My body was on autopilot, and I was asleep somewhere in the above cabins. His blue, captivating blue eyes held my boring brown ones and I couldn’t find the strength to look away.

Damen brought a hand up to cup my cheek, the distant crashing of the waves a soothing, yet numbing melody to my ears. The pad of his thumb stroked my cheekbone and I found myself leaning into his touch.

“You have beautiful eyes Everly,” Damen murmured. I blinked.

“I do?” I asked. He laughed, throwing his head back, his beachy waves shimmering and waving.

“Yes. You do. beautiful, doe brown eyes.” He said. I ducked my head, laughing bashfully.

“T-Thanks! Y-Your eyes are pretty too! L-Like...a baby blue blanket.” Slowly, as the words filtered out of my mouth, images of Chelsea and my parents flashed through my mind and I stiffened. The proximity between Damen and I was too close. We were too close. I coughed and stepped away clumsily, Damen still balancing my arm.

“You okay?” He asked.

“Y-yeah. Just tired.” Which wasn’t a lie. I was tired. But I also needed an excuse to leave as fast as I could. Damen looked worried, and maybe a little hurt, but he nodded and released my elbow, the warmth from his hand gone.

“Okay. Well...I’ll see you tomorrow, right?” I smiled dreamily at him, my heart thrashing wildly in my chest. My face flushed and a bit aroused.

“Y-Yeah.” I sighed. Damen flashed me a wink and, surprisingly, blew a kiss in my direction before mixing back with the village crowd. I stood there, star-struck for a few moments. After a while, I managed to will my body back home, all the while my feelings a jumbled mess.

*****

“Mom?! Dad! Evan?! Chelsea! I’m home!” I called. I closed the door behind me and kicked my shoes off, my heart returning to its regular beat. Dad dropped down the last few bottom steps and regarded me tiredly.

“Hey Everly.” He said. Odd, he never called me Everly. Usually, it was ‘Forever’. Was he mad at me?

“Hey...Dad? Where’s Chelsea? I have her food.” I said cautiously, holding the banana’s up. Dad snatched the food from my grasp and I flinched. Harsh much.

“Thanks Everly. You can get started on your homework now.” Without waiting for me to answer, Dad left back up the steps, leaving me shocked. What was with everybody’s moods today? Was caring for a pregnant teen that hard?

“Okay the...you’re welcome!” I called to nobody in particular. I sighed. “Well then.” Glancing at the clock, I began my homework at exactly 9 pm. Yeah, I had spent that long in the market. I didn’t eat any dinner, I didn’t feel hungry, and I had a lot of catching up to do.

It was maybe four in the morning when I woke to retching sounds from the toilet. I hadn’t slept for long, maybe thirty minutes or so, when I heard them. I ran to the bathroom, where once again, Chelsea was throwing up a storm. Sighing, I flushed the toilet and handed her a cup of water. Where was Evan? Did he not hear his own girlfriend in pain? Throwing up? A shiver ran through me. If I ever got pregnant, would Damen be sleeping while I threw up?

“Are you feeling better now Chels?” I asked quietly. Chelsea glanced at the toilet, then back up to me, her nose scrunched.

“Yeah...I’m done.” I helped her up and back to her room, where Evan was still snoring away. I helped Chelsea shuffle back into bed and pulled the heavy duvet up.

“Everly?”

“Yeah?”

“W-What time is it?”

“Mm...Four thirty. Why?”

“Aren’t you tired? You’ve been up since nine!”

“Nah...I’m fine.” I lied, for Chelsea’s sake. She eyed me wearily, then nodded and drifted off to sleep.

Glancing back at the clock, I dragged myself back to the kitchen table to wrap up y studying. Guess there’s no time for sleep for me today. Even if I did sleep, I knew I’d dream of Damen. Damen and his cheeky smile and knowing eyes. His tight shirts and loosely hanging shorts.

Tomorrow’d be a new day...hopefully.

---------------

Don’t forget to comment and to like! And tell me what you think of Damen!

Love Shreya

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