When I was fifteen, I dreamed of heading off to college and forging a world for myself. I wanted nothing more than to leave my small town in the rear-view mirror of my pickup truck and never look back. Momma always said I was too smart to settle. She used to save up crinkled dollar bills in an old water jug just for my college fund.
She never did get to fill that water jug, nor did she get to see me off to college but I’d like to believe she’s looking down from Heaven and watching me kick college’s butt. As a senior, I was a knockout punch away from graduating with honors and heading off to medical school.
Okay, so I was still a semester and a half away from graduation. And I have to actually apply to medical school to get in. College has been challenging, nearly destroying my mental health on more than one occasion. I half-expect myself to have a panic attack after hearing the word essay. And don’t get me started on my debt, I may actually have a psychotic break. Mom, wherever you are, if you hear me bashing my head into a chest of drawers, do not fret—I am just in college.
I rolled myself over on my bed, half-expecting Luke’s body to keep me from smashing my alarm clock.
Groggily, I smacked my hand against the flat surface. When the ringing continued, I whacked it again. I sighed, growling when the ringing continued to bombard my ears with classical musings. Stretching in my bed, I peeled myself to a seated position. My poor alarm clock had lost the battle a few hours ago, slung across the room and into a wall. I grabbed my phone, the source of the terrible music, and slid my finger over the screen.
“Luke?” I turned my head, searching the empty room for any sign of my boyfriend. “Where are you?”
“I just got out of class. I hadn’t heard from you since you threw the alarm clock at me this morning, so I figured I should make sure you’re awake.”
I rubbed my eyes and peeled a strand of blonde hair from my mouth. “What time is it? And I’m sorry for that by the way. I wasn’t aiming for you, I swear.”
I scrambled out of bed, tossing on a pink sweater from my clean laundry bin and a pair of worn jeans I found on the floor.
I jumped back onto the bed and placed the phone on speaker. “Yeah, what were you saying?”
He sighed, “I was hoping to talk before my next class.” I tripped over my shoe, landing with a thud. “Wait, did you just wake up?”
“Ugh, yes?” I quickly brushed my hair, practically ripping chunks of my skull out in the process. My hair was notorious for its artistic flair, creating massive rat’s nests I’m sure any rodent would love to call home.
I could hear his dissatisfaction on the other end without a word spoken. He couldn’t stand tardiness and I am always late. He says I need to learn proper time management, I say that time is never on my side--it’s a constant battle between us. “Anyways, what did you want to discuss?”
“Do you remember when we met?”
I met Luke at the beginning of my freshman year during my first and last frat party. I remember catching sight of him and nearly tripping over myself. He was just sitting in the corner, quietly staring out of the window and absentmindedly playing with a strand of his satin blond hair. I remember the air literally leaving my lungs when he looked up at me. His eyes were dark, so dark that the blue reminded me of the deep sea. And when he smiled at me, I felt like I was looking at the sun.
We talked until four in the morning, practically forgetting the party raging around us had died down. He wasn’t just attractive, he was also inspiring. He had aspirations, plans for his life after college. Luke knew exactly what he wanted and I loved that about him.
The ride home is what I remember the most--when he kissed me for the first time. I remember feeling my insides melt and my knees literally buckle underneath me. We’ve gravitated towards each other ever since.
I took a deep breath, smiling to myself. “Yes, why?”
“We can talk tonight, I know you’re running late.”
I ran through the kitchen, slamming an apple in my mouth--thank the Lord for my overbite--and poured coffee into my cup. It would be cold, but caffeine is caffeine, right? “Are you sure?” My words were muffled behind the apple, but Luke had a knack for interpreting Lacy.
“Okay, I love-”
And with that, he hung up on me.
He’d picked up the habit this past summer during an internship in New York. He says that’s how corporate America does it. Whatever that means. Alabamians always say goodbye before hanging up; that’s how my momma raised me. I’ve told him how I felt about his arrogance upon his return, but he just shrugs it off and says, I’m going to get out of this place Lace and I can’t keep up the southern gentleman act forever. I’ve never left Alabama and probably never would if that’s how the rest of the country treats people.
Hopping in my car, I practically dump my coffee in my lap. “Crap,” I sighed.
It’s all uphill from here, right?
I pulled my car as close as could be expected to the science building at nine in the morning. Sliding out of the sticky leather, I leaned back into my car for my bag. The revving of an engine sounded just behind me, startling my heart into v-fib. My body acted on its own accord, nearly knocking me unconscious against the roof of the car. “Ow,” I hissed, slinking back. I clutched my head, momentarily closing my eyes.
“You okay there Angel?” A husky voice I didn’t recognize asked.
I spun on my heel, ready to smack the smirk I knew he had right off his face.
Holy mother of all things good.
He peeled off his helmet and sent a smile my way, ruffling his jet hair with his long fingers. I had to do a double-take because this guy took the whole ‘tall, dark and handsome’ thing to a whole new level.
Unruly curls coiled around his ears, cascading down his coppery forehead and into his almond-shaped eyes. Some weird, superficial part of me was jealous of his curls. I mean, come on? My hair holds curls like my body holds liquor--it just doesn’t.
He had those sharp features every girl swooned over--I’m serious, his jaw could crack glass. I couldn’t help but drool at his dark stubble, it was just enough for him to have that rugged appeal without looking homeless.
He held a good foot on me, towering over me like a lion would a house-cat. I’m by no means short, standing at a sturdy five feet five inches but he made me feel tiny.
And don’t get me started on his total embodiment of the brooding guy with a motorcycle. If he was smoldering instead of smiling, I’d have to believe he was some kind of vampire hell-bent on not eating me. I quickly inspected the plain white tee underneath his worn leather jacket. Dear Lord. Someone must have a gym membership and it sure isn’t me.
His boots were ankle-high and scuffed around the edges and his jeans were ripped along the knees, but not on purpose; the material was worn, the fibers frayed from years of constant use. Glancing at his boots again, I couldn’t help but compare our shoe sizes; my feet would drown in his boots.
I must have had some kind of awe-struck expression on my face because the next thing I know, he’s chuckling. The sound was smooth, rough and deep and sent butterflies pounding against my ribcage. But I once got butterflies after mixing butterfingers and oreo ice-cream so maybe I’m not the best person to listen to.
He cupped his hand around a cigarette and lit the stick with a silver lighter. I felt my mouth shut the minute he sucked on the end, snapping me out of wherever my hormones took me.
“You could have waited until I was out of my car before you parked that monstrosity,” I scolded, folding my arms across my chest.
“It’s a free country, Angel,” he smirked, blowing a puff of smoke in the direction opposing me. I watched the cloud dissipate into the fresh air, wishing this handsome idiot would do the same.
I sighed, “Yeah, well you could’ve killed me.” I motioned to the burning stick between his fingers, “Just like those things will kill you.”
He smirked, his lips parting. “Has anyone ever told you that you blow things out of proportion?”
That was Luke’s favorite thing to say to me. I don’t blow things out of proportion, I just tell it like it is. Especially when I’m right.
“Just be more vigilant next time.” I grit my teeth, holding back the urge to slap his sexy face.
“You’re right, Angel. I’ll be more careful next time.” He smirked again. I couldn’t tell if he was being sarcastic or actually admitting I was right. The way he enunciated the word right, lead me to believe he was, in fact, mocking me.
Heat flushed my neck as I peeled my bag over my shoulder. He was infuriating and arousing at the same time. It was like my brain just shut down and left me scrambling to project words. I had a feeling this guy could get a rise out of me by just simply being.
“Good,” I huffed, turning away.
I stopped mid-step, tilting my head back, “By the way..I’m no angel.” And with that I spun on my heel, sashaying towards the building with all the attitude I could muster.
“Hey, I saw you talking to Kade Becker,” Sierra squealed matching my stride towards physics class. We’ve been friends since freshman year after bonding over our failed chemistry experiment. Let’s just say that it involved a puff of poisonous gas, the fire department, and an F...minus.
Sierra and I are legends.
“I didn’t know his name.” I sauntered down the back row, dumping my bag onto the floor. I’ve never liked sitting in the front, or bottom in this case. The classroom was set up like a Roman coliseum, and for the lucky few who had to give presentations, our professor may as well have been the hungry lion ready to pounce at the slightest mistake. And we, the students, are the crowd of Romans waiting for showtime.
“Why were you talking to him?”
“I was trying to grab my bag and he peeled into the spot beside me revving his engine. It scared me so bad, I hit my head.” I automatically rubbed my temple in remembrance.
“He was definitely checking you out,” she teased.
I smacked her lightly on the shoulder. “Yeah right.”
She ran her fingers through the curly strands, “No seriously, I know when a guy likes what he sees.” Sierra’s Irish roots were like a superpower, she and her fiery red hair were always the reason behind at least one guy’s drooling. If it wasn’t her freckles lining up her potential suiters, it was her petite frame.
Speaking of the devil, Kade, the reason for my abnormal mood came sauntering in. It was like Sierra could read the look on my face as she followed my line of sight. “OMG he is so hot.”
I didn’t speak, for fear of admitting that I too found Kade Becker exceptionally attractive. He had to have a Latin background or maybe Native American. He swiped another curl from his face and I was suddenly jealous of his hands. He got to sink his fingers into those thick midnight curls whenever he wanted. “I heard he was in jail.”
Without blinking, I leaned sideways. “How do you know that?”
“Sorority gossip,” she shrugged, applying a thick layer of pink lipgloss.
Sierra had always been a gossip queen. It doesn’t matter if we attend a college with over 30,000 students, she still gets information on guys she finds attractive. She really should consider being a detective if botany doesn’t work out. I could be the Watson to her Sherlock.
“I highly doubt he went to jail.”
“Never know.” She whipped her curls to the side, “Are you excited for the party tonight?”
I sighed, “Not really, you know Luke’s mom hates me.”
The woman was insufferable. I could never do anything right, no matter how hard I tried. She had a way with backhanded compliments, like, “wow this chicken is certainly something” or “I love your new hairstyle, it suits you so much better.”
She was also obsessed with her children. Luke just happened to be her favorite, which meant he got extra attention. He didn’t seem to mind it though. I wouldn’t call him a mommas boy but she certainly had him wrapped around her finger.
“He said he wants to talk tonight,” I whispered.
“About what?” Sierra asked, flipping her white notebook open.
I shrugged, folding my hands over my legs. “I don’t know, but he brought up the night we met.”
Sierra squealed under her breath, “Do you think he’s going to ask you to marry him?!”
I felt my eyes bulge on their own accord, “What? No!”
Deep down, I had noticed Luke acting odd. He seemed to be on edge, never really relaxing. Maybe he was going to ask me? No...Luke had made his position on marriage very clear. He explained that marriage came after we had successful jobs, never before. But...who knows? We are in our senior year.
As our professor droned on about electrons and force, my eyes drifted back to the guy a few rows in front of me...Kade. He gave me the impression he was up to no good. The kind of guy that breaks hearts just to feel good about his utterly lonely life. But, southern belles never judge a book by its cover.
And Momma certainly raised a southern belle.