Somewhere Above the Clouds

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Chapter 20 - Trust me

Three months later - August 2006

River


"So you'll take the bus to school and I'll pick you up this afternoon."
Beau told me as I shoved my binder into my backpack.

"You know I can ride the bus home right? You didn't have to change your schedule for me."
It was true, it wasn't necessary but I was more than thankful that he had.

"I know but I want to pick you up."

I felt a tinge in my heart. The same one that I'd been ignoring these last few months. Beau and I hadn't even sat on the same side of the living room since the night he ran away from whatever he felt towards me.

But I understood why.

It was wrong.

We never spoke about it, we just moved on like it had never happened and I think it was for the best. Nothing good would come of it if we put any of it into words anyway.

We were roommates and it had to be enough.

"Are you nervous? You look a little pale."

"No, I'm fine. Maybe a little anxious but that's all."

He nodded and slid a piece of buttered toast in front of me.

"I've gotta go, I'll be out in front of the school when you're done."
He grabbed his bag and headed out the front door.

"Okay."
I sighed and bit into the bread.

Taylor was waiting for me when I stepped off the bus.

"Why won't you just agree to let me pick you up for school? I can bring you home too."
He slung his arm around my shoulders as we walked into the building.

"I'm not exactly on your way. Besides, Beau will be picking me up."

"Well, I'm definitely not going to disrupt the bear's plans."

"The bear?"
I raised my eyebrows.

"He's as big as a bear and just as scary."

"Maybe a teddy bear."
I laughed and Taylor shook his head.

"Only to you, he's not like that with anyone else."

I froze. Had Taylor noticed something?

Oh, God.

"You know how mama bears protect their cubs? That's how he is with you."

Oh.

Well, I didn't like that either. Taylor thought Beau gave off parental vibes? Ew.

But it was still better than him catching on to anything else that was happening between us.

Whatever that was, I still wasn't sure.

"Still riding the bus? What a loser."
Edie chuckled and Cayson followed suit because that's what she did best.

Taylor tensed next to me but I grabbed his hand and squeezed it.

Which must've been what Cayson was waiting on. I dropped Taylor's hand as she rushed in front of me, giving me no option except to press my back against the lockers.

"I guess I didn't make myself clear enough last year. Stay away from the boys here. Especially Taylor. He's too good for trash like you."
She whispered the last part.

She was nuts if she thought I'd ever listen to anything she said.

I tilted my head to the side and smiled.

"When was the last time you brushed your teeth?"
I said the words loud enough for everyone to hear.

Her hand flew over her mouth and everyone that had gathered around us busted out in laugher.

I'm not a mean-hearted person by nature and I would never go out of my way to embarrass anyone.

But Cayson Stewart had it coming.

Taylor tugged at my book bag and we began to walk down the hall.

"You're a badass, River."
He laughed lightly in my ear before pressing his lips to my cheek.

"Nope, just honest."

Taylor turned around and shot both Edie and Cayson death glares.

"I'll never understand those two and why they think they can mess with you."

"They want me to stay away from you."
I said. This had been a thing since I got here. They think they have some sort of claim over him but I've never spoken a word of it to Taylor.

"They want what?"
He spun us both around and stalked back in dumb and dumber's direction.

Oh no.

He let go of me and I stopped walking. I had no desire to hear what their exchange would be but I was glad I at least had a good view. Edie's face fell first and Cayson's was soon after. They looked like two puppies being reprimanded for peeing inside.

Taylor whipped his body around and scanned the hallway until his eyes landed on mine. He walked toward me with a victorious smirk on his face.

"This year's going to be the best one yet, River."
He said as he pulled me into his side.

We walked to our first class together and I nodded my head, agreeing with him.

It was the end of the day and I was walking out to the front of the school when the principal, Mr. Novack stopped me.

"Hello, Ms. Stafford. How was your first day as a senior?"
He smiled. He was good looking as far as principals go. He wasn't too much older than my brother and Beau.

"So far so good."
I returned the smile.

"That's good to hear. If you have any problems just let me know, okay?"
He rested his large hand on my shoulder.

I nodded and walked away.

Beau was leaning up against his Bronco with his arms crossed over his chest. I couldn't tell his mood by the look on his face and it made me feel uneasy.

"What did he say to you?"

"Who?"

"Novack."

I looked back to see the principal standing in the same place talking to a teacher.

"Oh, he just said if I had any problems this year to come to him."
I shrugged.

Beau swung the passenger's side door open and I hopped inside.

"You got burgers?"

I asked after he shut his door.

"Yeah, I figured you'd be hungry."

"I'm starving."

"Do me a favor River."

I looked over at him, waiting for him to elaborate. His eyes were still on the principal.

"Don't go anywhere with Novack alone. Think of some excuse, I don't care. Just don't go by yourself. Okay?"

I grabbed a fry.

"Okay. But you're kinda freaking me out."

He turned his body toward me and scanned my face. I wasn't scared of Novack, I was pretty sure that he was harmless.

"Just trust me."

"I do trust you."
I bit the fry and buckled my seat belt.

"Wanna take our food to the beach?"

"Really? You're willingly taking me to the beach?"
I squeaked and Beau laughed.

"I guess so."

"Yeah, let's go."

Beau pulled in Bronco into a parking spot and I pulled my converse off, stuffing my socks inside.

"I don't have a blanket or anything."

"I'm not above sitting on the sand."

I grabbed my strawberry shake and Beau grabbed the rest.

He always bought me a strawberry milkshake but I had no idea why. I just went along with it.

"Jackson would like this."
I said as I sat cross-legged in the sand.

"Yeah, he would. Have you talked to him lately?"

"We skyped last week but the signal was spotty. I still write to him every other day."

He nodded.

"That really helps."

"So you've been? Over there I mean."

He took a bite of his burger and swallowed hard.

"Yeah, a lot."

I didn't want to ask but I felt like I had to.

"Do you have to go back?"
The words came out as a whisper and I held my breath until he responded.

He looked at me and blinked a few times.

"I can't say for sure."

"I don't want you to go."

"I don't want to either. But sometimes certain things are necessary."

I knew then that Beau would leave, and it was only a matter of time before it happened.
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