Chapter 48 - Tunnel vision
"Oh my gosh, I can't believe you're actually here!"
I squeezed Maria's neck again.
Maria transferred after freshman year and was now going to be at the same college that Taylor was at. Both of my best friends were in the same state and I could hardly believe it. Maria and I also managed to score a decent apartment so I no longer had to "live" in the dorms. Although my brother was the only person who thought that I spent the majority of my nights there.
Jackson and Taylor unloaded the last of our boxes into our small but cute space. It was on the third floor but with the proximity to campus and Taylor, we really couldn't have found anything more perfect.
"Are you three excited for sophomore year?"
Jackson asked and Taylor groaned along with Maria.
I on the other hand didn't make a sound. I was in love with college, or more precisely with Yale. I had always been bored with school but I never realized what I was missing until I started here. Yale challenged and stretched my mind further than I ever considered possible. And I had narrowed down a major, Molecular Biology. It really added to the nerd label Taylor had slapped on me last year when he woke me up too many times with one of my Chemistry books stuck to my face.
"I'm just excited to be almost finished unpacking."
Maria sighed as she flopped onto the couch. Taylor sat down on the opposite end and I couldn't help but think about how cute they would look together. Taylor casually dated, a lot. But he was never serious about anyone. And Maria had only dated one guy in high school then swore the male population off for good. But geez, they would make a dreamy couple.
Jackson and Taylor left to go pick up a few groceries while Maria and I unpacked our clothes. I was prepared to share a room but somehow we managed to find a two-bedroom and now I felt like we needed more furniture. I doubted that I would make enough in tips at my new job to cover much else other than my half of the rent. I was a waitress at a diner just down the street and although I enjoyed the job, I didn't exactly make enough money for extra things.
Between, classes, studying, and work I really had no spare time for anything else and I'd realized that was how I functioned best. I might've been spread a little thin but it was what worked for me, it kept me sane.
Because if I had any time to let my mind wander, if I wasn't so exhausted that dreams couldn't reach me at night, then I would have time to obsess over the one thing in my life that was missing. The biggest chunk that just wasn't there. And I couldn't let myself do that.
"Do you like this top?"
Maria was standing at my bedroom door holding up a hunter green tank with tiny straps.
"Yeah, it's cute."
"Good, you can have it. It doesn't fit anymore."
Maria had truly blossomed since I'd last seen her. She had always been pretty but now she looked like a full-blown woman. Meanwhile, I was still getting mistaken for a sixteen-year-old.
"Boobs too big?"
I wiggled my brows at her.
"Oh my gosh, yes. And honestly, they're annoying."
She giggled as she sat on the edge of my bed.
I folded some t-shirts and stuffed them in my dresser as she watched.
"Are you happy, River? Jackson and Taylor are gone. It's just me, you can cut the bullshit."
I pushed the drawer shut and sat down beside her.
"I'm happy with certain things."
"And other things?"
"I'll be completely happy at some point. Is anyone our age truly happy with every aspect of their lives? Doesn't struggling build character?"
"It might. But torturing yourself doesn't."
I took a deep breath. I didn't have to tell Maria the entire story after it happened for her to piece it together. And she did a really good job of it without opening-up my wounds.
"I just can't think about it right now, you know? I'm doing well in school. It's my main focus."
I nodded along to my own words and wondered which one of us I was trying to convince.
"So you haven't spoken to him at all?"
I shook my head. If I spent one more second with my thoughts directed toward him I would break down.
I stood up and walked across my room.
"Where are you going?"
"To order some Chinese food, I'm starving."
I smiled at her as I left the room. I went straight into the kitchen, grabbed my phone, and scrolled to the number that belonged to the Chinese place Taylor and I liked the most. I tripled our usual order then grabbed one of my books and started reading. It didn't matter what the subject was, or even if I was re-reading something. I just opened it, flipped to a page, and started reading because it kept my mind busy. And that was exactly what it needed to be.
The food arrived before Jackson and Taylor got back and Maria and I didn't wait for them, we dug right in.
"Riv, I literally just bought $200 worth of groceries."
Jackson said when he walked in and saw me stuffing my face with dumplings.
I smiled at him and he sighed, plucking an egg roll off of my plate.
Taylor sat down beside me and pressed his lips to my temple. We hadn't had any more romantic moments since I practically begged him to kiss me last year but that didn't stop my brother from giving his two cents.
"Keep your lips off of my sister."
He told Taylor as tried to keep a straight face.
Taylor winked at me and kissed my cheek before jumping over the back of the couch as Jackson swatted at him.
"Beau would kill you."
He murmured and the whole room fell silent. No one had said his name around me in almost a year. I didn't even allow myself to think about it.
It was just a name, why did it bother me so much? No, it didn't just bother me. It was as if someone stuck a white-hot poker through my heart, then twisted it.
I picked my fork back up and started shoveling food into my mouth. A few seconds later Taylor sat in between Maria and me and started talking to her about school. They had somehow managed to get two classes together and I sort of envied that. I didn't exactly befriend anyone in my classes, it wasn't on purpose, I just had tunnel vision.
I was going to make it through these years of my college experience the best way that I knew how. The same way I made it through my junior and senior years of high school, only tweaked just a tad.
I would put him out of my mind, at the end of my tunnel, far out of my grasp. And if I could make it to the other side, I'd consider allowing myself to have him.