Conflicted Affection

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16

After eating, me and Ryland go back up to his room and talk.

"Wait, when did you first like me?" Ryland asks.

It took a little to think. Even though my feelings suddenly popped out the very first day of 8th grade, I still remember having feelings for him before that, but it is very faint in memory.

I am silent for a little, "I.. I don't know really."

"Even though I don't think I liked you for that long, I don't know when I first had feelings either." He admits.

It makes me think of the time when we first had eye contact, except he broke it instantly while I still held my eyes on him for a little longer. I remember he avoided me completely that day, and pretty much for the rest of the school year.

"What?" I ask, questioning if he had feelings longer than I thought he did.

"I don't know. I know I didn't like you right away, of course, but I don't know. I don't think I remember it but I know it was there." He furrows his brows, looking frustrated and confused.

"You don't have to think about it if you don't want to."

"No, it's ok I just thought about it." He chuckles.

Suddenly, I remember something, "Remember that time in health class when you pushed past me and accidentally hit me while walking by and we looked at each other? You don't have to remember every detail because I still remember how Michael reacted."

"Yeah.. I remember. That was the first time you didn't help Michael bully me. That's also the first time we actually looked at each other." He looks up at me, suddenly wide eyed.

"I think I remember when I first liked you." We both say, freaking each other out.

"Woah," Ryland says, running a hand through his hair.

Inside I smile, but the weirdness of that moment doesn't let my body react the same way.

"Was it what I just mentioned?" I ask, but I think I know what the answer is.

"Yeah.." Ryland admits, chuckling nervously and looking down.

"That was the first time I felt that warm feeling people talk about. That's the first time I feared I wasn't normal. I guess I forgot it for so long because I told myself I would never remember it." I say, remembering how amazing but scary that feeling was for me.

"That was at the end of the year, 6th grade. I was confused why you looked at me the way you did. You seemed angry... But your expression turned soft when our eyes met." Ryland says, a sudden smile tugging at his lips.

"Oh," I look down in embarrassment.

I hear Ryland give a soft chuckle. He touches my hand softly with his index finger.

"I was terrified what that meant. I thought you felt sorry for me or something. But now I know the truth." He says, "I felt something too, like a weird fizzy feeling where we touched and it spread to my heart almost. I just thought it was nothing, especially when I forgot it. I have no idea how I could forget that moment."

I grab his warm hand in mine, "That's kinda crazy to me."

"What?" He asks, looking up at me.

"That we almost had the same experience, it was the first feelings we ever caught for each other, yet we both forgot it. Now here we are, shockingly."

"Wow, that is kinda weird. But I don't mind really. I guess I just couldn't understand why after that, you barely talked around me. I remember that was the last time you truly seemed to hate me-"

I cut him off, "I never hated you, never. I just wanted to do what everyone else was so I wouldn't be ditched by my only group of friends I seemed to have on the first day of school and going back to square one. I had no issue with you sitting there really. As soon as Michael joined in on it, I felt obligated to go with it. I never hated you, really. I didn't have a reason. You were just an adorable little dork who decided to sit at a table that seemed to be the door to new and various friendships. You never did anything wrong."

"Thank you," He says, but gives me a confused look, "I was an adorable little dork?" He chuckles.

"Maybe not a dork, but.." I reply, but he just chuckles more.

"Adorable little dork?" He asks again.

The reality of what I said struck me, but I stayed confident, "Actually, yeah, you had the kindest and widest little grin at the table. I still wish we didn't make it go away, it was the best smile I had ever seen, still is. That will never change." I admit.

He just looks at me, clearly puzzled, but I decide to break the silence, "Anyways, I want some more pizza. Do you want any?"

He sits there silent for a little bit until quietly saying, "Sure."

When I come back, I sit down and notice he still has the same expression on his face and remained silent.

"I got you pepperoni if that's ok."

"You always stared at me when I laughed or smiled..." He whispers.

"Huh?"

"I always thought you stared at me when I had a smile on because it looked stupid." He says.

"I stared at you?"

"Yeah, a lot.." He admits, making my eyes widen.

"I'm sorry I didn't know."

"Knowing what I know now, that's honestly kind of cute." He says, his smile returning to his face.

I feel my face get heated and I look down.

I feel Ryland touch my chin as he lifts my head up a bit and kisses my lips.

The kiss lasts longer than before, and I don't wanna stop. His soft lips seems to slow dance with mine.

Suddenly, we break it apart and he asks me, "If you sleep over, do you wanna go run away somewhere? Only for the night."

"Hell yeah." I say, crashing his lips back onto mine and he giggles into the kiss.

***

Both me and Alexa decide to stay over that night. Her and Maybelle seem to instantly be friends. I'm just glad my parents aren't here because they would have caught onto our plan faster, but Ryland's parents fall asleep fast and are hard to wake up.

Me and Ryland stay up together, waiting for the right time to sneak out, and that time is now. We quietly open the window, remove the screen from it and after Ryland steps out, he helps me out.

"Get ready to run when you step down." He says, catching me off guard.

He wasn't joking, he lets me down and instantly runs down the street. I try my best to catch up to him, but I lose him. My feet begin hurting from them only being protected by skin and I curse myself for forgetting my shoes.

I begin to feel anxious and I begin worrying about Ryland. The air is cold and the street is nearly completely silent.

Suddenly, a pair of hands pounce on my shoulders. I shout in fear, turning around to see Ryland giggling.

"What the hell?!" I shout at him.

"Sorry." He whispers to me with clear amusement still on his face, leaning in close to me, but quickly running away giggling down the street before I could kiss him.

I run after him and down a street that has a "dead end" sign beside it. Ryland runs into the woods, and I begin wondering what he is doing.

"Ryland don't you dare!" I shout after him, but he just giggles and continues running.

I force myself to run as fast as possible and catch up to him, tackling him to the ground, "I said don't." I whisper into his ear.

He turns around to face me and begins kissing my lips, "Wanna go swim?" He whispers to me.

"If we get out of these woods."

"Well, we can't do that, you have to go through these woods to get there, but I know my way around this place. I always come here." He tells me.

"Fine, but no more running." I say.

"Ok," He agrees, staring at me for a little bit until gesturing for me to get off of him.

He leads me to a small lake that isn't far from where we were. He takes his shirt off, leaving only his shorts on as he walks over to the dock, which is old and covered in what seems to be carpet, and jumps in.

I giggle at him, "Come in!" He shouts to me.

I slip my shirt off, as I walk to the dock, jumping off just like he did.

The water feels cool across my legs, soothing my feet, and waving across my shoulders. My feet barely touch the bottom. The moons reflection can be seen in the water and the stars shine brighter than I had ever seen them shine.

"This is my favorite place." Ryland says.

"Its nice." I smile at him.

"It suits me perfectly. Secret, secluded."

"Beautiful." I finished.

He scoffs at me, "Cheesy much?" He giggles.

I smile and put my hand on the side of his jaw, kissing him gently.

Once again, I feel warmth all over my body, even as my shoulders were exposed to the the chill of the night air that is colder than the water.

We pull away, staring at each others eyes. He pulls me by the hand and takes me near the land where the water gets more shallow. He sits down and I follow his action.

The water slowly moves across our bodies, hitting whatever they could reach. We sit listening to the crickets and owls sing and the still silence of the lake.

I begin asking myself what this feeling was, the feeling of warmth inside my entire body, the tingling inside my chest and stomach.

I felt it before, but not like this. It feels stronger than ever. I grow afraid of bursting into happiness and running around the lake shouting.

It feels like I could jump to the sky and touch the stars, maybe even the moon. I feel so alive and powerful.

It's overwhelming but fucking amazing. It feels like I will go crazy, but I also feel relaxed.

I can't stand it--but I want more. Maybe my stomach and heart are working against me, but I feel like I will throw up almost. Again, I love this feeling but a part of me wants it to stop.

He grabs my hand and the feeling gets more intense, but I was getting used to it.

"This is crazy." He says.

"What is?"

"This--us. Not that it's bad, just shocking. Everything feels surreal."

"Really? I didn't expect you to ever have the slightest feeling for me, no matter what it is." I look down, watching the water gently roll over my legs.

"That's even more strange. You were the one who was afraid I wouldn't like you, yet I was the weird one."

"We never were each others type." I say to him, almost whispering.

"We just didn't know each other."

"I guess so. What if we aren't meant to be? What if this doesn't work out?" I ask, feeling a slight pain in my chest and a hollow feeling in my stomach.

"If we weren't meant to be in some way, we wouldn't be together. Maybe we are together to teach each other something, maybe just to be friends, or," He pauses, "Maybe we are meant to be something more than friends. Who knows really? But, again, all I want is for you to be in my life, it doesn't matter what way."

"Why?" I ask.

He pauses, "Well, someone needs to do your homework." He jokes.

I slightly get mad at this, "I don't need you to do my damn homework. Is that the real reason you said that or is there something else? I don't care what it is, I just wanna know. You can tell me anything."

"I don't know anymore." He says, taking a deep breath as he said the last word. He seems like he is gonna cry.

"I'm sorry I pushed you-"

He cuts me off, "No, no its just nothing. It's getting cold, I wanna go now." With that, he gets up, picked up his shirt, and begins walking away.

I stumble to my feet to go run after him, but we both stop when we hear rustling behind us.

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