Conflicted Affection

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3

Today is a Saturday, and a good Saturday at that! I took my sister to the playground and we went to eat breakfast at her favorite place: the Waffle House.

She always describes to me how she loves the smell of hashbrowns and pancakes in the morning, she says it makes her happy. Of course, knowing me, I always want Alexa to be happy.

We come home and I jump on my big, comfy full sized bed, ready to go back to sleep. I was nearly asleep when my phone jolts me back awake. It's a text by Ryland.

Ryland: Hey it's Ryland, your mom gave me your phone number so we could meet up for the project.

My mom knows Ryland, she never knew I bullied him but she knows him, as well as his mother. I guess his mom asked my mom to give Ryland my contact information for our project.

Me: Hey Ryland, where do you want to meet today?

That's the only thing I can think about saying. I'm actually really fucking terrified right now.

Ryland: There's a coffee shop we can go to or maybe books a million

Me: yeah we can totally meet up there. What time?

There is a pit in my stomach beginning to boil. I start asking myself what I'll wear or do, like it's some kind of date. I'm so lame.

Ryland: we can meet right now if you want, just to get started

Me: I'll meet you at Reno's coffee shop. Be there in a little bit

We end the conversation at that. I get up, pick out my plaid button up shirt and my best jeans, trying my best to look nice. Of course it's not a date, but I need to look nice, right? I mean everyone does this. Ugh, who am I kidding? As I try to shut up my mind, I pick up my favorite cologne that is just the perfect amount of strong, and head out the door, bringing my backpack, keys, wallet, and phone.

When I get inside my car, I take a big breath of anticipation, preparing to face my former enemy, and my current envy. My stomach won't stop turning around. My belly is giving me the impression of being on a trampoline, feeling the adrenaline rising every second. I beg silently for it to stop.

I look in my rear view mirror, fixing my hair one last time and taking a single deep breath just to subside my near panic attack.

The whole ride there I sit in silence, no music, and no talking to myself like a psycho, just driving. The only sounds are me breathing, the jiggling of my keys with every turn, and the clicking of my turn signal.

I pull into the parking lot of Reno's, sitting in my seat for a couple of minutes just to prepare myself and bring my anxiety to contentment, trying to convince myself that there is nothing to be afraid of, yet my stomach is telling me otherwise.

I walk in, being greeted by the smell of mocha, the sound of coffee brewing, and the sight of a cozy, rustic coffee shop. I look around, trying to find Ryland, but I don't see him. I won't even be surprised if he ditched me.

During the walk to the cash register, I hear the bathroom doors creek open and Ryland comes out, and I guess I got a little too excited to see him. I pretty much yell a "Hi!" to him, making him move back in shock, and everyone stares at me. Great, I think, go ahead and embarrass yourself.

Face burning with embarrassment, I awkwardly turn back toward the lady behind the register and ask for a chocolate mocha with extra cream and sugar. Through the corner of my eye, I can see Ryland looking my way.

"Oh, I'm sorry about, you know, yelling in your face." I apologize, continuing to hate myself in that moment.

He chuckles awkwardly and replies, "It's ok, I'll be sitting over there." He points to the table in front of the window and I nod to him and he walks away.

The woman behind the counter, who is still looking at me as if I'm a psycho, hands me my heavenly drink, and I hand her the heavenly green paper they call money. Soon, I find myself wondering if Ryland has any coffee of his own, so I go to ask him.

"I don't really like coffee." Ryland gives a short laugh, probably out of nervousness. Though I heard him loud and clear, I wasn't giving up.

"What about a cookie or a tiny cake?" I offer.

"No, y--you don't need to." He says, stuttering a bit when he speaks. He has always been so generous, I always have admired that trait of his.

Throughout my time knowing him and paying attention to him, I picked up a few discoveries of him, and I knew what he would like. Yes, I know it's kind of creepy, but when you're around the same person for years and basically revolving all of your middle school years to their life just to bully them, you notice multiple things about them.

I go back to the counter, asking for two M&M cookies, pay for it, and bring it back to Ryland.

"How did you know this is my favorite?" He asks, giving me a confused expression.

"You always got them for lunch, I always remembered that." I begin to speak faster, "I hope it's not creepy or anything, I just kind of picked up on that." I have to admit, I am worried he will see it as a stalker situation, but I need to do something nice for him.

"Oh, w--well thanks." A short giggle and a slight stutter comes from him before he picks up his cookie and takes a bite out of it. He always seems happy whenever he has those kind of cookies with him. I always wondered why.

"So, if you don't like coffee then why did you agree to meet up here?" I question.

"I just really love this place. I was actually excited when you suggested Reno's." Ryland responds smiling before taking another bite of his cookie. The only response I give to that was a small nod.

We soon get started on brainstorming ideas for the project, like making a mural of a flag in the shape of a peace sign; anything creative. Yeah, he gave us a creative type project, he is an art teacher after all. I still wonder why he isn't as calm as most artists. I wonder who stuck a thick paint brush up his asshole years ago. Maybe there's more up his ass than I think.

As we brainstorm, we both end up actually meeting each others eyes for a while, it was kind of surreal. His eyes are a nice, brownish-green, almost like a forest except his eyes aren't as vibrant as a forest green, but I find it just as beautiful. In my trance, I notice he had a bit of a trance as well and then begins to look at me strangely.

I don't know what I did, but he checks his phone and says slowly, as if trying to think and talk at the same time, "My mom said I have to get back by lunch time. I gotta go, bye!" He jolts up and bolts out of the shop. Did I scare him away or something? Does he think I'm creepy? So many thoughts of what may have happened rush through my head. Maybe he did really have to be back by lunch time, I mean, we were there since 10 a.m. and it is lunch time, at least for some people. I mean, it's only 11:50 in the morning.

I keep thinking about his eyes, how they shine in the heavenly sunshine of the morning, highlighting the green you can't normally see because it is so dark. Soon, something feels odd, really different. As if something is shifted or as if I just stepped into a different universe. I may have even come out of a dream. I can't quite put my finger on it, but I feel something has changed, something is different. It messes with my head for a while as I drive back home, wondering what could be making me feel this odd. Maybe it's just weird hanging out with Ryland like this, or at all. It's either that or the fact that we basically stared into each others souls not too long ago, or maybe I was the only one staring.

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