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Chapter 4

The days have started to blend, I find myself often questioning what day of the week it is. It has only been two weeks since Tyler left but the pain is still there. It dulls with each day but not enough to even make my chest stop aching. I spent the first week completely avoiding my classes, skipping them all. This week however, Kelly has been literally dragging me out of bed and forcing me to class. I don’t want to go anywhere near campus this week, there are fliers everywhere reminding me about the formal this Friday. The formal that Tyler and I planned to attend all summer. The fall formal is tradition at our school and I always enjoyed it, as did Tyler. Or I thought he enjoyed it, I guess I don’t know much about how he actually felt. My thoughts are interrupted by a knock on my bedroom door.

“Charlie?” Kelly calls from behind the door.

“I’m up.” I call back.

She enters the room and flashes me her biggest smile. Kelly has been trying so hard over the past two weeks to make me feel better, make me happy again or at least not in absolute agony. She has helped which I am grateful for, but nothing seems to be enough to keep my mind off of it.

“Want to ride together to campus again today?” she askes

“Do I have to go? Can’t you just let me have another skip day?” I plead with her.

“No! No more skip days. You are going! That’s the only way to attempt to return to some level of normalcy.” She says with pure confidence behind her voice.

I know she is right; I need to attempt to live in my new normal. I have to start to accept the fact that I can’t change what happened and he is not coming back. I am not even sure if I would want him to come back anymore. I spent the last two weeks hoping, praying, screaming for him to return but after all this pain he has caused don’t think I could even face him.

“Okay, fine. Let me get dressed, I’ll be right out.” I tell Kelly while flashing her the only smile I can manage.

I walk over to my closet and scan my eyes across my clothes. I am not sure what I want to wear, all I know is that I want it to be comfortable without looking like I’ve been sitting in my room for two weeks barely able to take care of myself. I decide to go with a pair of light wash ripped jeans and white with navy stripes top. I pull my white sneakers on to my feet and make my way out of my room.

“You look great!” Kelly beams.

“And you are lying” I reply with a laugh using my shoulder to give her a slight nudge.

We make our way to campus. It still doesn’t feel the same to me as it used to, just being here. My finance class is first today which makes me a little more excited to be here. I love that class for some reason. I guess it is because I know it is something that is going to be useful to me in my future job and life in general. There is something about working with numbers I find calming. Maybe it is because the answer is always certain, unlike other classes where answers can be subjective.

“See you after classes!” Kelly says while collecting her books off the back seat of the car.

“Yeah after.” I reply.

I get out of the car, grab my bag, and throw it over my shoulders, beginning my walk to the building. The crisp air hits against my face and for a moment I feel good, I feel refreshed. I take a deep breath and try to enjoy the break from the pain I am receiving.

“Charlie!” a familiar voice calls out from behind me.

When I turn around I see Jackson approaching me. He is wearing a pair of dark jeans that hug his legs in all the right places along with a white t-shirt that hugs around his biceps. His sandy brown hair is pushed up and clear of his face like it always is. I am not in the mood to banter back and forth with him this morning so I hope he just gets to the point of why it is he is talking to me.

“Jackson.” I reply coldly.

“Dial it back a notch, no need to act so excited to see me.” He says sarcastically, while a grin grows across his face flashing his obnoxiously perfect white teeth.

“I’m not in the mood.” I say trying not to sound as mean I am being inside my head right now.

“I can see that. I just wanted to-” he stops before finishing.

“Hi Jackson.” A beautiful brunette says, clearly desperate for his attention waves as she walks by making sure she saw him.

He shoots her a wink, which makes me want to throw up in my mouth. I still can’t understand why these girls practically throw themselves at him. Where is the self-respect in that? Although, looking at her outfit which has left very little to the imagination I can only assume self-respect is not at the top of her list of priorities.

“Sorry.” he says as he turns back to me.

“It’s nothing I’m not use to.” I reply with the biggest eyeroll I can manage.

“So, are you okay?” he asks sheepishly not connecting his eyes with mine this time. It’s almost like he is afraid of the answer he might receive but I decide to go with the easy answer.

“I’m fine.” I say.

“You sure?” he questions.

I am not really a fan of him prodding me for information, but I suppose it is nicer than him being a dick and trying to make light of the situation I am in. The last time I saw Jackson I was crying uncontrollably, showing every emotion I felt which, I am normally a professional at concealing. I’m sure that is why he is taking pity on me now and refraining from making any idiotic comments.

A couple walks back talking about their excitement for formal. The red-haired girl can’t stop telling her boyfriend she cannot wait to dance with him as she intertwines their hands together. I know Jackson heard them to because that sympathetic look he has given me once before drapes across his face again.

“I better get to class.” I say with a touch of force, trying to break him from looking at me like that.

“Yeah me too.” He says with a small awkward smile I can tell he had to force himself to give.

I turn back towards the business building again and my will to go to class has slowly diminished over the past few minutes. I know I need to go though. Even if I didn’t, I would have to just sit here because I rode with Kelly to campus and it’s a little too far to walk back to the apartment from here.

“Charlie, wait.” Jackson calls out.

“What?” I question.

“I want to take you to formal.” He says with an unsure tone to his voice. He sounds nervous, I didn’t even know Jackson had a nervous bone in his body, he has always been the most confident person, actually cocky is probably a more fitting description.

“I’m sorry?” I say because I’m almost positive I heard him wrong.

“Formal. I want to take you. Will you go with me?” he replies with a lot more confidence behind his voice this time.

I can’t find words to answer him. I am astounded that he would even ask me to go with him to formal. He has been here three years and I have never once seen him at the formal, only at the after parties. This has to be some kind of pity date which makes this almost feel embarrassing for me. I don’t want anyone’s pity, I never have.

“You don’t have to do that.” I finally reply but find myself unable to look him in the eyes.

“I know I don’t. But I want to.” He assures me.

“Why would you do that? You’ve never been before.” I question while looking at him trying to study the expression on his face.

“Because- I Just” he struggles to answer.

“Because I just want too.” He says while running his hand through his hair. He looks vulnerable and totally out of his element.

There is a moment of awkward silence between us while I try to collect my thoughts. I am not entirely convinced this isn’t a pity date but I love formal and I want to go, just not alone. Being alone would be worse than going with Jackson. Would going with Jackson be so bad? He is going completely out of character here just to ask me.

“Yes.” I reply flashing him a small grin.

“Really?” he looks up at me searching my face for reassurance.

“Yes, I’ll go with you.” I smile.

“Great, I mean- okay. I will pick you up Friday at 7:00 okay?”

“Okay.” I nod

We both turn to walk back to our classes, and I am still a little in shock that I will be going to the dance with Jackson Thomas. I suppose that is just a new surprise in the long line of surprises that keep getting thrown in my face. I hope it will be a good time, Jackson is always the life of the party, the center of everyone’s attention; I’m not used to that and I’m not sure I would enjoy the attention. I will have to tell Kelly after class, I know she will be just as confused as I am, but we will need to go dress shopping immediately. I never had a chance to find a dress before everything happened with Tyler ”you mean before he left you?” my subconscious reminds me.

I find my way to my seat in my finance class. I usually sit in between a girl with long black hair and tattoos who I swear does not ever catch a word the professor says and a kid who takes more vigorous notes than anyone I have every seen. I am convinced he writes down every word. When I take my seat, I am surprised when someone new sits beside me. He is dressed from head to toe in black and has his hood up, he gives me a nod as if that is his way to say hello, but it sends shivers down my spine. There is something about his presence that makes me uneasy, but I muster up enough fake energy to give him a smile. The professor begins speaking and I am thankful for his abrupt start to class so I am not forced to exchange pleasantries with the stranger beside me.

“Study, study, Study!” Professor James booms.

“Your first exam will take place next week on Wednesday!” he says with a smile while the rest of the class answers him with groans and boo’s.

“Oh, come on guys, suck it up! You are dismissed for the day.” He says with a laugh trailing.

I stand up from my seat, gather my books and place them neatly into my bad before throwing it over my shoulder. I am caught by surprise when the strange boy next to me speaks.

“See you around Charlie.” He says without ever looking at me then walks out of the rooms.

"What? How does he even know my name?" I think to myself but brush it off as I find my way to the door. I need to go meet up with Kelly and tell her I will be needing a dress after all.

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