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Chapter 8

The weekend went by in a flash following formal and we are already back to Monday again my alarm so kindly reminds me as it rings in my ear. After we danced in the field Friday night, we sat out there and talked for hours. I didn’t get back to my apartment until 2:00 a.m. We talked about everything from big things like his dreams about getting drafted this year and playing professional baseball, my dreams of working for a company like Nike doing marketing down to small things like our favorite movies. I could have sat out there and talked to him all night. I found being with him comforting, all the pain I carry in my chest disappears when I am with him, I never thought he would be the one to take that pain away. Even if he doesn’t want to hang out again and it was only for the night, I am grateful for the night of relief, the night of normalcy.

I pull myself out of bed, it is easier this morning. I don’t feel like I am having to force myself to class, I actually want to go. I pad across my room and into my bathroom, I brush my hair and teeth. I decide I want to look good today, so I turn my curling iron on and start to add waves, attempting to do them the same way the hairdresser did Friday. They don’t end up looking as great as hers, but they look pretty good, I am proud of myself. I pull my makeup bag out and apply my usual light makeup and Chapstick. I decide on wearing jeans and a red flowy top that has white flowers along the top and my all white sneakers. I am interrupted by a knock on my bedroom door.

“Come in!” I call out.

“Hey girl” Kelly says as she opens the door and steps inside.

“I’m glad you decided to return.” I say shooting her a devilish grin.

She was gone all weekend with Kyler. I couldn’t help but feel a little jealous of her. Don’t get me wrong I love Kelly and I am so happy she is happy, but I miss the weekends when I was off doing anything and everything with Logan. I don’t really miss him as much as I just miss the whirlwind weekends, dates and movies.

“Oh, stop it.” She smiles back. “We just wanted to spend more time together after formal.”

“All weekend you mean?” I laugh

“I guess so.” She returns the laugh “So how was your night with Jackson Friday? We haven’t got to catch up, was it at least bearable?” she asks.

I want to tell her everything from lifting me in the truck to the kiss we shared in the field. I want her to know about all the rush of emotions and butterflies he gave me but I’m not even sure what they meant.

“We actually had a really nice time.” I reply with a smile.

“He wasn’t a total ass?” she asks studying my face for an expression that might give away anything I am feeling.

“No, not at all. I’m just as shocked as you are but he was a perfect gentleman.” I assure her.

“Jackson Thomas?” she asks with one eyebrow raised, clearly confused.

“Okay sit down on my bed, we have a lot to go over.” I laugh and gesture her to my bed.

I go over everything with her, every detail. I tell her about the butterflies I got in my stomach and how the ache in my chest disappeared from the moment I saw him standing dressed in his suit and tie in our apartment. I don’t have to go into details about the dance at the formal because she saw that along with pretty much everyone else. I detail the field, the dance, the song he chose to play and the kiss we shared.

“I am-“ she starts “I am in complete shock right now.” She says and I can tell she means it.

“I was too.” I laugh with a reassuring smile that she is not alone with her thoughts.

“He loves you. I knew it!” she teases.

“You are so dramatic! It was one night.” I say with an eyeroll.

“I’m just saying! Just wait.” She laughs. “Hey I’m totally supportive of it, apart from the fact I don’t know if Jackson even knows how to be a boyfriend.” She says.

“He is not my boyfriend!” I snap.

“Not yet anyways.” She winks as she climbs off my bed. “Come on, lets go to class.” She says while heading for the door.

I follow behind her as we walk towards the parking lot to leave for class. I am lost in my thoughts after the conversation we just had about Jackson. He doesn’t love me; how could he possibly love me? He has got so many options, so many beautifully girls. It was just one night anyways.

“Oh my God.” Kelly says with her stare locked forward.

“What?” I say taking my eyes off her and looking forward to try and see what she is looking at. That’s when I see him, Jackson. He is leaning up against the front of his truck boasting his signature smile. He’s wearing a pair of dark boot cut jeans and a light grey university t-shirt with that fits him like it was made just for him. He looks so handsome standing there smiling at me as I walk towards him my heart is jumping in my chest again causing flutters all through my stomach.

“What are you doing here?” I say with the only smile I can manage as I finally reach where he is standing.

“Taking you to class.” he smirks.

“You don’t have to do that.” I reply.

“I know I don’t have to; I want too.” He says with a reassuring soft tone behind his voice.

“Well, I will just be on my way then.” Kelly says with a giant smile taking over her face as she looks at me then walks away towards her car.

I glance back over at her as she is walking away only to see her mouthing “Told you!” at me with her huge smile still extremely present. I can’t help but laugh at her. She thinks this is more than what it is, or I think she wants it to be. She wants me to be happy, to find someone again just like she told me I would.

“You coming?” Jackson say

“Only if you let me climb into the truck myself this time.” I tease, trying to break through the awkward tension surrounding us.

“Not going to happen.” He says with a smirk and before I even have time to speak or think, he picks me up and flings me over his shoulder carrying me to the passenger side of the truck. I am laughing harder than I have in a long time. It’s a laugh that makes your stomach hurt, one you wish would never end.

“Oh my gosh Jackson!” I manage to yelp as he flings me onto his passenger seat.

“You’re crazy!” I say to him with a smile as he stands just outside the passenger door.

“You ain’t seen nothing yet.” He boasts and closes the door to walk around the truck and join me inside.

We ride to campus together making small talk and he cracks jokes the whole way. He turns the radio up about half way through the ride and starts singing along, loudly and completely off key. I know he is just trying to make me laugh, and it worked. I’ve known Jackson for about three years, but I’ve never seen this side of him. He is actually funny and sweet, which are two words I wouldn’t have used to describe him a month ago.

He finds a spot to park on campus and we both jump out of his truck.

“Thanks for the ride!” I tell him and mean it.

“It’s no problem.” He smiles and walks next to me as we head towards the building my first class is in.

“Isn’t your class over there?” I say pointing towards the Howard building that is on the other side of the lot.

“It is.” He smiles.

“So, are you ditching?” I tease.

“No, I am walking you to class.” He replies with confidence.

“Well alright then.” I say with a smile as the butterflies flood my insides once again. I don’t have a smart remark or teasing comment to say back this time. I find myself actually happy he is walking me and I don’t want to ruin it or take away from the moment by trying to add a joke.

We walk inside the building and up the stairs to my first class. I feel the stares again, just like at the formal Friday. I look around the hallway and realize that I am getting quite a few jealous glares from girls in the halls and a few guys as well.

“Safe and sound.” He says with a smile as we reach the door to my classroom.

“Is it always like this with you?” I ask.

“What do you mean?” he replies with a confused tone.

“All the people staring. I mean it feels like girls are staring daggers through me.” I laugh.

“Oh that, yeah. People just aren’t use to this.” He says.

“Use to what?” I ask.

“Me and you. Me and anyone actually.” He laughs.

“Me and you?” I question.

“They saw us at the dance or at least heard about I’m sure and now were together again today, that’s all.” He says brushing off my question.

I don’t know what I expected him to say. I know we aren’t together but hearing him just brush off what I feel like is happening between us makes my stomach turn. I know I am not imagining the feelings between us because he is acting completely out of character towards me as well. He is trying to be sweet and make me happy.

“Later then?” he asks

“Later.” I assure him with a smile as he walks down the hall disappearing around the corner.

I walk into class and find my seat in the middle of the classroom like I always do. The professor dims the lights and starts a slide show going on about marketing strategies and the influence of social media on business growth. I am trying my best to pay attention, but I can’t break myself from my memories of Friday night playing through my head. I reach my hand up and graze my thumb along my bottom lip as the memory of our kiss plays in my head.

“Day dreaming?” the black-haired girl next to me asks as she chuckles under her breath thrusting me out of my own head.

“Oh, no just thinking.” I quickly reply, shooting her a nervous smile.

“I saw you Friday.” She says coldly.

“I’m sorry?” I ask because I am not entirely sure what she means by that.

“With Jackson. At the formal.” She states, never breaking her stare from the professor in the front of the room.

“Oh yeah, right.” I reply, not entirely sure how to respond to that.

“Don’t you like have a boyfriend?” she questions, and her words hit me like a thousand pounds of bricks, knocking the breath out of me as images of Logan appear in my head.

“I did but not anymore.” I answer, letting out a deep breath afterwards.

“I see.” She replies shortly leading me to believe this incredibly uncomfortable conversation is over until she speaks again.

“Jackson doesn’t date.” She points out and brings her eyes over to look at me.

“You mean he doesn’t date you.” I snap. I am not sure what made me say that. Its like it was just instinct to defend myself and Jackson. I know we aren’t dating but the words just fumbled out of my mouth.

“No, you’re right, he just slept with me.” She replies with a smirk across her face.

I have nothing to say to that, she honestly left me speechless. I am not sure why she decided to openly admit to me she has slept with him, who brags about being a whore? I know he has slept around it has never bothered me but now the thought of that makes me feel hot and forces my fists to ball together in attempt to keep my anger at bay.

Extreme relief washes over me as that class ends and I can escape the awkward tension circling me and the girl whose name I don’t even know. All I know is that she doesn’t like me, and she has slept with Jackson. I take the stairs down to the bottom floor and walk outside breathing in the cool fall air and it seems to calm me down. I rode here with Jackson but he never said if he was going to take me home later. I decide I am going to text Kelly and ask her for a ride as I pull my phone out of my bag.

“There you are!” Jackson says with a smile.

“Oh, hey.” I shortly reply. I am not sure why I am acting this way, I am just so annoyed about the girl in class.

“Let’s go!” he beams.

“Go?” I question.

“Yeah? I brought you to school, did you think I just wasn’t going to take you home.” He laughs.

“Oh, yeah I guess you’re right.” I shrug and we start the walk to his truck.

I hop in the passenger seat and he walks around and jumps in on the driver side. He pushes the keys into the ignition and turns them causing the truck to roar as it starts up. I turn my head and look straight out the windshield trying to avoid meeting his eyes with mine. When the truck doesn’t start moving after a few moments I look over in his direction, trying to figure out if something is wrong and I find him just staring at me.

“What?” I hiss.

“What is wrong with you?” he asks with a genuine tone.

“Nothing, I just want to get home.” I reply with annoyance pushing through the tone of my voice.

“Okay something is clearly wrong.” He replies keeping a calm tone as he puts his truck in reverse and leave the parking lot.

We ride for a few minutes in complete silence. I stay looking out the window attempting to ease the thoughts rushing through my head as I stare at all the tall evergreen trees we pass. I notice there are some leaves that are beginning to change colors to a warm yellow, red and orange which brings a smile to my face. Fall is my favorite season. I love corn mazes, Halloween, and thanksgiving.

“Are you going to tell me what’s wrong?” Jackson asks.

“How many girls have you slept with?” I blurt out before I can stop myself.

“Wh-“ he starts. “What? Where is this coming from?” he questions with his voice slightly shaky.

“Can’t you just answer the question?” I quickly say. I am surprising myself with the amount of attitude I have.

He takes a deep breath and takes his eyes off the road briefly to look over at me, then turns back to staring out the windshield as we drive.

“It’s enough.” He answers softly with a defeated tone.

“That’s what I thought.” I snap.

We continue the ride in silence.

“It’s enough! That is a worst answer than I thought I was going to get.” I think to myself.

When we finally reach the parking lot of my apartment complex my plan is to gather my things as quickly as possible and hop out of this truck making a bee line for my apartment. He finds a parking spot and pulls into it and I do just as I planned. I fling the truck door open and jump out turning around to grab my book bag and toss it over my shoulders before I start my speed walking to the apartment building.

“You knew it was a lot of people already though, didn’t you Charlie?” he calls out before I am able to get to the building. I turn and look at him, he is standing in the middle of the parking lot looking towards me with sadness and a touch of anger written all over his face. He’s right, I did know it was a lot of people, it just never bothered me until now.

“Yeah Jackson, I knew.” I huff.

“Then what? You can’t see past this? I can’t get the benefit of the doubt?” he hisses back.

“It doesn’t even matter.” I shrug in an attempt to make it seem like it doesn’t bother me.

“Yes, it does matter.” He says while taking a few steps towards me.

“I’m not in the mood to go over your past right now. We had a good night Friday and a good day today, lets leave it at that.” I say with a calm tone turning my body around to continue my walk towards my apartment.

“I’m trying here Charlie.” He calls out again.

His words stop me in my tracks and I slowly rotate my body back towards him. My eyes meet his and I can see the sincerity in eyes. Whatever comes out of his mouth next, I know he is going to mean it.

“I am trying for you. I am changing everything about the way I used to be, for you.” He booms while walking towards me to close the gap between us.

“What?” I softly ask.

“I want to try this. Try us.” He replies, locking his eyes with mine.

“I am not sure what you mean.” I say with my voice betraying me by shaking.

“I am completely out of my element here, but I can’t stop thinking about you.” He replies softly and lets out a deep breath before placing his hand underneath my chin gently pushing my head up so that our eyes meet.

“Let me take you out on a date. Tomorrow night.” He smiles.

I can’t look away from his eyes while trying to muster up enough courage to respond to his request to take me on a date. The butterflies return to my stomach and the pace of my heartbeat picks up. This feeling I have right now is slowly but surely becoming my favorite.

“Okay. Yes.” I finally reply and he lets out a deep breath he must have been holding in the whole time.

“Be ready tomorrow at 6:00. I will pick you up” he smiles brushing his hand over my cheek before tucking my hair behind my ear. I find myself wishing he would lean closer and kiss me as a thick sexual like tension builds around us, but he takes a step back removing his hand from the side of my face.

“Tomorrow.” He says flashing a smile before turning back towards his truck, leaving me standing there watching him, completely speechless.

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