“So, your dad seemed nice,” I tell Conrad as we get on his bike to leave.
“He is now. He wasn’t always. He used to be quite the ball buster, which contributed to why I left in the first place. Nothing was ever good enough. But I see now that he really just wanted the best for me, he just went about it in the wrong ways.”
“Is he lonely out here all by himself?” I ask, taking one last eyeful of the house.
Conrad chuckles softly.
“He isn’t a lonely old man, Syd. He’s only fifty-two years old. He’s still extremely active. In fact, he just got back from touring Thailand a few weeks ago, and he plans on heading to France next month. Sure, he misses my mom like crazy, but he doesn’t want to waste the rest of his life wallowing. She wouldn’t have wanted that for him.”
“Well that’s good, I suppose. I just thought living in this house way out here all by himself would make him feel isolated.”
“He has Doris to keep him company, and I try to make it out every couple of weeks. He also spends a lot of time at the country club.”
“I think it’s nice that you guys are working things out,” I muse.
“Yeah, me too. It makes me wish I had tried sooner, maybe had some more time with my mom before she passed.”
I wrap my arms tightly around Conrad’s waist and squeeze him, and rest my face against his back in a comforting gesture. I’m not quite sure what to say as a comfort, I’ve never really had to deal with the death of a loved one before. My grandparents died when I was very young, so I don’t remember it very well. I don’t know what I’d do if one of my parents passed away. He pats my arms before he starts the bike and takes off back down the road.
“Your homework all finished for tomorrow?” Conrad asks me with an amused smirk.
We’ve dropped the bike off at his place, and now he’s walking me home. It’s almost ten; it’s pitch black outside except for the streetlights, so I’m not worried about us being spotted.
“Yes, sir. My essay on why I think Indie writers are changing the face of publishing is complete. You sure like to assign a lot of essays, Mr. Riley.”
“Every time you call me Mr. Riley, I feel like a very bad man, Miss Chase."
“I have to call you Mr. Riley at school every day,” I counter.
“Yes but, now that we’ve slept together, it adds a whole new dimension to the situation. Tomorrow will be interesting for me,” Conrad replies.
“I’m sure you’ll handle it effortlessly like you usually do.”
“You think it’s effortless?” he asks with a trace of incredulity.
“You make it seem like it is.”
“Trust me. It’s not. Do you know how many times I’ve had to stop myself from staring just at you in class, running my fingers through your hair as I walk by your desk, or not grab you and kiss you as you walk past me in the hallways? It’s torture not to be able to express the way I feel about you in public, Sydney. I’ve got half a mind just to quit my job so that I can do just that.”
His words stop my feet. Conrad stops walking and looks at me in confusion.
“You can’t quit your job,” I tell him.
“Why not?” he asks.
“Because. I will not let you abandon your career for me. We just have to make it until the end of the school year, and then we’re free to do whatever we want.”
Also, I’m sure this would still cause quite the scandal. I really don’t feel like being the center of the rumor tornado that it would cause.
“I’m not sure I can wait that long Syd.”
“Try,” I say, adamantly.
“Wow, you’re so bossy,” he teases, and kisses me on my forehead, “I’ll do my best, Miss Chase.”
Just as I can see my house coming into view, I notice a familiar vehicle sitting there in front. It’s Dane’s new Volkswagen that his parents bought for him a year ago for his sixteenth birthday.
“Crap,” I mutter, glaring at the dark blue car.
“What? Who’s that?” Conrad asks.
“It’s Dane,” I tell him.
“What the fuck is he doing at your house?” Conrad asks, sounding angry and annoyed, but I know it’s not at me.
“No clue,” I answer, just as annoyed.
Conrad and I stay where we are down the street, out of the streetlight so that we won’t be spotted. After a couple of minutes, I see the passenger door of Dane's car open and out hops my sister.
“Oh, he’s dropping off Hailey,” I breathe a sigh of relief.
“What’s he doing with your sister?” Conrad asks.
I hesitate, contemplating whether or not I should tell Conrad that I told her about us. I decide honesty is the best policy. I can’t be a hypocrite.
“I told her about us,” I tell him.
“You did,” Conrad states, sounding unsure.
“Yeah. Don’t worry, though, Hailey won’t tell anyone. It was actually nice to be able to tell someone other than Des about us. Anyway, she offered to help by trying to talk Dane out of doing something stupid.”
Conrad nods in response, but I can see the worry creasing his forehead.
“What?” I ask, curious as to what he may be thinking.
“It’s fine if you want your sister to know about us Sydney, she is your family, but do you think it’s a good idea for her to get involved in the situation by letting her talk to Dane?”
“I just thought that it couldn’t hurt. I mean, we’ve both known Dane since we were little. I wont be able to talk any sense into him, but she might be able to. We had to try something.”
Conrad’s mouth puckers as he thinks about it. I wait, quietly, until he speaks.
“Alright, if you say so. Anyway Sydney, I should probably bid you goodnight and let you get inside,” Conrad says as he wraps his arms around me and hugs me tightly.
“Okay. I guess I’ll see you tomorrow in class then? I say, wrapping my arms around his neck.
“You know it, love,” he says with a sexy grin as he leans in and presses his lips to mine.
Conrad lifts me off the ground, and I kiss him back fervently. Oh, how I wish we had more time together. How I wish we could just do this whenever and wherever we wanted. Keeping this secret until the end of the year will prove to be a daunting task.
“I love you,” I murmur against his lips.
“I love you too, Sydney.”
“Goodnight,” I say, reluctant to let go.
“Goodnight to you,” he responds, also reluctant as well.
We just stand there for a while, wrapped in each other's arms, until Conrad eventually lowers me back to the ground.
“Okay go, before I decide not to let you go and take you home with me right now,” he says.
“No, don’t tempt me for real,” he laughs.
“Okay, I’ll see you tomorrow,” I say and start walking away from him.
I peek back at him about a hundred times before I reach the door. As soon as I do, he waves and starts walking back the way we came, into the darkness.
The house is dark when I go inside. I go upstairs towards my bedroom but pause in front of my sister’s bedroom door. I’m curious about her conversation with Dane, but I’m also pretty tired. I decide to just wait until tomorrow morning to talk to her and head to my room. As I get ready for bed, my mind goes through everything that has happened today. I woke up this morning, unsure of what was happening between Conrad and me, but now I know that deep down, I couldn’t stay upset with him for long. I’m way too far gone in love with him, and by some crazy miracle; he’s in love with me also. I don’t know what it is precisely that he finds so fascinating about me, but I’m happy that he does.
He’s the interesting one. I’ve learned a lot about him today. I was shocked to find out that he comes from a wealthy family. I would have never guessed. He’s just so down to earth, but maybe that’s because he left home at eighteen, still went to college, became a teacher, joined a band, the list could go on. He’s smart, kind, sexy as hell, yet he’s still not perfect. Conrad has his faults just like everyone else. I just hope we can persevere together and get through the challenges we’re likely to face going forward. I’m pretty sure he’s up for the challenge, and I’d love to believe that I am strong enough to do it as well. Yes, I think I am, I will not give up on us, no matter how hard it’ll be.
I nearly slept through my alarm Monday morning after a somewhat restless night. I was too distracted by thoughts of Conrad to sleep soundly. I’m feeling slightly anxious about today. I’m sure everything will be fine, but my mind will require some control, I must keep myself from fantasizing all day.
After a long shower, I throw on my favorite worn-out skinny jeans, a white tank top and one of my old, red flannel button-ups that Desiree hates. She calls them my lumberjack shirts. I finish off the look with my black high-top converse. My hair is down and still damp, so I quickly wrap it up into a messy bun on the top of my head and forgo makeup. I think I’m comfortable enough around Conrad that I don’t have to be all dolled up for a Monday morning.
When I reach the kitchen, my sister is just sitting down with some cereal. She frowns when she sees me.
“What?” I ask at her scrutiny.
“Seriously, Syd? You’re going to school looking like that?” she says, voice full of disapproval.
“Yeah so?” I shrug.
“If I were dating the sexiest thing to set foot in our school, I would try a little harder.”
“Dang it Hailey,” I growl, looking around nervously, "I don’t need mom or dad to hear that."
“Relax, the rents aren’t here. They left earlier this morning,” Hailey tells me.
I relax instantly, letting my shoulders slump. I head to the counter and pour myself a bowl of Captain Crunch and join my sister at the table.
“So, you saw Dane last night?” I mention, casually.
Hailey cocks an eyebrow at me in confusion.
“Yeah, I did. How’d you know?”
“I saw you get out of his car last night when Conrad was walking me home.”
“Oh ok,” she nods and takes a bite of cereal.
“And?” I press
“It went surprisingly well,” she says, and I see a smile form on her glossy pink lips.
“And?” I repeat.
“He’s not going to mess with you guys. He said that he realized doing something would only push you further away from him, and he’d rather have you as just a friend than not at all.”
This happily surprises me. Hailey nods again.
“He really is a sweetheart,” she continues, “I’ve never really noticed.”
“He’s always been that way, Hailey, you just ignored him before,” I point out, and then add, “well he had always been a sweetheart until recently, but maybe he’s coming back.”
“Can I ask you something, Sydney?”
“Would you think it’s weird if I were to go out with Dane?”
“What?” I blurt.
Hailey stays quiet and just stares at me while I let this sink in.
“No, I guess not,” I finally answer, “Why would it?”
“Because he’s been in love with you for like- ever?”
“Which makes me wonder why you’d be interested in him,” I respond.
“Yeah, don’t think that I didn’t consider that, but after spending a few hours with him last night, I really saw something in him, and liked it a lot. Maybe I can help him move on.”
“If you want to date Dane, I wholeheartedly say that I hope it works out for you, I just want you to be careful because I don’t want you to get hurt.”
And the selfish part of me hopes it works out so that he’ll leave Conrad and me alone.
“Do you think Dane would hurt me?” she asks, looking uncertain.
“I’d like to say no, but with his new popular status, I just hope he hasn’t become a player.”
“Well, he was fully ready to devote himself to you, so probably not. Maybe he can devote himself to me instead,” Hailey smiles.
“Wow, you’re taking this well. I don’t think I’d love the idea of being somebody’s rebound.”
“It’s not a rebound if you never dated in the first place, and he’s just been so into you for so long, he just doesn’t know any different because he’s never tried. I just need to help him shift his focus,” Hailey explains, and it sort of makes sense I suppose, in a bizarre way.
“Alright Hailey, if you say so. Even still, be careful.”