As I lay in Conrad’s arms, his warm skin against mine, all my doubts seem so far away. He’s my first love, is it so crazy to believe he could be my last? Could we defy the odds against us? Who knows what will happen in the future? How do I know for sure that his success would mean doom for us? I want him to find success in whatever he does, why couldn’t I be a part of it? Why go through everything that we do just to break up over a hypothetical situation?
“What are you thinking about? Conrad asks, stroking my arm.
“I’m thinking about why I’m so sure we’re going to fail. You’ve never given me a reason to think that we will. If anything, you’ve been doing everything you can to show me that we won’t. So why am I so stubborn to see that?”
“I know it seems that there are a lot of factors against us, but we just have to fight harder, that’s all. I’m fully prepared to throw down if you are… and maybe even if you’re not.”
“I don’t want to be weak, Conrad. I do want to fight for us. I need to be braver, and I know that.”
Conrad rolls onto his side so we can face each other.
“Here’s what I’ve been thinking about the whole tour situation. At first, I thought: I could just ask Sydney to come with me, but that’s not fair to you.”
“Because you are a brilliant girl Sydney, and I know that you’ve been accepted to a lot of great schools, and I don’t want to hold you back. I won’t. You are going to start college as soon as the summer is over.”
“That sounds like an order. Would it be so bad if I took a year before I went back to school?”
“As your teacher, I highly recommend that you don’t take a year off. Too many times, those one-year breaks turn into two, three, so on and so forth. I’m privy to the fact that you have a lot of scholarships coming your way too. Take advantage of those because college is not cheap.”
“I know you’re right,” I nod, “so what? You’ll be away touring, and I’ll be in school, then what?”
“We’ll just have to do the long-distance thing for a while. We can see each other during school breaks.”
“That doesn’t feel like enough.”
“I know it doesn’t Syd, but it’s only temporary. Just think of the payoff at the end, though. You’ll have a quality education, and who knows where my music will take me, and if it doesn’t work out, then I always have my teaching. Either way, I fully intend on being with you through it all.”
“So you won’t meet some awesome woman on tour and fall in love with her? You can’t guarantee that won’t happen,” I say dubiously.
“Yes I can,” he responds confidently, “If my heart is with you completely, which it is, then it won’t be open to anyone else.”
“You sound so sure of yourself.”
“How about you, Sydney? What if you meet someone in college? Someone who is around all the time, someone your age, someone who you don’t feel like you have to fight for?”
“I don’t care about age, and I prefer a challenge.”
“Are you sure about that Syd? You seemed ready to give up earlier.”
I take a deep breath and stare up at the ceiling. Right now is the time to be really upfront.
“I’m a little all over the place, I know. But I love you, Conrad, and all of my doubt stems from my fear of losing you. I guess I figured if I ended it first, it would hurt less than if you ended it. I don’t think I could handle that. I want to be with you, and I know it may seem naïve, but I hope that it’s forever, no matter how hopeless that is.”
“It’s not naïve Sydney. I think most couples that fall in love hope that it’ll last forever, but it’s when it gets difficult that they decide forever is too much work. Luckily, I believe that if you work hard for something, you’ll appreciate it all the more and keep on working to make sure you keep it.”
I turn and meet Conrad’s steady gaze then.
“Promise?” I ask.
“Do you?” he replies.
“I do,” I say without hesitating, “I promise I’ll stop doubting us and fight for us instead.”
“And I promise to take down anything and anyone who tries to come between us. Sydney, you’re my girl, and nothing is going to change that.”
Around five in the morning just before the sun rises, both Harrison and Conrad have to sneak out and get back to their place. I set my alarm again and manage to steal a couple more hours of sleep, feeling much better about where Conrad and I stand now. I need to stop my fretting and just feel secure in the way he feels about me. This is the first real relationship I’ve ever had, so I have no point of reference on how to deal with all these relationship issues.
I wake up at seven-thirty, feeling surprisingly well-rested. I suppose it’s because I got to spend most of the night wrapped in Conrad’s arms. It’s the first time we’ve spent almost the entire night together, and it was amazing. I can’t wait until we can do it again, and then every night I hope. We just have to make it through the rest of this year and next. Yes, it will be hard, but we made a promise to each other that we’re strong enough to come out of it together. I want nothing more than to stay with Conrad. How I could even consider giving him up, I don’t know. I would have immediately regretted it, that much I do know.
I wander to Desiree’s room and crack her bedroom door open and have a peek before barging in. She’s already out of bed; I can hear her shower running. I grab my toiletry bag and clothes and head to the other bathroom. After I’m done, I go back to Des’s room, where she is already fully dressed and blow-drying her hair. She smiles at me when she sees me, and I return it.
“You look quite glowy this morning,” she says, “I’m assuming everything turned out good after last night’s little drama?”
“Yeah, everything is great,” I tell her, “we talked everything through, and we’ve decided that we’re strong enough to handle him leaving for the tour. How about you and Harrison? What happened after we went upstairs?”
Desiree grins a sheepish grin then.
“You hooked up?” I guess.
“Well yeah…but not until after we talked as well.”
“Oh? And what did you discuss?”
“We’re just going to take it day by day, for now, and get to know each other better and see where we stand by the time they leave. We’re too new to proclaim anything. We’re not you and Conrad by any means.”
“That sounds like a good way to play it for now,” I agree.
“Yeah. We’re just going to have fun for now, but we both agreed it would only be with each other.”
“So not super serious, but exclusive all the same?”
“Pretty much. Anyway, topic change. You know, it’ll be strange to see Conrad today knowing that he spent the night at my house having sex with my best friend,” she says with a giggle.
“Well don’t think about it then,” I reply dryly.
“So tell me, what does he look like naked? As good as I picture it?”
“Desiree!” I exclaim, and she just laughs.
“Please don’t picture my boyfriend naked- but yes, and probably better than you picture it,” I say.
We both burst out laughing then. What almost ended up being a disastrous night turned into a pretty darn good one.
We take Desiree’s vehicle and make it to school by eight-thirty. After grabbing our books, we head off to our first classes of the day. When I get to Biology, Dane is already there. He waves and smiles at me as I make my way to our desk and sit down.
“Hey, partner,” he says.
“Hey,” I reply.
“You look like you’re in a good mood today,” he comments.
“May I ask why?”
“No reason,” I tell him.
We may have made up, but I’m not ready to divulge the inner workings of my love life with him. I feel like I can trust him, but there’s a naggy little feeling in the back of my mind telling me that I should hold my tongue.
“So I took your sister out last night,” he tells me instead, thankfully not prodding.
“Really? My parents let her go out on a school night?”
“They let you don’t they?” he asks.
“I guess so, but I’m less of a trouble maker.”
“Are you sure about that?” He asks with a smirk.
“Well…usually,” I say with a shrug, “so what’d you guys do?”
“I took her to a movie. Were you with him last night?”
I take that back. He’s still prodding.
“No, I was at Desiree’s,” I half-lie, and he nods slowly.
“What did you two get up to last night?”
“She and I watched a movie, nothing exciting. So tell me more about your date with my sister.”
“We had fun. Hailey's a great girl. It’s too bad. I never noticed it sooner. Though she never gave me any notice until recently, even though I used to go to your house at least once a week to study with you.”
“To be fair, you never gave her much notice either,” I retort.
“Yeah, I wonder why that is?”
“Anyway, I’m glad you two are together,” I say quickly, knowing this line of the topic needs to be steered elsewhere.
Dane just nods then, then turns in his seat to face the front just as the teacher walks in.
After class, Dane just murmurs his goodbye, telling me he’ll see me in our next class. I just hum my acknowledgment and head to my locker to grab my books for English. I feel like our conversation today was kind of weird and had an edge to it, but I don’t know why. I file it away, deciding that I’m probably just feeling paranoid, but I should keep the tab open just in case. I hurry to Conrad’s classroom, hoping to get there first, but when I get to the door, it’s closed. Forgetting my manners, I open the door. I’m surprised when I see someone else in the room, Dane.
He and Conrad look over at me, both look a tad startled, but they recover quickly.
“Will that be all Mr. Phillips?” Conrad asks Dane, looking slightly pissed off. I assume it’s because he already doesn’t like Dane, but has to tolerate him because he’s a student.
“What’s going on?” I ask curiously.
Usually, as a student, I would know that this is none of my business, but since the three of us are aware of what we all are to each other, I believe I do have the right to ask.
“Oh nothing,” Dane says quickly, “I just needed help with an assignment, isn’t that right Con – er… Mr. Riley?”
Conrad clears his throat and plasters a weird smile on his face before looking at me again.
“Yes, nothing to be worried about. Dane is just having some trouble with his next essay. And seeing that I am his teacher, it’s my job to help him, even if I do find him irritating as hell.”
“Oh hey now, Mr. Riley, is that any way to talk to your students?” Dane says in a teasing tone.
Conrad glares at Dane.
“Just take your seat, class will be starting soon, and you need a head start,” Conrad says through his teeth.
I walk over to Conrad’s desk just as he takes his seat behind it. He looks up at me expectantly, knowing I’m about to ask him something.
“Is everything okay?” I ask quietly, just as a few more students enter the room.
“Yes, Ms. Chase. Now please take your seat. We have a lot to go over today.”
I sigh in resignation. This would be one of those hard times. When all I want to do is talk to my boyfriend, who is clearly pissed or upset about something, and I can’t. Even though he has to address me like a student in front of others, it’s still difficult to take sometimes, knowing how he is with me in private. I guess I’ll just have to wait until after school to talk to him.
As soon as the bell rings at three-thirty, I grab my stuff and rush outside. I find a spot at an empty picnic table and whip out my phone. I tap out a message to Conrad.
*What was that all about today with you and Dane?
He responds after a few minutes.
*I told you, he needed help with his assignment. It just seemed tense because I don’t trust him one bit. I don’t like him, but I still have to treat him just like any other student.
*Are you sure? You both were acting kinda weird
*I’m sure. He knows how I feel about him, and I think he takes some satisfaction in knowing he has something on me, so he has a bit of an attitude with me.
*Sorry about him.
*Why are you apologizing? It’s not your fault.
*Because he’s my friend.
*Yeah about that…is that up for discussion?
*Haha! Are you being a jealous boyfriend?
*Yes, I’ll admit it. So, can we?
*I’ll take it under advisement.
*I advise that you tell that little prick to bugger off.
*He’s not really a prick.
I defend Dane. I know he’s not so bad, but I do understand why Conrad has a problem with him.
*Trust me, he is.
*I’m kind of serious though, Sydney. I know he’s hanging out with your sister and all, but I think you still need to be careful around him. I REALLY don’t want you to hang out with him anymore.
*I think you're just being a worrywart. Dane is one of my oldest friends. I can’t just stop being his friend because you don’t like him.
* >:( We’ll revisit this topic later. I have to go. There are some things I need to take care of today. I’ll call you later. Xoxo
*OK. Love You! Xoxo
*Love you too, Syd.
I put my phone away and giggle to myself at Conrad’s disdain for Dane. Dane promised he wouldn’t do anything, and he really isn’t a bad guy, despite what Conrad must think, but he just doesn’t know him like I do.