It’s kind of sad how they think I don’t know about the surprise farewell party they have planned for me. Mom tried and failed to keep it a secret but she’s not the best at that. But I am supposed to act surprised for the benefit of Abe who as I have come to understand is the one who suggested and managed the plans.
I will miss my older brother, it is undoubted but I have reached the stage in my life where I must leave the nest and start my own life. I’m going back to Manchester, to our heritage. I am aware that Britain is on the other side of the world from America. But that is precisely the reason I picked there to study. I have become too American- which really isn’t such a bad thing but I am afraid I need to get back in the groove. I am also going so far away so I have an excuse when I don’t come for any of the holidays. Abe and my father may have finally settled their differences but I am afraid that is not something I can do.
Right now I’m at Frizilla with Eli, who is doing a fine job of acting like nothing is up- or maybe she doesn’t know about the party. She and Abe are going to Michigan State University together, they have decided to rent an apartment in-state. Of course, they will have two other roommates but I still think living together is such a big step. But they are so darn in love it is almost painful to watch them.
I’m not jealous of my brother. No. I backed off from Eli the minute I realised he had feelings for her. I am more jealous of the relationship they have. I want to have that kind of relationship with someone. But every single girl I date is flawed, and thankfully I always find that flaw before going in too deep. The only girl I ever loved is Tris. But we never had a special relationship because of her situation at the time. We may not have had a relationship but we shared a bond. Im not over her death, it’s not something you get over in eight months but now I feel like I can think about her and say her name without wanting to break down in tears. My love wasn’t reason enough for her to want to keep living. And that is something I am slowly beginning to come to terms with.
“Josh,” Eli frowns, glaring at me. “You are not listening.”
“Yes, I am,” I say. “You were just talking about how awesome it would be if you, me and Abe went to a strip club and you danced for us.”
“No, I wasn’t,” she laughs, punching my shoulder. For someone her height and build, Eli has quite the powerful punch but I will sooner gut myself than let her know that.
“Was that supposed to hurt?” I smirk, shrugging off the pain in my shoulder.
Her pupils dilate and she curls her fingers into a fist, preparing for a second assault. This time, I move away because I don’t think a fractured scapula would be very comfortable during a seven-hour flight.
She huffs, looking painfully adorable as she begins to murmur about how she’ll skewer me in her sleep. Eli seems to think she is an intimidating person, and for some reason, most of the world agree with her. But when I look at her, I just see my best friend who makes my heartbeat erratic and my defences turn to mush.
I think it is pretty obvious that I still have feelings for her. Just because I said I backed off doesn’t mean, my feelings didn’t grow. But I don’t want to feel this way. I don’t want to like her knowing my love can never match Abe’s. These feelings need to die. I have to kill them all. Moving away will help get rid of them.
“Can we go to your treehouse?” She asks. “I know you don’t think it is safe for two people to be there at once but I really want to go there one last time with you while I still have the chance.”
I go up there with Keith and Abe all the time- well since graduating from high school anyway. Eli once wanted to go up there with me. That was before she and Abe had become official but he had confided in me that he was interested snd I could see that his feelings were reciprocated. I knew if I was left alone with Eli for long I would not have been able to control my desire to kiss her so I lied to her about that. And now it has come to bite me back in the ass.
“I don’t know,” I say, slowly.
“Please,” she pouts, looking like the best thing since ketchup.
Oh, God. How can I say no to that?
“Fine,” I sigh, regretting my easy submission when she cheers in delight.
“Come on, let’s go right now. Your mom wants you home early so we need to need now.” She says rapidly, grabbing my hand and tossing a few notes on the table to pay for our fries.
“Slow down there Little Red,” I say when she begins dragging me towards her bike.
“What?” She snaps, turning around to look at me with an impatient look on her face.
I smirk. It is so hard not to want to tease her when I see that adorable lool of irritation on her face. I can’t even remember why I stopped her.
“You forgot to tip the waiter.”
She flips me the bird and continues marching ahead. Of course, once she gets to her bike she has to wait for me because we came together on her ride. I love riding with Eli on her bike. It gives me a chance to be closer to her without raising suspicion because I need to hold on tight. Of course, Eli just thinks its because I have taken a liking to dirt bikes.
“Hold on tight sweetie,” she orders, smirking mischievously at me as she revs the engine.
“I intend to,” I murmur, wrapping my hands around her waist and inhaling the lavender soap in her hair. She doesn’t hear me over the roar of the wind.
Time Skip To When They Reach The Treehouse
I watch the awe on Eli’s face as she walks around the treehouse. She stops in my ‘pencil corner’ the place I sit for endless hours pencilling things I have seen and mimicking nature in black and white.
“I remember this,” her voice is quiet as she stares at the painting. The painting of her and rhe fountain. It was very difficult for me to focus on the fountain when she was sitting there but it would have been obvious I have a crush if I had made her the cynosure.
While she stares at her likeness, I stare at herself. I am so proud of her hair- I made the braids for her- but it isn’t the best thing about her. It falls in red ringlets about her pale skin, so striking that it is the only thing anyone ever commented on. But Eli barely notices it- she even tells me she hates it sometimes. I can drink in her words like a strong wine and enjoy feeling tipsy. I watch her like she has the stars in her hands and soft petals at her feet. I wanted to wrap her in my arms and never let go.
She’s not yours.
She’s not yours.
She’s not yours.
Repeating the words is my way of trying to ingrain them into my mind so I can accept the reality. Eli chose Abe. Eli isn’t mine. They even have a beautiful ship name that makes perfect sense- Ailder. I should be happy for them. But I can no longer stand being around them. That is why I have to go. If I go far enough, I’m sure it will be easier to move on.
“You can have it,” I break the silence, moving to stand next to her in front of the painting. It’s a magnificent piece, nothing compared to the real deal. I know that if I take this painting with me to Manchester, I will never move on. So I have to give it to her. Because I did make it for her. “If you want.”
“Are you sure?” She asks with timid hope, looking up at me through her lashes. Someone kill me now or her beauty will.
“Yes,” I say. “Please, take it.”
“I love you, Josh,” she grins. Then hastily adds words that feel like a spear straight through my heart. “As a friend of course.”
“I love you too.”
Not as a friend.
I can’t make her smile the way Abe does. I can’t make her laugh the way Abe does. I can’t kiss her the way Abe does. I can’t hold her the way Abe does.
I’m not Abe, I’m Josh Bennett.
Everybody loves Josh Bennett. But nobody loves like Josh Bennett.
She doesn’t love me. And I shouldn’t love her. Because I know I’m not the type of man she’s looking for. Abe is good for her, he’ll treat her right and keep her happy. I just want her to be happy. I’m not the one she wants. And yet she’s all I want.
But that’s not right. That can’t be right. But there’s a way that can make it right. And I know that means I’ll have to leave.
So I’ll go, I’ll go.
I smile at her. It’s a sad smile, a smile that gives her a glimpse of the heartbreak I feel, the rejection, the sadness, the anger, the pain, the longing. All of it moulded into stormy blue eyes.
“I want you to be happier.”