Soundtrack To My Youth (book 1)

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Hey Jealousy

It had be two decades since I sat in Lucas’ car but it looked exactly how I remembered it, the red paint was so glossy from being washed and buffed every weekend, the wheels so shinny, the stereo which would light up a funky blue colour once the engine roared to life, the comfortable seats which looked almost brand new even though the car was already 5 years old and the smell of coconut that wafted from the hanging air freshener.

Lucas loved this car more than he had ever loved anything because he had worked so hard, stacking shelves at the local supermarket every weeknight and on weekends. He took so much pride in make sure it looked immaculate and in the best condition making me believe that any girl in his life, including myself, would always come second to the car...or third if you included how much he loved himself too.

“I have to pick Charlotte up from preschool first” I tells me, turning the key in the ignition and making the V8 engine loudly rumble like a beast. I look out the tinted window at Sam’s truck, wishing I was sitting in the passenger seat next to him right now.

We didn’t talk much during Maths but I could tell he thinking of every worst case scenario and as much as I tried hard to settle his insecurity it still raged on within him. All I could do was prove to him that nothing would happen, that this was strictly a school assignment and nothing more.

Lucas parked the car curb side out the front of Little Learner Preschool and got out, leaving me wondering if I should follow him inside the preschool or just wait in the car. I decided to stay put and no sooner had Lucas stepped inside the small, rainbow painted building that was covered in pictures of children playing, he emerged with a small, dirty blonde haired, blue eyed girl who had a backpack on her back almost the same size she was. Lucas opened the back door behind the passenger seat for her to climb in, she took her bag off and scooted across the seat to the position behind Lucas and strapped herself in, her eyes going wide with excitement once she spotted me sitting in the front.

“Ronica” She exclaims, clapping her hands and bouncing with joy. “You’ve come to play with us today. I haven’t sawed you in the longest of times but I missed you lots and lots.”

It’s hard not to love Charlotte, she was just the most sweetest child you’d ever meet, she struggled a bit with her vocabulary, unable to pronounce my full name yet but she was a very intelligent little girl, well above children her own age.

Although she and Lucas shared the same hair and eye colour that’s where the similarities between the siblings ended with Charlotte looking more like their father and Lucas looked a little bit like his Mum but not much and nothing like Roy.

“Veronica can’t play today Char, we have homework to do” Lucas tells his sister who immediately pouts at the news at I’m not coming over to have fun.

“Ronica can do what she wants, you are not the boss of her”

I try hard to hide my laughter at how much truth is in the little girls statement but I know I can’t encourage her attitude at all, otherwise she’ll walk all over me and we’ll get nothing done today.

“What did you do at school today Princess?” I ask her, turning in my seat to give her my full attention.

“I took my heart thumper to school so I could listen to everyones hearts” She proudly tells me, digging a real stethoscope from her bag and holding it out for me to see.

“Where did you get this?” I ask her, marvelling at the fact that this kid doesn’t just play with a toy doctor kit, no way, only the best for Charlotte.

“My boyfriend Sammy gave it to me, he said it used to be his Daddy’s a long, long time ago” She explains, placing the ear tips in her tiny ears and the silver plate over her chest to find her heartbeat, she’s just too cute

“Sam is not your boyfriend Charlotte” Lucas corrects his sister but she shakes her head like he’s very wrong and knows nothing.

“He’s a boy and he’s my friend” She tells him firmly. “One day when we are grown ups him and I are going to get married and have lots of babies.” Alright kid, you may be cute and all but keep your eyes off my boy, he’s all mine.

“You might be waiting a while for that day to come Char because Sam now has a girlfriend who I don’t think is willing to share him” Lucas smiles at me after acknowledging my relationship with Sam for the first time. I thought for sure that the subject of Sam would be off limits between us.Lucas brings the car to a stop in his driveway. Charlotte immediately undoes her seat belt and slides herself in-between us, her little face lighting up when she places the stethoscope on me and searches for my heart.

“He loves me the mostest, he says I’m his favourite girl and he gives me presents because he loves me” She coos, settling the stethoscope in one place and listening, she then moves it over to Lucas and does the same thing to him but pulls back frowning. “You have no heart Lukie.” She looks terrified after breaking the bad news.

“Veronica would agree with you on that Char” Lucas moves the plate onto where his heart actually is and Charlotte looks relieved. She swings her door open and makes her way up to the house, leaving Lucas and I alone in the car, without her as a buffer.

“So that’s my competition?” I joke, still treading the water when it comes to talking about Sam. Lucas chuckles and shakes his head.

“Oh yeah, she’s got it bad for Lions, she even named the bear she cuddles up to at night Sammy and won’t go to sleep unless he’s next to her. I didn’t want to tell her that you were the said girlfriend, she may be little but she can get real mean when someone takes what’s hers.”

A sibling trait they have in common it seems, although I don’t see Charlotte keying my car anytime soon.

We opened the car doors and walked towards the house, a house I never in my wildest dreams thought I’d be stepping inside of again but here I was, following Lucas willingly and every memory I ever made here came flooding back like a tsunami, hitting me hard and fast and leaving me with the reminder of the destruction I had to clean up after I was finally done with Lucas for good.

Lucas’ dad was sprawled out on the couch before us, a mass empty beer bottles lay on the floor in front of the couch, indicating how he had spent his day. A part of me was slightly concerned that he may have drank himself to death this time because he didn’t move an inch when we came in but then, all of a sudden he let out a loud groan and rolled over.

Charlotte had set herself up a teddy bear hospital of sorts in the living room, there were enough plush animals to challenge Bridget’s own collection and all seemed to have been in the wars with bandaged arms, legs and heads. It was adorable to see the little girls imagination at play as she gave each teddy a check up and a kiss to get better.

“Do you wanna do it in my room?” Lucas whispered beside me, causing another, almost unwelcome memory of him deflowering me in his bed when we were 17, while his Mum cooked a roast dinner in the kitchen beneath us. It took me a few seconds to realise he wasn’t, for once, insinuating that we have sex, instead he was actually asking about the assignment we had.

“Oh...ah...I think in your dinning room would be better if that’s ok?” I was expecting a protest or grumble of some sort but he surprised me by nodding with agreement and walking towards the dinning room.

He was acting so different, so much...nicer. I guess his relationship with Kristen had made him a almost decent sort of guy, although I hadn’t spotted them sucking face lately so I couldn’t credit her too much.

Lucas’ house always smelt of the scent of cookies baking, a trick his Mum would use when she would do an open house she was trying to sell fast. She said it created a ‘homely’ feeling when people entered, so the could imagine it becoming their own dream home. She would light the candle and allow it to burn for an hour before the house inspection. It made me feel instantly hungry and had me digging through my bag for the rolled oats bar I didn’t eat at lunch, which made Lucas retreat into the kitchen and return with a plate of actual cookies.

“Just don’t tell Charlotte we ate them” He warned me as he placed the plate down on the table.

~~~

After about 2 hours we had churned out a pretty decent essay, it helped having insight into what Warden would be looking for, no history teacher wants to read 30 plus essays all on Hitler so I suggested we do ours from another aspect, focusing on prison camps and the holocaust which earned me many ‘good point’ and ‘You’re really great at this’ compliments from Lucas, making me almost forget that this was the same guy who once told me that I was ‘pretty average compared to the other girls in our year’

“How’s your Dad?” He randomly asks as I pull my phone out to text Sam and let him know that we’re finished and I’ll meet him out front. It was already 6:30 and I’m sure he was going out of his mind by now.

“My Dad?” I question Lucas, placing my phone on the table in front of me, he had thrown me off, distracting me from the task at hand. Why the fuck does he want to know about my Dad?

“You said the other day that he was sick? Is it serious?”

Now I remember, when I saw Lucas at the clinic he had asked why I was working there and I’d given him a vague answer about needing the job to help out Dad who was stepping back at work because he’s sick. I figured that Lucas was way too self absorbed to even notice my comment, let alone want a follow up.

“He’s not too good actually, he has asbestos poisoning in his lungs and it’s getting worse” The pinprick of tears well up in my eyes at just the thought of what my Dad is going through and how we will lose him. It never gets any easier.

“Oh Veronica, I’m so sorry, I feel horrible now, Your Dad may hate me, rightly so but he is such a decent man who doesn’t deserve this” His arm hovers over my shoulders, never touching them, it’s comforting to know he means well behind the gesture.

“My Dad doesn’t hate you” I lie, we both know it but I don’t want to hurt him when he’s being so sweet to me, it doesn’t seem right.

“He should, I was an absolute prick of a boyfriend, I’m surprised he never tried to cut off my balls if I’m being honest. If I had a daughter who had a boyfriend like me then I’d neuter him without a second thought” He laughs, making me smile through my tears at his frank honesty. It’s something I never thought I’d live to see, Lucas Stephenson admitting he did me wrong.

“Wow, Kristen must have you becoming a changed man, I like it”

“Kristen and I broke up after I found out that she lied to me. I’m not seeing anyone and I don’t plan on dating again until I can get myself in the right head space, that’s kinda why I started speaking to Daniel” He explains. I’m completely floored by his admission.

“I want you to trust that I’m not going to tell anyone about you seeing Daniel, I didn’t tell Sam either, if you’re worried about that” I promise him, reaching out to place my hand on his, a gesture between us that feels so foreign at the same time being so familiar. He casts his eyes down like he’s processing what I’m telling him and when he looks up at me I see tears in his eyes, actual tears. “If you need to talk about anything, I’m here”

“I tried to kill myself” His words cut me deeply with such shock, my hand flies off of his to cover my mouth.

“I’m so sorry Lucas, I never wanted to hurt you, Sam didn’t either... I’m so sorry that I caused you pain, if I’d had known that you would...”

“Veronica, you are not responsible for what I did, I was hurting but I had only myself to blame for that. I treated you poorly, Sam too, I took you both for granted, thinking you’d always be there but then suddenly you weren’t, I was on the outside and I realised that I’d caused all of this” I sympathised with Lucas greatly because I’d been there too, after I had finally walked away from him, I too felt a great loss, not only for the boyfriend who I’d loved but also for Sam, one of my best friends who I could no longer speak to. It was like a huge chunk of my life had been cut away overnight and adjusting to the change took a long time. Depression consumed me but I was fortunate to have Bridget and Kate to help me though it, Lucas, for a popular as he was, only really had Sam and Alex to call as close friends but now those friendships were fractured and it was him all alone.

“Is that why you stepped down from being school captain?”

“Pretty much. I didn’t want to be that guy any more, the one who needs the constant approval of people who don’t give a shit about no one. I wanted to be popular just so I could fill a void that was missing in my life and the deeper I got into it, the worse I became. You’re the only person who knows the real me, who I was when no one else was around” It was true, Lucas was a completely different person when we were alone, it’s the reason I kept coming back to him, I believed that one day he would see how he treats me in front of others and he’d want to change but the cheating proved that was never going to happen. “I took a lot of firsts from you that I shouldn’t have, like your first proper kiss and your virginity”

“You didn’t take those, they were consensually given by me, I wanted to do those things with you. You being way too hard on yourself, punishing yourself for things that are not your fault at all” I hate that he thinks he took that from me, I hate that he is beating himself up over it.

“They were never mine to take, they should have always been Sam’s, he loved you, even back then and I so jealous that I was going to lose his friendship if he dated you so I destroyed his chances with you. Sam was never a player but he was the new kid that no one knew a thing about and it was easy to manipulate them into believing he screwed around” He admits shamefully, regret etched across his face.

“Sam wouldn’t have stopped being your friend, he’s not like that”

“I know that now but back then I was scared, I’d had friends who had gotten girlfriends and suddenly they fall off the radar, can’t hang out, can’t do anything without her permission”

“So you thought if you could control the situation then the outcome would be within your favour?” I’m beginning to understand everything a lot clearer, Lucas wanted everything his way, he wanted to keep his friendship with Sam but the only way to do that was to ensure I wasn’t available to Sam but having a girlfriend he had to make sure he didn’t lose his freedom too, like he’d witnessed all his other friends do once they coupled up.

“Exactly, I was an idiot, I hurt Sam by going after you and I hurt you just to prove to the world that I wasn’t chained down and now I’ve lost everything because of my own stupidity.”

“Can I ask you something?”

“I think at this point I’m pretty much an open book to you Veronica, I owe you the truth and you have my word that I’ll deliver it so please, ask away”

I take a deep breath, the question I have in my mind has plagued me for years but I need to know.

“Did you ever love me or was it all just part of the game?”

His eyes stare deep into my own, he takes a few seconds to process what I’m asking him and he knows that I desperately need the truth. It won’t change us now, we’ll still be apart, I’ll still be with Sam but how he answers will change my whole perception of him forever.

“I did, I still do” He breaks eye contact with me for a moment before looking up again. “I wasn’t in love with you though, I know that that’s a shit thing to say to your ex girlfriend but you deserve my hone”

I feel a sense of relief pass over me, what he’s confessing is exactly how I felt too, I just didn’t realise it until I fell in love with Sam.

“I wasn’t in love with you either, I thought I was at the time because you were my first boyfriend and I didn’t have anything to compare it to but now I know, with great certainty that, even though I love you and always will, I was never actually in love with you Lucas” There’s a huge weight that has been lifted from my chest, I wasn’t just nothing to Lucas, he did actually love me and I loved him.

“Are you in love with Sam?” Lucas sheepishly asks, he has been honest with me and deserves it in return but the thought of hurting him is holding me back and he knows it. “You and Sam deserve to be happy together, I kept you both apart far too long, it’s your time now and I’m completely alright with it”

“I am in love with Sam, I love everything about him, the way he makes me laugh, how he squashes all my fears and insecurities, how he me feel about myself. I love him Lucas and I’m in love with him which is how I know that we will be alright next year when we do long distance” I gush, I never thought I’d be openly telling Lucas how I feel about Sam, his smile turns to concern though.

“Long distance?”

“Sam’s moving back to England for uni”

“That surprises me...” He says but is interrupted by his Mum, Gail, walking into the room and upon spotting me sitting at their dinning room table she makes a loud noise, a mixture of excitement and joy while she wraps her arms tightly around me.

“Oh my, Veronica, you’re just as beautiful as I remember” Gail had always built up my self confidence, I think because she was watching her son tear it down so often.

“So are you Gail” I pay the compliment back, she really is stunning, her dirty blonde hair matches her children’s, it’s long and wavy as it flows down her back and the piercing blue eyes make her face light up. She works hard to keep herself looking good, not that her pig of a husband ever notices. She could of had her pick of any man but still she stays with him.

“Oh Veronica, you’re a sweetheart, I’ve missed seeing you....” He voice trails off and she looks at Lucas with apologetic eyes as she realises why I haven’t been around there. “Would you like to stay for dinner? I’m thinking we might just order Chinese food because I had to work back and by the time I cook something Charlotte will be grouchy and over tired”

“Thank you for the offer Gail but Sam is coming to pick me up” Although Chinese food does sound extreme tempting I don’t want to leave Sam waiting any longer. Gail nods her head and leaves the room, leaving Lucas and I alone again.

“I miss you Veronica, not the girlfriend part but the friend part, I miss Sam too. I know I fucked up but I hope one day we can all be friends again?” My heart breaks for the boy who spent years breaking my own.

“I miss being your friend too Lucas” I do, without the complications of a romantic relationship Lucas and I had a good friendship. “You need to know that your life isn’t something you can just throw away, if you had succeeded then I would have been shattered, as would your Mum, Charlotte and Sam too, we love you Lucas and we need you in our lives.”

I stand up and he follows my lead, I throw my arms around him tightly, he resists at first, unsure that he’s allowed to hug me back but when he caves into it I feel all the tension he had been building up inside of him just melt away.

The loud sound of a throat clearing breaks us apart and I know before I even turn around that it is from Sam. Of all the things he had to see he didn’t need to see me and Lucas wrapped up in each other.

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