The Summer of Austin

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Chapter Eleven

Lara quickly rushed around her room as she tried to get ready for her impulsive decision. Her robe was thrown across the floor, in a way that was very unlike her usually organized self. She ruffled through her closet, trying to find something that would be good enough for the party.

She remembered Austin’s tips to stay away from light clothing while also showing a suitable but sexy amount of skin, but when she put all the criteria together, she found that she had limited clothing choices. Even though she had a large closet, she was completely stuck when it came to things that would work for a party in her classmate’s basement.

She let out an angry groan as she threw more clothes on the floor to try and find something that would be perfect for the party that she still wasn’t even sure why she was attending.

If only Freya and Elle were here.

The thought came to Lara out of desperation because of her clothing dilemma, but the second she thought it, she realized another fuck up on her part.

First, she completely abandoned everything she had known about herself and her typical behaviours just because some guy had texted her something nice.

And then, as she just realized right now, she had done all of this without thinking about her best friends once.

What the hell is happening to me? She thought as she stepped back from the rack of clothes in front of her.

How had Lara so quickly forgotten about her friends?

These were the girls who had been with her through the entirety of her stress from the last month. And yet here she was, about to go off to a party celebrating graduation without the girls who had helped her through it. She hadn’t even told them about what had been going on with Austin. She went to these girls with everything, but suddenly, she felt like she needed to hide things from them.

But for some reason, the Devil Lara on her shoulder kept convincing her that it was a good decision.

You are only just stopping by, she thought to herself. They would want to spend the rest of the night there, that’s not what you are going to do. And there’s no point in telling them about Austin, they’ll just blow it out of proportion.

She thought back to how they had reacted when Austin stopped to talk to her after the graduation ceremony, and they hadn’t even known that he had invited her to this party.

She guiltily turned back to her clothing rack as she tried to convince herself that she was right, but it wasn’t totally working.

And yet, she continued to sift through her clothes.

Lara took a deep breath as she pulled up to the tall front door that led to Rodger’s home, the same door that led to the most infamous parties.

She opted to drive her own car to the party. She didn’t think that drinking would be the best idea with all the stress she was feeling. Plus, she was still afraid of getting another hangover.

She got out of the car, locking the door behind her as she looked down at her outfit, trying to do a quick once over before going inside. She had chosen to wear a pair of dark blue ripped jeans and a pair of white platform Converse. As for the shirt, she had taken Austin’s advice of going with a darker colour in case there was another drink catastrophe. She could only find a black tank top that she typically wore as a layering piece underneath see-through blouses. She felt uncomfortable wearing only a top that she typically just used as an undershirt, so she layered it with a leather jacket, hoping it wouldn’t look weird if she kept it on for the entirety of her stay.

She let out a deep breath before quickly shooting a text off to Austin to let him know she had arrived.

She slowly started making her way to the grand front door that stood in front of her, trying to hype herself.

Do I have to ring the doorbell? Should I just walk inside? Is that rude? Lara kept thinking to herself as she kept her eyes trained on the tall, heavy looking door. As she was looking towards the door, it suddenly opened. She started to pick up her pace, hoping she could slide in and not have to deal with the awkward entrance that she was mulling over in her head.

She could make out the silhouette of whoever had opened the door, and she strained her eyes to try and make out who it was, preparing herself for the small talk that she would have to make with them.

“Oh, hey!” The person called as they stepped into the light.

Rodger Hemmings stood in front of her, towering over her.

Rodger was huge to say the least. He was a superstar lineman on the school football team, and was going to Notre Dame on a full-ride football scholarship. Lara felt even smaller than usual standing next to him. She was already shorter than average to begin with, and her wiry frame had gotten even skinnier with the stress of the last month. Next to Rodger, she felt like a child. She felt even more out of place now. It was as if she was someone’s little sister who had snuck in. Even though this was a group of people who were her age, who she had spent four years with, she felt totally inadequate.

“Your speech was great,” Rodger said, patting her on the back. She winced as what he probably thought was a light pat shook her whole body. “Austin told me you were coming. He hasn’t shut up about it.”

Wait, what?

Lara felt her jaw drop, and hoped Rodger didn’t notice. She couldn’t help but have a physical reaction to Rodger’s comment, even though she knew it would probably make her look crazy if he had noticed.

She awkwardly coughed, trying to shake off her surprise. “Really?” She asked, hoping her voice wasn’t shaking as much as her hands were.

“Yeah, he’s so excited that you decided to come by. Something about making up for the last party? Or did he say make out?” Lara felt her face flush as her stomach soared with butterflies at the comment. “Do you have a lighter?” He said as he pulled a cigarette out of his pocket.

Lara laughed at the thought of her having a lighter on her, considering she rarely drank, and had never smoked in her life. Clearly Rodger didn’t realize that she lacked in her extra-curricular partying activities. More accurately, he probably just never thought about what she did in her off time, or even noticed that she was absent at almost every party.

She declined, and he cursed under his breath. He turned to go back into his house to try and find a lighter, inviting Lara inside his house.

The mansion was just as grand as the door that held it together. With tall ceilings adorned with gold detailing, Lara silently cringed at the gaudiness of the home. Growing up with her grandfather’s modern yet classy style that her father had also adopted in his architectural style had made her appreciate understated style, as opposed to the in-your-face, money-flaunting one that was evident throughout Rodger’s home.

Her tastes in everything else matched the way she thought about house styles. She wasn’t the type to flaunt her wealth. Despite the fact that her family did very well financially, she rarely wore designer clothes, and if she did, it was never anything that was obnoxiously printed. Sure, she had some nice clothes and a nice car, but it was never something that she advertised to the world on social media, or by constantly bragging to the people around her.

She couldn’t say the same about some of her classmates, especially Aubrey.

The girl was constantly showing off all her new designer clothes all over Instagram, and would constantly talk about how much they had to their friends at school, ignoring the fact that her classmates all had a significant amount of wealth too.

There was nothing she hated more than people who were only into flaunting, and she thought everyone else should be on the same page as her, yet she saw her fair share of pretentious people everywhere she went.

As Lara followed Rodger down to the basement, she realized that she had somehow ended up in a room full of the kind of people she hated.

There were a ton of people that she didn’t recognize, so she figured they were probably from the other high schools in the area.

The other private high schools, evidently.

Lara had never seen this many designer monograms all in one place. Not even department stores were like this.

Everywhere she looked, she saw Balenciaga printed sweaters, Gucci belts and Louis Vuitton clutches, among many others.

These were the kind of people Austin hung out with? Was Austin the same way outside of school when it came to flaunting his wealth?

Lara felt stupid all at once. He dated Aubrey, what else did she expect from him? Of course he was fine with this kind of obnoxious style, his girlfriend was the poster child for it.

Or was it ex-girlfriend? She thought to herself as Rodger’s words came back to her.

Did he really say all of that about her? And if it was true, would he still be saying that if he was with Aubrey?

Lara felt the butterflies awaken in her stomach again as she pondered over the possibility.

Almost as if her thoughts had summoned him, he was suddenly standing in front of her.

“LARA!” He screamed, as he wrapped her into a bear hug. “You’re here!”

“I am!” She said awkwardly, hoping her cheeks wouldn’t be red by the time he let go of her.

“I’m so happy you decided to come by! We need a redo of prom,” he said, as he took a step back to look at her. “Oh, hey, you listened!”

“What do you mean?”

“You found a dark coloured, hot shirt,” he said.

Lara self-consciously wrapped her leather jacket tighter around her. Did he call my shirt hot? Oh my God, does he think I’m hot?

“It’s so hot in here, I can put your jacket away in a closet,” he said, subtly moving his eyes to her chest before quickly moving back to look her in the eye, hoping he did it quick enough before she noticed.

No such luck for him, as Lara couldn’t take her eyes off of him. Every movement he made, she took it in, trying to find the hidden message behind everything he did.

Lara felt shy about the idea of taking off her leather jacket. She felt practically half naked wearing the tank top. The issue wasn’t how much skin she was showing off; it was the quality of the shirt that wasn’t great. It was strictly an undershirt for her, and she felt like it was way too thin and flimsy to be wearing it on it’s own, especially in public. On the other hand, she felt stupid saying this to Austin as an excuse to keep her jacket on.

Fuck it, she thought to herself as she pulled her jacket off. The basement was poorly lit, so hopefully it would be dim enough that no one would even notice. Plus, it was so hot down there. She had been downstairs for less than 10 minutes, and could already feel a pool of sweat dripping down to the small of her back.

Austin took Lara’s jacket from her and started to make his way to a closet. Not wanting to stay by herself, Lara decided to follow behind him.

They passed through the sweaty basement, squeezing their way through the crowds of people.

Finally, they ended up in a secluded area of the basement, where a door that presumably held the closet was.

“There’s so many people here,” Lara said. She felt lame the second the words came out of her mouth.

“Yeah, I didn’t think there was going to be this many people. Rodger told me it was just supposed to be people from Riverview but it turns out every other private school got the invite too.”

“Do you hang out with these guys often?” Lara asked, even though she was afraid to hear the answer. She wasn’t sure that she was ready to hear the confirmation that Austin was as shallow as Aubrey was.

“No, not really. I’m just here to support Rodger, honestly. I don’t even know how I end up at these things half the time,” he said. Lara nodded, but she felt a weight lift off her shoulders from his answer. “Are you okay?” Austin asked.

“Huh? Yeah,” she said, feeling embarrassed as he probably noticed her attitude change from his answer.

“Okay, I just wanted to make sure. I know parties aren’t really your scene.” Lara was relieved that he hadn’t noticed her blunder, but she was also touched. He not only remembered that she hated parties, but he was also concerned about her.

“Yeah, that’s true, but I’m okay. I just wanted to stop by and say hi. I’ll probably leave if it gets too much.”

“Well, I’m happy you came here to say hi to me,” Austin said.

He smiled at Lara, and she felt more and more butterflies awake in her stomach and flutter around her entire body. She felt like she was buzzing.

“You were very persistent,” she replied while laughing.

“I wanted to see you.”

Is he flirting with me? Is this flirting? Lara tried to keep her thoughts under control, but they kept racing around her head. The butterflies were moving just as quickly. Between all the movement in her body, she was scared that she was either going to explode or vomit. Or maybe both.

Shit, say something. Say something! She thought to herself as she realized that she was just staring at Austin like an idiot.

“Did you?”

That was lame.

“Mmmmhmmmm,” he drawled as he looked down at her.

Is this going to happen? What is this? Lara willed her mind to calm down as she looked back up at Austin, not wanting to break eye contact with him.

“Well, I guess I’m happy that I came too,” she said, still staring back at him.

“I was wondering if--” But Lara wasn’t able to hear what Austin was wondering as he was interrupted.

“BAAAAAAABE,” an annoying voice called out as she wrapped her arms around Austin.

Of course, it was Aubrey.

Wait? Babe? Aubrey?

The way that Austin was acting towards Lara did not make it seem like he should still be considered “babe” by Aubrey.

“LARA,” she screamed, drawing out the last letter of her name. “I didn’t know you were invited.”

Lara’s butterflies all died at once, and her thoughts went quiet.

How stupid was she to think that Austin was being anything more than nice?

Scratch that. He wasn’t being nice at all. He obviously knew about her childish crush on him, and instead of just turning her down nicely, he invited her here to remind her he was still with Aubrey.

She felt like an idiot for ever thinking that Austin would leave Aubrey. Especially for someone like her.

“I was actually just leaving,” Lara said, grabbing her leather jacket back from Austin. “Nice seeing you guys,” she said, as she rushed out.

She quickly padded up the stairs, taking them two at a time, wanting to get out of there as soon as she could.

She ran through the gaudy entryway, happy to get out of the overly-done house, full of overdressed people trying to one-up each other.

“Lara! Wait up.” She knew that the voice calling her belonged to Austin, and she was in no mood to listen to him, especially since he was probably just going to make fun of her. He called her name again, louder this time, but she still ignored him.

She finally reached her car, but just as she was about to get in, she felt Austin grab her wrist.

“Lara, what the hell happened?” He said between gasps as he tried to catch his breath.

“Nothing, I’m just going to go.”

“Seriously, what’s going on?”

“Listen, I totally misunderstood what was going on here. It’s my fault, we don’t have to speak about it again. I need to go.” She pulled out of his grip as she got into the car, quickly turning on the engine to drive away.

As she looked into the rear view mirror, she saw Austin still standing there, having the audacity to be the one looking confused.

She drove off the property, and let the tears flow.

Angry tears, sad tears, all of it.

It was the last time she would ever let herself be this stupid.

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