Here, away from home the sun feels warmer, the sky is clearer and the grass is greener. Happiness is in everything, even the most simple of things. Like raindrops, everyone is so quick to grab their umbrella and complain about getting wet. But when you’re truly happy you grab your smile and dance in the rain.
I don’t need to worry about returning home to Jax, I don’t need think about how I’m going to afford to cover the monthly bills or when I’m going to get my next meal. My bruises have faded and my guard has relaxed a little, although not completely diminished. At college I can live out the last years of my adolescence exactly like I should have in high school. For the first time in my life I can be my true self but in order to be myself I needed to find myself first.
O: Hey! I’m running a little late, meet you in thirty.
Let’s not pretend you’re fully carefree Liam, there’s something you’re not admitting to yourself.
Her text message gave me nervous flutters inside of my stomach but I slipped my phone back inside the pocket of my jeans and took a deep breath of fresh air.
“It’s okay, I’ll get over it.” I encouraged myself before standing up and dusting off the stray grains of sand that laced my trousers.
We have been attending college for a month now and we’ve hardly seen each other. Mostly we talk over text message or phone calls because she has been struggling with her classes so she told me she needed the extra study time and training for me has been more demanding than I thought possible.
Plus, you’ve been avoiding her Liam.
I walked down the harbor and pushed the doors open to the little seafront diner. It was a place with full on beach vibes and they always had the ‘catch of the day’ highlighted on a black chalkboard menu. The diner was family owned and located just outside the Stanford University campus so it has become quite the regular spot for me recently.
I took a seat at my usual table and flicked through my Instagram feed while I waited for Olivia. My friends all went to different colleges scattered across the state and judging by the pictures they’re having the times of their lives.
“Hey Liam, you ready to order?” Amber the waitress took it upon herself to sit in the seat opposite me, the seat reserved for Olivia. Her brown eyes glistened in suspense and she hovered her pen over a little notepad.
“Uh I’ll just have a coke please. How’s your gran?” Her grandparents owned the dinner, it had been passed down their family for generations and I had become acquainted with most of the family over the short time I have lived here.
“She’s started bossing us around now so she must be getting better. The doctor said she can come home in a few days.” She tossed her glossy hair over her shoulder and smiled warmly at the thought of her gran coming home.
“Give her my love and tell her to rest up.” I glanced at the door, hoping Olivia wouldn’t walk in and see Amber sitting at my table. I knew she wouldn’t appreciate that, even if it was all in innocence.
Wait until she finds out about Reece.
Amber’s small figure stood up and started retreating towards the counter to ring up my coke and I drummed my fingers on the table impatiently. I grabbed the little pot of salt and poured a small mountain on the table, using my index finger to draw little patterns in the grains while I waited. Amber brought me the coke over and I flicked the salt away aiming to score between two little dents in the woodwork.
I could feel her before I could see her.
It filed my body with an overwhelming warmth, like a rush of excitement and nervousness clashing inside that made me want to jiggle in my seat. I raised my head and our eyes locked from across the room.
She was even more beautiful than I remembered, if that’s even possible. Her eyes glowed magnificently and I could see the reflection of my happiness in her irises. Small footsteps brought her closer to me and I could see the sweet blush creeping onto her face behind her smile. I’ve missed the way she blushes.
“Hey.” She said enthusiastically as she sat down at the table.
“Hi.” I couldn’t drop the shit eating grin from my face.
She is my safety and my struggle rolled into one. But that is a battle I must fight alone and it’s her I’m fighting for. I reached out over the table, silently asking for her hand. I needed to feel her touch to settle my racing heart, to prove to myself that she’s nothing to be feared. She’s my savior.
My thumb traced over her smooth skin delicately. The hands that once reassured me everything was safe now told a different story but I clutched at her fingers anyway, letting the warmth and softness of my own hands tell her that I’m still here. Fighting.
“I missed you.” I told her because I did. I do.
The new feeling she gives me makes me miss the old one more than anything else in this world.
“I missed you too, tell me everything! How do you like your new roommate?” She spoke with such excitement to her voice and it made me feel like such a shit person. I pulled back, releasing our interlocked fingers and rubbed the back of my neck.
“Reece is great, we get on really well, there’s not much to tell.” I shrugged off the conversation nonchalantly but I couldn’t look her in the eyes. I felt tense and clogged with a guilt that I wasn’t sure I deserved to feel. “How about you?” I asked desperately trying to deter the subject away from my roommate.
I could see Olivia was puzzled by my behavior but thankfully she didn’t question it further maybe because I threw my lips around my straw and sucked up a large amount of coke so my mouth was unable to answer her.
“She’s okay. Her names Lola, she’s sarcastic and blunt but I think that’s part of her charm. How’s soccer?”
This I could talk about.
“Different. A new team means none of us are in sync with each other so finding out what works is tiring and frustrating but we’ll get there, that’s what the practices are for.”
Truth is I’m wary of my team, they’re alright but I don’t trust them. I can’t have a real conversation with them and there’s so much competition and testosterone, it’s honestly a little uncomfortable. But I get along with Reece, she’s the only one I can really talk to.
“The distance from our hometown suits you.” I felt my smile instantly evaporate into a frown. The nauseating feeling in the pits of my stomach brought back the darkness like a hurricane at the mere mention of my hometown.
A simple sentence. An observation.
It reminded me of everything I've lived through, everything waiting for me back at home if I fail this college course. It reminded me that my roots are damaged and I might grow to always be that way. In a single moment the fear ripped through the happiness that I've created for myself over the past month with a sharpened carving knife.
Olivia did that.
Back at home she was the only one capable of making me forget about the horror story of my life, but here, she's the only one capable of reminding me of it.