Chapter 24 - Too Little Too Late
“It’s just too little too late / A little too wrong / And I can’t wait / But you know all the right things to say / (You know it’s just too little too late) / You say you dream of my face/ But you don’t like me / You just like the chase / To be real it doesn’t matter anyway / (You know it’s just too little too late)” – Too Little Too Late, JoJo
I leave my friends, trying to maneuver my way through all the people. I’m trying to get through the center hallway by the staircase to get across the house, but people are deep in their conversations or making out, so they aren’t moving. I feel a strong hand on my waist, touching the exposed skin and it guides me through the hallway, weaving around the teenagers until we reach an open space by the curve of the staircase. I turn around to see who guided me through the hallway and come face to face with an attractive, strong guy with brown eyes and a brown fauxhawk, with a foot over me.
“You looked like you needed help there,” he says and then smiles at me.
“Thanks, Lexi,” I say and see that he has led me into a corner, making an escape more difficult.
“You remember me,” Lexi says as a joke because how could I forget him? “I was worried you would have forgotten me at that new school of yours.”
“The captain of the hockey team is not an easy person to forget,” I smile. There are no hockey teams for the school, just for the town, and Lexi is the best player in the league. I guess he and George play on the same team then, something I never thought of.
“Is that all I am to you?” Lexi jokes and I laugh at him. “You look great tonight, Arya,” Lexi says, looking me over from head to toe. I notice his eyes stay on my chest for too long. “But you always look great.”
“How are you?” I ask, trying to make conversation. We haven’t spoken since I left West Side.
“Good,” Lexi says, “we’re in the playoffs right now.”
“That’s good to hear,” I say.
“I’ve missed you, Arya,” Lexi says seriously, cutting to the chase. “You just up and left West Side so quickly. I didn’t know you were leaving until you were already gone.”
“It was a quick decision,” I say, looking away from him.
Lexi steps in closer, leaving little room between us. I’m in the corner but he’s left me with an escape route to my left if I need it. He puts a hand on the doorway above my head, leaning slightly. To anyone, it would look like he is flirting with me, trying to get lucky. “Leaving West Side to go to East Side?” Lexi says, “Why would you do that?”
“I just needed a change,” I say. “Needed to get away.”
“From something or someone?” Lexi asks and I glance up at him. He just smiles at me and then touches my bare shoulder, running his hand along my arm and then squeezing my hand before he lets go. “Don’t worry, Arya, you don’t have to explain anything to me.”
“What do you want, Lexi?” I ask, already knowing I can’t give it to him.
“Isn’t it obvious?” Lexi says. “To pick up where we left off. You left West Side before anything could happen.”
The truth is Lexi is impossibly handsome, with a smile that makes your knees wobble. And he’s a hockey player. He’s like crack. Every girl wants to be with him. He was always nice to me. He flirted with me, and I shamelessly flirted back, the only guy I have ever given any opportunity or any hope. Until I came to East Side of course. I usually just brush guys off, but not with Lexi. Originally, I thought that he heard that I don’t date and wanted a challenge. Wanted to be the only guy to get with me to prove to everyone that he can get any girl he wants.
But I was wrong. Lexi’s selective. He doesn’t date around, he’s too focused on hockey. He’ll only date a girl if he’s serious about her and she understands how important hockey is to him. I guess he figured I would because of my soccer. Would something have happened with Lexi if I had stayed? We were on track for it. We became friends, we flirted, but it never went further than that. Okay, except for one intense kiss that left me breathless. At the time, to me, it was an amazing kiss. But it doesn’t matter now. I’m with James now and he means everything to me. I meant it when I told James that there is no comparison to him.
“I’m sorry, Lexi,” I say, crossing my arms, putting my hands on opposite shoulders, and looking away from him. Now I am very aware of how much skin I’m showing.
“Hey,” Lexi says softly, putting a hand to my face to force me to look at him. “I’m not upset with you. I still want to try this.” He lets his hand fall from my face, and I uncross my arms. “I’ve always had feelings for you, Arya. You know I don’t just date anyone. You know you’re special to me.”
“So special you never called or messaged me?” I ask, raising an eyebrow.
“You know I’m busy with hockey,” Lexi says. Translation: You didn’t fit so easily into my life anymore, so I didn’t put in the effort. “But the phone works both ways, Arya. I haven’t heard from you either.”
“You know I’m busy with hockey,” I say, trying to keep a straight face. Lexi just laughs at me and I laugh with him. The truth is, when I transferred, I thought it would be better to cut off all ties to West Side.
“I am sorry, Arya,” Lexi says, “maybe I thought that it was better to leave things as they were when you left. But when I saw you tonight, I knew I couldn’t do that. All the feelings came back.” He brushes the hair off my shoulders, putting a hand to my bare shoulder in the same movement. He lets his thumb travel underneath my spaghetti strap, travelling along my shoulder from front to back until he takes his hand away. He slides his other hand further down the door opening, still holding onto it.
“Lexi…” I start, knowing I can’t let this go on any longer.
“I seem to remember a time in the drama room closest with a very pretty girl,” Lexi says, and while I try to hide my blush at the memory, I know he sees it, and he steps in closer, letting go of the door frame. “She wrapped her legs around me, pressed her body against mine, ran her fingers through my hair, and bit my lip just softly enough to drive me wild.” Lexi smiles at me but I can’t return it. “I ran my hands up the soft skin of her thighs and across all her body, I played with her hair and I heard her moan ever so slightly during the kiss.”
“Nice memory,” I say.
“I’m just sorry we only have one,” Lexi smiles, “’til now.” Lexi reaches an arm to my waist, but I brush it away.
“I can’t,” I say sternly to Lexi, looking him straight in the eyes.
“What do you mean you can’t?” Lexi says confused. “Is this because you’re at East Side now? Because I really don’t care, Arya.”
“No, that’s not it,” I say, “I have a boyfriend, Lexi.”
He barks out a laugh, not believing me. “You can’t be serious.” I just stare at him, waiting for him to realize it’s not a joke. “Seriously, Arya?” I nod. “You don’t date.” He glares at me. “What pathetic guy did you find to shack up with at that school?”
He takes a step towards me and I take a small step back, but he’s still very close to me. He takes a deep breath. “I’m sorry, Arya, I just…”
“Thought that I’d always be available for you?” I ask, crossing my arms.
“I guess I never thought you would find another guy,” Lexi says. “Especially not at East Side. Didn’t take you very long.”
“I’ve been gone for three months, Lexi,” I say.
“You didn’t give any guy at West Side a second look for two and a half years, Arya!” Lexi yells at me. “And now in less than a term at that school you already have a boyfriend?”
“I’m naturally exclusive with you, Arya,” Lexi says, “I don’t want to be with anyone else. I like you. A lot.”
“I liked you too,” I say. It’s true. I did like Lexi and if I had stayed at West Side, it would have developed to something more, but I didn’t stay.
“Liked?” Lexi says.
“Yes,” I say, “past tense. I have a boyfriend now that means everything to me.”
“Is he here?” Lexi raises an eyebrow and I nod. “He’s an idiot to leave you alone then. He does realize that his girlfriend is from West Side and that all the guys here know you?” He looks me over again. “And that you’re wearing that.” I roll my eyes. “I personally don’t mind.” Lexi smiles sheepishly. “But he might.”
“I should go find him,” I say, turning away from Lexi, but he grabs my arm at the elbow.
“Is this what you want, Arya?” Lexi asks, looking me in the eyes. “I know you have feelings for me. Present tense. Those types of feelings don’t just go away.”
“I’m sorry, Lexi…” I start.
“What’s going on here?” I hear a voice say and turn to see James. Obviously he was looking for me when he saw that Diana, Eleanor, and Sarah were already here.
Lexi let’s go of me and stares at James, sizing him up. Lexi is taller than James, and both of them are fit and strong from the sports they play, though James is leaner. Soccer body versus hockey body. “I’m guessing this is him?” Lexi says to me while looking at James.
“Lexi, don’t,” I say as a warning.
“Word of advice,” Lexi says to James, “all the guys here know your girlfriend and would love the chance to get her drunk and try to get lucky, so I wouldn’t leave her alone. She’s the biggest prize. I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a bet going around already.”
“Is that what you were doing?” James says angrily. “Trying to win a stupid bet?”
Lexi laughs. “That’s funny, but no. I’m just warning you. West Siders like to gamble with high stakes. They have plenty of money to burn. Not something you would understand.”
“Oh, fuck off,” James says.
“Lexi,” I say to him, “you need to back off.”
“Arya may go to your school now, but you know that she’s still a West Sider,” Lexi says, completely ignoring me. “Good luck keeping up.”
“I think you should go,” James says, “and if West Side was so great, she wouldn’t have left.”
“Worked out well for you,” Lexi says. “Your friends must be impressed that you were able to snag a rich girl so out of your league it isn’t even funny.”
“Lexi, is it?” James asks and Lexi nods. “Good. I wanted to address you by name this time to tell you to ‘fuck off, Lexi’.”
Lexi smiles. “I like this one, Arya.” He says to me and then walks away, leaving me and James.
“Who’s that guy, Arya?” James comes up to me when he’s gone.
“No one,” I say, and James gives me a look. “James, really, don’t worry about him.”
“I just want to know what I’m up against,” James says. “I thought you said you’ve never had a boyfriend.”
“We just kissed. Once,” I say. Okay, it was more of making out than a kiss, but I’m not going to tell James that. No need to get him worked up over Lexi.
“Just one kiss?” James asks and I nod at him. Then he whistles. “Geez, Arya, I didn’t realize how promiscuous you were.” I smile and then hit his stomach with the back of my hand, coming up very close to him ’til there’s no space between us.
“I already told you there is no comparison to our kiss,” I say to James.
“Did you?” James smiles, “I think I might need a reminder.”
I smile at him, putting a hand to his cheek to give him an intense and deep kiss. He wraps his arms around me to pull me in close and I know this is exactly where I’m supposed to be.