East Side Academy

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Chapter 31 - 4 in the Morning

“I give you everything that I am / I’m handin’ over everything that I’ve got / ’Cause I wanna have a really true love / Don’t ever wanna have to go and give you up / Stay up till four in the morning” – 4 in the Morning, Gwen Stefani

Arya

I kiss James softly on the lips, grateful for an amazing boyfriend. He rolls over on top of me, trapping me beneath him. “What did you tell your mom?” I ask him.

“That I’m sleeping over at my girlfriend’s house while her parents are out of town,” James smiles.

“Hilarious James,” I say.

“She’s working the night shift at the hospital,” James says, “she won’t even know I didn’t come home.”

“Your sisters?”

“Are probably staying up too late and eating too much junk food,” James says, and I give him a concerned look. I didn’t mean to take him away from looking after his sisters. “Don’t worry Arya, my 20-year-old cousin is sleeping over at the house with them tonight. They’re fine.”

I run my hands along his lean, strong arms.

“What time are your parents coming home?” James asks, “I don’t think they’d appreciate seeing my car in their garage when they get back.” We smile at each other. I told James to put his car in the garage to avoid any nosy neighbours telling my parents that their 16-year-old daughter’s boyfriend’s car was parked outside all night the weekend they were away.

“Not ’til dinner time,” I say, “you’ll be long gone by then.” At work. James kisses me hard on the mouth, grabbing onto my side, underneath my t-shirt. I pull him down to me, my head resting on the pillow. My legs are spread for him to fit into and his chest is against mine. He wraps his arms around my waist, leaning into me. I put my knees up, hugging my thighs tightly around his waist. My shirt is riding up with his arms around me and he’s touching bare skin.

And then I force him to roll over so I can be on top, straddling him again. I sit back while he just lies there, rubbing his hands on my bare thighs.

“I like you a lot, Arya,” James says, “more than I’ve ever liked anyone before. I only want you. I can’t imagine being with anyone else.”

“I like you too, James,” I say, “more than you can even fathom. I never thought I could feel this way about someone. You mean everything to me.”

And then I touch the bottom of his shirt, just above his belt buckle. “Don’t you dare put your cold hands on my stomach again.”

“It’s the best way to warm them up,” I say, putting my hands under his shirt again to warm my hands on his skin.

He tenses again under me. “I hate you.”

I run my hands up further under his shirt, touching his ribs, his chest, his skin warm against my hands and he soon relaxes after a while once my hands warm up from his body heat.

“I don’t know anyone else with such cold hands all the time,” James says.

“It’s why I keep you around,” I say. “Need to warm my hands on something.”

“Mitts work too, Arya,” James says.

“Not as fun,” I say.

“You’re right,” he smiles.

I take my hands off him and then take the elastic out of my hair, knowing that my bun must be a mess from rolling around on the bed. I shake my hair out to fall all around me.

“I like you with your hair down,” James says.

“Why?” I lean down my face to him, my arms on his chest to support me, my hair falling around me.

“Because then I get to play with it,” James says, grabbing onto pieces of hair, gently pulling me closer to him. I kiss him, just wanting all of him. I kiss him deeply as his hands untangle from my hair and move to my waist, my hips, and then to my ass.

But then his phone goes off in his pocket. He tenses underneath me, and I understand, because when he was 14 years old, he got a call in the middle of the night to tell him his father was dead. He breaks the kiss, and I lean back to sit up. “I’m sorry, Arya,” he says, “I have to…”

“You don’t have to explain,” I say, and then he smiles and grabs me by my hips and throws me off him on the bed. I never, ever, thought that a guy I was straddling would ever throw me off of him.

He answers the call, leaving my room to speak to the person on the other line. I go up to my dresser mirror and look at myself, seeing my hair in disarray and try to smooth it down. James says I’m beautiful like this and it makes me believe it’s true. I’ve never had someone to tell me I’m beautiful when I’m not trying. James walks back in slowly, looking like he’s about to say something that’s going to disappoint me.

“Everything okay?”

“Yes,” James says, “I just…” he sighs, “I need to go pick up the guys and give them a ride home. There’s a guy who is…”

“James, please,” I say, “go ahead, it’s no problem.” I’m disappointed that he’s leaving me, but I admire him for looking after his friends. I’m aware that taxis are nonexistent in our small town, but did his friends know what they were disturbing when they phoned him? I know Malcolm should have known.

“I’ll be back as soon as I can,” James says and then kisses me before he leaves the room.

I want to shout at him to tell his friends what they took him from and what he has waiting for him, but I hold my tongue. Boys will be boys. They’ll know.

No POV

“We’re leaving, Malcolm,” Richard says to him as he’s talking with a group of guys. “You coming?”

“Yeah, sure,” Malcolm says, giving the guys a handshake pat on the back before leaving them.

“I’ve never seen someone drink as much as Lucas did tonight,” Richard says as they start walking to the front of the house. “James should be here soon to get us all home.”

“You didn’t,” Malcolm stops him, “please tell me you didn’t call him.”

“What’s the big deal?” Richard asks, “I couldn’t find him, so I called him. Said he’d be here in like ten minutes.”

“You idiot,” Malcolm says, “do you know where he was?”

“No?”

“With Arya. Alone. In her empty house.” Malcolm says slowly.

“Oh shit,” Richard says, “he didn’t say that.”

“Of course he didn’t,” Malcolm says, “because he’s too nice of a guy. He’s such a good friend that he’d leave a hot girl in an empty house to make sure that his friends got home safely.”

“How much do I owe him?” Richard asks.

“What do you think, Richard?” Malcolm asks, “And put yourself in his shoes when you answer.”

Richard ponders. “There’s not enough money in the world.”

“Exactly,” Malcolm says.

“Samson’s already out front with Lucas,” Richard says. “Let’s just say it was his idea.”

“You’re on your own with this one,” Malcolm says, walking out the front door.

James

“Thanks, James,” Richard says from the backseat, a passed out Lucas lying over him, as they start on the road. “I didn’t mean to…”

“Take me away from my girlfriend?” I look at him in the rearview mirror. “Don’t worry, I’m sure you’ll find a way to pay me back somehow.” I look over at Malcolm next to me and he smiles. “Arya might be a different story.”

“Don’t tell her it was me,” Richard says, “I’ve managed to stay on her good side for so long.” Everyone laughs.

Arya

I hear him step back into the house while I’m still at the stove. I left the garage door open for him, waiting for when he’d finally come back.

“Something smells good,” James says walking into the kitchen, wrapping his arms around me from behind, kissing me on the neck.

“Not as good as my mom’s,” I say, flipping the pancake in the pan, “but it’ll do.”

“It’s perfect,” James says.

After pancakes, syrup, tea, and too much laughing, we finally make our way back upstairs.

James looks around my room when we enter and then goes to my shelf and grabs the photo albums on the shelf and sits on the floor, his back against the bed, and opens one of the albums.

“What are you doing?” I ask, climbing back on the bed, coming up behind him, resting my chin on his shoulder while lying on my stomach on the bed.

“Where was that?” James points to a picture of a family trip on the beach when Mia and I were kids.

“Florida,” I say.

“How old were you?” James asks.

“Probably six,” I say, “my mom writes on the back of all the photos if you want to know.”

“I’ll let you tell me,” James says, as he flips through the pages.

“Who’s wedding?” James asks.

“My aunt’s,” I say.

“I see you were the flower girl,” James notes, “cute dress.” He smirks. It’s an ugly fluorescent pink dress and he knows I hate bright pink. “This is your aunt and uncle?” James points to the bride and groom.

“Yeah,” I say, “They look so happy there.”

“Are they not happy now?” James asks.

“They’re divorced.”

“I’m sorry, Arya,” James says.

“It’s okay,” I say, “she’s happy on her own and he’s happy with his new wife and new family. I miss him. He was like a second father to me growing up. Now I never see him. James, are you sure you want to do this?”

“Of course,” James says, “I want to learn more about you and your family and everything else.”

“You’re an interesting guy, James,” I say, “most guys wouldn’t want to look through photo albums with their girlfriend when the house is empty.”

“I’m not most guys,” James says.

I turn my head to James, and he kisses me. “What are you going to tell the guys in the locker room then?”

James shakes his head. “Trust me, I don’t tell them anything.”

“They don’t ask you anything?”

“Really, Arya?” James turns his head to face me, “You really want to know?”

“The girls always ask me about you,” I say, “but I can tell there are many that are jealous and don’t want to know.”

“What do you tell them?” James smiles.

“Really, James?” I imitate him, “You really want to know?” James rolls his eyes. “I just tell them you’re a gem with a fit body. And that you are an amazing kisser.” James kisses me again.

“You’re nicer than I am,” James says, looking through the photos. “I generally tell the guys to fuck off.” I laugh.

“James?”

“Yes?”

“About your dad,” I start and then wait to see if he stops me, but he doesn’t. “Have you forgiven the man in the other vehicle?” He stares straight ahead.

“The man that took my father away from me and my family?” James asks.

“I’m sure whoever the guy is, is truly sorry for what happened,” I say.

“It doesn’t change anything,” James says. “He’s not the one who lost a dad that night.”

“Have you met him?” I ask.

“Please stop, Arya,” James says, putting the album aside but still not looking at me.

“James, remember we can talk about anything,” I say. “But if you don’t want to talk about this, that’s fine.” James didn’t push me about why I left West Side, so I’m not going to push him this.

James turns around and kneels in front of the bed and our faces come close. “I never met him, Arya. I can’t forgive him. My mom has, but I can’t.”

“I don’t blame you, James,” I say. “I don’t know if I’d be able to in your position. Just remember that he is probably still haunted by the worst mistake he has ever made.”

“And so am I,” James says. I run my hand through his hair.

“You must have gotten money from the accident,” I say.

“Yeah,” James says, “for the accident. The case against the guy is still ongoing.”

“Still?” I can’t believe it. James will never be able to come to terms with his father’ death until the case is closed.

“These things take a while, Arya,” James says.

“But that could be a lot of money,” I say. “That would help you and your family so much, that could…”

“Arya,” James puts his hands on me. “This is where I’m done discussing this.”

“I’m sorry, James,” I say. He just smiles at me and then kisses me.

“You are the first person I’ve been able to open up to like this,” James says. “About my dad. So, forgive me for not wanting to talk about the financial details with you.”

“Forgive me for bringing it up,” I say. “Just know that you can tell me anything. Sometimes it’s good to feel emotions we don’t want to feel. Talk about things we don’t want to talk about. To allow ourselves to be vulnerable.”

James raises an eyebrow at me. “Says the one who won’t tell me why she left her old school,” James says. “You know, you’ll have to tell me why you left West Side one day, Arya.”

“I know,” I kiss him, knowing that I’m lying to him.

I put my cold hands under the collar of his shirt to his chest and he tenses. “Stop it, Arya.”

“Or what?” I smile at him.

“This.” James grabs me by the waist, pinning me underneath him on the bed, and then he starts tickling me.

“Stop James!” I say, not being able to control my laughter. I am extremely ticklish, and James knows it. I can hardly breathe anymore and I try pushing him off me.

“You’re going to have to do better than that!” James says to my face.

“Okay, okay!” I say, having no breath anymore, “I can’t breathe. You win.”

James stops tickling me, seeing that I’m on the verge of passing out. I sit up to meet him, finally regaining my breath. He looks at me, brushing a piece of hair behind my ear. “How did I get so lucky?”

“You literally ran after me,” I say, thinking of that day on the track after the first soccer tryout.

“I did, didn’t I?” James smiles. “Might have thought you were a bit crazy back then.”

“And now?”

“Still crazy,” James smiles, putting a hand to my cheek. “But I wouldn’t want you any other way.”

“Smart guy,” I say, “knowing the exact right things to say.”

“You are not dating a stupid guy,” James says, and I stare into his deep blue eyes.

“You also stood up for me,” I say, “against your best friend.”

James searches my eyes, trying to read them. “I’d do anything to protect you, Arya,” James says, “I don’t care who it’s against.”

“I know,” I say, “it’s how I know you’re the one.” And James crashes his lips into me again.

We stayed up late that night. We talked, we kissed, we laughed. It was an amazing night that we needed, especially considering what happened earlier in the evening. I fell asleep on James’ chest with his arms wrapped around me, and in the morning, I feel James trying to move gently to not wake me up.

“James?”

“I have to go,” James says softly, standing up by the bed.

“Work?” and he nods. I get up on my knees on the bed to face him.

“Don’t get up, Arya,” James says, putting a hand to my hip. “I’ll let myself out.” He comes up close to me and kisses me and I put my hands to his chest. He starts walking away and I get off the bed to follow him. “Arya…”

“I have to close the garage door after you,” I say. James smiles and then picks me up in his arms and carries me out of the room and down the stairs to the garage door connected to the house.

“I’ll call you tonight,” James says, kissing me and then putting me down before he walks out the door to his car. I open the garage door for him, and he drives off, leaving too soon, but I knew that was going to happen. This is James’ world and if I want to be with him, I have to accept it. Just like how he has to accept my world.

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