Charlie Ever After

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13| Charlie

My nerves are still buzzing under my skin as we get closer. We’re only a few minutes away and I see Isaac’s fingers flying over his phone screen as his eyes remain on the road. My face contorts in confusion as I try moving in closer to see what’s so important that he can’t wait until the car is stopped. When I can’t see the message or who he’s talking to I just roll my eyes and lay my head back against the head rest.

“We’re here.” Isaac announces within minutes as he pulls into the parking lot of my dorm building. He find a parking spot and hurries out. What’s the big rush?

I slide out of the car, shooting a look to Lydia. She shrugs her shoulders at Isaac’s behavior and just as I’m about to ask what’s up his ass, I see him waving someone over. Great, one of his new boy toys.

The guy in question starts making his way over with a tray of drinks. He’s good looking, messy brown hair, a good sense of style. I have to give Isaac credit for this one.

He finally makes it to us, standing there awkwardly before Isaac starts the introduction. I let my eyes travel him, taking in his icy blue eyes, and his toned physique and I can’t help but to admit how fucking hot he is.

I’m practically drooling as he hands me my coffee. I give him a sweet smile, tearing the paper off the straw, sticking it through the top and taking a long sip.

“Delicious.” I speak. “Thank you so much, this definitely hits the spot.” He smiles at me.

“Anytime.” He replies before adding, “So, Isaac tells me this is your first year- are you excited? What’re you planning to study?” He asks me before he sucks down the rest of his coffee, moving his straw around in the ice.

The nerves start buzzing again at his question- I haven’t put much thought into what I wanted to study, only that I wanted to get away from home and get a good education so that I can be as different from my mother as humanly possible.

I shift my weight onto my other leg, taking another sip of my coffee before answering, “Yes, my first year... and honestly I haven’t decided yet. But I’m hoping to do something with psychology maybe.” I shrug my shoulders and glance up at him from under my eyelashes.

He’s beaming. “Phycology is pretty cool.” He says, and his attention is on me and me only. It’s as if Isaac and Lydia aren’t even here.

Lydia bumps her hip into mine. “Wanna start bringing some of this stuff up?” She asks me and I nod my head. “Yeah, sorry.” I say, feeling guilty that they sacrificed their day to come here and help me, but I was grateful nonetheless.

I don’t have many belongings, so it takes maybe an hour and a half to get every box hauled into my bedroom. I must be the first to arrive because there’s no sign of my roommate.

“Hey, we’ll be back in a few. Tanner is going to show me his new place. I’m sure you guys will wanna spend some last minute alone time together.” Isaac says, smiling as he looks between me and Lydia.

I smile back at him and nod. “See you guys in a few. Be good.” I turn my attention to Tanner as I offer him a warm smile and extend my hand to him. “In case I don’t see you, it was nice meeting you and thank you again for helping. I really appreciate it.”

His smile almost falls for a second but he regains his composure rather quick. “Well, I promise you’ll see me again.” His face drops for a second. “Wow, that sounded creepier than I intended it to..” He rubs his hand across the back of his neck as his cheeks redden slightly. “But, it was very nice meeting you too Charlie, anytime.” He says and wraps his large hand around mine, shaking gently.

I bite my lip, trying to contain my laughter at his comment. “Don’t worry, it wasn’t creepy.” I let myself giggle. “I’ll see you around Tanner.” I offer him a grin, which he reciprocates.

Both Lydia and Isaac are looking between Tanner and I as we say our goodbyes and they have the biggest shit eating grins on- and I know exactly why. Ever since the beginning of Gavin and I’s relationship, neither of them liked him, neither of them accepted the relationship. They stuck by my side, and didn’t pressure me into doing things I didn’t want to do- they supported me, but they didn’t like it. They’ve begged me for so long to leave, and now that I’m finally out of the relationship- they like seeing me talk to a somewhat normal dude and even better, it’s one of Isaac’s friends- so he was able to screen him before he even introduced us.

I roll my eyes at my “revelation” and watch the boys walk out the door. As soon as I hear the door click behind them, waiting a few more moments, I turn my glare to Lydia. “Did you know about this?” I question her.

She looks at me, confusion apparent in her eyes. “What do you mean? No! I mean, I wish I did because he’s gorgeous and did you see the way he was looking at you?!” She squeals.

I roll my eyes and pull open the tabs on one of my boxes labeled “desk”. I start unpacking the items in the box, setting up my desk before replying. “I don’t understand why the two of you insist on playing match maker.” I say and hear her come up behind me.

She wraps her arms around my waist, leans up slightly on her tippy toes and lays her chin on my shoulder. “It’s because we love you and want to see you happy. I do agree that this is a bit soon, and I will be having a serious conversation with Isaac... but I think he’s coming from a good place. I think he’s just trying to make sure you’re okay while you’re here. You’re not close anymore, and whether you see it or not, Isaac feels this responsibility over the both of us- he’ll always be our protector.” The thought makes me smile as I lean into her warmth. I lay my hands over hers and pull her close- giving her a somewhat hug.

Lydia and I have my room set up rather quickly. I’m suddenly overwhelmed with gratitude; that I have her here with me, helping me make this transition. I sit on my bed- which Lydia made with my dark grey comforter and my navy blue friendship blanket that she bought me for the Christmas before. I smooth my hand over the soft fabric of the blanket before patting the spot next to me. Lydia strides over and sits down crisscross applesauce.

“You know I’m going to miss you, right?” I say and can feel the emotions swelling up in the back of my throat. I can’t look at her so I scan my new bedroom and automatically feel how empty and new it is, causing my skin to crawl. I rub my hands up and down my arms before wrapping them around my body, hugging myself tight.

Lydia must notice my discomfort because she shifts closer to me, wrapping her arms around my stiff body. She holds me like a mother would hold a child, cradling me in her arms as her legs lay on either side of my body. She has a hand against my head as she strokes my hair, the other arm wrapped around my body. “Charlie, girl. You got this. This is all you’ve ever talked about, dreamed about. You’re finally away, finally starting over. It’s new, it’s scary- but Charlie you are one of the most resilient people that I know- and yes I know that you’ve been handed some shit cards throughout your life, and just the past few weeks have been hell for you... and I’m so sorry you’ve had to go through everything that you have, and I love you more than you’ll ever know- but Charlie, if anyone can do this, you can do it.” She’s smiling down at me, tears causing her lower lash line to glimmer in the late afternoon sunlight.

I was on the verge of a mental breakdown, but Lydia’s embrace, and words diffuse me faster than I can blink. Just as I’m about to reply, there’s a knock on the door before it swings open. Both Isaac and Tanner are standing there, causing me to jump out of Lydia’s embrace- not that we have anything to hide, more or less because it’s weird for a stranger to see how close we are. Isaac knows us, so he doesn’t bat a lash at how touchy we are.

There’s a hint of shock on his face for a moment, but it’s gone faster than it appeared.

“Lydia, we should probably head out. I don’t want to get caught in rush hour traffic, plus I have to be up early. I’m starting a big project at work tomorrow.” Isaac says, looking over at the both of us.

Lydia nods her head, giving me another squeeze from behind before she hops up from the bed, pushing her feet back into her black flip flops.

I follow her off the bed and walk over to Isaac, pulling him into the tightest hug that I can muster up, holding him for a few moments after. I’m not ready to let them go just yet but I also know how much Isaac hates driving in traffic and the both of them already gave up their day to come help me and see me off as I start a new chapter in my life.

“I’m going to miss you guys.” I sniff, trying to push back the tears that are threatening to fall.

“We’ll miss you too, Charlie girl.” Isaac says before both him and Lydia wrap their arms tightly around me, hugging me close to their bodies.

Tanner and I are standing on the curb, waving off Isaac and Lydia as they peel out of the parking lot. He glances over at me, shoving his hands into his front pockets. “So, I’m sure you’re dying to get inside and get settled in, I know it’s been a long day... but I was wondering if you’d possibly want to grab a bite to eat? I’m starving.” He says before a small chuckle plays at his lips.

I smile over at him, it’s around 4 o’clock and almost as if on que, my stomach growls. I rub a hand over my belly and look up at him. “I guess the answer is yes.” I laugh and when I look over at Tanner his eyes crinkle at the corners before he lets out a laugh of his own. My heart almost skips a beat at the sound, and not to mention the sight of him laughing... it was as if he didn’t have a care in the world, there was so much carefree happiness behind that laugh, and for a moment I seriously envy him.

“I just have to run up and get my wallet.” I say, turning back towards the building but he gently grabs my wrist. It wasn’t that the motion hurt me, but it catches me off guard, causing me to yank my wrist free. I spin around to face him, instantly embarrassed. “I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean...” what am I going to tell him? Oh, I didn’t mean to react like a psycho? My last boyfriend used to do that to me whenever he was angry or I was being defiant, and it scared me? Nooo thank you.

I chance a look at him and his expression is unfazed. “Listen, don’t worry about it, and you don’t need your wallet. What kind of a guy do you think I am?” He offers me the most soothing smile and it cuts me into a million pieces.

The shock must be evident on my face because he looks wounded for a moment, but the smile quickly returns.

“I know this great diner up the street. It has the best fries, milkshakes too!” He says and my stomach instantly plummets to my feet. A milkshake sounds heavenly right now.

I nod my head vigorously. “Ugh, yes! That sounds amazing!” I smile at him as he holds out his hand to me. I bite my lip and hesitantly reach forward, wrapping my hand around his.

The walk only takes us about ten minutes, and it’s a nice walk. The temperature died down a few degrees, a nice cool breeze blowing through every few moments. We walk at a simple pace as we pass small little boutique shops on the way. I peer into a few shops, and I can feel Tanner watching me, not in a creepy way- no, in a way that makes me feel interesting, like he can’t get enough of me- even if it’s just watching me geek out about something I notice in a window- the feeling lighting me up from the inside out.

Our hands remain linked together the entire time, and usually holding hands with someone you just met would be insanely awkward, but this just felt normal- natural even. I almost forget all about the nerves that wreaked havoc this morning and most of the afternoon, as we casually stroll along the street, making our way to the diner.

We go back and forth with small talk. So far I’ve found out that he has three young sisters- and the way he talks about them has me smiling ear to ear, I’ve always loved kids and just hearing him gush about them brought music to my ears. It wasn’t often that men showed their sensitive sides, but I was finding that Tanner is a lot more in tune with himself then any other man I’ve ever met. I also learned that his favorite color is teal and that he has a best friend named Collin who feels more like an annoying little brother to him, but again Tanner almost gushes about him as well, always following his short comings with plenty of traits that make up for it.

I try to talk as much as I can, but I can’t help but to be completely entranced by him and his answers to my questions. He just seems so genuinely happy and it’s something that instantly draws me to him.

We walk into the diner, the door chiming above us as we stand there waiting to be seated. A minute or so goes by when this skinny blonde comes up to meet us. She has blue eyeshadow smeared across her eye lids and looks to be about 45. She’s beautiful. She’s chewing a mouth full of gum and when she talks, her voice drips with the thickest southern accent I’ve ever heard. It throws me off for a second but instantly makes me smile, making me feel comfortable and at home for some reason. “How many darlin’?” She asks, looking at me.

“Two please.” I return her smile as she nods, grabs two menus off of the counter and leads us to a quaint booth in the back.

Tanner and I sit down across from each other. “My name is Tammy and I’ll be your waitress this evening. Can I start you off with some drinks?” She looks at both of us, holding a pen to her order pad.

Tanner goes first. “Yes, may I get a chocolate milkshake please?” He offers her a warm smile before looking over at me.

“I’ll have the same.” I tell her with a smile before she walks away.

Tanner is looking at me expectantly. “So, Charlie. I feel like the whole walk here I just kept blabbing. What about you, do you have any siblings?”

I stall at the question, biting down on my bottom lip. I shake my head, and just as I’m about to reply the waitress makes her way to our table with our drinks. Safe for at least a moment or two while I shove my straw into my milkshake and take a huge gulp, trying to wet the desert that replaced my throat. Once I’m able to fully swallow again and the brain freeze that my hasty gulp brought on, subsided, I start. “I’m an only child.” I say, keeping my eyes to the menu, I don’t want to come off rude- but the subject isn’t an easy one for me. “It’s just me and my mom.” I decide to keep it short. I look up at him and smile. “I’m not very interesting.” I shrug.

Tanner just smiles at me, his attention fixated on me. “I beg to differ.”

And with his comment my heart jumps into my throat.

Thank you for reading! I hope you’re liking reading this story as much as I’m loving writing it. Let me know what you think! Constructive criticism is always welcome. Is there anything you’d like to see more of, less of? What character do you like the most?

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