Charlie Ever After

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22 | Tanner

The first weeks of school went by as painless as possible and I have Charlie to thank for that. Getting to know her; spending time laughing and smiling with her, getting to learn more about her, it has definitely helped the time to go by pretty quick. Before we knew it we were already smack dab in the middle of September.

Charlie and I have only grown closer over the past month or so. The feeling of having known her forever has only grown and become more overwhelming. I'm not one that believes in fate or anything like that- but the feeling I get when I'm around her feels a lot like the universe intended us to meet.

Conversations between the two of us flow so fluidly and sometimes we catch ourselves finishing each other's sentences. We both just laugh it off, but every moment I spend with her, the vice that is Charlie just squeezes tighter and tighter around my heart.

On my last weekend visit home, I accidentally spilled the beans about Charlie to Trish. She questioned me, practically requesting a full dossier on her. I laughed it off, keeping mum about the topic, but eventually I broke. I gushed about her to Trish, by the end I felt like a high school girl and almost felt embarrassed until I saw the glint of tears shining in the corners of Trish's eyes.

"Tanner," She starts, sniffling. "I've never seen you so happy before. I can't tell you how ecstatic I am for you. First love is a big deal." Her choice of words took me by surprise. I never thought what I was feeling for Charlie was love, but as I sat there processing what she said, it dawned on me that I was falling for her. I always thought it took years to develop these kinds of feelings, but in just mere weeks I've become so enthralled by Charlie that she's completely knocked me off of my feet. If she were to disappear tomorrow, I wouldn't know what to do with myself; I'd be devastated.

By the end of the weekend Trish conned me into inviting her to dinner. With my newfound insight on the feelings I had for her, it made me nervous. I declined multiple times but Trish always wins.

It's Sunday and that means today is the day that Charlie is coming to dinner at my place. When I brought up the idea to her, she was thrilled. I had told her so much about my family; My dad, Trish, my sisters. Seeing the excitement light her features, I felt the vice tightening even more and it caused the breath to catch in my lungs.

We were seated on the grass in one of the common areas the Tuesday after I returned to campus. She had her head in my lap and was reading from one of her favorites, quoting me her favorite lines and in that moment, I knew what Trish said was true. I was falling for her, fast and it scared the shit out of me. I tucked a strand of hair behind her ear, smiling down at her and the question flowed out of me so easily.

"How'd you feel about coming to my house for dinner, Sunday night? My step mom insists." I felt my cheeks heat up and I tried to look away but the excitement that filled her face as she put her book upside down on the ground, ignited a fire in me that I didn't know existed.

She shook her head eagerly. "I'd love to go. I can't wait to meet your family." I was so nervous that I was moving too fast with asking her to dinner, but her reaction quelled the unease that bubbled up in my stomach.

I take a deep breath and lean forward, wiping my hand across the fogged up mirror in the bathroom. I take in my appearance and try giving myself a pep talk.

"Relax dude, it's just dinner. Trish and dad know better not to embarrass you. Doesn't mean they won't try but it's all out of love, and the girls will adore her." I fake a smile to myself before raking a hand through my wet hair.

I pull a pair of light wash, straight leg jeans from my dresser and pull them on, pairing the pants with a simple white T, under my favorite green and black flannel. The weather in Tucson is still scorching hot so I push the sleeves up to my elbows and slide my feet into a pair of white sneakers.

I told Charlie I'd be picking her up by five. I look down at my watch and it's only four. I don't know why I'm so nervous. Charlie has been talking about this all week. Why couldn't I be as excited as her? I love my family, and I know they'll love her, but there's something so nerve wracking about introducing her to the most important people in my life. Charlie is so special to me and maybe this step just means that this is real.

I have to physically stop myself from pacing a hole in the carpet, bracing my hands on my dresser before pushing off and heading downstairs.

"What's wrong?" Collin asks as he rounds the corner, out of the kitchen and sits next to me on the couch. He hands me a beer. "You look green around the gills, my guy." He takes a sip from his own beer and I take the one he's offering, popping off the cap and taking a long swig.

"I'm bringing Charlie home for dinner." I take another long gulp and Collin looks at me wide eyed, almost spitting out his beer.

"You mean home, home? With Trish, Henry and the Gremlins? Yikes." He screws up his face before taking another swig.

"Thanks for the support, man. She's special. I'm happy she's meeting them, I just don't know why you're so nervous." I sigh and let my head flop back against the couch, closing my eyes.

"Probably because she is special. I've never seen you like this before. I know I haven't known you long, man... But you have it bad for her. You're in love, man. No other way to explain it." He shrugs.

My eyes shoot open and I glare at him. I bite the corner of my lip, knowing he's right but not willing to admit it to him. I just roll my eyes and heave a sigh.

"Who knows, man." I say and drain the rest of my beer, checking my watch. It's almost five and it takes at least five to ten minutes to get to her dorm room depending on the student traffic.

"I gotta go, bud. See you later." I say before walking to the kitchen and tossing the empty beer bottle.

I show up to Charlie's dorm room door at exactly Five. She opens the door with a wide smile and as my eyes travel her body, I'm left both stunned and speechless. She's wearing a short black skirt that flares out near the bottom, her legs are covered by sheer black tights and a cropped maroon sweater hugs her torso perfectly. Her dark hair is in loose waves, flowing all around her and when my eyes snap back to hers I have to learn how to breath all over again.

"You look..." I'm still lost for words.

"Amazing, beautiful, gorgeous, hot, fuckable." Comes a female voice from behind Charlie, followed by a chuckle.

"Hi Scout, yes thank you." I finally say.

"You look all of the above." I grin and wrap my arm around her waist, pulling her in and kissing her lips softly. I can feel her smiling against my lips as she kisses me and god it just makes me want all of her, forever.

Once we finally pull apart, she leads me inside and closes the door behind me. "You look pretty good yourself." She beams at me. "I just have to finish my makeup real quick, and put my shoes on." She kisses my cheek softly before retreating to her little makeshift vanity. I sit on her bed and from my position, I have the perfect view of Charlie as she coats her lashes with mascara, her mouth opened in the cutest little O, as she concentrates. She catches my watching her and instantly blushes.

"Stop being a creeper, Tanner! Jeeze" Scout laughs, tossing a pillow my way, hitting my in the had.

"I can't help it. You have one good looking room mate." I wink over at her, tossing the pillow back.

"I know, if only I jumped on the opportunity before you." She jokes, shrugging her shoulders after catching the pillow, holding it to her chest.

I roll my eyes playfully and chuckle. "Oh you wish. What happened to what's his face?" I question.

"Ehh, life is too short for little dicks." She says it so nonchalantly that I nearly choke, coughing to cover it up.

"Well um... I wish you luck on your ever present search for something... bigger and better." I laugh.

"Are you guys done being little school girls?" Charlie giggles as she walks over to me, grabbing my hands and yanking me off the bed. I let out a groan in protest, stumbling closer to her in the small space and enveloping her in my arms. I kiss the top of her head gently.

"Don't wait up Scout. Don't worry I'll take good care of our girl." I laugh as I walk her out the door and to the parking lot, opening the truck door for her, helping her up.

"Are you excited for me to meet your family?" Charlie asks above the low music playing in the background.

I'm so wrapped up in my own thoughts and nerves that it takes me a moment to register what she says. I nod my head. "Of course! They're going to love you." I take a deep breath. "I'm sorry, I'm just nervous, I don't know why." I blush slightly. Admitting my feelings never came easy, not even with people closest to me, but with her it's starting to get easier.

She reaches over and wraps her hand around mine, smoothing her thumb over mine reassuringly.

"I'm super excited to try Trish's cooking. I swear that's all you talk about." She giggles. "And your sisters. I hope they like me." She looks nervous for a moment but as soon as the look appears, it vanishes.

"Oh trust me, they'll love you. They'll probably be fighting for your attention." I grin over at her, and she looks at me, a smile tugging at her lips.

I pull into the driveway, throwing the truck into park before getting out and walking over to her side, opening the door for her.

"Thank you." She smiles up at me and I wrap my hand around hers, squeezing her hand gently as I lead her inside.

Once inside, the smell of a home cooked meal hits us square in the face and my stomach grumbles in protest.

We make our way into the kitchen and Trish is there, shredding something in the crockpot.

"It smells amazing!" Charlie exclaims, causing Trish to jump slightly.

"You guys are here!" Trish squeals like a teenager and rushes towards us, wiping her hand on a dish towel. She throws the towel aside before enveloping us both in the biggest hug. I let out a small groan and I can already feel my cheeks heating up.

"I was just here last weekend, you couldn't have missed me that much." I grin at her when she finally pulls away.

She rolls her eyes at me, grabbing each of Charlie's hands in hers, studying her.

My nerves starting roaring inside of me again but I push them down the best I can as I watch Trish smile at Charlie.

"I'm not excited about you being here Tanner." She jokes, waving a dismissive hand my way before wrapping it back around Charlie's. "I'm excited for this beauty to be joining us! You didn't tell me she was this gorgeous!" I can see Charlie's cheeks light up with the deepest shade of red and I can't help but chuckle, tossing her a glance to tell her how sorry I am for my step mom.

"Trish, leave the poor girl alone. She just walked in." My dad's voice boomed from behind us as he made his way into the kitchen. He greeted me with a warm pat on my shoulder and offered his hand to Charlie with a smile.

"I'm Henry, Tanner's father. It's nice to meet you Charlie." He says, shaking Charlie's hand gently once she places her much smaller hand in his.

"It's nice to meet you too. Your guys' house is beautiful. Thank you so much for inviting me to dinner." She beams a heart stopping smile at the both of them and there goes that vice, tightening around my heart even more. By the time she's done with me, my heart will be crushed to smithereens.

"Tanner!" A high pitched squeal shakes the house, followed by three sets of running feet.

Jillian, April, and Mia come rushing into the kitchen. Jillian comes to an immediate stop as soon as she spots Charlie, taking her in uncertainly. She moves closer to me, standing at my side as she wraps her arms around my waist. This is a first for her. She's usually never shy. I peel her arms off of me as the other two fawn over Charlie, pulling her in every which direction. They eventually end up dragging her to the play room.

"What's wrong Jill?" I ask, crouching down to her level.

"Who is she?" Jillian asks bluntly and it takes me by surprise. If anything I thought Mia would have the toughest time warming up to Charlie.

"Her name is Charlie, and she's my..." I stop for a moment, me and Charlie have never had the talk. We never labeled our relationship but at the same time never denied how we feel for each other.

"Charlie is very special, Jill." I say opting to make it as simple as possible.

"Is she your girlfriend?" Hearing the disgust in Jillian's voice nearly knocks me on my ass.

"Jillian Kaplan. Don't make me send you to your room." Trish scolds from the crock pot.

Jillian folds her arms over her chest and huffs. She storms up the stairs and before long her bedroom door slams.

I don't know what to do. Jillian was fine whenever Alicia came around, it wasn't often but it never went like this.

"Looks like someone is jealous." Trish sings as she walks up next to me.

I sigh and lean back against the counter, crossing my arms across my chest. "What am I going to do?"

"Just give her some time. You're her main man Tanner. You've even surpassed her father in how important you are to her. She's not a mommy's girl or daddy's girl. She's a Tanner's girl." Trish smiles up at me. "She can sense how important Charlie is to you now. Just give her some time. I'm sure she'll come around." As Trish walks away, I see Charlie leaning against the door frame to the kitchen. She's biting her bottom lip, looking down at the floor. She looks guilty and it breaks my heart.

I walk over to her and wrap my arms around her. She returns the gesture, "Would you mind if I go talk to her?" She asks and her question takes me by surprise. She looks up at he, her eyes a pool of feelings, it's so hard to pull out just one.

I just nod and she kisses my cheek softly before pulling away and disappearing upstairs.
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