Charlie Ever After

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I walk through the door around five pm and the house is quiet.

"Hello?" I call out. No reply. The boys must be out.

I walk up to my bedroom, tossing my books onto my small desk before sitting behind my computer screen, getting started on my homework.

An hour or so passes and when I'm finally done with the assignment my eyes are practically burning out of my skull.

I tug my phone from my pocket, seeing a text from Charlie light up my screen. I smile at her message before typing a reply, asking her out tonight.

I have the biggest shit eating grin stretched across my face the entire time we text back and forth, the smile only growing when she agrees to the date.

I had the perfect plan. We'll go out to the grasslands and I'll park the truck. We'll have a cute movie night under the night sky. It will be perfect, just like her.

I rush around the house, scouring every closet and bedroom for as many extra blankets and pillows I can find. The bed of my truck wasn't necessarily the most comfortable, so I needed to find as much padding as I could.

Once I have about ten blankets and quite a few pillows, I carry them to my truck and throw them into the tiny back seat.

I walk back up to my room, grabbing my laptop before heading back out of the house.

Before driving to her dorm, I stop at the grocery store, picking up some pre-made sandwiches, drinks, snacks and a bottle of red wine for her. Wine wasn't my favorite, but I wouldn't mind the slight buzz from a glass or two- to calm my nerves.

I pull into the student parking lot a half hour later and check my reflection in the visor mirror. I draw in a shaky breath and try to calm my shaking hands before climbing out and making my way up to the sixth floor.

I knock on the door and when she opens it, I'm momentarily left speechless. I trip over my words, trying to tell her how amazing she looks as my eyes scan every inch of her body. Her white shirt is clinging to her every jaw dropping curve and the way her yoga pants frame her perfect legs and ass- I didn't know what to say, shit I can't even remember how to breathe.

She shakes that perfect ass and I nearly drop to the floor. Fuck. A shiver shoots through my body as the pressure builds between my legs. I take in a shaky breath before wrapping my arms around her, pulling her as close as space will allow.

My lips find hers, pressing hard against them. I can feel the vibration of a word slipping from her lips and for a moment I think she's about to tell me that she loves me, but I must be hearing things because she kisses me back with such an intensity it almost knocks me on my ass.

The moan that escapes her lips does nothing to keep me in an upright position, my jeans starting to become tighter in the crotch as I spring to life. I let out a soft grunt against her lips and try to keep my cock from poking her in the leg.

I pull back, afraid that if I keep kissing her that I wouldn't be able to control myself.

My breathing is ragged as I drop my forehead against hers.

"You're beautiful." I say softly and I feel her move just slightly as her eyes shoot to mine.

Before long I have her in the truck, a makeshift blind fold covering her eyes. She's nervously tapping her foot in the passenger seat and her nerves are causing mine to flare up. My grip tightens around the steering wheel, my knuckles going white.

The drive isn't long, maybe twenty minutes tops and when I pull up and park my stomach starts doing jumping jacks. I can feel the vice tightening around my heart as I think about how she'll react to the view.

I help her down from the truck, positioning myself behind her, my lips hovering near her ear as I let the blindfold fall from her eyes.

I can see goosebumps rise over her soft skin as my breath brushes against her skin and I can't help but to grin at her reaction to me.

Her eyes spring open and the sweetest gasp escapes her lips. Her head swivels around as she takes in her surroundings.

"Holy fuck." I hear the words slip from her mouth and I can't help but to chuckle, my grin so big that my cheeks are starting to burn.

I watch her for a moment more as she examines the grasslands around us. The last bit of light from the setting sun illuminates her, making her look absolutely heavenly.

I keep myself busy with taking all of the blankets and pillows out from the back seat and piling them into the bed of the truck. As I'm pulling out the last of them I see Charlie sliding out of her shoes and climbing into the bed. She takes her time setting us up with a little bed and my heart swells as I watch her. She's so perfect, so beautiful and I can't believe she's all mine. A chill spreads through me, causing me to shiver as I join her. I pass her the last blanket and climb up, leaving my shoes next to hers.

With the few minutes she had, she managed to make the bed of my truck the most comfortable it will probably ever be. I settle back against the pillows and start pulling food out of the bags, setting everything around us.

She pulls out the rubber wine glasses and a smile spreads across her lips as she examines them.

"They're cool right?" I say, explaining my reasoning for them. Anyone who knows me, knows how clumsy I am. I trip over my own feet, walk into glass doors, and knock down my fair share of drinks. I've broken many wine glasses and beer bottles in my day.

She pours us each a glass and hands me one. I take a small sip before pulling out my laptop, hooking it up to my phone's mobile hotspot and opening up Netflix.

I push the laptop towards her and tell her to pick whatever she wants.

It doesn't take her long to decide on something. She sets the laptop between us before she relaxes back against me, her head resting on my chest. I wrap an arm tightly around her as I lightly trace my fingers across her skin.

I watch her chest moving up and down as she breathes, my eyes trailing over the entirety of her- taking into memory everything that makes Charlie, Charlie.

Her gaze meets mine and for a moment I'm embarrassed that I've been caught watching her, but when she smiles up at me the embarrassment fades away.

Hearing her tell me how happy she is has the Charlie vice tightening even more around my heart.

My eyes search hers and I want to tell her every thought running through my head- how beautiful she is, how every single thing she says and does has me lost for words. I want to tell her I love her and that I'll never stop- but I stop myself. I don't want to ruin the moment we're sharing, so I just smile as wide as my cheeks will allow.

Her next words knock the wind right from my lungs as my stomach sours. Her words make me feel sick but I just nod my head. She wants to tell me about that night, about the night that traumatized her beyond belief, and I don't know if I'm ready to hear all of the details. I don't know how I'll react but I can already feel the anger swelling inside of me. I gulp down my surface emotions and listen to her speak.

I sit patiently, listening to every single word that comes out of her mouth. It takes her a little bit to get everything out, but with every word a knife twists itself around in my gut. The sick feeling gets worse and I want to just wake up from this nightmare- knowing that this woman- this amazing and beautiful soul had to go through something so awful.

I feel tears prick at the corners of my eyes but I blink them away before she notices them.

Hearing her talk about what she went through tears my soul apart, but I try to compose myself and keep my emotions at bay for her.

Once she's done speaking I'm silent. I don't know how to react or what to say. My first instinct is to jump back in the truck and make her tell me where this jerk off lives. I want to kill him. I want to strangle him and watch the color fade from his face until he's at the brink- just like he did to her.

I take in a shaky breath and reassure her that I'm different, that I'm not him and I never will be- but my own doubt starts trickling in.

I know my own anger, I know how bad it can get. It would never be directed at her, but I know how quick I can go from 0-100. I vow to myself in that moment to never let her see that side of me, but I didn't know truly how hard that was going to be.

Her head is on my shoulder and I mindlessly rub a hand up and down her arm, feeling goosebumps spring to life under my touch.

"You saved me" are the only words I hear.

The tears start to form in the corner of my eyes and this time I let them fall silently as she picks up my hand, playing with my fingers between hers. By this point, neither of us are paying attention to the movie, we're both just lying there- both in our own heads.

"Be my girlfriend." I blurt out after about ten minutes of comfortable silence- it's not so much of a question, rather a statement.

Her head whips around and her gaze is on fire. There's so much hidden in those eyes and all a sudden a slew of emotions washes over me. Love, so much love for this girl, sadness for her and all that she's had to endure- all that she's put up with, anger towards the dickhead who ever had the balls to lay his hands on her, and a motivation stronger than I've ever felt before- to make her happier than she's ever been, to try and replace all her bad memories with ones that she'll never want to forget.

I lay a hand on her cheek, my thumb caressing her skin lightly as the credits roll across the screen of the laptop. I never want this moment to end- if I could spend the rest of my days in this very spot, very moment with Charlie- I would in a heartbeat.

A few hours later we're both laying in my bed, wrapped in each other. The clock on my bedside table reads 12:45 a.m. She nuzzles her head between my chin and my neck and when I look down at her, her eyes are heavy with sleep. But, I just need to get it off my chest.

"Thank you for opening up to me today. You have no idea how much it means to me." I smile down at her, moving a strand of hair out of her face and tucking it behind her ear.

She grins up at me sleepily and she just looks so content wrapped in my arms that my heart nearly explodes.

It takes all of the strength I possess, but I start talking- "So... You met my parents and my sisters. You haven't had a chance to meet my older brother, Tristan, but I'm sure you will soon. He comes around from time to time, him and his fiancé are expecting their first child... But, I had a twin sister. Her name was Tessa-" I cringe once the words are out of my mouth, saying it out loud sounds weird, wrong.

Charlie shifts shifts against me, angling her body so she can be eye level with me.

"We weren't close like most twins are, she was more like an annoying younger sister." A sad smile makes its way to my lips as well as the familiar flood of guilt. I suck in a shaky breath, trailing my hand absentmindedly up and down her back.

"Eight years ago we were on vacation in California for the fourth of July. It's something we did every year as a family. My mom's coworker had a beach house she'd rent out to us. We only stayed a few days, but we all looked forward to it every year. We'd all get to have fun as a family and just relax for those few days, then when the fourth came around we'd all gather on the beach. My parents always set us up at the tiki bar, they'd all sit around and drink and us kids had free roam for the most part, as long as they could still see us" I let out a soft chuckle and my heart constricts at the memory, thinking back to all of the memories that are now overshadowed by one awful year.

"Anyway, the last day we were there we all decided that we wanted one more beach day before heading home. It was pretty cloudy that day- I can remember it vividly." I close my eyes, jumping right back to that day.

"Everything happened so fast. One moment we were all in the ocean, fucking around and then the next thing I remember I hear Tessa screaming for us and she was so damn far away. Me and Tristan didn't know how it happened. We knew she wasn't that strong of a swimmer to be able to swim out that far in mere seconds." I sigh and rake trembling fingers through my hair, trying to calm myself. I don't want to have a melt down in front of her.

"I tried with all my might to swim out there. I was so close to her and then she went under. I dove under and searched everywhere but couldn't find her. That's the last thing I remember clearly. According to Tristan the tide got me too. It pulled me under for a good while until Tristan was finally able to find me and pull me to shore. When I woke up, I was in the hospital. I was so confused. I didn't remember anything that happened, all I can remember from that moment was begging to see Tessa. God, the look on my mom's face when she had to relive it all over again and tell me what happened. It's something that will forever be burned into my memory." When I finish my retelling of events, tears drench my cheeks and when I finally have the balls to look down at Charlie her face is shimmering with wet tears, too.

When she realizes I'm finished speaking I can hear her sniffle and suck in a shuddery breath.

"I don't even know what to say."

I just shake my head. "You don't have to say anything. I didn't tell you for sympathy or anything. I wanted to open up to you like you opened up to me. You're the first person I've told...No one knows the whole story besides my family,not even Collin. He knows that I had a twin who passed, but that's about it." I chew on the corner of my bottom lip before releasing it when the familiar, metallic taste of blood washes over my tongue.

That wasn't the last of it either, but I didn't have it in me to tell the go through the rest; to remember and relive the events- to tell her how a month later my mom killed herself, unable to deal with the grief of losing a child.
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