Charlie Ever After

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It's Saturday morning and I have to admit that I'm missing Charlie more than I ever expected to. Her presence is so intoxicating and addicting that I just need her around me twenty-four seven- especially after our FaceTime call last night.

I'm sprawled out on the living room sofa, flipping through the Netflix catalogue- desperately trying to find something to watch.

Collin comes bounding down the stairs and jumps over the back of the couch, landing on top of my legs. I let out a howl before pulling my feet out from under him.

"Watch it, jerk off." I growl at him.

He gives me an innocent smile which causes me to roll my eyes.

"What're your plans for tonight?" He asks casually.

I heave a sigh. "I don't know. Probably continuing to mope." I say truthfully as I turn my attention back to the television and continue scanning the TV show selection in front of me.

"Oh stop. You love sick dog, you. You can't sulk whenever she's away for more than twenty-four hours. It's not healthy." Collin chuckles at me.

I glare at him in reply and roll my eyes. "Shut up." I mumble.

"Come to a party with me tonight. Please, just keep me company until Scout gets off of work and meets us there." He offers me the cheesiest pair of puppy dog eyes, complete with a wobbling bottom lip.

I roll my eyes again and let out a groan. "Fine." I grumble.

I sit up on the couch, still on my hunt for something to watch. "So, what's going on with you and Scout?" I toss a grin over at him before returning my eyes to the television.

He bites his bottom lip and diverts my gaze. "We're uh... I guess we're a thing? I mean we're hooking up and stuff... But I think I really like her." I can't help but notice the color that tints his cheeks and neck. Happiness blooms inside of me, for him.

I punch him in the shoulder. "Good for you man. Scout seems like a pretty cool girl. You guys look good together." I smile at him. "You should just be honest with her. Tell her how you feel- trust me, her reaction might surprise you." I offer him a wink, knowing for sure that Scout feels the same about him- you can tell the minute you step into the same room as the two of them. It's almost like the intense spark Charlie and I share- but one all of their own.

I give up on my Netflix search and end up just putting on a rerun of Family Guy for background noise.

After a few moments of mindlessly watching TV together, Collin clears his throat. "So, now don't kill me for asking... But what happened the night of the party?" He asks cautiously, not able to meet my eyes.

I sigh and bite my lip, trying to gather my thoughts enough to even tell him. "Well, I saw Alicia at the party. Long story short, she said some mean things to Charlie. I guess she found out we were dating somehow, I don't know- but she tried getting into Charlie's head and as soon as I saw her I lost my shit." I sigh recounting the memories. "Then the alcohol called to me and it was end game from there. I'm not proud of my actions, but I can't necessarily change them."

"You can only learn from them." Collin finishes for me with a shrug of his shoulders. "Listen man, I understand your anger. I'm not invalidating you- just.... just be careful. I don't want you to lose Charlie, and dude your anger scares even me." I gulp at the thought of my anger really being so bad that my own best friend is scared of me at times. Collin has seen me and helped me through some of my darkest times- shit, if it weren't from him, I probably would've never gotten help in the first place. I owe Collin my life and disappointment washes over me as I reflect on my own past behavior.

A look of guilt must twist my expression because Collin recovers, "It's okay. I know you'd never hurt me or anything. I just worry how your anger is all consuming. Have you seen your therapist lately?" He asks and I know he's coming from a place of caring but I can't help it when my jaw tenses up, painfully.

I grit my teeth and try breathing away the anger. "We're down to once a month appointments, now."

"Well maybe you should reach out." There's an apology in his eyes and it melts some of my anger away. I know he's only saying all of this because he's worried about me, but I can't help getting defensive. I've been doing so good over the past year with my anger and now all of a sudden it's bubbling up again. I don't understand it, I just hope that I can get it under control before what Collin said comes true- I could lose Charlie because of my behavior, and that's something I can't have happening.

The entire rest of the day I sat back and mulled over the conversation that Collin and I had. The nagging paranoia was back- the one that told me that I wasn't good enough for Charlie and never would be. Would I ever be able to control my anger? What if I had an outburst in front of her- I don't know what I would do if I scared her. Collin had already admitted that I had scared him on a few occasions, if not every time I had an outburst- I couldn't imagine doing the same to Charlie. Pain ripped through me as my thoughts ate me alive. Charlie deserves better. Am I just wasting her time? Am I lying to myself- telling myself that I can finally have happiness, in the form of Charlie?

By the time that we're ready to leave for the party, I feel like a zombie. My mind is on overdrive with constant doubts that I try to squash down, but every time I feel free another nagging thought comes chipping away at my self confidence.

I sigh and rake a trembling hand through my hair as we walk out the door and start the short walk to the frat house where the party was being held.

"You okay?" Collin looks over at me, a look of worry etched across his features as he studies me.

I nod my head and suck in a breath. "Yeah, man." I lie.

He studies me for a moment, not completely convinced before finally dropping it.

Within fifteen minutes we're in the kitchen of the frat house, pouring ourselves drinks. I opt for an alcohol-free beverage while Collin fills half of his cup with whiskey and the other half with cola.

"You're going to be wasted before Scout even gets here." I chuckle as I clink my plastic cup against his.

He looks nervous. "I just need a little liquid courage tonight." His hands are shaking around his cup and I shoot him an amused glance.

"I think I'm going to tell her how I feel." He says anxiously as his eyes dart around the room.

"Shit man. I've never seen you so nervous." A wide grin spreads across my lips. "You got it bad for this girl. It's kinda cute." I tease him and he shoves my shoulder, a grin peeking through his frown.

I successfully navigate at least two hours of this shitty party without a drop of alcohol, something I'm incredibly proud of myself for. Collin and I have been at each other's side all night. He's practically vibrating with how nervous he is and it reminds me of how I felt around Charlie at first, sparking a smile to crack at the corner of my lips.

I watch the door open, Collin's head whipping towards it as his eyes widen. Scout walks in and even I have to admit she looks pretty damn good. Her long blonde hair is flowing in waves down her back and she's wearing a pair of denim ripped jeans, and a pink lace crop top- similar to the one outfit that had me drooling over Charlie a few weeks ago.

Like the love sick puppy dog that Collin is, he practically floats over to her. He wraps his arms firmly around her, staking his claim which only makes me miss my girl more. My gut aches with need as I imagine feeling Charlie's small body wrapped in my arms. I bite my lip before letting out a small sigh, joining both Scout and Collin in the kitchen where they ventured off to.

They're both perched side by side in front of the bar, making drinks together and giving each other googly eyes. I can't help but chuckle at their actions and wonder if Charlie and I look like that when we're together- I can almost guarantee that we do.

I come up behind them and slap Collin on the shoulder. "How are my two favorite love birds?" I sing and as I look over their shoulders their faces are both bright red. A low chuckle escapes my lips as I roll my eyes.

Once they have their drinks we make our way back to the living room, where we claim our spot in the back again. I take a sip from my water bottle as we make small talk. I look down at my phone screen and it's almost ten o'clock, which normally would be way too early to leave a party- but I so desperately just want to call Charlie and see her beautiful face.

I clap Collin on the shoulder. "Alright, I'm gonna head out." I give him a smile before moving in to give Scout a small hug. Collin grabs me into a hug as well.

We're about to walk towards the door when it swings open. My alarms instantly blare and everything around me goes black when I see who's at the door. Within seconds I'm a raging bull ready to charge in and take the kill but my voice of reason is behind me, pulling me back and it sounds a lot like Collin. The shield from over my eyes is lifted slightly as Collin's voice registers in my mind- his words however do not. He's pulling me back and from his tone I can tell that he's trying to talk me down, but the anger inside of me is raging too hot- I can't contain it. I need to unleash it.

"Tanner." I can barely hear Collin's voice as I charge forward, towards him.

"Tanner." I hear my voice called again, but the seething anger has now fully taken over.

I look the girl that has her arm draped around him, dead in the face and try to paste on my most sincere smile- but I'm sure my stone cold eyes sell me out instantly. "Just thought you should know that he likes to beat the women he's with." The words are out of my mouth before I can even think twice.

Gavin lunges forward, coming face to face with me. I puff my chest out against his, trying to seem bigger than I really am.

"Watch what you fucking say." Gavin grits his teeth and spit flies from his mouth.

"Or fucking what?" I challenge and before I know it, his fist is coming towards me- nailing me right under my eye. I can hear the thwack of skin on skin contact and feel the thin skin split and the spill of blood. This does nothing for my anger but enrages me further. I black out as I lunge at him, knocking him to the ground and unleashing my fists upon him.

I get a few good hits in before I'm yanked off of him and pulled backwards, through the party and out the back door. I'm thrown on the ground as the haze is lifting from my vision.

"What the fuck? What the fuck? What the actual fuck!" Collin screams out at me. He's raking his fingers through his hair, pulling at the ends as he paces in a circle.

"Tanner you're a fucking moron, an asshole. What the fuck is wrong with you?" He berates me, and I know I deserve it- in a way.

"It was her ex. The one who fucking almost killed her." I'm up now, pacing around the lawn as I seethe silently, replaying the last few minutes.

Collin sighs and seems to calm down a little but when Scout comes running out all wide eyed, his anger is back in full force. Scout's eyes are glassy with unshed tears and when she looks over at me she flinches. The action alone was enough to sober me up from my anger and I try stepping towards her, but she sinks into Collin and he steps back from me, shielding her protectively.

I'm instantly consumed with an overwhelming feeling of regret and despair as I watch both my best friend and one of my girl's best friends stare at me in horror.

"I'm sorry." Is all I can say.

Collin instantly snaps, flying forward away from Scout. He pushes me down to the ground. "After our talk today, after fucking everything. I get that you're angry, I get that he's a piece of shit and deserves everything you just gave him- but Tanner, you can't fucking do this. Do you see how bad you scared Scout, how bad you fucking scared me? You almost took me out a few times with your elbow. If you don't get your fucking shit together you're going to lose Charlie."

His words burn right through me as I stumble up from my spot on the ground. I look between him and Scout- I'm embarrassed, ashamed of myself, pissed off, I'm so many things and I'm pretty sure I'm on the verge of tears, but before I can show that kind of emotion in front of the two of them, I bolt out of the yard and head towards my truck.

Once I'm finally out of sight I let a few silent tears fall from my eyes before aggressively wiping them away as I walk down the main street, towards home.

By the time I reach our house the tears have almost fully dried and the haze of anger that was clouding my self control has started melting away. I walk through the door, slamming it shut behind me. Jace is standing in the kitchen, making something to eat and he jumps when the door slams.

"Well hello to you too." Jace says without turning around as I stomp up the stairs towards my bedroom.

I throw myself face down on my bed and heave a deep sigh. How could I have let this happen? How could I have let my anger get the best of me. Collin was right, he did deserve it- but there were other ways of going about it. I should have never hit him, even if it was only in self defense- doing that makes me just like him.

A fresh wave of panic washes over me as I start to compare myself to Gavin- at least from what I already know about him. Suddenly though my pocket gets heavier as I remember my phone, remember my need to call Charlie.

I dig the device out of my pocket and when the screen lights up, my stomach drops. There's six missed calls from Charlie and a few voicemails. I listen to the first voicemail and the panic in her voice as well as the sadness rips my heart from my chest. She's crying, trying to tell me something about her mom but I can't quite make out her words- until I switch to the next voicemail. It came fifteen minutes or so after the first one and when I listen to it the blood in my veins runs cold. Her voice is so filled with anger. She's mad at me.

"Where are you? When I need you most, you up and disappear? What's up?" Her voice shakes on the other end and fresh tears flood my eyes.

"Fuck, fuck, fuck." I mumble to myself as I press the call button under her contact card and wait anxiously as it rings.

A man's voice ends up answering and at first I don't recognize it until they're calling my name when I don't answer.

"Tanner, dude." It's Isaac's voice.

"Where is she?" Is all I can say.

I can hear Isaac's deep sigh on the other end of the line. "She's sleeping. Listen, she's really upset. You might want to give her a few days."

His words fill me with more anxiety. "A few days? Dude, I know. I fucked up. I should've answered, I should've been there."

"I know." Is all he mutters. "She'll reach out." The line goes dead after his last few words.

She'll reach out? What the fuck does that even mean?

I rake a shaky hand through my already messed up hair as I pace around my room. Part of me is telling me to jump in my truck right now and drive through the night to her, the other- more rational part of me is telling me to stay home and let her cool off. I didn't want to listen to the smarter half of me. I wanted to be reckless- all I want is to hold her in my arms and comfort her, tell her everything is okay.

I end up sinking down into my bed, pulling the pillow next to me towards my chest and inhaling sharply- it still smells like her. My jaw sets into a straight line as the pull to my truck is so intense, but I'm able to keep it at bay for a little longer until I finally fall asleep with hot, wet tears stinging my eyes.
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