Charlie Ever After

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35| Charlie

I wake up, feeling like I got hit by a bus. A groan escapes my lips as I crack my eyes open, looking around the room. I'm in Lydia's bed, wrapped in her fluffy white comforter and she's leaning up on her elbow looking over at me with sad eyes.

"How are you feeling, babe?" She asks cautiously before dropping her head to the pillow to be at eye level with me.

I suck in a steadying breath to quell my shaking insides as I shrug my shoulders; figuring honesty is always best when it comes to Lydia.

I shake my head. "Not great, I guess."

She reaches over and lays a soft hand on my arm, running it up and down in a soothing motion. "I'm so sorry, Charlie. It just seems like life is out to get you, lately." Her words are blunt and they strike a chord in me that has me feeling sorry for myself.

I nod my head in agreement as she leans in, moving a stray hair out of my face and tucking it behind my ear. "Let's get you some breakfast." She knows me oh so well.

We both climb out of bed and rush down the stairs and into the kitchen. She rifles around in the cabinets, pulling out skillets and all the makings for chocolate chip pancakes. I take this opportunity to fish around in the fridge for some bacon.

I almost feel guilty being away from my mother, but what can I possibly do sitting at her side while she sleeps- other than get in the way of the doctors trying to work on her.

When I left my mother last night she was stable. I was so afraid that my mother's vice finally took her away from me. As much bad blood as I have towards my mother, she was and will always be family. She's a part of me, and I will never be ready to say goodbye to her.

I realize I'm standing in front of the open fridge, lost in my thoughts and when I finally shake the fog from my head, I grab what I went in there for- the bacon and a carton of orange juice. I tilt the opening of the OJ to my lips and let it trickle down my throat, quenching the thirst that I hadn't even realized was there.

"Thirsty?" Lydia questions from the stove.

"Can you grab me the butter please?" She asks as she shakes the premade pancake mix into a plastic mixing bowl before adding water, stirring the contents together.

I nod my head, mindlessly and grab the sticks of butter from the fridge, passing them over to her. I sit at the island, stealing a handful of chocolate chips from the bag laid out, and stuffing them into my mouth.

"Save some for breakfast." Lydia growls as she snatches them off the counter, pouring the rest of the bag's contents into the mixing bowl.

I roll my eyes at her dramatics before chugging more OJ, straight from the container.

Once she has the pancakes started- the first batch already on a plate, I make my way over to the stove, laying a frying pan onto the burner next to hers and throwing down a few pieces of bacon. When the smell fills the room, Isaac floats in- nose in the air.

"Mm, that smells delicious." He comes up behind the both of us, taking his time as he glances over each of our shoulders before kissing our cheeks one after the other.

"None for you." I tease with a wink as he places a hand over his heart- obviously wounded.

I giggle and grab a fork to flip the pieces of bacon, making sure they're done before putting the finished pieces on a paper towel lined plate and plopping a couple more pieces into the greasy skillet.

Once breakfast was all cooked, eaten and cleaned up the three of us settle on the patio in our respective lounge chairs.

"I can already feel your gazes on me, just get it over with." I can practically feel Lydia and Isaac's eyes burning holes into me. I shoot them both warning glares, causing Isaac to roll his eyes behind his designer sunglasses.

"We're just worried is all." He finally speaks.

"There's no reason to be." I bite back.

"My mom is in the hospital, she's stable. Once she's released, I'll make sure she's okay and then I'll get back to my life."

"And Tanner's an asshole." I add after a moment or two of silence.

They look at each other with worried expressions painted clear as day across their faces.

"I'm sure there's a perfectly good explanation, Char." Lydia starts but I just lay back in my lounge chair, ignoring her. I wasn't ready for this conversation, I wanted to have the day to sulk- not hash out my feelings from last night.

It was bad enough that my dreams were plagued with the possibilities of why Tanner wasn't answering my calls. Was he hurt? Was he sick of me and the constant bullshit that consumes my life? Was he cheating, in bed with another girl- someone prettier and carrying less baggage? The thoughts ate me alive even in my conscious state.

"Well-" I could hear the scrape of metal against concrete as Isaac sprung up from his chair and within minutes my body is being hoisted up into his arms before falling through the air, then right into the water, I'm flung. "There will be no moping around here."

When I resurface he's standing at the edge of the pool with his hands on his hips, staring down at me with a quirked eyebrow.

I'm pissed, more than pissed. I haul myself up the side of the pool and immediately tackle him right into the pool, pushing his head under the water for a moment before letting him resurface.

"You prick." I glare at him, swimming backwards before standing my ground with my arms across my chest.

He holds his hands up in surrender before rolling his eyes, fishing his sunglasses from the bottom of the pool with his foot. He returns the frames to his face before trudging his way out of the pool.

Once we're back in our lounge chairs drying off, Lydia looks over at me through the protection of her sunglasses. "When's your mom being discharged?"

I shrug my shoulders, at this point it's just an automatic response to any kind of question. "The doctor said she could be discharged tonight, but most likely tomorrow or the next day." I sigh and pick up my drink- a Captain and Coke, heavy on the Captain.

I can feel the buzz already pricking at my senses and I hope deep down that she's not discharged tonight. The alcohol is starting to numb the feelings that I've been dying to run away from ever since seeing my mom's almost lifeless body slumped on the floor. It's been my greatest fear for as long as I can remember; but I guess I can thank my lucky stars that she pulled through.

A few hours later my phone starts vibrating against the counter. I chance a glance at it, it's Tanner- again. I click the side buttons on my phone, ignoring it.

"Charlie, you're going to have to answer eventually. I'm sure he's worried sick about you. You have to give him something." Lydia looks at me, throwing her hands up in the air- questioning my sanity, I'm sure.

I look at her, a scowl etched across my features. "He had his chance to be worried last night. He should have fucking answered. I called like seven times." Part of me knew that I was being a little dramatic and unreasonable but I couldn't help the sinking feeling in my gut that I got whenever I thought about why he didn't answer.

Lydia huffs out a sigh and rolls her eyes at me. I know that this isn't the end of the conversation, I guess I'll have to deal with the rest of it when she brings it up next.

"Are you going to see your mom tonight?" Isaac asks, leaning against the kitchen island, the neck of his open beer bottle perched up to his lips.

I nod my head along to his question. "Yeah, I stopped drinking like two hours ago. The doctor called and said she's a little more coherent now... and that she's been asking for me." I swallow hard before trying to smile but it doesn't quite make it.

Isaac pushes himself up from his position on the island and walks over to me, wrapping his muscular arms around me and pulling me in. His scent instantly comforts me as I inhale the musky, woodsy notes of Isaac that I've come to know. I link my arms around his waist and burry my head into his hard chest.

After a moment I look up at him. "I know I'm being irrational. I'm just hurt."

A warm smile perks up his lips as he looks down at me before smoothing a hand through my hair. "I know. He called last night. I told him to give you a few days to cool off-" His grin tilted a little further, turning mischievous. "But I know that boy, he won't let up. If you're thinking that he's out cheating or something, you can wipe that from your brain right now. That boy is loyal. His ex cheated on him for years and he always stuck by her side, regardless."

His words seemed to sooth me even more as they start to register as well as a sense of guilt that settles deep within my bones. I try to smile up at him and nod. "Thank you." I whisper before giving him a soft peck on the cheek, pulling away from our hug.

All of a sudden it feels like I'm being pulled to my phone. I bite my bottom lip as my fingers wrap around the device, the screen coming to life as I pick it up and hold it out in front of me. I look up at both Isaac and Lydia for support. Lydia nods her head with a smile.

"Just do it already, stubborn ass." She rolls her eyes and shoos me away.

I suck in a steadying breath before I make my way out the sliding glass door, legs feeling like they're made of concrete.

I settle down on the side of the pool, my legs dangling in the water. I stare at my phone in front of me and my anxiety starts to peak. What if now- after I've ignored him all day and night, what if he doesn't want to talk to me? My hands start to shake, so before I can second guess my actions, I press call.

It only rings twice and his panicked voice answers.

"Jesus Christ. Charlie. Are you okay? I'm so sorry." His words come out rushed.

My heart instantly swells and so do my eyes. Tears instantly start falling down my face and in a matter of seconds I'm a blubbering mess, explaining to Tanner everything that's happened in the last twenty-four hours.

I don't think what happened truly hit me until that very moment. My emotions tumble across like a hurricane rushing across the shore line and I couldn't stop the torrential downpour of tears and words as I tried to expel the sinking pain that I felt in my chest.

"Baby, calm down." His voice breaks through my thoughts and for a second my mind is blank and my attention is drawn to him- until I remember that he's not here next to me, he's on the other end of the phone.

"Why aren't you here?" My words are abrupt and I can tell that the bluntness of them instantly makes him feel uncomfortable.

"I, uh. Isaac told me to give you a few days. I swear, I was half way to my truck when he answered your phone." I can hear an edge of fear in his voice as it wavered on the end a bit.

I roll my eyes, mostly pissed off at Isaac for answering my phone and butting into my business but also irritated that Tanner would listen to Isaac in the first place.

"And you listened to that jerk-off?" I manage to say between sobs.

Tanner chuckles a little on the other end causing the sun to peak through my stormy skies just slightly. "I'm sorry. I didn't know what to do." His voice tapers off and I can tell he's contemplating what to say next. "I wasn't there last night and I'm sorry. I was stuck at a stupid party with Collin and didn't hear my phone-" A pause. "But I will make it up to you in any way that I possibly can." His voice sounds hopeful and the sun peaks out a bit further, but there's also a cloud of uncertainty peaking its head in the distance.

I nod my head as if he can see me. The idea of him being stuck at a party- that being the reason for him not answering- well, it didn't sit right with me. All I know though is that I want him- need him, by my side.

"Okay," I say. A nagging thought in the back of my head still is leaving me unsure- but I file it away and continue. "I understand. I'm sorry for ignoring you and acting immature."

I sigh.

"I just needed you." I bite my bottom lip, splashing my feet through the water before laying back across the cool concrete.

"I know." His voice is barely audible and I can hear the emotion dripping from his words- it causes that painful feeling in my chest to come back.

I close my eyes and let a silent tear float down my cheek. "I miss you so much."

"I miss you too, baby. Should I hop in my truck and come see you?" He sounds unsure but I can hear his keys jingling in the background.

As much as I want him here, next to me- maybe Isaac was right, maybe I do need a few days.

I shake my head. "No, it's okay. I'll be home in a few days. I promise. I love you." I hang up before he can answer, before I can change my mind.

The thoughts are swirling around in my head. Did I just fuck up, did I just turn away the only other person- besides Lydia and Isaac, that I have by my side?

Part of me wants space, wants to be able to show the world how strong I am; independent. The other half wants to run as fast as I can into Tanner's out spread arms and watch as he fights all of my demons for me.

I just hope that when I go back, he'll be welcoming me with open arms, instead of a cold shoulder.

I squeeze a few more tears out of my eyes before pulling myself off of the ground and pad my way into the Ramirez house- into the open arms of my best friends.

It's a short one, I apologize. Life has been a little rough but I've been dying to get a few chapters up! I hope you enjoy this one!
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