Charlie Ever After

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38| Charlie

Waking up in Tanner's arms will never get old. Feeling his strength encompass me is a feeling of safety that I've never experienced before. I can't get enough of it.

My eyes flutter open and it's almost as if he can sense me waking up because he pulls me in even closer, not yet ready to wake up.

I grin and nuzzle my face into the crook of his neck, inhaling his familiar scent. My body instantly relaxes in his as I trace light patterns across the exposed skin of his chest.

He shifts under me and places a soft kiss to the top of my head. "Good morning, beautiful." His voice is so gravely— heavenly —that it awakens the animal within me.

I let out a small groan and place a few small kisses to his neck. "How is it that you look and sound so sexy when you wake up? I probably look like I've been dragged behind a car for a few miles."

He chuckles and pulls my face up, to look into his eyes. "First of all, shut up—" Another chuckle.

A blush creeps up my neck and settles in my cheeks, warming them.

"Second of all, you're beautiful. Always." He finalizes his words with a sweet kiss that has butterflies erupting in the pit of my stomach.

"I love you." I whisper against his lips, our eyes fluttering open at the same time to meet. Both of our lips quirk up into smiles as we take each other in— relishing in the love that we share for one another.

After a moment we finally pull apart and I lay my head on his chest, grabbing his hand in mine.

"Class hasn't been the same without you." When my eyes meet his, he's grinning down at me.

"Oh yeah? And why's that?"

"Because, I don't have my favorite distraction sitting next to me." He pulls me in closer and nuzzles his face into my messy bun.

I giggle and roll my eyes at him. "Well you have to get through one more day without me. I took off this full week, but I'll be in class first thing Monday morning."

"But, I'll still be in your bed every night." I wink up at him.

He chuckles. "Oh yeah?" His eyebrows raise.

"That's if you want me, of course." I whisper the words against his ear, my breath brushing against his earlobe.

"I wouldn't have it any other way." He whispers back, his voice husky— sending chills coursing through my body.

I wiggle in his grasp and find his lips with mine, kissing him deeply.

We're interrupted by the sound of loud knocks at the door and then yelling. I hear my name and the voice instantly registers in my head. Lydia. And she sounds pissed. Never piss off a little Latina, they're dangerous when they're angry.

Loud stomps come from the steps and I know I've been caught. "Charlie Marie Ramsay." Her voice echoes from the hallway.

Tanner looks at me frantically, real fear in his eyes. I bite my lip, stifling a giggle before I start to panic myself. I hurry out of bed and pull on a pair of Tanner's pajama pants before the door swings open, revealing a furious Lydia and a panic stricken Jace.

Jace's eyes find mine before shifting back to Lydia. He mouths an I'm sorry behind her and I offer him a kind smile.

"Charlie, what the fuck." She eyes me suspiciously then turns her glare to Tanner.

"Seriously?" This time she just sounds hurt. Guilt rolls through my system, thick and heavy.

"I can explain." I start panicking even more and am about three seconds from having a full blown panic attack as Lydia fumes in front of me.

Tanner comes up behind me and kisses my cheek. "I'll give you guys a few minutes."

Lydia turns her frosty stare to him. "No, she's coming with me."

Tanner's eyes glaze over in fear as he shifts his gaze between the two of us.

I sigh in defeat and kiss his lips. "I'll be back later. Go to class. I love you."

Lydia drags me out the door through a shocked Tanner and Jace. Collin is just now emerging from his bedroom— witnessing the tail end of this mornings events.

~

Once back at the dorm, Lydia barges in before me— stealing my keys right out of my shaking hands, while I tried to unlock the door. She parks herself right on my bed and stares over at me. I can now see that her eyes are bloodshot and she has dark circles gracing the skin under her eyes. She still looks beautiful, but for Lydia's standards— she looks like shit.

"Do you know how worried Isaac and I have been all night and morning?" You can still hear the anger in her voice but now she sounds more pained.

I open my mouth to speak but words fail me.

"What the hell happened? Why did you run? I called you non-stop for hours. I even went to Mary- fucking- Ann's house to try and find you. When she told me that you left, and didn't say much more— I didn't know what to fucking think, Charlie." She gets up from my bed and starts pacing, shoving her shaking fingers through her waist length, chocolate locks. She sniffles but then composes herself quickly, because when she turns back to look at me— her eyes are fiery again.

"And then I find you curled up at Tanner's house? You didn't even say goodbye. Is he more important to us now?"

I'm still stuck in my spot by the door and when her words flow out my entire soul crumples. Guilt crashes into me, almost knocking me to my ass. My legs are no longer solid, they feel like Jell-O and if I move they'll just buckle under me.

"Lydia, how could you even think that? You guys are my fucking world." I don't know when I started crying, but hot tears are now flowing fiercely down my cheeks.

"Then why didn't you come to us?" She says and she sounds so deflated that it makes me cry harder.

"I don't know." I say truthfully. "I just got in my car and ended up there. I just needed him in that moment."

I can tell she doesn't understand and the hurt pools in her eyes.

"I'm so sorry Lydia. I know it hurts, and I'm sorry that it feels like I chose him over you guys-" I think hard about what I'm about to say next, something that has been on my mind since everything came to a head with Gavin.

"I don't want to burden you guys anymore. When I was with Gavin- being hurt by him, I tried to hide it from you guys for a reason. I didn't want to be the dark cloud over your guys' lives. I love you two with all of my fucking heart. I didn't want you to have to worry— not that you didn't already. I already feel so guilty for putting you guys through that, through everything. You guys have dealt with me for almost fourteen years! It's a lot."

Lydia's expression softens slightly.

"I don't want to burden Tanner with any of it either, but I just missed him. I fucking love him." I break down, sliding down the door and sinking to the floor.

Lydia stares at me for a moment— not sure what to do, before she slowly makes her way over to me. She wraps her arms tightly around me and holds me as I cry. She's done this so many times before. She knows I'm broken right now, and this is the only thing— as my best friend— that she can do for me.

"I know you do. I know. Tell me what happened with your mom, Charlie."

And I do. I tell Lydia everything. Every little detail— from the moment I picked my mother up from the hospital, till the moment I walked out the door, for what will probably be my last time.

~

"So-" Lydia grins and looks over at me. "That Jace kid is hot." She shoves her hand into my hidden stash of sour patch kids, popping a few into her mouth- her face contorting with the sour flavor.

My eyebrow quirks up with her admission. "Um, what?"

She shrugs her shoulders.

"Earth to Lydia, you have a boyfriend. His name is Nathan, remember?" I wave my hand in front of her face, trying to bring her back to this planet.

She hides her face and shoves a few more sour patch kids into her mouth. "Yeah, about that." She pauses. "We broke up like a month ago." She shrugs her shoulders and I damn near choke on the ice cream that I'm shoveling into my mouth.

"You what?" I'm stunned.

She nods her head, her hair falling in her face as she grabs at the carton of ice cream. I willingly pass it over in her time of need and lean back, listening.

"He cheated on me over the summer and I eventually found out." She sighs. "Stupid asshole."

"And he's still breathing?" I raise an eyebrow at her and she giggles with a nod of her head.

"Yeah, unfortunately. I mean, I even felt it fizzling out. I think we were both just not feeling it anymore." She sighs and digs into the ice cream, bringing a huge spoonful to her open mouth.

My heart breaks for her; at the same time, my senses flood with an overwhelming amount of guilt. How could I not know this? How could I have been so blind to what my own best friend was going through behind the scenes? My gut twists in response to my thoughts.

I scooch closer to her and wrap my arms around her as she shoves another mouthful of dairy goodness between her lips. A few tears slide down her cheeks but she acts as if she doesn't notice them.

"So, tell me everything you know about this Jace guy." She's back to the normal— fun and bodacious Lydia that she's always been and gushes about how hot Tanner's roommate is.

After chatting for what seems like hours about Tanner and Jace, Lydia and I both fall back into my bed in a fit of giggles and nostalgia from when we were teenagers, talking about boys.

"I love you, you know that right?" I turn to Lydia and offer her a hopeful smile.

She returns my gesture, reaching between us and lacing her fingers through my own. She gives my hand a squeeze before bringing it to her lips and kissing our intertwined hands.

"Of course Chica. Sisters for ever." I wear I see tears glistening in her eyes, but she blinks and they disappear.

"What's on the agenda for tonight?" Lydia adds, turning her attention back to my dorm room ceiling.

"Movie night?" I offer.

"Sounds good. Your pick this time!" Lydia giggles and tosses her legs over the side of the bed and walks towards Scout and I's makeshift kitchen in the center of the room.

"You got any popcorn in this room?"

Another slew of giggles escape me before I sit up in bed, grabbing the remote and turning on Netflix.

"Yeah, in the bin to the right." I gesture over to the wooden cube organizer housing six bins full to the rim with snacks.

Within minutes the smell of popcorn floats right on over to me, causing my stomach to growl. I hear our microwave beep. Lydia pulls the bag out cautiously, tearing it open and emptying the bags contents into a plastic bowl. She makes her way back to my bed and sits next to me, placing the bowl of popcorn between us. I quickly snag a large handful and shove half of it into my mouth, realizing that I haven't much in the last few days. The popcorn does little to soothe the hunger that just now starts to make itself present.

After scrolling through Netflix for almost twenty minutes, the both of us settle on Fifty Shades of Gray— a movie that both Lydia and I will never admit to being one of our favorites.

"Let's order some food." Lydia rubs her belly dramatically.

"You're reading my mind." I groan out as I pull up the Door Dash app.

The two of us decide on Chinese food, ordering more than our stomachs and our wallets can handle.

A few hours later, as we're starting the third movie in the Fifty Shades series, I hear the door knob jiggle and turn before Scout walks in the door— finally home from work.

"Hey. There's plenty of left over Chinese food. Come have a junk food movie fest with us!" I call over to her.

Scout squints her eyes and cranes her neck to get a peek at who else is in my bed, and who the us I'm referring to is.

I reach over, turning on my bedside lamp, the warm glow illuminating both Lydia and I. "Scout, this is my best friend from home, Lydia."

Scout's smile is instantaneous. "So this is the famous Lydia that I've heard so much about!"

She makes her way over to us, grabbing a container of food and chopsticks on her way.

Lydia and I squish together to make enough room for Scout in my full sized bed.

Scout takes one look at the TV and turns to us. "I love these movies!" She squeals.

"Us too!" Lydia and I say in unison, causing all three of us to break out into a fit of laughter.

I press play on the movie and the three of us lay in my bed together, eyes glued to the television as we gossip about all the dirty things that we'd let Christian Gray do to us— and in this moment I'm happier than I ever thought I'd be. I went through life before with such a pessimistic view on the world around me, but lately I've noticed how the little things are what matter most, and the people who truly show that they care.

~

This chapter isn't everything that I wanted it to be. I've had the worst case of writers block for months but I wanted to get a few chapters out for you guys while I had the motivation and creative energy. I want to thank every one of you that continue to read Charlie Ever After and add it to your reading lists. I've noticed an influx of new readers and I want to say thank you from the bottom of my heart for the support. Charlie Ever After is the first work of mine that I haven't trashed after only a few chapters. The end is near and it's bittersweet, but I want to give you guys the story that I've always envisioned.
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