I stood at the front door of another college party, looking for my roommate, Alicia Stone.
I thanked my lucky stars that I was one of two people from the town I’d spent Junior High and High School in that made it into the school, albeit on a scholarship.
Alicia grew up in Emerald City, where Diamond County Elite University was based, and knew everyone.
The party was bursting with people, smoking and drinking various liquids and as far as I could see there was no food.
I groaned when I didn’t see her at first but groaned louder when I did see her. Her auburn hair home in the light above her, and she was with the last person I wanted to see.
In my life.
I didn’t even want to be at the party. The girl wanted me to proofread her assignments but didn’t leave me her laptop password and wasn’t answering her damn phone.
As I made my way to her, I gave myself a pep talk.
His girlfriend isn’t with him. Maybe he’s still the same guy he was before Junior High. Or maybe I could just pretend that he wasn’t there.
Right. Like I could pretend that he didn’t exist when he'd been my best friend up until that year.
Our parents had been friends since the friggen Stone Age and planned our conception to the day. We were born on the same day, although, he was a minute older than I was.
As our friendship grew stronger, I developed a crush on him. No one could blame me. He was, and still is, very attractive with jet black hair and striking blue eyes. He was tall, but then he was a quarterback, but now he towered over most of the crowd, a beacon to my roommate.
I saw her best friend, Portia, and Portia's boyfriend, Ace, standing beside them, their lips locked in a heated kiss. I quickly averted my eyes away from them and found Alicia.
I studiously avoided looking at Felix as I tapped Alicia on the shoulder. She spun around and her eyes widened when she saw me.
“You came!” she squealed and grabbed my hand. I scowled and shook my head, leaning forward to talk in her ear over the thumping music.
“You didn’t give your password. I need it to proofread,” she pulled out her phone from her purse tucked under her arm and looked at me apologetically when she saw how many times I’d tried calling her. She texted me her password and pointed to my hip, to which I nodded, mouthing a thank you.
I turned around, very intent on leaving when a large hand closed around my upper arm, sending electricity up my arm and making my heart squeeze painfully, and pulled me back into the conversation.
“Jessica. I haven’t seen you in ages,” he drawled and I shook his hand off with a scowl in his direction and Alicia laughed, patting my shoulder.
“Jess, how do you know Felix?” she asked curiously and I could feel his eyes on me, waiting for my answer.
“He was the quarterback at my old high school and dated the head cheerleader who, for some reason, deemed me her nemesis,” Felix muttered something under his breath and I felt his eyes on me.
“I’m gonna proofread those assignments for you, yeah?” I told Alicia as I started backing away from them. She nodded and turned back to continue the conversation I had interrupted with Felix.
I took my chance and hurried out of the party, breathing in the fresh air as I reached the lawn. I didn’t have to look behind me to know that Felix had followed me; the scent of sandalwood wafting to me on the cool breeze.
“’The quarterback at my old high school…’ is that really all I was to you, Jessica?” his deep voice right behind me. Although my feet wanted to stop, I forced them to keep walking.
“Jessica, for fucks sake, just look at me,” Felix sounded slightly desperate and I finally stopped, turning to face him.
That was a mistake. I should have just kept walking.
He was gorgeous with the moonlight catching his inky-black hair, tousled slightly and highlighting his features sharply. I hadn’t noticed the faint beard on his jaw earlier and I wanted to run my fingers over it.
My heart stopped beating for a second as my eyes drank him in; his dark-coloured shirt hugging his toned torso while his jeans hung low on his hips.
“Is that so hard?” he asked gently taking a step towards me and I stepped back. Hurt flashed across his features briefly before settling into a friendly expression.
“What is it, Felix? You haven’t said a word to me in years,” he ran his hand through his hair at my words, actually looking ashamed.
“I know, I’m sorry. I should have…” I held up my hand and he stopped talking, waiting for me to say something.
“I don’t care, Felix. You hurt me, maybe not intentionally, but by not standing up for me, you hurt me,” I turned my back on him and started walking again.
“Jessie, I’m sorry I let my reputation get in the way of our friendship,” his words stopped me cold, the nickname I only allowed him to use forcing my feet to stop.
“Is Felix Carsons, Jasper High School's star quarterback, apologizing to a lowly nerd?” I said sarcastically as I turned to face him again.
“No. I’m asking the girl who used to be my best friend in the world and who I miss like crazy to forgive me,” I blinked and turned my head away.
“I don’t know if I can, Felix. Why now?” I couldn’t stop the question, my curiosity getting the better of me.
“Because this is the first time I could speak to you since we started at Jasper Junior High. I miss us in Ruby City,” tears filled my eyes at the mention of our home town.
Since our parents grew up together and married their best friends, they moved together. Felix's parents were the ones that usually moved, but they brought us along with them, ensuring to buy two neighbouring houses; whether they were beside each other or across, it didn’t matter.
Everyone in Ruby City, an ironic name for a small town outside of Jasper Town, which was – surprise, surprise – the ironic name of the second-largest city in Diamond County, knew that Felix and I were best friends and some even thought that we were dating.
We were inseparable.
That was until we moved and started Junior High in Jasper Town. On the first day, he’d been pulled into the popular crowd and we hadn’t spoken since. Well, except for the occasional insult from him to me to assist his girlfriend, Carla's, insults to bring me down.
“So do I! For God's sake, Felix, my best friend had promised me nothing…” my voice broke then and I turned my back on him.
“Nothing would get in the way of our friendship. Going so far as to promise to take me to our High School Senior Prom. Instead, I got bullied by your girlfriend while you stood idly by,” silent tears were running down my face by now and I reached up to brushes them away, irritated by the fact that I was crying.
“Jessie…” he trailed off and I heard his footsteps draw closer. I didn’t have the strength to move as his scent enveloped me.
“It felt good to be recognised at a new school, like I didn’t have to try and make new friends, they were coming to me,” I could feel his presence behind me but I refused to turn around and show him my weakness.
“I get it, Felix. I really do. You weren’t thinking. But the moment you did, you didn’t think to mention to them that we used to be best friends. The entire football team tried to get me to date them, for some stupid reason, but you didn’t stop them!”
Once there was a crack, the entire dam leaked out.
“I knew you wouldn’t give them the time of day,” he said quietly and I spun around, slapping him across the face with a crack.
He didn’t even flinch but covered my hand with his, quick as lightning.
“I deserved that. I’m sorry I was an asshole and a prick. Can we please put it behind us and start over? As friends?” he held my hand to his face, running his thumb over the back of my hand.
“I need to think about it, Felix. Years of hurt isn’t going to go away with an apology,” he nodded and met my tear-stained eyes, concern and shame in the blue depths.
“I know. I’ll do whatever it takes to earn your trust again,” Felix looked down at me and I shrugged, unsure of how to respond.
“Let me start by walking you home,” he suggested and I shrugged again, starting to turn around and walking back in the direction of my and Alicia’s shared apartment.
He fell into step beside me as we walked in silence. We were halfway there when he broke it.
“I’ve been reading your books,” he said so suddenly that my steps faltered slightly.
“What?” I asked and he repeated his statement. I turned my head to look at him and found him already watching me.
“Do you like them?” I asked and he smiled brightly.
“Yes. There’s no denying your talent,” I smiled my thanks and looked back in front of me, walking the rest if the way in silence.
“Congrats on the scholarship,” I said softly as we neared my apartment building.
“You too,” he said with a chuckle, pushing open the building door for me and walking me to the elevator.
“Give me a chance?” he asked as I pressed the button to call the elevator and I turned to face him, the fluorescent lighting making him look pale under his sun-kissed skin.
“Answer me one question,” he nodded eagerly and I almost chuckled.
“What happened to you and Carla? You guys split very suddenly,” he smiled wryly and rubbed the back of his neck.
“Ah. Well… it’s well after graduation, so I guess I can tell you; I caught her trying to mess with your finals papers. She snuck into the office and I caught her. I told her I wouldn’t tell anyone if she left it and left me alone. That was too far,” my mouth fell open at his words.