Chapter 7- Our Secret Corner
“Love is friendship that has caught fire. It is quiet understanding, mutual confidence, sharing and forgiving. It is loyalty through good and bad times. It settles for less than perfection and makes allowances for human weaknesses.”
Equipped with two notebooks, a clipboard, and a stress band, the tote bag was my armory to charge into the locked vault of Landon Sinclair. Well, charging as far as necessary to get an A on the project.
The campus crowd thinned as I walked to the meeting spot, and I had to hand it to Landon- as far as meeting spots went, ours was phenomenal. Nobody wandered past the trees lining the main road. The wind nipped at my cheeks, the only part of my anatomy that wasn’t swaddled with cloth. I stepped onto the grass and maneuvered between the trees, trying to avoid the thorny reach of bare branches. Five minutes later, I was out of the foliage and on the grass.
The first thing I saw was a blanket. A large, fuzzy blanket covered the cold grass, warm and inviting. In front of the blanket was a basket sheathed by a small napkin. And sitting enticingly on the blanket, arm thrown over his bent knee, was Landon.
He heard my clumsy entrance. Glancing up, he shot me a lopsided grin.
Clearing my throat, I waved my hand in his general area. “What’s all this?”
“I figured since you’ve had to put up with me as your partner, I might as well try to make it as enjoyable as possible. What with me flakin’ on you and everything last time.”
I blinked, thrown off-guard. So this was an apology? Damnit all to hell. Every time I thought I had the boy figured out, he pulled a stunt like this.
“Um, well…apology accepted. Flake on me again, and it’ll take a lot more than a fluffy blanket and a mysterious basket to keep me from punting your head like my own personal football,” I warned him. After a few seconds of deliberation, I removed my boots and sat crosslegged a few feet from Landon. I tucked my feet as far in as they’d go. Maybe he wouldn’t notice the SpongeBob theme of my socks.
“Noted. The mysterious basket isn’t really mysterious. There’s a napkin over it, not the Spanish Armada,” Landon pointed out. The breeze ruffled the dark locks of his hair onto his forehead, and my fingers twitched in my gloves.
Part of me was delighting in a very girlish, immature way that a handsome boy prepared a picnic for me. Lexi had been showered in gifts and gestures throughout our years, and while I hadn’t been jealous, I had been a little selfpitying. Something about Lexi inspired devotion in people, and I lacked that something. It was almost cruel, actually, that the twin everyone adored was the one they had to forfeit.
“What are you doing?” Landon broke into my mental chastisement.
“Doing? Nothing. Nothing is being done.”
He gestured at my face. “You get this weird look when you space out, like you’re frowning at your imaginary friend. I don’t know whether to worry or laugh.”
“I’m communicating with an ancient Slavic demon. Be afraid. Be very afraid.”
A small dimple appeared at the corner of Landon’s mouth, and before I could stop it, a groan slipped out. Why, why did he have to have that tiny little corner dimple? So I could have yet another feature to fixate on?
Landon looked pleased and tapped my tote bag with his index finger. The leather cufflinks were firmly in place. These had flaming skulls on them. “Let’s get this show on the road, shall we?”
I rummaged through my bag until I touched the metal of my clipboard. Disentangling it from the cluster in my tote, I straightened the papers and retrieved my pen. Landon stared at it for a good two minutes before he shook his head with a strange laugh.
“So, addiction. Meaning: the state of being enslaved to a habit. What do you associate with addiction, personally?”
Landon suddenly looked like he wanted to be anywhere but on that blanket. He tipped his head towards the sky and answered the stars. “Was my answer the first time you asked this unsatisfactory?”
I rolled my eyes. “You said, and I quote, ’Addicted
to ball, because ball is life.’”
He snickered, tickled pink. “Whatever, it’s completely applicable. But I suppose…I associate addiction with lack of control. Hopelessness. Powerlessness.”
I scribbled the words down on my paper, eager to have useful information for once. “For me, addiction is…” my voice trailed off as Lexi’s beaming face swam to the front of my mind. “Addiction is wanting something so badly, you’d do anything to have it back.”
Shaking off the strange melancholy, I read the next question. “What do you believe is the worst consequence of addiction?”
Landon laid back on the blanket. “Might as well get comfortable, cookie.”
I stayed sitting up. Controlling my animal urges was hard enough without getting horizontal.
“There are a lot of shitty consequences to addiction,” Landon started, and he seemed to recede into himself, lost somewhere in his head. “You hurt those people dumb enough to care about you. You do things you can never undo. You lose yourself in a rush.”
The way he spoke was flat, without inflection. I studied him silently. After a minute had gone by, he turned his head slightly to look at me. “Cat got your tongue?”
“Sorry. Um, what’s the worst consequence of addiction?”
“Worst consequences…not seeing a future.
Addiction-it’s hard to see past it, to tomorrow. How do you picture a future when you surrendered control to something or someone else to determine it?”
“Someone else. You’re saying you don’t think drugs are the only things you can get addicted to?”
“No. Humans can be just as deadly.”
Landon exhaled, his breath fogging up in the cold night. I flipped to the next question, wondering if maybe we should take a break. Both of us were on edge, not to mention the temperature was cold enough to give hell a shiver.
“You haven’t eaten anything,” Landon spoke softly, compelling me to turn closer. He sat up and pulled the basket towards us, removing the sheet over it.
“That’s one way to say to procrastinate.”
I chose a banana bread muffin and bit into the crumbly goodness. I made a small sound of delight. My weakness for all things pastry was about as secret as a celebrity’s love life.
My dessert-induced bliss was halted when I felt a thumb slowly swiping the edge of my mouth. My wide gaze flew to Landon, who had that infuriatingly sexy half-smile on.
“Something on your mouth,” was all the explanation Landon offered, and he continued to nonchalantly watch the stars.
I speedily finished the rest of my muffin-my poor heart couldn’t take any more of Landon’s shenanigans- and picked up my clipboard.
“You going to ask me something else on that list of yours?”
I felt lethargic, and the tip of my nose was surely frozen. The last thing I felt like doing was brushing off the cobwebs to the secret, hidden place in my heart where I stored my hopes, fears, sorrows, and wishes. Sophia’s Secret Corner was staying exactly where it was. But not asking him anymore questions tonight would be such a wasted opportunity. He was here, he was sharing-it was perfect.
“If I say no, will I fail this project because you’ll continue to ditch me?”
Landon’s fingers caught my chin and tilted my head to his. We were close, too close. My heart pounded wildly. Had I thought I was cold? Everything was on fire.
His eyes softened, and it felt like I was staring into an ocean, Landon’s ocean of secrets. Landon hid his Secret Corner in his eyes, and if I gazed into them forever, I might find answers to questions I wasn’t ready to ask.
“I’m sorry I left you waiting. It won’t happen again. You don’t deserve it. Whenever you need me, I’ll be there.
You hear me, Sophia?” Landon’s hand moved to cup my cheek.
“I hear you,” I whispered.
We stayed like that, under the stars, long enough for me to realize my heart was in serious, serious trouble.