Chapter 8- Coming Undone
“A girl once told me
To be careful
When trying to fix
A broken person
For you may cut yourself
On their shattered pieces.”
“C’mon, move your ass already.” I tossed a shoe at Jesse’s sleeping head.
Cursing, he rolled over. “What the hell? Why are you awake this early?”
I felt the smile move across my face against my will. Jesse saw it and grunted, smothering himself with a pillow.
“You have Psychology today.”
I shrugged, but I couldn’t quite pull off the usual detachment. Jesse shook his head but rose from the bed, stumbling into the bathroom. Dressed and ready, I could only tap my foot and wait for him.
A week had passed since the spectacular night under the stars with Sophia. We’d met up twice since then, but they had been at coffee shops and quick, since we both had jobs and classes constraining our time.
I was pathetically excited every time I knew I was seeing her, but I played it off. Letting my guard down around anyone, most of all a girl, was something I’d conditioned myself against a long time ago. The fact that I wasn’t being dragged out of bed at this point-hell, I was doing the dragging- meant more than I was willing to acknowledge.
She’s just a random girl. For fuck’s sake, she’s a freshman!
I snorted. Even in my own thoughts it sounded weak.
Jesse finished getting ready and we walked into campus, stopping at the intersection where he and I parted ways and where I knew Sophia and the Gothic One passed.
“You can never screw with me again about a girl,” Jesse said casually as we waited. I shoved my hands into my coat and eyeballed him.
“Feeling delusional this morning, are we? Did Medusa-I mean, Raven- finally try to sacrifice you to her satanic overlords?”
Jesse yawned and flipped me off.
“Means the next time you try to pull something, I’ll just remind you of this moment. Landon Sinclair is voluntarily freezing his ass off to wait for a girl.” He dropped to a knee. “Is the world as we know it ending? NO, I’M TOO
People were staring. I smacked the side of his head and yanked him to his feet by the collar. “Listen here, you little piss-”
I heard a deep sigh and turned to see Crazy McGee glaring. Taking just enough time to catalog her hair, which was a gelled into flat spikes that looked like they should be a public hazard, I let my gaze skip to the smaller girl shivering beside her.
A soft smile curved her pink lips. She was wearing a huge black coat that swallowed her frame and ripped blue jeans. My arms itched to wrap around her, to tuck her into my side.
“Hi,” Sophia spoke, hopping from foot to foot from the cold. “You planning on walking to Psych or just standing there?”
I bowed. “After you, milady.” She squinted suspiciously and waved at the American Psycho, who gave her an indulgent wink and weaved her arm through Jesse’s.
Our breaths misted in little puffs of white. Sophia was still shivering, so I unwrapped my scarf and tucked it around her neck. My finger brushed the side of her throat, and even the simple touch sent awareness into every part of my body.
I was a man. Nature controlled my baser reactions.
Sophia grasped the scarf, but she didn’t remove it. “Are you sure? Aren’t you cold? At this point I’m slowly collecting your wardrobe.”
“Don’t worry about me, ladybug. Plenty where that came from.”
Sophia wrinkled her nose at my newest endearment but the slight awkwardness between us had broken.
“How was your shift yesterday?” I asked, balling my hands into fists in my coat to keep from touching her. Everything about this girl, from her flushed cheeks to her doe eyes, compelled me to possess and protect her. It wasn’t an instinct I was used to having, nor one I welcomed.
“It was interesting. Riker tried to shelf a book in the Biographies section with the ladder and ended up dropping it on some senior’s head. He had to calm her down and convince her she didn’t have a concussion,” Sophia explained, shaking her head with exasperation at the memory. “I mean, who thinks they have a concussion from a book? If that was the case, I’d be a vegetable from the amount of times I’ve been nailed by a sloppily placed novel.”
I was watching the way she was speaking more than listening to what she was actually saying. She waved her hands around whenever she was making a point, as if the words weren’t enough to communicate. It was endlessly hilarious, especially when she’d accidentally smack someone in her agitation.
“Riker should be more careful.”
She glanced at me with incredulity. “Did you not hear me? It was one book! And it was a memoir too, so hardly concussion-worthy. Maybe if “Harry Potter” had fallen on her I’d be more sympathetic.”
We walked into the Psychology room, and Sophia continued arguing her point as we made our way up the steps to our seats. I was straining to stifle my laughter at her indignation, but a chuckle slipped out anyway.
She huffed and poked my arm wordlessly. I tried not to flinch, but she should not touch me, not if she didn’t want me to throw her onto the nearest desk and let my libido take the reins.
I need to get laid.
Shit. How long had it been? I cast my mind back.
Months. It had been months since the last time I’d had sex. Maybe that explained my over the top reactions around Sophia.
Class started, and Garfield set up his Power Point on the detriments of social media on the average person. Sophia was busy taking out her notes and studying crap. It was interesting to observe the freshman, some peppy and social, others retreating as far into themselves as possible.
The freshman I was currently unable to stop obsessing over was studiously taking notes, her attention focused on Garfield. I wondered why she hadn’t gone to a more prestigious school. Money? Crappy SAT’s? What would make Sophia Michaels choose tiny little Franklin University over a better school?
A flash of movement caught my eye, and I swiveled to look through the open doors of the room. A man was standing outside the doors, partially obscured by the wall.
For a wild minute, I was sure I was dreaming. No way could this be happening now, outside a lecture hall of all places.
My muscles locked, and it seemed like all the air had been sucked out of the room. A pair of eyes just as hateful as the last time I’d seen them bored into me-and promptly disappeared. I felt Sophia’s hand on my arm, shaking me gently. “Landon? Hey, are you alright?”
I dug the heels of my hands into my eyes and rubbed until I saw stars. It couldn’t have been him. There was no way he would have followed me to Franklin after all this time. The idea was absurd-but I knew what I’d seen.
Carter was here.
Memories I’d locked tight rattled, eager to escape. Guilt I’d thought had waned festered, eating at my insides. I had to get out of here, I had to leave right fucking now.
Suddenly, warmth closed around me. My frantically searching eyes settled on Sophia, who had thrown her arms around my chest awkwardly and was holding tight. Her cold nose was pressed against my collarbone. “Whatever it is, I’m here. I’m right here, Landon.” Her voice was patient, calm. She sounded like random panic attacks were a part of her daily routine.
My ragged breathing finally slowed, and I could pull much needed air into my lungs again. We stayed like that, and by some miracle, I felt the tornado ripping through my chest calm and finally still.
I stared at her in awe. This girl, this sassy girl who read too many books and befriended everything with a pulse, somehow managed to calm the crazy I expertly hid with a…hug. An elbow in my liver, hair in my nose hug.
Professor Garfield was lecturing, completely unaware that over in the fourth bench, to the far right?
The course of my life had been changed forever.