It took me a lot of courage, and even more badgering from Lizzy, to get to class today. She’s right. I can’t keep hiding from B. I have a right, no a responsibility, to show up at the project today. I want to do this. This project will open doors for me that I couldn’t reach before, writing and working on this project gets me more experiences and more experiences means better job opportunities.
But when I came into the room and saw B surrounded by everyone, the focus of their attention and joy… I suddenly wasn’t so sure this was all worth it.
I knew B would be popular, he’s always been popular. That was the magic. There was Blaze, handsome, the focus of attention, and who always had a kind word for everyone. Hunter, strong, energetic, and a little frightening in the intensity with which he did things. Tessa, beautiful, talented, and she knew how to find everyone’s boundaries, and often how to make people cross them.
And there was me: plain, but I had my brains, and, I guess, that was it. In comparison to all of them, I was boring, dull. I didn’t join them when they went and did stupid and dangerous things. I stayed in my room, writing or doing my homework. I wasn’t like them, I wasn’t adventurous. And, I guess, that may have been part of the reason why, once B and I broke up, everything started falling apart. We didn’t have anything in common, I didn’t have anything in common with them. And to stay together, to really fit together, you need to have at least a couple of things in common.
B liked me, told me he loved me, and that was the only reason that I fit in with them… For how close we were those years at the boarding school, we had too little in common to keep that going after we all graduated.
It’s stupid how much that still hurts. It’s stupid that it hurts at all. It’s normal, isn’t it, to grow apart after high school?
I sit down at the table in the corner the furthest away from the staging group and grab my notebook and a pen.
Even though I wasn’t here yesterday, they’ve put me into the writing group, which was expected. We’re supposed to work from the ideas they collected yesterday and create an actual story and plot and from there write the whole movie.
Not something I’ve done before, but it sounds like it could get interesting. I’m just hoping that the other people in my group are willing to do the work… I don’t feel like being the one pulling this project. Somehow, I do always end up doing that anyway…
Tamara starts to walk around the room, and people split up into their groups. Chatting excitedly about the project or other things going on this semester.
I doodle a little in my notebook as the others, mostly girls, also come sit at the table. I’m not paying much attention to their chatter until I realize what they’re talking about, or better, who they’re talking about.
“I heard he’s like, this player, at his old college. He’s always with different girls, never with the same one for very long. And have you seen the pictures? He’s so gorgeous. And the girls? Cheerleaders, models and actresses, all of them.”
I pretend I’m not listening, but every word they’re saying makes it very clear to me that my feelings for B should be a thing of the past. That I need to squash them, even if they’re only considering returning. The B I knew is nothing like the guy who is standing on the other side of the room right now, nothing. I need to get that into my head before I do something stupid like jumping his bones.
“Lola. Lola.” One of the girls, Charlotte, leans over. “What do you think of him? He’s hot, right?”
I shrug, trying to appear uninterested. “I guess.”
“You guess? He’s like… the hottest guy in this whole class. But of course, you always get to hang out with Hunter. He’s hot, sexy and has brains. Maybe you just don’t appreciate how rare it is to find a guy who has a body like that and brains to boot.”
“Maybe.” I know full well how rare it is. I know Blaze. I know things about him that they’ll probably never know. I know how smart he really is, even if he pretends that he’s normal like the rest, he went to the boarding school for the gifted for a reason, and it wasn’t just his art. “Why would you want a guy who plays around like he does?”
“Why not? I don’t care that he’s not serious. Serious guys can get so annoying when you just want to explore and enjoy your college years. I’ll find a serious guy once I’m free from here. For now, as long as he’s hot, I’m game.” Charlotte looks at me like I’m crazy, like wanting to sleep with anyone you meet is normal. And, maybe it is? I don’t know. I’ve never thought about things like that. “Or do you want to settle down already? Before you’ve even explored all your options? Live a little, girl.”
My throat closes up. I’m suddenly aware how different my world and their world really is. I blink quickly, standing up. “Gotta use the loo.” I try to walk normally, but in reality, I flee from the room. I can’t be here, I’m just not prepared enough. They don’t know. They don’t know that B proposed to me, that we were supposed to marry. That… That we had everything planned out, our whole future together, and then everything broke down. Everything broke.
I try to keep my breathing regular as I slip outside, the cold on my skin biting. But I need to get out of the workshop for a moment. I need to take a breather.
“Hey.” I startle from the male voice behind me, but it’s just Damon, one of Tamara’s prodigies, and a friend of Lizzy. He looks me over. I’m shivering since I’m not even wearing a jacket. “Are you okay?”
I nod, though I’m not sure he believes me. “Just too stuffy inside. Too busy.”
He nods, his eyes dark. “Did you know that the new guy and Hunter used to know each other?”
The stab in my chest is so sudden that I can’t suppress the gasp escaping me. I nod again, and this time Damon really frowns.
“Here. Take my jacket.” He puts his cigarette between his lips and shrugs out of his jacket, putting it over my shoulders, the warmth enveloping around me. Then he steps away, looking at me, his eyes still dark. “You know him too, don’t you?” This doesn’t seem like a question, more like a statement.
“Yeah.” My voice is so soft that even I can barely hear it, but Damon nods and then takes a drag from his cigarette.
“Right.” He leans back against the wall, looking over the car park in front of us. “I suspected something was off when you fled the workshop yesterday. I don’t think anyone else even realized it. I just knew you’d be coming, so I’d been looking for you. You know, Lizzy’s been so excited about you doing this project, she’s so proud, it was hard to ignore.” He looks my way again. “If you need help, or even just an excuse to get out of the room, just tell me, okay?” His eyes are so serious, but there is a protectiveness in them, the same way that H sometimes looks at me.
“Thanks.” I shiver, even under the jacket. “I should get back inside. We need to work on the project.”
“You go first. I’m just finishing this up.” He holds up the cigarette.
I shrug out of the jacket, handing it back to him. “Thanks.”
He takes the jacket, folding it over his arm. “No problem.”
I get back inside, the warmth welcome, but I also immediately feel trapped again. On my way out, I was blind to the fact I’d need to pass by B’s group’s table, but this time I’m very aware.
I look straight ahead, not to either side, just to my group. It still doesn’t prevent me from seeing B’s outline from the corner of my eyes, or the way that his head turns my way when I get close…
I’ve locked myself in my room. When I came back home, Lizzy and Hunter were downstairs, playing some silly boardgame at the table. They looked up, and both immediately stood, ready to follow me, but I shook my head as I fled up the stairs. I can’t talk to them. I can’t talk to anyone, not now.
Today has largely been filled with trying to combine the different ideas and elements for the movie. I’m pretty sure we’re making something sci-fi. Not sure if it’ll be aliens or spaceships or something else. Not everyone was as impressed by the choice, but we’ve got limited time and resources and this was the most popular genre.
And I’m not sure I’m ready to write a romance movie… not now. Maybe never. Especially not on a project that B also works on.
I curl up in bed, tears streaming down my cheeks. Tears I’ve been trying to keep in all day. Tears I don’t want anyone to see, especially not B, or H. I’m pretty sure Hunter would get in trouble if he knew how upset I was. I’m pretty sure he’d go over to B’s and punch him. It’s not like that hasn’t happened before…
The memories of how we all used to be friends and hang out keep going through my head. I don’t want the memories to come back, but I can’t help it. Working together as a group, everyone doing different things… That’s what I used to do with H, B and Tess. That’s what we used to do together. I’d write a story and they’d make all sorts of art and things based on what I wrote. Our creativity as a group is what kept us so closest.
I don’t want to remember what it was like to be at B’s side, to watch him work, to have his eyes on me with that look that meant that he loved me, that he only had eyes for me. To have his arms around me…
I scream into my pillow. I need to stop this. I need to stop thinking of B. But it’s so hard when I’ll be seeing him every day. When I’ll be seeing him, hearing him, and having to work together with him, for the next months. How can I stop this? How can I stop these feelings?
I saw what losing Tessa did to H. I saw how dark he was on the inside. I lost B. He may have been alive, walking around, but I still lost him. Only, now he’s back, and he can never again be mine. How am I supposed to do this? How am I supposed to survive this?
Knocking on my door makes me look up a little. “Yeah?”
“Lo.” H is on the other side of the door. “Can we talk?”
I wipe at my cheeks, but then realize that it doesn’t really matter, the tears will probably keep coming anyway. “Sure, come in.”
H carefully opens the door and steps in, slowly walking over to the bed. His eyes are guarded, but also dark and strong. I immediately feel transported four years into the past. Back to when we’d sometimes lock ourselves into our rooms, and we’d talk for hours. We’d be together because we were the only ones who understood what it was like to feel helpless and in pain over having a sibling at home who was chronically ill. For all the time I spent with Hunter in high school, he wasn’t there for me when B left… He couldn’t, somehow.
“Lo…” H sits down on the floor next to the bed, looking at me and frowning a little. “I want to help.”
I shake my head. “There is nothing you can do.” I hear how weak my voice sounds. “I just have to get through this. I just have to survive the project.”
“You don’t–” He stops himself, his loud voice startling us both. He takes a deep breath, calming himself. “You don’t have to. You don’t have to get through this. He…” Hunter shakes his head.
“He, what? He should drop out after he moved here, asked by Tamara herself to join us? To join this project? I can’t ask him to leave.” I sit up. “I just have to get through this. Just a few weeks and after that, we’ll all be working in different places most of the time anyway. I’ll barely have to see him.” I hope.
H shakes his head again. “It’s not right that he gets to hurt you like that.”
“I’ll just have to grow a thicker skin. I’ll have to somehow learn to ignore him, or something.” It seems like the only possible plan I have. Even though it’s kind of ridiculous, since there is no real way to ignore him. Not when the girls from the project are all over him, and the guys all seem to want to be his friends.
They have no idea what B is like… What he’s really like underneath it all.
Because no matter how much he upsets me, I can still see the boy I used to know in his eyes. I can see that he’s not unaffected by this all either. He seems almost in as much pain as I am.
And that hurts even more. Knowing that this pain isn’t just mine. Seeing him in pain too.
This is so messed up. So so messed up.
Next chapter is next week! <3
Please, remember, this is just cleaned up, not fully edited, so some errors may be still in here. They will be fixed before publication!