This barely even warrants a warning in my opinion, but just in case: This chapter gets a bit steamy around the middle (nothing more than kissing though). If that kind of thing makes you uncomfortable, just skip over the parts with the kissing pics – you’ll know them when you see them.
I woke up in my own bed hours later with the worst headache of my life and no recollection of how I had got there. I supposed Ashley or someone from the party must have taken me home. I checked the time on my phone – almost five in the morning. My throat felt so dry I was convinced no amount of water would quench my thirst. Groaning, I sat up and climbed groggily out of the bed, vaguely registering as I did so that I had slept in my underwear – last night’s clothes were scattered haphazardly over the floor beside the bed.
I dragged my feet to the kitchen and ran myself a glass of water from the tap. As I refilled it, having drained it in one gulp, I checked the phone in my hand for new messages and noticed I had several missed calls from Luc last night. Dammit, I’d forgotten that I promised to call him again yesterday! I gulped down the remaining water and tapped his name in the contacts. He picked up on the first ring, in spite of the lateness of the hour.
“Di?” he answered, sounding tired.
“Did I wake you up?”
“No, I couldn’t sleep,” he sighed. “I was worried, you usually don’t forget to call.”
“Crap, I’m so sorry, Luc. Last night, I, uh…” I trailed off, not quite sure what to say.
“Are you okay, Di? Your voice sounds funny.”
I started to laugh, then stopped almost immediately. The vibrations hurt my head. “Yeah, I um… well I decided to take your advice, so I went to a party last night that a girl in my class invited me to.”
I heard him laugh on the other end, and my heart did a funny kind of flip at the sound. “Let me guess. You’re hungover.”
“I guess so? I mean, I have no basis for comparison, but my head feels like a melon and last I remember was passing out, before I woke up this morning…”
He chuckled slightly, though there was still a strain of tension to his voice. “That’s so like you,” he muttered. “Taking everything to extremes. I tell you to get out once in a while and next thing you go and get wasted…”
Blushing, I opened my mouth to defend myself, but no defense came to mind. He was right, I had gone a bit far. My stomach churned as, for the first time, memories of last night started to come back to me. That’s right, I kissed… oh, God. Without meaning to, I let out a kind of pained gasp.
“Di?” Luc asked, concerned. “Are you okay?”
I gulped, and nodded. “Y-Yeah…” I replied shakily. “I’m fine. I’m sorry, I have to go shower and stuff… I have class this morning. Talk to you later?”
“Sure, later.” I was about to end the call when he spoke again. “Di?”
“I love you.”
I smiled in spite of myself, though the guilt of what I had done last night was clawing at my insides. “Yeah. Love you too.” I hung up.
The next few weeks passed by in a blur. Before I knew it, exams had arrived, and I was spending night after night holed up in my bedroom, studying.
At the time, I felt that I had done pretty well, though I had to continually remind myself not to keep stressing over results. To this end, I avoided my classmates as much as possible in the days surrounding the exams; I went to the lecture hall, took the test in silence, then returned home to study for the next exam.
My report card came in the mail several weeks later. In spite of my mid-term, uh… distraction… I had managed to achieve straight A’s across all of my classes. I would have to come back next semester to complete my degree, but for now at least I was assured of being able to continue classes when I returned.
Being anxious as I was to see my family and Luc again, the shuttle ride home seemed to take twice as long as the journey to campus a few months previously. When finally I and my suitcase were dropped off in Starlight Shores, I was so excited to be home that I practically sprinted through the front door-
-and straight into his arms.
I dropped the suitcase by the door as soon as I saw Luc standing in the hall waiting for me, and threw both arms around his neck. His hands fell to my lower back, holding me close.
I sighed happily and closed my eyes. I had missed this so much – his arms around me, his eyes, his voice, his smile. Luc tightened his grip on my waist, and moved in to nuzzle his nose against mine. “God, I missed you, Genius,” he murmured, a teasing smile playing on his lips.
I smiled up at him. “Me too. I should have called more often, I’m sorry.”
He shook his head, rising onto his toes slightly to plant a kiss on my forehead. “Nothing to be sorry for. I’m just glad to have you home-” he squeezed my hand, “-with me.”
I nodded, allowing him to guide me to the nearest couch where we sat down with his arm around my shoulders. “Now,” he said with a grin, “I know you’re bursting with news, so tell me everything.”
I went to Luc’s house for the first time the following Saturday. Back when we were in high school, he’d never allowed Mandy and me to come over – I suspected it was all part of his ‘don’t get too close to me’ routine. To me, the fact that he had invited me over of his own accord was a sign that he was finally starting to allow me into his private life… and that meant more to me than I could find words to express.
As I entered, a grey tabby cat with shining turquoise eyes greeted me at the door. “Hey there,” I said softly, bending down so she could sniff my hand.
“That’s Ash,” said Luc’s voice beside me.
I nodded. “Your kitten – I remember. Though she’s not much of a kitten any more, are you, princess?”
Ash purred and licked at my fingers, making me giggle.
“Do you want something to drink, Di?”
I looked over at Luc. “Nah, I’m okay,” I told him. I stood up and went to sit on the couch; seconds later, he joined me. I smiled at him. “You know, I’m really glad you invited me to come over,” I said. “Honestly, I was starting to think I’d never see this place.”
He raised one eyebrow, looking confused. “Why would you think that?”
I shrugged. “It’s just… you’ve always been very secretive about your private life. Sometimes I still feel like there’s a lot I still don’t know about you.”
“You know everything there is to know,” he said.
Luc laughed. “Yeah, okay. But you know me a hell of a lot better than anyone else does, and that’s the truth.”
I sighed, turning in my seat so that I could lie down with my head in his lap. I looked up at him to see my own smile reflected in his green eyes. “I missed you,” I murmured.
He chuckled. “I feel like we’ve had this conversation already.”
“Smartass.” I pouted, and poked his chest. He just laughed harder and drew his arm around my shoulder, pulling me upwards to press his lips against mine. I frowned, but didn’t push him away.
Slowly, almost without realising it, I brought my hand up to cup the back of his head, tangling my fingers in his hair and tugging him closer. His hand gripped my shoulder more tightly, pulling me into his chest as the kiss went on… and on.
We parted for a moment, gasping for breath, and he shifted me off his lap and onto the couch beside him, leaning over so he could kiss me again, cradling my face in his hands. I wrapped my arms around his shoulders and drew him towards me, running my tongue gently along his bottom lip. At that, he let out a kind of pained groan and drew away, breathing heavily.
“Did I do something wrong?” I asked, slightly panicked that I had hurt him in some way. Luc laughed slightly and shook his head, leaning forward to rest his forehead against mine.
“No. God, no. You didn’t do anything wrong, Di, it’s just…” he sighed. “There are some things I want you to know before this goes any further. I don’t want to have any secrets from you if we were going to… you know…” he trailed off, looking at me imploringly.
I nodded, smiling, and shifted away from him slightly, hoping to make conversation a little easier for him. “I understand. What did you want to tell me?”
Luc took a deep breath, presumably trying to calm himself, before he began to speak. I could still feel my own heart pounding erratically in my chest. “Do you remember that night we first met, how I said you weren’t like the people that normally hung around there?”
I smiled slightly at the recollection of our first meeting. “Of course.”
“And that time in the hot tub, at your place, when you asked me about that night and I said… all those things to you… do you remember that? And then we fought, and you wouldn’t speak to me, and I couldn’t stand it, but-”
“Luc,” I interrupted him. “Please, don’t torture yourself. I remember everything. What’s your point?”
He sighed. “My point is, I thought you wouldn’t understand if I told you about the stuff I used to get up to. But now, I feel like I want you to know everything about me. I want you to know about who I was before I met you.”
“Luc…” I whispered. “You don’t have to-”
“I want to,” he said again, more firmly this time. “Please, Di.”
I nodded silently, encouraging him to go on. “I grew up in Bridgeport with my parents,” he began. I smiled. To think we had spent our childhoods in the same town, and I had never known it until now… “Suffice to say we didn’t see eye-to-eye on a lot of things. When I was about twelve I started doing odd jobs around town, mechanical stuff mostly, since that’s what I was good at, but also mowing lawns, washing cars, anything that would get me paid. I saved every cent I made. By the time I was fifteen, I had enough money to leave my parents’ house, start a new life somewhere far away. So I came here. Rented a trailer, enrolled in the high school, got a job at the tattoo parlour in town.”
“They let fifteen-year-olds work there?”
He shrugged. “I guess so. They never asked for I.D. or anything.”
“And your parents…?”
“I haven’t spoken to them since.”
He paused for a few moments, staring at the opposite wall. I knew this had to be hard for him, sharing so much of himself all at once. It would definitely have been hard for me in his position.
“My boss at the tattoo parlour knew I was a student, though, so I could only work there in the afternoons. I always hated school, I only enrolled in the first place to keep the law off my back.” He sighed. “I was bored. I slept all day, worked at the parlour until six every evening, and then I started looking for ways to spend the night out on the town. I could pass for seventeen or eighteen, perhaps, but not twenty-one, so my nightlife options were pretty limited.” He glanced at me, as if to see how I was taking it. I smiled at him, and he seemed relieved as he went on talking.
“I started hanging out behind the school after hours, and well… turns out I wasn’t the only rebellious teen in town with nothing to do at night.” I raised my eyebrows, but nodded to indicate that he could keep talking. “Anyway, the other guys that hung around there were the first semblance of friends I found in this town. They welcomed me into their gang-”
“Gang?!” I echoed, alarmed.
“Not like a gang gang. Just a group of young guys doing stupid things. They let me hang out with them, shared their booze, and showed me the kind of stuff they got up to.”
I swallowed, deciding to ignore the part about underage drinking. “And… what kind of stuff did they get up to?”
He grinned. “Do you remember the day the school was closed because they had to clean graffiti off every inch of the building?”
I gasped. “That was you?”
“Well, not just me. I mean the other guys helped, but the actual artistic parts were all me. Honestly, I was pretty disappointed they didn’t leave them up.”
“Luc…” I frowned.
“What?” he grinned. “It’s not like I do that kind of stuff anymore. That wasn’t even the worst of it.” He laughed at the look of horror on my face. “Di, I understand this is way out of your territory. But it’s over now. That’s not me anymore. I just wanted to tell you so you’d understand.”
I clenched my jaw. He was right. The Luc sitting in front of me now wasn’t the same Luc that got drunk and vandalised schools at age sixteen. But then… “What changed?” I asked him.
Luc shrugged. “You,” he said simply.
“Me? I don’t understand.”
“After we met for the first time, and then at that party, I decided I wanted to get to know you better. But the only things I knew about you were your address and the fact that you were crazy about schoolwork for some weird reason. So even though I hated it, I started coming to school more often during the day, so I could see you. And since I wasn’t spending my days sleeping, that more or less put an end to my nighttime wanderings.”
I can’t say I wasn’t flattered, but I was still a little confused. I wasn’t that special, after all. “But… why me?”
He smiled. “The way you were with studying was something in itself, but on the rare occasions when I got to see you smiling, having fun, letting go, I knew there was a lot more to you than you let on. I’d never in my life met anyone like you, Di.” His gaze softened as he looked at me. “Never then… and never since.”
He leaned in to kiss me again, and I almost let him. I could feel his breath on my lips when I spoke. “Luc… wait.”
I placed both hands on his chest and gently pushed him away. He looked at me in surprise, and what appeared to be fear. “What’s wrong?” he asked. “Is it…”
I shook my head before he could finish the sentence, knowing what he was thinking. “It’s nothing to do with the stuff you just told me,” I said. “There’s something I have to tell you, too.”
The momentary relief I had seen flash in his eyes vanished at my words. He could tell it was serious from the look on my face. “Di… what is it?” he whispered.
I swallowed, as though somehow it would get rid of the guilt that was plaguing me. “At that party I went to, the one where I got drunk… I didn’t tell you everything that happened. See there was this guy, one of my classmates, and like I said, I was drunk, and he… we…”
Luc looked terrified. “Di… you didn’t…”
“No!” I burst out, immediately understanding what he was implying. “No, of course not, we just kissed… well, kind of made out, actually… I… I thought he was you, I… ” I trailed off, looking at the expression on his face. “Luc…?” I had never seen anything like the pain I saw then in his eyes, and I wished I could erase the memory of that look from my mind forever.
He stood up, and I followed. “Luc…?” I said his name again. No response. Just that look.
“Luc, please, say something!” I begged, tears welling up in my eyes.
“I can’t… believe it.” His voice was less than a whisper.
I raised my eyes to his. “What?”
“I can’t believe it,” he repeated, more firmly, and I winced at the pain in his voice.
I grimaced, still trying to keep the tears at bay. “Well, that’s what I’ve been thinking for the past ten minutes.”
He scowled at me. “This is totally different.”
“Oh?” I challenged him. I was still feeling miserably guilty, but I wasn’t going to let him think that everything he had just told me about his past wasn’t going to affect me because of that. “How so?”
He gritted his teeth in frustration and shut his eyes, refusing to look at me. “That was years ago-”
“-That doesn’t make a difference!” I interrupted. The tears were flowing in earnest now.
“Look, I was young-”
“-I was drunk!-”
“-You still cheated on me–”
“-You still vandalised a school–”
“-You kissed another guy-”
“-YOU BROKE THE LAW-”
“YOU BROKE MY-” he stopped himself abruptly and just glared at me, red-faced and breathing deeply, as though he had suddenly realised what he was about to confess.
We both knew what he meant. The unsaid word hung in the air between us, an impenetrable barrier where seconds earlier there had been nothing but hot air. I stood, frozen, staring at his face, tears streaming down my cheeks while he still refused to look me in the eye. And I, terrified of what I might see there, didn’t want him to.
I don’t know how long we both stood there, blood boiling, throats aching, too afraid to even look at one another – too afraid of hearing those dreaded words, that this was the end of everything.
Eventually I came to my senses and realised that there was nothing more that either of us could say at that moment that hadn’t already been said. Without another word or glance, I strode past him and out the front door. The last thing I saw was Luc’s back as he turned away, before I slammed the door closed with a thunderous crash.
I barely even heard it.