As I opened the door to my bedroom, I had to wonder if it really was Erik's shiny black Jaguar convertible parked on the street. After all, it was getting dark outside, so it might as well have been a shiny black Porsche or BMW for all I knew. Besides, the maids had said they hadn't seen anyone come in. Or heard as much as a doorbell.
Maybe I just wanted to see Erik so badly that I was starting to imagine things.
I sighed. I headed to my walk-in closet, pulling my shirt up as I went.
"Whoa, keep your shirt on," a male voice said, slightly bemused.
If it were anyone else but Erik, I would have screamed. Instead, I placed a hand on my chest to calm my racing heart. "God, Erik. You scared me."
"Sorry," Erik said, sounding unrepentant.
I looked into my bedroom, eyes adjusting to the dark. The dusky, setting sun outside the French windows cast my room in a faded, almost ethereal glow. Still, it wasn't enough to light my path. I nearly stumbled on a fallen Ferragamo shoe on the floor.
Finally, I sat down on the opposite end of my bed, so that our backs faced each other. "What are you doing here, in the dark? I thought you were going to Newport." I stared at the blank walls that faced me.
"The dark is kind of comforting." There was a pause. "How did you know I was driving down to Newport?"
"I went to your place," I admitted. "I made Haley tell me."
"I checked my messages," Erik informed me. "The last one got me to turn back." His voice was light, casual.
I felt my face burn. I knew how that one went.
Erik? It's me, again. (Pause) Could you come over? I really need to see you.
I hoped he didn't notice how small my voice sounded. Or that he could hear the emotional state I was in when I'd left that message. I hoped he didn't consider think I was pathetic, because I don't even know why I said that, like some little girl asking for a presidential pardon.
Oh, what the hell.
"Please," I said breezily. "You mean to tell me you turned back for that? It wasn't even really important."
Erik let out a frustrated sound. "Tiara, are you trying to hurt me?" He said in a low voice.
I realized I was doing it again. Pushing him away, when this was the only chance I was getting to get things straight. It was so easy, so tempting to fall back on my usual defense mechanisms of being a class-A bitch.
"Sorry." I said, my voice sincere. I twiddled my thumb against the surface of my Marc Jacobs cutoff shorts, suddenly nervous. I didn't know what to say. I knew what I felt; the feelings weren't a problem or anything, but the words were hard to come.
"You wanted to talk to me?" Erik said, breaking the silence. He was obviously making an effort to be patient.
I kept twiddling my thumbs against my cutoffs, silent.
Erik sighed, and stood up. "Never mind. I should've known better than to… Anyway, I should go."
"Erik," I said in a slightly panicky voice, grabbing his arm. I couldn't let him leave like that. "I'm trying, I really am. This isn't easy for me, okay?" My voice shook slightly. I was beyond caring.
Erik studied my face for a moment, then his expression softened. "It's alright, Tee. You don't need to do this," he said soothingly, understanding dawning on him.
"I want to," I said stubbornly. "Now sit down before I lose my nerve."
He sat back down, facing the window, and I did too, on my opposite end facing the wall. The darkness loomed before us, but instead of making me feel uncomfortable, the anonymity it lent me made me feel braver. Erik was right about the dark, after all.
And so everything came pouring out. My words were clumsy, ineloquent of the emotion I felt. After all, Epiphanies were not made for words.
"You know," I started, looking down at the white Persian rug. It was a bit easier to spill my heart out when he couldn't see my face. "When you left almost two years ago, it really broke me. You're the only guy I've ever loved, and it's really scary, feeling this... loss for the longest time. I didn't expect you to return, so when you did, it was all just a shock."
I stopped. "Of course," I couldn't help saying, "You didn't help, by always being there and annoying the heck out of me. I thought that since we're older, I'd be better at not letting you get under my skin, but no. You still manage to irritate the hell out of me. Just like seventh grade."
Erik burst out in laugher. His shoulders were shaking when I slowly turned in my bed to face him halfway. "Okay, I'll pretend like I didn't hear that." Erik looked heavenward, his blue eyes crinkling in affection. "I must really love you." He cut his eyes at me, smiling.
That was Erik for you. He was always so unabashed about his emotions, and I didn't know whether to hate him or love him for it.
I settled on a wince. "I'm sorry about what I said. That sounded stupid. Can I start over?"
Erik sobered. He put a finger under my chin, looking at me very intently. "Listen, Tee," Erik said gently, "I forgive you, okay? For everything. I'm not really looking for a speech of hearts and stars here. All I want to hear is that you want to be with me, as much as I want to be with you."
"I want to be with you as much as you want to be with me," I slowly turned the words over on my tongue, marveling at the weight of just a few words.
Erik chuckled. "Some conviction, please."
I looked at him, my eyes soft. "Erik, I love you." I kissed his cheek, but he moved his head so that my lips touched his.
And we were kissing and I was falling; the only sensation I felt was his arms tight around me as his lips moved over mine, and it was more than enough to have that and still be breathing.
Then door to my room swung open with a loud noise, and the lights overhead flickered into brightness. Kaitlyn stood in my doorway, mouth hung open.
Then recovering herself, she started to grin and said, "Okay, can I just say one thing even if it doesn't really fit the moment?"
Erik and I rolled our eyes at her, and she took it as our consent. "Guys, get a room!"
"Get out of mine," I grinned, getting out of bed and closing the door in her face.
The first Monday that Erik and I walked with our hands intertwined in each other's, instant whispers and unabashed gossiping followed our every step in the hallways of Mercer Prep.
"Dude. She's such a friggin ice bitch. How did he do it?"
"Wow, they actually look… happy. Like they're in love with each other or something."
"This is NOT happening! Erik was supposed to fall in love with ME! I blow-dried my hair and everything!"
It was like the first day of school all over again, except everyone was talking about us instead. Not exactly my cup of tea, but oh well. I'd take what I could get.
"God, are they seriously still gossiping about us?" I wanted to know Friday afternoon at my locker, watching two freshmen girls watch us, and giggling. I narrowed my eyes at them, and their eyes widened. They backed away and promptly disappeared.
Hah. I still had it in me.
"You scared them away," Erik said, tweaking my nose affectionately. "Don't worry, it's only until somebody else breaks up. Then we're officially so last week," Erik said, pretending to sound like Lauren Vreeland, who'd bombarded me in World Civilization a few days ago. It was scary.
"That's not funny," I said, socking him in the arm. "I got a nightmare about being stuck in an elevator with her for hours last night," I told him, shutting my locker door shut. "Hours!"
Erik laughed, putting an arm around me and pulling me against his side. He kissed my cheek lingeringly, stealing my breath, as well as my books, with his free hand.
"Oh, so you're a gentleman now?" I grinned, putting an arm on my hip mock-defensively.
"Dude, I always, like, was one," Erik rolled his eyes at me playfully.
I laughed. "Some couples call each other pet names, but not me. All I get is 'dude.'"
"I could call you sugarplum," Erik offered, with a completely straight face.
I made an effort not to gag. "And I could call you honey pie," I responded sweetly.
Erik chuckled. "Okay, fine, we're quits." He stood in front of me, stopping me from going any further. He tucked a lock of my caramel-colored hair behind my ear. "Hey, you're coming to our big soccer game later right?" He said hopefully.
"Oh, was that today?" I deadpanned. I flashed him a bright smile. "I'm only kidding. Of course I'll go. I wouldn't miss it for the world. And because I'm such a wonderful girlfriend, I'll even walk you to your locker room," I said brightly.
"Only because it's just five steps across the hallway," Erik pointed out good-naturedly and reached out to ruffle my hair. "Hey, I gotta go, Coach wants the team to warm up together."
Right on cue, James Goldberg stuck his head out of a room. "DuGrey! You can mack around with your girl later. Coach is asking for you!"
"Yeah, I'll be just a moment," Erik called back. He turned back to me and putting his arm on my waist, kissed me squarely on the mouth.
"DuGrey!" Goldberg hollered. I could feel him rolling his eyes from five feet away.
I pulled away. "Go! Before you get thrown off the team!" I said laughingly.
He merely smiled. Taking a few backward steps, he mouthed to me, 'I love you.'
I leaned back on the wall, smiling as I watched him jog down the hallway. It was strange, how getting back together with Erik felt almost… effortless. I hadn't bargained how normal it would feel, telling him things like I loved him and going to his games. Normally, those were the things I put off doing until the very last moment.
But this… This felt right, as nothing had felt like for a very long time.
"Is this seat taken?"
Summer and I stopped laughing as we looked up at the familiar figure standing over the empty seat.
"Oh, hey, Bailey!" Summer said brightly, and I scooted over to make room.
Summer looked back and forth between Bailey and I, her hazel eyes wide and earnest. "So, I'm going to go get a drink. You guys want anything?" Summer offered generously.
We shook our head no.
Silence descended down on us as soon as Summer left. I kept my eyes on the scoreboard. 0-1, in Mercer's favor. An excellent angled shot made by Erik that passed clean through the goalie's fingers. Not that I'm keeping track, or anything.
"Erik's looking for you," Bailey said, glancing over at me.
I followed her gaze. Sure enough, I could see a certain blond head scouring the sidelines at intervals. "Oh, yeah. Idiot."
"He never did try to hide that he liked you, or anything," Bailey reflected quietly, unusually serious. "The signs were all there. I guess I just chose not to see it."
I was quiet, instinctively realizing this was something Bailey had to get out.
Bailey took a deep breath. "I really wanted him to like me back. I did my best, but…" She spread her hands out. "I just can't compete with what you guys have. Who am I to stand in the way of true love?" She let out a little laugh, and it was one devoid of bitterness.
I didn't say anythingm, choosing my words very carefully. What could I say that wouldn't be cheesy, pointed, or fake?
I settled for the truth. "God, this is awkward, isn't it?" I said with a little smile. Beside me, Bailey nodded in agreement, smiling hesitantly.
"I am sorry it had to happen this way. You're my friend and I do care about your feelings. You know that right?" I glanced up from my mocha latte and over at her.
"Yeah," Bailey said with a small grin. She knew that despite all my aversion to trite, touchy-feely sentimentality, I was really trying. Which was much more than I'd ever done in my life.
"Friends?" I stuck out a hand, grinning.
"Yeah," Bailey said, her short layered 'do bobbing as her face dimpled into a smile. "I'd really like that." She bypassed my hand and embraced me hard. Typical Bailey. I patted at her back awkwardly, not because of anything else but the fact that I was, well, me.
"Omigod, guys, did you see that? We scored another goal!" Summer shrieked as she unceremoniously plopped down on the space between us. "We are so creaming these losers from St. Joseph's!" Summer started doing a funny little victory jig.
I caught Bailey's eye and we both started laughing. It was nice to know some things would never change. Today we might share a laugh; a few weeks down the road we might go out for coffee. Who knows?
The game ended 2-1, in Mercer's favor. I watched the people around me erupt into jubilant cheering and victorious smiles, and then very gradually, empty out of the soccer field. I cradled my Styrofoam cup of Starbucks coffee in my hands, thinking that it was a nice feeling to be seventeen and in the middle of this happy hullabaloo.
"Hey, sorry I kept you waiting," Erik plopped down on the bleacher seat beside me. He was freshly showered and he looked tired, but happy. "Coach gave us a really emotional victory speech that went on forever. So, what are you thinking about?" He nudged me.
I started. "Oh, I don't know," I answered distractedly. "I was just reminiscing, really. Has it ever occurred to you that a lot of things have happened in this very same soccer field?"
"I can think of a few," Erik laughed. "This is where Coach told me I made varsity freshman year, and I made my first crucial mid-game goal here." He paused, squinting at the navy blue sky overhead. "I saw you here for the first time." Erik recalled with a slow smile, glancing over at me. "From that moment, I knew you would be special. It just took you a long time to see it." He let out a little laugh.
"Is that so?" I said, a smile lingering on my lips. A memory danced in my mind, elusive yet irrefutable. This time, I didn't fight it.
"What are Summer and Adrienne giggling about?" Erik wanted to know, wearing a bemused smile. He leaned against Tiara's locker, waiting for her so that they could walk together to their next class. They were, after all, friends.
Or something like that anyway.
Tiara closed her locker shut. She took a deep breath. "Um, nothing. We're going to be late if we don't start walking."
"They couldn't have been laughing just for nothing," Erik observed, falling in step with her. He nodded to a couple of guys calling his name and flashed a lazy grin at a senior on his team.
"It's about Weston Westlake," Tiara muttered, giving up. "He kind of asked me out on a sort-of date." Her cheeks turned pink.
Erik stopped in his tracks. Oblivious, Tiara ducked into their freshman English class, leaving him standing in the hallway with his mouth slightly open.
He quickly followed her inside. "Of course you turned him down and told him you're going out with me, right?" Erik was quick to ask.
"We are?" Tiara looked bewildered.
The expression on Erik's face changed. He looked hurt, and suddenly uncertain. "Aren't we?"
"No. I mean, I don't know." Tiara flushed a colorful shade of red. "It's just… You've never asked me."
And for the second time under ten minutes, she left him standing alone, mouth slightly open.
Tiara could feel Erik looking at her the whole period. She steadfastly ignored him. She used to think he stared at her during class to annoy her, but after telling her he didn't hate her, it changed things. Tiara was afraid to think what it could mean, and she most definitely didn't want to give him her attention and get called on by the teacher. The period could not pass by soon enough.
So while working on her Bio worksheet next period, she was very surprised to see Erik slip into the seat beside hers halfway into study hall.
"What are you doing here?" Tiara was confused. She knew for a fact Erik had Gym this hour.
"I got a bathroom pass," Erik said, smiling widely. "I snuck past Ms. Theodore," he added, nodding towards the elderly librarian.
"Yeah, okay," Tiara said, still disbelieving. "But what are you doing here?"
Erik shrugged. "I wanted to say hi." He swept a gaze over the reading materials Tiara had piled onto her table. "The Human Anatomy, huh?"
"Erik-" Tiara said, raising her voice.
A couple of juniors looked their way, glaring. "Shhh!"
"Sorry," Tiara muttered, sinking in her seat. She gave Erik a dirty look and resumed to working on her worksheet. She had given up trying to comprehend Erik's actions. The boy was unpredictable.
Erik picked up a pencil, twirling it in his hands. Then he bent over, scribbling something on the edge of her open, pristine white Bio notebook.
"What are you doing?" Tiara was curious. She attempted to lean over.
"No peeking!" Erik admonished, grinning. He swiftly covered the space with his palm.
Tiara rolled her eyes and started rereading the paragraph she had started on five minutes ago. Her efforts were futile. As always, Erik intrigued her.
Finally, Erik nudged her. He adjusted Tiara's notebook to face her.
In messily-scrawled, large block letters, he'd written:
Tiara Madden, will you go out with me?
(There's only one right answer to this and it's yes)
Tiara started laughing. A short distance away, Ms. Theodore looked at them disapprovingly, but Tiara was oblivious. As was Erik.
"Well, now you can't say I never asked you," Erik wore his trademark charming grin, putting his arm around hers right smack in the midst of study hall.
"Why are you smiling? Thinking of me?" Erik nudged me.
I scowled. His ocean blue eyes were twinkling. I socked him in the shoulder in retaliation. "You're so full of it." I was not about to confirm what he'd just said, even if it was, well, true.
"Hey!" Erik said, pretending to be hurt.
"Bailey and I talked awhile ago," I told him after a comfortable silence.
"Oh really?" Erik looked concerned, sitting up. "What did she say?"
"We made up," I informed him. "It's still a bit weird, you know, but nothing we can't handle. I'm positive things will eventually go back like before."
"I don't know," Erik said, relaxing at the news. He stretched out on the bleachers lazily. "I'm pretty happy with how things are right now."
I thought about it for a while, and found that it was a matter I could be perfectly honest on. I laid down on the bleachers next to him, staring up at the starlit, midnight blue sky.
"You know what, Erik? Me too."
Erik put an arm around my shoulders, pulling me tightly to his side. His fingers played with my hair, and in that inexplicable moment, things felt perfect.
You know that thing about the one great love of your life? Well, that was Erik for me. Some meet theirs in a magical moment during Christmas, or under a wave of shooting stars. Sometimes it's someone they literally bump into on the street; sometimes it's someone they've known forever and just failed to see in the right light.
I met mine in the seventh grade soccer field. It took me a long time to realize it, but when I did, I knew;
This was for keeps.
A/N: Wow, it's actually over. And, as this is my last chance to hear from you guys, I'd REALLY love it if you could drop me a line. Tell me what you think, be it negative or positive or just to say whatever. So, review! ;)
I'm taking a short break for awhile, but I'll probably be back. For those of you who read my story, All 4 You, remember the preview in the last chapter about the Katie story? Yeah, that one. It's different from this, more serious and everything, and hopefully I'll be as invested in writing it.
Oh, and I have to admit, the idea of writing a sequel is tempting too. College, new conflicts, a hot cousin of Erik's, off-campus housing facilities, crazy roommates... Yeah. But I'll be a good girl.
The gist of my tentative story: Katie's been coping with a lot of flak lately. She always used to be the nice girl next door, but what with the death of her best friend, the separation of her parents, and her brother dating the school blond & being forgotten by her family, she hasn't been feeling like herself lately. So she gets in with the alternative/juvenile delinquent crowd, propositions to her older brother's ex-best friend, & spirals into an abusive relationship with someone who's bad news.
Love & Thankyou's:
Swimchickslam :: XoARoX :: Gigi :: ms. asdg :: givelifeyourall :: CallMeCute :: ed-misery :: arouralai :: youpin :: oooh.look.a.cat. :: Kelyn :: Yonderwindow :: whoot :: my beautiful catastrophe :: princess of rock :: To'xx'y :: Mellowdy :: Twizler519 :: neverforever19 :: Goosey1221 :: Creative Destruction: Silliegurl789 :: Rumor Mills :: Emerald :: Laurerita :: starXcookie :: Wesley Kelly :: twistedFAerieTALes
Evil Monkey – New Moon is… well, I'm not sure if you'd hate spoilers, but it's really good. Slightly different but very good. I live in the Philippines, actually, so I'm surprised the local bookstore carried it so early. Usually, we're late, too. :) Check out for good stuff!
Deliah Minicet – Yeah, basically he couldn't deal with the whole night not meaning a thing to her, so he split. He came back, though. :) Thanks very much for your insightful reviews. I hope this disappoint, but feel free to hit me with any constructive criticism anyway.
Writerwithoutacause – Heh, I know what you feel. I'm a bit iffy that they did it in the ninth too, but it was essential and it seems things like that aren't really a big deal anymore. I'm glad you liked Tiara's character. It was fun for me too, to write a bitchy yet somewhat sympathetic lead. And the posh lifestyles, I'll miss it. It's an interesting yet plastic world. ;)
Lola – Me too, I can't wait for the next book( not to mention the Edward one)! Do you think Edward will change her in that book? And what power do you think Bella would have as a vampire? Oh, the intrigue! Lol
Summer McAdams – Hey! I passed the entrance exam to DLSU! Yay, I'm SO happy! I hear the Ateneo results will be this week. Update me when you get yours! ;) Oh, and what's your name on friendster? I'll add you. :) Yeah, the pre-DWTL drama is the best. Everyone always comes in all spooked up. When did classes resume? Ours is on Thursday and I'm racing to finish this before. Dawn Mass? Omg, what time is that? Wow, church camp huh? Is that done as an org or something? People your age? Haha, what do you do there? Aww, too bad if your crush likes that girl. Hey maybe you'll still end up at the same school, lol. The Starbucks planners this year aren't that nice. I think the past years were nicer. ;) How was your Christmas? Fave presents? Haha, I finished a whole season of Grey's Anatomy. It was super nice. Now I'm waiting for Veronica Mars and American Idol to resume. I still get nostalgic thinking this is going to be my last school year! Oh well, haha!
Iadoreyooh – Haha, yeah, it was THAT chapter. I know how that goes, too, lol. Those things are explained this chapter. About why he left, well, yeah, you're right. The possibility of meaning nothing is a pretty heavy one. I had a good time reading your review, your insights were pretty much dead-on. I'm glad it comes off that way. Which character do you like? Thanks for the long comments:)
Diamondewdrops – Well, here's that new years' eve gift! Haha, I'm not that mean. Anyway, I didn't realize it was actually a cliffhanger. I just thought it was a good place to end while still maintaining a bit of interest. So, yeah, this is the end, no more epilogues. I could drag it on, and I was tempted because I had a lot of other plot twists ready, but I decided to junk them and end on a good note. Hah, in her very short and privileged life? I like that, lol. I know, the unimportant parts are always the first in. That bit was funny, thanks!
Hotroxygurl – Aww, haha, I wouldn't publish this. It's just for fun. But I'm seriously flattered it's one of your faves anyway. I like how you wrote that line about being bitchy because we're tired of getting our hearts broken. It's pretty much true to life. :)
Perdita's Kiss – I know, Twilight/New Moon are so good. I keep rereading my fave parts (which are any scene with Edward and Bella, basically). You know what I'm really looking forward to? Midnight Sun! Edward's POV. Bliss. :) Btw, have you gone to Good stuff there deleted scenes and such.
PeteStump – Ooh, I checked the site out. I browsed through the stuff, I'm a lurker that way. Hey, any news on the Edward's version book? I'm dying to read that ever since I checked out the excerpt on her website. It's seriously good. I need her to publish that one, lol. So, I wonder what's up for them in the next book? You think she'll get changed:)
p.s. Tell me if you guys want review responses! I can use that new feature thing to answer any questions or whatever. :)