Seven

Over the next few months, I tried to distract myself with homework and friends. If any stray thoughts even lingered on the topic of Bryan, I would quickly push them aside. There was no reason to wish or hope that things were different. He had made his decision and that was final.

I found an old walkway that led up to an abandoned mill not too far from school. On some days, when it wasn't raining, I would cut through the forest behind the softball field and lose myself completely. Thoughts streamed in about life, school, goals, and dreams. It was comforting to be surrounded by nature—total peace and quiet. No one was there to tell me what I should or should not do. The secret path was for my pleasure and no one else's.

One particular day, when the last bits of snow melted into pools of water on the ground, I was walking on the path by myself—or what I thought was by myself. The sun hung high in the baby blue sky; not a cloud or bird in sight.

I slipped my hands into my coat pockets and peered up at the oak trees lining the area. Their dark branches spread out like the wings of a bird; mighty and powerful at first glance. I slowed my pace and took a deep breath. The smell of wet moss and peppermint filled my lungs.

Without warning, a twig snapped behind me. I whipped myself around a little startled.

"Sorry, did I scare you?" Zach called as he sauntered onto the cleared pathway. I slipped my hand down from my heart and let out a deep sigh.

"No…I was just surprised, that's all," I replied with an assuring smile. He nodded his head causing brown strands of hair to tumble down over his eyes. A navy blue jacket was worn over a plain shirt. He didn't strike me as the jogging pants and baggy t-shirts type of guy.

"Come here often?" he questioned suddenly. My eyes leaped up as I bit my bottom lip.

"Well, I have been recently. It helps to get away from everything," I explained. Zach reached into his side pocket and took out his cell phone. Flipping it open, he quickly turned his head to the side and muttered something. I tried to give him as much privacy as I could. My feet shifted further down the path as I examined the rotted wood lying next to the bushes and the squirrels scrambling up the trees.

"Sorry about that…" he announced after a couple minutes. I nodded my head and flashed him a small smile.

"Was that your girlfriend?" I asked; hoping that my inquiry wouldn't sound too nosy. He began to laugh to himself as he took a step forward.

"No, that was my sister. She's at the hospital for an ultrasound. They're determining the sex of the baby…" he said. I looked down at my simple gray shoes and wrapped my right arm about my waist.

"So, girl or boy?"

He laughed once again causing faint lines to form at the corners of his eyes.

"Girl…" he revealed slowly. I pressed my lips together as an awkward thought flashed through my mind.

"I'm sure you'll be the perfect uncle. You know exactly how to charm a girl into doing anything…" I injected with a wry smile. He ran his fingers through his soft hair and turned to the side; almost as if to hide the fact that he was blushing.

"Yah well, I've never had much experience with kids being that I'm the youngest on both sides of my family," he mumbled. I giggled at how shy and bashful he appeared to behave in front of me. His feet would shuffle along the ground as his fingers would link together out of nervousness.

I began to leisurely saunter down the path; secretly watching to see if Zach would follow. And as predicted, he did. We walked side by side, breathing in the crisp air. Rays of sunlight twisted their way through the gaps in the thick canopy of leaves.

"Your math test was hard yesterday," I said out of pure randomness. He turned his head to look at the side of my face.

"Good to know…"—he remarked with amusement—"You know, no one said that my class was going to be easy."

I nodded my head and slipped my hands into my pockets.

"Yah, I just wish things were less complicated…" I muttered. Zach raised an eyebrow as he slowed his walking pace a bit.

"Something tells me that we're not discussing my class anymore."

He was absolutely right. I wasn't referring to his class or the subject of mathematics for that matter.

"You wanna talk about it?" he asked softly. Not really…I thought in my mind. "This has something to do with Bryan, doesn't it?"

I suddenly stopped in my tracks and peered up into his light brown eyes. He looked tired and older than he usually did.

"Then you knew about his dad being the Senator of Oregon?" I quibbled. Zach squirmed uneasily and finally, nodded his head.

"Yah, I knew. His dad wanted him to go to Yale or Harvard, but Bryan wouldn't accept. He wanted to be treated like a normal teenager—"

"And that's why Bryan came here?" I cut in abruptly. Zach stared down at his shoes and didn't respond. That made everything in my mind more confusing and upsetting.

"I feel like the whole thing was a big lie. Why couldn't he have just told me who his family was?" I questioned.

Zach sighed and shook his head.

"Maybe he wanted to disconnect himself from his parents…the stereotype of being some rich guy's son," he proposed. Even if this was true, I still deserved to know about his life and where he came from. It only seemed fair after I told him everything about me.

"I'm afraid he's not coming back," I whispered. Hot tears filled up the puffy bags beneath my eyes; waiting to flood over.

"If he's meant to come back, then he'll return. Have some faith in the guy. He's under a lot of pressure as a result of his parents. His life's basically planned out for him—"

"But that's just it!"—I cried—"If he hates the life they've planned for him so much than why doesn't he tell his parents? What is he so scared of?"

Zach wore an expression of defeat on his face. I slowly came to the realization that I wasn't questioning the right person. Zach didn't have any of the answers.

"I'm sorry…" I whispered out of regret. He shook his head and held up his hand.

"No reason to apologize. I know exactly what kind of stress you're under. Just take it easy for once, Aly. You're too hard on yourself," he instructed. I soaked in his words and tried to believe everything that he was saying; but it didn't seem like it was enough. I was tired of the heartache and the pain. I was tired of being left behind to pick up the pieces and to spend the rest of my days wondering what could have been. For once, I wanted to leave someone else behind; to not have to worry about the consequences.

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I walked back towards my dorm with a sense of peace lingering inside of me. It helped to talk to someone about the thoughts that weighed on my mind. Especially with a person who carried unbiased views about the situation with Bryan.

Small rain droplets fell from the sky coating the newly thawed ground. My strides became longer as the droplets gradually turned into sheets of water.

"Aly!" a voice called from underneath the underpass several feet away. I stopped to see who it was; all the while allowing my jacket and my pants to become saturated.

"Adrian…" I shouted back with a smile. For once, his face was actually a comfort to see.

His body was propped up against the concrete wall; arms encircling his waist.

"What are you doing out here?" I asked out of curiosity. He smiled and squinted his eyes to see my figure emerging through the rain.

"Rain or shine, you were always outside. That's the one thing that will never leave my mind…" he shouted. I walked over to where he was standing and stopped a few feet away. The most important thing for me at the moment was distance. I didn't trust myself enough to be near someone.

"If my memory serves me right, you were always out there with me," I remarked playfully. He laughed to himself and took a step forward.

"Well, how could I stay away when there was that amazing girl standing in front of me." His eyes diverted down towards the pavement as they journeyed back up towards mine. "That amazing girl that's still standing in front of me…" he stammered.

I gulped loudly as I could feel my heart rate begin to speed up. Pounding and beating inside my chest like a drum. I was afraid that he might hear the sound.

"Where's your girlfriend?" I asked suddenly; trying to change the subject. Adrian's eyes narrowed as if he caught on to what I was attempting to do.

"Oh, Monica…I don't know really"—he said in an indifferent tone—"Probably on a plane back to London or something. We're not going out anymore."

That little piece of information took me by surprise.

"How did everything just end? I thought you guys were getting serious about the relationship." My voice cracked a bit on the last word as I realized how intrusive my inquiries were becoming.

"I guess, we just expected different things out of the relationship…" he replied in a softer voice. I bit my lower lip and tucked a few strands of hair behind my ear. It felt like we were high school again: two friends not sure how to tell the other how they really feel. So instead, they find everyway possible to fill up the silence between them.

"I need to ask you something…" I found myself uttering in a shaky voice. Adrian paused for a moment. I think he knew what I was about to say.

"Did I ever cross your mind last summer? I mean, did you even think about what we did in your bedroom all that time ago?"

He took a deep breath and began to walk towards the opening on the right side of the underpass.

"Of course I thought about it…" he said quietly. I shook my head and laughed in confusion.

"Then, why didn't you call me or even e-mail me. I mean, how hard is it to just say a simple 'hello' every once in awhile?" I questioned. Adrian ran his hand down the side of his face as he parted his lips to speak.

"I never meant to hurt you or to make you regret that moment we shared"—he said in a lower voice—"But, to be honest, I was scared of losing our friendship. When I realized that things could never be the same between us, I panicked. That's why I couldn't talk to you or see you. I didn't know how to approach the situation…"

"So, you ignored it?" I cut in. My voice could no longer remain steady or strong. The pieces inside me were breaking; opening the floodgate to so many tears filled with regret and sadness.

"I still care about you…" he informed me with a sympathetic smile forming along his lips. I turned my face away from him and closed my eyes. How could he give me such mixed feelings? I didn't understand how he could say that he needed space and then, make remarks about how he had feelings for me. It didn't make sense.

"Adrian, maybe what I've been trying to figure out all these months is not that I need you or your opinion. Heck, I don't even need your affection! All I needed to know was how you felt and how blind I've been for thinking that you were the one for me."

He stared at me with a lost and desperate look in his bluish-green eyes.

"I've always had feelings for you, Aly. Always…" he declared. I narrowed my eyes and placed both hands on my hips.

"If you cared as much as you say you did, then you would have been there when I was rushed to the nurse's office. You would have been there when I collapsed during class because of a mild heart condition. You would have been there when I cried my eyes out the night you flew off to London! God, you say you care, but you were never there…"

The tears streamed down my face like a waterfall. Adrian tried to pull me into a hug, but I pushed him away from me. I couldn't let him snare me into one of his traps again. I couldn't let him take advantage of my heart and make me think that I needed him.

"After an entire summer of not hearing from you, I find you with some British blonde that I've never met before. And what do you say to me after all that time…after all that wasted time wondering…you say 'This is Monica Williams.'" I huffed and rolled my eyes to the side. How could I have been so blind after all that time? Childhood friend or not, he broke my heart and didn't have the balls to admit to it.

"I know you're upset with me…" he began in a low voice.

"You have no idea!" I shouted. He let out a deep breath and nervously glanced around the campus grounds.

"Look, I know nothing I can say will make you forgive me for everything. I should have called and I should have told you about Monica long before I brought her here…" he admitted guiltily.

"I just felt used and cheap, Adrian," I remarked with a wrinkled nose. It was the absolute truth. Seeing Adrian all over that blonde bimbo made me feel like a disposable piece of trash. Something that he enjoyed for awhile and then, slowly grew out of.

"Look, there's this party tonight up on the roof of the West dorms. You should come…" he suggested with a little smile. Now, why do you have to go and do that…I thought to myself. Adrian knew that I had a weakness for his smiles. They buttered me up and turned me into sourdough. "Come on, it'll be fun. We can catch up on some stuff. What'd ya say?"

I peered up into his eyes; regretting the tiny little voice inside of me that was urging me to accept his invitation.

"I really shouldn't…" I began in protest. Adrian brushed the side of his thumb across my upper lip and shook his head to quiet it me.

"Please," he pleaded. I closed my eyes for a second before reopening them.

"Just to talk?" I asked warningly. His facial features hardened as he nodded his head. I ran my fingers down my sides before saying "yes." Adrian seemed almost relieved by my reply; like I had given him a second chance to make amends. I kept telling myself to keep my guard up and to never trust what my impulses were telling me to do. But, with each passing moment, I began to slip once more under the spell that Adrian Porter was infamous for.

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Every bone, every muscle, every neuron told me to turn, to run, to never look back. I couldn't go through with tonight…the whole party that Adrian had invited me to. It was too soon; too much to take in.

I brought Chelsea along with me for moral support. At least I wouldn't have to confront Adrian alone. We ascended the long flight of stairs which led up to the rooftop. I could already hear music blaring and the shouts of college kids getting drunk on beer and good laughs.

"You okay?" Chelsea asked as I took hold of the iron railing and hoisted myself onto the next step.

"Yah, I'm just unsure about this whole thing…" I confessed. She tucked an auburn strand of hair behind her ear and nodded.

"You mean about the party?"

I didn't reply to her inquiry. Instead, I focused my attention on the marble flooring that seemed to elevate every three seconds. My black heel appeared out in front of me; simple and defined against the dull coloring of the space. I shifted my weight onto my right foot and lifted up my left leg. It was an uphill battle. My heart pounded abnormally fast, causing my entire body to tremble. I forgot to take my medication which was a big mistake under these circumstances. Chelsea kept asking me how I felt and whether or not we should stop for a little break. Of course, given my stubborn nature, I denied her suggestions and kept moving.

We finally arrived on the rooftop lavishly decorated with candles and Cray paper streamed about. Two giant speakers were set up on either end of the area; allowing both sides to enjoy the infectious beat that was interrupting the silence of the night.

"You'll be fine. Just take a deep breath." Chelsea's encouraging words only provided me with a momentary feeling of reassurance. That was until I saw Adrian standing by the drink table. His head was bent downwards; hiding his face from view.

I could feel Chelsea's hand gently squeeze mine as I began to walk towards Adrian. Everything else around me didn't seem to matter. Not the music or the people or the fact that I was still angry about our conversation earlier that day.

He wore a pale blue button-down shirt and white-wash jeans. Stubble grazed the sides of his cheeks like he always maintained it; rugged and unkempt.

"Adrian…" I called faintly to get his attention. His head lifted up a bit as a pair of reddened eyes flashed in my direction. I could tell he was drunk just by his overall facial features.

"You've been drinking haven't you?" I asked slightly hurt. He licked his lips and swayed the cup he was holding back and forth; knocking some of the liquid onto the cement ground.

"Just a little…" he slurred. My heart rate sped up as he attempted to take a step forward.

"Don't Adrian. I can't have a normal conversation with you when you're like this—"

"And why's that, huh?" he cut in gruffly. I bit my lower lip and wrapped my arms about my chest.

"You know why," I asserted disdainfully. Adrian chuckled to himself as he took a swallow from his cup.

"Do I scare you?" he questioned suddenly. My eyes scanned the entire premise before they rose up to his eyelevel.

"No…you're just unpredictable sometimes," I admitted in a shaky voice. My throat seized up as my eyes began to water with emotion. I tried to avoid the way he looked at me; the way his eyes journeyed down my body; but it was difficult. I kept telling myself that the alcohol was the one promoting this behavior and not him.

"Come dance with me," he ordered as he set down his cup and reached for my hand. I tried to pull it away but by that point, he was already dragging me out towards the crowd. His fingers drew my body close to him; stirring a sexual tension that I tried so hard to avoid again.

"I miss you…" he whispered in my ear. I cringed and pulled away from him; smelling the strong ruminants of alcohol on his breath.

"Adrian, stop. It is not gonna do us any good to lie about how we feel…" I began. He leaned his forehead against mine and breathed in deeply.

"God, I miss the way you smell…the way you feel beneath my fingers," he said in a low, husky voice. I shook my head and blocked out the hypnotic sound of his voice.

"Please, Adrian. Don't do this—"

"God, I want you so badly…" he groaned. The pit of my stomach burned with temptation and uncertainty. I wanted so much to believe the words that were coming out of his mouth, but I knew they weren't true. He was intoxicated past the point of reason.

I could feel his hands slowly lift up the sides of my skirt and tantalizingly brush up my inner-thighs. I moaned his name and clung onto him tighter. We were no longer moving with the music anymore. It all became focused around the touching and the exchange of sweet nothings.

When I could feel his fingers just so subtly glide across the surface of my underwear, I drew the line.

"You can't do this to me anymore. We can't do this to each other…I'm sorry. It was a mistake to come," I said as my hazel eyes welled up with tears. Adrian looked at me with an expression of utter agony and anger.

"Why can't I ever be enough!" he shouted. A few people turned their heads to see what all the commotion was about.

"Please, lower your voice," I instructed with the motion of my hand. Adrian stumbled over towards the drink table and thrusted his arm with an enormous force; all the beer bottles went crashing to the floor.

"Adrian, stop it!" I shrieked. Hot tears were now coating my face and dripping down from my chin.

"What's going on?" Chelsea questioned as she dashed over to my side. I turned towards her and bent my head to sob.

Meanwhile, Adrian was on a murderous rampage to vent his anger. He continued to knock all the bottles over and toss the tables onto their sides.

"Stop it!" I yelled. Rushing over to his side, I took hold of his right arm and attempted to pull him close to me.

"Get away!" he roared as he backed up near the ledge. "What have I ever done to you? God, I cared about you…I cared…why can't you believe that?" His hands were shaking and his voice was cracking.

"Adrian, please…" I whispered as a small sob escaped from my lips. He growled and ran his fingers through his hair.

"Fine, have it your way!" he yelled irately. Swinging his leg over the brick wall, he lifted his body up on top of the ledge overlooking the side of the building.

By this point, the music had stopped completely and everyone in the crowd had their attention fixed on me and Adrian.

"Adrian, get down from there!" I shouted out of fear. His bluish-green eyes squeezed shut as he screamed and let out a sob.

"Why Aly? Why am I not enough?" he bellowed. His shaky fingers rose up to his face to wipe away the tears.

"You are enough. Just please come down…" I implored. He peered down at me and shook his head. I didn't know how it happened or when it happened, but it felt like the world as I knew it was ending.

Adrian took one step back and lost his footing. Like a movie played in slow-motion, I watched as his arms spread out like an eagle to catch his balance. It was too late. His head drifted backwards as his body plummeted down for the fall.

"Noooooo!" I screamed as my hands automatically shot up to my mouth. "Noooo, Adrian! Adrian…" I sobbed with such uncontrollably rage and shock that I nearly collapsed to the floor. A few people ran to the brick wall and looked down over the edge to make sure that he had really fallen. There, imprinted within the saturated ground, was Adrian's motionless body.

"Oh my God!" Chelsea shouted as she ran to my side and cradled me in her arms. I couldn't stop the tears or the image replaying over and over in my mind. He was dead. Never to be heard or spoken to again.

"Adrian…no…" I wept. Everything spun around me in an endless circular motion. I couldn't believe what I had just seen.

"Shhh…it's okay," Chelsea consoled. I noticed that her fingers were trembling too as she brushed back my hair.

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A man with russet strands of hair and rounded brown eyes positioned himself in front of my face. He wore an expression of sorrow and sympathy.

"We'd like to ask you a few questions if that's alright with you," he said. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. This couldn't be happening…this was all a dream.

"Miss. Kensington…are you alright?" he asked; pulling me out of the fog that I was slowly slipping under.

My eyes fluttered open to see the flashing lights of the ambulance and the medics, who were currently placing a sheet over Adrian's body. A single tear rolled down my cheek; gliding over the humps of my reddened lips.

"Look, I realize you've had a pretty traumatic night. Why don't you call me at this number"—he instructed while handing me a cream colored business card—"and we can talk when you've sorted everything out."

I pursed my lips and stared down at the card he was holding in his hands.

"It's my fault…" I whispered. A wave of heat and dizziness was rushing over my body. I couldn't think, I couldn't move…my entire life came to a halt.

"I'm sure that's not the case," he reassured me with a smile that caused large creases to form along his olive colored cheeks. I shook my head and proceeded to watch the medics lift Adrian's body onto a stretcher. Something inside of me went off like a ticking time bomb. I scrambled up from the wooden bench and staggered forward; only to be caught by the detective's arms.

"Hey, slow down there," he coaxed as he tried to maintain my balance. I ripped myself from him and collapsed on the brick pathway.

"It's my fault!" I screamed. Tears were streaming down my cheeks once again; hot and searing to the touch. The detective squatted down next to me and reached out for my hand. I didn't react when I felt his skin against mine. I was too weak to fight back.

"It's gonna be okay…" he whispered as he ran his hand down my back. I cried so softly and passionately that my heart broke into a million pieces on the floor. It hurt so terribly. Every memory, every reminder…I hated the world, I hated God, but most importantly, I hated myself.

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Hey Guys: This was definitely a difficult chapter to write because of all the emotions that were stirring between Adrian and Aly. Of course, don't be sad. This is just a story after all and Aly does find love again.

Please, review!! If I don't get enough feedback, I won't have enough motivation to keep writing this story. So please let me in on any suggestions or comments. Thanks

Brittany