They were the couple that everyone knew would never last, so it came as no big surprise when they broke up after eight months of dating. After all, she was the bright and savvy eldest daughter of an old-money, prestigious Boston family, and he was the punk rock drummer from a small farm in Iowa. The only thing they'd had in common was the college they both attended.
She'd secretly dreamed of him for a year before getting up the courage to ask him out at the start of their senior year, and he'd nervously fumbled his way through their first date, half-smitten and in awe of her.
The following April, three weeks before graduation, she found him at a party, drunk and with a blonde slathered all over him. They'd been over in a heartbeat.
Kelly had been furious, hurt, and, ultimately, baffled as to what had happened. He'd told her that she was different, that he was in love with her, and they'd made so many plans for the future. Everyone else told her what they'd been telling her from the start of her time with Jake: that he was, essentially, a man-whore and that he'd been known to sleep with so many of his fledgling band's groupies. She'd been so sure that she was different from those hordes of girls and that he really felt something for her.
She'd been wrong.
Luckily, there were only a few weeks left in the semester and her college career, and she'd never have to see the cheating bastard who'd broken her heart ever again if she didn't want to. And she really, really didn't want to.
But, late at night, when she couldn't sleep, she'd miss the way he'd hold her close and sing her to sleep, his fingers rubbing soothing circles on her skin, lulling her into dreamland.
To everyone else, she presented a completely composed exterior. Her chestnut brown hair was still perfectly smoothed, her complexion unmarred by evidence of sleepless nights. She always managed to cover up the shadows beneath her hazel eyes and was sure that no one could see the inner pain she was in.
Determined to forget about him, she threw herself into studying for finals and preparing for her future.
Jake, on the other hand, had no choice but to think of her. He completely took the blame for it all. Every ounce of pain she felt was a dagger in his heart. She might have looked flawless on the outside, but he knew her well enough to look past that perfect exterior she presented to the world. He could see the turmoil she was in, and he was the cause of it.
If he could go back in time and re-do that night at the party in her friends' apartment, he would've done everything the same way. It was the best thing he could've done for her, but, if she knew his motives, she'd never agree. It was better this way, he told himself, even when he saw her looking absolutely miserable in their Development of Ethics classes three times a week. He was Jake Taylor from Bumfuck, Iowa, and she was the daughter of business moguls. She had a promising future with a major firm in New York City after graduation, and all he could look forward to was going back to Iowa and helping his father run their small farm. He was no good for her, and he knew it.
Now, he watched her all through class, misery shining in his eyes. When the lecture ended, he watched her leave before heaving a frustrated sigh and gathering up his things.
"You're pathetic, Jake Taylor."
Jake glanced up to find Kelly's best friend, Mel, studying him with a look of disgust on her face. He sighed again and unfolded his tall, lean frame from the desk. "What do you want, Mel? I think you've already filled your yell-at-me quota for the century."
"Ha ha. Very funny. Not." She glared at him. "Why on earth did you break her heart if you're so stupidly in love with her, you asshole?"
He was taken aback, though his face gave nothing away. "I don't know what you're talking about," he replied smoothly. "Didn't you get the memo, Bates? I don't fall in love with anyone, especially not daddy's girls with platinum cards in their wallets. Not my type."
"So what was all that time you spent with Kelly? Screwing with the elite?" Mel folded her arms over her chest and watched him expectantly.
She lifted a brow. "No? That's it? That's all you're going to say?"
"What do you want me to say, Mel?" He looked away from her and beyond the windows where he could see groups of their fellow undergraduates milling between classes. "Do you want me to agree that I'm a cold, callous, cheating bastard? Yeah, okay, I am. Do you want me to tell you that I knew I was cheating on her when I hooked up with that girl? Yeah, I did. Anything else?"
Mel pursed her lips, considered him for a moment, then nodded. "One last thing. Why'd you do it? If I hadn't seen it with my own eyes, I would never have believed that you were capable of loving her, but you did. So why'd you destroy her? Why does she cry every, single night when she thinks the rest of us are asleep? Why is she working so hard to keep up a façade when we all know that she's broken inside? Tell me why you did it because I know it wasn't as simple as you wanting some random slut's body for the night."
The thought of Kelly crying at night broke his resolve. The front he'd put up for the rest of the world crumbled. "Because I am in love with her! Damn it, Mel! I love her, she's the best fucking thing to happen to me, and I couldn't let her love me back. Not when she's got places to go and things to do."
"Explain," was all Mel said.
"We're from two different worlds, and no one can miss that! She's got a great future to look forward to with everything that she's done and the way her family is, and I don't fit with that. I mean, seriously? Can you really see me fitting into their family dinners in Hyannisport because I sure as hell can't? She was so in love with me, she wouldn't have cared that everything else was going downhill. She would've tied herself to me, and I know, one day, she'd come to regret it. All of it." He raked his fingers through his hair, making it spike up wildly. "I could survive anything, and I have, but it would kill me to see her ruin her life because of me. What other choice did I have but to force her out?"
His eyes widened on Mel's face before she shrugged and left the room. Slowly, his heart hammering in his throat, he turned to face Kelly.
She was staring at him, her eyes glossy with unshed tears, and it broke his heart all over again. "Kelly."
"Do you-" She swallowed hard and shook her head as though to clear it. "Do you think you can repeat what you just said?"
Her voice was hardly above a whisper, and the look on her face pained him. "Which part? The one where you and I don't belong together because I'm no good for you or the part where I'll never fit in with your world?"
Kelly shook her head. "The part where you said you were in love with me. Are you? Really?"
There was hope shining in her eyes, and he was amazed that, even after he'd hurt her, she would still look at him that way. She was too good for him, and he knew he'd have to hurt her again to keep her away from him. "Maybe I am, but so what? What difference does it make, Kelly? You and me, we're over. History. Time to move on."
"That's not true," she replied firmly. "The only reason we're over is because you didn't believe in us, you didn't trust me, and you're a snob." Her eyes sparked with temper as she jabbed a finger at his chest. "You're the biggest snob I know if you think that you and I are too different to last."
"A snob!" Jake sputtered on the word, stunned at her words. "I am not a snob!"
"Sure you are, and, what's worse than that is that you broke my heart because of it. You could've been nicer about it, but you weren't. You couldn't even be honest with me!" She spun away from him to pace angrily. "If I hadn't heard you right now, I would've spent my entire life wondering what was wrong with me, why it was that you couldn't love me enough to be faithful. You wouldn't have told me the truth. Not ever."
"Christ." Jake sighed and reached out to grab her hands, stopping her in mid-step. He didn't even flinch when she jerked out of his hold. "Just listen, would you? I'm doing the best thing for you, Kelly. That's what people do when they love someone. I love you, and I can't see you wreck your future because you're stuck with deadbeat me who's going back to Iowa to be a farmer and grow old and die like that. You're meant for better things."
She sighed and shook her head. "So, what? You decided to sacrifice yourself for me? You hurt me to get rid of me, to keep me from pining over you because you stupidly thought you were doing me a favor?"
"No, you shut up!" She shoved him back a few steps, and he froze. "You inconsiderate asshole! Did you ever think that, maybe, just maybe, I have a brain of my own? That I know what I'm doing? When I told you I was in love with you, that I wanted to spend my future with you, I wasn't being a bubble brain, which is what you think I am."
"I don't think-" he began, but she cut him off again.
Kelly was on a roll, and she needed to get these words out. She hadn't thought it was possible for her to be so furious with him, but she was. "I love you, Jake, and, at this point, only God knows why. I don't care what you do with your life as long as I get to be with you. I know what I'm saying and doing when I say I want everything with you, Jake. A family, a home, a future, but, most of all, you being there for me and vice versa at the end of the day." She sighed and looked up into his troubled face. "I need you to tell me, right now, whether or not you want me and all of those things, too. If you don't, then I'll leave, and that's that. If you do…then we'll figure it all out. Together."
Jake stared at her for a long time, her words swirling in his mind, his eyes locked with hers. The silence stretched out interminably between them, and he could practically see that future she'd spoken of.
When he didn't say anything, her heart fell again. "Okay," she whispered. "That's fine then."
But just as she turned away, he stopped her. "I told myself I was doing what was best for you," he murmured. "I might have been able to let you go, but…" He looked deep into her eyes as though he could see her soul. "Thank God, you didn't let me."
She let herself fall into his arms, his face buried in her hair. "I love you, you jerk."
His lips curved against her neck. "I love you, too, and I'm sorry I hurt you."
"Remind me to kill you later," she whispered just before their lips met.
AN: This totally didn't turn out the way I wanted it to, but let me know what you think anyway. I love Kelly and Jake, but their story was meant to be told differently. You'll probably see a different version up when I figure out why it didn't come out the way it sounded in my head. In the meantime, if you have any suggestions or comments, let me know! Thanks!