Chapter 2: Old Memories Die Hard
Jonas smiled broadly. "I can't believe you're finally home."
My breath caught in my throat when I looked him over. I had always adored Jonas and the way he looked. Just like his friends, he used to dress in dark clothes with his hair spiked. My eyes lingered on his hair, which was no longer dyed black, but short, neat, and the color of milk chocolate. It was the first time I had ever seen his natural color. I glanced at the rest of his body. Jonas had always been very tall – a foot taller than me – and very thin. I admired the way his chest and shoulders had filled out over the years, and if I had to guess, I'd say he worked out. He was currently wearing a full business suit, looking as though he just stepped out of a very important meeting.
Jonas held out his arms. "Do I at least get a hug after all this time?"
I snapped out of my trance. "Of course!" I jumped out of my chair and allowed him to wrap his arms around my waist. I closed my eyes and inhaled deeply. He still smelled the same after all these years. Just as I remembered him.
He pulled back, snapping me out of my trance, and looked into my eyes. "Seems like it's been forever, doesn't it?"
"Yeah…" I trailed off, feeling my heart flutter. His eyes were gorgeous. They were the deepest green I had ever seen. Just when I thought I was going to get lost in their infiniteness, he pulled away and took the empty seat next to mine. I swallowed and sat back down.
"So, how long are you home?" Jonas asked, picking up his glass of water. "Are you off for a semester?"
"I'm moving back home. For good."
His eyes widened. "Are you serious?" He set down his glass and grinned. "I thought you decided you were living permanently in Arizona?"
I frowned. "Why would you think that?"
"I ran into Kenji about a year ago. That's what he said."
"Well, that's not true. I'm here for good." I couldn't help but return his happy smile. I looked at everyone else at the table. "I missed all of you guys."
"We missed you too, Andy." Gavin said, leaning back in his chair and grabbing his bottle of beer.
"Especially now that he realizes how hot you've become." Keith winked.
Gavin raised his beer. "Now that's some shit I can drink to." Everyone else raised their glasses in unison and drank. "Cheers!"
After dinner four of us walked out to the parking lot while Gavin stumbled in front of us. He had too much to drink and was laughing and cursing, rambling incoherently about what would happen if a turtle wore a turtleneck. All through dinner he kept ordering more and more drinks, and with each sip he would keep insisting that life was a sphere, but wouldn't elaborate any further than that. Jonas, Keith and I would laugh good-naturedly, but Nat's frown only grew deeper and deeper. Probably because he was the one driving Gavin home.
Once the boys had loaded the still chattering Gavin into the back seat of Nat's car, Keith immediately grabbed my arm. "I don't mean to cut this short, but Nicole wanted me home thirty minutes ago. I still have to get you home."
I smiled, but felt slightly disappointed. The only thought that ran through my mind was when will I get the opportunity to see Jonas again? "That's ok. Let's go."
"I can take her." Jonas said. "You should go straight home."
Keith's eyes darted between Jonas and me. "Are you – sure?"
Jonas nodded. "Andy's place is out of your way."
I rolled my eyes. "Let's not talk about me like I'm not here."
"Come on. This will give us time to catch up." He rested a warm hand on my upper arm, and my heart skipped a beat.
"O…k." I choked through my own awkwardness. I hugged Keith and waved at Nat and Gavin before following Jonas across the parking lot. "Nice car." I commented, as we climbed into an expensive looking Acura.
"Oh, thanks," he said, starting the car, "it's new."
"Keith told me you were doing well, but I didn't think you were doing this well."
"I've come a long way in the past seven years."
I smiled. "I don't doubt it. And you managed it without a college degree. I'm proud of you."
"Yeah, it is an accomplishment, but I couldn't have done it without the help of the people I worked with."
"I guess it started when I got that job moving car parts – "
"At the car factory?" I interrupted, remembering how happy he had been to be able to afford to get away from his mother.
"Yeah, exactly. I became friendly with the owner of the place. He thought I had great potential, so he moved me up until I was right under him. After that he told this other business about me, and they hired me starting at over 80 grand. From there, they kept giving me raises until I was at a six-figure salary."
"Six figures? Damn."
"Imagine my surprise. I went from living in that shithole with my mom to making more money than I know what to do with."
I shook my head. "That's an amazing story, but I'm not surprised. I always saw something special in you."
Jonas remained quiet for a few moments, and I immediately began to regret what I had said. In an effort to cover my tracks, I changed the subject.
"Where do you live now?"
"In the development where Gavin used to live."
"Those were some nice ass houses. Are you hording a small fortune?"
Jonas laughed. "I'm not. My dad died two years ago, and he left me everything he had. I guess it was him apologizing for leaving me with my slut of a mother." Jonas began to frown. I knew his family was always a touchy subject.
"I had no idea your dad passed away." I said softly. I wish Jonas had told me, but I realized we hadn't talked in over a year when it happened.
"Yeah, well, it's not like we were close. Anyway, I got a house out of it. Apparently he leased the house to people so when it cleared, I moved in."
"That's amazing." I paused. "It seems like your life has really come together nicely."
Jonas glanced at me out of the corner of his eye. "What do you mean?"
"I mean, you have a house, a good job, good money; now all you need is a white picket fence and a wife to pop out a few kids." I swallowed the giant lump in my throat and prepared myself to voice what I had been dwelling on all evening. "But I suppose you have Chamellia for that."
Jonas was quiet. "You know about Chamellia?"
"Was I not supposed to?"
"No, it's just – well – you're taking it better than I expected you to."
"Considering it's Chamellia, I think I took it spectacularly."
He sighed. "Look, I know how you remember her, but she's changed a lot. I wouldn't be with her if she was still crazy." He shrugged helplessly. "Better her than someone else, right?"
"I would prefer you with anyone but her." I said heatedly.
"I know, but – "
"I mean, for Christ's sake!" I exclaimed, finally letting my emotions carry me away. "Chamellia cheated on you, and when she started dating my brother, she tried cheating on him with you! And she knew how much I lo – lo – liked you." I stumbled over the last part. I was still used to saying 'I love you' to him. God, I felt like a fool.
"Believe me, I remember." He grumbled. "Look, either way, she's changed. Even if she hadn't, what's it to you? You fucking dropped out of my life for seven years. Was I supposed to wait for you to possibly come home?"
"That's not what I meant!" I said desperately. I had no intention of making Jonas angry. "Look, I'm sorry. I just got back, and I'm trying to adjust to the way things have changed."
"Well, I'm not trying to be harsh, but you left and I moved on."
I winced. That was harsh. And true. I felt the lump reform in my throat. I hated to admit it, but seeing Jonas rekindled all those old feelings I had hoped would stay buried in my past. Just sitting next to him made my heart race. "Well." I managed. "As long as you're happy, that's what matters." It would be better if it was with me. I wanted to argue with him and tell him I could make him infinitely happier than she ever could.
"I am happy." He said. His cell phone began to ring, and upon reading the name on the caller ID, he frowned.
"You can answer it." I mumbled miserably, resting my head against the passenger window. It was obvious that our conversation wasn't going anywhere good.
He flipped open the phone. "What's up?" He said in a hushed voice.
The voice on the other end was loud enough for me to know it was Chamellia. "Where are you?"
"I told you I'd be out tonight with Keith, Nat and Gavin." He said softly, despite her yelling. I glanced at him. Why wasn't I a part of that list?
"I've been sitting outside of your house for an hour, Jonas. Come let me in."
"Chamellia, I don't feel like having company tonight. Go home, and I'll call you tomorrow."
"Jonas!" She exclaimed. "I've been waiting an hour." She paused. "If you let me in I'll give you a special present…"
I flushed, realizing I did not want to hear where this conversation was headed. Jonas seemed to feel the same way, because he glanced nervously at me out of the corner of his eye. I averted my gaze and looked out the window. "Chamellia, stop it."
She sighed loudly into the phone. "Give me a break, Jonas, and cut it out with all this chaste bullshit. We had amazing sex all the time in high school. What's different about now? We've been together for six months, and you'll barely do more than kiss me."
"I'm not talking about this now." If Jonas' face was any redder…
"Why the hell not? You never want to talk about it."
I couldn't help it. I snorted. Chamellia was still the same – all she thought about was sex and different ways to get it.
"What was that?"
Jonas glared at me. "Nothing."
"Is there someone else with – oh my god." She gasped.
"Are you – cheating on me?"
Jonas' face scrunched up. "God, no."
"Then who was that?" She demanded.
"What makes you think it was a who?"
"Andy." He glanced at me. "My Andy. The one I dated in high school." My stomach twisted in a sort of painful pleasure. He had called me his. If only I still was.
"Oh. I thought she moved to New Mexico or something."
"Arizona." Jonas corrected. "She was there for school, but now she's home."
"Huh." I will admit, I was a little hurt by her lack of interest in me being home. I know she and I hadn't talked for the better part of a decade, but we had been very close for months. "Well, why are you with her?"
"I haven't seen her in years."
"Well, drop her off and come see me."
Jonas sighed quietly. "Look, go home and get a good night's rest. I'll call you tomorrow and we can spend the day together."
"Ok, but do you think we could spend it alone?"
"Chamellia." Jonas warned.
"All right, all right." She sighed. "Bye sweetie."
"See you." He mumbled, closing his phone. I glanced at him. He was staring determinedly out the windshield. I watched his features closely, but they didn't give away anything. I wondered what he could possibly be thinking.
"You know – "
"Please don't say anything, Andy." Jonas interrupted.
"I wasn't going to say anything."
He sighed and glanced at me. "Yes, you were."
"How would you know?"
"I dated you for a year and a half."
I glanced at him out of the corner of my eye. "I remember." I said softly.
That night, while I laid in bed and tried to fall asleep, all I could hear were Jonas' two words swimming through my mind. My Andy. My Andy. My Andy…
Never in my life had two words haunted me so ruthlessly. I felt a sharp pang in my chest every time I pictured us together in high school. How happy we had been. Why did I let our relationship crumble just because we were far apart? Why did I insist on going to school in Arizona? Sure, my education was important, but why didn't I just stay on the east coast? Jonas and I could still be together. He would still look at me in the same way he had for the entire time we were dating. Like I was the best thing that had ever happened to him.
I pressed my face into my pillow as tears began to burn the backs of my eyes. He was easily the best thing that had ever happened to me, and I let it all fall apart. No wonder he didn't wait around for me. I was stupid to think that someone as amazing as him could still be available. And for what? A short, black-haired, blue-eyed nobody from his past. I wasn't exceptionally smart or funny or nice. I don't have special talents or abilities. I'm just… Rylee Andrews: that girl who was raped when she was sixteen.
At least Chamellia was exciting. I hadn't seen her in years, but she was definitely a fun and unusual person. Someone that would always make your life interesting. A guy would be lucky to have her.
I rolled over and stared into the darkness of my bedroom. What the hell was I thinking? Chamellia wasn't a catch. She's a cheating, manipulative nympho. What in the world did Jonas see in her? Whatever it was… it was enough to bring him back to her after all that she had done.
I wiped away a few tears that had begun to roll down my face. The worst part was that I had no one to blame but myself.
"Rylee, you look terrible." Mom said, placing a cup of coffee in front of me. "Were you drinking last night?"
"Sadly no." I croaked. I had been up most of the night wallowing in my own self-pity and thinking of the million things I could have done differently that would have kept Jonas and I together.
"Did you have a good time at dinner last night?"
I rubbed my forehead. "Yeah. It was great seeing everyone."
"Did you see Jonas?"
I looked up at Mom. She was staring at me expectantly. I sighed. "He was there."
She smiled sympathetically. "Things have changed, sweetie. I know it's hard when you've kept everyone preserved in your memory."
"Mom, please." I grumbled. "I really don't want to think about this."
"So, when is your first job interview?" I mentally thanked her for not pushing the Jonas subject further.
"Today at 3."
"Who is it for?"
"A law firm that's about fifteen minutes away."
"What's the name?" She pushed.
"Hamm, Prysock, and Associates." I took a sip of my coffee. "The job I applied for is very low-level. I'll probably end up being in charge of licking the dirt off of everyone's shoes."
Mom smiled. "At least you'll be contributing to society."
I rolled my eyes. "Well, I can't wait."
"Think of it this way. One day you'll be getting your shoes licked by some low-level employee."
I laughed. "Mom, that might be the dirtiest thing you've ever said to me."
Mom tsk-ed. "I didn't mean it like that."
I laughed again, just as my cell phone rang. I answered it once I calmed down. "Hello?"
"Hey Rye. You want to get lunch today?" It was Kenji.
"Will you-know-who be there?" I asked.
"No, Kate has to work."
"Then count me in."
"You want to say… 2?"
My heart dropped. "Oh. I can't. I have an interview at 3 today."
"Ok. I'll call you after I get out of my interview. Hopefully it can be a celebratory dinner."
"Believe me, I'm praying." Kenji said sarcastically. "Talk to you later."
"Bye." I shut my phone.
"Who was that?" Mom asked immediately.
"Kenji. We're going to have dinner together tonight." My thoughts began to drift to my living arrangements. I wanted to start looking for an apartment of my own. I loved my mother, but there was no way I could go from living alone to living at home again. Absolutely no way. The idea of living alone didn't sound very appealing to me, but I had no one that I could move in with. "Uh, Mom, do you know where the paper is for today?"
She picked it up off the counter. "Here." She eyed me suspiciously as I flipped through to find advertised apartments. "What are you looking for?"
"Apartments." I grumbled, hoping she wouldn't hear. I hadn't told her I wanted to live on my own yet.
"Apartments? Are you thinking of moving out?"
"Well, I am almost 26."
"Who would you be living with?" She asked, sitting at the kitchen table next to me.
"Probably no one. I don't know many people around here."
"Rylee, I don't want you living by yourself." She said immediately.
I set the paper down and tried not to get annoyed. "No offense, Mom, but I'm 25. I'm not the 18-year-old that you remember. I am an adult, and if I want to move out and live by myself, I will."
"I wasn't implying you aren't mature enough, I just don't want you by yourself." She paused, and I could tell that it was going to pain her to say what she was thinking. "Just please let me see the place before you decide to move it. I don't think I could handle you living in an unsafe neighborhood."
"That's reasonable." I was surprised that she was willing to stop arguing so quickly. "Well, I should probably go talk to some of these people today. I've got about four hours before I need to get ready for my interview. I might as well be productive."
Mom forced a smile. "I can't believe how quickly you and Kenji are growing up. It seems like only yesterday you two were just 5 and 6, and your father and I still loved each other."
I stiffened at the mention of my father. I hadn't thought about him in a long time, and I had been glad. Nothing about him brought good memories. "Well, thank god we got away from him." I said flatly. "I should be going." I grabbed my phone and purse and headed for the door.
I pulled the door open and almost yelled. Jonas was standing with his fist raised.
"Christ, Jonas!" I exclaimed. "What are you doing here?"
Jonas looked just as shocked as I felt to see me standing in front of him. He was wearing a black business suit that made him look absolutely amazing. "I – I – uh, was coming to talk to you." He said, obviously still startled. He lowered his fist.
I blinked. "Why?"
"I felt bad about the way that I snapped you last night. I have no right to be mad at you for going to school across the country. It was selfish of me to ever think you'd stay."
I stared at him, stunned. There was a million things I would like to have said to him at that moment. Like I was the one who shouldn't have gotten upset. I would have been angry if he'd left me for school. And I wish every day that I had decided to stay home and be with him. I wanted to tell him that I still cared for him. That I still wanted to be with him. That I had fantasized about our reunion since I left. Just as I opened my mouth, he spoke again.
"I'm really glad you're back, Andy. I'm looking forward to us being friends again." He smiled his breathtaking smile, and my heart shattered. Friends. He was looking forward to us being friends.
I made my best attempt at a smile. "Friends."
"And, you know, you should try giving Chamellia a chance. I know she was kind of bitch on the phone last night, but she really has changed."
I nodded mutely. He wanted me to be friends with his girlfriend. He wanted us all to hang out and be chummy. I hated to admit it, but everything I had been hoping for was slowly slipping from my grasp. You lost Jonas years ago, a nasty voice reminded me. You lost him when you chose to go to Arizona.
"Anyway, I just wanted to make sure we didn't get off on the wrong foot." Jonas hesitated, then reached out and pulled me into a hug. "I really missed you." He whispered softly into my ear. The sincerity in his voice made my heart melt. He hugged me so tightly, and I got a sense of desperation.
I clung to his suit jacket and inhaled deeply. I missed his smell so badly. As he rubbed his large, strong hand in a slow circle on my lower back, I had to coach myself not to get too wrapped up in the moment. I will not cry. I will not cry. I will not cry.
I will not cry.
"Jonas?" I murmured softly into his jacket. This is how everything was supposed to be…
"I – I need you to know something. I still – "
The door flew open and Jonas immediately pulled away. It was Mom. I wanted to scream.
"Jonas!" She said happily. "It's been ages since I've seen you! Would you like to come in for coffee?"
His face was flushed. He was embarrassed. "No thanks. I should really be getting back to work. I'm on my lunch break. It was nice seeing you again, Ms. Andrews. You too, Andy."
He turned quickly and hurried down the hallway. I stared longingly after him, wishing the possibility of us being together again didn't seem so impossible.
A/N: End of chapter two. Another chapter in two days! Isn't that fast? Better than a year. I will try to get the next one up in a relatively fast manner as well. Please review!