AU: Sorry for this unnecessarily long wait. Epilogue coming after, and my sappy message too!
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Perfect Two - Auburn
My International Slip Up
Chapter Twenty Six
So here's how my summer ended.
I called him, he showed up, we made out like crazy, sex-obsessed teenagers. He proposed, we got married, lived happily ever after. In fact, we died together on a bed, after having approximately three hundred and seventy two children, and that was that.
If you believed that, you are truly thick. Even thicker than me.
Here's how it really went…
It was my last night at the manor and I was pumped to be going home. After all that chaos, I was going to welcome routine and dullness; it'd be a comforting change from this summer. But though these thoughts were creeping from the edges of my mind, there was one thing that stamped them out and worried me more than anything else.
That damned phonecall.
I know, most of you are screaming at your screens, "CALL HIM, CALL HIM! WHAT ON EARTH ARE YOU WAITING FOR?"
But, well, I was still hurt. And confused. And worried. Though he had tried to explain his motives in the letter, I still felt hurt by the fact that he'd left. I didn't want to make myself vulnerable again, I didn't want to be a wreck. It made people worry and it made me feel so weak and helpless.
That's not a nice feeling.
I've always had a wall around me, one that sheltered me from anything that tried to come too close. The wall was made of a one-sided mirror. I could always see outside, but everyone else saw reflections of themselves, however hard they looked.
"Whatcha thinking about?" Audrey said as we packed.
I explained to her my thoughts. What if he did the same things again? What if…
"Wow, I thought you knew better than to base things on fantastical and unrealistic scenarios." Audrey raised an eyebrow and threw over some of my clothes.
"I know, I shouldn't be thinking of worst case scenarios, but it's hard to apply the advice I give to other people to myself, you know?"
"Of course. That's how it is with everybody. But we all know you're strong enough to conquer it." I sighed and Audrey continued. "You have to stop thinking that everything out there is trying to get you. Sure, letting people in means you're giving them a chance to hurt you, but you have to trust that they won't, or that if they do, they'll make it up to you. Eric had iffy reasons, but I can tell. He's genuine and sincere about what he said in that letter."
Audrey threw the hot dog pillow at me and I caught it, hugging it.
"And plus, we all know that you still have feelings for him."
I tensed. "What? Noo…" I was about to deny it, but stopped myself. "Fine, maybe."
Audrey smirked in triumph.
We finished packing our things and checked the time. Our flight was at three in the morning, which was weird, but we were okay with it. When we finally dragged our things down the stairs, we waited at the front for our limo. Audrey's aunt and uncle couldn't accompany us, so to make up for it, they'd let us take the one that belonged to the manor.
We sat on the steps and Audrey took the phone from my bag and shoved it into my hands.
"Okay," I said.
I turned the cellphone on and dialled '1'. I stared at the screen for a few seconds, reading the inscription beneath the 1 and the phonenumber.
Heart beating loudly, I hit the call button and put the phone to my ear.
It rang once. Twice. Three times.
I don't know how many more times I heard it ring, but nobody picked up.
Disappointment surged through me as if I had accidentally shocked myself on a cold winter day.
I almost wanted to cry, but I didn't. I ended the call.
"He didn't pick up."
Audrey patted my back comfortingly.
"If it's meant to be, it'll happen. Don't get too down because of this! We're gonna end this summer on a high note."
I smiled sadly. "You're right."
The limo pulled up and we clambered in after putting our things in the back. Before we left, there was a knock at the door and we lowered the window. Audrey's aunt beamed at us and had with her a large paper bag, and she shoved it into our hands.
"Souvlaki," she said with a knowing smile.
We high fived her and ate on the way.
Life was good.
Audrey fell asleep as we waited to board at the airport. Although she does sleep talk, just like me, her talks are usually much more informative. She muttered something about getting bottles of water because they helped with jetlag.
It wasn't until she began to sleep-hit me that I realized she wanted me to get water. When I thought she'd stopped, she punched me in the stomach and with a loud, agitated snore, insisted that I go get the bottles.
"Fine, fine," I muttered to myself.
I wandered the rather empty corridors, searching for an open store for bottles of water, when I saw something. Squinting, I realized that beyond some guy who was walking painfully slowly, there was a sale sign. For water.
But the lights began to flicker, and I saw the person inside begin to close the store. I broke out in a run, as fast as I could, determined to catch this sale before it closed.
In my head, the voices began again.
Oh my god, this again? Ariella! I heard Audrey's voice, reprimanding me for running, but I ignored it.
I mean, the forces above wouldn't be so mean that they'd make me sli—
Yet again, I neglected to see the 'Caution, Wet Floor' sign, and began to slide dangerously. I tried to steer myself out of the way of the innocent person I was approaching at a high and dangerous speed, but it was too late.
I collided with said person, and fell on the ground in a very painful but dejavu manner.
"Dude, I am so sorry!"
Hopefully, this person wouldn't be unconscious like the last time this happened. The person began to chuckle, and I debated hitting them over the head to make them unconscious on purpose. Their chuckle sounded awfully ominous.
"You're joking, right?" the person muttered.
How very familiar. This whole persona, really. Dark sunglasses, black cap, light carry-on backpack…
You're really joking, right?
The man took off his glasses and I nearly choked on my own saliva. (Don't you hate when that happens?)
"Eric Williams," I whispered.
Buddha, if this is a hallucination, I'll never forgive you.
"Ariella Danes," he replied.
He decided to take the first stab.
"Did you get my letter?" he asked cautiously.
"Yeah," I said, patting my pocket.
"You didn't call?" he said flatly. I almost smiled.
"Yes," I answered. "Wait, yes, as in, I did call. Not that I didn't call. Or do you want me to say no, as in no, I did call, but you didn't pick up? 'Cause that's what happened."
"What?" He looked confused. I could've laughed.
"No, like. Yes. Wait…"
The two of us laughed nervously.
"Yes, I did call. But nobody picked up." As I said those words, I could feel real tiny stabs in my stomach, as if little beings inside were poking it for fun.
"You did? When?"
"Like, a few hours ago?"
"I was on a plane." He looked at me with a straight gaze. I couldn't look away.
Awkward turtle much?
I had to break it. "I still don't really understand."
"I know, it doesn't make much sense." He took a step towards me. "Even now, I don't really know why I did it, but what's done is done. Right now, I just… I just want to know one thing."
I knew what he was going to ask, but I waited for him to say it himself.
"Do you still like me?" He cleared his throat nervously. "Like like me. Like…"
I couldn't help but laugh a bit. I loved how he used the 'like like' term.
In that split second, as I watched that pained and nervous look on his face, noting the pained and regretful look in his eyes, I realized that those feelings were definitely still there. Suddenly, I wanted to hug him forever and ever, just like that hot dog pillow. Butterflies fluttered around in my stomach. Those beings continued to poke and stab.
"It's okay if you don't. I mean, I understand. What I did was terrible. And really mean. Oh god, did I just say mean? But it was—"
He shut up when I closed the space between us and pressed my lips against his softly. His arms wound around me and held me as if I was fragile, like I would disappear if he hugged too hard.
When I finally pulled away, I looked him in the eyes.
"Just don't let it happen again, please," I whispered.
"I won't," he whispered back.
After a few minutes, I heard a slow clap and turned to see Audrey.
"That was so cute you guys." She was tearing up a little herself. She was also, unusually enough, eating popcorn. "And you!"
She whirled on Eric, and his life flashed before his eyes as this scary lady approached him. "I applaud you! Well done!" she beamed at him and he sighed, relieved.
Other onlookers, mainly bored cashiers, smiled and clapped as well. I bowed mockingly.
"Thank you, thank you, I'll be here all night."
The three of us began to walk off, but I froze and watched him walk away.
Was this real? Was he there? Or would I wake up soon and find this all to be a dream?
But then, he turned around and looked at me with a crooked smile.
"Are you coming or do I have to carry you?"
I grinned. I ran and caught up with him and he laced his fingers through mine.
"So, who's up for some ice cream?" he said.
"But we just had souvlaki," Audrey replied sadly.
Audrey and I looked at each other and laughed.
Maybe being left behind isn't always a terrible thing.
LONG AUTHOR'S NOTE:
Finally. I'm so sorry. Explanations and whatnot in the epilogue, to be posted tres soon.
Hope you all are doing well!
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Info about where you can buy / order my books will follow as well.
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Thanks for reading, as always,