Jasmine's heart pounded in her chest as she watched Caleb walk to his car and pull out of her drive. She had known he liked her for several weeks. All it had taken to figure it out was that one comment when she was having problems with Neal.
Neal was her stalker – the guy who followed her everywhere and had asked her out at least a hundred times before she started dating Logan and had gone back to doing so now that she and Logan were no longer dating.
She and Logan had been together four years. They had started dating in eighth grade, but something had torn them apart lately. She wasn't even fully sure what it was, but he didn't love her anymore. She still loved him, but she couldn't hold someone who didn't love her. When he broke up with her, she just nodded and said it was for the best. He had looked more hurt by her lack of tears than by anything else. She had decided she wouldn't cry because she didn't want him to know she still loved him. It was all right with her if he thought she didn't – probably better too. It allowed him to date other people without worrying about how she'd feel about it.
Caleb had been her best friend for weeks, but he hadn't known Logan. Maybe that was a good thing. Logan and Jasmine went to two different high schools because they lived on opposite sides of town. Still, Caleb had been there when Neal came up to her one day and started bugging her as usual. He had stood up and threatened to beat Neal to a bloody pulp despite her protests.
When Neal was gone, he turned to Jasmine and asked if she had a boyfriend, someone who could put a stop to Neal's apparent advances. That was when she told him about Logan. Before then, he had never asked.
She saw his face drop a little before he caught himself and gave her a smile. "That's too bad," he said. "I would have offered to pretend to be your boyfriend if only to get that jerk off your back."
She had never heard of that kind of thing before, even among really close friends. It was then that she realized he liked her, and it scared her. She had always thought he was cute, but because she loved Logan, she had never made anything of the crush.
She made her first mistake soon after she and Logan broke up. She called Caleb and asked him to come over.
He came without question and spent several hours with her curled up on her bed wrapping her in his arms and soothing her as she cried. When she was done crying and quiet, he tipped her head up and kissed her.
She was so surprised, she jerked away, but then she responded to his kiss in a way she hadn't thought she would. She didn't realize just how much she liked him in return until then.
When they separated she stared at him in shock. There was no way she was going to do this. She still loved Logan. She may have liked Caleb, but she loved Logan, and there was no way in heaven or on earth she was going to use Caleb as a rebound.
She pushed him away from her and stood up. He seemed to sense her confusion and stood watching her pace without interfering.
"How long, Caleb?" she whispered with a sigh. She had stopped pacing and was standing with her hand to her head feeling lightheaded and sick – more sick than anything.
"How long have you liked me Caleb?"
He shrugged, but it was answer enough to Jasmine. Too long. She wondered if she had helped his feelings along at any point. She had always hugged him every morning. Crap! She realized that was a problem now. Even as she had been dating Logan, she had hinted that something might happen between them. The sick feeling in her stomach grew stronger and she groaned.
"I can't do this Caleb. I think it's better if we don't see each other for a while."
"Why?" His face fell and he looked hurt.
She turned to him. "I can't pretend I'm OK with this Caleb. Logan and I just broke up and I won't use you as a rebound."
"He's already dating someone new," he offered.
Jasmine nodded. She had figured he would be. Things hadn't been working between them for a while. It was probable that he broke up with her so he could date the new girl freely without worrying that he was cheating on her.
"I'm still not going to do that."
He stepped close to her and looked her in the eyes. She was surprised to find that her heart was pounding like a jackhammer in her chest. Could he hear it from where he stood, near enough to touch, to kiss?
"All right," he said roughly. Then he kissed her again (as if to keep a memory of her), released her all of a sudden, and turned away without another word.
She knew she'd lost him forever, but she also realized she was right. She couldn't do this to Caleb. She liked him too much to treat him like a dog on the sideline. She didn't want that.
Still, her heart ached as it throbbed against the cage that held it imprisoned as she watched him get in his car and leave her forever. She started crying again.