It took me a moment, but I managed to spin around and face him across the room. At the sight of Blake sprawled out on my bed, my cheeks flared. The weight of what had happened before Michael's interruption pressed down on me like a cartoon anvil, suffocating the air out of my lungs.
"Come here," Blake said.
I shut the door behind me again, nervous all of a sudden, and walked on jelly legs to the second level of my bedroom. Blake peered at me from under the bed's canopy with a curious expression on his face, like he couldn't read me at all just by looking.
"Chris, I—" I didn't even know what I wanted to say, just that I couldn't bear silence.
He made me act so unlike myself, always, I realized, but with that epiphany came the thought that I couldn't ever be held responsible for the way I acted around him. He did something to me—something I'd never felt before. The effect of Blake's presence slipped into my head around my very bones until I couldn't breathe without him to help me.
"Chris," I said, and my voice came out shaky.
I brushed away the remnants of any tears on my cheeks, but they were dry and sure to be crusted with mascara.
Blake, at last, managed to tear his gaze away from me. His eyes had lightened back into their frosted green color, which was always a good sign that he was coherent and willing to listen.
"Chris," I tried again, but this time there was the smallest hint of panic in my voice.
Blake looked at me again and seemed to realize I was in freak-out mode.
"Ella… Georgie—please, please don't freak out," he said, getting to his feet and taking me by the shoulders.
But the last thing I wanted him to do at that point was touch me, so when his cold fingers met my bare skin, I found I desperately needed my inhaler.
I pushed past him and found it sitting on my vanity where I had left it after dinner the night before. I took a few breaths from it, which succeeded in their task to relax me and bring down my heart rate.
"Talk to me," Blake pleaded, staring at me from a few feet away.
I shook my head. Who even knew why I was freaking out? Was it because I was still so confused about my feelings for Landon? Or was it because I was afraid of how much I might like Blake better than my best friend?
"Did—Did I do something wrong?" Blake asked. He withered a little, as though my deer-in-the-headlights expression was a sign that he'd crossed some line. "I-I can back off…"
I pulled a hand through my hair and took a deep breath to compose myself. "No. That's—That's not it. I just need to, I don't know, figure some stuff out. I think w-we went a little too fast."
Blake pushed his hands into his pockets and nodded solemnly. If anyone knew how I was feeling right now, I hoped it was him. We'd been through a lot in the past month or so, and now with his father and sister returning, everything was spinning out of control faster than we could keep up. This was one thing I wanted to be absolutely sure about before taking any kind of plunge.
"Sure," Blake said, but his voice broke on the word. He started backing out of the room. "I'll be right here when you get everything straightened out, Georgie."
I nodded, biting my lip.
In any normal situation, I'd have called Landon as soon as Blake left me, but things were weird and I didn't trust myself enough to talk to him.
Kissing Blake had cemented two facts: first, that I had feelings for him that ran deeper than I was willing to think about… and second, that there had been a part of me—however small—during that kiss that had wished it was Landon I was kissing and not Blake.
I sat down on the edge of my bed and buried my head in my hands. What the hell was going on with me? Since when had I decided I liked my best friend? Landon and I hadn't even spent that much time together lately, what with Blake's problems, and school getting in the way. Still… the first month back at Ben Franklin had been different. Landon hadn't been treating me like his best friend, exactly… I didn't even know what was going on anymore.
For the rest of the weekend, the Crawford mansion was a warzone waiting to happen. Caroline was avoiding Blake, Michael was avoiding our parents, I was avoiding Michael and Blake, and my parents were more lucid and involved in my life than they'd ever been, which in itself was worrisome.
Penn even acknowledged my presence on Sunday afternoon, as I sat eating lunch with him and Vivian. The other occupants of the house were missing, which was no surprise.
"Have you finished all of your homework?" he asked.
I froze, a spoonful of minestrone soup halfway to my mouth, and nodded.
Penn nodded back, then continued eating as if that had been no big deal.
Caroline went home after dinner on the day after the dinner party. If nothing else, she'd succeeded in avoiding a confrontation with her son, for which I'm sure my mother was glad. Still, I couldn't help but wonder if the delay was only making things worse.
Tuesday morning arrived, and it couldn't have come any sooner. Blake and I loaded our things into his car with the help of Coral, but my mother stopped us as we were about to leave.
I turned, one foot already in the car, and looked up at Vivian's distraught face.
"I'm—I'm going to send Michael to Benjamin Franklin on Thursday or so. Please, talk to him," she said.
My head started pounding at just the thought of sitting down and talking to my brother again. It was the last thing I wanted to do, on a list that included confronting Landon about my feelings. Regardless, I nodded at Vivian because whether I wanted to do it or not wasn't relevant.
The ride back to school was long, tense and silent. I took the opportunity to examine Blake, his face worn and tired like he hadn't slept the whole weekend.
"You're boring a hole through the side of my face, Georgie," he said eventually, and risked a peek in the direction of my red face.
"S-Sorry," I mumbled.
Blake smirked and reached over to take a hold of my hand, lacing his fingers through mine. The small gesture calmed me more than anything else had been able to since before the Labor Day party.
By the time we arrived at school, my thoughts were even more jumbled, and the cold comfort of Blake's fingers was making me reconsider all the reasons I'd made up to stop us from getting closer.
Blake parked his car in a fairly close spot in the parking lot and pulled his hand away. He opened the door as though to get out, but I put a hand on his wrist when he reached down beside me to get his books.
He stopped and shut the door but didn't look at me as I fiddled with his hand. Why had I kept him back?
"El…" he said, pulling his hand out of my grasp.
I turned and looked out at the parking lot beyond him. It was almost empty since we still had a good half-hour before classes started, but there were a few cars parked in various places.
"What—What happens now?" I asked.
My hands, suddenly so empty, were folded in my lap and I sighed when Blake slumped forward.
"Whatever you want to happen," he mumbled.
He was still being gracious enough to leave things up to me, and here I was playing ping pong in my head, trying to decide whether I liked him or Landon more. The weekend had complicated so much, and I was having trouble making even small, stupid decisions like which shoes to wear. I was confused about everything and I was dragging Blake around with me as I tried to make up my mind. That wasn't fair, no matter how I swung it.
But my reverie was shattered when a sharp rapping made me jump. I peered out through Blake's window and found Landon grinning back at us.
Speak of the devil.
Blake shook his head and groaned but made no gesture or comment. By now, he'd probably figured out why I was being standoffish. After all, I hadn't done anything to keep my feelings for Landon quiet… at least, not around Blake.
He pulled open his door and I followed suit, stepping out onto the gravel of the school parking lot.
"Good morning, children!" Landon said.
Blake didn't bother replying and instead made his way to the trunk to get our things.
"'Morning, Landon," I said, watching Blake.
My best friend glanced between the two of us and raised an eyebrow. I shook my head as a signal not to mention it, so Landon took another route and said something even worse.
"Let's have a lunch date tomorrow, Ella," he started. I flinched when Blake slammed the car trunk unnecessarily loud. "Just me and you. We need to talk anyway… what better way to do it."
I fidgeted with my school blazer, trying to come up with a reason against it, but Landon was right. We did need to talk and I'd never be able to get a minute alone with him otherwise. Plus, it had been so long since I'd spent any substantial amount of time with him, just the two of us. I'd missed it more than I'd given myself a chance to realize.
"Uh…" My gaze flickered over to Blake, standing off behind his car holding his duffle bag and my suitcase. "Sure. See you then!"
I reached up and pecked Landon on the cheek quickly, and then rushed back to grab my books and bag from Blake. I didn't give him an opportunity to say anything, but I figured he'd follow me to my dorm room and rushed off ahead of him.
As expected, a couple of minutes after I arrived at my room, Blake came knocking at the door. I opened it and ushered him inside. He was still carrying his duffle bag and backpack, both of which he dropped on the carpet within a few seconds.
Blake held up a hand to quiet me and I snapped my mouth shut and stepped back a bit, until I was leaning against my bedside table. It was only a stroke of good fortune that had insured Lauren's absence. The last thing I needed was her bearing witness to me having a pow wow with her "boyfriend."
"Georgiana, I want to know if I've made my intentions clear," Blake said. He leaned back against my door and regarded me across the small room. His cold emerald gaze was so intense, I felt like he was looking straight through me.
"I—I…" I was at a loss for words. Of course he'd made his intentions clear. If I hadn't stopped us that night over the weekend, I doubted we would have stopped. I didn't know how much clearer he could make himself.
Blake pulled a hand through his perfectly-combed hair, disheveling it until portions of it stood up at odd angles all over.
"Because I care for you… a lot. I'm willing to wait as long as you want me to, until you figure out where things stand between you and Landon, even. I just—I don't want to see you get hurt, and I don't know what you're expecting to find when you talk to him."
I was a fish as I watched him talk, opening and closing my mouth over and over again, no words or sounds coming out.
"And, as much as I don't want to see you get hurt, I don't want to get hurt either. You have my affection and my respect, Georgie. Just don't take them for granted," Blake said.
Before I had a chance to find something profound to say, Blake had cleared the distance between us and stopped in front of me.
"You're all I have at this point," he said, staring down at me.
I reached up and cupped his cheek in my hand. "I just need to clear the air with Landon. I have to find out what he's keeping from me."
Blake leaned his forehead against mine. "I know."
"It'll be like I never left," I whispered, even though I didn't know that for sure.
And then he'd closed the gap and captured my lips again. Maybe the absence of him over the second half of the weekend had been just a little too long, because I realized I had missed him… a lot.
As my luck would have it, my missing roommate chose just that moment to come home. Needless to say, the look on Lauren's face was one of the most unattractive expressions I'd ever seen anyone wear. She was livid, and even though I'd managed to jump away from Blake, it was apparent what we had been doing. Then, as if it would get rid of any evidence, I reached up and wiped my mouth on the sleeve of my school blazer, blushing profusely.
Blake looked back and forth between me and my roommate, curious as to why I had reacted like that.
"Don't you have to be going now, Blake?" Lauren asked. I was surprised she would actually shoo him out like that, madly in love with him as she was.
Blake, not taking the hint, leaned down and pecked me on the cheek before grabbing his bags and slipping out of the room.
Lauren slammed the door behind him, and then took a few steps into the room. I backed up against my bedside table again, but there wasn't much else I could do except hope the floor would eat me up.
"What the hell was that?" Lauren asked.
I bit my lip. My cheeks were still warm and I figured I was redder than a tomato. Kissing Blake was one thing, but being caught kissing Blake was something else altogether.
"You're such a slut. I don't even know what a boy like Blake sees in you—he probably just wants to get you into bed. I'll bet that's all you're good for, anyway… not like he'd have feelings for you," she said.
The familiar feeling of tears pricking at the backs of my eyes assaulted me, but I didn't want to cry in front of her. Still, Lauren's words rang truer than I was willing to admit. She was bringing all of my insecurities to the surface.
"You know what? Just leave. Find somewhere else to stay for a while… I'm sure there are a number of horny senior boys desperate enough to take you in. I'll let you know when to come back."
My suitcase and backpack, still packed from home, were sitting in the middle of the room. I grabbed them both and rushed into the hall.
"And stay away from Blake!" Lauren screamed on my way out.
I missed my first class sitting in the common room. It had been an hour since Lauren's one-sided fight with me, and I still hadn't figured out what to do.
Oddly enough, the first idea that had sprung into my head had been to call Blake. He knew that Lauren and I didn't get along, but I'd made Landon and Francesca promise not to tell him about her bullying. As a result, he wouldn't ask too many questions.
By the time my second-period class started, I was running out of ideas. Calling Frankie or Landon was out of the question; I didn't want a repeat of the last time. Other than Blake, there weren't too many other people I got along with, or that I would ask for help in this situation.
At last, by third period, I was getting desperate (and sick of people staring at me as they walked through the common room). Before I could chicken out, I found Blake's number in my phone and hit the "talk" button.
He picked up on the second ring. "Georgie?"
It was only his tone of surprise that made me realize I had never called him before. Even since our parents' trip to Italy, I had never had reason to pick up a phone and ring him up. I almost laughed at the irony.
"C-Chris, I need some help."
"Of course. What is it?"
It was still weird how he just agreed to help me, no questions asked. Even Landon would have been a little skeptical.
"Um, do you have class anytime soon?" I asked.
"No, I have a break now, and then we've got lunch next period," he said.
"Can you come to the common room?"
"Yeah, I'll be there in five."
As I waited for him to get there, my thoughts ran away with me. What would I do when he asked why I was sitting out there like that with all of my luggage? How could I tell him Lauren had kicked me out? What would he do if I did tell him?
I didn't have time to come up with answers, because Blake arrived within a couple of minutes. As everyone else had done, he stared around at the suitcase in front of me and my backpack on the coffee table, and raised an eyebrow.
"I need a place to stay," I blurted out.
His beautiful green eyes found their way up to mine and he opened his mouth to ask all those questions I knew were swimming around in his head.
"Well, you know how Lauren is in love with you, so this morning didn't go over too well. We got into a fight after you left," I said quickly. If I slowed down to think about it, my lies would start becoming transparent. "I told her I wouldn't come back until she apologized."
The expression on Blake's face was one of blatant disbelief. Regardless, he had enough tact not to point out the obvious. His eyes told me I could keep my secret for now.
"Stay—Um, stay with me," he said after a moment, clearing his throat. "Peter is usually at his girlfriend's dorm, so there's always an empty bed."
I could feel the warmth as it flowed into my cheeks. He'd offered before, the last time Lauren had kicked me out, but this time everything was different. Blake stared down at me, the slightest bit of silver in his eyes, indicating apprehension. I bit my lip. What other choice did I have? I couldn't spend every night in the common room…
"You're—You're sure about Peter being out all the time?" I asked.
"A-Alright. It's just for a couple of days, I'm sure," I continued, wringing my hands. "It'll be okay, won't it? I'm not imposing?"
Blake smiled a little bit and bent down in front of me. His fingers slipped through mine, just like that morning in the car.
"Have you already forgotten what we talked about earlier, Georgie? I'm here as long as you want me around," he said. "Okay? And besides, we homeless bums of the world have to stick together."
I could feel the eyes of everyone in the common room boring into my head as we sat there. At least five of them would have texted Lauren by now to let her know how I was attempting to steal her "boyfriend."
Blake peered at me with hopeful green eyes. There was no way I could deny him anything when he looked at me like that. I nodded.
Even as I spoke the word and looked into Blake's relieved face, I was shaking on the inside. What had I agreed to? And hadn't I spent the better part of that weekend and that morning trying to sort out my feelings—and whether they really existed—for the boy sitting on the floor in front of me?
But still, I told myself that my hands were tied. Had the situation been different, I wouldn't have dumped the responsibility on Blake. After all, wasn't it Landon's job as my best friend to help me in my times of need? Just as it had that morning, the thought of calling Landon caused me more anxiety and pain than allowing Blake to help me was.
With those reassurances in mind, I shook myself back to reality and attempted a smile.
After that, Blake helped me take my stuff to his dorm. One glare from his beautiful, cold eyes had everyone in the common room scurrying off in different directions. If nothing else, it was always better to have him on my side than not.
Maybe it was the apprehension of what lay ahead of me that night, or the idea that I was somehow betraying Landon, but the second half of the day passed in a blur of reading assignments and lectures. Six o'clock was dinnertime, and I found myself finishing up in the cafeteria before I even knew what was happening.
"Ella, you up for a movie tonight?"
My gaze snapped up and met with Everett's from across the table. As much as I wanted to say yes, the day had been too exhausting. All I wanted now was a shower and sleep.
I shook my head, and Blake's fingers curled around mine under the table. "I—I can't. Too much homework."
Everett shrugged. "Suit yourself. Me, Nic, Landon and Frankie will be in the common room until late if you finish."
I agreed, but found that there were few arguments that could make me change my mind.
Blake and I stood from the table and retreated—separately—from the cafeteria.
It wasn't until I'd arrived at his dorm room that the weight of the situation hit me. With everything that had been going on, was I even right in asking this of Blake? What if I realized I actually liked Landon… would that mean I was using Blake? I didn't even know when I'd become such a horrible person. First Neil and now Blake…
I jumped at the sound of his voice, and found that Blake had finally arrived at his room. He unlocked the door and held it open for me to step inside. I didn't waste any time grabbing a set of pajamas and rushing into the bathroom. This night would be over before it even got started, if it were up to me.
By the time I was done, Blake had already made himself comfortable on Peter's bed. His bare shoulders peaked out over the top of the dark green sheets like hills, but I focused on the fact that his eyes were shut, and sighed with relief. He wasn't asleep, I knew, but he was giving me an out, and that was the best I could hope for.
I stuffed my school uniform into my suitcase with the rest of my things, and then climbed into Blake's bed.
Half an hour later, I laid in Blake's bed, staring up at the dark ceiling, unable to fall asleep. Blake had made it apparent by now that he wouldn't do anything to make me uncomfortable, but it had been such a long day, with Lauren treating me like garbage, and trying to find a new place to stay. All I wanted was someone to give me a hug and tell me I wasn't as worthless as my roommate made me out to be.
It was this, and only this, that gave me the courage to slip out from under Blake's sheets. Peter's bed was only a couple of feet away and Blake seemed to be asleep. Of course, I was wrong as usual, and when I stopped in front of the bed, biting my lip, he lifted up the comforter and patted the empty spot next to him.
I tugged on the bottom of my camisole, shy all of a sudden, but the thought of being alone was frightening enough that I climbed up into the bed without giving myself a chance to back out.
The last time I'd shared a bed with a member of the opposite sex, I'd been six years old and the boy had been a pre-pubescent Landon who was going through his "blanky" phase.
I faced away from Blake, but his arms folded around me within a moment. He tugged me back until I was flush against his bare chest.
"Is it as weird for you as it is for me that we're sleeping in Peter's bed?" he mumbled.
I grasped the hand that was resting on my waist and tangled our fingers together, not saying a word.
"I vote for relocation tomorrow night," he continued.
I closed my eyes, trying to force the tears back, but it was like trying to catch sand in your hands: it always managed to slip through the cracks in your fingers. One by one, salty rivers rolled over my cheeks, my nose, my lips, until I was a wet mess.
Crying and tired, I fell asleep in Blake's arms.
The first thing that came to mind when my eyes fluttered open the next morning was that I was going to have lunch with Landon that day. The second thing was that my face was buried in Blake's bare chest.
I pulled away immediately, and almost fell out of bed. If it hadn't been for his arms holding me in place, I probably would have.
My eyes flitted to Peter's clock on the bedside table. It read 8:15 in blaring red digits.
I shook his shoulders gingerly, almost unwilling to touch him very much, until his beautiful gray eyes fluttered open. In the morning light, they were devoid of green, but the blank charcoal was a welcome respite.
"We're late," I whispered, not sure why I was whispering. "We have class in fifteen minutes."
I sat up, and his arms fell away from me. "I'm going to go brush my teeth."
"Let—Let me hop in the shower while you do that. Please?"
He looked at me with a somewhat panicked expression, so I nodded my head, not sure what I was agreeing to. It was only when we both started making our way to the bathroom that I realized.
"Oh—No! Just… Just wait, okay?" I asked, blushing a deep scarlet.
Blake heaved a sigh, but I figured he didn't want to freak me out. He flopped back down on his bed.
"I'll just see you in class," he muttered.
I was only five minutes late to my first period class, but having missed the previous day as well, my professor wasn't too happy. I got off easy with a short essay on the merits of being prompt.
I looked a mess. I could tell just by glancing around at everyone who stared at me. Most of them seniors, they'd witnessed my scene with Blake in the common room the day before, and had probably put two and two together.
Indeed, when I took a seat, Francesca leaned over to start grilling me.
"Jeez, Ella. Is everything okay?"
I bit my lip. Frankie was one of the last people I wanted to talk to right then, and I didn't even know why. Her ignorance was irritating. One would have thought that, as my best friend, she would know what was going on. Still, I couldn't be as much of a bitch as I wanted, and mumbled a succinct reply.
After that, Frankie left me alone until the end of class. I tried to outrun her to the door, where Blake was waiting for me, but she grabbed my wrist just as I was about to swing out into the hallway.
"Ella, we need to talk," she said. Her bright hazel eyes were peering at me with a clouded expression, like there was something she desperately needed to tell me, but couldn't, for whatever reason.
"Yeah, well, you'll have to make an appointment. It seems like all anyone wants to do these days is talk," I said.
Frankie frowned and released my wrist. "I'm serious, Eloise. Tell me when—please?"
I nodded. "Fine. Tonight, after dinner."
I didn't wait for her to reply, and jetted out of the classroom with Blake.
Lunch came much faster than I was ready for it to. In the chaos of the day, I'd almost forgotten that Landon and I were meeting up. It was only as I was heading into the refectory that I was reminded of it, but that might have been because Landon was waiting for me in the hallway outside the lunchroom.
"Ella, hey," he said.
Unlike me, Landon was clutching a tray of school food. With all of my allergies, it was a rare moment when I could eat anything but salad from the refectory. I readjusted the two Tupperware containers in my hands in order to give my best friend a wave.
"Let's eat outside," Landon said.
I nodded and followed him to a side door that led out to the soccer field. The whole situation was so reminiscent of my lunch with Blake those few weeks ago, that I nearly stumbled over my own feet. Landon steadied me with an arm around my shoulders. He kept it resting there like a ten-pound weight, but I didn't have the heart to tell him to move it.
The field was empty, as usual, but that was probably due to the grayness of the sky.
Lunch was pretty lame, to be honest. Landon seemed to be so nervous about something that he wouldn't talk to me normally, and I had so much on my mind that I didn't care enough to point it out. We made it through about half of the lunch period before the heavens opened up and rain came pouring down on us.
We dumped our unfinished lunches into the nearest trashcan and then made a break for the refectory. I was soaked before we'd made it halfway back, but even after we got into the school, we kept running.
The senior dorms building was behind the refectory and it took us almost fifteen minutes to reach the common room.
By the time we arrived, Landon and I were both panting and laughing and Landon pulled me into a hug as he leaned against a table near the couches. The action was so natural I wound my arms around his waist without protest.
As he hugged me, I realized the common room was devoid of students, with most everyone at lunch or in class. Our complete aloneness weighed down on me.
My heart was pulsing as I pulled away from Landon's chest a moment later. His arms were around my back, stroking the ends of my outgrown hair as he'd done so many times before. For some reason, that moment felt electric, and Landon's blue eyes sparkled at me in a way that was entirely new. I stared up at him, waiting for something to happen, and held my breath when he shifted his hands lower to my hips.
And then, of my own accord, I'd reached up and planted a butterfly kiss to his lips. He placed a hand on my cheek, deepening the kiss. I leaned against him, putting all of my weight on him and the table, but he wrapped his other hand tighter around my waist to keep me steady. We stood there, in the middle of the empty common room, twined together like Blake and I had been only… only hours before in Peter's bed. Yet just as I moved my lips to kiss his cheek, I felt Landon freeze and remove one of his hands. Then, he was leaning backward, resting the same limb on the table behind us. His other arm held me in place, just as gingerly as before, but I pulled away, confused.
"Eloise—I… I'm sorry," he said. "I shouldn't have reacted that way."
I took a step backward, staring at him for a moment, biting my lip. What had just happened? And why was he acting like this?
"L-Landon, I thought…"
Landon reached up and took his glasses off. He rubbed a hand over his face, seemingly exhausted.
"Maybe I gave off the wrong signals… or maybe I wasn't giving enough of them," he murmured.
Signals? What was he talking about? I could feel my heart racing in my chest and suddenly the room became cold.
"I like Francesca," Landon said. He stared at me, a pained expression on his face. "I've liked her for a long time, Eloise… we've been dating since before she left for Germany."
I heard a door slam in the boys' hallway upstairs, and flinched. Landon and Francesca were dating? Like a ton of bricks, every odd behavior, every glance and every touch came back to me. After all my pondering, I hadn't realized what was right in front of me. And on top of that, I'd made a fool of myself in front of my best friend.
I reached up and placed a hand against my stinging lips.
"Why—Why, um, didn't you guys t-tell me? It… It might have saved me some trouble," I stuttered.
Landon scratched the back of his neck. He reached out, as if wanting to take me by the waist again, but then thought better of it and dropped his hand. I took a deliberate step back and turned away.
"I'm sorry, Eloise. Truly sorry. We should have told you before something like this happened. I know Frankie tried to tell you numerous times but I didn't want to jinx anything, so I kept begging her to keep it quiet."
"You—You led me on," I said, fisting my hands, suddenly angry.
"I-I didn't mean to, Ella," he protested.
"You knew you were doing it, Landon. You can't tell me you didn't feel anything."
He paused and I could feel the tension in the air thicken. The rain outside picked up, pounding against the windows in conjunction with my thrashing heartbeat.
"You're right," he mumbled. "I was confused. I'm sorry. I shouldn't have done what I did."
I could feel tears pricking at the backs of my eyes, but I didn't want to cry. I'd made a huge mistake, apparent now by the hole opening up in my heart. My stupidity and Landon's muddled feelings had threatened the integrity of our friendship.
"You know," I said, blinking back the tears, "I was confused too, whether I liked you more or Blake, but at least Blake is honest."
"Eloise, I didn't want to hurt you! I—I had feelings for you… for a long time," Landon said.
I turned around at that and stared at him. He was still leaning against the table, looking for all the world like he couldn't be more uncomfortable. Even so, he soldiered on.
"I liked you so much, Ella, but you never saw that. I couldn't wait forever," he said.
"Why the sudden change, Landon? Why did you start treating me differently?" I asked.
"I—I don't know," Landon said, faltering. "I guess it was because I saw you getting closer to Blake… I—I got jealous."
I bit my lip, unable to stop the tears from leaking out onto my cheeks this time. My fists opened up and the anger rushed out of me until I was left feeling empty and even more confused.
"I shouldn't have kissed you, Landon," I said, finally. "I apologize."
Landon stood up straight and his face crumbled in an expression of dismay. He moved forward to touch me, but I stepped back, out of reach, and shook my head.
But something behind him had caught my eye. I leaned around until I could see the doorway and nearly lost my balance when I found Blake standing at the common room entrance. His face was drawn and his beautiful green eyes were shadowed in silver and charcoal, angry. My heart skipped a bit, a feeling of guilt slipping into my stomach like a block of ice.
Landon turned around and stiffened at the sight of the other boy. He glanced at me for a second, turning pale.
"I should go," he mumbled, and rushed out of the common room, past Blake.
But everything about his posture screamed that the last thing Blake wanted was for me to try to explain. Even so, I kept talking.
"I—I didn't know," I said, but I didn't know if I was referring to Landon and Frankie's newfound relationship, or the feelings I'd kept buried for Landon. I didn't even know how much of our conversation he'd heard, but the expression on his face suggested he'd only caught the tail end.
He smirked at me from across the room. "Oh, but didn't you? Wasn't there an aching resentment in your chest and a fire that was fed each time you saw them together? Didn't it kill you to notice how close Francesca was to him? Don't fool yourself, Georgiana. You knew all along. In some ways, you wanted to hurt Francesca as much as she was hurting you."
I flinched. His words were harsh, but true. I had known, subconsciously maybe, for a long time that I had feelings for Landon. It was only Blake kissing me over the weekend that had brought those feelings to the surface.
Now, when I'd finally realized that it was Blake I wanted, not Landon, it was too late.
"I'm so sorry, Blake. Please, just—just give me a chance to explain," I said.
"Forget it. I'm done."
As he walked toward the boys' dorms, Blake was pure ice, untouchable in all senses of the word.
What had I done?
1/30/11 Author's Note: Hey, guys! Finally got this chapter out and it nearly killed me. I'm super swamped with schoolwork so I'm running around like a chicken with my head cut off right now. For this reason, review replies are STILL on the way. Please know, I LOVE LOVE LOVE reading your reviews and all your tips and suggestions are all being taken into consideration. They're the reason this story has even survived this long, and I can't thank you all enough for all your support. If you're utterly heartbroken after this chapter, not to worry. It's only temporary. I hope to have the next chapter out as soon as possible, but I have three exams in a week and a wedding to go to, so I will try my best. As always, please let me know what you think... Was the chapter believable? Are you pissed off at Landon, still? And how angry are you at Eloise? Let me know! And of course, let me know if you see any errors. :) Thanks again!!
OH! Side note: I started a new story because my other major work, I Love You, Peanut is nearly finished. It's called Behind Every Bitch. It's not as dramatic/serious/slow as this, so it may not suit your taste, but check it out if you want something to read in the interim. :)
Elena: Thank you so, so much for your review and your compliments about my writing! With the Landon and Eloise thing, you have to understand that he's not been around during the course of the story because both he and Eloise have had other things going on. Still, you must remember that when Michael abandoned Ella, Landon stepped in for him and put Eloise back together again. Without Landon, Eloise wouldn't even be as social as she is now. You'll find out more about that soon, when Eloise speaks to Michael, but Landon is a HUGE part of her life and his role should never be downplayed. His behavior since the beginning of school has been, as you read in this chapter, a result of Eloise getting closer to Blake. I hope that clears some stuff up. He's really not as bad a guy as I've led you to believe, and he and Frankie had their reasons for not telling Eloise. As for Penn and Eloise... Yeah, haha. You saw a bit of that in this chapter. Now, it's up to Eloise how she deals with it. And as for Eloise growing a backbone... well, it's there, as you saw in the glimpses from her past where she argued with Michael, she just needs a good enough reason to resurrect that side of herself again. It'll all come with time, I promise! I haven't forgotten any of it. Again, thank you so much for all your words of wisdom!! I really appreciate the review.
anon123: Thank you so much for your review!! I hope you enjoy this new chapter. =]