The Rules of Love and War
(a story by madforfigs) 8.30.2016
Rule #11 – Never Say Goodbye
I leaned back on the folding chair, holding my graduation cap to my head as I looked up at the fluorescent lights of the ice skating rink. Our school auditorium and gymnasium weren't large enough to hold our class of 300, so we always rented out the local arena to host our graduation.
Dr. Schwartz was up at the podium for the final speech, droning on about something as a slight lull seemed to take over the entire audience. No one was really paying attention as I scanned over the crowd. We'd already walked across the stage to receive our diplomas, and Dr. Schwartz was the only person standing between now and our freedom.
Some people had their phones out, more than likely texting one another about how boring of a speech our principal was giving. Others were nudging one another, keeping their neighbors awake. But unfortunately, no one was looking out for our valedictorian, Grant Kim, who was dozing ever so slightly up at the front behind the podium.
I felt an elbow jab me from my left, knocking me out of my reverie. Kenny Wilkerson sat there, poking me ever so slightly as he slid his phone onto my lap. My heart tore when I saw what was on his screen. I only had a few seconds before the Snapchat video disappeared. Wade Reynolds had the phone held out in front of him as him and Brett Ritter were making faces to help pass the time.
Despite the fact that I had actually become friends with Grant and Kenny in the last three months since the fight in my house, Wade was mysteriously absent from my life. He gave me the space I wanted by completely ignoring me. Even when I chatted with his two best friends, he was nowhere in sight.
After that horrendous day, everything seemed to come to a standstill. Tanya, Sal, and I went about our normal lives, counting down the days until we graduated. Grant and Kenny would pop up every once in a while, and even hang out with us outside of school hours, to our surprise. Too bad Luke had been around for the last three school years, making sure that could never happen. But now, things were different and it appeared that all of us were very much capable of being friends.
More importantly, we really did have an understanding. The fights between Wade and Luke stopped, which in turn brought a strange peaceful atmosphere to our school. Apparently, we were the sole source of drama in the town. In fact, I rarely saw Luke around the halls. I saw him every so often around town, but he would just glance at me before scuffling away into another building. I would be lying if I said that treatment didn't affect me. Even if I did break up with him for my own sanity, it didn't mean that I didn't still care about him. He was my best friend, my first real love, and now it seemed we were nothing to each other.
It wasn't like it made me horrifyingly devastated to realize that, mostly because Wade Reynolds was the one who was currently consuming my every thought. Too bad I lacked the guts to walk up to him, despite the fact that I knew the ball was currently in my court. I knew how we felt about each other, but there was still a nagging feeling in my stomach that held me back. What if our attraction to one another was only because of the feud? It might have just been a crush on his part, while I really did like him... love him even. Part of me knew that wasn't the case, but it was difficult to quash the insecurity gnawing at me.
Sighing, I leaned back in my chair and refocused my attention on Dr. Schwartz's closing remarks. At the moment, anything was better than thinking about the one man I'd fallen for. With both of us going to Duke in the fall, it seemed like we wouldn't be friends as I had initially anticipated.
"So now," Dr. Schwartz's voice rung through the auditorium, "I present to all of you the Amex Hill High School Class of 2013!" At those words, everyone's eyes suddenly snapped back to our principal. Cheers and loud applause broke out through the arena as our entire class rose to our feet. Now it seemed like everyone was paying attention to him. Despite the pain I was feeling inside, I plastered on a grin and clapped alongside my classmates. Kenny was whooping ecstatically, high-fiving the girl on the other side of him.
I should be happy to start over, start fresh, in a place that didn't know about my relationship with Luke, with Wade. I could have new friends who hadn't witnessed my ignorance. I wasn't the girl who stood by a guy who drove a teenager to kill himself. But at the same time I knew that with everyone celebrating the end of their high school career, it meant one thing: my connection to Wade Reynolds was gone. Duke University was a large enough school where we could feasibly go four years without ever seeing one another ever again.
This was it.
The thought of that was what killed me.
"Lana!" I heard Tanya squeal as she bounded up next to me, clutching her diploma to her chest. "We're done! We've graduated!"
"I know right?" I laughed curtly, bumping her with my elbow. "I can't believe we're finally out of here."
Tanya began to say something, but I unconsciously tuned her out. I watched as Kenny walked towards his two best friends, arms spread wide open. My heart tugged uncomfortably as I looked at Wade. A huge smile was on his face as he laughed with Kenny and Grant, posing for photos with whom I assumed were Grant's parents. How could he be so happy when I was miserable day in and day out?
"Lana?" Tanya's voice cut through my daydream as I glanced back at her. A worried frown sat on her lips as she followed my line of vision. "You guys still haven't worked it out?" she sighed, slowly pulling me away by my elbow. After the first month of misery, Tanya finally managed to pull the truth out of me. I didn't tell her about the history of the feud between Wade and Luke, but I did tell her about everything that had happened between us. The kisses, the shared intimate moments, the promises he had made.
All of it just seemed like a lie now as I watched him joke around with his friends.
While she was confused at first by how this had even happened right under her nose, she came to realize how much I did care about him. Just like me, she'd assumed that by finals, we would have worked out our relationship. But of course, that wasn't the case since high school was now over and neither of us were taking that step into the unknown.
I shook my head, rubbing my cheek to stop the tears that were threatening to spill over every time I thought about Wade. "I don't really know if anything is gonna happen, honestly. It's been three months and he hasn't come up to me."
Tanya huffed and without looking at her, I could already imagine the look of frustration on her face. Sure enough, she grabbed me by my shoulders, forcing me to look up at her. "Why does he have to come up to you?" she asked, raising an eyebrow inquisitively at me. "You were the one who asked him for space, remember? How is he supposed to know where your mind is at if you don't take the lead on this? He's respecting your wishes to be left alone. You need to confront him, before it's too late and he thinks you're over him."
"No buts, Lana! You know I'm right about this, don't try to pretend."
I blew a stray strand of hair out of my eyes as I quickly glanced over again at Wade. She was right, I knew it. I'd known it all along, but fear always got in my way. I hated putting myself out there; I was always complacent with the way things were, which was why I'd been with Luke for so long. One would think that I would have learned something from this whole ordeal, but apparently not. I was back at square one, wanting people to take the lead for me.
And knowing Wade Reynolds, that was not going to happen this time around.
"I know you are, Tanya. I'm just..." I trailed off quietly, shaking my head, "I'm just scared. Really scared. I like him so much and I'm worried that I waited too long."
"Oh, Lana." Tanya laughed, pulling me into a hug. "If everything you told me was true, he likes you just as much. Trust me, he'll be waiting for you. Now, go."
"God, you suck, Tanya." I rolled my eyes, but untangled myself from her arms to begin walking towards Wade. I had no idea what I was going to say to him, but I'd figure it out once I actually stood in front of him. Or wait, that was probably a bad idea because I'd just come off as an incoherent, blubbering moron and that was the last thing I wanted to do in front of Wade.
Fuck, you'd think after three months, I would have been able to come up with something asides from "I think I'm in love with you, please be my boyfriend."
Just as I was about twenty feet away from him and his friends, someone suddenly stepped in front of me, stopping my progress. My heart dropped when I saw who it was. Luke Hillman stood there, his hand behind his neck as he stared nervously at me. "I'm sorry." he blurted out immediately before I even had a chance to process the fact that he had materialized seemingly out of thin air. "I'm really sorry."
I gave him a small smile, but inside, I was elated. Of all the things I would he would say, those three words were nowhere near the top of the list of possibilities. I never thought the day would come when Luke would finally apologize, hopefully for the right reasons. "I know I was an asshole." he continued, without waiting for me to respond. "I realized after that day I accidentally hit you that I fucked up. I fucked up real bad, Lana. I never wanted to hurt you and I thought that I was handling things the right way. I kept thinking about myself, Bryan; I ignored how keeping you in the dark would make you feel. And for all of that, I'm really sorry."
I reached out to him, placing my hand on his elbow. "Thank you, Luke. I know it had to have taken a lot for you to come up to me and say all this."
Luke nodded, keeping his eyes trained on me. "It did, but I knew I had to, for your sake, and for mine. My therapist thought-"
"Wait." I cut him off without thinking. "Your therapist?"
"Oh, right, yeah." he said, bringing his hand back up to his face. "I've been seeing a therapist since the fight. It's helped me see a lot about how I was the root of the problem."
"Luke." I surged forward, wrapping my arms around him as he stood silently in shock. I wasn't sure what took over my body as I hugged him. All I knew was that he had said the magic words I'd been hoping he would say since the first fight back in our sophomore year. At least one of us took control of their lives... "I'm so proud of you. I really am."
Sensing that I wasn't spewing words of hatred and anger towards him, Luke returned the gesture, pulling me closer into his chest. "It was because of you, you know that right?" At that, I pulled away for a second to look at him. Suspicion must have been etched on my face, because Luke immediately shook his head and let out a wry laugh. "Don't interpret it like that, Lana. I'm in a good place now. I hope that we'll be able to stay friends in the future."
My body relaxed as he spoke. I found myself nodding along. "Yeah, I'd really love that too, Luke. Good luck with college."
"Thanks." Luke smiled, dropping his arms back down to his side. "My parents are waiting for me now." He jabbed his thumb over his shoulder, gesturing somewhere in the general direction behind him. "I should probably get going. Oh, and Lana," he raised an eyebrow at me, "I guess a part of me always knew something was happening between you and Wade towards the end of our relationship. If he's what makes you happy, I'm not going to do anything to fuck that up. Sal and Tanya mentioned it to me some time ago." he shrugged, probably noticing the inquisitive look that slipped on my face.
Of course my two best friends would slip this small detail to him, but I wasn't angry. In fact, I'd been trying to figure out how to gather the strength to tell Luke, or even if I should tell him, if Wade and I ultimately did get together. But with Tanya and Sal doing the dirty work for me, Luke couldn't get mad at them for being the messenger. Even now, months after they revealed the information, I could still see the tension in Luke's jawline as he gnashed his teeth together. I knew I would never get Luke's blessing to date his arch-nemesis even if he was currently in therapy, but this was the most support he would ever be able to muster. And that was what mattered.
With one final hug, Luke kissed my cheek gently as my eyes slid shut. "Bye, Luke." I whispered as he pulled back.
When I opened my eyes again, I found myself standing alone in the graduation mania. People were bustling around, hugging one another and screaming about how amazing it was to graduate now. They didn't have baggage, not like the one I was lugging around. Though it appeared that my issues with Luke were partially resolved, there was one last person I needed to find before it was too late.
Maybe it was already too late, but I didn't want to think about that possibility.
Inhaling deeply, I forced myself to look at the group of three guys standing a mere twenty feet away. I was in no way, shape, or form prepared for what I saw. Wade was no longer paying attention to whatever Kenny and Grant were laughing about. Instead, his dark blue eyes honed in on me. It didn't matter that people were trying to move around me to find their friends and family. All I knew was that this was the first time in three months that Wade was finally acknowledging me.
Though I was paralyzed with fear and uncertainty, I knew I had to walk up to him. The easier route now would be to turn around and run away, pretending that I never wanted to say anything to him. But what good would that be? I'd be in the same miserable pit as I'd been in since the fight all through college, knowing that Wade was so close yet so far from me. I needed him.
I liked him. I loved him.
For once, I needed to step up for what I wanted.
It took all the strength in my body to walk up to their group and muster out a quiet hello. Grant turned towards me with a frown on his face. But it quickly vanished when he saw it was me and not another one of our classmates. Kenny didn't protest as Grant latched onto his friend's arm and pulled him away, leaving Wade and I alone.
I stood at least a foot away from him, unable to bring myself to take any steps closer to him. Even at this distance, I found myself trying to stop the tremors shaking my body. My nerves were consuming every vein. But more importantly, just standing here with him like this, I felt my heart surge into my throat. I couldn't find my voice as I stared into his chest. I couldn't think.
"Lana." I almost groaned aloud when I heard my name roll off his tongue. If that was capable of wreaking havoc on my body, how could I expect to hold a conversation with him? I felt him take a step towards me as he repeated my name. When I still didn't look up, he sighed and reached up to cup my cheek with his hand.
My breath hitched when he forced me to make eye contact with him. My heart was thumping erratically; I couldn't focus. "Wade." His eyes flashed as he scanned my face, probably trying to figure out why I was standing in front of him like a moron. It felt like an eternity as we stood there in our own world, staring at each other. Before my brain and heart could agree on what to say, my mouth began moving on its own accord. "I can't do this."
Wade immediately tensed up, his hand falling away from my face as if he'd just been shocked. That was when I realized how that sentence could have been perceived by someone who I'd been actively avoiding for so long. Without saying another word, he pivoted on his foot to walk away and I knew this was my last chance.
Without hesitation, I lunged forward, grabbing his elbow and yanking him back towards me. My hands immediately went up to cradle his face as I pushed myself onto my toes to kiss him.
Please God, please, let him catch on.
He was stoic, immobile... as I kissed him. I didn't know if it was from shock or if it was true that he'd ended up with another girl, but I didn't relent. Even though I was dreading the possibility of him shoving me away from him, I trailed one hand down his face to loop around his neck and pulled him closer to me. For once, I was taking control and doing what I wanted to do. That was when something in him snapped.
Wade grabbed me by the hips, seemingly forgetting that we were still in public, and pulled me tightly against his body. His tongue slipped into my mouth, kissing me deeply. The intensity of the kiss nearly blew me away as we fought with one another, not wanting to let each other go. An electric shock coursed through my body, gathering in my lower abdomen as I groaned into the kiss. This… this was what I'd been missing these past few months.
It wasn't until I heard a loud whistle and scattered applause did I remember where I was. Blushing profusely, I took a small step back and looked out at the small audience that had begun to gather around us. More specifically, it was Tanya, Sal, Kenny, and Grant who were smiling knowingly at us. Wade didn't let me get too far though; before I could take another step, I felt his fingers slide down my arm to grasp mine. Luckily, my cheeks were already flushed by the sudden attention, because I knew my whole face was on fire at this point from something as simple as him holding my hand. "About fucking time." Grant laughed, slow clapping as he walked up to us. "I was wondering when the two of you would stop moping around and just get together already."
"Fuck off, Grant." Wade growled. The grip he had on my hand tightened and I squeezed his fingers in return, letting him know that I was still with him.
"We'll be right back." I finally managed to muster out to our friends and turned on my heel to pull Wade out of the main arena hall. I ignored the loud 'woops' and other cheers from our friends as I pushed open one of the heavy double doors to reach the hallway. I glanced around, finally finding a somewhat quiet corner close to the emergency exits where we could talk. "Wade-"
"I know, you don't need to apologize." Wade smiled softly, taking a step forward. He reached above me, taking my graduation cap under his arm as he weaved his hand through my hair. "I thought you were done with me, you know? I knew you wanted time and I was going to give you that. But at some point, I had basically given up hope and tried to move on." Those words stabbed me through the heart as I looked at him. Had he actually? "There was no one else though." He reassured me quickly, answering the silent question in my mind. "There won't be anyone else as long as you want me."
The look he gave me almost killed me. Despite the kiss, it seemed like he was still doubting my actions. How could I blame him though? If the roles were flipped, I'd be wondering the same things. "Wade," I wrapped my arms around his waist, ignoring the waves in my stomach, "I love you, more than you could imagine. If you'll have me, I want to be with you at Duke and-"
I never got to finish my sentence though. Wade gripped my hair tightly, tipping my head back as he kissed me again. His lips moved sensually over mine, his tongue dipping into my mouth repeatedly. I reached up to his bicep, trying my best to not melt into a puddle on the ground. I couldn't suppress the moan as his hand glided down my back, cupping my rear as I surged forward into his chest. Nipping my bottom lip gently as he pulled back, I saw a small glimmer in his eyes.
"Lana Winters, you have no idea how long I've wanted to hear those words."
A smile took over my face as I leaned into Wade, relaxing in the secure hold of his arms. My eyes slid shut as the warmth consumed me. I didn't care that people were starting to spill out into the hallway to take photos. I didn't care that my family was probably trying to hunt me down, wondering why I still hadn't found them after the ceremony.
All that matter was that right now, at this very second, I was finally with Wade and I could call him my own without anyone getting in my way.
FINALLY. Am I right? :D It took me a while, but I'm here and I like to think I wrapped this story up pretty nicely. All of you wanted a happy ending, so here you go! Honestly, I wanted Wade and Lana to have a happy ending as well. I'm quite happy with the way the story turned out. I'm not a huge fan of the first few chapters, as I wrote them when my writing simply wasn't as good. Maybe I'll get around to tweaking it one day, but I always say that lol.
Thank you to EVERYONE who has read, reviewed, followed, and favorited this story! I really, truly do appreciate the support and every review (both criticisms and raves) made me want to write for you guys. It's all of you that drive me back to this site every time I go on a hiatus! Love each and every one of you. Really!
Anyway, yes I have returned. It's back to graduate school for me, so I finally got around to obtaining Microsoft Word. Open Office (while free) is just simply not as great and managed to turn me off from writing. I will try to update you guys on my progress as much as possible, so please look at my profile for updates OR you can hit up my Facebook (link in profile) for more detailed updates.
Thank you again and I do hope you enjoyed this story!