A/N — this is my first full-blown romance piece /shudders. i don't have much experience with writing romance so please don't kill me for this ;_; it's clichéd and sappy and i know it sucks so.
trigger warnings: mentions of attempted rape, so please read at your own discretion.
dedication — this is dedicated to izzie (blue sea glass), because she's flawless and should marry me; and middy (whentheseameetsthesky), because she's awesome and helped me write that almost-rape scene ;) also to everyone over at R/S fans and vote sivvi/mamy for cutest couple, yes. and yay for divided loyalties c:
▌singing in the rain.
a oneshot by whispers of water~
▒ i. what a beautiful mess
It all happened so quickly, and she's feeling immensely numb right now — partly because of the chilly weather, partly because of the ice that's spreading through her. Her heart feels like it's been ripped from her heart and stomped all over, and his words are just echoing in the recesses of her mind — it's over. It's over.
The rain pours in torrents around her, and she's soaked through, having run through it just minutes ago before taking shelter under at this bus stop. She's shivering, but she doesn't really care — because nothing really matters, now. She knows she must have left her coat at his house, but she doesn't really fancy going back there just then. To be perfectly honest, she'd rather suffer than ever lay eyes on him again.
She hugs her knees to her chest, rubbing her arms briskly in an attempt to keep warm, but it doesn't work. Her phone is dead and she doesn't have her wallet — she'll probably have to wait out the storm at this bus stop before walking the long journey home. In that instant, she suddenly feels sorry for herself — sorry that her ex-boyfriend was such a jerk, sorry that she's going to catch hypothermia at this rate, sorry that her life is so screwed up. To her dismay, she feels hot tears prick the back of her eyes and quickly drags the back of her hand against her face. But once she's started crying, she can't stop, and the onslaught of tears seems never ending.
She hates how she's so helpless and lost, and in that moment, Kaleigh Powell swears to herself that she will never feel that way ever again.
At that moment, a car drives by, its tires squealing and when it goes over a puddle, it drenches her from head to toe in murky, gravel-filled water. She's closes her eyes just in time, and after it's gone, she just stares down at the flecks of dirt along her legs before burying her face in her arms and sniffing loudly. I hate my life.
"Here you go."
At these words, she looks up in surprise to see a lacy white handkerchief being dangled before her face. In her semi-conscious stupor, she doesn't understand that someone is offering it to her. It takes her a few moments before she finally absorbs that person's intentions, and with a murmured, "oh, thanks," she accepts it and wipes her face on it.
When she's halfway through the process of wiping her face, it occurs to her that she might want to see who her benefactor is. She finally has the sense to lower the handkerchief from her eyes and glance up at the kind stranger. He looks vaguely familiar, with his tousled, wet dark hair and bright blue eyes. Her eyes narrow in concentration as she tries to pin a name to the face. "You're . . . "
"Jarrell Ross," he offers. "I'm in your literature class at school."
"Oh," she says, finally recognising him to be the boy who sits behind her in class, who has never breathed a word to her in her entire life. "Um, I'm—"
"Kaleigh Powell, I know who you are," he responds, and she manages a smile. Both of them lapse into an awkward silence, neither quite knowing how to react in situations like these. "Well, thanks for the handkerchief," she says quickly, for lack of something else to say. She lifts it for good measure, and notes that it's stained with her smudged mascara. "Oh, sorry, I seem to have dirtied it —"
"It's okay," he answers, cutting her off once more. "I've been dying to get rid of that anyway. My mother makes me carry it around." She forces another smile and drops her gaze to the ground; he clears his throat, causing her eyes to flash up to his face once more. "If — if you don't mind me asking, why are you —"
"Crying at a bus stop in the middle of nowhere?" she asks dryly, and obviously uncomfortable, he nods. She exhales through her nose sharply, and averts her gaze once more. "My boyfriend just ditched me, so now I'm stuck here because it's raining and I haven't got a cent on me."
"Ah." He shifts his weight from one foot to another, unsure of how to react. "I see." After a few more minutes of silence, she asks, "so what are you doing here, Jarrell Ross?"
"I was actually on my way to my grandmother's," he responds, a bit too quickly. "She lives around here — I usually walk to her house, but it started raining." He gestures aimlessly at their surroundings, and she nods in response, before staring down at the handkerchief in her hands and fidgeting.
"I'm sorry you had to see me like this," she says, more to the ground than to him.
"Don't worry, it's not my finest hour either," he jokes, actually bringing a genuine smile to her lips for the first time in what seems like days. She shrugs, and he bends down, watching her worriedly. "Do you need to borrow some cash, or —"
"Nah, I'll be cool," she waves him away. "But right now I just need to be alone."
He nods, slowly. "Yeah, I understand. You need your space. I'm sorry." He turns to walk away, but she calls after him. "Hey." He whirls around, eyebrows lifted questioningly. Pressing a hand to her temple, she forces away all thoughts of her ex before glancing back up at him. "It was nice meeting you, Jarrell Ross." She raises the hand still holding his handkerchief. "And thanks."
A smile flits across his face for the briefest of moments. His voice is soft, but she can still hear him above the rain. "Any time, Kaleigh Powell," he answers, "any time." Then he turns around and walks off into the rain, with her staring at his back, eyes wide with wonder.
▒ ii. you whirl like a cyclone in my mind
The first time she sees him in school after meeting him at the bus stop, she almost doesn't recognise him, but he gives her a small smile and suddenly it just comes to her. "Hello, Jarrell Ross," she greets him, unlatching her satchel and rummaging around in it. He watches her quizzically until she finds what she's looking for and produces his lacy white handkerchief, pressing it into his palm triumphantly.
"There you go," she says with a smile. "Thanks again."
"It was my pleasure," he says, then quickly backtracks. "I mean, not that it was a pleasure that you were crying, but more a pleasure that I could be of assistance —"
"You're so adorable," she says loudly, reaching for both his hands and squeezing them. He watches her warily through hooded eyes. "What are you doing —"
He receives his answer a split-second later as her ex-boyfriend, Mike Tray, football star, stomps by them with his posse trailing closely behind. Mike whirls around to fix him with a murderous stare, before turning around once more and striding away. Jarrell merely rolls his eyes and pulls his hands from hers.
"Seriously? You're trying to make him jealous now?"
"What?" she tries to play innocent, but he just gives her a what-the-hell look and she sighs. "Okay, maybe I am. But that's just to pay him back for being an asshole." He just rolls his eyes again and attempts to reason with her.
"Kaleigh, he broke up with you. There's no turning back now."
"I'm not trying to turn back—" but at his expression, she exhales. "What Mike and I have going on is extremely complicated. You wouldn't understand. He still loves me, I know he does, and I just have to get him to realise it —"
"You saw how he reacted! I'm sure of it, he sure has feelings for me—"
"Kaleigh." At this point, he takes hold of her shoulders and gives her a little shake. "Stop being delusional. You know that isn't the case, so stop trying to convince yourself that it is."
"You don't know him," she bursts out, shrugging free of his grip and attracting many stares from other students in the hallway. "You don't know him and you don't know me. So stop trying to pretend that you do!" He steps forward and tries to say something, but she turns away from him and dashes into the nearest bathroom, locking herself in a cubicle and bursting into tears.
Sighing irritably, he follows her into the bathroom, causing an entire gaggle of girls doing their makeup to erupt in giggles, whispering and pointing. He tries his very best to ignore them and knocks on the door of the cubicle she's in. "Kaleigh."
"Kaleigh, I'm sorry."
"I'm sorry that I don't understand, and yes, it wasn't fair of me to judge you or him because I don't know either of you. But please, help me understand. I want to understand. I want to help." A hint of desperacy enters his tone, and he doesn't understand his irrational urge to befriend this girl, to get to know her. He doesn't understand why he feels this way about her; it's all so confusing, and he rests his forehead against the door of the cubicle, letting out a long sigh. "Please," he whispers.
She doesn't respond for a long time, and so, with a heavy heart, he straightens, turns on his heel, and walks dazedly from the bathroom. Suddenly he hears a click from behind him, as if a cubicle is being unlocked, and he half-turns to see her walking towards him, a watery smile on her face.
"I don't know why I'm always crying when I see you," she laughs through her tears, "but I suppose it's good that I'm putting your mother's handkerchief to good use." And, feeling oddly light, he laughs back, handing her the handkerchief.
She dabs at her brimming eyes, and seeing the splotches of mascara on the linen, they both can't help be reminded of their first meeting and start laughing again. There's nothing funny about it all — but once they start laughing, they just can't stop.
▒ iii. call me hopeless, but not romantic
It's quite hard to explain how they became friends — but before they know it, they're spending every possible waking moment with each other, texting each other before they go to sleep, studying together at the library, eating together at mealtimes, and walking each other to their classes during the day. Their relationship is purely platonic, or so he tries to assure himself, but he can't help but pick up on tiny details, like how her green eyes have flecks of gold in them, or how her jeans hang low on her hips, or how her lips look soft and kissable in the dim light. He censors all these thoughts, of course, particularly the last one, because that's just sick and they're simply friends, goddammit.
Still, his heart soars whenever she smiles or him, and his heartbeat quickens whenever she laughs at something he said or the other, and he tries to convince himself that it's purely normal, he's not in love with her or anything. But the moment he thinks of that he realises that it's true, he is in love with her.
"So, if x is equal to two hundred and seventy-five point thirty-three, y is—?" she trails off and glances expectantly at him for the answer. He realises that he hasn't been paying attention to her explanation at all, instead he's been staring at her without even realising it.
She crosses her arms and glares at him. "I told you to listen, Jarrell."
"Sorry," he apologises quickly. "I was just —"
"Nah, it doesn't matter," she says, standing up and stretching. His eyes watch her intently as her shirt pulls up, revealing a sliver of skin, then drops back down. He mentally scolds himself for being such a pervert as she goes on. "I'm tired of studying anyway, the finals are in a month, not tomorrow. Let's go watch a movie or something."
"A movie?" his eyebrows lift at her choice of activity.
"What?" she shrugs. "I haven't watched a movie with you yet, and that's what friends do together, right? Watch movies?"
"Yeah," he answers quickly, his heartbeat racing, much to his disgust, and he assures himself that it's not a date, it's not a date, it's not a date. But he pictures himself watching a romantic comedy with her in the dark, and smiles. "I'm game. What movie do you want to watch?"
"The Avengers? Seriously?" he asks her incredulously when they're queuing outside the cinema with their tickets and popcorn in hand, waiting for the theatre to be opened so that they can go in. She couldn't have made a worse choice, he thinks to himself miserably. Even if it weren't a romance, if it was a horror movie, he could still imagine her grabbing his hand at every trace of gore onscreen. She shrugs in response.
"What? My cousin told me it was really good." She balances herself on tiptoe, craning her neck to see over the murmuring crowd gathered outside the cinema. "Oh, look, the doors are open. Come on."
They follow the jostling crowd into the pitch-black cinema. She squints at the large black lettering on their tickets, trying to decipher the text in the dark. "Um, row 'K', seats eleven and twelve." They head down the narrow flight of carpeted steps, with her keeping her eyes fixed on the illuminated letters at the start of each row. "Row 'I', row 'J', ah, here we go, row 'K' — ah!" she stumbles and trips in the dark, and he catches her by the waist, seizing her before she falls over backwards and concusses.
Both of them freeze, then he quickly releases her and she almost falls over again. "Thanks," she says, and even though he can't even see her face, she sounds as embarrassed as him. He feels his cheeks flaming. "Any time," he says, his voice breaking on the second word.
They trudge to their seats in awkward silence, then seat themselves almost mechanically side by side. He places the large box of popcorn between their two seats, and even though the movie hasn't started yet, they remain uncomfortably silent. Finally she says, "sorry," and even though normally he would ask her what she was sorry for, he decides to get the matter resolved as quickly as possible and simply responds, "it's okay."
The movie begins shortly after that, and thankfully they are both excused from having to make conversation. The film is good, as he soon comes to realise, and he reaches for the popcorn at the same time as she does, and their hands meet.
They both pull back their fingers quickly as if they've just had an electric shock, and remain motionless until he whispers, "after you." At this point, she says, "sorry," once more, but again he lets it go. For the rest of the movie, he can focus on nothing but the tingling in his fingers from where her skin brushed against his.
Fortunately, after the movie she's back to her normal self, passing snide remarks about Scarlet Johansson and rambling about how hot the actors were. He nods and "mm"s and "ah"s at the appropriate moments, which excuses him from having to converse with her. Instead, while she's babbling, he thinks about how close she was to him during the movie and how easily he could have kissed her. When he finally catches her gaze she tilts her head to a side, trailing off into space, and he's halfway tempted to confess how he really feels about her —
— but he doesn't.
▒ iv. i would fly you to the moon and back
Sometimes she can't help but wonder about Jarrell Ross.
She knows practically everything about him but yet it seems so superficial, and she feels like she doesn't know him at all even though they're best friends and whatnot. He's such an enigma, and she keeps trying to probe deeper, trying to find out more about how he feels, but somehow he just keeps pushing her away. It confuses her, and she's confused about how she feels, too, but even though she avoids thinking about it as much and possible it just keeps coming back, like a voice in the back of her mind is whispering her name, over and over again. And somehow, even though that voice sounds oh-so-familiar yet oh-so-alien, she just can't identify it, no matter how hard she tries.
One day when they're eating ice cream at the parlour near their school, he suddenly bursts out, "I'm in love," and she almost chokes on her ice cream.
Her only response to this is, "are you serious?" and he nods, his eyes utterly solemn. She slaps herself mentally. Of course he's serious, he would never joke about this kind of thing. She tries to ignore the aching in her chest, telling herself it's because she's afraid she would lose him as a friend.
Not because she fancies him.
"Who's she?" she asks, trying to maintain her upbeat and cheerful façade even though she's dying inside. His eyes are fixed unwaveringly on her face as he answers. "I — I can't tell you."
"Aw, come on, don't do this to me," she complains, forcing a playful smile and whacking him on the shoulder. "The suspense is killing me, Jarrell, just tell me, please." But he just shakes his head. "I can't tell you."
"Then what's the point of telling me?" she finally explodes, unable to take it any longer. He doesn't seem startled by her outburst, simply replies, "because you're my best friend." Because you're my best friend, and nothing more, his eyes seem to say. She stares down at the floor.
"Well, I'm glad you told me," she says, and even she can tell that it's utterly, utterly fake, and he can obviously see right through her. "I'm honoured to know," she says in a firmer voice, and this time she looks up to meet his gaze.
His blue eyes are penetrating and seem to pierce right into her soul. "Well, I told you . . . because I need some advice," he admits finally, rubbing the back of his neck awkwardly. She laughs; he's adorable, she thinks involuntarily, then reminds herself — but he's not mine and he never will be.
"Alright," she says unenthusiastically. "Does she even know you exist?" Harsh, a small part of her subconscious chides, but she shakes it off, focusing on diminishing the hurt blossoming inside of her. He stares at her for a long time, then shrugs.
"I guess so."
"How does she look like?"
He raises his eyebrows and gives her a small smirk, pressing his lips together. "Ah, but that would be telling."
She just rolls her eyes in annoyance, and seeing that she's already at the end of her tether, he relents. "Well, she has the most beautiful eyes . . . sometimes I think there's gold in them," he says, and his voice becomes distant, taking on a dream-like quality. "Her hair . . . it's brown, but it has strands of red in it — not highlights, mind you, but just . . . I don't know, it's natural, I guess."
"Is she smart?"
"What?" he seems a little taken aback, and sighing, she repeats her question. This time he holds her gaze while he speaks. "She's the most intelligent girl I have ever met in my life."
"Then I suppose she would like to read," she answers. "If you want to buy her a present, buy her a book. I'm sure she'd appreciate it." He nods but makes no other response, still staring down at the floor, so she tries again to sound less cold and less aloof. "Any girl would be lucky to have you," she whispers. "I'm happy for you," she says, louder this time, and somehow managing a smile.
He finally smiles back, his blue eyes shining. "Thanks."
And because she's Kaleigh and he's Jarrell she just has to smile back, because they're Kaleigh and Jarrell and they're best friends — but nothing more.
▒ v. and in your eyes i see ribbons of colour
She's leaning against a lamp-post outside her house, looking very much annoyed. He watches her for a while, seeing her check her watch several times and stamp her foot in irritation, but not once does she budge from where she is. It makes him happy, somehow, to know that she's waiting for him, and refuses to leave without him.
Finally he goes up to her, and greets her with a smile. "Happy birthday," he says, softly.
She glances up at him, obviously annoyed, and shoves him hard. "Have you any idea how long I was waiting here?" She lifts the wrist with her watch secured around it and thrusts it in his face. He blinks down at the fluorescent digits glimmering in the small display screen, which read 7: 43 PM. Then he looks back to her, and she stomps her foot again. "We're going to be late!"
On a normal occasion, he wouldn't have chosen to go to the party, but she'd insisted, and after all, it's her birthday. Oddly enough, he doesn't like parties — he finds them too loud, too noisy, with too much alcohol and drugs. But she, on the other hand, likes going to them very much, and he could never refuse her, anyway.
"Wait. Before we go, I have something to give you." He reveals the rectangular parcel which he has been hiding behind her back, bundled in flowery, girly wrapping paper. "Ooh!" Her eyes shining, she reaches for it, and, sticking her tongue out at the gift-wrapping paper, begins to rip it open.
"Hey," he objects, feebly, "I spent a lot of effort wrapping that." But she merely laughs and waves him off, pulling the last of the paper off the object inside with a flourish.
"It's a book," she says, tilting her head to a side. "Huh." He feels his throat suddenly go dry, and he's worried that she doesn't like it — but she flips it over, fingers trailing over the glossy cover, and reads the title of it. "Me before You by Jojo Moyes," she announces. There's a long silence while she examines the blurb on the back, before looking up at him. "Thanks," she says, and her smile is wide and genuine. "This is an awesome birthday present."
He smiles back, relieved, but deep inside she's thinking, he probably got it for me because it was convenient, and he was already buying a book for her. She knows it's unreasonable to detest someone she doesn't even know, but jealousy makes people blind, and forcing a smile onto her lips, she chirps, "let's go!"
They arrive at the party twenty minutes later when it's in full swing, and they're greeted carelessly by the host, Lira Johnson, who's smoking and drinking by the doorstep surrounded by a bunch of her friends. They move through the party, attracting lots of stares, and he feels the sudden urge to shield her from any guys leering at her or trying to look up her miniskirt. But she simply laughs it off, flirts with a few of them, and then they finally reach the back of the house, where her friend, Faith, is waiting, beside a cooler box packed with ice and alcohol.
"What took you so long?" Faith shouts over the throbbing pulse of the music.
"We got held up," responds Kaleigh, and with a snort Faith reaches over into the cooler for a beer, popping the top and handing it to her friend. He hovers awkwardly in the background, absolutely no idea what to do, and Faith jerks her chin at him. "You want one?"
"What? Oh, yeah," he says, cheeks colouring, and rolling her eyes, Faith grabs him a beer too, before throwing her hands up in the air as the music reaches its chorus, then grabs the guy next to her and starts snogging him senseless. Jarrell's eyes pop, but Kaleigh just laughs and seizes his arm, dragging him out of the kitchen and through the living room, to the front yard of the house where everything is reasonably quieter and more deserted, save a couple of drunk blokes playing beer pong at a nearby table.
"Your friend is . . . interesting," he says, causing her to laugh again before she swigs her bottle of beer. "You mean Faith? Faith's just like that, all the time." She holds up her beer to eye level, offering it to him. "Cheers."
They clink bottles, and then both take long draughts from their bottles. He observes the way her eyes sparkle in the warm glow from the street lamps, and the alcohol makes him light-headed and slightly giddy. "Kal . . . " he trails off, and she turns to look at him. "I —" oh God, this is it, I'm going to tell her. "Kal, I — I think —"
She tilts her head, motioning for him to go on. He tries to force it out, but the words stick in his throat, and it's in that instant that he realises, no, I can't tell her, because if he were to tell her they'd never be the same again, and he doesn't want that. "I think — that — I think that I need the bathroom," he quickly blurts, and she rolls her eyes and punches him in the shoulder good-naturedly.
"Then go to the bathroom!" she laughs. "It's upstairs, first door on the right. Trust me; I've been here many times before."
He nods and stands; with a heavy heart he pushes his way through the horde and makes his way to the upstairs bathroom. Pulling the door open, he finds a couple making out, and while he lurches backwards, startled, they giggle drunkenly and stumble away.
Muttering under his breath, he locks himself in the bathroom, turns on the tap, and splashes his face repeatedly with icy cold water. He had been so close to telling her. So close. He leans back and regards his face in the mirror; his fringe is matted and plastered to his forehead. He half-smiles, thinking of the day he met her, then instantly hates himself for thinking of her every waking moment of the day.
He leans against the tiled wall, slides to the floor, and Jarrell Ross thinks about how he fell in love with Kaleigh Powell.
▒ vi. so hike up your skirt a little bit more
She glances up from the rim of her beer bottle to see a very drunk Mike Tray lumbering towards her; instantly her heartbeat starts to race and she shoots to her feet. "Hi, Mike," she says coldly, taking a step back, because she doesn't trust him, not one bit. "What do you want?"
Over at the beer pong table, his friends burst out in raucous laughter, and Mike plasters a smirk across his face, reaching for her. "Is that any way to greet your boyfriend?" he asks, trying to kiss her. She turns her head to a side, and he plants a slobbery wet one on her cheek. There's more hooting from his gang, and disgusted, Kaleigh attempts to duck out from under his grasp.
"I'm not your girlfriend," she snaps, the alcohol making it hard for her to think straight. "You broke up with me, remember?" He doesn't responds, just attempts to embrace her once more, and she bats his arms away, frustrated. "Don't you dare come near me!"
At these words, he stops, and blinks hard, before a curious expression comes over his face. "Oh, I forgot what a little whore you are. You're fucking that other guy now, right? What's his name again—? Jared or something."
"You're drunk," she says, and she hates the fact that her voice wobbles. "You don't know what you're saying. And it's Jarrell."
"Oh, come off it, everyone in school knows about you two now," Mike babbles, his smirk becoming more pronounced as he swaggers towards her. "Everybody knows what a slut you are, and how easy you are to get." He stops just in front of her, and she's trembling in anger; the beer bottle slips from her grasp and crashes against the floor, shattering into smithereens. "Does your beloved Jared know how many guys you've slept with —" and that's when she loses all control, slapping him across the face. His head snaps to a side, and her hand stings, but it's worth it, because that's what he deserves.
Slowly, he turns around to face her, his cheek growing red not only from her slap, but also flushed with anger. "You little whore," he spits, and then he strikes her with such force that she falls backwards, onto the glass shards. She lets out a little yelp and quickly scrambles away, glass cutting into her palms. "Not so fast," he whispers, and kneels so he's pinning her to the ground. She squirms, shutting her eyes tightly and trying to get away, but he's too heavy and too strong.
"You're not just a whore," he says, and he sounds triumphant, "you're my whore."
He dips his head to kiss her neck, and that's when she starts to scream, but he silences her with another kiss that tastes of stale alcohol and tobacco. His hands start to roam, slipping under her shirt, and even though she thrashes and refuses to keep still, he's unbelievably strong and she can't break free.
Finally she manages to turn away from him and gasps for air. "Jarrell!" she screams, but Mike silences her with another kiss. "Skank," he spits, and grabs a fistful of her shirt, pulling it so the top few buttons come flying off. She regrets wearing a miniskirt more than ever now, as his hands slip up and come wandering up the inside of her thigh. She kicks and struggles, but he restrains her successfully until there's a loud thud and he suddenly goes limp, momentarily stunned.
Then he rolls off her, stands and presses a hand to his bleeding head, before turning around to face a very, very angry Jarrell Ross.
There isn't any time for words, because Jarrell smashes his fist into Mike's nose, and she hears a crack — she just lies there motionlessly as he attacks her ex-boyfriend with a ferocity she's never seen in him before. When Mike, heavily intoxicated and inebriated, finally crumples to the floor, his nose streaming blood, he just stands over him, his face contorted in fury. "Don't you ever touch her again," he says in a low voice. Then he moves over to her, pulls her to her feet, and drags her from the house.
They only stop running when they're ten or so blocks away — then he turns on her, fire blazing in his eyes. "How could you let him do that to you, Kaleigh?" to her utmost surprise, she sees tears glimmering on his lashes, threatening to spill over. "How could you?" he repeats, and she remains silent, one hand clutching the top of her blouse, holding it together.
When she finally finds her voice, she blurts, "I —" but he doesn't let her finish her sentence, because he pulls her to him and kisses her. It lasts for all of four seconds, and then he pulls away, says, "I'm sorry, I shouldn't have done that," before turning around to walk away. And she lets him go, because she's still in shock — me? Me? — and she can't make sense of anything at that moment.
Only when he's fully out of sight does she sit down on the pavement, hug her knees to her chest, and start to cry.
▒ vii. with the heart of a star-crossed voyager
He doesn't call her for the next day. Or the next day. Or the next.
It's possible the most miserable she's ever felt in her life — he's ignoring her, wherever she goes in school people point and whisper, and even though it happened a week ago, she still feels violated — she can't even look Mike Tray in the eye when he passes her in the corridors. Her grades plummet, she starts to isolate herself, and she cries herself to sleep each night, burying her face in her pillow so her mother can't hear her.
With each day that passes, she spirals even further into the abyss of despair — she cuts off all connection from the outside world, locks herself in her room and tells her mother that she's sick so she doesn't have to go to school. As she lies tangled in her duvet, she stares up at the ceiling and thinks about Jarrell Ross and his handkerchief and how much she misses him.
It takes her a while to wrap her mind around the concept that he's in love with her, and the girl he's been talking about is her, and she didn't notice it at all. When she finally crawls out of bed after a few days of remaining there, she notices the book he gave her that fateful night, lying discarded on her bedside dresser. "Me before You by Jojo Moyes," she says, tracing her fingers over the letters on the glossy cover. Then she settles down at her desk and begins to read, and as she reads she feels for the characters in the book, Louisa Clark and poor Will Traynor, both of whom are helplessly in love with each other. It affects her more than any other tearjerker book she's ever read, somehow, and each word printed in the book seems like her lifeline, her eagerly scanning every single line, refusing to even put the book down. By the end of it she's in tears and she rests it gently back on her dresser before returning to her bed, staring up at the ceiling once more and wondering if he was trying to tell her something through the book.
A few weeks later it's her parents' wedding anniversary, and even though they plan a lavish trip into the city, she doesn't have the heart to celebrate with them, because she's been a lifeless, empty shell ever since that fateful night. Despite her mother's many attempts to persuade her to come, she stubbornly refuses to give in, and soon her mother gives in, though she doesn't stop worrying about her daughter.
"You sure you'll be alright?" her mother asks concernedly from where she and her husband are standing on the threshold of the house. Kaleigh nods firmly, resting her chin on the wooden banisters at the landing on top of the staircase.
"I wouldn't want to come and be a wet blanket on both of you," she says, and there's an air of finality in her voice. Her mother regards her once more, then smiles.
"Take care of yourself, okay?"
"Yes, Mum," she sighs. "Have fun, Dad." When they're finally gone, she plods down the carpeted staircase and into the brightly lit living room, where she settles herself on the couch and switches on the television for the first time in days. The television station is airing the reruns of Sherlock, which she watches for a while in silence.
Suddenly, the doorbell rings, and she knows it can't be her parents, seeing as they'd left barely half an hour ago, but they haven't had visitors in months. Slowly, she stands up and shuffles tiredly towards the door, doesn't bother to glance through the peephole, and pulls it open. To her utmost surprise, she finds him on her doorstep, looking very angry indeed. Eyes wide, she asks him, "what are you doing here?"
▒ viii. there's no moon, but the stars are whispering our names
He seems embarrassed to be there at first, but his anger quickly takes over. "Look," he begins hotly, "I've no idea why you're pretending to be sick, but we both know you're not, and I haven't stopped thinking about you in weeks—" but before he can even complete his sentence, she leans forward and kisses him, effectively cutting him off and rendering him speechless.
It's their first proper kiss, and it tastes sweet, not like their previous one, which tasted of booze and cigarettes and anger. At first, he's stiff and unrelenting, like he's made of cardboard, but slowly he melts into the kiss, his lips soft and warm. When she finally pulls back, she watches him carefully, gauging his reaction. For the first few minutes, he tries and fails to speak coherently. "I — you —" then he falls silent once more, trying to calm himself down.
"Why did you do that?" he finally gets out, and his words sound choked.
"Why did you kiss me that night?"
"I — I —" frustratedly, he runs a hand through his hair, ruffling and tousling it. "I like you," he says at last, sounding tired. "What's your excuse?"
"I like you too," she retorts, crossing her arms. They stare each other down for a long time, before he starts laughing.
Once he starts laughing she starts laughing too, because it's all so ridiculous and nonsensical and whimsical that they can't stand it anymore. They laugh till they start tearing up, and it's not that they're amused, more that they're just so relieved. When their laughter finally dies down, they lapse once more into an awkward silence, and she stares down at her bare feet, fidgeting.
"I've been thinking a lot," she says at last, feeling tears prick the back of her eyes as she speaks. She swallows hard, refusing to let them fall. "I — I've been thinking about everything, and I couldn't get you out of my mind. You have no idea how miserable I've been because you haven't been talking to me." Much to her horror, a tear seeps through her eyelashes and rolls down her cheek, splattering onto the floor.
"Hey," he says softly, tilting her chin up so that he can see her face, and smears her tears across her cheek with his thumb. The gesture alone brings more tears to her eyes, which she doesn't even bother to hold back now. "Don't cry," he says gently. "I haven't stopped thinking about you since forever, you know."
"Really?" she asks, her heart swelling up with hope and joy. He nods, and she laughs through her tears, wiping her face on her sleeve. Not once taking his eyes away from hers, he bends down so that their faces are level.
"Kaleigh Powell," he says, enunciating each word slowly. "I've loved you since the moment I set eyes on you."
"That's not true," she counters, "you first saw me in Lit, and I didn't even know you existed."
"Fine," he concedes, "I've loved you since that day at the bus stop. And," he adds, upon seeing her open her mouth to interrupt him once more, "I'm trying to confess my love, or like, or whatever, to you, so I'd appreciate it if you could keep quiet."
She rolls her eyes but shuts her mouth to comply. "Kaleigh Powell," he repeats, "I love you, and I've loved you since the day I met you at the bus stop, when I gave you my mother's handkerchief and when you gave me something I'd never felt in a long time — hope."
The skies rumble overhead, but he ignores it, going on. "When I first met you, you were crying because your boyfriend had dumped you, and when I saw you — well, it's hard to describe how I felt. I just wanted to protect you, somehow. And all through the time in which we became friends, I was feeling conflicted, because —" the thunder cuts him off once more, and before he can even start talking again, the rain comes crashing down in torrents.
"Quick, get inside," she shouts, over the roar of the rain, but he simply smiles at her, says, "no," and seizes her arm, dragging her into the downpour.
"Jarrell!" she shrieks, but he ignores her, pulling her into the middle of the deserted street. She watches the rain trickle in rivulets down his cheeks like tears, and he cradles her face, touching his forehead to hers.
"I love you," he murmurs, and kisses her softly, once. He tastes like rain and tears and pure, unadulterated love. When they finally break apart, they cling to each other, even though they're both sopping wet and drenched from head to toe, because that doesn't matter.
He smiles down at her, and because she's Kaleigh and he's Jarrell and they're Kaleigh and Jarrell she smiles back, her face utterly radiant — because they're best friends and they're in love, and that's all that matters.
"Thank you, Jarrell Ross," she whispers, and he chuckles softly, under his breath.
"Any time, Kaleigh Powell." His eyes shine with laughter and pure love. "Any time."
A/N — so this is what you get after gallons of coffee and a few sleepless nights of writing. I hope you liked it, and you didn't drown from the pure sappiness of the ending.
anyway, review please, and make my day.(:
((and, try not to favourite without reviewing, please?))