"So, you haven't spoken to her in a month?"
It was a Friday, three days before the first day of school after spring break. I was sitting with Vanessa in our usual spot at the coffee shop. It was late afternoon, coming up on evening soon.
And it was basically true. I hadn't spoken to Isa in almost a month – closer to three weeks, but still a while. My hopes for her to break up with Miles had virtually disappeared by then. It was clear to me that she was avoiding me, and now that the school year was coming to an end for her, and our time was running out, I had a feeling that she wanted absolutely nothing to do with me. Even if she considered me at least a friend, she wouldn't swallow her pride and face me. No, that would mean all those months of antagonism would be pointless – just six months of our lives that we would never get back.
Isa would graduate in a week or so, and then go off to college in the fall and forget all about me. It was a sobering thought that made me want to march right up to her doorstep, bang on the door, demand her ear, and tell her that I was done stressing over this screwed up relationship that we had. But it would take a whole lot of courage that I didn't have to do that.
"Not quite," I mumbled, taking a sip of my iced tea. Vanessa had ordered an iced coffee, but it was long gone by then. We had been there quite a while already, and I'd almost managed to avoid the subject of my collapsing relationship with Isa altogether.
"Jake, still," she huffed. "The longer you go without fixing this, the harder it's going to be. I know you, Jake. You're just going to keep putting it off until you convince yourself there's nothing you can do about it anymore. You think that if she doesn't make the first move, she's not interested, but I don't think that's true."
I snorted, shaking my head. "I think she's made it very clear that she's not interested," I replied remorsefully, thinking back to the day I tried to make everything right. Sure, I had known it was a longshot, but I still had hope.
"She's just scared," Vanessa said with a sigh, looking at me earnestly.
"She chose Miles over me," I said sharply, placing my elbow on the table and moving my hand to emphasize each word. "Miles, the guy who cheated on her, threatened to hurt me on more than one occasion, and probably tried to hurt her. And why? Because he's better for her precious reputation. I think the message is loud and clear." I was tired of talking about it already.
Vanessa's gaze softened as she pressed her lips together. She was obviously at a loss, but who could blame her? There was nothing to say to the matter. Isa didn't want to be with me, whether she had feelings for me or not.
"Just talk to her," Vanessa breathed finally, sounding a little emotional. "You deserve to be happy, Jake, and so does she. Show her that you can make her happy, and maybe she'll realize that it's what she wants."
Suddenly feeling like my mouth was as dry as the Sahara desert, I took a big gulp of my drink and squeezed my eyes shut for a moment. A lot of different things were racing through my mind all at once. I remembered the conversation I'd had with Isa and her voice when she said that she would never be happy. It was heartbreaking how she felt that she deserved all the shit that was happening to her, but I didn't know how to help her. I couldn't force her to accept my help, and she didn't want to take it.
I finally nodded. "I know," I admitted calmly. "And I've tried. But she just doesn't want to hear what I have to say."
Vanessa sighed, leaning forward, and placed her small hand on top of mine. "I know. And you're right; she doesn't want to hear it. But that doesn't mean she doesn't need to hear it. You just have to make her listen."
I blinked a few times, furrowing my eyebrows. I was confused and tired and lost for words. How could Vanessa have an answer for everything? Why couldn't I just get things and understand people like she could? To me, everything Isa said and did was a mystery that only she could explain. But to Vanessa, anything anyone said or did could be explained and solved and it frustrated me.
"I should get going," she went on, pulling her sweater back on and standing up. "My shift starts in half an hour. Go home and think about it, Jake. Okay?"
I glanced up at her briefly and then nodded, mumbling an assurance.
"See you," Vanessa said as she walked away from the table and then out the door.
I left about a minute later. The barista had called out to me as I walked out the door, wishing me a good day and smiling flirtatiously. Normally, I would have smiled back, feeling a small sense of self-pride, but I felt nothing. Cute, blonde baristas currently had no effect on me.
I climbed into my dad's car and drove out of the parking lot in silence, not even bothering to turn the radio on.
When I turned down my street and approached my house, my stomach plummeted to my feet, and I slowed down dramatically. I inched my way down the street, taking much longer than necessary, until I finally came to a stop in front of my house. I sat in the car for a moment.
Swallowing my pride and mustering all of the courage and energy I could find, I opened the car door and stepped out, closing the door behind me. After a short pause during which I closed my eyes and took a deep breath, I turned and walked about ten feet along the curb.
It was then that she spoke, not looking up at me. "I've been sitting out here for half an hour," Isa confessed embarrassedly. "I was trying to think of what I was going to say, how I was going to act." She breathed a shuddering sigh and shook her head before letting out a little laugh. "Now I'm glad that I didn't build up my courage sooner. I didn't realize you weren't here."
Without responding, I sat down on the curb next to her and stared down at my shoes. I didn't know what to say. I had just been talking about how she wanted nothing to do with me, and yet, there she was. Admittedly, it was a bit overwhelming.
"Are you going to say anything?" she asked softly, her head still lowered.
I paused then said, "Are you?" There was no bitterness in my voice, only exhaustion. The last time I had tried to talk to her, she shut me out and refused to listen. It was her turn to talk.
Isa sighed. "Yes," she said, not without a bit of annoyance. "I came to say that I'm sorry, and that I didn't mean anything I said during our last conversation, and…" she trailed off hesitantly, leaving me itching to know what she was going to say.
"And…" I prodded, turning my head slightly, almost looking up at her.
"And I ended it with Miles," Isa finished, sighing almost in relief.
My head snapped up and I finally looked at her face. "You did?" I asked, sounding a bit too hopeful and desperate. I didn't even care, though.
"Yes," she replied shortly. "And it's not because of what you said, or because of something he did. I did it because I wanted to, and because I realized how much I hate him. He's a fucking idiot. So before you start going on about happiness and shit just st –"
"I can make you happy," I blurted out, not wanting to hear what she was going to say next. I had a feeling that whatever it was wasn't something I would agree with.
Isa turned her head, keeping her eyes down. "What?"
I took a deep breath. "Isa, I can make you happy," I repeated steadily, confidently. "Please, just give me a chance." My heart sped up to an alarming rate. I felt so nervous, I thought I might puke. Her silence was only making it worse, slowly killing me.
She wasn't saying anything. I could understand a momentary pause, but it seemed like she wasn't going to respond at all. I was going to rip my hair out if she stayed quiet any longer.
"I know," she said sharply. "I just…" She didn't – or maybe couldn't – finish her thought.
Gulping, I slowly reached out and placed my hand on hers, which was resting on her knee. I wrapped my fingers around her hand tentatively and began tracing circles with my thumb over her knuckles. She didn't pull away.
"We wouldn't be good together," she told me, trying and failing to sound stern and her voice wavered. "So many things would go wrong. We would fight and stop talking for days and lash out at each other and everyone else. Hell, we can't talk for five minutes without screaming at each other.
"You're right," I agreed, moving to the edge of the curb so I could turn and face her better. "But do you want to be right, or do you want to be happy?"
Isa finally raised her head and met my gaze. I marveled at how deep and beautiful her brown eyes were. Her thick, dark lashes framed them perfectly. Hell, everything about her was perfect.
"What do you mean by all this?" she asked me softly, locking her eyes on mine so forcefully that I felt I couldn't look away even if I wanted to.
"Isa, you can't deny that there's something here," I murmured, feeling my heart in my throat, thickening my words. "I know you feel the same way about me that I feel about you. I'm done wondering what our relationship is and what I am to you. Just for once, forget about what other people will think about you and put yourself first."
There was a pause.
"Wait…what?" I stared at her in shock, certain that I had misheard her.
"Okay," she breathed, a small smile beginning to cross her lips.
My eyes widened. "O-oh, ahem, um, okay –"
Before I could come up with a coherent sentence, Isa cut off my babbling with a sudden, heated kiss. I was stunned as she placed her hand on my upper arm and ever so slightly pulled me towards her. I squeezed her hand softly, the initial shock beginning to fade, and touched my free hand to the small of her back as her lips moved against mine. It felt so good, so right.
"So, does this mean you like me now?" I asked, daring to smirk.
"Shut up," Isa retorted before kissing me again, lighter that time.
I cleared my throat when she pulled away. "Do you, uh, want to stay for dinner?" I asked her, remembering when my dad invited her to dinner all those months ago.
Isa rolled her eyes. "Sure, why not?"
I smiled and stood, taking her hands in mine and helping her up.
"So how's this going to work?" she asked as we walked down the path to my front door. "We go back to school on Tuesday," Isa added uncertainly.
I shrugged. "I guess we just see how it goes," I replied, uncertain myself. This was sure to bring up some whispers once our relationship was out in the open. I turned to her and paused before I opened the door. "But remember: it doesn't matter what everyone else thinks, alright?"
Isa nodded, smiling a little. "Right."
When Tuesday came, I woke with a nervous, yet excited, feeling in the pit of my stomach. We had decided not to wait or try to fly under the radar. The best way to get into a cold pool is always jumping right into the deep end. And that's exactly what we were going to do. Yes, I had to calm her down a little over the phone last night, but she was ready now.
I spent an extra minute or two in front of the mirror that morning, fixing up my hair for once rather than leaving the house with awful bedhead. I mussed it up in every direction, but nothing seemed to look right. I frowned at my reflection in the mirror.
Maybe I was a little worried, too. But for a different reason. Isa was nervous about what everyone else would say. I was scared that Isa would think she made a mistake and be ashamed to be seen with me. I just wanted to be enough for her.
Finally deciding that I looked as good as I could get, I left the bathroom, grabbed my backpack, and went downstairs.
"Don't you look nice this morning," my mom cooed, seeming surprised as I walked into the kitchen to make my lunch.
I rolled my eyes and opened the fridge to take out the lunch meat. "No, I don't," I muttered, turning back to the counter. Her eyes followed me as I opened the bread bag and took out two pieces to make my sandwich with.
"I'm glad to see you happy, Jake," she murmured lovingly, patting my shoulder before leaving the room.
Once I finished packing my lunch, I grabbed my dad's keys and left for school.
I pulled into the school parking lot five minutes before Isa and I had agreed to meet. I sat back in my seat, eyes glued to the lot entrance, waiting for a glimpse of her sleek black car. Five minutes passed, but I wasn't worried. Isa always liked to do things on her own time, whether she had made plans or not. Think about all the times she randomly showed up at my house without warning. She wasn't worried about anyone else's schedule but her own.
But then ten minutes went by, and then fifteen, and then I was late for class.
My head felt foggy as I climbed – and nearly stumbled – out of the car. There was a chance she was just running late, but I didn't really have any more time to wait.
She'll be here, I assured myself as I walked through the school entrance. The eagerness in my stomach had turned into unease at that point, but I shoved the worries to the back of my mind.
She would be there.
Ooh, uh oh. What do you think? Here are some questions: First and foremost - how about that kiss? ;) Long-awaited, am I right? What do you think about Jake at this point - what with his worrying about Isa being ashamed of him and all? And finally, will Isa go MIA for the millionth time, or is she just running a bit late?
SOOOO chapter thirty is the official final chapter. One more chapter. I know, I know, please hold your tears. BUT if I get TEN (or more) reviews on this chapter, I will throw in a SUPER SECRET BONUS CHAPTER at the end that I think you guys might enjoy very much - trust me. Ten reviews would put me past my goal and would make me very, very happy. So please, leave a comment, answer the questions, tell me what you think about this chapter or the whole story - anything will do! I will love you guys forever! Maybe I'll tell the reviewers what the bonus chapter will be...I guess you won't know unless you review!
Until next time, XOXO