This one-shot was inspired and based on Dashboard Confessional's "As Lovers Go" and I have incorporated some of the lyrics within the text. It was a little spur of the moment type of inspiration that happened quite some time ago and I've decided to share it.
I was eight when I met Harlan Davies. He'd approached me on the playground, asking me to help him come up with a new trend. Being a year my senior and benefiting from a good amount of popularity amongst my easily impressed friends, I could only but follow him. He wanted to do something to stand out. Maybe pull a prank, or wear something bold or come up with a new phrase. Because that was how Harlan had always been: eager to try new things and then present them to the world.
My creative eight year old mind thought of a game that would involve all the children on the playground. With wide eyes, admiration towards my God, I told Harlan of my plan. He'd quickly assimilated it and the games began.
I don't think I'd be able to tell what the game was about. But I do know two things:
1. the thing had become a phenomenon amongst our colleagues;
2. at the end of the day, Harlan grinned triumphantly, went home with the respect of all other children and denied any form of alienation with me. The idea had all been his, apparently.
He'd gone down into the playground history with an idea that wasn't even his in the first place, but no one questioned it. Everyone came flocking to Harlan and I was left to bite the dust.
I, Riley Collins, had gotten screwed over for the first time.
Nine years later and he was still an asshole, only at a larger scale. Not arrogant, just mean. Rude. Couldn't be bothered.
He was one of those seniors who made sure to pick on everyone in their way. He was one of those seniors who would make sure to get what they wanted, even if it meant stepping on other people's backs. But most of all, he was one of those older guys who had become the target of many crushes.
To top it all, Harlan was nothing but a player. And by player, I mean game addict.
And that's what made me hate him more when he dropped the bomb on me. Three weeks ago he had told me he would do anything to prove that he was the right guy for me. At the time I didn't take him seriously. It just felt like a laughable spur of the moment, one of those things you would later look back at and go 'Hey, do you remember what he said? God, we were such idiots back then!'.
But he did take himself seriously. And he did do anything in his power to make me hide under my desk or fall off my seat from then on.
PE is fine. Perfectly alright. I like sports, so it's not a big deal. But on that particular day, I really wasn't in the mood to do anything of the sort. Especially when the teacher, being the school's football coach, brought his team for a special set of training. And even more especially when one particular member of the team took a spot beside me to warm up.
"Hello, gorgeous, how-"
"Lay off the cheap pick up lines, Harlan." He shook his head and proceeded to pay attention to his warm up. At least, I thought so, until I noticed him stare at me stretching. "Do you have a death wish?"
"No, doll, my only wish is to get you to go on a date with me." He looked at me and offered a wink, to which I scowled.
Appalled by his guts, I glared at him."You're wasting your time fishing around here," I hissed, hitting his arm and walking as far away from him from possible.
Yet it wasn't far enough to prevent me from hearing his mates making whip-like noises and yelling 'She got you whipped, sugar!'.
He knew I could still hear him and even though his friends were chuckling around him, he still yelled, "You must be mistaken, I'm not fooling...this feeling is real!"
During Calculus, the door opened abruptly. Harlan stepped in.
Eyes lit up with honesty, he grinned at the laughing class. Mrs Kendall gave him a stack of papers. He sat down and began arranging them.
Once that was done, he began working around our teacher's office and for a while, kept his back to the class. A guy in the back row whistled. Harlan shook his ass. Not that it wasn't a good view.
A group of guys from the football team filled the air with their cat calls.
"What else can I do for you, Mrs. Kendall?" was his next question, delivered with a boyish smile. She fell for it.
"Aw!" the jokers of the class chorused.
She smiled, obviously swept off her feet by the charming senior. "Oh, if you wouldn't mind, could you please give those books to the class?"
He was no less excited to do so, and when he reached my table, he took his sweet ass time, pretending to have problems grabbing a book from the stack. Annoyed, I lunged for one. He saw it coming and slammed it on my desk before I could even react.
He smirked. "Here's one for you. I don't think I've told you that you're beautiful today. You're beautiful."
"What do you take me for, some easy mark?" I hissed and to my absolute shock, the arrogant smile on his face fell. He narrowed his eyes at me, shook his head and handed a book to the girl behind me.
His hand came down on my desk again and I jumped.
"I can swear to you that you've got me all wrong," he whispered, purposely placing his mouth close to my ear.
So perhaps what scared me was the way he frowned the rest of the period and kept clenching and unclenching his fist. Or maybe it was the determination I saw etched on his features as he jumped from his seat that day and helped me carry my books to my locker. Either way, when Harlan Davies showed up at my doorstep on Saturday morning in a simple shirt and jeans, with a million dollar smile and the promise to take me to an art show in the park, I was not shocked.
I was ready to say no. I was ready to smack him. But then my mother came into view and I was doomed.
"I can't believe I was sabotaged by my family," I grunted as I carefully avoided colliding into a running kid.
"I can't believe you let them sabotage you," he muttered lowly, but I heard him. "So, my sweets, what should we do now?"
"Go home?" I offered hopefully.
Harlan looked momentarily deflated, but hid it quite well as he led me through the crowd. We made little conversation, yet as we kept walking, his presence became an odd thing to me. As if when I was around him, things weren't so difficult anymore and it felt like he had the capacity to protect me.
I was positively horrified. So horrified, that I ran straight into a tall figure.
"Shit, I'm so sorry." A curse came from somewhere near me as I was pulled back to my feet. "Dude, I'm sorry, I didn't see her there."
I looked up at the stranger and found myself smiling. Messy brown hair, topaz eyes, perfect eye candy. "No, it's okay, it was my fault."
"Oh," he looked at Harlan, who was biting his tongue from saying something (which granted, was a shock). "I didn't mean to piss off your boyfriend."
"He's not my boyfriend."
"You can bet I'm fucking pissed off!" barked Harlan, taking a step closer to the guy.
"Harlan, get lost," I hissed.
I don't know which one of us was more taken aback by the ice in my tone.
He opened his mouth, then closed it. And then the shocker came when he turned around and left, mumbling something about getting us some Slushie. Cute-stranger-named-Oliver looked down, shaking his head.
"You should totally dump a Slushie over his head."
I laughed at the idea. "He'd probably kill me after that."
"Oh, but wouldn't it be worthy?" he joked. "He's not very nice."
I shrugged, because really, what could I do? Harlan had gotten really annoying over the last few days, but I realized that ignoring it would be the best solution. After all, it was just one his phases.
We sat down on one of the benches and continued to talk. Yet as I started enjoying myself, Harlan interrupted Oliver in mid-sentence.
"Hey, pal, how 'bout you take her number and leave her to me for the day?" was his instant growl.
Like a fish out of the water, I gaped at him. Oliver hesitated in doing as told and it took him a while to grasp the sarcasm in Harlan's tone. The latter became evidently annoyed when Oliver leaned over and kissed my hand.
As I thought Harlan would lunge at the newcomer's throat, Oliver stood up abruptly and left. The second I turned around, Slushie in hand, the content of the colored liquid went crashing down on Harlan's lower front.
He jumped to his feet, cursing like a sailor while staring at the front of his jeans. I followed suit, but I couldn't hold in the amusement. My laughter reached the ears of all bystanders. Harlan could not have stared at me with more shock, because suddenly, just suddenly, I forgot about all the hate I harbored for the boy and took in his amazement, which turned out to be quite the sight.
I don't know how, but then my respectful side kicked in and while giggling like mad, I began apologizing.
"I'm so sorry," I laughed and took a hold of his biceps as if to stabilize him. He stopped from jumping from one foot to another and a cheeky grin overcame his features. "I'm so sorry," I repeated and hugged him, trying my best not to touch his jeans with my own.
It felt like it was the most fun I'd had in years. Harlan could not have been more ecstatic, I later on realized.
"You do realize I should totally wreck your jeans, too, right?" he offered, his mouth close to my ear as he spoke.
Instantly I pulled away and, still grinning cheekily, I shook my head.
His arm found a position across my shoulders and as he rested his palm on my hip, I leaned in closer to him, both of us grinning from some unknown reason.
Somewhere in the middle of our fooling around, I realized the damage my Slushie had caused to Harlan's brand new Diesel jeans. I pulled away from Harlan and stared in embarrassment at the material. Ruined was not word enough to describe it. He instantly felt my disappearance from under his arm. He quirked his eyebrow at me, confused.
"Holy fuck, those jeans were new, Harlan!" I exploded. "Ah, shit, I'm so sorry..."
His relaxed features changed as a frown appeared. "Stop it. They're just jeans."
"Just jeans? They're bloody expensive!"
His hand gripped one of my shoulders and pulled me flat against him yet again. "I'm serious, knock it off," he growled. "Money is not a damn problem, okay? So drop it. It's fine. It was good fun." And he offered me a cheeky grin, which I found myself returning.
Wait. I hated Harlan. Yes, I hated Harlan. Harlan was my enemy.
But Harlan was warm and held me like he could forever cradle me, away from the world. Harlan's smile was amazing. And I meant Harlan's real smile, the way he grinned when something made him happy. For once, he seemed honest.
I liked Harlan like this, even though I hated him. What sort of sense did that make?
His arm stayed there for what seemed like centuries and our sides seemed to be glued together, but neither of us bothered to point it out. We walked like that through the park and we entered the local art gallery like that.
"I would have thought your revenge plan would be somewhat more creative, but come on, a Slushie?" he joked at some point in our walk.
I tilted my head to the side as I tried to interpret a strange looking painting. I chuckled lightly. "Yeah," I agreed, turning to him, "seems like Oliver really got to me with his suggestion to dump the Slushie."
His face suddenly turned from relaxed to angry. He clenched his jaw and looked away with narrowed eyes. He crossed his arms over his chest, no longer touching me.
"Oliver suggested it, huh?"
He began walking quickly in the direction of the exit. Unfortunately for us, there were plenty of other people trying to get out or buy a souvenir from the front desk, so we got caught in the crowd. I couldn't believe my eyes as I watched Harlan breathe heavily. And what hit me straight in the chest was the pain in his eyes. He looked ready to kill, or even worse, cry.
"Are you kidding me?!" I yelled over the noise, pushing a guy out of my way. "So, what, now you're suddenly angry because I mentioned Oliver?"
"Fuck sakes," he grunted while pushing his way to the exit.
"Harlan, what the hell?"
He turned around at lightning speed and faced me, but the words just wouldn't come out of his mouth because of how angry he'd gotten. A strange, stinging sensation made its presence somewhere in the region of my heart as I watched him throw himself on an abandoned chair, place his elbows on his knees and cover his face with his hands. No one in the massive crowd noticed him.
I found myself pushed around by strangers, so I took a step back and attached myself to the wall facing his chair. And then I watched him in silence. He didn't move, just kept inhaling and exhaling heavily, like it was the hardest thing he had to do.
Five minutes after that, the crowd began dissipating. The hall grew empty and I found my heart mirroring that state. A few seconds later, I gave up and just as he looked up, I stepped towards the exit.
"I'm going home," I announced loudly and hoped he'd heard me.
I didn't even give him time to grow aware of his surroundings, just stepping out in the sunlight and heading home with lightning speed.
I walked home that day and spent the rest of the weekend at home, either watching movies, reading or listening to music and all the while, the only thing I could think of was Harlan's warmth. All the way to Monday morning I had inner conflicts, asking myself if the fault was mine, if I should even be bothered by it, if common sense was worth considering and all other sorts of similar arguments.
Come said Monday morning, I was tired and rather sad. My small group of friends looked shocked when they saw me bright and early.
"You look like crap."
"Gee, thanks, Jase."
I saw Harlan at lunch that day, sitting with his usual group of buddies. I would have liked to believe that something was off, that he looked like he was feeling the slightest remorse, but that would have been a lie.
"You should talk to him," Kate's voice interrupted me. She looked at me suppportively and did her best not to draw any unwanted attention.
Truthfully, a part of me was aching to go up to his table and yell at him, but at the same time, I realized how his friends would treat me if I dared to approach them.
"And say what?" I asked rhetorically. "His fan club's probably dying to get their hands on a new prey."
"You're not new prey. Everyone's seen Harlan's interest for you."
I looked up like a suddenly alert puppy. "Who said anything about a particular interest?"
Always one in search of explanations, she gave me a pointed look. "Then why would he go over his head to get your attention during classes and then take you out in the park and then to an art museum?"
"So he can pester me as much as he wants?"
"For someone so smart, you sure are dumb," Kate grunted before leaning back in her seat with a disapproving look.
So maybe it was Kate's conviction, my thrill seeking, my curiosity that knew no boundaries, or maybe all of the above that had me walking across the cafeteria towards the large table overflowing with population and noise. Or maybe I was just dumb to think that I would go unnoticed.
"You lost, loser?"
They roared with laughter and suddenly, a dark haired head turned around to see, the laughter in his eyes dying immediately as two pairs of hazel orbs met.
"What do you want?" a familiar blonde questioned from Harlan's side.
I swallowed hard, frozen in place. Who was I kidding? I was in for a social death.
Harlan's eyebrows shot up, urging me to say something.
"I need to talk to you."
All at once, his friends howled and 'ooh's came from around the table. Then followed the inevitable "Get lost!". But Harlan's features had softened, I thought and he stood up immediately, nodding towards the exit door. That automatically silenced the group, all of them falling into shushed conversations, shooting me confused and mostly disgusted glances.
Harlan's black t-shirt spoke volumes today. It had the simplest, yet most noticeable message ever: "I'm a Jerk," it said, in big white letters. I found myself staring at it dumbly, the corners of my lips turning upwards as we faced each others in the school's hallway.
He took notice of that and smirked.
"I'm setting a new trend," he explained. "Message t-shirts."
I nodded, slightly enthusiastic about the idea. "I like that," was my pleasing admission. He leaned back against the lockers and looked at me questioningly. "I wanted to apologize," I went on, looking away from him. "I'm sorry for making you upset this Friday. Having said that, Harlan, you really had absolutely no fucking right! If I like Oliver, than that's my problem, not something concerning you!"
He looked crestfallen. I'd never seen him like that before, but I was positive of the look he was giving me. He licked his lips and bitterness overcame shock.
"You really don't get it, do you?"
His bitterness was contagious. "No, I'm sorry, I don't get it. I don't get why you really have to make everyone's lives a living hell. I don't get why you're always such a jerk. Please, enlighten me, Harlan, because I don't get it!"
"You're such a bitch!" he snarled. My jaw dropped. "You just have to twist everything around and-and distort reality! What if I was jealous, huh?" he yelled in despair. "I flirt with you, you yell at me for being a jerk. Oliver comes on to you like the biggest sleaze and you do what? You smile! And what about this weekend, huh? You put down your fucking walls, you let me hold you and the next thing I know you start talking about some other dude. What is your problem?!"
I was about to yell something back, but then I realized there was nothing I could yell back. The bell rang and his glare hardened. The cafeteria doors opened and his friends appeared by his side.
"Harlan, come on, dude."
He nodded to them, then fixed me with a cold stare. "One more thing, Ri: I don't make everyone's life a living hell. Only yours. Keep that in mind."
Those were the last words he spoke to me that week, because as days passed, I saw no more of Harlan. Kate, the resourceful girl she was, told me that his group had started having lunch outside. She wondered why and although I couldn't bring myself to tell her, she understood.
But Harlan Davies was off my back. Harlan Davies stopped showing up in the middle of my classes. Harlan Davies stopped teasing me.
Harlan Davies was the one guy I began missing.
The entire week Kate greeted me with one simple phrase: "You like him."
On Tuesday I told her not to be stupid.
On Wednesday I mumbled a simple 'No'.
On Thursday I shrugged and could no longer deny it.
Inevitably, I began thinking of all the facts that Harlan had exposed to me. And I dared think (very boldly) that he liked me in the slightest. Kate was positive about that and as minutes passed, I was growing more sure of that, too. After all, I wasn't that stupid.
And as that realization hit me, I couldn't help but fantasize of all the possibilities. If he liked me, too, then would we always be happy like we were in the park?
"I honestly love your t-shirt," Kate confessed on Friday morning as she read the words on my chest.
Over the days, Harlan had actually succeeded in setting a new trend. T-shirts with all sorts of messages were the coolest thing now.
"Thanks, but I ain't sharing."
She chuckled and continued to help me scan the crowd for one particular person. Harlan walked out of one of the nearest classes, all by himself.
We locked gazes over the mass of heads. His eyes narrowed, but I pretended not to notice as I proudly sported my t-shirt, its message simple: I get it. I got that I had messed up. I got that he honestly liked me. I got that we should at least try. I got that we deserved even the smallest of chances.
We stared at each other for the longest of seconds. And then he turned around and walked away.
It was the first time in years that I actually felt heavy disappointment weigh down on my shoulders. It was for the first time in years that I actually went home with a long face and puffy eyes. My resolution of the day: give up on the male species. To honor said resolution, I plopped myself in front of the TV and began a movie marathon night just as the bell rang.
"Honey, go get the door, will you?" I heard my mom call from her beloved kitchen. Judging by the noises coming from said room, she was in the middle of cooking experiments.
I did as told, abandoning the safety of the living room couch. And once the door was opened, my heart did a back flip.
Harlan said nothing as he looked me up and down, just grinned sheepishly when he took off his jacket. His black t-shirt read:
This is easy as lovers go,
So don't complicate it by hesitating.
I covered my smile with my hand. He took the chance to grab the hem of his t-shirt and for a second I thought I was going to die of a heart attack as he took it off. But underneath it was another shirt.
You've got wits, you've got looks, you've got passion...
I quirked my eyebrow. He kept his face blank and turned around.
...but are you brave enough to leave with me tonight?
Harlan's eyes held the same question as he took a step closer to me. I wanted to ask him if I were to say yes to him, then where would he take me, but I knew that he wasn't going to give me a straight answer.
"I'll go change into something more...appealing," I chuckled.
His laughter reached my ears way after he had grabbed my elbow. I fell flush against his chest, but the awkwardness I had been expecting wasn't there. He smiled honestly down at me, placing his other hand on the back of my neck.
"You're plenty appealing as you are," he muttered, then tucked a strand of hair behind my ear. "Does this mean you give in to my unearthly charm?"
I pinched his arm, but nodded nevertheless.
"You may have got me all wrong, but at least you've got me, doll," he stated in that cocky, yet playful manner of his.
"You're still a jerk to me." I stuck my tongue out at him.
He grinned then leaned in. His lips caught mine and when they molded against each other, the whole world disappeared.
Because as lovers go, Harlan and I could not get along easier.