... Wow sorry guys. I just started school to be a pharmacist and I did not expect a professional program to leave me zero zero zero free time. Yeah I guess I should have known better... Oops. Here's a chapter for now but I'm sorry to say that I won't be able to update much until Christmas, when I'm hoping to pound out the rest of this sucker.
In case you forgot what this story is about: Jess's brother Jimmy dies unexpectedly at a young age and in the aftermath she struggles to get a grip. She has a hit and run incident with her biology professor, Charlie. There is an obvious attraction between the two but they dance around it until they finally get together. Jess's best friend is Logan, who was friends with Jimmy. Lately Logan has been out of the picture now that he has a girlfriend, Mel. In the last chapter, Jess gets caught with Charlie by Logan.
I should have been questioning why Logan was standing at my doorstep waiting for me well past midnight, but instead I found myself at a sudden loss for words.
He had seen Charlie and I kissing. He knew. He knew and he was angry.
"I knew something was off when I heard a rumor you were spending all of your time with Bree," he muttered coldly, frowning. His entire face was distorted into a look sterner than any I had ever seen from him. "Then I swing by, and lo and behold, your parents claim that you are with Bree again. I wasn't buying it."
I felt a rising irritation as I watched Logan self-righteously condemn me. We both knew he had seen me with Charlie just now. He was only trying to hurt me by taking me through the play-by-play.
"Is it so impossible that I might be spending time with Bree?" I retorted hotly, scowling right back at Logan. How quickly our friendship had deteriorated from being inseparable to regarding each other with disdain. "You just disappeared."
"We were supposed to have every class together!" Logan shot back, suddenly raising his voice. It echoed noisily in the strange acoustics of my alleyway. "You failed, you stopped giving a shit, and you failed. What was I supposed to do, let you drag me down with you?"
"This isn't about school," I snapped back, my temper getting the better of me as my patience wore thin. "School isn't the reason we stopped seeing each other, Mel is."
"Oh give it up," Logan bit back irritably. "You think I don't know that you go around running your mouth off about my relationship with Mel? She isn't the problem here. If you weren't so fucked up you would be happy for me."
His words stung, but I held strong, not flinching as he spat them my way. The screaming match between us that I had prior craved wasn't panning out in a way that was consoling. If anything, I felt worse than ever, knowing that this would only escalate; knowing that soon we would be hurling words at the other that couldn't be taken back.
"Christ Jess, how far does this go?" Logan continued, cursing in a way so unusual for him. "Did you fail his class on purpose?" I moved to retort, but he wasn't finished. "Don't you see how wrong this is? How can you sleep with your professor?" He uttered the last sentence as though it sickened him. As though I sickened him.
"It's not like that," I said, this time quietly. I couldn't bring myself to utter the truth aloud to Logan, the truth that I wasn't sleeping with Charlie. How did I begin to explain my relationship with Charlie to Logan, when I barely understood it myself? How did I tell him about the part where I was pretty sure I was falling in love with him? About how he had picked me up when I was crashing down. How he had made me feel whole and right and safe again, for the first time in longer than I could remember.
"I don't care what it is, it's wrong," Logan decided firmly. "He's a teacher and you're a student. You need to end it."
It was too far past a point where ending it was an option I might consider. I regarded Logan with a solemn stare and slowly shook my head.
"Jess, you can't be serious," Logan uttered in disbelief. "You can't actually think this is okay?"
No, it wasn't okay. Charlie was nine years older. We had only met because he was my biology professor. He was a recovering alcoholic. By no means was it right for us to be together.
But it had happened. We had both crossed that line. It was too late to take things back now.
And more than that, I didn't want to.
"This is the first time I've felt happy since Jimmy has been gone," I all but whispered. Maybe it didn't excuse my actions. Maybe it didn't excuse Charlie's. But I had spent far too long being afraid to move on to shut down a step forward.
Logan's face contorted further into an unforgiving glare. "What is wrong with you?" He spat, disgusted. "How can you drag Jimmy into this? How dare you tarnish his memory by trying to use him as a scapegoat to justify whatever inappropriate relationship you are pursuing with our professor."
I opened my mouth to defend myself, but Logan wasn't having it.
"If Jimmy were still here, he would be disgusted if he knew his older sister was sleeping with someone that should be his teacher," he continued harshly. For most of our argument, he couldn't even look at me, but now he regarded me with a steely stare that was cold and unforgiving.
"Maybe you're right," I acknowledged, "but Jimmy isn't here. He's gone." My voice cracked as I spoke, betraying me, but I didn't stop. "I know you loved him just as much as I did, but I'm not as strong as you; I couldn't get past it. And I'll never quite understand exactly how he did it, but Charlie pulled me out of that rut. Maybe because of that, I don't see him as someone who was my professor or someone that is older than me or someone that is off limits. I need him, Logan."
It was a rare moment for me to be so frank with Logan. In fact, it was rare that I ever let anyone see me this vulnerable. It was precisely because of this that I felt a sudden pang of sadness in the pit of my stomach as I failed to see Logan's features soften. As he regarded me in the artificial orange glow of the nearby street lamp, his expression was as hostile as ever.
"You don't need him, Jess." He told me. "You're fucked up over Jimmy and you're letting him take advantage of you."
I thought of Charlie. How he had so firmly insisted it was wrong at first. How hard he had fought to keep us apart. How all of that had crumbled. Neither of us had ever stood a chance.
There was no realm in which I could ever believe that Charlie was taking advantage of me. At nearly every turn it had been me pushing forward and Charlie holding things back. No one I had dated in the past had ever treated with me with the same respect and compassion. I didn't utter any of this aloud, knowing now that arguing with Logan was futile. His judgment had been cast. He had made up his mind.
"I'm sorry I didn't tell you the truth, Logan," I said quietly. "That's all I'm sorry for."
"What you're doing is wrong," Logan said resolutely.
I was done fighting. I stared back at him, as if to ask him if he had anything else to say. He could let me have it, but he wasn't going to elicit any more of an aggravated reaction from me.
He shot me one final disapproving look, and then walked away, shaking his head.
After he was gone, I let out a shaky breath. I wasn't sure if the confrontation could have possibly gone worse. The image of his unrelenting resentful stare hung insistently in my conscience; Logan's face contorted with anger was not one I was accustomed to.
I walked mechanically into the apartment which was engulfed in darkness. A note on the fridge explained that my parents had decided to take a last minute weekend trip up North.
For a moment, I was temporarily relieved of all thoughts regarding the fiasco that had just occurred with Logan. My parents were out for the weekend. How long had it been since they had allowed themselves to go away for a weekend trip?
My thoughts then wandered down the dangerous trail that led to Jimmy. Was Logan right? Would Jimmy hate me if he were here? Was I using Jimmy as a scapegoat to justify the relationship with Charlie?
The truth was that I had no idea what any of this would mean to Jimmy. He was gone before I ever knew how he felt about relationships. It would forever remain a mystery.
But wouldn't he want me to be happy? Or would he feel the same as Logan, and believe my judgment was clouded?
I thought of happy memories. Of trips up North that we took as a family. Of squeezing the four of us onto our couch and watching our favorite film, The Fugitive, more times than I cared to admit. Of simpler times. I knew back then that I was happy.
What I felt now with Charlie didn't seem different. It didn't feel imagined or clouded or wrong.
I had spent the recent past feeling scared that I might be falling for Charlie. Now, a stronger and more insistent fear plagued me: a fear that someone might stop us from being together.
I stared at the note from my parents for a moment longer, and then reached for my phone.
"Is everything okay?" Charlie answered after three rings, sounding concerned from across the line.
"No," I answered, surprised when my voice shook. "I don't want to be alone tonight."
"I'll be there in ten minutes," he said.
We were silent in the car ride back to his place. I didn't know how to begin to approach breaching the subject of Logan finding out with Charlie. His tired eyes remained focused on the road.
As we stepped into his apartment, he set his keys down noisily on the counter and turned to look at me. Beneath the fatigue, his apprehension was evident. He wore sweats and a tattered blue t-shirt, evidence that he had likely been sleeping when I called. He wordlessly stepped forward and engulfed me into a hug. I had been in his arms mere hours ago, but the action was as comforting as if I hadn't seen him in days.
"What happened?" He asked after several minutes had passed.
"Logan saw us," I said, abandoning any hope of softening the blow.
Charlie predictably stiffened against me. "Shit," he cursed, moving away from me and placing his hands on my shoulders as his eyes met mine. They searched mine carefully. "Is he going to tell?"
"I don't know," I replied truthfully. "He was mad."
Charlie sighed, visibly distraught. "I don't want anyone to tell me I can't be with you."
I leaned forward and kissed him. He did not loosen against me as I hoped. "I don't want that either," I told him.
Charlie collapsed onto the couch and exhaled loudly. "You know him best," he said. "Do you think he will talk?"
My gut instinct would have been to say no, but the image of Logan's heated glare was hard to ignore. "He might," I admitted. "I've never seen him like that."
I watched Charlie and instantly regretted my honesty. "I let this happen," he said, his words laced with self-loathing. He rubbed his forearm distractedly, eyes distressed. "I went after you when I should know better."
I felt a flash of anger ignite in the pit of my stomach. "Stop it," I snapped. "Don't say that. Damn it, Charlie, I love you. I can't listen to you hate yourself for being with me."
I only realized what I had said after the fact, when Charlie's brazen eyes met mine rather suddenly in alarm.
"Shit, I mean-" I began backpedalling, but Charlie stood up and took hold of my wrist, effectively cutting my words short. I followed him as he gently tugged me towards his room. He shut the door behind us, and then pulled me flush against him.
"Just for right now, forget that he saw, and forget what he might do," Charlie murmured. He had rather unexpectedly shifted gears and was now calm and determined. He looked at me as though he had already forgotten that mere moments ago he had been troubled. He looked at me as though every problem could wait. I found myself starting to relax in his embrace.
Still, my unanticipated declaration hung uncomfortably in the air between us. "Charlie, I-"
Charlie shook his head, and again, my words were cut short. "I love you, Jess," he spoke assertively, blue eyes certain. "The rest can wait until morning."
Any last shred of anxiety dissipated instantly. We held a brief but compelling stare, and within a moment, we had collapsed onto his bed, our lips meeting as his hands burned at my waist.
Charlie seemed to relinquish control, pulling me decisively against him and groaning lowly as I kissed his neck. He moved in a way that was heated and strong, but still paused to gently tuck my hair away from where it fell near our faces.
I let myself get lost in his touch, every worry a universe away. They could all wait until morning.
I awoke feeling like the night before had all been a strange dream. I opened my eyes to take in the morning sun peeking through Charlie's gray curtains. He had one arm strewn comfortably across my waist, holding me against him.
Despite the disaster that had been my argument with Logan, I felt calm and secure in Charlie's arms, so close to him that I could feel his breath at the crook of my neck. I smiled, hoping he wouldn't choose this moment to open his eyes.
The buzzer of his apartment suddenly sounded, jolting Charlie awake. He groaned reluctantly, burrowing his face into my shoulder. "Whoever it is, they can wait," he grumbled, kissing the exposed skin. He tightened his hold at my waist, pulling me closer against him still. His skin was warm and soft against mine. "Why don't we just stay here all day," he murmured, pressing his lips against my shoulder again, and then moving to kiss my neck.
The buzzer sounded again.
"Someone has a different plan," I mumbled, shifting to face him. I kissed him slowly and deliberately.
I stopped when the buzzer sounded for a third time. Charlie groaned again. "This isn't fair," he muttered, eyeing the door of his room half-heartedly.
A handful of seconds passed before it buzzed again for a fourth and fifth time.
Charlie finally climbed out of bed. He grabbed his t-shirt from where it lay discarded on the floor, threw it on, and then leaned forward to smack his lips noisily against mine. "Don't move," he instructed, grinning playfully. He retreated from his room, appearing to be ready to answer the door in only his boxers and crumpled shirt.
I listened carefully, making out that there were two people at the door, their voices unfamiliar and their words indecipherable through the walls. Charlie's voice was stern and short, immediately setting off a sense of foreboding in the pit of my stomach.
A few minutes later, I heard Charlie's footsteps returning to his room. As he opened the door, it only took one look at him to know something was wrong. The spirited look on his face had vanished and was replaced with one of dread.
"Get dressed," he let out in a defeated tone. "My parents are here. It would appear that Logan has spoken with them."