Camelia didn't even realize that she had let Mason talk her into attending a party. Again. The last time she went to a party was a month ago, where she swore it was the last time that she would let Mason guilt trip her into accompanying him to another party. And yet here she was, standing in her bathroom, gazing her messy appearance. In her left hand, she cradled her phone while she wondered how she was going to get ready for the party with only thirty minutes left before the party started.
"Maybe I could just skip out of the party," Camelia mused to Bella, her friend who was currently on the other end of the line.
"You promised Mason you would go though," Bella pointed out.
"But he knows how much I hate parties so why does he keep making me go to one?" Camelia retorted, setting down her phone and putting it on speaker. Pushing all notions of bailing on Mason out of her head, she picked up her brush and started to run it through her tangled hair.
"He didn't make you if you agreed to go," Bella pointed out, always the voice of reason. Sometimes, Camelia hated how Bella would point out all the little flaws in her logic, but she was accustomed to it by now. "Besides, you need to go to block off all the other girl's advances on him." Camelia made a face when she heard Bella's comment.
"We're just friends," Camelia said, placing an emphasis on the word friends, "I'm pretty sure every girl knows this and wouldn't believe it for a second even if I pretended to be Mason's girlfriend." Bella laughed, the kind of laugh that meant, I know something you don't.
"Sure, sure, if that's what you want to believe," Bella said, light-heartedly, "Almost everyone in our group is going to be there so it's a shame if you don't show."
"Fine," Camelia said, ignoring the implications of the first part of Bella's reply, "I'll see you there." With that, Camelia hung up, knowing she would get reprimanded later by Bella for hanging up on her. But she had officially twenty-two minutes to get ready and head over to the frat party. No time to lose.
By the time Camelia arrived to the party, it was already in full swing with the music blaring and drunk people milling about. Camelia wrinkled her nose at the stench of beer as she pushed her way through the throngs of people in an attempt to locate a familiar face. But she couldn't see anything since she practically the shortest person among them.
Camelia cursed when a drunk person jostled her, sending her careening towards the floor. Much to her surprise instead of feeling her butt come in contact with the hard floor, she felt a pair of arms wrapped around her waist, pulling her upright. A familiar chuckle filled her ear as he let go of her.
"How did you find me?" Camelia asked, turning around to face him.
"I have my ways," Mason replied. Camelia rolled her eyes at his cryptic response, letting him lead her through the crowd. He lead her down a dimly lit hallway, until he stopped right before the next to last door on the right side. Camelia wore a questioning look and Mason noticed it, but he didn't clarify. Instead, he opened the door, revealing their group of friends seated in a circle on the floor, clearly leaving enough space for the two of them.
"You come to a party to play Spin the Bottle?" Camelia commented, laughing as she eyed the empty beer bottle that laid in the middle.
"The college edition," Mason replied, gesturing to the kegs of beer off to the side of the room. Camelia wrinkled her nose at that; she didn't drink and neither did Mason, unless he started in the last few hours.
"Come on Cam!" David called, "We're all legal drinking age. Live a little." Camelia didn't want to play, now knowing that drinking would be involved, but Mason nudged her forward to take her spot in the circle. She complied, sitting down next to Bella and Mason on her left side.
"We're playing Truth or Dare," Tim announced, his hand on the bottle, "If you refuse to accept the dare or say the truth, then you'll chug a beer. Clear?" Among their group, Mason was the champion of Truth or Dare since he always accepted every single dare and he never shied away from the truth. Camelia only wished that she could be that daring.
Her eyes were glued onto the bottle as Tim spun it. Camelia mentally sighed in relief when it landed on Kaylie, a pretty blonde who was a year above Camelia.
She smirked in confidence when she replied that she wanted to do a dare. Tim's grin grew wider as he turned to David and Fred to discuss an appropriate dare. If it were Camelia, she would have chosen truth since those three were known to make embarrassing dares.
"We all know you have a crush on Evan, so I dare you to confess to him and kiss him. Oh and no running away, you have to stay and face his reaction. Do it in front of his girlfriend too; Fred saw them walk into the party together," Tim dared. Upon hearing the dare, Kaylie's face paled.
"You bastard," Kaylie said before taking a red cup from Tim. She chugged the whole thing in seconds. Tim wore a self-satisfying smirk on his face to which Kaylie returned with a glare.
Kaylie spun the bottle and once again Camelia dreaded having the bottle landing on her. Although, it wouldn't be as bad since it wasn't Tim's turn. Just as she feared, the top of the bottle pointed straight her. Camelia let out a defeated sigh, before muttering that she wanted truth. Kaylie's face lit up, almost as if Camelia had fallen into her scheme. She did.
"You and Mason seem pretty tight,." Kaylie started and Camelia internally groaned. She knew where this was going, since everyone was so adamant that Camelia and Mason had a crush on each other. "Do you feel sexually frustrated around Mason?"
"What? No," Camelia sputtered out, her face already turning bright red. She could feel the heat on her cheeks. Camelia could hear Mason laughing besides her, but she was focused on the all-knowing smirk on Kylie's face.
"Camelia is my best friend, of course we're tight. Can't a guy and a girl be friends without being a couple?" Mason commented rhetorically. Kaylie didn't seem fazed by his comment.
"If the two of you say so. Your turn, Cam." Camelia reached out to spin the bottle, and it landed on her again. She spun again and this time; it landed on Tim. Tim grinned, knowing that he was going to get off easily since Camelia wasn't the best at asking embarrassing questions or making dares.
"Dare, of course," Tim replied. He rarely chose truth, since he wasn't fond of revealing personal information in a game. Camelia was at a loss; she didn't know what she could dare him to do, so she turned to Mason, silently pleading with her eyes for him to help her. Mason leaned over to whisper in her ear.
"Tell him to dance naked on top of a table in the main room completely sober for five minutes. And he can't close his eyes." Camelia's eyes widened at Mason's suggestion. She didn't know that Mason was capable of being this cruel. Instead of taking Mason's suggestion, Camelia settled for an easier dare. She knew the harsher the dare that she gave to Tim, he would return in tenfold when he had the chance.
"Drink the whole bottle of beer in one go."
"That's easy, Cam," Tim said before he proceeded to down the entire bottle. He even tipped the bottle over to show that the contents were emptied out. "Should have gone with whatever Mason said to you." Camelia merely shook her head as she watched Tim spin the bottle for the second time of the night. She almost thought it was going to land on her, but it moved a bit more to land on Mason.
"Dare." Camelia almost wanted to bury her face in her hands. Why did no one ever know to not take a dare from Tim? Added onto the fact that Mason never rejected a dare…
"Kiss Cam on the lips for two minutes." Camelia blushed, not daring to look at Mason to see his reaction. Considering it was Tim, Mason got off easily with this dare and Camelia was ready to comply with the dare when she heard Mason asking for the beer. She turned to look at him, but he wouldn't meet her gaze as he downed the entirety of the cup. He wore a bitter look on his face after he finished, looking like he thoroughly regretted taking the drink.
Was he so revolted by the thought of kissing me that he would take the beer? Camelia thought to herself, feeling sad and confused at the same time.
"Whoa man, first time you drank beer," Tim commented, "Why?"
Mason looked at Camelia out of the corner of his eye before replying, "She deserves more than to have her first kiss taken by a stupid dare." Unintentionally, he confessed her lack of a love life while answering the question that was plaguing her mind.
When it was time to go, Mason walked her all the way to the front door of her apartment. During the entire time, she wondered if she should bring up the topic of the kiss or not. When Mason turned to walk across the hall to his own apartment, she gathered enough courage to ask him.
"Why didn't you kiss me? I wouldn't have minded, you know. I know how much you hate beer."
"I already told you why. You deserve better than that. Good night, Camelia."
Mason cursed when he woke up running a high fever in the middle of the night. With all his strength, he left his bed and stumbled to the kitchen. He rummaged through his cabinet for fever medication in the dark, knowing that turning on the light would hurt his eyes. After swallowing the pill, he went back to bed, not able the find the strength to grab a wet washcloth to place on his forehead like his mother always had. If he had walked another step, he felt that he would collapsed on the floor. His drowsiness quickly overtook him and he promptly fell asleep.
"Mason." He didn't stir, thinking that the fever was making him delirious and hear voices that weren't there.
"Mason." There was that voice again. His fever must have been higher than he thought. Maybe it hadn't been such a good idea to run home in the pouring rain last night.
"Mason!" the voice yelled, a pair of hands roughly shaking his shoulders. His eyes shot open to see a figure sitting on his bed.
"Camelia?" She reached over to prop his pillow up and assisted him in sitting up. After the sleepiness in his eyes receded, Mason could make out the worry in Camelia's eyes. She was looking at him almost like he was going to die, like the worry wart that she always was.
"You weren't in class," Camelia said, "You didn't answer the door either so I let myself in." It took Mason a few moments to register what she was saying.
"What time is it?"
"It's three in the afternoon. Is it time to take your medicine?" Mason mustered the effort to smile at how well Camelia could tell what he was thinking. Barely a second after his confirmation, Camelia shoved a glass of water and a pill on his face. Wordlessly, Mason took it and swallowed, washing the pill down with water. He nodded his thanks before laying back down to get some more rest.
"Well I made some soup for you," Mason heard Camelia say, "Looks like you're too tired to eat anything, so I'll put it in the fridge. If you want it, just heat it up okay? I left the medicine on your night stand so when it's time to take your medicine again you can just reach over and grab it." Camelia reminded him of his own mother, always feeling the need to give long instructions before she left.
"Wait, are you leaving?" Mason croaked, his throat feeling dry and itchy. He reached over and grabbed the glass, drinking the rest of the water. His throat felt much better after that.
"Well, I promised Bella that I would hang out with her after I came to check up on you," Camelia replied, "But I can cancel and stay if you want. I feel uneasy leaving you here." If he wasn't sick right now, he would have hugged Camelia already.
"Idiot, you don't have to stay here with me," Mason replied, "All I'm going to do is sleep anyways. Go have fun with Bella." Before she opened her mouth, Mason already knew that she was going to protest. He held a hand up to silence her before he had to listen to her protests.
"Fine," Camelia said, "Take care of yourself okay?" Mason nodded in agreement. When he heard Camelia leaving the room and shutting the door behind her, he let himself relax. Before he knew it, he had fallen asleep again.
When he woke up again, his fever had receded and he felt much better already. His clock showed him that it was 3:32 in the morning. He slept through almost an entire day, minus waking up to take his medication. When he sat up to get out of bed, a washcloth fell from his forehead, landing in his lap. He stared at it, puzzled.
It wasn't there earlier, right? he questioned himself, but he couldn't come up with a clear, definite answer. Shrugging, Mason tossed the washcloth into his laundry basket. He picked up the glass of water and medicine that Camila had left behind back to the kitchen.
When he stepped out of his room, his stomach growled loudly. He chuckled to himself, at least it wasn't in the middle of class. Camelia would surely make fun of him for it. Once in his kitchen, he rummaged through his cupboards for a quick snack, but groaned when he realized that they were all empty. Yesterday was his day for getting groceries, but he had spent the whole day in bed. He was about to grab his keys for a quick run to the store when he remembered Camelia saying something about soup. He made a mental note to thank Camelia later; she was his life savior.
While he waited for the soup to heat up, he wandered to the living room to clean up some of the mess he made two days ago. He reached to turn on the light, but stopped when he spotted someone lying on his couch. Much to his surprise, the DVDs that had been scattered about were neatly stacked on the coffee table and the empty glasses were nowhere to be seen. The figure stirred slightly, but didn't appear to wake up as he approached the couch.
"Camelia," Mason whispered upon recognizing the figure. Of course it would be her, he should have known that she wouldn't have followed his directions and leave him. Shaking his head, he picked her up bridal style, careful to not wake her up. Mason carried her to the guest room, gently depositing her onto the bed. Camelia shifted onto her side and reached out into the air to grab onto the blanket. When her hands touched nothing, she settled them back to her sides. Mason grabbed the edge of the blanket and pulled it over her, covering everything except her head.
"Good night, Camelia."
When Camelia woke up the next morning, she found a note at her bedside.
I'm feeling much better now. Thank you for the soup and for taking care of me. Breakfast is on the table and the coffee is already brewed. Be back soon. -Mason
Camelia sighed when she glanced at the weather app on her phone. It was Saturday and she originally planned to go jogging but it was going to rain the entire night. Almost all of her friends had plans tonight, so she couldn't invite anyone over. Even Mason said earlier on the phone that he was invited to a night out with his guy friends. Knowing that Camila had no plans, he had invited her, but she declined, citing that it was their night out. She didn't fancy being the odd one out in the group.
Since Camelia was a child, she never liked to be alone during a thunderstorm. Thunder always made her agitated and seeing a flash of lightning brought back unwanted memories. But she'd have to conquer her fear one day since it was impossible to have someone keep her accompanied every time it rained.
"Come on Camelia," she said, giving herself a pep talk, "You're a grown-up now. There's nothing to be afraid of and besides, imagine Mason's face when he realizes that I'm not scared of thunderstorms anymore. And he can finally stop teasing me about it!" The more she talked, the more confident she felt. However, all of that flew right out of the window when a loud clap of thunder made Camelia jump. The lights flickered for a moment and she feared for the worst, but luckily the lights stayed on.
Her phone sounded. She sat down on her couch, hugging the pillow as she grabbed her phone off of the table. The phone's screen lit up, revealing that it was Bella, giving her an update about her date. Camelia gave a halfhearted reply; she couldn't think straight while listening to the claps of thunders that got progressively louder.
Camelia turned on the TV, turning on the volume much higher than she normally would in attempt to drown out the sounds of thunder. Surely she was going to get a complaint from her neighbors, but she didn't care at the moment. The old lady that lived next door to her seemed to have a problem against young people and she would dive at the chance to get her kicked out of the apartment complex. Luckily, the owner was much more sympathetic to the younger generation…
A knock at her door jolted her out of her thoughts. She knew it had to be the old lady coming to complain about the TV volume, who else would it be? Defeatedly, she dragged herself off of her couch and walked to open the front door.
"Look, I'm sorry for-"
"Sorry for what?" a deep voice cut her off.
"Mason?" Camelia asked incredulously, "You're suppose to be out!" Mason ignored her comment and shouldered his way through into her apartment. She rolled her eyes at his behavior and shut the door behind him. Already, he was making himself at home by rummaging through her fridge and pulling out a Coke.
"So?" Camelia prodded, her foot tapping against the floor impatiently.
"I was out," Mason replied, "But I came back. What is there to know about that?" Camelia wanted to huff in frustration; he clearly knew what she meant, but now he was just dodging her question. She decided that being blunt was the way to go.
"You told me you were going out for the entire night and now it's only six o'clock and you're here," Camelia insisted, knowing that Mason didn't bail on his friends without reason. Thinking upon it, he never really bailed on her ever before. Always, it had been her who cancelled or left early, but never him.
"Can't I spend time with my best friend?" Mason took a sip out of the can while his dark eyes stared at her intently.
"You don't bail on your friends without reason," Camelia pointed out. At this, Mason's lips curved into a small smile. He didn't bother to reply to her point; he opted for brushing past her in the kitchen and making his way to the living room. He took a seat where Camelia had been sitting before she got up to answer the door. She huffed, knowing that she wasn't going to get an answer out of Mason.
Silently, she took a seat next to him on the couch, keeping a larger distance between the two of them than usual. It was her way of letting him know that she wasn't entirely happy with him evading her questions. Mason didn't even spare her a glance as he flipped through the channels at a rapid pace until he stopped at the Spanish channel.
"The Spanish channel?" Camelia questioned.
"Why not? It's never too late to brush up on my Spanish," Mason commented, not meeting her eye. Strangely, his eyes were glued to the screen, almost as if he was afraid she would figure something out if he turned her way.
"You can just speak to me in Spanish, you know."
"You'll make fun of me." And just like that, Mason and Camelia fell into their usual banter. The Spanish channel was still playing, but Camelia wasn't focused on that. She was listening to Mason rant about all the times she had made fun of him, occasionally throwing out a Spanish word or two to emphasize his point. When he finished, she proceeded to list all the times he teased her about her English pronunciation.
"So we're-" A loud clap of thunder made her jump, effectively stopping her rant. He moved closer to her, wrapping his arms around her waist and pulling her into his embrace. Immediately, Camelia began to relax into his embrace, laying her head on his shoulder.
"Sorry, I'm such a burden," Camelia said, wishing once again that she conquer her fear instead of having to rely on everyone else all the time. She told herself that she would do it this time, but then Mason showed up…
"You're not a burden." Those were the last words exchanged between them. Mason turned his attention to the Spanish channel, while Camelia closed her eyes. The faint chatter from the TV made her feel like she was at home and Mason's presence made her feel so safe, so at ease.
"Thank you," Camelia murmured, finally understanding Mason's intentions.
"Anything for you, Camelia."
Mason was staring out of the window while the professor told an anecdote about a time before he became a professor. Besides him, David was tapping impatiently on the table as he scribbled in his notebook.
"You want to hit up the gym after class?" David whispered to him although he didn't really understand the meaning of whispering. Mason was almost certain that the professor heard him from the way the professor glanced their way for a split second before continuing his lecture.
"Sure," Mason replied, effectively cutting the conversation. Mason knew that David was trying to strike up a conversation to cure his boredom, but Mason preferred to zone out in his own thoughts. Sometimes Mason was annoyed that David was sitting next to him, since he never got the hint that he didn't want to talk during class. Perhaps he was so accustomed to sitting by Camelia in class that he took silence for granted. Too bad they chose different majors and hardly shared any classes.
When it was time to go, David bolted out of his seat, tossing over his shoulder a quick good-bye to Mason before he joined the crowd of students trying to get out of the class. Mason shook his head in amusement while he slipped his notebook into his bag. He zipped it shut, hoisting it over his shoulder as he stood up. He stood up, pushing his chair underneath his desk and David's too, since he didn't bother to spare five seconds to do so. In fact, Mason pushed every chair in his row on his way to the exit. The professor caught his attention, giving a nod of thanks as Mason exited the room.
Mason took his time to the gym, knowing that David had ran back to his apartment to get changed. As he neared the gym, his phone sounded. Mason dug in his bag to pull out his phone to see a text from David saying that he was almost there. As he slipped his phone back into his bag, Mason noticed that his bag was emptier than usual.
I forgot my gym clothes, Mason thought to himself frantically. Yesterday he had taken them out to wash, but had forgotten to put it back. And his apartment was a good ten minute drive away from the campus…
Mason pulled out his phone, ready to tell David that he would arrive late, when he saw the contact name at the top of his text messages. He dialled the number, hoping that she had already gone home.
"You shouldn't interrupt your best friend's nap," Camelia commented when she picked up the phone, "So what do you need?"
Mason smiled sheepishly, "How did you know that I needed something?"
"Come on, this isn't the first day I've known you. If it wasn't urgent, you would just text me," Camelia pointed out, "Hurry up and tell me so I get get it done and go back to taking a nap which you so rudely interrupted."
"I left my gym clothes in my room," Mason said, "Could you get it for me?" Mason heard Camelia chuckling on the other end before bursting out into laughter.
"You're not suppose to be forgetful like me," Camelia said in between her laughter, "I'll see what I can do. Bye!" Camelia quickly hung up before Mason even had a chance to retort. Mason stared at his black screen, suddenly realizing that Camelia didn't even give him a proper answer.
When Mason arrived at the gym, David was already shooting three pointers. Tim and Jeff were also present, chatting animatedly with each other while tossing the basketballs back to David.
"Yo Mason!" Tim called out above the noise of the gym. All eyes turned towards him for a brief second before everyone resumed to what they were doing. He didn't know how many times he had told Tim to not draw attention to him, but he did it anyways. Either he was purposely doing it to annoy him or he forgot, Mason didn't know.
"You're not dressed," Jeff observed.
"Yeah guess I didn't come prepared today," Mason commented as he scanned the bleachers for a familiar blonde. When he did not see her, a wave of disappointment washed over him.
"Looking for Rachel?" Tim asked, following Mason's line of sight. Sometimes Mason regretted telling them about Rachel since they began teasing him about both Rachel and Camelia.
"None of your business," Mason replied.
"Well if you don't want Camelia, then I'll take her," Tim said suggestively. Upon hearing that, Mason suddenly felt very protective.
"You're not going to make a move on her," Mason stated firmly, "She's not the type for a fling and I swear if you ever hurt her-"
"Calm down man. I was joking," Tim said, holding both of his hands up with his palms facing outward. It hadn't been the words that had scared him; instead, it was the dark expression on Mason's face that Tim had never seen before. Even David and Jeff had stopped shooting baskets upon feeling the tension that emanated from the two of them.
Mason didn't bother to dignify that with a response. Instead, he picked up the nearest basketball and took his shot, making the basket with ease. David was besides him, complimenting him on his nice shot and saying something about trying out for the team, but Mason couldn't concentrate on his words. His eyes were drawn to the figure who had just entered into the gym, running along the edge of the gym, with a gym bag in her hand. At one point, she ducked down to avoid a basketball to the head. Mason watched her lips moving, probably cursing the person with poor aim.
Tim, David, and Jeff fell silent upon realizing that Mason's attention wasn't on them when no answer was given to David's question. The three of them followed Mason's line of sight to see that he was looking at Camelia running towards them, cheeks red and chest heaving heavily. When she reached them, she dropped the bag to the floor and bent over, hands on her kneecaps as she tried to regain her breath.
"You better be grateful," Camelia commented in between her long draws of breath. The only response she got was Mason shoving a bottle of water under her nose. She took it without hesitation and drank half of the bottle.
"Thank you," Mason said, taking back his water bottle.
Camelia shot him a cheeky grin, "That's what best friends are for, right?" Mason's lips quirked into a smile.
"You didn't have to tire yourself out; it wasn't that urgent," Mason commented.
"No I didn't have to," Camelia agreed, "Well I am going home, see you later." As Mason watched her retreating form, he smiled to himself. Although her answer had been a cryptic, "I'll see what I can do," Mason should have known that it equated to a yes.
He understood what had been left unsaid.
Anything for you, Mason.
"So are you free tonight?" Ryan asked as he stirred the straw in his coffee, dissolving the sugar. Camelia frowned; she already told him numerous times that she hung out with her friends on Friday nights.
"Today is Friday so I'm hanging out with my friends," Camelia told him, taking a sip of her iced latte. Camelia watched as Ryan's impassive expression morphed into one of annoyance and distaste.
"By friends, you mean that Mason guy, right?" Ryan accused. Camelia was taken aback by the anger in his voice; what had Mason ever done to Ryan? They never met, at least not to Camelia's knowledge.
"Yes, he is one of my best friends," Camelia answered, careful to place an emphasis on the word friends. However, Ryan still wasn't content with her answer.
"I don't want you hanging out with another guy," Ryan stated, "Go shopping with Bella or something." A wave of anger and incredulity washed through her upon hearing his statement. Incredulity because she never thought Ryan would be that kind of guy. Anger because Ryan was trying to control her life. And a twinge of disappointment since she expected more out of Ryan.
"My friendship with Mason is not up for discussion," Camelia stated firmly. Ryan stared her down, hoping to intimidate her, but Camelia didn't budge on the matter. Very few things could break her friendship with Mason and Ryan would not be one of them.
"Then I suppose this is the end of our relationship," Ryan said. Camelia felt her heart drop. Tears begin to collect in her eyes, but she pushed them back. She hated crying in front of people.
"Are you breaking up with me?" Camelia asked, her shaky voice betraying her strong facade. Ryan noticed but to his credit, he didn't comment on it.
"Yes and it's not up for discussion as long as Mason isn't up for discussion," Ryan replied, clearly mocking her earlier statement. Camelia opened her mouth, but closed it again when Ryan stood up, taking his coffee with him. Without a good-bye, he walked out of the door of the cafe.
Five minutes after Ryan was gone, it hit Camelia that he was her ride home. Sighing, she trashed her latte and pulled her hood over her head as she darted into the pouring rain. Within a minute, she was already drenched head to toe and the splashes of water that she made while she ran didn't help. In the end, Camelia gave up and slowed down to a walk.
Mason would know what was wrong with me at first glance, Camelia thought to herself. She had to make a plausible lie or downplay the severity of the truth although neither seemed very appealing right now. Camelia didn't want to lie to Mason, but on the other hand, she didn't want Mason to overreact. Knowing Mason, he would seek Ryan out to set things straight, but that could entail a large number of possibilities.
Lost in her thoughts, Camelia vaguely realized that she walked past her apartment complex. She snapped out of her thoughts when a car drove by, splashing water all over her. Head down, Camelia began to backtrack to her apartment complex.
"You're getting the floors wet!" the landlord yelled at her. Mumbling her condolences, Camelia took the stairs to the second floor as fast as she could. She fumbled around in her purse for her keys and jammed it into her lock. Once she was inside, she made a beeline to her bathroom, hoping a hot bath would cheer her up.
Camelia stared absently at the bubbles floating on the water. Sighing, she sank further down into the water to wet her hair. She sat back up again, reaching out to grab her shampoo bottle when she spotted the bottle of lotion sitting on her sink counter. The memories associated with the bottle made tears appear in her eyes and this time, she didn't hold back. In the privacy of her own bathroom, she cried her heart out.
Camelia lost track of time. She got out of the bath after noticing her fingertips were beginning to prune. As she dried her body with a towel, she also dried her tears, vowing to herself that she would only be weak once. While she dressed, she heard a knock on the door. She glanced her her phone; there were no messages from anyone saying that they were coming over. Puzzled, Camelia exited her bathroom, hair still dripping wet. As her hand closed over the doorknob, a part of her wanted to pretend she wasn't home. What if it was Ryan? She didn't know how she was going to face him.
"Camelia, I know you're there. Open up." Even if Camelia failed to recognize his voice, which she didn't, there was only one person who continually called her Camelia.
"Mason," Camelia said upon opening the door. Mason stood there with one hand tucked into the pocket of his jeans and the other holding a grocery bag. She moved aside to let him in, shutting the door behind him.
"You're early," Camelia commented as Mason dropped the grocery bag onto her kitchen counter. Surprisingly, it didn't take much effort to act like everything was normal around Mason, but Camelia was sure that he noticed her red, puffy eyes and tear-stained cheeks.
"Here, your favorite," Mason said as he handed her a tub of ice-cream with a spoon. Her eyes widened at his gesture as she took the tub of ice-cream from him. Camelia noted that he had already torn off the plastic wrapping for her and she felt tears in her eyes again, but this time for an entirely different reason.
"Thank you. How did you-?" Camelia figured that Mason would understand what she was trying to ask.
"He shouldn't have let you walk home alone in the rain," was all Mason said and Camelia knew that he had already drawn his own conclusions about what happened. At least that meant he wouldn't push her for an explanation. Camelia smiled and grabbed another spoon, handing it to Mason. She took a seat on the couch, propping her feet onto the table. Wordlessly, Mason took a seat next to her as Camelia took the lid off the ice-cream and dug in.
"What were you planning for us to do tonight?" Camelia asked in between spoons of ice-cream. It was an unspoken rule that they took turns planning their Friday nights.
"Well I was thinking about trying that restaurant that just opened, but I don't think you'll be able to eat anymore after the ice-cream," Mason said, teasingly. As Mason expected, Camelia pouted and dug into her ice-cream with a little more force than necessary.
"Then what else do you have in mind?"
"Well," Mason began, "There's a party, but you probably already hate me for dragging you to the last one. We could stay in the for the night or…"
"Or?" Camelia prompted.
"We could go visit Samantha." It wasn't a hard choice for Camelia to make. She got up to put the tub into the freezer, with the spoon.
"Let me go change," Camelia said. Mason nodded, heading out of her apartment to his to get ready as well. Camelia headed to the bathroom to dry her hair.
Twenty minutes later, Camelia emerged from her bathroom with dry hair and outside clothes, without any of the evidence of her crying. She went to her kitchen, surprised to see that Mason wasn't there yet, jokingly complaining about how long it took her to get ready. While she waited, she rummaged through the grocery bag, curious to know what Mason had bought. She pulled out a king size Kit-Kat bar and a box of tissues. A note was taped to the Kit-Kat bar.
In just two words, Mason managed to reduce her to tears. When Camelia heard the door open, she ran to the door, hugging Mason tightly while hot tears spilled down her face.
"Thank you so much. Thank you for always being here for me."
It never got any easier for him to visit Samantha's grave. He knelt down in front of her grave, brushing away the leaves and dust that covered her epitaph. Besides him, Camelia knelt down and gently placed the bouquet of lilies, Samantha's favorite flowers, in front of her headstone. Mason closed his eyes.
It would had been Samantha's 18th birthday today, Mason thought, She would had been graduating this year with all her cords because she was involved with everything that the school had to offer. She would had applied to Berkeley and gotten in and called me to tell me all about it. She would had been so excited that she couldn't get her words out because that was her dream school since she was a kid. She would had called me to tell me not to stress during exam season even though she was stressing over her own. I could had gone home this Christmas to my own family, yet I knew that I would be going home to emptiness and darkness. Instead, I spent the holidays at Camelia's because there was no one left for me at home.
As Mason was left deep in his thoughts, Camelia watched as a tear trickled down his cheek. She turned away, feeling that Mason needed his privacy and knowing that he didn't like people seeing his vulnerability. Camelia couldn't even begin to understand the extent of Mason's pain and loss because she had just started becoming friends with the girl when she died. With the way that Mason spoke of Samantha when she was alive, Camelia knew that Mason was extremely close to his sister, even closer than they would ever be. Camelia knew that it would pain her to see Mason so distraught and heartbroken, but she always agreed without fail every time Mason asked her to come. There wasn't much she could do, except offer him her presence as he had done for her many times before.
Ever since Samantha's death, Mason never celebrated any holidays. For the first year, Camelia opted out of her own family gatherings to accompany him, even though he insisted that he was fine. The second year, Mason had put his foot down and forced Camelia to go to her family reunion. Reluctantly, she went, but couldn't bring herself to enjoy it because a part of her mind kept worrying about Mason. She didn't feel any relief until she went to Mason's apartment and saw him sleeping peacefully. It wasn't until two years ago that Camelia worked up the nerve to invite Mason to her family gatherings. At first, Mason had been taken aback by her offer and promptly declined it, citing that he would be intruding. Camelia reassured him multiple times that he was welcomed, but he refused to budge on his decision. Camelia conceded and prepared to go alone like she did every year. Yet just as she was about to leave, Mason met her at the doorway of her apartment.
"I changed my mind," Mason said. Camelia didn't comment on it; the small smile on her face spoke volumes. Even though the family gathering turned awkward with incessant questions about whether or not Mason was her boyfriend, Camelia saw Mason happier than he had been in a long time. Mason never mentioned anything to her, but she just knew that he was grateful for the distraction. And everytime ever since then, Camelia extended the invite and Mason wordlessly accompanied her to every family reunion. By now, Camelia's family members had accepted him as one of their own, even if they still teased her about Mason being her boyfriend.
But today was the one day that Mason allowed himself to mourn and Camelia was glad that he let her accompany him. It was hours later when Mason finally snapped out of his thoughts. He got up, brushing the dirt off of his jeans before helping Camelia up too.
"Sorry I took so long," Mason said. Camelia waved off his apology.
"You know that I don't mind. Otherwise I would not have came with you," Camelia responded, "Besides, you can't rush things like this."
"Thank you," Mason said as they walked out of the cemetery.
"You don't have to thank me. I know you would do the same for me." Once they left the dreary atmosphere of the cemetery, Mason's mood considerably brightened and Camelia could tell that he felt lighter and more at ease.
"Do you want to watch movies or call it an early night?"
"Movies, but only if it's not any of the romance ones." Mason stopped walking and turned to face Camelia. Camelia stopped to her tracks, staring questioningly at Mason.
"Whatever Ryan did to you, he's an asshole and he doesn't deserve you. He doesn't deserve any of your tears to be shed for him and he certainly doesn't deserve your compassion or your forgiveness. You'll find someone who's deserving of you," Mason said, waiting to see Camelia's reaction.
"But is there anyone out there that's 'deserving' of me?" Camelia asked, "You say that after ever break up and it's been a failure after another and sometimes I just want to give up."
"Yes, there is," Mason replied, "He's standing right in front of you." Mason held in his breath as he watched Camelia's eyes widened and her eyes beginning to tear up. The silence seemed to drag on forever and Mason regretted telling her, knowing that it was going to make their friendship awkward in the future. But after seeing Ryan, the third one, break her heart again, he just couldn't stand see her getting hurt again.
"Let's just forget about-" Mason started, but Camelia cut him off.
"I thought you liked Rachel." Mason stared at her with a mixture of incredulity and frustration.
"No," Mason said, "The only person I had eyes for in the past 3 years was you." Camelia's mind was spinning as she tried to process his words. He loved me for 3 years; that's why he never dated. And all this time was because I thought he wasn't emotionally ready to invest into a relationship. And all his friends teasing him about his infatuation with Rachel wasn't...real? Camelia thought.
Camelia couldn't get any words out, so she wrapped her arms around his torso, burying her face into his chest. She felt his arms hesitantly come around to wrap her torso, pulling her closer to him.
Camelia always knew that she felt something with Mason that extended beyond friendship, but never dared to delve into the feeling any further. At best, she always thought Mason looked after her like she was another sister to him and maybe he looked after her to fill in the void. So Camelia tried to keep the relationship completely platonic, never daring to believe in her friends when they said that Mason liked her. With all her ex-boyfriends, she knew that there was something missing and now she knew what it was. Love. She may had liked them, but she didn't love them in the way she did with Mason.
"I think…" Camelia muttered into his chest, "My heart already belonged to you a long time ago."
"So did mine."
A/N: I hope you guys enjoyed! Please let me know what you thought! :) Thank you for reading!