"Do you want to leave? I can walk you to your place."
I shake my head. "No, I don't want to go anywhere."
A small crease forms on Eli's brow as he gives me a scrutinizing glance. "Okay."
I smile and hold his hand tighter. It's sometime after midnight. Parties are not my favourite scene and when I have to attend one, I don't stay around until this late. It's no surprise he's wondering why I'm in no hurry to leave.
We're sitting on one of the couches, watching a drinking game some kids are having. I was sitting on my own when he noticed me and came over. A few seconds after he did, I reached out my hand to trace patterns on the back of his. When he entwined our fingers, I accepted his grip wholeheartedly.
He covers a yawn with the back of his hand. "Will I be a bad host if I leave now? I'm honestly tired."
"No. You should sleep early. They're fine having fun by themselves."
While I say that calmly, my heart is rioting. He does look tired. Should I leave him be? Should I go back to my room? But I've worked up so much courage for this. What if I never get another chance?
"But I also want to stay longer," he says. "With you."
My eyes find his light brown ones. His fringe is long, with wisps of hair falling over his eyes.
"I'll come with you," I tell him.
His brow lifts. "What?"
I swallow, my throat suddenly dry. "Your room. I mean..." I shrug. "We can... I can..."
Fuck, where did my liquid courage go? Why am I stammering?
His eyes search my face, which grows hotter by the second.
"Are you sure?" he asks.
He maintains his gaze on me for several more seconds. Then he rises to his feet and brings me with him. "Let's go."
Before I can suggest that maybe he should let the others know he's leaving, we're outside the room and heading upstairs. Our hands are still gripping each other.
His room is on the fourth floor. He has no roommate at the moment, but he's getting one tomorrow.
He switches on the light when we walk in and he closes the door behind him. His dorm room has a living area with space for a kitchenette and two bedrooms. It's one of the newest and most luxurious dorms on campus.
After taking off my shoes, I go into the bathroom near the entrance. I gape at my reflection in the mirror. My cheeks are flushed. It's so obvious I'm excited. I study the rest of my face. I don't look too bad. My hair is still in place too. I inhale deeply. I'm in his room. This is the first part. Now I need to find a way to move things to the next level.
I wonder what he thinks about me asking to accompany him to his room so late. Does he think it's weird? I've been here before this late, but never alone. Many times, it was a sleepover in which Simon, Tori, or another of our friends was involved. Never just the two of us.
When I walk out of the bathroom, the balcony door is open and Eli is leaning against the balustrade. I walk through the living room to the balcony and stand beside him. The night wind is cool, and the view is refreshing. Eli's dorm has a great view—lush gardens that merge into the woods that surround the campus.
My nails dig into my fingers as I contemplate my next move. Why am I suddenly out of ideas when I've been planning this night in my mind for the past week?
"The night is beautiful," I mumble, for lack of something better to say.
"It is. And so are you."
I peek at him to find his eyes on me. I return his smile, but that turns into a gasp when he wraps his hand around my waist and pulls me against him.
His other hand caresses my cheek. "I've been thinking about kissing you since that day."
My eyes widen as my pulse picks up. By 'that day,' I know exactly what he's referring to.
Last weekend, the football team had an away game five hours away. I'm currently on an internship—I was lucky to get it with the school's sports department—so I tagged along with the team. We came away with a win, but that isn't the most memorable part for me. On the ride back, I sat beside Eli. At some point—around 10 p.m. with half of the bus dozing off—he wrapped his arm around my neck, pulled me in, and kissed me. It was our first kiss.
He's not the only one who has been thinking about it ever since.
I rise to my toes and peck his lips. "Stop just thinking about it," I whisper.
Maybe that courage is finally working.
His lips stretch in a smile, seconds before his mouth claims mine. My hands anchor on his arms as I stretch my body to make up for my shorter height. His hands go lower, wrap around the back of my thighs, and hoist me up.
With me clinging to him like a koala to a tree trunk, he walks us back into the dorm. Seconds later, my back lands on the soft cushions of his couch. He settles above me, with my legs framing his body on both sides.
My heart is beating like crazy and I'm almost out of breath.
"Tell me when you want to stop," he whispers, his lips a hair's breadth from mine.
I shake my head. "I don't want to."
"I don't want to stop."
His Adam's apple bobs as he swallows. "Sure?"
He pulls away and gets off the couch. I take his hand when he holds it out. He leads me to his bedroom, and I know everything between us changes tonight.
And that's okay because I want it to.
I wake up in the morning to find a pair of light brown eyes staring at me.
Eli leans forward. When I realise what he means to do, I clap my palm over my mouth.
He lifts an eyebrow. "Are you going shy on me now?"
"I haven't brushed!"
He trails off as I roll away from him and end up on the floor. His deep laugh permeates the room. I come to my feet, brushing hair from my face. Cool air kisses my legs and that's when I realise I'm in nothing but his shirt and my underwear. I tug on the shirt, which thankfully reaches to my mid-thigh, and head towards the door. "Bathroom," I mumble, disappearing from his sight.
When I come back out, he's drinking a glass of water at the kitchen sink.
"Can I get my kiss now?" he teases, a slight smirk on his lips.
I step forward and press a quick peck to his lips.
He lets me get away but doesn't shut up about it. "God, you're so cute."
"Cutie cutie Jo. What do you want for breakfast?"
"Whatever you make."
"I'm making for three, by the way."
"Is someone coming over?"
"My new roommate landed about an hour ago. He's coming over right away."
"Why didn't you tell me?"
"I told you he was coming today."
"You didn't mention he would be here so early!" I whine and rush to the bedroom to look for my jeans.
His laugh follows me. "You're not leaving, are you?"
"Not before eating, no."
"Am I not a good enough reason to stay?"
"Not with your new roommate around."
"I'm sure he doesn't bite."
I roll my eyes as I pull my legs into my jeans.
"You should come with me to show him around," he says when I emerge from the bedroom.
"Feed me first and I'll think about it." My eyes land on the pile of gifts from last night, on the carpet beside the coffee table. He must have brought them up sometime before we came to the room. "You haven't checked your gifts yet."
"Why don't you help me unwrap?"
He murmurs in assent as he pulls out a pan.
I spy Tori's gift from the pile and consider beginning with it. She said it's a secret but Eli doesn't mind me seeing what he got. Should I look?
"Can I open Tori's present? She wanted to keep it secret."
My curiosity winning, I unwrap the paper to reveal a small box. Given its size, I imagine there's jewelry of some sort inside. When I open it, I see a bracelet.
"It's a bracelet."
"See? Nothing controversial."
I lift the accessory, frowning. "It looks—"
He turns away from the stove. "Let me see—"
His eyes widen when he sees it. Rushing forward, he grabs it. "Where did she find this? I lost it years ago."
"It belonged to you?"
He nods. "We had a matching pair made like... When we were ten or something. I lost mine in high school. This is it."
"She probably found it and decided to surprise you."
A frown etches on his brow. "I wonder why she'd give it back."
"We—" he shakes his head. "Nothing." He shoves it in his shorts' pocket and turns back to the sizzling pan on the stove.
Looks like there's a story behind that, but I don't push.
I'm almost done opening the gifts when there's a knock on the door. Eli and I exchange glances.
"Is it him?"
"I'll get it," I say, seeing as there's something sizzling on the pan.
"No, I got it," he says, stepping to the door.
I begin gathering the empty wrappers as he opens the door.
I rise to dump the papers in the bin just as he pulls the door wide open.
My eyes flick past him to the guy standing at the door.
All blood drains from my head as I take in his face.
"Elias Kim?"He hasn't seen me yet.I'm glued to the floor when all I want to do is disappear.Am I dreaming?Hallucinating, maybe?Eli bends to grasp the handle of the suitcase standing between them. "That's me. But you can call me Eli."Jude looks up over him, and his eyes finally find me.Eli straightens and pulls the luggage into the room. "Come in."The paper in my hands crinkles noisily as my fingers close over it.Eli says something, but I don't hear a word.Jude doesn't move an inch past the threshold. His blue eyes bore into me, surprise evident on his face.Surprise? More like shock.Something pokes my arm.Then a hand waves in front of my face.I snap my eyes from Jude to find Eli trying to gain my attention.He gives me a confused look. "Jo?"I suck in a deep breath and drop the paper to the floor. "Bathroom. I need to use the bathroom."I feel Jude's eyes on me as I close the distance to the bathroom—which is, in this situation, so inconveniently close to the front door.
"Where have you been?"I close the door behind me and remove my shoes. Tori watches me as I walk into the apartment. She's sitting on the couch, hair in rollers while she paints her toenails. What's the occasion?"Simon's.""Is that where you spent the night?""No." I notice a parcel lying on the coffee table and hurry to it. "Is this mine?""Yeah. It was delivered this morning."I tear the wrapper to reveal an Adidas shoebox. Finally, Eli's birthday gift is here.Now all I have to do is give it to him..."Whose shirt is that?" she asks, eyes narrowing at the said clothing.I cradle the box under my arm and head to my room. "Eli's."She doesn't say anything else until I'm at my door. "Have you met his roommate?"My hand closes around the door handle. "No. Have you?""I'm about to."I whirl around. "What?""I'm going with Eli to show him around campus."Why am I not invited?Do I want to be invited?"Is that why you are..." I trail off, gesturing to her hair.She pauses painting her na
"Anyone fancy a cold drink? I'm parched."We've just come to the football pitch after completing our tour of the Sports Complex. It's been a kind of awkward tour. Tori is still fuming because of God knows what, and I'm trying to avoid any type of interaction with Jude. He might say something that makes me snap and blows our cover."Sounds great!" I agree with Eli, turning to him. I can go with him to get them and escape this suffocating situation for a few minutes.He's looking at Tori. "Tori? Want to go with me?"No way! If they leave, I'll be left with Jude alone!I step closer to Eli and grab his arm. "I'll come with you."His dark eyes shift from Tori to me. He leans in and whispers. "She has been down all afternoon. I want to talk to her while we get drinks."I deflate. The two are childhood best friends, so Eli must be bothered about her low mood. And, after her reaction about us not telling her we are together, she must be mad at him. So mad that she hasn't put much effort into
I have trouble falling asleep. It's impossible to when my mind is a jumble of confusing thoughts.If what Jude said is true—and there doesn't seem to be much doubt that it is—that means everything I've felt these past three years on account of him has been baseless. Misplaced anger, hope, and hurt.I still can't wrap my head around why Cole would refuse to tell me that Jude communicated. If I could, I would call him right now to hear it straight from him. But I have to wait until tomorrow if I want to talk to him.Jude never went silent on me.He never broke his promise.This is all sinking in now and I don't know how to feel about it.For an entire year, he didn't give up on us.I don't want to imagine what he thought or felt when Cole told him I didn't want to speak to him. His earlier attitude towards me is an indication, though.While I thought he betrayed me, he was thinking the same about me.God, what a mess.I take out my phone and text Simon.Me, 9.42pm: Jude never went silent
Eli opens the door to his dorm room while I stand beside him, fingers nervously tapping on my bag strap.We've just come from the field. Practice lasted two hours. Jude went straight to the offices to finish up some registration stuff. Eli doesn't have a class until eleven o'clock, and I have an hour before my next schedule at the sports complex.He pushes the door open and lets me walk in before coming in after me. I take off my shoes and walk further into the room, my mind taking me back to the last time I was here. There's a soft thud on the floor, then Eli's hand wraps around my arm. He pulls and turns me around, bringing me to him. Before I can react, he dips his head and kisses me.His lips are firm and urgent on mine. Before long, I find myself digging my fingers into his arms, getting closer to him.When we break apart, his thumb caresses my cheek. "It feels like it's been forever since I had you alone."I chuckle. "True." I feel the same way too. A lot has happened since yes
We arrive at Upperhill Prison a few minutes after two o'clock.After parking at the visitors' lot, Jude and I head over to check-in. Once we're done with everything, we are led into the visiting room. We take our seats and wait for Cole to show up.The last time I was here, I was alone. As I am most times, other than for the few times I came together with Jax. In the two years Cole has been here, Nicki has never visited. As for Simon, Cole would be the last person he wants to see right now. Or ever.Anyway, I never would have thought I would ever be visiting him with Jude.I gaze around the room. There are other inmates already seated with their visitors. The one closest to us is a man who's being visited by a woman and a boy who looks about ten and resembles him. He looks happy to be with his family. I wonder whether Cole will be thrilled about us showing up like this."There he is," Jude's voice draws me from my observation of our surroundings.I look towards the entrance and sure e
I unwrap his fingers from around my hand and step away before turning to look at him. "Stop, Jude. We are history. And I have a boyfriend now."His blue eyes bore into me. "You having a boyfriend is not going to keep me away." He takes a step towards me, to which I respond by stepping back farther. He narrows his eyes. "We never broke up, you know."I gape at him. Is he serious?"So no, we are not history," he continues.I fold my arms around my middle and gaze up at him. "It's been three years—""It's been a misunderstanding," he interrupts me. "And it's solved now."I look away, chewing on my lip. I can't handle this right now. First, I need to get to work on time. Then, I need to think of a way to tell Eli about all this. Until then, I don't want to have this conversation with Jude. I reach for the car door and pull it open. "Let's go back.""I came here because of you," he says.That stops me in my tracks. I turn to look at him again, a frown forming on my face. "What?""You're th
"Have you told him yet?"I startle, drawing my gaze from the pitch to Jude, who's suddenly sitting beside me. It's Saturday and we are at a football match.It's the last match of the season, after which comes a three-month break. But the football team won't be getting any break from school. For the coming twelve weeks of the long holiday, they'll spend ten in training, with a majority taking classes too."What are you doing here?" I ask, eyes flickering from the other players to him. He is supposed to be at the bench with the other substitute players."Talking to you, obviously. You're still good at avoiding people, I've realised."It's true, I've done my best to avoid him these past few days. I needed time to think about things without him trying to mess with my feelings more than he already has.I stare back at the pitch. "Go back to the bench.""Why have you not told him yet?""It's none of your business.""I know you haven't agreed to be his girlfriend yet."My eyes swing back to