4. She's Loyal... Is She?

"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 nails and gives me a 'duh' look. "Catch me dead looking shabby in front of the hottest guy I've seen in years. Apparently, he's a model too. You should see him."

Yeah, I should.

"Eli posted a photo with him on his I*," she supplies. "You've not seen it yet?"

I shake my head. "No."

I turn back to my door, push it open, and disappear into my bedroom. Placing the shoebox on my bed, I take out my phone. I tap on my I*******m app and go to Eli's profile.

It's a selfie of the two of them, standing on their dorm's balcony. His blue eyes are staring straight into the camera... Into my soul.

I let myself stare.

He's so...

Handsome.

Gorgeous.

But that's nothing new.

I tap on his handle. It's the same old, @judew.

Looking at his profile, I'm taken back two years. To that day I checked his profile and he was following one less person. A few seconds later, I discovered that person was me. I think that was the closest he came to telling me "we're done."

Getting unfollowed on social media has never bothered me. But him doing it? It hurt. For months.

Back then, his account had been dormant for a year. That was the first thing he did when he became active again.

I tell myself not to, but I find myself clicking to his follow list. Over the years, he has followed approximately twenty more people. A total of 47. I have no idea who most are.

Back then, he had around 100k followers. He now has a staggering 1.5m.

Life has been good to him, I suppose.

An odd feeling rises in my chest. A yearning.

That he never left me behind.

I startle as a ping notifies me of a new message. It's from Eli.

Eli, 3:36pm: Heyyy... how are you feeling?

I frown. What does he mean? I wasn't sick...

Oh.

I grimace as it dawns on me.

I lied about getting my period. Often, that comes with terrible cramps. He has been around many times to hear my complaints about wanting to tear my uterus out.

Me, 3:38pm: I'm good :) it isn't too bad.

Eli, 3:39pm: Really? I was going to bring you chocolate.

Me, 3:39pm: Now that I think of it, my stomach is killing me....

Eli, 3:40pm: :D ... does this mean you can come with? I'm taking Jude on a campus tour. His name is Jude btw.

Me, 3:41pm: Oh... Idk...

Eli, 3:42pm: Come on, Jo. Tori is coming too. Besides, I miss you...

I blush, the heat spreading through my face and neck. I wouldn't mind seeing Eli.

Eli, 3:44pm: If you can't make it, we can come by your place afterwards.

My eyes widen at that. 'We?' No! I don't want Jude to know where I live. I don't know why I care when he probably wants nothing to do with me.

Me, 3:44pm: No! I'll come with Tori.

Eli, 3:45: Great! See you :)

I sink into my bed face first and punch my pillow.

What the fuck did I just agree to?

***

I think it's better this way, actually.

No matter how much I avoid him, we'll meet eventually when I go to work with the football team.

Meeting him outside work is better. Once I come face to face with him, I'll be able to solve whatever uncertainties I have. I'll know whether he wants to acknowledge knowing me or not. Whether we'll begin on a clean slate as strangers, or our past is going to put a damper on things.

Tori and I are sitting on a bench beside the path leading to the sports complex. When we got to campus a few minutes ago, Eli said they're on their way and that we could wait here.

I'm trying to stay as calm as possible, but the thudding of my heart is betraying my anxiety. Good thing I'm the only one who can hear it.

"There they are!" Tori exclaims and shoots to her feet. She's wearing a pair of jean shorts and a crop top, her midriff bare. Thanks to the rollers she had on earlier, her dark hair is falling in voluminous waves down her back. She really is going all out.

I turn to look. They're walking side by side. Eli notices us and waves. I come to my feet and keep my eyes on Eli.

Jude is looking at me, and I can feel it. I don't dare look at him.

Tori throws herself at Eli and hugs him.

When they pull apart, Eli introduces us.

"Girls, this is Jude. Jude, this is Tori..." he reaches forward and grabs my hand. Pulling me to his side, he kisses the top of my head. "And this is Jo."

I want to melt into Eli, hide away from the blue eyes I know are glued to me.

Tori flutters her eyelashes and sticks her hand out to Jude. "Hi, Jude."

She's not wasting any time, is she?

Jude accepts her hand but doesn't return her wide smile. Instead, I notice a slight smirk at the corner of his lips.

When Tori lets his hand go, his eyes land on me. I look away instantly.

"Your girlfriend, right?" He's addressing Eli.

"No."

"Yes."

The no comes from Tori while the yes from Eli.

My gaze flickers from my roommate to my... Boyfriend?

I think we're in a relationship, but after I ran off this morning, I guess we didn't have time to talk about labels.

Tori's eyebrows pull together. "Are you guys dating?"

Eli looks at me and lifts an eyebrow.

"We're together," I say.

"You didn't tell me!"

"I thought Eli told you."

Eli gives me a wide-eyed look. "I thought Jo told you."

She confronts Eli. "Did you see my gift?"

"Yeah."

"Why are you not wearing it?"

"Tori—"

"Whatever. Let's move along." She turns around and stomps down the path.

I give Eli a puzzled look. "What's wrong with her?"

"Probably mad we didn't tell her."

I frown. Maybe I would have told her if we made it official. But we haven't even talked about that. And why is she throwing a tantrum about the bracelet? What's the deal with it?

Eli sighs and intertwines our hands. "Let's go."

We go after Tori, with Eli between Jude and me.

"So, Jude. Jo is currently on internship. She majors in kinesiology and is working with the school teams."

"Kinesiology? Interesting. Why did you take that?"

It takes a moment to realise Jude is talking to me directly. Eli nudges my side when I'm silent for too long.

"I love sports," I reply.

"You do?" he asks.

He knows I do!

Did he forget?

Or is he kidding with me?

"She's the biggest football fan I know," Eli contributes.

I dig my elbow into his side. "Shut up."

"Oh, really? What team do you support?"

Is this part of pretending that we don't know each other?

Eli swings my arm forward, revealing my wrist. A red and white beaded Arsenal bracelet sits there.

"Breaks her heart every time, but she's still loyal," Eli comments.

"Is she?"

My eyes shoot to Jude. His little question is laden with sarcasm. I don't think Eli notices.

What is he being sarcastic about?

Our eyes clash, and for the first time, I don't shy away. He has an issue with me, and I want to know what it is.

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