"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?
"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.
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...
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.
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?"
"Why are you not wearing it?"
"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.
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.
"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
The next evening, at around eight o'clock, I stand outside Eli's dorm, feet nervously tapping the floor.Two hours ago, he sent me a message asking whether we could meet and talk in his room. He said Jude wasn't going to be around for the evening, which is why I agreed to his plan.Now, here I am. The truth is finally going to be revealed, and I'm unable to think past the nerves plaguing me right now. I've tried to think of ways to make the truth less harsh, but I cannot even think past the thought that I'm going to hurt his feelings, and I have no idea how to fix that.Taking a feel breath, I lift my hand and knock on the door.A few seconds later, the door opens, revealing Eli on the other side. His lips curl into a smile when he sees me. "Hey. You’re here."I nod, returning his smile and walking into the room when he steps aside. I remove my shoes while he closes the door, and then follow him into the living room.I take a seat on one end of the couch and grab a throw pillow, huggi
"I'll leave now," Eli says when we come to my apartment building. "Won't you come up for a while?" He shakes his head. "You go." "Oh, okay. Thanks for bringing me." He nods and lifts his hand in a small wave. "Goodnight." "Yeah, uh..." I lean forward and give him a peck on the lips. "Goodnight." He looks startled at my action, but quickly covers it with a small smile. All the progress we had made before Jude showed up seems to have evaporated. But I can only wait until he makes up his mind about us. Oh, how the tables have turned. A couple minutes later, I'm standing at my door when I realise I don't have my keys with me. I must have left them at Eli's! I groan, realising the bag I brought is not the one I keep my spare key in. I bring out my phone so I can call Eli and let him know I have to go back with him when the door opens. "Oh," I mumble when I see Tori. "You're back!" When I left to go see Eli, she hadn't gotten back yet. She stares at me, her gaze somewhat stran