"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 getting Jude's attention as she claimed she would back at the apartment.
I let go of his arm and nod. "Okay."
"You two can sit on the bleachers and wait for us. Jude, what do you want?"
"Just a water, thanks."
"Got it. Jo?"
"Same," I reply. I actually want a chocolate milkshake, but that would make them stay away longer. I want them back as soon as possible.
Eli reaches for Tori's hand and leads the way. "We'll be back soon."
I stare at them for as long as possible before turning to the guy next to me. He's staring at me openly, one brow arched. I walk past him and up the stairs, heading to the upper section of the bleachers covered in shade.
I don't have to look back to know he's right behind me. It's as if every cell of my body can feel his proximity.
"I knew you had changed, but I didn't think you had gotten naïve too."
I take a seat and look up at him. "What?"
He jerks his chin towards the direction Eli and Tori walked in. "She's obviously trying to lay it on thick with your man."
I frown, then scoff. "As if."
"Don't believe me?"
"They're best friends."
I sigh. "Actually, she dolled up specifically for you, so you've got it all wrong."
"Is that what she said?"
"Can you sit down?" I ask. Him standing over me isn't helping my fight against the condescending attitude I'm catching off him.
"Think it's still in your place to tell me what to do?"
My brows pull together. "What?"
He scoffs. "Have you lost your memory, or have you become a really good actress nowadays?"
"I have no idea what you're talking about."
"Right." He chuckles bitterly and finally takes a seat. "God, what did I expect?"
"What's your problem with me?"
He points a finger at himself. "What's my problem?"
"Really? Much more unbelievable than someone who went quiet for three years when they're obviously alive and well?"
Well, that had to come out at some point. I can't take any more of this attitude he has going on as if I did something wrong.
His head whips towards me, his eyes narrowing. "What the fuck?"
"Got any excuses?"
"What the fuck are you trying to do?"
He stares at me for a few more moments, speechless. Then he shoots to his feet and paces. "You're fucking kidding me."
He cuts me off with a seethe. "You told me to stay away from you!"
"You--" he shakes his head and laughs. "I can't believe I'm wasting my breath on you."
Then, without warning, he turns and walks towards the stairs. I shoot to my feet and grab his hand.
"When the fuck did I tell you to stay away from me?"
He pulls his hand from my grip. "I can't deal with your fake ass right now."
My what? No, he didn't.
I grab his arm and pull, forcing him to turn around and face me. "You are the one who left, and you're the one who shut me out. Not the other way around, asshole."
This is not how I envisioned our first—or second, I guess—meeting after he left going. I thought I'd run into his arms and hold him tight, never let go. Instead, here we are, throwing insults at each other.
His jaw clenches tight. "Did you forget about the letters? Have you been so busy fucking your new boyfriend that you forgot about them?"
I ignore the crude half of his sentence. "What letters?"
"What--" he huffs and looks away.
I don't take my eyes away from him, letting him know I'm waiting for an explanation.
His gaze flickers back to me. "The ones I sent you."
My brow creases. "I didn't get any letters from you."
"Is it that you never bothered to open them?"
"I didn't get any letter from you, Jude!"
He leans forward, eyes narrowing. "Cole didn't give you my letters?"
He pulls back, his eyes blazing into mine. "Are you trying to say that Cole lied to me?"
I shrug. "I don't know. He never gave me any letters!"
He shakes his head and jabs a finger at me. "No. He gave you my letters, and you refused to write back. You said it was better if I forgot about the past and moved on, all that shit. You refused to talk to me."
"I'm telling you he didn't give me any letters! I never said that!"
"Holy fuck, Jo. Stop lying."
"I'm not lying!"
What the fuck is going on? Is he telling the truth? If he is...
I suddenly feel dizzy. Moving backwards, I lower myself to the bleacher.
No, Cole wouldn't do that.
"Cole has lied to me before, but he wouldn't lie about that," his voice reaches me.
In the past three years, Cole has done a lot of lying. But I still don't believe he kept something like that from me. He knows how long I waited. How miserable I was.
"When did you send them?"
"I sent the first one after about six months. He openly refused to pass it along because he knew I wasn't supposed to be talking to you at that point. I wrote another one after another six months. He said you wanted me to move on. I wrote a bunch others, begging you to at least write me back once. He said that you refused."
His voice is no longer hostile. It has gotten quiet, as if he has realised I'm not lying. He sits back down.
"When I finally got my phone back, I was too mad at you to call. I deleted all your contacts and photos."
I wring my fingers together. "I swear Cole never said anything. I was around him a lot that year and he never said anything."
Jude curses and scrubs his hand down his face.
I don't know what to think. It doesn't even feel real yet. I've spent three years thinking he never reached out to me, and now this?
Why would Cole do that?
I startle at Eli's voice. I look up and there they are, coming up the stairs. I didn't notice them appearing at the bottom.
I attempt a smile, but my lips feel too weak. Jude straightens and reaches for the water bottle Eli holds his way. "Thanks, man."
Eli comes to sit beside me and I notice he's carrying a chocolate milkshake. "Still want only water?"
I swear he's heaven-sent. I've never needed my comfort drink so bad.
"Thank you," I say, accepting his offer. I wrap my fingers around the glass and my lips around the straw.
"So, what have you guys been bonding over?" Eli asks.
I draw the beverage into my mouth and focus my gaze on the pitch below.
"Football," Jude replies.
When we leave the stadium, we head for dinner outside the campus. Before my conversation with Jude, I would have looked for an excuse to not spend any more time around him.
Everything has changed.
I don't have an excuse to avoid him and he doesn't have an excuse to be nasty.
Tori isn't in her best mood yet, but it has been better since they came back from getting drinks. Eli must have gotten through to her.
Subconsciously, I realise that no, she isn't throwing herself at Jude as much as I thought she would. She's probably doing much better than most of the girls and women around us right now. The moment we walked into the restaurant, a multitude of appreciative eyes followed his every movement.
I get it. He's hot. His appeal seems to have tripled over the years.
We settle at a semi-circular booth. Eli and Jude sit on the ends while Tori and I settle in the middle. She's next to Jude while I'm next to Eli.
Despite the distance between us, I'm super aware of Jude's presence throughout dinner. Once or twice, our eyes meet, and I look away quickly.
This has to stop. I need to get to the mystery of the letters so I can move on from this. The sooner I get an explanation from Cole, the better.
When we're done with dinner, Eli and Jude walk us back to our apartment building. However, they don't come up to our room.
Eli gives me a quick kiss. "I'll see you tomorrow at practice."
My neck heats up, not from the kiss but because I can feel Jude staring at me.
I don't know why, but I'm embarrassed.
I nod and pull back. We say our goodbyes and they leave.
Maybe tomorrow at practice, we'll finish our conversation about Cole.
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
"Eli?" Isaac's voice floats into the room. "Eli?" Simon echoes him, giving me a bewildered look. There's no time to think, so I hurry over to the door. "Let's talk outside," I tell him, stepping up beside Isaac.Isaac gives me a worried look before retreating into the living room.Eli looks at me, his eyebrows drawing together. "I'm sorry. I had no idea she would do something like that."I shrug and cast a worried look over my shoulder. Thankfully, Jude is out of sight. If we leave now, everything will be fine. "It's fine. Let's talk outside," I repeat."Oh, ok..." he trails off, and I realise his gaze has shifted from me to somewhere behind me. My stomach twists. The look on his face is enough. I don't need to turn to see that he's looking at Jude. "What is he doing here?" Eli asks, his face morphing into a tense expression. Then his eyes come back to me, and the hurt I see in them is too much. "Are you here with him?"I shake my head instantly and wave my hands in denial. "No!"