A story of love, lust, and everything in between
My head slowly hit the pillow as Jackson followed on top of me, his body pressing against mine. I smiled at him and he smiled back as we began kissing. I loved his kisses – they were soft and addictive, initiating on my lips and then tracing the sides of my neck. We were both definitely enjoying this. At one point, he pulled back and laid next to me, occasionally kissing my arm and neck.
"That feels nice," I whispered softly, embracing his gentle touch. I turned to look at him, and his hazelnut-colored eyes stared back into mine, connecting together like an electrical force.
"Yeah...but you know what would be better?" he asked.
"What?" I snuggled myself into his chest, breathing in the sweet scent of his cologne. He smelled of the ocean, as if he had just been out swimming and arrived in my bedroom just a few short moments later.
"...If we could do this all the time."
My smiled faded. "Jackson, you know that that can't happen," I said sternly. His smile faded along with mine, and I could tell I had upset him. He looked at me, his eyes filled with something I just could not understand.
"Jackson, please. We're having a good time, right? Don't spoil it."
"Well, maybe I'm tired of having a 'good time'. Maybe I want more." He spoke quietly, and the look on his face was more serious than I have ever seen it.
"Why? Why do you want more?" I asked him, frustrated.
"What do you mean why? I'm getting tired of this."
"I thought being friends with benefits was what we agreed to." The sound of my voice came out sounding low and harsh.
I looked at him, trying to detect the feeling he was so very well hiding. Jackson wasn't the type of person to speak openly about his emotions; He'd always been so quiet and mysterious. I could never tell what was going through his head. But I was hooked; The fact I wasn't supposed to have him made me want him even more. He was my forbidden fruit, and I needed him.
"That's ridiculous, Courtney."
"How is that ridiculous? You seemed fine with it before."
"That's because I didn't know I'd fall in love with you."
His words hit me like a ton of bricks, and I stared at him like a confused puppy, unable to regain my composure. I couldn't help but wonder what Jackson saw in me; I was short, my eyes were dull compared to his sparkling ones, and my long brown hair was wavy and unmanageable. Plus, he couldn't be with me, even if he really wanted to.
"Now that's ridiculous. Love, Jackson? It's not remotely possible. You know I have a boyfriend." I said. He sat up on one elbow, giving me that intense look yet again.
He sighed. "Love isn't an option. You don't choose it. It chooses you. When are you going to tell him about us? He treats you like crap, and you still date him."
"What Michael doesn't know won't hurt him."
Jackson's eyes flickered past me, like he was looking somewhere else, like we were hardly still in the same room. He seemed like he was about to say something, but his mouth didn't move nor open. Then, he shifted his gaze back to me and shook his head.
"You're too optimistic."
"A little optimism never hurt anybody. Now, come here." I leaned forward, pushing my body against his and kissing him lightly. In my mind, I pushed away the trouble I was getting myself into. Michael would definitely be hurt if I told him what was going on between Jackson and I, so that was out of the question. But at the same time, I didn't want to hide it anymore.
I've been seeing Jackson for a little over three months now, ever since Michael and I started getting into fights. Michael was harsh; He swore at me, making me cry harder than I've cried in a long time. That's where Jackson came in. I was in low spirits, dragging myself along day by day, and he noticed. He noticed I'd been sad, and he wanted to help me. I was very vulnerable, which I'm nearly positive he noticed too, because he jumped at the chance to get me in bed every time I'd get in an argument with Michael.
But Jackson had a gentle side as well. He would sit and hold me while I cried and blubbered wildly about things Michael had said to me. He was beginning to soften up, and I didn't necessarily like that change. Instead of hot make-out sessions behind closed doors, he had transformed into someone with feelings, which was the complete opposite of Michael. Jackson didn't want to do anything except give me the attention I needed; It wasn't about sex anymore. It was about love.
My name is Courtney Ridge.
And this is my story.
Of love, of lust, and of everything in between.
I hated school. I hated it more than anything in the world, because I had to pretend.
I had to pretend that I was still in love with Michael, even though he was a complete asshole these days. But more importantly, I had to pretend Jackson didn't exist, even when he walked right past me in the halls and I couldn't wave or say hello because Michael was always at my side.
Monday morning came by too fast, and I instantly missed the weekend the second I arrived in Bradford High's parking lot. Dad lets me borrow his car so I don't have to ride the bus, which I'm thankful for, considering I'm claustrophobic and the idea of sitting in a crowded school bus makes my insides turn. Michael called a few different times the night before, leaving messages I was too tired to answer. I really wasn't in the mood to talk to him, but somehow he always ended up finding me before I had the chance to hide.
"Courtney," I felt a strong grip on my wrist, pulling me to the side of the hallway so that students could pass by.
I looked up at him, tall and masculine, with dark blue eyes and light brown curls. He plays football for Bradford; One of our most valuable players. I guess that's how he got those abs, or 'abdominals' as the football coach would call them, that every girl within a thirty mile radius obsesses over. Michael didn't look the least bit happy to see me. His eyes were cold and shallow, but they matched his personality right down to the core.
"I'm sorry I didn't call you back last night, if that's what you're going to ask about." I backed up against one of the pale green lockers, holding my chemistry book to my chest in defense. I knew Michael wouldn't dare lay a hand on me. He was a jerk, but he wasn't that much of a jerk. Lately, I was afraid of him, though, regardless of whether or not he would resort to physical violence.
I'm claustrophobic around him, too. He's so intimidating, being so tall and expressionless, that I feel trapped around him. Like he has me cornered with no way to escape. "No, it's not. I was going to say that I'm having a party at my house on the eighteenth, and I think you should be there. Maybe talk to some of the cheerleaders, get to know them. They really want to be friends with you, Courtney." I exhale, not even realizing that I was holding my breath to begin with.
He tilts his head a little, then looks me in the eyes. He isn't really looking at me, though; It was one of those strange, in a daze looks. He doesn't like my other friends. They're the bottom of the food chain to him. What he considers 'average'. Michael doesn't stand for average, ever. Especially since he was nowhere near it.
"I have my own friends, you know." I heard myself mumble.
"What I'm trying to say is, you should expand your friend base. It won't hurt to make new ones. But forget about it for now. You'll come, right?" He smiled, making me temporarily forget about how much of an asshole he's been.
"I guess so."
"Good. I'll see you later, alright? Gotta talk to the boys."
He gave me a quick peck on the lips, which only made me miss Jackson more. With him, I didn't feel intimidated, and he didn't expect too much from me like Michael did. Sometimes I wondered why Michael stuck with me; He could get any girl he wanted, without a doubt. I wasn't even the typical A-lister that the popular guys went for.
I spent fifth period in the library. Study hall was my favorite class, because I could sit there and think without being interrupted by pointless chatter and lectures. My grades were the least of my worries lately, so if you think I'd actually do homework in study hall, you've got another thing coming. Most days, I would sit on the floor in between a row of bookshelves and read The Diary of Anne Frank, over and over again, no matter how many times I've read it and already knew what happened in the end.
Margot reminded me of myself in a way. I definetely wasn't anything like Anne. She was so outspoken and brave and I was timid and lacked any sort of self-confidence I could possibly have. We were both completely different people, but I still admired her. And I'm not going to say it was because 'she was a good person'. That's the kind of stuff teachers want you to say in book reports.
I felt the pocket of my jeans vibrate. It tickled me through the denim fabric. I set Anne Frank aside and pulled my phone out. It wasn't the best, that's for sure. It was cheap and affordable. I couldn't afford anything expensive, like the iPhone. I've never been big on spending money.
New Text Message from Jackson.
I miss you.
I smiled, looking around for the librarian before I hurriedly sent a text back.
I miss you, too.
And suddenly everything seemed okay.
Because I had Jackson.
He had me.
And that was all that mattered.
Honestly, I didn't want to fall for Jackson. I know that might sound weird for my situation, but it's the truth.
It started out with the idea of being bed buddies, someone to cuddle with when Michael pissed me off, someone to kiss me to make up for all the times I'd been hurt. But I can't call him that anymore. It's different now, so much more different than how it was in beginning.
I was so mesmerized by him; I felt stuck in a trance, where he captivated my thoughts and appeared in my dreams every night because he was the last person I thought about before going to sleep.
I hated doing this. Hated the fact I was now a cheater.
Hated that some day I would have to tell Michael about it.
But he didn't seem to care about me anymore, and what was I supposed to do? I couldn't just break up with him, because deep down I know there's still something there. I know I'm stupid, I know it. I just can't bring myself to telling him the truth.
I could hear the rain dancing on the roof above me. It was like music, listening to the soft pitter-patter pounding against the shingles and sliding off into the night.
Eleven o'clock sharp, I heard a light knock on my bedroom window.
I was startled at first; Nobody ever came to my window, since it was on the second floor of our house. I knew it couldn't be Dad. He wasn't the kind of person to do roof work, nor would he climb up to the roof to knock on my window when he could just walk up the stairs. And my little sister Emily was definitely out of the question, since she was five and would most likely fall.
"Courtney, it's me." said the male voice I knew so well.
Jackson. My heart stopped beating so frantically as I made my way to the window and opened it for him to climb inside. He was drenched, for the rain was coming down harder now. I pulled him in for a hug even if it meant getting myself wet.
"What are you doing here? How did you get to my window?"
I stood with my head buried in his shoulder, my hands around his neck. I could feel my clothes beginning to dampen, but I didn't care. I didn't care at all. I was just happy to see him. Happy to see that he was standing here in my bedroom hugging me even if it was late on a school night.
"That tree out in your yard. The branch is close enough for me to jump onto the roof. I just needed to see you for a little while. I can't stand not being around you."
I pulled away from him, a grin sneaking on my face.
"You climbed a tree and jumped on my roof in the pouring rain just to see me?"
"Of course. I do miss you, you know. Weekdays are so hard without you. I wish we didn't have to do it like this." He sighed.
"I wish we didn't have to, either."
He leaned in to kiss me; It was so much more than what I felt when Michael kissed me these days. He was tender, and a lot more gentle with me. Kissing him was beyond perfect. He stopped, and I didn't want him to stop because I really wanted to kiss him more, but he just stared at me.
"Nothing." He smiled, his dark brown hair swooping over his eyes in a cute, adorable little kid way. He was so breath-taking, I couldn't help but swoon over how cute and innocent he seemed.
"Why are you staring at me? Is there something on my face?" I immediately reached up to feel around for remains of dinner.
"No, no. That's not it. You're just beautiful. I'm glad to be here with you."
I laughed and felt myself blush. "Oh, come on."
"I'm serious. You're really beautiful, Courtney."
He smiled again, a gorgeous toothy-smile that makes your stomach fill up with that butterfly-like feeling and takes over your brain, making you want to draw little hearts all over your Calculus notebook instead of actually doing the math. That was the smile I fell in love with.
The past few months played a scene in my head, as I remembered all the fights with Michael and how Jackson ended up coming to my rescue. How he'd slept with me, and how he just wanted to hold me now. How he first told me he loved me, and how I had shrugged it off because I was scared.
"J-Jackson?" I stammered a little, hesitant.
"I love you."
"I love you, too."
"You're cheating on Michael? With Jackson Harper?" My best friend Miranda's eyes widened to the size of lemons as she cupped both hands over her mouth. We were sitting in Frank's Bar and Grill, where most teenagers from Bradford hung out before ten, when the bar would open and everyone underage would get kicked out.
"Shh, not so loud!" I kicked her underneath the table. I knew there were bound to be more than a few people we knew around, and I wouldn't know what to do if they overheard our conversation. I couldn't begin to imagine how I would get myself out of that.
"Okay, okay. I just can't believe it. Why? How? Since when?"
Her eyes practically bugged out of her face as she asked me questions. Normally, I tell Miranda everything. We have never kept any secrets from each other, but this time I felt I needed to wait. She tends to make a big deal about things, and I knew that if I told her this before, I would never hear the end of it.
"Two months ago." I revealed quietly.
She raised her left eyebrow. "And you never told me?"
"I never told anyone, Miranda. But I'm telling you now."
She rolled my words around and her head, and I guess she didn't care about how long I kept it from her, because she started right back up with the questions again.
"Why Jackson? Don't you think he's just using you?"
She flipped her black hair over her shoulder; Sometimes it made me jealous because she was absolutely gorgeous, with pretty light blue eyes and an outstanding sense of style. I always wondered why she didn't have a ton of boyfriends. Lots of guys would die to date her. But Miranda was never the type to get wrapped up in relationships.
"No, I mean, he was there for me when Michael and I started fighting. I don't know how it happened. He's so cute, it's unbelievable. Sweet, too. He just gets me, you know?" I took a sip of my peach iced tea and stared off into the distance.
I kept thinking about the night before, when I finally told him I love him back. Part of me was in an extreme state of happiness, but the rest of me wondered if he was just a rebound for all of the hurt Michael put me through in the past few months. I pushed that aside, knowing what we had together was real.
It was an unbreakable amount of silence before I could feel the tension about to end.
Miranda cracked up. "Do you know what you're saying?"
I looked at her, a little confused. "Huh?"
"You sound like one of those lovestruck girls in the movies, when they fall in love with some dreamy poet and start acting all weird talking about how 'he's the only one that really gets her' and all of that mumbo jumbo. It's kind of funny, actually."
"Miranda!" I shook my head. "It's not like that."
At least I don't think it's like that.
"Do you love him?"
"I think so."
"Yes, it's definitely like that."
She smiled, and pushed her salad around with her fork as she picked at the croutons and left all the green things alone in the bowl. She was funny like that; She would buy a salad but wouldn't eat the lettuce. Or she'd get spaghetti just to eat the meatballs. Nobody could describe her in one word. 'Interesting' wasn't even the half of it.
"So did you -- you know..."
Her lips curled up in a smile. This was the question I knew was coming; Miranda had a perverted mind and somehow always turned a decent conversation sexual.
"I can't share that information with you."
"You did, didn't you? How was it?"
That, I definitely wasn't going to tell her about yet. It was private, not something I was willing to share so easily. Of course, it was great. More than great, to be honest. And if I really wanted to go into detail, I would. But seeing as it's none of anyone's business, I'd rather not.
I rolled my eyes. "Eat your croutons, and be quiet."
"Shh, you'll wake up your dad." Jackson put a finger to my lips as he laid on top of me in my bed. I shifted myself underneath his body and looked up at him with a sly smile on my face. His hair looked a mess and he was a little sweaty but all in all, he was still ridiculously good looking. "What are you smiling at?" he asked, somewhat out of breath.
"Nothing," I whispered, though a smile remained on my face. "Keep going."
He pushed himself into me and I wrapped my arms around his waist, pulling him closer. It was amazing that we actually didn't wake up my dad, especially after all the times I had to sneak Jackson into my room during the night. His body and mine moved together in rhythm and it just felt so good I could barely hold it in anymore. I bit my lip. That seemed to help.
"Maybe we should try this at my place next time? You've never been there and I'm kind of interested in seeing how loud you really get. Besides, your attempt to be quiet is kind of distracting, and amusing, too." Jackson winked, leaning down to plant a kiss on my lips. The mixture between the taste of his lips and the smell of his cologne made my heart beat even more rapidly.
"Oh, ha ha, aren't you just quite the jokester." I said.
He grinned, "I'm not kidding, you're going to wake up your dad one of these days. I don't want him to take out his shotgun and shoot me in the head or anything."
I shot him a look and he laughed, then rolled to my side and put his arm around my waist. "You know you're the only girl I've enjoyed having sex with, right?"
I chuckled. "Oh, sure. I totally believe that."
I felt him squeeze my side. "I'm serious. None of them were as beautiful as you. And I believe you're forgetting the fact that I poured my heart out to you recently." He smiled. It was about to be a romantic moment until he moved himself on top of me and went back to work again. It really did take me a lot of effort to muffle the sound effects, but it made him laugh. That was what mattered. Despite how kinky the situation was turning out to be.
"Oh my!" I groaned, biting my lip harder.
"What?" I heard him say. I imagined his facial expression looked confused, but I wasn't too sure since my eyes were closed.
"Now I remember why you weren't a one night stand." I managed to get out in a full sentence.
I opened my eyes and Jackson put on this fake hurt look. "Oh, that's all I am to you? A good fuck? And all this time I thought you loved me! Oh, I need to cry, this is too upsetting. I never thought casual sex would do this to me." he said. I cracked up. He and I were probably the only people who could have sex and joke around at the same time without it interfering.
He leaned down to kiss me again.
"I love you so much, you know that?" This time he looked serious.
"Yeah, I do, and I love you, too." I told him.
"Are you sure? I mean, I've never felt something like this before. No one else can make my stomach flip and my heart beat as fast as you do. And I've been with others, it's not like you're the first girl to come into my life. But you are the first girl I've fallen in love with. I can't be without you."
Jackson smiled, and that's when I knew. I knew I couldn't be without him either.
Before I knew it, it was the eighteenth. I had completely forgotten about Michael's party until I looked at the calender posted on the back of my bedroom door. Miranda was invited, too. She called in the morning to ask me what I was going to wear, and I asked what she was talking about because I literally forgot all about it. I wasn't too good with dates. Besides, I was never much of a partier.
I'd managed to make myself look somewhat attractive that night, dressed in a slim skirt and a tight red top Miranda let me borrow. It wasn't my style at all. I felt uncomfortable even attending a party, let alone looking like I belonged in a men's magazine. She assured me I looked fine, which I believed after a while because plenty of cars beeped as we walked a few blocks over to Michael's house.
I was nervous. Nervous that this was all wrong, that I shouldn't even be doing this. The sun was just setting, the sky glowing an orange-pink color. It was quite a pretty sight, even while my stomach was doing flip flops and making me feel sick. I tried any excuse I could to get out of going to Michael's party, but Miranda wouldn't budge. Not even a little bit. And within a few minutes we were there. Michael's house.
People poured out the front door, and into the backyard. It was surprising to see the cops hadn't been called yet, because the music was so loud you could hear it from the next street over. His parents must have been out of town. But then again, when did they ever care if he threw wild parties in their house? It's not like they were ever home to witness it.
Almost immediately after we arrived, Miranda escaped into the crowd.
I grabbed her by the arm just in time.
"Where are you going?" I yelled above all the noise.
"Around. Go mingle, party girl!" She teased, but smiled to let me know she'd find me later. I was in sheer panic; What in the hell was I to do now? I certainly wasn't going to indulge myself in the party scene. Over half of the girls were already trashed and nearly naked, which of course brought upon a lot of wild hoots from the male population. It was already bad enough that I needed to attend.
I instantly felt alone, despite the large amount of people Michael invited. On top of my massive claustrophobic tantrum I was silently having, he wasn't anywhere to be found. I thought I had seen him once, but when I went to find him he escaped again. Typical.
About a half an hour later, I worked up the courage to pull aside one of Bradford's cheerleaders. Her name was Brooke; She had long blonde hair, a fairly large chest, and was quite under the influence of probably more than a few things at the moment. That was all I knew about her, and all I ever wanted to know.
"Hi. Excuse me..." I said, trying my best to raise my voice over the ridiculous noise level. My head was beginning to hurt from all of the commotion.
Brooke looked at me, in all different sorts of highs.
I figured this was my que to go on. "Do you know where Michael is? I can't seem to find him anywhere."
"You're, uh... the girlfriend? Shit. What's your name? Casey? Colleen?"
She laughed, and I felt like giving her a good, hard smack to the face for being such a trashy idiot, but I contained myself due to the fact that I'm a nice person and have never laid a hand on anyone in my life. Dad says I'm the type of person who would never hurt a house fly. Now, I am not one to promote violence, but I do get the urge to cause physical harm to others once in a while. I believe that is natural for everyone, though.
"My name is Courtney, actually. Do you know where Michael is?" I asked again.
"Michael... Uh. I don't know... His room, maybe? I don't know, sweetie."
I rolled my eyes, so close to walking right out of the door and back home. Miranda would be okay; She was a big girl and knew how to take care of herself. It wasn't like I would find her in this mess of people anytime soon, anyway. Especially in a house as big as Michael's. I can only imagine how the drunks feel trying to navigate around the maze.
Just as I turned away from Brooke, I ran head on into the devil.
"Hey, I didn't think you were coming." His normally ice-cold eyes were warm. He looked a lot different than how he does during the week. Cute, even. I was surprised to see him looking so alive. It was probably the most alive I've seen him look in ages.
"I'm here. I was just looking for you."
"I'm glad. Can we talk? Not here, though. In private. Want to take a walk?"
I shrugged. "Sure."
We walked in silence, a few streets over from his house, to the point where we couldn't hear the music anymore. He stopped in the middle of the sidewalk, looking at me with such curiosity I couldn't help but wonder what was going through his head. Michael and I haven't really talked at all lately. It seemed weird, because we were together every morning at school, but conversation usually wasn't a part of it.
"Courtney," he said after what felt like an eternity.
"I've missed you."
No. No, no, no, no, no. My mind raced; It did twirls, spins, and loops throughout my whole body and my face felt warm and my heart was still.
"I've missed you too," I started out slowly, choosing my words carefully. "But not who you are now. I've missed who you used to be."
He ran a strong, masculine hand through his hair and looked at me. "I know... I know. Can I ask you something? Why haven't you broken up with me yet? I'm a terrible boyfriend."
"Michael, please don't say things like that." I shook my head.
"I'm sorry about how I've been lately. It's not me. It really isn't. I've been making so many mistakes and I haven't been paying much attention to what really matters. And that's you." He pulled me towards him and kissed me deeply. This kiss was full of meaning, and suddenly I felt just like I did the first few months of our relationship.
"Michael..." I could hear the uncertainty in my voice.
Everything was all wrong. An instant red flag appeared in my head: What about Jackson? He was the one I wanted to be with, wasn't he? This couldn't be happening now, when things with Jackson were just getting perfect. Especially not after what has happened. Not after I cheated on Michael.
"I know I haven't been good to you. But I promise, I'll make up for that." He half-smiled, and hugged me tight. And as we made our way back to his house, he reached out his hand, and his fingers found their place in between mine for the first time in a long time.
I sat on the steps to my front porch, exhausted and confused from the day's previous events. Jackson was on his way over. I had invited him. Said it was important. The night sky was pitch black; Looking up, the moon was very bright and luminant, and I wanted more than anything to be far away where I wouldn't be caught in between such a dramatic situation.
The air was a little chilly for mid-October. I was far too tired to go inside for a jacket, so I hugged myself to keep warm. I couldn't help but wonder where Miranda was as I looked down at the clothing I had worn to Michael's party. I hadn't seen her since she left me, but I knew she was okay. She's a big girl.
As usual, Jackson appeared within the next couple minutes. The expression on his face looked dazed, like he'd just gotten out of bed. I figured I'd woken him up; It was pretty late, after all. His hair was ruffled and uncombed, but somehow he still looked amazing to me.
"What's wrong?" His eyebrows furrowed as he ran a strong hand through his hair.
I motioned for him to sit down.
I had no clue what I was about to do; The feelings in my stomach were starting to stir up and I could feel the taste of vomit on my tongue, although I didn't do any actual vomiting. I clutched my side with one hand as I winced in pain momentarily. I finally looked him in the eyes, which caused a big commotion in my mind because everything I planned to say was gone once I saw his face. It disappeared, just like that.
I knew I still loved Michael, despite what he had put me through in the past few months. But I felt something for Jackson, too. Something so strong and inevitable that my thoughts were disoriented.
"Ugh, Jackson." I sighed, burying my head in my lap as I let out a rush of tears. I didn't want him to see me crying. I was sure I looked even worse now that my eyes were watery and red. I wiped them with the back of my hand and a dark black smudge of mascara left its own little tattoo on my skin.
"Babe," He took my hand and ran his fingers gently over it. "Please tell me what's wrong."
I shook my head, feeling like a major idiot for blubbering like a child.
"The party. Michael's party. He told me he's sorry. And -- And he kissed me. Oh, gosh, Jackson. I don't know. I really don't."
Jackson pulled his hand from mine so fast that I looked up at him, forgetting all about the mascara I had running down my cheeks. He looked so upset, I could have sworn he'd just been slapped. He stood up abruptly, stone cold. Then with anger, he turned and stared at me.
"You still love him, don't you? After everything we've been through? I told you I love you."
"Jackson, I've been with him for a long time. It's difficult. You know I love you." I cried.
"After everything he's done to you, Courtney. And you still want him. You still want to be with him. Does it really matter if he apologized? Sorry is just one word, and it will never erase what happened in the past."
"I know that."
"If you know that, then why are you retracing your steps? You're going right back to him. If you love him, why would you tell me you love me?"
I paused, "That's not what I'm trying to get at. I do love you, Jackson."
"Then what are you trying to get at? Because I was the one who cared. I still do care. I love you Apparently you're just throwing the word around like it means absolutely nothing. I don't want to be lead on."
Arguing with Jackson was even worse than arguing with Michael, because I wasn't used to seeing a typically quiet, down to earth person in such an upset state. I could feel the pain in my heart building; I was breaking into pieces right there on my front porch, and nothing could save me. Nothing could fix the mess I had gotten myself into.
"It does mean something. I'm just confused."
"Well, give me a call when you know what you want. Alright?"
And he walked away, leaving me alone to sort my thoughts out in the cold night.
The next few days were quiet; I hadn't talked to Miranda since the party. It seemed like every time I appeared, she would disappear within a few seconds, and I didn't understand why. Jackson wouldn't even look my way, either, let alone speak to me. Every apology I made went right through his ear and out the other. I was worried he would never forgive me, that he'd just forget about us completely. I knew I what I was doing was wrong. I knew, but I still did it anyway, regardless of what my mind kept telling me.
Dad even noticed something was wrong when I came downstairs for breakfast. He moved down the newspaper and looked at me, then asked me what the frown was about. I didn't necessarily know I was frowning, but I guess my mood was a little bit too obvious. "Nothing, Dad." I gave my best smile, and walked over to the cabinet for a glass.
As I opened the refrigerator door, I could still feel him looking at me. I felt compelled to say more.
"I just have a big test at school tomorrow. Big, big test. I'm a little bit stressed."
I turned around and he seemed to believe this excuse, thank God. "Better get studying, then. Your grades are beginning to drop." He shook his head.
I half smiled, pouring a glass of orange juice and heading back up to my room before he asked me anymore questions.
All I could think about was Jackson. I left countless voicemails on his answering machine that I wasn't sure he'd even listen to. It was worth a shot, though. I just needed to hear from him. I had to hear his voice. Hear him say, "It's okay, baby. I love you.", just one time. I missed those words. I missed them so much, and it scared me, because I wasn't sure I would ever hear them again. In cartoons, when something bad happens, a devil and an angel pop up on the character's shoulders and try to convince them what to do. That's how I felt at the moment.
I can't do this right now.
That was the text message I received from Jackson. It sent shivers through my spine and spears through my heart.
Please talk to me, I need you. I replied.
"Stop it, Courtney. You're playing with his head." The angel on my shoulder whispered.
Except the devil screamed, "Keep it up, Courtney. Why have one when you can have two?"
Both repeated themselves over and over again in my head. It was a constant battle, and I was stuck in the war zone. I loved Jackson; It was just that I had Michael. That night at his party, I realized that maybe we could work things out. His kiss was so sincere, like he was really sorry for hurting me. I felt bad for cheating on him.
But what I had with Jackson was incredible and the heartache in my chest after our fight was unbearable. I couldn't stand to lose him. I couldn't stand to just let things go, after everything that had happened between us; I brought him into my life to help me forget about my relationship, but my relationship was constantly on my mind since the night of the party.
It was my fault. And I knew that. But I was crazy in love with a guy that was supposed to be my 'Friend with Benefits', and I was falling in love again with a guy that was a complete asshole to me for seventy five percent of our relationship.
My phone vibrated from my bedside table, scaring me out of my thoughts.
A text message. But it wasn't from Jackson. It was from Michael. Kind of shocking.
Meet me somewhere.
Meet him somewhere? Okay. Okay, I could do that. Maybe I could straighten things out once and for all. Maybe I could come clean about Jackson.
Alright. Is the park good? I texted back.
I could still hear the devil on my shoulder trying to convince me that nothing was wrong with this situation. I wanted to believe that. I really did. But I couldn't believe something that wasn't true. The devil was a liar. And I could never believe a lie.
Another vibration. Perfect.
The reason I stay with Michael is because he was the one who helped me the most through my mother's death. I fell in love with him and how much he seemed to care about me. No one seems to understand this, and I'm sure I've focused on mainly all of the bad things about Michael, but to be honest, there's a nice guy in there. Even if he has been hiding for the past couple months. I know he's still there. I also know that I'm a terrible person. I cheat on my boyfriend, and that kills me inside. I know that I've come too far now to forget about it. It wouldn't be remotely possible to do so, with the feelings I have for Jackson constantly on my mind. My heart was breaking, but I was the true heart-breaker.
I arrived at the park and Michael was sitting on the swing, completely motionless and staring up at the moon. He used to tell me staring at the moon when he's in deep thought helps him focus more. I sat down in the swing next to him and looked up at the moon, too. I don't think he truly noticed I was there until I spoke.
"What's on your mind?" I asked.
Michael shrugged. "Have you ever felt," He paused, searching for the right words to say next. "Like you did something wrong, and didn't know how to fix it?"
My heart dropped. Little did he know, I felt like that all the time, and I didn't like it one bit. "Yeah, I know what you mean." I said. He took his gaze away from the bright moon and looked at me deeply. His eyes looked pained and worrisome.
"I feel like I failed you. Like I let us fall apart, and didn't do anything about it. I lay in bed at night, and I just wonder. I wonder what the hell was wrong with me. I had problems. Big problems. But then I simply shut you out and ignored them instead of letting you in. I realize you could have helped me, like I helped you. I don't know why I kept it from you." He sighed lightly.
"Kept what from me? What kind of problems?" I asked, my eyebrows furrowing in concern and also a bit of shock. It was kind of surprising to hear that popular, well-liked jock Michael had any type of problems at all. His life seemed pretty damn great from the outside looking in. But maybe I was blind to something. Maybe he really did have problems. After all, doesn't everyone?
His expression changed and I could tell he felt uncomfortable, but he continued to talk.
"My parents aren't business people like I told you they were. They don't travel all around the world on business trips making money. You see, the truth is... My dad. He -- He's a drug addict. It's very serious."
I didn't say anything. I couldn't say anything. I didn't know what to say.
"A couple of years ago, my mom walked in on him shooting up, and she found countless bags of coke underneath their mattress. It was terrible. She told him she was going to get him help, and he slapped her right across the face. You know what he said back to her? He said, 'I don't need anyone's help, and I sure as hell don't need you telling me what I need.' She was so shocked that she starting crying, so I held her in my arms, and I cried. too. I was losing my father. She was losing her husband. Then a few weeks after that, he literally pulled a bag out at the dinner table, pushed his plate to the side, and was fixated on doing a line right there. That's when my mom couldn't take anymore. She packed up their things and moved to a rehabilitation center with him so he could get the help he needed." I saw a glimmer in Michael's eyes, like he was ready to cry. It was probably the most emotional moment I have ever witnessed.
"But... But your house! Your beautiful house! You live by yourself then? How?" I wondered.
He shrugged, looking back up at the moon again. "My grandparents sent my uncle out here to buy a house. They originally wanted me to move out there with them, but no way in hell was I moving to Arizona, so along came my rich ass uncle Frank to the rescue. He lived with me for about a year, then I guess it seemed like I didn't need him anymore, because he bought an apartment a few miles away and told me to call him if I ever did. I was sixteen at the time. He pays all of the bills for me, though, so I've never had to worry about anything."
I just looked at him. I felt a mix of emotions; For one, I felt sad. He had to deal with his own dad's drug addiction at sixteen year old. It was terrible. Another emotion? Pissed off. Why couldn't he trust me to help me, like I had trusted him for help coping with the death of my mother? Tears erupted in my eyes and I could feel them rolling gently down my cheeks.
"Why didn't you tell me? I thought we could tell each other everything. You shut me out of your life for months and made mine a living hell. Why couldn't you just tell me?" I tried to wipe the tears off my face with the back of my hand but more kept appearing as I thought about the situation we were all facing.
Michael stood up, then pulled me up from the swing to hug me. "I know. I know... I don't expect you to be happy with me right now." he said, squeezing me. I wanted to pull away from his hug, but I needed the comfort. "But I do expect you to believe me when I tell you how much I wish I could go back in time."
The next day I was sitting at Michael's dining room table with a glass of wine and a plate of spaghetti. He had decided the night before that he wanted to make dinner for me, in order to help us get close again. I figured it would be a good idea, though I still had a lot of other stuff on my mind, like the fact Jackson still didn't want anything to do with me.
Maybe it was better that way, but for some reason I couldn't get rid of the pain in my chest. I wanted to fix everything, but how was the question. How would I ever get myself out that situation?
"How's the dinner?" Michael asked nervously. I could tell he spent time trying to get things absolutely perfect. "I guess I'm okay at cooking since I have to cook for myself all the time, but I never go all out and make anything fancy. Not that spaghetti is fancy, it's just not something a one-man household usually has for dinner. I normally just make soup, or grilled cheese, or something."
I grinned, not mentioning that living with more than one person necessarily means you eat spaghetti more often. I normally didn't eat spaghetti, simply because Dad spends most of his time with Emily now that our mom died and I've never really been the social type, especially after the incident, so no one bothered cooking anything fancy at our house, either.
"It's really good. Thanks. You didn't need to, though." I smiled, twirling spaghetti around my fork before popping it in my mouth.
He sipped his wine slowly, then smiled. "But I wanted to." he told me.
We continued to eat dinner for the most part in silence, aside from the occasional average conversation. He seemed to be thinking of ways to keep everything going smoothly, while I was thinking of how interesting it was that he made dinner for the two of us. If anyone at school knew this side of him, he'd be a completely different person. But no, everyone knows him as that loud, outgoing, handsome jock. Most people in those categories tend to be assholes, and he had certainly been one for months, but at least he had a reason. Maybe all the other guys had reasons, too.
As I sat there eating my spaghetti, I began to wonder if ending things with Jackson would help me fully focus on my relationship with Michael. Of course, I didn't want to end things, but it had already made plenty of problems arise and I didn't want to deal with any more of them. Besides, I was supposed to be faithful to Michael. It seems unjust to say that after the whole affair, and it is, but what else was I going to do?
Michael stood up to put his now empty plate away and I handed him mine, too. He walked into the kitchen and I heard him shuffling around with the glasses and plates in the dishwasher. "Thank you. I appreciate all of this, I really do." I called out to him.
He came back in the room and gave me a gentle look. "You're welcome. After my parents left I didn't really get the chance to do things like this for anyone, but I'm hoping this is a good start." he shrugged, standing in the doorway. "Care to watch a movie with me? If you want to spend the night, that would be fantastic. I haven't gotten to spend this much time with you in a while."
I agreed with a smile and we went upstairs to his room. I don't remember what movie we watched, but it was something in the horror genre and kind of cheesy from what I do remember. It was one of those horror movies where you can tell what is going to happen before it happens because the characters are so stupid and no matter how much you yell at the television for them not to do something, they always end up doing the most stupid thing possible.
The only other thing I remembered about that night, was that we did it. I don't know how it happened; We were kissing and he told me he loved me and then five minutes later, boom. And it was just as good as it was before. I guess that's another thing I missed about Michael.