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Authors: marian gard

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BOOK: To See You Again
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I run my hands through Raven's hair and then trace
a single finger along her collarbone, before carefully removing her clothes and
mine. Seeing her naked exceeds every image of her I have shamelessly imagined
before this moment. I catalog her expressions as our hands explore each other's
bodies, and I know, in this instant, without a doubt, I love her, and what we
are about to do is an expression of all of that.

Chapter 3




It's nearly three o'clock in the morning when I
carefully extract myself from Collin, who remains in a deep slumber with his
limbs crossed over my own. I've gone in and out of a very restless sleep since he
passed out a few hours ago. After we had sex he held me in his arms with my
back to his chest, while he traced lazy circles on my skin and whispered that I
was beautiful. I didn't respond beyond a sigh, and when he got up to use the
bathroom I rolled over and feigned sleep when he returned. He drifted off not
long after, and I felt the pain of guilt seeping in like poison being pumped
into my veins.

Now, in this early hour, I'm facing some difficult
truths. Among them: I'm a liar. I'm a cheat. I'm a horrible person. I've hurt
my boyfriend, whom I thought I loved, and destroyed my relationship with my
best friend.

I pad out to the kitchen where I pour myself some water
and then click off the TV in the adjacent room. Tabby's door is slightly ajar,
which means she probably isn't home. She must've stayed with Erin or Vanessa
Thank God.
I lean into the hallway glancing at her door again
and then my own. The Reservoir Dogs poster Collin bought for me sophomore year
hangs slightly askew on the outside of my door. It always looks crooked, no
matter what I do. I tiptoe down the hallway, avoiding the creaky floorboards—the
ones that will give me away—and gently tap on Tabby's door. It swings open and
reveals her neatly made bed. That answers that. OK, no more stalling. It's
clearly just me, a passed-out-Collin, and a huge relationship-ending crisis, hanging
out in the apartment tonight. I saunter back to the kitchen and take a slow sip
of water. There's a part of me that desperately wants to write off what
happened tonight as some sort of a dream.  Maybe all of it could've been an
apparition, some phantom version of Collin, but I know that isn't true. Just a
few feet away, lying in my bed is Collin, in real form. I can't blame this on
alcohol. I wasn‘t
drunk; neither was he.

The other part of me is contemplating phrases that
until tonight I would have completely dismissed as total hyperbole, ridiculous
adulation. Mind-blowing. Earth-shattering. I've had friends use these terms and
I would sit there and think that they were full of it. No one has sex that
good. I haven't had a lot of sexual partners in my life, but I'm not
inexperienced either. I'm guessing I'm about average for my age, although nowhere
near the number Collin's had. I'd planned to stop with Spencer. Sex with him
was good, but after having been with Collin I'm realizing there's no comparison.
I had no idea sex could be like that. I had no idea that those ridiculous expressions
could be experienced in real life. I had no idea. I shiver, thinking about his
passion tonight and the natural way I felt myself respond. Even in our most
intimate moments, it'd never been that way between Spencer and me.

Add this to the list of reasons that I currently
hate myself. Thanks to Collin I will forever compare this experience to any one
that comes after it. Collin has ruined me. This sex has ruined my life. There's
no way I can continue to date Spencer, though I'm not sure I'm capable of
telling him what I've done. I place my glass against my forehead and exhale a
shaky breath. How have I messed up everything like this? I don't
That's never been me. No one is going to get this. Hell, I don't get this. All
my friends, even Vanessa, will be beyond shocked that I've thrown my
relationship away for a one-night stand with a notorious ladies man. They won't
accept sardonic, angry Collin as a substitute for my supportive, sweet
boyfriend. My friends' judgment of me however, is the least of my problems.
Spencer is intertwined in all the meaningful aspects of my life and together
we've figured

I look down and my hands are shaking. In fact, I'm
trembling all over. I guess when you've managed to throw all your plans away in
one night, that's what you do—shake uncontrollably. My mind floods with
everything that was supposed to happen next in my life: graduate, move to
Spencer's hometown in Michigan, start our careers and then get engaged. That's
our plan. It's a good one, and I just set it all on fire. I was going marry
Spencer: kind, thoughtful,
Spencer. What the hell have I done?

A memory of him getting emotional about Collin thrusts
its way into my brain, as though my conscious is showing me bloodied crime
scene photos.
Here, take a good look at what you've done.
He's always
been insecure around Collin, and I would alternate between chiding and
reassuring him for it. I had the nerve to get angry with him over his jealousy
just one week ago, when I'd skipped dinner with him to go hiking with Collin—an
activity I'd mentally justified because Spencer doesn't like to hike, though he
probably would've for me. "Don't you trust me?" I'd questioned, employing my
most reasonable calm voice, and poor Spencer had apologized. He'd said ‘sorry'
to stupid, slutty, about-to-cheat, me. I shut my eyes, realizing I have
successfully made his worst nightmare come true.

I switch back to thoughts of Collin and my mind
starts racing as my heart begins to pound. I can't deny that once he kissed me,
I didn't want him to stop. He asked me twice if I was sure, and both times I
just kissed him. I couldn't say yes, I was way beyond no, but I never stopped
him. Just the thought of Collin kissing me now makes my knees buckle. I place
my hand on the counter and force myself to drink some water. I have to calm
down! I have to figure all of this out. Now.
Get it together, Raven.
is coming and I need to know what I'm going to do next about this huge mess
I've created.

I close my eyes and try to picture Collin and me
together, but it's just a complete mess. If this had happened when we first met
then maybe a relationship would've been possible, but that's a big maybe. Now
I've got a pending graduation day, job interviews, and the life I've worked so hard
to achieve finally starting. I don't know what the hell he's doing! He's just
coasting along as though a plan doesn't matter, as though nothing matters. And
maybe to him, nothing does. Including me.

I know he doesn't
relationships, and I
doubt that's what he'd want, even from me. My stomach churns at the thought
that I was just another conquest for Collin, one more notch in his belt. He
sort of said that didn't he? Before he kissed me. When I asked if there was
anything he wanted to do before we graduated. The idea of being on some
checklist floods me and I feel ill. I shake it off, inhaling and exhaling
deeply. What he wants, or what this was to him, is actually totally irrelevant.
A relationship with Collin isn't part of my future. Even if I'm no longer part
of Spencer's five-year plan, I know that Collin isn't part of
of mine. We don't fit into each other's worlds outside of the life we have here.
It seemed possible we could've remained friends, and I'd hoped for that, but now
that too, is ruined.

I hear a creak in the floor and I whirl around,
startled. Collin is standing in the doorway of the kitchen wearing nothing but
his boxers.
Oh God.

"Hey," he says, taking a few strides toward me,
"you, OK?"

I'm going to throw up. I don't answer. Instead I turn
away from him, stare down at my empty glass, and exhale.  Collin comes up
behind me and gently places his hands on my bare arms. "Come back to bed,
Raven. I want to hold you." His voice is so soft it feels like caress and for a
split second I want to do exactly what he says.

I turn around to face him, backing up a few paces,
so I slip out of his grasp. "I can't."

A crease forms on his forehead and he exhales nervously,
looks away, and then returns his attention to me. "Raven, this isn't what you
think. Um. Shit. I'm really bad at this, OK? I wanted to talk to you about this
beforehand, but…"

"Wait," I interrupt him, "beforehand? You planned

"No!" He puts a hand up defensively and then
closes his eyes and inhales and exhales slowly. Reopening his eyes he says,
"OK, not exactly." He shakes his head, looking rattled. I don't think I have
ever seen Collin rattled. He always has the cool I-don't-give-a-crap thing down
pat, even when his stepdad is taking shots at him, pushing every button he can
find. "I mean, I'd planned to try to talk to you about…and back at the bar…God,
this is so hard." He runs a hand through his hair, causing clumps of it to
stand on end. I glance at his chest, and he follows my gaze and then exchanges
it for staring at my bare legs. I'm only wearing a tank top and my panties. We're
not dressed for friendship-ending conflict, but let's just add that to the ever-increasing
list of reasons why tonight is shaping up to be the worst night ever.

"Collin, we fucked up.
fucked up. This,"
I gesture back and forth between us, "can't happen." Panic and hurt sweeps over
his face making him look years younger, like a little boy. For a split second I
falter. I don't know what I expected, but this wasn't it. I want to understand
what's going through his mind and what
thinks all of this means. I
notice him swallowing hard and I expect his expression to dissolve as a result.
I've seen him do that before, squash some internal stirring that has interrupted
his ever-present neutrality, but this time it doesn't. The hurt remains. I ache
all over. I know, better than anyone, how much pain and rejection Collin has
faced by the people closest to him in his life; the thought of being the cause
of more of that for him makes me ill.

I soften my tone, but decide not to delve further.
It's best for both of us if we don't. We made a huge mistake tonight and we
have to make it right the best we can. I have to stay the course. "You're my
best friend, Collin. You mean so much to me, but I have a boyfriend." (
probably not for much longer…)

"This is about Spencer?" All anguish seems to wash
out of Collin's face and is replaced with incredulity. "That guy, Raven?"

"Yes, that guy, Collin! Otherwise known as my
boyfriend. Whose heart I probably broke tonight, or I will, when he finds out…"
My voice trails off and Collin is looking away from me now, his gaze down the
hall, toward my bedroom. I stare at him, waiting. He looks back at me and I can
tell he's calmer and more resolved than before, but when he speaks his voice is
heartbreakingly raw.

"Don't you feel anything for me, Raven? Didn't
this mean something to you?" I'm thrown again. For as close as we've been over
the years this is uncharted territory. His words awaken a wanting within me
that is trying to break free, but I feel terrified by it. Any step closer to
whatever this is feels like it would be a blind jump off a cliff. I can't do

I close my eyes and feel my heart as it pounds in
my chest while images from tonight replay in my mind. His kiss. His touch. I
feel weak in the knees thinking about how breathless he'd left me. How
everything had felt with him. I think of all our time together over the
past few years and I realize I feel for him in ways I never wanted to admit, or
was afraid to acknowledge, fearing he'd never reciprocate. Yet here he stands,
in all his male beauty; vulnerable, and asking me what
want. I want to
say to hell with everything rational in my life and throw myself into his arms,
kiss him, and pretend that somehow we can make this work. Maybe we could, if
Collin took
seriously. I try to envision him in my life, in the
future I want for myself, and he just doesn't go, like a puzzle piece shoved in
the wrong box.

I raise my eyes to meet his and for the first time
since I've known Collin, I lie to him. "Of course I feel something, but it is
just friendship, nothing more. What we did tonight…it wasn't right." The words
come out slow like they're sticky and adhering to my cheeks and tongue—not
wanting to be spoken at all.

He stares back at me, hard, like he's trying to
ferret out the lie I've just told. I hold his gaze, but all the moisture leaves
my mouth.  I'm completely torn—part of me wants to get away with my deceit, and
the other part is withering as my resolve begins to drain away. I imagine
myself in his arms again; only this time he's telling me everything will be OK.
I want him to tell me he has a
to make it that way. Instead he
drops his eyes and stares at the floor. He lifts his hand and touches his chest
running his fingertips back and forth like he's feeling around for something.
Then he turns, without a word, and walks away. I sink into a chair and bite my
lip, willing the tears that are threatening not to escape from my eyes.

Collin appears moments later fully dressed with a
cigarette dangling from his lips. He stops in front of where I sit, but says
nothing; instead he pulls his lighter from his back pocket and lights his
cigarette. He takes a long dramatic drag and then exhales in my direction
sending smoke billowing toward me. This gesture and the expression on his face
all scream
fuck you
in a way only Collin could perfect. I've seen him with
that look on his face before, but have never been on the receiving end of it.
It feels like ice slicing through me.

"You start work tomorrow at ten?" His voice is
cold, flat, devoid of emotion. I nod and blink and a rush of tears race down my
cheeks. "I'll come by a little after that and get the rest of my shit. I'll
leave my key under the mat or with Tabby, if she's home. Please don't be here."
His voice is firm and distant.

BOOK: To See You Again
3.39Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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