The car ride home was silent, except for the music, pumping through the car. The hair pins and clips, Liz had painstakingly placed in her hair, earlier, had been taken out. Preparing her to wow a guy that she no longer had any interest in. A pang hit her hard in the stomach because of the lie, making her jump slightly, and causing Derek to look down at her, Allison's head being cradled in his lap.
She told him she was fine, she had said that many times that night. When she had come down the final flight of stairs, no shoes and soaking wet, her friends had all swarmed her. Asking her if she was alright, what had happened, where Jared was. She had answered them all, one by one.
When they realized that she didn’t really want to talk about it, Liz and Sarah had taken her back upstairs, for a shower and for some dry clothes. They were both silent, not asking her anymore questions, but she knew the one question that they had to be dying to ask. What had happened with Jared? When her hair had been de-pinned and combed out, new clothes and shoes were put on and she felt a bit more human again, she sat on the counter, in the monster of a bathroom, facing her friends.
“Hon …” Liz started, “What happened?”
Ally shook her head, sadly, “Just didn’t work out.”
Sarah looked confused, “What didn’t work out? Weren’t you guys just getting to know each other?”
Ally shrugged, really not knowing, “Maybe. But it’s over now, and I kind of want to get home.” Sarah and Liz had stared at her for a minute, knowing she was holding back, before they had both nodded, and the tree of them had headed back down the steps to the guys, who they found huddled, heads bent together. Talking about something that seemed important, something they weren’t particularly happy about, it seemed. When they all looked up, it was at Ally. Andrew was the one who broke away from the group to come over to them.
“So you found something to wear?” When Ally nodded, he said, “And you’re alright?”
“Yes, I’m fine.” She looked over at Derek who was looking at her strangely, “D, can we get going?”
“Yeah, whatever you want Ally.” Hugs and goodbyes were exchanged, and then they were on their way, Sarah driving and Liz in shotgun. The silence deafening, except for the music. Ally was lost in her thoughts. Thoughts that weren’t supposed to be revolving around one particular, English heartthrob. His smile, his laugh, his eyes … Jared get out of my head! This wasn’t supposed to be so hard, simply because she barely knew him. But he … had left his mark, she admitted. This was going to be harder than she thought.
They had arrived at Allison’s house and Sarah and Liz had said their goodbyes and both of them had hopped into Liz’s BMW, knowing they weren’t going to get anything out of Ally by hanging around. That left Derek and Allison, standing in the driveway, the rain, having stopped on the way back home.
“I know I’m not getting rid of you,” she said smiling slightly, looping her arm in his.
“You know me well.” He said, both of them walking toward the front door.
“Let’s just get inside.”
There was no one in the house, Meredith not coming until later next week and her parents not back yet. The house was its usual tomb-like self. Cold and empty. Allison yawned and stretched, looking back at Derek.
“Look, I’m really tired, so I’m just going to go to bed. You can do what you want, the sheets in the room you like have been changed, I think.” She kissed his cheek, “Night Derek.”
“Night.” He said, but then he took hold of her hand, startling her, “Are you sure there’s nothing you want to talk about, Bunny? You’ve seemed kind of … different ever since you came back. Is something bothering you?” Allison looked at Derek, her best friend. He really was always there for her and he could always tell when there was something deeper going on with her than what she let on.
She truly considered telling him, considered lifting a weight off her shoulders … but instead she said, “I’m fine, D. But I do want to get to bed.”
He stared at her after she said that, no doubt scrutinizing every nuance of her face, her body language, and she also knew that Derek knew she was lying. He frowned, and she knew he wanted her to open up, but she just couldn’t let him in on this one. Couldn’t let anyone in on it.
“I’m going upstairs.” She unlatched her hand from his, and turned to go. Allison hurried up the two flights of stairs to her own room. Sighing, she closed her door behind her and leaned back against it. She wouldn’t let Derek in, she wouldn’t let anyone in. Jared was pushed to the side because of it, and she couldn’t help but think, in the long run, who else would also be shut out. But she didn’t have a choice. That was a part of her life she was determined to move past. Even if it meant … she had to forsake everything she knew … even if it meant she had to forget her happiness. Her past … would not be voiced.
After staring at the canopied top of her bed, for what felt like hours, Allison finally drifted off to sleep, and she dreamed. The same dream she had been having every night, for a while by then. A memory, that she didn't look back on with pleasure.
Stormy grey eyes burn holes in her back. Allison shifts in the hard, wooden chair that she had been sitting in for the past hour. Ducking her head, she focuses more intently on the book resting on the table before her. She always came to the library to escape, to read.
But she hadn’t expected him to be here. He had obviously followed her here from school one day. Now that he knew where her favorite spot was, and made a point to show up now and then, she was seriously reconsidering her choice of where she hung out in her free time. Besides her apartment … she had nowhere else. Damn him, but if he continued to show his face here … she would stop showing hers.
She repositions her hipster glasses on her face. A gift from Sam, and she smiles at the thought of him. When will I be able to go home …, she wonders wistfully. Finishing the book, she closes it sighing. Standing up from the chair, she makes her way to the stacks again, looking for something else to read. Browsing a bookshelf in the YA romance section, she only realizes how stupid her desision to come over here was, when two arms position themselves on either side of her head.
“Why don’t you like me?” He asks, his mouth right next to her ear, his breath tickling her, making her shiver.
“Why can’t you take no for an answer, and leave me the hell alone?” She answers. He'd been pestering her to go out with him for a while now and she had continued to say no. Some would say she's stupid for it, the boy's gorgeous. But she doesn't want anything to do with anyone, romantically, or otherwise. She just wants to go home.
“Can’t you see that we’re meant to be together?” He whispers, “Like, the forever kind of together.”
“You’re full of it.” She tries to duck under his arm, but he presses forward, trapping her with his body. His tightly muscled body.
“If you’re so sure, why don’t you try me out, see if you’re right?” His hand drops to her waist, caressing her hip.
She sucks in a breath, “Why are so interested in me?” She gasps, his hand having slipped under her T, now touching the exposed skin of her stomach. “There are tons of other girls at school that would kill to be with you.”
“I … want to get to know you better,” he says. His mouth on her neck, “Go out with me.”
He had her at the words, “I want to get to know you” and he knew it. Her next words set her on a path she’d never really get off of.
Allison woke up, gasping for breath, her heart thundering in her chest.
When she had tried and failed to go back to sleep, more times than she could keep track of, Allison gave up, and got out of bed. Clad in her favorite, polka dot nightie, she slid into her slippers and trekked out into the hallway. The room next door was “Derek’s”, she pushed the door open to find him shirtless, sitting on the foot of the bed, in plaid PJ bottoms, looking at the door as she came in. He’d been waiting for her.
Tears brimmed in her eyes. “Can I … sleep in here with you?” She asked, coming to stand before him. He stood up, all tan and golden skin and hugged her close. She wrapped her arms around his waist, her head buried in his chest. She needed this … she didn’t want to be alone, with her thoughts, with her dreams.
“Always, Bunny. I’ll always be here for you.” He said, guiding her to the bed.
“I know, but you know how stubborn I can be.” She said, under the sheets then, Derek pulling her closer to him, cocooning her with his body. Her back to his front.
“You’re never alone, Ally. You have me, you have Sarah, and Liz. Sam and Drew. All of us are here for you,” he said, his arms squeezing her tight as he did. “Don’t shut us out.”
“I’m trying not to … but I don’t think I’m ready to open up yet.”
“Then, wait until you’re ready, but don’t pretend that there’s nothing wrong. We can understand that you have things you can’t talk about. Who doesn’t? But we are your friends … we care for you, I care for you. When you start acting so strangely, it scares me. I can only be there for you if you let me.”
She smiled, wrapping her arms around Derek’s, her eyes finally beginning to drift shut, sleep on the horizon. “I’m sorry that I’m so much trouble.” She said droopily.
He kissed the top of her head, laughing softly, “Go to sleep.” She followed his order dutifully, gratefully, beginning to drift off, and in the murky darkness of sleep, she thought she heard the words, “I love you”, whispered softly in her ear. But she knew sleep was playing tricks on her. She gave into the pull and let sleep drag her into an unconscious abyss.