Law took a deep breath. Not one I heard, but I saw his entire torso lift and settle again. It was silent, but huge, as if he just sucked in a lungful of strength. His gaze leveled with mine.
“Steph asked me on a date, and I said yes. Not because I don’t love you, because you know I do. But because this is the one time in my life where I can. After this, we’re off to college and jobs and real life responsibilities, and I know I want to experience all that with you.”
I heard what he said, but my mind wasn’t comprehending it. A rush of blood pulsated in my ears. “But, you hate Steph.”
Yep. That’s what I said. All that, and the only thing I could focus on was that he hated Steph.
He scrubbed the back of his neck with his hand. “I don’t hate Steph. I didn’t like her relentless pursuit of me, but I don’t hate her. She’s a nice girl.”
“So, her pursuit paid off? Is that what this is?”
“No, it’s not that.”
I stood up straight. “Well, what is it then? I’m still waiting for you to say something that makes sense.”
“We should use this time for experiences, Cami. I want our future to have no regrets. It’s just one date. I’ve never been on a date with anyone but you.”
My eyes burned hot with tears, but I blinked them back. Law had seen me cry more times over the years than my family, especially since the death of my dad. But I wouldn’t give him this.
He hurt me, and he knew how to fix it. But I refused to have my tears feed his guilt. If he wanted to make things right, he had to do it for the right reasons. Not because he felt sorry for me.
“I thought you were dating me. How can you toss me aside for someone like her? She isn’t even nice.”
“Cami.” His voice sounded pained. “I’d never, ever, toss you aside. I don’t know how else to explain it to you. I know it sounds stupid, but it’s what I need. I want to be one hundred percent sure about you and me. This is the only way I could see to make that happen.”
My breath hitched. “Is it because I won’t have sex with you? Because I will, someday. I just didn’t think we were ready.”
“This has nothing to do with sex.”
That I believed. The way his eyes held mine took my breath away. So, if it wasn’t the sex, it must have been a status thing. I’m the poor girl with the sad life. Steph is the rich girl, cheerleading captain, who’s been in bed with half the football team. She’s a senior and stupidly gorgeous. If Law dated her, he’d be the most popular sophomore at Logansville High. The pieces made sense.
In a nanosecond I went from sad to angry. “If you think I’m just going to stick around and wait for you while you sample the other girls around here, you’ve got another think coming. I won’t hang around being poor, sad Cami while you prance around with your new arm candy.”
“If that’s what you want, then it’s your decision to make. Just know while you’re home pouting, I’ll be out with the cheerleading captain. Maybe, if I’m lucky, I’ll get to kiss her.” His taunt dripped with antagonism.
The words stuck to me like a thousand burrs I’d never be able to get off, and all that mattered was hurting him back. It was a weak attempt. The last person I ever thought would intentionally hurt me had wounded me through and through.
“Fine! At least I have your first kiss!”
“Yeah? Well, she’s going to get my last.” That was his parting shot. Law left me alone in the shop room, slamming the door behind him, as I tried to gather up the pieces to my shredded heart.
“What an idiot! I’ve changed my mind. I don’t care if he’s back for you or not, he doesn’t deserve you.”
Kiersten’s angry on my behalf after hearing the retelling of my childhood heartbreak. If it hadn’t hurt so bad to share that memory, I might laugh at how upset she is for teenage me.
During the recollection, I laid on my back on the couch. My fingers lace against my abdomen and my feet perch on the armrest. Kiersten holds her face is a comical mask of ire as she paces the floor next to me. The entire situation is reminiscent of an hour at the shrink’s office, not that I’d know what that feels like.
“I agreed with you back then. I thought he was being an idiot too. Now that I’m older, I can sort of see where he was coming from.”
She abruptly stops in her tracks. “How can you even say that? He crushed you!”
I roll my eyes. “Thanks for the reminder.”
“Well, you sound like an idiot. Did you forget all the pain this caused? Not to mention him hurting you was the catalyst for all… this.” She waves her hand, gesturing my living room.
“I was the catalyst for all this.” I correct. “I say that partly because three weeks after that happened, he ended things with Steph and came crawling back to me to tell me how wrong and sorry he was. And partly because I get it now. I have a teenaged daughter. If she started dating one guy now and wanted to be with him forever, I’d try to warn her of the same things too. High school should be the time for meeting different people and making friends. I know my life isn’t typical for most, but things go fast once college hits. More often than not, people regret long-term dating in high school. High school sweethearts are a myth more than reality. Law wasn’t far off in what he was trying to convey. His inexperience and delivery, however, is a different story.”