Jasmine Johnson was your average seventeen year old in small town Hughston. She didn’t have friends; she didn’t need them. She was the soft spoken girl who sat in the back of the class, easily one of the smartest too, but she never raised her hand. Her life was just fine until Shane came around… he teased her and annoyed her, but he also made her feel the way no one has ever done before.
Age Rating: 18+ (Content Warning: Assault, Attempted Rape, Overdose, Suicide)
Reluctantly Yours by Jadlynn Hagler is now available to read on the Galatea app! Read the first two chapters below, or download Galatea for the full experience.
Read the full uncensored books on the Galatea iOS app!
I was getting ready for school, trying to hurry because I was in a little time crunch. It was the beginning of second semester at Hughston High school and I was surprised at how fast senior year had flown by.
It seemed like only a few weeks ago that I’d first stepped into the school as a freshman, looking around at everything that piqued my curiosity.
I went into the bathroom and looked at myself one last time to make sure I didn’t have anything embarrassing on my face. Looking in the mirror, I saw an average-looking fair-skinned girl looking back at me.
I had braided my longish black hair into a crown on my head. My big light-brown eyes seemed to pop from my face under my dark hoodie. Freckles fanned across my tiny, and annoying, pointed button nose and my cheeks.
I finally stepped away from the mirror and went into my room, grabbing my purse, keys, and phone to head out the door. I went downstairs and walked outside, knowing that Dad had already gone to work.
I got in my silver Chevy Impala and started the engine before driving toward school. When I arrived, several groups of students were standing outside, chatting in the parking lot to catch up after winter break.
I looked around and saw all of the familiar kids walking around, carrying bags, books, and some held nothing but their phones. I walked up to the table by the door to wait.
We weren’t allowed inside before the bell rang and so we waited in the parking lot and the little courtyard. Hughston wasn’t a big place, so neither was its school.
The student body was about 400 students—not that many. In a town this small, we rarely got any new people, and when we did, they were all they talked about, but I usually tried to ignore the drama and gossip.
It was hard to ignore some of the louder speakers, though. Apparently there were seven new kids this year. One in ninth grade, three in tenth, one in eleventh, and two seniors.
I pulled out my phone and began to read a book on the story app that I had downloaded a few months ago. I had gotten so into this one story. I absolutely loved it. I growled in frustration when I got to the end.
I hated it when the author hadn’t updated in a while. I checked the author’s profile and saw that they hadn’t updated in three months.
I hated it even more to see that it hadn’t been updated in so long, like the writer just disappeared from the face of the earth.
I jumped when the bell rang and stood up. I walked inside, heading toward my first period class, which was English with Mr. Tyler. I walked in and sat at my empty desk in the far back corner.
The classroom quickly began to fill up with bustling, talkative students.
As always, I kept my head down and began to read again before the late bell rang, which signaled the start of class. Mr. Tyler walked in and looked around the wide room.
“Just take a free seat, Mr. Lewis,” he said to someone. I looked around and saw that there were multiple free seats in the room.
In an AP class of fifteen students, sixteen now, there were plenty of desks that weren’t filled, considering the fact that there were twenty-five desks in all.
As the AP class, most of the students preferred to sit up front. I was one of the very few in the back row, but I didn’t mind much. I didn’t like being called on, and I never raised my hand for anything.
A guy stepped into the row a few seconds later, his eyes scanning over everyone. When they were nearing me, I put my head down again.
I tried not to make eye contact with anyone. I heard his footsteps walk toward the back, and then I heard the shifting of a seat.
I glanced out of the corner of my eye to see that he’d sat two seats away from me, next to Cooper, who was always quiet and brooding.
We were alike on the quiet part. He never raised his hand or spoke to anyone either. We sat at the same lunch table, but we never uttered a word in the three years he’s been here.
We sit and eat in comfortable silence on opposite sides of the table.
I assumed that Cooper and this new guy knew each other. They started talking and looked like old friends, like they had an inside joke on everything. They both dressed alike too, with their dark clothes.
I didn’t realize I was staring until the new boy swiveled his head around to meet my eyes. His eyebrow slowly arched in question and I felt my cheeks heat up as I turned away.
Mr. Tyler stepped up to his desk and addressed the new guy.
“It’s Shane Lewis, correct?”
The boy looked up and nodded before turning back to finish talking to Cooper. I kept my eyes glued to either my paper or the board for the rest of the period, unwilling to embarrass myself by being caught staring again.
The bell rang and I put my stuff away. I heard an unfamiliar voice behind me as I walked out. “Who’s that?” it asked. Although he hasn’t really talked that much, I knew it was Cooper’s voice who answered.
“Her? That’s just Jasmine. She doesn’t talk to anybody, though.”
Without thinking, I squeezed my eyes shut without stopping and rammed into a desk when I heard my name. I dropped my bag and of course, I hadn’t zipped it up, so my books went flying everywhere.
I stopped and took a deep breath before quickly picking up my things and shoved them in my bag. As soon as I made sure the zipper was closed, I speed-walked out of the classroom, my face most likely resembling a tomato.
At lunch, I got my tray of cafeteria food and walked to my regular table. Cooper wasn’t there yet, but I didn’t mind.
I sat down and grabbed the apple from my plate, since it looked like the only thing I would actually eat. I wouldn’t have gotten anything but if you don’t bring lunch, the school requires you to buy something.
I took a bite out of the apple and I heard footsteps coming closer. I glanced up and saw Cooper sit down across from me like he usually did.
His dirty blonde hair fell over his hazel eyes as he looked at me. I looked back down to pay attention to the story I was reading but was surprised to hear Cooper’s voice.
“Hey.” I looked up to meet his eyes. I almost looked around to make sure there wasn’t anyone else around, but I didn’t want to seem stupid since he was obviously talking to me.
“Um, h-hi,” I said skeptically. He’s never spoken to me before so I wasn’t exactly sure what to do. His lips pulled up in one corner in a barely there smile and continued to talk to me.
“It’s Jasmine, right? Jasmine Johnson?”
He sounded like he was kind of proud to remember my name and I nodded. I felt myself smirk and I looked back down at my phone when I spoke.
“We’ve been sitting together for three years and you had to ask to clarify my name,” I muttered.
After a few seconds of silence, I risked a glance up to see that he was studying me with a calculating expression.
“Yes. We never talk so… Do you mind if a friend sits with us?” he asked after trailing off, glancing over my shoulder.
I bit my lip and slowly nodded, turning my attention back to my phone when I heard heavy footsteps come toward us. I kept my eyes glued to my phone as the other person sat down beside Cooper.
“Hey Shane. Did you hear about that deal that went bad last night? I heard that Cason got shot but…” I cut him off and glanced up sharply.
“If you’re going to talk about drug deals, shoot-outs, and gangbanging, then let me know so I can leave,” I said quietly. Cooper stared at me in surprise. A smirk appeared on his face as he looked at me.
“That’s the most I’ve ever heard you say at once, Jazz. You should speak more. Your lips look sexy when you do it,” Cooper said. I felt my cheeks heat as I glared at him.
“Why are you being so rude? Is it because he’s here?” I asked, nodding my head toward the new guy, Shane, without looking at him. Cooper didn’t say anything, just kept staring at me with an amused look on his face.
Before Cooper could say anything, Shane surprised me by speaking up. “Leave Bambi alone, Coop. She’s not bothering anybody.”
I threw a grateful glance toward Shane when Cooper seemingly shut up, ignoring the flare of indignation at the nickname.
I looked back down and kept my eyes on the story in front of me, tuning them out as they talked about what they did over winter break, getting drunk at parties, and talking about some hot girl that they had met.
By the time the bell rang, I had finished my apple.
I scooped up my tray and my bag then walked out after discarding the trash. Pounding footsteps followed me and I turned to see Shane running up to me. “You dropped this in first period,” he said, holding the book out to me.
It was my personal notebook. Not a diary or anything like that, just ideas or random thoughts that I have, sometimes sketches. I reached out and grabbed the black and white spiral from his hands.
I dipped my head in thanks and walked away.
I pushed my way through the crowded halls toward the bathroom. I finally got there and quickly washed my hands when a few girls walked into the bathroom, talking loudly.
“Did you see the new guy? I think his name was Shane or something like that,” one of them said.
“Yeah, he’s in my second period. He is a total hot cake. I wouldn’t mind a slice of that,” another girl said. They looked at me and I turned my head away.
“Hey Jasmine. Haven’t seen you around lately,” said the first girl, whom I recognized as Jessie McCarthy. “Hey,” I mumbled. I dried off my hands and scurried off, but stopped when Jessie called my name again.
I didn’t know why she was suddenly talking to me now. Although she was always nice and we had been friends at the beginning of middle school, she had changed into a typical, cliché, popular high school girl.
I looked at her once more in expectation. “There’s a party that I’m throwing this weekend. I wanted to invite you, get you out there a little, you know?”
I was surprised by the invitation, wondering what brought this all on.
“I-I don’t think I’ll make it. I’m not really into parties, but thank you though,” I said softly. Jessie bit her cheek and even her friends looked at her in curious surprise.
She walked toward me and I flinched for no reason. She smiled kindly and held out her hand.
“Can I see your phone?” I looked at her in confusion, wondering why she wanted my phone, but I pulled it out and unlocked it anyway before handing it to her. She tapped on the screen quickly and handed it back to me.
She had put in her number and sent herself a text. I looked up at her in question but she just smiled again. “You know, so I can see if you changed your mind. I can give you a ride, too, if you need one.”
I didn’t know why she was being so nice all of a sudden. I gave her a small smile and turned to walk out of the bathroom.
I hurried to class, not wanting to be late for art, one of my favorite classes. I walked in just as the bell rang and Mrs. Carter looked at me expectantly. “If everyone will take their seats, then we may begin,” she said.
I looked around to see that I was the only one standing. I ducked my head and walked to the back, toward my usual seat, to see that it was already occupied. By Shane, of course.
I froze for a moment, unsure whether to confront him about taking my seat or to take the other empty seat next to him. I lowered my head again and slouched into the empty seat beside him.
Mrs. Carter started the class by telling us about our next projects in class. I listened intently while she spoke.
Our project was to create something about someone or something that inspired us. I twisted and wrung my hands in my lap, waiting for her to hand out the assignment papers so we could read over it.
Suddenly, it felt like someone was watching me. I looked up but saw no one’s gaze upon me. I turned to the right to see that he was the one staring at me.
I quickly looked away and focused on Mrs. Carter. At least, I tried to focus on her. It was like Shane’s eyes were burning a hole in the back of my head and I squirmed in my seat.
As soon as the bell rang, I jumped up, my stuff already packed. As I was heading out the door, Mrs. Carter stopped me. I turned to look at her, aware that the classroom wasn’t empty yet. I walked to her desk.
“I wanted to ask you to do something for me,” she said. I nodded once, waiting for her to continue. “Well, there’s this showcase and I’m friends with the woman who runs it.
“She’s taking in artists and she said that I could pick a student to have their work put in the showcase.” She stopped and looked at me, but I was waiting for her to finish, wondering where she was going with this conversation.
She sighed and said, “I wanted you to be my chosen artist, Jasmine.” My eyes widened in surprise and I vigorously shook my head. She laid a hand on my arm.
“Please, Jasmine. You have such an amazing talent, but you rarely use it. Do this for me, please. It can help you with art scholarships in college. Please just consider it,” she pleaded.
I looked at her for a few seconds and reluctantly nodded in agreement. She smiled kindly at me and handed me a sheet of blue paper from her desk.
“This has all the information on it. All the guidelines, rules, and procedures, along with the deadline,” she explained. I nodded and took the paper before leaving the classroom.
When I stepped through the door, Shane was standing there, leaning against the door.
I glanced at him and kept walking, eager to get away from his unsettling stare. “Jasmine,” I heard a voice call behind me. Why did everyone want to talk to me?
I turned around and Shane was walking toward me in the crowded hall. For the first time, I allowed myself to take in his appearance. He actually wasn’t that bad looking, if you’re into rugged and sexy.
His wavy dark hair was pushed off his face. He had brown eyes with little golden flecks in them and his strong, sharp jawline was clean shaven. He had a straight nose that came to a point and his lips were full and parted.
He came up to me and asked, “So when do you want to start on the project?” I stared at him blankly, wondering what he was talking about.
He rolled his eyes and sighed. “You know, the project that she assigned us to work on. Together?”
I remembered the paper Mrs. Carter had handed out. I knew that she’d said to work with partners but I wasn’t paying close attention. I felt like smacking myself over the head. The one time I didn’t pay attention in that class!
“Um… We’re working together?” I asked quietly. He nodded, looking bored and I just shrugged. “Whenever you want, I guess,” I said. He smiled and looked at me.
“How about now?” I stared at him blankly again.
“What?” I asked, dumbfounded.
“What do you have next period?”
I could’ve lied and said I had biology next period, but then again, he might be in my biology class too. I had a free period next, but I didn’t want to spend it with him or anybody else.
“Um… I don’t really want to do it now,” I mumbled, looking away from him.
“Okay then. When do you want to meet after school?” he asked. I looked up at him, alarm shooting through me. “Um… now is fine, actually,” I said quickly and quietly.
He smirked and nodded, leading us to the library. He went into one of the private studies in the back of the library, sliding the door closed after I stepped in.
I took a seat at the round table and he plopped down right next to me, which was a little uncomfortable. He pulled out the paper Mrs. Carter had given us and set it between us so that we could both read it.
We had to do a project on something that awed or inspired us personally. We had to do it separately then find a way to collaborate with our partners and make it into one.
My eyes roamed over the paper, reading the words slowly and carefully so that I would have an excuse not to look up at him again.
“I know you’re done reading,” he said suddenly. “Your eyes have been moving in the same spot for a little longer than necessary… unless you find me distracting,” he said smugly.
My cheeks heated and I sat back in my chair, bringing my face further away from the paper.
“So what kind of art do you do?” he asked me after a few beats of silence. I glanced up at him quickly then averted my eyes back to the table, as if it was the most fascinating thing in the world.
“I- uh… I draw… mostly. Sometimes I’ll paint, but I’m not as good at doing that,” I mumbled quietly. “What- what kind of art do you do?” I asked. It was silent again for a few more seconds before he answered.
When I glanced up again, I wasn’t sure if he had heard me, but he had the tiniest hint of a smile pulling up his lips. “I’ve never done art before. I’m more into music, actually, but I wanted to try something new.”
My curiosity piqued a bit but not enough to make me want to ask what he did in music.
“Well, there’s not really much we can begin with on this project. At least not together. We have to start off alone and collab. So I don’t see the point…”
I trailed off of my mumbling when I saw that he was dragging his gaze over my face, searching, for what, I wasn’t sure.
“I think we’re mostly here to brainstorm, Bambi,” he said, using the stupid pet name again. “Actually,” he said. “I think I have an idea. Photography counts as art, right?” I nodded in answer to his question so he continued.
“Well then, how about I do something in photography and you draw or paint something and we’ll see what we come up with and put it together. I’m sure we can get it done within the three-week due date.”
I thought it over and it sounded like it could be really cool. I had no idea what I was going to put on the paper. Very quietly, I asked, “What inspires you?”
I lifted my head and when I met his eyes this time, I couldn’t look away. He held my gaze for what felt like an eternity, and it felt like he was probing into my thoughts with his chocolate orbs.
“I don’t know yet, Bambi,” he said quietly. I felt the moment had broken once he spoke and I shifted my eyes back to my hands in my lap.
“I guess we’ll have to figure it out soon,” I whispered. With that, I stood up, gathered my things, and walked out of the sliding door.
There was a reason I was alone all the time. Not because I couldn’t make friends, but because I didn’t want to. If they found out what was really wrong with me, then they wouldn’t want me anymore anyway.
That’s why I had to keep my distance from everyone as much as possible. I don’t have to worry about the pain of strings because there will never be any strings attached.
Read the full uncensored books on the Galatea iOS app!
When I got home, Dad’s car was in the driveway. I instantly felt a little brighter. Dad was rarely home anymore.
Ever since Mom left, he’d become a workaholic. He was always working, always had meetings, and usually if he was at home, he worked on his computer.
My dad was the CEO of some big-shot technology company, so the money came in good. Though I don’t think he’s taken a vacation since Mom left us here when I was thirteen.
I missed my old Dad, but I loved him both ways.
I walked into the little foyer. The fireplace was lit, like it usually was when Dad was home. He claimed that he liked the smell of the wood as it warmed up the living room. I smiled and walked farther into the house.
“Dad, I’m home,” I called out. Something flickered in the corner of my eye, but I took a deep breath and ignored it.
I was glad that my condition wasn’t that bad. I was grateful because I knew that it could be a billion times worse, but I would be even more grateful if I didn’t have the problem at all.
The door to Dad’s study was open just a crack and I lightly tapped on it, knowing he would be inside.
“Come in, princess,” he called out cheerfully. I timidly opened the door wider and saw that he was sitting at his desk, a big smile on his face.
He stood up and walked over, giving me a hug and a peck on the cheek. “Hey princess. How was school?” he asked me.
I shrugged and said, “Same old, same old, I guess.” He smiled, and I asked “What are you doing?” I was expecting the same old answer, which was work of course.
“Just some work stuff. I’m about to leave tonight though. I have somewhere to be at seven. You’ll be okay by yourself tonight?” he asked.
I nodded. He kissed my forehead. “Alright, kiddo. I need to get ready so I can meet Scotty beforehand. If you need anything, call me.” I nodded again and walked out.
At five, there was a brisk knock at my door and Dad cracked it open, cautiously peeping his head through. He smiled when he saw me sitting cross-legged on my full-size bed.
“Hey. I’m heading out. I left a twenty on the counter for pizza, in case you got hungry. I’ll be home late so don’t wait up for me,” he said hastily.
“Okay. Love you, Dad,” I said. He blew me a kiss and closed the door and I could hear his footsteps pounding down the stairs.
Once I heard the front door close, I looked back down at the blank sheet of sketch paper in front of me.
I had no idea what I wanted to create. I didn’t know how long I had been thinking about it, but I had come up with nothing. I wasn’t sure what or who inspired me.
I was inspirationless, if that was even a word. I sighed and put the sketch pad aside, replacing it with my phone.
I went to my reading app and read several chapters of the story that I had been hooked on.
The time passed quickly and I felt surprised at how long it had been when I heard my stomach protest in hunger. I glanced at the window to see that it was already dark outside.
I went downstairs, flicking the lights on as I went. The dark only sparked my dangerously vivid imagination and I didn’t want to deal with that right now.
I found the money on the counter and pulled out my phone, my fingers quickly flying across the screen as I called for Dante’s Pizza.
It would take them a little while to get there so I decided to have a quick shower.
Fifteen minutes later, I stepped out and wrapped the towel around me before putting on some sweatpants and a tank top. I brushed my hair out and pulled it up into a messy bun on top of my head.
I heard the doorbell ring soon after and went downstairs to open the door for the pizza deliverer.
After thanking and paying him, I flopped down on the couch, taking a bite out of the warm, cheesy goodness when my phone rang. I picked up and swiped over to answer the call without checking the caller ID.
“Hey Jazz. It’s Jessie. Wanna hang out tonight?”
I was so surprised, I tried to suck in a sharp breath but only ended up choking on my pizza. I coughed and hacked, trying to get the pepperoni that was stuck in my throat. “Are you okay?” Jessie asked. I nodded but realized she couldn’t see it so instead whispered a hoarse “Yes” with tears burning in my eyes.
“So,” she began tentatively when I had stopped choking and assured her that I was okay. “Do you wanna hang or what? You could come to my place and we could just have a sleepover or whatever.” I thought it over for a moment.
“I’d have to ask my dad. Can I call you right back?” She said yes and I hung up.
I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go over there or not. Jessie used to be my best friend and even though she’s still nice, she’s changed from the girl I knew, which is what caused us to grow apart.
I finally made up my mind and hit the call button. “Hello,” Dad answered.
“Hey Dad. I know you’re busy but Jessie invited me over to spend the night. Is that okay”? I asked. I could hear the smile in his voice when he spoke again.
“Of course. Just make sure you go to school tomorrow,” he said. I told him not to worry and then hung up. Then I pressed the call button again and she answered on the third ring.
“He said I could. As long as I get to school tomorrow.”
“That’s awesome. I’ve been super bored and I’ve been wanting to hang out and talk to you. Do you need a ride?” I told her no and said that I’d be there in about fifteen minutes, then hung up once again.
I went back upstairs and grabbed my overnight bag. I hadn’t used it since middle school, but I was glad I went with a basic black so I didn’t have to rummage around for a less embarrassing one.
I grabbed a couple changes of clothes, the essentials, and my keys then left after locking up.
I pulled up to the familiar house a few moments later, noticing that not much had changed. I grabbed my bag and walked up the drive, timidly knocking on the door.
Mrs. McCarthy, Jessie’s mom, stood at the door. Her face held surprise and shock, but it quickly changed into a warm smile.
“Jasmine, it’s been years since I’ve seen you here. Come on in, sweetie.” I stepped in, just as she had told me to do.
The furniture was rearranged since the last time I was here, but that wasn’t a surprise. Mrs. McCarthy was one of those women who rearranged every two weeks.
Jessie came down the stairs and smiled at me. She jerked her head toward the stairs, signalling for me to follow, just like she used to.
I walked upstairs after her and wound up in her bedroom.
This was different, just like she was. Her walls were no longer lavender purple, but instead a plain beige color with pictures of her and her friends and family tacked to the walls.
“You can set your bag over there in the corner if you want,” she told me. I put it in the corner like she said and then turned to her. I felt kind of awkward but comfortable at the same time. It was a strange feeling.
Something flickered in the corner of my eyes again and I took a deep breath and squeezed my eyes shut. Please don’t do this here, I pleaded. When I opened my eyes again, Jessie was looking at me with concern on her face.
“Are you okay?” she asked.
I nodded. “Yeah. It’s just a dizzy spell I guess,” I lied. She glanced away then back at me.
“So what do you want to do? We can watch movies or binge on a series, or get to know each other again?” she suggested. I shrugged my shoulders.
I looked up at her. “Why did you invite me here? Don’t you have other friends? Not that I’m ungrateful or anything, but we haven’t spoken in years so… I guess what I’m trying to ask is: why now?”
I didn’t know where this sudden boldness was coming from and I wasn’t completely sure if I liked it or not. Maybe it was just the familiarity of her.
She pushed her loose blonde hair back and looked at me with her big, baby blue eyes. “I just missed you. I’ve been thinking about you a lot.
“Like the days we used to spend together, playing dress-up, or acting like we were the coolest middle schoolers ever, even though we knew it wasn’t true. I didn’t like the fact that we stopped hanging out.
“I wanted to do it again because in reality, you’re the best and realest friend I’ve ever had,” she admitted. It shocked me, though.
I wasn’t expecting that answer, nor was I expecting the genuine sincerity in her voice.
She smiled, which made me smile, and I felt something shift. Maybe this was the beginning of something new. Or the continuation of something old.
We spent the rest of the night talking, exchanging stories and jokes, watching Netflix, and eating ice cream. It turns out that she wasn’t as different as I had thought.
She still loved photography and ate cereal with a fork to “conserve milk” for more cereal. She still listened to the same radio station every time she got in her car and still had all the same stuffed animals on a shelf.
I was glad she had called me over so that we could mend our friendship, but how long would it last?
If she finds out about me, she won’t even want to look at me the same anymore, let alone be my friend.
I knew that I should stop and leave now before it’s too late, but I was relishing the feeling of normalcy for once.
I woke up to my alarm going off. I dismissed it then slowly got up. I yawned and blinked the sleep from my eyes. Jess and I had stayed up until one this morning, making me feel tired.
I went to the bathroom and started getting ready, wondering where Jessie was, since her bed was empty.
After brushing out my hair and throwing on my regular hoodie, I went downstairs to see that Jessie was already in the kitchen with Mrs. McCarthy.
I walked in and Jessie gave me a friendly smile, which I kindly returned.
“Why didn’t you wake me up?” I asked Jessie. She just shrugged and said, “You were tired. You still seem tired. Want some pancakes?” she offered.
I sat beside her and nodded, thanking Mrs. Carter when she set a plate of pancakes in front of me. I quickly devoured the delicious breakfast and by then, it was time for us to go to school.
I went upstairs and grabbed all my stuff and walked downstairs.
“I’ll follow you,” Jessie said as we went out to our cars. I nodded and threw my bag in the backseat. I pulled out of the drive, Jessie following in her blood red Audi.
We arrived at the school in under ten minutes. She lived closer than I did and we still had minutes to spare before class started.
Jessie caught up to me when I was walking toward my usual picnic table by the door.
“Hey. I’m gonna go catch up with Tori and Lana. You can come if you want,” she offered. I politely shook my head and she shrugged her shoulders.
“Okay. I’ll see you around, Jazz.” With that, she turned and walked toward her friends.
Now that I was once again in a public place, I threw my walls back up, becoming guarded, quiet, and distant as usual.
I heard someone’s footsteps coming closer on the crunching of the fallen, dead leaves and when I looked up, Shane was walking toward me.
He didn’t look at me, nor did he speak, as he sat down on the other end of the table from me. I glanced at him then looked back down at my phone.
We sat there in a comfortable silence until the bell rang.
I walked down the hallway toward Mr. Tyler’s class, and surprisingly, Shane walked beside me the whole time. He fixed his long stride to match mine, though I had no idea why.
He could have walked past me and would’ve been to the classroom by now, so I saw no point in him staying with me.
We walked inside, him stopping so I could enter first.
There were only three other people in the room, a majority of them still dawdling around in the hallway, talking to friends or doing stuff in the bathroom that they’re probably not supposed to.
I sat in my normal seat in the very far corner, but today, Shane moved one seat closer to mine. I found myself continually glancing at him from the corner of my eye but we never said a word.
Mr. Tyler walked in and began the lesson for today and I jotted down notes as he spoke.
When the bell rang, I looked up from my book to see Shane already staring at me. He didn’t look away, so I took the liberty of breaking the eye contact, but he still didn’t look away.
I gathered my things and shoved them into my bag before heading to my next period. I could feel Shane’s gaze following me as I walked out of the classroom.
The next couple classes dragged on as the day went by. Lunch came and I sat at the usual table, Cooper and Shane sitting across the table.
I was reading my story when I felt a light tap on my shoulder and noticed that Cooper and Shane abruptly cut off the conversation they were having.
I turned and saw Jessie smiling down at me. I looked at her, wondering what she was doing here. “Hey, Jazz. I was wondering if you wanted to come sit with me and my friends,” she offered.
I dragged my gaze to where she usually sat.
A few of the girls were looking at me with disdain written all over their faces.
The guys at the table looked inviting and welcoming but I didn’t want to sit there and be crowded by a bunch of people who will undoubtedly ask questions and judge me.
They probably did it anyway, but I didn’t want to face it.
I slowly looked back up at Jessie and shook my head. Her face fell a little and I felt kind of bad, but I pushed the guilt away. I wasn’t going to be a pushover this time.
“Oh,” she said. “Okay, then, that’s fine. I’ll see you later or text you, or whatever.”
I turned back to look at my phone when she started to walk away. Shane was staring at me again while Cooper was watching Jessie as she walked away.
Then Shane spoke to me for the first time all day. “Why didn’t you go sit with her?”
Cooper spoke up before I did. “She would much rather hang out with us, man.”
I looked up and a smile pulled on my lips, but it faded as quickly as it had appeared. I hummed in agreement and looked back down at my phone.
The bell rang and like at first period, Shane walked beside me to the class. He moved in front of me before I could walk inside and blocked the way, looking down at me.
I raised an eyebrow in question. “You’re gonna have to work on the project alone today, Bambi. I have some place to be,” he said.
I almost asked where he was going but realized that I shouldn’t care. After I just nodded in understanding, he gave me a two-finger salute then sauntered down the emptying hallway.
I rushed into the room, not wanting to be late for class, and claimed my desk once again in the back corner. Mrs. Carter said that we could work with our partners the whole class period.
Since my partner wasn’t here, for whatever reason, I spent the class thinking about what inspired me, but like any other time, I didn’t come up with much.
After class, I sat outside for my free period, at the same table that I sit at, by the door, enjoying the sunshine.
I put in my earbuds and turned the volume up on my phone before clicking on my playlist. I crossed my legs waiting for the music to begin as I looked around the courtyard.
One of my favorite songs came on and I couldn’t help but sing along to it.
“Beauty queen of only eighteen
She had some trouble with herself
He was always there to help her
She always belonged to someone else
I drove for miles and miles and wound up at your door
I’ve had you so many times but somehow I want more
I don’t mind spending everyday
Out on your corner in the pouring rain
Look for the girl with the broken smile
Ask her if she wants to stay awhile
And she will be loved
And she will be loved”
“She Will Be Loved” by Maroon 5 has always been one of my favorites. I continued to listen to the song, waiting for the next verse to begin.
I almost jumped out of my skin when someone started singing the next verse, as if on cue.
“Tap on my window knock on my door I
Wanna make you feel beautiful
I know I tend to get so insecure
It doesn’t matter anymore
It’s not always rainbows and butterflies
It’s compromise that moves us along
My heart is full and my doors always open
You come anytime you want
I know where you hide, alone in your car
Know all of the things that make you who you are
I know that goodbye means nothing at all
Comes back and makes me catch her everytime she falls.”
Shane sang softly, and surprisingly well. He sat down on the table beside me, just as he did this morning. I paused my music and pulled out the earbuds.
I could feel my cheeks heat, and it felt like they were on fire.
“What are you doing here?” I asked more harshly than I had intended.
He lifted an eyebrow. “Do you want me to leave?” he asked. A little voice in the back of my mind was saying “Yes. Leave me alone.”
Instead I ended up saying “No, it’s fine, but I was just wondering… how long were you listening to me?” I asked, feeling shy and embarrassed.
The corner of his lip twitched up. “The whole time. I was sitting in my car listening to music and when I saw you walk out, I decided to join you.
“Didn’t know that I would be getting a whole performance though. You sing really well,” he said, making my cheeks grow darker in color.
“No, I don’t,” I said quickly. I didn’t like that this conversation was focused on me right now. He smirked, giving him this sexy, irresistible look.
I felt something twist inside me but restrained it the best I could.
“Whatever helps you sleep at night, Bambi,” he said smugly.
My cheeks wouldn’t stop burning. I wanted to crawl into a hole and pull the dirt back in over me. I pulled my earbuds out of my phone and coiled it up around my hand.
“You don’t have to stop. I enjoyed hearing you sing. It’s relaxing,” he said. I avoided looking at him as I put my earbuds into the side pocket of my bag.
“Did you come up with anything for the project?” he asked. I silently shook my head. “Yeah. Me neither,” he stated.
Instead of the comfortable silence that we sat in this morning, it now felt awkward to me. He didn’t try to make small talk and neither did I, but finally, I asked a question.
“Why were you in the parking lot if you were supposed to be ditching school?” He looked at me, a corner of his mouth twitching up like it usually did when he smiled.
“I wasn’t necessarily ditching school,” he clarified. “I was just ditching the class. Besides, I needed a break. You know, let loose and relax a little.”
I didn’t say anything to that. If that’s what he chose to do, then that was his business, I guess.
I was once again grateful when the bell rang. I got up and went to class after a quick nod of farewell as I left Shane behind.
When my classes were over, I headed out to my car. I had to make it to my appointment on time, so I had to rush if I was to make it there by four thirty.
I got to my car and closed the door as I got in. When I turned the key in the ignition, it started but then died. I tried it again and got the same results. I tried over and over but the engine wasn’t turning over.
I growled in frustration and popped the hood. I didn’t know much about cars, but I felt like I would be able to tell if something was out of place.
Not seeing any change, I pulled out my phone and called my dad. Before he could even finish his greeting, I cut in. “My car won’t start,” I told him. “The key won’t turn and I have no idea what’s wrong with it.”
“Well, honey, I have an important meeting in ten minutes and if I’m not there I could lose the client. Maybe you could hang out there until I get out. It should only take half an hour or so.”
I groaned and shook my head in disbelief at my bad luck. “Dad, I can’t. I have an appointment with Dr. Keyes today.”
He sighed and I could picture him running his fingers through his hair in frustration.
“Having car trouble, Bambi?” rumbled a familiar voice behind me.
“Who is that?” Dad asked instantly. I turned and looked up at Shane.
“It’s a, uh… friend,” I said to Dad.
Shane smiled down at me.
Before he could say anything or get the wrong notion about my hesitation, I quickly said, “Listen, I’ll call you back if I have any more problems, Dad. Go get to your meeting. Love you, miss you, bye.”
I hung up before he said anything.
“I could help you with your car. What’s wrong with it?” Shane asked.
I told him that it wouldn’t crank and he looked under the hood, just like I had earlier. He shrugged out of his leather jacket. I tried not to stare at the muscles flexing in his arm.
I couldn’t help but notice that he had tattoos on his arm, snaking up into the tight gray henley that he wore. The shirt stretched across his broad, muscled chest.
I reluctantly turned away as I felt my stomach twist.
I had almost forgotten he had asked me a question as I swallowed loudly. “Earth to Bambi,” he said, waving a hand in front of my face. I shook my head as if to clear it and looked back up at him.
“Uh… sorry. I don’t know what’s wrong with it. It just won’t crank.” He nodded once and then sat in the driver’s side, turning the key.
He tried it again and let out a soft chuckle and I looked at him in curiosity.
“Bambi, when was the last time you filled up the gas tank?” I literally face-palmed myself. I felt so stupid and I felt my cheeks warm up. He was still chuckling as he stood up.
“I’ll go get you some gas from the station. You wanna come?” he asked. I nodded and followed him to a shiny black Roadster. I looked at him, my eyes as wide as saucers. He smirked when he looked at me.
“What’s wrong, Bambi? Never been on a motorcycle before?”
I shook my head. Of course I hadn’t. My father would kill me. I didn’t have to go with him, though. I could say I changed my mind and stay with the car.
I was about to do exactly that when he said “You only live once. Live it to the fullest, Bambi.”
Those words hardened my resolve and I took a deep breath. I was going to get on this deathtrap and stop being a wimp. He climbed on and patted the seat in front of him and I stood there and looked at him skeptically.
“Aren’t I supposed to sit behind you?” I asked. He looked at me.
“Some people sit in the back and hang on, but if I’m to put this bluntly, I don’t completely trust you to hold on the whole ride. So just sit up here, that way I can catch you if anything happens.”
I shook my head slightly and relented. I sat in front of him like he instructed and sucked in a sharp breath at the close proximity of our bodies as he reached around and put his hands on the handlebars.
“Please promise me you’ll be super careful,” I whispered. It shocked me when I felt his soft lips brush my earlobe, causing me to shiver.
“I promise, Bambi. Nothing’s gonna happen to you,” he whispered. Even though he was almost a complete stranger, I believed him. The bike roared to life and we took off.
I squeezed my eyes shut. It wasn’t until I felt the wind wildly whipping through my ponytail that I realized I wasn’t wearing a helmet. God help me, I pleaded silently.
Even with the adrenaline rushing through me from the motorcycle, I was still constantly aware of his hard, lean chest pressing against my back as his arms encircled me.
I didn’t know how fast we were going and I didn’t have the guts to open my eyes and look at the speedometer. It was absolutely terrifying and thrilling at the same time and, unexpectedly, I loved the rush of it.
We turned somewhere along the way and I couldn’t stop myself from letting out a shriek as we leaned over with the bike.
I felt like we would turn wrong or something and fall off, but true to his word, nothing had happened to me as we stopped at the gas station.
I felt him slide off of the seat from behind me, but yet I couldn’t find it in myself to open my eyes. I heard him chuckle, just like he had earlier.
“You can open your eyes now. You’re safe and not moving,” he teased. I slowly wrenched my eyelids apart and threw my leg over the seat to get down.
It wasn’t until then that I fully realized the hugeness of the thing. Compared to me, it was monstrous. I was five-feet-four and I probably wouldn’t even be able to reach the go button at the bottom.
Yes, I know. I called it a go button, because I wasn’t completely sure if it was still called a pedal on a motorcycle.
My eyes widened as I slowly lifted my hand to my hair. I couldn’t see it but it was probably a giant mess. Shane smiled and I glared at him, but also, it made me feel… weird.
His smile was absolutely breathtaking and I appreciated it even more because he rarely smiled. His straight white teeth were gleaming through his full, pink lips.
I didn’t realize that I’d stopped breathing until I felt lightheaded. I patted my hair, remembering the reason my hand was raised. He shook his head slightly, the smile still on his face.
“Calm down Bambi. You still look great,” he said. With that he turned and walked into the gas station, briefly looking back to make sure I was following. I scurried after him as he held the door open for me to enter.
I paid for the gas and waited for him while he bought a giant bag of Doritos.
We walked back out and for the first time, I noticed the compartment on the back of the motorcycle when he opened it. He replaced the chips in his hand with a gas jug and began to fill it up.
I waited as he filled it up and placed it back in the miniature trunk. He closed the top and told me to go ahead and get on, which I obeyed. He climbed on behind me and I tensed when he scooted up against me.
“Come on now, Bambi. I gotta be able to reach the handlebar,” he said. My face flushed and I scotted up on the seat while he moved closer.
The bike roared to life and we took off again. It felt like I could do this everyday. I loved the feeling it gave me.
About ten minutes later, we arrived back into the school parking lot, empty save for my car. I slid off the seat and he did too, then he grabbed the jug and filled up my tank.
“I could have done that, you know,” I protested quietly.
He shrugged and emptied the jug into my car before placing the empty container back in his “trunk.” Then he turned to look at me, his face held no emotion, but his eyes were extremely expressive.
“So how was it to ride a motorcycle?” he asked me. I couldn’t help the smile that broke out on my face.
“It was absolutely amazing,” I exclaimed. A smile crept up on his lips as well, causing my heart to stutter.
He nodded once and he asked “Don’t you have somewhere to be?” My eyes widened. Did he know I went to therapy? How? Without asking any questions, I just nodded.
“Thanks Shane. I appreciate it,” I said, genuinely grateful. He nodded once and then turned and got on his bike. I turned the ignition in my car and sure enough, it started.
I heard his bike engine roar over the quiet of my car and he sped out of the lot, leaving me alone.
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