*Due to alarming public opinion, I must now clarify something: Joel is most certainly NOT gay. I never meant it to sound that way, and the shirtless guy was shirtless because guys tend to do that around each other. Joel is very much as straight as a flagpole, so let's relax, people and focus on finishing this story! :) Oh, and this upload's extra long, to make up for the last one. Enjoy!*
It took awhile for the panic to go away. When it was over, I found myself outside of the apartment complex, away from the pounding music of the other doors I’d passed to get out of the building. I squinted at the cool sun.
The days were getting definitely colder, and I shivered as a gust of wind whipped my hair into my face. My sweater was thin, but I was definitely not in the mood to go back to my own dorm. Esther had seemed distracted lately, and as selfish as it sounded, I didn’t feel up to listening to her wild, unlikely stories and attempting to soothe her.
Crossing my arms across my chest, I set off down the sidewalk with no particular destination in mind. The thoughts that were swirling in my mind made my heart beat erratically.
On one hand, Joel’s assurance that he and Adam would ‘get over it’ eventually made me feel better about the situation I’d caused by writing the article. On the other hand, I now had an awful, lurking suspicion.
Joel. Joel was Adam’s mystery friend, and it was for Joel’s sake that Adam had taken it upon himself to try to end my lying ways. Except apparently Joel hadn’t been aware that Adam was trying to change me – first with Adam trying to expose my secrets by inviting the Westons to dinner, then by announcing that he would always be there for me – only to turn right around and attempt to murder me for almost getting him kicked off the football team.
I winced at what all that implied. So when Adam had found out that I was Joel's – wince – love interest, he initially hadn’t approved of me? Hadn’t thought that me and my reputation were good enough for his friend? I flushed, now rubbing my arms for warmth as I continued walking.
Because there was little doubt in my mind that Joel really was interested in me that way. As much as I wished he had never noticed me, his behaviour and the things he’d let slip were too convicting. I blushed a deeper shade of red. People passing me on the sidewalk smiled kindly at me, but my answering smiles always came too late, lost in thought as I was.
Call it women’s intuition, or that flash in which I’d glimpsed the truth, but I was so certain in what I knew. And it was realizing that Joel thought of me that way that had brought on the panic and tears and running.
A memory was relentlessly hammering on the edge of my mind, and I tried to fight it. I didn’t want to think about it, not here, not now, but it overpowered my struggling and, helplessly, I remembered.
“Mom?” I asked softly, standing in front of her. She’d fallen asleep in the armchair again, and I hated to wake her.
Slowly, her eyes opened, still heavy with sleep. I flinched away from the expression that always seemed to be there these days – a hard sort of hatred.
“What?” her voice rasped.
I stepped back, swallowing. “I was wondering if I could go out.”
She stirred as though now truly waking up, but her hard eyes remained sharp, trained on me. “Go out? Where?” Her face remained stony and distrusting.
I hesitated. “You see, there’s this dance—”
|Ashley Greene||as Shawna Roberts|
|Zac Taylor||as Adam Ferrell|
|James Franco||as Joel Torres|
|Jessica Alba||as Esther Hill|
|Tom Welling||as Scott Weston|