FIFTEEN

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Despite the feeling of dread in the pit of my stomach knowing that Eros had photos of me, I felt a newfound sense of motivation as I walked into school the next morning. I beelined toward a locker I had tried my best to not walk anywhere near this year. I had been mostly successful at ignoring it, but the moment required that my silent pact be broken and I talk to him. 

     Nick Haskell was as beautiful as he was difficult for me to get along with. He wasn't a bad person; I did genuinely love him and he was a good first boyfriend. But neither of us were naturally incredibly open or talkative, which eventually led to us struggling with resolutions to problems. We let little things, like forgotten plans or being difficult to reach, simmer for too long until one day it wasn't fun dating him anymore – it just felt like the only mode of communication we had was arguing.

    "What's your problem?" I asked as I approached him at his locker. Instead of getting the rest I desperately wanted, I had stayed up for most of the night thinking over what the text had said, trying to formulate a response. The irritation from lack of sleep combined with the last few days was enough to carry me well through the conversation.

     "Eden?" Nick turned to me, his familiar brown eyes meeting mine. Everything about him was still familiar – his messy brown hair, the body wash he used, the way his uniform fit across his lean chest.

     "Do you think this is funny?" I had my phone held up in my hand and despite his look of seemingly genuine confusion, I refused to let up and explain. He had to be involved somehow – there was literally no other explanation.

     I had only ever shared nude pictures of myself with Nick. It was about eight months into our relationship and he was away for spring break. He hadn't outwardly begged, but he made it obvious what he wanted. I participated fully of my own volition; the only thing that had made me hesitant was being self-conscious. The potential risk of what Nick could do with the photos had never crossed my mind.

     He looked around the hallway and before I could continue my onslaught, he pulled me into a nearby classroom.

     For a second, he was silent. I watched as he paced, taking a few steps back and forth in front of the abandoned teacher's desk. I wanted to say something, but I knew he was not happy and I wasn't ready to jump into that yet. I might have been fired up, but I'd never enjoyed arguing with Nick.

     Finally, he spoke. "Can you please explain to me in a normal, level voice what you're talking about?"

     I looked at him. "You know what I'm talking about."

     "Actually, I clearly don't," he said, the same tone he always had when we fought coming back into his voice. It was like an old routine, entirely natural.

     I considered telling him about the message, but I felt a sudden gripping fear that if I said anything the picture would be released. I hadn't put enough thought into how I'd actually approach the situation.

     Or what it would mean for me working on the article.

     "Who did you show my pictures to?" I asked, leaning against one of the student desks.

     "What do you mean?" He messed with the buttons on his shirt, something he did when he was thinking. I tried not to fall back onto the memory of when I would have my hands on those buttons, his hands freely roaming me. If I spent too long in this room with him, it would be opening Pandora's box – all of the things I'd chosen to not remember about him had already started coming back.

     I took a deep breath. "I sent you pictures. Over spring break."

     I watched as he let the words sink in, his face suddenly changing. Softening. "Eden, c'mon."

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