Going under, p.21
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       Going Under, p.21

         Part #1 of Going Under series by Georgia Cates
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Page 21

 

  Physics was cruel and I almost thought Gretchen knew she was pushing my come apart switch as she continuously touched Jessie while we practiced formulas. If it wasn’t his arm, it was his leg, or his back. Every time I saw her touch him, I felt myself slipping into her trap. I finally lost it when I heard her say, “Those jeans look really hot on you, but they’d look even hotter on my bedroom floor. ”

  I couldn’t take it anymore and I had a slip with my impulse control. “Gretchen, he doesn’t want to swap body fluids with you, so stop harassing him already. ”

  She grinned at me and said, “Well I could agree with you, but then we’d both be wrong,”

  Forbes interjected himself into a conversation he clearly was not a part of. “Not this again, Claire. It’s none of your business what goes on between them. ”

  Gretchen smiled at me and I almost swear the gleam in her eye screamed that she had the 411 on me. I think she had figured me out and was taunting me because she knew she could while I was helplessly forced to take whatever she dished.

  This couldn’t go on much longer. Could I muster the strength to go against every expectation people had in me? I resolved that I couldn’t drag this out much longer or it would drive me crazy. I would have to make a decision this weekend.

  20 Is This the Beginning or the End?

  Jessie

  I was walking to the field and a thought crossed my mind. I would need to thank Gretchen later for that little stunt she pulled in Physics, even if it was for own pleasure. I had to hand it to her-she definitely had a gift for getting under Claire’s skin when it came to me. Although I had given up my raid on Forbes, I couldn’t help but love that he saw Claire’s possessiveness toward me when Gretchen invaded her territory.

  I wasn’t looking forward to sitting on the bench in practice today, but I chose to follow doctor’s orders since the temporary loss of feeling in my arm about scared me senseless. I could never admit that fear to anyone except Claire.

  I found myself voluntarily telling her things I wouldn’t utter to another person-things bearing my heart and soul. I unexpectedly liked the vulnerability of sharing small parts of myself with her because it was something I’d only experienced with Deandra.

  I had been paired with Deandra as my counselor after my near death experience because of how I could possibly experience some post traumatic stress. In the beginning of our sessions, I was resolved to keeping my mouth shut, but then I figured out I wouldn’t be released from her care until I fessed up and told her what she wanted to know about me. I never imagined the freedom I would feel by telling someone, a stranger that wouldn’t judge me, about my past.

  It had been a month since I had seen Deandra, but I missed our sessions. I think it was the connection with another human being that I missed most, rather than her in particular. I knew she would be proud of the way I was making myself vulnerable and opening myself up to Claire.

  I should have been paying attention to practice, but it was terribly difficult to keep my eyes off Claire when she was right there in that fitted shirt and shorts showing off her shapely legs.

  Dane stole my attention when he warned, “Dude, you’re being blatantly obvious with your staring. You have drool down the front of your shirt. ”

  He was right. I wasn’t trying to hide my interest in her because it was too easy to pretend we were together. “I can’t help it. It’s a little easier to become distracted by her when I don’t have to worry about Forbes trying to break my neck. You were right about him. I should have listened, but I never thought he’d go so far. ”

  Dane stood by me stretching his leg for practice. “I have to admit I’m a little surprised myself. I didn’t think he would attempt to cause you permanent paralysis, but he’ll probably lay off for a while since he knows you have him on your radar. Are you going to say anything to him?”

  As much as I would like to hurt him physically, I couldn’t lay a hand on him. The authorities had me on their radar since I was present at a drug deal gone wrong. I wasn’t a child in the eyes of the law and the penalty for assault was a stiff one. “No, I think I’m going to let him squirm with the anticipation of how I will execute my payback. ”

  “That’s probably your best move. ” Dane took a quick drink of water and said,I’ve got to get out there before Coach sees me slacking. I wanted to tell you my parents are out of town on their annual anniversary trip, so I’m having a party at my house after the game Friday night. Think you can make it?”

  “Sure. It sounds like fun. ”

  “Claire’s invited, but are you going to ask her to come with you?”

  It was a sticky situation and I wish it didn’t exist. “I don’t know. She hasn’t broken up with Forbes, but I’m ready to tell her it’s him or me. Seeing them together is making me crazy. I can’t believe I’m sitting around waiting for her to decide if she wants me or that jackass. There’s no way I would do this for anyone else. ”

  “Claire is special and that’s why you’re doing it. I have no doubt it’s you she wants, but she’s scared to abandon the comfort zone. Don’t worry, it will work out. I’ve seen the way she looks at you,” he encouraged.

  I appreciated his supportive words, but I wasn’t feeling so self-assured. “I wish I had your confidence. ”

  “Uh oh… Coach just spotted me. Gotta jet,” Dane said as he sprinted onto the field.

  I turned my attention back to the current play and watched my team with Forbes acting as the quarterback. I could admit he wasn’t terrible, but he didn’t have it where it counted-he didn’t have heart in the game.

  The cheerleaders finished practice and I watched Claire as she left the field.

  “You just can’t keep your eyes off of my girlfriend, can you, skank?” Forbes said viciously.

  I quickly turned at the sound of his words. I wanted to punch him in his smug face and break his nose, but I couldn’t lay a finger on him.

  “I can look at whatever I want to and you can’t do anything about it, Henderson. ”

  “Keep it up and maybe next time you take a hit on the field you won’t be so lucky,” he said before he walked away from me the way a coward would. He basically threatened me, but I let him go without saying anything because I wasn’t interested in sparring with words.

  * * *

  The next couple of days went by and Claire and I enjoyed the game we had become fluent at playing, but I had grown tired of the charade we portrayed for everyone and I planned to give her an ultimatum at Dane’s party.

  We sat in the library finishing up our research and I reached for her hand, something she had grown accustomed to me doing at our private table toward the back of the library. “I need to talk to you. ”

  She looked up from her work and laid her pencil on the table, giving me her full attention. “Sounds serious. ”

  “It is. At least to me it is,” I admitted.

  “Okay. Shoot. ”

  I nervously gathered the words I wanted to say to her the way I had rehearsed them in my head a thousand times. “It’s been a week. ”

  “It has been a week,” she agreed.

  “I know I told you I would give you the time you needed, but I’ve changed my mind. I can’t stand to see you with him anymore. It’s making me crazy and I’m asking you to decide between us. ”

  “I’ve already made my decision and I was going to talk to you about it tonight at Dane’s. ”

  I thought of what it would do to me to hear she didn’t want me and I wasn’t ready to hear the words if she decided to stay with Forbes. I swallowed hard because it was going to be a long twelve hours. I looked at her and knew tonight would be the beginning of something incredible or the end of something memorable. I thought about how I might never kiss her again after tonight and I grabbed her hand.

  I pulled her into the supply room and locked the door behind us. I took her face in my hands and began to kiss
her like I never would again. She wrapped her arms around my neck and pulled me close, making me wonder if she was taking advantage of this as our last kiss.

  When she lifted her chin, I moved my lips to her neck and willed her to choose me instead of him. Her breath grew deeper and faster and I couldn’t imagine never having her in my arms like this again. I heard the desperation in my voice, but I was unable to stop myself from attempting to persuade her as I breathlessly whispered against her throat, “Pick me, Princess. Choose me instead of him. ”

  She reached for my face and pulled me to look into my eyes, but she said nothing and I felt my hope deflate as time marched forward.

  It was like hearing someone’s voice besides my own as the words left my mouth. “I am tormented by the thoughts of not being with you because I’ve fallen in love with you. ”

  The bell rang and snapped me from my daze of staring at her as I felt her chest heaving against mine. “The bell rang,” whispered.

  “I don’t want to move,” I confessed, afraid I would never feel her in my arms like this again.

  She smiled and said, “Meet me at Dane’s tonight and we’ll talk. ”

  Her words frightened me because they were neither reassuring nor ominous and I felt like I was going to throw up. “I’ll be there, Princess. ”

  We went to our next class and Claire was preoccupied. I worried it was because she thinking about how to give me the boot. I replayed our entire interaction at the library in my mind and dissected every touch and each word spoken in an attempt to decipher what her answer would be tonight.

  When my remaining classes were finished, I fled to the refuge of my truck. I needed and wanted a cigarette so badly I could feel myself shaking, but I resisted the urge because of Claire, the first positive influence in my life. Because she despised it, it would no longer be a part of who I was because my mind was made up. I wouldn’t stop until I made her mine.

  21 Declarations

  Claire

  I hoped I had made the right choice. I came so close to telling Jessie what my decision was when we were behind that locked door. I couldn’t stand seeing the misery on his face knowing I was the cause. I had asked too much of him already and now I was making him wait until tonight to finally find out if I loved him back or not.