The Forever of Ella and Micha, Page 3Jessica Sorensen
We already made it through hell and back.
Blake gives us a ride to lunch and then drops us off back at campus about an hour later. I try to be happy, but fail. According to my therapist, I shouldn’t try to conceal my feelings because it’s unhealthy. She says bottling things up and letting them eat away at me usually ends in disaster; that suffering in silence is never an option.
Lila hops out of the back of the car when Blake pulls into an empty parking space. “Thanks for the ride, Blake. ” She shuts the door and shimmies off toward the sidewalk.
“Are you okay?” Blake asks me as I unbuckle my seatbelt. “You seem kind of quiet today. ”
“I’m fine. ” I start to open the door. “I just have a lot on my mind. ”
Pulling the beanie off his head and ruffling his hair, he rotates in his seat to face me. “I’m a good listener. ”
I eye him over warily. “I’m sure you probably don’t want to hear it. ”
“Try me. ”
“It’s about my boyfriend. ”
“Ah. ” His eyebrows arch upward. “The infamous Micha. ”
“That would be the one,” I say. “He’s leaving… clear across the country. ”
He wiggles the keys out of the ignition. “And you’re upset about this, I take it?”
“Well, obviously. He’s leaving and he was supposed to drive out here from LA this weekend. ” The more I talk about it aloud, the more panic chokes at my chest. “But now he has to drive out to New York tomorrow. I have no idea why I’m telling you this. I’m sorry. ” I climb out of the car and close the door.
He meets me at the front of the car, swings his bag over his shoulder, and pushes the lock button, the headlights blinking. We walk in silence toward the grass area that stretches over the front of the campus. Lila is underneath a tree talking to Parker, a tall guy with thick arms and sandy blond hair. He’s wearing a button-down shirt and a pair of fancy jeans. It’s her type of guy normally, except for Ethan. The two of them occasionally talk on the phone, although they still insist they’re just friends.
“Thanks for taking us to lunch. ” I step up onto the curb. “I’m sure Lila’s thankful too. She’s been going crazy being stuck on campus. ”
“Anytime. ” He stuffs his hands into his pockets with a pensive look on his face. “So your boyfriend’s in LA right now?”
I nod unenthusiastically. “Until tomorrow. ”
He mulls over something, gazing at the parking lot. “You know that’s only, like, a four-, four-and-a-half-hour drive from here. You could probably make it there later tonight if you left soon. ”
“I know that. ” I force back a smile, knowing I could make it there in less time than that. “But I don’t have a car. ” I point over my shoulder at his red Ford Mustang. “Hence the ride this afternoon. ”
An amused smile tugs at the corners of his lips. “I know, but I have a car that could get you there. ”
“Why would you do that?” I ask, shocked.
He shrugs, scuffing his shoes against the sidewalk. “Because I know how hard it is to be away from the person you love. ”
“Are you for real?” I ask, and he nods. “Let me get this straight. You’re going to let me borrow your car and drive it out of the state, so I can see my boyfriend for, like, a night?”
“Actually I was going to take you,” he clarifies. “My girlfriend lives in Riverside and you could drop me off and pick me up. ”
“Girlfriend?” I sputter out a laugh. “Oh my God, you have a girlfriend?”
He tilts his head to the side with a mystified expression. “Am I that repulsive?”
I shake my head swiftly. “No, I’m sorry. It’s just that… Well, Lila thought you had a thing for me and that’s why you talk to me all the time. ”
He tugs his beanie onto his head, pressing his lips together to suppress a laugh. “Oh, I see. Your friend’s… interesting. ”
“She’s nice, though,” I tell him, glancing over at Lila, who’s running her fingers up and down Parker’s arm. “I love Lila to death. ”
“I know that,” he replies. “And for the record, I talk to you because you’re an interesting person. You remind me a lot of my friends back home. ”
I’m curious what his friends are like back home. “Are you sure you want to take me? Because you don’t have to. ”
“I’m sure. ” He tucks the car keys into the back pocket of his jeans. “It’s worth it just to keep that happy look on your face. You don’t smile very much. ”
I can’t stop smiling. “Well, thank you. It means a lot to me. ”
“Why don’t you go grab your stuff and we can meet back here in, like, an hour. ” He backs down the sidewalk as I hike across the grass toward Lila.
“Sounds good,” I call over my shoulder. “And thanks again. ”
By the time I reach Lila, she’s writing her phone number on Parker’s hand with a red pen.
“We’re going on a road trip,” I announce, interrupting the conversation.
Parker gives me a once-over and then dismisses me with his eyes. “So I’ll call you later then?” he asks Lila.
“Yeah, sure. ” She waves at him and he struts toward the main entrance of the campus, high-fiving another guy standing beneath the canopy in front of the doors.
“Where and why are we going on a road trip?” Lila clicks the cap back on the pen and drops it into her bag.
My stomach flips, thinking about how I’m going to see Micha in just hours. “To LA. Blake is giving us a ride. And before you say anything, he has a girlfriend. ”
“Sure he does,” Lila says cynically. “And he also really loves her and would never do anything to hurt her. Typical guy cop-out. ”
“What… Are you okay?” I’ve never heard her say anything like this before.
“I’m fine,” she swears, shrugging it off. “Let’s go. ”
Blake’s a slow driver and when I ask him what he has under the hood, he has no idea. I try not to give him too much crap about it, but a few sarcastic remarks slip out.
“Aw, you like cars. ” He merges the car back into the slower traffic lane.
From the backseat, Lila snort-laughs. “Likes them. The girl’s insane about them. It’s actually kind of annoying. ” She shoots me a grin and I flip her the middle finger.
“Is it just old cars?” He makes a careful turn down the off-ramp. “Or is it cars in general?”
“Fast cars. ” Like Micha’s poor Chevelle lying in pieces in his garage back home. May it rest in peace. “One’s that will kick ass in a race. ”
He cuts me a sideways glance. “Now I’m starting to get concerned about letting you borrow my car. ”
“I won’t race it. ” I cross my heart with my finger. “I swear I’ll be easy on it. ”
He winks at me. “Don’t worry, I trust you. ”
The way he says it makes me uncomfortable and Lila gives me a knowing look in the rearview mirror.
We keep quiet for most of the drive. Blake doesn’t have the air on and the black leather seats get hot and stick to the back of my legs. When we pull up to his girlfriend’s house, which is in the suburbs where every house and yard looks similar, I’m sweating.
His girlfriend runs out of the house and throws her arms around him, nearly knocking him to the ground. She’s petite with red streaks in her hair and a piercing through her nose. She waves at us and then Blake backtracks to the trunk. Maneuvering over the console and into the driver’s seat, I pop the handle and he gets his suitcase out, before shutting it.
He walks around to the driver’s-side window and waits for me to roll it down.
“Be careful,” he reminds me in a serious tone and I nod.
Flashing me a grin, he heads off to the house as Lila dives over the console and into the front seat.
l,” she says in a low, mocking voice. “I’m trying to be so sexy. ”
“He didn’t sound like that. ” I pull out onto the street.
“You’re so blind. ”
“And sometimes you see too much. ”
I merge out onto the freeway and into the fast lane, but resist the urge to punch the pedal to the floor and get us there in half the time. Lila takes a nap with her head resting against the window and I bask in the peace of being on the road until we brink the edge of town, which glows against the night.
I nudge Lila’s shoulder to wake her up. “We’re here. ”
She blinks her weary eyes and sits up in the seat. “What’s up? Where are we?”
“We’re in LA. Or on the outskirts of it anyway,” I say as her eyes sweep the towering buildings and the considerable amount of traffic in front of us. “Can you look up the address on your phone?”
She cracks her window, letting the warm air blow in. “Can’t you just call him and tell him you’re coming?”
“I want it to be a surprise. ”
“Why? Are you trying to catch him doing something wrong, like, say, with Naomi?”
“No. ” I flip on the blinker and check my mirror. “I trust Micha. ”
“But you don’t trust her. ” A large truck honks its horn and Lila glances out the window. “I don’t blame you. From the stories you’ve told me, she seems a little sketchy. In fact, maybe while we’re here, we could have a little talk with her. ” She pops her knuckles and I bust up laughing.
“Oh my God, what have you been watching?” Tapping the brakes, I slow down the car to match the traffic.
“How to beat the girl who’s hitting on your best friend’s boyfriend. ” She grins at me and retrieves the phone out of her purse. “What’s the name of the place?”