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Rules of a Rebel and a Shy Girl, Page 22

Jessica Sorensen

“What no one else ever did.” I reach out and thread my fingers through his. “Safety.”

  His lips tug into a small, sad smile. “That’s not really a present, though, princess. Well, it shouldn’t be. It should be something that just is.”

  “It was to me. When I was younger, I thought about it a lot actually, having someone in my life who made me feel calm instead of so scared all the time.” I stare at the snow globe, tipping it back and forth. “I just never thought it would happen. Then you came along and changed everything. Sometimes, I wonder if maybe I made it out of this place without becoming my mom because you were always there.”

  He fixes his finger underneath my chin and urges me to look at him. When our eyes meet, he wets his lips. “I don’t really think I can take full credit for this one. I think you made it out of this place okay because you’re fucking strong.”

  I smile then move in to kiss him. Right as our lips connect, voices rise from inside the house.

  “Where are you guys!” Wynter shouts through a giggle. “And what are you doing? Because it’s really, really quiet.”

  I hear Luna and Grey say something, and then Ari laughs.

  I shake my head, my cheeks warming. While I haven’t told her Beck and I hooked up, she’s voiced her suspicions over the phone. Evidently, my voice has a glow to it that it didn’t have a week ago, whatever the hell that means.

  “As annoying as she is, I like that she made you blush,” Beck says, grinning as he lightly caresses my cheek.

  I smile but then my happiness quickly falters. “Wait. What are we going to tell them?”

  “About what?” he feigns dumb, his brow teasing upward.

  “You know what. You and me.” I put my hand on his chest to playfully shove him, but he snags my wrist and jerks me to him, our chests colliding.

  He rests his hands on my waist. “I’m pretty sure they already know.”


  “Because it’s been four years in the making, and they’ve had eyes for those four years.”

  “Yeah, maybe …” I rub my lips together, unsure what to do.

  “Why do you seem scared that they’ll find out?” he asks, trying to hide his hurt, yet his eyes give the truth away.

  “I’m not really scared of them finding out,” I admit. “I’m just afraid that, when they do, everything will become so real. And it’ll become that much harder to lose what we have.”

  “I’m not going anywhere,” he assures me, dropping a delicate kiss on my lips. “Stop overthinking and just accept that you and I belong together. We’re real, and you’re not going to lose me. You want me, and I want you.”

  I nod, nerves creeping up on me as Wynter strolls into my room.

  She’s wearing a dark purple dress, her hair is curled, her makeup flawless, and she’s sporting heels.

  “I thought I told you to wear something comfortable,” I tell her, realizing too late that Beck’s hands are still on my waist. I consider stepping back then decide to stay put and accept what I want like Beck told me.

  Her eyes dart to Beck’s hands, and a devious smirk spreads across her face. “I knew you sounded glowy on the phone.”

  “What does that mean?” Ari asks as he walks into my bedroom. Unlike Wynter, he took my advice on dress attire and is wearing an old T-shirt and holey jeans. He takes one look at Beck and me, and relief washes over his face. “Thank God. It’s about fucking time.”

  Beck grins proudly, while I grow extremely confused.

  “Wait a second,” I say, stepping toward Ari. “You don’t seem that surprised about this.”

  Ari backs up with a guilty look on his face. “Look, I know what you’re getting at, and I just want to say that I thought I was making things easier.”

  I cross my arms. “How does telling me that Beck and Wynter like each other make things easier on me?”

  “Wait, what?” Wynter whirls toward Ari. “You told her that?”

  Ari shrugs. “She was always freaking out whenever Beck tried to hit on her or kiss her, so I thought I’d make it easier on her and let her think Beck liked someone else. That way, she wouldn’t have to stress out every time we were all together.”

  “Your logic is kind of warped, but I appreciate it.” To prove it, I give him a hug.

  “I just want everyone to be happy,” Ari says, hugging me back. “And to get along.”

  “You’re such a sap,” Wynter teases him. “But that’s okay. It’s why we love you.”

  Ari rolls his eyes as we step back. “I’m the sap? You’re the one always bawling during movies. And while reading books. And when you see puppies.”

  “Hey, puppies are really cute,” Wynter argues with her hands on her hips.

  They continue to argue as Luna and Grey walk into the room. Then the six of us finish packing up my stuff and load the boxes into our cars. I don’t take the furniture or anything else in the house, not for my mom’s benefit, but to have a fresh start.

  While I may not get to do things over, I can choose to let go of the past and move forward with a new, less stressful future.

  “You think you got everything?” Beck asks as I take one final walk around my room.

  Wynter, Ari, Luna, and Grey have all driven off to take some of my stuff to Beck’s house.

  I nod, grabbing a notebook and a piece of paper. “I just need to do one more thing.”

  He moves up beside me as I lean over the dresser to write. “What are you doing?”

  I put the tip of the pen to the piece of the paper. “Writing my mom a note to let her know where I am.”

  “Willow, do you think that’s a good idea?” His tone carries caution. “What if she tries to track you down and get money from you or something?”

  “I’m not telling her where I’ll be physically,” I explain. “I’m telling her where I am mentally.”

  “Oh.” He doesn’t argue anymore, just moves up behind me and massages my shoulders, giving me that comforting feeling I like so much. “Go ahead, then.”

  I summon a deep breath, and then I write.


  I’m not sure how long it’ll take you to realize I no longer live here, and I’m really sorry about that. I’m really sorry that you got to such an awful point that you don’t really care if you see me anymore or not. While it really hurts that you don’t care, I can no longer let that hurt control me. I’ve spent so many nights worrying about you, wondering where you are, if you’ll come back, if you love me, and fearing all the answers. But I’m tired of wondering and waiting and hoping and fearing.

  I’ve spent so much of my life afraid of this house, your boyfriends, you, becoming like you, which I know sounds harsh and maybe it is, but I’m telling you this with the hope that maybe you’ll change. Maybe you’ll get the help you should’ve gotten a long time ago since I’m no longer going to be around to do that for you. I’m no longer going to be an enabler.

  I’m going to be who I should’ve been all along: a teenage girl going to college who is happy sometimes, sad sometimes, lost sometimes, scared sometimes, but only because of her own life choices.

  And while I’m scared to walk away, I know it’s for the best. I just want you to know that, if you decide to get some help and heal yourself, you can always call me. I’ll leave my phone number at the bottom. Only call me if you’re my mom again and not the woman I’ve been living with for almost the last thirteen years. I really do miss her.



  When I’m done, I set the pen down and leave the note on the kitchen table. Beck stays at my side the entire time, holding my hand, assuring me that I’m not in this alone.

  It’s a very new feeling for me, one I’ll take.

  As we’re walking out of the house, I realize I have one final problem to take care of.

  “And the Mercedes returns,” I mutter with a frown as the door opens and my dad climbs out.

  Beck tracks my gaze, and then his hand tightens on mine. “Let’s just g
et in the car. You don’t have to talk to him if you don’t want to.”

  I really don’t. At the same time, I know the lack of closure will eat me up.

  “I’m just going to tell him that I want him to leave me alone.”

  I start toward my dad, pulling Beck along with me, and he follows effortlessly.

  “Hey,” he says when I reach him. “I’m really glad I caught you. I know you want me to leave you alone, but I’d really like to talk to you.”

  He’s wearing a dress shirt with the sleeves rolled up, slacks, and shiny as hell shoes. I wonder if he just got off work. I wonder where he works. I wonder a lot of things, not knowing anything about him other than he walked out on his family without looking back.

  “I just want to tell you that I don’t ever want to talk to you,” I tell him, relaxing a smidgen as Beck smooths his finger along the inside of my wrist.

  “Deep breaths,” Beck whispers, making me aware of my panicked breathing.

  I do what he says. Air in. Air out.

  “Willow, please just give me a few minutes,” my dad begs, stepping toward me.

  I step back, bumping into Beck. “You don’t deserve a few minutes,” I tell him. “And if you wanted those few minutes, you should’ve gotten them thirteen years ago.”

  “I know that,” he says, fidgeting nervously with his sleeves. “I know I messed up. I really do. But the guy I was back then … I’m not him anymore.”

  “Then who are you? Because all I know is the man who left me with a horrible mother.”

  He rubs his hand across his forehead, seeming at a loss for words. “Up until a couple of weeks ago, I didn’t realize how bad your mother has been. And up until a couple of years ago, I never thought about you or your mom, too drunk to care. Then something happened to me that was a real eye opener, so I got sober and realized …” He blows out a shaky breath. “I realized how much I fucked up my life over the last two decades. And not just my life, but my daughter’s.”

  “If that’s true, then why did it take you two years to find me?” I snap, fighting back the tears.

  “Because I wanted to get my act together.” He inches toward me, stuffing his hands into his pockets. “Plus, I knew you’d be all grown up now and probably wouldn’t welcome my return.”

  A few tears escape my eyes, but I quickly wipe them away. “Then why try at all?”

  “Because I want to see you.” He pulls his hand out of his pocket and tugs his fingers through his hair. “Whether that makes me selfish or not, I decided to try.”

  “Then why didn’t you just try instead of following me around or watching the house?”

  “Because I was scared,” he admits. “Because I knew this is how you were going to react.”

  “I deserve to act this way.”

  “I know you do.”

  “Do you even feel bad for what you did?” My voice cracks.

  His eyes enlarge, and he starts to reach for me, but I jerk back.

  “Of course I feel bad for what I did,” he whispers, on the verge of crying. “It haunts me every single hour of every single day. I wish I could take what I did back, but I can’t. What I can do is ask—beg for another chance. Even if it’s only a few minutes of your time. Please, Willow, just let me have that.”

  My legs start to tremble as anxiety pumps through my veins. I should leave, should run away from this man, but I can’t get my feet to move.

  Beck puts his hands on my shoulders and massages the muscles, trying to get me to calm down. “Do you want to go?” he whispers in my ear.

  I nod. “I really do.”

  Beck removes his hands from my shoulders, takes my hand, and leads me toward the car. My dad watches in panic as I move farther away from him. I don’t know if that’s what gets me—the panic—or maybe deep down, I just want to talk to my dad for a few minutes. Whatever it is, I stop short of the passenger door and turn back.

  “Do you have a card with your phone number on it?”

  He swiftly nods then fumbles around in his pocket for his wallet. “Yes, I actually do.” He takes out a card and hands it to me. “It’s for my work cell, but you can call me anytime.”

  I wonder what he does for work… who he is now … if we could ever get over the past. I’m not so sure. If I’ve learned anything over the last few months, though, it’s that I shouldn’t run away from everything simply because I’m afraid. And while my dad hasn’t really earned the chance to talk to me, I kind of have with him.

  “I don’t know for sure if I’ll call you,” I tell him, tucking the card into the pocket of my jeans. “But I’ll think about it.”

  “That’s all I’m asking,” he says quickly. “Can I just ask you one question?”

  I don’t want to give him anything, but I nod, anyway.

  “You’re not living in this place anymore, right?” he asks with concern. “It looks like you’re moving out … to some place better, I hope.”

  I can’t help smiling as I glance at Beck, who is standing beside me, holding my hand. “Yeah, I really am… to somewhere much, much better.”

  The beginning of a new list…



  After moving out of that apartment and ditching that awful job, my life has become a lot easier. I still spend a lot of time doing homework, working at my two jobs, and probably stressing myself out more than I need to. I’m starting to realize I might always be a worrier, but I’ll be okay as long as I deal with the worry instead of bottling it up. So I do. I deal with it on my own and sometimes with the help of Wynter, Ari, Luna, and of course, Beck.

  I’d like to say my mom’s name was on that list, but unfortunately, I haven’t heard from her for two months, not since she broke all my snow globes and took off. I did drive by the apartment once when I was passing through town. I didn’t stop, though, too afraid of what I’d find or what I wouldn’t. The place looked empty; the lights were off, darkness haunting every window. Honestly, it kind of always looked that way.

  On a positive note, my dad didn’t turn out to be as horrible as he was when I was six. A couple of weeks ago, I met up with him for an hour, and he explained to me that he struggled with alcoholism since before I was born and that he took off because he was a stupid drunk who cared more about alcohol than anything else. He also told me he never hated himself more than when he found out what I’d been through with my mom. After spending so much time hating myself, I told him I didn’t want him to feel that way. He could feel bad, but not hate himself. We ended our conversation with an awkward handshake and the promise to have dinner again whenever I’m ready. While I haven’t decided when that will be, I don’t feel like I have to rush the decision.

  One step at a time, Beck is always telling me.

  I don’t know what I’d do without him. And although I still fear that I might be forced to find that out one day, I try not to think about it too much, focusing on the moments I do get with him.

  The wonderful, amazing, breath-free moments.

  Moments I almost didn’t have because I was so scared.

  But I’m not scared right now.

  In fact, I’m really excited.

  “It’s ten o’clock,” I announce as I enter his bedroom with my hands tucked behind my back. “And do you know what that means?”

  He’s sitting in bed, staring at his laptop with his shirt off, wearing nothing but a pair of jeans. I have the strongest urge to run over and touch him. And I will. But first, I need to give him something.

  He glances up from his laptop, his eyes twinkling in amusement as he scans over my plaid shorts and tank top. “I thought I declared that the next pillow fight would be a naked one.”

  “I know. And I plan on doing that in just a second.” I walk over to the bed. “I want to give you something first.”

  He slides the laptop off his lap and scoots to the edge of the bed. “What is it?”

  I keep my hands behind my back. “A present.”

lly? Does it have lace and bows and show off that sexy belly ring of yours?” He grazes his knuckles across my waist, grinning when I shiver.

  Yep, even after three months, I’m still shivering and blushing and getting all tingly whenever he touches me. That’s okay, though. The sensations are really nice when I’m not fighting him.

  “Sorry, but it doesn’t have any lace.” I giggle as his lip juts out. “I promise it’s still a good present, though. At least, I think it is.”

  “All right, let’s see what you’ve got,” he says, rubbing his hands together excitedly.

  Grinning, I move my hand out from behind my back and hand him the piece of paper.

  He instantly frowns.

  “It’s a good list, I promise,” I try to reassure him.

  All he does is press his lips together, refusing to take it.

  Sighing, I sit down beside him and open up the piece of paper. Then I read aloud what I’ve wanted to tell him for years but have been too afraid to say.

  “All the reasons that I love you:

  Because you gave me the coolest snow globe ever.

  Because you didn’t think I was a freak the first time you came to my house.

  Because you hug me all the time.

  Because you believe in me.

  Because you’re the nicest guy I’ve ever met and will ever meet.

  Because you make me feel safe even during the scariest times.

  Because I can talk to you about sex and not blush … Well, sometimes, unless we’re talking about something really dirty.

  Because you make me laugh.

  Because you make me smile.

  Because you knew to make me a list.

  Because you refused to give up on me even when I fought so hard.

  Because you’re my best friend.

  Because you made me see myself for who I really am.

  Because you still cared for me even when I showed you my worst.