All about you (love hat.., p.21
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       All About You (Love & Hate series #1), p.21

         Part #1 of Love & Hate series by Joanna Mazurkiewicz

  Christmas day comes and goes. Mum keeps nagging me to invite Dora over, but I explain that she is away with her new boyfriend. Besides, I don’t even know when she will be back to Gargle. Mum doesn’t know about my past, and for now it needs to stay that way. She has enough problems on her own, and I don’t want to get her involved with my drama. Everything will fall into place eventually.

  When I’m back home, I can’t quite believe how much my sister Josephine has grown up. She is a book nerd, much more mature than I was at her age. Mum has never been a strict parent. Josephine and I always had a lot of freedom, and maybe that’s why I want to keep this secret hidden. My mother doesn’t deserve to take the blame for what Christian did, and I know she would if she knew the truth. She was never fond of him. She often said I shouldn’t be with someone just because I thought it was right at the time.

  After a few days, Oliver’s return to Gargle triggers my thoughts. I still can’t believe he showed up outside his own house after two years. The rhythm of my heart misses a beat whenever I think about how he just stood there, staring at me. Even in a crowd, we can find each other, like some kind of current in my body pulls me to him when he’s near.

  It’s close to New Year’s Eve when I finally hear from Dora. She texts to say she’ll be at this party at Melanie Clarke’s house on the other side of town. She wants me to go with her, and as usual, she doesn’t take rejection lightly. Mum is taking Josephine to some sixth grade party in the community centre, and I contemplate if I really want to go out and meet people that aren’t in my life anymore.

  “Dora called again. She wants to know if you’re going out tonight?” asks Mum, raising her left eyebrow, thinking there must seriously be something wrong me if I don’t want to celebrate New Year’s Eve.

  “I’ve been thinking about it—”

  “Call her and tell her you’re going to join her. Dora has been on the phone twice already, and she’s right. You have to have fun like you used to!” says Mum.

  Nothing is like it used to be, but Mum is right. I can at least try to enjoy myself.

  After that, I call Dora and assure her I’ll make it to the party. Melanie is our mutual friend. We all went to school together. Melanie stayed in Gargle, found a job as a hairdresser, and appears to be happy. I don’t get how Dora managed to even get an invitation. She never used to like Melanie at school. After all, it’s Gargle and people don’t often organise parties around here.

  When Mum and Josephine are gone, I get ready. I put on a short, fitted black dress, and after some touchup on my makeup, I’m done. I take a taxi to Melanie’s house. Her parents must be out of town. Otherwise, she wouldn’t be allowed to throw a party like this. She lives in one of those large townhouses outside Gargle. I don’t need to look for Dora long. She’s outside, talking to a few girls from high school, who obviously came back from uni for Christmas break.

  “Hey, India. Oh my God, could you be any later?” asks my best friend, giving me one of her “stern” looks.

  “You said eight o’clock. Besides, it’s New Year’s Eve. What am I supposed to do here until midnight?”

  “Party hard and enjoy yourself.” She giggles. Dora’s obviously had a few already. She looks positively happy. Her boyfriend Jacob is probably inside.

  “I’ll try. By the way, how did your visit go?”

  “Excellent. His parents are in love with me already, and my mum… Well, you know she’s saying I’m not taking uni seriously.” Dora likes to exaggerate that her mum is caught up with her own career too much. My best friend always wants to have something to moan about.

  “Why wouldn’t they be? You’re amazing.” I tease.

  “Whatever, let’s go in. Jacob is making cocktails.”

  Inside, I find a bunch of people I barely know, mostly guys and a few girls. There’s no sign of Melanie. A tiny voice in the back of my head reminds me that Oliver might be still in town, but I know Oliver wouldn’t dare to be around people who remember him, especially not after what went on in high school. In the kitchen, there are a few girls I recognise, and Jacob, who is entertaining the crowd, throwing glasses around, probably trying to make his special cocktails.

  “You got to try this. It’s amazing,” says Dora, shoving me a glass of pink liquid with ice.

  “What is it?”

  “Strawberry mojito. It’s yummy… Jacob’s new creation,” she says. Okay, I don’t want to play a total douche, so I drink a little. She’s right for once. This drink tastes pretty good.

  “Forget about your strict code for tonight and that stupid race. No one knows what happened in Braxton, so you don’t have to worry. Just have fun!”

  “I’m not going to get drunk, Dora. What if Oliver—”

  Crap, I said too much, but despite the alcohol in Dora’s system, it’s already too late. She heard me.

  “Oliver? Why would he be here? He hates this place.” She laughs, but when she meets my eyes, her smile disappears.

  “Wow, I recognise that look on your face. You’re serious. Oliver’s here, isn’t he?”


  Dora has no idea I’m close with Oliver’s mother. Actually, she has no idea I’m secretly planning to rekindle his relationship with his mother in order to gain his forgiveness. I’m a terrible liar, so I might as well tell her what’s happened.

  “I saw him a few days ago,” I admit, drinking more mojito. “I don’t get why he’s here, unless this has something to do with his mother.”

  “Fuck, I have no idea. Anyway, you shouldn’t have to worry. He’s done with you for now.”

  “Yes, he is.”

  He might be done with me, but I’m most certainly not done with him yet. I know there’s nothing left between us, but seeing him a few days ago brought some kind of emotional turmoil to my heart. It’s like I’ve been waiting for him to show up so we can communicate like two civilised people.

  God, what am I even thinking? Oliver has decided to leave me alone, and I should be grateful. This is what I wanted all along.

  I try to blend into the atmosphere for the rest of the evening. Dora keeps drinking cocktails, but she seems to be more sober than everyone else at this party. I try to put my head down and stop worrying about my return to Braxton. People won’t stop talking about me because the handsome rugby star lost interest in me. There will be another race, and I can convince my trainer to let me compete. I can learn how to swim. This can’t be such a big deal.

  Melanie appears close to eleven. She doesn’t even recognise me. She’s too drunk to keep her balance, so I get out of her way. I make my way upstairs to the toilet, feeling slightly dizzy. Jacob put a lot of rum in that cocktail, and my legs are a little wobbly. I do my business in the bathroom and hurry downstairs to find Dora. I don’t even look where I’m going, and I trip and land on someone’s chest. The smell of that cologne brings back all the memories from the past. The heat that suddenly embraces me is too much to bear. I take a few tiny breaths and look up. My heart leaps in my throat when I realise I’m staring into Oliver’s blue eyes.

  “India, I’ve been looking for you. We need to talk,” he says when I take a step back. The warmth of his skin sends tiny tingles down my arms, and the surging desire starts building up in my stomach. I might be tipsy, but I know I have nothing to talk about, not after what Dora has heard.

  “I’m busy. Let me pass,” I say, intentionally trying to sound like I don’t give a crap that he’s here, but my breath is stuck in my throat. I don’t know how to escape his penetrating gaze. My legs are glued to the floor and a few girls stare with curiosity at this new Oliver. They probably don’t even recognise him.

  “I’m not open to negotiations, Indi. Come,” he orders, and I shiver when he turns me around and pushes me forward. My legs move, but my mind doesn’t register why I’m so obedient. It’s like we’re back at that Halloween party when Oliver turned up dressed as Dracula.

  I can hear his shallow breath on the b
ack of my neck. My heart flutters in my chest and luscious heat rises as my mind wanders to when he had me in his arms. I try to ease off my thoughts and gain control of myself.

  Oliver is really back in Gargle, after more than two years. This is my chance to finally make this right, to make him understand I’m not the old India anymore.

  “This is a good place to start,” I hear him say. He pushes me inside the dark room and closes the door. My head is spinning away when he switches on the light.

  He looks tense when I stare back at him.

  “What are you doing in Gargle?” I ask, trying to slow down my skyrocketing pulse.

  “Shut up, Indi. I’m asking questions right now, not you,” he barks. In any other situation, I would tell him I’m done with him insulting me, but right now I’m under the influence of alcohol and not in full control.

  “We have nothing to say to each other, and I’m partying, so spare me the drama.”

  His hair is too long, falling over his forehead, and he’s damn cute with that wild look.

  “What did you do in my mother’s house?”

  He goes into interrogation mode straightaway, without small talk. He doesn’t need to do small talk with me because we’re enemies. We hate each other.

  “I don’t need to explain myself to you.”

  His arches his eyebrow and clenches his fists like he having trouble with self-control. I must be really annoying if I have that kind of effect on him.

  “If you expect me to apologise for the pranks I played on you, then forget it. I’m not going to. You only got what you deserved, but I’m asking you nicely. Tell me, what did you do in my house?”

  I look at his eyes and melt from inside out, like a delicious chocolate dessert under the hot sun. My feelings for Oliver have never been so intense, and now I have him in front of me, so terribly close. He’s right. I can’t expect him to apologise because I didn’t deserve a warm welcome from him when I came to Braxton back in September.

  “Your mother called. She wanted to know if I heard from you,” I lie. Okay, maybe there is some truth to this, but Oliver can’t know I’m close to his mother. Not yet anyway.

  His lips twitch and I can only imagine what’s going on inside his head. Mrs. Morgan hated him. She never showed him any affection, consideration, or love, so she can’t demand to know how he’s managing his own life.

  “I don’t get why that woman wants to know anything about me,” he states like he’s addressing himself, not me.

  “She wants to make peace. Maybe you should—”

  “I don’t take advice from anyone, especially from a heartless bitch like you,” he snaps, looking at me like I’m dirt. I swallow hard and what comes next out of my mouth surprises even me.

  “If you don’t want to make peace with your mother, then you should make peace with me.” I continue looking directly into his eyes. “That would be a good place to start.”

  His eyes widen and I begin to wonder if he will throw another insult at me or just walk away. Oliver is disgusted even being in the same room with me. He flexes the muscles around his arms like he wants to show me I have to do what he says; otherwise, my already shattered reputation will be completely ruined.

  “Why would I want to make peace with you, Indi?” he asks, moving his beautiful eyes over my body. The heat from his gaze curls my toes and the lust twists my stomach.

  “I’m sorry I ruined high school, and I’m sorry about what I put you through. I would like to end this stupid war, your game,” I say quietly, but my voice cracks and my brain feels fuzzy. I squeeze my hands so tight I cut my blood circulation to my fingers. Oliver’s expression doesn’t reveal anything, and I know this is humiliating, but there is just no other way. I have to forget about his pranks if I want to rebuild what we both had before Christian made a hole in my heart.

  He parts his lips with a sharp intake of breath. He looks slightly moved, like he didn’t expect me to apologise, especially after the race. He takes a step towards me, masking his uneasiness, whereas I’m falling back to that day when we kissed, remembering how I much l loved the way his soft lips brushed over mine. I stay still, as an unexpected chill runs over my back. There was no pretense, no acting, just pure joy of being with someone, before the dark hole pulled me apart.

  “You’re apologising. That’s a first, Indi. That’s a first,” he mutters, shoving his hands into his pockets.

  “I’m trying, Oliver. I’m fed up with these cruel games. I’m not asking for your friendship. Can we just stop fighting for at least one moment?”

  This is my last and final pledge. He doesn’t know Dora overheard him. I’m not planning to let him know I’m aware that he decided to call it a day and hand me back my freedom in Braxton.

  He runs his thumb over his lips and smiles lightly, and for the first time, I’m looking at the boy I fell for all those years ago. For a split second, he’s back, causing an explosion of fireworks inside my heart.

  “Since you asked nicely, I’ll consider it. I gave you a taste of your own medicine. I can forgive you, but I will never forget.”

  Chapter seventeen

  First Letter

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