Chapter 19: Close

After a long bus ride, I was insanely glad to get off the bus. Olivia was an incredible company, and I loved every minute of finding out everything about her, but my ass was completely and entirely numb.

I led her down the aisle and off the bus. Students were scattering in every direction.

“Where to first?” Olivia asked.

“Can we go to the bank machine?”

“Oh, right. Of course.” She agreed. “Umm… this way.”

“Do we have to check in or anything?” I asked, shoving my thumb over my shoulder at a group of teachers all standing with clipboards in their hands.

“No, no. We’re free until nine-fifteen.” She agreed. “Come on, I’ll show you where the bank is.”

I nodded and followed her, glancing around.

The town was insanely small. Like the school campus, it was entirely surrounded by large, towering trees.

The main street seemed to be comprised of a long row of shops, restaurants, cafés and the occasional office. It was a complete tourist town, and it had now been taken over completely by Pine Crest students.

“Here’s the bank.” She stopped.

“Oh, great. Do you need to…” I trailed off, motioning toward the large glass paneled windows of the bank.

“No, I’m okay.” She smiled.

“I’ll just be a second.”

“Take your time.” Olivia said quickly.

I pushed my way through the heavy glass door and moved to one of the machines. I removed my card from my wallet and slipped it into the card reader. I punched in my access code and waited. I checked my account balance and as soon as the numbers appeared on the screen I blinked and took a step back in shock. I must have had the wrong card.

When I had left from Tulsa to come here I had less than a hundred dollars in my account. Now the number read over six thousand dollars. There was no way I could ever have that much money. The bank had to have made a mistake.

Either way, I’d take it.

I withdrew enough money for dinner and enough to buy myself a decent suit. I gave myself an extra twenty dollars just in case and shoved the money into my wallet. I made sure to get my card, double checking to be sure that it was still my name on the card.

I frowned and placed the card back in my wallet. I shoved my wallet into my jeans and made my way out of the bank to find Olivia still waiting in the same place.

She smiled. “Everything okay?”

“Yeah, yeah. Totally.” I answered. “Where to next?”

“Are you hungry now or do you want to look around a bit first?”

“I can wait to eat… what about you?”

“I think I can wait a bit too. It’s only five.”

“Okay… good… do you… do you mind if I smoke?”

She shook her head slowly, pursing her lips.

“Great.” I breathed. I rummaged through my pockets removing my cigarettes and my lighter. I shoved one between my lips and lit it. I drew in a deep drag and exhaled slowly.

Olivia chewed her lip. She was suspiciously silent.

“The smoking bothers you, doesn’t it?” I asked, intentionally trying to blow the smoke away from her.

“It’s fine.” She said too quickly.

“I’ve… I’ve got to have a vice. I can’t drink, I can’t get high. I can’t see my old friends or my family, or do any of the things that I used to do or used to like doing…” I glanced down at the cigarette burning away between my fingers. “This is the only thing I’ve got left of my old life. This is all I have left of the old me.”

Olivia pursed her lips. “It’s going to kill you.”

“I know.” I replied. “And I’m sorry it bugs you. But it’s all I have right now. I’ll quit when I’m good and ready. But for now, it’s the only thing that’s going to take the edge off.” I raised the cigarette to my lips and took another long deep drag.

Olivia nodded. “I understand that… but I don’t like it. I hate the smell of cigarette smoke…”

“I’ve cut down considerably since coming here…”

“Cutting down isn’t the same as quitting.” She pointed out.

“I know that.” I answered.

She pursed her lips. “I’m sorry. It’s probably not any of my business. I really have no right to butt in on your business.”

“No, I’m glad you’re looking out for me.” I answered. I put my cigarette in my mouth, drew in a deep breath and switched it to my right hand. With my left hand, I lightly placed my hand on her lower back. I gently stroked her back up to her shoulders and back down.

She smiled hugely.

“Where are we going for dinner?” I asked.

“It’s up to you.” She answered. “I think the new guy should get to pick the spot for dinner.”

“No way.” I rolled my eyes. “I don’t even know the options. You’ve done this before. Where’s your favorite place?”

She hid her smile by chewing her lip. “Elena’s. It’s just up here.” She motioned. “The food is really good.”

“Great.” I replied.

We walked in silence while I read the names on the buildings and printed on the windows. We reached a large awning with the restaurant’s name on top.

I drew one last drag and dropped my cigarette butt to the pavement. I took a few more steps reached for the door and held it open.

Olivia sighed and moved toward my discarded cigarette. She stomped on it with her tiny foot.

“Just because you’re done smoking it, doesn’t mean the rest of us have to.” Olivia said to me, walking past me and slipping through the door.

I resisted the urge to roll my eyes, and followed her into the restaurant. The place was crawling with students, some of which I recognized from classes.

“Table for two?” The blonde snapping her gum obnoxiously asked.

I nodded, moving my arm around Olivia to keep from loosing her. She was the only thing keeping me in this school, and now that I had a chance, she was the only reason I had for not running away and trying to make it through the woods.

Olivia giggled, leaning closer to me and speaking quietly to me. “I’m not going to run away on you.”

“Sorry.” I replied quickly, dropping my arm immediately.

She smiled. “That’s not what I meant.” She tentatively slipped her hand into mine.

The waitress brought us to a table.

We ate, talking freely. The food was actually exceptionally good. I managed to eat a burger, my French fries and half of Olivia’s.

She took a sip of her diet coke. “I should use the rest room… do you mind?”

“No, no. Of course not.” I replied.

She smiled and slipped out of the booth.

I waited and soon the waitress arrived again. “Is there anything else I can get for you? Perhaps desert?”

“I don’t think so.” I answered. Olivia could hardly finish the food she had; I was assuming she didn’t want anything else. “Just the check please.”

“Okay. Here you are.” She tore off one of the sheets of paper from her notepad and placed it on the table in front of me. I picked it up and read over the list of items we had ordered.

I was lucky, the bill was under twenty dollars. I removed a twenty dollar bill from my wallet and placed it on the table, beneath the bill.

I finished the last handful of fries on my plate.

Olivia returned, plopping down across from me in the booth.

I couldn’t help but stare at her for a moment. She was undeniably beautiful. Each time I saw her it was like I was looking at her for the first time. The top two buttons of her blouse were undone, revealing a small expanse of smooth, pale skin that I desperately wanted to kiss. She had her usual silver chain around her neck, but this time I noticed the pendant. It was a small silver ring with a tiny emerald set between two diamonds.

A small blush flooded into Olivia’s cheeks. I swallowed thickly.

“What?” She breathed, her eyes dropping down to the table.

“Nothing.” I said quickly. “I was just… admiring your necklace. It’s pretty.”

The corner of her mouth turned up in a small smile as she touched the necklace. “My grandmother gave it to me before she died. It’s an heirloom. Or at least parts of it are, it’s been resized so many times…” She glanced down.

“Can I see it?” I was looking for an excuse to be close to her.

She nodded, leaning across the table at the same time I did. The sweet smell of her hit me again, and I had to distract myself. I reached out and lightly picked up the necklace, admiring how it sparkled. I didn’t know much about jewelry, but I was sure it cost a fortune.

She studied my face as I leaned close to the necklace. “It’s beautiful. It must be very important to you.”

She nodded. “I was very close with my grandmother. I never take this necklace off.”

“I don’t blame you.” I responded. I turned my eyes back up to hers. They were the perfect shade of sparkling jade. They were brighter than any jewel in her pendant, and I couldn’t help myself.

I gently released her necklace and laid it back against her skin. With the same hand, I gently stroked her cheek and brought my lips to hers in a soft, searing kiss that made me want to leap across the table to hold her in my arms.

Her perfectly plump lips parted slightly; I couldn’t be positive, but I was sure it was an invitation by the way her eyes fluttered closed and she leaned ever closer to me.

I broke the kiss gently, before leaving another smaller, tentative kiss on her lips. I stroked her neck gently, feeling her skin ripple into goose bumps. I watched her mouth, and the way her teeth tugged at her pouting bottom lip to hide a smile.

I took a huge amount of satisfaction in knowing that her body reacted in much the same way mine did when I was close to her or touching her.

“We umm… should get going. They probably need the table…” I began to justify nervously.

“Right, and we have a lot to do and little time to do it in.” Olivia agreed, pursing her lips.

Her eyebrows knitted together for a split second, and she appeared confused.

“You’re ready now?” I prompted.

“Oh! Yeah.” She snapped out of her trance suddenly and slid out of the booth.

I followed her and we left the restaurant. It was already getting dark out. Students were filtering out of what appeared to be a movie theatre.

“Do you have any place you’d like to go?” I asked. “I mean, it seems like we’re doing all of the stuff I want to do…”

Olivia smiled. “I want to do all this stuff… besides, you paid for dinner, the least I could do is show you around and help you get everything done. Besides, I’ve got nothing I want to do.” She shrugged lightly.

Olivia stopped suddenly outside of a store, glancing in through the thick pane of glass. “Oh.”

“Oh?” I inquired worriedly. I followed her gaze. “Do you want to go in?”

“Do you mind?” She asked, wrinkling her delicate nose.

“I don’t mind at all… actually, I could probably duck across the street to the convenience store. Can I meet you back here?”

“Yeah, totally. That works.”

“Okay.”

I held the door for her and waited until she went inside.

I jogged quickly across the street, narrowly missing getting flattened by a minivan.

I slipped into the convenience store and approached the counter.

“Can I help you?” The man behind the counter asked. He didn’t look much older than me, which was lucky. He probably wouldn’t card me, and if he did he wouldn’t look at my ID too closely.

I nodded. “A carton of Marlboros.” I removed my wallet and surrendered my fake ID. He glanced at it briefly before handing it back to me.

He placed my carton of cigarettes on the counter. “Anything else?” He asked boredly, typing the price into the cash register.

I glanced at the display behind him. “A pack of Trojans.” I replied, causally. “The black box, thirty-two pack.”

He glanced at me skeptically, before giving me the box. I was sure it seemed weird that all I was buying were condoms and cigarettes, but he probably suspected that I knew what I was doing, that I had done this before and just gave me what I asked for.”
I shoved it into my pocket. The last thing I needed was Olivia finding them. I didn’t want to seem like I was assuming things were going to happen. I just wanted to be prepared.

“Would you like a bag?”

“Yeah, please.” I replied.

He placed my carton of cigarettes in a bag and I surrendered forty dollars. I accepted my change and left the store, moving quickly across the street to find Olivia again.

She was still in the art supply store, so I leaned against the brick front of the store and lit the last cigarette in my old pack.

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