Chapter 48: Awkward Truce

The drive back to campus was eerily quiet. Thomas sat quietly in the backseat, and I tried my best to stare straight forward out the windshield.

I shot occasional glances at Olivia. Her hands were sitting at the same position on the steering wheel. She stared straight ahead.

She pulled the car as close to our dorm as she could, and we lifted my luggage inside.

I insisted on going with Olivia while she took the car to the professor’s parking space near the art department.

She locked the car and I went with her to the professor’s building, where she dropped the car keys in the professor’s mail box and met me at the sidewalk again.

She bundled her scarf around herself a little better, but I had the impression that it was more for fashion than it was for warmth.

“Liv, do you want my coat?” I asked her.

She shook her head. “No, you’ll freeze.”

“I don’t mind.” I offered.

“I can’t. You need it.” She insisted.

We walked in silence through the campus. The professor’s dorms were on the opposite side of the campus to the student’s dorms.

I glanced at my watch, we still had an hour until curfew. I was surprised at how early it was.

“Olivia…” I began slowly. “Maybe we should talk about this.” I started.

Olivia nodded. “Yes…. I… I’m sorry. I… I pushed you. I just… I…” She stopped suddenly. “This whole mess is my fault… I’m so… I’ve never had a boyfriend before. Or at least not a serious one… I’ve never been in a relationship where I’ve had this kind of a connection with someone… I probably handled it wrong.”

Olivia was flustered, and it was a little cute.

“Liv, I should have never lied to you. I shouldn’t have hid it from you.” I said. “I care about you a lot, and that’s why I took off. I couldn’t stand looking at you every day, and wanting to hold you and kiss you and not be able to…. I couldn’t face you every day and know I had a damn good thing and I fucked it up.” I explained.

“It was a stupid argument. A stupid mistake. I knew I shouldn’t expect you to give things up for me, and change who you are for me…” She shuddered.

I was sure she was just cold.

We reached our dorm, and walked her inside. I took the elevator with her, going straight up to her floor. She leaned against the glass door to her floor.

Olivia drew in a deep breath. “I think this is okay. You should get back to your dorm before curfew… We’re still going to have to plan a huge elaborate plan to make it seem like you were sick today. You’re going to have to make a trip to the school nurse, but that shouldn’t be too hard to pull one over on her. I mean, I’m surprised she can walk upright most days.” She rolled her eyes.

I smirked. “You’re sure you don’t want me to walk you to your room?”

Olivia shook her head. “Maybe it’s best if we take things slow, okay? We could give it a couple of days…”

I nodded. “Whatever you think is best.” I agreed.

Olivia smiled, standing on her toes and lightly kissing my cheek. She smiled again briefly before opening the door and walking away.

I watched her walk out of sight.

I pressed the button on the elevator. As I waited to reach my floor, I leaned against the wall. As much as it was weird for me to admit it, I was glad I was back in this place.

I let myself onto my floor, lucky I had my student card in my coat pocket.

I ventured down the hall, where Thomas had propped open our door.

I knocked lightly and let myself in.

“Hey! There you are!” Thomas stood up eagerly from the kitchen table.

I smirked. “Did you think I wasn’t coming back?”

“Nope. I trusted you.” Thomas chuckled. “I did kind of think that Olivia would kidnap you after you guys made up…”

I sighed, plopping down across from Thomas at the table. “Not really. Well, not yet. I guess. I… I don’t know.”

Thomas frowned. “How do you not know?”

“She wants to take things slow. And from my experience, that means…”

“Ah.” Thomas mused. He shoved his glasses up on his nose again. “I probably shouldn’t be telling you this… but I don’t think that she’ll be upset with you for long… she pretty much cried the entire way to town.” He admitted. “It was awkward as hell.”

I nodded. “I’ll talk to her.”

Thomas nodded slowly.

“So Olivia said I should go to the school nurse tomorrow and create an alibi.”

“Good idea.” Thomas nodded. “She’s pretty easy to fool… And that way it won’t affect your academic probation.”

I nodded. “Exactly… I may take off tomorrow too, just for the extra day off. I’m thinking I can fake my way out of classes tomorrow. It’ll give me an extra long weekend.”

“Probably a good idea.”

“Looks like I need to unpack anyway.” I lifted my chin toward my dufflebag and guitar case. “I didn’t know I had so much shit.”

Thomas nodded. He yawned suddenly.

“Dude, it’s like ten o’clock.” I laughed softly.

Thomas laughed. “I know, man. It was kind of a crazy day, though. Right after I talked to Olivia we did a lot of running around, trying to figure out what to do…”

“I’m sorry man. You probably freaked out… but I mean it. I don’t belong here. Lets face it, I’m just here to get my high school diploma and get out of here.”

“And what about Olivia?” Thomas pressed.

I drew in a deep breath. “It’s fun for now, and I’m crazy about her… but come on man, look at her. She’s going to end up being a doctor or a lawyer or a teacher or something incredible, she’s got this huge great future ahead of her and all these endless possibilities… she’s eventually going to realize that she’s way too good for me. I’m a juvenile delinquent, former drug and alcohol addict with a criminal record on his last legs.”

“You’re making a conscious effort to change, though. You went through rehab and you came here. This is one of the best schools in the country. If you decide to go to college or anything, and the administrators see PCA on it, you’ll get in almost anywhere.”

I nodded. “And if they see all the stuff in my past?”

Thomas shrugged. “There are ways around that, I’m sure.”

I sighed. “Oh well, I’m not really thinking about any of that yet man. All I’m trying to do is get through this year. Whatever happens six months down the line, happens.”

Thomas nodded.

“I think I’m going to shower and get some sleep.” I stood and clapped Thomas on the shoulder. “Thanks for all you’ve done for me, tonight, man.”

Thomas nodded. “No problem. After all you’ve done for me, it’s the least I could do.”

I nodded, stalking off to the bathroom. I ran the shower until the hot water ran out.

I got out of the shower and dried my hair with a towel. I yanked a brush through my snarled hair and shoved it back into a pony tail.

I wrapped a towel around my waist and ventured into my bedroom. I yanked on a t-shirt and a pair of boxers before rummaging through my stuff. I found my laptop and powered it up. I checked my email, finding only a couple of emails from my brother. I didn’t even open them. I shut down my computer and started unpacking my stuff. I found my journals and stashed them back beneath my mattress, along with all of the money I’d taken from the machine.

I unpacked a couple of pairs of jeans and some shirts, just enough to make it through the next couple of days. I knew I was probably going to procrastinate and it might take me several days to actually get my stuff unpacked. I checked my guitar just to make sure that it hadn’t been damaged by the snow and the cold from when I walked down toward town.

The strings were a little stuff, but there was no water damage or anything. I placed it carefully back into its case and propped it up in the corner.

I desperately wanted a cigarette, but I was exhausted. The cold weather had gone right through me, and I hadn’t noticed until now. My muscles and joints were achy from the exposure to the cold.

I climbed into bed and yanked the blankets over myself. I dropped back against the pillows and tucked my arms behind my head. I thought about Olivia, and even imaging her crying over me felt like a ton of bricks sitting on my chest. I knew she had feelings for me, just like I had feelings for her. But I hadn’t known that things between us were that serious. I assumed I probably should have known how serious things were between us.

The more I thought about the lengths Thomas and Olivia had gone through to bring me home; risking their own academic standings and reputations… I was simply amazed. I’d never had actual friends before. I’d had friends who would only be friends with me until my drugs or alcohol ran out. I had friends who would turn on me or rat me out at the first opportunity they got.

I was starting to think that maybe I did have a good thing going on here. I had friends and decent grades for once in my life.

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