I wandered around the room, desperately trying to find Ashlin. She was probably already drunk, but if I could get to her soon, maybe I could prevent her from become totally wasted. If she got wasted, there was nothing to stop her from dancing on a table to get her precious Trace to notice her. He had left her the day they got back from spring break. I know she was head over heels for him, but she had to get over him! If she didn't, he would singlehandedly tear her apart. She may not know, but I noticed every little thing about her. I noticed that she had a hard time eating, sleeping, thinking, and heck, even breathing I imagine. What was she waiting for? Him to just grab her by the hand and take her away? Um… yea, not going to happen. He had played her. Every bit of her. Sure, like a good friend, I wanted to just beat the living shit out of him, but I wasn't going to. The only thing I could hope for was that the next girl he dated ripped his heart out. He certainly deserved it. How can one guy send every signal and make all the moves like a perfect gentlemen would and then say "just kidding?" In a normal world that's not supposed to happen.

You must be wondering, how could I be so angry about this when it didn't even happen to me? Well, the answer is, love abandoned me last summer. I had been dating this guy for years and trust me, I was madly in love. He was the guy girls dream about. He put me on a pedestal and treated me with the upmost respect. He was perfect in every way imaginable. That was until he broke up with me. I never saw it coming. He sat me down one day during the summer after senior year in high school. I honestly thought he was going to propose. It was one of those moments. There was no one around in the park we were at. It was a beautiful, cloudless day. He held my hand as we walked to a picnic table. He was quiet as we became seated. He kissed my hand and looked at me with his blue eyes that seemed to be lighter than the sky.

He told me he was in love.

With someone else.

He had cheated on me. For a year.

I asked him if the girl was in love with him.

He said he didn't know, but he wanted to find out. He couldn't find out while he was dating me.

I asked him if he loved me.

He said he did.

But he left me anyway.

This is why I was so angry about Ashlin's situation. It wasn't quite the same, but it was too close. If you didn't love someone, or even like them like that, you should tell them. I know I couldn't date someone who I didn't like.

Ashlin didn't know about what had happened to me and she never would. No one would. It was embarrassing and heartbreaking. That's when I knew love wasn't for me.

I found Ashlin, drinking a cup of beer while staring at Trace from afar. With much pleading, I finally got her to leave with me. I was the caretaker of our friends. I got Ashlin back to our dorm and many other times, I got Maori, Jackie, or Karina back to their apartment. I kept my exterior soft at all times. I was never angered by them, no matter what they did, I was always loyal. Even when I knew they were wrong, I never told them. I kept myself out of trouble and unlike the four of them, I never went to parties to get drunk. I went for them; because they could never take care of themselves. I was the one who made sure they didn't die while letting them do what they wanted.

When I had gotten Ashlin safe and sound into her bed, I also decided to go to bed. I climbed up into my loft, but couldn't sleep; even though I felt exhausted. My thoughts kept racing. I still thought about the guy who left me. I always hoped that the girl he left me for didn't actually love him. I hoped that she was like Trace and would play him. Then when he knew the truth, he would be as heartbroken as I was. Then there was another thought that came to mind. What if he was still with that other girl? What if they were both in love and very happy? I couldn't really be angry about that except the fact that he said he loved me too…

I hadn't known it, but I had fallen asleep thinking about him. I woke up the next morning, rather early and headed down to the library to do some homework. It was strangely busy for the weekend. Every table on the fifth floor was taken. I saw a table that was half empty. The other resident was merely reading a book, not using any table space. I walked over to it and politely asked if I could share it with them.

He looked up from his book, "Sure. Go ahead."

I sat down and pulled out my Biology textbook. I then dragged out my binder and snapped it open to get some pages out. The guy who sat at the other side of the table peered over the top of his book.

He watched me for a bit and then said, "I've read that book. One of the better Biology textbooks out there."

"Oh? Are you a Biology major?" I asked.

"I was… for two years."

"What happened?"

"I don't know. Guess I had a change of heart."

"What's your major now?"


I raised my eyebrows at him.

"Yea yea, I know. Quite the opposite side of the spectrum. It feels better though. It's not forced like Biology was."

"So, I'm guessing you like to write then?"

"More than I knew I did."

He smiled softly and glanced back down at the book in his hands.

I sort of shrugged to myself and went back to my Biology note taking. I read a paragraph in the book, but then immediately forgot what I had just read. Annoyed, I read it again. I still couldn't remember a damn thing that paragraph said. I slammed the book closed, causing others around to look at me. I blushed and everyone's eyes left me… except his. My eyes met his.

"Can't study?" he asked.

"Well not here anyways," I said.

"Oh. Sorry. Am I bothering you? I can leave."

"No. It's fine. I'll go."

He stood at the same I did.

"I don't need a table. All I'm doing is reading," he said.

I swallowed and sat back down. He didn't look at me again. He just took his book and left.

I still couldn't concentrate even after he left. I was so embarrassed. I shouldn't have made him leave. He had had the table first. It was only fair that he should have kept it and I had left. I packed my bag again and left the table. I rode the elevator down to the first floor and walked out into the warm spring air. I took a deep breath, trying to clear my thoughts. I had a Biology test coming up. I had to study. The grass was greening nicely and I found a beautiful looking patch just below a large oak tree. I threw my bag down and followed it. I laid my head on my bag, not wanting to study.

"I didn't know Biology textbooks made such good pillows," a voice said.

My eyes were closed now and I didn't open them. I felt like I had just heard that voice though…

I opened them now, curious as to who was speaking.

It was the same guy from the library.

"You were a Biology major for two years and never used one as a pillow? That's surprising," I said.

"I always used my Chemistry one. Considering I never really opened mine," he said.

I smiled lightly, squinting to see him in the bright day.

Book still in his hand; he sat down next to me.

"This is my favorite spot to be on campus. You can see everything going on, but it's secluded enough so you have some peace and quiet," he said.

Must have been why it caught my eye.

"Well, I guess we have similar tastes in study spots," I said.

"Oh I'm not studying, but since you are, I'll leave you be… for good," he said.

He smiled and when he did, his bright blue eyes stuck out against his dark brown skin.

As I watched him walk away, he stuffed his book into a back pocket of his loose khaki shorts. I saw him stop a ways off to talk with someone he knew. While they talked, he ran his hands over his buzzed black hair.

There was something captivating about him. The way he seemed so free; without worries, so relaxed. I was almost jealous of him. I could feel my Biology book under my head. It nagged at me; reminding me I had to read it. I yanked it out from under me and flipped it open. The words looked jumbled on the page, unreadable. I glanced up from the book, hoping somehow to see him still talking to his friend, but he wasn't there.

After that afternoon incidence, I didn't see him for awhile. My next few weeks were crammed with non-stop daily stories from Ashlin about her and Adam, Jackie's updates on her and Jordan, Maori's news about her baby, and Karina's recovery and steady relationship with Angel. I seemed to be the one left out. I didn't have time for any stories of my own though. I was too busy being a Biology major and trying to keep up with my friends. All the while, keeping my friends from trying to hook me up with random guys they thought would be good matches.

I was cramming for yet another Biology test and as I walked to the library, the oak tree caught my eye. I stopped and looked at it. I smiled as I thought of that moment a few weeks back when I first chose that tree. Before I knew it, I found myself wandering over to it. I sat down in its shade and pulled out my textbook. It lay in front of me and I didn't have trouble concentrating.

"Studying going better today I hope?"

I looked up and met a pair of bright blue eyes.

I smiled, "Much better."

"Tree of wonders I suppose," he said. "I always studied better when I sat here."

"You don't come here anymore?"

"Nah. I feel like it belongs to you now."

"What? This is only my second time under it. And the first time wasn't even a success."

"But you came back. Once you sit under it, you always come back."


His eyebrow rose at me.

"You still come back," I said.

"Ah. True," he agreed.

I patted the grass next to me, "Come sit. I know you want to."

He cracked a smile and sat down next to me.

He looked at me and I looked at him.

"Darin Roberts," he said as he pushed his hand toward me.

I took his hand, "Rachel Thomas."

We shook hands and got lost. A minute later or so we realized we were still holding hands and loosened our grips. I blinked a few times and it brought me back to reality. I glanced down at my textbook and then back at him.

"I really should study," I said.

"Is that all you do?" he asked.

"Don't you study?"

"It's overrated. Try not studying once and you'll see what I mean."

I laughed, "Really? No way. I can't afford to not study. Half the stuff I read I don't even remember learning in the first place."

"Then you probably didn't. It probably won't even be on the test if the professor didn't go over it."

I cocked my head, "So you're saying I'm wasting my time?"

"That's exactly what I'm saying!"

"So what do you suggest I do?"

"I suggest that you close the textbook and come with me."

I don't know what got into me, but I closed the book and shoved it back into my bag. He stood up and reached his hand down to help me up. I took it and stood up next to him.

"What do we do now?" I asked.

"Follow me," he said.

He grabbed my hand and I found myself not objecting what-so-ever. I knew nothing about him, but every bit of me wanted to follow him. It was all wrong. None of it was proper.

He led me to the river adjacent to campus and down a path that I never knew existed. We got to the river's edge and walked along it. He didn't say anything and I didn't either. I had never been down there before or let alone really looked at the river. Who knows how far we actually walked before the shoreline ended. With his free hand he pointed out into the middle of the river.

"See that?" he asked. "Want to go?"

"Out there?" I questioned. "How do we get there?"

"Swim of course," he laughed. "How else?"

"Across a river?!"

He smiled, "It's calm on this side. The other side is worse. I tried it once and trust me, I didn't go well."

He kicked his sandals off and stepped into the water… with all of his clothes still on! I gripped his hand harder and resisted.

"Are you scared?" he asked.

"No! It's just… I'm wearing all of my clothes," I said.

"They're just clothes. You can wash them."

He was wading farther in now and I had no choice, I had to follow him in. It was cold and unwelcoming at first, but when I was fully emerged, it didn't bother me. It got deeper and I couldn't touch the bottom anymore. We let go of our hands now and swam swiftly over to the island. He got to it first and waited for me. When I got there, he took my hand again. We meandered slowly around the island. It was small, but still managed to have rather large trees. I honestly couldn't tell you how much time had passed or even what we talked about, the little we did talk. I did know however, that he was an only child who was raised on a farm in Southwest Minnesota and that he spent most of his time, if not all of it, outside.

He had such a free spirit. It seemed to just flow right out of him and wrap itself around me. When he suggested that we head back to mainland, I was actually the one who objected. He laughed at my objection, clearly surprised. We went back though and as we walked back to the oak tree in our dripping clothes, we got some great looks from other people. I grabbed my bag which was surprisingly still there and noticed that we were holding hands again.

His eyes searched mine and he said, "I told you studying is overrated."

He dropped my hand and strode away from me. I half expected him to turn around and come back, but he just kept going. I had to walk back to my dorm, wet, cold, and very confused. It was going to be hell trying to explain to Ashlin what had exactly happened.

I tried to sneak into my dorm room, which is impossible I'll have you know.

She spied me the moment I came in.

"Whoa. What happened to you?" she said, clearly surprised.

"Nothing… I just…" I started.

"Let me guess… You feel in a puddle?"

"How did you know?"

She shook her head and laughed at me.

"Who is he?" she asked.

"Oh I like how you automatically assume I was with a guy," I said, trying to act annoyed.

"It's kind of obvious that you were."

"Whatever, liar. You're just trying to get me to admit to something I did not do."

"You would be admitting the truth. You wouldn't go jumping into some body of water with all of your clothes still on if it was anyone, but a guy."

My jaw hung open.

"Ha! I knew it!" she exclaimed.

I made a very convincing pouty face and she just laughed harder.

"You're terrible at puppy dog faces. Don't even think about not telling me what happened!" she threatened.

"Fine. I was with a guy. Ok, happy?" I said.

"No! I want details girly! Details!"

"There's nothing to say."

"Ha ha very funny. Now spill! What's his name?"


"How did you meet him?"


"Right up your alley! I should have known! You're always there!"

"Am not. I like to study outside too!"

"Back on the topic of Mr. Darin… How did he convince you to get wet?"

"He didn't."

I smiled as I remembered the way he took my hand so gently that I barely noticed. How I had crumbled so easily in his presence.

"By the look on your face right now, I'm thinking you enjoyed every moment of it. You didn't need any convincing."

I felt myself blushing like mad as I picked a shirt up off the floor and threw it at her.

She giggled, "How many times have you seen him and I haven't known?!"

"Well… twice, but this was the first time I went anywhere with him. The first time it was just in the library," I said.

"And you never told me… why?!"

"Because it's not that big of a deal. What I do doesn't matter."

The smile faded off of her face and she stared at me, "What's that supposed to mean?"

"Well it's true isn't it?"

"If it were, would I be harassing you right now about what just happened?"

"You wouldn't have said anything at all, or even asked, if I hadn't come back all wet and dirty. I have to wear a goddamn sign to get anyone to notice me at all. I'm not important Ashlin. You, Jackie, Maori, and Karina are much more stand-out figures… more sought after. I'm just the behind the scenes girl who cleans up the messes."

"Little do you know that the behind the scenes people are the most important. They are much more valuable than any of the stars. Without them, nothing would happen and everything would go to hell."

"Hardly. I don't even know why I hang around you guys. You would be just fine without me."

"Rach, I'm pretty sure each of us would have died 100 times over without you. Who manages to get me home from all the parties?"

"I don't want to talk anymore."

"See? As soon as anyone talks about you in any high manner, you have nothing to say. That's why no one asks. You never want to answer."

She turned away from me, going back to her computer screen, pretending like I wasn't still standing there. I grabbed a few things and went to shower. I finally felt decent, but when I got back to my room, the air was just too heavy to even breathe in. I left my phone, for once in my life, and just walked out. I didn't want anyone to know where I was. I just wanted to be alone. I started walking and I couldn't tell you where I was going. I didn't even know. I just plodded along. Soon enough, I found myself at the river's edge. It was a clear night; moon shining brightly. I glanced south and saw the island I had swam to hours before.

All of a sudden, a sound broke through my reverie. A quiet splash. Then another one. It was coming from my right… I turned slowly. Just there, a figure was throwing stones into the river. He was trying to skip them, but was not succeeding. I picked up my own rock and gave it a whirl. It skipped twice and slipped under. He glanced my way, apparently he hadn't noticed me there when he came.

He walked toward me.

When we came face to face, the moon caught his face just right…

It was Darin. How the heck was that even possible? Like anyone would even come down here at this time of night...

"I had this weird feeling that there was going to be someone down here tonight," he said.

"You trusted a feeling? What if I had been a psycho killer?" I said.

"Well I'm glad you aren't. Because I don't kiss psycho killers."

He leaned down, nose brushing mine. I tilted my head easily to the side, letting his lips meet mine.

He pulled back, just enough to whisper, "Do you want to go out to the island with me?"

"Now?" I breathed.

"I don't want to be anywhere else."

I didn't either.

I let him take my hand. We waded slowly into the dark water. The ripples we made became highlighted by the moonlight and made the water sparkle. Swimming to the island seemed easier this time around. When we got there, we stayed on the small beach and just lay there, side by side. He put his arm around me and coaxed me to rest my head on his chest. I closed my eyes for just a moment to take in the impossible moment and when I opened them again, it was light out.

I freaked out. Plain and simple.

It was the morning and here I was, sleeping next to a guy I barely even knew. I got up and splashed into the water. I swam to shore as fast as I could. I didn't even look back. I knew he was awake, but I didn't want to meet his eyes because I knew he was watching me. I ran up the river bank and hurried back to my dorm. I stood under the shower for a long while, my clothes still on. Tired of standing, I slumped down onto the shower floor. I didn't care if it was dirty, I was still dirty anyway. What was I doing? Who was I pretending to be?

Ashamed and in shock, I somehow dragged myself back to my room, literally dripping like a waterfall. I clomped noisily in and Ashlin rolled over to look at me from her bed.

"Where the hell were you?" she asked, rubbing her eyes.

I stood dripping on the floor, "You don't want to know."

We stared at each other for awhile. I knew she wanted to ask a thousand questions and yell at me like my mom would. Like a good friend though, she refrained. I wanted to just sit in my soaking clothes, but I had to go to class, so I got ready. I slung my bag over my shoulder and headed to my lovely, morning Biology class. When it was done, my feet did the work and took me to my regular spot in the library. As I rounded the corner to where the table was, I saw Darin sitting there. He didn't have his book out today. He was just sitting there, most likely waiting for me. I tried to tiptoe away before he saw, but failed. He popped out of his seat and caught me. He trapped me against a wall. I looked desperately around for an escape…

"You left in a hurry this morning," he said. "If you had to get to class I would understand, but it was barely past sunrise. Did I do something wrong?"

"No… It's just… I can't see you anymore, ok?" I blurted.

"I wasn't informed that we had been seeing each other. We really 'saw' each other… what, like twice now?"

"Yea, something like that."

"Well what's the issue then? We're just friends anyway."

"Really? Friends don't kiss each other."

"Oh so we aren't friends? What are we then? Because you certainly seem like you don't want to be anything more than friends. Is that what you want?"

"Yes. No. I don't know! I can't handle this right now."

"Well you damn well better make up your mind. Because I have been through enough shit in my life that I can't be waiting around all the time. If you want me, all you have to do is say so and I'm yours."

He turned away as fast as he had caught me and strode away. I put my hands over my face and dragged them off. People around me were still staring at me, like I had just done something extremely obscene. I really hadn't though. Who was he to come after me like that? I was the last person on Earth he wanted. There were a million girls in this world he could choose over me. I don't stand out in any way. It was all by some nasty chance happening that I would pick that library table where he sat… and that damn oak tree. Why?!

A week went by and every day was easier to not think about him… until he found me again. I had stop coming to the library and the oak tree so I wouldn't run into him at all. He found me in a student lounge in our main building though.

Before he could even say a word, I cut in, "You've got to leave me alone Darin. I can't be with you."

He looked at me, his eyes beyond intense, "You can't be with me or you don't want to be with me?"

"I can't. Now please just leave me alone."

"No. If you had said you don't want to be with me, I would have left, but because you didn't, I know that you have feelings for me. How can you ignore them? You can be with me and I'm asking you now. Please, just be with me."

I felt myself beginning to get choked up and I couldn't even hide it, "Even if I wanted to, I still can't."

"Why? At least tell me why."

I shook my head, fighting my now watering eyes.

"Why?! Damnit just tell me!"

"Because it's a lie. I'm not what you want. You like the thought of me, but if you were to have me, you'd be disappointed. I'm not who you think I am. A smart guy would just walk away."

I was still staring into my lap and now he was silent. His hand slid under my chin and he lifted my face to be level with his.

"Yea. I like the thought of you, but I don't want it to be just a thought. I want it to be you. And I'm sure you're right. You probably aren't who I thought you were, but that's the beauty of being with someone. Every little thing you learn brings you closer. How can I be disappointed when I know that being with you is when I will ultimately, fall in love with you?"

He paused.

"Now how many different times and ways must I tell you that I want you and all of you?" he finished.

"You don't have to tell me anymore. If you keep saying it, eventually I'm going to end up slipping and saying that I want you too," I said.

He smiled wide and pulled me off the chair I sat on. He picked me up and kissed me. He set me down and I glared at him playfully.

"Alright alright! You've made your point. Now if you'll excuse me, I've got studying to do," I said, unable to contain my smile.

"Ok," he said, still smiling. "I'll see you later."

He left me be and unknown to him, I couldn't study at all after that. Honestly though, who could? I could only pretend like I was reading as I thought of him. He just kind of crept up and caught me by surprise. It was the most unexpected thing you could imagine… and for him to keep coming back? What guy has that kind of persistence? I guess it was lucky that he did though, because I think if it had been any other guy, he would have left when I had wanted him too. And want is certainly not need.

Ok everyone. It's finished! Part Five! Please leave a review and look out for other stories to come! :)