His backpack was attached to me like gum stuck to a shoe. It was all that I had left of him. The scent emanating from it, even two months later, still smelled like his cologne.
"What do you think of this one?" he asked, sporting a pink frilly backpack and walking up and down the aisles of the thrift store, completely serious.
I rolled my eyes but couldn't stop the small smile from making its way across my face. "Very you," I concluded, laughing.
"Hey!" he grinned, saddling up to me and placing his hands on my waist. "I take offence to you mocking my manliness."
"What manliness?" I teased, fingering the fringe on the backpack he still wore around his shoulders.
"Mm, don't tempt me to prove myself," he grinned before pulling me flush against him.
And so Jeff had bought the pink, frilly, thrift-store backpack and used it every day. And now, I, too, wore the girly, preschool backpack, not caring enough about the people who stared at me with disgusted confusion as I made my way across the school parking lot.
Stopping as a clump of fringe fell off, my attention gravitated toward a Mercedes weaving haphazardly through the school parking lot. Immediately I noticed it was an SLR McLaren—Jeff's dream car which happeneded to cost upwards of four hundred fifty thousand dollars.
He had loved cars, though neither of us could ever afford one. We would spend our Saturday afternoons laying outside in a hammock, me relishing in the closeness of his body, him regaling facts about different sports cars. It was never romantic or filled with heart-pounding words, but to us it was perfect.
I smiled wryly. Perfect; life would certainly never be that way again.
A series of loud honks and screeching breaks lifted me out of my reverie. "Can you get the fuck out of the way, princess?" an annoyed voice drawled.
I looked up, glancing at the owner of the lavish car that sat only a few feet away from where I was standing. I couldn't help but stare at it, imagining Jeff in it. The length of his smile would be impossible to dream up. His elation at having one thing he actually deserved would be impossible to describe.
"Did you not hear me?" the driver asked, not even bothering to raise his voice as he stared at me lazily. "I said move."
A busty blonde in the passengers seat leaned over to try and see what was going on, obviously distraught over being ignored. She huffed when her eyes landed on me and tried to turn Mr. Jackass's attention back on her.
"Babe, I'm not in the mood right now," he told her, putting the car in park and starting to get out.
He grinned at her and then slammed the car door shut, tossing his keys to another girl who was eyeing his every movement, worshipful lust clear on her face. "Park this for me, would you, sugar?" he asked, not bothering to wait for an answer.
I watched as he strolled closer, greeting people along the way. He was adored by these people and yet I saw no appeal in his charm. I knew guys like him and I knew they were heartless and cold, expecting every remotely attractive female that walked to give in to his every wish and demand at the snap of his fingers.
When he was only a few feet away from me, I glanced back down at the ground, looking at the pink fringe that had fallen. It was Jeff's. Jeff's fringe. And it didn't matter how tattered and worn it was; it was his, and therefore, I would keep it.
Jackass' hand came into my line of view. Tanned and toned with slender fingers, even his hands had an aura of power and importance about them. Carelessly, he picked up the tassel and swung it around in his fingers. I watched as something so important to me was simply tossed back and forth as if it had no worth.
"I advise you to listen to me next time, babe," he said, shoving the clump into my hand before walking off without a look back in my direction.
I simply stood there, surprisingly unaffected by his words. All I cared about was the clump in my hand and how I would never be able to touch or smell or see or love the owner of it again.
It seemed like so much more than a negative word; it was a word filled with hopelessness. And yet, it wasn't permanent. Jeff was still in my heart and in my dreams. I would forever be his just as he would forever be mine.
I turned around slowly only to be met with an array of blinding colors. A bright, turquoise, t-shirt depicting a skull and a parrot on it in vividly colored stones was the first object my eyes laid rest upon. Traveling upward, the girl had sleekly straight bleach-blonde hair that was chopped into a random pattern. Her face was done up just as crazily as the rest of her, her lips a shiny metallic and her eye shadow done in seven small streaks, all the colors of the rainbow.
"Lucky?" I asked, confused as to what she meant.
She nodded her head and then cocked it to the side. "Lucas took pity on you."
I wanted to laugh. "You call that pity?"
"He's a jackass, meaning the situation is self-explanatory."
"Agreed," I mumbled, turning my focus to his retreating form.
Anyone could see that he ruled the school; even more than that, he owned it. He had an air about him that radiated authoritative power; no one argued with him. Just by his looks it was obvious why people flocked to him. His semi-buttoned white shirt still allowed glimpses to his defined chest and the loose pair of jeans that hung just low on his hips more than helped in sparking the imagination. Even his tanned face and green piercing eyes had an alluring quality to them.
"I never understand why people choose looks over personality," she sighed, her eyes on what God would even describe as the perfect specimen.
I turned back around to face her, just now noticing the yellow beanie atop her head, and smiled sadly with my eyes. "There's a difference between what the eyes love and what the heart loves. It's the more important one people tend to dismiss."
"You're really damn poetic," she laughed, sticking out her hand. "Name's Mona."
"Lily," I said in response, slowly accepting the outreached hand. I didn't know how else to respond. Interaction with other people had been scarce on my part and even the five minutes I'd spent with her were enough. Add on to that the exchange with Mr. Jackass, who I now knew to be Lucas, and my day had already become hell.
I smiled slightly at her—my gesture for goodbye—before walking off to start my second day of school. And my second month without Jeff.
Lunch as the new kid is automatically deemed unbearable. For me, life in general was unbearable. I even welcomed sitting alone at lunch, staring around the room, trying to decipher it as if it were some puzzle, which essentially it was, only one of social hierarchy.
I couldn't help my eyes as they wondered toward his table. It was hard for there to be a center at a round table, but it was obvious who everyone's eyes were focused on. He commanded attention and people couldn't help but to obey.
His casual posture, leaning back languidly in the chair, and his manipulative groping of the surrounding females, easily displayed his ability to get away with anything.
I was startled out of my staring when his green orbs met mine, a smirk rising to stretch across his face. Carelessly he stood up, effectively knocking the blonde bimbos down like bowling pins.
Grabbing his pile load of trash, he walked toward me, his posse following. The smirk was still evident on his face, though the mischief in his eyes was more pronounced.
I watched as his bright green eyes flitted lazily over the scene in front of him, setting the pile of trash on the table next to me.
"You're the new girl?" It had been phrased as a question, but it came out as a statement.
Since he obviously knew the answer to his own question, I felt it was unnecessary to give him a response. I just moved my gaze from his worshippers to the windows behind him, staring at the outside world with no registered recognition. It was all so foreign to me now. The sky, the trees, the sun and the warmth it brought; it all held no significance anymore. Nothing did.
Turning back to face him, no emotion in my eyes, I watched as his gaze raked over my face, a hint of annoyance gleaming through his eyes. His eyes narrowed and he swiftly sat down. His close proximity had me on edge; I hadn't had a male body so close to me since Jeff's.
His smirk remained plastered on his face as he realized the effect he was having on me. "Does this make you uncomfortable…Lily?" he questioned, reaching up to catch a loose strand of hair.
Toying it around in his fingers, I remained motionless, staring instead at the tabletop with an interest one would show the Eiffel Tower.
I nodded my head ever so slightly and forced my eyes to focus on his. "My name…" I trailed off, wondering how it was he found out what it was.
"She speaks," he smirked while a few of his guy friends chuckled. If I had any sort of emotions I might have been amused at the fact that the girls around him were getting annoyed at the sudden attention he was giving me, or even embarrassed that they seemed to be laughing at me.
"Mind if I call you Lil?" he asked, drawing my focus back to his questioning eyes.
"Yes," I responded automatically, as if I was a robot programmed to simply articulate the most precise answers.
He had no clue what that simple nickname meant to me. He had no clue that there was only person who ever called me that.
"Lil," he laughed. "I promise I won't let you go."
"Jeff, you know I hate heights," I cried, clinging to him as the roller coaster inched its way higher and higher to the top.
"I know you do, Lil, but wait until we're at the top. You're going to love the view. It's almost as beautiful as you," he whispered, smiling crookedly and leaning over to peck my cheek. "Almost."
I gazed at him, completely missing the spectacular view and caught off guard as we suddenly plummeted toward the earth.
"Yes," I whispered again, already feeling the pains of remembrance hit my heart. In just one simple word, he had broken through some of the barricades I had set up to protect myself from ever feeling anything again. "I mind."
The intense focus of his gaze on me reminded me that I was in a public place, surrounded by people who knew nothing of my past. He gave me a curious look before dropping the strand of hair and softly tucking it behind my ear.
"That's a shame," he whispered, his breath hot on my cheek.
Standing up, he glanced back down at me, amusement flickering across his face. In just one stride, he was standing next to the girl who had been in his car earlier this morning, his hand making its way partway inside her jeans, resting low on her hip. With one last hint of a smile, he turned around, preparing to leave.
Taking deep breaths, I started to stand up and grab my backpack, still lost in the rush of memories.
"Lil." It was him again. I had known him for a mere day and already his voice was distinguishable against all others. The husky edge with a forceful undertone all came out smoothly like honey.
I froze, knowing he was calling me that just for the sole reason I had told him not to. "Mm, don't tense up, baby. I just forgot my trash."
I nodded my head and tried to step around him but he put his hands low on my waist. "Baby," he whispered pulling me back again him, "just where do you think you're going?" he asked, his hands moving underneath the large sweatshirt that hid my small frame from the world. "I want you to be the one to throw my trash away." Not a question this time, but a demand. And as if to persuade me, his thumbs made tantalizing gestures on my skin, goose bumps making my hair stand up.
I looked down at the leftovers near the edge of the table and glanced back at him briefly, seeing that his expectant look hadn't changed. He was expecting me to be like all of his other followers and jump at his every command.
"Now," he whispered into my ear, sweeping my hair to one side. As a girl sauntered by, flirting with her eyes, a wrapper from an ice cream bar landed on the floor.
Gaining his focus once again, he looked back down at me, smirking. "Mm, pick that up while you're at, too, sweetheart," he commanded, watching as I walked over to the area where his trash sat.
Tugging down on my oversized sweatshirt, I bent down and picked up the offending object, placing it back in the pile.
When I turned around and saw his eyes focused solely on the lower portions of my body, I blushed. It had nothing to do with the fact that he intimidated me. It had more to do with the fact that, in my eyes, I was still Jeff's girl. No one looked at me like that except for him. Yet, here he was, blatantly staring at me with no care or regard.
I met his gaze square on, forcing his eyes up. He simply smirked lazily and continued his perusal of my body.
Conscious of his unwavering eyes, I turned back around to pick up his mess, walking toward the glass door that led out to the parking lot.
Immediately spotting his glamorous car amongst the mass of regular and cheaply-priced vehicles, I made my way over to it, stopping right before it as a sudden flash of Jeff sitting in the driver's seat once again entered my mind.
"This is for you Jeff," I whispered before splattering the car with the trash.
A/N: Character pictures are up on my website under the homepage link.
-Dedicated to the memory of Jeff Barnhart-