Dense is to You, as Male is to Boy
by: lulu. lemon
Ch.23 - Time to Tell
You guys may want to do a little recap on the end of the last chapter, since you know... its been a while.
The marathon of hoarding shows I had been watching on TV was beginning to depress me, so I grabbed for my remote and flicked it off before flopping back into my bed, and suffocating myself under my blankets.
Mom and Dad were back to work at the hospital, so that left me in a silence where the only current audible noise was the sound of the rain pounding outside on the windows.
I was still in such a shock of what Landon had said to me yesterday, that I pretty much hibernated myself in my room until I could figure things out. My Mom was of course able to tell that something was wrong right off the bat, but I think the absence of Reece was enough to tell her to stay out of it.
It was almost as if my saying his name made him magically appear in front of me. I could feel that strange presence of someone else in the room, and yanked the blankets off of my head just in time to see Reece standing in the doorway, watching me carefully. His hair was dripping like crazy from the rain, and it almost appeared as if he had walked the whole way here. Or just took a really long time getting from his car to my front door.
"Are you mad at me?" he asked quietly.
"Take your sweater off, you're going to get a cold," was instinctively the first thing that came out of my mouth. I got out of my bed and stood in front of him, slipping his wet sweater off of him and letting it fall limply from my hands. He didn't say anything, but I could feel him closely watching me as I tried to get any wet articles or clothing off of him without making him completely naked. "How'd you even get so wet?" I murmured.
"Stood at your front door debating whether to come in or not for a while," he answered back hollowly.
I cleared my throat, finally looking up at him, before saying, "Here, I'll go get you some—"
"Carson," he grabbed on to my upper arm and stopped all my movements. He held his face only inches from mine. "Are you mad at me?" he asked again, in a more clear tone. One that didn't open any options for me to avoid answering.
I lifted my hand up to his damp cheek before softly pressing my lips to his. "No," I whispered. "I'm not mad at you." He tucked some hair behind my ear and I could basically feel some of the stress pool from his body. "But I can't let you take the fall like that."
"What?" he said surprised.
I sighed and ran my hand through the side of his hair. "I love you for trying to take the weight off of me. But I need to take the blame for this. I want to."
He frowned down at me, clearly not such a fan of my idea. "I did it for you though. To make it easier so we could get over this whole thing."
If there was one thing Reece and I were good at, it was debating with each other over opinions. If one of us thought we were right, we'd stick with it until the other admitted they were wrong. Which usually took some time.
"I know, Reece. But it's not fair for anyone unless I own up to it."
He exhaled a breath and walked around me, sitting on the edge of my bed with a tiny smile on his face. "Look, you're very… fragile to me," he chose his words carefully and held out his arm for me to sit with him. "I know how you get when somebody isn't one hundred percent happy with you. I just worry that you can't handle having both Landon and Kara mad at you."
"I can so!" I defended myself, even though he was probably entirely right.
"Carson," he said in that discerning tone that told me to be honest.
"Okay, yeah I probably will freak out," I admitted. "But I have to anyway. And that'll be your job, keeping me together," I grinned.
"At least let me be there then. For both of them. It's just as much my fault. And I'd be a terrible boyfriend to put you against that by yourself. Especially somebody as fra—"
"Stop calling me fragile," I gave him my best threatening look.
He laughed and layed back in my bed, pulling me down with him. "I won't let anything get to you, Carse," he murmured before pulling me in for a kiss. "I will take those dry clothes though, I think I'm starting to chafe."
I was sweating bullets all day at school today. Like literally, packed some deodorant in my bag just in case I started to smell. I was nervous to the point where I just felt sick to my stomach all the time. I couldn't focus in class, I couldn't eat anything, and even holding a decent conversation was a huge challenge.
Even though Reece and I hadn't been living together anymore, he still managed to find me first thing in the morning. He'd duck his head and check the signs on my face as if he was checking my pupils to see if I was on drugs or something. After some heavy assurance that I was fine, I was able to get him to step a few paces back.
Now though, he wasn't in much of a mood to just back off.
"What do you mean I can't be there?" he stopped directly in front of me, stopping me and any lunch goers behind me in their path.
I shrugged my shoulders and tried to side step him. "You just can't."
Keeping his head completely forward, he merely stretched out his arm and pulled me back while I dramatically rolled my eyes. "Stop."
"Reece, I've gotta go meet Max for lunch," I said, as if Max and I had something important to discuss, other than gossip and the ridiculous going-ons in my life.
"Well Max is gonna have to wait," Reece breezed out, pulling me out of the lunch crowd and towards a row of lockers. "I'm involved with all of this just as much as you are. Why can't I be there with you when you talk to them?"
"Because it's going to seem like we're ambushing them." He clearly wasn't buying anything of what I was saying. I thought about just sprinting towards Max, but Reece was clearly faster than me, and wouldn't mind making a scene in front of the school to get me back. So instead I stood there and tried to defend my case. "Look, what if the roles were changed? What if all this time I was with you, I told you that I had pretty much been cheating on you with Landon? Would you really want him to be there too? Wouldn't it just seem a little bit smug on his part? In our case, your part."
He folded his arms and merely shrugged. "No."
"Okay," he finally gave in. "I'm gonna be nearby though. Just in case."
I raised an eyebrow at him. "What do you think he's going to do? Hit me?"
"If he lays a hand on you—"
"I was kidding, Reece. You know he wouldn't do that. See, you're going crazy. I'm going by myself and that's that."
"Fine. But I'm being there for Kara. In fact, you're not coming," he pegged me with a smug look. "I'm handling this one solo."
I was on my heels to leave, but now that I could freely go, I was voluntarily spinning back around to face him. "You have nothing to do with it!"
"I have everything to do with it!" he said. "She likes me. And if she really does then she's got to hear it from me to understand it."
I sighed and shook my head. "Yeah, I'm sure hearing the guy she likes tell her about the girl he likes, will feel really great to her."
"Girl he loves," he corrected me. I fell into a silence and we just stared at each other for a moment. "I promise I know what I'm doing, Carse," he said quietly.
I didn't feel like arguing with him, and let's face it, chances were he'd convince me in the end anyway. "We'll talk about later," I gave in. "I've gotta go."
He nodded his head and stepped around me to leave. "I love you," he murmured, just for my ears, letting his hand gently graze across mine.
I momentarily leaned back against the locker, watching him walk down the hall before hauling myself to the cafeteria where I knew Max would be waiting. There was a constant buzz of chatter through the cafeteria as I walked in. Maybe more than usual, but I was in such a daze that the whole place could be on fire and I probably wouldn't even notice.
"Hi," I puffed out, dropping into the chair across from him.
He stared down at the table with a very content looking smile on his face, flipping through the school newspaper. "Hello," he hummed.
I waited for some kind of questions to come shooting out of him at any second, but they never came. "What's got you so… to yourself?" I asked conspicuously.
"Well maybe…" he started, dropping the newspaper and looking up at me. "Instead of inflicting myself in your ridiculous web of romances and lies," he added in a smirk. "I've got some stuff going on of my own."
"Stuff?" I said surprised. "What kind of stuff?"
As if holding any type of information in was just plain impossible, he let it all spill as if he'd been waiting all day for someone to ask. "I met a guy. And he's great. We met at work." Max had gotten a job at the mall in retail, which should be a surprise to nobody. With his fashion sense and keen way of communicating with people, he was perfect for the job. "His name is Patrick," he finished with a smile.
"Patrick, huh?" I folded my arms and sat back in my chair. "Not a leprechaun is he? Maybe a redhead?"
He scoffed at the idea and shook his head. "Carson, you know red hair wouldn't look good with me. Come on now." He picked up the newspaper again and started rapidly flipping through it.
"Okay then," I laughed. "Why are you so interested in this anyway?" I reached across the table and snatched the school newspaper out of his hands. "You've never even glanced at this thing all year."
"Yeah, I know," he shrugged. "But everyone's got one in their hands looking at it. So I'm curious."
Upon saying that, I realized that he was right. Looking around the room, it was true that almost every table had at least one copy of the newspaper that everyone was huddled over. The only time I ever really saw students using the school paper was usually in some form of cleaning something off with it, or balling it up to throw at someone, so I was a little curious now.
It only took me two flips of a page to see what everyone was so interested in. "Oh my God," was the only thing to slip out of my mouth.
Never one to be left out of any type of information, the paper was quickly yanked away from me again. "What is it?" he asked, eyes raking the paper. I watched the movement of his eyes slow down as he actually began to read the words.
"Wow," he said, equally shocked. He lifted his eyes from the paper and up to me. "Do you have anything to do with this?"
He passed the paper back to me, and I stared at the page even longer. "No. I mean I told him to do something about it, I didn't think he'd do this."
It made sense why everyone would be so interested, because it had to do with Liam. Even though when it came to the newspaper, he was strictly limited to sports and only sports, which was a stretch enough for the editor I'm sure, he had somehow gotten a piece in that had nothing to do with sports at all. It had everything to do with Madeline.
I had told him that to get her forgiveness, he was going to have to put himself out there, and put himself out there he did.
I carefully read over the words that Liam had written, and seemingly actually put some effort into. He addressed the fact about how much of an asshole he had been to act like he never knew her in public when they first met, using some words here and there that I'm sure weren't really appropriate for the school newspaper. He then proceeded to make it perfectly clear to the whole school just how much he had grown to care about her, and then wrapped it up by making a point of how little he really cared if anyone had a problem with it in a way that was very much Liam's attitude. It was good to see that he was at least staying the same old Liam.
I finished reading his article and carefully set it down on the table in front of me. Observing the faces of his friends and everyone else around me, they seemed just as shocked. But neither Liam or Madeline were anywhere in sight.
I realized that I was suddenly feeling envious of Liam. Just like that, his problems were solved. He put his pride aside and just put himself out there and in turn was going to get exactly what he wanted I'm sure. Why wasn't it so easy for me?
"You okay, Carson?" Max waved in front of my face.
I started gathering up my stuff again and pushed my remaining food towards him. "Yeah I've just gotta go figure my life out."
Liam had never felt so anxious in his life. Even before an important game he didn't feel like this. It was because he had no control over the current situation. Stepping onto the field, he knew he could let his feet do the working, but all he could do now was wait. And it really sucked.
He heard footsteps coming down the hallway and suddenly felt like he was going to throw up, until he saw that it was just Carson, in which case his pulse calmed down a little bit.
She stopped a few feet in front of him and just kind of stared at him for a moment. "Hey," she finally said quietly.
He cleared his throat and shifted his weight onto the lockers. "What's up?" he nodded back.
"I saw what you wrote," she stated quickly before pausing. "Liam it was really, really good," she nodded assuringly. "I'm surprised, but I'm really… proud of you, oddly enough," she finished off with a shrug.
"You think it'll work?" he asked her.
"I hope so," Carson responded honestly. "Because you deserve it."
One side of Liam's mouth tipped up in a tiny smile. "Thanks, Carse."
She suddenly stepped forward and caught him a little bit off guard by hugging him. "You know I've always considered you as one of my best friends right?" she murmured into his shoulder. Liam switched his train of thought to when he had told Madeline how he always felt like the outsider when it came to Carson and Reece.
He chuckled a little bit and roughed up her hair. "Yeah, yeah," he grinned. "Now go fix your shit with my best friend before you break his little heart."
Carson laughed and raised her eyebrows. "I'll do my best," she nodded, before leaving with a last good luck thrown over her shoulder.
Liam watched her walk away down the hallway before sensing a presence behind him. He almost didn't want to turn around, in fear of what he knew was there, or the possibility that it wasn't her at all. Turning and affirming his suspicions, Madeline stood there a few feet away, looking at his eyes but then quickly looking down at the floor as if holding eye contact just wasn't possible.
Clearing her throat before she spoke, she looked up at him again. "Hi," she said shortly.
"Hey…" Liam drawled. "I wasn't sure you were going to talk to me," he admitted.
"My friends made me come," she said dryly, effectively shooting his ego as well as his hope down a few notches. Although Liam was the slightest bit concerned about what he had done in hopes of gaining Madeline's trust back, he had never actually truly considered the fact that she may not bite. Sure, he put himself out there, but there was still the possibility that she wouldn't really care. And it was only now that she was standing in front of him that that prospect became clear to him.
"Oh," Liam gathered his voice back and said the short word as if what she was telling him wasn't really worrying him at all. "Well, you don't really have—"
"Well I kind of wanted to too," she admitted. A little spark of hope lighted within him as she said that. He decided not to open his mouth and ruin anything that he was sure his words had the ability of doing. "Your article…" she said quietly before clearing her throat and speaking with more clarity and confidence. "Although it was filled with grammatical, punctuation, and syntax errors, not to mention a bit jumpy instead of following one main topic," Liam rolled his eyes while she continued to list what was really the least important part of the whole thing. "I appreciated it," she finished off as her main point.
"You appreciated it," Liam repeated back to her. They both mutely stood there for a short moment, both apparently waiting for the other one to speak. Liam realized that he really had no idea what was going on at the moment, so he decided to clarify things just in case.
"I was saying I like you," he blurted out rather sporadically, trailing off at the end with his hand instinctively finding its way to the back of his neck. "…in case you didn't get that."
"I got it." Her voice was pretty monotone as she gave him a rather dumb look.
She doesn't forgive me, were the only words Liam could process in his head. That was it. She really wasn't letting up on this one. "Well, I don't exactly know what, I appreciated it means," he mimicked her words. "And I'm really kind of putting myself out here right now so it'd be kind of nice if you could just give me a yes or no," he said rather anxiously.
Madeline smiled, and Liam was sure it was because she knew she had the upper hand between the two of them right now. She still wasn't answering him and he was beginning to wonder if her rejecting him would really be any worse than continuing to stand here and wait for her response.
"Jesus Christ," he groaned. "Look," he let his hands fall down to his side. "You've gotten to know me and you're fully aware of the kind of person I am. I can be a jerk, I can do dumb things, I can be arrogantly sarcastic, but that's who I am. And in real life, guys like that don't just do a one-eighty and change for a girl. And I'm not saying that has anything to do with the girl not being worth it. I apologize for what I've said and done in the past and I know that was my wrong, but right now I'm just saying that I am who I am, and frankly I think you know me quite well, maybe better than anyone. You know I'll continue to be the way I am and probably piss you off a lot, but I'm asking you if knowing all that, you'll still give me a chance and go out with me?"
Liam immediately regretted what he said and kind of wished that he would have just lied and said that he'd be like a changed man since he met her, but in reality, that just wouldn't happen.
She was still smiling though, that was good. "And you think you'd make a good boyfriend then?" she smirked.
"I don't know," he shrugged with a grin. "Never tried it out before. You'd be my pilot."
"I did always like trying new things," Madeline contemplated. "One condition though," she smiled. "You admit I'm making you nervous right now?"
"Oh, shut up," he rolled his eyes and reached out for her, only to have her pull away. "Come here."
"I'm serious." She shook her head. "I wanna hear it."
Annoyance flicked across Liam's face. The girl was already nagging on him, but he still felt she was worth it. And hey, he'd be lying if he said she wasn't making him nervous, because he was on his ends wit right about then. "Ok," he gave in. "I took a big step, and you're kinda just standing there not answering anything I ask you, so yeah… you're making me nervous," he admitted.
Her smile relaxed into a more genuine one as she finally stepped close to him. "You had me as soon as I read the article," she said. "There was nothing to worry about."
His head bent down while hers tilted up for their first kiss.
As soon as I had left Liam I had searched the entire building for any trace of Reece. He wasn't back in the cafeteria where everyone was a buzz about Liam and Madeline, he wasn't near his locker, wasn't around any of his friends… it was as if he just wasn't in school at all. I realized that was actually in fact true when I walked out into the parking lot and saw him bent over the hood of his car.
I silently approached him from behind and leaned up against the opened hood. "What are you doing?" I asked, becoming aware that he didn't even realize I was there until I had spoken.
The sleeves of his shirt were rolled up to his elbows and his eyes were squeezed in concentration before he tilted his head to the side to peer up at me. He straightened himself up and wiped his hands down the front of his pants.
"Hey, Carse," he said in a worn out voice. "My car's fuc—" he stopped himself and glanced at me, and I could tell he was shielding whatever mood he was in from me. "It just won't start," he finished with instead.
"Where were you going?"
"I don't know," he sighed. He leaned back against the hood of his car and stared up at the school. "Out of here."
"Are you okay?" I asked him, as if I really didn't already know the answer to that.
He looked at me strangely and perked up an eyebrow. "Honestly? No."
I stared at his face, the expression he was wearing and thought back on the past couple of months. This was never how I expected Reece would be during his senior year; sad and pent up. I always thought he'd shine even more than he usually did this year. He'd lead his soccer team to victory, have the laid back life he always led, and maybe even get that girl he'd always had an eye for. Technically he did do all of those things, just I'm sure not in the way he had hoped for. Because the Reece I was looking at now definitely wasn't the Reece I had known a couple of months ago, and for the rest of my life for that matter.
I ran my tongue over my lips nervously. "Did you see what Liam did?"
"Yeah," he nodded his head briskly. "I did."
He turned and slammed down the hood of his car, rattling the whole vehicle. "Well," he grunted. "He wanted her and now I'm sure he'll get her. Seems perfectly fine to me," he said with one last pointed look at me.
I cleared my throat and figured it was time to cut to the chase. "Um, I was thinking…" he stared at me patiently while I mumbled. "I don't know, I just… when I saw that Liam, the boy who wears his pride on his sleeve could do something like that, it made me feel like an idiot for not being able to tell Landon and Kara this whole time." I could tell that I had his full attention now. "I mean, if Liam can have enough sense to do it, why can't I, right?"
My heart was beating and I was terrified. But as the saying goes, nothing ventured nothing gained.
I held out my hand to him. "So let's do it."
Reece's eyes widened the slightest bit as he stared down at my hand and then back up at me. "Now?"
"Now." I nodded my head with certainty. "You don't have to come, I just know you wanted to. And I really think that if I don't turn and do it now that I never will," I admitted truthfully. "Because I love you, Reece. And I don't want to have to haul up in my room with you. Or lie to people about us. I don't want to have to pretend nothing is going on between us when we're at school, or when you're around your friends. And I just don't want to hurt you anymore," I said softly. "And for some reason, it took Liam of all people for me to realize that."
He inhaled a light breath before stepping towards me. "Come here," he murmured, before cradling me into his warm arms and ducking his head down to kiss me. Reece and I had never kissed in such a public place before, but the parking lot was deserted enough that I found myself running my hands up his chest before finding their way around his neck. I felt him squeeze me in closer, but just as quickly lose their grip around me as we both heard a car door slam. I turned my head, seeing one of the worst person that could possibly be standing there.
A/N: Hello, it's me! Sorry if you've forgotten who I am. Just to assure all of you who have been messaging me making sure I'm not dead, I assure you I'm fine :) As you know I've been in university and things have been crazy busy, but I'm having a great time! I've got a busy week of midterms ahead of me but I really felt like now would be a good time to update. I hope this format isn't all messed up because fictionpress is doing that weird messed up format thing again so I'm doing this all in html. Also, sorry this chapter is a bit on the shorter side but I ended up cutting it in half because I felt the timing was right, and next chapter will be the last chapter (then an epilogue). For anyone who has reviewed in the last like six months (can't believe it's been that long since I updated) I'm sorry I haven't gotten the chance to reply, I will reply to all of the reviews now that I'm getting my schedule back on track. Again, I'm sorry I've been gone for so long, I'll never leave you all like that again :) And I'm getting on the formspring questions now as well so you can check for those soon as well. Um, I believe that is all for now. Thanks for sticking around guys, love you love you love you all! :)
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