I couldn't do it anymore. I needed a break from the emotional overload that had been clouding every moment of my life since I met Jacob Riley. I needed some distance.

It had been a week since I had seen him. He kept calling me and guilt was the only thing keeping me from letting it go to voicemail. I promised him that I would talk to him later that night at the diner. Last time I hadn't been there for him I felt terrible afterward.

What I was doing probably wasn't that much better. He called me, we talked for all of ten minutes before he would sigh and ask me in his gentle voice what was wrong. Each time, it took everything in me not to hang up right then. That voice grated on me, brushed so softly against my susceptible nerves. It was the same voice those three words were uttered in. The three words that never really existed and were only the product of a cruel trick my mind decided to play on me in the middle of the night when my thoughts were most vulnerable.

I couldn't bear to see him. He would ask me. Let me take you somewhere. We need to talk. Some part of me desperately wanted to go, if only to gaze at him, to be reminded of the lines and ridges that I became so painfully familiar with. I pushed that part far down, buried it behind my other foolish urges. Instead, I went only by self-preservation instincts. And they were screaming at me to stay away. To learn who I was again and how I felt. I couldn't do that if I was constantly exposed to him.

I could hear the frustration in his tone each time I made up an excuse for why I wouldn't come and see him. He treated me so carefully as though he was perfectly aware that something was terribly wrong. But he couldn't stop himself from getting upset with me. However, this time he would have to stay mad. I couldn't try to patch things up. I needed to nurse myself back to rationality first.

My parents could tell that things were out of whack, too. Emotions were never my father's strong suit. He chose to ease around me, treat me like everything was normal, knowing that it would be Mom that would try to pry down the hard shell I built around myself for protection. She only asked me once or twice, but I made it very clear that I had no intentions of talking to her about it, or anyone else for that matter.

Once again, I was reminded of how desperately I needed Jennifer. I was hopelessly lost. I didn't know what to make of that dream. Was it a reality I was hoping for, or simply a hormone fueled fantasy? We had gotten pretty close at the diner, closer than ever before since… well. Since that night. But just like in the dream, there was no ulterior motive. It was solely emotion driven. I was confused by that too.

What did he want from me? I lay in my bed that Monday morning, groaning into my pillow with aggravation. How was I supposed to know that? It wasn't like we just came out and talked about that kind of stuff. And even if we did, it wouldn't matter at this point. In two weeks, he would be heading to New York and I would be here. No one ever tried to start things that late into the game. And once again, I still wasn't sure if that was what I wanted.

I felt like anything in the world could set me off. I had been jumpy all week; something as simple as a door shutting behind me made my heart pound in my chest. A blush was constantly in my cheeks. I couldn't escape the trembling that had started that night when I woke up and realized that I had imagined it all.

Every agonizingly perfect second of it.

A warm flush filled my face at the thought and I swallowed hard, forcing away the images of the criss-cross of veins that stood out in the bronze flesh of his arms and the feel of his fingers when they brushed over my skin. It wasn't fair to do this to myself. I was too afraid to go out, too nervous to leave my house and I was barely even leaving my room. I had things that needed to be done; college was creeping closer and closer. But those first couple of days, with all of the emotions rushing through my head, making my thoughts spin in hopelessly complicated patterns, I knew there was no way I would be able to do anything.

Now wasn't so bad. I was at least able to control where my mind wandered. There were a few times where I caught myself drifting, but I always managed to reel it in before the shivery feeling overtook me and I was completely incapacitated. I needed to go out and be a real person again. I couldn't keep avoiding my problems.

And besides, I knew that if I stayed in the house for one more day my mother would march up into my room, shut the door, and demand that I explain to her exactly what was going on. And there was no way in hell that that was going to happen. The last thing I wanted to do was try to put into words everything that happened in my dream.

With that thought, I forced myself to get out of bed. It was almost eleven in the morning, past time for me to be up and about. Taking a deep breath, I headed into the bathroom and started a shower. At the last minute, I grabbed my Ipod and hooked it up to the Ihome that sat unused on the counter. As the hot water poured over me and eased tense muscles and the music blasted, after a while I almost felt normal. While I stood under the steaming spray, I finally allowed my mind to probe at the spot that I had under lock and key.

What did I want? I knew I wanted to make it through the summer with my sanity intact. I knew I wanted to go to college and make something important of myself. I knew that one day, I wanted to meet someone special and be happy. I knew I didn't want to go to college with a boyfriend. But at the same time, I knew that I cared about Jacob in some way, even if it wasn't romantic.

He was a good friend, but most of all he was a good person. I knew it the moment he broke down a door and knocked someone unconscious to save me even though I spent four years of his life treating him like shit. I saw it in how he treated his mother, the careful way he arranged her pillows when she laid in her bed, the swiftness with which he responded to her every request, and the devastation that lined his face every time she was in pain. He made me laugh all summer and never demanded anything in return. Even when he wasn't entirely himself, he made sure he wasn't taking advantage of me, and still he apologized for his treatment of me even though he didn't do anything but show me the utmost care and consideration.

I didn't know what to make of him, but I knew I wouldn't know what I wanted until I knew what he wanted. But if I was being completely honest, I wasn't sure that I wanted to know. Not at this point.

By the time I got out of the shower, I had come to the conclusion that ignorance was bliss and rather than add unnecessary complications to both of our lives, I was content to leave things where they were. And as the rational side of my brain applauded me for my smart, mature decision, a tiny place in my head cried out in distress. But I ignored it.

Soon I'd be able to see him. I would have to; we didn't have much longer together. I picked up my phone and saw a missed call from him already. I sighed and set the phone down. Soon I would be able to. But not now.


My trip into town was unexpectedly relaxing. When I sat in my car and drove through the streets I had grown up around I finally began to feel like myself. I finally started to feel comfortable in my own skin. The steering wheel felt familiar, the tiny general store on the corner smelled like I always remembered.

I think I was finally able to stop being afraid that everything was a dream and that I would wake up, gasping and crying again.

I only had a few things to get—some last minute college supplies and a few groceries that my mother had asked for—but I was loath to return home so fast. Instead, I took my time. I smelled the bouquets of flowers in storefront displays, glanced into jewelry stores and toy making shops, went into a boutique and tried on beautiful clothes that I knew I would never be able to afford. It was wonderful to have a day to myself. And when my cell started to beep insistently, I ignored it.

The muggy July air hit my lungs comfortingly. I knew the smell of late summer, I knew it was real. Even though my dress began to stick to my skin and the sun was too warm, I couldn't be bothered to get annoyed about it. It hit me like the perfect amount of nostalgia, reminding me of what home felt and smelled like since I would be gone soon.

I walked down busy sidewalks with gossiping middle aged women and fast talking businessmen in crisp suits. I smiled at everyone who made eye contact with me and got a polite nod in return. I strolled instead of rushing, stopping every now and then to gaze into a shop window. A couple hours later when I finally decided that it was time to go to the grocery store, I was sad to return to my car. Still, I headed down the busy paths, dodging cars and people distracted by cell phone conversations. Pretty soon, I could see my car, the sun reflecting off of its silver surface. I headed to it, my hair lifting in a hot breeze.

"Crystal?" the sound of my name stopped me in my tracks and my breath caught. I knew that voice all too well. "Hey, Crys!" I shut my eyes with dread and then opened them again, turning to look across the street. Apparently, without realizing it I had walked right in front of the mechanic shop. Jake was already on his way over to me, jogging through the crosswalk. He was shirtless and sweaty in grease smeared jeans and I got such a staggering wave of déjà vu that I had to stop myself from taking a compulsory step back.

He stopped before me, his big shape blocking the sun. Still, I gazed up at him, swallowing hard and forcing a smile onto my face. "Jake. Hey."

"Hey yourself," his cool eyes scanned my face and for a chilling moment, I felt that he could see right through my charade of normalcy and to the depths of the inner battle raging in my mind. Blinking, I looked away from him and tried to avoid my eyes' desire to stray to the beautiful display of skin within sight.

"I was actually on my way to the store," I said apologetically. I tried to step past him, but he shifted to block me.


"No, I can't; I really have to go."

He shifted again when I took another step and I exhaled noisily, fighting the urge to roll my eyes. Instead, I looked back up at him, "Stop."

"No, you stop," he didn't try to hide his annoyance and it surprised me. When he saw that I wasn't trying to dodge him, he took a step closer to me, his voice lowering with concern. "Crys, what is going on?"

I bit my lip and looked away, staring blankly into the street, "I don't know what you mean."

He sighed, obviously trying to be patient with me, "Yes you do. I haven't seen you in a week. Every time I ask to hang out, you make up some bullshit excuse about spending time with your parents."

"It's not a bullshit excuse."

"Yes it is and you and I both know it." I didn't have a response. Of course I knew it, but that didn't mean I had an explanation now. "Explain this to me."

I wanted to push him out of the way, but the thought of touching his sweating skin made me clench my hand into a fist and turn my head instead. Desperately, I searched for something to say. Anything to stop him from looking at me like he was hurt...like he cared. I couldn't find anything, which meant I had to get out of there as soon as possible—while my mind was still whole.

I composed myself, bracing against the tremor of anxiety that raced through me every time I saw his eyes. Finally, I turned back to face him. "I have to go," I stated in a measured, steady tone.

That was the wrong thing to say. I could see in his eyes when his tolerance finally snapped. He moved so fast I didn't have a chance to dart out of the way. His hands locked like manacles on my upper arms and his light green eyes flashed as he shook me, "Talk to me!"

"I don't know what you want me to say!" I yelled back, no longer caring about his bare skin. My hands planted firmly on his chest and I shoved him hard, breaking his hold on me. He stumbled and I turned my back to him. I was shaking, every nerve on high alert. Even my fingers trembled and my lips felt numb. After a second, I realized that my breath was staggered and I fought to get it under control.

There was a long moment of silence. Neither of us moved. The people and cars around us didn't exist. All I could hear was the rush of blood in my own ears. I pressed my fist to my mouth, shocked at my behavior.

Soon I felt his fingers on my shoulders, gentle, coaxing, and I stiffened against his attempts to turn me back to face him. "Crys, what's going on?" he asked in a low voice. "This isn't you."

Out of nowhere, tears flooded my eyes and I blinked, ruthlessly forcing them back. Swallowing, I shook my head, "I don't know."

At my strained whisper, I heard him sigh. Those fingers still hadn't released me and I could swear they were sinking into my skin and burning their way to my heart. I wanted to shake them off, but I could barely keep my teeth from chattering.

"I don't understand," he replied softly. I bit my lip and turned, facing him again. He didn't let me go, just readjusted so his hands curved warmly over my arms. It felt wonderfully familiar and I hated it.

"I'm sorry," it took me a minute to swallow the lump that had formed in my throat, but he heard the way my voice trembled and his grip stiffened.

"Is it me?" he asked.

I stared up at him, at the way his hair fell into his eyes and his brow furrowed with worry. With a wry smile, I shook my head, "No."

Those fingers tightened still and he lowered his head, leaning towards me, "is it the sex?"

My heart raced and for a second I thought he was talking about my dream from a week ago. "What?" I breathed.

Instantly, his mouth tightened and he seemed to wilt. He pulled me closer to him and his eyes blazed, "Crystal, I'm so sorry." He whispered. "I know it was wrong. I know I shouldn't have done it. I'm so sorry it's bothered you this much. This whole time…"

I realized that of course he was talking about our first time when he came to me desperate for comfort and showed me the best night of my life. I covered his mouth, stifling the tirade of unnecessary apologies. "Jake, stop."

He pulled his head back, "But—"

I shook my head, framing his face in my palms to calm him, "Be quiet," I said gently. "It's not the sex."

He gazed at me, taking comfort in the reassurance on my face. I felt him exhale heavily and I put my hands down. As though realizing he was still caging me with his grip on my shoulders, he finally let go and took a step back.

I sighed, "I just…give me a minute."

He wasn't having it. He immediately resisted. "No, we need to talk. We need to figure this out."

Clearly he didn't understand that I didn't work like that. There was no way I could talk. I had no words to say. How could I give him an answer if I wasn't sure what it was myself? His demanding tone didn't change anything. I wished it could be that easy, that he could simply order me to understand and then everything would suddenly make sense, but the simple fact of the matter was that this was far too complicated.

He was right; we did need to try and figure out what was really going on. But I needed time to sort out my jumbled thoughts. I needed a chance to organize myself so that I knew what it was I really wanted. And I had a pretty good feeling that he needed it too.

My fingers tightened on the strap of my purse and I looked down, "Jake, I can't do this right now," I said firmly. Then I bit my lip, "please."

It still wasn't enough. He was desperate to understand, to make sense of the craziness our friendship had become. He just wanted everything to go back to normal. I could tell that he missed us, the way we were. "Crystal—"

The shrill ringing of my phone startled us both and I immediately diverted my attention to my purse, thanking my lucky stars for the distraction. When I pulled it out, I saw my doctor's office number flash across the screen. "It's my doctor; I have to answer it."

He groaned, stepping away from me with frustration and pinching the bridge of his nose between his index finger and thumb to stave off whatever nasty thing he wanted to say. He stood with his back to me, a hand on his waist and his bare back glistening in the afternoon sun.

Any other time, I would let it go to voicemail. I knew it was just the office calling to let me know that the papers had been faxed successfully; I had gotten an email from the college that morning. Still, I knew Jake wouldn't be able to tell me not to answer the call and I desperately needed a minute to compose myself.

He turned back to face me and I hit the answer button, "Hello?" my doctor's warm voice echoed in my ear and I mentally sighed with relief. However, as I listened to her speak, my brow furrowed in confusion. I couldn't be hearing her right. My gaze flew to Jake and we made eye contact. Instantly, his annoyance vanished and he rushed up to me. I snapped the phone shut just as his fingers closed on my arms.

"What is it?" he asked, his tone desperate. I didn't respond. All I could do was hold on to my phone, clutching it so tightly that I could feel my knuckles popping. "Crystal," he jostled me, startling me out of the trance I had fallen into. "What's wrong?"

My eyes fell to the sidewalk, tracing each line, each speck of dirt. I hadn't realized how filthy the street was before. Or how strange my toes looked in these sandals. They used to be my favorite. Now, they were just ugly.

Frantic fingers touched my face and tilted my head up. I blinked several times when I was forced to look up, avoiding the brightness of the sun. "Tell me," Jake pleaded.

My gaze was focused on some point over his right shoulder. I opened my mouth to speak, but found that I didn't have any words. Finally, I looked at him, at the alarm in his eyes. His hands on my face registered somewhere in the back of my brain and I tried to talk again. This time, the simple words tumbled out.

I swallowed hard, "I'm pregnant."

Don't hate me! I'm sorry if this isn't what you wanted, but it's how my storyline was already planned. Without this, there wouldn't be a story line haha. Review, review, reviewww! I'm desperate to know what you think about this one!