I hadn't seen Dr. Green since the day I had realized I wanted to pursue Charlie and had literally run out of our session. I wondered what he would address first: my running out, or the fire that Charlie had rescued me from.
"You seem happy, Jessica," he greeted me, addressing neither.
I was. Despite this, I wrinkled my nose. "You aren't going to ask me about why I ran out last time?"
Dr. Green smiled knowingly. "I have my suspicions," he replied cryptically.
I wondered if Dr. Green had pieced it together. I stared at him intently now, trying to read him, but ultimately deciphered nothing.
I decided that I trusted him.
Whatever he knew or did not know, Dr. Green appeared only to have my best interest at heart.
Still, I pushed him. "You're not going to ask about the fire?"
Dr. Green smiled again. "Do you not realize that in a sense you are volunteering to share this information with me, rather than waiting for me to pry it out of you?" He adjusted his glasses as his eyes met mine. "I for one am thrilled with this progress."
Progress. It was a scary concept because it meant I was getting up, dusting myself off, and slowly but surely moving away from Jimmy. In another sense, it was undeniable and invigorating.
Irony made an appearance in my resulting silence.
"Are you happy?"
I was nodding before I had a moment to think about it.
"I never saw them getting together," Bree muttered, watching Logan and Mel walk by, fingers interlaced. He glanced vaguely in my direction, but didn't offer a smile.
Part of me craved a huge screaming match between Logan and me, for the insufferable and awkward silence between us was bordering on unbearable. We had once been inseparable – now I couldn't remember the last time it had been him seeking me out and not the other way around.
I wondered idly to myself if Jimmy might have a girlfriend if he were still here. If he didn't, would it be Jimmy frustrated with Logan, instead of me?
"Well they're together and they're happy – not much else to say," I said, unable to hide the resentment in my voice.
"What was your deal together?" Alison asked, never one to attempt even remotely disguising her probing questions. "Are you like jealous of Mel?"
Just then, I caught sight of Charlie, rounding the corner at the end of the hallway. We had spent every evening together for the last two weeks.
He looked exhausted, and I knew this was because he had driven me back home well after midnight the night before. I recalled the conversation we had had the prior Wednesday, in which he had informed me that he was barely functional unless he got eight full hours of sleep every single night.
Mischievous blue eyes briefly glanced over to mine, holding the stare for only a fraction of a second.
I looked back over to the girls, using every ounce of my self-control to smother the smile that bubbled at my surface. "Logan is like a baby brother," I assured them. "I just want to give him and Mel space."
"Sure," Alison scoffed, not believing me. I didn't watch her face; I watched Charlie as he strode by.
Bree remained silent, clearly sticking to her word that she would not spread rumors about Charlie and me. I had never fully disclosed the nature of our relationship to her, but she had certainly been the only one so far to piece together some suspicions.
"Logan's really growing up though," Alison commented appreciatively, as though hoping I might murmur in agreement.
I didn't take the bait. I could reasonably deduce that Logan wasn't an unattractive guy, but had never felt an inkling of an attraction towards him. "Alison, stop trying to get me to tell you I'm down for some Logan loving. Because I'm not. In fact, I think I'm going to be sick just from uttering the words Logan and loving aloud in the same sentence."
"Yeah, I guess I understand," Alison replied. "Logan can't really compete with Charlie, anyway. Hottest teacher in this place, and he pulls you out of a fire. Meow."
"Did you just meow?" Bree finally chimed in, regarding Alison with a perplexed stare.
I had to focus on not choking on my food again. "What do you mean Logan can't compete with Charlie?" I asked defensively, eyeing Alison cautiously.
"Um?" Alison shrugged unhelpfully. "All I'm saying is that Logan is a boy, and Charlie is a man. I guess I understand you not having a thing for Logan when there are good-looking teachers coming to pull you out of fires. "
I shot her an exasperated look. "I'm not into Charlie or Logan, cool it," I muttered, gathering my things to go, feeling very suddenly flustered.
Bree shot me a cautionary look. I knew I wasn't playing it cool, and it was only fueling my frustration.
"I've got to go," I told them vaguely, shoving my half eaten lunch into my bag and striding away.
"She totally has a thing for Logan," I heard Alison giggle with satisfaction as I walked away.
"It was bad," I told Charlie later that evening, sitting next to him on his large lumpy couch. "I thought I could keep it together at school, but one slight mention of you and I was a bumbling mess."
Charlie, to my surprise, shot me an amused smile, and not the nervous look I was expecting. "Forgive me, but I kind of like that mention of me makes you uncomfortable," he murmured, leaning forward and lightly pressing a kiss to my lips, as though we weren't discussing subject matter that placed his job in peril.
The kiss was comforting, but didn't pull me completely away from concern. "How can this possibly continue without something going wrong?" I asked, forcing a distressed stare his way.
Charlie's smile faded as he recognized my genuine concern. "Jess…"
I groaned and knocked my head against his shoulder.
He wrapped an arm around me in a comforting gesture. "I can't lie to you and say that people will understand, or that this is going to be smooth sailing all the way," he admitted. "But you know how I feel about you. It has a way of making things seem a lot less daunting."
That was all it took for the temporary anxiety to abate. I kissed him lightly, smiling against his lips. "You're right."
"Good. Now, the more pressing matter. Which movie are we curling up in front of?" I met Charlie's handsome smile as he gestured between two films I had never heard of.
Before I had a moment to consider, my phone began buzzing loudly where it sat on Charlie's coffee table.
"You should get it," he said, though reluctant blue eyes suggested he felt otherwise.
"We were hoping you might be home for dinner tonight," my mother said across the line. I knew better than to protest – I hadn't been home for dinner in weeks.
I hung up. "I'm sorry," I told Charlie.
He regarded me with a look of understanding. "Guess I'll share," he muttered, "this time."
I gathered my things reluctantly, wondering if my parents were actually buying the story I had been feeding them about my frequent absence from home. Perhaps I had been relying too heavily on Bree's discretion, as I had been claiming to be spending all of my spare time with her.
"Where should I drop you off?" He asked as we climbed into his car. The old thing was a rusting eye sore from the outside, but inside it smelled like a comforting mix of chlorine and Charlie.
It was in a moment like this where it was hard to pretend like we were in a normal relationship. Normally it was so late by the time that Charlie dropped me off that he could do so directly in front of my building.
"I suppose Brampton and Lyle would work," I answered. "It's the direction I would be coming from if I were at Bree's."
Charlie, having changed gears in the last few weeks towards always remaining positive, did not respond. Nevertheless, I didn't miss his vice grip at the steering wheel and the sudden tightening of his jaw. It was upsetting him. I wanted to reach out and ruffle his hair or squeeze the back of his neck, but knew a comforting gesture would only distress him further.
"Jess, I'm not sorry this is the way it is," he said, as though he could read my thoughts. It was my turn to have nothing to say, surprised and yet not surprised at all that Charlie knew precisely what my mood was and exactly what to say. One step further, he reached out with his free hand and squeezed mine reassuringly.
Then we arrived at the intersection of Brampton and Lyle, where Charlie pulled over. It was still daytime on a busy street, but he fixed me with a burning stare that told me he was about to kiss me. And the way I felt staring in response, I knew I would kiss him back.
Regardless of who could see.
"Logan came by looking for you," my father mentioned casually between forkfuls of lasagna.
I looked up in surprise, unable to disguise my shock. "Logan came by?" I repeated incredulously.
"He did," my mother affirmed. "Alone too, can you believe it. Maybe Melanie and him are no longer together."
I had seen them holding hands at lunch that very same day. They were undoubtedly still together. Yet it almost seemed more surprising to me that Logan had come by unprompted and alone. Why hadn't he called or texted me instead? I frowned, as I realized the answer to this question was that Logan likely believed I had nowhere else to be and thus felt calling was unnecessary. Further aggravating me was the added realization that until recently, I probably would have been home with nowhere else to be…
I mumbled in response, choosing to toy with the food on my plate instead of voicing any of my real thoughts.
"You weren't like him when you first started dating," my mother said. "You didn't spend every waking moment with your boyfriend. You weren't obsessed. You didn't abandon your friends."
My father nodded. "Logan's too young to be cutting ties for a girl."
Again, I swallowed any comments I might have. I had never cared about any boyfriends before. Due to this simple fact I had never invested copious amounts of my time, nor had I ever prioritized a transient boyfriend over friends or family.
A frustrating thought suddenly presented itself as it dawned on me for the first time that I was now behaving exactly as Logan was. I was spending all of my time with Charlie. I was completely and totally invested in the relationship. I prioritized him over everything and everyone else. The only difference between Logan and I was that Logan wasn't hiding it.
I had been so quick to condemn Logan, and yet I was no better.
"You have to cut the boy some slack," my mother amended. "He's in love. We do silly things for love." She shot my father a soft look. If Jimmy were here he would be making exaggerated gagging noises.
I felt sick to my stomach.
Did this mean I was in love with Charlie?
I didn't know what it meant to be in love. But it had to be this, didn't it? Thinking about them constantly, spending hours and hours together and yet never feeling as though it were enough, getting lost in a stare or a kiss or a touch…
I pushed away the dangerous thought. That was exactly what our relationship was: dangerous. The thrill of standing close to the edge was exhilarating and powerful, but undeniably risky. For the second time in the same day, I wondered how long the relationship could possibly continue before misfortune would take over.
My phone buzzed in my pocket. I flipped it open below the table to read a text message from none other than Charlie.
How is it possible that I already miss you.
I snapped the phone shut, smiling.
Ignorance could be powerful too.
"You need to ask me harder questions, Jess, these are too easy," Charlie murmured playfully. It was a day later and I had comfortably returned to my spot across from Charlie on his lumpy couch.
"Answer the question Lewis, you're dodging it," I retorted, meeting his eyes.
"Don't you Lewis me," Charlie quipped, poking my side and pushing forward to kiss me.
Somehow, I managed to pull away from his lips. "Still dodging it," I chimed, smirking self-assuredly.
Charlie shot me an exasperated look and reluctantly pushed away from me, eyes admiring my figure as they trailed back up to meet my own. "Fine," he allowed. "I'll answer the question. But only because you told me about the eyebrow incident."
I had shaved my eyebrows off in the sixth grade when I had gotten a hold of my dad's razor. Charlie had asked me about my most traumatic childhood memory, and I had delivered. Only now he was dodging my rebuttal question: what was his most embarrassing moment?
"My most embarrassing moment occurred four years ago while on vacation in Mexico," he mumbled hurriedly.
I was already laughing before he had the chance to finish the story. "You drank the water, didn't you," I teased between giggles. "You drank the water and then-"
"And then I shit my pants in front of many unsuspecting tourists on the beach, yes, that's exactly what happened." Charlie's ears burned red in embarrassment, but he too grinned at the absurd story.
Despite the less than savory subject matter, I smiled back at him. "I like knowing you better," I said. Every new thing I learned about him just pulled me in closer.
Charlie fixed me with a powerful blue stare. "I want to know you better than anyone else," he murmured. "I want to know what makes you tick and what makes you laugh and what makes you cry. I want all of that to be mine."
Said by someone else, the statement might have made me feel awkward or uncomfortable. But coming from Charlie, those words hit me like a strong tide, wrapping me up and drinking me in. I was hungrily kissing him in an instant.
All grasps of time seemed to vanish when his lips were against mine. What could have been a few minutes or an hour seemed to pass until I realized I wanted this to go further. Kissing him wasn't enough. I wanted to feel every inch of him pressed against me. I wanted more.
We had discarded our shirts, but otherwise remained clothed. I pulled away from Charlie for a moment, admiring his chest and running my hands over the smooth skin that covered his firm muscles. His eyes were dark and heated as they watched me touch him. I moved back towards him, pressing my own chest against his and kissing him, this time reaching for his belt buckle.
I undid the buckle and reached for the fly of his jeans, until Charlie rather suddenly and forcefully pushed me away.
I wordlessly looked back over to him in surprise, feeling an uncomfortable sting of rejection.
"Shit, Jess, I'm sorry I pushed you like that," he apologized, staring at me with conflicted blue eyes. He did not reach forward to touch me. His entire body was rigid as he sat before me, belt hanging open at his waistline.
I had felt a pretty solid indicator of his desire, so why had he pushed me away? Even now, mixed with his look of guilt was an undeniable edge of lust.
"You're like a strong drink, Jess," he said. "I drink you in and I get lost in you and any semblance of control seems to just vanish into thin air."
I wanted to reach out and squeeze his hand, but didn't. I simply held his stare and watched him take uneven breaths.
"I can't… We can't," he trailed off. "I just don't feel right about this yet."
There I was, questioning if I was in love with him, and he wasn't sure about us? I couldn't hide my hurt as I felt my face contort sadly.
"No, not like that," Charlie let out in a rush upon catching my dismay. He enveloped me into a tight hug so comforting and overwhelming that I suddenly felt an unwelcome lump forming in my throat. "I feel right about us," he assured me. "That is one thing that I am wholly and unquestionably sure of." His chin had been hooked over my shoulder, but he pulled away so that his eyes could meet mine. "Jess, you have to know how I feel about you. You know that I am crazy about you, don't you?"
Feeling embarrassed and stupid, I nodded.
"Listen to me," he spoke firmly. "I want you. More than I think you can understand. But I also know that it isn't right to just blindly jump into this."
He was right.
"Now let's get clothed and out of my room, because I need to stop thinking about your hands undoing my pants if I want to be able to focus on driving you home," he grunted, picking me up rather suddenly and throwing me over his shoulders. Laughter bubbled from the pit of my stomach, and just like that, the uncomfortable moment was forgotten.
Later, as Charlie drove me home, we sat without speaking while his car radio played soft jazz. His free hand held mine.
It was late, late enough that Charlie pulled up right in front of my building this time, rather than several blocks away.
"Goodnight Jess," he murmured, kissing me.
Eventually, I pulled away. "We've both got an early morning," I reminded him reluctantly.
"Worth it," he replied, grasping my wrist and kissing me one last time.
I grinned. "Goodnight Charlie."
I watched as his car drove away, wondering what the hell would happen if I fell in love with him. If he hadn't stopped me before, would that have been the last barrier holding me back from falling?
My concern however was short lived, for the next thing I knew, I was meeting the accusatory stare of none other than Logan.
And his piercing and critical scowl told me that I didn't have to guess to know what he had just seen.
AN: So so tremendously sorry this update took so long. I was really hoping I would have finished writing this story by the end of the summer. I am starting pharmacy school this week and I fear it will be rather time consuming. I will continue to post updates as best as I can. I hate nothing more than an unfinished story! Please leave me a review letting me know what you think!