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Authors: L.L. Collins

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Breaking Free: A Living Again Novella (15 page)

BOOK: Breaking Free: A Living Again Novella
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Tarah sighed, putting her hand over her heart. “Do you have any siblings? That was the sweetest thing I’ve ever seen.”

Greer laughed. “Nope. It’s just me.”

“Friends?”

A look crossed Greer’s face, but he easily recovered. “Not really.”

Realization hit Tarah after he answered. “You know, Greer, we all knew what happened to you all those months ago. I don’t need to get in your personal business, but I just think that’s crappy. I think you’re a pretty cool guy who obviously adores my friend here, so you just know you’re always welcome. And we have connections to the football team, so if anyone else bothers you, we have the brawn to take care of that.”

Alexis watched him as he struggled to respond. “Thank you, Tarah. Not many people have stuck up for me before. Well, until Alexis.”

“Whoever is a friend—or boyfriend—of Alexis, is a friend of ours. If anyone tells you different, you let us know.” With that, she hugged Alexis and went back inside to check on the other guests.

“See?” Alexis said. “I’m not the only one that sees it.”

Greer pulled her to her feet in front of everyone milling around outside. Music was pumping out of speakers, and Alexis heard the beginnings of the song “I Don’t Dance” by Lee Brice. Greer wrapped his arms around her and began swaying with her to the song.

“I love this song,” she said, her hands on his strong biceps. “You don’t like to dance.”

“I didn’t used to,” he answered. “But I like to dance now because I get to dance with you.” They were quiet for the rest of the song, ignoring the people walking around them in and out of the house.

 

 

Alexis lay back on her bed, relief overtaking her. She had done it. Her last final was done and her first year of college was officially over. And what a year it had been. Some might ask her what the best part of it was, but she didn’t have to give that a second thought. Even though it was amazing to be on her own, be part of the cheerleading team, and meet all sorts of new people, the best part of her year was by far Greer.

Had she not come here and chosen to go the Biology route, she wouldn’t have met him. If they hadn’t been lab partners in the fall, they might never have come across each other in this enormous university. She didn’t know if this year could be topped, but she sure would try.

She needed to pack. She and Hailey had to be out of their dorm tomorrow, and many people had already left. Hailey was going home, thinking Alexis was crazy for staying and taking a summer class. But if she was honest, she wasn’t staying just to take a class. The class was an excuse to stay with Greer. She couldn’t fathom staying away from him for three months. One month was going to be hard enough at the end of the summer, and she already had plans to get him to come visit for a few weeks.

Swinging her legs off the side of the bed, Alexis grabbed a box and started putting her things from her dresser inside it. As she grabbed a handful of cheer shorts and tank tops, a book fell out onto her foot. After hopping around for a few moments, Alexis stopped and picked it up. She had forgotten all about this. Her mom had given it to her months ago at Greer’s birthday party, and she had put it in her drawer for safekeeping.

Sitting down on the floor, Alexis opened the front cover. In her mom’s scrawled handwriting, it said
Kayley loves Alex
. She smiled, thinking of her mom in a dorm room similar to this, wishing for Alex to acknowledge they were more than friends. She couldn’t imagine being friends with Greer for a few years without either of them telling the other how they felt.

Alexis looked at all her mom’s scrawls, between hearts and dates and pretending she was writing her name as Mrs. Alexander Carson. She wished she had known her dad Alex. Even though Ben was amazing, there was something that a girl felt she missed out on when she lost someone before she was even born.

She thought back to how her mom must’ve felt the day that she found out Alex had died. Pregnant with her and only married a few years, she knew she had been devastated. Alexis and her mom were very close, and she had always told her stories about her real dad. But when Alexis had become a teenager, Kayley had told her a lot more about the day that he died in the terrible car accident. Alexis hoped she never had to endure something like that; the thought of losing Greer when he had been attacked at the game was enough to send her into tears even now.

Alexis read several pages about her getting ready to start her classes as a Junior, now fully into her major. It wasn’t until she got to the fourth page that she started really talking about Alex. She settled back against her bed, knowing she wasn’t getting a single thing packed now.

 

Today we were out at the beach, and we had been playing volleyball. I was hot, so I sat out for a few minutes to have a drink. That’s when a ball came sailing over and I heard ‘Watch out!’ so I ducked. The ball landed right next to me in the sand, and when I looked up, I swore it felt like someone punched me in the stomach. He was like no guy I’d ever seen. He had sand covering his very nice six pack, and his dark hair was tousled from playing. But his eyes… oh, his eyes. They were the most amazing blue I’d ever seen. Of course here I was, looking like a fool, probably staring at this guy like I’d never seen one before. It was then that he smiled and held out his hand. ‘I’m Alex.’
I think I eventually got my name out, and he winked at me and ran back to playing. I must find Alex. But I can’t seem like I’m a stalker, right? Right. No stalking at 20 years old. I’ll just do some ‘research’.

 

Alexis laughed, imagining her mom in that scenario. She had her dad’s eyes, bright blue like a swimming pool. She wished she could know what her dad thought at that moment, meeting her mom for the first time. Turning the page, she started reading the next entry, dated two days later.

 

So classes started today. And here I am, sitting in this large classroom for Anatomy and Physiology, my nerves making me jumpy. I’m excited to be starting my classes for my major, but also scared because I hear that this professor is very difficult. I’m early, so I’m flipping through the A&P book I had bought at the book store when a loud sound next to me makes me almost jump out of my skin. When I look over, I literally lose my breath. It’s him. He’s sitting two seats down from me and looking at me sheepishly because he had slammed his books down.

‘Kayley, right?’ he said, and I think I melted into my chair. I might’ve nodded, or I might’ve looked like a lovesick teenager. Either way, he remembered my name? Of course I remembered his, but it wasn’t every day that I met someone as gorgeous as him. And now he was in my class, sitting next to me? Oh this was just too good to be true.

When I finally made my tongue untangle, I asked him what his major was. When he said it was physical therapy just like me and then asked if I wanted to study sometime, I think my jaw must’ve dropped. He wanted to
study
with me? I didn’t think any of my brain cells were working sitting this close to him. Who knows if I could actually learn anything while near him?

Then the professor started talking, and I tried to listen. I really did. But he smelled good. Really good. And he kept looking over at me. When the class was almost over, I watched as he tore a small paper from his notebook, wrote something on it, and then passed it to me. He gave me his phone number. HE GAVE ME HIS PHONE NUMBER.

I’m in love.

 

Alexis wiped an errant tear that ran down her cheek. It was so amazing but hard to read all of this. She was thankful her mom was willing to share this with her. She read through a few more pages about her friend Emily, who was still one of her best friends. They were roommates, much like she and Hailey. Alexis laughed until she cried at some of their antics with the friends on their floor. She’d have to keep some of these in mind.

Turning the page, she stretched her neck as she realized she had been sitting on the hard floor leaning over the book for a long time. Her mom wrote about Alex almost every day, whether it was to talk about them studying together or the girls that fell over him, including one he had started ‘seeing’. Her feelings had been completely hurt when he had called her one of his ‘best friends’, and she had decided right then and there that she wasn’t going to tell him how she felt. She couldn’t risk putting her heart out there for him to call her his ‘friend’.

If Alexis had to guess, her dad felt the same as her mom all along. Maybe he had been scared too, or thought she was out of his league. But they had wasted so much time under the pretense of being ‘friends’.

So today was my first day of senior year. I can’t believe it’s already here. Alex just got back into town last week, and we’ve been spending every night together. I‘ve moved into an apartment with Emily, so we took turns going to each other’s houses and cooking dinner. I missed him so much. But that’s not even the best part. Or worst part. I have no idea what to think about it. It’s my dream come true and my worst nightmare all rolled into one.

Okay, okay, I’m being dramatic. But, really. Ever since I met him a year ago I’ve wanted him to one day say to me, ‘Kayley, I can’t live without you.’ You know I’m a hopeless romantic. Emily laughs at me constantly reading romance novels. What can I say, I love it. Anyway, Alex and I were watching a movie. The apartment was dark, and Emily was out. Before I knew it, Alex’s hand had covered mine and he wrapped his fingers around mine. He was HOLDING MY HAND! I don’t think I moved a muscle or breathed the rest of the movie. His hand was so warm and comforting, and it made my head race with the possibilities. What did this mean?

Yeah, okay, so that’s no big deal, right? Friends can hold hands. In the dark. While watching a romantic comedy. But wait. Just wait.

So the movie ends, and the credits are rolling, flicking light onto Alex’s face. I dare to look at him for the first time in over an hour, and I see this look in his eyes that I’ve never seen before. Then, he looks at my lips. HE LOOKS AT MY LIPS! I think I might die right then, but I just can’t. If I die, I’ll never know if he really wanted to kiss me or not.

He lifts his other hand and puts it on the side of my face. My heart is POUNDING and my throat feels like I stuffed cotton in it. I have no idea what to do in this moment, so I wait for him. After what seems like forever, he leans close enough to me that I can feel his warm breath. He smells like the Twizzlers we ate during the movie.

He did it. Alex Carson KISSED ME. And it was the best, most life-altering thing that has ever happened to me in all of my 21 years. His lips both set me on fire and soothed my nerves all at the same time. I could’ve done it forever. Except he pulled back, wide-eyed and stumbled to his feet, mumbling something about having to go and he would see me tomorrow.

I’m so confused. Is he sorry that he kissed me? I stared at the ceiling all night and wonder what just happened, and whether or not we are even friends right now.

Of course, I saw Alex today in class. And when I saw him he smiled at me and acted like everything was fine with no mention of the kiss. I spent the entire class time thinking I was losing my mind. But I knew I would never bring it up to him, too worried that I would ruin everything. Even if that is the only time in my life he kisses me, it will forever be the best few minutes of my life.

 

The door swung open, making Alexis jump. Hailey breezed in, her arms full of empty boxes. “Whatcha doin’?”

“Reading my mom’s diary from when she was in college, after she met my dad.”

Hailey dropped the boxes, then sat cross legged next to Alexis on the floor. “Can I read, too?”

“Sure. I’ve read a lot of it already. I just read this entry where my dad kissed her for the first time but they were still pretending to be friends.”

“Crazy,” Hailey shook her head. “Wonder what in the world kept them from admitting it.”

Alexis shrugged. “I can see it, I guess. Even though I wouldn’t have waited that long with Greer, feeling unsure about how someone else feels about you is terrifying. They were friends, and they both liked each other’s company so much they were afraid to admit that they each wanted more. Until it was almost too late.”

“Go to the night he proposed,” Hailey said, bouncing up and down on her bottom. “That was the night of their graduation, right?”

Alexis turned pages, watching the date at the top. When she got to May, she slowed down. She’d have to go back and read the rest later, but now that Hailey had asked to read the engagement, she couldn’t wait to find it, either. She saw while scanning a few sections where her mom was upset and crying over leaving Alex. They weren’t planning to be in the same area at all after graduation, and she was torn up over whether she should come out and tell him. Apparently they had crossed the line of friendship a few other times after that one kiss, but neither had brought up what was happening with them.

Alexis saw all capital letters at the top of one of the May entries, and she stopped.

“Graduation Day,” Hailey read. “This is it.”

BOOK: Breaking Free: A Living Again Novella
10.57Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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