Attempting To Walk Alongside Him

“Just grab a table,” Jared said. It seemed like he was getting annoyed.
“I’m gonna order with you,” I said standing still.
“Okay, you win,” Jared said he slid his arm around my waist. The closer we got to the end of the school year the more I felt like things were tense between us.
“Thank you,” I murmured.
We didn’t say anything else to each other while we waited to order or to pick up the food from the other counter. It wasn’t until we were both sitting down and unwrapping our burgers did I feel like saying anything else, “So how was your weekend?”
“Oh right, we haven’t seen each other since Thursday,” Jared said in a fake surprised tone of voice that ended up hurting my feelings even if that wasn’t his inttention—which I wasn’t sure.
“Yeah…um..good. We went cliff diving over on the Peninsula.”
“In April?”
“Yes, we’ve got that list and not a whole lot of time.”
“That list is stupid,” he shook his head as he said this.
“Not to us it isn’t. To us, it’s symbolic.”
“Okay, fine. The decisions you make when you hang out with Stevie makes me nervous.”
I was now frowning. “Moving on,” I said sharply, “what did you and your cousin end up doing?”
Jared’s eyes dropped to the table, which was my first clue. “My cousin flaked, so, I…ended up watching movies with Holly.” His apologetic eyes held mine with an uncomfortable grasp.
“Way to bury the lead on that one,” I said rolling my eyes. “That sucks.”
“Wait a minute, I really wish this wasn’t something you consistently decided to misinterpret.”
“How am I suppose to feel about you hanging out with your x-girlfriend of four years?”
“But, we are over. It’s not like that with us, which is why we ended up breaking up, but we are friends, we grew up in the same tiny town together.”
“Exactly, Jared. It makes me uncomfortable.”
“That’s me. She’s my friend.”
I groaned.
His foot touched mine under the table. “I missed you this weekend. I know that.”
I looked at him. His unshaven face moved with his subtle smile.
“You suck,” I smile.
“I agree entirely,” he smiled back. Jared picked up his cheeseburger and took a bite. His phone jingled. He ignored it, so I did on the outside, but on the inside I wondered if it was Holly. A big part of me felt like I was foolish by listening to him, when he said nothing was going on between them. “So, have heard back from any school?”
“No, it’s making me crazy.”
“It makes me crazy you didn’t apply to one school, anywhere close.”
“Well, I picked the best matches.”
“Part of that list is their geographical distance from here,” he said. It wasn’t a question.
“I need to be away from my family to find myself,” I muttered, and not for the first time.
“I don’t see what you have to get away from so badly,” his eyes looked away.
“I know, but I do.” I never told Jared about my mom. He knew she wasn’t in my main picture, but he didn’t know why. I never volunteered much private information with him, but he hardly ever asked. Though, it worked at the moment, I knew it wasn’t quite working for me. I wanted it to. I wanted to be comfortable. More than anything, I wanted to be comfortable. I wanted to find someplace where my head felt clear.
Jared’s and mine conversation had mellowed out. He was going on about some experimental mixing board as I ate my dinner, only half-paying attention. He continued into a detailed account of a documentary he watched about the arrests that came up this new way to make the tracks. My mind kept drifting to New York and my unknown future as we left the restaurant. I reached for his hand without hesitation. He grabbed hold of my hand, smiling at me. His almond shaped eyes squinted into a soft smile—this was I couldn’t shake him. There moments that seemed so close to perfect.
“I parked up the street, and I can drive you home,” he said.
“Sounds good.”
“We don’t need to let it get weird, just because we don’t know where it’s going.”
“Us,” obviously,” he let go of my hand, “we don’t need to be weird with each other. Things will work out.”
“Yeah?” I reached for his hand again.
“Uh-huh,” he said squeezing my hand in a pulsing motion, which made my heart and stomach tangle up with each other. I could now see Jared’s dark blue, hatchback a few cars up. Jared’s thumb rubbed the back of my hand. We slowed down. “Wanna come back to my dorm?” He asked stepping closer to me.
“School night,” I shook my head. My back faced Jared’s car.
“Wanna drive somewhere for a bit?” Jared lips were so close to mine, which made me feel breathless and dizzy.
“Okay,” I said softly. He pressed his lips on me, pressing my back in his car. My hands were in his hair, and the memory of how frustrated I was with him started to fade into the background like every other time.

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