Beauty and the Geek

Emily has everything she has ever wanted; popularity, a handsome, all-star athlete boyfriend and a top spot on the cheerleading squad. So why does it feel like she has nothing at all?
When her grades slip and she is forced to find a tutor, Emily finds comfort in shy, bookworm Will and discovers that the things you need most in life often come in the most unlikely of packages...
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18. Chapter 18.

I thrust the door open so quickly that it nearly broke the hinges in two. A puddle of rain water formed at my bare feet but, at the rate I was crying, it felt more like my own tears pooling there.

“Mom!” I yelled, before she looked up from her computer panic stricken. “I know you’ll want to say ‘I told you so’ but I could really do without it right now.”

My Mom rose from her seat, her eyes filling with tears too as she pulled me close; the first time in years she had acted like a real mother. I must have looked like the sorriest excuse for a human in existence standing there; my once beautiful ball gown drenched in mud and running mascara. Everything was a blur from the past hour and I had somehow managed to run all the way home without stopping once. 

“It hurts when you have to let them go, doesn’t it?” She said quietly in my ear, reminding me of my Dad who I wished could be there to hold us both together.

A simple sentence changed my beliefs about my mother in one moment. I had given her a hard time and I felt damn awful knowing that she had felt that same pain of losing a loved one everyday of her life, never mind for one night. She couldn’t just send my Dad a message or surprise him outside his door – he was really gone forever. Why had it taken me so long to realise? My Mom had lost her first love and had to live with the knowledge she would never get him back. My Mom was me.

That night after prom, as my mother stroked my hair quietly, asking no questions and expecting nothing in return, I realised that I may have lost my first love…but I had gotten my Mom back in the process. And it was always supposed to be that way.

---

I knocked on Will’s door gently, dreading having to come face to face with him for the first time since the prom. He would be going to college the next day – a million miles away from me and the college less life I was about to lead.

I had come clean to the Principal Klein about the A, but I had left out the detail that Will had been behind it. Instead, I’d told her that I had stolen an essay I’d found online. The feelings I had for Will were my main motive for that decision, but mostly I didn’t want to see him lose his future. There was no reason why both of us had to suffer. Now, he could still go on and achieve his college dreams, whilst I could stay at home, where I was always supposed to be. Luckily, Principal Klein had allowed me to resubmit an essay of my own, a strong B grade, and I had managed to scrape by enough to graduate high school. But I realised Will had been right, I probably wouldn’t have gotten an A because I didn’t want it. I didn’t want college, or straight A’s – that had always been Will’s dream. I wanted something else, I just didn’t know what it was yet. Weirdly, that prospect was kind of exciting.

After a whole week cooped up indoors with my Mom, phone turned off and a lot of time to think alone, I had come to conclusion that as much as you can love somebody and they can be your Mr. Right, they may not necessarily be your Mr. Right Now. Everything with Will had moved so fast; we had both secretly enjoyed the thrill of it all, the sneaking around and the fact that we were polar opposites and society defied us being together. It had been a rush, to say the least. But after waking up from the dream I had realised we hadn’t built much of a foundation – so much so that Will had lied to me in a big way. I didn’t blame him for that anymore – we didn’t establish any important things like trust and honesty and you should always do that first.

As much as Will wanted to be with me, I knew that college had a bigger edge for him; it mattered just that little bit more even if he wouldn't admit it. He was willing to sacrifice everything for the sake of me getting to experience college too and I couldn’t hate him for that – college would always be his first love. I was finally ready to let him go do all of those things he wanted to do. I was finally ready to let myself do all of things I deserved to do too.

Nevertheless, he had taught me so much over those long months – not to be afraid of being yourself and fight against what the world deemed as cool if you didn’t like it. I truly believed that I had met Will for a reason – to encourage me to finally be Emily, not just the head cheerleader or Brett’s girlfriend. I had shed my old friends and a guy who wasn’t right for me and gained so much more – the confidence to finally be myself. 

I knew that my Dad would finally be proud of me. After spending a week with my Mom and Mark, we had all realised that we never dealt with his passing. We had never sat down as a family and talked openly about it. I felt like the fight with Will was my Dad’s way of telling me to go it alone first – learn to live independently and do something he would be proud of rather than depend on somebody else.

Will answered the door, a bunch of boxes behind him he had clearly been taping up. He looked surprisingly good; not the scruffy mess I would have imagined him to be. But then I noticed the tiredness in his expression, which only brightened as he pulled me into a hug.

“I hoped you would come,” He said, smiling. “I’d hate to leave without saying goodbye. Do I need to tell you again how sorry I am again?”
“No,” I grabbed his hand in my own. “I forgive you.”
“You do?”
“Yes…but I think you know why I’m here.”

Will closed the door behind him and motioned to the bench on his porch. We sat there together, hand in hand, like an old, retired couple. Yet, our lives were only just beginning. Will would be going to college the next day and I was going somewhere I didn’t understand yet. We still had a lot of growing up to do, but I was okay with that. Suddenly, I didn’t need to know everything all at once – the future was a blank canvas, ready to find colour.

“I know,” He said calmly, looking ahead. “We can’t be together, can we?”
“No,” I replied, sadly. “You understand, don’t you?”
“Yeah. I love you, but I know I can’t make you happy right now. Only you can do that. You have to go find yourself.”
“And you have to go be your smart, amazing self and graduate college.”

“What will you do?”
“I still don’t know – I guess that’s supposed to be the exciting part, huh?”
“Well,” He put an arm around me. “Whatever you do, I know you’ll be the best at it.”
“Thanks,” I smiled up at him and hit him on the chest playfully. “You too!"

We looked at each other and I blushed. He still had the ability to make me do that almost a year later, even after all that had happened.

“I better get going,” I stood up, brushing my skirt down awkwardly.
“Yeah, I have…packing to do,” Will replied, even though we both knew he was obsessively organised and had probably finished packing a week ago.
“Promise me one thing first?” I said, taking off his glasses. “You’ll be the Will I know. Don't fit into the box that everybody puts you into. Okay?”
“Only if you promise me the same.”
“Deal,” I grinned, shaking his hand.

He held me close for what felt like hours as my own heart beat swiftly against his chest. There were so many things we could have said to each other – but we didn’t need to. We both knew this was the right thing to do, if we wanted to preserve the good memories we had created together. Will held me at arm’s length and surveyed me for a moment, taking in every bit of me to remember me forever.

“Goodbye, Em,” Will smiled.
“Goodbye, Will,” I touched his cheek softly.

I got into my car, taking one last look at him on his porch. He gave me one last, mischievous smile and disappeared inside, leaving me to drive home – and into the unknown.

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