Mixed Feelings

Icon is the biggest boy band in the world. They're even more popular than One Direction at this point. Liza Nelson can't get enough of them, but Erin Frederick absolutely detests the band. What happens after a chance encounter with one of the band members? Erin's life definitely won't ever be the same.

*the guys are based on the boys in One Direction*

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25. ~Erin~

The next day rolls around.  I wake in an unfamiliar bed next to Liza.  It takes me a moment to remember that I’m at Icon’s New York house.  I get up and take a shower before heading downstairs for breakfast.  Derek and Jared are up, and the three of us talk and joke around while we eat.  Noah and Liza eventually join us.  The five of us turn on some music and dance around the kitchen.  It’s fun and not at all couple-y, so Derek doesn’t feel left out.  I’m sure he misses Candace, though.  She’s spending the summer in London filming some big movie.

Later on, after lunch, Joe and I hang out alone in the TV room.  It’s good to have a catch-up session with him.

As we talk, I start to play with Joe’s hair.  He showered this morning, but he didn’t gel it into spikes like usual, so the blond locks are unusually soft.  Joe unexpectedly gets this look in his eyes.  All of a sudden, he’s kissing me.  I kiss him back.  His hands are on my waist, and slowly we stand.  He backs me against a wall.  My fingers press into the back of his neck and twine through his hair.  The soft hair at the nape of Joe’s neck reminds me of…Noah!

My eyes fly open, and I pull away from Joe.  We went from just a few inches to at least three feet between us.  I turn and run from the TV room up to Noah’s bedroom.  I just want him to hug me and kiss me and remind me that he’s my boyfriend, and Joseph Austen isn’t.

Noah’s door is open, and he looks up, startled, when I burst in.

“Is something wrong, Erin?” he asks, standing and putting his hands on my arms.

I shake my head wordlessly.  “No,” I finally manage to say. “I’ve just missed seeing you these last few months.”

“Well we have all summer to hang out, and you and Liza are going to be here until the end of August,” Noah tells me reassuringly. “I’ve missed you, too.  Texts, and phone calls, and video chats just don’t make up for time in person.”

He kisses me then.  My heart starts to race.  It’s like there’s no spark anymore.  What has gone wrong?  Noah’s kisses have always been better than any others I’ve had.  The passion-filled moment with Joe reenters my mind.  That’s what is throwing this kiss off.  Compared to that, this kiss is just pitiful.  But I don’t want things to be that way, and I don’t want to be conflicted over who I like.

I pull away.  Noah looks hurt and confused.  My heart is breaking probably just as much as his, but I can’t tell him what’s wrong.  That would devastate him.  Hopefully things will get better.

“Sorry,” I say. “I’m suddenly not feeling well.  I’ve got a headache.”

“Maybe you should go lie down,” Noah replies, concerned. “I’ll bring you some aspirin.”

I nod, but I’m really thinking, You shouldn’t be so nice to me!  I just kissed one of your best friends.  And I liked it.

I head to the guest room I’m sharing with Liza.  She’s out with Jared and Lucas right now, so at least she won’t be badgering me and wondering what’s wrong.  I might be able to hide my secret from the guys, but staying quiet around Liza will be hard.  I throw myself on my bed face first and cry into my pillow.  I really hate myself right now.  I kissed Joe back.  This isn’t his fault entirely.  And I can’t blame him for the fact that I liked kissing him.

There’s a knock on the door shortly, and I scramble into a sitting position.  I frantically wipe my cheeks free of tears.  Hopefully, whoever is at the door won’t notice my red eyes.

“Come in!” I call.  Inwardly, I’m kicking myself for letting my voice shake.

The door creaks open.  I’m expecting Noah, but it’s not him.  It’s Jared.  I cock my head out of confusion.  I thought he was out with Liza and Lu.  What is he doing here?  And what does he want with me?

Closing the door behind him, Jared sits in the armchair by the bureau.  “Erin, we need to talk,” he says in a voice heavy with sadness.

“What’s wrong?” I ask, bewildered. “Is something wrong with Liza?”

“Well, kind of,” he admits. “But that’s not what’s important at the moment.  This is kind of hard to talk about, and I’d like to pretend it didn’t happen, but…I saw you and Joe.  I saw you two kissing.”

I instantly pale.  “Listen, Jared,” I begin hastily. “It’s not what you think.  Well, it is, but not entirely.  He kissed me first, and I just…it was a giant mistake.  Did you see me pull away?  I remembered Noah then.  I’m so ashamed and upset, and I feel so guilty.  I know Noah deserves to know, but it’ll crush him, and I’d hate to ruin our relationship because of one stupid, stupid mistake.  It’s not going to happen again.”

Jared watches me calmly.  “But I think you’re now wondering if you have feelings for Joe,” he replies. “You wanna know why I’m guessing that?”

“Um, yes,” I say.

“Last night, while you and Noah were at the movies, the rest of us played Truth or Dare.  Derek dared Lucas to kiss Liza.  Liza was hesitant, but of course Luke took the dare.  Even though Liza was my girl, he was going to kiss her.  Afterwards, I could tell just by looking at her that she had enjoyed it and then it was all she could think about.  We talked after, and well, we ended things.  She’s basically going out with Lucas now,” Jared tells me.

“Whoa,” I breathe.  Then I start to hyperventilate. “But are you saying I’m going to start going out with Joe because I kissed him and liked it?  I don’t want that to happen!  I love Noah, and ending our relationship wouldn’t just devastate him.”

“I’m just saying you should tread carefully.  Avoid Joe.  And you should tell Nose what happened.”

I hold my hands up.  “Stop right there, mister.  There is no way on earth I’m telling Noah.  If I can guarantee something like that kiss will never happen again, then there’s no reason for him to know.”

Jared shakes his head.  “I should’ve known something like this would happen.  When Noah came back from the bookstore where he met you, all he could talk about was the girl who couldn’t stand Icon.  Then, after we met you and you were almost dating Luke, I saw Noah falling for you.  You were breaking his heart then, and you’re going to break his heart now.”

Before I can protest, Jared stands up.  He slams the door behind him, and I jump at the bang.  Now I’m just praying that Jared won’t tell Noah.  I don’t think he will, though.  That doesn’t seem like something he’d do.

---

It’s a few days later.  Everyone but me went out to dinner.  I stayed behind, claiming I have another headache.  Noah wanted to stay with me—which I found to be sweet—but I told him to go with the others.  I need to be alone because I’m going to pack and leave.  I can’t stand to even be near Joe anymore.  All these “what ifs” are swirling around in my head, and I don’t want to break Noah’s heart just to find out that Joe and I wouldn’t work out.  So the best thing to do is to break up with Noah and never see the guys again.  Liza can continue to hang out with them, but I just need to distance myself.  The fans are probably going to hate me—especially since they’ve come to love “Norin”, as they’ve dubbed us—but I’ll just have to deal.  This is for the best.

I quickly pack up my things and call for a taxi.  I call the airport, too, and they can just squeeze me onto the ten-thirty flight to the airport nearest to my town.  My boss at the bookstore is going to be surprised to see me.  He generously gave me the whole summer off—without pay, though—and I wasn’t expecting to be back until Labor Day.

By seven-thirty, I’m on my way to LaGuardia Airport.  I stare at the brownstone as it fades in the rear windshield of the taxi.  It’s starting to rain, just like in those cliché love stories.  When I can no longer see the guys’ home, I turn around and stare stolidly straight ahead.  I continually have to remind myself that I’m doing what’s best for Noah, Joe, and me.

It really hurts when I remember back in December that I thought Noah might be the one, but I was going to give us six months before I decided that.  Now I’m leaving him because I made the worst mistake ever.

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