Letting Go

After being brutally abused by her father and outcasted by her classmates, seventeen year old Keller Alvidas is glad and even relieved to spend her last year at Edge-of-The-World, the sleepy small town she grew up in. Everything changes when the Gabriels, a group of orphaned teenage boys arrives. They break all her rules about meeting new people but they too have secrets and when the truth comes out Keller has to decide wether to let go and save herself or to continue to be dragged through everything she wanted to run away from, all for one chance she might never get.

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34. Heartbreakers

Keller's P.O.V

I take deep, shuddering breaths as I walk up to Sonic's, the restaurant where I'm meeting Josh. I can see him through the front window, he's checking his reflection in the spoon. I almost laugh, he always looks good, he doesn't need to check. I walk the rest of the way and pull open the front door with effort, why do I suddenly feel so tired? I make my way to the booth and take a seat, sitting right on the very edge. Josh looks at me smiling, this is going to be so hard.

"You look great Keller," he starts off. I look down at my outfit, a deep blue dress that feels two sizes too big and my usual black flats. I know for a fact that I look like hot mess.

"Thanks Josh, you look nice too." My voice sounds hollow, as if it might break at any moment, even to my own ears. I smile as our food comes.

"I knew that you liked french fries and hot wings, is it okay?" he asks after a take a first bite. My smile is real now as I nod.

"How'd you know that I love them?" I ask. He looks down sheepishly.

"I heard James telling the guys that you're obessed with them," he answers. I open my mouth, trying to answer, but close it again unsure of what exactly I was going to say.

"Well, you were right. I do love them," I say and take a big chomp out of the chicken wings. Josh looks at me happily, estatic that he got my order right. I wish he wasn't so happy, it's going to make this all the more harder.

"So, graduation is coming in a month. What're your plans?" he asks after a while. I set my food down and wipe my mouth with a napkin.

"I don't know, everything's just messed up right now," I admit, thinking about the early placement and not wanting to be apart from everything else in Edge-Of-The-World. I came to really love this this town. Sure, my dad poisoned my memory of this place from the beginning but The Gabriels fixed that. They fixed everything.

"Well, I hope that whatever is going on is sorted out. I'm kind of screwed too," he says, chugging down a milkshake. I lay my hands down on the table.

"What happened?" I ask.

"Well, I have a scholarship to the University of London, but I have to leave in like, two weeks," he admits, saying this to me from across the table. My heart sinks a little, we're going to the same school.

"Wow," I say.

"Yeah, messed up right? Anyway, what about you?" he asks. I shake my head.

"You wouldn't believe me if I told you," I say with a lazy smile.  He smiles back.

Try me," he challenges.

"Okay, I'm starting a dairy farm," I joke. Josh laughs at my lame joke like I was some sort of comedian As I admire his laugh I think of the same question I've asked myelf for the millionth time today: Why'd he have to go and make things so complicated? Why did he have to think that he loves me? Why couldn't we just be friends?

"Nice try, now tell me," he says, being serious. I cock an eyebrow.

"Oh yeah, how do you know that I wasn't being serious?" I ask.

"I know, because you're terrible at punch lines," he laughs. I blush at his words.

"No I'm not," I grumble. He takes my hand across the table. I look up and for a second, and I swear it was James looking at me. I shake my head a little and see Josh staring back at me again.

"It's okay, I like your lame jokes. It's cute." He smiles. I grab my hand back at stick my tongue out at him playfully.

"No compliment, no hand," I fake-threaten. He fake pouts in return.

"Fine. You're my favourite person on this world. Happy?" he asks and I give him my hand back. A lone chill races up my arm and I think, for the billionth time tonight: Maybe we couldn't be just friends.

---

We walk back to the orphanage in the darkness, our feet catching on strange things like rocks and loose twigs. My foot catches on one and I almost trip.

"You okay there?" Josh asks me as I almost stumble onto the ground. I pick myself back up answer through gritted teeth.

"Yeah, I just couldn't see the ground," I admit.

"Well yeah, none of us can," he says. Silence fills the night as my thoughts return to the University of London and the early placement. What am I going to do? Stay and risk not having a place to stay, or go anyway and risk losing my friends and everything I hold dear? Everything was just too damn confusing.

'What's wrong?" Josh asks me after a while. I shake my head.

"Nothing," I lie. Too bad he doesn't fall for it.

"I may not know you very well but I know that you're lying," he says. I sigh.

"You know the University? University of London?" I ask. He nods a yes. "Well, I got a scholarship too, and I need an early placement. Just like you." He stops for a second, wide-eyed and stares right through me.

"You mean that we're going to be in the same school?" he asks. I nod a yes. He grabs me by the shoulders and nearly smothers me in his hug. I hold on tight, this may possibly be my last Josh hug.

"This is great! We're going to the same school now after! This is great!" he yells, ecstatic. After I don't respond he starts to get worried. "Isn't it?"

"It is, but we just friends right? We're good friends, happy that we're going to the same school right?" I ask desperately, trying to rip this moment off like a bandage. He let's go of me, well, it's closer to a shove really, but it hurts all the same after I drop the "friends speech" on him.

'You know full well how I feel about you," he says darkly. I want to apologise so badly, so much that it hurts.

"I know, and I'm sorry! I'm sorry I kissed you in the hospital, it was being mean. I'm sorry for giving you hope, I just don't feel like that. I love someone else." I say the last part a little softer than the beginning. I stand still, cringing from the harshness of my words and Josh looks like he's going to hold me again. But he pulls back and I find myself disappointed a little. To my surprise, he laughs. A soft, hurt laugh. He's killing me here.

"No, I'm sorry. I shouldn't have forced my feelings on you when you were clearly into someone else," he says, shaking his head slightly.

"No, it's not your fault. I-" My words get lost as Josh smothers me in a hug, not the happy one that he gave me earlier though. A sad one, a last one. God knows that I don't want this to be the last one.

"I knew that you'd be the one to break my heart," he whispers, still not letting this Last Hug go just yet.

"How'd you know?"

"I loved you too much, that always spells diaster," he says.

"I'm sorry."

"Don't be. Just tell James that he's a lucky guy. Goodnight Keller, I'll see you in London." And with that I was alone, seeking the one person who might just have broke Josh: James.

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