Taking You For Granted

Oliver had always been around, and so he would always be around... Just, as a friend. That's all he was, she swore to herself. But, when something terrible happens she's forced to take a new look at her longest standing, never changing relationship.

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4. a case of the monday's

Monday morning hit me like a brick.

As I woke, the realization dawned on me most of the senior class was at that party. And, while I wasn't vain enough to think that anyone cared too much about me, Eddie was fairly popular. He was best friends with the quarterback the son of a member of the school board. Not exactly top of the totem pole, but not anonymous either. People were probably talking.

A knock sounded at my door five minutes before I should have been leaving, but I hadn't even gotten out of bed. I just stayed silent. The door opened anyway.

"I knew I shouldn't have given you a key," I grumbled and pulled my blankets over my head.

"I'm just here to offer moral support," I felt the bed sink as he sat on the edge of the mattress beside me.

"I don't want to go to school," I admitted.

"Like I said, moral support," he reaffirmed. "If you go to school, I'm with you. If you want to skip, I'll skip with you."

I threw the blanket off from over my head and sat up.

"You have had perfect attendance for the past four years," I stated.

He shrugged his shoulders. "It's not a tough decision. My perfect attendance versus the well being of my best friend. Hmm, I wonder what I'll do..."

"That simple, huh?" I chewed on my lower lip.

"I want to at least get you out of the house," he said and took my hands in his. "Lets go to the city. Cause a little trouble."

I sighed, totally uninspired to get up and get dressed.

"Don't make me change your clothes for you, again," he teased and I smacked his arm.

"Fine," I sighed and threw the blankets off the bed with a satisfying amount of force. "Just wait for me in the car."

He nodded and kissed my cheek before standing up. I blushed at the show of affection. Touching each other wasn't new. It had been natural for us. It was playful and simply a show of platonic love. We were best friends. We meant the world to each other. But, this had been different lately. The entire day yesterday, and now this morning, he'd been acting like he couldn't go more than five minutes without some sort of physical contact. It was confusing me to no end. My heart was tugging at me.

Hedy was right.

But this was awful timing. I didn't want to start a relationship with him as my emotional crutch. How awful would that be? How could that end well? What good would I be as purely dependent? I needed to be strong enough to support him, too. I didn't feel strong. I felt weak, and helpless, and like I needed him right now, but for all the wrong reasons.

I pulled myself out of bed and got dressed in whatever clothes I found on the floor of my closet. An emerald green t-shirt dress, a denim jacket, and my dirty black Chucks. It felt better to be dressed. I combed my hands through my dark brown hair, working out some of the knots, then threw it up in a quick bun. I brushed my teeth and skipped the makeup, then ran downstairs to Oli's car.

"Ready?" He asked and handed me a bag of kolaches. Two cups of coffee were sitting in the cup holders in the center console.

I tore into the apricot kolaches like my life depended on it as Oliver calmly ate his sausage rolls in the driver's seat.

"So, where in the city are we going?" I asked.

"I thought we'd hit up the Water Gardens, then I thought I could teach you how to long board," he said.

"You knew I was going to skip school today, didn't you?"

He shrugged his shoulders as we entered the highway.

I watched the landscape blur past. Oli turned up the music, know that was what I needed. Not more conversation, just something to drown out my thoughts.

Should I go to the police? I mean, what if I'm not the last girl he tries this on? What if I wasn't the first. I felt a shudder travel along my spine and rested my head against the window. As much as this sucked for me, it wasn't just about me.

Oli's hand found mine resting on my knee. He wrapped his fingers around my palm and squeezed. I sighed and closed my eyes, letting the bass pulse against my skull through the glass.

About twenty minutes later, we were parked in a garage in downtown Fort Worth and walking down the Windy City blocks to the water gardens. Garden was a weird term for this little attraction. It was all engineers aggregate and concrete structures, with fountains and pools and really anyway you could think to display water.

At 9:30 am on a Monday, the park was devoid of anyone but us, so we gladly ignored the Do Not Climb signs and climbed the mountain of incredibly tall steps that peaked with a slab that was about eight feet across in either direction . When we hit the top, we laid flat on the sun baked concrete to watch the clouds blow across the sky overhead. Oli reached over to hold my hand again.

"Oli," I said through a shaky breath. "I don't want to hurt you."

He turned on his side to look at me, but didn't let go of my hand.

"Look, June, there's no point in pretending that I don't have feelings for you," he smiled. "But that isn't what this is about."

He picked up our hands between us as emphasis.

"Then, what is it about?" I asked.

"I'm just trying to be a tether for you," he said. "Outside of acting, you already keep yourself guarded from the world. Theater is done, now, and I just don't want you to pull away even more now that this has happened. I want to be sure that we're still connected."

I let out a breath I didn't realized I'd been holding in. Why did I feel disappointed?

"Come on, let's check out the waterfall," he said as he stood, then held his hand out to me.

I let him help me up and we carefully climbed back down. The waterfall was an inverted cone of three-hundred-sixty degree cascading falls. A stairway seemed to float in a spiral down to the bottom of the falls. It was loud, and I was terrified of slipping and falling. Instinctively, I grabbed Oliver's shirt for support. He smiled and slowed his pace for me. We walked in circles around the bottom for a little while, then climbed back up to the top of the stairs.

The last feature we went to in the garden was a reflection pool. I hurriedly removed my shoes and walked out into the water. Oli kept his shoes on and watched me from the edge.

"You don't want to join me?" I asked, to which he smiled.

"Don't tell me you're worrying about how many people have gotten in this water," I eyed him and he glared in return. "You know it's chlorinated."

I dragged my feet through the water as I approached him. It was early April, just a few days left before spring break, and the water was cold enough to raise goose bumps across my skin. When I reached the edge, I took off my jacket and sat it on the ground before I let myself fall backward into the shin-deep water.

"Hey!" He yelled, concern laced in his voice as I went under briefly.

He was pulling his shoes off as I surfaced. I started giggling and stood again, hurrying toward him and wrapping my drench arms around him.

He rolled his eyes.

"I thought you fainted for a moment," he snipped, clearly irritated, and tried to untangle himself from my arms but I wasn't budging.

I pulled him out into the water and he groaned.

"I have my phone in my back pocket," he warned. "My mom will make me pay to replace it, which means I will make you pay to replace it."

"No, you wouldn't," I teased and he rolled his eyes. "Don't worry, I just wanted to get you out here with me."

"You're going to catch cold," he sighed, eyes roving over my wet dress and looking a little more intrigued than concerned.

It baffled me that Oliver could allow his respect for me to outweigh his desire, but someone like Eddie wouldn't give a second thought to sacrificing my dignity to satiate himself. I furrowed my brow. I should have gone to school to show that he didn't have any power over me. But that felt like a lie.

Before I could continue to ruminate in this darkness, I was lifted off my feet and being spun around.

"Stop!" I shouted, laughing. "I'm getting dizzy!"

He slowed our spin to a stop and smiled at me.

"I felt like I needed to distract you," he explained, but didn't put me down.

"Thank you," I felt my pulse hiccup in my chest.

His hair had dampened, probably from all of the spray in that falls earlier. His curls looked long, weighed down with water. He really had gotten so handsome.

"You ready for the park?" He asked.

I had almost forgotten that he wanted to teach me how to ride his longboard.

"Sure," my voice caught in my throat and he chuckled.

Did he know that I was having these feelings? Is this how he felt when he was with me? This adrenaline rush? This embarrassment and confusion? This inability to get your thoughts to your mouth without choking or losing your voice? Is this what he'd been dealing with for the past seventeen years? If so, I was impressed. He'd never lost his cool like I was losing mine now.

He walked us back to the edge of the pool and placed me on my feet. We got back into whatever clothes we'd removed. I was still drenched, but I didn't really care. The passenger seat of his Jeep would survive.

We drove the short distance to Trinity Park and he led me to a stretch of paved trails.

He placed to board on the ground and waited expectantly.

"What do you want me to do?" I asked after a beat.

"Stand on the board, whichever way seems right to you," he said.

I nervously placed my right foot on the board, then lifted my left foot. The imbalance of weight made the board slip a little bit and Oli caught me before I could fall backwards. My right foot was still on the board.

"That's okay," he smiled. "Just shift your weight a bit forward and try again. You're leaning back too much."

He let me go and I tried again, wobbling a bit but not anywhere near falling this time.

"That's it," he smiled. "Now, let's help you handle the board when it's moving. It'll be important for righting yourself if you start moving a little bit too much on one direction or the other."

He took my hands as he stood to face me in front of the board. He started walking backwards, pulling me along.

"Alright, you turn the board by leaning your weight to the left or to the right. Try getting the board to curve to the right."

I leaned my weight unsteadily and the board made a jagged curve to the right.

"Good!" He smiled. "Now to the left."

I leaned more confidently to the left and curved smoothly in that direction.

"Alright, now get yourself back to going straight down the middle of the path," he instructed.

I leaned a little too far to the right and overshot, then leaned back to the left and did the same thing. Finally, after the fifth attempt to correct myself, I centered my weight and was going straight down the center of the trail.

"You are a very quick learner," he said. "Ready to try kicking?"

Before I could answer, my phone rang. It was Hedy, by the ringtone.

"Hold that thought," I said and stepped off the board.

If kept rolling forward, stopping when it his Oli's feet. He picked it up as I took my phone out of my jacket pocket.

"Oh, Junie, thank God," she answered, her tone panicked.

"Hedy, what's up? What's wrong?" I asked.

"I wanted to call you earlier, but the principal took my phone," he said. "Are you okay? Are you by yourself? I've been worried about you all day."

"I'm okay, I'm with Oliver."

"Bless that boy," she said and I laughed.

"Listen, something happened here at school," her tone turned serious. "I wanted to tell you before you came in and saw it for yourself."

"What happened?" I asked and Oliver stepped instinctually closer to me.

"Eddie's been talking about you at school," she said. "He's saying you led him on. That you were a tease and that Oliver got involved because he was jealous. He's saying you went home with Oliver that night to... well... you get the picture. And people are just being monsters in general. They, um..."

She stopped speaking and I was growing impatient.

"Spit it out, Hedy."

"Someone vandalized your locker," she finished. "It's, um... its really something awful. Will is with the janitors and they've managed to scrub some of it off. But, someone took keys and scraped into it. Conveniently, the janitor has to get approval from that school board to use paint on any of the surfaces, so they can't cover that one up."

I could see her rolling her eyes in my head.

I let this sink in for a moment.

"Junie, you okay?" She asked.

I nodded, then realized she couldn't hear that, and stammered, "Yeah. I'm fine."

I half expected this, but I didn't expect Oliver to get dragged into it, too.

"Did Oli's locker get hit, too?" I asked.

"No," she laughed angrily. "Misogyny protects him. Slut shaming is for the weaker sex, I'm afraid. Even when it doesn't apply."

I groaned, then looked at Oliver. Confusion and concern were written in his expression.

"What happened?" He asked.

I didn't have the energy to repeat it, so I unceremoniously handed the phone to him.

He immediately started to speak with Hedy and I went to sit on a nearby park bench beside a statue of Mark Twain reading a book. I admired his mustache, trying to do anything about what I was going to have to face tomorrow. I tried to think of what to do, how to be proactive. By the time Oli finished the call and was standing in front of me, I had made up my mind.

"Oli, can you take me to the police station?"

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