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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6. all you need is love

It took me forty minutes to pull my suitcase to Oli's front door. I'd beat him and his mom home. But only by a little. Oliver pulled up in his Jeep and was almost out of the car to meet me before even shutting of the engine.

"June, what happened?" He asked and ran to me, leaving his car door open.

"I left home," I said as he pulled me into a hug and pressed me against his chest. "Can I stay here for a while?"

"Is that even a question that needs asking?" He asked.

"It's always nice to know when one is welcome," I smiled into his plaid shirt.

"Yes, you're welcome to stay here for as long as you want to stay here," said and squeezed me tighter. "Stay forever."

"Oli, you're making it hard to breathe," I choked.

He quickly dropped his arms and moved to unlock to door behind me.

"Go post up in the guest room. It's yours now," he smiled. "Your timing is great. I just bought a mountain of burritos of Del Toro's. I'll grab it from the car. Want to watch a movie?"

"That sounds so good right now," I was feeling lighter already in his presence.

I left my suitcase in the guest room and met him in den at the back of the house. He was pulling burritos out of the bag and laying them out on the coffee table. I sat beside him on the sofa and picked up the remote, flipping through the massive collection of movies he'd built on the computer he had connected to his television. Movies were Oli's passion. He didn't want to act like I did. He wanted to direct. He wanted to be the next Spyke Jones or JJ Abrams, his two favorite directors. He swore it wasn't just because they both loved the Beastie Boys. I chose The Princess Bride, a mutual favorite.

We both quoted lines along with the movie, laughing, between bites of our delicious burritos.

When there were only two burritos, he mumbled something about saving them for his mom and left to put them in the fridge. He came back and sat down beside me, but stiffly and with a good six inches between us. I swallowed. I couldn't believe what I was thinking.

"Would you mind if I sat closer to you?" I asked.

"As you wish," he teased and stretched his arm out over the top of the sofa to open space for me.

I moved closer to him, so close that our legs were touching. I could here him breathing.

On the TV, Wesley and Buttercup were arguing on the mountaintop about love and the cruelty of the Dread Pirate Roberts.

"Can you put your arm around me?" I asked.

"As you wish," he said more softly and laid his arm over my shoulders as Buttercup sent Wesley down the hill.

"Would you mind holding me a little tighter?" I asked as Buttercup realized her mistake and rolled down the hill after Wesley.

He didn't say it this time, no longer in the mood to joke, as he lowered his arm around my waist and wrapped it tightly around my stomach. I found his hand with mine and held it, lowering my head to rest against his shoulder.

"You make me feel like myself," I whispered. "Like I'm safe when you're around."

He didn't say anything back. Probably afraid. We'd always skirted this subject, and it always ended with me turning him down. But, I was starting to see that I'd always just been scared. Scared that I'd lose him if things didn't work out. Now, I was scared of wasting time.

"June," he whispered my name like it was a secret password, but he wasn't sure what it would unlock.

"I'm sorry it took me this long, Oli," I said, my eyes on the screen. Too nervous to face him. "I'm sorry I spun our wheels. We missed out because of it. We should have been each other's first kiss, first date. You knew that, but I didn't."

I heard him swallow in the darkness and turned to look at him, ghostly pale in the flickering light of the television. But, his eyes were bright and deep.

"Juniper Grace Hill, are you saying what I think you're saying?" He asked.

I nodded.

He smiled and slowly asked, "Can I kiss you?"

I nodded. He bent his head toward me and gently, carefully found my lips with his.

For the first time, I understood what was different about kissing someone I really, truly cared about. What it felt like to kiss someone who really cared about me.

His lips were soft. They caressed my lips as if they were something sacred. And in that moment, in that perfect kiss with Oliver, I felt relaxed and carefree and happy and loved.

We pulled apart and his unfading smile was plastered all over his face.

"Alright, it's official," came Carolyn's voice from the doorway. "You guys are too old to share a room for sleepovers."

She sounded stern, but she was smiling.

"Also," she chuckled, "might I add, about damn time. Do you know how awkward it is for a forty-year-old mother to root so hard for her teenager's relationship to happen?"

We both blushed and put a little bit of room between us, but Oli's arm was was still around me. I felt dishonest, then, realizing I was about to impose upon this wonder woman's kindness before she even knew what was going on. I knew she wouldn't mind, but it still wasn't fair.

"Ms. Galaviz," I spoke up and paused the movie.

"Uh oh," her smile dropped. "What is it dear? I know something's wrong when you use my last name."

"I need to stay here," I gulped. "Not just tonight, but for a while."

She quickly crossed the room and sat on my other side, folding my hand into hers.

"Of course," she said quickly. "Stay as long as you need. This is your home, as much as it is Oliver's."

"Did Oliver tell you about the fight he got into?" I asked, to which she nodded and frowned knowingly at me.

He's told her. Of course he had. Oliver never kept secrets from his mom, an aspect of their relationship that I envied deeply.

I felt relief in not having to repeat my story.

"While I'm not happy with the bruises, I'm proud of him for standing up for you," she assured me. "He told me about the detective, too. I can't believe this small town, sometimes."

She sounded exhausted, like she knew the dilemma well. Which was probably true. A single mom, a working woman and head of her household - raising a teenage boy, no less - was treated as something of a pariah in our little town. She mowed over anyone who tried to put her down, though. She was my hero.

"A teacher approached me at school today," this was news to Oliver, too. "He wants me to work with a DA and investigator in Austin who's building a case on behalf of Eddie's victims."

They both were speechless.

"Are you going to do it?" Oli asked after a beat.

"I don't know," I sighed. "I'm scared. It's so much bigger than just me."

"We're here for you," Carolyn squeezed my hand. "Whatever you decide. Did you discuss this with your parents?"

"I never had a chance," I rolled my eyes. "My mom ambushed me when I got home today, telling me not to ruin Eddie's promising future."

Carolyn shook her head furiously.

"I can't believe the nerve of that woman," she seethed.

Carolyn and my mom were very good friends for a long time. When Oli's dad was still in the picture, they were actually our next door neighbors. We were always having family dinners with them, going on big vacations together. It was just about perfect.

When Mr. Galaviz left, Carolyn went to my mom for comfort and support and my mom acted like she was only looking for handouts. She blamed Carolyn for not being able to hold onto her husband and suggested that their friendship was only about money and connections. Carolyn sold the house and bought the smaller one she and Oli have now, never to speak to or see my mother again.

She took in a breath, then let it out slowly.

"Well, the guest room is officially June's room," she smiled and stood from the couch. "How about some hot chocolate? I think I'll spike mine."

I laughed and sniffled. I hadn't realized that I'd been crying. Oliver pulled me closer and pressed his lips against my temple as Carolyn disappeared into the kitchen. I unpaused the movie.

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Author's note: Carolyn is who I wish my mom had been when I was in high school, the mom I hope to be someday. She's a combination of all of the strong, wonderful women in my life who see adversity as an opportunity and kindness as a requirement. To my friends' moms who always gave me a place to go to when I needed it, and to my wonderful mother-in-law who's accepted me as her own daughter whole heartedly, I have to say thank you. Sorry for the brief interruption. Hope you enjoyed reading this chapter as much as I enjoyed writing it.

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