I'm With You

Colbie learns the hard way what it means to be dating the leader of a team of heroes. Inspired by I'm With You by Avril Lavigne.

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1. I'm With You

I felt his stare on my back as I sparred at Neil.  I knew, after spending over five months here in New Olympia, Jay was proud at how far I’ve come, battle-wise.  Theresa (my best friend), JD, Archie, and Atlanta already knew how to fight well, but were still learning lots.  I’ve come from waving a sword randomly to having a weapon versatile enough to throw and swing in defence.  Herry – my best guy friend – could lift more than the rest of us put together.  Odie was made honorary Techno-Greek.  Neil was the wimp he’d always been.  Curious on Jay, people?  Jay was just as he was, fairly normal, except he carried a xiphos, the King of the Titans as an enemy, and me to protect.

            “Colbie Alison Mangas, you’re thinking again . . . what’s up?”

            I jumped from my battle stance.  The narcissistic blond guy – who goes by the name of Neil – sniffed the air daintily and walked away.  Jay had snuck up behind me, again.  I’d have to learn to control my thoughts . . . if Cronus crept up on me in battle, I’d be gone.  Jay wouldn’t have a chance to get me back.

 

            “Oh . . . I . . . uh . . . nothing,” I spluttered, blushing furiously.  I hated it when Jay took me by surprise . . . he made me feel uncomfortable every time he startled me like that.

            Theresa glared at me.  “Colbie, you know I know what you’re thinking.  You have that look that says, Hey, something’s up with Colbie,” she said harshly.  Her expression softened as she wrapped her arm around my shoulders.  “C’mon, you can tell me.  It’s not that I won’t tell anyone else about it.  What are friends for, right?”

            I slipped away from her.  “Later, okay?” I said aloud.  I leaned in toward her and whispered, “When Jay’s not listening.”

            Theresa nodded and giggled.  Jay raised a quizzical eyebrow, and my best friend’s expression fell.  “Just a note for you, Jay, the rest of us are heading into town.  There’s a Hunger Games marathon running all night tonight.  I’m extending an invitation for both of you.”

            “Can’t,” Jay said.  “Athena’s away at some sort of meeting and left me in charge.”

            “I’d like to, Terry, but the thing is, I have homework to do in Physics.  It’s due on Monday,” I stated apologetically.

            Theresa nodded understandingly and hugged me before she turned tail and walked away.

            That left Jay and I alone together.  I panicked inside.  What would the others have to say to mock us?

            Jay turned toward me.  “Colbie, I’d really like to know what you’re thinking,” he said sternly.  God, I loved it when he started acting his role.  “What’s up?”

            “It’s nothing!” I announced.  Jay stepped back, startled by the sudden annoyance that built up in me.  Herry turned to look at us, and made a heart with his hands.  Herry winked at me.  I rolled up my turtleneck’s left sleeve and curled my hand into a fist to show Herry I meant business.  I started toward him, but Jay held me back by my upper arm.

            “Hey, you don’t have to go all Argo on me.  Just doin’ my job,” he replied, turning me to face him.  He brushed back the hair that hung in front of my shoulder.  His fingers accidentally grazed over my shoulder, sending a feeling like an electric shock through my body.  “An apology would be nice,” he whispered.

            Damn.  Jay stood a little too close – and was using a method of persuasion I’d hate to call temptation – waiting for an apology.  As it slowly dawned on him I wouldn’t give in, he pressed a kiss to my right temple angrily.  I huffed and walked away from him.  We’d only been dating for five months behind everyone else’s backs.  It was no big deal for me to leave him like that.

            “What is it with girls, dammit?!” I heard him cry furiously.  I stopped for a second.  For a minute, I thought it was a prayer to Aphrodite – the Greek goddess of love and beauty – but I grasped the fact he was yelling at me.

            Jay had another girl, previous to me.  Jay had been dating my best friend for seven months when I came along.  I hadn’t even been in New Olympia for three days when I was kidnapped by, none other than, Cronus himself.  I endured a rough twenty-three hours before Jay and Herry came to my aid.  I didn’t get out without a few broken bones and scars.  I learned a couple of days later – after getting out of the hospital – Theresa cheated on Jay with Odie.  Jay and I became close, and slowly, the relationship expanded from small sentences to holding hands to hugging in public.

            Day after day, I reminded myself, “Jay’s your first love.  The relationship’s not going to last forever.”  Whenever that thought popped up in my head, I’d shake my head to get it out.  Jay saved my life too many times, and I returned the favor.  I trusted him with my life.  There was no way I’d be able to let him go without causing myself gut-wrenching pain.

            I’ve often questioned Jay’s feelings for me.  If I did ask him for the truth, I already knew what the answer would be . . . “I’m sorry, Colbie, I don’t like you in that way.  Besides, we both know Cronus kill one of us if we were involved in that way.  Wanna be friends instead?” he would say.  That would be his response, even if Jay did like me.  He was too overprotective of me, too much of a leader.  Since I’m the subject of a prophecy, Jay would sit me down and explain the risks of what Cronus would do to the both of us if he ever found out about the truth.

            It wasn’t like the rest of our friends were single.  Atlanta and Archie had already been dating since April of last year.  Odie and Theresa finally discussed their feelings for each other and made their relationship official.  Herry had a relationship with Jay’s little sister.  Neil was looking for a girl, since he broke up with Medelia in January.  That left me . . . and Jay.

            I entered into the mortal part of the school.  I walked over to my locker and grabbed my stuff.  I looked at the picture Theresa took over spring break.  It was that of Jay and me at a Taylor Swift concert.  Theresa scored us front-row seat tickets, along with a meet-n-greet.  Theresa came along with us, and, with country music’s cutie, we posed for a picture.  Swift was between us, with her arms around both of us.  We both half-hugged her back.  Jay was so surprised, yet so happy, he was close to tears.

            I smiled at the memory and touched the photo.  After I slammed my locker door shut – the sound echoing through the empty halls of Olympus High – I exited the school to go back to the dorm.  The sun had set, and it was raining, considering it was late April.  The water droplets coming down from the sky was cold.  Excluding the odd vehicle passing me, I was only on the street.  I needed the privacy, needed to get away from Olympians, Titans, training, my prophecy, and my friends . . . especially Jay.

            It didn’t take me very long to reach the dorm, which was just across the street from the school.  I walked inside, only to see Jay in the kitchen, cooking supper for me and him.  Like Jay said earlier . . . Athena was at a meeting.  The others were likely already waiting in the ticket line for that Hunger Games marathon.  I couldn’t believe how empty the dorm was . . . it was just Jay and I alone together.

            I was halfway to the stairs when Jay asked, “Colbie, can I talk to you for a sec?”  I set down my binder and peered into the kitchen.  He took a sauce pan off a hot lid, and shut off the stove.  When he noticed me, he gestured for me to sit down at the island.  I did as he indicated.  He slid into his seat, across from me, and I figured as to how the conversation would go – I would apologize, Jay would forgive and ask me how my day went, and nothing else would be said.

            This time, I’d be sure to ask about how he felt about me.  I’d ask, even if it killed me.

            “Jay, if it’s about earlier, I’m sorry for snapping at you,” I apologized.  “We haven’t seen Cronus in, what, a week?  I’m bound to be on edge.  I wonder what he’s up to this time.”

            Jay nodded, looking away from me briefly.  “I was about to say the same thing about Cronus, but hey it’s okay.  I would’ve done the same thing.  And, since we’ve been through a lot together, I have something to say about us.”

            My mood lightened.  Was today the day Jay finally admitted his feelings about me?  I’ve waited for the past five months to hear what he would say, and now that patience paid off!  I wanted to jump for joy.  He would tell me the truth, and I would return the favor.

            He cleared his throat.  He sounded a little uneasy.  If this was how he talked about his feelings, he sure didn’t do it often.  I wondered if he was trying to keep it soft, to make sure he didn’t hurt me.  Anything Jay did was perfect to me.  We said things the way they were.  Why, in the name of Jesus, would he censor me from his emotions?  I think too much.

            “Since we’ve been saving each other’s butts, I know you’re becoming more like me than any of us realized.  Remember the first time you fought Cronus?  I vowed to myself I’d never lose you again.  I swore on the grave of my ancestor I’ll keep that promise.  I’m a leader, and leaders don’t break oaths.  I’ll do everything in my power to keep you, Colbie.”

            “Thanks, Jay,” I mumbled.  I was shaking.  It didn’t take me very long to figure out what he was trying to say . . . he wanted to be friends and stay friends.  He lied to me with those big brown eyes!  I was far from ticked off . . . of course, after everything we’ve been through, Jay had to say something he knew would hurt me.  A friend.  Ha!  Leaders like him may keep his word, but they sure didn’t keep hearts.  After five months of being together, I thought, for sure, he would confess his real sentiments for me, and I would reply with my feelings for him.  My doubts were confirmed:  Jay looked me in the eyes and lied like a guy like him would to protect himself from watching the girl across the table get her hopes up.  Why did he have to be the intelligent, paranoid, always right leader?

            But he was cute to boot.

            Concern was written on Jay’s face.  “Colbie, are you okay?” he asked.  “You look upset.”

            “I – I’m fine.  I just need to take a walk,” I whispered, not trusting my voice.  I stood and made my blind way past him.  I could feel his eyes on me as I walked.  Tears threatened to fall.  I opened the door when Jay grabbed my upper arm.

            “Colbie, it’s pouring rain!” he protested, pulling me back.

            “Dejar a alguien mí solo*, Jay!” I shouted.  Jay let me go, taken aback at what I said.  He didn’t have a large Spanish vocabulary, but he understood what I was saying.

            A word about me:  I speak five languages – Spanish, French, Greek, Japanese, and good old English – fluently.  Half the time, Theresa, Archie, Herry, Atlanta, JD, Neil, and Jay can’t understand what I’m saying unless I speak Greek or English.  Every one of us grew up with a Greek parent, so, obviously, some of us are bound to be fluent in it.  Yeah, yeah, I understand what you’re thinking . . . keep going.

            Jay let go of my arm.  My vision blurred as his surprise smoothly transitioned into hurt.  I waved him off and slammed the door in his face.  I ran down the steps and kept running.  My tears started tumbling when I got ten feet away from the dorm.  I continued running . . . Jay couldn’t see me breaking down, but, then again, I was breaking down while he was restraining me.

            I ran into an empty Midway Park – the park I jogged through on a regular basis every morning to keep active – and found a dry place to hide.  As the rain kept pouring down, I started to – actually – cry.

            My situation was at least better than that of Bella Swan’s in New Moon.  Bella couldn’t cope with the loss she suffered . . . her vampire boyfriend moved on, and left her behind.  For months, she was in a zombie-like state.

            Me?  I could cope.  My emotions were better than that . . . I was dealing with my situation with ease.  I was dealing with a psychopathic Titan king – none other than Cronus – that made attempts to sway me over to the dark side, or on my life.  I’d just been rejected by a beautiful boy who, I thought, had some sort of feelings for me.  I was reacting like a typical teenaged girl would.

            I thought about Bella some more.

            What if Edward Cullen turned out to be a villain?  What if Edward wasn’t a vampire, but a crazy Titan that wanted her for a queen or dead instead?  What if Jacob Black had been the hero that never let her down?  Would Jacob reject her if she tried to decide her feelings for him?  Would he say the same thing Jay said to me?

            I shook my head.  Bella’s situation wasn’t like that.  Edward wouldn’t try to kill her.  After all, even if Edward was evil, she would choose the vamp over the wolf.

            “Hurt, child?” a scruffy voice asked, startling me from my thoughts.

            I wiped my nose.  “No,” I sniffled.  I hoped, whoever it was, mistook it for a cold.

            The person sat down next to me on the slightly damp grass.  He was bald and dark glasses hid his eyes.  He was dressed in a red suit jacket, a sky blue dress shirt, slacks that ended mid-shin.  His socks made up for the lack of length of his pants, and his shoes were red and white.  He looked timeless . . . like he’d been alive during the time Cronus reigned.  I knew that this was the resident Oracle of New Olympia.

            “Jay rejected you?” the Oracle asked.  When I faced him, he looked genuinely curious about how I felt.

            That’s a first, I thought, surprised by the fact.  I still rolled my eyes.  I wasn’t about to put my trust into this guy.  How would I know if the Oracle was a good guy?  “How would you know?  I have the funny feeling you’re doing Cronus a favor by getting me alone.  Jay will avenge my death, I swear to you,” I suspected.  I was suddenly reminded of Jay . . . that sounded like something he would say.

            “Colbie, I would know because I am the Oracle of New Olympia.  And no, I don’t work for Cronus,” the Oracle replied.  I looked back at him.  His glasses were gone, and my face was reflected back at me in glowing blue eyes.  “Indeed, Cronus would like nothing more than to have you for himself, but I can tell you know about preventing it.”

            “Yeah,” I said dryly, “Irritate the hell out of him until he kills me.”

            “It’s not like that, Colbie.  You can choose between being killed, or injuring a Titan to the point where he’ll leave you alone.”

            “Cronus won’t.  If he knows where Jay is, he’ll find me.”

            “Would you care if I said Jay can hide you?”

            I perked up at the Oracle’s mention of Jay.  “How?” I asked.

            The Oracle smiled at my curiosity.  “Marriage,” he answered simply.

            I was flabbergasted.  “Marriage?  Jay just said I was only a friend to him!”

            “Are you sure that’s what he was trying to say?  Are you sure those are his real feelings for you?”

            “That’s what it sounded like to me.”

            The Oracle stood, the movement so sudden, I was disconcerted.  “The hero is coming, Colbie.  I must go.”

            I didn’t acknowledge him before he walked away.  I had the feeling I would be seeing the Oracle again, and soon.

            I thought of Jay as soon as the Oracle was gone.  Jay was, indeed, the one I hoped would be the one I would spend forever with.  He was so sweet, so caring, so forgiving, so strong, so beautiful, and so careful; Jay was everything I couldn’t be.

            It hurt me to know I hurt him the way I did.  Even if what I said was in Spanish, he still understood what I said.  I felt guilty.  I must act like another Cronus to him.  Jay was too careful around me.  I often wondered if he hid the truth about himself from me.

            Jay’s stunned face crossed my mind, and my heart shattered into a million pieces.  I was consumed by self-loathing and pity.  I’d hurt him.  I won’t do it again.

            I guess it didn’t take too long for Jay to find me.  I wasn’t even aware he was around until he embraced me, rubbing soothing circles between my shoulder blades.

            “I’m sorry,” he murmured, “that I lied to you.  I hadn’t taken into consideration how you would react, or you could detect the hidden meaning.  I’ve lied to you too many times, but believe me when I say I love you, Colbie.”

            I peeked over his shoulder.  “What did you say?” I managed to say.

            Jay pried me off him to get better look at me.  He smiled gently and shyly.  “I love you, silly.  I’ve tried to deny it, but I guess I can’t.  You’re beautiful, stubborn, and amazingly gullible,” he answered.  He pressed a kiss to my forehead.

            “Love you, too, Jay,” I replied.  I went back to peering over Jay’s shoulder.  He seemed content to let me stay there.  “But, of course, you’ve known that, too.”

            “Yeah.”  He laughed.  “I know.  I’ve known that for a long time, already.”

            “I’m sorry about snapping at you,” I apologized.  “I didn’t mean to hurt you, I only meant to–”

            “–Get me off your back.  It’s okay.  I understand.”

            We stayed under the tree and waited for the rain to clear up.  When the rain finally cleared, we went and stood on the bridge over a small creek that ran through the park.            I looked up at the clearing sky.

            And I remembered Avril Lavigne’s first single.

            “Y’know, this reminds of I’m With You by Avril Lavigne,” I said, looking at the millions of points of stars.

            “Yeah?”

            “Yeah.”

            “Y’know, that’s probably one of the best Canadian songs I’ve heard?  I’ve never been able to get the lyrics right, and I hope you know it.”

            I sighed.  “I just finished crying.  I’ll sound like I’m sick, but, yeah, I know it.”  I looked at him, anxiously waiting for his response.

            “I’m standing on the bridge.

             I’m waiting in the dark.

             I thought that you’d be here . . . by now.

             There’s nothing but the rain,

             No footsteps on the ground.

             I’m listening, but there’s no sound.

             Isn’t anyone trying to find me?

             Won’t somebody come take me home?

             It’s a damn cold night.

             I try to figure out this life.

             Won’t you take me by the hand?

             Take me somewhere new.

             I don’t know who you are, but I . . .

             I’m with you. . . .

             I’m with you . . .

             I’m looking for a place.

             I’m searching for a face.

             Is there anybody here?  I know.

             Cause nothing’s going right

             And everything’s a mess.

             And no one likes to be alone.

             Isn’t anyone trying to find me?

             Won’t somebody come take me home?

             It’s a damn cold night.

             I try to figure out this life.

             Won’t you take me by the hand?

             Take me somewhere new.

             I don’t know who you are, but I . . .

             I’m with you. . . .

             I’m with you . . .

             Why is everything so confusing?

             Maybe I’m just out of my mind.

             Yeah, yeah, yeah . . .

             Yeah, yeah, yeah . . .

             Yeah . . .

             It’s a damn cold night.

             I try to figure out this life.

             Won’t you take me by the hand?

             Take me somewhere new.

             I don’t know who you are, but I . . .

             I’m with you. . . .

             I’m with you . . .

             Take me by the hand,

             Take me somewhere new.

             I don’t know who you are, but I . . .

             I’m with you. . . .

             I’m with you . . .

             I’m with you.

            Jay stared at me like I’d grown another head.  “Not that good after crying?” he repeated incredulously.  His astonished expression broke into a grin.  “Colbie, your voice is beautiful!”

            I smiled shyly.  I was used to him saying things like that.  “Thanks.”

            Jay came and stood beside me.  He wrapped his arm around my waist.  I responded by wrapping my arm around him, and leaning my head against his shoulder.  Together, we watched the stars in silence.

*           *           *

A/N: Just so ya know, dejar a alguien mí solo is Spanish for leave me alone.

 

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