Ru knew the world was cruel; she learned that the hard way. She thought that she was the only one, but when she met Luke Hemmings and then Calum Hood, everything changed.


17. 16.

Chapter 16


Month 16. Day 10.


I’ve been living at Luke’s house for about two weeks now. Things have been alright: I’ve gotten to know Mikey, Ashton, and Calum more; I’ve been talking a little bit more; and I’ve felt happier than I have in a long time. And the best part? My mother hasn’t tried to communicate with me.


“Ru! We’re heading to the beach, you ready yet?!” Luke calls from the other room.


“Gimme a minute!” I call back and quickly put my hair into a bun. I awkwardly hold the strings of my bikini top and walk out of the bathroom. “Lucas, I need your help.”


I’m making my way to the living room when I bump into Calum. I almost drop the strings, but manage to keep my top up.


“Need help?” He asks, and I can tell he’s forcing himself to keep his eyes on my face. I nod and he grabs the strings from me and ties it. His fingers feel rough against the back of my neck, and I do my best to hold back the shiver I feel coming on.


“I would do it myself, but (I don't have thumbs) I can never tie it tight enough.” I say, just to dismiss any awkwardness that he might be feeling.


“I don’t mind; it’s not that big of a deal.” He answers, his voice calm. I turn to look at him, and I swear he starts to lean in, but Luke interrupts whatever moment we were about to have.


“Let’s go!” Calum lets out a sigh and leads me into the living room. I slip my crop top on over my bikini top, already having shorts on over my bottoms.


Luke whistles when I walk into the living room, making me roll my eyes. He laughs and wraps his arm around my shoulder, leading me out to the car. Calum follows, and we join Ashton and Michael.


I’m stuck in between Luke and Calum, and I swear you can cut the tension with a knife. I don’t know what’s going on with these two, but they’ve been really uptight these past couple days.


“You guys ready to catch some waves?” Ashton asks, looking back at us. He’s been talking all morning about going surfing, and spent two hours last night cleaning his board.


“I don’t understand your obsession with surfing.” I say, leaning into the front seat so I can see him. “Falling into the water and almost drowning and then getting up and doing it all over again doesn’t seem like much fun to me.”


He looks back at me, his mouth open in shock. “That is not how I surf!” The other boys laugh and I smile.


“No? That’s what it looks like to me.”


“I would like to see you try!” Ashton exclaims.


I laugh and shake my head. “As I said, almost drowning over and over again doesn’t intrigue me at all.”


“You’re just chicken,” Ashton mumbles, crossing his arms over my chest. I smile and lean back, satisfied with myself.


The car is pretty silent for the rest of the ride, just the occasional outburst of singing when a good song came on the radio.


The sand is hot in between my toes and I quickly run to the best spot on the beach ( ) and lay my towel down. I plop down on it, saving my feet from the possible third degree burn, and watch the water. The waves seem to be pretty decent today; Ashton should be able to surf without dying.


I watch Ashton and Luke as they suit up in their wet suits. Mikey walks over, dragging a huge umbrella behind him. Calum follows and lays his towel down next to mine. I watch in amusement as Michael secures his umbrella into the sand, opens it up, spreads out his towel, and sits down.


“Uh, Michael?” I ask with a laugh and he looks over at me.


“What? My skin doesn’t tan: it burns. And I do not want to be in pain for the next two weeks. So make fun all you want but you’ll be the one who looks like a tomato, not me.”


Calum and I start to crack up and Michael just rolls his eyes at us. He puts his sunglasses on and puts in his headphones.


My attention turns to Luke and Ashton as they walk over, their surfboards under their arms. I look at Luke, “since when do you surf?”


He smiles, “I figured I would just try it. It looks fun.”


I smile and look at him. “Well, don’t die.” He rolls his eyes.


“Thanks Ru.” I laugh while Luke and Ashton take off towards the water. I lean back on my towel and put on my sunglasses, closing my eyes.


I’ve always loved the beach. That’s one of my favorite parts of living in Australia; there’s always a beach close by. My dad took me all the time when I was little; we would take off in the middle of the day, sometimes he’d even pick me up early from school, and we’d head to the beach, have a picnic, and hang out until the sun went down.


I’m about to doze off when I’m poked in the cheek. I open one eye and turn my head towards Calum, raising an eyebrow. “Yes?”


I watch as his face gets red. “Were you sleeping?”


I slide my sunglasses to the top of my head, “I was getting there.”


He flashes me a smile. “Oops, sorry.”


I roll my eyes and lay back down, drifting off.




When we get back to the house, it’s almost midnight. Ashton and I are both sunburned and Michael has been nagging us about it for the past hour.


“That’s why I take proper precautions.” He says. “And I warned you both about the dangers of the sun but nobody wants to listen to overly paranoid Michael.”


I roll my eyes. “Our sunburns aren’t affecting you so I don’t see why you’re complaining about them.”


“I just want to say I told you so.”


“Well you’ve said it about a hundred times,” Ashton says. “We get the point.”


Mikey smiles proudly and takes off towards his room. I walk to the kitchen and open the fridge, searching for a bottle of aloe vera. When I find nothing, I shut the door and grab my purse.


“Does anyone wanna go with me to the drug store to get some aloe vera?”


Calum stands up. “I’ll go with you.” I nod and watch out of the corner of my eye as Luke sends Calum a death glare. I slip my flip flops back on and grab the keys.


“Let’s go.” Calum follows me out to the car and we silently drive to the drug store. When we get out of the car, Calum rests his hand on the small of my back, making me flinch. “Dammit Hood, sunburn.”


His eyes go wide and he quickly moves his hand. “Sorry I forgot.”


I roll my eyes at him. “How did you forget? That’s the whole reason we’re here.” Calum shrugs and I lead him to the lotion section. I search for a few minutes until I find the kind that I want. Then we walk to the counter and I pay.


“What does this stuff do anyways?” Calum asks as we get back into the car.


“It soothes the burn so that I’m not in pain for the next couple days.”


“Can’t you just take a cold shower or something?”


I shake my head. “No, that doesn’t help. That just makes it ten times more painful.”


I pull up to the house and we both get out, walking inside. I pull off my crop top, leaving me in my bikini top. I open the bottle of aloe and start rubbing it on my shoulders and arms.


“Can you help get my back?” I ask Calum and he nods. He takes the bottle from me and squirts the gel onto my back, making me shiver. His hands feel rough as he rubs the gel in, going as slow as possible. He then kneels down and rubs aloe onto the back of my thighs and legs.


I get this feeling in my stomach that I can’t quite figure out, but it goes away when he stands back up again. He takes over and rubs aloe onto my chest, neck, and face. He’s staring at me, and the intensity is something that I’ve never felt before.


And then he’s gone; taking off down the hallway towards his room.


After a year in therapy, a boy has me confused as hell.

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