Hurdles

Our relationship. It wasn't sonnet inspiring, the story of it won't make thousands want to listen. But it was complicated and it was special to us. It was certainly more than I bargained for from just seeing a boy with a football helmet across the room.

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34. Thirty four

Jason's about five minutes away on Saturday and I'm actually really excited. I end up really liking Jason, no more than in a friendly way, but I do really like him. He's just funny and very carefree and generally nice to be around. He makes me laugh a lot, like really really laugh and I haven't laughed like that in a while, so even if tonight had nothing to do with Harry I'd be pretty excited. Never the less, I am kind of looking forward to Harry being there. Maybe it's the most petty thing in the world to want to bother him, but it's just something I can't really resist.

Jason picks me up and grins at me when I get in the car. "You ready to make a little bitch jealous?" 

I laugh at him. "Yes. To be honest, I'm excited either way, this is going to be fun."

"Yeah, it's always pretty fun." he says happily. "There's gonna be loads of us there. Both teams, some guys will bring dates or their girlfriends or whatever. Plus, it gets pretty competitive which is always good. Especially against Mr 'I'm the quarterback so I'm the best'."

I laugh. "God, you hate him."

"He's just so full of himself!" he says and I know he can come across that way but at the same time I know he's really not but I'm not in the mood to defend him so I let Jason think whatever he wants. "Oh and there's a party afterwards if you wanna go to that. It's my brother's party, a college thing, it should be pretty good."

"Yeah, okay." I agree. 

We're the last ones to arrive so we get there and he was right, there are loads of us. I go around the group, avoiding the guys on the football team of course. Dan's girlfriend does come and say hi to me though and my stomach clenches I'm so scared she's going to have a go at me or something but she just pulls me into a hug. 

"Hey Alice." she squeezes me before letting go, a big smile on her face. "I'm Lauren, Dan's girlfriend, we haven't actually met yet!" 

"Oh I know!" I laugh, a little nervously.

"I know it's weird of me to say hi." she laughs a little and then leans in. "I just wanted to say good for you for not putting up with their bullshit. I kept trying to get them to tell you, I do not blame you for not being friends with them."

"Oh." I smile at her, relieved. "Thank you. I really appreciate that."

She smiles again before going to say hi to the other guys and I feel all warm inside after that little encounter. That was so nice of her, to be so understanding and kind about it. That happiness comes from such a pure, kind place it makes me want to forget all about making Harry mad but then Harry spots me and I'm ready for that plan all over again. He just stares at me and I act like I haven't even noticed he's there yet.

"Hey." Jason comes over, smiling at me. "We're going over to get our shoes."

"Okay." I smile back at him. 

He glances over his shoulder as we walk to get our shoes and chuckles. "He's about ready to throw a bowling ball at my head."

"Oh god." I laugh a little but I'm a little nervous too. "Are you sure this is a good idea?"

"It's harmless." he waves it off.

I have to say, it is a lot of fun throughout the night and I definitely feel vindicated. I don't look at Harry once but out of the corner of my eye I can see him looking over at Jason and I a lot. We aren't doing anything particularly romantic because we don't want it to be too obvious that we're trying to get to Harry, but we sit quite close together and he comes up and helps me bowl the ball at one point which makes us both laugh and he whispers in my ear whenever he wants to talk to me. There's absolutely nothing romantic between us so we laugh whenever we do any of this but it seems to have an effect on Harry either way. 

We're all over in the cafe part after the game and I'm at the bar area getting a drink when Harry comes and stands next to me. I don't look at him but I can see him looking at me. 

"Don't even think about it." he says.

"Think about what?" 

"Dating Jason to make me jealous."

I laugh. "If I date anybody, it hasn't got anything to do with you. If you're jealous, then that's your problem."

I turn around to Jason then who's stood behind us. "Wanna head over to that party?" 

He smiles at me, glancing at Harry. "Yeah, sure. Let's go."

We drop by my house quickly on the way so I can get changed into something a little more party appropriate and let my parents know the plan and then we go to the party. I'm pretty sure it's the first time I've ever enjoyed a party in my life. For some reason, I'm completely comfortable with dancing and being in a game of spin the bottle (even if it never lands on me) and talking to new people. Maybe falling out with all of the guys was actually a blessing in disguise. It's the first time I've ever had to really stand up for myself and it's like it's given me this new confidence I never knew I was capable of having. Plus, that whole issue is not on my mind whatsoever while I'm at the party which is so refreshing, but also makes it so much worse when Harry shows up. 

"However much I dislike him, I've gotta give the guy credit for his determination." Jason says to me. 

I am kind of nervous to see him. I told my parents it was just a little party, but there's so much alcohol and there are people with drugs and I'm pretty sure if Harry told them what it was really like I'd be in trouble.

"I think I'm going." I hug Jason goodbye. "Thank you for tonight."

"Woah, why are you going?" he frowns when he pulls away. 

"Have you seen the look on his face? I don't think I have much choice." I tell him and he looks at Harry, chuckling.

"Alright, see you."

Harry's storming over but I just walk over and meet him. 

"Hey, are you here to give me a ride?" I say and he glares at me. 

"You could say that."

I just follow him down all the stairs and out to his car and part of me is tempted to get in the back seat but even I think that'd be a little bit too bratty of me. Not that I haven't been too bratty already but I don't know, he seems angrier than ever right now and I don't really want to push it so I sit in the passenger seat and we're both silent. I have to admit, in this moment it's hard to not apologise and make everything okay with him again because I know the only reason he's angry is because he's worried about me being at a party like that. I so almost say I'm sorry but then I realise I'm not. I can do whatever I want to do, I can take care of myself, and there's no way I'm going to be the one to apologise first. 

We're silent the whole way home and then just as I'm about to get out of the car, he puts the locks on. I raise an eyebrow at him. 

"That's not creepy." I mutter and he hits the steering wheel, making me jump. 

"You're not going to thank me?" he says, anger in his eyes. "Why do I even bother coming to make sure you're okay when you treat me like this?"

"You didn't have to make sure I was okay! I was fine, I can look after myself and either way Jason was there!"

"Do you really think I was going to leave you at a party like that? I got there and people were taking LSD or hooking up, it wasn't a place for you to be!"

"Oh my god!" I shout, frustrated wit him. "You have your own child to take care of, you don't have to look after me too!"

He's quiet then but he still looks mad. "Maybe if you stopped acting like such a child I wouldn't treat you like one."

"And now you sound like my teacher." I shake my head, looking out of the window to avoid looking at him. We're both quiet for a moment before he talks again. 

"Alice, I've told you I'm sorry." he says. "How many times can I apologise?" 

"I know you've apologised but I can't forgive you." I shrug, looking at him again. I feel like it's the first time I'm being actually honest with him, no games or fronts. "I wish I could. I wish I could look at you and just get over it, but I can't."

"You know I can't choose you over my own son." 

"And I'm not asking you to." I tell him. "I'm not mad that you have a kid. If you'd have told me earlier, yes, maybe we wouldn't be together, but maybe we would and I know for sure I wouldn't be angry with you like I am now. You keeping that from me hurt me like you can't even imagine."

"I know." he says, tears in his eyes. "I know I hurt you, I understand that I made a big mistake but I made it and I want to get past it."

He's there apologising to me and honestly, what I want is to be with him and to make it work but now I'm considering the fact that I can forgive him, I'm considering something I haven't yet. I don't know if I could actually be with him if he has a kid. I know I don't have to be anything to that little boy, but what if Harry and I do end up staying together and getting really serious? 

"We can't." I say, tears in my eyes now. Some spill over onto his cheek. 

"See!" he says, his voice cracking. "I knew you wouldn't want to be with me."

"You still should have told me." I say even though I feel like that's not what we're talking about now. "And I do want to be with you. But you have to understand that this isn't something I understand how to think about. I'm not ready to have a responsibility like that in my life for a long time."

"You wouldn't have any responsibility." he protests.

"But say we do get really serious." I point out. "Say we're still together when we're twenty two and twenty three. Then I'm twenty two with a six year old step son and... I love you Harry but I can't do that."

He nods sadly, looking down at the steering wheel. "Okay."

It's painfully silent then. I don't really know what to say. 

"So what happens now?" I ask eventually. 

He shrugs. "I guess we just split."

I hesitate. "Okay." 

"I just don't think it'd work us being friends."

"No, I think you're right."

"Okay." he says quietly and unlocks the doors. I just get out and go inside and I try and figure out what it is I'm feeling. I'm not angry, I'm not upset, everything makes sense. I'm just really sad. I thought I was sad before, but I don't think I was before because it didn't feel as bad as this. 

I can't sleep but Dan phones me a couple of hours later anyway. I'm not angry with him or any of them anymore, I'm still annoyed and I still think I was right in being angry but I just feel like we're past it now. Plus I would really like to talk to Dan. 

"Hey." I say, my voice rough from crying. "I'm sorry Dan."

"No, I'm sorry." he says softly. "I know I should have told you. I wanted to. As soon as you guys started getting serious, I wanted to, but it was too big a thing to just tell you without his permission."

"No I get that." I promise. "I shouldn't have been mad at you. I was just upset."

"You had every right to be. I would have been pissed."

I pause. "Do all the other guys hate me?" 

"Not at all." he says, sounding so kind it makes me want to cry all over again. 

"We can still hang out right?" I ask. 

He sighs. "About that. You and Harry can't not be friends."

"Dan." I close my eyes. "We can't be friends."

"You're saying that now because the whole thing is still very new. Once you've gotten over your big emotional ordeal, you'll be able to be friends." 

"I don't know." I say. "I really don't think it would work. Would I still want to be with him if he didn't have his son? Of course, it'd be perfect. And I hate to say that it's something I can't look past, but I can't look past it. I'm sure he's a great dad and his little boy seems perfect, but I can't do it. And at the same time, I do want to be with him, so we can't just be friends."

"I get where you're coming from, I do. But I don't think you two can just separate. He's been on the phone to me for hours, heartbroken. I barely said one word, he just talked and talked about you. This wasn't some stupid teenage thing, you can't forget it ever happened."

"Nobody thinks their stupid teenage thing is a stupid teenage thing when it's actually happening." I argue. 

"Well I don't know what it is on your side, but I'm telling you he's in love with you big time." he says. "He was at mine tonight when he found out what party you were at and I've never seen anybody get up so fast, I swear. He even yelled at me for 'letting you go somewhere like that'."

"That is something that bothers me though." I point out. "He's too protective. He never trusted that I could actually look after myself, which I can."

"You're really trying to convince yourself that that one flaw is enough to keep you two away from each other?"

"Dan." I groan. "Stop. I'm sad. I don't want a life lesson, I want pizza and lots of pillows."

So he brings me pizza and lots of pillows and stays with me to watch late night TV and talk about things that aren't important and I don't feel happy now, but I do feel happier.

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