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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21. Twenty one

The next couple of weeks are busy. School is all about mock exams that are coming up and the boys are at practice every night so I don't see a lot of them and they don't see a lot of me. There's a lot of messaging our group chat that we have but there are so many of them talking all the time that I can't keep up. Plus, I'm studying all the time. I feel more pressure to do well here than I ever did in England, just because I don't want all the teachers to feel like I haven't been trying. I just feel like they'll single me out more seeing as I'm the newest student and everything.

We're in English before lessons start, the only time I really get to see any of the boys and I'm just panicking because we have an English exam later that day. 

"Ugh." I put my head on the desk and Mr Jackson laughs. 

"What do you have to be all ugh about?" he says. "You've been passing every test with flying colours. But, speaking of flying colours, you really need to stop putting the 'u' in colour."

I groan. "See! I'm going to fail." 

"That isn't going to make you fail." Dan says. "Plus, it's just a mock. Calm down."

"I can't!" I protest. "I can't handle maths."

"Math." Luke corrects me. 

"Luke!" Alex shouts at him. "She doesn't need this right now!"

"She's worried about English, I'm correcting her English!" he says defensively. 

"Actually, she's worried about Math!" Jesse points out.

"Exactly." Luke says. "Math, not maths."

"None of you are helping." Mr Jackson says, rolling his eyes. He smiles at me then. "Alice, they're just practice ones to see where you're at so far in the year. No teacher is going to be mad if you don't pass. However, they will be really happy if you do pass, which you will."

It turns out the exams do go fine, I find them pretty easy. Unless I just thought they were easy when in reality I just misunderstood every question and have actually done awfully but I try not to think of that option. The boys had their big game that they had to practice for so much as well and don't have to go to practice as much for a few more weeks so to celebrate everything, we all go over to Harry's for some drinks on a Saturday night. 

Harry's parents are there and even though they stay upstairs, it still makes me feel kind of odd drinking in the presence of Brie and Daniel. Not that we're getting drunk but still, this is not what you're meant to do around parents' friends, even though my parents know this is happening.

Either way, I'm kind of relieved to be doing this. It's so relaxing to just sit with all of them and have this feeling where we know we don't have to be doing anything at all and where we're not really doing anything at all, just talking and catching up. I'm sat on a couch next to Harry and everybody's just sort of in this big circle around the room. This is my favourite room of the house, I still love that sunshine yellow.Also, I'm glad we aren't properly getting drunk. It's just that stage of drinking where you're completely aware of yourself and everything, you're just a little more relaxed. 

"Alice, did you have a nice Christmas by the way?" Tom says.

"Yeah, it was a nice couple of weeks thank you." I smile at him.

"Yeah, a nice couple of weeks for you." Dan says and Harry laughs, shaking his head like he knows what's coming. "Harry over here wouldn't shut up complaining that you weren't there."

"Oh excuse me for missing our friend!" Harry says defensively. 

"I missed her too, I didn't need to go around announcing it!" Dan argues, but they're both laughing. Dan looks back at me, grinning. "Seriously, I don't think there's one thing this guy wouldn't do for you."

I laugh, a little awkward. I don't know how to deal with how personal this is getting. I know it's nice things he's saying but still, it's kind of awkward seeing as me and Harry were trying to move on from being all sentimental and liking each other and everything like that but to my surprise when I look at Harry he doesn't look uncomfortable whatsoever, he's actually smiling a little.

"I mean, there's nothing I wouldn't do for any of you." he shrugs.

"Yeah but you're like..." Tom shrugs, smiling a little. "You're like in love with her."

My stomach tightens at that. I don't really want to have this conversation, it's making me feel so uncomfortable. Tom says it like it's half a joke but half like it's something they've all noticed and have been wanting to say but haven't found the chance yet. I wonder if that's the case, if they all thing he likes me as more than a friend. I've been pretty sure for these past couple of weeks but I didn't want to assume anything. I'm expecting Harry to just laugh and we move on from the subject but instead he comes out with "Well yeah, I am a little bit."

I look straight at him, shocked. "What?"

He laughs, still as casual as always. "Well maybe in love is too far, but I do love you as my friend. And I like you as more. You knew that."

"I didn't." I say, still stunned. He frowns at me.

"Of course you did."

"I thought you were over it." I say. I know I thought he still felt the same way but to hear him say it actually shocks me and I don't know why. I think it's the way he's just being so open about it, unbelievably casual when I'm practically having a heart attack. He just laughs. 

"I'm not over it."

I look to Dan and thankfully he looks as confused as I feel. "Wait, am I the only one finding that whole moment way less romantic than it was meant to be?"

"Dude, we've been waiting for you to tell her that for weeks and you just say it like that?" Luke frowns. 

"What?" Harry says, defensive. "She knew!"

"I didn't know!" I protest.

"Well I thought you knew." he looks at me and shrugs. 

"Wait, how do you feel Alice?" Dan says and I shoot him a look and I can tell he immediately regrets saying it. My heart is pounding I'm so shocked that all this has actually just come up in conversation. "Anyway, everybody happy about our win last weekend?" 

"Yeah, it was great." Jesse says quickly. 

"We played really well." Alex sips his beer. 

The whole subject is avoided for the rest of the night and the mood is kind of dampened for me. I don't know, it just feels like things were left open and awkward and I feel like maybe Harry was embarrassed and I know I feel embarrassed and I don't want him to be upset because he embarrassed me- I don't know, the whole thing felt like a train wreck to me. 

I just leave when Jesse, Alex and Tom are all leaving so he doesn't really notice and I'm not left awkwardly alone with him once everybody else has gone. He calls me a few minutes after I get home though. 

"Hey." I say, like nothing's wrong.

"Hey." he says, sounding like normal him. "You left in a hurry tonight."

"No I didn't." I say and cringe at how defensive I sound. 

"Yeah, you did." he says and sighs. "What, are you mad at me or something?" 

"No!" I say. "No, not at  all."

"Then what's wrong?" 

"Nothing's wrong."

"Alice, I don't know if you forgot but when we don't talk about our issues, it doesn't go well for us." he says and I laugh at him, trying to lighten the mood so he'll move on from the whole subject.

"Our issues. That's kind of dramatic." I say. 

"Alice." he says, frustrated but laughing a little too. "Seriously, can we talk?" 

I groan. "It makes me uncomfortable."

"That doesn't mean we don't talk about it." he points out. "Seriously. Talk to me."

"I don't know. I just find it weird how honest you were."

"Why though?" 

"It was just weird hearing you say it." I shrug even though he can't see me. "And I thought we were just moving on from it."

"What, because I don't want to be with you?" he says but he doesn't sound like he's being accusatory. 

"Well, yeah." I didn't even realise that was the problem but I guess it is. I do want him to like me back, but not if he doesn't want us to be together because then it almost feels like we're just kind of stuck. "And I get that you don't want to be with me and I get that you had a pretty bad break up before- I do get all of it. But if that's how it's going to be, then I just want us to be friends."

"But I do like you." he says. 

"Yeah I know, but maybe it's best you just don't tell me." I sigh, exasperated. "I don't want it to feel like I'm having a go at you or anything, I'm not, but if we're just going to be friends then maybe we should act that way."

He pauses and I kind of feel like I've been too harsh but he sounds as kind as always when he talks again. 

"You're right." he says. "I'm sorry, I should have thought about that."

"It's okay." I say and then laugh a little. "We've gotta talk about our issues right?" 

He chuckles. "Yeah, you're right."

He pauses. "Just for the record..."

"Yeah?" 

"Do you feel the same way?" 

I hesitate, but why not say something that you're going to regret keeping to yourself? 

"Yes, of course I do."

"Okay." he says, a smile in his voice. 

"Alright." I say, smiling to myself.

"Alright." he says. 

"Okay." I say and we both laugh at the same time. 

"Night Alice." he says.

"Goodnight." I say and he ends the call. That's something I have with Harry that I have with nobody else; completely honesty. No embarrassment, no judgement, just absolute honesty. And I really cherish that. 

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