Too Young

Ireland's parents had always told her and her brother that love doesn't exist, which led to the rule of them not being allowed to date. Choosing to disregard her parents decision, she finds the first person who makes her feel special, Declan Johnson. But, while looking for the love she's never received, she becomes a victim.

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8. Chapter Eight;

I’ve been dating Declan for roughly a month now, and the one phrase that I’m getting tired of hearing is, “I’m worried about you.”

It first came from Mathis, unsurprisingly. We were doing a lab in Chemistry, talking away, when he initially brought up his concerns for me. We had been talking about the rumor that Scott Warner had been transferred to Higgins, the private school across the town, when he said, “Ireland, I think we should talk,” he had mumbled it- almost inaudibly, and I didn’t think that he had actually said anything for a moment until he said it a tiny bit louder.

I hardly looked up from the paper which I was busy doing the math for our lab on when I said, “Sure. What’s up?”

“I think Declan is dangerous,” he said. I chuckled a little bit, but when I looked up at his face, it was stony, almost, completely serious. He wasn’t joking.

“You have got to be kidding,” I said, a little bit upset. I began to think of all the subtle hints about Mathis liking me, from Lily thinking that he liked me, to the things that he says to me, to what my brother had said about him liking me, to his now-clear jealousy of my boyfriend. “He’s completely harmless,” I’d added.

He glances at my wrists, and I quickly push my sleeves down. “How did you get those bruises?” he asked, quietly enough that I am the only one that can hear him. His eyes linger on my wrists for a moment, even though they’re now covered, before moving to meet mine. “Because I have a distinct feeling that I know where they came from,” he said, his eyes growing dark with anger, which scared me, slightly.

I laughed. It was a loud, fake, sarcastic laugh that caused other groups to look over at us. I’m almost sure he saw right through the lies, but I played on anyways. “That was an accident,” I said, “Involving me and Nolan, not Declan.” I could see the disbelief in his eyes, and I knew that he knew I was lying. “Everything is fine, Mathis,” I said in my most convincing tone. “I’m fine. You know that I’d tell you if I wasn’t. You’re my best friend.” And it was true. Over the course of the year, Mathis had easily become my closest friend. Even if I hadn’t been spending really any time with him lately.

“Well,” he started, “You haven’t sat with us at lunch in two weeks, Declan stalks you between classes, you never have a free moment to yourself. I’m worried, Ireland.”

“Listen, Mathis,” I said, becoming angry with him. “You’re clearly just jealous. Nolan told me that you have a thing for me, so if this is your way of trying to break me and Declan up, I’ll tell you right now that it isn’t going to work.”

I can actually feel how much of a bitch I am being toward him right now. And I almost feel sorry for it, but when Declan accidentally hurt me, he was so sorry about it. He cried about it and apologized all night long. It was my fault anyways- I had brought up his father, which I’ve known since day one is an off limits topic. He bought me flowers and promised that it wouldn’t happen again. He even took me out to dinner. Of course he was sorry. Of course he wasn’t going to hurt me again. He wouldn’t have done all of that stuff if he didn’t care about me. He cares about me more than anyone else, it’s easy to see.

“Of course I care about you, Ireland! But this doesn’t have anything to do with me.” He’s trying his hardest to keep his voice low, but I think that the couple across the lab table from us have been hearing bits and pieces of the conversation. I shrugged him off and continued to do our lab, without speaking another word to him. “Nolan is worried about you, too. We just want to make sure that you’re okay.”

Of course, Nolan and Emily felt concerned, but I assured them over and over again that all they had to do was listen to Emily’s mom, JoAnn, who absolutely adores Declan. I even had told them that switching lunch tables had been my idea, and not Declan’s, because I wanted to stay away from Mathis, who had been acting off toward me, and I hadn’t known why until our argument in Chem. It might have been a lie, but since then, they haven’t bothered me about Declan. “Nolan,” I had said one day, “you’re letting Mathis get into your head. He and Declan don’t like one another. So, they’ve got some beef? That doesn’t mean that I’m not okay.”

Nolan had smiled at me, almost a sad, pity smile. “Okay, Ireland. If you say everything’s great, then I believe you.”

I didn’t, and still don’t, feel like I can talk to Lily about anything that’s been going on with me. Mostly, because I knew that she would probably react that same way that many others had been, but I assured myself that it was only because she wasn’t here to protect me like she had always been. When it came to Christian, Lily was always making sure that he never did anything to hurt me, even though we were never officially a couple. Naturally, it makes sense that she’d be more concerned with an actual boyfriend, like Declan.

Though, she had seemed to notice that something was a bit off about me in our last few video chats, all of which Declan was present for. He’s always around, now. He comes to Emily’s house if I don’t come over to his house, and we spend every minute that I’m not in class together in school. If only for him being there, she felt as though she couldn’t talk to me. Maybe, then again, I have a feeling that I had been becoming so used to that strange, concerned look coming from the people closest to me, that I had sort of expected it from her. After all, she didn’t even text me about it. Though, maybe that was a good thing. After all, I’m almost sure that Declan has been checking my messages, even though there is nearly nothing in my inbox.

Also, I think she noticed how tense he would always become whenever she brought up my trip to visit her in London, and to finally meet this boy of her dreams. It’s honestly been a crazy year and a half for both of us, finding love where we thought that it wasn’t possible.

The only person I have is Declan, I tell myself, when I pull out of the awful thoughts of everyone I love turning against me. Well, if I even still have him, I think as I apply heavy makeup to my cheek in Declan’s bathroom while getting ready for work. Last night’s events were the worst yet.

We had been in Declan's bedroom, laying on the bed when my mother called. I ignored her call, as I had been doing, but I was going to answer it. Truth be told, it was too weird for me to not be living at home. Emily's mother had no responsibility for me. She didn't birth me, and it's not like Emily and I had even been close friends before I moved in. Neither of them owed me anything, and I was only living there because of my brother. 

When I brought this concern up to Declan, he had said, "You can come live here with me. I mean, you basically already do." Which was true, I spent a lot of nights at Declan's house, but I really hadn't wanted to most nights. A lot of nights I would have homework to do and just want to lie in peace, but Declan would insist that I stay with him. When I wanted to be alone, there was always something that would be bothering him. He’d call me, telling me that his father and him had a bad night (this is the only time he would ever bring up his father), and he just wanted me to lay in bed with him. He didn't like when I didn't focus on him completely. I always went when he called like this. He’d be crying and emotional when I got to his house, and would cuddle up against me, his fingers tracing small circles on my stomach until we’d fall asleep. Most times, I’d see a bruise on his shoulder, or arm, or a scratch on his hand from whatever fight they had.

“You’re the only way he doesn’t come near me, Ireland,” he’d said one night, in a moment of weakness. I’d pet his curls, which I knew that he liked, and not say anything, because I knew that he didn’t want me to.

He’d offered more times for me to live with him, and each time, my answer became less certain. It started with a “no”, then an “I’m not sure”, and now a “let’s talk about it,”. Of course, the biggest reason that I didn't move into Declan's house is because I don’t think that I would be able to leave my brother. Above all, he is my best friend, and I don't think that Declan likes that very much. 

So, when my mother called, I truly planned on answering the phone. I hated no one more than her, but, at the same time, I missed her in a very strange way. But, Declan picked up my phone, something that has always irritated me, and hits the silent button. "Can I see my phone?" 

He turned toward me, obviously uncertain about my sudden outburst, clearly laced with sassiness, "It was just your mom." He said it so casually, acting as though he had done the right thing. The only problem is that I had been talking to him about missing my family. Sometimes, I had realized, family doesn't have to be perfect. While I had thought that my mother never cared for me, she had been trying to get in touch with both me and Nolan. 

"I feel like I might want to talk to her," I said, uncertain of myself. I had felt like she didn't care about us. She doesn't love, never had, never will, but she could care. She had been trying to reach out to me and Nol, who I think had only been ignoring her for my sake. I knew that he had always loved her a lot. 

"She's the one who kept you away from me," Declan said, anger clear in his voice. "Why would you want to go back to her when she won't let me love you? Or let you love me?" 

That was the other concern about Declan. He tried to move our relationship quickly, and it seemed too fast for me. He said love when I couldn't even think that I loved him. I could picture it, maybe, in the future. But, for now, he moved far too quickly.

"She's still my mother, Declan," I said, upset. When he argued again that I shouldn’t miss her, I stood up off of the bed. "I'm going to go home." He grabbed onto my wrist, harshly, and I let out a small yelp- he’d always grab onto my wrists first. "Please let go of me." My voice was even and clear, even though I knew that he had preferred it when I didn’t talk back to him. We had gotten to this point various times before, something that the now green-yellow rings around my tiny wrists reminded me of often. I don’t know what came over me this time, though. “You’re hurting me. Let go of my wrist.”

He didn't let go.

"Declan, let go of me." My teeth were clenched now and I was angry with him. “Let go now,” I practically had yelled.

His breathing was harsh. "Don't talk to me that way, Ireland." 

"I'll talk to you how I please." I'll admit, I was scared, but he didn't scare me that much that I had no confidence to talk back to him. I had already started, and thought that maybe, if I was as strong as him, he’d finally let go.

But, apparently, I should have been more scared. Because he hit me. It stung, and my hand flew up to my jaw where he clipped me. I didn't cry, not at first, anyways. I was in way too much shock. Declan was, too. "Baby, I am so sorry," He said, his voice small and fragile, not unlike the nights that he wanted me to wrap him up in my arms and protect him.

I stood there, unable to move, hand on my cheek, staring open-mouthed at Declan, and began crying. He came and wrapped his arms around me. I pulled back the first time, but he moved his hands to my hair and began petting it like he had the first night I spent with him. He pulled me into him, and while I told myself to not allow him to do this, I couldn't stop myself from falling into him, and breathing in the smell of him that I've come to find so comforting and so normal. "That will never happen again, Ireland. I don't know what came over me." 

I still couldn't speak. I tried but I didn’t know what to say. My mouth was opening and closing, but I couldn’t form a thought for the life of me. Declan bent down and kissed me, his curls tickling the same part of my face that he had just slapped. He stared deeply into my eyes, and said, “Ireland, I love you.” I didn’t say anything back, but I walked without thinking where he guided me. And I fell asleep in his bed, and he kept repeating, “I love you,” to me.

Now, I walk into the pharmacy, where Mathis is but Harold isn’t, naturally. I’d managed to sneak out before Declan woke up this morning. I imagine that he had been up pretty late last night after I fell asleep.

“Ireland,” Mathis says, staring at my face. “What happened to you?” My hand goes to my cheek, where I thought that I had covered the bruised skin well. “You look like you didn’t sleep at all.”

I breathe a sigh of relief, but part of me wishes that he had noticed the bruise. Ever since our fight earlier in the week, Mathis had been more distant with me, not that I really blame him. I wish that Mathis could save me from myself, and from Declan. “I’m fine,” I say to him now. I think that I could tell him what happened. I could tell him that Declan hit me, and that he’s hurt me before, but I don’t. I remember Declan’s voice when he apologized, and how he continually told me that he loved me last night. So, instead of telling Mathis the truth, I say, “Thanks for making sure that I’m okay.”

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