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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9. Chapter Nine;

Declan picks me up. I had been expecting this. Mathis and I exit the pharmacy at the same time, and he waves to me, smiling. I can see, even through the tinted windows, that Declan is staring at Mathis, hard. I wave back at him.

I had made an attempt to be nicer to Mathis at work today, and I could tell that he appreciated my attempts, even though I had been a pretty huge bitch to him during Chemistry this last week.

“I’m really sorry,” I had said to him when the morning rush died down. “For how I’ve been acting.”

He looked like he wanted to talk about Declan, again, but he didn’t. I have to admit that I had been thankful for this, and for all of the times since our fight that Mathis looked like he wanted to talk, but didn’t. “I’ve just missed you, Ireland.” His voice wasn’t natural, almost like it had pained him to say this. We had never been that close before this year – how could you miss someone when you hardly know them at all?

We had both been going about our own work when he walked up next to me, later in the day, so that Harold couldn’t hear him, and said, “All that stuff you said earlier this week, about me being jealous?” There weren’t any customers in the store, and Harold never heard anything that anyone said, even when they were shouting, so I had the feeling that this was supposed to be an intimate moment.

“Yeah,” I prompted him to go on, curious as to what he would say next.

He had paused for just a moment, as if he hadn’t entirely planned out what to say before he had come over to me. “I do like you, but that’s not what any of this is about.”

I didn’t know how to respond, because of everything that I had thought he might say (most of them including hi denying that he had any sort of romantic feelings towards me), this had not been one of them. I thought, again, about telling him what had happened the night before. I decided that I didn’t want to, and instead said nothing at all. I suppose, that even in that moment, I knew that saying nothing would destroy me, but I did it anyways.

I slide into the passenger seat of Declan’s car. “Hey,” I say, cautiously. I’m not sure what to expect from him this morning. He’s still looking at Mathis in his driver’s side mirror. “Hey, Declan,” I say again, louder than I had before, but in a pleasant tone.

He looks at me now. I try not to notice that his eyes go to my cheek, checking if we were still okay, before meeting mine. After all, had I not covered my face this morning, I would have been telling the world – or, at least, Mathis – what had happened. I didn’t, though. And for all of the times that I’ve not known to expect from Declan, I realize that he had no idea what to expect from me today, either. He smiles when he finally looks in my eyes. Did this smile mean that he was happy to see me, or did it mean that he’d just been relieved to see that his secret now belonged to me, and would stay with me, for as long as I would allow myself to keep it. “Do you want to get something to eat?”

“Sure,” I nod. He looks out his mirror again, presumably searching for Mathis, before pulling out of the parking space. We go to the Pub, where I order the same thing that I had when we went on our first date: salad and fries. Declan doesn’t order anything, unlike our first date.

He sits across from me in the booth, talking about some video that he saw on the internet this morning, and I bring my hand to my face, wondering if the hit even really happened. He’s still talking, but in all honesty, I’m not listening to anything that he’s saying, until, “What do you say?” I almost don’t even catch this, but he’s staring at me, waitingly, expectedly, like he had on the first day of school.

I look at him, his blonde curls sitting just above his eyes, and a smile on his face. “I’m sorry,” I say. “I zoned out. What did you say?”

He chuckles. “I asked if you’d reconsidered moving in with me.” I watch his face carefully. He’s still smiling. More than he’s ever smiled, in fact. The Declan that I met on the first day of school didn’t smile much. Is this happy guy really the same one that hit me last night? I love you, I love you, I love you. The words played on repeat in my head. Declan loves me. No one else has ever told me that.

I smile back at him. “Might as well, right? I mean, I practically already live with you.”

This is what I tell Nolan when we return to the house. Declan paid for our meal, and when he stopped to put gas in his car, he bought me flowers. He bought me lots of flowers.

“Besides,” I say to Nolan and Emily, “I hate that JoAnn has to take care of both of us. Declan’s parents are more than fine with me moving in.” I don’t even know why I agreed to move in with Declan. I had still felt scared at lunch with Declan. I didn’t think that he’d snap in public, but that didn’t mean that I’d be safe when we got back. I figured that keeping Declan happy was the best way to keep myself safe.

“You know that you’re fine living here, too, Ireland.” Nolan’s eyes look like Mathis’ have looked for the last few weeks.

Emily helps me, however. I’ve somehow managed to convince her that I’m okay and happy. I don’t know how, I’m not sure that I’ve managed to convince myself that I’m okay. “It would actually be a lot easier on my mom.” Her voice is quiet, like she’s not sure if she should say this, but she does it anyways.

Nolan’s face is incredulous, his eyes grow darker in the same way that Declan’s had last night, and he begins to protest this with Emily. Clearly, I’ve been a topic of interest among the two of them. I sigh, exasperated, and grab my few belongings that remain in Emily’s room. “I don’t know what your problem is, Nol, but I’m fine. I’m happy.” I grab the last thing sitting on the futon that I slept on when I actually stayed at Emily’s house. It’s a picture of Christian, the only one that I’ve ever kept printed out. I stuff it in my duffle bag and exit Emily’s house, without saying another word to either of them.

When we get back to Declan’s house, he’s sensitive. He tells me that his father was home that morning, and their time together hadn’t ended well. Despite the fact that I had been basically living in Declan’s house for the last month, I hadn’t met his father. In fact, I had hardly ever seen his mother. When I do see her, she seems startled. She’s always startled, like seeing someone in the house terrifies her to no end. It’s strange. The house was so large and basically the entire left side belonged to Declan. We could go into one of the kitchens and eat without ever seeing another person. A lot of the time it felt like it was just the two of us in the house.

It felt like it was just the two of us all of the time, actually. We had been invited several places by Mathis, Nolan, and some of the friends that Declan has on the football team, but Declan never wanted to go to any of them. If he did agree, we showed up for maybe half an hour before he’d get antsy to leave. He never took any alcohol at any party, insisting that he couldn’t stand the thought of driving me around when he had alcohol in his system. He hardly actually wanted to do anything when we were at these places. We would sit on the couch, wherever we were, and talk to one another, and he’d act annoyed when someone else (especially Mathis or Nolan) came over to speak with us. He simply preferred to keep to himself. And he preferred to keep me to himself. I had been making that task easier by isolating myself from everyone around me, Lily included.

She had been calling a lot less often, likely because I’ve been picking up a lot less often. The last message that she left, well, she had sounded tired. Of what, I couldn’t be sure. Was it of trying to reach out to me, was it of her new life, or was it something else completely? Either way, she had said that her dad no longer thought that me visiting was a good idea. I had a suspicion that she was lying to me, but could I blame her? I lied to everyone. Declan didn’t like Lily much, but he liked her more than the rest of my friends, probably because she wasn’t here to take up all of my time. He’d idly hang around when we video chatted, which Lily didn’t like, and would come up with reasons why I should get off of the video chat. Most of the time, the reason was valid. Declan was always right.

“Why don’t we go swimming?” All day, Declan had been suggesting that we do things that I love to do: eat at the Pub, cuddle and read, watch Gossip Girl, even though he thinks it’s the dumbest show in the world, and, now, swim. Though he hadn’t mentioned last night again, I could tell that he’s still trying to make up for what had happened.

“Sure,” I nod. I decide to let last night go. I had already made an agreement with him. This was meant to be our secret. So I dig my swimsuit out of my duffle bag, hitting my hand off of the only hard thing in there: the picture. I look at it for a second. It, of course, is the picture of Christian that I had taken literal seconds before the accident last year. I hastily shove it back into my bag before Declan reenters the room in his swim trunks.

“Get dressed,” he says, chuckling. “I’ll meet you outside.” As he exits the room, I realize that my heart is racing. What would happen if Declan ever found that picture? I realize that I have to make a decision, and it has to happen right now. I’m either choosing my old life or Declan.

I take the picture out of the frame, rip it in half, and then in half again. I rip it so many times, until you can’t tell who was in the picture in the first place. I throw the remnants of the photo into Declan’s trash can and change into my swimsuit. After all, Christian is gone, and Declan loves me.

“Took you long enough,” he shouts when I finally come outside.

“I got lost,” I say, which isn’t entirely untrue. This house is massive, and I tried three different doors before finding the one that led to the small lot that contained a pool and hot tub.

“Come join me.” He’s already in the deep end of the pool, floating and waiting. I slide into the water easily and swim toward him. He pulls me in for a kiss. It’s tender, loving, and long, much different from the previous kisses we had shared. They tended to be either quick because we were in school, or needing and anxious, as if, like me, I was all Declan had for love.

He pulled me under the water all too quickly. One minute, we’re kissing, and then, I can’t breathe. The water is bubbling around me. I can’t see Declan, but I can feel his arms on my shoulders. Did he see that picture of Christian? Was he actually going to drown me? What did I do wrong?

Then he pulls me up, and he’s laughing. Not a maniacal, angry laugh. No. A light-hearted one, as if I had just told him a really funny joke. He was only screwing around with me. I can breathe more than I could a minute ago, but my breaths are rapid and short. I feel like I’m hyperventilating.

“Are you okay?” He asks. I smile, a hard to muster smile, my heart still racing, and nod at him. He moves closer to me and pulls me into a hug. When he peels back from me, my eyes must still be filled with terror, because his smile falters slightly. He brings his right hand to my cheek. At first, it hurt a little, but then the pain subsided, almost numbly. “I’m so sorry.” I don’t know if he’s talking about scaring me or hitting me, but I tell him that it’s okay, and lean into him again, the words replaying in my mind once again, I love you. I love you. I love you.

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