Back for more? I'm happy you dropped in, because Sean's story continues. Hopefully you read Becoming Charlie - Part One and Two, and met the perfect-for-each-other couple, Charlie and Sean. If you did, then you know how their story turns out. BUT, what you don't know is everything Sean did to get there. Well, I'm going to let him share it with you. If you're itching for more, read on. If you didn't read my last blog post, scroll down and read the prologue first. It's a must!
Spring 2002 - Almost Seven Years Later
"It's just one date, man," Peter Riggins, one of the only people on this earth I considered a true friend, said as I glared out the passenger window of his piece of crap car. "Please, Reese?"
I could feel his pleading eyes on me as he put the car in park at the curb in front of Katie's house, and I knew I wouldn't be able to get out of it this time without causing a scene and possibly ruining our friendship over it.
It wasn't entirely his fault. Pete didn't remember why I had no interest in dating anyone. He'd think I was crazy if I told him, so I usually just said no, and left it at that, when his girlfriend suggested I go on a double date with them and one of her friends or her sister.
Katie's sister was intolerable, the absolute opposite of anybody I would be interested in if I ever considered dating. And I wasn't—even considering it. It didn't matter to me who it was. I wasn't interested. Never would be again.
Yet, here we were. I sighed heavily then groaned as Katie and her twin sister closed the front door and happily ran toward Pete's car. Pete had tricked me into going to eat and watch a movie with him and Katie. He just accidentally on purpose forgot to tell me Kaley would be coming too. He'd be lucky if I didn't kick his ass for this.
I thought about faking an illness and telling him to take me home, but I knew this wouldn't stop unless I put a stop to it myself.
Just before the girls reached the car, I turned my head and pegged Pete with a death glare. His brown eyes widened a little. "This isn't a date. If she can't pay for her own meal, movie ticket and popcorn, you're buying them. Immediately after the movie is over, you will take me home. I won't apologize for anything that happens tonight." With my jaw clenched, I spoke quietly, but threateningly, through my teeth. "You feel me?"
His shoulders slumped in relief, then he plastered on a phony smile for Katie when she opened my door. "Hey, baby—"
"You can sit in the back," I said, interrupting Pete.
Katie rolled her eyes, but was smart enough not to fight with me about it. I didn't want to be rude to anyone, but they were leaving me no other choice. No meant no. There was only one way left to explain the definition of that word. They'd figure it out soon enough. I wasn't happy, and I refused to pretend to be.
"Hey, Reese," Katie said as she scooted across the backseat and sat behind me, leaving Kaley the seat behind Pete. The passenger side backdoor latch was broken, so the girls had to go around to the other side to get in. Like I said before… piece of crap car.
"Hey," I muttered, and then reached over and turned the radio up until it distorted. I didn't even like the song that was playing, but listening to the worst song in the world was better than carrying on a conversation with Kaley. My younger sister was deaf. I had never envied her before, but tonight I would have given just about anything to have been the sibling to end up with that disability.
Out of my peripheral, I saw Pete shake his head. I ignored him as he put the car in drive and pulled back onto the road.
Pete turned the radio down when we got to a stop sign. "Where are we eating?"
"Doesn't matter to me," Katie said.
I cracked a smile, because I knew what was coming next.
"I don't care either," Kaley said.
Pete huffed. "Chinese? Fast food? Mexican? Italian? Just pick somewhere, Katie. Please."
"I don't care," Katie said.
"What sounds good to you, Reese?" Kaley said. "I heard you were an amazing cook. Maybe you could tell us some place great to eat."
I lost my smile, instantly infuriated that Katie told her that. I didn't want Kaley knowing anything about me, especially that I knew how to cook. Next, she would ask if she could come over so I could make her something. "I don't care where we eat," I finally said, but it wasn't the truth. I did care. I wanted to eat at my house… alone.
"You're not helping," Pete growled.
I let out a low chuckle. "I never intended to help you."
Pete placed his elbow on the door and leaned his head on his hand, causing his dark auburn hair to stick up on the left side. "I guess we'll just drive around the Loop all night until someone picks something."
That was not acceptable. The only thing worse than having to eat and watch a movie with Katie's sister was being forced to stay in a car with her all night. I already felt claustrophobic. Somebody would get their feelings hurt or their butt kicked if I didn't get out of this car soon. "Go to Sombreros," I said.
"Finally!" Pete said. "Thank you."
"If nobody picks a movie, you can just take me home after we eat," I said, hoping there would be an argument about what we were going to see.
"Oh, we're going to see A Walk to Remember," Katie said. "I heard it's sooo good. Kaley has a huge crush on Shane West. She thinks he looks just like Reese."
"Katie!" Kaley whisper-shouted, but it didn't sound to me like Kaley was really all that mad that Katie busted her out about her obsession over me. It wasn't as if I didn't know. The girl was annoyingly obvious about it at school. I avoided her at all costs.
When the girls started giggling, I closed my eyes and let my head fall back against the headrest. It was going to be a long night.
Once we arrived at the restaurant, I got out of the car and went inside, not bothering to wait on the others.
"How many?" the host said.
I smiled, wondering if I had enough time to ask the woman to come to my table five minutes after she sat us and tell me that I had a phone call. I could tell Pete it was my mom, and that she needed me to come home now. That wouldn't work though. Mom didn't know which restaurant we were eating at. "Four… at a table, not a booth, please."
As she counted out silverware and menus for the four of us, a weird vibe swept through me, as if maybe someone was staring at me or something. I clenched my fingers, trying to stave off the tingling that alerted me that my disorder was about to make an appearance if I didn't find something to focus on. I turned around to see that Pete, Katie and Kaley were just walking through the door, so it couldn't be any of them giving me that feeling. I brushed it off as I looked back at the host then followed her to our table.
"I wish she'd sat us at a booth," Kaley complained as she chose the chair to my left. "These chairs are so uncomfortable."
I looked at Kaley without smiling as Pete sat in the chair to my right and Katie took the one directly in front of me. "I told her to sit us at a table. I don't like anyone sitting right beside me while I eat."
I glanced up when a waiter walked up to our table. "Welcome to Sombreros. My name is Juan, and I'll be your server tonight."
"Hey," I said with a smile. "I'd like the punch and a small cheese dip, and I'll be on a ticket by myself. Gracias." Ignoring the hurt look in Kaley's eyes, the daggers shooting out of Katie's and the just-let-me-get-out-of-here-in-one-piece expression on Pete's mug, I grinned as I opened the menu and brought it up in front of my face, even though I already knew what I was going to order.
As the others ordered drinks and Pete ordered a large cheese dip for the three of them then informed Juan he was picking up the ticket for the two girls and himself, the feeling came back, the one where my fingers tingled and I could feel eyes on me. I just couldn't shake it.
When I laid the menu on the corner of the table, Pete was still studying his options and Kaley was talking to Katie about a girl that was in her Chemistry class. I tuned out what I could, but it was difficult to ignore the negativity spewing from Kaley's glossy, pink lips.
Not wanting to be any part of her gossip train, I took a moment to scan the people around us.
I'd only managed to scout out about half the room when Juan came back with our drinks and appetizers. Once we'd placed our food orders and Juan left, I resumed people watching.
Katie and Kaley were still chattering away, and I had no interest in talking to Pete. I was still angry with him for putting me in this situation. I knew it was all Katie's fault and that she had probably put their relationship on the line if he didn't get me to go on at least one date with her sister. I honestly didn't care if she broke up with him or hated me before the night was over. Pete was better off without someone who gave him ultimatums. And I didn't care to tell him that in front of her—or her sister—if it came down to that.
I had every intention of making sure this never happened again.
The breath caught in my throat and goose bumps broke over the skin of my arms when my eyes locked on a familiar face across the room.
The pretty red-haired woman wasn't looking at me. I wasn't sure she'd looked at me at all, since there wasn't even an ounce of worry etched in her expression. I was almost certain Victoria Mason would have appeared nervous had she seen me, and not only because she had patched me up in the emergency room twice over the last month. The odd feeling I'd had upon arriving at the restaurant and the whole time we'd been here had absolutely nothing to do with this woman. It had everything to do with the teenage girl sitting across the booth table from her.
Charlie Mason. It had been years since I'd even allowed myself to think her name. It hurt just as much as I thought it would.
Quickly, I put my head down and looked at my lap, concentrating on keeping my breathing normal, the buzzing to a small roar and the demons at bay. It wasn't safe to keep looking at her. I wasn't sure what would happen if she looked up and caught me staring at her. I hadn't seen her eyes in almost seven years. What would happen if she got any closer to me? Our table was in between their booth and the restroom. She would have to walk by me to get to it if she needed to go in there.
I'd known they were back from Germany. Somehow I'd sensed it even before my mom broke the news to me before the school year started last fall. I'd almost made it the whole school year without running into her. The school was big and there were a lot of kids, but the thing that helped me avoid her the most was my disorder.
I noticed it two weeks after school started. My fingers began to tingle when I was in the library. I'd looked up and saw her for the first time since I was eleven. I hadn't been able to breathe. She'd been focused on putting away returned books and hadn't even seen me, but that didn't matter. I'd seen her. And that was all it took for me to realize the school library was no place for me to be. Ever.
Now, every time my fingers tingle, I look for the quickest route to retreat. I don't know why I didn't think to look around the restaurant before the host sat us. Maybe it was because it had been over four months since I'd last seen Charlie.
"—year left, Reese?" Kaley said, and I raised my head a little, but didn't quite meet her gaze. I couldn't. I knew what my eyes looked like. There was a red haze over my eyesight, and that always meant that my pupils had dilated.
"What?" I muttered, trying my best to act normal. It was only a matter of time before they discovered something was wrong. I could already feel the sweat beading on my brow and temple. I had to get out of here.
"I said," Kaley said with annoyance in her tone. "Can you believe we only have six weeks left of our junior year?"
"Uh…" I tried, but couldn't think of anything to say. I couldn't even remember what Kaley had asked me only five seconds ago.
This wasn't good. I had to go. I had to go. I had to go.
"Reese," Pete said. "You okay, man?"
My head whipped to the left when Charlie moved. She was a little blurry now, but every feature of her was branded in my memory like a bad nightmare. My heart began to pound against my rib cage when she stood up. She took one step in my direction and I was on my feet in an instant, spilling the basket of chips and knocking my punch over in the process.
"Reese!" Katie shouted. "What on earth is wrong with you?"
"I have to go!" I shouted as I back-stepped toward the restaurant lobby.
"Reese!" Pete shouted, but I couldn't stay and explain. My house was only five miles from here. Maybe my demons wouldn't need to fight if I sprinted home.
Before I turned and ran for the door, I caught the horrified look on Victoria's face. I knew mine was just as fearful. Our gazes moved to Charlie just as she passed my friends' table.
She never even looked up."I'm sorry," I said to Pete, and then I turned and bolted for the door.