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(CH2) Chapter 19: Lonely and Miserable

Riane entered into her apartment and looked at the guests sitting on their couch. Chad and Luke played a racing video game on the television, while Brian and Kalei watched and cheered them on.

They were being exceptionally loud and after what she just experienced with Julian, she didn’t really wanted to be around visitors, especially strangers.

This place didn’t have wall around their bedroom and in order to get to it, she would have to use the stairs near the television. Going up them would bring unwanted attention to herself.

As she thought about hiding in the bathroom, Blake appeared on the upper level in the bedroom. “Hey, Riane, can you come up here for a moment?”

Kalei cooed at the request and playing sang, “Blake and Riane sitting in a tree. K-i-s-s-i-n-g!”

The guys laughed, but it only made Riane feel more bothered by the entire experience. She tried to ignore them and headed up the stairs to find Blake sitting on the bed. She sat down beside him and they both spoke in low voices.

“I’m sorry.” She whispered as if Julian showing up was somehow her fault, and she seemed to flinch as if she were a puppy about to be punished when Blake turn to face her.

“What did he want? I mean beside the obvious.” Blake asked. He didn’t know where his heart lies anymore. He half expected Riane to never enter in through that front door again. He was both relieved and frustrated when she did so.

She shrugged her shoulders, “He is being desperate and trying to come up with anything.”


“Yeah, he wants to run away together and hide until things settle down. He doesn’t understand with my father things never settle down. He gets his way or he destroys everyone else around him.” She sighed.

It was one of many sighs Blake had gotten used to hearing. He had known her a very long time and in that time he had learned how much of an ass her father was. However, it wasn’t until Julian that she started to show fatigue from her father’s cruelty. She used to just endure as if he was as easy as breathing air, but now she was suffocating and he was part of the reason.

He knew she was grateful for being able to stay here and his sacrifice allowed this to happen, but he wondered if she understood his selfishness behind the act. His heart called him a traitor to his friend and then immediately told him to grab hold to make her see only him.

“Why don’t you go?” He finally asked as the friend in him won the conversation once again.

“I would never see Russell again, and my father would probably try to hurt the people who were around me in his hissy fit.” She sighed again; a sigh which hurt his heart even more.

“When you lived with the Swithins, you never saw your brother unless Deidra sneaked him a tablet to call you.” He decided he was going to use some tough love on her because she was refusing to act at all. “Since we have lived together, you haven’t seen him. Don’t you think it’s time to stop using him as an excuse, because your father is already keeping him from you?”

Riane stared at him for several seconds, “Sometimes I wonder if you are trying to get rid of me. Do I bother you that much?”

“You are not the problem.” He was trying to keep his voice calm so the others couldn’t hear them. “It is this situation we are put into right now. I mean think about this, will you? Right now, we are pretending to be a couple to keep you here, it’s only a band aid solution for a pretty substantial wound, Riane.”

“I know.”

Blake exhaled loudly, “What are we going to do in a year? After graduation? Are we going to pretend during our wedding and the birth of our children? Will we pretend as one of us is dying in a hospital and the other one holds the dying’s hand out of obligation? How far are we going to go before you just own your own life?”

Riane remained quiet for several moments before finally looking up at him. “Just until graduation, and then we can call it quits. Please, I don’t want to leave my friends or this school.”

“What friends, Riane? You can’t stand mine, and you have thrown away everyone else but Ivy. You are lonely and miserable. I can’t watch you do this for much longer. Either you need to decide to be with me with feeling or you need to go be with the person you want to be with.” He couldn’t believe he was actually talking to her like this, but once the words started he couldn’t stop. “Or better yet, go be by yourself until you figure yourself out. Are you going to let your father control you forever?”

“Are you guys just going to stay up there all night?” Kalei’s amused voice called from downstairs. Her question was followed with laughter from the others, who assumed they were engaged in amorous activities.

Blake cleared his throat before replying. “No, we are just finishing up our conversation. Be right now.”

“Conversation. Right!” Brian teased.

Looking towards Riane, Blake frowned. “We need to get back to our guests, but I need you to think hard about what your plans are. Do you really want to live like this? Because I don’t, but I am not going to risk losing you if you want to stay.” He knew his words were confusing, but he also knew he was confused.

Riane returned his frown, “I don’t want to talk about this anymore.” She snapped and headed down the stairs.

“Finally, welcome back!” Luke teased and the group laughed.

Pulling out his phone, Blake sent a text to Bryce. “Your brother came over here and tried to convince Riane to run away with him.”

He didn’t really know his intent behind sending the message. Part of him hoped it would get Julian in trouble, and another part hoped Bryce could help him out. In truth, he probably just wanted an end to this. Any end would be enough as long as this pain went with it.

Bryce was quick to reply. “Did he? Fuck’s sake. He said he was over here just the other day. I’ll talk to him. Sorry, man.”

“No problem.” Blake replied before stuffing his phone into his pocket and heading down the stairs. It sounded like he got him in trouble, and that was an acceptable outcome for him.
Julian entered his home and immediately ascended the stairs. He paid no attention to his brother whom had stepped out into the hall upon hearing his brother’s footsteps. It was obvious he wanted to talk to him, but the younger brother was in no mood. It wasn’t that he was upset or angry, but that he couldn’t pinpoint his exact emotion in that moment. This put him on edge.

Julian, instead, went straight for his room and slammed the door behind him; ignoring Bryce calling out his name.

He tossed himself on the bed of the dark room and laid with his face in the mattress.

Was Blake so confident in his relationship with Riane now he wasn’t bothered to leave the two of them alone? Did he really know she would never go with him? These questions bothered him more than anything Riane had said. If Blake did truly know she would never leave then what chances did he have of returning her to his side?

The bedroom door opened after a brief knock and Bryce stepped into the room. He cleared his throat to gain his brother’s attention and kept the door open to allow in light from the hallway.

“I heard you went to see Riane.” Bryce asked in the most gentle way he could muster. He didn’t want Julian to think he was accusing him of anything.

His younger brother remained quiet and laid still on the bed. It was an act he often did in order to get people to go away.

“Didn’t work out as planned?” He asked, but he received no confirmation from his brother. “Alright, if you want to talk you know where to find me.” Bryce told him as he stepped back out into the hall.

“Who told you?” Julian asked as he wasn’t quite ready for his brother to leave the room.

“Blake.” He replied.

Julian snorted and turned himself over, “That prick is tattling on me to my brother now? What a piece of shit!”

“I don’t think tattling is what he was attempting to do. Blake is my friend and he had always been very concerned for Riane’s feelings. I think because of Riane’s feelings for you, he was concerned about you as well. He wants you both to get better.” Bryce stepped back into the room. He wanted to turn on the lights in the bedroom, but knew his brother hated his dark room being lit up.

Again, Julian snorted. “You should have seen him today then. As soon as I showed up, he ran down to pull Riane away from me.”

“Did he?”

“Yeah, and then he just went upstairs and told her he would make an excuse to their guests. Can you believe it?”

Bryce didn’t know where the source of disdain was coming from, as it sounded like a perfectly reasonable thing to do. He opened his mouth to agree with his brother, but he couldn’t figure anything to say to do so. “I’m afraid I am going to need more context then that.”

Julian sat up all the way and leaned his elbows on his knees. “The asshole was certain she would stay with him. He knew he won so why be over protective or try to convince her to come with him. He already knew she would go back up to that fucking apartment.”

“I don’t think Blake is so confident in their relationship. He was probably doing what a best friend should, and giving her space to have a conversation with you.” Bryce couldn’t believe he was having to discuss this topic. It was obvious Julian was just jealous and looking for a rival in anyone.

“Whatever.” Julian tossed himself back onto the bed and returned to ignore his brother.

“I just think you are judging Blake too harshly. He is a really good guy. I mean he kind of makes me a little sick to be around, because he can be a little too moral.” Bryce explained. “The only reason he and Riane are even together right now is because her dad made them do it.”

That spiked Julian’s attention, who opened his eyes although he didn’t move much else.

“He was going to send her away across country if he didn’t agree to it.” Bryce could see his brother eyes had opened and smirked to himself at his obvious interest in everything Riane.

Julian laid there thinking for a moment but still not speaking.

“Well, I’ll leave you to your brooding. With all the errands you have run today, I’m sure you haven’t hit your daily quota.” Bryce once again stepped out into the hallway and reached to close the door.

“It won’t stop.” Julian spoke when he realized his brother was really leaving, and once again he didn’t want to be left alone just yet.

“What won’t stop?” Bryce asked with his hand still on the knob of the door, as he didn’t know if this would be a long enough conversation to get comfortable again.

“My feelings. I see her at school and I want to run over to her. I want to pretend none of this has happened and that we are as happy as we were before Simon showed up and ruined everything.”

Bryce’s heart dropped as he listened to his brother speak. He could hear the tears forming in his voice, so he stood up straight letting go to of the door knob. His brother remained with his back to him in order to hide the waterworks. “I’m sorry, Julian. I wish there was something I could do.”

“I just want her to do something, anything at all to let me know she hasn’t given up. I want her to tell me she is working on a way or thinking about me at all. Every time we make eye contact at school, there is nothing there. I sometimes don’t know if she is even the same person.”

“It’s not the same person. Her heart has been destroyed. She was only just trying to manage it while also trying to fool her father and be kind to Blake who is helping her.” Bryce wanted to sit on the bed with his brother, but knew that might be one step too far when his brother was feeling vulnerable like this.

Julian fell silent and the two remained in the room as the moments ticked by, but Bryce didn’t really want to leave his brother until he thought he was feeling slightly better.

It sounded like the tears had dried up when Julian spoke again. “Just leave me alone.”

Bryce nodded his head even though his brother couldn’t see him. “Yeah, ok. I’ll be in my room if you need me.” Reaching for the door knob he pulled the door closed as his own heart broke for his brother.
The large house was empty of parents, so Emma and Seth sat in the large dark wood living room and watched several movies that day. She introduced him to a couple he had never seen and he had done the same for her.

At the end of a movie, Emma smiled at Seth. “Let’s eat dinner.” She stretched out her arms.

“How about I go grab some burgers and fries, and you can pick the next movie?” Seth suggested as he stood up.

“You mean stay here alone? I don’t know if that is a good idea.” She was nervous and didn’t like the idea of having to explain to anyone why she was there.

“It’s fine. My dad is down south and my mother is visiting relatives, and the help already know you.” It was like he had read her mind.

She nodded, “Alright, only because it took us an hour to pick the last movie.” She smiled as he winked at her and headed out the door.

Seth grabbed his car keys and a light jacket before heading out; leaving Emma to search through the movie listings and decide on another film.

Only a few moments after Seth left did he send her a text from the driveway. “I didn’t ask what kind of burger you wanted? Cheese and bacon?”

Emma read the text and replied, “And avocado if they have it. What are you getting?”

“Probably a jalapeno burger or a barbecue burger.” He replied and then she heard his car drive away.

She continued to look through the listings and though she found a few she wanted to watch, she knew Seth had fallen asleep through the last romance movie she had picked. It had been a disappointment as she hadn’t been so rude to his boring science fiction films.

After a short while, the front door opened and Emma jumped to her feet. “That was quick.” She said as she walked out into the hallway, but she found a woman standing there instead of her boyfriend.

The long legged blonde was in her forties but could easily pass for thirties. She had a face full of immaculate make-up from false eyelashes to a perfectly contoured face. This was without a doubt Mrs. Barras; the former model and mother of Seth.

“Mrs. Barras, I’m sorry I thought you were...”

“I know who you thought I was.” She set her luggage down and hug up her coat in the closet. “Where is the help?”

“Seth sent them home since it was supposed to be just him and me today.” She explained and wondered if the woman knew who she was. “He said you were visiting relatives.”

The beautiful woman kept her red lips in a pout as she walked over to the younger woman and looked her up and down. “Emma Mcclure, correct?”

She merely nodded her head.

“So, you’re the gold digger?” She sighed, “In my days, they would at least attempt to look and act like the perfect woman. I see the homeless chic is in for the well to do generation now.”

This was exactly what she had been afraid of when Seth left her behind. It was as if the universe itself saw her fear and said to itself, “Let’s make that happen. Won’t it be funny?”

Emma cleared her throat, “Well, Seth and I were just going to lounge around and watch movies, and I prefer to watch them in sweatpants.” She watched the woman glare at her. “He is wearing pajamas. Red ones.” Come to think of it, he went out in those. She wondered what his mother might say.

Mrs. Barras pressed her lips together, “Any excuse for laziness then?” She sighed audibly, “Where is my son?”

“He went to get us burgers. Do you want me to tell him to grab you one?” She was trying her best to be friendly to the rude bitch in hopes that she wouldn’t find a reason to kick her out.

She rolled her eyes, “Everyone knows I am a vegan. You don’t keep this slim figure by feasting on beef.”

“You could if you exercised or counted calories.” Emma regretted her words as soon as they slipped out of her mouth.

Mrs. Barras looked the girl over once more, “Yes, I suppose so.”

She was surprised the woman didn’t become enraged with her response as it seemed everyone was scared of her around the household. “So, you don’t want anything to eat?”

“No, I ate on the plane. Thank you.” She walked into the living room and looked at the pile of blankets which Emma and Seth had been using as a nest. “I see the two of you are quite cozy.”

Emma followed in behind her. “Oh, it’s a bit chilly and all.”

She turned to face the younger woman, “Have you slept with my son yet?”

Opening her mouth to answer all she got was several uncomfortable “ums” out before Mrs. Barras saved her with further insult.

“I am just curious if you plan to get married because you have a baby or get rich and take the child far away.”

“I have no intention of getting married. I am a college student the last thing I need is a child.” Emma was feeling the heat rising but she knew she couldn’t explode on the woman no matter what, after all this was her home.

“So, you believe you can win Seth over without some sort of leverage. You realize how much money is on the line for him right?” She rolled her eyes once more. “Do you honestly believe he will give it up for you in the end?”

That’s what all this was about. She wanted to poke at their relationship in hopes it would end.

“I don’t know where Seth and I are going right now. We are still a young couple. Marriage and children aren’t even a something we have talked about, and I am certainly not interested in it right now.” Emma tried her best not to ball her fists up.

Seth’s mother was about to speak again when the front door open, and Seth called out. “They had onion rings, so I got those instead. I hope you don’t...” He turned the corner and saw his mother. “Mom, I thought you were visiting grandma.”

“Yes, well, when your father told me you would be here all alone for a couple months, I decided to come and keep you company.” She looked towards Emma. “Had I known you already had it, I wouldn’t have bothered.” Before her son could say anything else, she spoke again. “Take my bags to my room since you sent away the help, and draw me a bath. Then you can get back to whatever this is.”
Ivy opened the door to her new apartment when she heard the doorbell ring. She was expecting a visitor so it was no surprise to see him standing there.

Dalen smiled at her and she returned the gesture, before stepping aside and letting him in. He removed his jacket and tossed it on the arm of the couch, while she shut the door.

They had been meeting for dates at her new place because they didn’t want to be seen outside. Dalen didn’t know how his family would react to him dating an older woman who was a former alcoholic and drug abuser, but somehow he feared how Julian would react more.

His friend was in a fragile state and it seemed he exploded at anything which was even slightly irritating. No doubt finding out his friend was dating a long term ex-lover would send him over the edge.

Ivy had her own reasons for not wanting anyone to know about their relationship. Her first concern was her new job which was going very well, and she didn’t want her co-workers to know she was dating the future CEO of the company.

“I made dinner. I hope you are hungry… and prepared to be disappointed since I am a terrible cook.” She continued to smile at him.

Dalen held his smile as well, “I am starved and I’m sure it will be fine.”

The two continued to hold eye contact and remained unmoved. Ivy wanted to throw herself at the man and do terrible things to him that she imagined he had never seen before, but Dalen had been a gentleman since the beginning.

He had held her hand but that was the extent of their relationship. She knew in many ways this was for the best. After all, she had tossed herself sexually at far too many men only for the relationship to turn sour. Julian being one of them.

No this was meant to be a serious relationship and not a one night fling. If Dalen needed time to think things through and to grow feelings for her then she would wait.

Little did she know as Dalen held eye contact with her, he too thought of kissing her and much more. However, he was afraid too go to far. Not just because of Julian, but he didn’t want this woman to think he only wanted one thing from her.

Hand holding, accidental touches, and small brushes lit his skin on fire and remained for hours after her contact was gone.

Ivy finally broke the eye contact when the alarm in her kitchen went off. She rushed into the small room and pulled out a casserole. “It’s hash brown casserole. I figured I would make a bunch and be able to eat it for breakfast over the next few days.”

Dalen looked down at the concoction. “It smells good.” Though it looked hideous. Little hash brown circles covered in cheese and what appeared to be cream of chicken soup with bacon and sausage. He hoped it would taste better than it looked.

She smiled at his compliment, “I’ve made it many times before. It lasts a while in the fridge, plus you can freeze it if need be.”

Ivy didn’t have a table and chairs even though there was room for a small set in her kitchen, so she filled the mix matched plates with the food and pulled out two forks which were not of the same make.

Dalen took his plate as they made their way to the brown couch which Ivy had gotten from a neighbor who was throwing it out. The couch had a few rips in it, which she had tossed a blanket over. Her smell television was on a side table across the room, but she didn’t have any cable so it was for mostly viewing movies with the dvd player she had bought from work.

“Every time I come over here, it feels like you have something new.” Dalen said referring to the dvd player.

Ivy nodded, “They had them one sale for fifty percent off so I hid one in the back. Realizing who you are, I probably shouldn't have admitted to that.”

He chuckled, “It’ll be our little secret.” He watched her take a bit of her meal, and then reluctantly stabbed a hash brown circle of his own. Placing it in his mouth, he demanded in his head not to gag. However, it was delicious. It was a surprise he hadn’t been expecting. “This is very good.” He said with food still in his mouth as he pointed at it with his fork.

Ivy’s smile widened, “I am so glad you liked it. My grandmother is from the south and she makes all kinds of amazing casseroles. This has always been my favorite.”

“Well, if they are all this good, I might have to try more of these casseroles.” He began to eat happily. “This is the type of stuff that can make a man fat.” He joked.

She chuckled, “Explains my grandpa then.”

They both laughed at the joke and continued to eat with smiles on their lips. Ivy kept taking glances at Dalen to see if he really enjoyed his meal and wasn’t just saying he did. He never looked up from his food and quickly shoveled it into his mouth.

It was a joyful experience to watch him and she could feel a warmth growing in her chest. After a couple moments passed, she finally spoke. “How is Julian?”

Dalen looked up from his food and shook his head, “The same as ever. I’ve never seen him like this before.”

“Yeah, Riane seems to be getting her humor back, but there is just this deep heart broken feeling you get just by being around her. I sure do miss the way she was before all this happened.”

“Me too, but let’s not talk about them. It brings down the room. How was your day?” Dalen took another bite of his casserole.

She shrugged, “It was my day off, but I went to the thrift stores to see if I could find any art for my walls. It was mostly clowns and cats.”

“I don’t think I have ever been to a thrift store. I’ve donated plenty, but never been. You should take me with you next time.”

Ivy laughed briefly, “No, you don’t have to do that. You moving through all of that stuff. I don’t think I could handle the mental image let alone the memory of you actually doing it.”

“Are you saying I am uptight and I would somehow be offended by donations?” He actually looked upset.

“No, you are just so… posh. I can’t imagine you in that environment.”

“Posh?” He smirked, “Well, torment to you or not, I would still like for you to take me some time.”


Dalen cocked his head to the side, “So, I can hang out with you. Obviously.”

She knew he meant without anyone he knew seeing them together, but she didn’t want to spoil the moment, nor did she want him to think she was angry with the way things were. For now, this was good enough.
Bryce had made his way downstairs to find his mother standing in the dining room. She pointed towards the ceiling and mouthed the words, “What’s going on?” Julian wouldn’t be able to hear her from down here, but it was a quirky thing his mother often did in order not to upset the beast.

He walked into the dining room, and inhaled deeply. “He went over to Riane’s apartment today to try and get her to leave with him.”

Nanette frowned, before also sighing audibly. “This is a wound that just won’t heal. Every time I think he might be getting better, he just does something to make it bleed again.”

“Mom, he sees her almost everyday at school. He spends most of his time, either pretending not to see her or staring holes into the back of her head. Of course, he’ll keep reopening it.”

She nodded her head slowly, “You are correct. Maybe I should send him to another school.”

“He wouldn’t allow it, besides summer break isn’t too far off. He’ll get three months without seeing her, and I’m sure...” Bryce thought of his brother’s words and how his feelings just wouldn’t stop. “Well, I’m sure something will happen for better or worse. We just need to be patient and let Julian and Riane deal with their own issues.”

Nanette listened to her son’s words and saw his father within them. Zachary and Julian may be geniuses, but Bryce was emotionally intelligent and capable of understanding people better than she ever could.

“I know you are right. I just want to do something to help my baby. Had I known this is how it would have ended, I never would have allowed your father to go through with this.” She held back tears. “I would much prefer the night club, drug doing Julian, who brings random women home.”

“No, you wouldn’t.”

She slowly shook her head as she tears began to fall. “No, I wouldn’t. I want Riane to come home and I want to know they are happy. Is she happy? She couldn’t possibly be with Julian in this state, could she?”

“From what I know, happiness is not an emotion in her daily life right now.” He touched his mother’s shoulder.

Nanette slowly started crying as a small wave of guilt over came here. “Look at me. Hoping she is not happy because Julian isn’t. How cruel of me to wish such a thing on her. Of course, I want her to be happy and to know she isn’t, well it pains just as much to know Julian is up there upset.”

“I know you really didn’t really mean it.” He continued to touch her shoulder as he talked. “You just wanted to know Riane had just as strong feelings for Julian, and to know this wasn’t an easy change for her. We all grew to love her.”

When his father left suddenly for work, Bryce felt the need to talk over the emotional mess which was left behind. It seemed ever ending, because if Julian wasn’t brooding or throwing a fit, then his mother was crying over not only her son’s heartbreak, but what she perceived as the loss of a daughter.

She frantically nodded and looked up into her son’s eyes. “Do you know what Zachary does after school everyday?”

Bryce shook his head, even though he did know what he was doing. However, he wanted his mother to say it out loud since she seemed to need something to fill the air with.

“He goes into the music room and plays with the instruments. He used to love watching her practice and I think it was making him interested in playing, but when I try to talk to him about it...” She inhaled sharply, “well, he just doesn’t want to talk about her or he curses her name.”

“Zachary has a harder time dealing with loss than anyone else in the family, so just leave him be. He’ll find you when it’s time.”

Nanette patted her son’s hand on her shoulder. “I know. I just don’t want to feel helpless.”

“I know the feeling.” Suddenly he smiled, “Mom, why don’t you go make some homemade hot cocoa. You know how much Julian loves it and maybe it will brighten his spirits for a moment.”

Nanette returned the smile. “That’s a wonderful idea. I’ll make some for all of us. I’m sure Zachary will want some, and you need something sweet for how you are handling all this while your father is away.”

“Great, I can’t wait.” He watched his mother disappear into the kitchen with a little pep in her step.

Sitting down at the table, he folded his hands on it and exhaled loudly. There never seemed to be an end to the daily battles this family was facing over the loss of one person. It wasn’t like she was dead, but the fact that she acted as if none of this had happened was heartbreaking.

Bryce had tried to strike up a conversation with her at school a few weeks ago, and she acted as if he were a total stranger. When he tried again, she finally told him she couldn’t be spotted with anyone from the Swithin family and he needed to leave her alone. It was a painful moment in his life.

He watched her walk away and as much as he wanted to hate her for acting like he had been nothing, he also understood the consequences her father had laid out for her. So, he sat on a fence between anger and understanding though sometimes the anger side won out more than the other.

Zachary entered into the kitchen and sat at the table with his big brother. “Why are you just sitting here?”

Bryce grinned at his brother, “I convinced Mom to make hot chocolate.”

“From scratch?”

He nodded, “Hey, why are you going into the music room all the time? I thought you hated the idea of playing an instrument.”

He lowered his eyes for a moment before looking back up to Bryce. “She acted like she didn’t know I was there, but she gave me a concert almost every single day. Sometimes, I think if I sneak in there, she might be at the piano playing.” He swallowed, “She never is.”

Bryce placed his hand on top of Zachary’s head and roughed up his hair a bit. “I miss having her around too.”

The younger brother looked annoyed that Bryce would dare say he ever liked or missed that girl, but any energy he had just wasn’t worth it to deny anything or fight with his brother.

“Stupid girl. I knew she was a bad idea.” Zachary mumbled under his breath before standing up from the table. “I’m going to my room.”

Monday came sooner than most wanted. It seemed the only two people to be happy to be at school were Seth and Emma, who practically ran into the other person’s arms.

“It’s not like they didn’t see each other yesterday.” Julian mumbled to Dalen, who nodded in agreement.

However, after a moment he seemed to retract his agreement. “Ah, you know how it is when you first fall in love. Hours away seem like days and you can’t wait to see the person again.”

The students passed around them as they waited for Seth and Emma to hurry back to them. They were catching up on what happened over the last twelve hours since they saw each other.

Julian didn’t want to linger too long at the gate in case Riane and Blake appeared, but he didn’t act soon enough and the two walked through the gate hand in hand. Their group of friends met them and they began to walk away. She never even turned her head to notice Julian was only fifteen feet away from her.

Another thing which bothered him was Blake had the same friends as Bryce, but it seemed now that Riane was his fiancee, his brother had been torn from the group completely. He occasionally went out with them, but not nearly as much as he had before.

Bryce had explained it away saying they were all couple’s now, even though Brian and Luke were not in serious relationships. His elder brother had joked they are practically a couple.

“Wow, it’s like we are completely invisible to her.” Dalen mumbled as he watched her hurry by.

“I liked it better when she at least gave us sad glances.” Emma told them as she walked up hand in hand with Seth.

Seth sighed and looked over at his friend. He didn’t know if Julian had been told, but Bryce had informed Seth and Dalen of his younger brother’s attempt at winning back Riane over the weekend.

He had sworn over and over he was finished with it and no longer held feelings for her. He had even gone so far as to call her a bitch and other less than friendly terms. Then came the announcement he could do better anyway then her scrawny ass.

Of course, they encouraged him even though none of them believed he was telling the truth.

Emma sighed beside him, and his attentions went to her. He knew she was happy in their relationship now even after the ordeal with his mother, but she missed her friend. They only had a short time together, but quality over quantity won every time.

He squeezed her hand gently and smiled at her when she looked up at him.

Emma returned the smile and seemed to come back from whatever fog she had fallen into.

“Julian!” Adonia’s voice called from the crowd.

Dalen, Seth, and Emma all groaned inwardly as the woman approached them. Julian was bad enough with his attitude and broken heart. He swayed from being pissed off to being downright mopey throughout the day. One never knew which version they were going to get.

Adonia, however, was an annoyance. Seth and Dalen had explained to Emma how different she used to be. Cold and aloof to Julian, but sweet and kind to her friends and strangers.

After her break up with Blake, she just seemed to take a turn into madness. It was almost as if taking Julian as her boyfriend was a revenge plot since Blake and Riane were now actually together.

In truth, her motive was unknown and it might have just been she had gone off the deep end, but in the mean time she was a hard pill to swallow.

What was worse was Julian allowed it to happen. It was obvious he didn’t enjoy her attentions, but allowed her to do as she pleased. Even going so far as pecking his lips which very much displeased him.

All three of his friends embraced for another day of Adonia, as she ran up to Julian and threw her arms around him.

He shoved her arms off in a surprise that left the three of them with their mouths ajar. “Don’t touch me.” He snapped.

Adonia looked shocked by his demand, but tried to laugh it off. “Is someone feeling a little grumpy today?” She asked and tried to tickle him, but again he shoved her hands away. This time is was with a great deal more force.

“I said don’t touch me.” Julian growled, but stood his ground instead of walking away. It was like he wanted to have it out with her.

“What’s wrong?” She asked in faux sad voice and playfully puckered out her bottom lip. “Did I do something wrong?”

“Yes, I hate you. Go away!” He crossed his arms, “I don’t have any time for whatever nonsense you are pulling.”


He rolled his eyes, “Aren’t you embarrassed?”

She stared at him without an answer.

“Don’t you know how pathetic this looks to everyone?” He asked another question as she stood there stunned.

“I… I don’t understand.” She finally spoke some words.

“People look at you and see what you have become. This pathetic, desperate bimbo, who will do anything to endear herself to a man who has already rejected her multiple times.”

Seth, Emma, and Dalen could barely watch this unfold, and it made them cringe more as people who passed by them watched it as well. Emma felt the worst, and wanted to somehow involve herself.

Stepping forward, she put her hands on Adonia’s shoulders. “Come on, let’s get to class. I’ll walk you.”

Adonia wouldn’t budge. “Fuck you!” She spat. “You chased me desperately for over a year, and now I am the bimbo?”

Julian rolled his eyes once more, “I hardly did this whole song and dance. Besides, if I was ever going to have feelings for you, it wouldn’t be for this version of you.”

“Come on, we don’t want to be late.” Emma pressed against her shoulders.

Adonia harshly brushed her hand away, “Don’t touch me, bitch!”

“Hey, don’t talk to her like that, she was just trying to help!” Seth stepped forward to stand up for his girlfriend.

Julian was near Adonia faster then Seth could react, “Don’t ever talk to my friend like that. Cunt.”

Adonia looked deeply into his eyes and frowned, “You will regret this.” She hissed before stomping away.
The school day was without any further incident. Adonia ate with her friends during lunch while Julian remained quiet during the meal. No one dared to ask him what had changed his mind about letting Adonia into the group.

Dalen too was quiet and seemed to be thinking something over. Whenever he was spoken to he had to ask them to repeat themselves, because whatever world he was in was far more compelling then their own.

However, none of this bothered Seth who was chatting away with Emma. She seemed engaged with their conversation, but there was a sadness in her eyes. Part of him was afraid to mention it at all, but he knew he couldn’t get away with never addressing it. It had been there since Emma had met his mother.

After school, Seth offered to drive Emma home and she accepted. Dalen had already left for the day, and they abandoned Julian at the gate. He had been looking for someone, whom he wouldn’t name, but it didn’t take a genius to figure out who it would be.

Emma had tried to convince him it was a bad idea, but Seth stopped her and told him to just let him do whatever he wants. He was in no mood to deal with Julian’s crazy plans when it came to Riane.

He was obviously brewing some other nonsense which they didn’t need to be caught up in. If he was going to destroy this hastily crafted boat, then they didn’t need to be on it.

In the car, they drove towards Emma’s apartment and Seth could see her worrying over Julian. She had taken the role of his caretaker since Riane’s departure, and though he knew he should have been jealous, he wasn’t bothered. Julian wouldn’t steal his girlfriend, and more importantly he was far to focused on Riane to even notice Emma was a female.

“You seem a little down lately. Is everything alright?” Seth finally decided he had to confront this elephant.

Emma looked over at him and partly smiled, “I’m fine, why?”

“Ever since you met my mom, you just aren’t your normally joyful self. I mean I know seeing Riane brings you down from time to time, but this is an ongoing melancholy and I don’t know how to fix it without talking to you about it.” Seth’s heart was beating hard in his chest and his internal dialogue begged her not to break up with him.

She sighed, “I guess you see right through me, huh?”

He didn’t like that answer, and he wished he had been wrong.

“I just... I am worried that if we work out and you lose all that money, then you will be resentful towards me. I’m afraid your mom will never care for me, and she’ll be pissed over the money too.” She rang her hands as she spoke.

Seth cleared his throat, “That money isn’t mine. It belongs to the family, and they can do with it what they please. However, if what they please is to control me and who I marry then they can go fuck themselves. I don’t care who they give it to.”

“I know you say that now, but it seems like money is pretty important to your family.”

Seth chuckled, “Emma, you and I are graduating from one of the most esteemed colleges in the country; with that esteem comes jobs which will make our own money. My parents are wealthy and I am their only child, unless my dad dies first and my mom is feeling particularly petty, I’m sure I’ll be fine.”

She continued to look worried. “You say it so confidently, that I want to believe you.”

“Then believe me. You didn’t make me pick, they did. It’s not your fault, it is theirs. At the end of it all, I told you if that is the price of my freedom then I gladly pay it. They can take their last name back if they want it too.” He smirked.

Emma smiled gently at his last comment, as they pulled up to her apartment complex. “Alright, if you say so.”

“I do say so, and I’ll say so tomorrow, and the day after that and the day after that until you believe me. If we are together ten years from now, I’ll say it, and if we aren’t, give me a call and I’ll still say it. Ok?”

She slowly nodded her head.

“This has nothing to do with you. This is about controlling me so the family gets to benefit from my marriage. Understand?”

Again, she nodded her head.

“As for my mother, she doesn’t like anybody, so don’t worry about her. I was scared of her when I was a child, mostly because she never had a kind word to say and was mostly not around.”

“That’s horrible.”

He waved his hand, “Nah, she didn’t want children and my dad did. They compromised and they got me. My dad was thrilled to raise me, and my mom was thrilled to be rich and travel the world.”

“Is it loveless? Their marriage.” She realized she was prying when she spoke.

Seth thought for several moments and then smiled, “I don’t know. When they are together, they seem to laugh and smile. I think my father is the only person who can make that witch laugh, so there might be love there.”

“So, just their own strange relationship then?” Emma looked over at her apartment building, she was stalling so she could stay with Seth a little bit more.

“Yeah, I think they are happy with each other. My dad accepts my mother’s coldness and my mother accepts she’ll never get my dad to change and become a socialite like her.” Seth watched her look at the apartment and thought maybe he was keeping her too long, but he didn’t really wan to leave her side just yet.

Emma cleared her throat, “I feel better, thank you.” She leaned forward and kiss his lips gently. “I guess, I should head up.”

Seth nodded his head and watched her open the car door, but his own hand shot out and touched her own. He cleared his throat before speaking. “Um, maybe an early dinner? Do you have much homework?”

Emma settled back into the car with a grin on her lips, “I could make some time, sure.”

“Great, pizza?”

“Sounds good, but only if I get to keep the leftovers.” She giggled.

“They’re yours.”
Julian hovered around the gate after the classes had ended. He was glad Seth had taken Emma away because he didn’t want to argue with her or even explain to her what he was about to do.

He had tried giving up, but no matter how much he wanted to hate Riane or even be indifferent to her, he couldn’t. His only last resort at this point was to beg and plead with her to come with him.

This would feel like he was accomplishing something other than moping around and feeling sorry for himself. He was tired of inaction, so anything was better than how he had been feeling for the past few months.

Nothing hurt worse than seeing Riane walking around with Blake and acting like she actually wanted to be at his side. He had seen her looking over at him almost as if she was asking him to come rescue her.

He had watched her interact with Blake’s friends, and how bored she was to be around them. His own brother, Bryce, was suffering because of the friends he shared with Blake, and he wasn’t allowed to be around Riane. His mother worried for him, and even Zachary missed Riane.

Everyone was hurting and no one was doing anything about it, however the only two people with any power to change this situation were pretending they were never friends or in love. They were being blind to the pain they were not only causing other people, but themselves.

Riane had to be made to see the light. She had to understand that marrying Blake wasn’t the answer to healing the wounds in her family. Her father needed to be stood up to and he was ready to make that stand, even if she refused to do it with him.

At the very least this is what he told himself in order to justify the actions he wanted to make today. The truth at his very core was jealousy. He couldn’t stand to watch Riane and Blake together. Every word spoken and every touch turned his stomach into a knot and he wanted nothing more than to beat Blake to a bloody pulp for even daring to touch his girlfriend.

Riane and Blake appeared in the distance; holding hands. There was no smiles on their lips and no happiness in their eyes. They were simply doing what they believed would cause feelings between them.

She spotted Julian almost immediately even through the crowd of other students who were leaving the school. His eyes were locked on her and a sense of dread came over her.

Those were the eyes of a man who had intentions and not just an accidental lock of eyes. She squeezed Blake’s hand slightly and he looked over at her.

“Julian is by the gate. I think he is up to something.” She motioned towards him with her head.

Blake followed the nod and sighed heavily. “He does know these types of actions make it harder on everyone involved, doesn’t he?”

“I don’t think he cares.” She told him as they continued to walk towards the gate, it never occurred to them to try to take a different route. After all, he would simply chase them down.

Julian stepped in front of them when they were close enough. He didn’t bother to acknowledge Blake, and kept his eyes on Riane. “I need to speak to you alone for a moment.”

Riane swallowed, “No, I don’t think so.” She turned to look towards Blake, “Let’s go home.”

When she tried to step around him, Julian stepped in front of her again. “Please, it will only be for a moment.”

She ignored him and tried once more to step around him, but he again blocked her forward movement. “Stop it, Julian.” She mumbled and tried again; all the way trying her best not to look him in the eye.

Julian wasn’t having it and the two danced back and forth all the while Julian asked for a moment of her time with each step.

Suddenly, Julian was shoved to the side and the larger Blake stepped forward after pushing him. “She said no.”

Julian had to catch his footing, before standing up and hurrying to rush forward towards him.

Riane could tell this was not going anywhere good and stepped in between the two men. “Julian stop!”

He did even though both men knew he had every intention of throwing a punch, but Riane being in the middle had calmed him briefly. “Riane, I really need to talk to you, please.”

Riane inhaled deeply, “Please stop doing these things, Julian. It hurts me to see you in such pain.”


“I really wish you could go back to treating me coldly and sometimes dismissing me entirely. I felt more comfortable with that.” Riane was trying her best not to cry. She wanted to touch his hand or shoulder but she knew any touch would be too much for her to take. “Please, leave me alone.”

“I can’t.” Julian spoke a little to loudly for comfort, “You can’t do this to yourself, Riane. You can’t spend your entire life trying to make your father happy, when that effort should go into yourself.”


“Is an excuse. We will find a way.” Julian pleaded. “Just come with me, and we will find a way. I promise.”

She slowly shook her head and looked down to the pavement at her feet.

Students around them took notice as they passed by, but continued on their way without much concern.

“Stand up to him with me or I’ll do it alone.”

Those words made her look up and she swallowed her heart down. “Don’t mess with my father, Julian. He is in a position to cause a great deal of pain to not only you, but those around you.”

“I don’t care.”

Blake put his hand on Riane’s shoulder, “This is no use. He will just keep you talking in circles. Let’s go home.”

Riane looked into Julian’s eyes with her own sad set and gave a gentle smile. “Take care of yourself, Julian. Please, don’t contact me anymore.” She turned around and took Blake’s hand.

Julian watched her walk out through the gate and inhaled deeply before releasing a loud sigh. This wasn’t over, not by a long shot.
Joe and Nolan sat on opposite sides of a table in the library. They studied their selected topics alone while rubbing their feet together under the table.

Sneaking a peek at the handsome man across from her, Joe smiled to herself. She felt confident and comfortable in this relationship. Nolan felt like a long lost friend who had finally returned to her side, and she always knew he would return.

Her thoughts turned to Dalen and she thought of her words to him in Hawaii, and how when she arrived home she felt like waking from a dream. There was no long term relationship there, even if Dalen said otherwise.

With him, she felt uneven as if she was some servant for him to boss around. She didn’t know if it was the way Dalen spoke to her, or just living in the Nairne household her entire life. Perhaps a little of both.

When she thought of who she had become with him, it made her cringe. She was insecure and not confident. Even after she had ended things with him, and started seeing Nolan, the feelings lingered. She became afraid of losing Riane, and instead of trying to fix things with her, she ruined her chances with Julian.

She thought back to the days of the Nairne household and how Riane was her confidant. How they played dress up and how Riane was fine with people thinking she was male.

When she went to the Swithin household, she completely changed. Joe understood now those changes were making Riane into the person she actually was, and not the person she pretended to be.

Joe, however, believed these changes were what the Swithins wanted, especially Nanette. It seemed like the woman wanted Riane to be anything, but herself and poor Riane had no choice but to follow along.

Looking up from her textbook, she realized she had read the entire page but had not retained a single word. Her mind wouldn’t let her focus, and honestly Nolan’s footsy game under the table was a distraction as well.

As much as she loved being with him, he was often times very touchy. He needed physical contact quite a bit.

“Something the matter?” Nolan asked when he realized her eyes were no longer focused on the book, but instead looking out the window nearby.

Joe turned her attention towards him, “We’ve been at this for a couple hours, and I just need a break.”

He nodded his head slowly, “Ok.” Stretching out his arms over his head, he yawned loudly.

Joe wanted to rub her eyes but she didn’t want to ruin her eye liner, so she decided against it.

“How is the job hunting going?” Nolan asked after his stretch was over.

She shrugged, “Not great. I mean being a professional best friend doesn’t help in the job market much.”

Since Riane moved in with Blake, she no longer needed a driver, so Mister Nairne had released her. It was upsetting because she had always been able to have some sort of contact with Riane, but now she would have to make an extra effort. One she didn’t know if Riane wanted or not.

Riane wasn’t texting her, but she wasn’t texting Riane either. She knew Riane had a lot going on, and she didn’t know if she would be adding to it positively or not with her presence.

“Your mom on your ass about it?”

Joe slowly shook her head, “No, I think she is just happy I am attending college, and doesn’t really care. At least, that’s the way it feels right now. Maybe if I go to long without a job, she’ll start getting upset.”

He chuckled slightly, “Ugh, maybe we should pack up and call it a day. I’m starting to get hungry. Do you want to go to dinner with me? Or maybe come back to my place and I can make you something?”

Joe raised an eyebrow, “You want to cook for me?”

“Or, you know, I can buy the ingredients and you can cook. I mean, if you want to eat something that isn’t burnt, but if you really want a burnt grilled cheese or a peanut butter and jelly, I can cook.”

Her giggle turned into a yawn.

“Wow, that boring, am I?” He teased as he started putting his books into his backpack while stretching his legs out underneath the table.

“No, I’m just exhausted. Maybe hold off on your burned meal for another time. I think I am going to head home, and just sleep for the rest of the day.”


She nodded, “I just need some time to turn my mind off. I haven’t had peace of mind in a while.”

She began to put her books in her backpack before realizing Nolan was watching her with a look of a kicked puppy. Did she somehow hurt his feelings?

“What?” She asked bluntly.

He gave a soft smile, “I just don’t want to part ways with you, yet. Had I known you would run away from me, I never would have suggested ending our study date.” He put out his bottom lip, “Come on, one more hour?”

“You just want to have sex.” She stood up from her chair and flung her backpack over her shoulders.

“Hey, now, while yes it would be nice, I genuinely want to hang out with you more. Please?”

“Can we hang out tomorrow? I am really tired and I won’t make the best companion right now.” Joe placed one hand on the table as she looked down at the sitting man.

Nolan sighed and leaned back in his chair. “Fine, alright. I’m going to stay here and finish up some class work then.”

“Really, you don’t want to walk me to my car?” She asked and watched him shrug. “There is a kiss in it for you if you do.”

A slight grin appeared on his lips, “Well, carrot meet stick.” He grabbed his backpack and stood up.

They both headed down the stairs of the library and out the front door side by side. As much as Joe wanted to go home, she did want to be with Nolan just for another moment more.
Julian arrived home and went straight to his room. He noticed the look of worry on his mother’s face when she asked if he was going to eat dinner and he didn’t reply. Right now, he just couldn’t deal with talking to anyone. He would explode on them and he knew it.

He really didn’t know what he expected from Riane in those moments, but he had hoped for anything other than what happened. It had been a stupid thing to do, yet she needed to know he wasn’t done fighting. This wasn’t over.

There had to be some way for them to be together, and he would do anything to find it. Even if that meant harassing Simon into complacency. Something was available to them, he just knew it, but he couldn’t for the life of him figure out what it would be.

He truly needed Riane in order to discover it, but she was not an option right now. He doubted she ever would be. The thought she was unwilling to help in her own happiness enraged him, even while he understood her reasons behind it.

His cellphone made a popping noise to tell him he got a text message, but he ignored it. He didn’t want to deal with Dalen and Seth right now, especially after Seth had seen him waiting to grovel for Riane’s attentions… again.

Simon had been very angry about her switch in major, and he wondered if a renewed promise she wouldn’t change majors again would help. Even though they had promised before when he was taking her away, now his temper wasn’t so flared. Maybe he could be made to see reason.

The cellphone alerted him of another text and he rolled his eyes as he laid there on his bed in the dark. He wanted to be left alone and wished he had turned his phone off before tossing it on the dresser across the room.

Perhaps if he could get Riane alone and speak to her in a calm, rational manner instead of begging her to come with him. After all, the reason this was happening was because Riane was thinking of others before herself.

Maybe if he showed her this wasn’t helping anyone, she could be made to see her sacrifice was unneeded. They could fix this problem without separating. There had to be a way.

The phone popped again.

Julian stood up from the bed with a growl in his throat. “I’m going to kill whoever this is!”

He snatched the phone off the top of the dresser and swiped the screen for it to open. A picture of Riane smiled at him as his background. He pressed the messages button to see Riane’s name in bold.

He nearly fumbled his phone out of his hand trying to press the screen where her name was. He read the texts.

“Hey, I’m outside. Can you come out?” Was the first of three.

“I know you are angry, but I would really like to talk to you.”

“No? Ok, I’m sorry. Take care.”

Julian took off running out of his room and out his front door. His appearance startled Nanette, but she shook her head thinking he was merely being his moody self.

Out on the drive way, he searched the front gate, but found nothing. He prayed she hadn’t gotten in a car and drove away as he ran towards the sidewalk.

He looked one way and then another down the street. She was there walking away and seeming to trying to make a call on her phone.


She stopped and turned around to him. “Um, never mind, sorry for the bother.” She hung up her phone as Julian jogged up towards her.

“I wasn’t looking at my phone.” He explained. “How did you get here?” He looked around for Blake’s car. He feared if he spotted it, this might be a further attempt to get him to leave her alone.

“I took a cab. I was just about to call him back here, actually.” She swallowed. “Um, I wanted to talk to you.”

“Yeah, ok. You want to come inside?” He was breathing rather heavily from his short run.

She shook her head, “Um, no. It would be better if I didn’t.”

His heart sank. This was another attempt to separate from him. “Riane, please, just hear me out. I know we can make your father see reason. We just have to come up with a plan. Just give us a chance to figure it out.”

Riane stared at him for a moment with a saddened look upon her face.

“I love you, and I know you still love me. Let’s not do this any more. I am falling the fuck apart over here.”

She was still quiet but her mouth was ajar as if she wanted to speak, but the words were failing to come to her.

Julian stepped closer and reached for her hand. “Please.” He begged in a low whisper.

She pulled her hand away from his own and Julian lowered his head as he knew the answer which was coming next. He didn’t want to hear it again, but he didn’t want her to leave either. Not just yet.

Riane’s arms wrapped around his neck and she hugged him tightly. He didn’t know if this was a goodbye hug or telling him she was going to fight for them. Honestly, he didn’t care as long as he got to hold her again, even if it was for the last time.

“Let’s run away.” Riane’s shaky voice spoke.

Julian stepped back and looked her in the eyes. “Really?”

“If we stay here, my father will come after your family, but if he can’t find us and your family has no idea where we went, they will be safe.” She explained. “Ivy said we can stay at her apartment until we figure out where we are going and what we are doing.” She looked at him hopefully.

He stared down at her as he processed what she was actually saying. He offered to run away with her, but he didn’t actually mean it. The words just came out in an emotional state.

Riane kissed his lips softly. “Let’s go, Julian.”

He nodded his head, as if the kiss was all he needed to make up his mind. “Yeah, alright. Let me run in and get a couple things.”

“Don’t alert your mother or brothers. Just take what can fit into your backpack.” She warned.

Julian nodded his head as he held onto one of her hands. “Stay here. Don’t leave. I will be right back.”

“I won’t leave.” She chuckled.

“Promise?” He begged the question.

“I promise.”

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