“I don’t want to stop it. I want you Jackson,” I whispered back, still kissing him. His lips found mine again, and then my legs wrapped around his waist. I was very conscious that I wasn’t wearing a shirt, and my own skin pressed into his skin, sending tingling down the entire length of me. He tore his lips away from mine again, but his arms stayed around my waist, holding me to him.
“Stop,” he said, breathlessly.
I pulled back to look at him, and his face reflected the tortured feeling that was inside of me.
“What?” I breathed, not understanding. Wasn’t this what he had wanted?
“I can’t stop myself. You have to stop,” he said, closing his eyes and pressing his lips to my collarbone. I understood. He thought I cared about him so he was stopping it now.
“No, it’s alright,” I said, and he looked up at me. I kissed him on the lips and the chin again. The stubble there was rough and thrilling against the softness of my lips.
“I don’t love you,” I said, letting him know it was okay. His entire body stiffened and he looked at me. At the same moment, I was filled with horror because I realized that I had lied to him. This was the other thing that I was terrified of…It didn’t matter, I decided. It would be my own punishment, as long as I didn’t have to stop touching him now.
“You don’t.” It was said like a statement rather than a question, but I answered him anyway.
“No, so this is okay. We’ll pretend it never even happened,” I added, moving to kiss him again. He let me kiss him but he wasn’t kissing me back. After a few more moments of trying, I looked at him again.
“What’s wrong?” I asked, letting my hands fall from his hair. Then my back was against the cool, stony wall of his house. He pressed me there, gently. I felt completely wrong, having lied to him. Now that the intoxication of the moment was wearing off, I knew that I had been wrong. This wasn’t the way to fix me. Suddenly, tears were in my eyes again. I moved my legs and let myself slide to the ground, where I stood, looking at him, the wet jeans sticking to the skin of my legs.
It was only three weeks until Midsummer anyway. I had nearly made it through my banishment. I would go home and forget about all of this, but I couldn’t lie. I wanted to tell him the truth.
“Okay, I lied to you again, Jackson. I do love you and I’m sorry about that, but it’s the truth. I don’t even know how it happened, I…” I paused, flicking my eyes to his face, and then continued. “I know you’re used to that by now—with Paula and all of the other girls that must love you, but I just thought you should know,” I said. A furious, confused tear fell from my lashes as I looked up at my tormentor.
“I’m going home anyway, so it doesn’t matter,” I said. Apparently he was finding pleasure in my pain. I nearly passed out when he smiled at me.
Furious, I pushed past him and grabbed my shirt from the seat of the four-wheeler. Slinging my arms into it, I buttoned it quickly, refusing to look at him. The red tint was starting to invade my eyes and for a moment, I thought about letting it out, but then I pushed it back. Sure, right this moment I was enraged at him, but still, I did love him. I loved him so much that it ached.
I went to his jeep and retrieved my things, and when I started walking through the yard toward the highway, he ran up and stood in front of me.
“Where are you going?” he asked, smiling.
I hated that he could find something to smile about. Another heart he’d captured? Did he get enjoyment from this?
“I’m going home,” I hissed, furiously.
“Why?” he asked.
“Because you’re cruel and I hate you,” I said. Damnit Olivia. Another lie.
“But you just said you loved me,” he said.
I stopped walking, and he stopped walking backwards. I was tired. I felt as if all of my energy had been drained.
“What do you want from me, Jackson?” I asked, near tears again.
He approached me and I stayed, ready for whatever form of torture he wanted me to endure next. He cradled my face in his hands and forced me to look into his eyes.
“Sometimes you’re such a stupid girl,” he said, grinning at me.
“Yeah?” I asked squaring my shoulders. “Well you’re an a…” He pressed his lips against mine, cutting off my words. When I yanked back from him, he kept his hold on my face.
“What I want from you, Olivia, is for you to realize that I am completely, madly, head over heels in love with you,” he said, gazing into my eyes. My knees buckled and for a moment I thought I would fall, but he scooped me up in his arms, cradling me.
“No,” I said, struggling to get down. Confusion flashed across his beautiful face before he put me down.
“What’s the matter?” he asked, gazing into my face as if he could find the answer to his question there.
“I can’t…you can’t. You don’t even know what love is,” I said stupidly, trying to find a way to stop the tidal wave of emotion that was threatening to knock me over and drown me. It was fine for me to punish myself worse by loving him, but this couldn’t happen…
“I know how I feel about you Olivia. I’ve waited a long time to feel this way. I’ve spent so long wondering what was wrong with me…why I couldn’t love anyone…” His voice was more gravelly than silky now, his face tortured.
“Shhhh,” I said, putting my hands over my ears. I couldn’t hear these words from his mouth. I was leaving. I was going home. I was different than he was and I couldn’t live the rest of my life with these words playing over and over in my mind. The painful tugging at my chest was much more pronounced now. It was more like a slow ripping.
He gazed at me, several emotions flickering over his face now. I didn’t know what to say to him to make it better. This was all my fault. I should have never told him the truth. I should have let him believe the lie but I never imagined that he would love me back. Gently, he pulled my hands away from my ears.
“Olivia, what is it?” His voice pleaded with me and it twisted my heart, making my chest ache.
“I’m different than you,” I said. “Very different. We don’t fit. This can’t happen,” I started walking toward the highway again.
“Olivia, I like different,” he said, walking with me. “Different doesn’t matter when you love someone,” he added.
“I don’t believe in love,” I said. Another lie. I had to make him get away from me. I had to have time to think. Somehow, I had to unravel the threads in my mind and make sense of the things that were happening to me. I couldn’t bear to ask him to risk himself…
“Yes you do,” he said. “You told me you loved me.”
“I lied,” I said. Going for a record today, Olivia? Shut up.
His arm shot out and stopped me. I turned to face him, trying to conjure the worst words I could think of to make him go. I just had to think and it was impossible to think when his eyes were burning into me that way.
“What?” he hissed. “Do you feel anything for me or not? Which is it? I can’t keep up with you.”
“I can’t talk to you right now. I have to go,” I said, my face twisting with the pain I felt inside.
He gazed at me, waiting for something. I could see that I was hurting him. I hated myself just then. I was always messing things up…I could never just do the right thing. Why couldn’t there just be one simple answer instead of everything being so complicated?
“We’re friends, remember?” I whispered.
“Olivia, friends do not kiss like we did back there. Friends don’t feel so drawn to each other…not the way I do to you. I can’t stand being away from you,” he said.
“You’re just mad because I won’t sleep with you,” I hissed, trying to push a button somewhere that would make him let me go.
He chuckled, bitterly. “Yeah. That’s what it is, Olivia. I could have made love to you minutes ago, but I stopped myself.”
“Well you should have just done it so you could have thrown me away like all of the other girls,” I spit.
“Don’t be an idiot,” he said. “I never felt a thing for any of them. If I didn’t love you, I would have taken you just then without a thought for anything but my own pleasure.” His words sounded sarcastic, but his face was pained. It was the very picture of pain and confusion.
“Well it’s a good thing you didn’t, because that’s exactly what I had planned for you,” I answered stupidly, still trying to press buttons.
“You were going to make love to me and that’s it? Don’t joke with me Olivia. I know you better than that. You’re so much better than me. You could never have done a thing like that. If I’d had any idea how ignorant and selfish I was being, I wouldn’t have done it in the past. Now I see how I must have been hurting them…” His words trailed off and he looked so distressed, I thought I’d give up right then and there and jump into his arms.
He glanced down at the ground, trying to gather his thoughts and when he looked back up at me, my heart shattered.
“Olivia, love has never been real to me…not this kind of love. It never existed before you. I had no idea how it felt to miss someone or how it would feel to have your entire existence resting in the palm of someone else’s hand,” he said, his eyes flaming. I wanted to go to him, to comfort him and to protect what he was giving me. Instead, I drew on my training and tried in vain to push the pain to the back of my mind.
I smiled a fake, blasphemous smile at him. “Well, I guess you’ve learned your lesson then. My work here is done,” I said. I turned and started walking again, praying he wouldn’t follow. I hurt everywhere. The blood in my veins hurt. I kept walking until I reached the highway and started back the way he’d driven me.When I turned, I could see him peripherally; standing in the same spot he’d been in when I whirled away from him. He wasn’t moving. He was standing very still, the sunlight glinting off of his copper hair. Keeping my face calm when all I wanted to do was scream or cry was the most difficult thing I’ve ever done.