Hey, hi, hello! I'm back! I was going to make this a one-shot but decided to make it into a two part story. Or maybe three? Guess you'll just have to stick around and find out ;)
The tiny blonde at the bar peered up at the man next to her, flashing an adoring smile as he cracked what was probably another hilarious joke. I fiddled with the collar of my shirt as I was hit with a tight feeling in my chest.
That's how I always felt when I saw them together. My best friend and my brother.
I kept a close eye on Chloe and Simon up at the bar while I pretended to listen to what Liz had to say, a couple of enthusiastic 'uh huh', 'oh wow's' and nods of the head really sold it to her. A roar of victory cut through the thumping music as a young, fiery haired man won yet another round of pool and I downed the rest of my beer, wishing I was anywhere else.
I hated the bar. Absolutely hated it, and I knew she did too, but she seemed to be having so much fun.
Yeah, with Simon.
I shook my head.
"Come on lover boy, try not to make it too obvious." Tori's hand delivered a soft, open palmed blow to the back of my head as she returned from the bathroom. I delivered one last glance at the couple up at the bar, Chloe with a grin of adoration as Simon beamed down at her.
Tori knew. She knew I hated seeing them this close.
It never bothered me that Simon was the ladies man; that was always how it was growing up. He was the artsy, social butterfly that everybody loved and I was just his weird adopted brother who always had his head in a book. I never worried about it before; a relationship was never on my radar. I had school to think about and while I was working on turning my 4.0 GPA into a 5.0, he was playing basketball, partying and bringing strange women home to sleep with every night.
Liz enthusiastically introduced Chloe into our little group three years ago while we were in our first year of college and she just kind of stuck. At first I could have mistaken her for a highschooler with her short stature, slim figure and large, innocent blue eyes, but she was only a year younger than myself. She was a lot quieter than the others, and it took her months to come out of her shell.
Simon and Liz warmed up to her instantly, like she was a shiny new toy. Ever since that day three years ago my brother spent his time flirting away with her, it was a wonder they hadn't gotten together yet. Every time they were a bit too friendly, it felt like my heart was trying to jump out of my throat. Everything in me wanted to smack Simon upside the head and tell him to back off, to stop what he was doing. Everybody knew he was a player, for God's sake, so why couldn't Chloe see that?
Oh that's right. She was naive.
She was that shy, quiet girl who always saw the good in everyone and you couldn't even begin to imagine the amount of trouble she got herself in because of it. There were so many times where I had to rescue her in dangerous situations because of her trusting nature. There was Royce, who was in one of her classes. My gut instinct from the moment I met him wasn't good. He disguised himself as Chloe's friend, walked her to her dorm room after they'd study together at the library and one night tried to force his way in. I rounded the corner of her dorm to return a textbook that night only to see Royce beating down her door, screaming and flailing his arms about for her to let him in, that she owed him.
I shuddered thinking about it.
Another night we were out at the bar, the whole group. Simon, Tori, Liz, Rae, Brady and her. She went up to the bar alone and got lost in the crowd. A tall, blonde man took her by the arm and attempted to lead her into the bathroom. I managed to get in between them but not before he left bruises on her wrists that took what felt like forever to fade. She didn't step foot in another bar for eight months after that.
Then, of course, there was the time that I wasn't there to help her. The one thing I would never forgive myself for.
Walking back to her dorm at two in the morning after studying, she was followed by three men as they whistled and hollered at her. She beat down my door at three in the morning, bloodied, bruised and broken. To this day, almost a year later, she still hadn't told me the gory details, only that she wasn't raped. Honestly, I didn't want to know and I don't think she wanted to relive that night.
So yeah, Chloe Saunders was the epitome of naive. But how the hell could I stay mad at her? She knew exactly what to say. Every time I had to rescue her I was so scared that I lost it, said some horrible, untrue things that made her cry even harder than she already was.
"What the fuck were you doing walking home alone at two in the morning? How could you be so stupid," I remember yelling in her face as she sobbed, her vibrant blue eyes shining with tears. I remember dabbing a tissue at her bloodied chin as she winced. I remember gently prodding her ribs, checking for injuries. I remember trying to convince her to go to the police.
I remembered that night well, I still had the nightmares, and Chloe still had the scars. She cried, stumbling over her words as she explained that she didn't want to inconvenience me by asking for a ride home.
"Next time, call me when you decide to risk your life. Maybe I can save you from this shit happening again." I spat.
All traces of anger melted when she whispered, "I'm sorry, Derek."
After that? I just felt pain. An aching in my chest knowing I wasn't there to help her this time. She was so small, so fragile. Why would anybody want to hurt her?
Now, well now I was just watching her from a far, waiting for the next thing to happen. Everyone knew what that would be. Liz knew, Tori knew, hell, even Brady knew.
I loved my brother, I'd be lost without him. But he was such a jerk, a player, a...
I peered up to the bar once more to see Simon tucking a piece of Chloe's hair behind her ear. She smiled up at him, peering through her eyelashes.
The sight made my stomach churn. Not in the sick way, no.
I wanted her to look at me like that.
He was going to break her heart. He was going to be the one to hurt her. And what could I do? If I told him to back off, I'd be a jerk. If I warned her, I'd be jealous and possessive.
But also how much of my worry was for Chloe's sake? How much of it was because I wanted her for myself?
For Simon, college opened up a whole new world for him. New experiences, new girls, new education. I was his awkward brother who only ever studied and had never had a girlfriend. It was never even on my radar until Chloe settled in with our group. At first I didn't want anything to do with her. I didn't like change, and she was exactly that, a change. A change in our group dynamic that I wasn't prepared to deal with. Only when I realized she wasn't going anywhere did I finally start interacting with her. It didn't take me long, but I started to like her and eventually...
Well now, I guess I was in love.
I'd never loved a girl before. I liked Liz and Rae because they were friends but I never had that fluttery feeling in my stomach when I looked at them. Chloe was a different story.
"Are you growling?" Tori asked, her brow raised in amusement.
"No." I grumbled.
"That's funny, I could have sworn I heard you growl." My sister teased.
"This isn't a joke."
Tori's face hardened. The dim lights did a poor job at casting light over us but I could tell what she was thinking. She didn't want Simon hurting Chloe any more than I did.
Another glance over at the bar. They were even closer than before, her hand rested gently on his forearm, close in proximity as the crowd around them squished them closer and closer together.
"I gotta go." I slid out the booth, grabbing my jacket from the seat before heading straight towards the door.
The cold winter air sobered me up and I took a deep breath that I wasn't aware I was holding. I glanced at my watch, almost midnight, before flagging down a cab.
Being sober was somehow so much worse. My mind raced between all sorts of different thoughts. The worst one, though, was that I hoped it was going to be me she turned to after the inevitable happened.
Why wouldn't she go to one of her girlfriends? The ones who would offer a compassionate ear, a shoulder to lean on. So far every time I've saved her or she's run to me, I get angry and yell at her for being so foolish.
God she was so naive.
I leaned my head against the cool window of the cab and sighed heavily. Simon was just going to have to be another lesson Chloe learned on her own. Liz and Tori weren't going to say anything and I didn't want to get in between her and Simon for a myriad of reasons.
A buzzing in my pocket pulled me out of my thoughts. I retrieved my phone and squinted at the screen.
Hope u got home okay xx - C
My stomach did a flip, or was it my heart? I couldn't tell.
In the cab now, nearly home. Have fun tonight -D
That was the last I heard from her. I trudged up the stairs of my apartment building and let myself into my studio. The night was so quiet.
I stripped off my black t-shirt and replaced my jeans with sweats before collapsing onto my bed, wishing that she was next to me.
There was something about the way she'd cuddle up to my side when we watched movies together. When she'd pout endlessly for a piggy back after a big night out. When she'd insist I come out with the group, and persist non stop until I eventually caved.
She wanted me there. She wanted me around, and she never let me forget it. For years now I let that sliver of hope turn into something more. It wasn't a sliver of hope anymore, it was an aching in my chest, wanting to know if we could ever be more than friends.
I felt desperate. Desperate to one day call her mine. Three years of knowing her and one year of trying to play it cool, pretending that she didn't ignite a spark in me whenever she was around.
She was oblivious.
She would never love me.
Never could love me.
Let me know what you think!