So I feel like a terrible author for not having posted for so long...I'm soooo sorry! But I hope to make it up to you with this chapter. It's not necessarily a happy chapter, but it does answer a lot of the questions you've all had about Tommy and his motives for dating Nicole. Some of you were right on track with your ideas for his motives but I think most of you will be surprised by what he says. Hopefully no one will be too upset with me by the end though...please try to trust me. :)
Thank you all for your patience with me! If you get a chance to review after reading this chapter, please let me know what you think...this chapter was a tough one for me to write, so I'm really curious to see what everyone thinks. And as always, please ENJOY!
My heart feels as though it's going to jump out of my chest. I hear the rapid beating loudly in my ears, the only sound left in the room after the door slams. It keeps beating louder and stronger inside my body, a constant reminder of what has happened over the last 30 seconds.
My eyes shift from the doorway to Nicole, who is standing in front of me. Her stance is still defensive with her hands on her hips, but the expression on her face reflects the shock from the scene we've both just witnessed.
What did we just do? How much did Tommy hear? How long was he standing there before interrupting us?
As though she can hear my thoughts, Nicole turns towards me, releasing a long sigh. But instead of being sympathetic and commiserating over our joint uncertainty, she simply says,
"Are you happy now?"
My eyes grow wider at her biting question, feeling my blood begin to boil.
I narrow my eyes at her and respond, "Why would I be happy?"
"Because it's all ruined," she says, throwing her hands in the air. "You ruined everything. Now I'm going to have to fix it."
I roll my eyes at her melodramatic attempt at being the heroic savior.
"And how are you going to do that? He might've heard all about you too, you know."
"Then I'll fix that too," she replies immediately. "It's really none of your business anymore Jude. And I think Tommy has made that perfectly clear. You and he are done. As friends, as co-workers, as whatever you think you two are."
At that, she turns and walks towards the door where Tommy has just left, opening it and flying through it like she actually cares about him.
Great. Somehow I know that Nicole's version of "fixing things" definitely is not going to help me one bit. I need to fix this myself. And fast.
- - -
"What's with you?"
Jamie's voice barely breaks through the barrier of my internal thoughts. I'm sitting on the couch in the staff lounge after a long day of fighting, contemplating, and attempting to hide it all to be a positive role model for my campers.
"My whole life is a complete disaster," I mumble, my head between my hands.
"And I thought Sadie was the over-dramatic one," he replies with a light snicker, to which I glance through my hands and shoot him the scariest look I can muster.
Seeing my reaction, his brows raise and he eyes me more seriously. "Whoa…the last time you gave me a look like that was in third grade when I threatened to steal your David Bowie pencil case."
"Jamie, please don't take this the wrong way, but I really don't want to talk about it," I say, sulking further into the couch, wishing it would swallow me whole.
But instead of him leaving, I hear him take a deep breath and take a seat beside me.
"Tough," he replies. "I remember that look very clearly. It can lead to some pretty serious damage if you don't start talking."
I sigh loudly, not knowing how to begin or sum up the tragedy that is my life to my ex-boyfriend.
"Let's just say that I ruined everything in my life that had even the slightest potential of being good," I reply, knowing that I'm treading on thin ice with him. There's no way I'll be able to find comfort with the guy whose heart I broke just a week ago.
"Does that include breaking up with me?" he asks in response, an honest question that takes me a bit off guard.
"Well…that probably didn't help," I mutter, not wanting to really consider where this mess all began.
He accepts my response without question and lets me sulk in peace, until I look up at him and ask the one thing that has been plaguing me all day.
"Why do I always hurt the people that I care about most?"
He remains quiet for a few moments, actually considering my question. Finally, he looks at me seriously and says, "Because Jude, you're you. You're…thoughtful and considerate…and sometimes, that gets you into trouble."
"Aren't those supposed to be compliments?" I wonder aloud.
"Yeah…and they are," he replies, his tone more sincere than condescending. "You do a lot to make other people happy. But sometimes…you sacrifice what you want for them. You keep your own needs inside for so long that when they finally come out, they can hurt the people you were trying to help."
I contemplate his words, mulling them over while we sit there in silence. It's an interesting idea…I suppose I do tend to put my own feelings in second place…and when I finally let them out, things don't always go like I plan…
"When we broke up," he starts, gazing down at the ground, "I said that you should start listening to your heart more than your head. And I still believe that. If you're honest with yourself, Jude, then you can be happy and so can everyone else."
I nod in understanding, his words really sinking in. I wanted Tommy to be happy, but I kept my true feelings about Nicole quiet for too long.
I look up at Jamie, his gaze weighing heavy with emotion, and ask skeptically, "Why are you being so nice? I thought you hated me."
He shrugs and responds, "I never hated you…I hated what you put me through. I hated that you weren't honest about how you felt from the beginning…but…I don't hate you. I couldn't."
A small smile pulls at the edges of my lips as I feel some sense of ease knowing that there could be hope for us as friends in the future.
"Besides, you got me through this summer with my torturous campers," he adds with a light smirk.
"Aww, they weren't that bad," I reply with a grin. "You took it like a man…a man who feigned illness every time your bunk had free time together, but a man nonetheless."
He laughs quietly and stands up. "Yeah, let's keep that one a secret, okay?"
I stand too. "It'll be in the vault…thanks, Jamie."
He nods in response, gazing around the room. "I umm…I think I'm going to head back to my bunk. The monsters should be asleep by now."
"Ok," I reply. "Good night, Jamie."
"Night, Jude," he says with a greater sense of cheerfulness than I ever expected to see.
I watch him walk out the front door, sitting back on the couch to reflect on his advice. But as I start to replay his words in my head, the back door to the outdoor porch opens and Nicole walks through. Leslie immediately runs up to her from the other side of the room as I slouch down shamelessly into the couch.
Their conversation is faint but I can vaguely make out,
"He said he wanted some time alone," Nicole explains to Leslie. "I did what I could. I just hope that my begging was enough…"
They continue to talk as they make their way across the room. My heart immediately pounds in my chest with a mix of anger at her actions and nervousness at knowing that Tommy is now sitting outside all alone…which would be the perfect opportunity to talk to him.
I hesitantly stand from the couch, making sure that Nicole and Leslie are fully out of the room before I make my way over to the door to the outdoor porch. I take a deep breath, swallowing the butterflies that have suddenly surfaced in my stomach, and gently turn the knob to push the door open.
I take a tentative step outside, seeing the porch completely empty with the exception of one person sitting quietly in a folding chair, gazing out at the stars in the sky.
I gently close the door behind me, pausing for a moment before stepping further out. He turns slightly at the sound of my footsteps and meets my nervous gaze for just a moment before turning back towards the sky.
I follow his gaze to look out at the sky full of beautiful stars, every constellation visible and clear.
"Wow…it's so pretty…" I mutter quietly, my eyes shifting towards him where he remains stationary.
I take a few deep breaths and look down at the ground, reminding myself why I need to do this. I care about Tommy…he's more important to me than anyone…and I need to make this right. And like Jamie said, I need to be honest, with him and with myself, because that's the only way this is ever truly going to be made right.
I bite my lip and take one last deep breath, starting, "So…about what happened with Nicole…"
He barely recognizes my attempt to open the dreaded topic, as I watch him simply blink into the moonlight.
"How much did you hear?" I ask timidly.
Without looking at me, I hear him quietly mumble, "Enough."
I nod to myself, understanding that he doesn't want to elaborate. That can't be good.
"Tommy, I have to explain…"
"No. There's no need for an explanation," he replies firmly, his eyes still fixed on the sky before him.
"Jude," he says, turning to lock his eyes with mine, "I don't want to hear it."
I swallow the lump that has formed in my throat and take a step closer to him. "But I want to…it's important Tommy. You didn't get the full story. You didn't hear it all."
"I don't need to," he says resolutely.
"Yes, you do," I challenge, hearing the pleading in my own voice. "I didn't do what you think I did. I mean, I did it, but not for the reasons she said..."
"I'm not listening to this," he states, standing from the chair and turning to walk towards the door.
Instead of arguing with him, I reach for his arm as he walks by, grabbing onto it before he has the chance to get too far away, and continue with my explanation.
"I knew she wasn't right for you. I knew she didn't care about you…she's just concerned with herself. I was trying to look out for you, to make sure she couldn't get to you the way she wanted."
"Jude, enough," he says more forcefully, trying to walk away, but I continue to hold onto his arm, refusing to back down or stop my explanation.
"And I know I did a lot of terrible things….but Tommy, she's not who you think she is. She's not some sweet, innocent girl who just happens to be dating you. She's selfish and heartless and—"
"No, I need to say this!" I exclaim, letting go of his arm and turning away so he doesn't see the tears that are clouding my vision.
I need to finally say it. I need to tell him the truth.
So with my back still to him, I take a deep breath, and continue, "She's…manipulative and dishonest and two-faced and…she's been using you this whole summer to get a record contract!"
My voice rings out across the empty patio, the echo of my words lingering in the air.
A brief moment of silence passes between us as I wait to hear any sign of the shock he must be feeling.
But it never comes.
Instead, I hear him release a long sigh. And then his voice, quiet and husky, fills the air with a gentle, "I know."
Disbelieving my ears, I turn around to gaze at him, instantly recognizing the sincerity in his eyes.
"What?" I ask softly, doubtfully.
"I know, Jude. I know all of it," he replies, his voice a bit louder.
"How could you…when did you…" I say, my thoughts completely jumbled in my head. He knew?
"I've known all along," he continues, as though reading the questions scroll through my mind. "Since the beginning of the summer."
How is that possible? Why would he…what has he been doing with her?
I stare at him in shock, shaking my head as I attempt to process his confession. "I don't understand…if you knew…then why are you dating her?"
He sighs loudly, running a hand through his hair. "It's a long story, Jude."
"I want to hear it," I say automatically, now feeling like he owes me this much.
He looks around uncomfortably and clears his throat, his eyes finally settling back on mine. "I'm dating her…as a favor."
"A favor?" I repeat, my brows raised. "To who?"
"Darius," he answers flatly, to which I involuntarily gasp.
"Darius? What does he have to do with this?"
"Jude, this is really complicated…" he starts, "and it's not really my place…"
"Tommy," I say with determination, "just tell me."
He looks at me uncertainly, but then takes another deep breath and leans against the back of one of the chairs before responding.
"Darius has been friends with the Rider family for a long time. I guess he and Nicole's father went to university together…he's been close with all of them and even helped Josh get this job."
I nod in understanding, forcing myself to remain quiet while he continues with the story.
"But I guess Nicole has always been kind of…pushy…when he's around. She's had her eye on a record deal for a long time and has made that pretty well known. When Darius heard that she was coming to camp too, he figured she'd be a handful. So right before camp started, he told me about her and asked if I would 'distract' her for the summer."
"And you agreed?"
"Yeah, I did. We made a deal. So I knew that she didn't have any real interest in me beyond getting to D. And I knew that once camp was over, we would be done."
I take a step away from him, mulling his story over in my head. His avoidance of talking about her and his seemingly faithful devotion to her…it was all an act. Part of me felt like I should be angry with him, but there was still something missing, something that didn't add up.
"I don't understand why you would do that…why you would put yourself in that situation," I start, considering his motives for making a deal like this. "You were actually willing to be with someone who was just using you? What did Darius offer that would make you do that?"
An awkward silence settles over us as I search his eyes for some reason, some palpable explanation for why he would put himself through this.
He gazes at me hesitantly and quietly admits, "He offered to move me to the Montreal office of G-Major."
My eyes widen and panic begins to take over my system. "What? Montreal?"
He nods and looks away, saying, "He's been talking about starting up an office there and I told him a few months ago that I wanted in. But I guess the plans weren't finalized…until now."
The heat from the night rushes to my face and I feel my heart pounding louder in my chest. "You're…you're moving?"
"At the end of the summer," he confirms, his voice distant. "And I figured having a built-in girlfriend for the summer wouldn't be such a bad way to go."
I shake my head, unwilling to accept this. Not only has he known about Nicole, but he's been dating her as a way to leave Toronto. He's been using her too.
But as much as I want to focus on this summer, I can't seem to get past his desire to move away.
"You can't leave," I say softly, more to myself than to him.
"I am," he answers firmly. "The plans are set. Everything's done."
I stare at him in disbelief, not wanting to accept his decision. "Why didn't you say something?"
"I wanted to make sure all of the details were finalized with the new office," he explains. "I haven't told anyone."
"But…why?" I ask, hearing my voice crack.
He breathes deeply before answering, "I just…need a change."
"Tommy, you belong in Toronto. It's your home."
"I'll make a new home," he contests with a shrug.
"But…what about your friends? And your artists? And what about…me?" I ask, my voice growing quieter and sadder.
He doesn't answer my question but looks down at the ground uncomfortably, releasing a deep breath as I continue,
"Tommy," I say, taking a step closer to him, "I know this summer has been a mess…I've made some mistakes and didn't handle things the right way. But leaving…it's not going to make things better."
"I disagree," he says with a shake of his head. "I think leaving is just what I need to make things better."
"No, it's not," I plead with him, taking one more step closer so that we're inches away. I grab his hand, look into his eyes, and add, "This summer was just a…a roadblock. But we can get past all of this. And we were just starting to get back on track…back to where we should've been before—"
"Before you picked Jamie?" he finishes for me, an edge of anger suddenly resounding in his voice.
At the sound of his words, I immediately feel as though I've been punched in the stomach. My breath becomes ragged and stifled, as I look away in attempt to gain control over myself and my emotions. He pulls his hand out of mine and takes a step backwards, creating more distance between us.
"Is that what this is about?" I ask meekly. "Me picking Jamie?"
He looks at me for a moment before answering, "Let's just say that Darius wasn't the only one looking for a distraction this summer."
The bitterness is evident in his voice as I instantly grasp the meaning behind his words. I see him visibly become more stiff, more defensive, crossing his arms to protect himself. Months of avoidance have led us to this point, where I know that everything he's been going through is about to come out.
"You know I made the wrong choice," I say softly, my voice barely audible.
"No, Jude," he replies sternly. "I don't know that. In fact, the only thing I know is that I put myself out there and I got my heart handed back to me. And I know that I told you that I loved you and then you ran into someone else's arms. That's what I know."
My heart sinks at the sound of his words, hearing the truth and the pain behind them.
He starts to pace around the porch, the weight of his footsteps becoming louder as he continues, "You think these last few months have been easy for me, Jude? That it's been a walk in the park to see you or be in the same program as you?"
"But the off periods and the infirmary," I mutter faintly, remembering all of the good moments we've shared together this summer. "I thought you liked spending time with me."
"I do and that's the problem," he replies, stopping his pacing to look back at me. "You made your decision. And it wasn't me. And no matter how much time we spend together, I can't forget that. I can't forget that I wasn't the one you chose to be with."
"Tommy…" I start, my voice sounding weak and frail, "I was just…scared."
"And you think I wasn't?" he questions, the emotion in his voice showing through his cold facade. "I know I've made my share of mistakes when it came to you, but this was different…I thought we were starting over, giving this a real chance. But you obviously didn't feel the same way."
I feel the tears well up in my eyes at the sound of his words, hearing his tone go from anger to hurt. Oh god…what did I do? He's trying to get away…from me?
"You can't go," I repeat, wiping a tear away. "I know I screwed up. But we can fix this…I can fix this…"
He emits a quiet smirk and replies, "Funny. That's what Nicole said too."
I bite my lip to keep the rush of emotions from getting the best of me and gaze at him, all of my regret and guilt threatening to overflow.
"I…I don't know what to say…"
"So don't. Just leave it alone," he says with a sense of finality. "It's in the past. I need to get on with my life. I need to get away from…all of this."
The tears roll down my cheeks as I take in all of his words, each one stinging more than the last. I glance up at him hesitantly and say the only words I can think of.
He releases a long sigh at the sound of my words and shakes his head, saying, "I know you are. But that's not enough this time."