So, I guess this is it. The last chapter. I can't believe we're really here. I never thought I'd actually finish this story, once I've stopped with it. Guess you should never say never. So I just want to say thanks to all of you, and I hope you enjoy it. Here we go.
Hamilton's walk back home wasn't something he'd remember later, except as a swirling mass of conflicting emotions – there was rage there, and hurt and the feeling of betrayal. There was anger at himself – how could he have not known? In hindsight the signs were so obvious. There was anger at that girl, at the way she played him, at the way she lied to him from the moment they met. Her face, at the moment he told her he wished he'd never met her, was burned into his mind. She looked so crushed – but how could he trust her, again? How could he believe her tears weren't an act as well? She's managed to fool them all for so long, she was bound to be very good.
But what he felt most of all was loss, superimposed on all of his other emotions. He didn't know how to define himself without Jake in the world anymore, not just his first love but his first real friend. And she took that away from him, left him standing alone as his world crumbled around him, with her tearful "I love you" ringing like a mockery of everything he thought they shared. She didn't trust him until it was too late, and now he couldn't trust her, and without trust there was no love.
He didn't wake up from his daze until he reached the school grounds again. It all looked so normal; it was incomprehensible to him, how these people around could continue to smile and laugh and go on with their lives like the world didn't just tilt off its axel. He wanted to be able to breathe again. But barring that, all he wanted to do was get home and get in bed and never come out.
Of course, as he was very painfully learning, life didn't always work out the way you wanted it to. He winced as he heard Will's voice call him, but didn't turn. Maybe he would get the hint and go away on his own. The world definitely owed him some serious karma at the moment.
"Ham, wait up!" Will said as he jogged to his side. "Didn't you hear me call you – wow," he stopped as Hamilton looked over at him. He supposed he didn't look all that good right now, but he couldn't care less.
"What," he managed.
"Dude, you look like someone just ran over your puppy, is everything okay?" Will said, and Hamilton gave a slight laugh that sounded wrong even to his own ears. He felt like someone had just run over his heart. "Ham, you're kinda scaring me here," Will continued, placing his hands on Hamilton's shoulders and leaning in in concern.
"Not now," he answered quietly; he couldn't summon the anger that he felt before. He just felt defeated, and so very old. "Will, just – not now".
"Okay," the other boy answered, stepping back to give Hamilton space, though his face was still worried. At least he could contain his curiosity, unlike Scout. "So, this is probably a stupid question, but I guess bowling is a no-go?"
Hamilton stared at him, unable to even muster a reply; that question seemed so ridicules he didn't know whether to laugh or cry.
"Right," Will said "that was a stupid question. I'll just – I'll just tell the others, yeah? Or do you want to tell Jake?"
Just like that, Hamilton was furious again. "Who?" he bit out.
"Jake, you know, your best friend…" Will trailed off uncertainly, seeing the expression on his face.
"I don't know who you're talking about," Hamilton answered coldly, and turned away, ignoring Will's call of "Hamilton!" behind him.
Will didn't follow.
Than was no one home when he finally got there. He started going up to his room, but then stopped. Jake had been in that bed last night; his – her smell was all over the room. He couldn't bear to go in there, not yet. Instead he changed direction and entered his dark room, closing and locking the door behind him. This decision turned out to be just as bad, because Jake was all over the wall, smiling, laughing, making faces at the camera. He stood there, trembling, choking on air, before he started grabbing all the pictures off the walls and tearing them apart. Every one of them was a lie, and maybe if he got rid of all of them he could erase Jake from his mind, too. All the recent pieces of his life, falling around his feet like confetti.
He came to the last picture and hesitated; it was one of his favourites, a photo he took one day when Jake was asleep, curled under their tree with his head on his arms and grass in his hair. Her hair. He looked at it and suddenly it all resurfaced again, shaking him from the numbness in an overwhelming explosion of emotions. He backed away until he hit the wall, letting the picture drop unharmed from frozen fingers, and cried until he fell asleep.
He was dreaming.
He was back in his room, pressing Jake to his bed, only this time she wasn't dressed in a sweater but in the lacy blue bra. He was holding her by the wrists; she smiled up at him and said "I need to tell you something. I'm sorry I lied to you. Don't hate me". I could never hate you, he wanted to say, but instead he squeezed tighter and watched the bruises climb up her arms.
He was in the Bank's living room, watching Jake stand in front of him, taking off her clothes, until all that was left was the binder. She opened the binder but instead of the bra there was just her heart there, out in the open, red and glistening and beating to the rhythm of his own. "I will never hurt you," he said. "Don't make promises you can't keep," Jake answered, and pulled out her heart, handing it to him.
Hamilton dropped it to the floor and stepped on it.
Jake was never really sure how she made the drive back to New York. She just opened her eyes to find herself standing at the door of her building, the sun high in the sky and her bike parked perfectly in its designed parking space. She would've just stood there for who knows how long if the doorman hadn't recognized her.
"Jacqueline!" he said, opening the door and ushering her in. "I didn't know you were due back today, Consuela didn't say anything".
"Hi, Jimmy," she said tiredly, mustering a smile for him; he's been a friend since the first day they moved here, five years ago, and she knew he worried about her constantly; he saw just how often her mother was away.
"You don't look so good," he said, and she shrugged "it was a long drive, I'm just tired". He didn't say anything on the subject, just nodded, though she wasn't sure if he bought it. "So you'd better go right up and get into bed," he pressed the up button of the elevator for her "you can tell me all about your summer later".
He must have called Consuela, because the door to her apartment opened as soon as she stepped out of the elevator and she was swept into the familiar, comforting hug that used to chase the nightmares away when she was young. "Oh, Jacqueline, how I missed you" she announced, before pulling back and searching her face.
"What happened?" she asked softly. Jake thought about denying everything briefly, but Consuela knew her too well; she was the one person who could read through all her facades. "It's been kind of a rough few days," she said instead "I don't really want to talk about it".
Consuela nodded and pulled her in, though she couldn't resist saying "if he hurts you like this, he's not worth it".
Jake didn't meet her eyes "Consuela…"
"Fine, fine, I didn't say anything, but don't think you're off the hook. Now go get a shower and go to sleep!"
"Okay, I just need to make a phone call," Jake said, shaking her head as Consuela moved to take her backpack "no, I've got it". She had her binder in there.
Consuela threw up her hands in exasperation "am I at least allowed to make you something to eat? I swear you came back even thinner than before".
"I'm not really hungry," Jake said, and Consuela's lips thinned in disapproval "I'll just make this phone call and go to sleep".
She put the backpack in her room, then dialed the garage's number, squinting at the paper Bella gave her. She almost dropped the receiver in surprise when Bella answered the phone on the second ring. "Hi Bella, it's Jake," she said.
"Jake!" Bella sounded relieved "you just got back?"
"Yeah, there was a lot of traffic," Jake said, then hesitated. There was something she really wanted to ask, but she couldn't work up the courage to do it. Bella seemed to guess, though, with her signature perceptiveness.
"Hamilton didn't come by again after you left," she said gently.
"Oh," Jake said, swallowing against the sudden lump in her throat. "Well, I didn't really expect him to".
"Look, don't worry about it, I'm sure he'll come around," Bella didn't sound so sure, though.
"I doubt it," Jake said, rubbing at her eyes. "Anyway, that's all I wanted to say. Oh, wait, my address, you said you'll come visit. Do you have a pen?"
As Bella was writing down the address, she said casually "both Will and Scout came by; they regretted not getting the chance to say goodbye to you".
Jake wrinkled her forehead "how did they know I was at your place?"
"Well, apparently Scout was across the street at the dinner and was privy to the whole argument – he didn't hear anything, don't worry, just saw a lot of shouting, and Will ran into Hamilton back at the school".
"Oh, great," Jake muttered.
"They wanted to know if you were coming back for the school year. I told them I wasn't sure…?" there was a questioning tone to Bella's voice.
"I don't think so," Jake said "what's the point? I'm not really keen on masquerading as a guy for the next three years, not to mention the fact that it's totally illegal". Not to mention the fact that she didn't think Hamilton wanted to see her ever again.
"I guess," Bella sounded sad. "Well, I'll tell them you said hi".
"Okay. So… I guess I'll see you when I see you?"
"Yeah, have a good summer. Bye".
Jake ended the call, staring at the phone a little, and then went to take a shower. Well, at least she didn't have to wake up at 3 am to have a shower anymore.
Somehow, that didn't make her feel better.
When she finished she sat down at her computer, hugging her bathrobe tighter around her; she had an email she needed to write.
Then she could rest.
Hamilton woke up abruptly to the sound of hammering. For a moment, he didn't know where he was; then he registered the torn photos at his feet and his equipment, half-invisible in the gloom, and it all came back. The hammering came from the locked door, along with his mother's worried voice.
"Hamilton, are you in there?"
He contemplated not answering, but he didn't want her to worry. "Yes, mom, I'm here".
"What are you doing in there? It's after dinner time, I didn't see you the whole day!"
"Sorry, mom," he said, standing up and stretching. His back hurt like crazy from sleeping in that cramped position. "I was – rearranging stuff and I fell asleep".
"Open the door, Hamilton".
He probably looked like crap. "I don't really feel like company at the moment, mom".
"I didn't ask, Hamilton. Open the door".
"Fine," he muttered, walking over and turning the lock. He blinked at the sudden light.
"Munchie, what's wrong?" his mother asked worriedly, seeing his face. He hoped she couldn't see past him into the room. He didn't really feel like explaining the redecoration he had carried out right now. "Have you been crying?"
"I just had a bad day, mom. It's nothing you need to worry about".
"Oh, Munchie," she said, looking sympathetic "is this about Jake?"
"What!" he asked, staring at her. How did she know? He knew mothers had some sort of psychic power, but this was something else.
"Steven told me his mother sent an email saying he won't be coming back for the school year".
"Oh," Hamilton said. He wasn't sure how he felt about it. Relieved that he didn't have to see her again. And also kind of angry that she was so quick to leave it behind her. He knew she was the one that sent the letter, not her mother. Well, he was fine with that. He didn't want to see her ever again.
"It's okay, mom", he assured her.
She didn't seem convinced. "I know you and Jake were really close, honey," she said, sitting down on the sofa and patting the seat beside her in invitation. "I'm sorry he won't be coming back, but that doesn't mean your friendship is over, you know. I mean, when I was younger I had this friend –"
"Mom!" he cut her off "I'm okay with Jake leaving, really. You don't have to worry about it".
"Then why have you been crying?" she asked him, pointedly. "You can talk to me, sweetie, you know I'm here for you".
He hesitated. He didn't really want to talk about this to anyone, but she was his mom. If he couldn't talk to her, who could he talk to? Now that his best friend was out of the picture. He knew that she, at least, would never lie to him, no matter the reason.
"Okay," he started, biting his lip "I have this friend, who really liked this - girl". He knew she saw right through it and knew he was talking about himself, but distancing himself helped him talk about it.
"A girl," Kate repeated, sounding surprised.
"Yes, a girl. Anyway, so he really liked this girl, and he didn't know if she liked him back. But they were really good friends. And then he found out she was lying to him about something. Something really big. And the lie wasn't meant for him, he just got caught up in it, but she didn't trust him enough to tell him the truth until she had no other choice. And this lie sort of makes him doubt that anything about their friendship was real. And now she says she likes him too, only he doesn't know if he can believe her about it".
"Because she lied," Kate said, looking as though she was having a hard time following his story.
"Yes. But this was a huge lie," Hamilton stressed.
"I understood that. Okay, so do you –"
"Sorry, sorry. Your friend. Does he believe this girl about her reasons for lying?"
"Well," Hamilton looked down, thinking about it. "It fits with other things she told him; but now he doesn't know if he can believe them. Because this lie was about herself, so he doesn't know if the other things she told him about herself are true".
"I see." She thought for a moment. "Well, your friend should trust his instincts. If he felt she was telling the truth before, then she's probably telling the truth now".
"But she wouldn't have told him the truth if he hadn't made her do it," Hamilton added. "She would've just run away and disappeared and left him thinking – something that wasn't true. And he would've thought she hated him if she did that".
"Well, that's – not very nice of her," Kate frowned. "Did she tell your friend why she didn't want to tell him the truth – Hamilton, all this he and she is really confusing me".
"Mom!" he protested again, but then said "fine. She said she was afraid I would hate her if she told me the truth".
"And do you?"
"Yes. No. I don't know. I'm really angry. She wasn't who I thought she was. I told her I wished I'd never met her. She was crying when I left".
"Hamilton!" his mom said reproachfully.
"Look, mom, I would've understood if she told me earlier! But she had a chance to do it – actually it was a situation when she really had to tell me – and she didn't. She did it too late".
"Well, munchie," Kate said, smoothing his hair and sighing when he twisted away "there will be other girls, you know. You're so young. She isn't the last person you'll like".
"I sort of – I sort of thought that she was it" he admitted.
"What?" she looked startled.
"Well, I really liked her, more like, I loved her". He scratched at a dirty spot on the upholstery, avoiding her eyes "but now – I mean, I fell in love with one person, and she turns out to be a completely different person. I mean, what if none of it was true? What if all the little things that made me like her were an act?"
"What did you like about her?" Kate looked curious.
"Mom!" he fidgeted in embarrassment. "She was really smart, and interesting. She made me laugh a lot. She has this great smile – like, when she would smile at me I couldn't help but smile back. She has this dry sense of humor that I love, and she's really perceptive. She's not judgmental at all and she's always willing to help other people. She's really confident, she sort of has this attitude like she's a lot older and more knowing then the rest of us, but she sometimes really is. And though she's trying not to attract attention to herself – that actually has to do a lot with her lie, now that I think about it – she's actually really beautiful, she could turn a lot of heads if she wanted to…" he trailed off.
"You gave this a lot of thought," Kate said, surprised. And a little worried. She couldn't really remember her son ever mentioning a girl to her. She was a little sad that he was keeping things like this from her, even if she knew it was part of growing up. Well, at least it wasn't Jake. She's been worried about that. It wasn't that she was closed-minded, but it wasn't something she wanted for her son all the same. Hearing him talk about this girl was certainly a relief, even if it raised a different sort of anxiety.
"Well, munchie," she said, ignoring his usual protests "it seems to me that the kind of things you like about this girl aren't something you can really fake, no? She wouldn't make you laugh if she wasn't a funny person, and it's hard to fake being smart or interesting for a long time…"
He shrugged, not meeting her eyes. In a way, it was a relief to hear he wasn't a total idiot. That he fell for something real. But it made his actions all the more questionable. When the anger faded, would he regret his actions? He was already starting to feel guilty about making her cry; it was Jake, after all, whether male or female.
"I just don't understand why she didn't tell me," he said at last. This was the heart of the issue. Everything else, he could forgive. But how could she carry on all this time, pretending to be his best friend, watching him twist himself into knots over her, and not tell him?
"She did tell you, sweetie," his mother said gently. "Maybe she didn't do at a convenient time for you, and maybe not completely out of her own choice, but she could've continued to lie, even now. Doesn't that mean something, at least?"
She was right, he realized with a start. Jake could've never told him, pretended she was still a boy and rejected him, then disappeared without a trace. She could've left him wondering for years about what he did wrong. She could've left him wondering for years about his sexuality, about his ability to inspire love in people. "Oh, God –"
"What?" his mother asked, watching the emotions battling across his face "what's wrong?"
"She told me I would hate her," he managed "and I said that no matter what the secret was, I'd still love her, I didn't care about what she was hiding. And then she told me, and I – I rejected her. Completely. I just stood there in front of her and told her I never want to see her again, and walked away!" he grabbed his head in his hands "I'm such an idiot!"
"Honey…" Kate was at a loss. She's never seen her son like that before. She couldn't even remember the last time she's seen him cry.
"The thing is," he continued, head still down "she just planned to leave, forever. That's what she does when she gets overwhelmed. The only reason I managed to catch up with her is because her – ride got delayed. Otherwise I would've never known the truth, and she would've never told me she loved me. Even if I find her, and she forgives me, how will I know that she won't disappear with the first sign of trouble?" losing her once, when he thought she got on the six AM bus to New-York, was one of the worst experiences of his life. He didn't even have her than. It felt like he lost her a second time when she told him she was a girl. He didn't really have her then, either. How much worse would it be, losing her for real? Losing her after he actually had her, after he was allowed to kiss her and hold her and dream of a future together?
He wasn't sure he could survive that.
"You don't know, Hamilton," his mother said gently. "Not everything works out in life. Maybe you'll find her and she won't forgive you. Maybe she will and after a while you'll see she's not the one for you. Maybe she will leave you. You can't know the future. Sometimes, all you can do is take a leap of faith and hope you won't get hurt".
He couldn't help but let out a shaky laugh. It reminded him of what Lena has said at the cotillion. Had he taken that chance, would things have turned out differently? Would he have spent the last two weeks with Jake as his girlfriend? Would he have been calling her right now, making sure she got home safely, making plans to visit for the rest of the summer? Things would've probably been easier than. Maybe it was too late, now. Maybe this morning was his second chance, and he blew it.
He looked at his mother. She smiled at him. "Honey, you just have to ask yourself – if you don't go – if you give up now, decide that it's too complicated, too painful, too scary – would you regret it later? Would you, in five or ten or twenty years, look back on this moment and say: I wish I went after her? You can't live life without getting hurt. You just have to choose the important battles to fight in".
He looked at her helplessly "I don't know". He didn't want to have regrets. But he didn't want to get hurt anymore, either. And she could hurt him with one word, with one look, without even meaning to. It was terrifying, to give one person that much power over him. Here was a chance to step back and say: maybe I don't want that. Maybe what I'm feeling is not something I'm capable of dealing with. Maybe this wasn't meant to be. Love shouldn't be this painful.
"Love, at the basis of it, is about trust, Hamilton," his mother said, before getting up "part of it is the butterflies and the euphoria and the physical attraction, but it means nothing in the long run without trust. The question is – do you love this girl enough to trust her again?"
She gave him a kiss on the forehead "think about it. Now go take a shower and go to sleep. It's late".
He thought about her words as he lay in bed, unable to fall asleep. Right now he couldn't think about Jake without his insides twisting. Even when he was furious at her, even when he was standing in front of her and telling her he wished they'd never meant, he still thought she was the most beautiful person he'd ever saw. Even then he had wanted to kiss her, to wipe the tears from her cheeks. Now that the anger was gone, her absence felt like a great emptiness, this huge space inside of him that felt like only she could fill it.
Would he continue to feel like this for the rest of his life? He was a romantic at heart; he had always believed in love at first sight, always hoped he'd find his soul mate. He didn't know if that's what Jake was. He'd always thought he'd be older, that he'd date a lot of beautiful girls, and then, one day, he'd be sitting at a bar or something and this gorgeous girl would walk in and their eyes would meet, and he would just know. They would get married and live happily after. And it would be easy. There would be no doubts. There would be no pain and no misunderstandings. There would be no fear.
He was so afraid now.
He remembered how it felt to kiss her for the first time, back when he still thought she was a boy. At the time, he knew, just knew, that this was it. That this was the person he was going to spend the rest of his life with. It hadn't seemed scary at the time. It seemed right. He had never felt that complete before, like nothing else mattered but being here, with this person in his arms.
Hamilton set up in bed.
His mother was right. If he didn't go after Jake, he'd regret it for the rest of his life. Maybe she wouldn't take him back. Maybe it wouldn't work out. Maybe she was half-way to a boarding school in Switzerland right now. But he had to try, he had to know. He had to give them at least that one last chance.
Even if it meant taking a plane to Switzerland after her.
He dressed quickly and quietly, glancing at the clock on his bedside table; it was almost two AM. His parents should be asleep by now – the house was silent. He grabbed a bag, throwing his wallet in, and tiptoed quietly out of his room and into his father's study. He needed Jake's address. The phone number listed in the student registrar was probably fake, but maybe the address was the correct one. He typed in the password – his father was so predictable – and scrolled down, looking for 'P'. Bingo. But –
Damn, her street number and apartment number together made up her birth date. If that was her real birthday date – and he thought it was, he remembered how flustered she was when he teased her about it – that meant the address was probably a fake one, too. She probably didn't want the risk of anyone but her mum busting her.
He leaned back in the chair, thinking. He wasn't about to give up now – it seemed like every minute mattered. The faster he got to her the better. But who would have the real address?
He sat up straight as the realization hit him. Bella.
First, he needed the car keys. His parents would kill him when they found out, but he would deal with that when the time came. He scribbled a quick note, telling them not to worry and that he would call them in the morning. He exchanged the note for the car keys on his father's bedside.
The sound of the engine igniting sounded horribly loud to his ears, but no one came rushing out of the house to stop him. He hoped Bella would be awake.
Unfortunately, when he got to the gas station it was dark. He contemplated what to do for a while, before deciding his best chance was to try and wake Bella. He searched around for some pebbles and aimed for the window he hoped was Bella's. After a few tries the window opened and a disheveled head popped out, scowling down at him. "What do you want?" she snapped.
"You're not Bella," he said stupidly.
"No shit," the girl said, rolling her eyes and moving as though to go back in.
"Wait!" he said "could you wake Bella? I wouldn't ask unless this was extremely important".
The girl stared at him; he stared back at her nervously, trying for his most earnest expression. Eventually she rolled her eyes again. "Wait here".
A minute or two later Bella popped her head out from a different window. She looked a lot angrier than her sister. "Go away, Hamilton," she snapped.
"Look, Bella, I'm really sorry about today," he said quickly "but I really need your help".
"What you need is a good kick up your ass," Bella answered.
"That too," he agreed "look, could you just get down here before we wake up the whole neighborhood?"
She looked as though she was debating with herself. Finally, after what seemed like forever, she nodded. "Stay there". She closed the window, and a minute later she came out of the house, wrapped in a big sweatshirt and clutching her arms around herself. She was wearing fuzzy slippers. He wisely didn't comment on it.
"Yes, what did you wake me up in the middle of the night for?" she demanded.
"I need Jake's address," he said, and she stared at him. Something flickered across her face, too quick for him to decipher.
"Why?" she asked. It felt like she was testing him.
"Why do you think?" he managed not to snap.
"You were a huge jerk this morning," she continued.
"I know that! Why do you think I'm here?"
"And you had to do this at half past two in the morning?"
"It's not like my parents would let me borrow the car to drive to New-York," he said defensively.
"You stole the car?" he thought she seemed a little impressed, but it was hard to be sure in the dark.
"I didn't really steal it, it belongs to my parents. I just – borrowed it. Look, are you going to give me the address or not?"
"Fine," she said, glaring at him "but only because Jake is a friend of mine and she deserves better than the way you treated her this morning".
"In my defense, I had a reason to be pissed off".
"Maybe," that was all the leeway she was going to give him at the moment. She went inside to retrieve a pen and a piece of paper and scribbled the address down. "Here. How are you going to get there?"
"We keep maps in the car," Hamilton answered.
"Right. Well, good luck, try not to have an accident. I'm going back to sleep".
"What now?" she bit out.
"Could you, maybe, fuel up the car?" he tried the puppy eyes.
The look she gave him could've caused flowers to whither.
A little while later he was on the way to New-York, glancing at the map spread on the seat beside him every once in a while, nervous as a man driving to his own execution. He supposed that in a way he was. It all depended on Jake's answer.
By the time he entered New-York the sun was starting to rise, but the streets were still relatively empty, something for which he was grateful. He'd never had to drive for this long on his own, and it was hard enough to navigate the unfamiliar streets without getting panicked about all the hot-headed drivers, too. Finally he took the turn for Jake's street, looking at the numbers on the buildings until he reached the right one. He parked it at an empty place, hoping he wouldn't get a ticket. His parents would really kill him if he managed to get the car impounded or something.
The building had a doorman. He didn't remember Jake saying anything about that. He hoped the man wouldn't give him any trouble about going up. Bella said Jake and her mom lived in the penthouse.
"Can I help you?" the doorman asked. He was old, but Hamilton supposed that trying to get passed him without his consent would be quite a lot of trouble.
"Hi," he said, trying his best not to give any weird vibes. The last thing he needed was for the man to call the police. "I'm here to see – Miss Pratt". He totally forgot he didn't know Jake's real name. He didn't think to ask Bella, either.
"Aren't you here a little early?" the doorman asked suspiciously.
"I live a few hours away," Hamilton said awkwardly "and the drive went smoother than I expected".
"I don't know," the doorman said. "Who are you?"
"Hamilton. Flemming," he answered quickly. "I went to school with her this summer. At Rawley".
The man still looked suspicious, but he seemed to recognize the name of the school, at least. "Is Jacqueline expecting you?" he asked.
So that was her real name. He thought Jake suited her better. "Not really," he said, hesitating. "We – we had a fight, before she left. I wanted to make things right, but I didn't have her home number, and her cell phone got broken a while back". It sounded a little crazy when he said it out loud.
"And you couldn't wait for a more decent hour?"
"I was afraid I wouldn't manage to catch her," Hamilton answered.
The doorman stared at him a bit more, but eventually nodded. Hamilton let out a breath. "You can wait here until they wake up," he decided.
"Oh," Hamilton said, frowning. "I thought I'd just go up and wait by the door. I promise I won't make any problems," he added hurriedly, seeing the doorman's expression.
The man pinched the bridge of his nose, looking like he was having an inner debate. "Fine. But I have cameras in the corridor. One shifty move and I'm calling the cops".
"Deal," Hamilton said, going over to the elevators. He couldn't believe how well this was going so far. Of course, the hard part was just beginning.
"It's the –" "Penthouse, thanks, I got it".
This building had quite a few floors. The elevator was ridiculously fancy, too. He looked at himself in the mirror, and immediately tried to flatten his hair. He looked like crap.
The elevator dinged, and he stepped out, looking around. There was only one door, and not a lot of corridor. With a sigh, he sat down next to the door and settled to wait. He fell asleep for a while; he didn't sleep all night and the emotional strain was getting to him.
Hamilton was startled awake by a small scream. He scrambled to his feet awkwardly, looking at the woman standing in the door that just opened. She was around fifty, maybe more, of South American decent. She had a kind face, but right now she looked kind of startled.
"Hi," he said quickly, trying for a charming smile; he wasn't sure how well that worked. He was so nervous his palms were clammy. "You must be Consuela. I'm –"
"Consuela, is everything all right?" he froze as a familiar voice sounded from the apartment. He could feel his heartbeat speeding up, the blood rushing in his ears. He was feeling kind of faint.
Her steps were coming nearer. "What is it? Did something – Hamilton!"
Jake stood in front of him, clad in a clingy tank top and boxers. He felt his mouth go dry. She looked completely shocked. They just stood there, staring at each other for a few minutes, neither one able to get a word out. He just drank in the sight of her. Her hair was standing all over the place. She had toothpaste on the side of her chin.
"You're beautiful," he blurted, blushing horribly. She blushed too.
"I, what?" she stammered. "Hamilton, what are you doing here?"
"I drove here," he said, unable to take his eyes off here. "I took the car, for which I'm probably going to be grounded until graduation. Look –"
"How did you know where to find me?" Jake asked, eyes wide.
"I got your address from Bella. She wasn't too happy about being woken up. Look, I have something to say to you. And I know you probably don't give a damn about what I have to say, but please, hear me out".
She nodded, mouth open.
"The thing is – I was so angry, yesterday. I felt betrayed and I couldn't think straight. All I could think was about how I didn't know you, and that you tricked me, and I never stopped to think about the risk you took. You could've chosen to never tell me the truth. You did it knowing how I would react. I promised I wouldn't hurt you and then proceeded to do just that. I'm sorry – oh, don't cry, please," he said, as she wiped at her eyes. She gave him a watery smile.
"The thing is – I don't care that you lied to me. I don't care what the reason was. I don't care that I spent almost a month thinking I was gay," she let out a startled laugh at that, more out of nerves than anything else. "I know I reacted in the worst way possible. But I thought about it, and the only thing I care about is you. You make me feel like the ground just dropped beneath my feet. You make me feel like I'm about to fall apart at any moment. I've never been more scared – or hurt – by someone my entire life. But I've never felt more right than when I'm with you. The thought of never seeing you again – I don't think I could bear that. I don't want to wake up ten years from now and realize I've found the love of my life and let her go because of a mistake I was too childish to get past. I fell in love with you when you were my guy best friend, and I realized then that you were the person I wanted to spend the rest of my life with, if you'd let me. I don't feel any different now that you're a girl. You are who you are. Jake, Jacqueline, it doesn't matter. So I guess, what I'm saying is, I'm standing here on your doorstep, telling you I love you, and asking if you still love me, too".
He ended his speech, completely winded and drained. It was all in her hands now.
She stared at him, tears dripping down her cheeks, mouth in a wide 'o'. He couldn't breathe. Then she started to smile, one of her sunrise smiles, the ones that made him feel like the luckiest, most important person in the world. She was nodding.
"I love you, too," she said, laughing and crying at the same time. He found he was doing the same. He was feeling very overwhelmed at the moment, but in a good way. In a wonderful way. He had a sudden urge to shout that he was king of the world. Instead he took her in his arms, pulling her close to him, and kissed her.
He wasn't about to let her go ever again.
When they woke up, his parents found a note on their bedside table:
I went to throw caution to the wind.
Don't worry about me; I'll call you in the morning.
P.S. if everything goes well, I'm going to marry this girl someday. Just to let you know.
So, yeah, that's the end of this story. Sorry it took so long, and thanks for bearing with me. I'm aware that I only wrote Ham's side of their reunion – it seemed to me that if I would repeat it I would ruin the flow of the story, and besides, I think you get Jake's reaction pretty well from his perspective too.
Hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I'm not sure about the epilogue thing yet – if I'll write it, it'll be something very short. We'll see.
You've been great, guys, thanks for one hell of a ride.
See ya when I see ya!