[I want to give a big thanks to everyone, before I can go on. EVERYONE. Everyone who read this, reviewed this, alerted and favorited it. This story was so fun to throw the Big Time Rush crew in, as much as the topsy-turvy drama killed some of you. I'm not going to list all of you reviewers for the last chapter this time, because you know who you all are and you all have a place in my heart. Also, I still recommend Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen. You might not like the fact that there's no Kames love in there, but you'll love it for everything else, I promise. Thank you all so much. On that note, PLEASE ENJOY the last installment of Along for the Rush.]
The coffee at Elon is not as good as it was at Gustavo's secret pie and coffee shop in the back of a Laundromat—but it's something I've gotten used to over the past few months, especially when my meal card covers it and the free refills.
I pop a lid on my jumbo to-go cup, and I make my way out to the greens in the center of the campus with my skateboard tucked under my arm. I set it down and carefully ride through the campus to what I now call home. When I stop at the building door it's starting to drizzle—that cold, gross, November rain.
"I'm home," I sing out as soon as I slip inside the door.
"Hey buddy," Carlos calls out from the top floor of our loft.
So, the last few days of Summer spent in Colby were bittersweet. I had made a new life there: new friends, new family and a new me.
I'd gotten all of my goodbyes in, promised Mercedes that I'd be back soon enough, and it had been compromised between two families that I'd be visiting one every other holiday or break—with the exception of Christmas which was reserved for my mother. Moving into a new college life wasn't hard at all; not with my best friend Carlos by my side.
"Your phone has been ringing, quite a couple times actually," Carlos tells me as I set my coffee down on my bedside table.
"Thanks," I say. "It's getting way too cold out there, when will summer come back?" I ask as I shed my jacket and throw it at the end of my bed before flopping down with my phone.
"Didn't you used to hate summer?" Carlos teases, his eyes not leaving his Econ 101 textbook, over on his bed across from me.
"I'm giving it another chance," I laugh. I pick up my phone and scroll through my missed calls on my phone screen, two of which are from my mother.
Oh, and did I mention? Mom is dating again. Can you believe it? She's now with a grad-student who made sure to spend extra time in the classroom after her summer course sessions and ask 'the great and inspirational Mrs. Knight' questions, which only lead to him stealing her heart away for keeps. He's a great guy, I promise—no matter how many years my mom has on top of him.
What else is there to say? Oh, right. My dad returned home to Mercedes by the time I left, willing to give their couple-hood another shot. He finally got his damn priorities straight at the airport—right on the night of the Bash. He chose to miss his flight and come back home, and apparently seeing my mom pacing in the living room with his daughter in her arms was enough of a wakeup call for him to try parenting out again.
That night he paid for my mom to stay at the Condor hotel while he waited at home with the baby for Mercedes. When she got home, heels in hand and post-bash jitters running through her body, she couldn't have ever been more shocked than she was then when she saw my father sitting in the living room with a sleeping Kenzie in his arms.
Mercedes is working half-time now at Inlet-Outlet surf shop, and my dad dropped a class at the U so he can be home for the baby while she is at work. Then when he has to go for a class, she comes home. The other times Kenzie is with Brooke Diamond, who claims to this day 'she could always use a bit of Kenzie time'.
I call my mom back and have a lengthy conversation while Carlos gets ready to leave the house while I reassure my mom that the short hour drive back to Colby will be safe and successful for Carlos and I, for our return for Thanksgiving Break.
"Ready to go?" Carlos asks after I finally get to hang up on my mom and pull my jacket on. I pick up my bag packed for the next two weeks hanging on my bedpost—I'm ready for some much-needed winter-y beach relaxation.
"Sure," I nod, smiling at my roommate and best friend. I guess the thankfulness that we shared about being able to room with each other and have everything work out for us was just one of the many things that went unsaid—it's true that best friends can read each other's minds, isn't it?
"By the way," Carlos calls from our kitchen area while I'm picking some textbooks up to bring with me. "Dak sent us our very own staff T-shirts for the store, as a grand-opening gift. It's hanging on your chair."
Sure enough as I look down to the chair that's tucked underneath my desk there's an ocean-blue T-shirt hanging on the back of the chair.
"Looks great," I smile as I unfold it, beaming at the new chosen name for the bike and skate shop displayed across the chest of the shirt.
"Doesn't it?" Carlos comes up from behind and looks over my shoulder at the T-shirt I'm holding out in front of me.
"Eric's Bikes and Boards" I grin, loving the sound of the name. It still gives me chills, ever since I was told about it right before I left for school at the end of summer. After a few more moments of admiring the T-shirt, Carlos starts to get impatient.
"Can we go soon? I don't want Dak to be upset with me if I'm late," Carlos worries.
"Yeah yeah, we'll go," I usher him to the doorway with our packed bags, make sure all of the lights are off and then I make sure to lock the door behind us.
"So what time are you meeting the impatient boyfriend?" I tease Carlos as we make our way to the student-parking garage across the street from our loft, bags for the Thanksgiving slung over our shoulders. We hunch ourselves over to protect our faces from the rain falling heavily now until we're under the onning of the garage.
"As soon as I drop you off," he chuckles. "Why?"
"Just wondering," I shrug. "Where are you guys going?"
"He won't tell me…Like come on, it's only our four month anniversary and he's already taking things way too seriously, especially surprises," he rolls his eyes playfully. Carlos does love Dak, even though he rarely admits it out loud.
An hour later we're cruising down the interstate in the rain, and we can finally see the familiar 'Colby' exit. We pull off the road and head down an even more familiar street—a couple streets away from Main Street in Colby.
"Here we are," Carlos pulls into a familiar parking lot—a dingy little diner with "watery coffee and coffee-tasting water; a lose-lose situation" as I remember once describing it. But this time? It didn't look so bad—it looked like the place where my new life started. "I'll see you later, okay?" I nod and get out of the car, runnin through the rain with my hoodie pulled tight over my head for coverage. I wipe my squeaky and wet sneakers off on the doormat right inside the door and walk deeper into the diner, letting the warmth smooth out the goosebumps the crisp November air formed on my arms and legs under all of the layers I'm wearing.
I sigh with a smile on my face as the waitresses all smile at me as I pass by, headed for my final destination for the night. Or who knows? Maybe I'll end up somewhere totally unexpected, but at the moment I'm fine with that, because I know exactly who I'll be with the entire time.
He's sitting in our favorite booth—the one next to the window and isn't far from the back of the diner, so the cold air that comes in with the opening door doesn't affect us when we're sitting there. He's slouched over the table, working hard out of the multiple spread out textbooks on businesses and management from the U, which makes me smile. Before I get to the booth I hear an audible sigh leave his mouth before he drops his pencil in front of him and leans back so he can rub the back of his neck.
I surprise him by placing my hands over his own on his neck and rub the area for him, after feeling him jump under the cold touch of my hands.
"Hi love," James doesn't question who it is and turns around on the bench seat to look at me with those hazel eyes—have I ever mentioned those to you before?
"Hi babe," I respond before leaning down for a kiss—a kiss of reunitement. We did this only two weeks ago; met up. But those two weeks could have been two years for all I know. His lips move slowly and smoothly against mine, the perfect combination of any kiss I've ever received in my life. I pull away and he pouts before I point to his textbooks.
James decided to double his classes in the fall because of the full year he missed last year. I like to call it, as everybody knows, making up for his lost time in school. James found that getting back to school was hard at first, the stress way too overbearing for him that some of it rubbed off on me.
I couldn't count how many nights of the first month of school I spent all night talking him through things on the phone, all the way from the bigger and difficult things like accounting and money management to the simpler things, like taking deep breaths and a nice long break to clear his brain.
"Keep working, I'm here for a whole two weeks reserved for you just to kiss and smother me and do whatever else you please," I ignore his adorable pout and chuckle as I take my jacket off and throw it on the bench opposite of him.
That promise being enough for him, James lights up with a grin and picks up his pencil again and starts to get back into his work. I sit down across from him and a waitress comes over to get me a drink. This time around I play it safe and order a hot chocolate, not sure if I'm willing to give the coffee another chance. She leaves us alone and I watch my beautiful boyfriend do his work for a little bit.
The waitress comes back with a hot chocolate for me, and refills James' coffee while he continues to work. All while this is happening I feel a warm hand rest on my leg under the table, which eventually leads to a bunch of legs brushing sweetly and lovingly against each other. Sort of like footsie I guess, but…you know. Not really.
After my legs are satisfyingly tangled up with James', I pick up my mug and take a sip of the chocolatey warmth, watching James scrunch up his face at a difficult math problem. I smile to myself and stifle a giggle before I lean back against the back of the booth and look out the window to the rainy night.
Morning will come soon, as it always did when I was with James. Everything with him makes time go faster, like we need to do everything we could together before it ran out. But right here and right now, James and I are together in this small diner ten minutes away from the messy half of my family in Colby, and an hour away from the other even messier half of it.
For now, James and I still have the night together—as we always do.
That's all that matters, so I close my eyes with a smile and let it all sink in.
Along for the Rush.