"I just can’t wait to see her again," Jake said to one of his teammates, Brian O’Neal as they walked home from a basketball practice. They had decided to do a one-on-one game after practice since neither of them had any plans and Jake needed some sort of distraction. Brian chuckled. "You are whipped. I’ve never seen you like this," Brian said as he twirled a basketball on his middle finger. Brian had the typical lean basketball build with dark hair and brown skin with green eyes that seemed piercing in comparison with his skin. Jake shook his head. "I’ve never seen myself like this," Jake said with a half-hearted chuckle. His thoughts traveled back to the night before. Every hour made him miss Athena more. While he was lying in his bed, struggling with sleep and going through the past few months in his mind, he came to a conclusion that threw him into a state of complete insomnia. He was falling for her. Really, deeply falling in love with his best friend and girlfriend and there was nothing he could do about it even if he wanted to. She meant so much more to him than he could ever imagine.
"I’m crazy about her," he admitted. Brian flung the ball into the air then caught it easily. He looked at Jake. "She sounds really special. Seems pretty cool too," Brain said. He had met her at one of his parties. Brian shrugged. "Not really the type of girl you usually hang out with," he added. Jake looked at him. "I’m not saying it’s a bad thing. It’s great, in fact. I’m just saying she’s different," Brian said. Jake smiled a bit. They came to where the road split, greeted then walked separately in opposite directions. As he walked down his street, he decided to take a chance. Jake hurried into the house, took a quick shower, changed then went back into the street. Maybe they had gotten home already. She said they’d be back around six and it was nearly six. He had a little banter with himself in his head. With any other girl, he would never make himself seem so vulnerable. Athena was the one girl who could break his heart with one word and he was fully aware of it but he didn’t care. She wouldn’t do that anyway. As far as he was concerned, things were going well between them.
A frightening thought crossed his mind. What if she didn’t feel the same way? He had been out of his mind infatuated with this girl but he wasn’t sure if the feeling was mutual. Jake’s negative thoughts flew out the window the second he turned into her street and noticed her mother’s car parked in the driveway. His speed increased and within a minute, he was at her house. He knocked then waited. Emily’s gentle smile greeted him warmly. "Hey," she said and stood away from the door. "Athena’s in the backyard. She was reading in the hammock but I think she might have fallen asleep," Emily said. Jake stepped inside and hugged Emily tightly. "Ooh, you always give the best hugs," Emily said with a laugh. Jake laughed along. "How are you?" He asked when he released her. Emily pulled up her shoulders. "Just a little tired from the drive. Go check on Athena for me," she said. Jake nodded then headed towards the sliding door that led to their open backyard. He let out a chuckle when he saw her, fast asleep in the white hammock that hung between the trees.
Athena had a blue throw blanket that covered her from the hip down. She had a brown beanie on her head since it was a bit chilly outside and had a book between her fingers on her stomach. Her eyes opened as he stepped closer. She had to squint when her eyes locked with his, but her smile made his heart skip a beat.
"Hey," she said in that raspy voice. Jake bent down in front of her. "How was the weekend away?" He asked. She groaned a little then turned on her side. Jake took her one hand between both his and started stroking her fingers with his. She shook her head. "It’s such a quiet town so I enjoyed the silence, had a lot of time to read and get some work in order, see old relatives. I-" She was interrupted by her ringtone. Jake picked the phone off the grass and handed it to her. Athena sat up. She took the phone from him. "Hello?" Athena asked after answering the unknown number. "Hello, Athena?"
Athena felt something inside her twinge. She knew the voice but couldn’t place it. "Yes," she said with slight hesitation. "It’s Kevin Brown. Jake’s father."
Athena tensed. Her eyes flicked to Jake. He was now sitting in the grass, looking completely relaxed. He offered her a small smile. She almost smiled back but too many thoughts were running through her mind for her to respond.
"Hello? Athena, are you still there?"
Athena flinched. "Uh, yeah, yeah, I’m here. Uh, what-why..." she couldn’t even speak. There was a chuckle on the other end of the line. "Ah, it’s good to hear your voice again. How are you?" Mister Brown asked. Athena could feel her frown coming to her face again. She placed her fingers to her forehead and began massaging it, trying to think. "I’m... quite fine, thank you. Yourself?" She asked and shut her eyes. She wished he could have just gotten to the point. He obviously hadn’t called her to make small talk. "I’m in a bit of a difficult situation. My son refuses to take my calls and I really need to get a hold of him," he answered. "Why?" Athena asked while still massaging her forehead. She couldn’t even open her eyes to look at Jake. Kevin Brown sighed. "I messed up, really badly."
She laughed without humor. "Oh, if you only knew how badly," she said. As soon as the words left her mouth, she realized what she had said. "I’m sorry, that was disrespectful," she said but didn’t take it back. He was the cause of her and Jake’s broken friendship years ago. She couldn’t help but dislike him a little. Another sigh from the other end of the line. "I’m really sorry. Please tell Jake that." Athena felt her heart melt. She had always loved mister Brown growing up. He was the father she never had. Jake and his mother weren’t the only ones who were devastated at the news of his affair.
"Okay." She couldn’t think of anything else to say. "The reason I’m calling is because I really, desperately need your help Athena. I’ve burnt so many bridges and I need to make things right. I know I let Jake and his mother down and they have all the reason in the world to hate me... but Jake is my son. I can’t live with myself knowing what I had done to him. I need to at least try to fix things but he won’t give me the chance. Will you please talk to him? Please."
Athena opened her eyes. She looked at the sky. "I’ll try but I can’t promise anything," she said quietly.
When she hung up, she dropped her hand in her lap and stared at the phone for a few seconds. Jake sat next to her. He put his arms around her and ran his hand up and down her arm, knowing she was distressed. "What was that about?" He asked.
"That was your dad."
She felt his arms freeze around her. A few seconds ticked by. "What did he want?" Jake asked. Athena’s eyes remained fixed on the phone in her lap. Her mouth felt dry suddenly. "Jake... I know things aren’t going well between you and your dad and... you’re probably not going to like what I have to say but-" She took a breath then looked at him, meeting his gaze full on. "I think you should talk to him. I know what he did to you was terrible and wrong, but you need to move on and you need to at least try to forgive him otherwise you’re always going to have this resentment inside you. Your dad really wants to contact you and I think he feels horrible about everything." When he didn’t say anything, she continued.
"You remember what it was like between us at the beginning of this year? I didn’t think I’d ever forgive you and look what happened. Don’t be as stubborn as I was."
Two weeks later, Jake was still trying to piece everything together. Two more days. Forty-eight hours and he would see his dad again for the first time in years. He had spent the day with Athena after his father had called her and eventually, just as it grew dark, she had convinced him to call his father. After some very awkward small talk, Kevin Brown asked his son if they could go out for dinner. Jake hesitated but within those few seconds of hesitation, he looked at Athena and his heart melted. He was doing it for her, because that’s what she wanted. He laughed without humor when he realized how tightly she had him wrapped around her little finger. He would do just about anything for her if she just hinted at it. He agreed to lunch but with the condition that Athena join them. Arrangements were made and a date was set. Everything else, even the days after, was a blur.
"Do you think I’m doing the right thing?" He had asked his mother at dinner one day. Ruth lowered her glass of wine slowly. "I don’t think you’re making a mistake, if that’s what you mean," she said and gave him a small smile. Jake set the fork down. "But what is this going to solve anyway? It was his decision to leave," Jake said, the edge in his voice was impossible to miss. Ruth dropped her eyes. "Yes, it was, but it was your decision to shut him out, remember? Jake, your dad has never stopped loving you. I know," Ruth said gently. Jake couldn’t meet her eye.
"I think you need to put the past in the past and bury it."
Athena stirred in her sleep.
She rolled over.
What the heck was that?
Athena groaned when she realized someone was tossing pebbles at her window. In a drowsy state, she swung her legs off the bed and made her way across the room. She rubbed her eyes then opened the window. Jake stared up at her in the moonlight. He awkwardly played with the pebbles in his hand. She couldn’t help but smile a bit. "Can’t sleep?" She asked quietly. He only smiled sheepishly as an answer to her question. "I’ll be right down," she said. Athena backed away from the window. She grabbed his hoodie off her dressing table chair and put it on. She zipped it up as she quietly walked barefoot down the stairs. The last thing she wanted was for her mother to wake up now. Emily wouldn’t mind that Jake was there, she wasn’t that sort of mother, but Athena knew she needed her sleep. It had been a hectic month for Dr. Thompson.
"Hey," Athena said when she opened the front door and found Jake waiting for her. She motioned for him to come in and closed the door behind him. They walked towards the backyard since she knew she’d wake her mother if they spoke in the house. Jake sat down on the hammock and she sat next to him. Athena studied him. Jake hadn’t said a single word so far. He didn’t even look at her or touch her. Guilt made her heart feel heavy when she realized he was upset with her. She was the reason he was doing this and she thought it was the right decision, but now she wasn’t so sure anymore. What right did she have anyway to interfere with the relationship he had with his father?
She took a deep, steadying breath, preparing herself to apologize.
Jake surprised her by drawing her into his arms. Her worries shattered when she relaxed against him. Still, there was a reason he had come.
"I’m sorry," she said. She could feel Jake looking down at her but she kept her eyes low. "I shouldn’t have made you do this," she said. He was silent for a few seconds. With his free hand, he reached under her chin and turned her face to meet his eyes. "That’s not why I came here," he said, as if he were reading her thoughts the whole time. A shadow of a smile reached his lips. "Look, I’m... terrified," he admitted. Jake caressed her cheek with his thumb then dropped his fingers. "I don’t know what’s gonna happen today, but I know this has to happen if I ever want to put the past where it belongs."
Athena remained silent. There was more to this so she waited.
"I just wanted to be with you for a while..."
Before we face your father, she added silently. She felt a sick worry at the pit of her stomach. The way he left that sentence made her feel like, after they met with his father, things might change between them. She didn’t want that.
"And I need to tell you something," he said. Athena nodded. Jake took a breath. He surprised her again when he kissed her. Her eyes closed automatically. The kiss was quick and sweet. When Jake pulled away, her eyes were still closed.
"I’m in love with you, Athena."
Athena’s eyes shot open. She looked straight into his shoulder but couldn’t see anything. The blood in her veins seemed to turn cold at that instant. She was sure she stopped breathing but it wasn’t bothering her. Athena raised her eyes to his. She knew she should say something but her mind drew a blank. She couldn’t say it back. The realization shocked her. Jake’s expression softened when he realized it as well. He pulled her closely against him and placed his cheek on her head. "You don’t have to say it back. I just wanted you to know," he murmured. It didn’t help the whirlwind of emotions inside her though.
Hello, my beautiful readers!
I really have to apologize, my first two months at university were, and still are, hectic! I genuinely did not expect to have so little time on my hands. Thank you all so much for the lovely comments and support. It really warmed my heart when I re-read them. I will try to update and post as soon as I can. I just ask that you be a bit patient with me because I would like to finish this story. The climax is coming pretty soon and I'm excited to finish with this story.
Comment Replies (Chapter 10 & 11)
*Anne: Haha. Thanks, doll.
*MrBlobby: LOL! I actually laughed when I read that.
*Mans: Sigh. Same here, dude.
*BriBri: Hahaha. Cute! Your comments always make me smile.
*Zelia: Naw, thank you so much.
*Kome: Thank you. Wow, I never thought it would get so busy so quickly. I'm barely keeping up.