I can remember the exact moment I met Chase Malloy as if it were yesterday. It was the day Mom took me and my little sister, Addie, over to meet Alec’s kids. She’d been dating Alec for a few months and he had proposed. He was going to be Mom’s third husband, and though I didn’t count on their relationship lasting—because, honestly, her relationships never did—I decided to go with that whole third-times-a-charm thing.
When Alec called the other kids into the living room to make introductions, a tall, gangly boy trailed behind everyone else. Even though the boy didn’t belong to Alec, he was Guy’s friend and a constant in the house. His brown hair was long and messy and he wore a band tee shirt that had seen better days. There were holes in his jeans—ones I’m fairly certain he put there purposely—and he had the biggest grin on his face. Even at fourteen, even though he was dressed like a freak, I thought he was gorgeous. There was this soft beauty to his face. Most teenage boys were covered in acne, but Chase had flawless skin. And his hazel eyes were almost mesmerizing, framed in thick lashes the same color as his hair. When he shifted in front of the window, and the light caught his eyes, it was like a kaleidoscope of color. And oh, that smile. He had a mouth full of perfectly straight white teeth.
I remember sliding my tongue over my own teeth, bumping along my braces. I kind of hated him right then and there. Boys shouldn’t be that pretty. Especially when I had to work so hard to not look hideous. My blonde lashes are invisible unless I wear mascara, and Mom hadn’t let me wear it until just a few months prior.
At least my chest had finally started to grow—something I had thought would never happen—though I was still much smaller than most girls my age.
Chase didn’t seem to care much about the way I looked. He barely registered I was even in the room, which made me dislike him more.
I was sick of not being seen.
I was tired of being so plain that I couldn’t garner the attention of a single person in my life. Except from Mom, and that was attention I’d rather not have, because she only reminded me of the many ways I wasn’t good enough.
I had already decided I didn’t like Chase because he made me feel inferior. It wasn’t his fault. He didn’t do anything wrong. But fourteen year old Annie didn’t understand that.
Sometimes twenty-one year old Annie has a problem recognizing that, too.
So when he finally acknowledged me, trying to make small talk, I did the only thing I was ever truly good at.
I pretended I didn’t care about a single word that came out of his mouth. I treated him like he was stupid. I acted as if he was the most annoying person I had ever met, and at times, he actually was. Because Chase didn’t care how I treated him. He just ignored my attitude and when he wasn’t ignoring me, he was dishing it out just as fiercely as I was.
And so began a silent rivalry. Each time we saw one another, it was game on. I would sling an insult, to which he always had a comeback for. This was how our relationship worked. And really, it worked well for a while. Until something shifted. Something changed and I didn’t want to insult Chase anymore. I wanted to talk to him. I wanted to laugh at his jokes. I wanted to be near him. But he was far from my type. Besides, hating each other was our thing, and I’m nothing if not consistent.
So what happened?
I don’t know.
I wish I could distinguish the defining moment we became more than… Just more. But I don’t know when it happened. Maybe it had always been this way and I just didn’t know it. I think that’s possible. Maybe every time I made some smartass remark, what I was really doing was trying to earn his attention.
To let him know how I really felt.
I should have told him sooner. I should’ve…
Everything is so dark and blurry right now. Confusing, as if I’m dreaming.
God, if only this were a dream.
My eyes flutter with the thought and I finally allow them to close.