( For his brother’s friend …. 😇 )
Written by:- Williams Kendall____✍🏽
🏈 CHAPTER. FIFTEEN.
“Hey… uh, Sweetheart? Can we talk?” I asked as I shoved my fists into my pocket. My eyes stayed stuck on the ground for a moment before raising to look at Charlotte. Apprehension covered her face as she sucked her bottom lip behind her teeth. I could tell she was as unsure as I was.
“Actually, big guy,” Madeline said as she stepped forward and wrapped an arm around Charlotte’s shoulders, “you said it best yourself. Charlotte deserves to enjoy the rest of her night. So that chat of yours can happen later.” I wanted to argue but the relief that flashed in Charlotte’s eyes kept me quiet. I gave her a small nod and returned to the party to grab a drink.
I stood near the back of the room with a few of my teammates, sipping my whiskey and taking in the crowd. The boys around me scoped out different girls on the dancefloor but all I could do was think of Charlotte. Is she really in love with me? That Kayla bitch had clearly been talking out of her ass in the hallway. I didn’t like the vibes her or that other girl had given off all night. They were so different than Charlotte, I’d been confused about how they were even friends.
Charlotte was sweet, considerate, soft-spoken—she was the epitome of good. Those girls spent the whole night shrieking for attention and basically sexually harassing James and the rookie. Kayla had probably been lying about Charlotte too, it’s the only thing that made sense. Regardless, every nerve in my body stood at attention—on edge until I could finally hear Charlotte’s side.
“Hey Johnson, your girl’s catching some eyes, man.” Tyler called from my side as his elbow jabbed into my rib. A small flutter of satisfaction went through me whenever the guys called Charlotte that. The caveman I hadn’t known existed before Charlotte beat his chest in pride at the thought that I had claim over her. It didn’t help that she was currently sporting my name and number for everyone to see. But then I realized—if what Kayla had said was true—it was actually a possibility.
No… don’t get your hopes up. I knew Charlotte, she wasn’t the manipulative person Kayla described. Besides, if the fight I walked in on said anything about the status of their friendship—Kayla really wasn’t reliable.
Looking out on the crowd I tried to understand what Tyler meant. I caught sight of Madeline first, her height making it easy to see her. She was spinning around the other dancers, laughing and holding hands with Charlotte. A small smile reached my lips as I watched them. Charlotte was clearly nervous. Her bright red face kept getting covered by her hand as she giggled with Madeline. But she was glowing.
Both girls stood out in the crowd. Everyone else around them was a mess of gyrating, sweaty bodies. It was mostly girls trying to look sexy as they rubbed against guys who swayed stiffly behind them. But the two laughing girls were spinning and twirling to their heart’s content.
My gaze rose to the crowd of people surrounding the dancefloor, and my shoulders immediately tensed. I wasn’t the only one enjoying watching the girls. Quite a few guys who stood at the edge of the dancers had their eyes locked on Charlotte and Madeline. I could practically hear the perverted wheels turning in their heads as they stared.
I knew what most guys thought when they saw Charlotte. Her vulnerable innocence was like a siren call to alpha-males. I understood this because it called to me too—but unlike those guys, I didn’t want to take anything from Charlotte. I just had this intense need to protect her.
I turned back to the girls to find Charlotte looking back at me. A small, unsure smile touched her lips—so unlike the huge one I’d usually get. Before I could stop myself, I moved towards her, never breaking eye contact. A few guys bumped me as I strode through the crowd, but once they saw it was me they moved away without comment.
“Hi,” she said softly as I stopped in front of her.
“Hi Sweetheart,” I smiled down at her. I realized I didn’t really have a reason to approach her. We’d had so much fun at the beginning of the night, I just wanted to have everything go back to normal so it could continue.
“I, uhm…” Charlotte began as she pulled at her small fingers—an action I had come to attach to her being nervous. Reaching out I captured her hand in my own and gave it a small squeeze. Hopefully conveying some kind of support. “I’m ready to talk now,” she finished with a small smile, raising her eyes to look at me unsurely.
I tugged her hand, getting her to follow me as I parted the crowd with my shoulders and steered us to the staircase. We walked silently to my room, holding hands but otherwise not interacting. Once we were behind the closed door, I went and sat on my bed, letting her go so she could decide where to sit. She hesitated for a moment before following me to the bed and plopping down, making me smile.
“So,” I began awkwardly, “Kayla told me some stuff. And honestly, I think she’s kind of a bitch no offence, but we should probably still talk about it.”
“Yeah actually, Archer I heard the whole conversation. I-I don’t even know what to say to you. I can’t believe Kayla would do that, I honestly thought she cared about me. We’ve been friends for so long…” Pain filled Charlotte’s eyes and I instinctively wanted to grab her and hold her—but I refrained.
“You deserve better than both of them. They are toxic as shit.” I said passionately meaning it. “Uhm… Is it offensive if I ask if what she said was true?”
“No, it’s not. I knew the second I heard what she said to you it was going to make you question everything. Archer I swear, us being friends was the absolute last thing I ever expected and I would never have done it as some sick way to trap you.”
“So,” I chuckled, “you’re not in love with me?” Anxiety prickled my skin as soon as I asked the question, but I couldn’t tell if it was because she could say yes, or no.
“I-I… I’m not in love with you,” Charlotte whispered as she picked a piece of string off my comforter. A phantom hand squeezed my chest tightly as disappointment brought a frown to my lips. What the fuck? I should not want Charlotte to love me. I knew if she wanted me, I’d be selfish enough to want her too. But I was too fucked up to give her anything even remotely healthy.
“Kayla blew all of it so out of proportion. She was talking about… well, you know. But that was so long ago.” Charlotte continued, looking up to meet my eyes. Okay, now I’m really confused.
“What happened long ago? Sweetheart, you lost me.”
“Are you seriously going to make me say it?” Charlotte huffed.
“I’m serious I don’t know what you’re talking about.” I laughed at her cute little frustration.
“You know… I mean, how I used to feel… uhm. About you?” Thinking back to our childhood, I racked my brain for what she was talking about. I vaguely remember Charlotte having a little schoolgirl-crush on me when we were kids.
“You mean your crush?” I asked as it popped into my mind. She flinched at my words, which made my brows furrow. What was the big deal about a little crush years ago? “Charlotte, what is it?”
“It’s just… a sensitive topic for me. I mean, it was so embarrassing. Which is why I’m even madder that Kayla told you all that so easily.”
“Okay, you’re losing me again. What’s so embarrassing about a little crush? Wasn’t it when we were kids?” Charlotte looked up at me when I said that. Her eyes were large and round, while her lips popped open into a small incredulous circle.
“Archer… you said yourself how creepy I was. It’s just—I don’t know—it’s not a time I like to think about a lot.”
“Charlotte, I really don’t know what you’re talking about. I barely remember you liking me. I don’t remember you being creepy? And I definitely don’t remember saying that.” I said as I reached out and put my hand on her thigh. Her face looked so sad and shameful, this was obviously something that had weighed on her. I feel completely out of the fucking loop.
Charlotte took a deep breath and then began speaking. I sat quietly, keeping my hand on her thigh as she told me everything. How she had liked me as a kid—well I guess even as a young teen, and how she’d been wrapped up in daydreams about us. A small part of me wondered what would have happened back then if I’d liked her too. But then she told me about her 16th birthday, and guilt flooded my veins as her shoulders drooped and her small frame quivered.
I stayed silent for a moment, processing what I’d done to her. Even years later she had an emotional response to my words. “Charlotte… Sweetheart, come here.” I said as I pulled her into my arms. I squeezed her tightly, trying to show her how sorry I truly was. She was stiff in my arms for a moment, before sinking further into our embrace. I dropped my face onto her hair, as I searched for the words to make this better.
“I was such an angry kid, you have no idea. I used to say the worst shit all of the time. I’d take it out on Ollie and my mom the most, which is fucked cause they are the ones who deserved it the least. I just had so much anger and pain all of the time, and I wanted other people to feel the same way I did.” I stopped for a moment to peak down at her. She kept her head resting against my chest but she didn’t seem to want to look at me, so I continued.
“Sweetheart, I barely remember you liking me. I don’t remember thinking you were weird or creepy. If anything, I remember not knowing how to deal with you because you were this little ball of light all the time and I was the exact opposite. I didn’t know how to relate to you so I resented you being around.” I gently placed my hand on her chin to bring her face up to mine. I needed to know she was hearing this.
“I am so sorry that I said that about you though. I never thought about the consequences of my actions.” I hoped my face showed the sincerity that I felt. Uncertainty was clear in Charlotte’s eyes before it softened and she smiled at me. Relief flooded me as I pulled her in for another hug.
“It’s okay,” she mumbled against my shoulder. “But Archer… why were you so angry?” My spine stiffened slightly. I really didn’t want to talk about this. But I had unknowingly been cruel to Charlotte, and she deserved to know why.
“You sat next to my dad at the football game, right?” I asked to which she nodded immediately. “So, you heard him, didn’t you? I’m sure he spent most of the game yelling about how stupid I was playing and telling my mom all my mistakes?” I didn’t need her to respond, her sad eyes said it all.
“He was always like that…” I continued quietly. “I could never do anything fucking right. In football and in life. I mean fuck. The mans never around, then when he is, all he does is fucking tell me how disappointing I am. Isn’t it pathetic that I’m fucking jealous of Annie? He just completely ignores that she exists.” I hold Charlotte a little tighter as flashes of my childhood came back to me. “Every time he went on a business trip, I’d beg—fucking beg—my mom to leave him. He made us all miserable, but she always said he loved us.” I laughed humourlessly as I spoke.
“When I was 18–probably around the time you turned 16 actually—I started noticing shady shit about my dad. He’d gone on business trips my whole life, but they became way more often. Plus, they always seemed to pop up suddenly when he’d get pissed off. Then…” Anger locked in my jaw as I thought about my father. Charlotte’s small hand caressed my cheek and I turned to see her looking at me sadly. We both knew what I was about to say.
“He didn’t even fucking hide it. He’d come home wreaking like cheap perfume. Fuck, sometimes he’d even have lipstick and shit on his dirty clothes. Which my mom had to fucking wash. It was sick. I fucking hated him, I still do. But it doesn’t matter what I say, my mom stays.”
Silence wrapped around the two of us as we held each other—neither knowing what to say. We’d both jumped into this pool of memories and there was no ladder to get out.
Picking up my phone, I saw that it was almost 1:30 a.m. “Do you want yo go back to the party?” I asked, hoping she didn’t. I smiled when she shook her head from her place on my lap. “One second then,” I said quickly as I hopped up and jogged to my closet. I returned a moment later and tossed Charlotte one of my hoodies.
I went to my bathroom to change into sweats and give her some privacy. A gush of breath escaped my lips as I took in my appearance in the mirror. Talking about all of that shit with Charlotte was unexpected, but was it my imagination or did my face look… more relaxed? The harsh frown lines weren’t set as deeply, and my jaw didn’t clench tightly as usual. That girl was changing me so much, and I don’t think she even knew it. A few months ago, I would have told her to get stuffed if she wanted to know about my dad. Hell, a few weeks ago I basically did.
I walked back into my bedroom to find Charlotte curled up under my blanket, surfing Netflix on the t.v. She had on the hoodie I gave her and had folded her costume and set it on my desk. I could not get enough of seeing this girl in my clothes. It was almost sick how happy I got when the opportunity to give her something arose.
She still had those black lines on her cheeks, though they were pretty smudged now. I grabbed a wet cloth for her and tossed it at her face before I jumped in next to her, wrapping my arms around her small waist and yanking her to my side. I couldn’t stop myself from planting a kiss on top of her head, which made her look up at me and smile and she wiped her face.
Just as she turned back to the t.v, the door flung open and in walked Madeline and the rookie—what was his name again? I really needed to learn it apparently since Charlotte insisted on bringing him around all of the time. . I was about to tell them to politely get the fuck out of my room when the little angel next to me spoke up. “Hey, you guys! Come on, we were just about to turn a movie on.” My head swivelled down as my jaw slackened. She gave me a cheeky smirk as our eyes connected before she mouthed, “Be nice.”
“Fun! Slumber party!” Madeline giggled as she jumped in next to Charlotte. I slunk lower in the bed, moving to the edge and pulling Charlotte tightly to my chest. The rookie hesitated for a moment, eyeing me up probably to see if he was risking his life by coming closer. He looked like a lost puppy, desperately wanting to join us but in fear of being kicked. I ignored every instinct in me that wanted to be a dick, and instead rolled my eyes and tilted my head to the far end of the bed.
Seriously, what the fuck is this girl doing to me? Somehow I was ending my Saturday night, having a fucking slumber party that was almost forcing me out of my own damn bed. Charlotte was giggling as she and Madeline tried to find a movie, and the noise softened my heart. After everything that happened tonight, she was ending it happy and that was good enough for me. That was until the idiotic rookie spoke and I just about killed him.
“Hey! Let’s watch Frozen!”
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