Content Warning: This chapter touches upon a topic that may be sensitive for some readers. Please read with discretion.
37, 38, 39… Clara’s eyes flicked back and forth as she continued her mission of counting all the individual rows of color in the fabric of her bedroom rug. The different shades of gray and black blended together almost seamlessly — her record was 56 last time. Maybe today she’d go higher.
“Alright, screw this.” Lena’s voice called her back to the present.
Clara watched, confused, as her friend rose to her feet and crossed the room to the stereo, flicking the power switch.
Lena had brought over the new Frozen Gorillas album to let Clara borrow it, and the two friends had been listening to it together for the past half hour. Or at least, Lena had been listening.
Clara was too busy letting her mind wander. She’d been doing a lot of that lately.
“Hey! What the hell? Clara cried as she scooted over to the edge of the bed. “That was a good song.” I think. She added mentally. The bassline had started off pretty cool, hadn’t it? Or maybe that was the song before this one… Clara couldn’t remember.
Lena just rolled her eyes, returning to join her friend on the bed. “I didn’t come over here so we could sit around doing nothing like a couple of social rejects.”
Clara raised an eyebrow. “But… That’s what we always do. And we are a couple of social rejects.” She replied, her voice serious.
Her friend ignored her. “Come on, Clara. Spill.”
She felt an uncomfortable twisting sensation in her stomach at Lena’s words. “What are you talking about?”
“I haven’t seen you in like two weeks!” Lena sighed, clearly annoyed. “Well, except at school, but that doesn’t count.” She added quickly. “I need the dirt on you and lover-boy. Obviously things must be getting pretty damn serious if you’re even ignoring me now.” The girl chuckled softly to herself. “So tell me what’s going on.”
Clara just shrugged. “Nothing’s ‘going on’, Lena.”
“Bull. Shit.” Lena shook her head. “You’re acting so fucking weird. Something’s up. You’re… different.” She paused, and appeared to be looking Clara up and down for a few moments. Then, her eyes widened.
“Oh my God. No fucking way!” Lena laughed gleefully. “You had sex with him, didn’t you?”
Clara tried to smile, then nodded slowly.
“Ahhhhh! You fucking bitch!” She shoved Clara’s arm playfully. “I was so sure I’d beat you to it.” Lena smiled. “Not that I’d ever lose my v-card quite the same way as you… Duh. But Rachel let me get so friggin’ close last summer.” She sighed almost wistfully. “Too bad her psycho parents put an end to that.”
“Heh. Yeah.” Clara forced another smile. “I remember.”
Lena leaned closer to her. “So…?”
“Come on, Clara! What was it like?”
Clara sighed softly as Julian’s mouth moved against hers, and savored the feeling of his strong, powerful hands holding her close to him.
It was hard to believe it had already been a month since the first night they’d met at Lucas’ awful concert. Julian had taken her to the movies to celebrate, not that they’d paid much attention to the film… In fact, Clara had to admit that she usually spent the majority of her time with Julian staring at the inside of her eyelids and studying the geography of his mouth with hers.
Not that she minded very much, but Clara always loved talking and laughing with him more than anything. She just wished they could do more of it.
“Woah there, mister.” She laughed, pulling away from him.
One of Julian’s hands had begun to stray a bit further than she was comfortable with. It felt like she was always reminding him to slow down.
“Babe, what’s wrong?” He asked softly. His voice was so rich and deep — the sound of it always sent a pleasant shiver down Clara’s spine.
She smiled softly at him. “It’s getting late… I should probably head home. My parents will have a freakin’ conniption if I’m out past midnight again.” Clara rolled her eyes.
With a soft sigh, she rose to her feet, stretching her arms over her head for a moment. She really was getting tired. I guess all these late nights are starting to take their toll.
“Hey, who gives a shit about your parents?” Julian grumbled from his spot on the bed.
Oh God, this again. Clara mentally shook her head. It seemed like her boyfriend was putting up more and more of a fight lately every time she headed home. Doesn’t he get that I have school in the morning?
“Unfortunately, I do.” She replied with a small chuckle. “Against my better judgement, of course.”
In an instant, Julian was on his feet and swept in to stand in front of her. Seconds later, his mouth was on hers.
All Clara could manage was a soft “Mmm” as he slowly backed her up onto the bed once more. She smiled against his lips. “This is nice,” She whispered between kisses. “But I’ve really gotta go.”
“Like hell you do.” Julian replied, climbing on top of her. “Tell them you stayed over with that little friend of yours.”
Before Clara could reply, he silenced her with another kiss.
Staying over? She felt butterflies in her stomach at the thought – and not entirely pleasant ones. He knows I’m not ready for that.
Clara shook her head and gently pushed him off of her. “I can’t.” She said. “I’m sorry.”
Julian narrowed his eyes at her, then rolled over, flopping back onto the pillows with a heavy sigh.
A wave of guilt washed over her. He must think I’m such a fucking baby… And maybe I am. Clara thought sadly. But she couldn’t help the way she felt. “Maybe another time.” She said softly. “But not tonight. Sorry.”
The young girl shifted her weight and prepared to rise to her feet when she was startled by a sudden firm grip on her wrist. “Stay.” Julian said. It didn’t sound like a request, or a plea.
More like a demand.
Before she even had time to react, he’d pulled her down onto the bed. In moments he’d climbed on top of her, straddling her body and holding her down against the pillows with his powerful hands.
“Julian, what the Hell?” She sputtered, still shocked by how quickly he’d moved. “What are you doing?”
He smirked down at her. “Convincing you to stay.” Julian replied playfully.
Despite his light-hearted response, there was something in his eyes that sent another flurry of unpleasant butterflies racing through her stomach.
Clara swallowed hard against the sickening feeling. “Very funny.” She forced a laugh as she wrenched her arm from his grip and pushed against his chest.
He chuckled softly, but said nothing.
“You’re such a goofball.” Clara continued, smiling as she pushed a bit harder and began trying to shift her body out from under his. “But the joke’s over.”
A panicked gasp passed Clara’s lips as she felt herself slammed back against the pillow once more, much harder than the first time. What was he doing? She felt her heart pounding relentlessly in her chest.
“I’m not joking.” He whispered harshly, staring deeply into her eyes for a moment.
Julian bent forward then, planting soft kisses all over her face and neck. “Relax, baby.” His tone was much gentler than before. “I just wanna have a little fun… Don’t you?”
Clara bit her lip. “I… I don’t know.” She struggled to find her voice. Fuck. Oh my God. What’s he doing?
He pulled back from her slightly, locking eyes with her once more. “I love you, Clara. And I want you. All of you.”
She said nothing. For a moment, time seemed to stand still.
He loves me? Clara’s heart leapt as she replayed the words again in her mind. “I love you, Clara.” No one had ever told her that before… Not in the way he just had. How long had she dreamt of hearing someone say those words to her? Much longer than she was willing to admit.
He loves me. She thought. This time, it was not a question. And I love him too, don’t I? Clara still remembered what her mother had said when she’d interviewed her for the blog. “When you love someone, you give them everything.”
Clara took one slow, deep breath. “I love you too.” She said at last. Then she closed her eyes, and allowed her lips to meet his…
At last, Clara opened her mouth to speak. “It hurt a little at first.” She admitted. “But then it felt pretty good. Julian definitely knows what he’s doing.” For a moment, she almost smiled. “I guess it just wasn’t exactly what I’d been expecting… Not the first time, at least.” She shrugged.
“First time?” Lena raised an eyebrow, clearly impressed. “So, uh… How many times are we talking here?” She laughed.
“I dunno. A bunch.” She replied, her voice flat.
It was all Julian wanted to do now, ever since that first night. They never went anywhere, or did anything, or even talked to each other anymore. He was practically ripping her clothes off from the moment she’d walk through his door.
It’s making him happy. She reminded herself. He loves you….
Then why does it feel so wrong? Another little voice seemed to ask.
Before Clara even knew what was happening, she found herself bursting into tears. Fuck. She cursed herself mentally as she struggled to regain her composure. Get a goddamn grip.
“What the hell, Clara?! What’s wrong?!” Lena reached out to put her arm around her friend, but Clara shrugged her away.
“Yeah, right. I’m not a fucking moron. Talk to me.”
Clara took a few slow breaths, calming herself as much as she could. “I guess… I just feel like maybe I rushed into this whole sex thing.” She shrugged. “I wasn’t ready the first time, Lena. And I think I’m still not ready.”
It should have felt good to finally speak the words out loud. Instead, Clara felt nothing but shame.
“Then why are you doing it?!” Lena burst, the shock apparent on her face.
“Because he loves me! He wanted to do it ever since we first met, and he was patient with me for weeks. It’s not fair to hold out on him any longer just because I’m too much of a fucking coward.”
Lena’s eyes narrowed. “No, it’s not fair to YOU to rush you into something you’re not ready for! Sex is a big fucking deal, Clara. Did you tell him you didn’t want to?”
Lena paused and appeared almost nervous for a moment. “I mean… He didn’t like… force you or anything, did he?”
“WHAT?! No!” Clara could not believe what her friend was saying. “I mean yeah, I didn’t want to, at first… But I changed my mind.” She insisted. “And I liked it! I’m fine now. I don’t know what I was getting all worked up about before.”
“You’re not ‘fine’, Clara! We wouldn’t be having this conversation if you were. Now cut the shit and tell me what’s happening.”
Clara hesitated. Talking to Lena about this was a huge mistake. She knew it was. But she also knew she couldn’t lie to her friend. “Okay, okay… Sometimes I just kinda feel like it’s all he wants to do now, I guess. I mean, he texts me and invites me to his place and… that’s all we do. And it kinda makes me feel like I’m…”
“A booty call?”
She glared daggers at Lena. “It’s just not what I was expecting. That’s all. But I’m fine, Lena. I’ll get over it. This sex thing is still new to me. I’m just getting used to it.”
Her friend shook her head slowly. “Clara, what the fuck are you doing?! I can’t believe you never told me about all this… Why are you still with this guy?”
“Because I love him!”
Lena just sighed. “Maybe you do, but he doesn’t love you, Clara. He wouldn’t treat you like this if he did. He’s using you for Christ’s sake, can’t you see that?” Lena’s voice was growing louder and louder with every word. “Are you that fucking blind?”
Clara couldn’t believe what she was hearing. She’d been expecting her friend to be supportive… To tell her everything would get better. That she was making too big of a deal out of this whole thing. That Julian loved her, and she was doing the right thing…
She hadn’t been expecting this.
In an instant, Clara was on her feet, her hands balled into fists at her sides. “And what the fuck would you know about love, Lena? You’re just jealous because you’re a loser virgin who can’t keep a girlfriend for more than two weeks.”
For a moment, Lena almost looked like someone had slapped her. “Okay.” She said at last, rising from the bed. “I’m gonna let that one go because clearly you’re not yourself right now. But Clara, this guy sounds like bad news. You can’t keep letting him use you like this.”
“He loves me.”
“I never thought I’d say this, but maybe it wouldn’t be such a bad idea to talk to your parents about –”
“Shut up, Lena! Shut up!” Clara closed her eyes and fought to calm herself. It almost worked. “Thanks for bringing the CD.” She said softly. “But shouldn’t you be heading home?”