Ms. Morrison, or Charlotte Morrison, was never in love with Harrison. As they made out in the empty classroom, she could feel his guilt in the kiss, as if he was trying to infuse it towards her so she would stop. It was all purely empty; she knew it from the start. But it didn't amuse her to know that Harrison had fallen in love with someone else, regardless of if she loved him or not. He was the one person she knew would stay in love with her no matter how she treated her. Or so she thought. She leaned into the kiss more, pinning Harrison down onto the desks behind him. She could feel Harrison trying to gently push her back, but she knew him enough to know that he wouldn't be able to harm her in any way. That was what entertained Charlotte the most, his kind heart. He was so naïve and innocent, but he wasn't dense. He knew perfectly well that he was still young, and that he wasn't perfect. His innocence came from strength, not immaturity. And although this all entertained Charlotte, she hated it. Every time she saw his strength and bold, she felt her blood turn green and an uncontrollable desire to stain him with it. It hurt her pride to feel jealous. She couldn't stand that someone like Harrison could make her feel so astray.
* * *
Harrison had just turned sixteen when he first met Charlotte. His summer vacation had just started, but he was in gloom because many of his friends had gone out of state, which meant that for most of the summer, he had nothing really to do. It was a random day in July when he was taking a walk that he passed by the coffee shop that Charlotte had been working at. Charlotte Morrison, age 22, had just graduated from college, feeling annoyed that all she had accomplished from it was a stupid paper that might as well had been a kindergartener's gold star sticker. What the fuck, she thought this isn't what was supposed to be of me.
Charlotte had just broken up with her college sweetheart right after graduation, because of his propose. He took her to their favorite restaurant one night, soon after graduation, and got down on one knee. "Will you marry me?" He had a nervous smile on his face, and as Charlotte stared into those nervous eyes, she felt every bit of the atoms that had any feelings for him vanish. She felt highly uncomfortable, and despised the fact that he had done this in the first place. She wasn't sure why it suddenly hit her that she never even remotely had the intention of marrying him; but all she knew was she needed to get out of this situation. Everyone around was looking in awes and happiness. The restaurant was filled with warmth, but all Charlotte could feel was the red wine in her blood lose its buzz quickly. "I can't," she replied. Charlotte wiped her mouth, grabbed her bag, and ran out the door.
She then ignored every contact from him; the phone calls, the messages, the "I'm sorry"s, the "I still love you"s, the doorbells; everything. The last he ever got to hear of his loved one was "I can't", after a dedicated five years to her. And although Charlotte felt a drop of guilt towards what she had done, she quickly moved on to try and find a life that she felt wasn't tasteless. That was the main reason she had felt it was impossible to marry her ex;(or in his definition, "still boyfriend" since they never had a "talk") he wasn't someone she felt she could stay in love with. After the restaurant incident, Charlotte realized she probably was never in love with him in the first place anyway, and that she had just enjoyed someone head over heels for her. She had grown some emotion towards him over the course of the five years, but not a pigment of that remained with her now. All he gave her was ease that she was loved and a feeling of settlement. But now that graduation didn't move her life forward, she realized she needed to move herself forward towards excitement and feeling alive. Comfort wasn't a part of that. She wanted to feel like she was pushing, like she was doing something for once. But for the summer, she was stuck serving coffee.
Harrison walked into Coffee's Way only to buy an Ice Latte for himself. It was 93 degrees outside, and he had planned to walk over to the park to play his uke, but gave up half way because of the heat. The store was nicely decorated, on the wall were fake flowers and buttons of all shapes and sizes sprinkled around, and the mismatching couches and chairs all matched the quirky look of the store well. The servers wore matching black aprons and had trays in their hand as they busily paced around the store serving drinks and sandwiches. Logic, a band he listened to, played faintly in the background of people's conversations. He picked a couch he liked near the window, and sat down. The burgundy couch, despite its old look, wasn't as comfortable as Harrison expected, but he looked forward to the latte so much he didn't really care.
Moments after he was finished skimming through the menu, (there wasn't too much to look at, since he knew what he was going to get) a server came up to him. "Can I help you with anything?" The server, clearly tired, gave Harrison a closed smile with a memo in her hand. She had wavy golden hair that barely touched her delicate shoulders, and her hazel eyes looked jaded, but also clear. Despite her exhausted look, she looked strong and resolute.
"Yeah actually, can I get an Ice Latte?" Harrison smiled at the server and handed her the menu. "One Ice Latte…", she wrote down on her memo pad, as she pushed back her bangs with a slight movement of her head. "Okay I'll be right back with one."
As much as Harrison enjoyed his ice latte, what really stuck to him was the girl who brought it. He wondered what she was so irritated over, what made her look so renounced about the world. He imagined her to be about 19 or 20, with a boyfriend perhaps judging from her looks, and she seemed intelligent. It was this tiny seedling of curiosity that led Harrison to leave a message on his check. "What's your name?" With change for his $20, he would get the answer in small cursive writing: "Charlotte Morrison".
The first thing Charlotte wondered about Harrison was his age. He looked no older than 16, maybe even 14; cute, but illegal. But his persistency (he came to Coffee's Way almost every shift Charlotte worked) and his straightforward smile started to grow on her. It didn't feel bad to have someone obviously interested in her; Charlotte that ever since she had gotten older and lost her virginity, guys had just stopped trying to be obvious, or even give a fuck. Even her recent ex had been vague about his feelings at first. She understood that the more rejections a person has had, it became harder, but Charlotte often wanted to scream out to the world that a little honestly and effort wasn't so hard. Harrison on the other hand, was different. Maybe it was because of his age, or maybe it was just Harrison Parker being Harrison. It didn't take long for Charlotte to give in, and let herself go with the flow.
Even though Charlotte agreed to date him, Harrison never felt that she actually had feelings for him. As he got to know her, he began to see that although Charlotte was a strong person, she also was quite insecure, even though she was older than he had first expected. She was so sure of herself, but she had a hard time grasping things for the way they were, and compromising was never a choice. Harrison respected this about her, because Harrison rarely ever bothered to tackle issues the way she did. To Harrison, the world was formed of all shapes and sizes of reality, and just because his wasn't accepted, didn't mean he was wrong. He didn't push this idea upon her, but he often tried to show Charlotte that the world wasn't as grim as she made it out to be, and give her a different outlook upon things, but she often just spoke his age and inexperience to be a reason why he didn't "understand".
Harrison still cared deeply about her, and tried his hardest to be something she didn't have to dread about. He wasn't sure why she had become this way, but he wanted to try his hardest to give her back hope in finding her way back into the world. What scared Harrison the most was that he didn't know why Charlotte stayed in the relationship.
Charlotte was fully aware of Harrison's thoughts. She knew her actions and words made him feel uncertain about their relationship; after all, it was all intentional. The answer to Harrison's concern was simple: she enjoyed watching Harrison's uneasiness. Everything else in the world at the moment seemed fucked to her, but he, Harrison, gave her power and meaning. All she had to do was show some care once in a while. She wasn't fully okay with herself using Harrison this way, but everything else seemed too much for her to handle.
Layton met Charlotte through a mutual friend's party in the end of August. He didn't think much of her; he didn't go to the party with the intention of hooking up with anybody anyway. He could tell she was a conversationalist; she flowed through every topic that was thrown at her, and threw back a topic with ease. Layton couldn't be as social as her; when he wasn't interested in a topic, he made it apparent and didn't make an effort to talk. He felt it was a waste of time on both ends, even though he respected people like Charlotte. Near the end of the night, she came up to him and began to talk. Layton had noticed that she had been eyeing him for some time, so decided to go along. He didn't have a reason to say no to her asking for his number; they were both old enough to know the deal at this point.
It was Layton's stance in the party that locked Charlotte's eyes on him; she could see that he wasn't like any of the guys that she had dated. He was not particularly Charlotte's type; tall but not built, medium length dark blonde hair, blue/grey eyes with a strong jaw line, acceptably social, and smiled only ever so often. In fact, she might have not even noticed him if it wasn't for his presence. Something about him caught everyone's eye, and Charlotte knew this wasn't just a hypothesis as she watched almost every girl in the room go up to him to talk at one point in the night. Not every single one was trying to get with him, but he had something about him that made it hard to resist trying and chatting him up. It lit a fire in Charlotte's mind, and she had finally found herself a goal.
"You know it's not working out," Charlotte went on to continue after the "Let's break up" speech, "It's not doing anything to neither of us." It wasn't the actual break up that really broke Harrison's heart, but it was those words that stayed with him like a stain. He had tried his hardest to have some sort of meaning to Charlotte, and she had made it clear that the efforts were futile. Every date he planned, every communication he tried to have with her, every present, every care, every kindness had never reached her in anyway.
But once Charlotte's mind was made up, Harrison knew there was no turning back. He felt his blood flow becoming numb, starting from his fingertips, and by the time it reached his heart, Harrison realized that it was impossible for him to move now. Charlotte still continued, and although he heard her words, Harrison couldn't even feel it hurting him anymore. Say something back, he said to himself. But his lips only quivered. Harrison wanted to ask Charlotte many things. Did you ever love, no not even, like me at all? Did you even care? Did anything I do matter? Did anything I say reach you? The questions overflowed Harrison's mind, all making out to be such a jumble, like scrabble letters, and Harrison couldn't figure them out. Stop talking, he begged Charlotte inside. He had enough. "...Are you okay?" Harrison finally looked up at Charlotte. He realized he had been staring at his hands ever since the conversation started, and he had not seen her face at all. In fact, it seemed like forever since he last saw Charlotte's face. Her eyes were determined, unlike the first time he had met her. She looked tired, but she was still sitting up. Her hair had gotten a bit longer and lighter. Harrison took her out a lot; the sun must've lightened her hair. Charlotte somehow looked prettier than ever, and Harrison knew it wasn't for him, or because of him. He could sense a slight bit of sympathy and worry. There was no guilt; she was sure in what she was doing. "...I'm sorry." She got up from the table, left money for her cappuccino, and left the cafe. Harrison stared out the window, sitting in the same burgundy sofa he had been sitting in the beginning of the summer. It was no more comfortable than it was then, but Harrison knew he'd never be able to sit here again, and that made him miss the awkward couch.
Harrison tried to push Charlotte off of him as she leaned over on the table. But his hands felt the same numbness they felt that day at coffee time, and all the sudden, he was paralyzed again. He didn't want any of this. Sure, when he saw Charlotte in school the first time he had an inkling of hope that she had come after him. As she walked in the classroom, heels clicking, Harrison felt as if he was part of a movie. Could something like this really happen? Charlotte stood in front of the blackboard and put down her papers. She slowly looked around the room, with her determined but bored eyes, and spotted Harrison. He wanted her to cry. He wanted her to show some emotion towards him. But Charlotte just faintly smiled and went on with her job. The fact that Harrison was there was to no meaning to her.
"Charlotte," Harrison managed to get her name out of his mouth, but only her name. Charlotte aggressively pushed herself onto him. She felt shittier every move she made; the only thing that made it bearable was that she was making someone else feel even worse. She had thought that if she had pushed herself enough, Harrison would give in. Was this girlfriend of his that important to him? Or did he never like her as much as she thought he did.
No, that can't be.
"I missed you Harrison, I..."
"Stop it, Charlotte please. You shouldn't push yourself on the edge like that. I know you're just doing this for..."
"Why does it matter?" It agitated her that he still had the mind to try and reason with her. What happened to the Harrison I enjoyed? After the thought came to Charlotte's head, she couldn't bring herself to continue anymore. "Do you love her? Is that why?" Asked Charlotte, still on top of Harrison on the desks. "...I care about her enough to know not to say those words in this situation." Suddenly, a muffled laughter was heard from behind the classroom door; notifying Charlotte and Harrison that they had not been alone. They froze in place, as the door slowly opened. "Sorry, I didn't mean to ruin the moment," Layton said as he tried to hold his laughter down, "But gee, well said kiddo."
Layton didn't even acknowledge Charlotte, making her furious that he had indeed just proved her point. She had hoped to be wrong about him not caring. But here he was, talking to Harrison with not a drop of jealousy; not even just that, but Charlotte had never seen Layton is such a good mood. "What are you doing here?" She made the pointless effort in trying to cook some jealousy in Layton by trying to kiss Harrison again. Layton quickly pulled Harrison from underneath her, (quite aggressively, leaving Harrison a bruised arm for next few days) and whispered in his ear. "Hey, I'm really sorry about all of this." Harrison then realized that Layton was Charlotte's boyfriend, and also realized what she was talking about in the start of all this. "Really?" Charlotte was shaking slightly; she had never felt so humiliated in her life, not even at the restaurant where she thought things couldn't get worse did she feel this inferior to everything. "What the fuck is your problem? Your girlfriend just cheated on you with your fucking student. How the fuck do you even have the mentality to apologize to him?"
"Well it's because he's my student, and because I feel sorry that he had to see an ex be like this. And also..."
"Be like this?! What is that supposed to mean? How can you talk about me like that? How could you care so little?" Layton let out a small sigh. "Well," he started, as he put his hand in his pocket and lightly pushed Harrison behind him. "I made it apparent I didn't really care from the get go. If you didn't like that, you shouldn't have gone with it. It's not like you really care about me as an individual either, Charlotte. And as for caring so little, I don't know how else to care about this situation than feel quite pathetic for you; I mean honestly, worry about yourself right now, Tell me, what'd you gain from any of this?" Layton spoke with a straight face, but after seeing that Charlotte didn't have an answer, (he was hoping for her to think of something bizarre) he smiled. "And as for liking you.."
"You never fucking did," Charlotte screamed, "You're a fucking liar! You manipulative asshole, I..."
"Manipulate?" Layton chuckled, "Don't try and play that card against me; it's yours. What were you trying to do to this kid five minutes ago?" Charlotte had forgotten that Harrison was still in the room. He had a startled look on his face, and it was also clear that he was glad to be away from her. None of this was pleasant towards Charlotte at all. "Did you guys plan this? Was it you're idea Harrison? Or was it.." She had not thought of her proposing ex-boyfriend in the longest. Was this all karma?
It felt like that day at Coffee's Way all over again for Harrison; although he didn't remember much of what Charlotte said, he remembered this feeling of confusion and anger. He didn't understand why Charlotte couldn't handle her own actions. This also happened often during their time together. He knew she was weaker than she believed herself to be, and so Harrison tried to talk it out with her that she couldn't just try and find a scapegoat out of every situation. Her words now proved to him that his efforts in the relationship had always been pointless.
"Ms. Morris..Charlotte," Harrison tried to take a step forward, but was blocked by Layton. "Sympathy is worse than apathy sometimes, I know you're a nice kid but you have issues you should be dealing with of your own."
As Harrison heard Layton speak, something grabbed his heart. It was one of those feelings one got before hearing something bad, as if it was possible to predict the future. Harrison felt Layton's next few words a moment before he actually heard it; and it pulled him under. "Cherine's there."