Four weeks. It had been four weeks since Sterling had kissed another girl and ruined everything with Laila. She hadn't responded to his letter. She hadn't returned any of his phone calls. He knew she had been angry and he had wanted to give her the space she needed. But now, after so much time had passed, he could only assume she didn't want to see him ever again.
He could hear laughter coming from inside his apartment as he walked home from school that afternoon. Alistair, he knew, had come to visit, claiming he was worried about his brother. But Sterling knew better. He knew Alistair wanted to see Piper as well. He smiled at the thought of his brother being so happy. He had never seen him like this before, had never expected him to give himself so completely to a girl. But Piper brought the best out of him, something Sterling was eternally grateful for.
He opened the door to see the couple in a semi-compromising position on the couch. Alistair jumped up immediately and grinned. Piper blushed and adjusted her sweater.
"Hey, you two," Sterling smiled.
"Hey, little brother," Alistair smiled back, slightly embarrassed.
"Hey, Sterling," Piper said after him, clearly less embarrassed than his brother. "How are you?"
"I'm doing all right."
Piper smiled and nodded, standing up and looking at Alistair. "I have to get changed. I'll see you in half an hour?"
"I'll pick you up then." Alistair beamed at his girlfriend and kissed her on the cheek.
Sterling waited, holding his tongue, as Piper put on her jacket and made her way for the door. But as she opened it to leave, he couldn't contain his curiosity any longer. "Piper?"
"Yeah?" She turned toward him expectantly.
"How is she?"
Piper gave him a sympathetic smile. "She's doing okay."
"Does she talk about me?"
"What does she say?"
Piper looked sad for him and shook her head. "I don't know, Sterling. It's not really my place…"
"Please? Please, I need to know."
Piper sighed and glanced at Alistair who nodded his head. His brother needed to know the truth as much as it may hurt him. "She misses you. She compares you to him."
"Him? To Will?" Sterling could feel his heart breaking.
"Are they together?" He felt as though he was about to cry.
"No. She's not ready for that, she doesn't want..."
"But she still sees him? He's still around?"
"He walks her home after class. They went out for dinner the other night," she said slowly.
Sterling nodded his head and turned away.
"I'm so sorry, Sterling," he heard her call from behind him. But he was already halfway to his room. He pulled his phone from his pocket and quickly found the number he wanted.
"Hello?" Brittany answered after only a few rings.
"Brittany? It's me, Sterling. Look, I, um…do you want to come over?" He hadn't meant to be so blunt but couldn't think of any small talk.
"Right now?" She asked. "I guess I could." She sounded eager to see him again.
"Great," Sterling sighed and gave her his address.
"I'm on my way. I can't…" But Sterling didn't wait to hear what else she wanted to say. He closed his phone with a guilty conscience, knowing that what he was doing was wrong. But if Laila was moving on, then so would he.
It wasn't the first time he had talked to Brittany since their kiss. He had seen her on campus quite a few times, sometimes between classes, sometimes in the cafeteria. After their first encounter in the mailroom, things hadn't been as awkward. They were able to engage in small talk, even flirt a little though Sterling always felt guilty after. And then last week they had actually carried on a real conversation while standing in line in the bookstore. As it turned out, Brittany was an actress. She adored the theatre above anything else and, for the first time since he had met her, Sterling saw a sparkle in her eye as she spoke about her passion.
Sterling knew that if he hadn't just had his heart broken, he would be attracted to this girl. Her blonde hair looked touchable, her brown eyes were playful and oftentimes seductive. But, as it was, Sterling didn't find any girl attractive. No one had her violet eyes that looked at him with so much emotion. No one had her soft skin which was so incredibly kissable. And no one had her lilting voice which he could still hear saying his name. He still missed her so much that it caused him physical pain to even think about her. But not thinking about her wasn't an option. He wanted to hold on to a small piece of her, even if it was now quickly turning into just a memory.
But who did she think she was? Not returning his calls, not even acknowledging his letter. He at least deserved a clean break. He at least deserved to hear her say that she didn't want to be with him anymore. But she had denied him that, started to move on without a word, causing Sterling to contemplate and question his actions which lead to her leaving.
Impatiently, he threw his book bag on the floor and paced around his room. But as the minutes ticked slowly by, his anger started to get the better of him and he wandered back into the living room. Alistair was sitting on the couch, flipping through the channels, a wide grin on his face. He looked at Sterling as he sat down next to him and his smile only grew wider.
"What are you so happy about?"
"I think I'm going to tell her tonight."
"Tell her what?" Sterling rolled his eyes, now incredibly annoyed at Alistair's happiness.
"You know, tell her that I love her."
"Isn't it a little soon for that?"
Alistair frowned. "I thought you would be happy for me."
"I just think you should to make sure you really do love her before you go filling her head with such a complex emotion. Have you even told her about Rebecca?"
Alistair glared at his twin. He knew Sterling would be in a foul mood after he heard Laila had still been seeing Will, but he hadn't expected this.
"No, I haven't told her about Rebecca. But if I learned one thing from her, it's not to run away from what you're feeling. Rebecca would want me to tell Piper that I love her. She would want me to be honest."
"What makes you such an expert on the subject all of a sudden?" Sterling wasn't looking at his brother, just staring blankly at the television.
"The same thing that's making you such an asshole right now: experience. Only I'm using mine to feel good about something where as you are using yours to turn into a complete..."
"Fuck off, Al. You don't know how I'm feeling."
"I don't know how you're feeling? I don't know what it's like to lose someone I love because of something stupid that I did? I don't know what it's like to be so desperate to see them again I would do almost anything?"
Sterling hung his head. He knew Alistair was right.
"Laila's not dead, Sterling. She's alive and breathing and a ten minute walk away." He stood up and grabbed his coat. "I couldn't do anything when Rebecca died. I had to give up and move on. But you can still fight for her if you want her. You have a choice."
"Al, I'm sorry…" But Sterling couldn't finish because both brothers heard a knock at the door. He jumped up and ran to open it, hoping to turn Brittany away before Alistair saw her. But his twin was right behind him as he answered the door to the girl's smiling face.
"Brittany, hi," Sterling said, unable to mask the regret in his voice.
Alistair pushed past them both but turned around to glare at his brother. "Pretending to move on doesn't help anything, Sterling. You don't want to bring her into your mess." And with that, he turned and left. Sterling clenched his jaw, more angry at himself than anything else, embarrassed that Brittany had to witness Alistair lecturing him.
There was a moment of silence as Sterling stood between Brittany and his apartment, unsure if he wanted to invite her in. He knew she would have questions but hoped to God she wouldn't ask them.
"That guy looked exactly like you," she said, breaking the silence.
Sterling frowned. "That was Alistair. My brother."
Brittany laughed. "No shit."
Finally, Sterling laughed as well, his mood lifting slightly at Brittany's humor. "Do you want to come in?"
Brittany's eyes narrowed seductively. "I'd love to."
Sterling stepped aside and held the door for Brittany. She took a deep breath and walked into the apartment. What was she doing here? She no longer knew why she was keeping up the charade yet couldn't bring herself to give it up. Will had been immensely pleased with her after that night when she kissed Sterling. Pleased, but not yet satisfied. Brittany knew her brother wouldn't let her give up the game until Laila was completely committed to him so she had played her part whenever Sterling was around, not actively seeking his attention but not turning him away either. To say she had been surprised at his phone call didn't even begin to describe it.
Sterling's apartment was much as she expected it to be: a large living room with an expensive television, minimal furniture and a clean but small kitchen. There were only a few pictures on the walls, most of him and his brother and who she assumed to be his parents. Had he taken all the pictures of his girlfriend down already? Sterling didn't seem like the type of guy to give up a fight but that is exactly what he had done with Laila. Brittany could tell it just from looking at him.
"So," she said, not wanting to contemplate the pain she was putting this guy through. "What did you want to do today?"
Sterling stared at the blonde who was now in his apartment. Why was it the blondes who always brought him so much trouble? First Kalyn, then Laila and now Brittany. In his next life, he decided, he needed to be attracted to brunettes.
"I hadn't really thought about it," he answered her honestly. Calling Brittany had been an impulsive decision, one he now regretted. He was trying desperately to make up some excuse to get her to leave but he missed his chance.
"Want to watch a movie?"
"Okay," he heard himself answering.
"I'll pick," Brittany winked at him and turned toward his DVD collection.
Sterling ran his fingers through his hair and waited uncomfortably in his own apartment for Brittany to make her decision. He watched as she bent over to examine his choice of movies. If Laila had pulled a move like that when they were together, he would have barely been able to keep his hands off of her. But, as it was, Sterling had no desire to touch Brittany, though there was nothing undesirable about this girl. So, in an effort to make the best of this situation, he tried to smile when she finally made her selection, but even that he found hard to do.
"Okay, don't laugh at me, but I've never seen this movie," Brittany giggled to herself as she presented her selection.
"You've never seen Scream?" Sterling did laugh at her.
Brittany shook her head and smiled at him.
"Wow," Sterling smiled back. "We better get that started, then."
Brittany handed him the case and he turned on the DVD player. Once he had the movie started, he couldn't help but notice that she had taken a seat in the very middle of the couch, leaving him no options but to sit close to her. Forcing another smile, Sterling sat down as Brittany curled her legs underneath her and leaned into him.
"Am I going to be scared?" She asked in a low voice.
"Um," Sterling hesitated at the intimacy in her voice. "Maybe."
She only smiled at him and then turned her attention to the television. But it wasn't any more than two minutes past the opening credits when Sterling felt her moving closer to him. He glanced at her from his periphery and saw her face twisted into fright.
"Get the knife!" Brittany suddenly squealed at Drew Barrymore and Sterling suppressed a laugh.
"Sorry," she said, not turning her attention away. "I get really in to scary movies."
Sterling only nodded and allowed her to scoot even closer to him. Two hours later and Sterling's arm was wrapped around Brittany's shoulder, willingly protecting her from the bad guys. Sterling couldn't remember the last time he laughed so much. Brittany yelled suggestions and accusations at the characters throughout the movie and then became defensive once Sterling started to laugh.
Brittany couldn't help but laugh as well. She knew what she was like during scary movies and her plan of embarrassing herself enough to get Sterling in a good mood had worked. What she hadn't planned on was having a good time herself. Sterling's laugh was contagious; his genuine smile was nearly electric. Brittany knew that he was the type of guy she should be falling for. She wanted to like him. Her life would be so much easier if she could like him. But the kiss she had just shared with Nikki was still on her mind. She could still taste Nikki's lips and smell her shampoo…
"Brittany, thank you for coming over." Sterling's voice drew her from her day dream. "This was exactly what I needed."
She didn't even waver, entirely forgetting she was supposed to be in character and speaking from her heart. "I had a great time as well. We should do it again sometime."
The smile stayed on Sterling's lips but his eyes glazed over with an undeniable sorrow. "That would be nice."
Brittany's heart nearly broke for him. Here they were, both trying to forget the people they had fallen for, both in need of some desperate release. Could she trick herself into liking this guy? Could he forget about his girlfriend? She doubted it, but it was becoming harder and harder to discern reality from the dangerous game she was playing.
She looked at Sterling's handsome face and slowly leaned toward him. Through open eyes, she could see his immediate hesitation, but his gaze flickered to her lips and then he closed the distance between them. His kiss was different this time, thank goodness. It wasn't sloppy or wet, just soft and kind. Brittany closed her eyes, pleased to discover he really did know how to kiss a girl. But the second her lids shut, all she could see was Nikki.
Sterling squeezed his eyes shut and didn't even try to pretend that he wasn't thinking about Laila. He wanted so much to replace the blonde in his arms for the blonde with the violet eyes. He remembered exactly how she felt, exactly how she tasted, the exact sounds she made when he kissed her. His hand left her shoulder and ran through her hair. But Laila's hair was never this curly. Hurriedly, he brought his hands to her back and pulled her tight against him. But Laila's body had never been this stiff and unbending in his arms. Something was wrong and his eyes immediately flew open.
"I can't do this," he said quickly, pushing Brittany away softly and standing up. "I'm sorry."
Brittany breathed a sigh of relief. She couldn't tell from Sterling's kiss if he had been ready to cry or carry her off to bed. "It's fine," she choked out.
"It's just, it's not fair to you. You're so pretty and so much fun, but I'm …"
"In love with someone else?" Brittany smiled up at him.
Sterling nodded. "I'm sorry."
"Don't be sorry," she said, standing up. "You did nothing wrong."
"I shouldn't have called you…"
"Can I ask you a question," she interrupted him again.
"Sure," he said slowly.
"Are you trying to get over her or do you want her back?"
Sterling looked past her and shook his head. "She doesn't want to be with me. I should be trying to get over her."
"You just need a distraction?"
"You aren't a distraction," Sterling said but quickly clarified his statement. "You shouldn't be a distraction. You deserve better."
Brittany doubted she deserved anything from Sterling other than his absolute hatred. If he knew what she had done, he would be singing a completely different tune. "We'll take this slow. I can be a really distracting friend."
"Look, my drama class is putting on a production of sorts next week as part of our final. Why don't you come see it?"
"Are you sure?"
"Yes," Brittany said honestly. "I would really like it if you came."
"Why not?" Sterling said with a smile.
"Good. And we can just pretend this kiss didn't happen."
"I'd rather forget about the first one," Sterling said with a slight frown.
Brittany giggled and nodded in agreement, a slightly uncomfortable silence filling the room. "Well I'm going to leave before this gets any more awkward."
Sterling laughed again and gestured to the front door. He walked her out and held the door for her, smiling as she blushed in delayed embarrassment. "See you soon," he said quietly as she walked past him.
Sterling waited until she had taken a few steps before closing the door. He didn't know if he wanted to break something or cry. But his body reacted before his mind could and he slumped to the floor and tried to stop his hands from shaking. Would the pain in his heart ever go away? He was 19 years old and crying like a toddler, wanting to throw a fit over something he had been denied. God, how he missed her. It shouldn't be like this. He shouldn't be thinking about her every second of every day, not after all this time. Maybe Brittany was right. Maybe he needed a friendly distraction, something to take his mind off of Laila. And at this point, he was willing to try almost anything.
A/N: So I've almost finished writing this story which means chapters will be posted more often :) The next chapter will be posted on Wednesday so if you'd like for me to update you, please let me know in your message. Much Love ~ Pink