***about one month later***
"Josh, please." I sighed, annoyed. "There's a test tomorrow."
We were sitting on Josh's bed and I was attempting to study Physics. He claimed I could study here with him just as well as I could at home, by myself. But he hadn't left me alone since we sat down.
I was mostly ignoring him, until he leaned across me to reach the other side of my neck, getting in between me and the book.
"So?" He murmured against my skin.
"So, I can't study like this." I said. "And I didn't do very well last time."
He pulled away to look at my face, grinning. "That's ok. You're too pretty to be smart. You won't need this stuff anyway."
I scowled at him. "We were supposed to be studying." I reminded him. "I don't want to fail another test. You wouldn't want me to get grounded, would you?"
"By who?" He laughed. "Your parents? Ground their perfect princess? I don't think so."
"Yeah, well I've never done this bad in school before." I argued. "They might have a reason now."
"Fine." He sighed, leaning away from me. "But I want your undivided attention later."
I rolled my eyes and resumed studying.
Josh's 'attention' didn't terrify me as much as it used to. It was something that I'd come to accept as inevitable and so I just mostly blocked him out. I barely noticed him holding my hand or kissing my neck or whatever anymore.
For the things I couldn't just block out, I'd learned to distract myself pretty effectively. I discovered that if I recited poems or a specific part in a book, in my head, I could mostly focus on that, rather than what Josh was doing.
And I'd had plenty of time to memorize new stuff. Since I couldn't be with my friends anymore, I'd spent alot of my time, away from Josh, reading.
Mostly that worked, anyway. There were still the times when nothing I did could distract me. I hated every second of it, but at least I got some time free from that when I got my period.
I'd never been so happy during that time of the month, in my life. I was disappointed that it was shorter than usual. But then I realized that Josh didn't have to know that. He didn't catch on for a while that I 'had my period' for almost two weeks.
I was glad that it should be coming up again pretty soon.
Josh left me alone for another hour or so before he decided that I'd studied enough.
I looked at him, irritated, when he took my book and tossed it on the floor.
"I think it's time you paid a little attention to me, now." He said, leaning in and kissing me.
I started reciting The Raven in my head. Poe had become one of my favorites to memorize, lately. I didn't used to be able to take too much of it because it was so depressing. Now it seemed oddly comforting and appropriate.
I was distracted from my distraction when the headache I'd been having off and on for the last week or so, decided to make an appearance.
I groaned and pulled away from Josh, holding my head.
"What's the matter with you?" He asked, annoyed.
"Headache." I mumbled, squeezing my eyes shut against the sharp pain.
"Uh huh." He said, not believing me.
"I think I'm getting sick." I said rubbing my temples.
"That's convenient." He said. "Are you sure you're not just still on your period?" He asked sarcastically. He hadn't quite gotten over that yet.
If it wouldn't have hurt so much, I would have rolled my eyes. "You know my family's had the flu." I said. "I think I'm getting it."
Mamma's headache had turned out to be the beginning of a particularly nasty, drawn out flu. Which actually worked out nicely for me.
Not that I wanted Mamma to be sick or anything. When she was, though, I had more excuses to get away from Josh. I was doing all the cooking and cleaning. Or, at least, that's what I told him. Cleaning, yes. Cooking, not so much. I wasn't that good at it, so we mostly lived on easy stuff and take out.
But as far as Josh was concerned, I was needed at home. Alot.
Louis got it after Mamma started feeling better, and hopefully now, it was my turn.
Having the flu would get me a free vacation from Josh. And with Christmas break, coming up, I really really wanted that vacation.
Josh watched me for another minute as the pain in my head subsided.
"I'm probably contagious." I said, hoping to deter him.
He raised his eyebrow. "I'll take my chances." He pulled me back over to him and picked up where he left off.
When Josh let me out of the car in front of my house, I raced to the door, without a backwards glance. I was more anxious to get to my brother than I was to get away from Josh.
Sundays had rapidly become my favorite day of the week. Even though I didn't get to spend them with Ben like I'd naively hoped at first, Louis did.
Josh wasn't terribly happy about that when he found out. But there wasn't anything he could do about it either. He might be able to control me, but he couldn't control my whole family.
That was the only real argument with him that I'd actually won, since it wasn't up to me who my brother was or wasn't friends with.
Josh's solution was to keep me away from the house basically all day, so I couldn't possibly see Ben.
I didn't like it, of course, but at least it gave Louis a way to get in and out of the house without Josh seeing him or what he might be carrying back and forth.
And since he absolutely hated Josh, he was more than happy to act as mine and Ben's delivery boy.
Actually, my entire family, pretty much hated him.
Daddy, as I'd thought he would, hated him instantly. Even Mamma, who generally liked everyone, didn't like Josh.
He was always perfectly polite to her and never really did anything in front of her to make her not like him. But I think she saw through him.
I guess they didn't want to come right out and forbid me from seeing him, since, according to their knowledge, he hadn't actually given them a reason to. But I sometimes thought they really wanted to. And Mamma would make comments to me all the time, suggesting that I break up with him.
If only I could.
It particularly stung whenever she asked about Ben.
I quickly shut the front door behind me and found Louis sitting in the living room, with Mamma and Daddy, reading.
I smiled when I saw the look on his face, knowing he had something for me.
I greeted Mamma and Daddy before quickly escaping to my room, saying that I still had homework to get done - which was, unfortunately, true. I'd gotten almost nothing accomplished this weekend, thanks to Josh.
I waited, anxiously in my room for Louis to join me.
I figured that it looked suspicious for me and Louis to suddenly run off to my room every time I got home, so I told him to wait a few minutes before he went to his room to grab whatever it was.
One good thing that came out of this whole mess was that Louis and I had gotten closer. He was more my friend and ally now, rather than just my little brother.
He knocked and came in the room, and I eagerly took the bag from his hands.
Sadly, this was my only communication with Ben anymore. I'd even been deprived of this much for the last few weeks because Louis was too sick to go anywhere.
I smiled when I saw what was inside.
When Louis started bringing me things from Ben, he'd brought the book I didn't get to finish that last time I was there. I sent it back the next time and Louis brought me another one that Ben thought I'd like. The cycle continued and I loved seeing what he picked for me.
Ben would also usually send me some little stuffed animal or nick knack. I was glad it wasn't ever anything expensive like the bracelet - he didn't have that much money and I didn't want him wasting it on me. Whatever he sent was just enough to let me know he was thinking about me and make me feel loved.
But my favorite part was always the note.
He never signed it or put anything specific about himself in it, in case Josh ever found it. It was usually just an explanation of why he sent whatever he did.
But he wrote them, so I loved them.
I hugged Louis to my side. "Thanks." I said, smiling at him.
He nodded and leaned into me.
"How is he?" I asked.
Louis shrugged. "Kind of like you. Sad."
I looked down. That was the worst part of all of this, seeing Ben upset - when I was lucky enough to actually see him - and not being able to go to him or do anything about it.
Louis yawned and pulled away from me. "Night, Lizzie."
"Night." I answered as he left the room and closed the door.
I sat down on my bed and sighed sadly as I removed the contents of the bag.
The book this week was Gone with the Wind. I'd been wanting to read it for a long time, but had never actually gotten to it.
I was a little worried when I pulled out a small white box. I hoped it wasn't more jewelry. Other than it being too expensive, I didn't know how I'd explain that to Josh. It's not like I could say it was another birthday present. And it was too early for Christmas.
When I opened the box though, I found two sparkling, light blue hair clips.
I smiled as I took them out of the box, glad that it was something I could wear to school, so he'd see.
I clipped them in my hair and examined myself in the mirror. I loved them. They were so pretty and they matched my eyes.
Josh might think it was a little strange for me to suddenly start wearing them, though. I usually didn't do anything to my hair. But I'd worry about that tomorrow.
I went back and flipped open the cover of Gone with the Wind, to find Ben's note.
'I saw these and thought of you. I don't know if you've read this one. But if you have, books are always better the second time.'
I ran my fingers over the words, wishing there was more.
Sighing, I put the book and the note off to the side and got settled for a long night of studying and homework.
"Where'd you get the hair clips?" Josh asked as soon as I got in the car, in the morning.
"My mom saw them in the store the other day and thought I'd like them." I said, buckling my seat belt. I'd gotten much better at lying, recently. I just said whatever it was with confidence, and Josh didn't even question it.
"Looks nice." He said, turning his attention to road as he began driving.
As usual, we got to school early and I had to endure more of Josh's 'attention' in the hall, before class.
This was the time when it really bothered me. When I couldn't just block it out. I despised that everyone could see us and I knew Josh liked it that way. He liked showing me off. And he loved flaunting me in front of Ben.
Of course, he usually made sure to stop right outside of our classroom, too. 'So we weren't late', he said. But it was really so that Ben would definitely have to see us or be late to class.
I went through my days at school, mostly not paying much attention to anything. I lived for those few times when I would see Ben. I didn't care to focus on anything else very much, considering I was with Josh and his friends throughout most of it.
My first opportunity to see Ben was after Algebra. Josh made me meet him after class, so we could stand in the halls some more before Physics.
Usually, Stacey came over and flirted with Josh during this time. By the way she would throw me a superior look now and then, I guessed she was trying to make me jealous.
I wanted to laugh because it had the exact opposite affect on me. I was grateful to her for holding Josh's attention, so that he left me alone for a few minutes most days.
And since his attention was on her instead of me, I was free to look at Ben as much as I wanted.
I'd discovered that he came out of his class, right down the hall at this time every day.
I waited, searching the crowded halls as Stacey giggled artificially at something Josh said.
I perked up when I saw him emerge from his classroom.
Only, he didn't look for me right away, like he usually did. His attention was on the girl with short blonde hair, that had come out of the classroom with him.
I waited, glancing at Josh to make sure he was still busy, before I looked back at Ben.
He was still talking to her. They had actually stopped to talk in the middle of the hall.
I watched as he laughed at something she said and got out his notebook. He wrote something down, tore off a small piece of paper, and handed it to her.
It was the exact same way he'd given me his phone number, before.
He laughed at something else she said before she turned and walked away from him.
Ben finally looked at me and I quickly dropped my gaze to the floor, feeling tears sting my eyes. I wouldn't cry, though. I'd gotten good at holding it in.
Or at least, I wouldn't cry if I didn't look at Ben again.
Josh put his arm around me and pulled me against his side, saying something that I didn't catch.
I looked up to see Stacey watching me, with a sadistic smirk.
"What?" I asked, spitefully.
She smiled. "Nothing." She said sweetly before she turned her attention back to Josh.
"See you later, Josh." She said. "Call me if you," She glanced at me. "Get bored."
I rolled my eyes. I wished he would get bored with me and move on to Stacey.
"What's the matter with you?" Josh asked.
"What are you talking about?" I gave him the same tone, I gave Stacey.
"Are you PMSing or something?"
I scowled at him. "Unfortunately, no."
"Aw, upset that I was talking to another girl?" He asked, grinning.
I actually laughed. "Josh, you can go flirt with whoever you want to. I really don't care." I said. "In fact, I want you to."
He narrowed his eyes, seeming unsure of how to take that. I don't know why he was unsure. I hadn't made my distain for him a secret at all.
Choosing to drop it, he removed his arm from my shoulders and took my hand, leading me to Physics.
I glanced back to see if Ben was still there. He wasn't.
When we got to class, I looked for Morgan. I was happy that Nate wasn't paying attention to me, and once Josh's back was turned, I risked waving to her on the way to my seat.
As I was about to sit down, a girl in the next row caught my attention.
It was the girl that Ben was talking to.
I paused for a second, staring at her, until she looked at me curiously. I quickly looked away and sat down.
I should have spent the last minute reviewing the little that I actually knew for the test, but my focus was on the blonde girl diagonal from me.
I watched her out of my peripheral vision for a minute, trying not to be obvious.
She turned around to talk to someone and I full out, looked at her.
Noticing the notebook on her desk, I craned my neck to try to read the name written on it.
She turned back around and caught me looking again before I got a chance to see anything more than that it started with an 'M'. She gave me a look that said 'what's your problem?' and I quickly turned to face the front of the room as the bell rang, starting class.
I know I didn't do very well on the test. Aside from not knowing the material very well, I was thinking about how much I didn't like the girl behind me.
Despite being hungry, I didn't eat much for lunch. Josh still expected me to eat salad. But I must have been projecting my feelings for him onto the food he wanted me to eat, because just thinking about it was making me want to throw up.
Even the chicken looked gross.
Of course, it could have just been the flu, but I liked thinking it was because of Josh.
I ate my orange and zoned out, as usual, during lunch. Only today, my thoughts centered on a certain blonde girl and Ben.
I was still thinking about them when I went to Gym.
After Coach Greene divided us into groups, I sat on the bleachers with my head on my hand, staring at the floor and not really paying attention to what I was supposed to be.
"Hey, Lizzie." Someone said, sitting next to me.
I blinked a few times and focused on her. "Hey, Jasmine."
"So...You and Josh, huh?" She asked, awkwardly after a minute.
I hadn't really talked to anyone since I started dating him.
Or rather, no one talked to me.
Not that I could blame them. I wasn't exactly welcoming or little miss sunshine or anything.
"Apparently." I answered, resigned.
She looked at me curiously for a few seconds.
"Why?" She finally asked, mystified.
I wasn't about to get into the real reason with Jasmine or anyone else. I'd rather the whole school think I actually liked Josh than know the truth.
"Can't you tell how happy we are together?" I asked, sarcastically.
She didn't say anything. She just looked at me with curiosity and concern.
I looked away and sighed. I didn't want to see that look anymore.
"Are you and Anna and Morgan fighting or something?" She asked.
I looked at her and then across the gym to where Anna and Morgan were waiting for their turn to participate in the activity.
"What did they tell you?" I asked, looking back at her.
"They said to ask you." She raised her eyebrows.
I thought for a second. It might be easier if people just thought that. That my sudden separation from my friends was because we had a fight. It would probably be alot less confusing.
But I didn't want people thinking that. I didn't care how strange it seemed.
"No," I shook my head. "Were not fighting. I'm still their friend." I said sadly. "Just...not a very good one, right now."
She just looked confused.
"It's complicated." I added.
"I guess." She agreed, dropping it.
"Jasmine, you're up!" Someone called to her.
"See you later, Lizzie." She said, getting up.
I nodded but then popped up after her.
"Jasmine." I called before she got too far away.
She turned to look at me.
"When you talk to them," I said. "Tell them I miss them?"
She watched me for a second, considering."Sure." She nodded and ran across the gym.
I looked back at Anna and Morgan, feeling a lump in my throat. They were focused on the game and weren't paying attention to me.
"Getting a little close to that line, aren't you?" Matt said from behind me.
I turned to scowl at him.
"What? I'm not allowed to speak in public anymore?" I asked icily. "I wasn't informed of that rule."
Matt smirked and shrugged. "You're not supposed to be communicating with certain people." He glanced in Anna and Morgan's direction.
"And I didn't." I crossed my arms.
"I know how girls are." He said. "And that girl is friends with them."
"You know what, Matt? If Josh has a problem with me talking to Jasmine, he can tell me himself. And you can bite me."
"Don't tempt me." He grinned.
I'd gotten used to Josh's friends. I didn't necessarily like them anymore than I had originally, but I was used to them.
I'd figured out that Nate and Eric were jerks like I thought, but basically harmless.
Matt, on the other hand, I didn't trust at all. It didn't matter that he and Josh were supposedly best friends. Matt looked for opportunities to get me alone.
Fortunately, he hadn't been successful so far.
I rolled my eyes. "Anything else you wanted?" I asked coldly. "Or did you just come over here to be a jerk, like usual?"
"Ouch." He said, laughingly. "You're alot sassier than you used to be."
I waited, and didn't say anything.
"No, that was all." He shrugged. "I just wanted to tell you to watch it." He started walking away.
"You should really get your own life instead of playing spy for Josh all the time." I said to his back. "It's really pathetic."
He stopped and looked over his shoulder. "You know, I might be insulted if that was coming from someone other than a whore." He turned and kept going.
I watched him walk away, seething, but unable to contradict him.
And for that, I hated myself.
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