Confusion didn't even begin to describe the array of emotions that flooded me the second I left Leo's car. He flipped so fast, going from charming to cold and seemingly over nothing. I made a joke and suddenly he wanted me gone. I had no idea what I did wrong, but there was the distinct ache in my gut that told me it was my fault.
I hated this guilty feeling that swarmed and burned me.
The halls of the school were empty again, but when I made it to my locker, the bell rang and students flooded the hallway. It was deafening. The voices in my head were conflicting between hating Leo for making me feel so toxic and wanting to figure out what makes him so volatile. I wasn't the kind of person who looked to fix people. I let people live their own life...like Jessa.
Jessa did some crazy things, and I never tried to stop her or fix her. She was dramatic and at times annoying, but she had reasons. Her home life was non-existent so at school she needed to be the center of attention. There was always a reason people acted the way they did.
I thought I got a secret glimpse into that via my camera. The lens never lied.
"Where the hell have you been?" Jessa's screeching voice echoed but blended with everyone else fluttering about in the hall. I glanced around. I'd been so in my head, I was frozen in front of my locker. My head was in a fog.
"Carley, what is wrong with you? Did you find a picture?" She grabbed my shoulder and physically moved me to face her. I dropped a book to the floor. For some reason, the noise of it banging clattered in my head.
Jessa bent down to pick it up, but I froze again. His voice. Blasting through the fog, I turned to find the source of that deep voice. He was walking alongside Derek, his black bag over one shoulder. While I was sure my face resembled a dead person, he had transformed again. Those sad eyes were replaced with narrowed sniper-like focus.
He glanced at me and our eyes connected. The curve of his top lip lifted and he winked. That was all the acknowledgement I got. Then he walked right past me with his friends and didn't even bother to glance back.
What was going on?
Here I was sulking around because I thought I had deeply offended him somehow and then he bounces back, comes into the school, meets up with his friends, and acts like nothing happened. His mask was so thick that I couldn't even tell what was real and what was the fake Leo. I shook my head, trying to remove all my negative thoughts.
Why should I dwell on it when he clearly wasn't? I was such an idiot in this unknown territory. He wasn't my boyfriend and we weren't dating. He kissed me, but I doubted it meant anything more than that to him. He didn't know he was my first real kiss and if it was up to me, he never would. Was I reading too much into everything?
"Girl, you have go to get it together and tell me why you're such a mess."
"I'm not a mess," I told Jessa, straightening my pony tail and taking my fallen book from her hands. I needed to pull it together and act mature. If he wasn't upset, I wasn't. Simply said. "I gave Leo the picture."
"Which one?" she asked as she took my arm and led me to the cafeteria.
"The one of Hollow's Hill on my wall. We didn't even think of the wall pictures. My mom thought it up." I still couldn't believe the whirlwind of a morning I had.
"Genius. That woman is pure genius." Jessa shook her head and smiled. "So, what did Leo say?"
"He said time will tell if it meant anything. In that weird mysterious voice. So I had no idea what it meant." I stopped outside the cafeteria doors to finish our conversation before we met up with the rest of the group. Jessa was the only one who knew the depth of my relationship with Leo and that was as far as I wanted it to go.
Jessa leaned against the brick wall near the double doors."It means he has some perception of you and the picture goes in line with it. It means he wants to see you more."
"But he didn't ask me out or anything."
"A guy like Leo just doesn't up right ask you out. It'll be spur of the moment and something magical."
"I don't know..." Leo didn't seem like a magical type of guy. Instead of roses, he was more stolen alcohol and musky cigarettes. Instead of dinner and a movie, he seemed like the type of guy who'd drive for hours and do stupid things. Not that it was bad. It was just the Leo I thought I knew.
"Regardless, he wants to know more about you, Carls. You're way underprepared." Jessa flicked her hair back and scribbled something in her rose covered daily planner. I leaned forward and tried to peek at what she had written, but she tilted it back so I couldn't.
"What are you writing, Jessa?" I asked in a panicked voice.
"This Saturday, we do recon and we train you to be a good dater."
"Please, no," I begged. I did not want lessons from Jessa. And I didn't think I needed lessons with Leo. For some reason, my brain was telling me any preparations I did would be wasted because he was beyond different from normal. He was so abnormal he created his own level.
"Listen..." she started to say, but my headache was returning and I really didn't want to deal with it today.
"No, Jessa," I snapped. "I'm not in the mood now, okay? We'll talk about it later. Let's just go eat." I shook my head and pushed open the double doors. I caught a glance of her stunned face before I left her in the hall and felt instant remorse. I just didn't want to talk about Leo anymore and how shitty of a girl I was and how underprepared I was. It just made me feel shittier which was pretty damn hard to do since the encounter with Leo traveled so far south.
I plopped down beside Meghan and threw my bag on the floor. I pulled out my bag of breakfast Mom had given me and started to pick at the Eggo's while going through my own planner. I missed four classes this morning and was in uncharted territory. I felt so behind.
A minute later, Jessa joined the table and sat across from me. She tapped on the table to get my attention and when I looked up, she tilted her head to the side. I mouthed sorry and she smiled, nodding. I sighed in relief. That was it. Fixed. I felt a bit better.
The rest of the day went by in a flash. After school, I stopped by the offices to talk to my teachers about my missed classes this morning. I shouldn't have walked off with Leo. My gut told me to not skip class, but I wanted to show him the picture and he was so sad. I was easily convinced and I hated that. It wasn't me.
As I sat in the office, waiting to see Mr. Bernstein, Leo walked in. He beelined for the front desk, not noticing me sitting behind him near the door. I held my breath, my heart beating slow and my body frozen. Did I speak up? I stayed quiet.
"Mr. Daniels," the secretary groaned, "how can we help you?"
"This form. I can't get it signed." He waved a packet and then dropped it on the counter. His body was tense, his shoulders raised. He was pushed up against the counter, so focused on the form that he couldn't apparently get signed that he still had yet to notice me.
"Why not? Dean Thomas told you last week that your mother needed to sign it. Your immunizations need to be done to play lacrosse." She shook her head side to side like she'd already had this conversation a hundred times.
"So you're telling me, if I can't get her to sign this then I can't play."
"Yes," she said back, not backing down from his rude and heavy tone.
"Fine." He leaned over the counter and plucked up the packet. He folded it very carefully and shoved it into his back pocket. "Tell the dean I came by," he said and then he turned on his heels. I froze when he saw me.
He stomped forward, grabbed my hand and lifted me out of my seat. I gasped as he pulled me from the room and I barely had time to grab my backpack from the floor. "What?!" I gasped as he linked his fingers with mine, intertwining all of our fingers. My stomach twisted.
Outside of the office, he pushed me against the locker and within a heartbeat his lips were over mine. I dropped my bag and wrapped my arms around his neck. His hand dove into my hair and the other grasped my lower back. I kissed him harder as he upped the pace. His emotions poured from him into me as I was swept into this moment of pure lust.
"I'm sorry," he said as he pulled back, breaking our contact and leaving me gasping for air. I nodded because I couldn't formulate a word. He was sorry?
"I just--I wanted you to stay, and..." he choked on his words and I stopped him, reaching forward and pulling his body to mine. I hugged him. At first, his body stiffened. I wrapped both of my arms around his waist and rested my head against his warm chest. It was as if this contact was abnormal to him, he didn't know what to do.
I released him.
"You hugged me," he said, cocking his head to the side.
"It seemed like you needed it," I said back.
"Oh..." He paused. "What's your cellphone number?" he asked out of the blue.
I couldn't shield my face and no doubt, my mouth dropped open. I gave him the numbers and he put them into his black flip phone. I didn't even know people still used flip phones, but yet again, Leo surprised me. I expected him to have the newest iPhone with all the works.
But I was wrong.
I fell in love with Leo Daniels faster than you could say Leo Daniels. September 2016, I remember when it happened like it was yesterday. He was the seventeen-year-old, unattainable, lacrosse player who was way out of my league, but one day in the hall, he saw me.
I was fascinated with him, wanting to know why he pushed people away and why he acted so distant at certain times. He was strange and mysterious— and before long, he was mine.
Then we changed. Leo had a life that was foreign to me. In the town of Ridgebury, I was sheltered and accepted, and my family surrounded me with love. But Leo’s life was toxic. And his poison burned into me.
What was I supposed to do? Leave him to avoid what was sure to be a terrible ending, or stay by his side? I deserved better, but so did he. If I stayed, would we lose everything? What was the price of our love?
© Taylor Lavati 2017
What Readers Have to Say...
"An absolutely heart wrenching read that shows us that at times no matter how much we hope, darkness will find its way to win. "
-Blogger's From Down Under for A Reliant Love
"So this book is the ultimate love story. I like how two ordinary people who is so different and still so alike in so many ways can overcome everything together."
-Angelica Berglund for For The Love of Hockey
"I never thought I would read a "zombie book", much less love one. The Last Legacy really surprised me. Even with the whole people-eating-people thing, it was a fantastic book"
-Melannie S for The Last Legacy
"I could not wait to start book two. If this book was as good as book one, then I knew I wouldn't be disappointed. It wasn't as good as book one...it was better. "
-Keely Retchloff for Finding Sam
"The powers, the love, the excitement, the drama kept me so enthralled. If you are looking for a GREAT series about true love and mythology, look no further... I wish I could rate 10 stars! Definitely recommend this whole series to all my book loving friends!"
-The Book Blog for A Curse Books Trilogy
"For the Love of Ash" by Taylor Lavati was a rare 5-star read for me. I honestly find many typical romances rather dull and predictable. This was not the case at all here; there was nothing average about the romance, overall storyline, and the long list of supporting characters."
-Summer's Book Blog for For The Love of Ash
"Wingless isn't what I would normally pick up and read, but thought I'd try it out and I am so glad I did. The characters and "worlds" she creates are done so well that you can actually picture them and feel like you are there right along with the characters."
-JLH for Wingless
For The Love of Hockey | January 2016
The Price of Love | 2017