Beneath Your Beautiful

Page 9

Loopy? Really?
"But he told me we should stay away from each other and that kind of hurt my feelings. He's nothing like Jake, but he still terrifies me all the same." I shudder when I think about my ex-boyfriend and how stupid I was to stick around as long as I did. I guess at the time I didn't believe I deserved better. I refuse to think about what happened the last time I saw him. I don't want it to taint this visit with my parents. "Daddy, you'd like him. He's the quarterback and from what I hear he's pretty good. He's also the smooth-talking ladies' man that you warned me about when I was only two years old. But I can see he has a good heart and maybe that's why I like him so much."
I stare at my hands and fidget with my fingers. "I miss you both so much," I choke out. "But I'm going to make you both proud, I swear it."
A new resolve settles over me and it's as much a promise to my parents as it is to me. I want to live my life as best I can because my parents may be gone but I'm still here and I'm not alone. Everybody has a past and I won't allow mine to smear my future.
I stand up and dust the grass off my jeans. I kiss my hand and touch my mothers' headstone and then my fathers. "I'll see you soon. Promise I won't stay away so long this time."
I walk away looking up at the blue summer sky above me and allow the sun to warm my skin. For the first time since my mothers' death I feel lighter, happier.
I hear muffled voices and I look over to see a young man with his arm over a smaller woman's shoulders. They're talking softly, both staring at a beautiful white marble headstone with an angel engraved on it. The woman's small body is shaking and I realize she's crying. The young man turns to the side and I almost trip over my own two feet when I recognize the face.
My feet remain stuck in place and I'm almost holding my breath in fear that I'll attract attention to myself. I catch a glimpse of the woman's face and recognize their striking resemblance. It can only be his mother. He's rubbing her back and whispering in her ear, words of comfort I assume. I try to connect the Grayson I've met and heard stories about with the guy standing a few meters away from me, but I draw a complete blank. They're two completely different people. I want to believe the one I'm looking at right now is the real one, the one comforting his grieving mother. I wonder idly who she's grieving for but silence those thoughts quickly. I can't care about Grayson.
I suddenly feel like an intruder. I will my feet to move, hoping that Grayson won't see me. When I slide into the drivers' seat of my Jeep, his back is still to me. He only turns his head in my direction when I drive away.
The drive back to campus is short and the entire time all I can think about is why Grayson and his mother were at the cemetery. Before I can dwell on it, I stroll across campus to meet Demi for lunch before our one and only class together. When I approach her just outside the coffee shop, I see a tall guy standing next to her. He's not as tall as Grayson but still has quite a muscular frame. He has dirty blonde hair, mussed up in all sorts of directions, and he's wearing khaki slacks with a blue polo shirt tucked into his pants. He looks like he could be a preachers' son. Or the son of a Country Club owner.
"There you are," Demi hails as I step up to her. "Huntley, this is Luke Bailey, he's the guy in my Sociology class I was telling you about."
He looks at me and I don't miss the way his eyes assess my body uninvited. My skin crawls right away. He gives me the creeps. Something about him just doesn't feel right.
"Hi Huntley, it's nice to meet you ." He sticks his hand out and I shake it hesitantly. No need for me to be rude.
"Shall we go inside?" Demi asks, her eyes darting between Luke and I.
"Uh I have class so I can't stay," Luke replies. "But I was hoping I could get your number Huntley, maybe take you out sometime?"
Demi looks at me pleadingly. I did promise her one date. "Sure." I start reciting my number while he programs it into his phone. He smiles, says goodbye and walks away.
I push past Demi into the coffee shop and stand in line to place our order. "Are you mad?" Demi asks, taking her place next to me. I am mad, but more with myself. I can't believe I allowed Demi to bully me into this. I shake my head no but judging by the look on her face I've already hurt her feelings. "I'm sorry, I just thought you'd like to go out and have a good time," she whispers. Somewhere in Demi's sad eyes I can see that she only wanted to do what she thinks is best for me and as far as friends go, I can't hold that against her.
We take a seat and I tentatively sip my Café Mocha, enjoying the combination of caffeine and chocolate. "It's ok Demi." I'm trying to alleviate the guilt my friend might be feeling. "I know you're just looking out for me but dating is the last thing on my To-Do list this year."
She sighs and her shoulders slump. "Is it because of Grayson? I saw the way he was watching you at the bonfire on Saturday night. He didn't take his eyes off you once."
Grayson, Grayson, Grayson. Too many things are leading me straight back to him. I need to tread carefully here. There's no way I can tell Demi, or anyone else for that matter, how I feel about him. I don't even know how I feel about him.
"Maybe," I reply, weighing up which is the best form of defense in this situation. "My ex-boyfriend wasn't a nice guy. I just think it will be better to focus on me for a while. I promised you one date, nothing more."
Demi looks like she wants to ask me something but obviously thinks better of it when all she does in response is nod. The coffee shop is rather quiet so we sit in a comfortable silence for a few minutes before Demi speaks again.
"So, Grayson huh?" She tries to hide the smirk on her face but fails miserably. I roll my eyes. "We're not going there Demi," I scorn playfully.
"We'll see," is all she says. She stands up to dispose of her coffee cup while I finish mine.
I follow her out the coffee shop and we head to our class. Our Psychology I professor starts talking about Developmental Psychology and while I normally have no trouble paying attention, today I'm getting lost in the many thoughts swimming around my crowded head. I spend the entire hour thinking about Grayson and his weeping mother. The way he held her, supported her and comforted her tells me two things.
One: Grayson Carter is hiding something.
And two: He's definitely not the person he wants everyone to believe he is.
The unsolicited impulse to find out who he really is pulls at my insides and my resolve to stay away from him cracks slightly. But when I think about seeing him tonight, I'm suddenly fighting the urge to run for the hills.
Because I'm positive I'm going to get to know him, whether I want to or not. It's inevitable.
But that doesn't mean I won't resist it with everything I have.
Chapter 6
~ Grayson ~
Monday night I come to a stop outside Coach Morgan's house. My parents' black Mercedes is parked in the drive way next to Coach's pick-up truck. We're having dinner with Coach and his family tonight and I can't help but be excited to see his two little girls, Hannah and Finley.

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