Without Limits | By: Lanie Clove | | Category: Full Story - Love Bookmark and Share

Without Limits

Without Limits






By: Lanie Clove


This was it, it was the first day of school for Elainie’s junior year at Moat Mount High school. Elainie was excited for school to be back, but she also had some anxiety about being a juniors; she only had this year and senior year before heading off to college, before being thrust into the big, scary world, far beyond what she knew. She visited her locker and headed off to her first period class, History in room 203 with Mr. Allen. Elainie got to class, dropped her binder and pencil pouch on the front, right table in the right corner of the room. Her peers trailed in and sat around on the tables talking. At one point a guy who had gone to school with Elainie her whole life and had become a bit of a pervert in the last four years, came up behind her and started taunting her and saying things to her. She was thoroughly disgusted, but was able to ignore him and that really made Flick mad. He yanked Elainie out of her chair and started shouting at her and when she didn’t respond, he slapped her, really hard, she yelped and would have fallen if Flick hadn’t managed to get a hold of her girl-rocker short hair. Elainie saw something move out of the corner of her eye and then her attention was back to Flick as he grinned evilly and brought his big, meaty hand back towards her face. A new guy at Moat Mount grabbed Flick’s hand before it could hit Elainie, Flick cussed and swung a huge fist at his head, New guy ducked, Flick swung again with a roar, and New guy caught his fist, Flick snarled, and tried to kick him, New guy dodged. This continued for a couple of minutes and Elainie was wondering why New guy didn’t just move across the room to where he might have an advantage. Mr. Allen came in finally with a cup of coffee, oblivious to what was going on, and finally saw the fight, dropped his coffee, and restrained Flick. New guy turned to Elainie and asked in a quiet voice, “Hey, are you okay? It looked like he hit you pretty hard.” “I’m fine.” Mr. Allen then marched all three down to Mr. Vogar’s office. Flick went in first and there was some yelling, cussing, a couple of loud crashes, and a cop showed up to take Flick away since he had a record, and this fight had been against his parole. Elainie went in net, there were some chairs in a pile next to the wall, some broken picture frame’s glass, and a broken lamp. Mr. Vogar was sitting behind his desk, he was trying to feign calmness, but Elainie could see that his shirt was all wrinkled like it had gotten grabbed by a big fist, tie loosened up, and his horribly obvious toupee halfway off his shiny, bald head, and he was smoothing his walrus mustache. Eventually Elainie’s parents showed up and Mr. Vogar started questioning her about what happened in Mr. Allen’s. he listened to her side of the story, prodded her for all of the details as to what Flick had said when she got a little vague because she didn’t want to repeat everything he’d said, and when Elainie finished talking, Mr. Vogar sat there for a moment, rubbing his mustache, then said “Elainie Clover. Little Miss, do you really think you’re going to make a fool out of me so easily?” The Clover family sat there in shocked silence for a moment or so before Elainie managed to quietly say, looking at her entwined hands “Sir, why do you think I’m trying to fool you? I told you everything that happened and everything Flick said.” Mr. Vogar’s face twisted hideously and he said “Flick may have a short temper and may have gotten into some trouble in the past” “That’s for sure.” He ignored her and continued “His momma and I may be to blame, we didn’t, I dunno ‘nurture’ him like we should have, but all I know is, I’m not letting some skanky girl get him put in juvi again. I’ll do whatever necessary to discredit you and your family.” Elainie’s face got pale and her parents were shocked into silence again. Finally Elainie managed to say “Wait. You and his mom? Are you like, Flick’s dad? Does his mom’s husband know?” Vogar’s face grew red and puffy as he shouted “Elainie Clover, get out of my school and don’t even think about ever showing your face in this town again!” As the Clover family was leaving, Mr. Vogar grabbed Elainie’s arm, and hissed “And don’t you even think about telling anyone what I told you.” Elainie leaned in, whispering “Don’t discredit my family and I, don’t get Flick out of juvi, and I won’t tell the cops or anyone a thing. Hmm, you know Flick’s, I guess fake dad is the chief of police, I think he’d be very motivated to arrest you if he found out the truth.” Vogar leaned back, wiped the spittle out of his walrus mustache, and nodded saying “I still don’t want you in this school or town. Tell Jon he may come in now so that I can hear his side of the story.” Elainie finally walked and saw Jon sitting with his parents. When Elainie started walking towards the trio, Jon stood up and Elainie noticed what he looked like for the first time. He was over a foot taller than her, about 6”5’, 6”6’, he looked at least half Hispanic with a caramel-brown complexion, shaggy black hair that was just starting to need to be cut, dark amber eyed, and a seemingly perpetual happy expression that lurked just in view. Elainie stopped a foot away from Jon and started fidgeting before saying “Your name is Jon?” “Ya, it’s short for Jonathan.” “Well Jonny, why’d you do that? You’re new here, you probably don’t even know my name, but you stopped Flick from hitting me again and from getting near me.” Jon stared at Elainie intensely while saying “Well, what is your name?” Elainie faltered in her fidgeting for a moment, looked up at Jon, in his dark amber eyes, and whispered “Elainie.” Jon smiled warmly at Elainie and grasped her hand between his, kissed it “It’s wonderful to meet you Elainie.” Elainie blushed and mumbled “Right back at ya Jonny Boy.” Jon’s eyes twinkled in withheld laughter, Elainie started to smile, and opened her mouth to say something when her parents came back. They looked at their daughter’s pink face and smile, examined the boy across from her that had made her look so lively, exchanged a look, and her father Oliver Clover, cleared his throat and gestured to his daughter that they were going to leave. Before Elainie’s father left, he gave her a twenty and looked towards Jon, and back at her with a wink before leaving. She looked back at Jon blushing, saw Jon grinning at her, she blushed some more and managed a small smile, and said “Well Jonny, you should probably get in there before Vogar gets even more impatient.” She bit her bottom lip for a moment, then said “Well, I’m not allowed back at this school, so I’m probably going to be eating lunch at Red Plum and if you are kicked out as well…You could, well eat with me. If you know where it is and if you wouldn’t rather eat with someone else. If you don’t want to, that’s cool, I just thought we could…” Jon held up his hands to stop Elainie from continuing, she blushed “I was rambling wasn’t I..?” Jon covered her mouth with his hand, making Elainie’s already wide blue eyes even wider and smiled gently at her “El, I would enjoy having lunch with you immensely. Even if I don’t get kicked out. I’ll join you. I do know where Red Plum is and I’ll meet you there at, 12:30?” Elainie pulled his hand off of her mouth, cleared her throat “Ya that sounds perfect, uh I guess I’ll see you then.” Jon smiled warmly again, slightly dazzling Elainie, causing her pale, freckly heart-shaped face to turn slightly pink again and he said “Can’t wait.” He then turned to his parents who had stood there silently the entire time, just observing the teens’ interaction, smiled at them “Well, my dear parents, shall we hear my sentence?” Jon and his parents walked past Elainie, who turned to watch them go into Vogar’s office, and heard Jon’s mother say in her soft voice with a faint Hispanic accent “She’s quite pretty, you’ll probably ask to be ‘kicked out’ to follow her, won’t you?” Jon turned slightly so Elainie could see his face and winked at her before turning back to his mother to say “Eh, I dunno. Probably, she seems intriguing.” Elainie blushed in excitement and walked outside to her motorcycle. She rode back to her house to hang out in her room until she was to meet Jon. She walked in her front door and was surprised to see her parents with a bunch of boxes, packing up the living room. They looked up as their daughter came in ad explained that they were planning on moving from their four bedroom house to a three bedroom one in Velno, twelve miles south. It was about noon when Elainie finally stopped packing, fixed her messy, dirty blond hair in the mirror, and rode to Red Plum in Velno. It only took Elainie fifteen minutes to get to Red Plum, so she had some time before Jon was supposed to get there. She was nervous that he wasn’t going to show up and if he did, that lunch wouldn’t go well. As the minutes ticked by. She started unconsciously ruffling her hair, would realize what she was doing, and would smooth it back down again. At about 12:20 Elainie had decided that Jon wasn’t coming, so was sitting calmly, but the calmness was destroyed when she heard a vaguely familiar voice say “Hey El, I was afraid you’d changed your mind, but I’m glad both of us are early.” Elainie stood up, turned to where Jon was standing, looked at him, and blushed “I thought the same about you.” Jon grinned, winked at Elainie “Nope, looks like neither of us did, but both were prepared for it anyway.” Elainie nodded slowly, not really sure what to say or do, entwining and untwining her hands, not being able to remember what she normally did with them. Jon chuckled softly, startling Elainie and he explained “I just realized how rude I was being. How ‘bout we sit and can I get you something to drink?” Elainie sat in the chair that Jon had pulled out for her and then pushed in, she looked flustered and mumbled “I have some money, I can get my own drink.” Jon nodded and gently argued “Well, that may be so, but I insist that you let me buy your drink. It’s only common courtesy for the guy to pay after all.” Elainie studied his sincere face “Well, Jonny Boy, not very many guys think like you anymore.” He shrugged nonchalantly and just raised an eyebrow. Elainie sighed “You’re not going to give up, are you?” “Nope, might as well just tell me what you want, cuz I’m getting you something regardless.” “Alright, fine. I like the frozen hot chocolate.” Jon smiled at Elainie and got up with a bow “Will do, I shall be right back.” Jon got back with her drink, she took it and protested when she saw that Jon had gotten her a large frozen hot chocolate. He sipped his coffee thoughtfully, set it down, and in a serious tone said “Why are you objecting to a large drink, you like them don’t you?” “Ya, but they aren’t very healthy.” Jon gently lifted Elainie’s chin so she could see his serious face and he said “El, you enjoy drinking frozen hot chocolate, so it doesn’t matter how ‘unhealthy’ it is. If you’re self-conscious about doing, eating, or drinking something you like. I want you to be comfortable and yourself with me. Do you understand?” Elainie sat there for a moment, processing what Jon had said and slowly nodded. He smiled warmly at her, seriousness gone, released her chin, and for the rest of the lunch just talked, they talked about everything, enjoying each other’s presence.

          Time passed and even though everyone, including Jon and Elainie had thought that they would get together, they didn’t, but they grew close and became best friends. It took Elainie and Jon’s parents a while to arrange for their kids to start going to Velno High since Elainie got kicked out of Moat Mount and Jon requested to be sent out as well. Their first day was interesting, two new students showing up on the same day and in all the same classes was different, and everyone stared and whispered. Finally lunch came along, the duo slowly walked into the cafeteria and were looking for an empty table when a girl came over to them. She was around Jon’s height, with a long golden blond ponytail, flawless skin, a good-looking body encased in a very short plaid mini skirt, a low cut white V-neck t-shirt, large golden hoop earrings, a fine chain necklace that probably had a charm on it, but if it did, apparently it was playing hide-and-seek down her shirt, in her “valley”. She was smiling in what Elainie was sure was an attempt at friendliness, but the smile didn’t quite reach her eyes. She invited them to sit with her and was being overly friendly, especially to Jon. She was bouncing slightly on the balls of her feet and chewing her gum worse than a cow with its cud. She saw their hesitation and used that to her advantage to drag them over to her table filled with “pretty people”, cheerleaders, football players, Populars, etc. Jon pulled out a chair for Elainie and pushed it in, prompting the gum chewing blond to say as she was smacking her gum “Oh, aren’t you just so sweet, pushing her chair in for her. So, like are you two siblings? Cuz like you come here the same day and were you two homeschooled cuz you have like all your classes together, and you two, like act like you know each other. So, are you single?” Jon thought for a moment causing his brow to furrow and finally said “Well, umm, what’s your name?” She smiled slyly, scooted closer to him, put one hand on his right leg and the other around his neck “I’m Jenna, Hot Stuff.” Jon pulled her arm off his neck, brushed her hand off his leg, scooted closer to Elainie, and said “Well Jenna, El and I aren’t siblings, we are very close friends. So, yes we do know each other, quite well actually. I am single, but I’m not interested in you because I care about this girl I know.” Jenna’s expression cooled, she shot a venomous look towards Elainie, and looked back at Jon, saying in a fake cheery tone “Oh, like that’s cool, anyone I know?” Elainie had this tight knot growing in her chest during the conversation, got up hastily and all but ran from the cafeteria. In a way, dreading finding out who the mysterious girl her best friend had feelings for would be. She got a ways away from the lunchroom and came to a stop at a cute little bench in a wing of the school that she had little idea how she had gotten there. She was attempting to catch her somewhat panicky, gasping breath. Not very long later, Jon showed up, studied Elainie’s hunched up form sitting on the decorative garden bench, sat down next to her, and put his arm around her small shoulders and asked her what was wrong. Elainie bit her lip, her forehead crinkled in thought, and just shook her head. Jon groaned in frustration, dropped his face onto her neck. Elainie went into a startled stillness and her breathing went all erratic again. Since Jon’s face was against her neck, he felt her pulse race, he pulled his head up, but his face was still right next to hers and he whispered “El, you were upset about me saying that I have feelings for some girl huh?” He stared at Elainie’s face, saw her flush brilliantly and she gave a minute nod. Jon nodded slowly, stroked her ruffled hair back the way Elainie liked it “El, you shouldn’t have gotten upset, alright? You see, the girl I care about, is you. So, you don’t have to worry about losing me to someone else. I know you’re afraid to risk our friendship, so I haven’t insisted on becoming more, but I want you to know that I do care about you, I will always be there for you.” Elainie sighed and leaned her head onto his shoulder “Did you see and hear how bad Jenna was smacking her gum and seriously was she obvious enough in her drooling over you?” The two friends laughed at a few more instances where their new peers acted crazy and weird.

          A while after Jon and Elainie became friends Elainie and Jon became friends, Elainie asked Jon if he would be willing to come with her to a bible study that she used to go to, but hadn’t since she and her ex-boyfriend, Dick had broken up, and didn’t really want to go alone to. Jon agreed and the following Saturday at Red Plum at four o’clock they both went. Elainie’s arrival at her old bible study caused a bit of an uproar, especially because she had a pretty good-looking Hispanic guy with her. Dick showed up late and when he saw Elainie, he got this look of utter triumph, and Elainie’s nervous tic of messing up her hair started up with a vengeance. Jon studied Elainie’s reaction, frowned, put his arm around his friend’s hunched shoulders, caught Dick’s eyes in warning to not mess with his best friend, and went back to listening to Ty, the leader talk. Dick sat right across from Elainie and when the rest of the group saw him, the tension in the air went off the scale. Elainie tried to be calm, but having Dick so close to her made her tic even more rampant, and eventually Jon reached out with his other free hand and grabbed Elainie’s to stop her from continuing to mess up her short, fluffy hair and making it stand on end with static. She murmured a quiet thanks, he smiled at her warmly enough to make her blush, winked at her reaction, and gently smoothed down her messed up hair. Elainie was used to Jon doing things like that, but the others weren’t so the tension in the air became so thick it was almost smothering. Dick was going between glaring at Jon and shooting accusatory looks of betrayal at Elainie. She was getting stressed out from the tension and looks from Dick, and eventually she turned to Jon who’d been trying to comfort her the entire time and mumbled “Jonny, I-I’m going to go home, I’m really tired. I’ll talk to you later and see you tomorrow at purgatory, I mean school.” Jon gave her a sad, understanding look and nodded. She got her bag, was standing up to walk away, and to her surprise, Jon stood up as well. He smiled at her expression “Don’t I get a hug goodbye before you go?” She smiled, rolled her eyes “Sure”. Instead of just doing the awkward, one arm hug, he wrapped his arms around her slim waist, forcing her to put her arms around the back of his neck and making her stand on her tiptoes. She squeezed Jon one more time, then rolled off her toes to her regular height, and started to slide her arms off his neck, expecting him to move his hands as well. Instead he pulled her arms off his neck, stepped closer to her, she tilted her head to the right, suddenly confused and looked him in the eyes, and saw his intention a second before he acted upon it. He pulled her against him and tilted his head down to hers, paused just shy of her lips, saw her wide, blue eyes shut reflexively and kissed her. It started out tentative and cautious, but since she didn’t pull away, he tilted his head, also making Elainie’s head tilt, only the opposite way, deepening the kiss. He regained his control, sighed, putting his forehead to his best friend’s “El sweetie, did I just mess things up or freak you out? I don’t want to lose you.” He pulled his forehead away from Elainie’s and saw her blushing a dark crimson red. She didn’t say anything, just sort of stood there for a moment, almost like she was thinking really hard about something. He started to say something and she held up her hands to stop him “We’re fine Jonny, but I do still have to go. I’ll see you at school tomorrow.” She started to walk away, kind of hastily, so Jon gently caught her wrist, turned her back towards him “El, I love you, did you know that?” Elainie smiled softly, but also with a twinge of sadness “Jonny, I know, but I’m too afraid to try. I don’t want to risk losing what we have. You should probably just move onto someone not emotionally crippled, someone like…Like Jenna.” (Her voice slightly twisting on the name.) Jon dropped her wrist in surprise and his face grew completely serious as he said “El, I don’t want to pursue someone else, I love you. Nothing is going to change that, even if you are as you say ‘emotionally crippled’, even if I was wrong about how you feel about me.” Elainie took a few steps away, turned away from him so she couldn’t see him or vice-versa and said, almost in tears, “You should just move on. It’s not fair to make you miss out on living, just to wait for me.” Jon started to protest, but she interrupted “No Jonny, I can’t let you… I-i got to get home. Umm, I’ll call you before I go to bed, just like always, and I would appreciate it if when we do talk, it won’t be more about this, or you will have done what I’ve been afraid of, and our friendship will be over.” That having been said, Elainie walked away without looking back, leaving Jon alone with her ex, and the other members of the bible study, who had been watching the entire time. He plopped back down into his vacant seat in sudden and overwhelming exhaustion, not sure how to proceed exactly, just knowing he wouldn’t be able to bear losing Elainie. He dropped his pounding head into his hands and tried to think things through when an annoying voice or perhaps just the person behind the voice said “Wow dude, you just wildly screwed that up. She doesn’t like being kissed by just anyone, actually she’d been saving her first kiss for someone special, which apparently from her reaction before she left, is not you. She also doesn’t like presumptuous guys. I suppose like me and if you really love her, you wouldn’t even have to think about what you should do. I made the mistake that led to her hating me and never even wanting to be just friends. Dude, don’t make the same mistake I did because I lost a really amazing person, who really trusted me. Don’t put her through the same pain, stress, and confusion that I did, treat her better than that, that’s what she needs and deserves.” Jon looked up at Dick who was sitting opposite of him and was very blunt “It’s your fault that she’s afraid to risk it, why should I listen to you?” Dick looked him straight in the eyes and frankly said “I’m trying to help her be happy and you seem alright, I don’t want you to mess things up.” Jon sat there and was thinking over what Dick had said when his phone rang, he looked and saw that it was Elainie calling. He hesitated, clicked the accept button, put the phone to his ear, and shakily said “El? I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have just sprang all that on you, or presumed anything. I’m sorry.” Elainie had tried to stop his apology, but he was too preoccupied to hear her gentle attempts, so she ended up just shouting “Shut up Jonny and just let me talk alright!?!” Her getting that worked up put him into silence and she said “Jonny, I’m sorry for the way I reacted. I mean I didn’t exactly discourage you when you hesitated, so really I’m at fault here. Please just say you forgive me and that we can still be friends. Thank you for hearing me out. So, uh night I guess. I’ll see you at school. Bye!” For a while things were a little bit confusing and uncomfortable for Jon and Elainie, but they were a little bit confusing and uncomfortable for Jon and Elainie, but they were too close for it to remain that way for very long. The only real difference was that Elainie was a bit less rigid in her opposition to Jon’s shows of affection. Such as when he would stroke her hair, touch her face, hold her hands, hug her, keep his arm around her shoulders or waist, kiss her cheeks, etc. Jon, he was careful to not cross the little invisible line that he had before, but he did do more signs of affection. They went on hikes together, rode bikes, kept going to the bible study, hanging out with Elainie’s graduated friends from Moat Mount, and just spent lots of time together. One Saturday, Jon dragged Elainie to a paintball field in Shortwall to play against him. He showed her how to aim and shoot the gun, and sent her off to attempt to wreak havoc on all of the other paintballers and himself. Elainie gladly pranced off into the surrounding woods, the weight of the gun reminding her of what she was supposed to be doing. She went into the woods a ways and started getting unnerved. She hadn’t seen anyone since she’d left Jon, and she might have assumed that she was alone, except that the hairs on the back of her neck were standing on end, it felt like there were eyes watching her from every direction, occasionally she heard a twig crack, and she could have sworn that she’d heard a few muffled snickers. Elainie had a very active imagination, so being alone in the woods that she didn’t know, and probably being watched by multiple people, definitely set her nerves on edge. She started messing her hair up, doing her nervous tic, but in order to do so, she had to let go of her gun with one hand, and since she was so small and the gun was so heavy, it kind of drooped. That show of weakness is what did it, there was some rustling, and all of a sudden Elainie was surrounded and one boy shouted “Attack!!!” She was being pelted with paintballs from every direction and some of them really hurt because the guns were turned up high, her goggles were completely covered, so she stopped trying to attempt to dodge being hit. Elainie heard a gasp along with some cussing and then another one, and another, as the gasps and cursing continued, the amount of paintballs hitting her went down. Her imagination started racing, trying to figure out what had stopped the full on attack, the suspense finally got to be too much and despite the risk, she ripped off her goggles to see what was going on. Jon was standing up the hill from Elainie, gun raised as he shot the last of her attackers. He smiled triumphantly, came down the hill towards Elainie, and said “Was that fun or what? Can’t you see why so many people love playing paintball?” Jon was a couple of feet away from her now and didn’t seem to notice that her eyes were narrowing into a glare as he went on talking. She raised her gun and shot him in the forehead, Jon stopped walking towards her, his mouth open in shock, and Elainie shot him again and again. He finally closed the gap between them, pulled the gun out of her hands, threw it, and when she punched him, he wrapped his arms around hers to restrain her. She kept struggling, they both fell to the ground, and Jon landed on top of Elainie, but quickly grabbed her as he rolled over so he wouldn’t be crushing her. Elainie twitched with annoyance until Jon cupped her face between his hands. She closed her eyes and sighed, he whispered “El sweetie, why are you so upset or annoyed, whatever?” She slowly opened her eyes to look into Jon’s and said “Jonathan, did you set me up? Why were all of those people so good, where did they come from anyway? And how did you manage to not get hit with anything?!?” Jon started laughing and when Elainie started to glare, he held up a hand to stop her, and said “El, I didn’t set you up to get attacked. They’re good because they play a lot, it’s an open paintball course, so that is why there were so many, and I managed to not get hit by anyone, except by you of course because the prospect of “nailing a newbie girl” was too strong for all of those egotistical guys to resist, so no one paid me any attention, and I was able to talk them all out. Look El, I’m sorry they all chose to gather together and ambush you and I’m sorry they all chose to gather together and ambush you and I’m sorry that I didn’t get here sooner and take them out quicker.” Jon smiled with a twinge of remorse and stroked Elainie’s hair that was now standing on end and bristly with all the drying paint and said “El, you’ll probably have to wash your hair quite a few times before all of the paint will come out.” Elainie shrugged lightly and said “Ah well, I’ve been wanting to add some color to my hair anyway, although I have to admit I was only thinking of having one color added, not a million and a half, and not all of it.” Jon had the good sense to look down with a look of embarrassment on his face when Elainie got done talking, looked at his watch, started, and then swore. Elainie raised an eyebrow, rubbed her ears mockingly for blood, he ignored her, and said “We were here longer than I planned, your bible study starts in fifteen minutes and it will probably take that long to get to Red Plum, so if you still want to go, which I’m guessing you do…” Elainie nodded her head and he nodded back “Okay, well there’s not really enough time for us to drop by our houses and shower, so I guess we’ll just go as we are. It should be fun, be quite the ice breaker, huh?” Elainie laughed lightly “Break the ice? There something you forgot to mention Jonny, who do we need to break the ice with?” Jon smiled slowly while saying “Really? You don’t realize?” He laughed heartily and when Elainie’s cheeks slowly started to turn red in annoyance, he held up his hands in surrender before saying “El, relax. You’ll understand who I’m talking about soon enough. I’m sorry I’ve agitated you, that wasn’t my intention Sweetie. You forgive me?” Elainie’s face eventually regained its normal color, she sighed, nodded, and gestured that they should be going. During the ride from the paintball field to the bible study at Red Plum, Elainie tried to figure out what Jonny had been talking about earlier when he’d been saying something about breaking the ice, and had a sinking feeling that she knew exactly who he’d been speaking of. Elainie tried to hide her sudden unease from Jon, but of course failed miserably. On the way inside the coffee shop, Jon took hold of Elaine’s hand, cupped her face with his right hand, quickly planted a kiss on her forehead, and said “ El sweetie, don’t worry about how he’ll react. It’ll be fine and I’ll be with you the entire time.” Elainie managed to relax, unfortunately that ended as soon as they walked inside, and the bible study noticed the blotches of paint mottling Elainie and Jon’s clothes. Dick had just started warming up to Jon and his very close relationship with Elainie, that mindset was destroyed when he saw his ex-girlfriend covered in paint splotches. He shot Elainie and Jon such a venomous look, Elainie frozen in place and her whole frame was wracked with a violent shudder. That shudder seemed to empower Dick because he then smiled coldly and said loudly enough to draw the attention of the rest of the bible study “Oh, how nice of you two to join us, I am sure we were all thinking the same thing ‘Elainie and Jon are probably off somewhere committing sins together, probably rolling around in some bushes.’ I don’t know why you two even bother coming to this, you’re almost always late, this time you both are filthy, and neither of you appear to listen.” Elainie turned bright red and was furiously rubbing her short hair while staring at the ground. Jon scowled magnificently, wrapped his right arm securely around Elainie’s slender waist, and tugged her over to the empty section of one of the booths without saying a single word. The lesson started back up tentatively and no one else tried anything, Jon was giving off this angry air the entire time, just challenging anyone to try messing with him or Elainie. As they were leaving Elainie’s phone vibrated, she flipped it open and saw a message pop up, she read it, and all it said was: That was the ploy of a coward, you won’t always have your guard. At some point he’ll get sick of you like I did. Elainie frowned after reading it, Jon looked at her, frowning in concern and asked what was wrong. Elainie managed a tiny smile, rolled her eyes, and told him it was nothing, he looked skeptical, but just accepted it that she wouldn’t tell him what was going on unless she wanted to. They drove back to Elainie’s house where they raided the fridge and then barricaded themselves in her room and watched the Disney Beauty and the Beast for around the hundredth time, a longtime favorite of hers. Eventually they were called to dinner, they were eating tacos, and Elainie’s parents asked how their day had been and if they’d had fun. Elainie assured them that it had been an awesome day, even if she did get nailed by almost everyone at the paintball fields, it had been worth it to nail Jon. A little while later Jon hugged Elainie and left her to head back to his place a couple blocks down the street. As Elainie was lying in bed she reflected back on what Dick had said and it caused a tight, cold feeling to take root and expand in her chest, her despair was growing and growing until it became hard to breathe. Her phone started ringing and she answered reflexively before remembering that it could be Dick and her anxiety kicked up a notch, until Jon greeted her warmly, and the cold knot was replaced with a pulsing, pleasant warmth that grew and soothed her frazzled emotions. She exhaled her breath that she had been unintentionally holding and returned his greeting. He had noticed the exhalation though and asked her about it, she laughed nervously and just muttered something about how it had been a yawn. Jon was silent for a moment, but ended up saying “Were you thinking about whatever had upset you earlier?” Elainie silently cursed herself for that sigh that had alerted Jon that something was wrong and cursed him for being so perceptive. She sighed again “Ya Jonny, I was, but its fine. Not important. So, you got home I guess?” Jon was silent again, but ended up just saying “Alright, I’ll let it go, won’t press you for any details, but if it keeps bothering you, I think that you should talk it out with someone. If not me, then at least one of your other friends, Ginny, Allison, Ashland, or Sabine, or all of the above if need be.” “Jonny…” “No, just listen. You don’t have to tell me whatever it is, but since you’re still upset about it, hours later, I do think you should talk it out with someone. I’ll stop lecturing you now and let you get to bed.” Elainie gave a dry thanks, which got a laugh from Jon and he said “Sure thing sweetie, good night, I love you.” There was a sigh over the line from Elainie and she said good night back before ending the call.

          A few months had passed and Elainie had gotten over the hurt that she had felt by what Dick had said and Dick being the bipolar, emotional jerk that he was hadn’t said anything else like what he had before and to add to the confusion, treated Elainie and Jon and their friendship calmly and oddly maturely. One Saturday at the bible study, Elainie was acting particularly distracted, messing up her hair anxiously, which Jon smoothed back, but without his usual attitude, which made some of the bible study wonder what was going on. Elainie’s phone which was sitting on the table next to her frozen hot chocolate vibrated with a text message, she read what it said, stood up, put on her leather jacket, grabbed her purse and drink, nervously said good-bye, and left. Jon looked a little bit upset, which gave Dick a little bit of a thrill, so he asked “Dude, what’s going on, you look upset, she was nervous and she left.” Jon sighed “El is going on a date with some guy she met while hanging out with her girlfriends.” Dick didn’t even try to hide his smile “Huh, well looks like she really doesn’t want to date you if she was willing to go out with a stranger she just met.” Jon couldn’t cover the brief look of hurt quickly enough “If Elainie wants to date I’m fine with it, as long as it makes her happy. That is all that matters is that she is happy.” Dick’s eyes narrowed “You know what Jon, that is complete and total B.S. you care that she chose to say yes to some random guy. I saw that look of hurt in your eyes. It pains you that she is more willing to date a guy she just met and knows nothing about rather than risk it and date you.” Dick and Jon went back and forth for about a half hour when Elainie stumbled in, mumbling and very disoriented. Jon jumped up and raced over to her where she was leaning against the wall and floor. He knelt down to be able to hear her better and could sense Dick crouched down next to him, but ignored it. He slipped a hand behind her head and sat the other one against her forehead, felt no fever, put the hand against her cheek, rubbing it with his thumb. “El, Elainie sweetie, what happened?” Elainie’s eyelids fluttered, but ultimately stayed closed, but she managed to mumble “What an A-hole. I think he put something in my drink, but I must have not drank enough because when he tried to start groping me, I was able to comprehend what was going on, and fend him off.” Jon was absolutely horrified “Sweetie, did you call the cops. Have you reported him?” Elainie giggled “Silly Jonny, of course not. If I tried to call or report him right now, the cops totally would not take me seriously, they would think I’m drunk. That would be a very bad thing, it would make people respect me less.” Jon finally managed to chuckle “Right, because your reputation is so much more important than your safety.” Elainie had started to drift off so could only manage a tiny smile. Jon sighed, picked Elainie up “Alright sweetie, just sleep, get whatever is in your system out.” He started to walk out and had gotten to the door, hesitated as he started to shift Elainie when the door was opened by Dick. Jon stared in shock until Dick snapped “Are you going to take Elainie home or not, I’m just trying to help.” They got to Jon’s car, Dick opened the door, Jon set Elainie inside, Dick held out his hand “Dude, give me the keys.” No Dick, I’m not going to let you drive my car.” Dick scowled “Fine, then move Elainie and hand her to me.” “What, no way!” “Jon, someone needs to hold Elainie and you won’t let me drive your car, so that leaves me to hold her.” Jon frowned and eventually sighed “Fine, but so help me you had better not do anything to her.” Dick just rolled his eyes, grabbed Elainie, and got in pulling her onto his lap. Jon started driving in silence and the atmosphere got tense when Elainie started to snuggle against Dick’s face and mumble incoherently. Dick smirked and tightened his grip on Elainie, which really upset Jon, but he kept driving. That continued for a few minutes with things getting even tenser, until Elainie managed to actually say something. Elainie snuggled even closer, smiled softly, and mumbled “Jon”. Jon looked over in surprise, smiled, and continued to drive, Dick was not as charmed. Almost at Elainie’s house she did it again, but added onto it “Jon, love you.” Jon pulled to a stop outside Elainie’s house, got out, opened the passenger door, and studied the practically unconscious Elainie “I knew you would be able to tell me eventually>” he whispered, to which Dick snorted. Jon shook his head, picked up Elainie and carried her into her house and up to her bedroom, he gently set her down, pulled the covers up high, kissed her forehead, which prompted another sighed “Jon”, and he reluctantly left.

          Elainie didn’t remember very much from the night of her botched date, but all she knew was that it had been bad and Jon drove her home and submitted a report with the police department. Life went on, junior year ended, summer started, and it went by in somewhat of a blur, paintball games, bonfires, swimming, and just a whole lot of stupid teenager activities. Senior year started and Elainie encountered even more nervousness and anxiety than the year before, this was her last year, this was it. The school year was just a rush of tests, volunteer hours, filling out college applications and scholarships, all of it, no time for relaxation or calmness. Finally Elainie found time on a certain Saturday that happens to be her birthday to get together with Jon and all of her girlfriends to go bowling. For the most part the atmosphere was just fun, a bunch of friends getting together, competing to see who could get the best score, except Elainie who was so bad, decided to go for the lowest score, which was not that hard to do. Ginny kept giving Elainie the occasional look, which Elainie didn’t quite understand. Eventually Jon got up to grab some food and Elainie requested he get her some too and a fountain drink, he agreed, kissed Elainie’s forehead, and walked away. Once Jon was out of earshot Ginny turned to Elaine with that look again, she hesitantly said “Hon, you are a super sweet girl who would never want to hurt anyone, but I think that you are giving that boy the wrong impression.” Elainie blushed and started to mess up her hair “I know that it seems like I’m leading Jon on, but…” “But? Hon, that boy is head over heels in love with you and if you don’t feel the same way, you should let him know, so he doesn’t get hurt and so you don’t get hurt.” “Ginny, I know how Jon feels, but I don’t think either one of us is going to get hurt.” Ginny looked absolutely lost in confusion at this point “What? Hon, how can you be sure that neither of you are going to get hurt?” Even though it hadn’t seemed possible, Elainie’s face went even redder than before “I can say that because…Ginny, I think I’m in love with him.” Ginny’s face went completely shocked, eyes wide, mouth open, the whole thing “What? Elainie, you are in love with him? Are we talking about the same guy, Jon, your Jonny, your best friend? You are in love with Jonathan?" Elainie just nodded and then sat up straighter and blushed a little bit more because she saw Jon coming back, and Ginny turned, saw him too and copied Elainie. Jon came, sat down next to Elainie, arm around her shoulders “What is the topic of discussion ladies?” Elainie and Ginny looked at each other, hoping the other could come up with something, but realized neither had anything. “Umm, we were talking about, uh what it sounds like when someone drinks anything. It sounds so weird, have you ever tried it, if not, you really should.” Jon smiled and some very attractive dimples appeared “Talking about listening to someone drink?” “Uh, yep.” “Hmm, alright sweetie, say I believed that very out there story which you told pretty straight-faced by the way, very impressive. Why did you both look and blush when you saw me?” Elainie and Ginny once again looked at each other, Ginny shrugged, grinned “Good luck with that Hon.” And skipped away. “Traitor!”  Elainie called after, Jon gently shook her shoulders, she looked over and he was still smiling, but there was a serious edge to it “It’s alright El, you’ll tell me when you’re ready. It’s all good.” Elainie frowned slightly and tilted her head “There is no way you can actually know what we were talking about.” “El, I do actually and I’m not going to force you to say it to me.” Elainie shoved Jon’s arm off of her and got up “No, you can’t know what we were talking about!” She then stormed off, leaving Jon sitting in confusion, not knowing that the reason that Elainie had left was because she was scared and embarrassed. She stopped talking to Jon and eventually stopped seeing him as well once he got the message.

          Elainie was feeling pretty stupid, she had had no idea of the complexities of college life. The classes were just fine, she had always kind of done well with those, the professor liked her, which once again was not all that strange, but she had no idea how to interact with her peers, also she had just bought some food and realized that she had absolutely no way to cook it. She decided she wanted to eat the steak and set off to try and find a grill to cook it on. She started at the kitchens, but quickly left when the head cook started making fun of her saying things like “Oh, look at Little Miss Perfect, too good to eat the food provided.” She ended up wandering by the student houses on campus, peeking into the yards to see if any of them had a grill in it. She eventually found a yard that did have a grill and she went to the front door and knocked, somewhat nervously, the door opened and a guy about her age said “hello” as he checked her out with an intensity that made her blush. She cleared her mouth nervously “Umm, hi. I’m Elainie.” The boy smiled and leaned against the doorframe “Nice to meet you Elainie, I’m Caleb, but for some reason I feel that that is not why you are here.” Elainie shook her head “Uh no, it’s not. I know this is kind of weird, but I saw that you have a grill in your yard and I was wondering if maybe you could cook these steaks for me. I’m going to only eat one, so you have the others for compensation or something…” The guy had started laughing and put up his hands to stop Elainie from continuing to ramble “Yes, Elainie is it? I will cook the steaks for you and take the rest off of your hands for you.” Caleb let Elainie inside and guided her to a very male decorated living room and onto a couch near a sliding glass door to the backyard, which smelled like a boy. He opened the glass door, turned on the grill, and leaned against an armchair, posing to look cool, and fidgeting with his phone, which he was probably actually texting on

          Caleb was amazed, here he was a freshman in college, three months in and he had a totally hot babe sitting in his living room. There was no way he was going to let his totally lame roommate mess this up by showing up and scaring this hottie off, so he texted him “Dude, don’t come home, got a hot chick here, maybe I’ll get lucky! ;)”. Caleb was about to start talking to…What was this chick’s name again? Oh ya Elainie, when his phone vibrated with a text message from his roommate “Caleb, whoever this girl is, she’s not there against her will is she?” Caleb flushed unwillingly and texted back “Of course not, I’m not completely unpleasant you know.” “Yeah, not completely, but mostly.” Caleb scowled and furiously typed “Screw you man. I have a hottie to impress and woo.” Caleb looked at said hottie and saw her twitching with eyes glazed in boredom. He looked at the grill and saw it was ready and announced, perhaps a little too loudly “The grill is ready, we can cook those steaks now.” The hottie, Elainie? Whatever her name was, jumped and pressed a hand to her chest in surprise, she barely managed to squeak out “Oh! You startled me Caleb.” Caleb smiled as he found an advantage, he placed the steaks on the grill and then sat down next to, urg what was her name again? Oh yeah, Elainie. Anyway he put his arm around her “Don’t worry Baby, I’m here. There is no reason to be scared.” The girl looked at him with a strange look and scooted away, rolling her shoulders to get his arm off of her. He was a little annoyed, but he shrugged it off “So girl, you got a boyfriend back home or something?” The girl blushed brilliantly and stammered “What? Oh, uh, no I don’t. I’m single, uh why do you ask?” Caleb smiled and leaned closer “Because I see no reason why we can’t get to know each other quite a bit better.” The girl sat back, looking a little bit surprised “Oh, okay so what are you trying to major in?” Caleb frowned, suddenly very confused “What? No that’s not what I meant by getting to know each other.” The girl started messing up her hair very attractively and giggle nervously. Caleb scooted even closer and he noticed that…Dang, what is her name, whatever. He noticed that the girl started to bunch her shoulders a bit unhappily. Caleb was insulted, but leaned back and moved back down the couch, away from the girl, who stayed all hunched up. He frowned “What, am I not good looking enough for you?” The girl started to mess up her hair even more, which was really distracted Caleb, but he didn’t say anything else. She cleared her throat nervously “Uh no, you’re not really my type. Also I, uh realized what you meant by ‘get to know each other quite well’ and the thing is I don’t do that, purity ring and all.” Caleb groaned and sat back, just his luck that this chick was one of those religious type, who doesn’t do anything before marriage. He pulled out his phone and texted his roommate Dude, you can come back. Apparently this chick is like you and doesn’t do anything fun, maybe you can date her.” His roommate texted back in record time “Smart girl, but despite that I am not going to date her, but she sounds like she would make a good friend. Yeah, I’ll come by, rescue the poor girl.” Caleb nodded, looked up and saw What’s-Her-Name looking at him with a slight frown and her head tilted to the side in thought. Man that girl was so hot, why did she have such high standards? Caleb cleared his throat “So, uh ya my roommate is coming by, just to warn you, and I should probably go look at those steaks, see how they’re doing.”

          Elainie was just sitting on the very stinky couch, dying with awkwardness that she felt was flooding the air, but might have just been imagined, but she felt that it was probably quite real in this situation. She had felt awkward from the beginning, but it had definitely gotten even more so when Caleb had started trying to put the moves on her and she had just announced her purity ring, he sat back, started texting his roommate and then just walked away, over to the grill. The silence was torturously boring and awkward, two things Elainie had never been good at dealing with, but seemed to feel a lot of since that awful birthday. Elainie was about ready to make a getaway when she heard a car pull up outside. Caleb raced to the front door and there was a mumbled conversation with his roommate and they both walked in. he was half hidden behind Caleb and it was dim, but Elainie would always recognize him, it was Jon. Elainie’s heart was lodged firmly in her throat and it was beating so hard it hurt, it was clear just by looking at him that he was going through the exact same thing. He had frozen in the spot that he had walked into when he had seen her, both were motionless and in agony, just staring at each other, taking in any changes. Caleb stopped halfway across the living room when he noticed Elainie’s expression, turned to look at Jon and then noticed that Jon hadn’t moved and had the exact same expression as Elainie. Caleb looked back and forth between the two, frowning “Hey, what’s going on with the two of you, you both look like you’ve seen a ghost.” Elainie shook her head and Jon did the same, she finally managed to say “Jonny, I didn’t realize that you were coming to college here as well.” Jon walked over and sat on the couch, but not too close “I didn’t realize you were coming here either. We haven’t spoken in months, how could we know which college the other planning on attending?” Elainie looked down at her clasped hands “Jonny…I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have just started ignoring you, I was scared and embarrassed. If it helps any, I’ve been thinking of you and missing you the whole time. From the moment I left that bowling alley, I’ve missed you, and it pained me immensely to see the hurt on your face when you realized that I was detaching from you.” Jon smiled and started to talk, but then Caleb stalked over and started shouting “What the heck is going on? How do you two know each other, what the heck!” Elainie and Jon looked at each other, Jon nodded and said “Caleb, this is Elainie, she is my best friend.” Caleb looked ticked off “Seriously. Really, I can’t believe this, of all the awful luck! This is the girl who you compare every other girl to. The girl who you are pretty much in love with. This totally hot girl, who is unfortunately extremely not into anything too intricate is your best freaking friend, so chances are you are going to end up with her. This is so ridiculous!” Caleb then stormed out, leaving Elainie and Jon alone for the first time in a long time, and it was welcome. Jon looked at Elainie in thought “So El, what are you doing here?” Elainie was a bit confused “What do you mean, here at the college, I’m here to learn or here in what is apparently your house?” Jon smiled “What are you doing in my house with my roommate?” “Oh! Yeah, I bought some food and then realized that I have absolutely no way to cook it, so I just knocked on the door of the first house I saw that had a grill. Your roommate agreed to cook my food for me, I think it’s still there.” Jon looked excited “Oh, thank goodness! First of all, I had no idea why you were here, he made it seem like him and the hottie who was over were going to hook up. Also, what are the chances? The first house you see with a grill in the yard? Everyone just past us has a grill, so if you’d started from the other direction you wouldn’t have come here, to the house that I also live in, we wouldn’t have seen one another if my roommate hadn’t been bummed that it wasn’t going to work with you, and we wouldn’t have known the other was attending this college as well, might not have started talking again.” Jon was almost breathless by the end of his long speech, he was so worked up, so excited, it almost worried Elainie. She thought about it though and realized that it was pretty amazing how much luck they’d had, like God himself was trying to bring them back together. They ended up eating the steaks and just chatted, catching up on all of the things that they’d missed out on in each other’s life. It was almost six and Jon sighed heavily in a way that had Elainie curious “Hey Jonny, something wrong?” He smiled almost tiredly “Yeah, something is wrong, my roommate is an idiot and is constantly throwing parties, and he is having one tonight. It’s supposed to start in an hour or so, I’m kind of afraid to leave because I don’t want anything to get broken and I don’t want anyone sneaking off to my bedroom, but I also want to spend some more time with you.” Elainie considered that and said slowly in slight confusion “So, why don’t I just stick around? I don’t love the college party scene I have to admit, but I really want to catch up with you too, and I totally understand your fears about things getting broken and people trying to sneak off into your room, I’ve seen that a bit when I was dragged to a few parties by my roommate Kimberly. That girl sure loves to party, more often than not, I end up having to sleep in the media room at the dorms.” By the time she got done talking, Jon was visibly upset, “You’ve been having to sleep on the couch in the media room? You could be hurt just sleeping out in the open like that.” Elainie nodded and rolled her eyes “Believe me, that has crossed my mind many times, I sleep with my pepper spray in one hand and my Taser in the other. As unsafe as it is, I am so much more comfortable, Kimberly brings different guys over all the time and they are odd ones. Before I started sleeping in the media room, there was this one night where Kimberly’s guy of the week was super into vampires and wanted to be one himself. I woke up when he tried to bite my neck, I beat the living daylight out of him, and Kimberly didn’t talk to me for a month, such a nice quiet time it was.” Jon looked absolutely horrified and looked like he was about to say something, but then there was a loud pounding on the door. Apparently Caleb had come back at some point because he raced out of a closed door and opened the front door, and a rush of people flooded in, for the party it seemed. Conversation became somewhat pointless since you couldn’t hear the person you were trying to talk to, even if you shouted. Jon drifted off to get something to drink and by the time he got back, Elainie was nowhere to be seen. Jon just sort of drift around, avoided getting grinded on by a swarm of very drunk girls, barely avoided being kicked by a guy who was just coming down from doing a keg stand. He circled around to make sure nothing was being broken and then checked in his room to see if he needed to shoo anyone out, took off his shirt and then threw it in the corner, and was startled to see Elainie asleep on his bed. He looked around, saw no one else in the dim room, stepped inside, and shut the door. Elainie shot straight up, apparently the closing door woke her up and startled her, Jon saw her blinking and squinting, very disoriented. Jon slowly walked across the room, knelt next to the bed, and stroked Elainie’s head “Hey sweetheart, it’s me. I didn’t mean to startle you like that. I didn’t know you were in here.” To Jon’s satisfaction when he had started talking, Elainie had relaxed, was no longer concerned and snuggled back down onto the bed and on his pillow. Elainie murmured, barely coherently “Mmm, Jonny. I’m glad it was you, you know despite the noise, this is the best that I have slept in quite some time. It is a lot more comfortable than the couch and it feels…Safer.” Jon couldn’t help but smile “I’m glad to hear that sweetie, you can sleep for as long as you like, I won’t let anyone come in and bother you.” As he spoke, he stood up to go out to the living room and watch the door like he promised, but Elainie managed to grab his wrist. She turned her head, but didn’t manage to open her eyes, Jon knelt back down, curious. “Yes sweetie?” Elainie smiled softly in a way that always managed to melt Jon’s heart “Jonny, will you stay here with me?” Jon chuckled “Of course sweetie, I’ll just grab a chair and I’ll sit by the bed.” Elainie finally managed to open her wide blue eyes and it was hard to tell with it being so dim, but Jon could have sworn that Elainie was blushing “Ahem, well Jonny. Uh, what I meant is, umm would you..?” Understanding suddenly struck Jon and then an overwhelming warmth of love and finally being accepted “Sure sweetie, of course! Here, I’m just going to get across you so I’ll be by the wall.” Jon carefully eased himself over Elainie and to the other side of the bed and tentatively put his left arm around Elainie’s waist, which she responded to by just as tentatively turning slightly on her side and putting her left hand across his chest and resting her head lightly over his heart. Jon was suddenly hyperaware of everything: The sound of the party and music just outside the door, the firmness of the bed, the soft fluffiness of the pillows, the warmth of Elainie lying next to him, her heart beating like crazy, just like his that was pounding in his chest. Jon gently shook his head and then realized that him and Elainie were laying on top of his comforter, so he pulled Elainie onto him more and managed to squirm under his comforter, by the end Elainie was giggling, Jon chuckled too “Sorry sweetie, I didn’t want us getting cold at some point and not being able to get under the blanket.” Elainie giggled again “It’s alright Jonny. It just surprised me at first. Oh, is this the comforter I got you for your birthday? I love this thing.” Jon smiled again, pulled Elainie even closer and used his right hand to gently draw patterns on her cheek.

          Elainie slowly woke up and without opening her eyes, stretched slightly, her hand gently grazed something soft and squishy, her brow wrinkled in puzzlement, opened up her eyes and saw Jon’s sleeping face above hers. She blushed as she remembered her stumbled request from last night for Jon to stay with her, and blushed even more when she realized that she had totally drooled on Jon’s bare chest. Wait, Jon’s bare chest? For some reason, she hadn’t realized that he wasn’t wearing a shirt last night, even after she had put her head on his chest. She gently wiped the drool off, but Jon woke up anyway. He blinked tiredly, his eyes focused on her, he smiled lazily in a way that sent her blood racing, stroked her face and parted his gorgeous, full lips “Morning El. How’d you sleep last night?” Elainie found herself smiling shyly and looked away from his deep amber eyes “I slept pretty well, but you know what, I’m not ready to wake up yet. I think I’m just going to go back to sleep. So, nighty night Jonny. I-Also-Wanted-To-Say-I-Love-You.” Elainie darted up and kissed Jon before she could lose her nerve and darted back under the covers and turned so that her back was against Jon’s side. She felt like she was going to have a heart attack, so surprised that she had finally told Jon that she loved him and had kissed him. She was really worried that maybe Jon had changed his mind that sure he was happy to see her because they were best friends, but nothing more, that he had stayed with her last night out of obligation and friendship. All of her fears were put to rest seconds later when Jon came under the covers as well and turned towards her, laying right behind her, arm going around her waist and head resting over hers. Elainie was so content, she had admitted how she felt, done something about it and Jon apparently still loved her, he hadn’t done what Elainie had suggested. Elainie sighed happily and leaned into Jon and heard him sigh happily too as he tightened his arm around her waist. It must have been a few hours later when Elainie woke up and it took her a moment to figure out what had woken her up, but she realized when she felt Jon kiss her neck and it was the same sensation that she felt before she was gently drawn from her peaceful sleep. She turned her head slightly towards Jon and found his face centimeters away from hers, she bit her lip “Hi Jonny.” “Hey El sweetie. So, this is very nice, but I have to admit…I’m kind of really hungry and it is around ten-thirty, so I kind of want to get up anyway, actually do something with the day, like clean up the house because I know that Caleb won’t, even though it was his party and…” Elainie closed the few centimeters between them, kissing him and shutting him up. She pulled away after a few minutes and looked at Jon “Yeah, you’re right. We do need to get up and I need to go back to my dorm to get dressed in different clothes. How about we get something to eat and then we can come back here and we can clean together.” Jon pulled Elainie back right in front of him, his eyes focused on her lips “Hmm, you know what, I changed my mind. We should stay here.” Elainie laughed easily, squirmed away, rolled off the bed, skipped across the room, turned around, and giggled when she saw Jon halfway out of the bed, keeping his balance by putting his hands on the floor, and looked very much like a sad puppy. She was filled with amusement, especially after he said “Aww, you’re abandoning me. Come back!” She giggled again “Uh-uh. I’m leaving right now, I’m going back to my dorm to get dressed, you are going to get dressed as well, and we are going to meet up at the campus coffee shop to eat. Love you!” She then skipped out with Jon’s protests behind her and sprinted to her dorm room to get ready, not even the loser of the week that Kimberly had over, hitting on her could bring down her light, joyful mood. Twenty minutes later Elainie was walking to the coffee shop, clothes changed and freshly showered, a tiny bit nervous, but also very excited, the thrill of being able to be honest with herself and everyone else was exhilarating. Jon was already there, looking pretty happy, but with a slight twinge of embarrassed, which may have had something to do with Caleb sitting across from him and whatever picture that was on Caleb’s phone that was being shown to him. Elainie hesitated, but came over after Jon slightly jerked his head. “…dude, you seriously have to be careful. What if Whatever-Her-Name-Is got pregnant last night? Huh? Do you have a get out plan if that happens, you really should.” Elainie raised an eyebrow when she got within earshot, which prompted a grin from Jon, which apparently Caleb thought was for what he’d been saying “Seriously dude, you need to have a plan.” Elainie grinned even wider, lengthened her stride and sat right next to Jon and stole his bagel “Hey Baby, what’d I miss?” Jon’s grin grew wider as well and he pulled her legs across his lap “I don’t know El, hey Caleb would you like to tell her what you were just talking about with me?” Caleb had gone bright red with mortification “Umm, uh. Well you see, uh. I walked into Jon’s room this morning and imagine my surprise when I noticed a girl in his bed and even more so when I realized it was you, Miss-I-Wear-A –Purity-Ring-I-Am-Better-Than-You, and when I realized that he didn’t have a shirt on, I figured ‘Well maybe he doesn’t have the rest on’ which would mean that you two had sex last night and I was warning him to be careful because it wouldn’t be good if you got pregnant. Oh, by the way after I got over the shock and surprise, I took a picture of you two in bed together and was willing to send it to him to show off, and I noticed something. Are you aware that you drooled on his chest?” Jon looked over at Elainie “He’d told me the part about the picture, but not about the drool, wonder how that disappeared. I don’t suppose someone wiped it off.” He teased, causing Elainie to turn bright red “Shoot. I was hoping you’d never have to figure that out. The first time we woke up, I woke up minutes before you, saw the drool, and was wiping it off, which is probably what woke you up.” Jon had been about to answer, but Caleb interrupted “Both of you stop changing the subject. So, it happened last night right?” Elainie frowned and saw Jon doing the same “Caleb that is none of your business...” “But, if you must know. No, El and I did not have sex last night, we just slept.” Caleb twisted his face in disgust “Seriously? You two totally suck!” he then stormed off. Elainie turned to look at Jon and raised an eyebrow “Hmm that was interesting. I wonder how often that will happen.” Jon put his arm around Elainie’s shoulder and pulled her off her chair and onto his lap, completely thrilling her “I don’t know sweetie, but you know what? I don’t care either.” She smiled “You don’t care huh? Very bold words.” Jon smiled broadly “Nope, I don’t care what they say or ask and I don’t care how bold that is. I finally got you and I don’t care who knows or what they say, all that matters is you and me. So, off topic, are you ready to endure the torture of cleaning up after one of Caleb’s parties?” Elainie kissed Jon’s cheek “Let’s go!”

          They finally got the house clean and Elainie had had a sneaking feeling the whole time that Jon was having some sort of debate in his head, moments later she found out she was right. Elainie flopped down onto the newly scrubbed and disinfected couch and regretted it almost immediately because the couch was most definitely still damp. She just shrugged in resignation and settled in, turned onto her side and saw Jon standing on the other side of the coffee table, fidgeting, which once again made her sure that Jon was contemplating something and the curiosity was really getting to her, so she cocked an eyebrow at him. To her surprise Jon blushed a dark red and coughed slightly as he nervously shifted his weight, and stumbled around the table and plopped down on the floor right in front of the couch. Elainie almost laughed when Jon closed his eyes to take a deep breath and then exhaled, apparently to calm himself, he finally opened his eyes, looked at Elainie, opened his mouth to speak, but closed it again, blushing. He dropped his eyes, but still managed to grab one of Elainie’s hands, which sent thrills of electricity shooting up her arm. By this time Elainie’s curiosity was sky high and she was dying to know what he was trying to say that had hum so embarrassed, nothing embarrassed Jonny, he was always calm and relaxed, never got fazed. Elainie reached out and stroke Jon’s cheek “Come on Jonny, just say whatever you’ve been trying to work up the nerve to say.” Jon’s eyes flickered up briefly, he took a deep breath, cleared his throat nervously “I-Was-Thinking-That-Maybe-It-Might-Be-Better-If-You-Came-Here-You-Wouldn’t-Have-To-Sleep-In-The-Media-Room-It-Would-Be-Safer-And-There-Is-A-Spare-Room-Here-That-You-Could-Sleep-In-So-What-Do-You-Say?” Elainie felt like she was going to burst with overwhelming joy and smiled broadly at Jon, apparently dazzling him by the stunned look on his face. He managed to finally choke out “So, is that a yes?” Elainie’s smile widened even more and she lunged off of the couch, onto Jon, and kissed him, she drew her face away slightly “That is a definite yes, I would love to move in here.” Jon smiled so sweetly that Elainie almost stopped breathing, he wrapped his arms around her waist “I’m very glad you said that.” he then rolled, pinning Elainie underneath him which made her heart warm, almost to exploding, and then he kissed her until she was breathless, and whispered “So, should we go to your dorm and pack up your things?” Elainie was feeling lightheaded, so it took her a moment to process what Jon had said “Oh, uh yeah. That is probably a good idea.” Jon smiled, once again charming Elainie, he stroked Elainie’s face, which made her blush “Yeah, we should definitely go, too much temptation here right now, I think.” Elainie wrapped her left arm around Jon’s waist and he wrapped his right arm around her shoulders, they walked across campus together, and when they got to Elainie’s dorm they went in. Elainie’s roommate Kimberly was lounged on the floor, leaning against Elainie’s bed, smoking something that really smelled, but she dropped it on the floor in shock at Elainie and Jon’s entrance. She stumbled to her feet and clumsily walked closer, she leaned in to get a better look at Jon and exhaled smoke into both Jon and Elainie’s faces “Hey roomie, who is this hot stud you have brought here?” Elainie felt a surge of anger at Kimberly for smoking in the dorm, effectively covering her own and Elainie’s belongings with the smell, for being so…Flirty? And last, but definitely not least, calling Jon a “hot stud”, Jon was her guy, not Kimberly’s as long as she, Elainie Clover drew breath and hopefully long afterwards. Jon as always was very in-tune with Elainie’s emotions and tightened his arm around her shoulder, reassuring her that he was all hers and no one, especially not her trashy could change that. Elainie took a deep breath to calm herself and instantly regretted it because she had inhaled the Who-Knows-What smoke and started coughing and hacking, but finally was able to speak “Ahem. Kimberly this is my boyfriend Jon and he is here to help me pack up all of my stuff, I’m moving to his place.” Kimberly had started giggling when Elainie had said that Jon was her boyfriend, which annoyed her and then when she had said she was moving into Jon’s house, Kimberly had started, almost cackling, which actually made Elainie mad, but Jon had prevented her from saying anything harsh when he put his arms around her waist from behind and squeezed slightly, happy that Elainie had called him her boyfriend and completely excited that she was going to move in with him. When Jon had put his arms around Elainie’s waist and she had leaned back into him, Kimberly finally stopped laughing and ended up glaring in frustration towards Elainie, “He may be with you now, but there’s no guarantee he’ll stay with you. When he does break up with you, which he definitely will, I’m going to swoop in and take him, and he’ll wonder what he ever saw in you.” Kimberly then stormed out, which was good for her because Elainie was about ready to literally murder her, very violently, and not so slowly. Elainie flung herself down on her bed, covering her face and groaned in frustration, laid there for a few minutes, took a few deep breaths to calm herself and then opened her eyes and sat up on her elbows. Jon was sitting backwards in Elainie’s desk chair and smiling, but had a slight blush, cleared his throat “So, El it turns out that being here isn’t that much less tempting than at my place. We should probably get started packing up your things and avoid any and all beds or couches at all costs.” Elainie suddenly felt like she was going to die of a heatstroke with the blush that rose in her face “Ahem, uh ya, we uh, should probably do that.” Jon smiled, almost deviously, got out of the chair, walked over to Elainie’s bed where she was still lounging and leaned over her, face mere centimeters away, taunting her, and then he kissed her and she forgot everything else. Eventually Jon drew his face back, which slightly disappointed Elainie, but she was also relieved, she studied Jon’s face above hers and saw that he was also a bit disappointed, but relieved and he smiled a bit wanly “Yeah sweetie. Somehow we did not avoid the bed and it seems that both of us are making up for those lost years when we could have been together.”

          They somehow managed to pack up all of Elainie’s belongings with a few brief breaks and got her all unpacked in the spare room at Jon and Caleb’s house. Elainie got used to living with two boys, doing the dishes, the laundry and the buying of groceries, and she managed to keep hers and Jon’s raging hormones in check when they were out in public, such as at work, in classes, or studying. The first night that Elainie lived in the house as an actual housemate, Jon woke up in the middle of the night and was startled to discover that Elainie had come in and curled up under his comforter with him, and that he had apparently responded to her presence in his sleep and had turned towards her and spooned her. He was quite okay with it though, it felt…right, so he kissed her neck, and went back to sleep after tightening his arm over her waist.

          Jon and Elainie developed a consistent schedule: Wake up, eat a quick breakfast, hurry off to their separate classes, eat lunch at the campus coffee shop, and alternated between studying and making out, and on Fridays when Caleb would throw yet another party, Jon would take Elainie out on a date, off campus, and Elainie would somehow end up back in Jon’s bed each night. It was kind of funny actually, every night, Elainie would go to bed in her own room, but she would at an unknown hour sneak into Jon’s room without fail. There was one Friday in particular that was so much better than any other in the past. It started off with Jon taking Elainie to a nice steak restaurant off campus, when they arrived Elainie was surprised to see that except for them, the restaurant was empty and there was a single table covered with a red tablecloth in the center of the room with tall candles burning in the middle and a large bouquet of red and white roses at Elainie’s seat. She was so happy and realized how much she loved Jon and how great of a guy he was. Jon had pulled out Elainie’s chair for her and pushed it back in, and then sat down across from her, Elainie smiled at Jon and when he beamed back, she blushed and bit her bottom lip as she looked down at her plate. She heard Jon chuckle, looked up, and saw him fiddling with something just below the table “El, I was going to wait until later in the evening for this, but I think that maybe I’ll just do it now.” Elainie giggled nervously “Eh Jonny, what are you up to?” Jon smiled brilliantly in a way that caused very attractive dimples to appear, he stood up, pulled a paintball out of his pocket and handed it to Elainie. Elainie was suddenly very confused and she could feel her brow crinkle and heard Jon chuckle “El honey, it’s not a real paintball, you can crack it open and there won’t be any paint in it.” Elainie felt herself blush in embarrassment for not having realized that it wasn’t a real paintball for herself, even though it definitely looked real. She tried to squeeze and crack the shell, but was unable, luckily she thought to use her steak knife, she peeled the two sides apart and inside saw something sparkly. She stuck a finger inside to pull whatever it was outside and gasped, shocked to see that it was a diamond ring. She felt Jon grab both of her hands, she looked at him kneeling on one knee and beaming up at her, “So, El what do you say? Elainie Anne Clover, are you willing to chain yourself to me for the rest of our lives and if one dies before the other, to be buried alive as company?” Elainie laughed through her teary eyes “Oh, is that all? Of course!” Jon wrapped his arms around Elainie’s waist, still on his knee and Elainie wrapped her arms around his head, pressing his head to her stomach. Jo eventually got up, gently pried the tiny, delicate ring from Elainie’s grip, and slid her purity ring off of her ring finger sending a thrill through her and put the engagement ring in its place, put the purity ring in his pocket and the pulled Elainie against him, kissed her with a passion that made her absolutely breathless. It was quite some time before they drew apart, but even once they did, they didn’t go very far from each other. Jon sat back down and Elainie not being able to handle being all the way across the table from him, sat on his lap. They got their steaks and ate in excited, happy silence and were drinking the sparkling apple cider that the restaurant had given them on the house for their engagement and that last thought sent a thrill of absolute joy through Elainie. Engaged. She is Jon’s fiancée and Jon is her fiancé. They finally finished their dinner and bottle of sparkling apple cider and headed back home, where unfortunately Caleb was throwing yet another party. Elainie pulled Jon into her room to talk and to ask him something that she had been considering for a few months now, she turned to Jon and saw watching her curiously with his head cocked like an adorable puppy “Jonny, would you be okay with instead of me sleeping in your room with you tonight, if you would sleep in here with me.” Jon nodded “Of course sweetie, it also helps that your room isn’t too girly. I’ll go brush my teeth, if I can get to the bathroom, go in my room to get changed into my pajamas, lock my door after I leave my room, and I’ll come back here.” Elainie sighed in relief “Thanks Jonny, I’m going to do the same as well.” Jon grinned “Of course, my dear fiancée.” “I like how that sounds, my dear fiancé.” “I like how that sounds too.” They both just grinned at each other for a moment, Jon attempted to briefly kiss Elainie, but that worked about as well as it ever had in the past, they eventually detached and Jon raced out the door. Jon finally came back and closed the door while locking it so that no partygoers could barge in. Elainie was standing by the corner of the room a little awkwardly because except for that first night after seeing Jon, she had always snuck in after he was asleep, Jon smiled gently to reassure her, he got into the bed, next to the wall and under the covers, and held up the other side for Elainie. She crawled into bed and turned so that her back was to Jon’s chest and when he looped his arms around her waist, she entwined their fingers together and squeezed softly and was rewarded with a soft squeeze back and a kiss on the back of her neck “Its past midnight Elainie. Happy birthday Baby.”

          Ginny was very excited, she had gathered up most of the old gang and they were at Elainie’s college. They had heard that Elainie was now living in a three bedroom house on campus with two roommates, but was pretty vague about it all, and they couldn’t wait to see it and meet them. They finally found the house and decided to go in and surprise Elainie, maybe jump on her bed and wake her up. They went inside and were surprised by the somewhat male scent in the living room, Ginny brushed it off though and suggested that they look through the first bedroom door, to hers and everyone else’s surprise it was a guy’s bedroom that was very messy, with a guy sprawled across the bed. Ginny was a little disturbed by that, but figured it could be a coincidence, maybe he was the second roommate’s boyfriend who happened to have his own room. She suggested they try the next one and nervously tried the doorknob, but discovered it was locked which threw all of them, but Ashland had remembered that Elainie had mentioned that one of her roommate’s was always throwing parties, so she locked her room at night and that there was a spare key on the doorframe in case of an emergency. Allison was the tallest, so she felt along the doorframe and found the key along with a quantity of dust. They opened the door and once again there was a boy’s room behind the door, but this one was neat and orderly and there was no boy in bed. Ashland started laughing hysterically “What if this is the wrong house? If it’s the right house, why is Elainie living with two guys? Do you guys think that…?” Ginny got quite a bit concerned by that implication “Of course not. This is Elainie we are talking about.” Ashland giggled “Yeah, you’re probably right, she never called me crying hysterically.” Sabine who had been pretty quiet up to this point suggested that they look behind the last door in the hallway, that it might actually be the right house. They all filed out of the room, relocked it, put the key back on the doorframe, and came to a stop outside the last door. Ginny was once again the one to try the door and once again found it locked. Allison got the key off the doorframe again and Ginny opened the door, it was clearly a girl’s room and had Elainie’s belongings all over in it, so they all went inside. They all gathered around the bed and saw the rise and fall of who they could only assume was Elainie breathing underneath her comforter. They all grabbed a section of the comforter and together yanked it off, much to their surprise it wasn’t just Elainie who sat up in shock, but Elainie’s best friend Jon as well and he didn’t have a shirt on. Ashland broke the suddenly awkward silence with her little scream laugh, Elainie laughed so hard she fell back onto her bed, and Jon smiled in response and helped her to sit up and stay up. Ginny was almost panicked, wondering if maybe she hadn’t been a good influence on her “little sister”, she couldn’t even speak and apparently no one else could either. Elainie sighed and stood up “Come on guys, let’s go get breakfast. There is the best pancake restaurant just a few blocks away.” She didn’t even change out of her pajama shorts and t-shirt, she just put on a warm sweater and slipped on her biker boots. Jon disappeared long enough to put on a sweatshirt and some skater shoes.

          Elainie was confused or at least she thought she was confused, but she couldn’t be sure, she was still way too tired to be conscious. She and Jon were leading the way to the pancake restaurant and her friends were slowly walking behind. They probably didn’t make anyone, especially not Ginny feel any better about the situation when Elainie had stumbled yet again and Jon just had her jump on his back. They got to the restaurant and Elainie immediately ordered a highly caffeinated fountain drink to help her wake up a bit so she would be able to comprehend the questions that were sure to be thrown at her in a few moments. They all got pancakes and Elainie and Jon had started to eat, but Elainie’s friends hadn’t they just sat there, staring at them. Elainie was disappointed to have to stop eating her delicious golden, and very fluffy pancakes, but she did with a sigh “Alright, fire away. Ask your questions that won’t allow you guys or apparently me, to eat.” Ginny burst out “Elainie, I thought I had warned you to not go into college like I had.” Elainie apparently hadn’t had enough caffeine yet because what Ginny had just said made absolutely no sense, so she took another drink and felt the caffeine tingling through her veins, or that could have been because Jon had just found her right hand under the table and was now holding it and rubbing the back with his thumb. Elainie couldn’t help it, she smiled at Jon, but apparently it had been one of those gooey, mushy, all lovey-dovey looks because Ashland started coughing and everyone else was bright red. Ginny tried a different approach “El hon, I don’t think that this is a good idea. You refuse to date the boy and now that you are in college and not around your parents, you start having sex with him and that is not fair to either of you.” Elainie was frowning and shook her head “You know what? It is too early for this.” She had rubbed her eyes with her left hand and was confused when Ginny gasped and then the others did too. Ginny grabbed Elainie’s still raised hand and pulled it towards her and fingered Elainie’s ring finger and without looking up said “El hon, are you two engaged?” Ashland, Allison, and Sabine gasped, but Elainie just smiled and nodded slowly “Hon, when did this happen?” “Last night, Jonny took me out on an especially nice date and proposed.” Hmm I see, well hon, you didn’t out of excitement happen to…?” Elainie was really confused now, what did Ginny mean? Jon as always could sense that she was confused and was very helpful “Sweetie, what she means is did we have sex last night?” Elainie felt her face go very warm and felt a bit panicked “What? I, uh, we, uh, Jonny?” Jon put an arm around Elainie’s shoulders, which really calmed her and he addressed Elainie’s girlfriends, “No, we did not have sex last night, not that it is really any of your businesses. I get that you all think of each other as sisters, but you are not actually and even if you were, I wouldn’t want her telling any of you about things that only concern the two of us. Before you can interrupt, yes we were in bed together, but that is it, the same thing that we have been doing for months. Also, you all shouldn’t be so harsh with El, it’s her nineteenth birthday today, and she is supposed to be happy, not struggling to explain herself for something that doesn’t require explaining.” Everyone was pretty shell shocked by Jon’s speech, but especially Elainie, who finally managed to speak “Dang Jonny! I did not expect all of that, but Man was it attractive.” Ashland did her little scream laugh again “You know Elainie, I think that I preferred you before you met him and definitely before you two got together. You two are fairly embarrassing and slightly nauseating to be around. I really hope you pick me to be your maid of honor though!” Elainie smiled, looked at Jon who nodded, and looked back at Ashland “You know what Ash? I think that sounds like a great idea, you have the job.” “Yay!” Ginny still didn’t look pleased, but this time both Elainie and Jon were clueless as to why, she asked Jon a very important question that Elainie was just starting to think about. “Okay, so Elainie has her maid of honor. The question is, who is going to be your best man? You don’t have guy friends, you have Elainie, us of course since we are all kind of a packaged deal, and I’m guessing that you probably are not on good terms with that other guy we discovered this morning.” Jon nodded “Yeah, that’s true enough, but you know what? I can think of someone I can ask, if you are alright with it El?” Elainie struggled and failed to find a guy in her memories who Jon could possibly ask to be his best man, someone who he wasn’t completely sure if she would be alright with. “Who is it?” Jon looked away, almost in embarrassment “To be honest, the closet thing I have to a good guy friend who could be my best man is…Well, it’s Dick.” Elainie felt a flood of many different emotions: shock, dismay, betrayal, panic, and lots more she couldn’t even identify. She pushed all of those emotions down and tried to be reasonable and it took her a while, but she came to the realization that what Jon had said was true, she took a deep breath “Alright Jonny, I’m okay with Dick being your best man. Go call him and ask him if he’s willing to do it.” Jon pulled her against him in a tight hug and whispered in her ear “Thanks baby. I know that it wasn’t easy for you to approve of my request. Love you.” Jon kissed her forehead and walked away to call Dick, after he was out of earshot Ginny piped up “Okay hon, you are not alright with Jon getting your super huge jerk of an ex-boyfriend to be his best man, you shouldn’t have lied to him.” Elainie sighed “It’s true, I’m not thrilled about it, but Jonny was telling the truth, Dick is the closest thing he has to a best man, so I can deal with it.”

          Elainie was curled up on her bed, hugging a pillow and all of her girlfriends were over trying to cheer her up, but it was really not working. She and Jonny had gotten married two months ago and that had been the best day of her life, but a month later Jonny was sent to the East and he hadn’t been able to take her with him. She had begged him not to go, to request to be sent elsewhere, somewhere where she could go with him, but he had told her with that big, beautiful smile that he wanted to do something meaningful and where he was being deployed was the perfect opportunity. In a way she understood that, after they had both graduated from college, Elainie had gotten this great job as a social worker, helping children in need, but Jon ended up working a janitor job and enlisted and went through boot camp and all that to do something better and to be able to afford his and Elainie’s wedding. Elainie couldn’t help, remembering Jon leaving and all that made Elainie cry and then sob. All of her girlfriends crawled onto the bed with her, trying to comfort her, and at some point she heard Ashland suggest that maybe it would help if she started writing Jon letters, to talk to him and to know that he was still alive. Elainie sniffled and sat up “You know what? I’m going to do that, hand me that notebook and a pencil.” Elainie hesitated and thought for a few minutes what she was going to write and finally came up with something

Dear Jon   Dear Jonny

(Screw that, saying Dear Jon just made me think of that horribly depressing book by that depressing author that always makes me sob and I refuse to compare us to that dang book.) So anyway Jonny, I really miss you, I’m afraid that something is going to happen to you, and I haven’t been able to sleep, the bed feels too big, too cold, and way too lonely without you. Finish your tour quickly and come back to me baby, there’s stuff I need to tell you and it’ll only work in person. Please write back as soon as you get this, I need to know you’re alright.

Love you so much


It seemed to take forever for Elainie to get a letter back from Jon, but when it did show up, she literally screamed and immediately ripped it open and saw Jon’s handwriting

Dear El,

Hey baby, I miss you so much too. I’m sorry you can’t sleep without me there, I can’t sleep without you either, the guys keep offering to take your place, jokingly of course, I always tell them that my heart is back home with you and they of course give me grief for that, but I don’t care. It’s pretty crazy over here, lots of random and pointless attacks, it breaks my heart. I’m sorry sweetie, but it isn’t a matter of doing the job quickly and being able to leave, it’s the required amount of months that make up a tour. I can’t wait to hear your news when I get home.

I love you so much baby

Love Jonny.

P.S. The boys asked me to get you to send a picture of you over.

Elainie managed to smile through her tears, even as her heart aching, and she wrote a letter back to Jon.

Dear Jonny,

Baby, what have you been telling the guys of your platoon about me that they want me to send a picture? I think it is absolutely absurd, but I put a picture in the envelope along with the letter. I looked up how long a tour usually lasts and I can’t believe it, by the time you get home the news I have will be pretty obvious. Stay safe Jonny, come back to me.

Love you so much it hurts.

Love El.

It took even longer for Jon’s next letter to arrive than the last, but it finally did, making Elainie feel absolutely faint with relief, her hands were shaking so bad, she could barely get the letter open.

Dear El,

Baby, you have me really curious and intrigued as to what you want to tell me when I get home, are you sure you can’t tell me in your next letter? I’m dying here sweetie (sorry. I’m not actually dying, I’m just super curious. I am not injured, I’m really fine El, no need to worry). About my platoon mates asking to see a picture, well I was just telling them about my beautiful wife and how I can’t wait to get back to you, so nothing to be embarrassed about. By the way, I love the picture you sent and my buddies saw it and said that you are super-hot, which I was pleased with, but it also kind of ticked me off that they were checking you out and found you attractive, you’re mine after all, so they shouldn’t be admiring you. I know, so Neanderthal-like, sorry. I got to go baby, there is an alert and my platoon is being sent out.

Love you more than anything.

Love Jonny.

Elainie was so happy to have heard from Jon and to know that he was okay and she started to write her own letter back to Jon, but had only gotten to her typical greeting of “Dear Jonny” when there was a knock on the door. She couldn’t even be bothered by the knock disrupting her writing her letter to Jon, she was almost humming as she went down the hallway with the letter and opened the door, but her peaceful happiness was completely shattered when she saw the army man with a letter in his hand standing on her porch. Her mind went blank as she covered her face with both hands and dropped to her knees “No, no, no! It can’t be, I just got a letter from him!” “Miss, is that the letter?” Elainie looked and noticed that she had dropped the letter by the man’s feet and could only nod “Miss, may I?” Once again Elainie could only nod, the man crouched down in front of her, picked up the letter, and looked at the envelope “Miss, this letter is postmarked from when he sent it as being three weeks ago. The letter must have been sent before he died and if it just reached you today, well he has been gone a week now.” Elainie was now sobbing so uncontrollably that she almost didn’t realize that the army guy had picked her up and was carrying her inside. She managed to squirm to try to get out of his arms, it felt wrong to be held in this stranger’s arms in the same way she had so many times been held by Jon. He just tightened his grip and once he got to the living room gently murmured “That couch doesn’t look large enough or comfortable enough for dealing with grief, which way is you room?” Elainie was so upset she almost couldn’t answer “To the right, door at the end.” He carries her to the door, managed to twist the knob while never changing his hold on her and nudged it open with his foot. He didn’t turn on the light, just walked carefully across the room, knelt down beside the bed, balanced her on his knee while he pulled back the covers, and then he gently set her on the bed, pulled the blankets back up. He, seemingly unconsciously started to stroke her hair “Miss, I’m really sorry for your loss and I’ll leave you to mourn your husband, but before I go, if there is anything I can do, anything I can help with?” Elainie started crying again and couldn’t answer, but just made due with vigorously shaking her head. She heard the officer stand up and start across the room, hesitate “Miss, I know you must hate me for bringing the news of your husband’s death, but if you ever want to talk, I live in the area. I’m Todd McPhee.” He then continued leaving and Elainie started crying harder, suddenly realizing that grief is even worse when you’re alone.

          Elainie was feeling a bit like a zombie at this point, she hadn’t been able to sleep, had to force herself to eat, and had yet to shower. She was staring at herself in the mirror and couldn’t believe how awful she looked and to her dismay had to admit to herself that that was definitely not what Jon would have wanted Elainie to act like she was or behave like that either. She forced herself into the shower, got dressed in clothes good enough for out in public, ate a bowl of cereal, did her makeup, which she seldom did, but with how she looked, was very necessary, and did what she really hadn’t expected to do, she called Todd McPhee. Todd had been surprised to get the call from Elainie, but gladly agreed to meet up for coffee and to talk. Elainie was sipping a hot chocolate and was staring at the table, instead of the man across from her. Elainie heard Todd sip his hot tea, set it back down, keeping his hands wrapped around it like he was trying to absorb the warmth. Since she was staring at the table and Todd’s hands were on his tea on the table, she couldn’t help but notice what his hands looked like: Large and callused pale hands that were covered in a light dusting of orange freckles and had very light reddish-orange hairs on the back of them and on the knuckles, she imagined the rest of him probably looked about the same, the exact opposite of Jon. One of the hands lifted off the tea, came towards Elainie and gently lifted Elainie’s chin up so she would look at him. Elainie saw that she was right, the rest of him was like his hands, large, freckly, pale and very gingery, with big blue eyes, framed by light colored, very long eyelashes. Todd cleared his throat “Miss…” “You can call me Elainie.” “Alright Elainie. You called me and wanted to meet up, did you have a reason or did you just want some company?” Elainie sighed and struggled with a sudden wave of sadness. Todd reached out and grasped one of Elainie’s hands “Hey, it’ll be alright, I’m here. I’ll help you in any way I can.” Elainie felt her chin shake for a moment, but forced it to stop. “Todd, there was something I hadn’t told Jonny, I wanted to wait until he got home to tell him, but he’s never coming home now.” Todd rubbed the back of Elainie’s grasped hand with his thumb “What was it?” and the look of concern was so genuine that Elainie got a little choked up. She swallowed “I haven’t told anyone yet. I was going to tell Jon that I am pregnant.” Todd looked a little surprised “Oh, it doesn’t show. Elainie, is the baby Jon’s?” Elainie was outraged and yanked her hand away “Of course it’s his baby! I can’t believe that you or anyone else would ask that!” Todd looked very ashamed, almost enough to take away Elainie’s anger, but not quite “Elainie, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to insult you, I just, I don’t know, I asked without really thinking it through too well I guess.” Elainie was fidgeting with a straw wrapper and was trying to stay mad, but that just wasn’t the way she was, she couldn’t possibly stay mad at anyone for very long, she sighed “I guess I understand.” Todd reached forward again and grasped one of her hands “Listen. I, well if you ever need any help or just want some company, I’m here for you. I really am.” Elainie managed a small sad smile and nodded “I know and I’ll definitely keep that in mind.”

          The funeral came and Elainie was absolutely miserable, almost none of her friends or family could make it, most of those in attendance were Jon’s army buddies, those who attend and conduct all military funerals, Todd, and Dick. The funeral just sort of passed in a blur, the occasional image making it through: A pastor standing by Jon’s grave, an army leader probably giving a speech, and the army people firing off the guns. Elainie became aware at the end and noticed Dick making his way over to her and he sneered loudly enough for Elainie and whoever was next to her to hear, but no one else “Well Elie my dear, I told you that Jon would get tired of you and leave you.” Elainie screamed in pain and outrage, lunged at Jon, but she felt a very strong arm catch her carefully by her waist and hold her back. She struggled futilely, eventually gave up and gave in to her wracking sobs, and the arm that had just been holding her back was now holding her up. The person turned her around and pulled her against him gently and stroked her hair and that is when she realized that it had been Todd, and it comforted her slightly. This was the man who had told her of her husband’s fate and then when she was distraught, he had carried her inside and tucked her in bed, the man and first person that she had told that she was pregnant, this was a good and honorable man, someone who, even though it hadn’t been long since they had met, less than a week actually, he was someone that she found that she trusted.

          It had been almost three years since Jon had died and Elainie’s world had been turned upside down. There were only two things that kept Elainie going and sane and they were: The birth of Elainie and Jon’s baby, a little boy who Elainie had named Jonny Jr. The birth had been really bad, she had almost died and the second thing that kept her sane had been there holding her hand during her rough labor was Todd. He had been so kind and supportive, always there for Elainie, cheering her up in his goofy, loud, Irishman way. He came over so often that Elainie had finally suggested a year ago that they just get married so he could be around Jonny Jr. all the time, be a father to him and Todd had readily agreed. Once they had gotten engaged, Todd quit the army and got a job as a high school gym teacher, something that really managed to spark a passion in him. It wasn’t too long into their marriage that Elainie got pregnant again and this time it ended up being a little girl with brilliant red curls who they named Ruby, who resembled Todd in coloring as much as Jonny Jr. resembled his father. It didn’t matter to Todd that Jonny Jr. wasn’t his biological son, he loved him as much as he loved Ruby and treated then the same. They were a great family and Todd made sure to from time to time ask Elainie about Jon, their friendship, kept him alive and a part of Elainie’s life.

          Who am I, you ask? Well that is a simple enough answer, I’m Jonny Sr., and once I died, everything that I missed or that confused me in life suddenly made sense. You may believe that I am probably upset that my wife and best friend moved on and got remarried, but the thing is I might have pulled some strings up here in order to get Todd to be the one to deliver the tragic news of my death. I might have nudged Elainie into realizing that she needed to eat, shower, and just get out of the house and to call Todd. My love for Elainie didn’t die when I did, I want her to be happy and Todd seemed to be the best person to make sure that happened and that was the most important thing for me to do when I got up here. What is the point of living if we don’t have love?

The End

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