Cinderella and the Three Princes

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8. All Money, No Character

Oliver stares at me in shock. I've just asked him if he knows why I left my mom. 'No, you've never mentioned how you came to live with your dad.'
'Because her boyfriend is just like your dad - all money, no character.'
'Did he ever hurt you?'
'No, he never laid a hand on me. Mom wouldn't stand for that. But he did hurt her. It took me years to see how much hurting her, hurt me.'
'Why didn't she leave him?'
'She couldn't work because of an injury, and he paid for everything. He could fool people into thinking he was a good person. Finally, I left because I knew I couldn't live like that anymore. I still have no idea why she left my gentle and loving father. Even then, I cried on the plane... because I felt like I was betraying her.'
'But it's her choice to stay with him. Not yours.' Oliver reaches across the table and takes my hand in his. I love that he wants to comfort me, even though he doesn't have to. He squeezes my hand, sending tingles all the way up my arm. 'You didn't betray her. You did what was best for you. I did the same thing to my mom when I moved into the school. I couldn't stand the way my dad treated her.'
'Do you miss her?'
'I still see her on weekends, Hannah.'
'But still... Can't you see, Oliver? When you bully, you're doing what your father would do.' He releases my hand and stands up. 'Thanks for coming with me, but I think I lost my appetite.'
'Oliver, I didn't mean to-'
'No, you did. I don't need you to lecture me. And I'd rather not fight with you. Heaven knows I fight enough.' He walks away, and there's nothing I can do to stop him. 'This is what friends do, you know!' I scream the words, but I'm not sure if he hears me or not. I shouldn't, but I really am starving, so I end up eating all my chicken until I'm so full I can no longer feel.

Back at the hut, I change into my pyjamas. and fall asleep quickly since I ate so much.
When I check my phone in the morning, I see I have a text from Oliver.


Oliver:
I don't want to be friends with you.


What the...

U:
Relax, friends fight sometimes.
It doesn't mean they can't be friends anymore.

 

Oliver:
Can we talk? Come outside.

 

U:
Sure. On my way.

 

I groan and roll out of bed. I don't really want to, but I also hate how I left things. I throw on some clothes and stumble outside, my eyes only half-open. Oliver is standing there, wearing the same clothes from last night. 'Why do you want to talk if you don't want to be friends?'
'Not here. Let's go to the beach so we don't wake anyone up.' I start to follow him, but my boot catches on one of the boards. I trip forward, catching myself by holding onto Oliver's shirt. 'This won't do.' He takes my hand and interlocks our fingers, keeping me close by so I won't fall.
When we make it to the beach, we sit down in the sand and watch the waves. 'What is it you wanted to talk about?'
'I think... I want to apologize.'
'Okay. I'm waiting. Come on, lay it on me.'
'You could be humble about it, you know. I'm kind of baring my soul here.' He bumps into me as he speaks, and I find myself smiling. 'I don't want to hear anything bad about myself, but you're right. I'm just like him, and I don't know how to change.'
'You don't have to change.'
'But you hate that part of me.'
'That's exactly it. You wouldn't be changing. You'd just be choosing to be this person that I've spent time with today, and not the arrogant, mean leader of L3.' Both of us go quiet for a second and watch the waves hit the beach. When Oliver speaks again, his voice is a whisper. 'Will you help me be that person?'
'Of course. What are friends for?'
'No. Not like that.' He faces me, his fingers in the sand next to mine, making my hand ache. 'I told you, I don't want to be friends. If I'm going to choose to be this person, I'd like to do it with you by my side. As my girlfriend.'
'Oliver... Yes! I'd love to be your girlfriend! I don't know if it's Florida or the way you've treated me, but I would be lying if I said I didn't feel something for you now. Something I didn't feel before.'
'I'm so happy to hear you say that, Hannah. I go crazy when you aren't around. You're all I can think of.'
'Maybe fate was trying to put us together when I somehow ended up at Gem.' 
'I never knew you were such a romantic.'
'Maybe it's your fault, you and me, an early morning on the beach watching the sunrise.' He puts his arm around me and pulls me close. I sigh. 'I want you to know-' He cuts me off by placing his mouth on mine. At first, my eyes are wide open, surprised he would make such a bold move. But then his fingers intertwine with mine and I find myself enjoying the suppleness of his lips. He puts his free hand on my back and pulls me closer and presses his forehead to mine, panting. 'I can't.' I stand up, looking for the path back. 'What are you talking about? I know I didn't imagine you kissing me.'
'I want to go home, now.'
'I don't understand.'
'Oliver, our worlds are too different.'
'But Hannah-'
'There's nothing to talk about, okay? You and me, we won't work. Here? This place? It's beautiful. It's easy to forget. But what happens when we get back and you're Oliver Gem again?'
'We stay together, that's what.'
'Says the biggest playboy there is. How many others have you seduced this way?'
'Is that what's holding you back?'
'Maybe you want me now, but that's because I'm a novelty to you. Once you have me, I'll mean nothing.'
'You really are hurting, aren't you?'
'Sure, I'm hurting. Everyone's hurting. It's high school.'
'It's my turn to give you some advice. You're pushing me away because you feel like your mom chose him over you. You can't trust me.'
'You're exactly right. I can't. Because I saw you at that club... I won't choose the same type of guy she did.' This time, when I try to go, Oliver lets me. 'That's not how a relationship works!' He yells the words at me, but I keep walking away like I didn't hear.

I decide to put on my sundress from the day before and climb in bed so I'm ready to go whenever everyone else is. At 10 a.m. Kayla gets up excited to hang out with me and Henry. 'I'm sick. Can't I just live in this bed?'
'When did that start happening?'
'Sometime around sunrise. I'll be fine. Go and have fun. I'll be okay here by myself. I've got some things to sort out.'
Okay, but only if you're sure.'

It's only a few hours later that I'm boarding the plane. The flight home is lonely. Oliver hasn't even attempted conversation with me, and Henry and Kayla are too lost in their lovebird world. Why did he have to kiss me?

I get off the plane to see Leo waiting like prince charming. 'Leo? What are you doing here?'
'I was sad and couldn't make the trip because of songwriting session, so I thought I'd join you here.'
'Hi, Leo.' Oliver looks between the two of us, eyes narrowed. 'Do you need a ride home, Hannah?' Leo pokes his head out from behind Oliver's broad shoulders. 'You have to get home to your family diner. I'll take her.'
'I'm not going to dinner tonight.'
'Your father will kill you if you don't go.'
'I have to make sure Hannah gets home safe.'
'It's okay. I can go with Leo.' Leo's face lights up with a smile. It quickly turns into a frown when Oliver pulls out his phone and puts it to his ear. 'I won't be able to make it tonight. I'm going to start doing that charity work you asked me to be part of.' Charity work? Like when I wad in the hospital and Oliver paid? Was that all I was to him? When he hangs up and faces me, I feel like my head is about to pop off. I shove the bag of clothes he gave me into his chest. 'I will be going home with Leo. And you can't stop me.' I take Leo's hand and march away, not sure where I'm going.

 

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