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   Chapter 18 Questioning Sexy Bois Everywhere

Cuddle Application By Anna Rae Characters: 19985

Updated: 2018-01-18 17:42

"Heaven is comfort, but it's still not living."

~Alice Sebold


A chill crawls up my spine despite the warm weather outside. Park stands in front of me, eyes wide and upset.

Oliver's lying to you.

He runs a quick hand through his blond hair and looks at me expectedly, but the words he's said run on repeat in my brain, preventing me from coming up with my own.

"What?" I finally manage, my voice coming out as a whisper. I don't even fully understand what he's said - my relationship with Oliver is fake? We barely had a relationship; we'd known each other for a few short weeks and gone on a single date.

My chest flutters slightly at the thought of it. The carnival, the rides, the almost-kiss. Neck. I suddenly remember his old friend Neck who showed up out of the blue, and how Oliver refused to tell me about him. I still had no answers about that one.

"There's quite a few things you don't know about me, " Oliver had said that day. Could Park be right - was Oliver lying to me?

But lying about what? Liking me? Who he was?

I make a mental note to ask again about Neck, though Oliver's past might not be my biggest problem right now.

"Skylar, " Park starts, and I realize I've been looking at the ground. I raise my eyes to meet his and he looks pained. "I don't know how to tell you this." He bites his bottom lip and my attention is drawn there. I can't stop comparing him to Oliver. I wish I could look at them independently, compare them unbiasely, but I can't.

"Just tell me, " I say. Goosebumps are appearing on my arms and I wrap them around my body. Muted screams of laughter can be heard from beyond the garage, but nothing about this night feels like a party.

Park sighs. "I overheard a conversation between Oliver and one of his friends earlier-"

"Oliver's friends?" I interrupt. "They're here?"

Could it be Neck? Or some of Oliver's other friends? It strikes me that I haven't met anyone he considers a friend, except my own brother. I don't know much of his school life at Helaci, or how his sports seasons went.

I have a craving to know Oliver that's as tangible as the desire to eat, which surprises me. I've never liked someone this much before.

Park stops talking, and I realize I haven't been listening. Following his stare, I realize he's looking at something on my neck. My hand flies to the spot, instinctively.

"Is that a hickey?" he asks softly. My breath hitches in my chest, heartbeat slowing. Park's face falls, realizing. "Did you - did you kiss him?"

My mouth closes, and an eery silence fills the room. I don't know what to say, but the hurt sliding across Park's face is enough to break my heart.

My silence confirms Park's question, and he turns away from me, shaking his head. My stomach feels like it's full of lead.

My mouth opens, closes, opens again. "Park."

"You kissed him." His voice sounds far away. I wish he would look at me. I wish this entire conversation had never happened. "Was this before or after I kissed you?"

I think back through my day. We'd arrived only this morning - a fact that shocks me. Park, the kiss, Oliver, the kiss. I suddenly feel awful. It didn't feel wrong in the moment - kissing Oliver - it had actually felt all too right. But now, looking into my best friend's face, I see the hurt and the betrayal there.

I swallow. I owe him a response.


I don't know which answer would've been worse for him to hear, but the way his face cracks makes me want to give up all the seventeen years I've lived.

"Park, I'm sorry-"

He spins around, face newly composed and blank, except for the slight sheen to his eyes. "I love you."

My heart stops, chest tight. Years of denial tumble into my lap, screaming at me to notice them.

"I've been in love with you, " he says, "since we were in middle school, and I never knew how to say it."

Cora had said as much this morning. She'd pointed out how noticeable it was to everyone except for me - but I did notice. I knew how he felt I just refused to believe it. How could I possibly accept a fact that would ruin one of my favorite relationships? Becoming something more with Park meant ending a lifelong friendship, and the thought of a life without him - one where we got together and I messed up, and we broke up - threatened to shatter me.

Park steps close enough that our toes touch, our bare feet cold on the slabs of concrete. "I didn't think I deserved you, " he says. "I didn't think anyone did - and then you got with Josh, and you were so unhappy. And all I wanted to do was fix it, to make it better, but I knew you'd never listen to me if I told you to end it." He takes a deep breath, stepping back. "I knew you'd never choose me over him."

It's too much. Information floods my brain and my lungs feel like they're being crushed. My breathing quickens.

"Park, that's not true, " I say, putting my hand on his arm. He shrugs away my touch immediately and it feels like a hundred slaps in the face.

Why does it feel like I'm losing him?

"Park, we're best friends."

He smiles, but it doesn't reach his eyes. It's a sad and angry smile. "Just best friends?" He asks, a soft hurt underlying his words. "Did you ever feel anything more?"

I stop. I'd never even considered his feelings for me until earlier that day, when he kissed me for the first time. My mouth opens to speak, but I realize I have nothing to say. I don't know.

"Skylar, you deserve someone who shines as brightly as you do - someone who has only your best intention at heart. Not someone like Oliver."

I don't know if he's saying this because of something Oliver truly did or because he's just jealous. A dark emotion teases me, and I begin to doubt this conversation. Park was upset about my kiss with Oliver - which I didn't blame him for. I try to imagine myself in Park's shoes, kissing someone I love and having them turn around and kiss someone else. My heart hurts, it feels so

ase the past, so I finally settle on, "You are a star, Oliver Manning. And I don't know how she ever let you go."

The edges of his mouth turn up, and he puts his arm around my shoulder before pulling me to his chest. I slide my arms around his waist and settle against him, the fabric of his T-shirt rubbing against my cheek.

"And you're the sun, Skylar."

I smile, every worry and doubt sliding away. There are no questions, just a boy and a girl under the stars. Oliver's heart thuds, the beat echoing against my skin. I turn my chin to look up at his face.

"Time for your question, Mr. Babe Magnet."

He smirks, eyes lighting up, probably thinking back to the letter he wrote me first asking me out to the Fair. He'd signed it Mr. Babe Magnet and Sexy Boi. "I knew you'd like that." He stares off for a moment, seemingly lost in though, a smile widening his face. Then he shakes his head. "Alright, my question. Let me think. Oh! I know—what is your—"

A bloodcurdling scream echos through the darkness. My heart lurches, heartbeat quickening.

What was that? — Who?

"Shit, " Oliver swears, scrambling up from the sand. Peppered clumps of sand fly off his clothing as he reaches for my hand.

Panic floods my system. Only a few things could happen to warrant a scream like that. My hand reaches up to grasp his and I followed him quickly across the yard, up the stairs, past the deck, and to the door, my legs shaking. My feet feel unsteady. I close my eyes and try to breathe. My stomach ties into fresh knots, and I realize Oliver's looking at me, one hand grasping the door to inside, the other clutched in my grasp.

"Skylar, it's okay."

Oliver reaches out to grab my other shaking hand and pulls me closer. The scream, Skylar, the scream, pushes me to step past him and open the door. "Hurry. The scream came from upstairs."

The expression on Oliver's face is a mix of terrified and livid. We both tear into the kitchen and down the hall. The steps slide past our feet and suddenly we're upstairs. Many of the crowds and voices have dissipated, and I wonder how late it is. The party is all but over, furniture tipped over, red solo cups scattering the floor. Clothing hangs from door frames, and the grand chandelier on the ceiling is wearing a bra. This barely reaches my attention, my eyes focused on the black in front of me, ears reaching for the noise.

Strangled cries erupt from behind a closed door, the sound like a teacup screaming on a hot stove. Oliver twists the handle quickly, but clicks in his hand, locked. My stomach shrinks, nerves on fire. He tugs and tugs, face contorting into a storm of anger, before stepping back, planting his body, and slamming his shoulder into the door. A loud crack in the frame is followed by hinges dropping to the floor. Oliver throws the door down and leaps over it.

I run into the room after him, legs tripping until they finally collapse under me. A sob escapes my throat. The room is trashed, curtains ripped from the window to lay huddled on the floor, bookshelf felled at an impossible angle, books protruding rudely from their shelves. A single girl lays in the bed.

My heart beats as one big drum the percussionist won't stop insolently hammering. Faster and faster, accompanied by the broken cries of the girl in the bed.

"Cora, " I force out, unbelieving. My knees crawl to the bed, to her side, and I throw my body over her's. She shakes like the rumblings of an avalanche, her face wet with tears and humiliation. I slide the dress back down over her body as quickly as I can, drawing her into my lap as she weeps. Her skin is icy cold, bony elbows folding against her chest. I stroke her hair.

"It's okay."

Behind me, I hear a thump, a grunt, and a cry. Something made of glass shatters to the floor. Someone screams.

Anger, red and hot, burns in my chest while my heart cracks into a million pieces.

The room smells of sweat and liquor.

"Help m-me, " Cora stutters.

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