Love and Lies

Free Love and Lies by Jennifer Duffey

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Authors: Jennifer Duffey
and I continued to get together, me sneaking out of the house or Alec sneaking in. One good thing about parents not caring—they don’t really pay attention to your coming and goings. Dad’s declaration that I was grounded was more words than action.
    I had no idea why that memory surfaced. The way Alec held me while I cried and walked me back to my apartment reminded me of the way he stayed near when I needed him. Never once leaving me to myself. I wanted that from Eric, but wasn't sure I could let go enough to give back what I wanted.
    The thought of what my parents would do to keep us apart scared me. Despite their history of not giving me the time of day, they always seemed to know just who my friends, and boyfriends, were. If they didn’t approve, then mysteriously those people disappeared. Alec had been the only one to give them the proverbial finger and stick around.
    “ Carissa, babe, you need to talk to Eric. It's the only way you can get past this.”
    I shook, both from fear and cold. “I will, I promise. Tomorrow.”
    Finally, we were at the entrance to th e complex. “Are you sure you're okay enough to be by yourself tonight?” he asked.
    “ Yes, I'm sure.”
    “ You know you’re more than welcome to stay in my room. The invitation is always there.”
    “ I know.” I lifted to my tiptoes to kiss Alec on the cheek before heading inside. With a glance over my shoulder I waved goodbye and went inside.

    Around eleven , I settled into bed, tugged the covers up to my neck, and concentrated on the ceiling. Twenty minutes later, I heard feet shuffling outside my door, uncommon at that hour. Being a Visual Arts major meant I was in the quiet residence. The one where everyone tended to spend their time holed up in their room drawing, painting, or the like.
    The shuffling stopped momentarily before picking up again. I covered my eyes with my arm and groaned. Someone was pacing outside my door. The polite thing to do would have been to invite them in and see what I could help with. At this hour, needing help made more sense than anything else. But I wasn't in the mood, so I stuffed my head under my pillow in an effort to drown out the quiet knocking I now heard. When my phone buzzed with a text message alert, there was no way to continue ignoring the person at the door.
    Carissa, I don’t know what’s going on, but I’m worried about you. Plz let me in. Eric texted.
    With red, puffy eyes and disheveled hair , I opened the door to find him leaning up against the wall across the hall, his jaw tense, hair rumpled, and dark circles under his eyes.
    “ You were asleep?” he asked.
    I shook my head.
    He nodded toward my room. “May I?”
    I shrugged my shoulders. “Yeah I guess. How long have you been out here?”
    “ I don't know.” He looked at his watch as he stepped through the door. “Not too long. I needed to see you, had to know that you were okay. Damn it, the way you ran out of the diner scared the shit out of me. You can’t do that again.” He yanked me forward; his fingers dug into my waist, emphasizing his words.
    What little control I maintained slipped out of my reach. I began weeping into Eric's chest. God, I was so tired of crying already.
    It became hard to breathe between sobs, and Eric picked me up to carry me to the couch. He sat down first then pulled me into his lap, rubbing my back with one hand, the other around my waist. “Where's Annabelle?”
    “Turns out she had plans after all. She’s staying with some other chick.” I gazed at him between swollen eyes.
    “ Carissa, we need to talk. Not tomorrow, not next week. Now.”
    “ Yeah, I know, but it's late, and I'm afraid if I talk right now, all I'm going to do is cry some more. You must think I'm an emotional wreck, the way I keep going back and forth. Bet you’re not a fan of dating a basket case like me.” I held my head in my hands.
    “ Carissa, I don't think you are crazy. I'm concerned. I wish you

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