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Because of You (Coming Home Book 0) by Robin Edwards (1)

ONE

 

MARGARET

 

The bus finally pulled up to the stop, fifteen minutes after the schedule said it was due to arrive. Just as I thought things couldn’t get any worse, most of the seats were packed with some of the more popular kids – the ones who spent their entire lives tormenting those they didn’t think were good enough to fit in with them.

I hated running into them during the school year but it was even more agonizing when I ran into them during summer school. The worst of the bunch were typically the ones that had to take summer school every year to make up credits for classes they didn’t take seriously enough. Me? I failed Environmental Science.

I don’t know why I let Liam Collins, my best friend, convince me to take it as an elective. I wasn’t interested in the subject as much as he was. I didn’t wake up in the morning excited to delve into everything that was happening in the world. I wasn’t a big fan of the class, CNN or volunteering to plant trees. They were all noble causes and I was proud of him for believing in important matters like those but it just wasn’t me. I didn’t care about anything that didn’t directly involve my life and it didn’t matter if he spent all year trying to convince me it was fun and exciting, I didn’t pass the class even with his help.

If Liam were here, we would have spent the entire bus ride making fun of the popular kids in our classes but he was with his parents packing. They were able to work out a deal with the principal so that Liam could fly back to the UK to spend the entire summer visiting relatives. I was going to miss him but he promised me we would keep in touch every single day and meet up at the café like we did every morning before the Collins left for the airport.

I met Liam a year ago when his family moved in next door to me because the financial investment company his father worked for, transferred all of them here so that Mr. Collins could help manage their Seattle branch. A few days after they moved, Liam’s entire family came over with what they called a Shepherd’s Pie and my mother, Janet, and Mrs. Collins developed this inside joke about how we were supposed to bring over a “Welcome to the Neighborhood” gift.

Neither Liam nor his little brother Oliver, were thrilled about having to meet their next door neighbors but the second I mentioned that I had a PlayStation 4 console they could have a crack at, their eyes lit up and they dragged me up the stairs to my bedroom.

I guess they didn’t have one of their own at the time and I also guess you could say that Liam and I hit it off after that and discovered we both had a love for watching movies. I think he loved the old ones more than I did so it didn’t matter what we watched on Friday nights. There were only a few people in the world I would tolerate spending more than two hours with and Liam was pretty much one of them, if not the only one.

Every stop until we reached the café across the street from school, patrons would shove their way onto the bus and right past me like I was invisible. The bus was late already as it was and if I didn’t get my iced coffee and bagel soon, I was going to burst.

Having a quick breakfast and a chat with Liam was a daily tradition that we never missed. We always stopped by the café before we headed to school and while some kids chose to sleep in and catch an extra thirty minutes before they begrudgingly went off to school, he and I would purposely wake up early and take our time while grabbing a bite to eat and chat.

We both turned eighteen a few months prior so we were practically adults whether our parents agreed with us or not. We knew when we hit that pivotal age, we would have to start making decisions about life and sometimes those decisions scared me and I couldn’t imagine the idea of Liam and me apart as we continued on with the rest of our lives.

Liam’s dream was to travel the world and I think that’s why I loved having certain moments with him. As much as I wanted the both of us to be friends forever, Liam had big dreams that he rarely ever spoke of. His dreams to travel the world and helping those in need would take him very far away and I wanted to ensure we stayed connected for as long as I could manage keeping it that way.

My mother, Janet, would often tell me about her high school days and as much as she and her friends vowed to stay friends forever, they eventually grew up and navigated their busy lives separately. As the years went on they talked less and less. She would tell me as weeks, months and years went by, they went from hanging out every day to once a month and then it finally it turned into where she was at now – once every couple of years.  I didn’t want my friendship with Liam to end up that way and the more I worried about it, the clingier I became.

As I struggled to get my headphones out of my bag, I thought about the first time I saw Liam, days before they stopped by with their shepherd’s pie. I first saw him when the moving company finally arrived all of the way from the east coast port on the other side of the country. I couldn’t even fathom how much it must have cost Liam’s parents or the company his father worked for to have a house worth of furniture shipped across the Atlantic Ocean and then driven 3,000 miles across the country.

As shocking as the dollars and cents must have been, all I could focus on was the curiosity I had about the dorky guy moving in next door. He had such large glasses and semi-curly chestnut colored hair tucked partially under a cap with a flipped up lid. I remembered thinking to myself, “Who in the hell dresses like that?” and just like the first day, he wore a t-shirt with a disruptive logo and some weird saying hoping to get reactions out of people. It didn’t matter if it was positive or negative, disruption was always his goal.

After the moving company unloaded their belongings, Liam was outside helping his dad unload their own vehicle with a few belongings and I don’t know why but I opened up my bedroom window and I shouted, “Hey, what’s your name?”

I wished at the time he would have answered me and it would have been a cool story to tell about how we first met that we’d remember forever but when he heard some random girl shout at him, he looked at me like I was some weird girl and then he went back inside. After he realized I had the PlayStation 4 console, I got Liam to admit out loud that I was a pretty cool person after all.

People have joked off and on about us being together and secretly dating, but I didn’t really think of him in that way despite what everyone else thought. Despite his annoying quirks and the fact that I’ve always considered him to be like a brother, I had to admit he was a pretty sweet and a cool guy. I was an only child, so it was great to have someone in my life that I considered to be as close to me as my own family. All I wanted for Liam was for him to be happy and I enjoyed spending time with him but that didn’t necessarily mean we had to nor wanted to date.

Liam and I never really discussed the subject nor did I think it was even an important topic of conversation. Most of the time I brushed the curiosity out of my head when it came to it, but I sometimes wondered if he ever thought me in a romantic way. We’ve always been friends to the point where even my parents were okay with him hanging out with me alone in my bedroom. They even let him spend a night often and didn’t seem to have a single worry about it.

I have asked him in the past what he thought about certain girls in our school or tried getting him to ask girls out on dates but nothing ever seemed to stick. For a minute there I thought he might have been gay, but Liam assured me he wasn’t and would have told me by now if he was. I had no choice but to believe him because he wouldn’t ever lie to me like that. I figured if he had any deep, dark secrets he would have trusted me enough to tell me all of them and I would have done so in return.

I didn’t think there was anything wrong with his pace and was glad he had other things he was interested in and were more of a priority, but I wanted Liam to have a girlfriend that made him happy already. I didn’t want him too happy because then he’d forget I existed and I’d miss having him around. I couldn’t imagine the rest of my life without him as my best friend.

Liam was one of the nicest and funniest guys you’d ever meet and although dating wasn’t a priority to him, he probably wasn’t on anyone’s priority list like he was on mine. I thought he was smart, funny, nice and kind of cute but there were definitely some things that he lacked when it came to what girls found attractive in a guy.

Anytime you wanted a cool movie suggestion, a trivia partner, someone to jam out with you when it came to an amazing album or if you needed help whenever you were in trouble, then Liam was your guy.

He would want to take you to the most unique restaurants he found online, his bedroom was filled with interesting art pieces and movie posters and he had so much to offer but those weren’t things girl nor women were interested in. If you also added in the fact that he was a good guy and had confidence but not when it came to his looks. He brushed off any mention of it in conversation and I know it was because he also knew that most girls and women wanted the bad boy like the football players at school.

The guys at school that were on some sort of team especially football were the most popular and the most in demand. Girls always flocked to them like they had some sort of celebrity status. I’m pretty sure they had their choice of women to pick from but Liam was not that kind person. He was never the type to make the first move and probably would ask them constantly if they were having a great time.

I felt my phone vibrate only to see a text from Liam once I stepped off the bus as it stopped in front of the café, “How far away are you? Should I order for the both of us?”

Liam knew me well enough to know that I was typically late for most things but not enough to ruin anyone’s day over it. If I was taking longer than ten minutes Liam always checked in on me just in case. He always worried about my safety even though he’d deny it to his grave if ever asked, but I knew better. I knew better because it was the little things like checking up on me that gave it away every single time.

This was another reason why I always saw him as a brother, he worried a lot about anything related to me despite knowing I could take care of myself.

My glove covered hand made it much more difficult and longer to reply to Liam’s text, “I don’t see why you feel the need to keep asking, I order the same thing every day.”

It was kind of him to ask but if he worried less about the people he cared about and just made himself a priority, he wouldn’t be so anxious all the time. Sometimes it made me sad whenever I thought about our friendship and how Liam was always the giver and I’ve been nothing but shellfish all year long. It hurt me to realize that I’ve never done enough for him and he deserved a better friend than me. He also deserved to be loved by someone out there.

The jocks withstanding, most people thought highly of Liam, it was well known that people often were annoyed with him by the end of the day. He was always saying the weirdest and dorkiest things or he would often rant about something going on in the world and most people at the school didn’t care about what was going on outside our high school bubble as much as he did.

He always treated everyone with respect and dignity but it didn’t always come across that way. He could have been anyone’s friend easily or the object of a girl’s affection but he didn’t know how to come across as the bad boy that all girls secretly desired, even me. It took more than knowing the right movies or picking unique restaurants to try out.

I don’t know why we women liked the bad boys but it was what he always wanted. I read an article once about how there might be something biological or psychological that caused women to seek out the bad types. Some saw their masculinity as a desirable trait because it made us feel like they would defend our honor if they had to. It wasn’t as if Liam was weak or feeble but he didn’t seem like the kind of guy who could stand up and protect whoever he was with at the time. It also didn’t mean we wanted Prince Charming or a knight in shining armor either, but I had to admit, most of the men I’ve seen have been the problem.

There was the cheater, the thief and the liar just to name a few. I wasn’t the type to judge Liam for his failures when it came to relationships, but in my case, I felt like the guys that I had crushes on or dates with were scumbags that wanted nothing but to get into my pants when I was wanting to save those moments for someone special.

I looked down at my phone as I got off the bus to see another text from Liam and it was such a rookie mistake to look down at my phone while stepping off of the bus. All it did was result in me getting a mouth full of some stranger’s scarf. I took a step back and slipped my phone back into pocket without reading the text because whatever it was, Liam could tell me within the thirty seconds it would take to walk inside the café.

“Hey, Margaret.” a somewhat familiar voice said and I looked up to see Roger, the college guy that I met at the coffee shop I started working at last week.

“Roger.” I grinned sheepishly. Roger was the cousin of my classmate, Corey Steinbeck, who wasn’t really my biggest fan especially after I beat him as the student with the highest grade in our Math class.

Roger was everything a parent would warn their daughters about and I think that was probably what made him seem that much more attractive beyond his incredible good looks. He was wearing his varsity football letterman jacket from Stanford University and his dark hair was slicked back. I’m sure he wanted everyone to think he was some sort of hotshot, but I don’t think he really needed to try so hard, he just oozed charisma and undeniable charm.

“You look great, Margaret.” he said seductively between his perfect white teeth. God he was so hot, I wondered what he wanted with me.

“Thank you. Where are you headed?” I found myself asking.

“Oh, I just wanted to pick up some food for the road before I head out back to campus. We’ve got some exhibition games coming up that the team has to prep for.

“Well, good luck. Hope you win all of your games before the semester starts up again.” I smiled.

“Thank you. Mind if I give you a call sometime, Corey gave me your number from when you gave it to him for study group.”

“Okay. That would be great.” I smiled again. I could have sworn my cheeks were blushing a bright red.

“Great. I’ll see you soon Margaret, I’ll be in town again in a couple of months. Maybe, we could catch a movie or something.” He asked.

“I’d love to.”

“Alright, I’ll see ya.”Roger waved as he walked towards the parking lot, bag of to-go boxes in hand.

I trotted up the stairs to the café gushing internally, excited to tell Liam my news but as I walked in and saw him sitting there with food and drinks already ordered for the both of us, my heart dropped. NO matter how great my summer might end up, I was saddened with the realization that it couldn’t possibly end up as great without the comfort of Liam by my side for three whole months. I really was going to miss him.

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