Loving Jack

By: Cat Miller

ONE





She was so fucking pathetic. Grace stood there staring at Jack’s door while her heart did a damn good impression of a kamikaze pilot, crashing and burning for a love that would never be returned. Fuck! She couldn’t keep doing this to herself.

Grace thought back to the event of the evening before and wished she’d followed through with her plan to leave without saying goodbye to Jack. But her stupid, romantic heart demanded that she see his face one last time. She ran her hands through her long dark hair, searching the floor at her feet for the shreds of her dignity but she found none. Grace raised her hand to rap on the door but stopped her fist at the last moment. What if he wasn’t alone? The chances that he was alone were slim. What was she going to say to him? Honestly, there wasn’t anything left to say. She backed away from his door and just kept going. It was time to go home.





Jack and Grace met in their senior year at the University of Maryland. Grace was at her first Terps game and she had no idea what was going on. She’d never been a basketball fan but her roommate, Jessie, was going to the game and Grace was tagging along for the experience. She was a senior and her college years thus far had been spent solely in the pursuit of her degree. She’d dated a few guys but nothing serious ever came of those relationships. She’d had a like-minded roommate for the past three years, so it seemed like the natural course of things. They went to class and study groups. They hung out at the coffee shop and worked on their laptops. She avoided the party scene completely. A few of her dates had taken her to clubs and that was okay from time to time.

Grace was the first person in her hard working family to go away to college. She felt an obligation to give it everything she had and make every penny of the hard earned money her parents were investing in her education worth it in the end.

Her old roomy had graduated and last year she’d been paired up with a new roommate and things had changed. Getting good grades was still her priority but Jessie had taught her that there was nothing wrong with having a good time too. She had to admit that she was a lot less stressed out when her entire world didn’t revolve around her studies. The pressure she put on herself was far heavier than anything her parents expected her to carry. They just wanted her to be happy. For Grace, being happy meant being at the top of her class.

At the game she was sitting between Jessie on her right and this adorable, boy next door type on her left. A player made a three point shot and the crowd exploded in celebration, everyone that is except for her and the cutie at her side. He stood there looking as left out as she did. Grace just wasn’t into the game and it seemed her sandy haired neighbor wasn’t either. His friends all reacted with fist pumping, high fiving, back slapping enthusiasm. He was pushed into Grace and she was shoved toward him by her mutually excited friends.

Grace stepped forward to avoid slamming into him and lost her footing. The guy grabbed her upper arm and pulled her toward him to keep her from toppling over the row of seats in front of them. The game continued and the crowd settled a bit, but for Grace, time had stopped. She found herself pressed against a surprisingly firm chest and staring up into a pair of amused hazel eyes. Damn. What was he hiding under that shirt? His hair framed his face that was classically handsome. He was captivating with those pretty eyes and a square jaw. He wore a diamond earring in both earlobes. He smiled down at her and it transformed him from the boy next door to a devilishly confident man who knew his charm. Grace blushed. She’d been standing there in his arms, gawking at the guy like an idiot. He leaned down to speak over the once again roaring crowd.

His lips brushed her cheek when he said near her ear, “You wanna get out of here? I know a great place for burgers.” He pulled back enough to gage her reaction. She nodded dumbly back at him. The combination of his smile, his firm arms wrapped around her, and the feel of his warm breath on her cheek had struck her stupid. Any minute now her brain was going to reboot, any minute, she was sure it would happen, eventually. He grinned broadly and grabbed her hand, towing her toward the end of the row. He informed his buddies he was leaving as they went and the guys smirked and eyed her as she passed.

He tugged her up the steep steps to the exit and out into the corridor. The stillness and relative quiet of the concession area was a sharp contrast to the madness of the arena. Televisions mounted at regular intervals broadcast the game to everyone waiting in line for snacks and they also reacted to the action on the court. They walked hand-in-hand and Grace’s brain was finally coming back online. She was peeking over at the boy next door as they walked briskly toward the exit. He looked down at her with that stunning how-could-you-not-adore-me smile again.

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