After wiping my eyes, I walk back to the canteen, Lisa and Mary beside me.
Alex and Jake are still stood in the middle talking, and I slowly make my way towards them.
Jake sees me and stops mid-sentence, causing Alex to look round at me too. I simply nod at her and she understands, giving me a small smile and walking past me to Lisa and Mary.
“Can we go somewhere more private?” I ask, cutting Jake off.
His Adam’s apple bobs as he swallows, “Um, yeah, of course.”
Now that I can see him up close, I notice how glassy his eyes are as they look at me, how truly messy his hair is, how dark the circles under his eyes are, all the little things that are the complete opposite of the happy, carefree Jake I met on holiday.
I turn and lead him away from the canteen, walking through the corridors past classroom after classroom until I stopped. I look around at the walls and notice the display that I had halted by. It had a mural on it. The walls painted beautiful shades of blue and green, sea life of all different colours filling the space, each one completely unique from the rest.
It must have been painted during the holidays, it definitely wasn’t here last year. I take a moment to admire it, almost completely forgetting about Jake.
I glance over only to find him looking at the mural with the same awe as me.
He spots me looking at him and meets my eyes. “I’m so sorry, Amber.”
His voice cracks as he says my name and I have to look away, staring a hole into the floor.
“Before I left, I saw you in the reception. Waiting for me.” I say, quietly.
“I wanted to explain.”
“Explain? How do you explain getting a text like that, from a girl you’ve clearly been with? How can you explain, leading me on, for 10 days when all that time you’d had a girlfriend back home, how can you exp-”
“I didn’t have a girlfriend!” His outburst made me jump and I look at him, his cheeks are damp and he swiped at them quickly with the sleeve of his school jumper.
“Sophie was my girlfriend. We’d been going out for about two months when my dad told me we had to move. His job meant that we had to move here and when I told Sophie she freaked out, we argued and she said she wasn’t up for a long distance relationship and kept going on about how they never work and how she wasn’t willing to try.
She broke up with me. Before summer even started she ended it with me. Then once we’d moved house over the holidays she kept texting me, saying how she’d changed her mind, how she wanted to try but I told her it was too late. I’d made up my mind and moved on and I told her so should she but she never stopped texting me. Everyday she’d text me and everyday I’d tell her it’s over.
So no, I didn’t have a girlfriend when I met you. Being with you, on that holiday, was the happiest days I’d been in a long time and I meant everything I said to you. No one outside of my family has ever meant as much to me as you do, Amber. No one.”
I let all of it sink in, processing each detail carefully. “How do I know you’re not lying?”
Jake laughs, defeatedly. “Look at me. Do I look like I’m lying to you? I haven’t been able to function properly for about the last 3 weeks. The thought that I’d made you cry, and would never get to explain myself to you, killed me. I couldn’t lie to you, Amber. Not in a million years.”
I looked him in the eyes and I could see it. I could see the raw emotion, the pain in his face. He wasn’t lying. He’d done nothing wrong.
I couldn’t say anything. There were no words that I could string together to explain how sorry I was for not letting him explain earlier, for assuming about the whole thing and completely blanking him.
So I step forwards, and I hug him.