This story is by Olivia DeBoard and was part of our 2017 Spring Writing Contest. You can find all the Spring Writing Contest stories here.
The sky was black. Millions of stars poked through the blanket that enveloped us. I felt the warmth of his body next to mine. My arm was looped through his as we sat on the log. I clutched his hand. “I love you,” I whispered.
“I love you, too,” he said. There was a long pause. I looked over and watched the fire reflect in his eyes. The flames jumped from sphere to sphere. His steady gaze held the embers in captivity. I looked over my shoulder to see the rest of the group shutting off their lamps and zipping up their tents.
“Do you want to go in?” I asked. “It looks like Katelyn is going to sleep. I don’t want to disturb her when I go in.”
He cleared his throat. “Um, maybe in a minute?”
I cocked my head to the right. His expression had something different about it. He bit his lower lip and took a long deep breath. “What’s up?”
“Jaynie, there’s something I need to tell you. This trip has been so awesome, and I’ve had something weighing on me, and I-I need to tell someone.” He locked his eyes on mine. “I need to tell you.”
I furrowed my eyebrows. “Okay . . .” I said, hesitantly curious.
He clasped his hands together and pushed them against his lips. “Okay, Logan,” he muttered. “You can do this. You can do this.”
I began to fiddle with my hair tie. What could he possibly be so nervous about?
“Jaynie, I’m addicted to pornography. I have been since around the fifth grade. It gets better for a while, and I think I can do it, but I can’t. I can’t. And now that we’re in this relationship, and, and I love you so much. I just can’t fathom the idea of hurting you.” He broke down. Logan always put up an impressive front. He was kind, but he was closed off. People thought they knew him; they thought he was as wholesome as they come, but it was a mask. I saw right through it, but I didn’t expect to see . . . this.
“Hey,” I said. I reached down and held his face in my hands. “I love you so much.” He dug his head into my shoulder and wrapped his arms around me. I continued to whisper “I love you” and “You’re okay” in his ear as sobs left his body.
We sat there for a while. Eventually, the fire died down and the stars became brighter. His breathing became rhythmic, and I watched the stars. They had a calming presence. As I felt the embers of the fire rise, I felt the stars fall. Millions of bright suns slowly left their place in the sky to illuminate the burden leaving his heart. My gaze shifted to the fire, and the smoke filled my nostrils. I thought about options. Breaking up wasn’t one, but helping him was. We went in for the night shortly after the fire subsided. He walked me to the front of my tent, kissed me, and I whispered something in his ear.
For a moment, his mouth was slightly gaping open. “Thank you,” he said.
After we got back from the trip, life returned to normal. The routine of school took us all prisoner again, and I hadn’t given it a second thought. He seemed fine. I felt closer to him in a way. I loved knowing tidbits of information, and I thrived off vulnerability – especially Logan’s. I was finally breaking down the walls he tried so hard to set up. With the laid-back, easy-going smile came a dark cloud that brewed in his soul. He was a mystery. One I was determined to solve.
The bell rang, and all two thousand students shuffled into the gym. I found Logan sitting halfway up the bleachers next to Eli. He flashed a bright smile and waved. Stabbing the stairs with each step, I plopped down next to him and rested my head on his shoulder. “I hate Calculus,” I huffed.
“I love it,” he laughed.
“Whatever,” I muttered, repositioning my head. “Wake me when this is over.”
“Hello, Riverside Tigers!” A cheerleader began to scream into a microphone. “Who’s ready for tonight’s championship game against the Hawks?” A loud ‘boo’ echoed off the walls. “All right,” she beamed. “Let’s get this party started!” The cheerleading squad proceeded to do their newest routine while a poor kid in a Tiger costume ran around the gym.
Suddenly, I froze. The thoughts pounding inside my head drowned out the screams and noise-makers. The world was silent as I watched the cheerleaders dance around. As they moved, more and more of their bodies were exposed. Their tops would become higher, and their skirts flew up. Slowly, my gaze caught Logan’s beaming face. He was cheering, laughing, and having a good time. And in that moment, the only thought I could hear was Is he cheering for the game or for the cheerleaders? My breath quickened. I could feel the blood rush to my cheeks. The gym felt like a sauna. I have to get out. Swiftly, I rose from the bleachers. Clutching my elbows with my hands, I made my way down the stairs and out of the gym doors. I greeted the fresh air with a deep inhale.
Moments later, Logan was by my side. “Hey, Jay, what’s wrong?”
Tears trickled down my cheeks. “I-I’m freaking out, Logan.” My right hand shakily pointed back to the gym.
“Woah, woah,” he said. He stepped forward, trying to pull me into a hug. I pushed him away. “What do you mean?”
“The camping trip,” I heaved. “What you said. All I could think about was you picturing those cheerleaders . . .”
He ran his hands down his face. “Oh, Jaynie.” He moved to a bench. “Come here.”
With my eyes closed, I sat down next to him. “I didn’t really think about it too much after, you know? I didn’t know how to bring it up, honestly. But I can’t just let it go.” I pushed down tears. “How . . . how has it been going lately?
His gaze is fixed on his neon green shoelaces. “It’s been okay,” he said quickly. He took a deep breath. “It’s hard, Jay. It’s hard.”
My chest caved in like I had been punched. “This hurts me, Logan,” I whispered. I made sure to say his name.
“I’m so sorry, Jaynie.” He met my eyes. “I can’t tell you how much it kills me to know I’ve hurt you.” Tears made their way up to his bright, green eyes. “I’ll do my best to stop. I promise.” He gently put his arm around me. I leaned in, resting my head on his chest. Sobs turned into sniffles, and the pep rally ended. Things were okay.
For a while.
A couple weeks later, Logan and I were sitting on the couch in the upstairs loft in his house. His right hand rested on my shoulder, and he brushed away my long, caramel-colored hair. “Come here,” he whispered. Smiling, I leaned in. His breath drew in mine as our lips touched. With every kiss, I let go. His arm pulled me toward him, and I ran my fingers through his hair. I moved my hand down his torso, clutching his hip. I pulled his body closer to mine. His grip on my waist tightened. His lips maneuvered their way down to my neck. Grinning, my head fell back.
“Wait,” I said, lightly pulling away.
He sat up. “What’s wrong? Too much? I can stop.”
“No, no,” I started. I tucked a piece of hair behind my ear. “It’s not that.”
He raised his eyebrows. “What is it?”
I shifted myself so that I was facing the TV. I set my head in my hands, and waited a moment before I spoke. “Are you a virgin?”
His lips slightly parted, and a wave of shock flooded his face. “Um, yeah. Why?”
“I don’t know.” I closed my eyes. “I mean, you know I want to wait, right?”
He nodded. “I know.”
“And,” I started. “I wanted to know if you wanted to wait, as well. For marriage.”
He sighed. “I’d be lying if I said I don’t think about it, but yeah, I want to wait.”
“Okay.” I tried to smile. “It’s just . . .”
“I can’t help but think that if we ever got to that point, you wouldn’t be thinking of me,” I confessed. “But of the things you’ve seen.”
He shut his eyes. “God, I hate this so much.”
“Me too. And I feel terrible for bringing this up again, but it scares the crap out of me, Logan.” I shifted my gaze from the floor to him. Sitting up a little straighter, I gulped, “I refuse to be second to an image.”
“I’m so sorry,” he whispered. “But I just don’t know what to do. I’m so lost.” His eyes welled up with tears. “Save me,” he begged.
“I’m willing to help you, Logan. But it won’t be easy. I won’t let it be. Because we won’t last if you won’t stop. And I don’t care if it takes years. As long as you try, as long as you still want me to, I’ll be there to pick you up.”
Tears escaped his eyelids. His head hanging, he said, “Thank you.” With the exhale, it was like he was freed of the fear that it would never go away, and maybe it wouldn’t. But I’d be damned if I didn’t try.
“Remember what I told you that night of the trip? Before we went to bed?” I asked.
“Yeah,” he said. “You said that you understood.”
“And while it might not be to the extent you do,” I started. “I get it. I get the craving. The instinct to click on anything slightly sexual on Instagram. So, while I never looked at things to the extent of what you did, I resonate to a certain degree. When I was a kid, I was curious. No one ever explained sex to me. But I was able to stop before anything worse happened. I knew it was wrong, and a major guilt attack did-me-in. ” I grinned. “That side of me knows me that you can stop, too. Okay?”
“Okay,” he smiled weakly. He sighed. “This is gonna suck.”
“Yeah, but hey.” I kissed him. “You’ve got me, and I’m not giving up on you.”
He bobbed his head up and down. I wanted to help. I wanted to know that even if we broke up, he overcame this. At the same time, I feared if we ever separated, his motivation to stop would end, too.
“Hey,” I said. “What’re you thinking?”
“It’s like you’ve dug yourself so far in this hole that even when . . . if you figure a way out, you’ll still have dirt on you. Even if it’s just a little bit on the bottom of your shoe, it’s still there. It never goes away. Your past never goes away.”
“You’re right,” I paused. “It doesn’t. But it makes you who you are. It shapes so many of the good things in your life. What you’re going through now is only temporary. And that dirt on your shoe is what keeps you from slipping. That traction of your past keeps you steady in your future. Logan, you are so strong.” For a while, I believed Logan was innocent. Of course, no one is innocent, but he never said anything bad about anyone. He never made any vulgar slurs about me or any other girl. He was kind. His smile shone like a star, and I was constantly lost in the planet that were his eyes. As he casted his eyes upon mine, I saw the light leave. I saw the fear emerge. And like stars, he fell.
“So, what do we do now?” he asked.
“We fight. Everyday. For us.”