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Every Second Counts by A_Johnson49
Chapter 4 : Tearing Us Apart
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 2

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As soon as I get home, I call Julia on our family’s telephone. My dad has one to make sure his cousin can call if he wants to, and since Julia grew up with Muggles, she has one of her own.  I have to admit, I’m a little pissed off. I’ve never had a reason to be upset with Julia, and while I don’t want to seem presumptuous, I think it would have been considerate to send a gift if she couldn’t be here, herself. She knows how to use Muggle post, so not having an owl shouldn’t have been an issue.
Her phone rings a couple of times, but she doesn’t pick up and her voicemail answers. I don’t leave a message; I never leave a message. If I do, Julia won’t call me back. I’m suspect that if I tell her why I’m calling, she won’t be curious enough to call back and find out why I called in the first place. This probably stems from the fact that Julia is obnoxiously nosy and an unapologetic gossip.

This is a normal occurrence. Julia never answers my calls and she only talks to me when it’s convenient for her. I suppose I understand why she does this. I mean… if I were as busy as she is, I would want my girlfriend to be understanding and happy to talk when it was convenient for me. My friends always look at me skeptically whenever I tell them this, but they don’t understand Julia like I do.  She told me she always does loads of stuff with her family over the summer and I’m sure they’re keeping pretty busy in Ireland.

Fred, of all my friends, is the most critical of Julia with Meredith being a close second. Fred dated her in fourth year and after a messy break-up consisting of several shouting matches, a duel, and a week’s worth of detention for Fred.  Fred, in turn, swore off girls for the remainder of school. He said that Julia had corrupted too many of them and didn’t want to deal with anything like what he just got out of ever again. To this day, he says that she hasn’t changed at all from then. Meredith says the same thing. Mer does room with Juila, but she doesn’t spend much time there (she says that the stupid is contagious) and she probably doesn’t know her very well.

But saying she hasn’t changed at all in two and a half years? I can clearly see that she’s different than in fourth year.

As I said before, my mates try to avoid talking about Julia, at least around me. There have been a couple of times when I’ve walked up to my dorm to hear Fred ranting on the other side of the door with Julia’s name thrown in, but he stops as soon as I walk in. One time, he was cursing Julia’s name especially loudly right before the End-of-Term Feast and I could have sworn he said something that sounded like “she’s a damned beater!” as I opened the door. I think I remember maybe saying that I would never date a beater a long time ago, but I know for a fact Julia is rubbish at Quidditch, so I’m not sure what’s up with that.

Twenty minutes later, Julia calls me back. I answer. “Hey babe.”

“Hey James. I’m bored.” I roll my eyes. Some things just don’t change, even for my birthday.

“How was your day?”

“Amazing! Beth and I…” I always ask this question first because I know how much she likes to talk about herself. Even if I try to talk about something else, we always end up back on her, so I just let her talk until she’s finished. She starts talking about a shopping trip she took her mother, whom she calls Beth. I’ve already tuned her out, as I have done just about every other night this summer. I hope she doesn’t talk too long tonight. I actually want to talk to her about today.

Much to my dismay, she goes on for another fifteen minutes, during which I have plenty of time to rethink my birthday. The letter is still bugging me, but I don’t know why. I’m starting to doubt whether I love Julia and I’m confused about feeling nervous around Meredith. I’ve never felt anything around Julia, even before we were dating. And now, when we’re so serious, and I love her, I still don’t feel anything. If Granddad loved Grandmum so much that he was crying when he wrote a letter, why do I feel nothing when actually talking to the woman I love?

I try to place exactly what I had felt toward Meredith.  I try to remember what was going through my mind when I saw her today.  I remember exactly what she had been wearing tonight (jean shorts and an oversized Tutshill Tornadoes t-shirt with her dark brown hair up in a loose ponytail).

Why can I picture that so clearly? I close my eyes and try to remember the last thing I’d seen Julia wearing.


I can’t even remember what color her eyes are.

Meredith’s are the deepest blue I've ever seen.

But… I haven’t seen Julia in a while.  Not since term ended and I only just saw Meredith tonight.  That’s not a fair comparison.

This thought does not make me feel any better.

“… and then I saw that I had missed your call, so I called you back because I miss you so bad.” That is what she says every night when she has finished talking about her day, so I know it’s safe to continue.

“That’s great, babe.”

“I know! I never thought I would see such an amazing pedicure in my life!” I roll my eyes, again, and wait for her to continue. “So, what did you do today?” She’s never really interested, but at least she asks.  I can just imagine her face.  She’d look annoyed and bored and she’d probably be slightly frowning while she picks at her nails.

The vision makes me angrier with her.

“It was my birthday.” I feel anger start to bubble inside my chest at her disinterest tonight. I came of-age, today! She should have at least said happy birthday to me before I mentioned it.

“Of course it was!” she giggles airily and almost nervously, “and I can’t wait to give you your present in person!” At this, my frustration is diffused slightly.

Of course she didn’t forget! How could I have doubted my own girlfriend?

But then again, she didn’t sound very convincing. 

Doubt washes over me once more.  Do I really love this girl?

Of course I do!

We talk for a little while longer, but we almost never keep up good conversation. Even when we’re together, talking is not something we do. It’s more of a physical thing.

My thoughts drift to Mer again as Julia goes off on another story she had somehow missed earlier. Meredith and I can talk about anything. She manages to make even the dullest stuff, like History of Magic during fourth and fifth year, entertaining. Tonight was weird, though.  I could hardly talk to her at all. Every time she looked at me it felt like my tongue became twice as large in my mouth and couldn’t form words correctly.

A few minutes later, I am in the middle of telling Julia about my guitar when she interrupts me. “Hey James, I think I’m gonna go.” Julia never gives explanations to this statement and I usually don’t find any need to ask. However, this time it irks me. All she did the entire time was talk to herself about herself.

“Really, Julia? I didn’t even get a chance to tell you about the rest of the party!”

“Yes, really, James. I’m tired. I’ll talk to you later.”

I take a deep breath and close my eyes, praying for patience. “Alright, babe. I love you.”

“Love you, too,” she responds quickly without much enthusiasm. As I end the call, I remember Mer’s brilliant smile and delighted laugh as I opened her gift. As much as it made me an idiot tonight, I couldn’t seem to get enough of it.

I place the phone on my nightstand and lie back on my bed, staring at my wall covered with posters of various Quidditch teams and musicians and wait.  I’m not sure how long I’ve been in this position, but I’m brought back to the present as I hear footsteps coming down the hall. They stop in front of my room and I hear a soft rap on the door. “Come in!” I answer, knowing who’s behind the door already. I had been expecting him since I had gotten off the phone.

Dad opens the door and leans against the frame. “Hiding from your mum?”

I give a half-smile and shake my head. “I just got off the phone with Julia.” Dad lifts his eyebrows at this.

“It must have been a pretty long conversation. You’ve been up here for almost two hours.”

I frown and look at my new watch. “Hmm… I guess I’ve been up here longer than I thought. I got off the phone about an hour and a half ago.” I place my arm back behind my head. “It wasn’t a particularly long phone call. I lost track of time thinking about…” Dad’s eyebrows rise higher, “…about the upcoming school year,” I finish lamely. That isn’t a completely false statement. I had been thinking about how things were going to play out with Julia when school starts back.

“Hmm. It’s a pity Julia couldn’t make it, today. I would have liked to meet her, especially knowing that you love her.” His tone is a little accusatory. He knows I wasn’t thinking about school. Dad’s too good of an Auror not to know when someone is lying to him.

“Right… a pity,” I respond half-heartedly. Fred and Meredith were thrilled she wasn’t there.  Neither of them said it out loud, but it was pretty obvious that’s how they felt when I told them she wasn’t going to be able to make it. I really don’t think anyone besides me was missing her.

Dad pauses, noting my lack of emotion, before pushing on. “Do you really love this girl?”

“Yes.” I say quickly, hoping my lack of hesitation convinces him… and me. I’m still staring at the opposite wall, unable to make eye contact with my dad.

“Well,” Dad walks a little further into the room and closes the door. “How do you know?” I finally look at him and cock an eyebrow at the question.

“How do I know what?”

“What is it about Julia that you love?” Dad sits in the chair at my desk, having to move a large pile of dirty Quidditch kits to do so.

“Oh… I don’t know. I definitely think she’s pretty and she’s cool…” I trail off dejectedly, knowing that both reasons were no reasons at all.  They aren’t even the semblance of reasons.

Dad stares expectantly. “I think you know that I can’t say much about this Julia, since I’ve never met her, but by the way you act when you talk about her… I don’t think you love her.”

My anger flares suddenly. “How could you know that I don’t love her?” I half-shout. “It’s not like you’re around when I’m around her! You said yourself that you can’t say much about it and I don’t see why you’d be able to either.”

Dad shakes his head and leans his elbows against his legs. “You forget that I’ve been, and still am, in love, James,” he says with a half-smile. “Can you honestly admit to me and yourself that you can talk about Julia the same way I talk about your mum?”

“I try to block out any mushy stuff you guys do,” I mumble, embarrassed. My dad lets out a small laugh and shakes his head, again. To be honest, anyone a mile away could tell how much Mum and Dad love each other. I may be dense sometimes, but even I’ve noticed a lot having lived under their roof for seventeen years.

I think about it a little bit, remembering what I’ve noticed between Mum and Dad. She can smile and wink across the room at him and he still blushes sheepishly. When they sit together, he will occasionally kiss her cheek when she doesn’t expect it and she’ll turn and beam at him. When either of them is away for work, the other is constantly checking for correspondence from the other. On a couple of occasions when we would have to go to a fancy dinner or some sort of banquet and Mum and Dad would get all dressed up, Dad wouldn’t be able to speak for a few seconds as Mum smiled at him in whatever was wearing. Once, he turned to me and asked me “Isn’t she the most beautiful woman in the world?” which I thought was unbearably awkward.

I never thought about how I was supposed to feel when I fell in love. I thought it was just decision you made after you dated someone long enough.  

Surprisingly, the first person to come to my mind when thinking about my parents is not Julia.  The way Dad acts around Mum kinda reminds me of how I was acting around “Meredith…” I can still remember her deep blue eyes… the feeling I got when she hugged me… Just the memories are making my heart beat a little faster.

I don’t know what’s come over me.

“What was that?” Dad is giving me a funny look.  “What does Meredith have to do with anything?”

Damn it!  I said that out loud.  I really didn’t mean to say that out loud.  I do that sometimes, but why did I have to do it just now?

“I was just thinking about you and Mum and… about Meredith,” I admit.  “I’m not sure why.  She just popped into my head when I was thinking about you two.”  I squeeze my eyes shut and scrunch my face.  I should really just stop talking.  I didn’t mean to say that. I didn’t want to say that. But, all the same, my stupid mouth betrays me again.

Dad’s head snaps toward me and his eyes were wide. “What?”

I say nothing, because I know I’ve already said too much for my own good.

I don’t know what to say, and Dad’s pretty speechless as well. I wish I could make a habit of thinking before speaking. That’s twice in the same day that my mouth has betrayed my feelings.  At least it was to someone I trust, though that doesn’t make me any happier about it.

“You have feelings for Meredith?”

“No!” Why am I in this situation?  “At least, I don’t think so…” I’ve got to get him off my case.  “It must be because I’m not thinking straight. It’s just been a really exhausting day.”

“When did you start feeling this way?”

“I don’t feel anything!” I exclaim in slight frustration. I sit up and throw my legs over the edge of the bed. “I accidentally said something that I didn’t mean. You know that happens a lot.”

“Like when you said that you love Julia?”

“I meant that!”

“James, I don’t like judging people by what others say about them, but going by what I hear from Fred, you’re either mental or just plain stupid for dating Julia in the first place!” I feel like he slapped me. I look to him and his face is scrunched in the same why mine just was indicating he just said something he didn’t mean to say. “I’m sorry, James. I told you mother I would help her with something after the party so I better go. Happy birthday.” He stands up and picks his way around the messy floor and exits the room, leaving me to my thoughts again.

I have just made things more confusing for myself.  What had I said to Dad? Do I really have feelings for Meredith?

I think once again about seeing her earlier and how I felt when she smiled.  What it would feel like to hold her? What it would be like to kiss her?

Oh Merlin.

What has come over me?

It feels like my whole love life has just been ripped to shreds and whatever is left for me to hold onto is overshadowed by the doubt of whether it even existed in the first place.

The truth feels like it’s crushing me: I don’t really love Julia.  I was so sure!

But what if I am in love with her?

That 'what if' feels so far off, if not non-existent.

Does she even love me?

That thought is more frightening than wondering if I love her or not. If she doesn’t love me, these past five months have been a waste. What am I going to do?  Should I stick with it and risk getting hurt? That option doesn’t seem even remotely attractive. Ending things with Julia seems like the best solution at this moment, but I shouldn’t make a decision this big just based off of one night of confused thinking.

I need to keep mulling this over, but I’m definitely not considering breaking up with her over the phone.  What a jerk move.  That means I have another month to muse over it.

Now what about Meredith? Why am I just now developing feelings for her? She’s my Seeker! I try constantly to keep my team focused, but if I’m going to feel like I did tonight every time I see Meredith, how am I supposed to tell my team to focus when I can hardly stand correctly around her? I hope whatever I’m feeling will pass so that I can keep focusing on what I need to.

I just need to keep thinking about this before deciding what to do. I need some time to let things settle down and not do anything rash.  That’s what everyone tells me to do, anyway, so I’m just (finally) taking their advice.

The stress of the day has definitely gotten to me more than any other year.  That’s what is it is. I’ll just wait this out a little longer and see how things go.


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