Rockstar Bay Academy: Part 41
Last Day of School
While Kai, Kennedy, Ethan, and Giselle spend time together, and Asher and his dad handle the barbecue outside, I assist Mum with the cake preparation indoors. Mum has created a tantalizing strawberry and chocolate monstrosity that is simply irresistible. Having tasted it on and off, I now find myself feeling fuller than expected.
In anticipation of the graduation party that Jesse is organizing for my stepbrothers and myself, I decided to have a quiet birthday dinner with my family, including Kennedy and Kai. Truth be told, I already feel extravagantly spoiled. Mum surprised me with a beautiful white gold and diamond necklace, along with matching diamond studs. Additionally, both Jesse and Mum are contributing financially towards my car. Originally, I had hoped to earn enough from my cinema job to purchase the car outright, but due to the demands of studying and the scarcity of shifts, I haven't managed to save up the full amount. Fortunately, I still have some time since I haven't obtained my driver's license yet. I've taken a few lessons, but I need more practice before I'm ready to take the test. I plan to do that sometime next year.
Ethan's gift to me was a stunning song journal, accompanied by a subscription to my favourite online music journal. And Asher...he crafted a song specifically for me, which in itself was a wonderful gift. But that wasn't the only surprise he had in store...
"I take it things between you and Asher are okay?"
When Mum suggested I help her with the kitchen preparations for my birthday, I knew it was an opportunity for her to talk to me. Ever since the showcase and my subsequent breakdown, she's been watching me closely, concerned about my emotional well-being. I understand her worry. She doesn't know what happened that night with Asher—that he came home, gave himself to me, and promised me he wasn't giving up on a future for us. I won't be able to keep it a secret from her much longer. It's not that I want to hide it; I just don't know how she'll react when she learns that Asher and I are no longer planning to break up. I suppose I'm about to find out.
"Things are actually good," I respond.
Her gaze flicks to the ring on my finger, which she's been eyeing throughout the day. "That's a very expensive-looking ring..."
Pausing from cutting the strawberries, I meet her eyes. Mum has been stealing glances at the opal and platinum ring Asher gave me this morning, before he left my room to return to his own bed, unbeknownst to the rest of the house. It's not an engagement ring, but Asher refers to it as a promise ring—a symbol of his commitment to me and our future.
"You know how I said that I was planning to break up with Asher when he left for the States?" I ask a touch hesitantly.
"Well, Asher and I have actually decided we're going to... see if we can make a go of it after he moves."
Her hands still, and she puts down the piping bag. My stomach churns over her reaction. She said she would support me no matter what, and I need this from her. If she disapproves, I don't plan on ending things, but having her support means a lot, especially coming from my mother—the one person in my life who has always been my biggest supporter.
"Okay," she says tentatively.
Every doubt I've felt about my decision to keep going is reflected in that one word and the way she looks at me across the kitchen bench.
"I know it's not ideal, but..."
"You love him," she finishes for me.
Suddenly, she's studying me, a deep frown on her face. Bracing her palms on the counter, she asks, "How do you think it will work?"
"I don't know yet."
"Have you thought this through? I mean, beyond... what feels good in the present moment, Lilah?"
My face heats, and I have the distinct impression she can tell exactly what Asher and I did two nights ago, that she’s somehow guessed, either by my answer or because of the ring, I'm now sleeping with my stepbrother – her stepson.
"I don't know how it's going to work. I just know I have to try."
"What about what the tabloids will say?"
"We're not doing anything wrong. He's eighteen. I'm eighteen. It's not like we grew up together."
"It's not about doing anything wrong. The 'news' has the annoying ability to take things and twist them. You remember what happened when Ainsley told them you were using the Cassidy brothers-"
"Don't you remember how upset you were about it?"
"And it won't just affect you. What about Asher and Ethan?"
"And you and Jesse?" I cut her off. "Are you more worried about me or how our relationship might impact your marriage in the event the tabloids throw accusations around?"
"Lilah," she gasps, her eyes filling with tears. "When have I ever cared what people say about me? Never. I have never had any intention of being in the spotlight, no need for it. All I've ever done is work so you can make your dream of making the spotlight a reality."
My throat closes, regret making my own eyes sting with tears.
"My only concern is for you and whether you'll suffer because of this decision," she continues.
"I know. I'm sorry."
She shakes her head as if she can’t believe I would say something like that to her. "I get that you love him. I told you I would support you, and I meant it. I just want to make sure you've really thought everything through. I mean, I just don't see how it will work with the two of you in different countries, both trying to make a career in music work. Do you?"
Shame over my accusation forces my gaze down. "I really don't know how we're going to make it work," I admit softly.
When I look back up, I see the same doubts and concerns I feel. I don't blame her for them; they are an exact mirror of mine.
She purses her lips and goes back to icing my cake. Clearly, she's unwilling to say anything more. It's my birthday, and I doubt she wants to fight any more than I do. After all, in eighteen years, we've barely ever fought. But I'm extra prickly when it comes to my relationship with Asher. I'm so unsure and uncertain about this decision that as much as I want it, I can't take any extra external threat of criticism or potential opposition to what we are. The internal pressure can't stand up against the external pressure.
The rest of the cake prep goes by in silence, and it's a relief when we're finished and can join the rest of the family.
Of course, my gaze locks onto Asher first as soon as we walk out of the kitchen. He’s standing with his father at the barbecue, discussing something in detail. More than anything, I want to go to him, wrap my arms around him, share my doubts and fears, and let him persuade me I'm being crazy. But I can't. Ethan is only a few feet away, and...
Part of me wonders how on earth we're supposed to be able to be together in front of the rest of the world when we can't even be together in front of our family. How? How will we make it work?
I take a seat at the table outside, joining in the current conversation that Kennedy, Kai, Ethan, and Giselle are engaged in. Jesse and Asher serve up a delicious feast, and I make an effort to push away the doubts that always seem to linger at the fringe of my consciousness.
Soon after, Mum brings out the birthday cake, and everyone sings "Happy Birthday". Amidst the cheerful chorus, I feel Asher's hand gently resting on my knee, a comforting and grounding connection between us. I gaze at the ring on my finger, contemplating my deepest desires and what I truly long for in the world. I thought there was nothing I wanted more than to have a career in music. Every year before now, I've wished to be a star, to be a successful musician, but today I want to add to that wish. Is it possible to have the career of my dreams and be with the person who has become a soulmate? Can I have them both?
As I blow out my birthday candles, I wish. Then I sit back down and feel Asher take my hand in his, giving a gentle squeeze. And just like he always manages to do, he makes me believe we can make this work. He makes me trust this is possible. I just hope we aren't kidding ourselves.
After Kennedy and Kai have departed, and Ethan has taken Giselle home, and the aftermath of dinner has been tidied up, I retreat to my room, hopeful that Asher will seek me out as he has done the last two evenings. My wait is short.
A soft knock punctuates the quiet, and I immediately swing open the door. Asher steps in, cradling an open bottle of champagne and two glasses. He's still dressed in the black button-down shirt and jeans he wore earlier. His gaze is soft, his smile small but tender.
"Hey," he greets, a single word carrying a wealth of warmth.
His eyebrow arches slightly, a silent question hanging between us. When I nod in response, he places the glasses on my desk and fills each with champagne. Handing me one, we settle side by side on my bed.
"Thanks," I murmur as he joins me.
He extends his glass for a celebratory clink. As if he understands I’m feeling quiet and reflective, he doesn't speak, doesn't question, just lets me be. He's a quick study, always giving me the space and time to think what I'm thinking without the pressure to share it. His instincts about what I want and need are so on point it scares me. How can he know me so well already?
His thumb brushes over the promise ring, sending shivers down my spine. "Happy birthday, Lilah." I gaze at the ring that somehow seems so much more than just a piece of jewellery—it's a symbol of hope, love, and a future. It's a promise that Asher and I will try to find a way through the challenges life is about to throw at us.
"I know you're unsure about this, about us,” he says softly. “I know it's going to take time to prove we will make it work, but we will. And this will be the first of many birthdays we spend together."
Suddenly, I feel the urge to confess my fears to him, so I do. The words spill out of my mouth before I can stop them. I tell him about my conversation with Mum, about my fears, doubts, and the concerns about our future.
"I love you, Lilah," Asher interrupts gently. "We'll make it work.”
His eyes are filled with so much promise and determination that it makes me believe in him—believe in us. He nods to my phone, lying on the bedside table.
"Can you put on some music?"
It's my turn to raise an eyebrow. His grin does crazy things to my insides. "I really want to dance with you."
Well, okay then.
As soon as I cue up one of my favourite songs, Asher rises and draws me into his arms. We sway gently to the music, embraced by the comforting silence, and I lift my gaze to meet his. The tenderness in his eyes makes my heart thump hard. Suddenly, there are no secrets, no tabloids, no looming distances threatening us. While I may not have worked out a strategy for the impending challenges, I am not alone. Asher is by my side, and together, we will find a way. I hope.
He dips his head, pressing a kiss to my lips that is both soft and sweet. This sparks a surge of electricity that races through me, causing my pulse to quicken. The gentle touch of his lips against mine contrasts sharply with the intense wave of need coursing through my veins. My knees buckle as his tongue sweeps into my mouth and I become intoxicated by the taste of champagne on his tongue.
The ignited need within me becomes undeniable, and soon I'm undressing him, begging him to help me forget about the future. We fall onto my bed, a tangle of limbs, consumed by hot and desperate touches and kisses. Throughout the night, he brings me to orgasm amidst whispers and promises of forever.
We don't drift off to sleep until close to dawn, and even then, I still don't know what the future holds. However, I cling to the one thing I do know—we have the present. We have each other. And for now, that has to be enough.
The week leading up to our exams whirl by in a flurry of late-night cramming and heightened nerves. With the impending departure of Asher and the looming end-of-year exams, time flies. Each passing day, each passing moment, my heart aches with the impending dread of Asher leaving.
However, amidst the constant studying and the inevitability of saying goodbye, I come to a realization—the love and friendship we share, the bond between us, extends beyond the present. It encompasses every shared laughter, every shared tear, and every shared memory we've woven into the past few months or year of our lives.
Asher and I seize moments together whenever we can, sharing hushed words and lingering touches, expressing our affection in the most intimate way.
In all honesty, initiating a physical relationship with him right before exams was a terrible idea. Memories of everything he does to me in my bedroom keep me on edge during the day, fuelling my desperation to get through each long study session so I can have his hands and mouth on me once more. To maintain focus and keep myself on track, I ask Mum and Jesse if I can invite my friends over to study, and they agree.
I invite the crew over: Mason, Briony, Lana, Dawson, Kennedy, Ethan, and Giselle, who is in Year Twelve at another high school. Several nights before our first exam, all of us gather around the large Cassidy dining table. Mum takes great delight in filling the table with snacks to keep us fuelled, and Jesse makes us coffee. The dining table becomes a chaotic mess, textbooks spread out, highlighters and note cards creating a colourful chaos. The room is filled with a collective hum of concentration, occasionally punctuated by frustrated groans or sighs. It feels productive yet social.
Asher sits next to me, one hand idly tracing circles on my knee beneath the table, while the other flips through a textbook. I catch a faint whiff of his cologne and feel the comforting warmth of his body radiating onto me. Every now and then, he leans over to explain a complex equation that's perplexing me or inquire about what I've written for our practice text responses.
Despite the challenges we face, despite the shadow of goodbye looming over us, we have managed to create these beautiful moments of normalcy. As Asher squeezes my hand under the table, an unspoken promise passing between us, I'm reminded once again that we will confront whatever comes our way, together. No matter how daunting the future may appear, we have each other and our shared determination to make it work.
I stride down the hallway towards Music Room 1, the setting of my last exam: Music Inquiry. It's a demanding compilation of all I've absorbed about music, encompassing theory, history, and performance. The examination is brutal, and I’m relieved for the many nights and days I spent studying.
By the time I stand and move to take my booklet to the supervising teacher, I’m exhausted yet lighter. I made it. I survived Year Twelve. This is really it, the end of my high school career. I've worked hard, and I've achieved every one of the goals I set for myself at the start of the year.
Yet, this year was not without its surprises. Like being paired with Asher for the duet. Like falling for him so deeply that I cannot imagine starting my day without seeing his face across the breakfast table.
Exiting the exam hall, Asher's waiting for me. Our eyes meet, a small smirk gracing his handsome face.
Silently, we step outside into the humid spring day. The sun shines bright in the clear sky, casting its warm glow over the school that's been my second home for the past four years. Our classmates, some of whom I've known for years, mill about, laughing and talking animatedly. Asher's driving me home, and he’s also giving Ethan a ride home since Ethan’s car is in the shop. We pause, waiting for him to find us. I seize this moment to savour the time with Asher. Despite our inability to show affection openly, I want to remember this moment forever.
I glance at Asher, standing tall and looking unbelievably attractive. His tie is loosened, and his dark hair is tousled from his restless hand. His departure is imminent. He's about to leave this country and the home we've shared for the past eleven months.
"If we hadn’t spent so much time fighting," I whisper wistfully.
He turns to me, his eyes softening. "What?"
"If we’d never…" I exhale a frustrated breath, torn between my struggle to voice my feelings and the looming end of our time together. "All the time we spent with me dating Ethan and you resenting me... If I hadn’t let those girls' words influence me, we could have been together a long time ago."
There's a pause as he wears an intense look, followed by a smirk that sends my heart into overdrive. "Maybe," he concedes, "but perhaps it needed to be this way. The arguments, the misunderstandings, the animosity... Maybe they all contributed to bringing us where we are now."
"But we've wasted so much time, Asher," I confess, my heart heavy.
He moves a step closer, careful not to touch me as we can't, not here. But the way he gazes at me, the look in his eyes, feels so intimate, he might as well be kissing me. Thankfully, everyone else is too preoccupied, celebrating their freedom from school and homework.
He reaches out, brushing my face gently with his hand. "We can't change the past, Lilah, and yes, it would have been easier if... things were different. Do you know how many times I've regretted not telling Ethan that I liked you?"
My heart skips a beat at his words.
"But losing my chance with you like that? Deluding myself into thinking you were different from what you really are? It's made me more determined than ever to prove that you're the one for me. Someone I can grow with, mature with, create music with. I love you, Lilah. Now that I understand what's at stake and how easily I can deceive myself into thinking I don’t need you, now that I realize how wrong I was, I will ensure that we make it work."
I'm so caught up in his words, I don't even notice I'm leaning towards him, yearning for his kiss, until Ethan steps between us.
"Guys, gross, we’re in public. Behave yourselves."
Looking at him, I see that he's not upset. Instead, Ethan’s grinning at us. He seems... happy. He's already moving towards the car, phone in hand. Probably eager to text Giselle, who will meet us for dinner. Tonight, we'll join our friends for a party at Remy's, but dinner will be just us four. Ethan hasn't said anything, but it feels much like a double date.
It feels like more than tolerance; it feels like endorsement.
Asher shrugs, then reaches for my hand, leading me along. Glancing around, I realize no one is paying attention to us. They're caught up in their own celebrations, and for a fleeting moment, I relish the sense of normalcy, as if Asher is simply my boyfriend. I bask in Ethan’s good humour and his request to turn up the music as we drive home to the Cassidy mansion – my home. My stepbrothers by my side.
We've done it. We've finished high school. It's over. Now, all that's left is the wait for the university acceptance letters and Asher and Ethan's impending departure. But with Asher beside me, his hand on my knee, Ethan singing along in the backseat, I am confident that we'll tackle whatever lies ahead, just as we always have.
When I glance at Asher, he’s gazing back at me. I smile, silently assuring him that I believe in us – that we can do this.
His returning smile is as bright as the sun.
I lean into the moment, drawing comfort from his assurance and the commitment ring on my finger. Together. We will face whatever the future brings together, no matter what.
I am now and forever more your #1 American fan!!!
<3 <3 <3 You did it! So proud of you, hun! xoxo