Status: Finished. Thanks for reading! :)

A Safe Bet

the end

Harlow packed her bag quickly, saying goodbye to the group she had been working with in the library. She walked through the crisp Connecticut air, pulling her sweater closer to her body. She had been at Yale for three years. She thought that her body would have adjusted to the cold by now, but apparently not.

She smiled as her phone began vibrating in her pocket. “So, how did it go?” she asked, pressing the phone between her shoulder and her ear as she searched through her purse for her car keys.

“Amazing! I got a third interview,” Aimee squealed excitedly through the frequency. “Can you believe it?”

“Of course I can, you’re an amazing writer,” Harlow replied, glowing in cheer for her best friend. After graduating early from The Cronkite Writing Program at ASU, because all of her AP credits and summer courses, Aimee was now getting an opportunity to work for The New York Times. Hard work paid off.

Harlow, being in the law field, had at least four more years of school in order to get a degree. To say that she envied her best friend at the moment was quite an understatement.

“This is just so exciting,” Aimee sighed. “So, are you coming home for Christmas break this year?”

Harlow bit her lip, turning over her shoulder to make sure the right lane was clear as she switched into it. “Now, don’t be mad…”

“Harlow,” her best friend groaned. “You didn’t come home last break either.”

“I had a great opportunity of getting into a ridiculously prestigious class. It was a good chance Aimee, I needed it,” she sighed. She grabbed her purse and ran up the stairs to her apartment. Her roommate was to be gone for the evening, spending the night with her new boyfriend. “I’m meeting my family in California though, to spend Christmas day with them and stuff.”

“Oh great, so you get to see them but not me. You’ll fly to see the parents who, mind you, are still mad that you chose Yale, but you won’t fly to see me, the one person who has supported you in everything! Some best friend you are,” Aimee complained. Harlow knew she wasn’t really mad, but she did miss her best friend too. She understood the frustration.

It wasn’t necessarily that she didn’t want to be home; something just always seemed to…come up. And who was she to pass up on opportunities that would help her in her future career? Besides, Arizona never had been her favorite place to be. The only person she still talked to besides her family was Aimee.

“So, how’s Cory?” Aimee said after a moment. Harlow could hear the teasing grin on her lips and in her voice.

“He’s good,” Harlow replied, blushing. “I’m making him dinner tonight. I think I’m going to finally sleep with him.”

“It’s been what, five dates? Didn’t they condone the five-date rule in Friends With Benefits? If Mila Kunis says it’s okay, it is okay,” she laughed.

Harlow rolled her eyes and grabbed chicken out of the fridge, beginning to marinade it. Cory Stratton was a good guy. He was enrolled in Yale’s law school as well, though one year farther because he was older. He was tall, tan, blonde—the ultimate California boy. But he was so smart, and ridiculously funny. He made Harlow comfortable, well, almost.

Cory had this way of sometimes putting her down. It wasn’t like he did it on purpose; he just believed that a woman’s place in the world was taking care of a family. He was raised that way, but it worried her that he may not always support her dreams. She figured that was something they could deal with later though.

“I hope this one sticks around,” Harlow sighed. “He seems nice enough, you know?”

“Yeah, but you know boys,” Aimee groaned. “They suck. Well, except my boy of course—he’s a man though, so it’s different.”

She chuckled at how in love her best friend was with her boyfriend. She was happy for her—truly, but sometimes she couldn’t help but to be completely jealous of the fact that her best friend happened to find her one true love on the first day of her freshmen year of college.

Like, what were the odds of that right?

Harlow had only truly been in love once, and it wasn’t even real, really. She couldn’t consider it real anyways. There was too much uncertainty by the end of it. She was over it now, it had been three years after all, but sometimes she still secretly wished it could have ended differently.

At one point John had been her entire world, and now—well, she honestly couldn’t remember the last time she had spoken to him. Actually that was a lie, he texted her on her birthday last year. She never replied. No thank you, nothing. She wasn’t even sure why. She just…didn’t.

Harlow smiled. “Well, tell Sean I said hi, but I do have to get going. I need to finish dinner and stuff. Let’s skype tomorrow, yes?”

“You’ll find love soon, Har,” Aimee said simply, ignoring her question. “Maybe sooner than you think. Bye love.”

Harlow chuckled at her best friends’ weirdness and put down her phone. She walked back into the kitchen and began to finish dinner. She baked the chicken, and steamed some vegetables, preparing them on her finest plates. She took a deep breath when she heard a knock at the door. She checked her hair in the mirror, smiling when she actually thought she looked somewhat pretty.

She was ready for love and tonight she wanted to find it again, so she opened the door.


John stood silently, completely still. He was excited, but he couldn’t breathe—he wouldn’t dare to move an inch. He was scared that if he did, this moment would be ruined, she would realize that it was in fact real, and she would slam that door right back in his face.

Harlow’s mouth was opened in shock, and she stared at him quietly. He wondered what she thought of his combat boots, his torn jeans, and his freshly cut hair. He hoped she still liked his plaid shirt—she once told him he looked ‘cute’ in plaid.

“W-What are you doing here?” Harlow spoke after a moment, her sweet voice filling the air. She still looked the same. Her blonde hair was cascading over one of her shoulders in her natural waves. Her lips were a soft pink and her eyes were the same piercing blue-green. “John…?”

He realized how long he had been quietly staring at her before he coughed, bringing himself back to reality. “Uh, yeah, hey,” he said lamely, looking down at his feet in embarrassment as he realized that she had asked him a question and he had been so lost in her that he didn’t even know what it was. “I mean…what?”

Harlow giggled nervously, batting her eyelashes so innocently at him. He smiled nervously, blushing. “What are you doing here?” She repeated, biting her lip gently.

John weighed his words in his mind. Jared was the one who had pulled him aside earlier that day, telling him to get his ass here.

“What the fuck are you waiting on?” Jared asked, sitting next to the singer. John pulled his jacket closer to him as a wind blew across the Yale campus. He wasn’t sure how he got here, or what compelled him to be there, though under his pride he had an idea.

“It’s pretty here,” John said simply, scanning each face that passed him. It wasn’t many at this time of night—but he was hoping maybe for once in a while luck could be on his side tonight.

“Casey is waiting for you back at the hotel, you know,” his friend replied, putting his hand in his pocket.

“Right,” he replied, looking down at his worn out jeans. Casey Simons was a merch girl for one of the bands they had been touring with last year. They met when John accidentally poured burning hot coffee all over her white jeans and from there he somehow convinced her to take him up on an apology date and they had been together since.

John loved Casey, sure. She was beautiful, funny, smart…but something was missing, and he wasn’t sure what. He’d only felt it once, and honestly he wasn’t sure if he’d ever find it again.

After all, he’d spoken to Harlow maybe four times in the past three years. He attempted to reconnect on her last birthday, but she had never replied. And honestly, her silence was still cutting him to the core.

He needed a sense of closure from her and he was never sure he could truly get it.

“She lives down the street,” Jared said while mindlessly playing a game on his phone.

“Who?” John said lamely, as if he didn’t know.

Jared stood up and rolled his eyes. He pulled a piece of paper out of his pocket and threw it at his friend. “Go see her, John. Stop acting like she hasn’t been on your mind everyday for the past however many years.”

“Three,” he said softly, looking at the written address on the white sheet.

Jared smiled, “Exactly, go.”

And so, after two hours of fighting himself, and thinking of the girlfriend he had waiting for him, he did.

John put his hands in his pockets and rocked back on his heels. “We were just in the area…Aimee gave us your address. We played a show here last night, and I uh, I just wanted to see you.”

He watched as she looked at him reservedly, obviously thinking about everything they had been through. He had thought about it every singly day for the past three years she had been gone. He had never forgiven himself—he couldn’t.

He broke a perfect girl.

“Do you want to come in?” Harlow asked shyly, reminding him of when they were in high school—how sweet and innocent she had always been.

John smiled, “Sure, uh, yeah sure.”

He followed her in the apartment, being met with the smell of a freshly cooked meal that was placed on the counter. It looked as if she was expecting somebody. The thought made his stomach turn.

“Nice place,” John said, looking at the girly decorated walls. It was perfect for Harlow—cute and simple, just like her.

“Thanks,” she said. “Um, do you want some wine or a beer or something?”

He could tell she was uncomfortable. He wished he could help, but he was honestly too nervous to do anything either. “Which ever is fine…”

Harlow walked into her living room with two glasses of wine and took a seat on her brown leather couch. John nervously sat next to her; it was the closest he had been to her in years. He could still smell strawberries in her hair. His heart still beat three times faster than it normally should.

“So,” he began shyly. He wasn’t used to this feeling. He was always so confident, but right now he felt like he was seventeen again, speaking with her for the first time in their high school courtyard as she tutored him. “How have you been?”

“I’ve been good,” she said softly, looking down at the red liquid in her glass. “I’m doing well in school and stuff. I have a job, a good roommate…things are good. How about you? How’s life on the road?”

John told her tales about tour, about the boys, things about his brothers and family, and after a while, things began to feel normal again—just like they had always been, but then again not at all. Everything was different; Harlow was different.

Sure, she was still shy and innocent, but then again as she spoke she wasn’t at all. As she told stories about internships and working on mock-cases she sounded so strong and ultimately, confident. She sounded happier than he’d ever heard her and just that alone made John feel happy too.

After an hour or so John remembered the cooling food on the counter, noticing the small frown on Harlow’s lips as she followed his eyes there. “Were you uh, expecting someone?” John asked nervously, scanning her face and feeling her disappointment.

She moved her hand through the air, metaphorically brushing the situation off. “Oh, no it’s nothing. A friend said he may stop by later but he probably got caught up. You know how that goes,” she said simply, trying to sound okay.

John understood then that some asshole had stood her up. He got off the couch and walked over to the counter, putting a plate in the microwave. “Turn on a movie,” he smiled. “This meal looks delicious and it will not go to waste.”

Harlow smiled and grabbed the remote, nodding her head. He smiled as the sounds to Harry Potter came on. “Still not over the guy yet, Peterson?” He chuckled, walking into the living room with warm plates.

“Never,” she laughed. “I haven’t watched it in a while, but I figured it’s a special occasion.”

“Most people have wine and cheese for special occasions, but not you,” John grinned. “You like to make your guests watch Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.”

“Shh, you’re ruining the movie,” she giggled, narrowing her eyes at him and turning back to the screen.

John smiled and turned his eyes to the screen, using his elbow to nudge her in the side. She giggled and did it back, settling deeper into the couch next to him. He tried to control his thoughts and focus on the movie, but things were still so familiar to him with her. He knew her breathing pattern, the same way that she still mouthed all the words under her breath, and the way that she would continually glance at him from the corner of her eye to make sure he was actually paying attention.

Though they were both so different they were still the same people they were in high school. He missed this feeling—this feeling of being free.

It was in that instant that he regretted it all once more. The bet, the lies, but most of all letting her go when it was all said and done. He should have fought for her. He should have been on her doorstep three years ago. He should have made things right and made her his.

“John, you’re staring at me.”

John continued to look at the girl who was gazing at him with a goofy grin. He could see her freckles peeking through her makeup, the small gap between her front two teeth, and speckles in her pale blue eyes.

He didn’t even think twice as he leaned forward and pressed his lips to Harlow’s. He didn’t think about Casey, he didn’t think about the distance, he didn’t think about the fact that maybe she wouldn’t kiss him back. All he continued to think about was that this was possibly his last shot to be with the one girl he only ever truly loved and he wouldn’t fuck this one up.

Harlow put her hands on his chest, breaking his heart as she gently pushed him off. “W-What are you doing, John?” She stumbled, looking at him nervously.

“I-I don’t…I…I’m sorry,” he whispered, standing up quickly and running a hand though his hair. Why would he think she could ever want him again? He had literally broken her heart. He didn’t deserve a girl like her ever again.

John began to pace while Harlow sat silently before he finally walked to her door. His hand was on the handle as he began to leave her behind forever when he heard her voice, quiet and small, calling out to him. “Wait, where are you going?”

He stopped and took a deep breath before facing her once again. “Away from here,” he sighed, closing his eyes.

Harlow walked over to him tentatively and grabbed his hand in hers. “Why?”

John turned his eyes to hers, seeing the tears in them. “Harlow, I haven’t gone a day without thinking about you—and being here is too hard…it’s too hard to try to just be your friend for this hour and then leave again and not see or hear from you. I need you in my life or not at all. I can’t have an in-between.”

She was silent as she looked at him and he could see her weighing her options in her mind. He prepared himself for the worst. “You’re so far away…would it ever work?”

John smiled softly, relaxing at her words, but at the same time getting more excited with the nervous grin that was growing on her lips. “We could make it work if we tried hard enough.”

Harlow took a deep breath and bit her lip. “I’m seeing someone.”

“So am I,” John chuckled.

She shook her head and laughed, burying her face in his chest. “Always breaking hearts. This is so fucked up.”

He grinned and wrapped his arms around her, feeling comfortable for the first time in years. “Take care of your stuff, I’ll take care of mine. But, Harlow…”

She breathed in his scent. “Yeah, John?”

“I’m not letting you go this time.”

John’s heart fluttered as she looked up at him and pressed her lips to his gently, smiling sweetly. “I know.”
♠ ♠ ♠
Well, that was it. I'm sorry this ending took so long but I do hope you guys enjoyed it. Thank you guys so much for all of your comments and continuous support; you guys are the fire behind this story and Raveena and I appreciate it more than you know. Also, I'd love to thank Raveena for being an awesome co-author. I think we both grew as writers throughout the time span of this story and it's crazy to see it finally coming to an end.

Thank you to every person who read, commented, subscribed, or even stayed silent during this story. I hope you enjoyed it as much as we did.

xoxo Ketely

PS. I've also started another John story and would love some feedback! It's called Through Grass, Grown Tall. Also check out Raveena's other stories if you already haven't! Love you all!