The colder it got, the more Aria seemed to pull away and withdraw from everyone around her. Frankly, the entire situation with Carter and the rooftop and the possiblity that he could have been gone forever.. It made Aria pull away even more.
She was confused about how she felt.
Something told her there was a spark, a connection. One that had always been there.
It scared the hell out of her.
She wandered through the aisles of the library, running her fingers over the spines of the different books.
One caught her eye and she pulled it out, opening it with a soft swish.
Aria's eyes went wide and she thumped the book she was holding closed.
She would recognize that voice anywhere.
She turned slowly, her pink eyes instantly glossing over when she saw him. Her mouth went dry and a fluttering of butterfly wings sprouted in the pit of her stomach.
He stood inches from her, way too close.
His eyes traced her from top to bottom and she could feel her pulse snapping like firecrackers. "You haven't changed much, have you. Still as gorgeous as you always were.." His statement trailed off.
Aria's shoulders hit the bookshelf behind her as Darian advanced smoothly leaning one hand against the shelf next to her head, his fingers on his other hand trailing down the side of her face and into her hair. Something about this man put her heart into overdrive and she couldn't seem to find a disconnect from the attraction she felt sparking between them.
She wondered internally if that was the effect she seemed to have on Dylan. The torture that an undeniable chemical reaction in her brain seemed to hold. Her thoughts rested on Hidden Springs and the last time Darian and she had gotten close.
She questioned if things were any different with him. If he was still a manipulative, ridiculously atttractive scumbag like he used to be.
And yet, Aria still wanted him. She didn't know if she would ever NOT want him.
She blinked and rubbed the lids of her eyes as the memories she had tried so hard to put behind her forced their way into the forefront of her mind.
"He keeps looking at you."
Willow cast a suspicious eye over Aria's shoulder at the new History teacher. Aria glanced cautiously in the same direction, connecting with his bright blue eyes. She gulped and snapped her attention back to her two best friends in front of her.
"He's my /teacher/. Stop being a freak." She hissed, placing her books in her locker forcefully and slamming it shut.
"Arrriaaaa, he seriously keeps staring at you." Mila sing-songed, pulling her lips into a smirk.
Aria's cheeks went pink and she stuffed her remaining books into her messenger bag, staring at the floor.
"Just stop it you two."
"It's not like it's a bad thing. He is gorgeous."
Willow glared at Mila when that comment left her mouth.
"It's totally a bad thing. He is WAY older than she is. He needs to stop being a pervert and do his job."
Mila rolled her eyes, spinning the combination on her own locker and raising one shoulder in a shrug.
"You're totally overeacting. Aria's not going to do anything. I doubt he would even try."
She spun on her heel and headed to her next class, Willow trailing behind her, mumbling a string of profanities. Aria sighed softly, turning towards the doorway of the AP History class this new guy was teaching.
Head down, halfway through the doorway and ten minutes early, she felt fingers grip her wrist. she froze, looking up. But as quickly as he had touched her, his hand was gone. Aria wasn't even sure if it had actually happened. The dark-haired girl who had been behind her, slammed into her and she dropped the book she was carrying.
Aria stooped to pick it up, and the guy next to her did at the exact same time, she watched as he wrapped his fingers around the spine and then held it out to her. She took it, avoiding his eye contact and hurried to her seat in the back of the class next to Carter, who smiled as she approached.
She returned the smile, sliding into her desk and pulling her books out.
When she looked back up from the woodgrain, the guy was, in fact, watching her.
The school weeks crawled by, each day of the week she had his class, he spoke to her more and more. Fall turned into winter and December second dawned bright with the first snowfall.
Aria crossed her legs, putting her chin in her hand, her breath leaving her mouth in misty puffs. The bench she was sitting on was iced over, but she honestly didn't mind. She kind of just wished she had remembered to bring her car instead of having to wait on Mila who took her sweet ass time returning to pick her up.
It wasn't like it was Aria's fault that Carter bailed on her.
"Do you need a ride?"
Aria's eyes went wide and she quickly stood, brushing the slushy snow off of her uniform skirt.
She trailed off, her words getting stuck somewhere between her mind and her vocal box.
Darian smirked, pushing his hair out of his eyes. He put both hands into the pockets of his pants and rocked back on his heels.
"If it's weird, cause I'm your teacher, that's okay. I'm sorry."
He turned to leave, taking a few paces towards the parking lot.
"No! It's okay, yeah, a ride would be nice."
She slung her bag over her shoulder and walked over to him, her nerves winding through her system. She was aware that his eyes canvassed her body, but she brushed it off. He was a man after all.
She instructed him on directions and he drove the entire way without saying a word. Butterflies fluttered aimlessly in her stomach , growing stronger with each second that passed. When they pulled up in front of her house, Aria bit her lip, the butterflies feeling like they were suddenly counting in the hundreds.
There was this.. intense pull in her gut whenever she was around Darian. It was like she couldn't look away from him. Like his very presence drew her in.
You're starting to sound like Bella here, dude. Chill. She thought bitterly, extending a hand toward the door handle. She pulled it and the metal disconnected with a soft pop. She was about to turn her head to issue her gratitude when he reached across her, pulling it shut again.
He put a hand on her face and leaned into her side of the car, urging her closer.
His lips met hers and she halted.
It took her about five seconds to relent and kiss him back, lacing her fingers in his hair and tasting the cinnamon that lingered faintly on his tongue.
She pulled away after a few minutes and took a few shaky breaths. Her cheeks were burning furiously and she knew she needed to go now. Before she did something even more careless and idiotic.
She grabbed her bag and opened the car door, exiting and making her way through the few inches of snow. She entered the house and shut the door behind her, sliding to the floor on the opposite side.
What had she just done?
It wasn't just that he was her teacher... She wasn't stupid. She saw the silver ring that rested on the third finger of his left hand.
Things escalated from there. Manipulation of a teenage girl was easier then Aria thought it should be. It wasn't that she thought what happened was okay.. It was that overwhelming urgency with which this man treated her. As if she mattered.
She eventually gave in to what he wanted.
Like a moth to a flame, she just couldn't seem to stay away. She felt used, scared and on top of everything else, she felt guilty. The affair didn't last very long. She ended it, but not before it went way too far.
Karma, however, has a funny way of showing up at the worst times...
"It has been a great year, and I couldn't have been happier to have had the classmates that I did. I never thought that, I, of everyone in this class, would be valedictorian. It's definitely an honor."
Kora paused, shuffling the papers she held in front of her. She had been droning on and on for ten minutes with her speech. Aria was just ready for her to can it. Not only was she bored as hell, she was starving and Kora's voice was like nails on a chalkboard.
Everyone started clapping, as it FINALLY seemed as if the speech was over. However, Kora held up a single finger, a slight grin on her face. The applause came to a still, and Aria could have sworn that Kora's eyes locked on her own.
"There's one more thing I think I should say."
"There's a certain secret in this school that I think needs to be revealed."
This time, Aria KNEW her eyes were steadied on her own. Her heart started to beat faster, fear trickling into the pit of her stomach.
She glanced over at the row behind her, where her three best friends were sitting. They all had confused looks on their faces. Aria pulled her bottom lip into her mouth and secured her eyes on the ground. The flight instinct was kicking in, but she wasn't even one hundred percent sure that Kora was talking about her.
She thought Kora had seen her kissing Darian. She had waited weeks for her to confront her or him. She never did.
So Aria let it go.
So Aria let it go.
That was, apparently, a very big mistake.
"Aria Rapture is having an affair with Mr. Hutchins."
The statement silenced everyone. There was literally no sound apart from the crackling of feedback that quietly trilled out of the speakers. Kora's eyes bore into Aria's and she could feel the hatred that reflected out of them.
One by one, voices started to sound, hushed whispers and snickers.
Darian turned and walked away from the crowd, through the trees toward the parking lot.
It was kind of like being stripped completely naked in front of about 300 hundred prying eyes. Aria could feel them stabbing into her from every direction. The worst mistake she had ever made was being broadcast to her entire school, not to mention their families. She stood, avoiding the eye contact of her three best friends over everyone else and walked away, the embarrassment and guilt falling in thick, hot tears to the ground.
She reached her car, fumbling with the keys and dropping them to the ground twice before finally getting the lock turned.
She never heard from Darian again, she never even knew what happened to him. The fallout he faced was never known to her. The reason being, when she left graduation she barely left her house. She saw next to no one.
Then came the day she found out Carter was gone.
That was when she left Hidden Springs and every damn person who poisoned her life behind her..
Apparently she couldn't run away forever.
If you string the right words together, anyone can be manipulated. Anyone can turn from someone who is the picture of innoxiousness into someone you don't recognize.
Aria was putty in Darian's hands from day one. Perhaps she would always be. The difference between the present and the past, was that now, Aria should have known better before taking him home. She wasn't a little girl anymore. She had her fair share of mistakes resting on her shoulders, but she had never quite crossed the line she had now.
She quietly chastised herself for her lack of moral standing. Also for her lack of self control.
Aria played with the end of a strand of her hair, staring out the window at the softly falling snow. The first snow of the coming winter. Ironic.
She heard footsteps behind her and a hand latched on her hip. Darian trailed kisses across her neck and a queasy feeling settled into her stomach. She felt like a complete whore. She knew that what had just happened wasn't okay. Not in any way, shape or form. She was uneasy, and unlike the electricity that she expected his touch to initiate, she just felt...
A knock came from the front door and Aria looked down at herself. She wasn't wearing much, so she rushed up the stairs to her room and threw on a dress. When her foot hit the bottom stair on the way back down, she looked up and her heart stuttered.
She suddenly wished more then anything that she could be invisible. Darian had answered the door. Standing on the other side, was quite possibly one of the last people she would ever want to know what she had done the night before.
Her voice contained more alarm then she intended for it to. The look playing in his eyes told her he knew EXACTLY what had happened. The disgust radiated off of him in almost visible waves.
He turned to leave, scoffing loudly. He hadn't said one word to her. Not that he needed to. She knew what he must be thinking. She could feel the embarrassment sucking her down.
"Carter, wait! Just. Talk to me!"
She pulled the door shut behind her, not looking at Darian. She was not only annoyed with him for opening the door in the first place, but completely shocked that he would stand there and just stare at a man who was in his class at one point. Who went to his school.
Aria shivered, clenching her hands into fists, her nails digging into her palms in a desperate attempt to keep the tears away. He whirled around so quickly Aria almost bumped into him. She took a rapid step backwards, her bare feet numb already from the cold.
"What is there to talk about? Why don't you just go back inside with your next suitor, Aria. This one is a winner."
He was more then just disgusted, he was livid. Aria could feel the ire crashing into her like the tide onto the shore.
"It's not.. I don't.. "
She couldn't quite put the thoughts racing through her mind into recognizable words.
Carter threw his hands in the air, a hiss coming out of his lips.
"I don't want your explanations Aria. I honestly don't blame you for what happened when you were in high school. You were young. You were stupid. You made a mistake. But," He looked her straight in the eyes.
"This is not a fucking mistake. This is you being an idiot. You knew better. You KNOW better. You're smarter then this. I have tried so hard to tell myself that you can change, that you aren't what I used to convince myself you were."
He pulled the drawstrings of his hoodie tighter, the fabric making a soft swish as Aria's heart catapulted into her stomach.
"Well, congratulations Aria. You just proved me right. You're sleeping with married men now. You've become the whore I was afraid you would be. "
He crossed the lawn, getting into his Hummer without a backward glance at her.
Aria gave birth to Darian's triplets, babies 80, 81 and 82, Wilson, Rhiannon, and April, a few weeks later, not to her surprise. She cut off all contact with him. She was aware that she had made a terrible mistake. It was one she intended to never happen again.
She wished more then anything she could just take it back... But the damage was done. There was no going back. She couldn't erase this no matter how much she wished she could.
Aria drew her knees to her chest, the vacancy that had taken up seemingly permanent residence in her chest aching bitterly. She spun the phone that was on the hardwood floor in front of her in sporadic circles. Not a single text or phone call had come to her since that stupid day.
Danielle was the only one who seemed to even want to speak to her. She seemed to be the only one who understood that Aria was truly sorry and regretful of what had transpired.
The phone slowly came to a stop, and Aria sighed. She reached towards it to send it spinning like a top again when it vibrated.
She blinked, unsure she had actually heard it.
Ariel's face popped up on the screen and she crinkled her eyebrows. She hadn't been expecting her to call. Especially after ditching her at that party.
She stood, stretching her legs a bit and taking a deep breath. She was sure Ariel was more than likely furious with her. Preparing for the worst, she pushed talk with a shaky finger tip, only to be greeted with the soft cries of agony transferring through from the other line.
"Ariel?! What's going on? Why are you crying??"
Ariel's voice took a second to steady before she responded.
"Aria, I need you to come to Sunset Valley. It's Brandon... He's.."
She stopped speaking, her voice once again wracked with sobs.
"What is it Ariel? Is he okay? Did you guys break up?"
Ariel's voice crackled with anxiety as she finally spoke again.