Book cover of “What Was Once Love“ by Ariel Kay

What Was Once Love

  • Genre: Romance
  • Age: 18+
  • Status: Completed
  • Language: English
  • Author: Ariel Kay
James Riverra lives with a single mom after surviving with an abusive dad for years until his death in a fight. He has lost faith in love but soon meets Kate Milner, and everything becomes more difficult. She is a spoiled girl who feels dissatisfied with everything she has. How could they fall in love and save their feelings? 

Chapter 1

James

Ughhh. I reluctantly turned off the alarm after having snoozed it for the fifth time. I knew at one point that I'd either have to give in to sleep or give in to the relentless effort this alarm has been putting into getting me out of this bed. Slowly, I open my eyelids and roll myself out of bed. I check the time again. It was already 7:45. Chemistry class starts at 8:30 a.m., and I don't want to be late for that. I'm not a morning person, and an argument with Mr. Turner is the last thing I need to start my day.

I managed to brush my teeth and have a quick change of clothes. I had a late shower last night. Instead of having another one, I decided to spend that time on breakfast instead. I'm quite grumpy when I'm hungry, so I try to have a full stomach before heading out in the mornings to avoid starting the day off on the wrong foot.

I head down to the kitchen when the aroma of freshly grilled bacon serenades the air. I walked in, just as my mom was taking off an apron. She looked very much ready for work.

"Hey, honey, hope you're hungry. What better way to start your day than with a plate of bacon and eggs?" She says in a high-pitched voice that's way too cheery for 8 o'clock in the morning.

I always find it annoying when she does the whole super-duper good mom thing with me since the whole act only lasts only within the walls of this house.

To the outside world, she was a sad and antisocial widow, whose late husband's violent nature made it very difficult for her to make friends. It didn't help that she continued that legacy even after his death. Secondly, she was quite a different person when she was in a different mood.

Thirdly and most importantly, I don't need 'sweet' Mom Helen now. When I wanted her to be there for me, she wasn't. I still hate her for all the years of allowing my dad to repeatedly abuse me, while she only encouraged me to be stronger for next time, instead of defending me from his unnecessary attacks.

"Thanks, Mom," I muttered as she passed me a plate of bacon and sausages with scrambled eggs. Lovely.

I'd give anything to savor this meal silently, but it was obvious my mom had other ideas. I could tell from the way she was repeatedly biting her lips and fumbling with the food on her plate.

"Your Uncle Brian called. He wants you to come to intern with him during the summer. He works accounting, and that could be good for your resume, as well as your college portfolio," she says, finally breaking the silence.

I sigh and continue eating my food. She and that worthless brother of hers. He always brings up ideas that seem like they would benefit me, but it's obviously because he needs the helping hand and doesn't want to employ more staff.

"Tell him I said thanks, but I'm not interested," I reply, trying my best to sound as courteous as I could afford to.

"But why, James? This could be good for you. I think you should give it a try; it could be worth the shot." She pressed further. I try my best to hide my annoyance at her insistence.

"Mom, I'm not interested. That's as simple as it gets. I don't care if it's so important to Brian that I come to give him a free hand. I don't want to work with him, and that's it." I probably overreacted a bit with my remark, but I couldn't care less how I sounded when I spoke with my mom.

"Watch your tone with me, young man. I am still your mother, and you stay under my roof," she retorted.

"Right...of course, you're still my mother. I wish you remembered that when I needed you the most back then," I barked at her, almost unintentionally.

"And what's that supposed to mean?" she replied, sounding defensive.

I knew I had crossed a line, and this conversation would not be ending this morning. Besides, neither of us had the time for it anyway.

I ignored her, quietly clearing up my dishes. I picked up my backpack so she would know I was set to leave and that the conversation was over.

"I'm heading out, I don't want to be late for class," I said, reluctantly pressing a kiss to the side of her head and dashing out.

"This conversion is far from over, James, so don't think you've walked your way out of an explanation," I heard her say as I headed out quickly.

I sigh, bringing out my headphones and walking a bit too fast. She had a way of always pissing me off whenever we had to talk about anything, especially when it had to do with making decisions that she thought were best for me. She always seems to think I need her interference in anything.

I'm 19, for Pete's sake, and all I need from her is space. Trying to make decisions for me right now, wouldn't make up for all the times she didn't defend me when I needed her the most.

I pull my headphones off my ears when I feel a bulge on my shoulder. Shocked, I was about to get defensive when I saw who it was. Sarah. I took a deep breath and rolled my eyes in relief.

"Someone's in a mood. Woke up on the wrong side of the bed, or you haven't had breakfast? Which is, Mr. Riverra?" Sarah asks, attempting to lighten my mood.

"It was my mom," I say. She sighs and tucks her arms in between mine, as we walk together. If she had a dollar for every time I've talked about fighting with my mom, she'd be a billionaire right now.

"What was it this time?" she asks in an accusing tone. I knew that tone too well. Sarah seems to think I'm at fault for not being on good terms with my mom. I can't blame her though, but I feel she doesn't understand the situation well enough, which is quite ironic, considering that she's always been in the picture.

"She wants me to go help Brian in Manhattan during the summer. Something about interning with him in his accounting firm. Like I'd even be interested in that," I smirked.

"Well, it was just a suggestion, James. Nothing more, I'm sure she wouldn't force you. She was just looking out for you like any loving mother would. Did you explain to her, however, that you weren't interested in interning for him?" Sarah replied. I hate it when she makes so much sense as she just did now.

"I don't need her looking out for me. I'm fine, and I'm an adult. When I needed this as a child, she wasn't offering it, so she really should quit the act right now," I replied a bit more calmly now.

"How long are you going to resent your mom, James? It's been three years now since your dad died. She's all you have, and you know it. You shouldn't spend all your time fighting with her, you know," she replies gently, sounding very convincing.

I decided to lay the issue to rest by saying nothing more. It's very hard to argue with Sarah whenever she is making a point. She was way too reasonable for an 18-year-old.

"You know you should consider being a therapist. Look at you, sounding motivational and all," I say, running my hands through her hair. She punches me in the arm a bit too hard. Sarah was obsessed with keeping her hair smooth and laid back, so she hated it whenever I brushed her hair.

She takes out a brush from her bag and runs a hand through her hair before replying to me.

"Change the topic all you want, but you know very much that I am right."

We continue our walk to school in silence, her arms tucked in mine as we both share her earphones.

We made it in time for chemistry class, just before Mr. Turner walked in.

"Good morning, class. Today's class is quite a long and practical one. As usual, get yourself into pairs so we can get this ship moving, people! Get moving! We don't have all day." He's yelling out instructions to the class in his usual army general tone. I've never understood why he chooses to address his class aggressively.

Students are now moving, and I make way to pair with Sarah.

"Riverra, I don't think that's a good idea. Pair with Ashley instead," Mr. Turner says to me. I glanced over my shoulder to see the girl he was referring to. I'm not surprised to see his choice of the student. A white, blonde girl.

I roll my eyes. "She already has a pair, Mr. Turner. I'm fine with Sarah anyways."

I watch as he scans the classroom before turning back to me with an almost too fake smile.

"Well, I guess Franklin can pair with Sarah. How about you go with Goldberg instead?"

I could puke at that suggestion. Aside from the fact that Mr. Turner's method of pairing is racially biased, I hated John Goldberg.

"I find it a little disturbing that you think two black kids can't work together, Mr. Turner," I said, quite accusatory.

That was enough to get him upset.

"Well, Mr. Riverra, my pairing method is absolutely and completely unbiased. However, if you feel uncomfortable with it, you can take your bags and get out of my class right now!" He retorted, almost shouting now.

The class grew quiet afterward, then I reluctantly picked up my bag, slowly walked toward John, and sat on the chair opposite him, carefully avoiding eye contact with him. I could tell from the corner of my eyes that he was smiling right now. He enjoyed seeing me defeated, and it burned my chest that I'd given him a sight to revel in.

It's the final year, however. It's the most trivial time for an honor student. I can't afford to miss this class over mere sentimental issues. I needed all I could so I could get the degree I wanted, and eventually work at The Empire as I've always dreamed.

***

Kate

"Katie... sweetie, you should get up and get ready for school, so you won't be late. Breakfast would be ready in ten minutes!" I could hear my mom saying from outside my bedroom door.

"Be down in a minute, Mom!" I yelled back at her.

I slid off the bed and headed to my bathroom. I flossed my teeth and tweezed my eyebrows a bit. They've been growing out lately, and I don't want to have to go to a spa to get them done. I dread doing anything publicly, so I suck in my breath and painfully tweeze the strands of hair that were growing out of shape on my brows.

I get into the shower and spend some time there, bathing, meditating, and enjoying some peace and quiet before I head out to the noisy world. When I enjoyed enough solitude, I slid out of the shower and got dressed, picking out a gray dress that barely showed any color and wouldn't draw unnecessary attention to me.

I pull my hair in a messy ponytail and head downstairs. I don't bother with looks because I barely had anyone that I felt the need to impress with my dressing. I didn't have friends at school, nor did I have a boyfriend I needed to look good for. Besides, I hate attention of any kind.

I walked into the dining room to see my mom laying out enough breakfast to feed five thousand. I wonder why she always bothers to put so much effort into food that would go to waste. Dad's barely home, and it's always just the two of us so the effort was almost always uncalled for.

"Hey, Mom," I say, kissing her cheek.

"Hey, baby, are you hungry?" she asks, cutting up some fruits.

"Yeah, sure. I thought I heard Dad last night. Did he come home?"

"Oh, right. He did, but he had an early flight this morning and had to catch up with that. I'm sorry you didn't get to see him, sweetie. He'll be back by the weekend though. I'm sure we can all have dinner then," she replies, trying her best to sound both apologetic and assuring at the same time.

I wasn't interested in talking about my dad's constant absence so I quickly changed the topic.

"It's fine, Mom. I was just curious, that's all. By the way, you said something about seeing Principal Paul when I get to school. What's that about?"

"Oh. I don't know. He called to inform me about it yesterday. He said he'd like to see you this morning. I'm sure it's nothing though. Just pop into his office when you get to school, will you? She replies.

"Sure," I say, almost quickly. "I'd do that."

She smiles at me. We ate the rest of breakfast in silence. I finished my food quickly and headed out.

"I'm heading out, Mom. I'll catch you later." I say, kissing her on both cheeks.

"I'm free this morning. I don't mind dropping you off," she suggests.

"I'm good. I'll drive. Thanks for the offer."

The last thing I wanted was to sit through a ride with my mom and her nonstop chatter when I could just enjoy 15 minutes of quiet before stepping into the crowded hallways of Pasture Hill High School.

I head to the garage and pull my car out of the driveway as I made for school.

The ride was smooth, with no traffic. In less than 15 minutes, I was pulling into the school's garage.

I head straight for the principal's office and knock on the door.

"Come in." I hear him say from inside. I push the door open to see him filing up some papers.

He motions toward a chair without looking at me. 

I sit down, playing tug of war with my fingers, as I wait to get his full attention. I can feel my body getting heated up in anticipation of whatever he was about to say. I look around his office in an attempt to keep myself busy while he rounds up his work.

My eyes catch on a portrait of Principal Paul that is right above his head. He was quite young for the principal of a high school. Somewhere in his mid-30s, he had been principal since he was 25-year-old, and for a school as competitive as mine was, he seemed very good at handling the affairs of the institution.

"Alright, Miss Milner, you now have my full attention," he says, taking off his glasses and smiling to reveal an oddly perfect pair of white, long teeth. "How are you this morning?"

"I'm fine, Principal Paul," I answer courteously, silently wishing we could skip the small talk and cut to the chase.

"That's good. I'm sure you're wondering why you're here. I'll go straight to the point." He clears his throat, before continuing.

"Pasture Hill High School is a school that has strived to attain and maintain excellence over its 25 years of existence. I've been privileged to have the opportunity of continuing that legacy for about 10 years now. I have to look after my students and their well-being, especially their academic well-being." He pauses and walks toward the office dispenser to fetch a cup of water.

I adjust in my chair, attempting to feel comfortable. I can feel the tension build up in me as I wonder where this conversation is heading to.

I wasn't an honor student, but I struggled my way through making average grades. So, I don't understand why my academics will be a thing of concern right now.

"Your dad paid me a visit on Monday," he continued, breaking into my thoughts.

I do all I can to contain my shock at the news he just revealed.

"He's worried about your academic performance. Don't get me wrong, Kate, you're doing okay for an average student, but the kind of plans your dad has for you requires more effort than what you're already putting in. He wants the absolute best for you," he presses further, attempting to defend my dad's show of concern.

I roll my eyes almost too noticeably. My dad thinks this would make up for all the times he's been unavailable. Quite a jerk move. Knowing my dad, he doesn't show such concern without having some sort of plan in place.

"So, what exactly does he want me to do about it?" I ask, bracing myself for whatever comes next.

"He's proposing. He wants to get you a student tutor. He's giving you the rest of the semester to top off your grades or you might not be able to afford extracurricular activities," the principal says this like a judge reading out a final verdict.

My eyes almost popped out of their sockets at this point… That's not a proposal. It's a freaking ultimatum. I take a deep breath. I know better than to argue with my dad about this. It's a pointless fight.

"Okay…So, what student would I have to work with for the rest of the term?"

He pulls out a sheet of paper. "Well, I had two options in mind, but I understand that there's bad history between you and John Goldberg." I roll my eyes at the mention of that name.

"So, I'm down to one, and that's James Riverra. He's an honor student and has the same chemistry class as you. I'll make the arrangements, and I'm certain, he'd aid you to make the necessary improvements you need this term."

James. I know the kid, but I've never spoken to him before. I don't know if I should be happy or sad about this. However, I do know that this office is getting stuffier by the minute, and it's become incredibly difficult to breathe.

"Alright…" I managed to say. "...I guess I don't have much of a say in this."

"See it as a good opportunity, Miss Milner. I'll call you later during the day so I can properly introduce you to Mr. Riverra. Until then, have a nice day. I'll see you later."

"Thanks…" I mutter as I grab my bag and storm out of the office.

I catch a break in an empty hallway, and I gradually slide down the wall till I'm seated on the cold floor.

What a long morning! I look at my phone. It was almost 9:45 a.m. Chemistry class would already be over, and in all fairness, I didn't feel up to class at the moment.

I rest my head on my knees and try to picture, having James Riverra tutor me for the rest of the term.

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