tagFirst TimeBecoming Gem Ch. 01: Confidence

Becoming Gem Ch. 01: Confidence

byLadyMireille©

This is the first chapter of a multi-part story. Hope you enjoy.

~Mireille

*****

BECOMING GEM

Chapter 1: Confidence

The sky glowed pink and orange above the horizon, where the dark water met the sky and the sun had sunk nearly fifteen minutes before. The fiery sky reflected on the shiny black bay, giving an appearance of liquid gold, rippling while the wind blew across the water. Gentle waves crashed to the shore a short distance from where I walked in the dry sand. It was such a beautiful sight that you would think it would uplift the souls of those who witnessed it. Yet, my mood was melancholy and anyone who could see auras would surely say mine was gray.

I sighed deeply, kicking at the dry sand that was sifting through my toes while I walked barefoot on the beach. Behind me, I could hear the laughter from the partygoers in the distance while they celebrated the end of summer before many of us went off to college for the first time. In fact, the next day, my journey would begin. Just a seven-hour car ride to the university I had chosen.

I wasn't sure why I'd let my friend Sarah talk me into coming to the party. It's not that I was anti-social. I just wasn't one of those people. All the girls in their bikinis with their beach-babe, shiny, wavy hair, and the guys with their shirts off and their rippled muscles.

Then there was me... the chubby girl with unruly light-auburn hair that frizzed in the humidity. I didn't fit in, wearing my cutoff jeans and baggy shirt to hide my paunchy belly. My hair was pulled back, and I'm pretty sure I looked like a Pomeranian who'd been shocked by lightning. Not to mention that the sun was down, the bonfire was lit, and most of my former classmates were pairing off. Let the making-out, groping, and who-knows-what-else begin. *sigh*

I wanted to get out of there before it became glaringly obvious that I was a 3rd wheel, but Sarah had driven, so I wasn't sure how to get the hell out of dodge without making her leave, too. She was clearly having a good time, I noted, watching her fling her arms around Mark, the guy she'd been dying to kiss all year. I sat down on a piece of driftwood, probably 200 yards from the bonfire, bitterly watching the giggling and chasing foreplay of my peers.

Glancing around, I realized I was searching for one person in particular. Josh. He'd been one of my best friends since grade school, and he lived only a few houses down the street from me. My stomach flip-flopped when my eyes landed on him. He was standing toward the outside of the large group with a few of the guys, joking and laughing. His light blue cotton shirt hung open to reveal his subtly defined abs and he dragged his fingers through his hair in that sexy gesture that came natural to him.

My stomach flipped again. Damn it! I have tried over and over again to talk myself out of liking him. But no matter how many times I told myself to forget about it, he still had that damned effect on me.

We were friends. It was silly to think he would ever see me as anything more. He kidded with me like I was one of the guys. And let's face it...he would never be with me when so many other girls were always chasing him. He had a perpetual girlfriend. Whenever one relationship ended, there was always another girl there to pick up the pieces.

The trouble was that I could never get away from him long enough to squash my feelings for him. We were often at each other's houses either studying or watching movies on the weekend, and every time we were together, it just fueled those feelings.

My stomach clenched and my heart pounded just at the sight of him, and worse yet, the flush that would crawl across my cheeks and up my ears. With my pale alabaster skin, it was impossible not to notice it. Oh, the number of times I have been asked if I didn't feel well. *insert eye roll*

Let's not forget when I could smell him... It was a mixture of sandalwood and spice, mixed with, well... I can't explain it. It was just—him. His unique essence. Well, let's just say that other things happened to me.

Anyway...

While I was admiring him from afar, he turned my way, tilted his head, smiled, and put his hand up in a wave. Where was a rock I could crawl under? I mean, was it that obvious that I was staring at him?! My lord.

Just then, a blonde, beach-babe from our graduating class, Shelley—I think, grabbed hold of Josh's upper arm from behind and whirled herself around to his front, pressing her scantily clad breasts into his chest. He raised his own hand to rest on her upper arm, smiling warmly at her, and then, she grabbed the back of his neck and kissed him.

I promptly looked away when my cheeks flamed and a feeling of nausea washed over me. I had no right to be jealous—angry, yet I was.

My eyes glossing over with tears, I got up off the driftwood log and continued walking farther away from the bonfire while a few tears leaked down my cheeks. I was feeling sorry for myself. Again. And I admit—wishing I was her. In that moment, I felt something inside me snap.

Ya know what? I'd had enough. Enough feeling sorry for myself, wallowing in self-pity. Enough of not liking who I saw in the mirror. Enough of the self-loathing. That moment, I felt fury in my gut. And while I stood there on the beach that night, I vowed to myself that I was going to change.

My thoughts were interrupted by a familiar, silky voice calling my name from behind me.

"Gem!"

My full name is Gemima, which was what all my teachers called me. My mom and most of my friends called me Mimi, which made me feel like a little kid. But Josh had always called me Gem, and I rather liked it.

I glanced back to see Josh trotting toward me, the light from the bonfire creating a glow on the golden tips of his sandy-blond hair while he approached me in the twilight. As usual, my heart was slamming in my chest and my stomach felt like a fish out of water was flapping around in there. I quickly turned away, hastily rubbing at my face to wipe away the evidence of my tears, and putting my hands down just when Josh arrived at my side and fell in step with my slow gait.

"Hey," he offered cheerfully, with slightly labored breathing from his short jog.

I wasn't really in the talking mood, not to mention that I was feeling unfairly hostile from seeing him with Shelley. So, I said nothing, folding my arms across my chest and kept walking.

"Where ya goin'?"

"Nowhere," I mumbled, barely moving my lips.

"What's going on, Gem?" Swiftly stepping in front of me, Josh put his hand on my upper arm, concern etching his brow.

His motions were so abrupt that, even at my leisurely pace, I bumped into him.

"Geez, Josh!" I said with annoyance, my arms still folded, my gaze downward.

He cocked his head to make eye contact with me, but I tucked my chin further. Hooking his index finger under my chin, he beckoned me to look at him. I tried not to, but something compelled me to submit to his request, and I slowly raised my chin, and then my eyes, to meet his.

His pupils were large in the waning twilight, but his blue eyes still shone brightly while he studied my own blue eyes with concern. "Have you been crying?"

"P-sh!" I uttered in denial while shaking my head, but I must not have been convincing.

"Why?"

Seriously? How could he not see it? How much a part of the group I was not? Not to mention that me being over there by myself sure made it obvious that I wasn't included in the pairing-up.

"I just want to go home. This isn't me. I don't fit in here, Josh."

He made some sort of aghast sound as he shook his head, "What? Why? It's just our classmates."

I raised my eyebrows at him in disbelief, "No, Josh. It's all the beautiful people, and they are clearly all pairing up, and no one will miss me if I'm gone, anyway." Walking around him, I continued on my way.

"I would."

barely heard him mumble—but I did—and a jolt struck my chest. What? What does that mean? He'd miss me if I left? As if! I mean—with everyone pairing up, what was he doing wasting his time with me, when he should be with Shelley or one of the other girls dying to get their hands on him? Yeah, I was leaving the next day. But c'mon. I wasn't going to stick around on my last night in town and humiliate myself. I got angry. Whirling around, anger flashing in my eyes, fresh tears spilling over, I stomped the few paces back to where he stood.

Josh was watching me with his hands in the pockets of his khaki shorts. I pushed on his chest, setting him off balance momentarily, his mouth dropping open in shock.

Venomously, I spat at him, "That's ridiculous, Josh! Why'd you come over here anyway? Just go back to your pretty, blonde, beach-babe or any one of those other girls. You can have your pick, I'm sure!"

I turned with the intention of storming off, but Josh grabbed my upper arm forcefully and yanked me back so I was standing in front of him. It was my turn to gape while he glared at me. "I don't want any of those other girls, Gem," he scoffed. "I came over here to talk to you."

Confused, my eyebrows furrowed, tears still slipping down my now-flushed cheeks, "Why? I don't get it." I huffed.

His voice rang with bitter sarcasm and he replied, "Of course not. You're too busy hating on yourself."

I huffed an angry breath out, but couldn't find the words to say, and I stared at him in disbelief and awe.

After what felt like a solid minute, Josh glanced down and mumbled, almost to himself, "I don't know what else I can do..." After a pause, his eyes bore into mine and he muttered, "Maybe this."

His one hand still clutching my arm, the other cupped the back of my head, and Josh pulled me to him, closing the distance between our bodies. Our lips met in a rather heated, forceful kiss.

So many things were racing through my mind all at once. I was in shock. What was going on? His forcefulness was intimidating, yet at the same time, I could feel my whole body react when he kissed me. It was like electricity shooting through my every vein, a warmth I'd never felt spread from the tip of my head to the tips of my fingers and toes, with a ball of fire knotting deep inside me. I thought I should break away. What in the hell was he doing? But I couldn't. My hunger for him was too great.

Then, I was lost. All the desire I'd been trying so hard to suppress came bubbling to the surface, and I found myself kissing him back with equal fervor.

As if acting on instinct alone, I found my hands inside his shirt, sliding up, caressing the sides of his lightly defined abs. Our kissing deepened, our mouths parted, and his tongue lashed out, seeking its playmate. While our tongues intertwined intimately, I heard a moan. With my brain in such a daze, it took a few seconds to realize it was my own.

With his one hand still firmly planted in my hair, his other was slinking down my back until it was spread out over one of my ass cheeks.

Breathing heavily, I pulled my lips from his to breath. My eyes closed and my head rolled to one side. Josh's lips landed on my throat. He kissed, licked and nipped his way down to my collar bone, where he suckled in the hollow spot at the base of my neck. I bit my lip to suppress the moan that threatened to erupt from the depths of my soul. Oh hell, how I'd dreamed of this!

Josh's hand on my ass slid down until his fingers were nearly between my thighs from behind. His fingers stroking while they pressed into the fabric of my cutoff jeans. The friction of the fabric rubbing on the tender folds of my sensitive skin sent a heat wave straight to my core. I gasped at the intense arousal, but also from the shock of being touched there... which brought me crashing back to reality.

My head snapped up and I pushed on him in an attempt to break away, but he had me in his grasp, his hands in my hair and on my ass.

His face twisted into surprise and concern while he scrutinized me, "What's wrong?"

"I—," was all I managed because I wasn't even sure what I wanted to say. I had let my emotions and desire run wild, and my brain hadn't had time to catch up and process. Tears started blurring my vision and the twisting in my stomach made me feel like I was going to be sick. I couldn't breathe! I felt like I was suffocating, and I had to get away! Sobbing, tears flowing down my flushed, round cheeks, I twisted in his arms and shoved him. Hard.

Josh lost his balance and let go of his grasp on me, falling backwards, landing on his butt in the sand.

I ran.

"Gem, wait!" he called after me.

But my head was reeling, and I kept running. I didn't know up from down. I couldn't piece together what had just happened and what it all meant.

I ran back to the bonfire, sand flying in my wake. Grateful to find Sarah straight away, I grabbed her by the wrist, and pulled her toward the parked cars.

Sarah protested, "Mimi, what are you doing? What's going on?"

I turned to her and she saw my tears, her mouth dropping open, her eyes changing from annoyed to concerned, "What happened? Are you okay?"

"Yes, yes, I'm fine. Just please. I want to go home," I pleaded.

"Okay," Sarah said without skipping a beat, "But are you hurt?" she asked, like a good friend.

"No, no. I just really want to go. Please!" I begged.

And with that, we headed toward her car. I scooped my sandals up off the sand where I'd left them near her car, and then we were on the way.

*****

After Sarah dropped me off, I took a shower to try to wash all the emotions away. Leaning against the shower wall, the water running over my body, I thought about what had occurred. I was upset, angry, confused, and hurt. Upset—that I'd gotten caught up in the emotion. Angry—myself for freaking out and running off. Angry—at Josh for kissing me like that. Confused—because I didn't know why or what it meant. Was he just looking for a final summer hook-up and I was an easy target? Angry again—at myself because if I hadn't run off maybe I would have an answer, even if it wasn't what I wanted to hear. Or... Was it possible that Josh had feelings for me? I couldn't really believe it.

I have no idea how long I was in the shower, but when the water started to run cold, I got out and dried off. While I lay down in my bed, exhaustion quickly took over, and I succumbed to sleep.

*****

The next morning, college-bound, I was pensive while I sat in the back seat of my parents' red minivan. My parents were in the front and my younger sister, Genevieve, whom we all called Eve, was in the bucket seat next to me with her earphones in, listening to her iPod.

I was still struggling with my emotions from the night before. I couldn't deny that I was disappointed that I hadn't heard from Josh. And when he didn't show up this morning to see me off, like he'd promised.

Digging my phone out of my pocket, I checked my messages again. Nothing. We'd been friends for so long and I couldn't believe he was just going to leave it like this. I tried to deny how much it hurt, but the sharp pain in my chest proved that it meant more to me than I wanted to let myself believe. His silence only furthered my conviction that he'd just been looking for the last hook-up of the summer. Squeezing my eyes closed, I focused on my breathing, willing myself not to cry.

Sitting there with my eyes closed in the backseat of my parents' minivan, I recalled the promise I'd made to myself on the beach. The trip to my university was going to take seven hours. So, I decided it was the perfect time to start planning my new life.

I was excited! It was the perfect opportunity to change. The variety of food at the university would make it easier to change my eating habits. I would also have access to a gym, something that I'd never had before. I had always been self-conscious about people seeing me in workout clothing. Why were they so form-fitting anyway? But I decided consciously not to care anymore. No one would know me anyway. I vowed that I would go to the gym every day. Last on my list was my tangled mess of hair. Something had to be done about it, for sure!

*****

When I arrived on campus, I quickly put my plan into action. I was eating healthier and going to the gym twice a day. I was determined to make my new lifestyle work (not to mention that I knew the weight would come off faster the harder I worked).

At that time, I also decided I needed to feel like a new person to match my new lifestyle, so I decided to change the name I was going by. I'd never like Gemima or Mimi, but I'd always been fond of Josh's nickname for me. So, I adopted it, and I started introducing myself as Gem. In my head, I envisioned 'Gem' as being a polished and poised woman whose self-confidence would turn heads in a room full of people. And I couldn't help but hope to become her.

While the semester progressed, I surprised myself with the amount of determination and commitment. I had more energy and the weight was coming off easier than I had imagined.

It also turned out that I lucked out in the roommate department. Morgan Stanton was already fit, and she worked out and ran every day. She joined me at the gym, and taught me some things about metabolism and how to maximize calorie burning.

Morgan was this gorgeous creature. Her dark-blonde curls, that fell below her shoulders, were perfectly shaped and never frizzed, and her makeup seemed natural and flawless on her pale skin. Morgan was smart and funny, and she didn't have a mean bone in her body. She was so kind about my untamed mess and gushed about how she loved the color of my hair. We decided to cut several inches off my hair, so it fell in the middle of my shoulder blades, and she helped me find products to tame and define my natural wavy curls.

*****

Time flew, and before I knew it, it was winter break! In just one semester, I couldn't believe the transformation in myself. Granted, I was still 20 pounds over the 'ideal' weight for my 5'7" frame, but I had already lost 40 pounds and my muscles were beginning to tone and show some definition, thanks to Morgan introducing me to weights. My mood improved, I smiled more, and I had more confidence. Best of all, I was feeling better about myself, and I knew that it showed even in the way I walked. It didn't hurt that I had noticed I was starting to earn some eyebrow raises and wandering eyes at the gym or the few parties that I attended.

My last final was on Friday, and my parents arrived in the afternoon and had taken Morgan and I out to dinner. Claiming exhaustion, they went back to their hotel room, but not before making plans to meet the next morning at my dorm at 9 AM. Then, Morgan and I decided to go to our last party of the semester, at an off-campus apartment. I won't bore you with the details. It was uneventful, and we were back at our dorm room by midnight.

Saturday morning, Morgan left with a few of our floormates to get breakfast at the on-campus diner. I was in a big hurry to get my packing done before my parents arrived, so I bailed. My phone chimed, indicating that I had a message. It startled me because I was so intensely focused on packing. I hoped it wasn't my parents telling me they were there already from their hotel. I knew they wanted to get an early start because it was a seven-hour car ride, but we had agreed on 9 AM for our departure, and it was only 8:30 AM.

Picking up my phone, I glanced at the screen. I swear, my heart completely stopped beating for a few seconds when I saw that it was from Josh. What the hell? I thought about not opening the message, but I was too curious. What did he want and why had he contacted me out of the blue and after all this time. Anger and sadness surfaced. We used to see each other every day. Sometimes we would to text late into the night. And for him to just drop me for months...

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