Chapter Eleven

After We Fell

chapter eleven




By the time I make it to my car, I already wish I’d have stayed in the bedroom with Hardin and his playful mood.

    But I have too much to do. I have to call the woman back about the apartment in Seattle, get a few things for the trip with Hardin’s family, and, most importantly, clear my head about Seattle. Hardin offering me marriage nearly swayed me, but I know he won’t mean it tomorrow. I’m trying desperately not to overthink his words and let them change my mind, but it’s much harder than I expected.

    I’ll marry you if you choose me.

    I was surprised—shocked, really—when the words were spoken. He seemed so calm, his voice so neutral, as if he were announcing what we were having for dinner. I know better, though; I know he’s getting desperate. The liquor and his desperation to keep me from moving to Seattle are the only reasons behind his offer. Even so, I can’t stop replaying the words in my mind. Pathetic, I know, but if I’m being honest, that mix of hopefulness and knowing better than to feel that way is how I feel.

    By the time I get to Target, I still haven’t called Sandra (I believe that’s her name) to discuss the apartment. It looks like a nice place from the pictures on the website. Not nearly as big as our current space, but it’s good enough, and I can afford to live there on my own. It doesn’t have bookshelves for walls or the exposed-brick wall that I have grown to love so much, but it’ll do.

    I’m ready for this, for Seattle. I’m ready to take this step for my future; I’ve been waiting for this since I can remember.

    I stroll through the store, daydreaming about Seattle and my situation, and soon I find my basket full of random things, none of which I actually need for the trip. Tablets for the dishwasher, toothpaste, a new dustpan. Why am I buying this if I’m moving anyway? I put the dustpan back, along with some colorful socks I tossed in there for no apparent reason. If Hardin doesn’t come along, I’ll need to start over and buy all new dishes, all new everything. It’s a huge relief that the apartment comes furnished, since that crosses out at least a dozen things from my to-do list.

    After Target, I’m not really sure what to do with myself. I don’t want to return to the apartment with Hardin and my father, but I don’t have anywhere else to go. I’m going to be spending three days with Landon, Ken, and Karen, so I don’t want to drive to their house and bother them. I really need friends. Or one friend, at least. I could call Kimberly, but she’s probably busy planning her own move. Lucky girl. It’s Christian’s company that’s taking her to Seattle, granted, but I can tell by the way he looks at her that he’d follow her anywhere.

    While scrolling through my phone to call Sandra, I almost tap Steph’s name.

    I wonder what she’s doing. Hardin would probably lose his mind if I called her to hang out. Then again, he’s in no position to tell me what to do, being completely belligerent and wasted in the middle of the day.

    I’m calling her, I decide. And she answers quickly.

    “Tessa! What’re you up to?” she says loudly, trying to talk over the voices in the background.

    “Nothing. I’m sitting in the parking lot at Target.”

    “Oh, fun shit, then?” She laughs.

    “Not really. What are you doing?”

    “Nothing; going to lunch with my friend.”

    “Oh, okay. Well, call me later or something,” I say.

    “You can meet us there if you want; it’s just the Applebee’s right off campus.”

    Applebee’s reminds me of Zed, but the food was incredible and I haven’t eaten yet today.

    “Okay, I’ll come if you’re sure that’s okay?” I ask.

    I hear a car door shut in the background. “Yes! Get your ass over here. We’ll be there in about fifteen minutes or so.”

    I call Sandra on my way back toward campus and leave her a voicemail. I can’t ignore the relief that I feel when her voicemail picks up instead of her actual voice, but I’m not really sure what that’s about.

    Applebee’s is really crowded by the time I arrive, and I don’t see Steph as I scan the room for bright crimson hair, so I put my name in with the hostess.

    “How many?” The hostess asks me with a friendly smile.

    “Three, I think?” Steph said she was with her friend, so I assume she meant only one person.

    “Well, I’ve got a booth available now, so let me give it to you just in case.” The girl smiles and grabs four menus from the stand behind her.

    I follow her to the booth toward the back of the restaurant and wait for Steph to arrive. I check my phone for any correspondence from Hardin, but there’s none; he’s probably passed out by now. When I look back up, my adrenaline immediately spikes at the sight of flaming-pink hair.