Chapter Thirteen

After We Fell


chapter thirteen

 

TESSA

 

Molly.

    I pray that her presence here is a complete coincidence, but when Steph appears behind her, I sink back into the booth.

    “Hey, Tessa!” Steph says and sits across from me, scooting in close to the wall so her “friend” can sit next to her. Why would she invite me to have lunch with her and Molly?

    “Long time no see,” Molly the skank says to me.

    I don’t know what to say to either of them. I want to get up and walk out, but instead I half smile and just say, “Yeah.”

    “Have you ordered?” Steph asks, completely ignoring the fact that she brought with her my biggest—my

    “No.” I reach into my bag to pull out my phone.

    “No need to call Daddy, I’m not going to bite.” Molly smirks.

    “I wasn’t calling Hardin,” I tell her. I was actually going to text him; there’s a clear difference.

    “Sure you weren’t,” she replies, and laughs.

    “Stop,” Steph snaps. “You said you’d be nice, Molly.”

    “Why did you even come?” I ask the girl that I loathe more than anyone in the entire world.

    She shrugs. “I’m hungry,” she says matter-of-factly, clearly mocking my emotions.

    I grab my sweatshirt and move to get up. “I should just go.”

    “No, stay! Please, you’re moving, and I won’t see you again,” Steph says, pouting.

    “What?”

    “You’re leaving in a few days, aren’t you?”

    “Who told you that?”

    Molly and Steph look at each other before Steph answers. “Zed, I think; it doesn’t matter, though. I thought you’d tell me.”

    “I was going to; there was just a lot going on. I was going to tell you here . . .” I say, then look at Molly as if to explain my reluctance to continue.

    “I still wish you’d’ve told me. I was your first friend here.” Steph sticks out her bottom lip in a way that makes me feel bad but still seems a little comical, so I’m thankful when a server arrives to take our drink order.

    While Steph and Molly are ordering their sodas, I text Hardin. You’re probably passed out, but I’m at lunch with Steph, and she brought Molly :/ I hit send and look back up at the two girls.

    “So, are you excited to be leaving? What are you and Hardin going to do?” Steph asks.

    I shrug and look around the room. I’m not discussing my relationship in front of Satan’s daughter.

    “You can talk in front of me. Trust me, I’m not interested in your boring-ass life,” Molly scoffs, taking a sip of her water.

    “Trust you?” I laugh, and my phone vibrates.

    Come home. Hardin texts back.

    I don’t know what I expected him to say, but I’m disappointed in his advice, or lack of it.

    No, I’m hungry. I reply.

    “Look, you and Hardin are cute and all, but I don’t really give a shit about your relationship anymore,” Molly informs me. “I have my own relationship to worry about now.”

    “Great. Good for you.” I feel bad for whoever the idiot is.

    “Speaking of which, Molly, when are we going to meet this mystery man?” Steph asks her friend.

    Molly dismisses her with a flip of the hand. “I don’t know; not right now.”

    The waitress returns with our drinks and takes our orders. As soon as she leaves, Molly turns to me, her real prey. “Anyway, so how pissed at Zed are you that he’s planning to put Hardin in jail?” she asks, and I nearly spit out my water.

    The idea of Hardin going to jail sends ice through my veins.“I’m trying to stop that from happening.”

    “Good luck with that. Unless you plan on fucking Zed, there’s nothing you can do.” Again she smirks, tapping her neon-green fingernail on the table.

    “That’s not an option,” I growl.

    I’ve got something you can eat here. Really, though, come home before something happens and I can’t save you.

    Save From what? Molly and Steph? Steph is my friend, and I’ve already proved once before that I can take Molly, and I’d do it again in a heartbeat. She’s annoying and I can’t stand her, but I’m not afraid of her like I once was.

    I can tell by Hardin’s perverted message that he’s still intoxicated.

    I mean it, leave there, his next message says when I don’t reply.

    I shove my phone into my bag and direct my attention to the girls.

    “You’ve already done it before, so what’s the difference?” Molly says.

    “Excuse me?” I say.

    “I’m not judging you. I’ve fucked Hardin. Zed, too,” she reminds me.

    I’m so frustrated that I want to scream. “I didn’t sleep with Zed,” I say through my teeth.

    “Mm-hmm . . .” Molly says, and Steph glares at her.

    “Did someone say that—that I slept with Zed?” I ask them.

    “No,” Steph answers before Molly can speak. “And anyway, enough talk about Zed. I want to know about Seattle. Is Hardin coming, too?”

    “Yeah,” I lie. I don’t want to admit, especially in front of Molly, that Hardin refuses to join me in Seattle.

    “So neither of you will be here anymore? That will be so strange,” Steph says with a little frown.

    It’ll be strange to start over at a new campus after everything I’ve been through at WCU. That’s exactly what I need, though—a new start. This entire town is tainted with memories of betrayal and false friendships.

    “We should have a get-together this weekend—one last hurrah,” Steph says.

    I groan. “No, no parties.”

    “No, no, not a party, just our group.” She looks at me with something like pleading in her eyes. “Let’s be honest: we’ll probably never see each other again, and Hardin should hang out with his old friends at least one more time.”

    I hesitate and have to look away from her, glancing over at the bar area.

    Molly’s voice interrupts the silence. “I won’t be there, don’t worry.”

    I look back at them, and right then our food arrives.

    But I’ve lost my appetite. Are people really saying that I slept with Zed? Has Hardin heard this supposed rumor? Will Zed really put Hardin in jail? My head hurts.

    Steph eats a few fries, and before she finishes chewing she says, “Talk to Hardin and let me know. We could have it at someone’s apartment—Tristan and Nate’s, even. That way no random douche bags will show up.”

    “I can ask . . . I don’t know if he will or not.” My eyes move down to my screen. Three missed calls. One text: Answer your phone.

    I’m leaving after I eat, calm down. Drink some water, I respond and pick at my own fries a little.

    But the tension obviously gets to Molly, and she starts talking like a pot boiling over. “Well, he should like that idea—we were his friends long before you came along and ruined him.”

    “I didn’t ruin him.”

    “Yes, you did. He’s so different now—he doesn’t even call anybody anymore.”

    “His friends,” I scoff. “Nobody calls him either. The only one who even contacts him anymore is Nate.”

    “That’s because we know—” Molly begins.

    But Steph puts her hand in the air. “Enough; oh my God,” she groans, rubbing her temples.

    “I’m going to ask for a takeout box and go home. This was a bad idea,” I tell her. I don’t know what she was thinking bringing Molly here anyway; she could have at least warned me.

    Steph looks at me sympathetically. “I’m sorry, Tessa. I thought you guys could get along since she’s not trying to fuck with Hardin anymore.” Then she glares at Molly, who shrugs.

    “We are getting along—better than before,” Molly says.

    I want to smack that smug look off her face. But Steph’s ring tone interrupts my violent thoughts.

    A puzzled look crosses her face. Then she says, “It’s Hardin, he’s calling me,” and holds her phone up for me to see.

    “I haven’t been texting him back; I’ll call him in a minute,” I tell her, and she nods okay and ignores the call.

    “Jeez, stalker much?” Molly bites down on the end of a french fry.

    I bite my tongue and ask the server for a to-go box. I’ve barely touched my food, but I don’t want to cause a scene in the middle of a restaurant.

    “Please think about Saturday. We can even make it like a dinner thing instead of a party,” Steph offers. Then she gives me her best smile. “Please?”

    “I’ll see what I can do, but we’re going on a trip until Saturday morning.”

    She nods again agreeably. “You can choose the time.”

    “Thanks. I’ll let you know,” I tell her and pay my bill.

    I don’t like the idea, but in a way she’s right—we won’t ever see any of them again. Hardin’s going somewhere; maybe not Seattle, but he isn’t staying here now since his expulsion, and he probably should see his old friends one last time.

    “He’s calling again,” Steph tells me; she doesn’t bother trying to hide her amusement.

    “Tell him I’m on my way.” I stand up and head for the door.

    When I turn back around, Steph and Molly are talking, and Steph’s phone is resting on the table in front of them.