Chapter Twenty-Nine

After We Fell

chapter twenty-nine




I’m growing more and more sick of seeing nothing but gravel and trees while roaming around this small town. The strange girl is still following behind me, and my fight with Tess is still weighing down on me.

    “Are you going to follow me around this entire town?” I ask the pestering girl.

    “No, I’m going back to my parents’ cabin.”

    “Well, go to their cabin alone.”

    “You aren’t very polite,” she hums.

    “Really?” I roll my eyes even though she can’t see my face. “I’ve been told civility is one of my strongest attributes.”

    “Someone lied to you,” she says and giggles behind me.

    I kick at a rock, for once glad for Tessa’s cleanliness, since if she hadn’t made me take my shoes off at the door of the cabin, I’d be stuck wearing Landon’s sneakers. Not a good look. Plus, I’m almost certain his feet are much smaller than mine.

    “So where are you from?” she asks.

    I ignore her and continue on my trek. I think I’m supposed to turn left at the next stop sign. I sure as hell hope so.


    “Yup,” I say. Then figure I might as well ask. “Which way?”

    I turn and see her point to the right. Of course, I was wrong.

    Her eyes are an icy blue, and her skirt drags across the gravel below her feet. She reminds me of Tessa . . . well, the Tessa I was first introduced to. My Tessa no longer wears hideous things like that. She has also learned a new vocabulary; all credit for that goes to me for making her cuss my ass out on a wide range of occasions.

    “Are you here with your parents, too?” Her voice is low, sweet even.

    “No . . . Well, sort of.”

    “They are sort of your parents?” She smiles; her use of “they are” instead of the contraction “they’re” reminds me of Tess, too.

    I look over to the girl again to make sure she’s actually there and this isn’t some freaky Christmas shit where she’s an apparition that has come to teach me some sort of lesson.

    “They’re my family, and my girlfriend. I have a girlfriend, by the way,” I warn her. I don’t see this girl being interested in someone like me, but then again I once thought the same about Tessa.

    “Okay . . .” she says,

    “Okay.” I pick up my pace, wanting to create some space between us. I turn right, and she does, too. Both of us move onto the grass as a truck passes us by, and she catches up again.

    “Where is she, then? Your girlfriend?” she asks.

    “Sleeping.” It makes sense to use the same lie I told my father and Karen.

    “Hmm . . .”

    “Hmm, what?” I look at her.

    “Nothing.” She stares forward.

    “You’ve already followed me halfway back. If you have something to say, then say it,” I say irritably.

    She twists something in her hands, looking down. “I was just thinking that you seem like you’re trying to escape from something or hide . . . I don’t know, never mind.”

    “I’m not hiding; she told me to get the fuck out, so I did.” What the hell does this wannabe Tessa know anyway?

    She looks up at me. “Why did she kick you out?”

    “Are you always this nosy?”

    She smiles. “Yeah, I am,” she says with a nod.

    “I hate nosy people.”

    Except Tessa, of course. No matter how much I love her, sometimes I want to tape her mouth shut following one of her interrogations. She’s literally the most intrusive human being I’ve ever met.

    I’m lying, really. I love her pestering behavior; I used to hate it, but I get it now. I want to know all about her, too . . . what she’s thinking, what she’s doing, what she wants. I realize, to my fucking horror, that I ask more questions now than she does.

    “So, are you going to tell me?” the girl presses.

    “What’s your name?” I ask her, avoiding her question.

    “Lillian,” she says and drops whatever was in her hand.

    “I’m Hardin.”

    She tucks her hair behind her ear. “Tell me about your girlfriend.”


    “It seems like you’re upset, and who better to talk to than a stranger?”

    I don’t want to talk to her; she’s eerily similar to Tessa, and it’s making me uneasy. “I don’t think it’s a good idea.”

    The sun has disappeared early here, and the sky is nearly black.

    “And keeping it in is?” she asks sensibly. Too sensibly.

    “Look, you seem . . . nice and all, but I don’t know you and you don’t know me, so this conversation isn’t going to happen.”

    She frowns. Then sighs. “Fine.”

    Finally, I can see the familiar sloped roof of my father’s cabin in the distance. “Well, this is me,” I say by way of dismissing myself.

    “Really? Wait . . . your dad is Ken, isn’t he?” She slaps her small hand against her forehead.

    “Yeah?” I say, surprised.

    We both stop walking at the end of the driveway. “I’m an idiot, of course! With the accents, how did I not think of it earlier.” She laughs.

    “I don’t get it.” I look down at her.

    “Your dad and my dad are friends, they went to college together or something. I just spent the last hour listening to them tell stories of their glory days.”

    “Oh, that’s ironic.” I half smile. I don’t feel as uncomfortable around the girl as I did a few minutes ago.

    She smiles brightly. “So really we aren’t strangers after all.”