Chapter Thirty-Six

After We Fell

chapter thirty-six




I stare into the long mirror and ask Landon, “Are you sure this looks okay?”

    “Yes, it’s fine,” he says with a smile. “Can we try to remember that I’m a guy, though?”

    I sigh, then chuckle. “I know. I’m sorry. It’s not my fault you’re my only friend.”

    The dark sparkly dress feels odd against my skin; the material is hard, and the small beads scratch me a little when I move. The small clothing boutique in town didn’t have much to choose from, and I surely wasn’t going to pick the hot-pink dress made entirely of tulle. I need something to wear to this dreaded dinner tonight, and Hardin’s suggestion that I wear jeans isn’t going to work.

    “Do you think he’ll even come back before it’s time to leave?” I ask Landon.

    Hardin took off, as always, after our fight and hasn’t been back since. He hasn’t called or texted either. He’s probably with the mystery girl with whom he loves to discuss our problems. You know, the girl he can talk to better than he can talk to his own girlfriend. In his anger, I wouldn’t be surprised if he did something with her to spite me.

    No . . . he wouldn’t.

    “I don’t know, honestly,” Landon says. “I hope he does. My mom will be disappointed if he doesn’t.”

    “Yeah.” I push another pin into my bun and grab my mascara off of the bathroom counter.

    “He’ll come around, he’s just stubborn.”

    “I don’t know if we will, though.” I sweep the small brush across my lashes. “I’m reaching my breaking point, I can feel it. You know what I felt last night when he told me he was with another girl?”

    “What?” He stares blankly at me.

    “I think this is just the end of the turbulent love story.” I try to make a joke, but it falls flat.

    “It’s weird hearing you say that, you of all people,” he says. “How are you feeling?”

    “A little angry, but that’s it. It’s like I’m numb to it now, to all of it. I just don’t have it in me to keep doing this over and over. I’m beginning to think he’s a lost cause, and that breaks my heart,” I say, forbidding myself from crying.

    “Nobody’s a lost cause. They just think they are, so they don’t even bother to try sometimes.”

    “Are you guys ready?” Karen’s voice calls from the living room, and Landon assures her that we’ll be down any minute. I slide on my new pair of black heels with straps at the ankles. Unfortunately, they’re as uncomfortable as they look. It’s times like this that I miss wearing Toms every day.

    Hardin still hasn’t returned by the time we pile into the car. “We can’t wait any longer,” Ken says through a disappointed frown.

    “It’s fine, we can bring him something back,” Karen sweetly offers, knowing that’s not the solution but trying her best to calm her husband’s irritation.

    Landon looks over at me, and I offer a smile to assure him that I’m fine. He tries to distract me the whole drive talking about various students we know, making little jokes about how they are in class. Especially some of the ones in the religion course.

    As Ken pulls up to our destination, I see that the restaurant is exquisite. The building is a massive log cabin, big enough to be a lodge, and the inside contradicts the woodsy feel of the exterior. It’s modern and sleek, black and white everywhere, with gray accents along the walls and floor. The lighting is right on the verge of being too dark, but it adds to the atmosphere. Unexpectedly, my dress is the brightest thing in the room; when the light hits the glittering beads, they shine like diamonds in the dark, which everyone seems to notice.

    “Scott,” I hear Ken tell the beautiful woman behind the rostrum.

    “The rest of your party is already here.” She smiles, her perfect teeth white nearly to the point of blinding.

    “Party?” I turn to Landon, and he shrugs.

    We follow the woman to a table in the corner of the room. I hate the way everyone seems to be staring at me because of this dress. I should have gone with the hot-pink monstrosity; it would have attracted less attention. A middle-aged man knocks over his drink as we walk by, and Landon pulls me closer to his side as we pass the creep. The dress isn’t inappropriate; it rests just above my knees. The problem is that it was made for someone with a much smaller bust than me, causing the built-in bra to act as a push-up, giving me maximum cleavage.

    “It’s about time you joined us,” an unfamiliar male voice says, and I peer around Karen to look for the source.

    A man, who I assume is Ken’s friend, stands to shake his hand. My eyes move to his right, where his wife is smiling, greeting Karen. Next to her is a young girl, I sense on instinct—and my stomach drops. She’s beautiful, extremely beautiful.

    And she’s wearing the exact same dress as I am.

    Of course.

    I can see the bright blue of her eyes from here, and when she smiles at me, she’s even more beautiful. I’m so distracted by my growing jealousy that I almost fail to notice that Hardin is sitting right next to her, dressed in a white button-down shirt.