Chapter Fifty

After We Fell


chapter fifty

 

TESSA

 

Landon opens the door, rubbing his eyes. He’s half dressed, wearing only plaid pants, no shirt or socks.

    “Can I sleep in here?” I ask him, and he nods drowsily, not asking any questions. “I’m sorry for waking you up,” I whisper to him.

    “It’s okay,” he mumbles, and stumbles back to the bed. “Here, you can have this one, the other is flat.” He pushes a fluffy white pillow against my chest.

    I smile, hugging the pillow close and sitting on the edge of the bed. “This is why I love you. Well, not the only reason, but one of them.”

    “Because I gave you the best pillow?” His smile is even more adorable when laced with sleep.

    “No, because you’re always here for me . . . and you have soft pillows.” My voice is so slow when I’m drunk . . . it’s odd.

    Landon lies back on the bed and moves his body over so that there’s plenty of room for me on the other side. “Is he going to come in here after you?” he asks quietly.

    “I don’t think so.” The moment of humor that came with Landon and his soft pillows has been replaced by the ache of Hardin and the words we exchanged moments ago.

    I lie down on my side and look over at Landon lying next to me. “Remember when you said he isn’t a lost cause?” I whisper.

    “Yeah.”

    “Do you really believe that?”

    “Yeah, I do.” He pauses. “Unless he did something else . . .”

    “No, well . . . nothing new, really. I just . . . I don’t know if I can do it anymore. We keep moving backward, and we shouldn’t be. Every single time I think we’re making progress, he becomes that same Hardin I met six months ago. He calls me a selfish bitch, or basically tells me he doesn’t love me—and I know he doesn’t mean the words, but every syllable crushes me a little more than the last, and I think I’m starting to understand that this really is just the way he is. He can’t help it, but he can’t change it either.”

    Landon watches me with thoughtful eyes before his mouth turns to a frown. “He called you a bitch? Tonight?”

    I nod, and he sighs heavily, running his hand over his face.

    “I was saying hurtful things to him, too.” I hiccup. The heavy combination of wine and whiskey is going to haunt me tomorrow, I know it.

    “He shouldn’t call you out of your name—he’s a man and you’re a woman. It’s never okay, Tessa. Please don’t make excuses for him.”

    “I’m not . . . I just . . .” But that’s exactly what I’m doing. I sigh. “I think this is all about Seattle. He went from getting a tattoo for me and telling me that he can’t live without me to telling me he only chases me because I fuck him. Oh my gosh! I’m sorry, Landon!” I cover my face with my hands. I cannot believe I just said that in front of him.

    “It’s okay—you did just fish your underwear out of the hot tub, remember?” He grins, lightening the conversation, and I hope that the relative darkness of the room at least hides my blushing.

    “This trip has been a disaster.” I shake my head, pressing it against the cool pillow.

    “Maybe not; maybe this is what you two needed.”

    “To break up?”

    “No . . . is that what happened?” He lays another pillow next to me.

    “I don’t know.” I bury my face further.

    “Is that what you want?” he asks delicately.

    “No, but it’s what I should want. It’s not fair to either of us to keep doing this day in and day out. I’m not innocent here either—I always expect too much from him.” My mother’s flaws have been passed down to me. She expects too much from everyone, too.

    Landon shifts a little. “There isn’t anything wrong with expecting things from him, especially when the things that you expect from him are reasonable,” he replies. “He has to see what he has. You’re the best thing that’s ever happened to him; he needs to remember that.”

    “He said that it’s my fault . . . that he is the way he is. All I want is for him to be kind to me at least half the time, and I want security in our relationship, that’s all. It’s pathetic, really.” I groan, my voice breaks, and I can still taste the whiskey laced with Hardin’s mint on my tongue. “Would you go to Seattle if you were me? I can’t help but think I should just call it off and stay here, or go with him to England. If he’s acting like this because I’m going to Seattle, maybe I should—”

    “You can’t not go,” Landon interrupts. “You’ve been gushing over Seattle since the day I met you. If Hardin won’t go with you, then that’s his loss. Besides, I give him a week of you being gone before he shows up at your doorstep. You can’t give in on this; he has to know that you’re serious this time. You have to let him miss you.”

    I smile while envisioning Hardin showing up a week after I leave, desperately begging for my forgiveness with lilies in his hand. “I don’t even have a doorstep for him to show up on.”

    “That was him, wasn’t it? The reason that woman wasn’t calling you back?”

    “Yeah.”

    “I knew it. Realtors don’t just not return calls. You have to go. Ken will help you find somewhere to stay until you find a permanent place.”

    “What if he doesn’t come after all? And worse, what if he does come but he’s even more angry because he hates it there?”

    “Tessa, I’m only saying this because I care about you, okay?” He waits for my response, and I nod. “You’d have to be insane to give up Seattle for someone who loves you more than anything but is only willing to show it half of the time.”

    I think about Hardin saying that I make all the mistakes, that I make him act the way he does. “Do you think he’d be better off without me?” I ask Landon.

    He sits up a little and says, “No, heck no! But seeing as I know you don’t tell me even half of the messed-up things he says to you, maybe it really isn’t going to work.” Reaching across the empty space between us, his hand touches my arm and he rubs slowly.

    Using the alcohol in my veins as an excuse, I grant myself permission to ignore the fact that Landon, one of the only people who actually had faith in my relationship with Hardin, has just thrown in the towel. “I’m going to feel like hell tomorrow,” I say to change the subject before I break the promise that I made with myself not to cry.

    “Yeah, you are,” he teases. “You smell like a liquor cabinet.”

    “I met Lillian’s girlfriend. She kept giving me shots. Oh, and I danced on a bar.”

    He gasps gleefully. “You didn’t.”

    “I did. It was so embarrassing. It was Riley’s idea.”

    “She’s . . . interesting.” Landon smiles and seems to notice his fingertips still running over my skin. He pulls them away and tucks his arm under his head.

    “She’s the female version of Hardin.” I laugh.

    “She is! No wonder she sounds so annoying!” he teases, and in a moment of drunken insanity, I glance over to the door, expecting to see Hardin there with a deep scowl after hearing Landon’s playful insult.

    “You make me forget about everything.” My mouth releases the words before my mind can catch up.

    “I’m glad.” My best friend smiles and grabs the blanket at the foot of the bed. He pulls it up over both of our bodies, and I close my eyes.

    Minutes pass in silence, and my mind is putting up a fight as sleep tries to pull me under. Landon’s breathing slows, and I have to keep my eyes closed and pretend that it’s Hardin breathing next to me or my mind will never surrender.

    Hardin’s angry scowl and harsh words float through my hazy thoughts as I finally fall asleep: You’re a selfish bitch.

 

“NO!”

    Hardin’s voice startles me awake. It takes a moment to remember that I’m in Landon’s room and Hardin is down the hall, alone.

    “Get off of her!” His voice echoes down the hallway seconds later.

    I’m out of bed and at the door before he even finishes the sentence.

    He has to see what he has. He has to know that you’re serious this time. You have to let him miss

    If I go rushing into that room, I know I’ll forgive everything. I’ll see him feeling vulnerable and afraid, and I’ll say whatever he needs to hear to comfort him.

    I pick my heart up off of the floor and walk back to the bed. I place the pillow over my head just as another “No!” rips through the cabin.

    “Tessa . . . are you . . .” Landon whispers.

    “No,” I reply, my voice cracking at the end. I bite down on the pillow and break my own promise. I begin to cry. Not for myself. The tears are for Hardin, for the boy who doesn’t know how to treat the people that he cares about, the boy who has nightmares when I’m not in bed with him, but who tells me that he doesn’t love me. The boy who really does need to be reminded how it feels to be alone.