Chapter Sixty-Five

After We Fell

chapter sixty-five




Watching the clock change from minute to minute is slowly murdering me. I’d rather pull my hair out piece by piece than sit here and wait in this goddamned driveway until five. I don’t see Tessa’s mum’s car. There are no cars in the driveway except Tessa’s, which I’m sitting in. Landon has parked on the street, having followed me here so I get a lift back. Luckily he cares about Tessa’s well-being more than anyone except me, so it didn’t take any convincing.

    “Go knock on the door, or I will,” he threatens through the phone.

    “I’m going to! Fuck, give me a second. I don’t know if anyone’s here.”

    “Well, if not, leave the keys in the mailbox, and we’ll go.” That’s exactly why I haven’t done that already—I want her to be inside. I have to know that she’s okay.

    “I’m going up now,” I say and hang up on my obnoxious stepbrother.

    The seventeen steps up to her mum’s front door are the worst of my life. I knock on the outer screen door, but I’m not sure if it was loud enough. Fuck it. I knock again, this time much harder. Too hard, too hard. I put my hand down when the flimsy aluminum bends, snapping a couple pieces of wire from the screen. Shit.

    The door creaks open, and instead of Tessa, her mum, or anyone else on the fucking planet that I’d rather see, it’s Noah.

    “You’ve got to be fucking kidding me,” I say.

    When he tries to close the door in my face, I stop it with my boot.

    “Don’t be a dick.” I push the door open, and he steps back.

    “Why are you here?” he asks, his face etched in a deep scowl. I should be asking him why the fuck he is here. Tessa and I haven’t been separated three days, and here this asshole is, worming his way back into her life.

    “To drop her car off.” I look behind him, but I can’t see shit. “Is she here?” The entire way here, I told myself that I didn’t want her to see me or remember that I was at her house at all last night, but I know I was just bullshitting myself.

    “Maybe. Does she know you’re coming?” Noah crosses his arms, and it takes every bit of self-control I have not to knock him to the ground, step over him—maybe on him—and find her.

    “No. I just want to make sure that she’s okay. What did she tell you?” I ask him, backing back off of the porch.

    “Nothing. She didn’t have to. She doesn’t have to tell me anything. I know she wouldn’t come all the way here if you hadn’t done something to her.”

    I frown. “You’re wrong, actually; it wasn’t me . . . this time.” He looks surprised by my small admission, so I continue—peacefully, for now. “Look, I know you hate me, and you have every reason to, but I will see her one way or another, so you can either move out of my way or I’ll—”

    “Hardin?” Tessa’s voice is a small whisper, nearly lost in the breeze, as she appears behind Noah.

    “Hey . . .” My feet carry me inside the house, and Noah sensibly moves out of my way. “Are you okay?” I ask, cupping her cheeks in my cold hands.

    Her head jerks away—because of the cold, I force myself to believe—and she steps back from me. “Yeah, I’m okay,” she lies.

    Questions tumble out of my mouth. “Are you sure? How are you feeling? Did you sleep? Does your head ache?”

    “Yes, okay, some, yes,” she answers, nodding along, but I already forgot what I asked her in the first place.

    “Who told you?” she asks me, her cheeks a deep red.



    “Yeah, she called when you were . . . um, in my old room.” I can’t keep the panic from my voice.

    “Oh . . .” She looks past me, focusing on some distant space, her eyebrows drawn together in concentration.

    Does she remember that I was here? Do I want her to?

    Yes, of course I do. “You’re okay, though?”


    Noah steps to where we’re standing, and with alarm clear in his voice asks, “Tessa, what happened?”

    Looking back at Tessa, I can tell she doesn’t want him to know about everything. I like the idea of that more than I should.

    “Nothing, don’t worry about it,” I answer him so she doesn’t have to.

    “Was it serious?” he presses.

    “I said, don’t worry about it,” I growl, and he gulps. I turn back to Tessa. “I brought your car,” I tell her.

    “You did?” she says. “Thanks, I thought Steph would have busted the windshield or something.” She sighs, her shoulders slouching further with every word. Her attempt at a joke didn’t work for anyone, herself included.

    “Why did you go to her, anyway? Out of all people, why her?” I ask her.

    She looks at Noah, then back to me. “Noah, can you give us a minute?” she sweetly requests.

    He nods and gives me what I assume is supposed to be some kind of warning glare before leaving us alone in the small living room.

    “Why her? Tell me, please,” I repeat.

    “I don’t know. I didn’t have anywhere else to go, Hardin.”

    “You could have gone to Landon; you practically have your own bedroom at that house,” I point out.

    “I don’t want to keep dragging your family into it. I’ve done it enough, and it’s not fair to them.”

    “And you knew I would go there?” When she looks down at her hands, I say, “I wouldn’t have.”

    “Okay,” she says sadly.

    Fuck, that’s not what I meant. “I didn’t mean it like that. I meant I was going to give you space.”

    “Oh,” she whispers while picking at her fingernails.

    “You’re being really quiet.”

    “I’m just . . . I don’t know. It’s been a long night and morning.” She frowns. I want to walk over and smooth the line between her brows and kiss her pain away.

    “No Hardin, Zed,” she called out in her barely conscious state.

    “I know, do you remember it?” I ask her, not sure if I can bear to listen to her response.

    I expect her to tell me to go away or cuss me out even, but she doesn’t. Instead she nods and sits down on the couch, gesturing for me to sit on the other side.