Chapter Sixty-Six

After We Fell

chapter sixty-six




I want to move closer to her, to reach for her shaking hand and find a way to erase her memories. I hate that she went through such an ordeal, and I’m once again blown away by her strength. She’s sitting up, her back as straight as a board, and ready to talk to me.

    “Why did you come here?” she asks quietly.

    By way of answer, I ask, “Why is he here?” and nod my head toward the kitchen. I just know Noah is perched against the wall, listening in to our conversation. I really can’t fucking stand him, but given the circumstances, I should probably shut up about it.

    Playing with her hands, she says, “He’s here to check on me.”

    “He doesn’t need to check on you.” That’s why I’m here.

    “Hardin”—she frowns—“not today. Please.”

    “Sorry . . .” I inch back, feeling like an even bigger asshole than I did seconds ago.

    “Why did you come here?” Tessa asks again.

    “To bring your car. You don’t want me here, do you?” I haven’t once, until now, even considered that possibility. And it burns through me like acid. My being here might only be making things worse for her. The days of her finding solace in me are no longer.

    “It’s not that . . . I’m just confused.”

    “About what?”

    Her eyes shine under the dim lights of her mum’s living room. “You, last night, Steph, everything. Did you know that it was all a game to her, and she really has hated me all this time.”

    “No, of course I didn’t know,” I tell her.

    “You had no idea that she had any bad feelings toward me?”

    Dammit. But I want to be honest, so I say, “Maybe a little, I guess. Molly had mentioned it once or twice, but she didn’t elaborate, and I didn’t think it was something to this extent—or that Molly even knew what she was talking about.”

    “Molly? Since when does Molly care about me?”

    So black and white. Tessa always wants things to be so black and white, and it makes me shake my head, a little sad that things just can never be so simple. “She doesn’t, she hates you still,” I tell her and look down. “But she called me after that Applebee’s shit, and I was mad. I didn’t want her or Steph to ruin things between me and you. I thought Steph was trying to meddle just to be a nosy bitch. I didn’t think she was a fucking psycho.”

    When I look over at Tessa, she’s wiping tears from her eyes. I move across the couch to close the space between us, and she recoils. “Hey, it’s okay,” I say and grab her arm to pull her to my chest. “Shhh . . .” My hand rests over her hair, and after a few seconds of trying to pull away, she gives in.

    “I just want to start over. I want to forget about everything that’s happened in the last six months,” she sobs.

    My chest tightens as I nod along, agreeing with her even though I don’t want to. I don’t want her to want to forget me.

    “I hate college. I always looked forward to it, but it’s been one mistake after another for me.” She pulls at my shirt, bringing herself closer to me. I stay silent, not wanting to make her feel any worse than she’s already feeling. I didn’t have a fucking clue of what I was walking into when I knocked on the door, but I sure as hell didn’t expect to have a crying Tessa in my arms.

    “I’m being so dramatic.” She pulls away too soon, and for a moment I consider pulling her back to me.

    “No. No, you’re not. You’re being really calm, considering what happened. Tell me what you remember, don’t make me ask again. Please.”

    “It’s all a blur really, it was so . . . strange. I was aware of every­thing but nothing made any sense. I don’t know how to explain it. I couldn’t move, but I could feel things.” She shudders.

    “Feel things? Where did he touch you?” I don’t want to know.

    “My legs . . . they undressed me.”

    “Only your legs?” Please say yes.

    “Yes, I think so. It could have been so much worse, but Zed—” She stops. Takes a breath. “Anyway, the pills made my body so heavy . . . I don’t know how to explain it.”

    I nod. “I know what you mean.”


    Broken memoires of blacking out in bars and stumbling down the streets of London race through my mind. The idea of fun that I once had is completely different from what I consider to be fun now. “I used to take them now and then for fun.”

    “You did?” Her mouth falls open, and I don’t like how her look makes me feel.

    “I guess ‘fun’ isn’t really the word,” I backtrack. “Not anymore.”

    She nods and gives me a sweet, relieved smile. She adjusts the collar of her sweater, which I see now is pretty tight on her.

    “Where did that come from?” I ask.

    “The sweater?” She gives me a wry smile. “It’s my mother’s . . . can’t you tell?” Her fingers tug at the thick fabric.

    “I don’t know. Noah was at the door, and you’re dressed like that . . . I thought I had stepped into a time machine,” I tease. Her eyes light up with humor, all sadness momentarily washed away, and she bites down on her lip in an attempt to stop from laughing.

    She sniffles and reaches over to the small table to pull a tissue from the floral box. “No. There are no time machines.” Tessa shakes her head back and forth slowly while wiping at her nose.

    Fuck, even after crying she’s so damned beautiful. ’ “I was worried about you,” I tell her.

    Her smile disappears. Fuck.

    “This is what confuses me,” she says. “You told me you didn’t want to try anymore, but here you are telling me that you were worried about me.” She stares at me blankly, her lip trembling.

    She’s right. I don’t always say it, but it’s true. I spend hours a day worrying about her. Emotion . . . this is what I need from her. I need the reassurance.

    But she takes my silence the wrong way. “It’s okay, I’m not upset with you. I do appreciate you coming here and bringing my car. It means a lot to me that you did that.”

    I remain mute on the couch, unable to talk for some time.

    “It’s nothing,” I finally manage to say with a shrug. But I need to say something real, anything.

    After watching more of my painful silence for a moment, Tessa goes into polite hostess mode. “How will you get home? Wait . . . how did you even know how to get here?”

    Shit. “Landon. He told me.”

    Her eyes light up again. “Oh, he’s here?”

    “Yeah, he’s outside.”

    She flushes and rises to her feet. “Oh! I’m keeping you, I’m sorry.”

    “No, you aren’t. He’s fine out there waiting,” I stammer. I don’t want to leave. Unless you’re coming with me.

    “He should have come inside.” She glances toward the door.

    “He’s fine.” My voice comes out much too sharp.

    “Thank you again for bringing my car . . .” She’s trying to dismiss me in a polite way. I know her.

    “Do you want me to bring your stuff inside?” I offer.

    “No, I’m leaving in the morning, so it’s easier to keep it in there.”

    Why does it surprise me that every single time she opens her mouth, she reminds me that she’s going to Seattle? I keep waiting for her to change her mind, but it will never happen.