Chapter Sixty-Seven

After We Fell


chapter sixty-seven

 

TESSA

 

As Hardin reaches the door, I ask, “What did you do about Dan?”

    I want to know more about last night, even if Noah can hear us talking. As we pass him in the hallway, Hardin doesn’t so much as look at him. Noah glares, though, unsure of what to do, I assume.

    “Dan. You said Molly told you. What did you do?” I know Hardin well enough to know that he went after him. I’m still surprised by Molly’s help—I was far from expecting it when she walked into the bedroom last night. I shudder at the memory.

    Hardin half smiles. “Nothing too bad.”

    I didn’t kill Dan when I found him; I only kicked him in the face . . .

    “You kicked him in the face . . .” I say, trying to dig through the mess in my head.

    He raises a brow. “Yeah . . . Did Zed tell you that?”

    “I . . . I don’t know . . .” I remember hearing the words, I just can’t remember who said them.

    I’m Hardin, not Zed, Hardin said—his voice in my mind feels so real.

    “You were here, weren’t you? Last night?” I step toward him. He backs into the wall. “You were; I remember it. You said you were going to drink and you didn’t . . .”

    “I didn’t think you remembered,” Hardin mutters.

    “Why wouldn’t you just tell me?” My head aches while I struggle to separate drug-induced dreaming from reality.

    “I don’t know. I was going to, but then everything got so familiar and you were smiling and I didn’t want to ruin it.” He shrugs one shoulder, and his eyes focus on the large painting of the golden gates of Heaven on my mother’s wall.

    “How would you telling me that you drove me home ruin it?”

    “I didn’t drive you home. Zed did.”

    I remembered that earlier, sort of. This is so frustrating.

    “So you came after? What was I doing?” I want Hardin to help me put together the sequence of events. I can’t seem to do it on my own.

    “You were lying on the couch; you could barely speak.”

    “Oh . . .”

    “You were calling out for him,” he adds quietly, venom laced through his deep voice.

    “For who?”

    “Zed.” His answer is simple, but I can feel the emotion behind it.

    “No, I wasn’t.” That doesn’t make sense. “This is so frustrating.” I sift through the mental mud and finally find a lump of sense . . . Hardin speaking about Dan, Hardin asking me if I can hear him, me asking him about Zed . . .

    “I wanted to know about him, if you had hurt him. I think.” The memory is fuzzy, but it’s there.

    “You said his name more than once; it’s okay. You were so out of it.” His eyes drop to the carpet and stay there. “I didn’t expect you to want me anyway.”

    “I didn’t want him. I may not remember much, but I was afraid. I know myself enough to know that I would only call for you,” I admit without thinking.

    Why did I just say that? Hardin and I broke up, again. This is our second actual breakup, but it feels like there have been so many more. Maybe because this time I haven’t jumped into his arms at the slightest sign of affection from him. This time I left the house and the gifts from Hardin; this time I’m leaving for Seattle in less than twenty-four hours.

    “Come here,” he says, holding his arms open.

    “I can’t.” I take a page from his book and run my fingers over my hair.

    “Yes, you can.”

    Whenever Hardin is around me, despite the situation, the familiarity of him always seeps into every fiber of my being. We either scream at each other or we smile and tease. There’s never any distance, no middle ground between us. It’s such a natural thing for me now, an instinct really, to let myself find comfort in his arms, laugh at his stale attitude, and ignore the issues that caused us to be in whatever terrible situation that we’re in at the time.

    “We aren’t together anymore,” I say quietly, more to remind myself.

    “I know.”

    “I can’t pretend that we are.” I pull my bottom lip between my teeth and try not to notice the way his eyes dull at the reminder of our status.

    “I’m not asking you to do that. All I’m asking is for you to come here.” His arms are still open, still long and inviting, calling for me, pulling me closer and closer.

    “And if I do, we’ll only fall back into repeating the cycle that we both decided to end.”

    “Tessa . . .”

    “Hardin, please.” I back away. This living room is much too small for me to avoid him, and my self-control is faltering.

    “Fine.” He finally sighs and his hands tug at his hair, his usual sign of frustration.

    “We need this, you know that we do. We have to spend some time apart.”

    “Some time apart?” He looks wounded, pissed off, and I’m a little afraid of what will come out of his mouth next. I don’t want a fight with him, and today isn’t the day for him to try to start one.

    “Yes, some time alone. We can’t get along and everything seems to always be working against us. You said yourself the other day that you were sick of it. You kicked me out of the apartment.” I cross my arms in front of my chest.

    “Tessa . . . you can’t be fucking—” He looks into my eyes and stops midsentence. “How much time?”

    “What?”

    “How much time apart?”

    “I . . .” I didn’t expect him to agree. “I don’t know.”

    “A week? A month?” He pushes for specifics.

    “I don’t know, Hardin. We both need to get ourselves to a better place.”

    “You’re my better place, Tess.”

    His words swarm through my chest, and I force my eyes to move from his face before I lose whatever resistance I have left. “You’re mine, too, you know you are, but you’re so angry and I’m always on edge with you. You have to do something about your anger, and I need time to myself.”

    “So this is my fault, again?” he asks.

    “No, it’s me, too. I’m too dependent on you. I need to be more independent.”

    “Since when does any of this matter?” The tone of his voice tells me that he hasn’t ever considered my dependency on him a problem.

    “Since we had that massive blowup at the apartment a few nights ago. Actually, it started a while ago; Seattle and the argument the other night were just the icing on the cake.”

    When I finally gather the courage to look up at Hardin, I see that his expression has changed.

    “Okay. I get it,” he says. “I’m sorry, I know I fuck up a lot. We’ve already beaten the Seattle thing into the ground, and maybe it’s time that I start listening to you more.” He reaches for my hand, and I let him take it, momentarily baffled by his newfound agreeability. “I’ll give you some space, okay? You’ve dealt with enough shit in the past twenty-four hours alone. I don’t want to be another problem . . . for once.”

    “Thank you,” I respond simply.

    “Can you let me know when you get to Seattle? And get some food in your stomach, and rest, please.” His green eyes are soft, warm, and comforting.

    And I want to ask him to stay, but I know it’s not a good idea.

    “I will. Thank you . . . Really.”

    “You don’t have to thank me.” His hands push into the tight pockets of his black jeans, and his eyes measure my face. “I’ll tell Landon you said hello,” he says and walks out the door.

    I can’t help but smile at the way he lingers by Landon’s car, staring at my mother’s house for a long beat before getting into the passenger seat.