Chapter Seventy-Two

After We Fell

chapter seventy-two




I watch Logan down the entire pint of beer, foamy head and all. Put the glass on the table and wipe his mouth. “Steph’s a psycho. No one knew she was going to do that to Tessa,” he says. And then burps.

    “Dan knew. And if I find out that anyone else did . . .” I warn him.

    He looks at me solemnly and nods. “No one else knew. Well . . . not that I know of. But you know no one tells me shit anyway.” A tall brunette appears at his side, and he slides his arm around her. “Nate and Chelsea will be here soon,” he says to her.

    “A couples night,” I groan. “Time for me to go.” I move to stand, but Logan stops me.

    “It’s not a couples night. Tristan is single now, and Nate isn’t dating Chelsea: they’re just fucking.”

    I don’t know why I came here anyway, but Landon would barely speak to me, and Karen looked so sad at dinner I just couldn’t sit there at the table any longer.

    “Let me guess: Zed will be here, too?”

    Logan shakes his head. “I don’t think so. I think he was even more pissed than you about the shit that went down, because he hasn’t spoken to any of us since then.”

    one is more pissed than me,” I say through my teeth. Hanging out with my old friends isn’t helping me “better myself.” It’s only making me annoyed. How dare anyone say that Zed cares more about Tessa than I do.

    Logan waves his hand in the air. “I didn’t mean it like that . . . my bad. Have a beer and chill out.” He looks around for the bartender.

    I look over and see that Nate, she-who-must-be-Chelsea, and Tristan are walking across the floor of the small bar toward us.

    “I don’t want a fucking beer,” I say quietly, trying to control my attitude. Logan is only trying to help, but he’s annoying me. Everyone is annoying me. Everything is annoying me.

    Tristan smacks me on the shoulder. “Long time no see,” he tries to joke, but it’s only awkward, and neither of us even cracks a smile. “I’m sorry about the shit that Steph did—I had no idea what she was up to, honest,” he finally says, making it even more awkward.

    “I don’t want to talk about it,” I say forcefully, closing the conversation.

    While the small group of my friends drinks and talks about shit that I give absolutely no fuck about, I find myself thinking about Tessa. What is she doing right now? Does she like Seattle? Does she feel as uncomfortable at Vance’s house as I suspect she does? Are Christian and Kimberly being nice to her?

    Of course they are; Kimberly and Christian are always nice. So really, I’m just avoiding the big question: Does Tessa miss me the way I miss her?

    “Are you going to have one?” Nate interrupts my thoughts and waves a shot glass in front of my face.

    “No, I’m good.” I gesture to my soda on the table, and he shrugs before tipping his head back to take the shot.

    This is the last thing I want to be doing right now. This adolescent, drinking-until-they-throw-up-or-black-out shit may be good enough for them, but it’s not for me. They haven’t had the luxury of having someone’s voice nagging in the back of their mind, telling them to be better, to do more with their lives. They haven’t had anyone love them enough to make them want to be better.

    I want to be good for you, Tess, I once told her. What a great job I’ve done so far.

    “I’m going,” I announce, but no one even notices as I stand from my seat and leave. I’ve made up my mind that I will no longer waste my time hanging out at bars with people who really don’t give a shit about me. I have nothing against most of them, but in all actuality none of them really know me or care enough to. They only liked the drunk, rowdy, fucking-random-girls me. I was only another prop at one of their massive parties. They don’t know shit about me—they didn’t even know that my father is the fucking chancellor at our college. I’m sure they don’t know what a chancellor does either.

    No one knows me the way she does, no one has ever even cared to get to know me the way Tessa does. She always asks the most intrusive and random questions: “What are you thinking?” “Why do you like that show?” “What do you think that man across the room is thinking right now?” “What is your first memory?”

    I always acted as if her need to know everything was obnoxious, but really it made me feel . . . special . . . or like someone cared about me enough to want to know the answers to these ridiculous questions. I don’t know why my mind won’t connect with itself; one half is telling me to get over myself and take my pathetic ass to Seattle, knock down Vance’s door, and promise to never let her leave again. It’s not that easy, though. There’s a bigger, stronger, other part of me, the half that always wins, telling me how fucked up I am. I’m so fucked up, and all I do is ruin every fucking thing in my life and everyone else’s, so I would be doing Tessa a favor by leaving her alone. That’s the only side I can believe, especially without her here to tell me that I’m wrong. Especially since it’s always proven to be true in the past.

    Landon’s plan for me to become a better person sounds good on paper, but then what? I’m supposed to believe that I can actually stay that way forever? I’m supposed to believe that I’ll be good enough for her just because I decide not to down a bottle of vodka when I got mad?

    This would be so much easier if I wasn’t willing to admit how much of a fuckup I am. I don’t know what I’m going to do, but the question’s not going to be settled right now. For tonight, I’m going to go inside my apartment and watch Tessa’s favorite television shows—the worst shows, which are full of ridiculous plot lines and horrible acting. I’ll probably even pretend that she’s there explaining every scene to me, even though I’m watching it right next to her, and I clearly understand what is going on. I love when she does that. It’s annoying, but I love how passionate she is about the smallest details. Like who is wearing a red coat and harassing those obnoxious pretty little lying girls.

    As I step off of the elevator, I continue to plan my night. I’ll end up watching that shit, then eating, take a shower, probably get myself off while picturing Tessa’s mouth around me, and I’ll do my best not to do anything stupid. Maybe I’ll clean up the mess I made yesterday even.

    I stop in front of my apartment door and look back down the hall. Why the fuck is the door cracked open? Is Tessa back, or did someone break in again? I’m not sure which answer would make me angrier.

    “Tessa?” I push the door open with my foot, and my stomach drops to the floor at the sight of her father slumped over, covered in blood.

    “What the fuck?” I shout and slam the door closed.

    “Watch out,” Richard groans, and my eyes follow his to the hallway, where, over his shoulder, I catch sight of something moving.

    A man’s there, hovering over him. I square my shoulders and am ready to charge if need be.

    But then I realize it’s Richard’s friend . . . Chad, I think his name is. “What the hell happened to him, and why the fuck are you here?” I ask him.

    “I was hoping to see the girl, but you’ll do,” he sneers.

    My blood boils at the way this vile man refers to my Tessa. “Get the fuck out and take him with you.” I gesture to the piece of shit that brought this man to my apartment. His blood is making a mess on my floor.

    Chad rolls his shoulders and twists his head back and forth. I can tell he’s trying to be calm but is feeling agitated. “The problem with that is he owes me a lot of money, and he doesn’t have a way to pay it,” he says, his dirty fingernails scratching at the small red dots on his arms.

    Fucking junkie.

    I hold up a flat hand. “Not my fucking problem. I’m not going to tell you again to leave, and I’m sure as hell not giving you any money.”

    But Chad only smirks. “You don’t know who you’re talking to, kid!” He kicks Richard just below his rib cage. A pathetic whine falls from Richard’s lips as he slides down onto the floor and doesn’t get up.

    I am not in the mood to deal with fucking drug addicts breaking into my apartment. “I don’t give a fuck about you, or him. You’re sadly mistaken if you think I’m afraid of you,” I growl.

    What the fuck else could possibly happen this week?

    No, wait. I don’t want to know the answer to that.

    I step toward Chad, and he backs away, just like I knew he would. “Maybe to be nice, I will say it once more: get out or I’ll call the cops. And while we wait for them to show up and save you, I’ll be beating the shit out of you with the baseball bat I keep handy in case some dumb fuck tries to pull shit like this.” I move toward the hall closet and grab the weapon from where it leans against the wall, lifting it slowly to prove my point.

    “If I leave without the money he owes me, whatever I do to him is on you. His blood will be on your hands.”

    “I don’t give a fuck what you do to him,” I say. But then I’m suddenly unsure of whether I actually mean that.

    “Sure,” he says and looks around the living room.

    “How fucking much money?” I say.

    “Five hundred.”

    “I’m not giving you five hundred dollars.” I know how Tessa will feel when she learns that my suspicions about her father being an addict are true, and this makes me want to throw the wallet in Chad’s face and give him everything I have just to get rid of him. I hate knowing that I was right about her father; at this point she only half believes me, but soon she’s going to have to realize the whole truth. I just wish this all would go away, Dick included. “I don’t have that kind of cash on me.”

    “Two hundred?” he asks. I can practically see his addiction begging me through his eyes.

    “Fine.” I can’t believe I’m actually giving money to this junkie who has broken into my apartment and beaten Tessa’s dad to a pulp. I don’t even have two hundred in cash. What am I supposed to do—take the creep with me to the ATM? This is such fucking bullshit.

    Who the fuck comes home to this shit?

    Me. That’s fucking who.

    For her. Only for her.

    I pull my wallet from my pocket and toss the eighty dollars I just pulled from the bank at him and walk into the bedroom, bat still in hand. I grab the watch my father and Karen bought me for Christmas and throw it at him. For such a skeletal wreck of a human, Chad snatches it out of the air pretty deftly. He must really want it . . . or what he can trade it for.

    “That watch is worth more than five hundred. Now get the fuck out,” I say. But I don’t want him to leave, really, I want him to try to come at me so I can bust his head open.

    Chad laughs, then coughs, then laughs again. “Until next time, Rick,” he threatens and walks out the door.

    I follow him and point the bat at him, saying, “And, Chad? If I see you again, I will kill you.”

    Then I slam the door on his ugly face.