Chapter Seventy-Three

After We Fell

chapter seventy-three




I nudge Richard’s thigh with my boot. I’m beyond mad, and this whole mess is his damn fault.

    “I’m sorry,” he groans, attempting to lift himself up from the floor; within seconds he winces and slides back onto the hardwood. The last thing I want to do is lift his pathetic ass up off of the floor, but at this point I’m not sure what else to do with him.

    “I’ll put you in the chair, but you aren’t sitting on my couch, not until you take a shower.”

    “Okay,” he mutters and closes his eyes as I bend down to lift him. He’s not as heavy as I expected him to be, especially for his height.

    I drag him over to a kitchen chair, and as soon as I sit him down, he bends over, wrapping his arms around his torso.

    “What now? What am I supposed to do with you now?” I ask him quietly.

    What would Tessa do if she was here? Knowing her, she’d run him a hot bath and make him something to eat. I’m not doing either of those things.

    “Take me back,” he suggests. His shaky fingers lift the neckline of his torn T-shirt, something of mine that Tessa let him keep. Has he been wearing it since he left here? He wipes the blood from his mouth, lazily smearing it down his chin and into the mess of thick hair there.

    “Back where?” I say. Maybe I should’ve called the police when I first entered the apartment, maybe I shouldn’t have given Chad that watch . . . I wasn’t thinking properly at the time, all I could think about was keeping Tessa out of this.

    But of course she’s completely out of it already . . . she’s so far away.

    “Why did you bring him here? If Tessa had been here . . .” My voice trails off.

    “She moved out. I knew she wouldn’t be here,” he strains to say.

    I know it’s hard for him to speak, but I need answers and my patience is running thin. “Did you come here a few days ago, too?”

    “I did. I only came to eat and sh-shower,” Richard pants.

    “You came all the way here just to eat and shower?”

    “Yeah, I took the bus the first time. But Chad”—he takes a breath and howls in pain before shifting his weight—“he offered to bring me here, but then he turned on me as soon as we got inside.”

    “How the fuck did you get in?”

    “I took Tessie’s spare key.”

    He took it . . . or she gave it to him? I wonder.

    He nods toward the sink. “From the drawer.”

    “So let me get this straight, you stole a key to my apartment and thought you could just come here whenever the hell you wanted to take a shower. Then you bring Chad the Charming Junkie to my house, and he beats your ass in my living room because you owe him money?” How did I end up in the middle of an episode of

    “No one was home. I didn’t think it mattered.”

    “You didn’t think—that’s the problem! What if Tessa had been the one to come here? Do you even care how she’d feel if she saw you like this?” I’m completely out of my element here. My first instinct is to drag this old fool out of our—out of my apartment and leave him bleeding in the hallway. I can’t do that, though, because I happen to be desperately in love with his daughter, and by doing it, all I’d accomplish would be to hurt her even more than I already have. Isn’t love just fucking awesome?

    “Well, what should we do now?” I scratch at my chin. “Should I take you to a hospital?”

    “I don’t need a hospital, just a bandage or two. Can you call Tessie for me and tell her I’m sorry?”

    I dismiss his suggestion with a sweep of the arm. “No, I will not. She isn’t going to know about this. I don’t want her worrying about this shit.”

    “Okay,” he agrees and shifts on the chair again.

    “How long have you been using?” I ask him.

    He swallows. “I don’t,” he says meekly.

    “Don’t lie to me, I’m not a fucking idiot. Just tell me.”

    He looks deep in thought, distracted. “About a year, but I’ve been trying so hard to stop since the day I ran into Tessie.”

    “She’s going to be heartbroken—you know that, don’t you?” I hope he does. And I certainly have no problem reminding him multiple times if he ever happens to forget.

    “I know, I’m going to get better for her,” he claims.

    Aren’t we all . . .

    “Well, you may want to hurry your rehabilitation along, because if she saw you now . . .” I don’t finish the sentence. I’m debating whether or not to call her and ask her what the hell I’m supposed to do with her dad, but I know that’s not the answer. She doesn’t need to be bothered with this, not right now. Not while she’s trying to turn her dreams into reality.

    “I’m going to my room. Feel free to take a shower, eat, or whatever you were planning on doing before I came home and interrupted you.” I saunter out of the kitchen and into the bedroom. I close the door behind me and lean against it. This has been the longest twenty-four hours of my life.