Chapter Seventy-Six

After We Fell


chapter seventy-six

 

HARDIN

 

You look much more . . . hygienic now,” I tell Richard as he steps out of the bathroom wiping his freshly shaven face with a white towel.

    “I haven’t shaved my face in months,” he responds, rubbing the smooth skin on his chin.

    “You don’t say.” I roll my eyes, and he grants me half a smile.

    “Thanks again for letting me stay here . . .” His deep voice trails off.

    “It’s not permanent, so don’t thank me. I’m still not cool with this whole situation.” I take another bite of the pizza I ordered for myself . . . and ended up sharing with Richard. I need to find a way to take some of the pressure off of Tessa. She has too much going on lately, and if I can help her in any way by handling this mess with her father, I will.

    “I know it. I’m surprised you haven’t thrown me out yet,” he says with a laugh. As if that’s something to make a joke about. I stare at him. His eyes look too large for his face, with dark rings showing through his white skin.

    I sigh. “So am I,” I admit with annoyance.

    Richard quivers while I stare at him—not from intimidation, but from a lack of whatever the hell drug it is that he’s used to taking.

    I want to know if he brought any drugs into our apartment while he was staying here just last week. However, if I ask him and he says yes, I’ll lose my temper and he’ll be out of my apartment within seconds. For Tessa’s sake, and for mine, I rise to my feet and leave the living room with my empty plate in hand. The stack of dirty dishes in the sink has managed to double in size, and loading the dishwasher is the last thing I want to do at the moment.

    “Do the dishes as payment!” I call to Richard.

    I hear his deep laughter from the hallway, and he walks into the kitchen just as I reach the bedroom door and close it.

    I want to call Tessa again, just to hear her voice. I want to know about the rest of her day . . . What does she plan to do after work? Did she stare at her phone with a stupid-ass grin on her face after we hung up earlier, like I did?

    Probably not.

    I now know that all my past sins are finally catching up to me—that’s why Tessa was given to me. A merciless punishment disguised as a beautiful reward. Having her for months just to have her taken from me, yet still dangling in front of my face by means of casual phone calls. I don’t know how much longer it will be until I succumb to my fate and finally allow myself to break out of this denial.

    Denial, that’s exactly what this is.

    It doesn’t have to be, though. I can change the outcome of all this. I can be who she needs me to be without dragging her down to my hell again.

    Fuck this, I’m calling her.

    Her phone rings and rings, yet she doesn’t pick up. It’s almost six—she should be done with work and back at her place. Where the hell else would she go? While debating whether or not to call Christian, I push my feet into my gym shoes, lazily tie them, and shove my arms through my jacket.

    I know she’ll be mad, surely—if I call him, but I’ve already called her six times, and she hasn’t answered once. I groan and run my fingers over my unwashed hair. This giving-each-other-space shit is really fucking irritating me.

    “I’m going out,” I tell my unwanted houseguest. He nods, unable to speak due to the handful of potato chips that he’s shoveling into his mouth. At least the sink is free of dishes now.

    Where the fuck am I even supposed to go?

    Within minutes, my car is parked in the lot behind the small gym. I don’t know what being here will accomplish or if this shit will help me, but right now I’m growing more and more irritated at Tessa, and all I can think about doing is cussing her out or driving to Seattle to find her. I don’t need to do either of those things . . . they’d only make things worse.