Chapter Eighty-Eight

After We Fell

chapter eighty-eight




My thoughts are racing as I start the washing machine. Hardin came here, to Seattle—and I didn’t have to ask or beg him. He came of his own accord. Even if it’s only for one night, it means so much to me, and I hope that it will turn out to be a step in the right direction for us. I’m still so conflicted when it comes to our relationship . . . We always have so many problems, so many pointless fights. We’re such different people, and I’m at a point now where I’m not sure it will ever work.

    But right now, now that he’s here with me, I want nothing more than to try this long-distance half relationship/half friendship, and see where it takes us.

    “I knew he’d show up,” Kimberly says from behind me.

    When I turn around, I see her leaning against the doorframe of the laundry room. “I didn’t,” I tell her.

    She gives me an oh-please look. “You had to know he would. I’ve never seen a couple like the two of you.”

    I sigh. “We aren’t exactly a couple . . .”

    “You ran into his arms like something out of a movie. He’s been here for less than fifteen minutes, and you’re already doing his laundry.” She nods to the machine.

    “Well, his clothes are filthy,” I say, ignoring the first part of her remark.

    “You two just can’t stay away from one another; it’s really something to watch. I do wish you were coming out tonight so you could get dressed up and show him what he’s missing by not being here in Seattle with you.” She winks and then leaves me alone in the laundry room.

    She’s right about Hardin and me not being able to stay away from each other. It’s always been that way, since the day I met him. Even when I tried to convince myself that I didn’t want him, I couldn’t ignore the fluttering I felt inside me every time we ran into each other.

    Back then, Hardin always seemed to appear wherever I was . . . Granted, I did go to his fraternity house every chance I could. I hated it there, but something inside me drew me to the place, knowing that if I went, I would see him. I didn’t admit it then, not even to myself, but I longed for his company, even when he was being cruel to me. The memories feel so ancient and almost dreamlike as I recall the way he used to stare at me during class, then roll his eyes when I said hello.

    The washing machine makes a random little beep, bringing me back to reality, and I hurry down the hallway to the guest room that has been designated as Hardin’s for the night. The room is empty; Hardin’s empty bag is still on the bed, but he’s nowhere to be found. I walk across the hall and find him standing over the desk in my room. His fingertips are tracing the cover of one of my notebooks.

    “What are you doing in here?” I ask.

    “I just wanted to see where you’re . . . living now. I wanted to see your room.”

    “Oh.” I notice the way his brows pull together when he calls it “my room.”

    “Is this for a class?” he asks, holding up the black leather notebook.

    “It’s for creative writing.” I nod at him. “Did you read it?” I can’t help but feel a little nervous at the thought that he may have. I’ve only completed one assignment so far, but like everything else in my life, it ended up relating to him.

    “A little.”

    “It’s just an assignment,” I say, fumbling to explain myself. “We were asked to do a freestyle essay as the first assignment and—”

    “It’s good, really good,” he says, praising me, and places the book back on the desk for a moment before picking it up again and opening it to the first page. “ ‘Who I am.’ ” He reads the first line out loud.

    “Please don’t,” I beg.

    He gives me a questioning little smirk. “Since when are you shy about showing your schoolwork?”

    “I’m not. It’s just . . . that piece is personal. I’m not even sure if I want to turn it in.”

    “I read your religion journal,” he says—and my heart stops.

    “What?” I pray that I heard him wrong. He wouldn’t. He couldn’t have read it . . .

    “I read it. You left it at the apartment, and I found it.”

    This is humiliating. I stand in silence while Hardin stares at me from across the room. Those were private thoughts that I never expected anyone to read, except my professor, maybe. I’m mortified that Hardin pored over my deepest thoughts.

    “You weren’t supposed to read those. Why would you?” I ask, trying not to look at him.

    “Every entry was about me,” he says by way of defending himself.

    “That’s not the point, Hardin.” My stomach is in my throat, making it hard to breathe. “I was going through a really bad time, and those were private thoughts for my journal. You were never meant to—”

    “They were really good, Tess. So good. It hurt me to read the way you were feeling, but the words, what you had to say—it was perfect.”

    I know he’s trying to compliment me, but it only embarrasses me further.

    “How would you feel if I read something you wrote to express your feelings in a private way?” I ignore the compliments from him about my writing. His eyes flash with panic, and I tilt my head in confusion. “What?”

    “Nothing,” is all he says, shaking his head.