Chapter Ninety-One

After We Fell


chapter ninety-one

 

HARDIN

 

As Smith walks around his bedroom, I stand in the doorway and take a mental inventory of all the shit this kid has. Man, he’s spoiled as hell.

    “What do you want to do?” I ask the kid as I step into the room.

    “I don’t know.” He stares at the wall. His blond hair is combed to one side so perfectly it’s almost creepy.

    “Then why did you want me to come up here?”

    “I don’t know,” the little shit repeats. Stubborn little fucker.

    “Okay . . . well, this isn’t going anywhere . . .” I trail off.

    “Are you living here now, too, with your girl?” Smith suddenly blurts.

    “No, only visiting for tonight,” I say and look away from the kid.

    “Why?” His eyes home in on me. I can feel them without even glancing his way.

    “Because I don’t want to live here.” I do, though. Sort of.

    “Why? You don’t like her?” he questions.

    “Yes. I like her.” I laugh. “I just . . . I don’t know. Why do you always ask me so many questions?”

    “I don’t know,” he responds simply and pulls some sort of train set from under his bed.

    “Don’t you have any friends you can play with?” I ask the boy.

    “No.”

    That doesn’t seem right. He’s an all-right kid. “Why not?”

    He shrugs and disconnects a piece of the train track. His small hands disconnect another piece, and he switches the metal out with two new tracks from a box at the end of his bed.

    “I’m sure you can make friends at school.”

    “No, I can’t.”

    “Are the kids assholes to you or something?” I ask him. I don’t bother to correct my language. Vance has the mouth of a fucking sailor, and I’m sure his son has heard worse.

    “Sometimes.” He twists the edges of some type of wire and connects a small train car to it. The wire sparks in his hands, but he doesn’t flinch. Within seconds, the train begins to move around the track, starting slowly and then gradually picking up speed.

    “What was that, that you just did?” I ask him.

    “Made it go faster; it was really slow.”

    “No wonder you don’t have any friends.” I laugh, but then I catch myself. Shit. He’s just sitting there, staring at his train. “I just meant because you’re so smart; sometimes smart people are terrible at being social, and no one likes them. Like Tessa, for example—she’s too smart sometimes, and it makes people feel uncomfortable.”

    “Okay . . .” He looks over and begins staring at me, and I can’t help but feel bad for him. I’m shit at giving advice, and I don’t know why I even tried.

    I know what it’s like to grow up not having any friends. As a child, I never had a single one until I hit puberty and started drinking, smoking pot, and hanging out with shitty people. They weren’t actually my friends, anyway—they only liked me because I did whatever the fuck I wanted to do, and that was “cool” to them. They didn’t enjoy reading the way that I did; they only enjoyed partying.

    I was always that angry little boy in the corner whom no one talked to because they were afraid of me. To this day, that hasn’t changed much, really . . .

    But I met Tessa; she’s the only person who genuinely gives a fuck about me. She’s afraid of me sometimes, too, though. Images from Christmas and red wine splattered across her white cardigan bring my thoughts to life. I suspect that Landon cares for me, too, I guess. But that’s still a weird situation with him, and I’m pretty sure he only cares because of Tessa. She tends to have that power over people.

    Me, especially.