Authors: Heather London
Tags: #Contemporary romance
When I glance back
up, I see him looking at me, like he’s analyzing every feature on my face. I
shift around in my seat, feeling uncomfortable with his gaze. He clears his
throat and finally looks away.
My eyes look away,
too, and I find myself staring at our two empty coffee cups.
“Well, I should
probably get back to campus.” I give him a polite smile. “It was really nice to
see you again, Carter. Jenna seems really happy with Josh and I think it would
be great if we could all be friends.”
“Friends would be
great,” he says and I can’t help noticing his face relax a bit.
I make it back to
my car and glance to my left, seeing Carter giving me a small wave before he
pulls away. My eyes follow his car until it’s gone, out of sight, and I exhale
the breath I didn’t know I’d been holding.
We should all start to live before we get too old. Fear
is stupid. So are regrets.
~ Marilyn Monroe
I’m lying in bed,
staring at the shadows bouncing across my ceiling. The wind is howling through
the trees and I grab my pillow to press it over my head, hoping to drown the
high-pitched sound. That sound never used to bother me, but now, unwelcome
memories come along with it.
everything okay?” Paul asked me as I walked up to the station headquarters.
everything is just great,” I answered, not intending to sound so bitter.
“Hey, we heard
about your dad, man. I’m really sorry; that’s gotta be tough on you and your
family. You should be with them right now, not here. I’ve already found someone
to replace you for this rescue.”
call?” I asked, ignoring his previous comment.
“A hiker is
stuck up on the ridge. He fell about twenty-feet and injured his right leg. It
should be a pretty easy rescue, so I think you should just head home.”
I shook my head.
“I want to be here. I need to be here. Being at home right now is... it just
hard. “Alright, man, if that’s what you need. Adam just finished his training
and since this will be his first rescue, it wouldn’t hurt to have you up there
looking out for him.”
I glanced over
and saw a guy walking over to us. He had a sparkle in his eye and I could tell
that he was anxious to get up the mountain. I could remember what it felt like
to be on your first rescue; the anxiety and adrenaline coursing through your
veins... there’s nothing else like it.
“Hey, I’m Adam.”
He held his hand out and I reached out to grab it.
“Carter. Nice to
meet you, man.”
Adam on the back before walking off, telling him, “Just stick close to Carter;
he’s the best guy out here.”
The hike up to
the ridge wasn’t too bad. The weather was cooperating, for the most part, and
by the time we got to the top, we were ahead of schedule. It wasn’t until we
were securing the patient’s leg in a brace and getting him ready to descend
that the weather had taken a turn for the worse. A strong gust of wind came out
of nowhere and nearly knocked me over.
“Shit,” I said,
looking over at Paul. “We need to get down before it gets any worse up here.”
“Yeah, I think
we’re good to start heading back down. Jake and I can handle carrying down the
patient. You and Adam lead the way, we’ll be just a few minutes behind you.
I’ll radio you if we have any issues.”
“Sounds good.” I
looked over at Adam as the rain started coming down. “Are you ready?”
“Yeah,” he said,
We were just a
few minutes into our descent when the storm rolled in, full force, making
things more complicated for us. The rain was coming down so hard that I had
trouble seeing the trail along the steep ridge in front of me. The wind howled
and thunder echoed off the mountains surrounding us.
take this real slow!” I yelled to Adam behind me.
My nerves were
heightened, knowing, with the storm there was even more room for another
accident if we weren’t careful. Just then, a loud thunder clap broke through
the air and a surge of wind blew in...
When I open my
eyes, I’m breathing hard, and my body is covered in a thin layer of sweat. I
rub my eyes almost to the point of pain, but I want to make sure I’m awake,
that the nightmare I was having is over. Blinking hard, I try to focus, seeing
my desk lamp still glowing in the corner. I shake my head and swallow hard,
trying to get myself under control.
There’s a faint
buzzing noise coming from the living room downstairs, telling me Josh fell
asleep on the couch with the T.V. on again. Normally, it annoys the shit outta
me when he does that because I have to hear him complain about how much the
couch sucks and how his back is sore, but tonight, I’m thankful that he isn’t
in the room next to me. In my dream, I was falling and screaming; I’m not sure
if those sounds actually made it out into reality.
I swing my feet off
the bed and shuffle my body down the stairs. Leaning over, I click off the T.V.
and shake Josh awake, telling him to go to bed. Every light in the house is on
and I go around shutting off each one before making my way into the kitchen for
a drink. My cell phone is lying on the counter and when I glance down at it to
check the time; I see a missed text from Holly. Pressure clamps down on my
chest and I strain my eyes open to read the text.
wanted to say thanks again for the coffee today.
Damn, it’s one in
the morning. She sent the text almost three hours ago. I feel like an ass for
not responding to her sooner. Even though I know she’s probably sleeping, I
decide to send her a text back anyway.
welcome. It was good to see you. Maybe we can do it again sometime.
I click send and
then analyze the message I sent her.
Maybe we can do it again sometime?
That may be the cheesiest fucking line I’ve ever written. It probably would’ve
been smart to actually read it before I sent it. I set the phone down and grip
the counter. My heart is beating fast and hard, I’m not sure if it’s rattled
from the nightmare or maybe it’s just seeing the message from Holly. My phone
beeps and I glance down at it, seeing her name flash across the screen.
good to see u too. R u up late studying?
really. Couldn’t sleep.
I type in my
response, but erase it, only to write it again. I repeat this stupidity about
ten times before I actually have the guts to send it.
We’ve been on the
phone for a few minutes. I’m sitting on the couch in the garage and freezing my
balls off, but since Josh is back up in his room, I don’t want to take the
chance to talk in my room and have him hear me. I feel like I’m back at home,
hoping my mom doesn’t hear me sneaking around, talking to my high school
girlfriend late at night.
We talk mostly
about school, movies, T.V. shows, music—stupid, mind numbing crap—but I’d talk
to her about why the sky is blue or if she believes in aliens if it means I get
to hear her voice. I know I’m playing a dangerous game. I know that it’s
probably not healthy for me to be thinking this way about her, but I can’t help
it. For some reason, hearing her voice and seeing her face is the only thing
that seems to pull me out of the darkness.
After about an
hour, I can’t stand the cold garage anymore and quietly walk back up the stairs
to bury myself underneath the covers.
“So have you told
Jenna about skydiving yet?” I ask, shivering even more as my body hits the cold
sheets. I’m surprised at how easy she is to talk to. We’ve been on the phone
for about an hour and there hasn’t been a single moment of uncomfortable
silence between us.
“No, I was going to
tonight, but I chickened out. She was studying earlier and that usually puts
her in a grumpy mood.” She pauses for a minute and then laughs. “Come to think
of it, she’s usually a grump in the mornings, too, so I may have just screwed
myself anyway.” She laughs again and I close my eyes, trying to savor the
sound. “So, what about you? Have you made any plans for this weekend, yet?”
“No, not yet. Josh
and I aren’t on call for the rescue team so we’ll probably just hang out around
here.” I bite my lower lip and curse to myself. “Sorry, Holly. I didn’t mean to
bring it up. It’s late and I’m not thinking straight.” I feel like a complete
“Don’t worry about
it,” she says. “I’m fine. I don’t want people to feel like they have to act
differently around me. Believe me; it makes me feel worse when people treat me
different. It makes me feel like I’m walking around with a target on my back or
“Yeah.” I swallow
the lump rising in my throat, understanding exactly what she means. “I get
There’s a long
silence between us and, even though I want to find something to say, I can’t
think of the words. My mind is still reeling from what I just said and I can’t
help feeling like an idiot for bringing it up.
“Well, I think I
should get some sleep,” she says.
“Yeah, me, too,” I
lie, knowing there’s no way I’m going to sleep a fucking wink for the rest of
“Dude, you look
like shit,” Josh says, chewing a mouthful of food as I walk in the kitchen.
“Yeah, I didn’t
sleep well.” I pull a cup from the cabinet and pour myself some coffee.
“Man, you were
talking in your sleep again last night,” he says, totally catching me off
guard. “It woke me up a few times.”
“Yeah, well, you
fell asleep on the couch with the T.V. on again,” I counter, hoping to turn the
focus off myself. “How would you know if I was talking in my sleep anyway?”
“After I went back
up to my room, I had trouble falling back to sleep and I heard you whispering
and mumbling, but I couldn’t understand any of it.”
He arches his back
and moans. “My back is killing me, man. I say we burn that couch. It’s the most
uncomfortable thing to sleep on.”
because it’s not to sleep on, moron. You have a bed for that.”
He walks over to
the sink and rinses his bowl. “Sleeping alone in my bed sucks now. Ever since
Jenna and I’ve been together, it’s lonely without her.”
I shake my head,
hoping he doesn’t want to talk to me about his relationship with Jenna. I’m
about to slip out of the kitchen, but I don’t make it in time.
“Man, I’m not sure
what it is about that girl, but I’m so whipped.” He turns around and leans up
against the counter. “She’s… I don’t know, man. She’s just... freaking
My eyes roam the
refrigerator for something quick so I can get out of here before he starts
talking in detail. The only thing quick and easy I see is an apple.
“So, I was thinking
about inviting Holly and Jenna over for dinner this weekend. Is that cool with
you?” He still has the fantasy idea in his head that we’re all going to get
along. I know that he’ll never give up so I have no other choice but to agree
Whatever.” I shrug and take a large chunk out of the apple. He still doesn’t know
about the coffee I had with Holly yesterday, or the late night phone call from
last night. The only reason I don’t tell him is because I know he’ll read too
much into it.
“Calm down, dude.
Don’t get too excited about it.”
What Josh doesn’t
know, and what I would never tell him, is the second he says anything about
inviting Holly and Jenna over, I get excited. My heart starts pounding in my
chest just knowing that there is a possibility that I’ll get to see her face
When I finally drag
myself out of bed, I see Jenna standing at the stove and she’s cooking
breakfast. I blink hard and wonder if what I’m seeing is real. One, Jenna’s
never up before me, and two, she never makes breakfast... ever.
turns at the waist to look at me. “Geez, late night? You have some major bags
under your eyes.”
Actually, yeah, it
was a late night. I think it was after two in the morning by the time Carter
and I got off the phone with each other. I slide onto a bar stool and prop my
elbows up on the counter. “That smells so good,” I say as my stomach growls.
She turns to me and
smiles. “Yeah, it’s something Josh was talking about the other day and I
thought I’d try it out.”
“What is it?” I
lean forward and glance in the pan she’s tending.