Authors: Heather London
Tags: #Contemporary romance
He laughs again,
coming closer, and I instantly smell the alcohol on his breath. “Are you gonna
back down from a fight?” He pushes me. “I want a rematch from this summer.”
“I was drunk that
night, man. I wasn’t myself. Let’s just get back to the game, alright?”
He pushes me again,
this time even harder, and my fists automatically form into a ball.
“Don’t be an
asshole, Travis,” a girl’s voice yells over the chatter surrounding us. I look
over to my right and see Jenna. Holly’s standing beside her and has a look of
horror on her face. Just seeing her is even more of a reason not to lose
control, not in front of her.
“Shut up, Jenna. No
one asked you,” Travis yells at her before facing me again.
“Don’t fucking talk
to her like that.” Out of the corner of my eye, I see Josh lunge at him, but a
couple of guys hold him back.
“So what’s it gonna
be? You gonna be a pussy and walk away or are you gonna give me a rematch,”
Travis taunts, taking another step towards me.
Holly speaks up now; her voice is soft, yet firm. The stare that Travis and I
have on each other is broken and we both look over at her.
relaxes when he sees her. “Holly, I don’t mean any disrespect, but you need to
stay out of it.”
“Just leave him
alone,” Holly says, her voice now holding a little anger in it.
“Why should I?” He
laughs, glancing back at me.
“Because he’s my
friend,” she adds.
He shakes his head
a few times. “Wait. Are you with this guy?” He looks appalled as he points at
friends. So take your macho ass somewhere else. There are some of us who came
to watch a game.” Her sharp words take me by surprise.
“How the fuck can
you be friends with him? After what happened?” He leans towards her, raising
his voice. Now, my blood is boiling and my fists are shaking. I know it’s only
a matter of seconds before I lose control.
She looks confused
by his tone, but he doesn’t stop pressing her. “Where is the fucking loyalty in
that, Holly?” His jaw clenches and she cowers back at his harsh words.
That’s it. I push
him square in the chest and he stumbles back a little. When he recovers, his
drunken eyes find mine, and there’s nothing except rage in them.
“Hit me and make it
good ‘cause it’s all you’re gonna get,” I grit through my teeth, throwing all
control out the window.
He takes a large
step towards me and I see his fist come flying. It makes contact with my face
and my jaw screams out in pain, but I push the pain away and actually find
myself wanting more. “Is that all you’ve got?” I ask, looking directly at him.
His nostrils flare
and he winds his arm back once more. This time his hand slams into my right eye
and there’s nothing or no one that can hold me back now. It takes no effort for
me to take him down to the ground and after a few good punches, he’s out cold.
Just like the night a few months ago, Josh pulls me off him. I’m breathing hard
and fighting to get myself under control. Glancing around, I try to find Holly,
wanting to make sure she’s okay.
“Where is she?” I
ask, turning to the side and spitting out a mouthful of blood.
“I gave them my
keys,” Josh exhales. “They’re gone, man.”
“Fuck,” I breathe.
“I didn’t want her to see that.”
brownie points you won with Jenna earlier, I think you just lost them.”
I shake my head at
his meaningless words and feel a sharp pain shoot up the right side of my head.
My hand flies to the throbbing pain and I wince when I touch it.
“Don’t worry about
it, though,” Josh continues. “That asshole had it coming. I can’t believe he
actually wanted to fight you again. You kicked his ass this summer. He must be
an idiot for wanting another piece of you.”
I rub my jaw and
move it back and forth, glad it’s not broken, but knowing it’s going to be sore
for a few days. “If you blamed someone for letting your best friend die,
wouldn’t you want to kick his ass every chance you got?”
I’m lying down on
my bed, staring at the ceiling and clenching the football in my hands. I throw
it up in the air, and then catch it. I’ve been doing this for the last hour or
so, over and over, maybe a couple hundred times, hoping the rhythmic motion
will eventually distract the crazy shit that’s going through my head. As much
as I want to forget what happened this afternoon, I can’t. I analyze what
happened, play-by-play, and try to tell myself that I did the right thing, that
it was the only thing to do.
A few weeks after
the accident, I had gone on a drinking binge, trying to drown out the memories
from that night and all the other depressing crap in my head. Josh had always
stayed sober just to make sure I didn’t do anything stupid. One night, we
decided to go to a party near campus and Travis was there, even more drunk than
me. I had no idea that he was Adam’s best friend until he started going on a
rampage and blubbering about how I screwed up that night... that if I had just
tried harder, his best friend would still be here.
Even though I
probably had close to a twelve pack all by myself, I sobered up pretty quick
after his comments. Josh tried to get me to leave, but I refused and spent the
rest of the night drowning my sorrows with any alcohol I could find. I never
wanted to fight Travis; I actually spent most of the night trying to avoid him.
However, every time I turned around, he was right there, trying to instigate a
fight. I understood his anger and I could see why he wanted to fight me. I
understood wanting to get rid of the pain. I understood wanting someone else to
hurt as bad as you.
It was a few hours
later, and a few more drinks down, when I started to get angry every time I saw
him and he wouldn’t keep his mouth shut.
When he told me
that it should’ve been me that died up there and not Adam, I unleashed on him.
He had no idea the guilt I was already living with... the feeling of knowing
that I should’ve been more careful... that maybe I could’ve done something...
the simple fact that Adam shouldn’t have even been up there in the first place.
Travis didn’t even
get a punch in before I had him on the ground and was beating him into
oblivion. It took Josh and some guy I didn’t even know to pull me off him. I’m
glad they were there because I don’t think I would’ve stopped otherwise.
Looking back on it
now, I regret even going to that party; I regret ever drinking a drop of
alcohol that night. With all that I had been through, there was so much rage
and guilt built up inside me. Not only from what happened that night on the
mountain, but the events leading up to that night. It had been years of tragedy
and loss for me, as well as my family. Unfortunately for Travis, I took my
anger out on him.
The next day, I
swore off alcohol, blaming the booze for making me act the way I did. This
afternoon, though, it wasn’t the alcohol. Holly’s horrified face and the way
she cowered when Travis spoke to her is what really set me off. Sure, he was
drunk, but he still shouldn’t have talked to her like that. I don’t really know
the guy, but you have to be an asshole to talk to a girl like that...
especially one that used to be your best friend’s girl.
I throw the
football up in the air once more and catch it; clenching it so tight, it feels
like it’s going to bust open. My grip eases up when I hear the front door shut
and a female’s voice float up the stairs. My breath stops as I sit up and
listen harder, a part of me wanting and hoping that it’s Holly. I need to
apologize to her for what happened earlier. I need to see her and make sure
she’s okay. The moment Paul dropped us off back at the house I already had my
cell in hand, but Josh stopped me. He told me to give Holly some time or wait until
she called me.
There’s a soft
knock at my door and I’m so lost in my thoughts that I jump from the sound.
Jenna. May I come in?”
“Sure,” I call out.
My heart is hammering against my ribs and my throat feels thick. I’m not sure
why she’s here, but I know it can’t be good.
She enters the
room, wearing a somber face. With the way she’s treated me in the past, I
expect for her to look pissed —actually, I expect her to walk in throwing
“Do you have a
minute to talk?” she asks.
“Yeah.” I scoot up
to the edge of my bed, still gripping the football in my hands. She pulls out
my desk chair, turns it around and takes a seat.
“I just wanted to
come by and see how you were doing.”
through me. Why does she care? “I’m doing okay.” I swallow hard and watch her
eyes scan over my face.
“Does it hurt?” She
winces, scanning the right side my face before meeting my eyes.
I shrug. “Not
really. Not anymore. The swelling’s gone down a bit.”
She nods. “Well, I
just wanted to say I’m sorry for what happened earlier, for what Travis said
and for how he acted. He can be a real asshole when he drinks.”
I shake my head.
“You don’t have to apologize for him. He’s just hurt and wants someone to
blame. I get it.” I talk around the lump in my throat.
“Yeah, well, he has
no right to blame you. There’s no one to blame for what happened that night.
Josh told me everything and it wasn’t your fault, Carter. What happened up
there was just a freak accident and the choices Adam made to join the team,
those were his choices. I knew Adam and the type of guy he was, he wouldn’t
want you to feel like this.”
Nodding my head, I
swallow hard. I can’t believe out of all people it’s Jenna that’s saying this
to me. The two of us have barely spoken more than a few sentences to each other
in the past few months… and now this? “Thanks. That, um, that means a lot
coming from you.” My voice cracks and I clear my throat, hoping to cover up the
uneasiness in my voice.
She sighs loudly.
“I guess, while I’m here, I should apologize for how I’ve treated you the last
few months, too.” She looks down at her hands in her lap. “I don’t want you to
think I hate you or anything. The reason I was being such a bitch to you over
the last few months was for Holly’s sake. She took Adam’s death really hard and
seeing or hearing from you was just too much for her. I know how much you
wanted to talk to her and I know you were just trying to be a good guy. It’s
just... I felt like I had to be a bitch to get my point across. I didn’t want
her to hurt anymore... but I am really sorry.”
“You were just
trying to be a good friend. You should never apologize for that.”
She takes in a deep
breath and I can see that she’s struggling with what she’s about to say.
“There’s something else you should know.” She pauses, hesitating. “Holly
doesn’t know what happened the night of the accident.” She pauses again and
shakes her head, “I mean, she doesn’t know the details of what happened. All
she knows is that Adam...” her voice trails off.
It feels like all
the air has been knocked out of my lungs. “She doesn’t know? Does she know...
Does she know that I was up there with him?”
She shakes her head
and my head drops into my hands. No wonder she can still stand to look at me.
“And I don’t want
her to know,” she adds.
My head jerks back
up and I stare at her. “What? Why?”
She sighs and gives
me a pleading look. “I tried to tell her. About a week or so after the
accident, I sat her down and wanted to tell her then. I wanted to tell her
everything, but she said that she didn’t want to know. She said that she didn’t
need to know the details. I know it’s not right to keep her in the dark about
it now, but she’s been doing so well and I don’t want to bring her back down.
Does it really matter anyway?” she asks, but I can’t find the words to answer
Sometimes the questions
are complicated and the answers are simple.
~ Dr. Seuss
It’s been two days
since the football game. Two days since I’ve talked to Carter. I’m not sure if
I should call him after the fight or not. I pick up the phone a couple times to
call him, but then I talk myself out of it, not knowing for sure if he even
wants to talk to me.
“Hey, Holly, wait
up,” a male voice shouts from across the courtyard. Turning around, I see
Travis jogging up to me. As he gets closer, I see that his face still looks
swollen and bruised.
“Hey.” He lets out
a big breath when he gets within a few feet from me.
“Hey,” I say,
gripping the books in my hand a little tighter to my chest.
“I’m… I just wanted
to say I’m sorry for acting like an asshole the other day at the football game.
I was drunk and wasn’t thinking straight. Actually, I hardly even remember it
all, but the guys told me all about it the next morning.” He glances down to
the grass beneath our feet. “They told me I said some pretty messed up things