Someone to love, p.25

Someone to Love, page 25

 

Someone to Love
 

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  The sound of her laughter chisels down a toxic brand of misery right through to my bones, and I get the hell out of Dodge.

  Late the next morning, I make breakfast for Kenny while she’s still sleeping—eggs and bacon, toast with strawberry jam, her favorite, and I’m heavy with agony every step of the way.

  I glance out the kitchen window at the grey corrosive sky—all rust and iron locked in hurt and disbelief much like my heart.

  Fresh air seems mandatory to clear my head out of this gutter of despair I’ve landed in. I grab a pen, and my hand trembles as I leave her a note.

  Going for a walk, be right back. I scrawl it on a napkin quick as possible—afraid if I stall, my true feelings might bleed out.

  It’s almost afternoon, and she’s still knocked out. She didn’t get in until three. I kept hoping she’d come to my room and ask why I was in my own bed, but she didn’t. Not sure what I would have said if she did. I just laid there all night, wide awake, wondering how the hell my heart wound up crushed under the sole of her pretty little foot.

  I guess Blair was right—Blair who was the first to gouge my heart out, or so I thought. The misery Blair caused was nothing in comparison to the utter desolation that set in after hearing—seeing Kenny in action with my own freaking eyes.

  But I know she loves me. You can’t fake emotion like that. Can you?

  I head outside and a crisp breeze knifes through my clothes in cold steely jags.

  The late February sky holds a stainless shade of grey as if someone were about to place a lid over Carrington, cover us up for good and a part me wishes they would. The pines still manage to cast detailed shadows over the snow in blues and lavenders, deep navy, dark as night. The strong scented evergreens light up the air, fresh and cleansing.

  My phone goes off just as I arrive at the stream. It’s a number I don’t recognize, but I stop to take the call before I hit a dead zone.

  “Hello?”

  “Cruise? I’m so sorry to bother you. It’s Rayann, Blair’s mother.”

  Every muscle in my body tenses as my bloodstream fills with concrete. What if Blair hurled herself off a cliff? Or what if she stuffed a bottle of pills in her stomach? I’m sure there would be hell to pay, and undoubtedly it would start and end with me.

  “Nice to hear from you.” I manage to fake the kind sentiment. “What’s going on?”

  “It’s Blair.” She wails when she says her name. “She’s been such a mess. She doesn’t eat anymore. All she does is mope about how she ruined things between the two of you. Is there any way you could talk to her? Maybe you could take her to dinner and get this whole thing straightened out.” Her voice rises with hope. “You do know that Stan and I think of you like a son. People make mistakes, Cruise—big ones. I really pray you’ll find it in your heart to forgive her.”

  I blow out a hard breath.

  Is that where this is headed? Can anyone really expect me to walk away from something so fantastic with Kenny and step back into a dead relationship with Blair again?

  “I’m sorry she’s having a tough time.” I do mean that. Blair and I weren’t always riding on the crap wagon. “I really hope the best for her, but I’m pretty sure what we had is long over.”

  We exchange niceties before hanging up, and I mute the damn phone.

  Dad waves from the porch before making his way over—so much for time to think. On second thought, it’s probably best I don’t.

  “Morning.” He says with an ear-to-ear grin, and I’m almost afraid to ask why he’s so ungodly jubilant. It looks like one of us got lucky with a Jordan woman last night and it sure as hell wasn’t me. “Mind if I join you?”

  I look up at my father in this new light, the older gentleman with graying hair, the newly-minted playboy—the friend.

  “Not at all.” I lead us to a bench overlooking the stream that braids itself through the property, quiet as a yawn. My grandfather used to tell me stories of catching trout here, but I haven’t seen a fish longer than my thumb since I was thirteen. The runoff from a nearby hillside keeps it flowing straight through winter. I used to come out here after the Blair debacle, then Kenny brought me a moment of peace, and here I am again.

  “You have an upsetting call?” He points to the phone still cradled in my hand. He’s wearing a pair of jeans, which is unusual for him, and a baseball cap of mine that Mom must have lent him. We resemble each other enough for me to know what I’ll look like in about twenty years—that is if I eat like hell and forget the directions to the gym.

  “Blair’s mother.” I rattle the phone before diving it into my pocket. “She’s trying to play matchmaker. I’m sure Blair put her up to it.”

  “You ever think of getting back together?” He winces when he says it. The flesh on his face looks thicker than I remember as a child. A smile is permanently embedded in the lines beneath his eyes. “It’s never too late to make things right.”

  “Never is the operative word. Let’s just say I’ve been given a reprieve. A dying man doesn’t run back to the guillotine.”

  He lets out a warm laugh straight from his belly, and it feels good to be out here with him, sharing a moment, even if it is a pretty crappy moment for me. Not that I plan on highlighting the heartache I’m having with Kenny anytime soon.

  “I had a relationship once that I let go of too soon,” he starts. “Never forgot her. Thought about her every day of my life after I let her walk through that door.” His gaze softens over mine.

  I have a feeling I know exactly who he let walk out that door, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to follow in his footsteps.

  I’m going to fight for Kenny.

  I just hope there’s something to fight for in her eyes.

  19

  Kendall

  Heart of Glass, Heart of Stone

  A glimmer of light pours through the curtains and rouses me just enough to let me know I’ve got one hell of a power headache pumping through my skull.

  I let Ally talk me into hanging out with her at the party last night, well after Lauren disappeared with Cal. Turns out, no matter how hard I tried to bring him to his so-called cheating knees, he held onto his resolve and, apparently, his relationship. Lauren burst out of the closet and the rest was make-up sex history.

  Of course, I’ll have to confess everything to Cruise since it’s his friend from the gym, or things are bound to get really weird the next time Cal’s around.

  I pull my hair into a ponytail and head to the kitchen. There’s a plate on the table loaded with eggs and bacon, two slices of my favorite kind of toast, and my heart melts. The way Cruise loves me is indescribable. It feels like heaven to be cared for like this.

  There’s a note set to the side.

  Going for a walk, be right back.

  I don’t hesitate slipping on my boots and coat before heading out the door. I need to collect my morning kiss. It’s practically a necessary vitamin to kick-start the day.

  The air outside is crisp. The wind picks up and wraps itself around my bare neck like a scarf made of icicles. If it weren’t for Cruise, I’d literally be freezing to death and homeless. I guess I should be thankful Pennington didn’t have the foresight to get me keyed in with the housing department—thankful for his beer bong emergency that cropped up at the last minute. It’s so strange how it all worked out. It’s as if destiny stepped in and arranged every coincidence to work in our favor.

  If ever there were a couple that was meant to be, it’s Cruise and me.

  Voices buzz through the shrubbery, and I follow the sound over to a dirt trail.

  “But I don’t love her anymore.” Cruise’s voice resonates loud and clear through the thicket, it reverberates through my skull like some horrible gong. Who doesn’t he love?

  I lean into the fat trunk of a pine—my heart already blistering from his words. Surely, they weren’t meant for me. I peer over at him, seated next to his father.

  “I regret every last thing,” he continues. “Hones
tly, I don’t know what I ever saw in her. I don’t even think she’s pretty.” His voice escalates as if he just woke up from a long hibernation and wasn’t satisfied with what he found lying in his bed. “She’s totally screwed up on the inside. I’m sure she’ll blame it on daddy issues, and now she’s got her mother all over my back. If I regret one thing, it’s ever asking her to marry me.”

  My heart pulsates through me like a series of grenades. It thumps through my ears until the world warps to the deafening sound of a jungle drum.

  I stagger backward and trip over a root. The ground jolts, the entire universe spins on its axis as I gather what strength I have left and head back to the house.

  Tears pour like rain for the first twenty minutes, as an entire cyclone of emotion rips through me. I hadn’t seen the storm on the horizon. There was no time to batten down the hatches. Cruise doesn’t love me anymore, and now he’s sorry he ever put this ring on my finger.

  I’m numb inside, a shell of who I was just an hour ago. I segue into the hiccupping, slap-cheek red phase of the ugly cry, but I need to pull it together.

  I sent a text to Ally. She said I could crash with her for a while. There’s no way I’m staying in the bed and breakfast with his family, even if Mom, herself, has already taken up residency there. I’ll fill her in on my trauma some other day. Besides, I don’t think I could get the words to vomit from my throat, not with this boulder of pain Cruise lodged in it.

  The door jiggles, and everything in me freezes. I wipe down my face with my T-shirt and brace myself for what I have to do next.

  Cruise walks in and beams a sad smile while taking off his jacket. He looks resplendent, divine. How I ever thought someone as godlike as Cruise Elton could love me, want me, just shows how hard I’ve fallen.

  “Look who’s up?” If I didn’t know better I’d think he was hurt, but it seems like I’m the only one hurting in this equation. He does a double take at my suitcase, packed and ready to roll by my side. “What’s going on?” His features transform with genuine surprise, and I’m almost sold on the fact he’s aching to see me stay, but I know better.

  “Just heading to Ally’s.” I shrug, running my fingers through the back of my hair as if he didn’t just cut my heart out with the knife of his tongue and unwittingly serve it to me for breakfast. “You know, just getting out of your way. Rumor has it your ex is interested in patching things up.”

  “That’s what I hear.” He rides his eyes up my body, slow, suspicious.

  “So, I guess that means you’re still into her.” My heart sinks—you could tie it to my neck and throw me into the sea with the millstone it’s become in such a short time.

  His brows dip as if to protest the idea. “Are you into other guys, Kenny?” His strangled gaze remains unmovable.

  I take a breath and hold it.

  What’s happening? This is, Cruise. A few short hours ago, I would have bet my life that we were Garrison’s next power couple, and now here we are, frying each other on the skillet, searing our hatred over one another for the hell of it.

  Those hurtful words I overheard this morning waft through my mind like the stench from a rotting corpse.

  “Maybe I am into other guys,” I say it low. “That’s how this whole mess started, remember?”

  His chest lurches as if he were going to laugh—cry, but he aborts the effort. “I guess I trained you well.”

  “Guess you did.” I glance down at his grandmother’s ring still gracing my finger and gently pluck it off. He doesn’t stop me or beg me not to do it with some impassioned plea, which only solidifies what I heard him say.

  This right here—this stabbing rejection is real. Cruise and all his love for me was just another illusion. I jumped into love believing it was a battleship that would withstand the test of time when all it turned out to be was a paper boat that dissolved to nothing beneath my feet.

  “I suppose this was just a test,” I say, holding up the platinum band a moment before placing it on the table. “I guess I failed because a player never commits.”

  Cruise closes his eyes an inordinate amount of time and takes a breath that goes on for miles. “Look, I get it. You’re not ready. You’re in college—you’re young. You want to see what’s out there.”

  His lips tremble, and for a minute I think he’s going to tell me this is all some joke, that he still loves me, that I should put that ring back on right this fucking minute, but he doesn’t. Cruise is somehow trying to pass all this off on me because he’s too chicken shit to admit the fact he’s over us—that he never thought I was pretty—that I’m prone to blame everything on my screwed up fatherless childhood.

  “Maybe in the future.” He takes a step forward, and I retract. “Maybe we can see where things lead.”

  My heart implodes. This is it. The big kiss off. Cruise Elton has the balls to look me straight in the eye and offer me “someday” while hacking down any fantasy I might have had about forever.

  “Fuck off, Cruise.” I wheel my luggage past him at breakneck speed and open the door to the icy world waiting to comfort me with its barbed wire embrace.

  Tears bubble to the surface, and I refuse to do him the honor by letting them fall.

  “Kenny, wait,” he pleads.

  My feet somehow find the strength to carry me over the threshold one last time. I glance back at him—his gorgeous frame stains itself like a bookmark in my mind. I never want to forget how bad falling in love can hurt—how quick the jagged granite comes up after you dive from the cliff.

  “My name is Kendall,” I stammer. “But don’t worry. You won’t have to use it. I won’t be hanging around too much longer.”

  I toss my shit in the car and speed the hell away from the Elton Bed and Breakfast where hearts are stolen and returned mutilated on a whim.

  I drive down several miles until I come upon a sign that reads, Now leavening Carrington. Please visit us again!

  Carrington was beautiful, but its lessons were harsh. It watched with eager anticipation as its prized son cut out my heart with a rusted razor for the hell of it. The world tried to warn me, but I wouldn’t listen. I wanted the fairytale, the fantasy of it all. I wanted to be the princess that Cruise told me I was. I bought the lie, and my heart was thrown back in my face. I came to Carrington with a heart of glass, and Cruise crushed it under his heel. But today, as I leave Cruise and Carrington behind for good, I trade that heart of glass for a heart of stone.

  No one will ever hurt me again.

  I’ll make damn sure of it.

  I pull off behind a row of Junipers and sob my eyes out for the next several hours.

  My maxim comes back like a haunting refrain—love never works out in the end.

  I hate that I was right.

  Cruise

  What the fuck just happened?

  I stagger over to the door and stare at the empty space where her car sat a moment ago. A plume of dust rises over the hill from the direction she sped off in. I step back into the house, panting—my heart threatening to evict itself from my chest. I should have fought for her. I should have laid down my pride and dropped to my knees, begged her to have me—hell, pencil me in on Tuesdays if she wanted.

  Who was that imposter? It couldn’t have been Kenny. Maybe she’s got a twin, and she’s punking me.

  Then I see it. Neatly laid out over the sofa is the wool coat I gave her. Her boots sit on the hearth as if she were suggesting I use them for fuel.

  A hard roll of nausea cycles through me. How could I have let this happen? Then again, how could I not? I’m Catastrophe Cruise, and fucking up relationships seems to be my specialty. Although it wasn’t me who cheated with Blair, and it wasn’t me who cheated with Kenny. But I would tolerate just about anything Kenny dished out just to be a part of her life. I’d take the leftovers of her love on every day that ends in Y if she let me. That’s how far I’ve drifted from the person who built his life around ideals, when high standards and morals were the order of the day
.

  The baseball bat I keep in the corner catches my eye. I speed over and choke the shit out of it like my life depended on it—hell, my sanity. I blow out every fucking window in this psychotic love shack of ours—shatter them to millions of pieces just like Kenny shattered my heart.

  True to her word, Kenny doesn’t show for class that week or the following week after that. She doesn’t return my calls, and her mother manages to give me to the cold shoulder each time I’ve bumped into her.

  I’ve been holing up in the bowels of the bed and breakfast, going over the books, as if I weren’t depressed enough already. Just as I suspected, Mom has let a few bills go unpaid, and now the creditors are breathing down our necks. I assured her I’d take over. There’s no point in delaying the inevitable. The only question is, how am I going to handle school and running a fulltime business.

  On Wednesday there’s a note on my desk, and for a moment my adrenaline skyrockets.

  Mandatory meeting. My office 3:30. Dr. Barney.

  For sure not the note I was hoping for. I was looking forward to something a little more erotic in nature with a big fat heart and a giant K gracing the bottom of the page. I’ve been fantasizing all week how she’d sneak into my room—that this had all been some great ploy to initiate the world’s greatest make-up sex.

  At 3:30 on the button, I stroll into Dr. Barney’s office and try to forget about the constant ache gnawing at me ever since Kenny rolled her suitcase out of my life. I press out a manufactured smile and nod into the tired looking man who holds my fellowship in his hands. I must be early because the rest of the seats are suspiciously empty. Either that or this is a private pow-wow. He probably wants to tell me how proud he is of me, handling Bradshaw’s class with one hand tied behind my scholastic back.

  “Mr. Elton.” Dr. Barney raises his chin and expertly peers down his nose at me. He’s plumped up a bit, and his age spots have spread evenly over his face giving him a tanned complexion. “I’m most devastated by some news that’s recently come to my attention.”

 
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