Unbroken: Virgin and Bad Boy Second Chance Romance, page 14
I turn the envelope over and it drops like a heavyweight into my palm. My Super Bowl ring.
Then I turn around, slamming my fist hard against the wall, and hurl the thing far into the night, as far as I possibly can, so I know for sure I’ll never see it again.
I knew that Silas would come banging on my door, so I double locked it. In high school, I’d left a window open. A lifeline. I’d hoped.
But I’m not hoping now. Fool me twice, shame on me.
I also knew that he knew I had no place else to go. No money, no means to travel far away. So I’d parked my car behind the restaurant, where he wouldn’t see it, and I’d hidden inside.
I read every one of his texts, each getting more and more worried. I didn’t want him to worry.
He lied. That should’ve been enough for me to hate him. But I didn’t hate him for that. In fact, I understood why he did it. He wanted me, and I’d always denied him. I’d been insufferable, all this time, driving him to near madness with my anger and attitude. I made him so crazy, he lied, just to be with me.
I left my window open for him.
The night of prom, I ran all the way home. It was only ten o’clock when I got back, my eyes all bloodshot from tears and the mascara I never wore running down my cheeks like prison bars. My parents held me and told me it would be okay as I sobbed. They told me they never knew what I saw in that boy, even though they’d both liked him when they’d met him.
When I went up to bed a half-hour later, I left my window open for him. I never did that. I thought if there was any night for him to appear like Romeo beneath my window and make everything better, it would be that night.
But he never showed.
And he didn’t try to call me, all weekend.
The following Monday, Abby cornered me as I was pulling my books out of my locker. I thought she just wanted to hear the scoop on my first prom. Instead, she said, “What happened to you?”
I sighed. “We got in a fight.”
“And?” She seemed to think there was more to the story.
I shrugged. I didn’t know what else to say. I’d see him at lunch, and I’d apologize first. Or maybe he would. Whatever. It didn’t matter. We’d be back to “skating” at the Roll-a-Rama on Friday. “When do we not fight?”
I slammed my locker door, and she pulled me aside, her eyes furtively scanning the hallway. “So you haven’t heard?”
I stared at her. I managed a look down the hall, and sure enough, a few eyes were focused on me. What for? If I wasn’t with Silas, I was usually invisible. “Heard what?”
“Okay. Don’t flip out. It might not be true. But it’s all over the school.” She gnawed on her lip.
“Spit it out, Abby.”
She leaned forward, and in the smallest of whispers, said, “Geni. It’s all over the school that Silas fucked Erica Lindley on prom night.”
My heart froze, shattered, and the broken pieces climbed into my throat, suffocating me. “What? Who told you that?”
“A bunch of people. I didn’t believe it, of course,” she said. “But then . . .”
It’s not true. It’s not true. It’s just a rumor, I kept repeating to myself, as she came back with the answer that deadened my heart completely. “They were making out in the science wing hallway earlier. I saw them.”
Until then, I’d won the perfect attendance award every year. But I left school before that period, without an excuse. Without guilt. And also, without a heart.
He’d never talked to me again, after that. Not even a word. For the last week of school, I’d see Silas in the hallway, and I’d look the other way. I’d see him with Erica, the envy of most girls in school, and even I had to admit, they looked good together. Of course, I couldn’t look for long.
I didn’t have a heart, anymore, but it still hurt.
His relationship with Erica didn’t go anywhere. It probably ended over the summer, when he went to UCLA and she started school at Penn State, but I’d buried my head in the sand. I threw myself into college applications and SAT prep. I lived and breathed schoolwork. Eventually, I could carry on without thinking of him every second of every day.
So as I lie in my bed now, crying my eyes out, I think that as hard as it was, I can do that again. I will. When he’d been here, with me, I’d thought that maybe I hadn’t lost my heart forever. I could feel it inside me, beating again.
Funny, it doesn’t hurt any less when it’s broken a second time.
No, he didn’t cheat on me. But he’d deceived me by telling me that his life in football was over. He knows that if I knew he had any chance of playing again, I would tell him to get out, to go for it. And part of me is happy that he’ll be back, doing what he loves. It’s what is meant to be. Us? We weren’t meant to be.
The following morning, he’s at my apartment, banging on the door again, at barely seven. “Genevieve!” he shouts, banging on the door so loud that the glass inside rattles and Mr. Chen, downstairs, comes out with his broom, chasing him away. I hide in my bedroom until I see his truck speed away. He knows I am in here, knows I don’t have anywhere else to go, and it’s just a matter of time before he finds me. I can’t hide in a town this small. I’m trapped.
So that afternoon, I write out twenty letters of inquiry to newspapers across the country. I print out copies of my best articles that I’d written at UPenn, and fold them into envelopes. I post them all in the mailbox on the corner, then scurry back upstairs, and go to bed.
When I wake up on Sunday, there are more texts from Silas. The last one: I’m sorry. I’m getting the surgery tomorrow, leaving for Philly at 6 a.m. I’ll be outside your door then if you want to come with me.
I roll onto my back and stare up at the ceiling. I’m happy, because he’s getting the surgery. He’s doing what he’s meant to do in life. That was the reason I let him go the first time, and the real purpose of his life, because here would have just been a dead end.
But going to Philly with him would only be prolonging the inevitable. We are from two different worlds, and it’s not going to work.
I pull up at her apartment at 5:45 a.m., already knowing this is a suicide mission.
She isn’t going to come. If there’s one thing Genevieve is, it’s stubborn.
Back in high school, after prom, I texted her a thousand times until I learned that she’d blocked my number. I tried to corner her in school, but her friends always managed to play interference so I couldn’t get closer to her. Last ditch effort, I wrote her a letter, telling her how sorry I was, then ripped it up before I could send it. Truthfully, all of my efforts were half-hearted. I knew she was too good for me. I knew she was right when she called me a distraction.
And now, I’m even worse. I fucked her over to get close to her. I promised her a forever.
And I didn’t deliver. I simply can’t deliver. Our lives are too different.
While I’m waiting, I pull open the center console storage and stare at the article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. I stare at it. It’s all about how I’m going to be back at the end of the season. Even now, I’m itching to get back on the field. But I’m not itching for any of the stuff that comes along with it. The business end, the women, the celebrity. I just want to play.
And I want Genevieve to fit in my life. Anyway she can. Can she?
But maybe we’re like two puzzle pieces that look like they fit together, but don’t. Maybe that’s all we’ll ever be.
That’s the last thing I think when I check the clock on the console. It’s 6:15. If I don’t leave soon, I’ll be late for the surgery.
I take a deep breath, and one last look up at her apartment, throw the car into drive, and speed away.
Two Months Later
I step out onto the street as a car whizzes by, nearly taking off my right foot.
Jumping back, I heave in a breath. I am so not made for this city.
I hate the city. Hate, hate, hate.
Pittsburgh looks gloomy. It’s late January, well after the Christmas holidays, with dirty piles of snow everywhere, and the buildings are drowning out the sun, making a blustery day ridiculously cold. With the wind chill, I read it was going to be something like ten degrees, tops, today. When I got the call from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that they wanted to interview me for a junior editorial assistant position, I almost said no. I’d never been to Pittsburgh before. But then I remembered how I’d always dreamed of getting out and writing for a newspaper, and I couldn’t turn it down. Not because of a few sub-zero temperatures and a complete abhorrence for the city.
Thus, here I am, bundled in my quilted coat, ear muffs, and scarf, trying to find a way to my lunch meeting with one Vincent Malone, sports editor for the newspaper. And hoping I don’t throw up.
I’m not stronger since Silas left. I think about him every minute of every day. Sometimes I will see a guy that looks nothing like him while waiting tables at Billys, and get a thrill that it might be him. I’m always disappointed. Just like he never tried to climb into my window after we fought at his senior prom, once he left for his surgery, he never returned to the Bend.
He made a triumphant return to the Steelers last week. They had a freaking parade for him, it was that big a deal. I know as much, because I saw the whole thing while working the lunch shift. Luckily, their record wasn’t totally in the toilet, so they’d made the playoffs as a wild card and managed to win their first playoff game against the Ravens. Though he was favoring his good leg and I could tell he was playing it cautious, I watched him throw a perfect game, one of the best of his career. They beat the Browns 28 to nothing, to become AFC Champions and make it to the Super Bowl for the second year in a row.
Not that it’s any surprise, with Silas.
I say a silent prayer of thanks when I see the restaurant the editor and I agreed to meet at, Morton’s Steakhouse, across the street. This time, I wait to make sure a group of people are crossing before I cross, too. My black heels are low and sensible, but I find my ankles wobbling in them, anyway, since I never wear shoes like this. I check my phone as I hustle inside. Noon, exactly. I just made it.
My cheeks burn as they’re greeted by the indoor heat. I look around, and a thick man, bald, in a suit, strides over to me. He looks very metropolitan, and all business. “Genevieve?” he asks.
I smile, trying to remember, warm, firm handshake. I get at least half of that right, since my hands are ice. “Yes, hello. Mr. Malone?”
“Pleasure to meet you,” he says. I uncoil the scarf from around my neck as he leads me to the back of the restaurant. By the time I pull off my muffs and coat and I sit down, I realize he already has my resume in front of him. “Where is Bradys Bend?”
“It’s an hour north of here, sir. It’s a small town.”
He nods. Then I realize he has a few of the articles I’d written, in front of him, stacked in a pile, over his menu. “I noticed you wrote a lot about it. Would you plan on moving to the city, or commuting, if you got this job?”
I swallow. “Probably commuting, at first.”
He slides his menu out as the waiter approaches us. “Let’s not talk about that right now. Let’s get our orders in!”
I nod. I have absolutely no appetite. Ordinarily, I’d order a steak, medium rare, and a draft beer, but because this is an interview, I order a glass of water, and a salad.
Vincent orders a draft beer, and a steak, medium rare. Dammit.
When the waiter takes our menus, Vincent stares at me, as if trying to unravel my secrets. It’s so unnerving that I think I might have something in my teeth, or mascara somewhere it shouldn’t be. I never wear make-up, so there’s a damn good chance of that. Then he says, “Writing about your hometown is all well and good. But do you care anything about sports?”
I open my mouth to speak the standard answer, about how I know the ins and outs of football pretty well, even though I’ve never written about it. But then I look in the mirrored glass on the wall and see someone sitting at a booth, near the wall.
I blink. It can’t be. It’s just my mind, playing tricks on me, the way it had when I was working the lunch shift at Billy’s.
But the blink only brings him into better focus.
Of course he’s here. He lives here. But in this town of millions, what are the chances? And he’d just been in Cleveland, yesterday. I didn’t expect him to be . . .
I blink again. It really is him. Despite the fact that everyone else here’s dressed in suits, he’s in jeans and a sweatshirt, and yet he fits in perfectly. He’s with another couple of men, big ones, built like linebackers. Duh, they must be linebackers. They must be his teammates.
I swallow. Then swallow again.
Then I look across the table and realize I’ve been sitting with my mouth open, mute, while my interviewer stares at me, for at least a minute. “I’m sorry,” I say. “Could you repeat the question?”
He looks at me like I have three heads. “Are you a fan of sports?” he asks.
I nod. “Oh. Yes.” Nothing else comes to me, so I leave it at that. I can’t stop looking in the mirror, at Silas. He’s intent in conversation with the other men in the booth, and I’m facing away from him, so he can’t possibly notice me. A waitress arrives at his table, blocking him from my view, and I end up craning my neck to see as he hands her his credit card.
“Excuse me.” The man across from me clears his throat. I fail to remember his name. Or even why I’m here. I’m wondering if there’s any way to get out of this restaurant without Silas seeing me. “Did you hear me?”
I shake my head. “Oh. No. I’m sorry. I just . . .” I wave a hand in front of my face. “It’s a little hot in here, isn’t it?”
“No,” he says, his tone of voice changed. It used to be pleasant, and now, it’s tinged with annoyance. “I asked what your career aspirations are? You attended college for a semester and you’ve been working as a waitress since? What makes you think you’d be a good reporter?”
“Oh, I—” I had an answer to this all planned. That I hoped to go back to school, part-time, while I was working in the city. That I’d had to drop out due to a family emergency but it really was my dream to write for a major newspaper. That I’d been writing a column for the Brady Times for the past couple months, but I wanted to expand my readership. Instead, I fumble with, “I like to write. And I’m good at it.”
Our drinks arrive. I suck the water down through the straw like I’ve spent the last few days on a desert island. I draw in a breath as I watch Silas sign the tab. He places the pen down on the table, and stands up. God, despite probably being up all night celebrating crushing the Browns the night before, he looks even hotter than I remembered.
He’ll walk away, soon, and I might never see him, in person, again. Of course, I’ll see him on the screen. Again and again, because that’s where stars belong. But it won’t be the same.
“Do you know Pittsburgh football?” Vincent grins at me suddenly, coming to life. “Hey, St. Clair!”
Oh, god. They know each other?
Of course they know each other. Vincent Malone is none other than the man who called Silas “almost inhuman in his precision” in the Post last year. He’s completely up Silas’ butt.
And I am completely mortified. I can hear my heartbeat bouncing around in my ears.
Silas’s head shoots up, and he changes direction suddenly and starts to stride down the row, toward us. And he really comes into view; the face I kissed silly, the body I’d spent so many nights wrapped up in, the boy I’d chased away a thousand years ago.
“Hey, Malone,” he calls as he walks, in his friendly, easy-going way. “How’s it going?”
“Nice game, kid,” the editor says, holding o
Then Silas turns his face to me.
His smile falls. The slap he’d intended to give to the editor just hangs there, caught in mid-air. Whatever thanks he’d had on the tip of his tongue just slides away. Instead, he breathes, “Well, holy fuck.”
I manage a smile. “Hi, Silas.”
Vincent clears his throat. “You two know each other?”
“What are you doing here, Genevieve?” he says, ignoring the man.
“I have a job interview, actually. For the paper,” I say, voice small.
“What about your father, and . . .” He stops, at a loss for words.
Vincent says, “Hey. So you guys do know each other?”
I look at him and nod sheepishly. He gives an understanding nod, like, Here is probably one of the millions of women playboy Silas St. Clair has entangled himself with, the sly dog.
Silas turns to him and seems to suddenly realize he’s sitting there. “Yeah. And man, you can’t hire a better writer, or a more reliable one. She knows football inside and out. She taught me everything she knows.”
I’m blushing. What utter bullshit.
But I guess anything coming from Silas is worth its weight in gold, because Vincent seems surprised to hear it. I suppose if I were just an ordinary one of Silas’s fucks, he wouldn’t have given me such a glowing recommendation. Vincent smiles at me, then claps his hands together. “Well, I don’t think I could possibly get a better recommendation than that. When can you start?”
I freeze. Is he offering me the job?
Silas finally makes contact with the man’s hand and shakes it, then looks over at me, his eyes lingering on me, like he wants to say more. “Genevieve,” he says. Then he clears his throat and looks at Vincent. “I’ll see you.”
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