I laugh, but Breckin looks at me like I’m crazy again. “Holder loves boring,” I assure him. “He means that in a nice way.”

Breckin looks back and forth between the two of us, then shakes his head and leans forward, picking up his fork. “Not much confuses me,” he says, pointing his fork at us. “But you two are an exception.”

I nod in complete agreement.

We continue on with lunch and have somewhat normal, decent interaction between the three of us. Holder and Breckin start talking about the book he let me borrow and the fact that Holder is even discussing a romance novel at all is entertaining in itself, but the fact that he’s arguing about the plot with Breckin is sickeningly adorable. Every now and then he places his hand on my leg or rubs my back or kisses the side of my head, and he’s going through these motions like they’re second nature, but to me not a single one of them goes unnoticed.

I’m trying to process the shift from last week to this week and I can’t get past the notion that we might just be too good. Whatever this is and whatever we’re doing seems too good and too right and too perfect and it makes me think of all the books I’ve read and how, when things get too good and too right and too perfect, it’s only because the ugly twist hasn’t yet infiltrated the goodness of it all and I suddenly—

“Sky,” Holder says, snapping his fingers in front of my face. I look at him and he’s eyeing me cautiously. “Where’d you go?”

I shake my head and smile, not knowing what just set off that mini internal panic attack. He slides his hand just below my ear and runs his thumb across my cheekbone. “You have to quit checking out like that. It freaks me out a little bit.”

“Sorry,” I say with a shrug. “I’m easily distracted.” I bring my hand up and pull his hand away from my neck, squeezing his fingers reassuringly. “Really, I’m fine.”

His gaze drops to my hand. He flips it over and slides my sleeve up, then twists my wrist back and forth.

“Where’d you get that?” he says, looking down at my wrist.

I look down to see what he’s referring to and realize I’m still wearing the bracelet I put on this morning. He looks back up at me and I shrug. I’m not really in the mood to explain it. It’s complicated and he’ll ask questions and lunch is almost over.

“Where’d you get it?” he says again, this time a little more demanding. His grip tightens around my wrist and he’s staring at me coldly, expecting an explanation. I pull my wrist away, not liking where this is going.

“You think I got it from a guy?” I ask, puzzled by his reaction. I hadn’t really pegged him for the jealous type, but this doesn’t really seem like jealousy. It seems like crazy.

He doesn’t answer my question. He keeps glaring at me like I’ve got some sort of huge confession that I’m refusing to reveal. I don’t know what he expects, but his attitude right now is more than likely going to end up with him getting slapped, rather than with me giving an explanation.

Breckin shifts uncomfortably in his seat and clears his throat. “Holder. Ease up, man.”

Holder’s expression doesn’t change. If anything, it grows even colder. He leans forward a few inches and lowers his voice when he speaks. “Who gave you the damn bracelet, Sky?”

His words transform into an unbearable weight in my chest and all the same warning signs that flashed in my head when I first met him are flashing again, only this time they’re in big neon letters. I know my mouth is agape and my eyes are wide, but I’m relieved that hope isn’t a tangible thing, because everyone around me would see mine crumbling.

He closes his eyes and faces forward, setting his elbows on the table. His palms press against his forehead and he inhales a long, deep breath. I’m not sure if the breath is more for a calming affect, or a distraction to keep him from yelling. He runs his hand through his hair and grips the back of his neck.

“Shit!” he says. His voice is harsh and it causes me to flinch. He stands up and walks away unexpectedly, leaving his tray on the table. My eyes follow him as he continues across the cafeteria without once looking back at me. He slaps the cafeteria doors with both palms and disappears through them. I don’t even blink or breathe again until the doors finish swinging, coming to a complete standstill.

I turn back to Breckin and I can only imagine the shock on my face right now. I blink and shake my head, replaying the last two minutes of the scene in my head. Breckin reaches across the table and takes my hand in his, but doesn’t say anything. There’s nothing to say. We both lost all of our words the second Holder disappeared through those doors.

The bell rings and the cafeteria becomes a whirlwind of commotion, but I can’t move. Everyone is moving around and emptying trays and clearing tables, but the world of our table is a stilled one. Breckin finally lets go of my hand and grabs our trays, then comes back for Holder’s tray and clears off the table. He picks up my backpack and takes my hand again, pulling me up. He puts my backpack over his shoulder, then walks me out of the cafeteria. He doesn’t walk me to my locker or walk me to my classroom. He holds my hand and pulls me along behind him until we’re out the doors and across the parking lot and he’s opening a door and pushing me inside an unfamiliar car. He slides into his seat and cranks the car, then turns in his seat and faces me.

“I’m not even going to tell you what I think about what just happened in there. But I know it sucked and I have no idea why you aren’t crying right now, but I know your heart hurts, and maybe even your pride. So fuck school. We’re going for ice cream.” He puts his car in reverse, then pulls out of the parking spot.

I don’t know how he does it because I was just about to burst into tears and sob and snot all over his car, but after those words come out of his mouth, I actually smile.

“I love ice cream.”

The ice cream helped, but I don’t think it helped that much because Breckin just dropped me off at my car and I’m sitting in my driver’s seat, unable to move. I’m sad and I’m scared and I’m mad and I’m feeling all the things that I’m warranted to feel after what just happened, but I’m not crying.

And I won’t cry.

When I get home I do the only thing that I know will help. I run. Only when I get back and climb in the shower I realize that, like the ice cream, the run really didn’t help that much, either.

I go through the same motions that I go through any other night of the week. I help Karen with dinner, I eat with her and Jack, I work on schoolwork, I read a book. I try to act like it doesn’t affect me at all, because I really wish it didn’t, but the second I climb into bed and turn off my light, my mind begins wandering. Only this time it doesn’t wander very far, because I’m stuck on just one thing and one thing only. Why the hell hasn’t he apologized?

I half expected him to be waiting at my car when Breckin and I got back from ice cream, but he wasn’t. When I pulled into my driveway, I expected him to be there, ready to grovel and beg and provide me with even the smallest bit of an explanation, but he wasn’t here. I kept my phone hidden in my pocket (because Karen still doesn’t know I have it) and I checked it every chance I got, but the only text I received was from Six and I still haven’t even read it yet.

So now I’m in my bed, hugging my pillow, feeling incredibly guilty for not having the urge to egg his house and slash his tires and kick him in the balls. Because I know that’s what I wish I was feeling. I wish I was pissed and angry and unforgiving, because it would feel so much better than feeling disappointed over the realization that the Holder I had this weekend…wasn’t even Holder at all.

September 4th, 2012 6:15 a.m.

I open my eyes and don’t climb out of bed until the seventy-sixth star on my ceiling is counted. I throw the covers off and change into my running clothes. When I climb out of my bedroom window, I pause.

He’s standing on the sidewalk with his back to me. His hands are clasped on top of his head and I can see the muscles in his back contracting from labored breaths. He’s in the middle of a run and I’m not sure if he’s waiting on me or just happens to be taking a breather, so I remain stilled outside my window and wait, hoping he keeps running.

But he doesn’t.

After a couple of minutes, I finally work up the nerve to walk into the front yard. When he hears my footsteps, he turns around. I stop walking when we make eye contact and I stare back at him. I’m not glaring or frowning and I’m sure as hell not smiling. I’m just staring.

The look in his eyes is a new one and the only word I can use to describe it is regret. But he doesn’t speak, which means he doesn’t apologize, which means I don’t have time to try and figure him out right now. I just need to run.

I walk past him and step onto the sidewalk, then start running. After a few steps, I hear him begin running behind me, but I keep my eyes focused forward. He never falls into step beside me and I make it a point not to slow down because I want him to stay behind me. At some point I begin running faster and faster until I’m sprinting, but he keeps in pace with me, always just a few steps behind. When we get to the marker that I use as a guide to turn around, I make it a point not to look at him. I turn around and pass him and head back toward my house, and the entire second half of the run is the exact same as the first. Quiet.

We’re less than two blocks from reaching my house and I’m angry that he showed up at all today and even angrier that he still hasn’t apologized. I begin running faster and faster, more than likely faster than I’ve ever ran before, and he continues to match my speed step for step. This pisses me off even more, so when we turn on my street I somehow increase my speed and I’m running toward my house as fast as I possibly can and it’s still not fast enough, because he’s still there. My knees are buckling and I’m exerting myself so hard that I can’t even catch a breath, but I only have twenty more feet until I reach my window.

I only make it ten.

As soon as my shoes meet the grass, I collapse onto my hands and knees and take several deep breaths. Never once, even in my four-mile runs, have I ever felt this drained. I roll onto my back on the grass and it’s still wet with dew, but it feels good against my skin. My eyes are closed and I’m gasping so loud that I can barely hear Holder’s breaths over my own. But I do hear them and they’re close and I know he’s on the grass next to me. We both lie still, panting for breath, and it reminds me of just a few nights ago when we were in the same position on my bed recovering from what he did to me. I think he’s also reminded of this, because I barely feel his pinky when he reaches between us and wraps it around mine. Only this time when he does it, I don’t smile. I wince.

I pull my hand away and roll over, then stand up. I walk the ten feet back to my house and I climb inside my room, then close the window behind me.

Friday, September 28th, 2012 12:05 p.m.

It’s been almost four weeks now. He never showed up to run with me again and he never apologized. He doesn’t sit by me in class or in the cafeteria. He doesn’t send me insulting texts and he doesn’t show up on weekends as a different person. The only thing he does, at least I think he’s the one that does it, is remove the sticky notes from my locker. They’re always crumpled in a wad on the hallway floor at my feet.

Tags: Colleen Hoover Hopeless Romance
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