I continue to exist, and he continues to exist, but we don’t exist together. Days continue to pass no matter who I exist with, though. And the more days that plant themselves between the present and that weekend with him just leave me with more and more questions that I’m too stubborn to ask.

I want to know what set him off that day. I want to know why he didn’t just let it go instead of storming off like he did. I want to know why he never apologized, because I’m almost positive I would have given him at least one more chance. What he did was crazy and strange and a little possessive, but if I weighed it on a scale against all the wonderful things about him, I know it wouldn’t have weighed nearly as much.

Breckin doesn’t even try to analyze it anymore so I pretend not to, either. But I do, and the thing that eats at me the most is the fact that everything that happened between us is starting to seem surreal, like it was all just a dream. I catch myself questioning whether or not that weekend even happened at all, or if it was just another invalidated memory of mine that may not even be real.

For this entire month, the one thing on the forefront of my mind more than anything (and I know this is really pathetic) is the fact that I never did get to kiss him. I wanted to kiss him so incredibly bad that knowing I won’t get to experience it leaves me feeling like there’s this huge gaping hole in my chest. The ease at which we interacted, the way he would touch me like it was what he was supposed to do, the kisses he would plant in my hair—they were all small pieces of something so much bigger. Something big enough that, even though we never kissed, deserves some sort of recognition from him. Some sort of respect. He treats whatever was about to develop between us like it was wrong, and it hurts. Because I know he felt it. I know he did. And if he felt it in the same way that I felt it, then I know he still feels it.

I’m not heartbroken and I still haven’t shed a single tear over the entire situation. I can’t be heartbroken because luckily, I had yet to give him that part of me. But I’m not too proud to admit that I am a little sad about it all, and I know it’ll take time because I really, really liked him. So, I’m fine. I’m a little sad, and a whole lot confused, but I’m fine.

“What’s this?” I ask Breckin, looking down at the table. He just placed a box in front of me. A very nicely wrapped box.

“Just a little reminder.”

I look up at him questioningly. “For what?”

He laughs and pushes the box closer to me. “It’s a reminder that tomorrow’s your birthday. Now open it.”

I sigh and roll my eyes, then push it to the side. “I was hoping you’d forget.”

He grabs the gift and pushes it back in front of me. “Open the damn present, Sky. I know you hate getting gifts, but I love giving them, so stop being a depressing bitch and open it and love it and hug me and thank me.”

I slump my shoulders and push my empty tray aside, then pull the box back in front of me. “You’re a good gift wrapper,” I say. I untie the bow and tear open one end of the box, then slide open the paper. I look down at the picture on the box and cock my eyebrow. “You got me a TV?”

Breckin laughs and shakes his head, then picks the box up. “It’s not a TV, dummy. It’s an e-reader.”

“Oh,” I say. I have no idea what an e-reader is, but I’m pretty sure I’m not supposed to have one. I would just accept it like I accepted Six’s cell phone, but this thing is too big for me to hide in my pocket.

“You’re kidding, right?” He leans toward me. “You don’t know what an e-reader is?”

I shrug. “It still looks like a tiny TV to me.”

He laughs even louder and opens the box, pulling the e-reader out. He turns it on and hands it back to me. “It’s an electronic device that holds more books than you’ll ever be able to read.” He pushes a button and the screen lights up, then he runs his finger across the front, pressing it in places until the whole screen is lit up with dozens of small pictures of books. I touch one of the pictures and the screen changes, then the book cover fills the entire screen. He slides his finger across it and the page virtually turns and I’m staring at chapter one.

I immediately start scrolling my finger across the screen and watch as each page turns effortlessly, one right after the other. It’s absolutely the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen. I hit more buttons and click on more books and scroll through more chapters and I honestly don’t think I’ve ever seen a more magnificent, practical invention.

“Wow,” I whisper. I keep staring at the e-reader, hoping he’s not playing some cruel joke on me, because if he tries to pry this out of my hands I’ll run.

“You like it?” he asks proudly. “I loaded about two hundred free books on there so you should be good for a while.”

I look up at him and he’s grinning from ear to ear. I set the e-reader down on the table, then lunge forward over the table and squeeze his neck. It’s the best present I’ve ever received and I’m smiling and squeezing him so tight, I completely don’t care that I’m supposed to be horrible at receiving gifts. Breckin returns my hug and kisses me on the cheek. When I let go of his neck and open my eyes, I involuntarily glance at the table that I’ve been trying to avoid glancing at for almost four weeks now.

Holder is turned around in his seat, watching us. He’s smiling. It’s not a crazy or seductive or creepy smile. It’s an endearing smile, and as soon as I see it and the waves of sadness crash against my core, I look away from him and back to Breckin.

I take my seat and pick the e-reader back up. “You know, Breckin. You really are pretty damn great.”

He smiles and winks at me. “It’s the Mormon in me. We’re a pretty awesome people.”

Friday, September 28th, 2012 11:50 p.m.

It’s the last day I’ll ever be seventeen. Karen is working out of town at her flea market again this weekend. She tried to cancel her trip because she felt bad for leaving during my birthday, but I wouldn’t let her. Instead, we celebrated my birthday last night. Her gifts were good, but it’s nothing like the e-reader. I’ve never been more excited to spend a weekend alone.

I didn’t bake near as many things as the last time Karen was out of town. Not because I don’t feel like eating it, but because I’m pretty sure my addiction to reading has just reached a whole new level. It’s almost midnight and my eyes won’t stay open, but I’ve read nearly two entire books and I absolutely need to get to the end of this one. I doze off, then awake with a jerk, only to attempt to read another paragraph. Breckin has really great taste in books, and I’m sort of upset that it took him a whole month to tell me about this one. I’m not a sucker for happily ever afters, but if these two characters don’t get theirs I might climb inside this e-reader and lock them both inside that damn garage forever.

My eyelids slowly close and I keep trying to will them to stay open but the words are beginning to swim together on the screen and nothing is even making sense. I finally power off the e-reader and turn out my light and think about how my last day of being seventeen should have been so much better than it actually was.

My eyes flick open, but I don’t move. It’s still dark and I’m still in the same position I was in earlier, so I know I just fell asleep. I silence my breaths and listen for the same sound that pulled me out of my sleep—the sound of my window sliding open.

I can hear the curtains scraping against the rod and someone climbing inside. I know I should scream, or run for my door, or look around for some sort of object that can be used as a weapon. Instead, I remain frozen because whoever it is isn’t trying to be at all quiet about the fact that they’re climbing into my room, so I can only assume it’s Holder. But still, my heart is racing and every muscle in my body stiffens when the bed shifts as he lowers himself onto it. The closer he gets, the more certain I am that it’s him because no one else can cause my body to react the way it’s reacting right now. I squeeze my eyes shut and bring my hands to my face when I feel the covers lift up behind me. I’m absolutely terrified. I’m terrified, because I don’t know which Holder is crawling into my bed right now.

His arm slides under my pillow and his other arm wraps tightly around my body when he finds my hands. He pulls me against his chest and laces his fingers into mine, then buries his head in my neck. I’m very conscious about the fact that I’m not wearing anything but a tank top and underwear, but I’m confident he’s not here for that part of me. I’m still not positive why he’s here because he’s not even talking, but he knows I’m awake. I know he knows I’m awake because the second his arms went around me, I gasped. He holds me as tight as he can and every now and then, he plants his lips into my hair and kisses me.

I’m angry with him for being here, but even angrier with myself for wanting him here. No matter how much I want to scream at him and make him leave, I find myself wishing he could squeeze me just a little bit tighter. I want him to lock his arms around me and throw away the key, because this is where he belongs and I’m scared he’ll just let me go again.

I hate that there are so many sides to him that I don’t understand, and I don’t know if I even want to keep trying to understand them. There are parts of him I love, parts of him I hate, parts that terrify me and parts that amaze me. But there’s a part of him that does nothing but disappoint me…and that’s the absolute hardest part of him to accept.

We lie here in complete silence for what could be half an hour, but I’m not sure. All I know is that he hasn’t released his grip at all, nor has he made any attempt at explaining himself. But what’s new? There isn’t anything I’ll ever get from him unless I ask the questions first. And right now, I just don’t feel like asking any.

He releases my fingers from his and brings his hand to the top of my head. He presses his lips into my hair and he folds the arm up that’s underneath my pillow and he’s cradling me, burying his face into my hair. His arms begin to shake and he’s holding me with such intensity and desperation that it becomes heartbreaking. My chest heaves and my cheeks burn and the only thing stopping the tears from flowing is the fact that my eyes are closed so tight, they can’t escape.

I can’t take the silence anymore, and if I don’t get off my chest what I absolutely need to say, I might scream. I know my voice will be layered with heartbreak and sadness and I’ll barely be able to speak while attempting to contain my tears, but I take a deep breath anyway and say the most honest thing I can say.

“I’m so mad at you.”

As if it’s possible, he somehow squeezes me even tighter. He moves his mouth to my ear and kisses it. “I know, Sky,” he whispers. His hand slips underneath my shirt and he presses an open palm against my stomach, pulling me tighter against him. “I know.”

It’s amazing what the sound of a voice you’ve been longing to hear can do to your heart. He spoke five words just now, but in the time it took him to speak those five words, my heart was shredded and minced, then placed back inside my chest with the expectation that it should somehow know how to beat again.

Tags: Colleen Hoover Hopeless Romance
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