Authors: Melanie Marks
Riley ran a hand over his face,
Or … something. “You know,
you probably should.”
I sighed. “I guess.”
He looked away from me, as though
he wasn’t comfortable with the conversation. (Probably because he felt we were
responsible for his friend being in the mental ward.) Distractedly, he eyed the
box of stuff by the door. It was filled with things Finn had given me
throughout the years. Stuff I felt I should get rid
but wasn’t quite sure I was ready to take that final step.
He eyed my favorite green sweater
folded on the top. “You getting rid of that stuff?” He wet his bottom lip in
this way he has when he wants to say something but doesn’t know if he should.
The gesture got my heart pounding
’cause it called attention to his soft, perfect lips (that were now all moist
and shiny). My eyes stalled on them, remembering how they had hungrily crashed
against mine. Mmm. He wet his lip again. “You’re going to throw away the
I leaned against the wall and
sighed. “I’m not throwing it out—yet. Unfortunately. I love the sweater.
I can’t actually bear to part with it—yet. But it’s going up in the
attic—at least for a while. Then maybe—hopefully—I’ll toss
His long lashes masked his eyes as
he stared at the sweater. He scrubbed a hand over his face. “But you like the
I gave a little groan. “I do. I had
loved it. Dearly. It was actually one of the best gifts Finn had ever given me.
This sweater—it was like for once he “got” me, you know?” I held the soft
green sweater up to my face and rubbed it gently against my cheek. “This
“Zoey …” Riley gave me a weak grin.
“I gave you the sweater.”
in Middle School
“Dude, shopping? Really?”
“It’s for my
. She’ll kiss me for it.” Finn had yanked on my arm,
dragging me along the crowded mall. “Come on,
said Zoey was looking at the sweaters at the front of the store.”
When we got there, he grabbed the first
sweater he saw.
“You’re getting that?”
Finn looked at it, then at me.
“Yeah. Summer said—”
sweaters at the front of the store, I know. But don’t those look more like
Zoey?” I gestured to the sweaters further to the back. They looked soft … and pretty.
Like something Zoey would wear.
Finn eyed the sweaters I was
back at the one in his hands. “This
one’s blue. Zoey looks good in blue.”
Okay, Zoey looked good in anything,
so I kept my mouth shut.
For a second.
favorite color’s green.”
Indecisiveness flickered in his
eyes. “How do you know?”
Because she looks hot in green is
what I was thinking. But that’s not what I said.
Instead, I raised my eyebrows. “Because she wears it constantly?” When he still
looked skeptical I added, “Because her room’s plastered in it?”
I went on, ‘cause I couldn’t shut
up, “And her sunglasses are green and her toenail polish is green and that
notebook she always carries around is green …”
“Okay, okay.” He put back the
sweater he chose and grabbed one in teal.
“Dude, green!” I said.
But in the end, he chose some weird
sweater with a dog on it.
“What? She likes animals,” he
explained when I just stared at him, baffled by his inability to get his
girlfriend something she would actually like.
The sweater was … hideous.
Later that day—after hours of
trying to talk myself out of it—I’d ridden my bike back to the mall and
got Zoey the green sweater. The one I knew she’d like. It was for her birthday
after all … and I knew she’d love the sweater. (The whole time I was getting it
I’d grumbled at Finn in my head—the loser Lover-boy who was unable to
truly grasp his own girlfriend. The girl who worshipped and adored him.)
I just needed to somehow get the
sweater to her without her knowing it was from me. (Since, yeah, she was my
best friend’s girlfriend. Not mine.)
So I wrapped the sweater, but
didn’t sign the card. It just said “Happy Birthday, Zoey.” That way she would
definitely know it wasn’t from me—since I never called her Zoey. Also,
she thought I hated her.
So, no problem.
suspect it was from me.
But then, of course, when she
unwrapped the “anonymous” gift she thought it was from Finn. And he’d been more
than willing to take the credit for it.
The funny thing was
he never suspected the gift was from me either. I
loved him like a brother. I did. But man, he was clueless when it came to Zoey.
Tingles raced through my body when
Riley told me he’d given me the sweater. With all of my heart I wanted to throw
my arms around him and explain that I didn’t want to talk to Finn. I wasn’t
going to take him back. Wasn’t going to forgive him. And I didn’t need closure.
All I needed was
But as soon as he had sweetly
confessed that he had given me the sweater—at the exact moment I was
going to throw myself at him—he got a text message on his cell phone. I
the text was from by the noise the
text ringer made—Ava.
Riley heard it, and I swear
he winced like he was in pain. Only, it was probably
actually guilt—guilt that he wanted to leave me right that second to read
her sexy message in private.
“I’ll see you, Jones,” he said
huskily, and then he escaped out of my house as though he couldn’t get away
from me fast enough. But at his car he turned back to me, still not reading the
message. “Talk to Finn.”
Then he was gone. He got into his
bright shiny red car and drove off.
Probably to Ava.
Finally, I decided to do what Riley
said—talk to Finn. After all, Finn was begging—and now so was his
mom. And I just wanted to get it over with—the actual break-up. Though it
kind of seemed unnecessary. I mean, what with my kissing Riley, and Finn doing
whatever he did to Bianca. Multiple times. If that didn’t scream, “We’re over!”
it didn’t seem anything would.
But people talk about “closure.”
And how it’s necessary.
And blah, blah, blah.
I just wanted to have it out with Finn so he would stop calling and I would
never have to hear his lying, cheating voice again. Maybe years from now I
would look back and remember our past with fondness and feel some sort of warm
and toasty peace. But right now it just made me
to scream and throw things. The guy had
Over and over.
I gave Finn’s parents their week of
letting their son “heal” (grrr!)
then I drove the
forty minutes to Blanket Grove Mental Hospital.
When I got to the “guest area” Finn
was already there in the room, waiting for me. He had his back against the
wall, thumbing through a magazine. I just stood in the doorway, not able to
walk over to him. My mind was filled with a jumble of emotions. There he was,
the boy I had loved for years. He had cheated on me. Lied to me.
It all hit me again at
once—just seeing him.
When Finn saw me, he tilted his
head like a question. Probably wondering why I didn’t come into the room like a
normal person. But I didn’t feel like a normal person. I felt abused. Like I’d
had my heart plunged into with a knife—by that boy standing right over
That boy that I used to love.
With all of my heart.
It made me suddenly unable to move.
Finn hopped up from the chair he’d
been leaning against and scrambled over to me.
“Zoey, man. It’s awesome to see
you. It feels like I haven’t seen you in months!” He tried giving me a hug, but
I stepped away from him.
“Yeah, it feels longer than a week,
huh?” I collapsed into the vinyl-type couch that was conveniently located right
next to me. Otherwise, I probably would have slid down to the floor because my
legs were about to give out. What was I doing here? I wasn’t ready for this.
Ready to talk to him—this boy that had betrayed me.
am I doing here
Finn slipped into the chair next to
me. It was set up at a table with cards, but he turned away from the table to
stare at me as though he was trying to read my mind.
He watched me sit all rigid and
probably abnormally, then scrubbed a hand over his face. “Bianca’s been coming
here to see me—every day.”
. I had no idea why he was telling me this. Did he want me to
Or maybe guilty?
Guilty that I didn’t
come see him, but Bianca did? Well, I didn’t feel that. I just felt even more
betrayed, if that was possible.
Finn grimaced. “She’s trying to
convince me I love her—not you.”
“Maybe you do.”
He laid his head on the table and
exhaled. “The doctors here are trying to tell me I don’t love either of you.
That I wouldn’t have cheated on you if I loved you.”
I squeezed my eyes shut. “Sounds
“Zoey! Stop being like this. I
love you! I have
“You cheated on me.” I folded my
arms, still trying to be what he was getting at with his “stop being like
Distant and unemotional.
“Maybe Bianca’s right.
Maybe you love her.”
“Zoey, I don’t! You know I don’t. I
don’t love Bianca. I don’t
Bianca. I only want you. You’re all I ever wanted, from the moment I first laid
eyes on you, Zoey. It was always you.”
“Then you really blew it.”
Finn blanched, all the blood draining
out of his face. He clenched his jaw muscles, wiping at his pooling eyes.
“Yeah, I blew it, Zoey. I admit that.” He shook his head somberly. “I blew it
so bad. But what about you?” His eyes locked on mine. “My best friend, Zoey?”
There was such hurt in his voice. I used to would have caved at that. Big time.
But now I braced myself, remembering him and Bianca—seeing them
together—and his constant denials. Constant lies that made me feel
pathetic and crazy for being suspicious and jealous of them.
When I didn’t cry or act moved by
his emotional distress, Finn quickly took another tack. “He’s a player, Zoey.
You know that. But look, you also know me. I’m faithful to you. I’ve always
I raised my eyebrows.
One. But the guy is probably
right this minute. You know that, Zoey. He always goes back to Ava.” He tried
to take my hand, his voice going soft. “Just like we always go back to each
I shook away his hand and shook my
head. No. No way. I wasn’t going to be manipulated. Not this time. Yes, I’d
forgiven him for things over and over. But that was back when he was my bright
shining angel—back when I trusted him and believed he could do no wrong.
But the boy had wronged
me—big time. A hundred times over. And unfortunately for him, my eyes
were opened now. I knew what I wanted.
What I wanted was the boy who had
bought me my favorite green sweater, and let my little brother pee in his hot
tub, and my
his hair—I wanted Riley.
With all of my heart, I wanted
But it seemed he no longer wanted
Finn was probably right. Riley was
back with Ava right this minute. Back where he always went—into Ava’s
two days after kissing Zoey in his office)
I’m sitting on my bed thinking
about Zoey—of course. I can’t get our kiss out of my head. I want to just
bounce to her house and scoop her up and say, “Screw, Finn. He had his chance
and he blew it.”
That’s really all I want to do.
Forget Finn. Be selfish. But Zoey can’t do that. I know she can’t. She thinks
she can, because she’s hurting right now. But … she can’t. Finn is under her
skin … like
under mine. Like
she has been ever since I first met her.
Stuff like that
it doesn’t just go away
I hear a knock at the front door.
For a second, my heart is all excited thinking
Zoey. I swear
it almost slams out of my chest. But
course it’s not Zoey at my door.
I know it even before I hear Ava’s
voice coming from the other side. Still, my heart drops like a brick. I rub my
face, thinking about not answering, though she’s straight up saying she knows
She rings the bell and pounds. “I
know you’re in there, Riley. Your precious car is parked in the driveway.”
She keeps coming by. Bringing me
things, whispering things. Doing her usual.
Things that used
to work with me—big time—when she wanted to get back together with
Thing is though, that stuff makes
me sort of sick now.
Now that I kissed Zoey.
for a moment I let myself dream I actually had a chance with her.