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Authors: Danielle Pearl

ReCAP: A NORMAL Novella (9 page)

BOOK: ReCAP: A NORMAL Novella
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Now I roll my eyes, but no one seems to
notice I'm even still fucking here. It's true, of course, Randy was
the shit, and he screwed his way through the entire school,
breaking hearts, but never damaging his own reputation.

In fact, it was Randy who
sat me down my freshman year in the boy’s locker room after
football practice one day to lecture me on how to handle the girls
he predicted I would undoubtedly attract. And I took his words of
wisdom to heart. He told me not to tie myself down to any one girl,
because the moment I did was the moment I would tire of her, but
that the key was to be straight with any girl I hooked up with from
the get-go. To make sure she knew I wouldn't be attaching any
strings, and that she shouldn't either. I didn't know then how
right he was. He predicted that many of these girls would agree
outwardly, but would convince themselves they would be the one to
change my mind. But I would be in the clear, because how could I be
the dick if I was up front from the out set?

Of course, Randy never
expected his sister would be one of these girls, but Kendall was
just like Randy in her thinking, and it worked out well. When Randy
found out we were hooking up, he couldn't have cared less. In fact,
I think he was pretty self-satisfied that both of his little
protégés were taking his advice.

But the idea of him and
Rory in the same thought, let alone the same room, or even college
campus, sets my blood on fire. The thought of him implementing his
game on Rory has my protective hackles up. Even though I know she's
not interested in dating, I know if Randy set eyes on her, he'd
want her, and I can't stand even the thought of him hitting on
her.

Kendall smirks and a sense of dread spreads
through me.

"Carl, that is an inspired
idea. Honestly, Rory, you’re just his type, and he was just telling
me how he'd love to meet someone and settle down," Kendall
agrees.

What. the fuck?

My mouth opens before I've even fully
processed the situation. "Rory's not looking to date, she just got
out of a relationship." But Rory frowns at me and I shut up.

I know exactly what
Kendall is doing, and it's fucking working. Jealously swarms
through me, unfamiliar and cruel. I've only had glimpses of it at
the thought of Rory with some other guy, but this is a real guy, a
guy I know, and a guy I don't believe for a goddamned second is
looking to
meet someone and settle
down
. I haven't been in touch with Randy
in a while, but the guy I remember is looking to screw and bounce,
not entertain a girlfriend.

I silently convince myself
that is the real reason I need to stop this from happening. To
protect her. Not because it makes me feel physically ill to picture
her in another guy's arms, even if he
was
treating her the way she
deserved.
Motherfucker
.

"Uh, yeah," Rory finally speaks up. "I'm a
little young for all that settling down stuff, anyway."

Carl and Kendall laugh light-heartedly, but
my ears perk up. She sounds like she's talking about marriage, not
just a relationship, and I wonder why her brain would go there.

"I didn't mean like marriage, I meant just
to start taking someone seriously," Kendall qualifies. "But hey, if
you're not looking for that, that's cool too. My brother's awesome,
I'm sure he'd be happy to show you around campus, you know, as a
friend. It's always good to know someone going into college."

"My cousin Thea goes there too," I
interrupt, "she can show Rory around. She's going to be in Miami
for two days while we're there, I'll introduce you," I offer. Rory
and Thea will get along great, and I'd already thought about
introducing them so Rory has a friend when she starts NYU. Because
I know from experiene that being told Rory was only up for a
friendship doesn't prevent the desire for more, and I know Randy's
a good guy, but I can't risk that he wouldn't be quite as
respectful of her as I've been. He wouldn't know about her history;
he wouldn't understand her. He would trigger her, for certain, and
I can't let that happen. I promised to protect her, whether it's my
right to do it or not, and I meant it.

Kendall's smirk stretches
even wider and I shoot her a glare to tell her to knock it off –
that's she's made her fucking point. I'm jealous, she wins,
now
shut the fuck up
.

"Yeah, well I guess it can't hurt to know
some people," Rory murmurs uncertainly. "Why don't you give me his
number and maybe I'll call him when I'm in the city."

Her words rattle my heart, sending nausea
swirling in my gut, but I don't say a word.

"Here, give me your phone, I'll add him to
your contacts," Kendall offers, grinning in satisfaction. "Cap can
vouch for him, they played football together for years."

My anger at Kendall
combusts, my stomach dropping through the shiny walnut floor of
Andy's living room.

I never told Rory I played
football. At first it didn't come up, but then one afternoon she
slipped into a rant about football players being self-important
assholes, and how she can't stand a single one oft them. I felt
guilty as sin, but I made a conscious decision to keep my mouth
shut that day… and every time it's come up since.

Anxiety shakes me, and I scowl at Kendall
with such animosity I doubt anyone could miss it. But Kendall is
concentrating of programming Randy's cell number into Rory's phone,
and she's completely unaware of her slip-up, or my reaction. I
silently chastise myself for not thinking ahead. Of course someone
would mention I played football at eventually. But I really did
mean to tell Rory the truth at some point. When she knew me well
enough not to judge me by a stupid fucking sport I played. When she
trusted me.

But I didn't. And now,
though she covers it well, she looks as if she's just had the
proverbial rug yanked out from under her feet, and it guts me. This
won't help with her trust issues. This will take us back weeks, I
know it. Or
fuck
,
it could completely shut her down. My heart races with dread, and I
think
I
need one
of her goddamned pills.

"So, Rory, I've heard a lot about you, I'm
glad I got to meet you. Cap says you're from Florida, right?"
Kendall asks, still utterly unaware of what she's just done.

"Yeah, northern Florida,"
Rory mutters, but her mind is elsewhere, and I have no doubt where.
She must feel like I've betrayed her. And I have. I didn't lie,
technically, but a lie of omission is still a lie, and I won't
defend myself with semantics.

Kendall murmurs something about Miami and
then playfully messes up my hair, and I don't even feel it, I'm
staring at Rory, willing her not to be angry with me.

"Uh sure," Rory replies to
whatever Kendall said, and then she finally looks at me. "You
played football?" Her voice is deceptively timid, and I realize
that she's not angered at my deception – she's
hurt
, and that's so much worse.
 

I blink at her, desperate for the right
words, but I'm not sure they exist. I'm at a loss. My distress is
palpable, and I'm astonished that our friends can't sense that
something deeper than the surface conversation going on right
now.

"Duh, he's the star of the
team," Carl replies flippantly. "He's been the Captain of every
team since pee wee league, he's the freaking quarterback. That's
why everyone calls him
Cap
. Because of his last name and
that he's been team Captain like four times."

I hate the way Rory is looking at me. As if
I'm a stranger.

"Oh," she breathes, and we
stare at each other, each trying to figure the other out. I wish we
were alone. I wish I could apologize – to tell her nothing's
changed. That I'm still the same guy I was before she knew I'd
played the damned sport.

"Anyway, I'm starving, we were just going to
head to the diner for a late night snack, do you guys want to join
us?" Kendall offers.

I will Rory to accept, because at least I'll
get the chance to talk to her, even with nosy Kendall around, but I
know she won't. I already know she's going to make an excuse to run
away from what's upsetting her, and this time, that's me. It stings
like fucking hell.

"I'm actually kinda tired, I was, um, about
to leave anyway." Rory says just as I'd expected. "It was nice to
meet you," she adds to Kendall. "See you."

Before I can think of the words to stop her,
she turns and speed-walks out the back door.

I stare after her, dumbfounded by how the
evening went, before I get ahold of myself.

"You fucking suck," I mutter to Kendall
before I race after Rory.

In the distance I hear Marshall call out to
her that she's looking good, and I bury the desire to punch him and
follow the sound around the side of the house and to the street.
She's there, walking in the middle of the road, halfway to her car
already.

"Ror!" I call out, picking up speed as I run
after her. But she doesn't stop, if anything, she walks even
faster. Damn it.

"Rory, will you
wait
?!" I plead in
frustration.

She doesn't turn to face
me, but stops –
thank fucking
God
. I slow to a jog, catching my breath as
I come up behind her. I take her elbow, needing her to face
me.

"For such a
star athlete
I'd have
thought you'd be in better shape," she snaps as she finally turns
to me. Knowing I deserve the contempt in her tone doesn’t make it
sting any less, and I wince. She looks down, and I can't stand that
she can't even look at me.

"I'll have you know that I am in impeccable
shape." It's the only reply I can think of, and it's completely
childish to respond to her words instead of her tone, but I still
can't find the right fucking words.

Rory's eyes skate from the ground up and
down my body, landing back on her boots, and I'm so desperate that
I convince myself she blushes.

"Will you look at me?" I
beg her, completely exasperated. I hate this. I'm her friend. I'd
do fucking anything for her, but this one stupid lie could destroy
fucking
everything
, and it's all my goddamned fault.

Finally, she meets my eyes, and I expect
anger, or even betrayal, but instead, she just looks sad and
lost.

"What's up? You okay?" I ask. I'm so
confused by her reaction, and the fact that she seemed off even
before Kendall opened her big mouth.  I need her to articulate
it, to tell me what she's thinking, so I can fix what's been broken
between us tonight.

Rory shrugs, and her indifference, however
fake, cuts me deeper than anger would. "Why wouldn't I be?"

That pisses me off, even
though rationally I know I'm not the one with a right to be upset.
But she's insulting my intelligence – no, not my intelligence,
she's insulting
us
. Our friendship. The way I know her, the way I care about
her.

"I don't know," I quip, unable to help my
sarcasm. "Maybe that plastic smile you've had on all night?
Something's off. Tell me, Ror, what's up with you?"

Her eyes go wide for a moment, as if she's
surprised at how well I read her. But I don't know why, because I
know she reads me just as easily.

"Why didn't you tell me
you're a football player?" she counters. "I mean, I know I didn't
ask. I know it's not like you lied or anything, but—“

"No, Rory, actually it is like I lied," I
say cautiously.

She frowns, but I have to come clean if I'm
going to fix this, not make fucking excuses. She deserves better
than that.

I sigh. "I did. I lied. You know, you
weren't exactly easy to get to know," I remind her. "Your trust in
me was never more than tenuous at best, and you'd been pretty open
about how you feel about football and football players in
general... I didn't want to give you a reason to dislike me before
you even got to know me," I explain, shrugging away the burden of
the lie.

She doesn't say anything
for a long moment, and I pray my honesty is enough for her – it's
all I've got.

"I never asked," she breathes, and the
burden lifts further.

"Yeah, but every time it came up and I said
nothing, I felt guilty as hell, Ror," I confess. "You mad?" I feel
like a criminal about to be sentenced, and Rory is my judge, jury,
and executioner.

Again, she takes her time before she
responds, completely unaware that I feel like I'm the one
developing an anxiety disorder in the meantime.

"Football players are a
real bad trigger for me," she says shakily, confirming what I
already knew – the reason I hid the fact in the first
place.

"Well I'm not a football player anymore, am
I? The seasons been over for months, it's not like I'm playing in
college." I try to argue the technicality even though I told myself
I wouldn't make excuses.

Another interminable moment, and I can't
bear the thought that she might just cut me off.

"Come on, Ror, I'm still just me," I remind
her.

For a moment, I think she's wavering, but
then she looks away. "I'm tired. I just wanna go home. You should
get back to your girl," she murmurs, and then turns to head to her
car.

Desperation engulfs me, I can't just let her
walk away!

"Rory, I need to know we're okay!" I call
out frantically.

Her shoulders rise and fall with her deep
breath before she turns back to me. "We're the same as we've always
been, Sam. Friends," she says, and then climbs into her car and
drives off without looking back.

BOOK: ReCAP: A NORMAL Novella
2.16Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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