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Authors: Erin L. Schneider

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BOOK: Summer of Sloane
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I try to swallow the bitter taste my inhaler has left behind, and I hesitate, just for a moment. A fraction of a second where I remember how many times the two of us have been there for each other, no matter what.

No matter what.

“Tyler and I, we never meant for this to happen. We never meant to hurt you.”

And just like that, the feeling is gone. “On what fucking planet do you think the
two of you
belong together in the same sentence?”

She looks as if I’ve slapped her, as tears begin to slide down her cheeks. She reaches for me again, but I take a step back, leaving her hand outstretched.

“Don’t…don’t touch me.” I reach into my bag to snag my sunglasses and slide them into place.

And then I realize something.

“Oh my God. The other day when you needed me to take you to the doctor because you weren’t ‘feeling well,’ but didn’t want your mom to know because she’d freak out over nothing.” She only nods, but her lips stay sealed. “Jesus, Mick—I skipped school to take you. I missed my calculus exam. And then you lied and told me it was only some stupid stomach bug. God, you
used
me.”

“No, Mack—that’s not it at all. I needed your help. I
still
need your help. Please don’t do this.”

I can’t help but laugh, even though it feels so out of place. So wrong in this moment. Rubbing my forehead, I try to make sense of anything I’ve just heard, but it’s all one giant and twisted mess that has no answer. “I can’t believe this is happening….I can’t believe you’d do this to me.” I start walking backward. “Just stay away from me. Just leave me the fuck alone.”

I turn and leave her standing there and don’t look back. Thank God I’m leaving for Hawaii in the morning. Because, suddenly, I can’t wait to get the hell out of here.

My hands shake as I grip the steering wheel, and I force myself to calm down and release pressure off the gas. The last thing I need right before I leave is a speeding ticket, or worse.

I have the strong desire to hit something really hard, but using my car is not the solution. Then I near my house and see Tyler’s car parked in the driveway.

I used to get so excited when I saw his car. It was the same feeling I’d get right before a huge swim meet, my nerves a swirling chaos of excitement. But somehow with Tyler it was always ten thousand times better than even that. And I’d actually find myself
looking
for his vintage gray Mustang wherever I went—school, football games, swim meets.

It was even better when I’d spot his car somewhere I wasn’t expecting him to be. Then my stomach would practically turn itself inside out.

But now I have to fight back an entirely different feeling brewing deep down inside. It doesn’t help that Tyler is leaning against his passenger door, arms crossed over his chest, waiting for me.

I slide my car into the space in the driveway next to his, as he reaches forward to open my door. I resist the urge to climb out the passenger side instead. He can’t see my eyes because of the sunglasses I’m wearing, but I know he doesn’t need to.

“You have no idea how sorry I am. Please…I can—”

“After everything.
Everything
. I can’t believe you’d do this. And with my best friend!” An almost laugh escapes from my lips as I hear exactly what I just said. “You know what? Forget it. I have absolutely
nothing
to say to you.” Chin lifted, I walk toward my house, hoping he doesn’t see my bottom lip quiver. He’s an easy foot taller than me, having breached the six-foot mark his sophomore year, but he lags behind as if afraid to keep up.

“Sloane, wait—I know you’re pissed, but you have to let me explain.” Oh, he’s going for the full first name right off the bat. Not “Mack” like everyone else here calls me. Not “Slo” like he normally does. But Sloane.

“Oh, I don’t have to let you do anything. Besides, I’m pretty sure you’ve done enough.” I’m up the three steps and on the path that leads to the front door when he grabs my arm, forcing me to turn around and face him. I’m almost as tall as him now as I stand on the top step, and he’s below, on my driveway.

“Could you please take off your sunglasses?” He holds my elbow, his fingers softly pressing into my skin like he’s trying to keep me from slipping away. I cross my arms tight over my chest. “Come on, Slo.”

He reaches up and grips the back of his neck, then slides his fingers up and tugs at his hair. His hair distracts me. It always has. It’s this tangled mess of blond that has the unique ability to tweak in a variety of directions, but still appear amazingly soft. What stops me from wanting to run my own fingers through it like I’ve done countless times before is thinking of Mick doing the very same thing only a month ago.

“I don’t know what I can do to prove how sorry I am. And I’m sure there’s nothing I can say—but you need to know, I never, ever, meant to hurt you.” He holds a steady hand near his brow to shield him from the glare of the sun as his gray-blue eyes lock on to mine. He almost seems convincing.
Almost
. “She doesn’t even matter to me, and you know how much I love you. Shit, I’ve pretty much been in love with you since kindergarten.” He waits a second for me to respond. “Sloane, please—I’ll do anything. Anything you say. Please just forgive me.”

My insides churn, and my hands start to shake as I ball them tightly into fists. I open my mouth to tell him exactly what I think, but that’s the very same moment the garage door opens and my dad pushes the lawn mower out. He sees us, smiles, and raises a hand in a wave, then slowly lowers it when neither of us turns his way. He takes the mower and quickly retreats to the side yard.

“Come on, Slo, would you just say something?”

I wait to respond because I want my dad to be out of earshot before I unleash the real fury. As he disappears out of sight and before I can open my mouth, stupid falls out of Tyler’s.

“Sloane, it was only those two times, I swear.”

My lips part slightly, and I scoff in utter disbelief. Tyler’s face falls, and I know he now realizes his mistake. That I didn’t know they’d done it twice.

I feel the immediate crunch of something breaking, as my fist makes contact with his face, and my hand explodes in pain.

“Holy shit that hurts!” I yell, shaking my hand at the same time Tyler cries out, “Jesus Christ!” He’s clutching his nose between his fingers, as blood oozes down the length of his arms and sprinkles the driveway.

Red is everywhere. My own hand. Tyler’s face. His T-shirt. The ground around us. I stare at it all, then back up at Tyler, stunned.

Oh my God, what did I just do?

My dad reappears, whistling, from around the corner. But then the whistling stops.

“What the hell’s going on here?” My dad races over and rests a hand on Tyler’s shoulder to stop him from swaying. I don’t know what to say. I don’t know how to justify what I’ve just done…let alone to my father.

“I…I’m sorry.” I say this more to my dad than to Tyler as I cradle my hand to my chest.

“Son, I think it’s time for you to leave.” He goes to the garage and grabs a roll of industrial blue paper towels, then returns and shoves them against Tyler’s chest. “You’re in no shape to drive, so I can either take you home myself or call your mom.”

Tyler brushes him off, holding a wad of paper towels to his nose. “I’ve got it, Mr. M.” He looks at me one last time, at first with narrowed eyes, but then they soften. He’s pissed at what I’ve done, but he knows what he did was worse and doesn’t want to leave it like this. Sometimes it sucks how well I know him. “Sloane…?”

“Let’s go, Tyler,” my father says quietly.

Without waiting to watch him leave, I turn and walk away.

And for the second time today, I don’t look back.

I have no idea what just happened. I don’t even know where to start. And I can’t decide if I want to cry or scream or break something…or all of it combined. But I feel like I want to tear my own skin off, because what I’m wearing is suddenly too small.

My hand hurts like a mother and for good reason. There’s a nasty rip across the skin of my first two knuckles, and the swelling is so bad, I now have my very own foam finger for a hand. It throbs like it contains its own heartbeat.

If I broke my damn hand on that asshole’s nose, I’m really gonna be pissed.

I somehow make my way upstairs to my bathroom and run cool water across the surface of my skin. I can no longer see the bumps of my knuckles, as it’s all one giant mass now. And it hurts to flex my fingers.

Crap, crap, and crap.

My dad is waiting for me out in the hall, holding an ice pack. He looks seriously worried and I don’t blame him—but I don’t know what to say.

“I can’t, Dad, not right now, okay?” I bite my lip, hoping beyond hope it doesn’t betray me.

“You should at least put some ice on it—and when the swelling comes down a little, I’d like to take a look.” He hands me the ice pack, leans down, and kisses me on the forehead, then lets me pass without another word.

Clutching my hand to my stomach, I sit on the edge of my bed.

My best friend. My boyfriend. It dawns on me that within a matter of minutes I no longer have either.

And now the two of them are going to have a baby. What the hell are they gonna do with a baby? We’re only seventeen. We just finished our junior year of high school. Mick’s an amazing dancer who without a doubt will be headed to Juilliard after our senior year. There’s no room in any of that for a baby.

I realize I have no idea what Mick will even do. Is she considering abortion? Will she give it up for adoption? Hell…will she keep it?

Keep it. Oh my God. Mick and Tyler are going to be
parents.

The thought of either of them attempting to change a diaper makes me laugh. I’m literally laughing out loud, when I stop suddenly, unsure if that’s an appropriate way to be handling everything—or if that’s a clear sign I’m not handling it at all.

Around me, my bedroom mirrors the chaos of everything that’s happening. Clothes and shoes are strewn everywhere, since I was trying to pack when Mick called and asked if I could swing by to pick her up. Of course I’d dropped everything. Literally.

Because what kind of friend would I be if I’d said no? When she’d called, I could hear it in her voice that she needed to see me. I didn’t even think twice. It’s how it’s always been with Mick. And I’ve never once second-guessed that.

Then again, I also had no idea the destruction she was about to unleash.

Which makes me feel like such an idiot. What was Mick even thinking? Is she in love with Tyler? And have I just been too blind to see what was happening right in front of my own face? I can’t help but wonder what would’ve happened had I not gotten sick the night of Jansen’s party.

I reach for the inhaler sitting on my nightstand, just in case. I want so desperately to get out of my own head, but the only real place I can do that is the swimming pool. Swimming has always been my go-to stress reliever, and God knows I could definitely use the distraction. There’s something about putting on a suit and cranking out lap after lap that helps everything else slip away into nothing. And I so could use nothing right about now. But with my hand in the shape it’s in, I have a feeling the pool may not be an option for a very long time. And, with everything going on, that terrifies me.

I stare at the several pairs of suits and goggles that now sit in the bottom of my unpacked suitcase and contemplate my options. My running shoes are sitting right next to them. And if I’m going to be honest, running away seems far more like the answer.

A rap of knuckles sweeps quickly across my door, and I hear my dad shuffle on the other side.

“I hope you’re decent, because I’m coming in.” The door flies open, and my room is suddenly filled with my brother. “Tell me the rumors I just heard aren’t true? Tyler and Mick? Are you kidding me? I’d kill him myself, but holy shit, Dad said you busted his nose?” He pauses for a second but only to take in a breath, when he spots my hand. “Oh my God, did you break it?”

Penn is supposed to be playing a game of hoops with the boys. Funny how fast bad news travels. Especially when you’re a twin and you share the same group of friends.

“No, I didn’t break it. It’s just…really puffy.” I hide my hand behind my back and look up at a face that mirrors my own. Because Penn is a boy and I am not, there’s obviously no way we could’ve been identical, but you’d never know by looking at the two of us.

We have almost the exact same shade of blond hair—mine long and sometimes stringy, his super short and oftentimes fluffy. In fact, Penn hates how fluffy his hair gets, which is why he practically shaves it all off. But it’s been a few weeks since his last cut, and right now, it’s this matted sweaty mess that clings to his head in various clumps.

I stare into a pair of pale green eyes identical to mine and it’s then I notice his face is flushed. I’m not sure if that’s from being in the middle of a basketball game when the news broke or because he’s pissed at what he’s heard.

I try to pick up a few folded T-shirts with the wrong hand and wince. It’s even bigger than it was five minutes ago.

BOOK: Summer of Sloane
9.88Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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