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Authors: Erin L. Schneider

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BOOK: Summer of Sloane
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“Holy shit, you didn’t tuck your thumb inside your fist when you hit him, did you?” Penn grabs for my wrist, and I grit my teeth.

I have no idea what he’s talking about. “How the hell would I even know where my thumb was? It’s not like I’ve ever decked my boyfriend before.”

And then I remember. Tyler is so no longer my boyfriend.

Penn whistles loudly. “That must’ve been one helluva punch. I wish I could’ve been there to see it! And I hate to break it to you—no pun intended—but this is totally broken.” He flips my hand over, and the purple hue of a deep bruise is evident well across the pad of my palm, making him whistle again.

“Oh, no it’s not.” I pull away from him, grimace in pain, and pick up a pair of shorts. And then I start to pack. Because if I keep myself busy, I won’t have time to register everything that’s so evidently broken about my life, pun intended. And I won’t have time to cry.

“Sloane, you gotta go to the ER. If you don’t get that in a cast, it’s gonna stay like that, you know. And it’d be awfully hard to swim and surf this summer with a club for a hand.” He waits, but I have nothing to say, so I continue to pack—turning away when a jolt of pain shoots up my arm. He pokes my foot with the tip of his shoe, and I know it’s coming. “Hey, I’m really sorry about what happened.”

I don’t look up at him, because I know if I do, the floodgates will open. “I don’t really feel like talking about it, okay?”

I’m not even paying attention to what I’m throwing in my suitcase. For all I know, it could be my winter down jacket, which won’t be of much use in the hot summer sun of Hawaii. I bump my hand again and cringe. Penn snags the flip-flops I’m holding and chucks them into my bag.

“Stubborn isn’t going to win you any points.” He places his hands on my shoulders and steers me from the room.

“Penn, what the hell?”

“Did you not understand me when I said your hand would turn into a club? A club, Sloane, a club. And we can’t be having any of that.” Before I can respond, he sweeps down and tucks an arm under my knees, while the other circles around my back. Five seconds later, he’s carrying me downstairs.

“Dammit, Penn—if you don’t let me down this second, I’ll…I’ll break your nose, too!”

“Yeah you will.” He rolls his eyes, snagging the car keys off the peg by the garage door. Which is the exact moment the door opens and my dad steps into the kitchen.

He looks from my brother to me, with one eyebrow raised.

“She busted her hand on that d bag’s nose. We’re going to the ER,” Penn explains.

“Oh, Sloane, didn’t I ever teach you not to tuck your thumb in when you throw a punch?” my dad says, shaking his head. I know he’s only trying to lighten the mood, but it’s not really working right now.

“Ohmygod, whatever. You’re both being ridiculous; my hand is fine.” I thrust it forward so he can see for himself, but even that movement makes the blood rush from my face.

We sit in the ER waiting room, Penn on my right and my father on my left. This is the hospital my mom used to work at, and we’ve known most of the staff for years. We’re practically family here, which, lucky for me, means I won’t have to wait long.

“It’ll just be a few more minutes, Sloane—Dr. Craig will be with you shortly,” Colleen, one of the evening ER shift nurses, says as she squats down in front of me. The rubber soles of her practical shoes squeak on the slick linoleum surface of the floor. “Wow, you really did a number on your hand, didn’t you?” Her face shifts as if she’s realized something. Like I said, we’re practically family. “I don’t suppose this is in any way connected to Tyler Hudson’s broken nose?”

“Wait, what? He’s here?”

“Oh, he’s here all right—been in X-rays for the last twenty minutes. But don’t worry, we’ll make sure to put you in one of the exam rooms on the other side.” She clucks her tongue in mild disapproval, then gently pats my knee. “So how has your mom been?”

“Good, I guess. We’re headed out in the morning to spend the summer with her.” I try not to think about the fact that Tyler is somewhere within a fifty-foot radius of me right now. And then my name is called, and we’re following another nurse through the huge set of double doors that automatically ease open.

And that’s when I see him.

“Sloooo! You came!” Tyler is being pushed in a wheelchair by his dad, his mom walking next to his side.

“I hope you’re happy with yourself, young lady—Tyler will need at least two surgeries to repair what you’ve done.” His mother glares back and forth between me and my father, and I wonder if I’m going to be in some serious trouble.

“I’m so sorry, Mrs. Hudson, I guess I just reacted and I—”

“Reacted? Is that what you’re calling it? You practically took my son’s head off!”

Before I can say anything else, my father steps forward and says something to Tyler’s parents that I can’t hear.

“Moooommmm, stop,” Tyler croons, waving a hand in her general direction.

His once gorgeous face is now almost unrecognizable. He wears a large transparent splint that covers almost everything from his forehead to just below his nose, giving him the appearance of Hannibal Lecter. Both eyes are black-and-blue, and glassy, as if he’s heavily medicated. I can’t believe that I’m the one who did this to him.

“Man, you’re the best girlfriend ef-fer,” he slurs, wiping at his mouth with fumbling fingers.

My body stiffens at the mention of the word “girlfriend,” and I feel Penn grip my left arm as my father takes my right.

“Oh, no you don’t,” my dad says in a low voice. “I think you’ve already done enough.” They force me to walk forward, making a wide berth around Tyler, just in case.

“Sloane, whereya goin’? Man, I love youuuu.”

Everything inside me deflates. How can I suddenly feel so sad when I’m still so angry? Everything is such a mess, and I can’t stop the constant static noise of all these feelings—betrayal, frustration, and one hundred percent complete confusion. I wish I knew how to turn them off.

My dad releases my arm and motions for Penn to keep following the nurse. I turn to see him trailing the Hudsons out into the waiting room as Tyler becomes fascinated with his own fingers mere inches from his face. He’s still repeating “I love youuuu, I love youuuu…” as he turns the corner and disappears out of sight.

“Jackass,” my brother whispers as he guides me into one of the rooms. I know he’s only saying that because of what happened. After all, Tyler and Penn have always been pretty tight.

Penn is unsure of where to put his hands to help me onto the bed in the middle of the room, so he gives up and takes a seat in one of the hard, straight-back chairs. I somehow manage to climb up myself just as Dr. Craig comes in. He and my mom were good friends, and even though she is no longer a doctor here, they still keep in touch.

“Well, well, well, would you look at what the cat dragged in?” His smile stretches wide across his face as he comes to stand in front of me. “And what, may I ask, have you gone and done to your hand? You didn’t tuck your thumb in when you threw the punch, did you?”

I scowl back and forth between him and my brother, daring Penn to say one word. “Why does
everyone
keep asking me that?”

With a knowing smile—proving that this has to be a guy rule I didn’t know about—Dr. Craig lifts my hand, his fingertips a little on the cold side, as he gently flutters them from my wrist to the tip of my thumb. And I’m not gonna lie, even that slight contact hurts.

He immediately orders a set of X-rays and walks me back to the lab where they take them. He makes small talk about my mom, asking how she is and sharing old memories from when they worked together to help pass the time.

As soon as we’re finished, he walks me back to my room, but excuses himself to check in on another patient. Penn and my father are talking in hushed voices when I enter, but then all goes quiet when they see me.

“Really? Please, don’t stop talking on account of me.” I’m suddenly feeling light-headed, so I clamber back up on the plastic mattress and lie down.

My dad hesitates for a moment before launching in. “The Hudsons say Tyler got McKinley pregnant. Is that true, Sloane?”

I look away, and both of them let out a string of expletives that would make even a trucker blush. So it seems Penn didn’t know the whole story. And that’s probably a good thing, since he would’ve broken more than Tyler’s nose, and I would’ve spent my summer alone in Hawaii, while he spent his in juvie.

My cell phone buzzes with an incoming text, then buzzes quickly again.

“It’s been doing that a lot,” Penn says. He nods toward my bag sitting on the chair next to him, but I shake my head no. It buzzes again before Penn reaches in and turns it off.

And I know word has gotten out.

With the rate gossip flies around the halls at my school, I can only imagine how everyone is chomping at the bit to hear the juicy details of what happened…but I also know very few actually care if I’m okay. Those that do will leave a message, and at some point, I’ll talk to them. Just not now.

I wonder if any one of those incoming texts might be from Mick, with an answer to my “why.” With a real reason for doing what she did. Something, anything, that will help me understand how I came to be sitting here right now.

My dad grips my foot in my flip-flop and gives it a shake. “I think heading out to Hawaii might be exactly what you need right now.”

I can’t help but think that maybe he’s right.

Two hairline fractures, one black waterproof cast, and an enormous bottle of heavy-duty painkillers later, we’re finally back at home. Dinner is quiet; no questions, no idle small talk, no nothing. And it’s exactly what I need.

I pop a painkiller and head upstairs to finish packing. I realize how difficult it’s going to be to swim with this giant mass of a right hand, especially if it’s expected to stay in a cast for the next four weeks. I’m going to have to come up with something. Anything to keep my mind off everything else. Everything that’s trying to creep forward in my mind, as if I’ve forgotten.

Like I could forget.

I can’t decide what’s worse…Mick’s betrayal or Tyler’s. It’s a constant battle between my brain and my heart, flipping back and forth.

That same sinking feeling I felt earlier in the park is back with a vengeance. I want so badly to wake up and find out that none of this is real, but my mind won’t let me get out of it that easily. And I realize so much of what’s been important to me my whole life is no longer there.

I finally check the texts and voice mails on my phone. I can’t believe there are over forty different messages, some of them from people I barely even know. I respond only to three of them—close friends of mine on the swim team—letting them know the exact same thing: Yes, it’s true what they’ve heard. No, I’m not okay. And thanks, when I feel like talking, I will.

There’s also a text from Mick:

So sorry about your hand. Please talk to me. Please.

I ignore her and attempt to tackle brushing my teeth with my left hand—although I’m not sure how good a job I do—and change into my pj’s. That’s when the room starts to spin and I feel like I’ve downed an entire fifth of vodka, all on my own. But at least my hand doesn’t hurt.

I start shoving who knows what into my luggage, and everything else gets kicked under my bed or thrown in my closet. I’ll deal with it when I get home at the end of summer, along with everything else I know I’ll need to face sooner or later.

But then I see the framed picture of Tyler and me on my nightstand. Our photo from prom last month, the night we had sex for the first time. Two weeks after he slept with Mick.

And that’s when the tears begin to fall.

I swipe at my face, trying to make it stop, angry that my own eyes are betraying me. Because I don’t want to feel this way.

Before I can stop myself, I pick up the picture and hurl it against the wall with a deafening scream. It shatters, then litters the floor in a million tiny pieces. I sag against my bed and slide down to the carpet, joining all the broken shards. They look exactly how I feel.

Penn is in my room a moment later. He sits down next to me, knees pulled up in front of him, and leans his shoulder up against mine. Hiding my face in my hands, I mumble, “Why? Why did he do this?”

“I don’t know why,” he says. He doesn’t make up any crap, and he doesn’t say things just to make me feel better.

“And…and what makes it worse? I slept with him after prom!” I stutter.

Penn stiffens next to me.

“I’m s-sorry, P., I know you don’t wanna hear that.”

I turn away from him, and the black cast on my arm that outweighs the rest of me sinks against the side of my leg. I kick at the edge of my bulging suitcase with the tip of my slipper. What the hell did I pack?

Penn rakes his fingers down his face and takes a deep breath. “You’ve been with the guy forever. I figured it had to happen sooner or later.” He holds up his hands as if to cut me off from sharing any details and shakes his head. “It only makes it worse, ’cause now I really wanna kick his ass.”

The damn tears start all over again as I cover my face. “One year. One year I’m with that asshat. And now I feel like I didn’t matter to him at all. Like what we had didn’t matter at all.”

“Sloane, you know that’s not true. Tyler may have fucked up…big-time—but that doesn’t mean he didn’t care.”

I doubt my brother even realizes that what he’s said is in the past tense.
Didn’t
care. As in Tyler cared in the past, but doesn’t anymore. Maybe that’s why he did what he did. Maybe he stopped caring and I never even noticed.

It takes a while for me to calm down and finally fall asleep. But then I dream I walk in on Mick and Tyler and I see certain body parts that, while I’ve seen separately, I definitely shouldn’t see together. I wake up over and over during the night, sweaty and panicked, hoping it’s my crazy imagination that’s creating these stupid dreams. But then I see the cast on my hand and I know it’s real.

I know it really happened.

BOOK: Summer of Sloane
7.29Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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