Addicted for Now / Page 24

Page 24

I should have seen that coming, considering Lo wasn’t in the best mood. Not after we had sex and ignored the event. Not after he guzzled straight whiskey from his flask on the ride here.

Aaron had kept his composure. “You can bring your girlfriend if you’d like.”

“She’s not my girlfriend,” Lo said.

At the admittance, I turned around from my locker, books in my arms. Aaron sized me up, not crudely, and when his eyes landed on mine, he looked at me with such intense pity. Like he felt bad that I had to endure Lo.

Aaron didn’t understand us. No one did.

“You’re definitely invited,” Aaron said directly to me. “And I can introduce you to some nice guys.”

“Yeah, she’s not looking for a nice guy,” Lo said. He was right. If I wanted someone who would take me on a date, treat me right, and call the next morning—I’d date someone from Dalton. But I wanted the lay. The type of guy who could sleep with me and forget about it as soon as we left the room. I wanted easy. Nice guys were complicated.

I spoke up before Aaron could. “It’s okay. I don’t go to parties. I mean, Dalton parties.” Rule number one: Do not have sex with boys from Dalton. Otherwise everyone would have figured out that I slept around.

Aaron frowned. “That’s kind of weird.”

“Thanks?” I said before turning to Lo, ready to leave.

“You both realize this is going to be the party of the year,” Aaron said in confusion, his pride finally starting to ruffle. Yes, Aaron, we had been serious about not wanting to go. Though, I was positive it would be one hell of a party. Giant punch bowls. Neon lights. Good drugs. Maybe even a famous DJ. But I would choose to miss it all just to avoid being gossiped about the next morning.

Lo met my gaze, and I could see him cracking. Probably under the assumption that there would be good liquor too. I gave him a look. Dalton parties were my bane. The entire student population flocks to them, and so I would have to spend my time in the corner, trying to avoid leering gazes and making sure Lo didn’t pass out.

He gave me those big pleading eyes, and I realized he was going to the party with or without me. So I just nodded.

Lo turned to Aaron and flashed a fake smile. “We’ll see you Friday.”

Aaron layered on his own mock happiness. “Perfect.”

Only it hadn’t been perfect. It was one of the worst parties in the history of parties. So bad, in fact, that the event blacklisted us from any social function related to Dalton. And I didn’t even attend Aaron’s stupid blowout.

I wasn’t the one who opened all of Wells’ expensive booze. I didn’t grab a lacrosse stick and stumble around, somehow ending up in the wine cellar. I didn’t take out all my frustration on two-hundred-year-old bottles that fractured and broke. I didn’t drown the cellar and my pain in a pool of red.

But Lo sure as hell did.

And I should have been there. Sometimes I wonder if that would have changed the outcome. I could have stopped Lo, and then maybe Aaron and his friends wouldn’t have hated him so much.

The wine-cellar debacle started their rivalry.

Then it mushroomed from there. First with silly stuff, like slapping Lo’s textbooks from his hands. But then three of them cornered Lo, about to grab onto his arms and legs and stuff him in a locker. Lo ran before they could touch him. He was good at that. Running away.

Lo has admitted to me, and only me, that it was his fault the entire feud started in the first place, but he just didn’t know how to end it once it began. Like dominos that kept tumbling down and down and down. He wasn’t big enough to step away, to back off. He had taken too much shit at home to let someone else run over him.

Over the next four years in school, they passively hated each other and sometimes the passivity turned to fists, but Lo was quick to dodge all attacks. It wasn’t until our senior year that everything changed. I think, in part, Aaron had become tired of how teachers fawned over Lo and how he seemed to have special treatment that extended beyond athletes.

I was seventeen and in a fake relationship with Lo. For the first time, Aaron realized that there was a way to reach Lo without him running away.

He could mess with me.

Aaron started following me to class, and then a week later, he blocked me against a wall, ever so casually, with his lacrosse player friends in tow. To everyone else, they probably looked like they stood there for a quick chat, but whenever I met Aaron’s eyes, I saw only hate.

The fourth time he cornered me, I was in the library, trying desperately to find a book on Renaissance Art. Secluded in the back, between two book cases, I picked out a red spine and was ready to hightail it to lunch. When I looked up, my exit had been obstructed by a six-foot guy with athletic muscles and hardened brows.

Hatred is an animal you feed, and I imagined that after four years, Aaron’s became plump and bloated. The seemingly nice guy who invited me to a party my freshman year of prep school had turned cold and mean. At least towards me.

His eyes were dark, and he stepped forward. My heart thudded against my chest as I stumbled back. He continued his stride and my back hit the wall.

“I have to get to lunch,” I said in a small voice. I didn’t know what he was going to do. He’d already laid a fist into Lo. (He got a week’s suspension and Lo got a Friday detention), so I thought maybe he was preparing to hit me…or at least scare me.

Mission accomplished. I was terrified.

He came closer, not saying a word. I think that was the worst part, the unspeaking, unfeeling of it all.

He raised his arms, putting his hands on a Student Election poster beside my head, imprisoning me. His warm breath burned my neck, and it was then, at that moment, that I had the impulse. I wanted out. Away. Gone. I dipped down, small and quick enough to slip below his arm. I ran out of the library and then right out of school.

I didn’t want to tell Lo what had happened, but Aaron’s advances only became worse. One day when I was driving home, he tailed me with his lacrosse buddies. I drove straight to Lo’s and they sped off. I kept my mouth shut, but I spent most of the school day stuck to Lo’s side. No one harassed me when he was around.

I usually tried to skip when he skipped. But one abnormal day, I actually slept at my own house, and he didn’t tell me he was going to be late.

I tried to focus on the task at hand. Get your books. Go to class. Done. I tugged my World History book from the locker and the hardback spine tilted the mirror on the inside door.

And then I felt two hands on my waist.

I jumped: feet and heart. Then I spun around and Lo’s eyes were wide.

“Hey girlfriend,” he emphasized, seeing as how we were in our pretend relationship.

I wanted to smile, but I could barely catch my breath.

His face fell in a wave of concern, and he put his hands on my cheeks. “Heyheyhey,” he said quickly. “Take a breath, Lil.”

Tears pricked my eyes. I didn’t realize Aaron had unraveled me until that point. Game. Set. Match, I thought. He won.

But I had forgotten who my “fake” boyfriend was.

“Lil, what’s wrong?” His voice was heavy and serious.

I buried my head into his shirt and he held me there for a very long moment. We skipped class so I could tell him the truth, and it poured out of me like a flood.

“I’m going to fix this,” Lo said.

I believed it too. He called Aaron and threatened his college career if he didn’t stop harassing me. With the Hale name, Lo had plenty of contacts and one phone call from him or his father, and Aaron’s collegiate career would be over.

Aaron called his bluff. And then Lo called the college.

So Aaron Wells was reduced to his safety school, losing out the lacrosse stardom.

He stopped following me after that…

Well, until the Fizzle party pretty recently (where he tried to scare me again). And not soon after, we received those texts. Maybe only a couple months separating the two events.

Connor’s normal placid expression has been slightly overtaken by a wrinkled forehead and the hand that covers his mouth. I never thought I could shock Connor Cobalt—or that he’d let me see his surprise.

“In defense,” Lo says, “Aaron Wells and I have hated each other since ninth grade. That’s like an era of hate. None of the others are like that.”

“We can only hope,” Connor says.

“And our dad helped you tear up this kid’s future?” Ryke asks.

“What can I say,” Lo says with a bitter smile, “it’s how we bonded.”

{ 15 }


I couldn’t talk about Mason. Neither could Lily. I think that one was too fresh for us. I mentioned what happened in brief to Ryke over the phone one day—about the parking deck and a little bit about the past—so I told him to just fill in Connor and that was that.

My head weighs a f**king ton and I could use a glass of whiskey. Hell, I’d settle for a beer at this point.

But we drive right on back to Princeton afterwards. A couple times, I pull over at a gas station, telling Lily I have to pee. I avoid grabbing any six-packs in the foggy glass fridges, but the second time I park the car, Lily catches on and follows me into the convenience store. She finds me staring questionably at a case of Samuel Adams. Lily talks me down for a good ten minutes, telling me that beer tastes disgusting, that breaking my sobriety is not worth the small, insignificant buzz. She’s right, but I just want to forget everything for one extended moment.

I want all of the memories to shut down so that I can sleep. But everything I did—every mistake, every f**ked up word that spilled from my lips—replays on repeat. And I can’t take it back. But I do have the power to drown it all out.

We drive again. Towards home. And I forget about the booze. I try to focus on things that I can do that won’t involve alcohol. “Maybe I should call Aaron,” I say to Lily. My hands tighten on the steering wheel. “Apologize or something.” What if he didn’t do anything? What if I made it worse by going to his house and threatening him? My father’s way to do things—it could be wrong. It’s all I know. And it’s what put me in this place to begin with.

I have so many regrets. I don’t believe anyone who says they don’t. How can you live life making mistakes and never wish you could take one back?

I destroyed the guy’s wine cellar. If a person did that to me, I wouldn’t be just a little ticked off. I would despise them. And I don’t have much of an excuse. I was just…I was hurting, and I felt like I was screaming and no one could hear me. I was in the wrong, I get it, but my actions never gave him permission to terrorize Lily. For that, I just can’t forgive him.

Lily runs her fingers over my hand that holds the gear shift. “I’m not sure that will help. He may not accept it.”

If Aaron is the guy threatening us, we may be f**ked.

We roll up to our gate, and I punch the security number into the keypad. We drive through, parking in the empty garage. Rose is late, not surprising with how much she juggles. When we walk into the house, I flick on the lights, half-expecting Lily to turn around and ask me if we can fuck.

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