Seven months there, three months before she left and one month since she returned.

That’s almost a year.

My mind hurts. Everything hurts.

“I didn’t know what to do,” she says. “I couldn’t raise him by myself. I was already eighteen when I found out, so . . .”

I immediately lift up and look at her face. “Him?” I ask, shaking my head. “How do you know . . .” I close my eyes and blow out a steady breath, then release my grip on her waist. I stand up and turn around, then pace back and forth, absorbing everything that’s happening.

“Six,” I say, shaking my head. “I don’t . . . are you saying . . .” I pause, then turn and face her. “Are you telling me you had a fucking baby? That we had a baby?”

She’s crying again. Sobbing, even. Hell, I don’t know if she ever even stopped. She nods like it’s painful to do.

“I didn’t know what to do, Daniel. I was so scared.”

She stands up and walks toward me, then places her hands delicately on my cheeks. “I didn’t know who you were, so I didn’t know how to tell you. If I knew your name or what you looked like I never would have made that decision without you.”

I bring my hands up to hers, and I pull them away from my face. “Don’t,” I say as I feel the resentment building within me. I’m trying so hard to hold it back. To understand. To let it all soak in.

I just can’t.

“How could you not tell me? It’s not like you found a puppy, Six. This is . . .” I shake my head, still not getting it. “You had a baby. And you didn’t even bother telling me!”

She grasps my shirt in her fists, shaking her head, wanting me to see her side of things. “Daniel, that’s what I’m trying to tell you! What was I supposed to do? Did you expect me to plaster flyers all over the school asking for information on who knocked me up in the maintenance closet?”

I look her directly in the eyes. “Yes,” I say in a low voice.

She takes a step back, so I take a step forward. “Yes, Six! That’s exactly what I would have expected you to do. You should have plastered it all over the hallways, aired it on the radio, taken an ad out in the motherfucking newspaper! You get pregnant with my kid and you worry about your reputation? Are you kidding me?”

My hand covers my cheek a second after she slaps me.

The pain in her eyes can’t even come close to matching the pain in my heart, so I don’t feel bad for saying what I said. Even when she begins to cry harder than I knew people were capable of crying.

She rushes back to her car.

I let her go.

I walk back to the swing and I sit.

Fucking life.

Motherfucking life.

Daniel: Where are you?

Holder: Just left Sky’s house. Almost home. What’s up?

Daniel: I’ll be there in five.

Holder: Everything okay?

Daniel: Nope.

Five minutes later Holder is standing on his curb waiting for me. I pull onto the side of the street and he opens the passenger door, then climbs inside. I put my car in park and prop my foot on the dash, then look out my window.

I’m surprised at how pissed I am. I’m even surprised at how sad I am. I don’t know how to separate everything I’m feeling in order to get a grip on the core of what’s upsetting me the most. Right now I can’t tell if it’s the fact that I didn’t have a say in whatever decision she made or if it’s because she was even put into that situation to have to make that kind of decision to begin with.

I’m pissed I wasn’t there to help her. I’m pissed I was careless enough to make a girl go through something like that.

I’m sad because . . . hell. I’m sad that I’m so mad at her. I’m sad I have to know something this overwhelming and there isn’t a damn thing I can do about it now, even if I wanted to. I’m sad because I’m sitting here in a parked car and I’m about to have a breakdown in front of my best friend and I really don’t want to do that but it’s too late.

I punch the steering wheel the second I begin to cry. I punch it several times, over and over, until the car begins to close in on me and I need to get the hell out of it. I open the door and climb out, then turn around and kick my tire. I kick it over and over until my foot starts to go numb, then I collapse against the hood onto my elbows. I press my forehead against the cold metal of the car and focus on burying this anger.

It’s not her fault.

It’s not her fault.

It’s not her fault.

When I’m finally calm enough to return to the car, Holder is sitting quietly in the passenger seat, watching me closely.

“You want to talk about it?” he asks.

I shake my head. “Nope.”

He nods. He’s probably relieved I don’t want to talk about it.

“What do you want to do?” he asks.

I wrap my fingers around the steering wheel, then crank the car. “I don’t care what we do.”

“Me neither.”

I put the car in drive.

“We could go to Breckin’s house and let you get your aggression out on a video game,” he suggests.

I nod, then begin to drive toward Breckin’s house. “You better not fucking tell him I cried.”

Chapter Eight

“You look like hell,” Holder says, leaning against the locker next to mine. “Did you even sleep last night?”

I shake my head. Of course I didn’t sleep. How the hell could I have slept? I knew she wasn’t sleeping, so there’s no way in hell I could have slept.

“You gonna tell me what happened?” he asks. I shut my locker, but keep my hand on it as I look down at the floor and slowly inhale.

“No. I know I usually tell you everything, but not this, Holder.”

He taps the locker next to him a couple of times with his fist, then he pushes off of it. “Six isn’t telling Sky anything, either. Not sure what happened, but . . .” He looks at me until I make eye contact with him. “I like you with her. Get it worked out, Daniel.”

He walks away and I close my locker. I wait next to it for a few minutes more than necessary because my next class is down the hallway where Six’s locker is. I haven’t seen her since she left the park last night and I’m not sure I really want to see her. I’m not sure about anything. I have so many questions to ask her but just thinking about having to ask her any of them makes my chest hurt so bad I can’t fucking breathe.

After the final bell rings, I decide to walk to my next class. I debated staying home from school altogether, but I figured it would be worse just sitting in my room thinking about it all day. I’d rather be preoccupied for as long as I can today because I know as soon as school is out I need to confront her.

Or maybe I’m supposed to confront her right now, because as soon as I round the corner, my eyes land on her.

I come to a quiet stop and watch her. She’s the only one in the hallway right now. She’s standing still, facing her locker. I want to walk away before she sees me, but I can’t stop watching her. Her whole demeanor is heartbroken and I want so bad to rush over to her and wrap my arms around her but . . . I can’t. I want to scream at her and hug her and kiss her and blame her for every single jumbled-up emotion I’ve spent the last day trying to process.

I sigh heavily and she turns to look at me. I’m far enough away that I can’t hear her crying, but close enough I can see the tears. Neither one of us moves. We just stare. Several moments pass and I can see she’s hoping I say something to her.

I clear my throat and begin walking toward her. The closer I get, the louder her soft cry becomes. I get about five feet away, then I pause. The closer I get to her, the harder it is to breathe.

“Is he . . .” I close my eyes and pass a calming breath, then open them again and try my hardest to finish my sentence with dry eyes. “When you talked about the boy who broke your heart in Italy . . . you were referring to him, weren’t you. The baby?”

I can barely see the nod of her head when she confirms my thoughts. I squeeze my eyes shut and tilt my head back.

I didn’t know hearts could literally ache like this. It hurts so much I want to reach inside and rip it out of my chest so I’ll never feel this again.

I can’t do this. Not right here. We can’t stand in the hallway of a high school and have this discussion.

I turn around before I open my eyes so I don’t have to see the look on her face again. I walk straight to my classroom and open the door, then walk inside without looking back at her.

Chapter Nine

I don’t know why I’m still here. I don’t want to be here and I’m pretty sure I’ll leave in half an hour. I just can’t leave before then because I’m scared of what she might think if I don’t show up to lunch. I could text her and tell her I’ll talk to her later, but I’m not even sure I feel like sending her a text yet. There’s still so much I have to process, I’d rather just ignore it all until I find the strength to sort through everything.

I walk through the cafeteria doors and head straight to our table. There’s no way I can eat lunch so I don’t even bother getting food. Breckin is sitting in my usual spot next to Six, but that’s probably a good thing. Not so sure I could sit by her right now, anyway.

Her eyes are focused on the textbook in front of her. She’s not crying anymore. I take a seat across from her and I know she knows I just sat down, but her eyes never move. Sky and Holder are deep in conversation with Breckin, so I watch them, trying to find a spot to jump in.

I can’t though, because I’m completely unable to pay attention. I keep stealing glances at her to make sure she isn’t crying or to see if she’s looking at me. She never does either of those things.

“You’re not eating?” Breckin says, stealing my attention.

I shake my head. “Not hungry.”

“You need to eat something,” Holder says. “And a nap might do you some good, too. Maybe you should go home.”

I nod, but don’t say anything.

“If you do go home, you should take Six with you,” Sky says. “You both look like you could use a nap.”

I don’t even respond to that with a nod. My eyes fall back to Six just in time to see a tear land on a page in front of her. She quickly swipes it away with her hand and flips the page over.

Fuck if that just didn’t make me feel like complete shit.

I continue to watch her and tears continue to fall onto the pages, one by one. Her hand is always quick to wipe them away before anyone notices and she always flips to a new page before she could even possibly have read the last one.

“Get up, Breckin,” I say. He looks at me blankly, but doesn’t make an effort to move. “I want your seat. Get up.”

He finally realizes what I’m saying, so he quickly stands up. I stand and walk around the table, then I take a seat next to her. I sit down beside her and when I do, she brings her arms onto the table. She folds them and buries her head into the crease in her elbow. I watch as her shoulders begin to shake and dammit if I can allow her to keep feeling this way. I wrap an arm around her and lower my forehead to the side of her head and I close my eyes. I don’t say anything. I don’t do anything. I just hold her while she cries into her arms.


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