Beautiful disaster, p.30
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       Beautiful Disaster, p.30

         Part #1 of Beautiful series by Jamie McGuire

  Ethan pleaded with Travis, even as Travis gripped his shirt and rammed his head into the car door. The begging was cut off with the loud thud of his skull against the windshield, and then Travis pulled him to the front of the car and shattered the headlight with Ethan’s face. Travis launched him onto the hood, pressing his face into the metal while shouting obscenities.

  “Shit,” Shepley said. I turned to see Hellerton glow blue and red from the lights of a quickly approaching police cruiser. Droves of people jumped from the landing, forming a human waterfall down the fire escape, and a flurry of running students burst into every direction.

  “Travis!” I screamed.

  Travis left Ethan’s limp body on the hood of the car to sprint toward us. Shepley pulled me to the parking lot, ripping open his door. I jumped into the back seat, anxiously waiting for them both to get in. Cars flew from their spots and out of the driveway, screeching to a halt when a second police car blocked the drive.

  Travis and Shepley jumped into their seats, and Shepley cursed when he saw the trapped cars backing from the only exit. He slammed the car into drive, and the Charger bounced as it jumped the curb. He spun out over the grass, and we flew between two buildings, bouncing again when he hit the road behind the school.

  The tires squealed and the engine snarled when Shepley slammed his foot on the accelerator. I slid across the seat into the wall of the cab when we took a turn, bumping my already sore elbow. The streetlights streaked across the window as we raced to the apartment, but it seemed like an hour had passed by the time we pulled into the parking lot.

  Shepley threw the Charger into park, and turned off the ignition. The boys opened their doors in silence, and Travis reached into the back seat, lifting me into his arms.

  “What happened? Holy shit, Trav, what happened to your face?” America said, running down the stairs.

  “I’ll tell you inside,” Shepley said, guiding her to the door.

  Travis carried me up the stairs, through the living room and down the hall without a word, setting me on his bed. Toto pawed at my legs, jumping onto the bed to lick my face.

  “Not now, buddy,” Travis said in a hushed voice, taking the puppy to the hall and shutting the door.

  He kneelt in front of me, touching the frayed edges of my sleeve. His eye was in the beginning stages of a bruise, red and swollen. The angry skin above it was cut and wet with blood. His lips were smeared with scarlet, and the hide had been ripped away from some of his knuckles. His once-white T-shirt was now soiled with a combination of blood, grass and dirt.

  I touched his eye and he winced, pulling away from my hand. “I’m so sorry, Pigeon. I tried to get to you. I tried …” He cleared his throat of the anger and worry that choked him. “I couldn’t get to you.”

  “Will you ask America to take me back to Morgan?” I said.

  “You can’t go back there tonight. The place is crawling with cops. Just stay here. I’ll sleep on the couch.”

  I sucked in a faltering breath, trying to ward off any more tears. He felt bad enough.

  Travis stood up and opened the door.

  “Where are you going?” I asked.

  “I’ve gotta get a shower. I’ll be right back.”

  America shoved past him, sitting beside me on the bed, pulling me into her chest. “I’m so sorry I wasn’t there!” she cried.

  “I’m fine,” I said, wiping my tear stained face.

  Shepley knocked on the door as he entered, bringing me a short glass half full of whiskey.

  “Here,” he said, handing it to America. She cupped my hands around it and nudged me.

  I tipped back my head, letting the liquid flow down my throat. My face compressed as the whiskey burned its way to my stomach. “Thanks,” I said, handing the glass back to Shepley.

  “I should have gotten to her sooner. I didn’t even realize she was gone. I’m sorry, Abby. I should’ve …”

  “It’s not your fault, Shep. It’s not anyone’s fault.”

  “It’s Ethan’s fault,” he seethed. “That sick bastard was dry-fucking her against the wall.”

  “Baby!” America said, appalled. She pulled me to her side.

  “I need another drink,” I said, shoving my empty glass at Shepley.

  “Me, too,” Shepley said, returning to the kitchen.

  Travis walked in with a towel around his waist, holding a cold can of beer against his eye. America left the room without a word as Travis slipped on his boxers, and then he grabbed his pillow. Shepley brought four glasses this time, all full to the brim with amber liquor. We all knocked back the whiskey without hesitation.

  “I’ll see you in the morning,” America said, kissing my cheek.

  Travis took my glass, setting it on the nightstand. He watched me for a moment and then walked over to his closet, pulling a T-shirt off the hanger and tossing it to the bed.

  “I’m sorry I’m such a fuckup,” he said, holding the beer to his eye.

  “You look awful. You’re going to feel like shit tomorrow.”

  He shook his head, disgusted. “Abby, you were attacked tonight. Don’t worry about me.”

  “It’s hard not to when your eye is swelling shut,” I said, situating his shirt on my lap.

  His jaw tensed. “It wouldn’t’ve happened if I’d just let you stay with Parker. But I knew if I asked you, you’d come. I wanted to show him that you were still mine, and then you get hurt.”

  The words took me off guard, as if I hadn’t heard him right. “That’s why you ask me to come tonight? To prove a point to Parker?”

  “It was part of it,” he said, ashamed.

  The blood drained from my face. For the first time since we’d met, Travis had fooled me. I had gone to Hellerton with him thinking he needed me, thinking that despite everything, we were back to where we were before. I was nothing more than a water hydrant; he had marked his territory, and I had allowed him to do it.

  My eyes filled with tears. “Get out.”

  “Pigeon,” he said, taking a step toward me.

  “Get OUT!” I said, grabbing the glass from the nightstand and throwing it at him. He ducked, and it shattered against the wall in hundreds of tiny, glistening shards. “I hate you!”

  Travis heaved as if the air had been knocked out of him, and with a pained expression, he left me alone.

  I yanked off my clothes and pulled the T-shirt on. The noise that burst from my throat surprised me. It had been a long time since I had sobbed uncontrollably. Within moments, America rushed into the room.

  She crawled into the bed and wrapped her arms around me. She didn’t ask questions or try to console me she only held me as I let the tears drench the pillowcase.

  Chapter Twenty


  Just before the sun breached the horizon, America and I quietly left the apartment behind. We didn’t speak on the way to Morgan. I was glad for the silence. I didn’t want to talk, I didn’t want to think, I just wanted to block out the last twelve hours. My body felt heavy and sore, as if I’d been in a car accident. When we walked into my room, I saw that Kara’s bed was made.

  “Can I stick around a while? I need to borrow your flatiron.” America asked.

  “Mare, I’m fine. Go to class.”

  “You’re not fine. I don’t want to leave you alone right now.”

  “That’s all I want to be at the moment.”

  She opened her mouth to argue but sighed. There would be no changing my mind. “I’m coming back to check on you after class. Get some rest.”

  I nodded, locking the door behind her. The bed squeaked beneath me as I fell onto it with a huff. All along I believed that I was important to Travis, that he needed me. But in that moment, I felt like the shiny new toy Parker said I was. He wanted to prove to Parker that I was still his. His.

  “I’m nobody’s,” I said to the empty room.

  As the words sunk in, I was overwhelmed with the grief I’d felt from the night before. I belonged to n
o one.

  I’d never felt so alone in my life.

  Finch set a brown bottle in front of me. Neither of us felt like celebrating, but I was at least comforted by the fact that, according to America, Travis would avoid the date party at all costs. Red and pink craft paper covered empty beer cans hanging from the ceiling, and red dresses in every style walked past. The tables were covered with tiny foil hearts, and Finch rolled his eyes at the ridiculous decorations.

  “Valentine’s Day at a frat house. Romantic,” he said, watching the couples walk by.

  Shepley and America had been downstairs dancing from the moment we arrived, and Finch and I protested our presence by pouting in the kitchen. I drank the contents of the bottle quickly, determined to blur the memories of the last date party I’d attended.

  Finch popped open another cap and handed me another, aware of my desperation to forget. “I’ll get more,” he said, returning to the fridge.

  “The keg is for guests, the bottles are for Sig Tau,” a girl sneered beside me.

  I looked down at the red cup in her hand. “Or maybe your boyfriend just told you that because he was counting on a cheap date.”

  She narrowed her eyes and pushed away from the counter, taking her cup elsewhere.

  “Who was that?” Finch asked, setting down four more bottles.

  “Random sorority bitch,” I said, watching her walk away.

  By the time Shepley and America rejoined us, six empty bottles sat on the table beside me. My teeth were numb, and it felt a bit easier to smile. I was more comfortable, leaning against my spot on the counter. Travis had proven to be a no-show, and I could survive the remainder of the party in peace.

  “Are you guys going to dance or what?” America asked.

  I looked to Finch. “Are you going to dance with me, Finch?”

  “Are you going to be able to dance?” he asked, raising an eyebrow.

  “There’s only one way to find out,” I said, pulling him downstairs.

  We bounced and shook until a thin sheen of sweat began to form under my dress. Just when I thought my lungs would burst, a slow song came over the speakers. Finch peered uncomfortably around us, glancing to the people pairing off and getting close.

  “You’re going to make me dance to this, aren’t you?” he asked.

  “It’s Valentine’s Day, Finch. Pretend I’m a boy.”

  He laughed, pulling me into his arms. “It’s hard to do that when you’re wearing a short pink dress.”

  “Whatever. Like you’ve never seen a boy in a dress.”

  Finch shrugged. “True.”

  I giggled, resting my head against his shoulder. The alcohol made my body feel heavy and sluggish as I tried to move to the slow tempo.

  “Mind if I cut in, Finch?”

  Travis stood beside us, half amused, half prepared for my reaction. The blood under my cheeks immediately burst into flames.

  Finch looked at me, and then at Travis. “Sure.”

  “Finch,” I hissed as he walked away. Travis pulled me against him and I tried to keep as much between space between us as possible. “I thought you weren’t coming.”

  “I wasn’t, but I knew you were here. I had to come.”

  I looked around the room, avoiding his eyes. Every movement he made I was acutely aware of. The pressure changes of his fingers at the points where he touched me, his feet shuffling beside mine, his arms shifting, brushing against my dress. I felt ridiculous pretending not to notice. His eye was healing, the bruise had almost vanished, and the red blotches on his face were absent as if I had imagined them. All evidence of that horrible night had disappeared, leaving only the stinging memories.

  He watched my every breath, and when the song was half over, he sighed. “You look beautiful, Pidge.”


  “Don’t what? Tell you you’re beautiful?”

  “Just … don’t.”

  “I didn’t mean it.”

  I huffed in frustration. “Thanks.”

  “No … you look beautiful. I meant that. I was talking about what I said in my room. I’m not going to lie. I enjoyed pulling you from your date with Parker …”

  “It wasn’t a date, Travis. We were just eating. He won’t speak to me now, thanks to you.”

  “I heard. I’m sorry.”

  “No you’re not.”

  “Y … you’re right,” he said, stuttering when he saw my impatient expression. “But I … that wasn’t the only reason I took you to the fight. I wanted you there with me, Pidge. You’re my good-luck charm.”

  “I’m not your anything,” I snapped, glaring up at him.

  His eyebrows pulled in and he stopped dancing. “You’re my everything.”

  I pressed my lips together, trying to keep the anger at the surface, but it was impossible to stay mad at him when he looked at me that way.

  “You don’t really hate me … do you?” he asked.

  I turned away from him, putting more distance in between us. “Sometimes I wish that I did. It would make everything a whole hell of a lot easier.”

  A cautious smile spread across his lips in a thin, subtle line. “So what pisses you off more? What I did to make you wanna hate me? Or knowing that you can’t?”

  The anger returned. I shoved past him, running up the stairs to the kitchen. My eyes were beginning to gloss over but I refused to be a sobbing mess at the date party. Finch stood beside the table and I sighed with relief when he handed me another beer.

  For the next hour, I watched Travis fend off girls and suck down shots of whiskey in the living room. Each time he caught my eye, I looked away from him, determined to get through the night without a scene.

  “You two look miserable,” Shepley said.

  “They couldn’t look more bored if they were doing it on purpose,” America grumbled.

  “Don’t forget … we didn’t want to come,” Finch reminded them.

  America made her famous face that I was just as famous for giving in to. “You could pretend, Abby. For me.”

  Just when I opened my mouth for a sharp retort, Finch touched my arm. “I think we’ve done our duty. You ready to go, Abby?”

  I drank the remainder of my beer in a quick swig and then took Finch’s hand. As anxious as I was to leave, my legs froze when the same song that Travis and I danced to at my birthday party floated up the stairs. I grabbed Finch’s bottle and took another swig, trying to block out the memories that came with the music.

  Brad leaned against the counter beside me. “Wanna dance?”

  I smiled at him, shaking my head. He began to say something else, but he was interrupted.

  “Dance with me.” Travis stood a few feet from me, his hand outstretched to mine.

  America, Shepley, and Finch were all staring at me, waiting for my answer as anxiously as Travis.

  “Leave me alone, Travis,” I said, crossing my arms.

  “This is our song, Pidge.”

  “We don’t have a song.”

  “Pigeon …”


  I looked to Brad and forced a smile. “I would love to dance, Brad.”

  Brad’s freckles stretched across his cheeks as he smiled, gesturing for me to lead the way to the stairs.

  Travis staggered backward, the hurt plainly displayed in his eyes. “A toast!” he yelled.

  I flinched, turning just in time to see him climbing onto a chair, stealing a beer from the shocked Sig Tau brother closest to him. I glanced to America, who watched Travis with a pained expression.

  “To douchebags!” he said, gesturing to Brad. “And to girls that break your heart,” he bowed his head to me. His eyes lost focus. “And to the absolute fucking horror of losing your best friend because you were stupid enough to fall in love with her.”

  He tilted back the beer, finishing what was left, and then tossed it to the floor. The room was silent except for the music playing in the lower level, and everyone stared at Travis in mass confusion.

p; Mortified, I grabbed Brad’s hand and led him downstairs to the dance floor. A few couples followed behind us, watching me closely for tears or some other response to Travis’s tirade. I smoothed my features, refusing to give them what they wanted.

  We danced a few stiff steps and Brad sighed. “That was kind of … weird.”

  “Welcome to my life.”

  Travis pushed his way through the couples on the dance floor, stopping beside me. It took him a moment to steady his feet. “I’m cutting in.”

  “No, you’re not. Jesus!” I said, refusing to look at him.

  After a few tense moments I glanced up, seeing Travis’s eyes boring into Brad’s. “If you don’t back away from my girl, I’ll rip out your fucking throat. Right here on the dance floor.”

  Brad seemed conflicted, his eyes nervously darting from me to Travis. “Sorry, Abby,” he said, slowly pulling his arms away. He retreated to the stairs and I stood alone, humiliated.

  “How I feel about you right now, Travis … it very closely resembles hate.”

  “Dance with me,” he pleaded, swaying to keep his balance.

  The song ended and I sighed with relief. “Go drink another bottle of whiskey, Trav.” I turned to dance with the only single guy on the dance floor.

  The tempo was faster, and I smiled at my new, surprised dance partner, trying to ignore the fact that Travis was just a few feet behind me. Another Sig Tau brother danced behind me, grabbing my hips. I reached back, pulling him closer. It reminded me of the way Travis and Megan danced that night at the Red, and I did my best to recreate the scene I had wished on many occasions that I could forget. Two pairs of hands were on nearly every part of my body, and it was easy to ignore my more reserved side with the amount of alcohol in my system.

  Suddenly, I was airborne. Travis threw me over his shoulder, at the same time shoving one of his frat brothers hard, knocking him to the floor.

  “Put me down!” I said, pounding my fists into his back.

  “I’m not going to let you embarrass yourself over me,” he growled, taking the stairs two at a time.

  Every pair of eyes we passed watched me kick and scream as Travis carried me across the room. “You don’t think,” I said as I struggled, “this is embarrassing? Travis!”

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