Broken and screwed, p.10
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       Broken and Screwed, p.10

         Part #1 of Broken and Screwed series by Tijan
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  driveway to his front door. I waited outside for him to come, but the door opened. His housekeeper, Zala, motioned for me to come in. Her plump cheeks were flushed. Her dimples appeared and I grinned back at her. She squeezed my arm once, but never said anything.

  “Alex?”

  She pointed towards the kitchen, so I led the way.

  Jesse grinned when he saw both of us. He waved towards the table. “Sit. I’ll make breakfast.”

  Zala and I sat at the table as he made breakfast for us both. We had toast, eggs, and bacon. He made the coffee he had promised. Zala got up from the table. She came back with creamer and sugar. I was about to say thank you, but she dumped a bunch in her own coffee and then plopped them back on the table.

  Jesse took the seat beside mine with his own plate of food and the three of us ate in silence. When Zala finished first, she got up, collected all the dirty dishes, and took them back into the kitchen. Jesse tapped my hand and I followed him to his room. It was then that I realized that was a normal routine for the two of them.

  It was something I hadn’t expected from him, but then again, my family had been like his most of his life. It made sense that he had sought out that type of comfortable relationship with Zala. She’d been with his family as long as I could remember.

  When we got to his room, I curled up on his bed and watched as he started to pack his clothes. And then a different thought came to me. “Why didn’t you say anything when Marissa was calling you all the time?”

  The shirt he had grabbed was balled into his fist. He jerked up to meet my gaze. A flare of guilt flashed in his eyes before it was gone. “Why would I?”

  I felt punched in the gut, but then I sighed. Had I really expected anything less? “No, I mean, was she bothering you?”

  He shrugged, but turned away quickly to disappear in his closet again. It was awhile before he came back out. This time he had a pile of clothes in his arms and he dropped them all on the bed. As he started to fold them, he bit out, “You’re not my girlfriend, Alex. That’s not what this is.”

  “I know it’s not.”

  I said that slowly and casually, but I couldn’t lie to myself. The rejection stung; it stung a whole bunch after the night we’d just shared together.

  When he didn’t say anything further, I sat up and hugged my knees to my chest. “I saw you at that movie premiere, you know.”

  “No, I don’t.” He grinned, but it fell a second later. “Whatever. I was there for my dad. He’d been harassing me to go to one of his movies, so I figured I’d do it to shut him up.”

  “Did it work?”

  “No,” he sighed and reached for some more shirts to fold. “He’s pushing my name around with his business. I think he’s hoping I’ll go pro early and get some promotion deals or something.”

  “Would you want to do that?” I asked, though I knew he wouldn’t.

  Disbelief flared in his eyes. “Are you kidding me?”

  I grinned. “Yeah, actually.”

  He shook his head. “I hate that business.” He glanced at his watch. “Ass Face is coming home tonight. I’d better get a move on it if I want to avoid him.”

  “Why’d you come home this weekend?”

  He shrugged again and glanced around the room. “I think I have almost everything.” Then he disappeared into the bathroom. He had a little bag in hand when he returned. He placed in the big one and yawned, scanning the room for a second time.

  I swallowed tightly and took a breath. “Are you coming home for Thanksgiving break?”

  He shook his head. One of his hands idly scratched at his chest. I knew he was still thinking about if he had everything before he left. He murmured, “Practices already started. We got games during that time. Am I forgetting anything?”

  I had so many answers for that question, but I held them all back.

  Then he sighed again and found me with his gaze. His eyes narrowed. “Are you going to date that second stringer?”

  “Eric Nathan?”

  “Yeah.” He frowned. “You going to be manned-up the next time I come to town?”

  I shrugged. At this point, I had no idea.

  He continued to frown as he stared at me.

  “What?”

  His eyes narrowed further. “Are there any other guys I don’t know about?”

  I shrugged again. “I don’t think anyone else likes me, if that’s what you’re asking.”

  He grunted. Then he sat beside me on the bed. “They like you, Alex. I know a whole bunch of them like you. They more than like you.”

  “Did you meet anyone at that movie premiere? I’m sure there are lots of gorgeous actresses and models at events like that.”

  He gave me a rueful grin.

  “What?”

  Then he chuckled. He swung an arm around my shoulders and pulled me close. His breath fanned my cheek as he continued to chuckle into my ear. “Are you jealous, Alex?”

  I nudged him with my elbow. But I knew my cheeks were aflame.

  He hugged me tight again before he pressed a kiss to my forehead. “Are you trying to see if I’m seeing anyone?”

  I gestured to the bed. “We’re not exactly just friends, Jesse.”

  “Yeah, I know.” His arm dropped from my shoulder and his tone sobered. Then he raked a hand over his head and sighed again. “Man, I know.”

  I bit my lip. What did that reaction mean?

  He turned on the bed so he was facing me squarely. One his legs trapped me closer and he cupped both sides of my face. “I won’t lie to you. I don’t know what we are, but we’re not exclusive. I can’t handle that. I’ve slept with two girls since I got to school.”

  My heart stopped.

  “But they were just hook-ups and they didn’t mean anything. It was empty sex; that was it. I don’t want a girlfriend. I can’t do that, and if that’s where you want this to go, we need to stop right now. I can’t lose you in my life and I won’t risk it because of that. Sex is one thing, but sex before our friendship is another thing.”

  I couldn’t breathe.

  His thumb started to rub back and forth. He choked out, “So what do you think?”

  ‘About what?’There wasn’t a choice given to me.

  I couldn’t look away from him. I swore I wasn’t imagining the flare of pain that flashed in his eyes before it was gone. It was so quick, so fleeting; I could’ve mistaken it for something else. I continued to hold my breath. What do I do? The choice was in my hands. Keep it as it is or drop it. Then I gasped for breath. My heart pounded.

  I whispered, “I can’t stop this.”

  He let out a soft sigh.

  “I should.” Pain flared in my chest. It tightened around my heart. “I think Eric would like to be my boyfriend. He won’t hurt me like you do. You always leave me, Jesse. You blow into my life and then you leave every time. We should stop this. We should stop it right now.”

  A haunted look came to him.

  My heart skipped a beat. He felt something for me. I knew it. I almost relished in it, but then I deflated once again. It didn’t matter. He said it himself. He didn’t want a girlfriend, and no matter what he felt for me, I knew he wouldn’t allow it. He wouldn’t let it grow into something more. And right then and there, I wasn’t able to walk away. One day I would. I knew I’d be strong enough to leave the shelter he gave me, but not that day, not at that minute.

  I still needed him.

  “What do you want, Alex?” It looked like that question cost him. He seemed in pain.

  I shook my head. A tear slipped down my cheek. “I can’t.”

  His forehead dropped to mine. He heaved a ragged breath in.

  My hands lifted to his shoulders and I hung on. I was helpless at that moment as I confessed, “I can’t stop this, not yet.”

  Then his lips caught mine. I surged against him as I wrapped my arms around him. I pulled him close, he held me tighter. And like all the other times, time ceased for us. It was only the two of us
and the frenzied need we felt for the other.

  Later that night as I got ready for bed, my phone beeped a few times. One was from Angie. She wanted to know how I was and if I had heard from Marissa. The next was from Eric. He hoped I had a good weekend and the third was from Jesse. He hoped my mother was okay and he would come back for Christmas break. My phone beeped a fourth time. It was from him again and it read, ‘Don’t have a boyfriend when I come back.’

  I thumbed a quick response to Angie. I hadn’t heard from Marissa. I didn’t tell her about what happened with Cord. That was for Marissa to tell her. My next response was to Eric. I replied that the weekend went fast and I hoped he had a good one as well. Then my last response was to Jesse. It read, ‘Okay.’

  That it was, nothing more. I didn’t feel he needed more than that.

  Angie and Eric both responded a few times before I crawled into bed. And then, as I turned the light off and settled underneath my comforter, my phone buzzed one last time. It was from Jesse. ‘Good.’

  In some ways my world was crumbling around me, but that night I went to bed with a smile. I couldn’t stop my smile, and I had a strong sense that Ethan was smiling as well, wherever he was.

  My mother had been in the hospital for two weeks. I visited her once, but her eyes had been vacant the whole time. One of the nurses advised against any more returns from me. Apparently, her blood pressure and heart rate had skyrocketed when I was there. It was calm when my father was there, and according to the emptiness of the house and how the nurses had commented, he was there every day. A small cot was next to her bed with a blanket and pillow on top of it. When I’d gone into her bathroom, my dad’s utility bag was on a shelf inside.

  As I had left that time, I sat in my car with my phone in my hand. I had considered calling Jesse, but what could he say? Besides the one text message, he hadn’t commented about my mother that weekend or since then. And I couldn’t call anyone else. I hadn’t told anyone about my mother. I wasn’t about to start. My family had enough grief; I couldn’t stomach any more sympathy.

  But it didn’t last long.

  “Hey!” Angie slapped a hand on my locker. She shut it for me as I stepped back with my bag over my shoulder.

  “Thanks.” I watched it close and turned for the parking lot.

  “Hey!” she said again before she fell in step beside me. Then she lowered her voice. “You didn’t tell me about your mother. She’s in the hospital? Alex! How could you not tell me that?”

  I shrugged and veered around two freshmen girls. When they started giggling, I looked up and saw the reason for it. Eric was at the end of the hallway with some of his football teammates. All of them wore their letterman jackets and lounged against the wall as if they owned the place. Then I sighed. In some ways, they might’ve. The freshmen girls would’ve attested to that fact.

  When Eric caught sight of me, his face lit up and he lifted a hand.

  I nudged Angie with my elbow. “Can we not talk about my mom? I didn’t say anything because it’s…” I hesitated. What could I say? I couldn’t tell her that it’d been a relief for me that she was gone from the house. That didn’t sound appropriate. I ended with, “It’s just a lot, okay? It’s too much sometimes.”

  Her face sagged and horror flared in her eyes. She caught my shoulders with her hands and stopped me. “I’m so sorry, Alex. I really am. If you need anything at all, call me! Seriously. Hey, my mom is making lasagna tonight. Come over for dinner?”

  “Hey, guys.” Eric approached now, his voice was cheerful.

  Angie ignored him. “What do you say?”

  “Say to what?” He moved closer and lowered his head.

  I sighed and then relented. “Sure.”

  “Great!” Her smile was radiant before she bounded off. She hollered back from the door, “Come at eight. We’ll go bowling with Justin and the gang afterwards.”

  I gave her a thumbs-up in response, but it was weak. My smile wavered.

  Then she was out the door and I gave Eric the same weak smile as I’d given her. “Hey.”

  “You’re going bowling tonight?”

  He sounded cheerful, too cheerful. After Jesse’s last text message, I’d been able to evade Eric most of the time. There’d been almost no alone time with us and I knew he wouldn’t pursue a date with me through a note so I figured I was in the clear. Until now. We were alone.

  “Hey, girlfriend!” Marissa smacked my butt and bounced to a halt beside us. Her eyes went from eager to sultry as she scanned Eric up and down. “What are you doing tonight, Eric?’

  His eyes widened a fraction and his hands gripped his book bag tighter. “I’m…” His eyes darted to me with a question in them.

  I relented. “He’s going bowling with me and Angie and the gang.”

  His grin grew and two dimples appeared.

  Marissa melted at the sight. “Great! Pick me up at nine, Eric?”

  “Uh.” He looked stricken as his eyes skirted from me to her. “I’m, uh, sure.”

  “See you later!” She winked at him before she was grabbed from some of her cheerleading friends. They led her away, but their giggling grew in volume after she whispered something to them. When all of them stopped and looked at us, Eric staggered back a step.

  Then they disappeared around a corner.

  “What just happened there?” He scratched the top of his head.

  I chuckled and started forward. “You have a date with Marissa if I’m not mistaken.”

  He groaned, but fell in step with me. “How did that happen?”

  “She set her sights on you and down you folded. Good luck with that one.”

  “She’s your best friend, right?” He watched me from the corner of his eye as we turned towards my car.

  “Yep. Hurt her and die.”

  He groaned again. “I meant to ask you out and instead I’m being threatened by you. I don’t think I’ll ever understand girls.” Then he grew serious and stopped us. “I can’t ask you out now, can I?”

  I shook my head.

  His head tipped back. Frustration flared across his features as he pinched the top of his nose. “I have horrible luck with girls. I’m cursed. That’s it. I have to be cursed.”

  I patted him on the arm. “Well, if you’re not serious about her, Marissa has the attention span of a bee for guys. She’ll be buzzing around someone else in a week. I’m sure of it.”

  “A bee, huh?” He relaxed a little.

  “Don’t let her know I told you that.”

  He shot me a grin. “I won’t. And I’ll see you tonight.” He pretended to bow before he turned towards his truck and I went to my car. As he went, I watched how he continued to scratch the top of his head and I couldn’t hold back a grin. For once, I was glad for Marissa’s man eating ways. She stepped in without being asked and did me a favor.

  Eric wouldn’t ask me out for awhile again and I could hold onto the promise I’d given Jesse, even though I knew I didn’t need to. I wasn’t going to be his girlfriend. That wasn’t what I was holding out for. I was waiting for one last time to be in his arms, one last time to be connected with him again. And it wasn’t about sex. It was more than that for me.

  I shivered in anticipation. Christmas break couldn’t come quick enough for me.

  CHAPTER ELEVEN

  My mom came home a month later, in time for the Thanksgiving holiday. However, when the bell rang on that last day and I knew I had four days of freedom, I wasn’t thrilled. Everyone else was giddy. They loved the days away from school. They loved being able to sleep in and they loved all the food and family time.

  Not me.

  School was my retreat from the house. And sleep still escaped me most nights. As for the food and family time, I overheard my dad on the phone in his office one night. He was booking two plane tickets for the Caribbean. I knew I wasn’t included with those tickets. He was planning a weekend getaway for him and my mother. The two of them could heal together and escape another Thanks
giving without Ethan.

 
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