Fallen fourth down, p.28
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       Fallen Fourth Down, p.28
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         Part #4 of Fallen Crest High series by Tijan

  his head. A soft curse slipped from him as a manager came out from behind the counter. He started to lift his arm, but Logan shook his head. “No need. I’m leaving.”

  The manager looked from Logan to me.

  “Sam,” Logan said.

  I jumped. The softness in his tone, the raw feeling that I heard from him, sent me into a full blown panic attack. My heart started racing. My chest grew tight. The storm that had been rolling over and over inside me during the confrontation had doubled.

  I had hurt him.

  He asked, “She told you last summer?”

  I had lied to him. I forced myself to nod. “After graduation.” That was seven months ago. I flinched as I realized how long I had kept this secret.

  He turned and started for the door.

  I went after him. Once we were outside, I paused on the sidewalk. “Logan?”

  He was going to his Escalade, but he stopped. He didn’t turn around, not right away. As I waited, my heart pounded against my chest, straining to get out. His head lifted, his shoulders dropped down, and his hands balled into fists. He turned slowly. The bleak look that had been in Kris’ eyes was in his, but it was more intense.

  That’s when the fear came in. I could lose him. I could lose Mason. My nightmare was happening, right in front of me.

  A ball was in my throat. I could barely talk around it. “I was scared.”

  He cocked his head to the side. “You better tell Mason.” He started to turn back around, but stopped halfway. With his head down, he said softly, “Before I do.”

  A fresh wave of chills came over me. This wasn’t the Logan who loved me, who called me his sister or family. This was the Logan I knew before he cared about me. He was a stranger in that moment, and when he got into his Escalade and drove away, I was suddenly very cold.

  I had screwed up.

  CHAPTER TWENTY-SIX

  MASON

  After the game, I stayed back to explain my tardiness to Coach. He hadn’t been happy, but the fact that we won and I ran two of those touchdowns in helped lessen some of his anger. The locker room was empty when I came back out, and when I read a text left on my phone from Matteo, I understood why they’d left so fast. Everyone was grabbing their favorite alcohol and meeting at the house in two hours. A big party was planned with only the most trusted invited. That meant girlfriends, best friends, or family. As I was heading out to my Escalade, I was tempted to ask Sam if she could come. Seeing her for only a few moments wasn’t good enough. The school year was almost half over, but that meant there was another half to go. I’d be out of season, though, which would give me free weekends. I already knew Logan was expecting me to go back for his basketball games. That was fine. I’d take Matteo with me. I grinned at the thought of Matteo in Fallen Crest.

  I didn’t realize it was raining until I pushed open the last door and felt the drops on me.

  Shit.

  I stepped back in, letting the door slam shut. It was pouring down. I’d be drenched if I walked out there, but I didn’t want to wait. I was hungry, I was tired, and honestly, I just wanted to call Sam. With a scowl, I shoved back outside.

  There were cars still parked in the lot, but I wasn’t surprised. I had to park in a different lot because I had been so late. Hurrying through a few of the rows, I got to mine. It was dark. The light flickered above me, but half the bulb was out. Opening the door, I tossed my bag inside and started to climb in when I heard my name.

  “Mason.”

  Marissa was on the other side of my door. The rain had drenched her, plastering her hair to her face. She was wearing a baggy sweatshirt, jeans, and sneakers. All of it must’ve felt like fifty extra pounds on her.

  “Marissa?”

  She stepped closer. Her eyes were bright and alert, skirting over my face. She swallowed, biting down on her lip for a moment. “I have to say this.” She gestured to her chest, and her sleeve hung limp, barely moving as she did. “I have to get it out. It’s just eating me alive.”

  “Okay.” I was drenched too. “Can we have this conversation in my car? We can dry off?” I skimmed up and down her tiny figure. It was cold, she could get sick. “You should warm up too.”

  She shook her head. “No. It has to be here. It has to be now. I have to say this.”

  “Marissa,” I started to argue. This was insane.

  “No, Mason.” She scooted back a step and pressed against the front of my Escalade. The door was still open between us, so I closed it and leaned against it, facing her. She added, “I’ve been crazy these last few years.”

  “Marissa.” Fuck. Really? “Let’s go somewhere dry.”

  She shook her head again. “No.” Her hand went up to her head and grabbed a fistful of hair. She kept shaking her head, swinging her elbow around with it. “You have no idea what it’s like for people like me. I’m not even feeling the rain. I’m so hyped up. I have to get this off my chest, or I feel like it’s going to swallow me whole. Mason,” she stopped, and her eyes found mine, “when you became my friend our sophomore year, you have no idea what you did to me.”

  What I did?

  She kept going, her voice rising as she did, “I was nothing. I am nothing. I had two friends. That was it. My life was all about studying, helping my uncle at Quickie’s, and maybe a movie night with my friends. We read books. That was our excitement, then you came along and changed everything for me.”

  “I’m sorry.”

  “No.” She released her hair, and her arm fell back against her side. “I think you helped me. I mean, there were bad times. Trust me. I was picked on. I was bullied. Girls beat me up. They called me names. They called my house constantly and just hung up when someone answered. We changed our number twice, but it never mattered. They always found out the number. We went to the principal, but he didn’t do anything. That was the bad time, but you know, I got through it because of you. I kept thinking about you, daydreaming about you. I mean, look at you. Look at me.” She gestured to me and her. “I felt like I was an ugly loser and a waste of space, and you became my friend anyway. I still have no idea why. And then, even when I moved away, you were still my friend. You protected me, when we were at the cabin. You had Nate stay with me the whole time. I know that was you. You were taking care of me in your own way.”

  I wasn’t. I hadn’t done a thing. “Marissa.”

  “No. Please, just let me talk. I know I sound crazy. I know I probably look crazy, but you don’t know what it’s like. I was invisible until you became my friend. No one cared about me. No one. Even my friends didn’t care that much. We just stuck together because we were the three outcasts. We were on the outside, looking in, and you,” she waved at me, moving her hand up and down, “you were the in. You were the god. Even the seniors respected you.” Her voice kept rising, growing shrill. “I thought you were my romance story coming alive. You were the popular guy. I was the plain wallflower. No one saw me, but you did. You saw me.”

  “Marissa.” She needed to stop this.

  “NO!” She held her hand up. “I mean it. I know there’s no chance. I know you have a girlfriend. I am aware of all of this in here,” she tapped the side of her head, “but I feel all of it here,” she said, pressing her hand to where her heart was. “I have to get this out, or I will never move on from you. You, you’re in here, and you won’t go away. You just keep building and building, but I saw you in the hallway. I saw how you looked at her. I know in my head how much you love her, but this,” her other hand went to the middle of her chest too, “won’t accept it.”

  “Fine.” I surrendered, hanging my head. “Go ahead.” I rested back on my heels, and she started again.

  “I have convinced myself over the years that you loved me. I have comforted myself every time I felt lonely and, like a loser, felt that it was meant to be with you. The one guy who shouldn’t have noticed me was the only one who did. I have planned our future together. I have everything worked out, from how I was going to come back into y
our life in college. We were going to be together. You were going to realize you loved me, and I was going to be your superstar girlfriend. I even told my friends here that I could see us dating. They laugh at me now.” Her voice trembled, but I wasn’t sure if it was from emotion, if she was crying, or if it was from being cold. “I never expected you to protect me in high school. Why would you? I didn’t protect myself. I never fought back. I took it. A part of me thought I deserved it. I was a nobody, remember? Then the cabin, when you invited me there and had Nate take care of me, I convinced myself it was because you loved me. You loved me, but you couldn’t be with me. It wasn’t meant to be. That’s how sick I was.” She laughed at herself. “I even talked to Tate about it. I talked to her for hours about you and me.”

  “Marissa,” I tried again. There was no her and me.

  “No—”

  I interrupted her, “—I had Nate take care of you because I was having sex with Sam.”

  She choked on her protest and fell back a step. Her hand flew out, grabbing hold of the Escalade, righting herself. Her mouth clamped shut. Even under the rain and in the darkness, I could see that she had paled. “No, you were protecting me from her. You didn’t even want me to meet her—”

  I clipped my head to the side, cutting her off again, “I didn’t want you to meet her because I didn’t want her to find out that I let people bully you. I never stopped them, and I should’ve. I was ashamed. I didn’t want Sam to look down on me. I had Nate do my dirty work. He was on babysitting duty. The truth is that I never should’ve invited you, but I was trying to be nice. I was trying not to be an asshole all of the time.”

  “But—” She shook her head.

  I could see the argument coming. She was going to spin it someway. I couldn’t let her. “Stop, Marissa. I don’t like you.”

  Her hand fell from the Escalade.

  “You didn’t want anything from me in high school. You were a vacation for me, but that was it. I was using you to escape from all the fucking piranhas everywhere else in my life. I’m sorry. I am. I’m sorry you got hurt and picked on, but I don’t like you. I don’t love you. I don’t even want your friendship.”

  Her mouth fell open and lowered with each statement I delivered. By the end, she couldn’t look me in the eyes anymore. She was hugging herself, as if warding off my words. She turned to the side, but stopped. She whispered, “I love you.”

  “You don’t even know me.”

  When she looked up, the misery in her was so evident, and a twinge of regret flared in me. I pushed it down. She was affecting Sam. I needed her to go away and stay away. I made sure the coldest, fuck-you mask was on my face as I said, “Stop daydreaming about me. You were right the first time. I never should’ve given you attention. I didn’t know what a head case you were going to be.”

  “Stop.”

  “And stop using Nate to get to me. That’s the lowest you could go, screwing someone else and hoping they’ll bring you around me.”

  Her shoulders seemed to shrink beneath my gaze. Her head lowered all the way down. I couldn’t see the tip of her nose. If she could’ve curled up in a ball and disappeared, I had no doubt that’s what she would do. For a moment, I regretted everything. I did. I remembered the hurt in Sam’s eyes, how Logan warned me about her.

  I was going to hell.

  Marissa was already broken. I’d been her slight ray of hope, helping her get through the storm, and I just snuffed that out of her. I had broken her even more. Knowing I should probably stop soon, I added, “Just stop coming around. Leave me alone. Leave my relationship alone. Leave my friends alone. This is for you too. Stay. Away. Fall in love with some nice guy, someone who will care for you, but keep away from me. I mean it. I need you to go and never come back. I don’t even want to see you in class.”

  I waited. I didn’t know what she was going to do. I heard someone else call my name from behind me. “Mason!”

  Park was standing in the other row of cars behind my Escalade. He stood between two trucks and waved at me. “Can I talk to you?” He was dressed in a black hooded sweatshirt and black pants. If he hadn’t waved, I wouldn’t have known he was there.

  What the fuck was up with rainstorms and heart to hearts? I scowled at him. “Can it wait?”

  “It’s about Nate.”

  Crap. “Yeah.” I glanced back to Marissa. She had turned the other way around. Her arms were still hugging herself, but she was bent forward, pressing against my Escalade.

  Fuck. I had no idea what to do.

  “Kade!” Park yelled again.

  Suddenly, Marissa burst around me. She ran past my Escalade, heading in Park’s direction. A burst of bright lights lit up. She stopped in the middle of the lot, frozen in place.

  It happened so quickly, but it was in slow motion at the same time. Her eyes got big, her mouth opened, and she let out a scream as she held a hand up before a truck barreled into her. Her body hit the front of it and flew in the air. I watched as her body flipped an entire 360 degree circle and fell to the ground ten feet away. Her body bounced and settled back down with a thud.

  I couldn’t comprehend what had just happened, but as quick as that thought flashed through my mind, time slammed back into place and I took off running. “MARISSA!”

  The truck had screeched to a halt as soon as it hit her, and a door flung open. As I raced past it to where Marissa laid ahead, I heard someone say inside, “SHIT! Who was that?”

  I stopped paying attention. Marissa was my focus. Getting to her side, I felt for her pulse. It was there. She was alive, but she was unconscious. I looked back up. I was going to tell Park to call nine-one-one, but instead I saw him leap into the truck. Before he shut the door, he pounded his fist on the dashboard and yelled out, “PUT IT IN REVERSE! YOU HIT A GIRL! GET THE FUCK OUT OF HERE!”

  “FUCK!” The truck sped backwards, its lights right on us. I couldn’t see them, but I knew they were watching me.

  They hit her on purpose. No. They hit her by mistake. I had been the target. My mind was reeling and I felt vomit coming up my throat; I shoved it down. That fucker. I reached for my phone in my pocket, but I had a hard time getting ahold of it. My fingers kept slipping. As I finally got a firm hold and pulled it out, I dialed nine-one-one. The truck got to the opening path and careened to the right, whipping the front around.

  I lifted the phone to my ear, my one hand on Marissa’s shoulder, and saw Park in the window. His eyes met mine. He flinched, and his eyes slid down to look at her. I saw fear come over him. Good. The fucker was going to burn.

  Then I heard the operator answer, “Nine-one-one, what is the location of your emergency?”

  CHAPTER TWENTY-SEVEN

  SAMANTHA

  The bus ride home was the longest thing I had ever endured. My heart was breaking a little more with each mile we passed. I couldn’t stop envisioning Logan’s face. He was hurt, by me. I had done that, and I knew, even before we talked, that it was because I had kept Tate’s words from him. I should’ve confronted him right away, even if it was true, I should’ve. Mason would’ve wanted me to.

  When we got to the school, any other time I would’ve received well wishes and congratulations. This time, everyone was silent. They were all watching me and Kris. As soon as we got off the bus, I was going to my car and heading home. I already knew what I was going to do when I got there, even if people were there or not. As it was, I was lucky. No one was home. A note was left on the kitchen counter for me. Malinda and David were out on a date. I shouldn’t expect them home, and Mark was out with Cass. I scribbled my own note beside it.

  I’m going to Mason’s. Be home Sunday night. Late. Love, Sam.

  I went downstairs and started packing a bag. Everything in me hurt. I had to get to Mason. I had to tell him the truth, and I had to know that everything was going to be okay.

  Knock, knock

  I stopped, my heart pounding. It was Logan. He had come to talk about this, deal with it, and get it out of
the way, but when I whipped open the door, he wasn’t standing there.

  It was my dad.

  “Garrett?”

  “Hey, Samantha.” He had a timid smile, holding a bag in front of him with his coat tucked over one of his arms. “I, uh, I know you wanted time. I’m supposed to wait for you, but I’ve never been good with being patient.”

  My lips pressed together and I crossed my arms over my chest. I had wanted it to be Logan. Badly. “What do you want?”

  “Uh.” He lifted a hand and raked it through his hair. It was then that I noticed he was dressed in a suit and tie. Even his shoes looked rich. The last time I saw him had been at Logan’s football game. He always emanated wealth, even when he was dressed in jeans and a sweater.

  He was not like me. He was so far from me.

 
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