It’s torture listening to it yet I can’t make myself delete that message either. Just knowing it’s there, that for one last minute she actually cared, is better than deleting those words and her voice, and pretending she doesn’t exist.
“I’m hoping to help you with that. Your coping mechanisms,” Dr. Harris says, drawing me out of my thoughts. “I know how much she means to you. Fable. And I’m hoping that eventually, you’ll go to her and tell her you’re sorry.”
“What if I’m not sorry?” I toss the words out, but they’re meaningless. I’m so sorry I can’t begin to explain how much of a screwup I am.
“Then that’s another issue we’ll have to deal with,” she says gently.
It goes on like this for another fifteen minutes and then I finally make my escape, walking out into the cold, clear winter afternoon. The sun is warm on my skin despite the temperature and I start down the sidewalk, heading for where I parked my truck. Harris’s office is downtown, in a nondescript building, and I hope like hell I don’t see anyone I know. The college campus is only a few blocks away and students hang out at the little stores, cafés and coffee shops that line the street.
Not like I have many friends, but hell. Everyone likes to think they know me. No one really does. With the exception of one person.
“Hey, Callahan, wait up!”
Pausing, I glance over my shoulder to see one of my teammates running toward me, a big grin on his goofy face. Jace Hendrix is a pain in the ass but generally a good guy. He’s never done me wrong, not that any of them ever really have. “Hey.” I offer him a wave and shove my hands into my jacket pockets, waiting until he stops just in front of me.
“Long time, no see,” Jace says. “You sort of disappeared after that last failure of a game.”
I wince. That last failure of a game had been all my fault. “I was feeling sort of fucked up over that,” I confess.
Hell, I can’t believe I just admitted to my failures, but Jace doesn’t seem bothered. “Yeah, you and everyone else, man. Listen, what are you doing this weekend?”
The way Jace brushes off my statement—hell, the way he agrees with it—blows me away. “What’s going on?”
“It’s Logan’s birthday. We’re doing it up right at the new restaurant that just opened a few blocks over. Have you heard of it?” Jace looks excited, he’s literally bouncing on his feet and I wonder what the hell is up.
“Vaguely.” I shrug. Like I care. The last thing I want is to be social.
But then Dr. Harris’s words ring through my head. How she wants me to reach out. And act like a real person.
“Party’s going to be there. Got a private room and everything. I haven’t been there yet, but I hear all the waitresses are gorgeous, the drinks are delicious and loaded with alcohol and Logan’s parents arranged for a private room. Rumor has it strippers might’ve been hired out for this momentous event. Logan’s turning twenty-one, so we want to get him all sorts of fucked up.” Jace waggles his eyebrows.
“Sounds great,” I lie. It sounds like torture. But I need to go. At the very least, make a quick appearance and then jam. I can report back to my shrink what I did. She can give me a gold star for making an effort.
“You’ll go?” Jace looks shocked and I know why. I rarely do anything with the guys and especially the last few months, since I’ve been like a ghost.
“I’ll be there.” I nod, unsure how I’m going to work up the energy to make an appearance, but I’ve got to do this.
“Yeah? Awesome! I can’t wait to tell the guys. We’ve missed you. Haven’t seen you for a while and we all know how those last few games were tough on you. They were tough on all of us.” Jace’s expression is solemn and for a minute I wonder if he’s playing my ass.
But then I realize he’s sincere. Funny how I took full responsibility for those losses when I bet every single one of these guys on my team probably did the same thing.
“Tell the guys I can’t wait to see them.” The words fall easily from my lips because they’re the truth. I need to stop wallowing in my own misery. I need to stop worrying about my past, worrying about my dad and my bitch of a stepmom and the little girl who died because I was too busy fighting with her mom and telling her to keep her goddamn hands to herself.
That’s the one regret I have, that I never fully explained to Fable what happened that day. I know she assumes I was off screwing around with Adele. I would think the same. But that was the day I told her never again. Whatever she was going to try, I wasn’t interested. It was over. That was the day I became liberated.
And also the day I became a prisoner to my own guilt.
“See ya around, Drew.” Jace waves and turns, whistling as he walks away from me. I remain rooted to the spot, watching him leave until he’s a speck of nothing in the distance, wishing like crazy I could be that carefree. That my biggest concerns were my grades, what girl I could get my hands on next, and how excited I was for the big party coming up in a few days.
Maybe, just maybe I could lose myself in the mundane for a bit. Pretend that nothing else matters but friends and school and parties. Doc says I can’t move forward until I face the past.
But what the fuck does she know?
She’s all broken inside but no one will ever notice. – Unknown
“So.” Owen slurps on the giant thirty-two-ounce soda I bought him at the gas station, where we stopped to fill up my mom’s crap car on the way home. “Can I eat for free at this joint you’re working at?”
I shake my head. “It’s too classy. Kids aren’t really welcome.” The understatement of the year. The restaurant is definitely not kid friendly. In fact, I’m thinking it’s not really Fable friendly either but I’m willing to give it a chance. Colin claims I can make a ton of money in tips, though I’m not sure if I believe him.
My thoughts drift to Colin. He owns the restaurant…because his rich daddy gave it to him to play with. That much I gleaned out of him when he first brought me there. He’s nice. He’s attractive. He’s charming.
Beyond chatting with him like he’s my boss and I’m his employee, I’m avoiding him as much as possible. I took him up on his job offer, though it sounds almost too good to be true.
Funny thing is, I haven’t quite given notice at La Salle’s yet. Holding on to that job until I know for sure the new job is going to work out is the only way to keep the money consistently flowing in.
And as always, my inflow of money is the most important thing. Our mom isn’t doing anything to ensure that’s happening.
Owen puffs up his chest, his expression indignant. “Are you kidding me? I’m not a kid. I’m fucking fourteen!”
I slap his arm and he yelps. “Language,” I warn because, oh my God, he needs to watch that mouth of his. And since when did the legal adult age get bumped back four years? In his dreams.
“Seriously, Fabes, you can’t even sneak me in?” Owen shakes his head, his irritation clear. “I hear the chicks who hang out there are bangin’.”
I don’t need to hear my little brother talking about bangin’ chicks and whatever else. Bad enough I found the baggy of weed in his jeans pocket when I did laundry a few days ago. I showed it to my mom and she shrugged, then demanded I hand the bag over.
She proceeded to open it and took a deep sniff, proclaiming the weed high-quality stuff. I know she took it with her over to Larry’s house later and they probably got high as hell. I still can’t believe it. How did I become so normal and stable when my mom is such a…child?
You had no choice.
Wasn’t that the damn truth?
“Listen, the dinners they serve are like fifty bucks a plate. It’s for couples and stuff. And there’s a bar. After ten, the place is completely shut down to those under twenty-one,” I explain. It’s truly the most beautiful, elegant restaurant I’ve ever seen. Let alone worked at. It’s organized, efficient, everything and everyone
has a place. The staff isn’t very friendly, though. More like snobby. I’m sure they sneer at me behind my back, the white-trash townie who’s come to work among their elitist ranks.
Whatever. All I care about is the tips. And the fact that Colin believes in me. It’s been a long time since someone believed in me. I thought Drew did but the longer he’s absent from my life, the more it proves to me that was all fake. We just got a little too caught up.
“You can’t even bring me any leftovers, huh?” Owen’s question snaps me out of my thoughts and I glance at him, see the smirk on his face.
He’s getting more and more good-looking as time passes. I have no idea if he has a girlfriend or not, but I really hope he puts that sort of thing off for a least a little while longer. Relationships are nothing but trouble.
“That’s so gross.” I roll my eyes. I used to bring him home burgers from La Salle’s. Which goes to show I completely spoiled him.
“Well, Mom sure as hell isn’t going to feed me. Sorry,” he blurts when he catches my evil eye over his curse. “And I feel like a jerk with how much I hang out at Wade’s house. His mom has to be getting sick of me.”
Guilt swamps me. I need this job. I need both of my jobs and that means I can’t be there for Owen. Making him dinners, keeping on top of his homework, forcing him to clean that dump of a room. The apartment has three bedrooms, a rarity but in demand in a college town, and the rent is getting more expensive. Considering my mom is never here and it’s usually just Owen and me, I’m considering looking for another apartment. For just the two of us and without my mom included.
This little tidbit will piss her off when I tell her. It doesn’t matter that she spends the majority of her time with Larry. It doesn’t matter that she’s never here and doesn’t have a job and can’t afford the rent. She’ll still be angry and take it personally, like Owen and I are forcing her out.
I kind of am. I don’t want her here anymore. She’s not a good influence, Owen’s uncomfortable around her and so am I. I’m done.
But for whatever reason, I’m scared to confront her. I don’t want to deal with a bunch of unnecessary drama. And that’s what my mom is. Complete and total drama.
My cell beeps, indicating I have a text, and I check it, see that it’s from my new boss. Unease slips down my spine as I read the message.
What are you doing?
I type in the good employee response.
Getting ready for work.
Hey, it’s the truth.
I’m in the neighborhood. Let me pick you up and take you there.
I stare at his message for too long, ignoring Owen as he starts griping about what he’s going to have to fix himself for dinner. What the hell could Colin want? Why would he be in my shit hole of a neighborhood? It makes no sense. Unless he purposely came looking for me…
I don’t have to be at work for almost an hour, I reply.
I’ll pay you for the extra time. Come on.
Sighing, I type in my answer: Give me five minutes.
“I gotta go,” I tell Owen as I head for my bedroom. I haven’t changed into my work uniform, if you can call it that. All the waitresses have to wear the most outrageous dresses I’ve ever seen. There are at least four different dresses and they’re sexy as all get-out, with our boobs hanging out or they fit us skintight. I get the sex appeal thing. We don’t look slutty or anything, but if I bend over wrong, I’m giving everyone a flash of my ass. Boy-short undies are the name of the game for those dresses.
I’m grabbing my dress off the hanger when I catch Owen lurking in my doorway. “What’s up?” I ask him.
He shrugs. “What do you think of me getting a tattoo?”
My head spins for a moment. Oh my God, where does he come up with this stuff? “First, you’re only fourteen, so legally you can’t get one. Second, you’re only fourteen. What could you possibly want to have tattooed forever on your body?”
“I dunno.” He shrugs again. “I thought it might be cool. I mean you just got one so why can’t I?”
“Maybe because I’m an adult and you’re not?” A few weeks before Christmas, when I still believed Drew and I had a chance, I got one. The stupidest tattoo you could ever imagine. I thought by doing it, by having a piece of him, no matter how small, permanently etched into my skin, I could somehow call him back to me.
Didn’t work. And now I’m stuck. Thank God, it’s small. I could probably have it filled in if I wanted to.
Right now, I don’t want to.
“So you put some guy’s initials on your body and it’s cool but I can’t get an artistic tat of a dragon on my back or whatever? So unfair.” He shakes his head, his dirty blond hair getting in his eyes, and I want to smack him.
And I also want to draw him into my arms and ask where did the sweet, simple kid of not even a year ago run away to? Because he sure as hell isn’t around here anymore.
“It’s different.” I turn away from him and yank the dress off the hanger, clutching it in my hand. “I need to change so you need to go.”
“Who’s the guy, anyway? You never did tell me.”
“He’s no one.” The words are heavy as they fall from my lips. He was definitely someone. He was my everything for the briefest, most intense moment of my life.
“He’s not no one. He broke your heart.” Venom fills Owen’s voice. “I ever find out who he is, I’ll kick his ass.”
I smile because I can’t help it. His defense of me is…awesome. We’re a team, Owen and I. We’re all each other’s got.
* * * *
I slip outside of my apartment because I so don’t want Colin knocking on my door and meeting Owen. Or worse, seeing the inside of our dingy apartment. Wherever Colin lives, I bet it’s amazing. If his house is half as gorgeous as his restaurant, then it has to be amazing.
The second I step off the stairs, he’s there in a sleek black Mercedes, the engine purring, the car so new it doesn’t have plates yet. I take a step back when he opens the door and climbs out of the car, a blond god with a devastating smile and twinkling blue eyes.
He rounds the car, opening the passenger side door for me with a flourish. “Your carriage awaits.”
I hesitate. Is this a mistake, climbing into his car with him? I’m not afraid of Colin yet I am afraid of the situation I might be putting myself in. He’s a flirt but I notice he flirts with pretty much everyone who works for him—and the customers. He never crosses a line, he’s always polite and knows when to step back if need be.
But am I giving him mixed signals by allowing him to pick me up for work? He just happens to be near my apartment so he can swing by and get me? I don’t believe it.
Not for a second.
“Did you come here specifically to pick me up?” I ask him the minute he climbs back into the car and slams the door.
He turns to look at me, our faces awfully close. The car is nice but small and the setting is rather intimate. He smells like expensive cologne and leather and I wonder for a quick minute if I could actually feel something for this guy.
I realize just as quickly that I can’t. My heart is still tied up in knots over someone else. Someone unreal.
“You’re pretty straightforward, aren’t you?” Colin asks, his eyes gleaming in the dim interior.
“It’s better than doling out a bunch of lies, right?” I arch a brow.
Laughing, he shakes his head as he puts the car into gear. “Right. I really was in the neighborhood, Fable. And I remembered you lived around here so that’s why I texted you. I know you don’t always have access to a car.”
I’ve worked at his restaurant for three shifts and he already knows all this information about me. Is that a sign of a good boss or a creeper? “I had my mom’s car today.”
He pulls out of the parking lot and onto the road, his hand draped casually over the steering wheel, his other arm resting on the center console. There’s an easiness to him. No, make that effortlessness. He makes everything appear like he coul
d get whatever he wants out of life and he deserves every bit of it too.
I envy him that. It’s a confidence I could never hope for.
“Want me to take you back so you can drive it?” There’s amusement lacing his deep voice. He must think I’m a joke.
“No.” I sigh. This is stupid. What are we doing? “I won’t have a ride home, though.”
“I’ll give you a ride.”
I don’t bother answering him.
I remain quiet, picking at my cuticles as he drives, both of us silent. My hands are dry, my cuticles bad and I think of the other girls I work with who have perfect manicures and pedicures and I literally look like the still slightly ragged Cinderella who’s been finally pulled out of the basement and set to work among the glittering, beautiful princesses. I might shine but rub me a little bit and the tarnish comes through relatively easy.
I feel…less than when I’m at my new job. And I don’t like that.
“Nasty habit,” Colin says, breaking the thickening silence. “You should go get your nails done.”
Okay, that irritates the crap out of me. His assumptions are rude. “I can’t afford it.”
“I’ll pay for it.”
“Hell, no,” I practically snarl. His offer irritates me more.
Colin ignores me. “And while you’re at it, you should go see a hairstylist. I’ll pay for that too. There’s too much bleach in your hair and it looks damaged.”
The nerve. This guy is such an asshole. Why did I agree to work for him again? Oh yeah, the money. Greediness is going to get the best of me, I just know it. It’s led to two really stupid decisions already. “Who are you? The fashion police?”
“No, but I’m your boss and at The District we have certain criteria that we need to maintain.”
“So why did you hire me? You knew what you were getting.”
“I saw your potential,” he said softly. “Do you, Fable? Do you see it?”
I couldn’t answer him. Because the truth wasn’t what he wanted to hear.
Second Chance Boyfriend (Drew + Fable) Page 2