Archive | January, 2013

LAST DAY for Royalty Donations

31 Jan

218829_1352206693.2684Since today is the final day of January, it just happens to be the last day for the royalties earned from both of my books (The Mirrors at Barnard Hall  and  Semester of Thursdays) to be donated to my sister’s three-month mission trip to a Women’s rehab clinic in South Africa!

For those of you who have already shared this opportunity with friends & family, donated, and/or purchased copies, allow me to extend sincere gratitude for your generosity!

Remember to stop by tomorrow for Chapter 19 from Semester of Thursdays!

 

-Jenny

Semester of Thursdays: Chapter 18

25 Jan

The fact that today is Friday completely slipped my mind… until now.  So I apologize for those of you who typically read chapters from my latest book early in the morning!  REMEMBER: There are only a few days left in January and ALL ROYALTIES this month from both of my books are going to be donated to THIS three-month mission trip to South Africa.  If you already have your copies you can always send one as a gift! 🙂

Without further ado, here is Chapter 18 from Semester of Thursdays!

-Jenny

* * *

Cover 1

CHAPTER 18

I had decided to play nice, which was why I hadn’t tempted Lena… too viciously.  She hadn’t given in anyway, and I was proud of her—sort of.  I wasn’t sure how I found myself in the bar, alone at my corner table.

Inebriated patrons cast speculative stares in my direction.  Without Lena here to pass me her empties, I had been forced to buy a full beer.  The people around me probably assumed I was a budding alcoholic, wanting to be alone with the bottle.  However, the ruse became obvious when I couldn’t bring myself to take a sip; the liquid smelled stale and bitter.  The glass container sat forgotten on the table, my hands idly warming the amber liquid inside.

“Hello.”

I didn’t look up from my drink to greet him.  He took his seat as was customary, but I still didn’t acknowledge his presence.

The peace lasted for a conversationless hour.

“What is wrong with you, Meredith?” Remington shouted, drawing stares from those close enough to hear him over the blaring music.

Again with the same question!

My tone belied my answer.  “Nothing.”

“Yeah, I can tell.  The whole evil glare and cold shoulder told me that nothing is wrong with you.”

Evil glare?  In the past sixty minutes I hadn’t looked at him once, let alone subjected him to a glare.  It had been the longest, most arduous hour of my life.

“Did you ever think all of your rude comments and dropped conversations would work, and I wouldn’t want to talk to you anymore?” I challenged.

The air between us tightened.

“Is that what happened?”  Remington sounded regretful.

Part of me felt compelled to see if my assessment had been correct but I remained strong.

“Will you just leave me alone, please?” I begged.

“After you tell me what’s wrong,” he promised.

I closed my eyes as I turned to him.  This was what I had wanted, a confrontation.  But now that it was here I felt like hiding beneath the table or escaping as he so often had.

“I just can’t believe you,” I seethed.  All of the repressed emotions from the past week came to the surface.  The way my stomach twisted in revulsion was his fault.

“Me?  What did I do?  I got here over an hour ago and you haven’t said anything to me the entire time!”

“Yeah, I know.”

“So in that silent hour, what did I do to offend you?”

“It wasn’t tonight.”  It was the entirety of the past week.

“Then when?” Remington pushed.

“I’m just disappointed in you.”

His innocent expression opened the flood gates.  “Why?”

“Because you act so high-and-mighty, a cut above the rest, but you’re really just the same as every other guy in here!”

Remington’s reaction was too calm for the accusation I was making.  “How do you figure?”

“You left with Lena last Thursday.”

“So?”

“So, weren’t you the one preaching about how you weren’t interested in her?”  And I had been stupid enough to believe him.

“Yes,” he said carefully.  “I’m not interested in Lena.”

“And then you went home with her.”  The words tasted like poison on my tongue.

“No.”

“No?”  Now he was going to lie to me?  “I saw you two leave together and I watched you leave my apartment.”

“And?”

“And nothing.”

His mouth lifted at the corner but his smile was a sneer of derision.  “You saw nothing.”

“I saw enough.”

“I am a bit confused why this matters to you, Meredith.”  The way he said my name made it sound like an accusation.

Maybe it was because I needed to be accused.

“It doesn’t,” I contradicted too quickly.

“You could have fooled me.”

“She is seeing your best friend, Remington.”  Was that why Alec hadn’t been out lately? Because he was finished with Lena?

“So what?”

“You’re doing the same thing that guy did to you.”

Remington’s eyes went cold and flat.  His response was bleak.  “No, I’m not.”

“How can you claim that this is any different?  Did Alec come to you to let you know he was done with her or something?”

“I don’t need to justify myself to you.”

“No, you don’t.”  But I needed him to.  “But you will if you want to continue this conversation.”

Instead of giving me the explanation I craved, Remington shoved away from the table and left without a backward glance in my direction.

 

***

 

“Hold on,” Lena said, holding her hands in front of her for emphasis.  “You did what?”

“I just don’t know what came over me.  It was like I blew up and could no longer filter what came through my mouth.”

That sort of hysterical display went against the very core of my melancholy nature.  I was indifferent to everyone who didn’t matter to me.  When had that changed?  When had I cared what someone else did when it had no effect on my life?

The reason for the change was difficult to pinpoint.  It occurred to me that perhaps I wasn’t asking the right question.  Maybe I should have been asking when Remington had begun to matter.

When I had gotten back to our apartment Lena had been waiting for me, coiled to strike.  Apparently she had been having an interesting conversation with Alec about yours truly only moments before I had arrived home.

“How did I let it go this far?  Mer, this is so unlike you.”

“You don’t think I know that already?”  Didn’t she know I hated myself for this?

“Last week…”

I plugged my ears.  It was childish, but I didn’t want to hear the explanation.  The scenario remaining pure speculation felt like a better alternative to it being reality.  Reality was too hard to disregard.

“You’re twenty years beyond the age you’re acting.”

“Fine.”  I closed my eyes so she wouldn’t see the betrayal behind them and waited for her to crush the unmentionable feelings inside of me.

“You were right.”

I didn’t want to be.

“I know,” I whispered.

“Last week I left the bar with Remington.”

I nodded, unable to move past the hurt to drum up a comment of acceptance.  I had known as much, had seen it with my own eyes.  But her confirmation stung infinitely worse than it had while witnessing the scene unfold; it removed the need for all assumptions.

“But, Mer, nothing happened.”

Impossible.  Even rude and broody Remington was irresistible, and I was the faithful one.  Lena would have had no chance against his uncharming charm.

“Mer, did you hear me?”

“Yes,” I croaked, still unable to face her.

“Last week Remington was saving me.”

One of my lids popped open involuntarily.  “He was saving you?  What does that mean?”

 “He knew one of the guys hitting on me was particularly tenacious.  Joe wouldn’t take a blatant no for an answer.  Remington rescued me by making Joe think we were together.”

“Oh.”

“He took me home then went back to the bar to make sure you had made it home safely,” Lena explained.

 “Oh.”

“I am really sorry for ditching you.  Remington had been reluctant to leave, but I practically begged him to bring me home.”

“Oh.”

“Are you going to say anything else?”

  “Oh… crap?”  I had really messed up.

There went my Thursday-night exploits.  How could I ever show my face in public again?  The semester was drawing to an end so I wouldn’t miss out on many Thursdays.  Yet the idea of skipping even one night depressed me for some reason.  Perhaps Lena’s reminders about this being her last semester had finally filtered through my denial.

Lena laughed.  “You know you have to go out with me next week, right?”

 “No, I don’t.”  I needed to move away, change my name, and dye my hair orange.

“Mer, I never thought you were a coward.”

She was right of course.  I would give in but it didn’t have to be tonight.

Swing by next week for another installment from SEMESTER OF THURSDAYS!

Semester of Thursdays: Chapter 17

18 Jan

Only nine more chapters remain from Book#1 from Semester of Thursdays!  REMEMBER, you can give a little back this month by purchasing a DIGITAL COPY or a PRINT COPY of either one of my books.  All royalties earned in the month of January will be donated to THIS THREE-MONTH MISSION TRIP to South Africa.  She is NEARLY halfway to her goal!  Let’s help her get there 🙂

Happy reading, writing, and weekend-ing!

-Jenny

* * *

Cover 1

Chapter 17

“Mer, are you alright?” Holden asked.

“I’m fine,” I said.

“It’s just that you have been acting seriously weird all weekend.  It’s downright depressing.”

I grimaced at the roadmap on my Garmin as the electronic car inched along the line of the highway.  I was just in a slump.

Things still weren’t smoothed over with Lena; she acted like nothing had happened, but I could feel the concern in her eyes when she thought I wasn’t paying attention.  It was humiliating.  And Holden continued to be suspicious.  I wished I could say there was no base for his concern, but I couldn’t.

“Sorry,” I apologized for the hundredth time.  The word no longer held any inflection of sincerity.

For once, my boyfriend had been the one to suggest we do something together to get away from the monotony of too many nights in.  But I had been the one to decline a movie, dinner, and bowling.  I felt barely sociable enough to be around him; how would I handle feigning a friendly demeanor for strangers?  I was thankful Holden was going home today; I didn’t feel like pretending to enjoy myself anymore.  Although if the worry on his face was any indication, the farce hadn’t been very convincing.

“Hey, Holden?”

“Yeah, Mer?”

“I was just wondering…”

“Yeah?”

“Do you still love me?”

My boyfriend turned and offered me a look of blank surprise.  I regretted having to ask the question but all of the sudden I wanted to know his answer, to be sure.

“What type of question is that?” he asked, appalled.

“Hopefully an irrelevant one,” I murmured.

“Well, it is irrelevant.”  The conviction that rang in his strong voice didn’t settle the unease in my stomach.

For all of his indignation, he hadn’t answered me.  “So, you still love me?”

“Of course I do.  Why would you ask me something like that?”

“We’ve been together for a long time.”

“So?  I should think that’s a good thing.”

It should have been.

“I was just making sure we are still together for the right reasons,” I explained slowly, trying to take away the sting from my initial question.

“And love is the right reason?”
“Yes.  Definitely.”  It was the only reason that mattered.

“What would you consider the wrong reasons?”

I pondered his question for a brief second.  The answer came more easily than it should have.  “Because we’re creatures of habit, we’re attracted to the familiar.  Because we don’t want to go through the whole messy break-up process.”  And those were just three of reasons on the lengthy list scrolling through my mind.

“I’m worried now,” he admitted, peeking sideways at me while still trying to concentrate on the heavy, Sunday-evening traffic.

“Don’t be.  I was just making sure.”  Wasn’t I?

“Are you sure?’

“Yeah,” I said offhandedly, my mind already speeding to the next subject.  While I was asking the questions I may as well get them all out instead of terrifying him on two separate occasions.

I thought of the story Remington had told me, the one about his last relationship.  It was a topic I had tried to put out of my mind all weekend.  Just when I was sure I had forgotten, those stupid text messages from Holden’s phone popped into my mind.

“Why don’t you cheat on me?”

“What kind of question is that?” He screeched in tandem with my car’s brakes.  I wasn’t sure if the reaction came from my question or his near-miss of the bumper in front of us.

Holden had cheated on every one of his previous girlfriends.  “A serious one.”
“I don’t cheat on you because I love you,” he explained evenly.

“But you told your other girlfriends you loved them too, right?”  What made me different from them?  Why had he chosen to be faithful to me?

“Some.  A couple of them.”

“And yet you cheated on them.  Why start being faithful to me?”

“That’s it, Mer.  I’m pulling over.  I don’t care if I miss my flight.  There’s something wrong, and I’m not leaving until you tell me what it is.”

“There’s nothing wrong,” I promised.  “But you didn’t answer my question.”  Again.

“When I told those other girls I didn’t meant it, not like I mean it with you.  I was really young and immature.  I’ve grown up a lot in the past few years.”

I nodded, silently cursing Remington for unintentionally sowing a seed of doubt in my mind.

If I were honest I would admit the rude man hadn’t planted the seed.  But I needed to focus my anger toward something concrete—toward someone; Remington was the unlucky target.

“Are you going to tell me what’s going on or do I need to catch a later flight?”

“There’s nothing going on.  I just wanted to make sure you had the right answers.”

“So I passed your little test then?” he asked sarcastically.  Thankfully Holden decided to focus on the road ahead of him, accepting my lame excuse for the time being.

“With flying colors.”

“And if I hadn’t passed?”

“I don’t know.”  And I didn’t care to focus on that particular scenario.

Holden looked at me once more and smiled; the look didn’t quite reach his eyes.

The two-and-a-half-hour drive home from the airport afforded me some time to think—a blessing and a curse.  I spent the first half scolding myself over revealing my insecurities and completely screwing up my weekend, not to mention putting in jeopardy my relationships with both Lena and Holden.  I spent the second half worrying about how I was supposed to fix everything.

By the time I pulled into my driveway I hadn’t resolved anything, and my mental voice had gone hoarse.

 

***

 

“Mer, are you alright?”

Why was everyone asking me that?  Holden hadn’t let up all week.  After Tuesday I had stopped answering the same questions.  Silence was better than a lie anyhow.

 

“I’m fine.”

Fine: the universal word women used when the current topic was not up for discussion.  This was not something I wanted to talk about now—or ever.

Lena took a long look at my face but decided to press the issue further anyway.  “I’ve never seen you act the way you did last week.”

“I know. I’m sorry.”  She raised an eyebrow, waiting for the truth.  “Wicked case of PMS this past week?” I offered, hoping she didn’t hear the inflection in my statement.

She grinned, somewhat mollified.  “I knew you weren’t really mad at me.”

“I know.”  I had been mad at myself, livid actually.  I was the even-tempered one, not the girl who went nuts for no reason.

“Why do you suppose that is?”

I shrugged.  “Because you’re my best friend.”

“Maybe, but I must not be that good of a friend.”

“You’re not,” I teased.  “Good friends don’t put people through what I have to deal with every time you’re in the room.”

“That’s not what I meant,” she countered.

“Please, impart your wisdom to me.”

“When you get angry, who do you get really, really mad at?”

It was a rare occasion for me to get that upset about anything.  “I don’t know.”

“I’ll tell you.  Your family and significant other.”  She waited for me to confirm or deny her theory.

“True.”

“I wonder why that is?  Why don’t we care about saving face with the ones we love the most?”

“Because there are no pretenses, all barriers are gone.  Those people know us better than we know ourselves.  And, despite the knowledge of good and evil, they choose to love us anyway.”

“Which is why I’m obviously not that good of a friend; you never truly get mad at me.  Even with all our years of friendship there’s still an air of saving face between us.”  She pursed her lips, disappointment plain in her wilted stance.

“Who wants to see the evil, Lena?”

“You’re not that nice in the first place.  I can only imagine the horror.”  She made a face, and I laughed despite my dark mood.  “Oh, hey.  I almost forgot to tell you that I’m staying in tonight.”

“I’m sorry, what?”  I peeked at the calendar on my wall.  Today was Thursday, wasn’t it?  I sincerely hoped so because I hadn’t gone in to work this morning.

“I’m staying in tonight.  I have a test in the morning that’s going to determine whether or not I have to take the final.  I’d rather stay in now than at the very end of the semester.”

That’s right.  Lena was still in college.  She had classes, exams, projects, and reports with due dates and grades.  It seemed an impossible thing to forget except our time together seemed to revolve around one day of the week: Thursday.  And on Thursdays Frostburg residents went out, no matter what.  Blizzards, two-inch thick sheets of ice, and exams weren’t valid excuses.

“Today is Thursday, right?”

“Very funny.”

This meant Lena was being responsible.

Lena?  Responsible?  Those two words didn’t fit together in the same paragraph let alone the same sentence.  It was a sad realization that my best friend was making decisions based on logical reasoning.

“And if I try to persuade you to come out?” I asked playfully.

“I would have to lock myself in my room and turn up the volume on my iPod so I didn’t succumb to your relentless urging.”

 

 * * *

Remember to swing by next Friday for Chapter 18!

 

Semester of Thursdays: Chapter 16

11 Jan

CHAPTER 16

Cover 1

* * * 

“That guy hates me,” Holden said, a bit too cheerily.

“What guy?”  I asked, even though I already knew.  My back had been strategically placed toward Remington, serving as a barrier between us ever since I had stalked away—a task that had proved quite difficult.  My escape probably wasn’t as dramatic as his usually was, but I had done my best.

“Your friend.”

Remington was not my friend, but we did not need to delve into that tonight.  Couldn’t people see that we couldn’t stand each other?

“He does not,” I said.

“You can’t lie to me, Mer.”

“I’m not lying, Holden.”  The sentence was weak, even to my own ears.  Holden was right, only I had no idea why he felt the need to bring it up.

“Yes, you are.”

“Why do you think he hates you?” My boyfriend chuckled but there was something malicious in the noise.

“I just know he hates me.”

“How can you know that?”  If it was because of Remington’s glare then the man must hate everyone.

Now that I thought about it, he could hate everyone.

“It’s in his eyes.”

“His eyes?”  Remington’s eyes, like the rest of him, were beautiful.

“Yeah.  The way he watches you is creepy.”

“He doesn’t even know I’m still here.”  He had probably forgotten about me as soon as I had left the table.

“Sometimes you’re so naïve.  I know he hates me because he drools all over you week after week, and I have you.” As if to solidify his claim, Holden put his arm around me and pulled me closer.  The gesture felt forced.  My body remained rigid; I fought the urge to pull away.

“He does not drool over me.”  It was the opposite.  For some reason all I seemed to do was piss Remington off.

My boyfriend rolled his eyes.  “He’s practically in love with you.”

“Now you’re being really stupid.”  And I was annoyed enough to step out of his grasp.

“Huh.”  A thoughtful expression crossed his face.  I refused to turn around to see what had brought about that reaction.  “Maybe you’re right after all,” he mused.

“Of course I’m right.”  What was going on behind me?  “Why the sudden change of heart?”

“I can’t believe it.”

“Can’t believe what?  Holden?”

His grin turned thoughtful and mildly appreciative.  “Your friend is leaving with your roommate.”

“My who?”  Surely he didn’t mean…

“Remington.”

What?” I hissed, whipping around to look at the empty table in the corner.  I caught a glimpse of Lena and Remington before they disappeared out the rear door.  The lights illuminating the EXIT sign buzzed in my ears.  I blinked twice in an attempt to dislodge the disturbing image I couldn’t possibly have seen.

Remington had had his arm around Lena’s shoulders, holding her too close as their bodies had blended into one in the darkness.

“Mer?  Did you hear me?”

“What?”

“Sorry,” Holden said, offering me a sheepish smile.

“For what?” I asked blankly.  My mind searched the wall, attempting to see past the concrete into the parking lot.

“For playing the jealous boyfriend.”
“You were jealous?’

Jealous.  Jealous.  Jealous.  Why did that word boil in my head?

“Starting to get that way.  I should have believed you when you said he was just a friend.”

Had I called Remington my friend?

Holden chuckled to himself again and shook his head, bewildered.

“Yeah, you should have.  I’m usually right about these things.”  But why did I have to be right tonight?

“I was right too, you know.”

“About what?”

“Do you remember what I said about Lena’s charms?”

My stomach rolled as the memory of that conversation hit me in the gut.  “Yes,” I whispered.  My throat was too dry to increase the volume.

“I guess he finally succumbed.”  Holden laughed again, unaware of the breakdown I was experiencing.

“Hey, do you mind if we get out of here too?”

“No, that’s fine with me.  The atmosphere really died, didn’t it?”

His question remained unanswered as I raced to collect my coat.

I drove him to his house quicker than usual.  When he pulled me in for a goodnight kiss I tolerated the warm pressure on my mouth.

“I’ll see you tomorrow, okay?”

“Sure,” I said, distracted.  I wanted nothing more than to be home right now, just to see what was going on.  Not that there was anything going on.  There had to be a logical explanation for this.

For what?  All I had seen was Remington and Lena walking outside.  For all I knew they had come right back into the bar after a cordial chat about Alec.  Lena was probably looking for me right now.  There was no way that Lena and Remington were…

“Is everything alright?” Holden asked, unsure.  Of course he would choose tonight to be uncharacteristically perceptive.

“Yeah, it’s fine.  I’m just really tired.  I’ll see you tomorrow after I get off work.”  To set him at ease I offered him a brilliant smile.  The movement didn’t feel right on my face; it felt like a lie.  It must not have looked right either because Holden’s eyes remained concerned even after he had shut the door.

I sped down the darkened streets of Frostburg, anxious to return to the apartment.  An unfamiliar car pulled out of the parking lot just as I whipped into my designated space.  I stared blankly at the driver’s darkened silhouette, knowing instinctively who was behind the wheel of the Mercedes.  How long had they been gone from the bar?

It took me ten minutes to calm down and make my way to the door.  My hands shook as I fumbled for the correct key. What was going on with me?  Why did this matter?

It did.  It didn’t.

It shouldn’t. 

With a steadying breath I opened the door and climbed the stairs to my room, bracing my weight against the banister.  Lena was at the top of the landing, smiling brilliantly.  Her gleaming white teeth and knowing smile tore away my reservations.

“What do you think you’re doing?  I can’t believe you!  Where did you go?”

Lena looked frightened by my unexpected, wild reaction.  She retreated two steps to stand beneath her doorframe.  “Mer, calm down.  Obviously, I came here.  What’s your problem?”

“I don’t have a problem.  I just can’t believe you would…” betray me.

But she hadn’t.  Why did I feel like this?  I had left the bar with my boyfriend, just like I was supposed to.  Lena was free to do what I wanted… I mean what she wanted.

“I would what?” she asked, confusion wrinkling her forehead.

“Go home with him.”

“With whom?”

“Remington.”  Saying his name made me wince.  I hoped she didn’t notice but was beyond caring if she did.

“What are you talking about, Mer?  I obviously didn’t go home with anyone.  I’m in our home.”

It hurt more to know that she was lying to me, that what was going on between those two was worth deceiving her best friend.  Despite our difference of opinion on her exploits, we had always been honest with one another.  I wouldn’t have respected her otherwise.

“Stop playing stupid with me, Lena.  I saw you two.”

She straightened and her tone grew even.  “I have no clue where you’re going with your accusations, Meredith.  Besides, I am single, right?”

I clamped my lips shut, unwilling to answer her condescending question.  Of course she was single; Lena was always single.

Right?” she repeated with more force.

“Yes.”

“And Remington is single, right?” she pushed.

All the fight drained out of me.  “Yes.”

“We are both single!  So, what’s the problem?”

“There is no problem.”  At least there should be no problem.

She eyed me suspiciously.  “Why do I feel like I need to lock my door tonight, just in case?”

“I don’t know.  I’m sorry, Lena.  Who knows where that came from?”  I pushed my hands through my hair, frustrated and embarrassed by my outburst.  Lena would never let me live this one down.  I only hoped that she would save the interrogation for a time when I’d had the opportunity to come up with some logical answers that didn’t include feelings I shouldn’t be experiencing.

“I have a few guesses,” she said beneath her breath.

“Like what?” I ground out, challenging her.  Maybe locking her door would be a wise decision.

“I forget,” she said conveniently.  “Night, Mer!”

Her door clicked shut with enough force to shake the wall.

Was it just me or did the deadbolt slide into place?

 

 * * *

Remember to come by next week for Chapter 17!

Or you can purchase a digital copy of Semester of Thursdays for only $2.99!

 

Growing Complacent

9 Jan

2118434Yesterday my sister asked me what my plans were for future works: would I continue to self-publish or would I query agents with renewed vigor and attempt to move down the more conventional path to publishing?  Her question caught me off-guard; since I had successfully self-published my first book, the steps for book #2 and #3 seemed predetermined.  However, now that the question has been posed, I had to seriously consider what I would like to do for Book #4 (still a very rough WIP).

It was tough to determine whether or not my passion for self-publishing has grown into complacency with the ease I have found in the process OR if it deals more with keeping total creative control over the final product.  To be honest, I believe it is a bit of both.  Handling this two-pronged issue requires a two-pronged solution: I plan on querying agents in an attempt to procure one for the next book and, if that path leads to a dead end, I will simply continue with self-publishing in order to get the stories in the public eye.

I would love to hear from other self-published authors to hear their plans: is self-publishing still in your future OR are you sick of the self-reliance and searching for a more traditional route?

Semester of Thursdays: Chapter 15

4 Jan

* * *

CHAPTER 15

I glared at the face of the man who was supposed to love me.  He offered me a sheepish smile that did little to staunch my anger.

“Mer, you always used to like hanging out with the guys,” Holden whined.

Once again I was being ditched for a bunch of smelly frat brothers who technically weren’t even brothers because my boyfriend was no longer in college.  Holden graduated almost a year ago yet he refused to let go of that part of his youth.  There was more to this world than pledges, socials, kegs, and Thursdays.

“I used to.  But I haven’t seen you in almost a month.”

“Whose fault is that?”

“No one’s.”  I had gone to spring break the same weekend Holden had come home.  He could have come a weekend I was going to be there or I could have stayed; either way, neither of us was at fault.  However, he had gotten to spend the entire time with his friends—and me with mine—so ditching me for them tonight was definitely his fault.

“Why don’t you want to stick around here tonight?”

“Because I’m your girlfriend.”  That should have been a sufficient explanation.  Should have been. But Holden happened to be the proud owner of a Y-Chromosome.

“So?”

“Before, when we weren’t exclusive, I could hang out with you and your friends and they had considered me one of the guys.  Now that I’m your girlfriend I’m considered in another category altogether.”  I was basically the enemy.

Understanding lit his eyes.  “I get what you mean now.”

“Good.”  I had only needed to spell it out for him.  There were times when Holden needed diagrams in order for him to comprehend the most basic principles.

“So?”

“So, what?”

“Are you going to come hang out tonight or not?”

I gritted my teeth together until my jaw ached.  A migraine was planting itself at the base of my skull, and Holden’s ignorance was watering the seed.  “No.”

“Why not?”

“Because I’m going out with Lena.”

“But I’m only in for the weekend, Mer.”

“Exactly.”  Hadn’t that been my very point?

“What is that supposed to mean?”

I was finished trying to explain the obvious to my idiot boyfriend.  “You can figure it out on your own.  I’ll just give you a call later.”

If he didn’t hang up soon then I was going to end up saying something I would eventually regret.

“Okay…”

And the line went dead.

“You’re going out with me tonight!” Lena gushed from where she had been stealthily creeping behind me.

“No,” I groaned, kicking myself for using her as an excuse when she was within hearing distance.

“But you just said—”

“I know what I just said.”  And I regretted it already.

She pursed her lips then smiled broadly; the look in her eyes did not settle my nerves.  “So… that means you’re coming with me tonight.”  The confidence behind her words alarmed me.

“I’m not going to be any fun at all.  Besides, I’m really not in the mood.”  I was in the mood to lock my door, pull the blinds, and be swallowed by my own pitiful misery.

“That’s okay,” she said with excessive cheer.  “You can just sit in the corner with your hot, grumpy friend.”

I ignored the friend comment; she knew how it was between Remington and I. “Why does it matter to you anyway if you and I are not even going to hang out together?”

“It will be nice to know you’re there if I need you.”

“You won’t need me because you’ll have Alec.”

“I want you both.”

“Too bad.  Not everyone gets what they want.”  If I got what I wanted then I wouldn’t have to tolerate the conversation.  Instead, Holden and I would have been spending quality time over a candlelit dinner, growing closer to one another.

“I do,” she said truthfully.

“Not tonight.”

“Yes, tonight.  And tomorrow, and the next day…”

I took a steadying breath and prepared for my monologue.  “Look—”

Lena interrupted before I could start.  “Mer?”

“Yeah?”

“Arguing is pointless.”

There was that confidence again.  It wasn’t pointless to me.  I felt like arguing with the whole world right now.  Arguing, losing (inevitably), and then spinning into a pit of lonely despair.  Another great Thursday.

“Why?”

“Because you’re going to give in.”

Her words only strengthened my resolve.  Over my dead body would I go out tonight.  “No. I’m. Not.”

“Yes. You. Are.  You have to now.”

“No, I’m… Why do I have to?”

She grinned.  I had the overwhelming urge to strangle her.  “Because if your boyfriend makes it out tonight and doesn’t see you with me he’ll think you lied to him.”

***

 

“Hello,” Remington offered with the barest hint of a smile.

Wait a minute.  Why was he smiling?  He had just arrived.  Had something funny happened in the parking lot?  Did I have something on my face?

“Hey,” I said warily, resisting the urge to wipe at my mouth, just in case.

“Did you have a better week?”

“I… I guess so.”  Right now I couldn’t remember what day it was.  If he was here then it had to be Thursday but…  What was going on?  I waited, impatient for a sarcastic remark.  Last week had started out cordially but had ended the same as every other time.

Remington had left.  He would leave again.

“You don’t sound too sure.”
“Oh, I’m sure about my week.”  There had been a blessed lack of crisis this week, which was a relief.  Plus, the weather was finally starting to warm up which meant summer was quickly approaching.

“And what aren’t you sure about?”

I answered honestly. “You.”

“What about me?” he chuckled

Remington chuckled?

Had I been imagining all the impolite stares and dropped conversations?  No.  More than likely I was imagining this cordial exchange and his gruff laughter.

“I’m waiting for you to make some cryptic remark then walk away mysteriously.”  Like every other Thursday.

He frowned; that was more like it.  “Last week you said I was rude.”

“You are rude.  And I have told you before that you are rude.”  Why was he bothering to change now?

“You have a horrible impression of me.”

“I came about that impression honestly.”

“I know.  But that doesn’t mean I have to like it.”

“It also doesn’t mean that one conversation will change anything,” I said sadly.  He nodded silently but made no move to leave our table.  “Since you aren’t being rude anymore—”

“I never said that,” he interrupted.

I almost laughed at the contradiction.

“Since you’re not being rude right now,” I amended.  “Are you going to apologize to me?”

“Apologize?” he spat the word as though it were a curse.  “For what?  I just got here.”

“For the last time you ditched me without a second thought.”  And for every other Thursday before that.

His face turned red.  “You’re wrong.”

“No, you definitely ditched and left me to fend for myself with a pack of hungry boys around.”

“I know I ditched you,” he said angrily.

This was the Remington I was comfortable with.  “Then how am I wrong?”

His blue eyes met and held mine.  “Because I had more than a second thought about that decision,” he confessed as if the admission was a mortal sin.

“Why?” I asked breathlessly.

“I kept asking myself what would have happened if I had stayed.”

Nothing had happened and that’s what really mattered.  But he had been right to ditch me.  It would be too easy to like him if he hung around long enough and continued to play nice.  Liking Remington could only lead to disastrous consequences.

“Do you mind if I ask you why you act like this even though it is in no way my business?”

“You can ask,” he said to his hands as he toyed with his blunt nails.

“Will you answer?”

Remington eyed me warily, warring with himself.  “I had a girlfriend.”

“I’m surprised to hear someone would put up with you.  Although since you used the past tense I can only assume she had the brains to get rid of you.”

His jaw tightened.  I regretted the snarky remark before it had finished bursting from my lips.  But even as I mentally reprimanded myself I did not apologize or back down.  Instead, I steeled myself against the inevitable rude comment; I deserved whatever he came back with.

But Remington didn’t say anything.  His eyes registered a flash of pain but he whipped away before I could offer the apology I didn’t want to give.  He stalked toward the nearest exit, barreling past a posse of drunken coeds.

“Wait,” I called frailly, knowing he couldn’t hear me.

Stupid conscience.

I shoved past everyone in my way and caught up with him on the back deck of the pub.

“Hey, I’m sorry,” I said to his broad back.

He stiffened and turned on me.  The pain was no longer there; it had been replaced with barely contained anger.

I could handle angry.

“You will be pleased to know that she did have the brains to get rid of me,” he dripped, his tongue laced with cynicism.

“Not pleased…” Intrigued by his reaction.

He retreated again, but I stopped him.  It was the first time I had willingly touched him.  The warmth radiating through his shirt lit my fingertips on fire.  Taunt muscles rippled just behind his shoulder blade.

“Tell me,” I whispered.  Remington needed to talk, and I found myself wanting to listen.

“She cheated on me,” he told the clear night sky.

“Oh.”  The single syllable seemed insufficient.  But I was unable to find any words that would offer a semblance of comfort for pain that had long since taken root inside the man in front of me.

“Do you have any more questions?” he sneered.  “Perhaps you’d like to know the specifics?”

His sarcastic tone made me take a step back and raise my hand in defense.  I hadn’t done anything wrong.  Why was he directing his irritation at me?

“I’m not surprised she left you,” I said meanly.
“What?” he hissed.

“She probably found someone who would tell her what she needed to hear, someone with sweet words.  Someone who was nice to her.”

“Is that what does it for you?  Do you need sweet words?” He spat.

“What I need is irrelevant.  We’re not talking about me right now.”  And we were never going to talk about me.  I was none of his business.

“She cheated on me with a good friend,” he divulged.

“I’m—”

He held up his hand and touched my lips to stop the knee-jerk apology.  My eyes crossed when I tried to see where his fingers connected with the sensitive skin.  I nodded, blood pounding behind my ears.  He pulled his hand away reluctantly.

“He had been her friend first, then mine.  There had been something between them, a bond.  I can’t believe I hadn’t seen it from the beginning; now it seems so clear.  He kept working on her, slowly assaulting her with soft words of flattery and false promises.  He capitalized on a moment of weakness, and she gave in.”

“Then what?”

“Then all of his promises were broken; sweet words became sweet lies.  He had been proving he could take her from me, not the depths of his feelings.  It had been some primitive caveman fantasy.  She was left broken, and so was I.”

“I’m sorry,” I whispered, not knowing what else to say.

“I’m not,” he said harshly to the muffled darkness.

“Well, that’s a relief.”  It was a sad story but if he was so heartless then he didn’t deserve my sympathy.

“It changed me.”

“Not for the better,” I concluded aloud.

“Why do you say that?”
“Bitterness seeps through your words, Remington.”

He closed his eyes, and his jaw ticked away the seconds.  When he finally looked at me his blue gaze held a pool of regret.

Again, I felt the unfamiliar urge to comfort him.  “I am sorry.  You know I didn’t mean—”

“I know exactly what you meant.  And your words hit their mark.”

“You’re just not very nice sometimes.  No, I take that back.  You’re not very nice most of the time.”

“Is that how you really feel?” he asked, his tone sad.

What else was I supposed to think?  There was no point in lying to him.  “Yes.”

We both waited for what would come next.  A shiver snaked its way down my spine, making my next step clear.  The cool April air still held the bite of winter, as it often did at this altitude.

“I’m going back inside,” I announced.  “Are you coming?”

I waited only ten seconds for a response I never really expected to hear.

Much to my astonishment, Remington joined me back at our table five minutes later.  When I had first walked in, Lena had eyed me from across the room.  She’d raised one perfectly waxed eyebrow before turning her attention back to the guy who had been chatting her up.  Tonight’s interrogation would be interesting.

There was a line of men behind my best friend, each one impatiently waiting for her to give them some attention.

“Everyone loves Lena.”  I chuckled.

“You’re not jealous,” Remington stated, staring in my best friend’s direction.  A hint of surprise brightened his voice.

“No, I’ve never been jealous,” I confessed.  Jealousy was a waste of emotional effort.

“For some reason, I believe you.”

“That’s because I’m honest.”  I always had been and always would be.

“Hmmm, maybe.  But you’re wrong.”

“About what?”

“Not everyone loves Lena.”

“Tell me one guy in here who doesn’t want her,” I challenged, confident he wouldn’t find one.

“That guy over there.”

“Which one?”  I asked, inexplicably disappointed in his response.  “The guy in the yellow polo?”

“Yes.”

“She just snubbed him in front of everyone.”  The man had offered her a drink and Lena had completely ignored him.  It would be interesting to find out what the stranger had done to deserve such a reaction; Lena was typically exceedingly patient and overly accommodating when it came to potential suitors.

“I know.”  So he had noticed the slight as well.  Maybe he was more aware of my roommate than I had thought.

“That doesn’t prove your point, though.”

“Why not?”

“If Lena were to go over to him and make him an offer, he would undoubtedly accept.”

“Hmmm… you’re probably right,” he conceded.  “What about me then?”

My stomach tightened.  His statement didn’t hold much weight when he was his own second choice for the hypothetical example.

“You don’t count.”

“Why not?”

“Because she’s hooking up with your best friend.”  Immediately I recognized the similarity between this situation and the one he had told me about outside.

“Sometimes that doesn’t matter.”

My confidence waivered.  “But it does to you.”

“And to you.  You’re unique, Meredith.”

“Why, that sounds like a thinly concealed insult, Remington.”

“It wasn’t meant to be,” he assured me.

“No?  Then why didn’t you say rare?”

“Because they’re not the same thing.”

“No?”  They were synonymous in my book.

“No.  Rare would imply that there are others like you in the world.  Unique means one of a kind.”

“So there’s no one else like me?”

He frowned.  “No.”

Definitely an insult.

“And that’s a bad thing?” I surmised from his facial expressions.

“I think so.”

“Why is that a bad thing?”

“It’s a matter of basic economic principle: supply and demand,” he lectured to the tabletop.

“What?”
Remington brought his eyes to mine, and I nearly choked.  I suddenly preferred it when he held conversations with inanimate objects.  “High demand and no supply.”

“No supply?” I scoffed.  “I’m right here aren’t I?”

“Yes, but you’re unavailable.”

As if to illustrate his point, my boyfriend kicked down the front door and the entire bar erupted with raucous laughter.  I groaned, and Remington stiffened.  He turned to give me a surprised look.  I was not as happy to see my boyfriend as I should have been.

“I don’t like your boyfriend,” Remington said, scowling at the subject of his sentence.

I laughed nervously at his fierce look.  “That’s too funny.”

“Why?”

“Because he feels the same way about you.”

Something about that idea must have pleased him because he almost smiled.  “Good.”

“How is that good?”  It was dangerous.

“Because that means I won’t have to make polite conversation with him.”
“You never make polite conversation.”
“What would you call this?”

He had a point.  Besides last week, this was the closest we had come to a courteous conversation since we had met in January.  But I still wouldn’t label it a polite conversation.

“A civil exchange?”

“Well, I won’t have to do that with him either.”

Holden eyed us from across the crowded space, unsure of whether or not to approach us.  I turned away from him, effectively conveying that I was not ready to forgive him for ditching me.

“He’s not good enough for you, you know.”

“How would you know?”

“I just know.”

Numbness settled over me as I turned on Remington.  “Since you apparently know me so well, who would be good enough for me?”

The sarcastic question didn’t faze him.  “No one,” he answered without a second thought.

“So I’m doomed to a lonely life?”

“No, that’s not what I meant.”

“So, no one is worthy of me?”

“Yes,” he repeated.

“But I don’t need to end up alone?”

“Yes.”

Blood pulsed behind my eyes as anger lit my head on fire.  “So what you’re saying, Remington, is that I’m not settling for the right person.”

He shrugged, unaware of how close I was to exploding.  “Yes.  I guess so.”

“Tell me then, who should I settle for?”
He frowned, and I decided not to wait for his flippant response.  Like he had done so many times before, I fled.

* * *