Semester of Thursdays: Chapter 16

11 Jan

CHAPTER 16

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“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!

 

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