Chapter 26

Cover 1

A knock vibrated our front door, pulling me out of bed.  Leave it to my roommate to forget her keys on one of the last nights in our apartment.  The impatient pounding came again, louder this time.  I pulled on my sweatshirt and sweat pants just in case she had decided to bring Alec with her.  Grumbling as I unlocked the deadbolt, I flung open the door and stifled a scream when I saw who was outside.

“What I meant earlier, when I said I didn’t know how to deal with you…” Remington said, his words coming in a flood.  His hair was soaked, sticking to his smooth forehead.  His shirt was damp and the bottom of his jeans muddy.  “Do you remember?”

How could I forget?  It was only a few hours ago.

I crossed my arms against the vivid memories.  The statement had hurt my pride more than it should have.  His comment had ruined and ended my night.  “Yeah, I remember.”

“It had nothing to do with you and everything to do with me.”

“That excuse is overused,” I sneered.

“What excuse?”

“The whole it’s-not-you-it’s-me excuse.”

“It’s a valid explanation.  Do you realize the deplorable person I’ve become?”

“How can you…”  The lifelessness in his eyes stopped my sentence.

“I’m the one person I hate the most, the one who has no respect for another person’s relationship.”

“What are you talking about?” I asked slowly, attempting to set him at ease.

“I’m no better than the one she cheated with.”

“You’re not making any sense, Remington.  Why don’t you calm down and come inside?”

“I shouldn’t come inside and I can’t calm down!  That guy—that bastard knew she had a boyfriend, he knew me, and he hadn’t cared.  I have always believed in being the good guy, the one who respects another person’s relationship, the one who hopes everyone will get their own happily ever after.”

“That’s a good quality,” I pointed out, still not comprehending.  “I respect you for that.”

“Don’t!  I hate myself because of you.”

The passion in his voice took my breath away.  “What did I ever do to you?”

“You were there… and then you wouldn’t leave…”  He ran his hands through his drenched hair, mussing it into an attractive mess.

“I can leave now.”  I went to close the door, but he held the wooden slab open.

“That’s just it, Meredith.  I don’t want you to leave.  I never wanted you to go so I always had to be the one to go away.  You’re in my mind, and I can’t get you out.  I have never wanted another person’s relationship to end more than I wanted yours to be over.”

“But it…” is over.

“So that’s why I don’t know how to deal with you.  I kept dropping hints; I couldn’t help myself.  Then, after I would say something—too much—I would regret the torn, condescending look on your face.  I’m not rude.  Ask Alec.  I’m typically unfailingly polite.  But I wanted you to be single so badly… I needed to let you know that you had options, that I was interested… beyond interested.  I kept hoping that maybe you would accept some lewd proposal I would make even though I prayed you would be too faithful to do so.

“So that’s what I meant,” he repeated.  “I can’t make you any promises.”

“I never asked you to,” I said quietly, unsure if he could hear me above the howling wind.

“Yet I find them on the tip of my tongue.  Instead of trying to make them, I find myself trying to keep them from spewing out.  I want to make you promises.”

I stood on my front porch, all words erased from my mind.  My heart beat rapidly, pounding against my chest and vibrating my shirt.

Remington looked miserable after his heart-felt confession.

“Say something… please, Meredith,” he begged.

What did he expect me to say?  His subtle hints, ones I had dismissed, came crashing upon me.  It had been too easy to dismiss them because there was no way in this universe that he could have been interested in me.

All I could do was breathe.

His mouth pulled into a hard line as he stepped backward into the rain.  I numbly watched him walk across the parking lot, hands shoved deep into his jean’s pockets.

I waited until he was out of sight before shutting the door against the elements.  My body retreated to the couch, attempting to process the sensory overload.  My soul remained on our stoop, splashed by the falling raindrops.

Technically I was single.  Technically I could do what I wanted.  And this night, at this very moment, I knew exactly what I wanted—who I wanted.  Was it possible to know that with such certainty in only a semester of Thursdays?

A hard knock beat on my door, making me jump.  Lena could not have chosen a worse time to come back home.

But she hadn’t.

Remington was there again, this time completely soaked through.  His t-shirt clung to every centimeter of his chest and arms; his hair was in his eyes.  The rain dripped down his face like tears.

I wanted to ask him what he expected me to do, what he would have me say, but I didn’t have time.

“Good guys end up last,” he said to himself, his voice gruff with emotion.  “Screw it.”

Remington pulled my head to his, pressing our lips together in a crushing kiss.  My mind was spinning, and I couldn’t catch my breath, not with him this close.  I squirmed against the weight and dampness, squeaking when he only pulled me closer.

He jerked away abruptly and stared at me, gasping.  We looked at one another, unsure of how to proceed.  He lurched back, and I felt his gravity pulling me toward him.

Remington was right.

“Screw it.”

I jumped into his arms and wrapped myself around his lean frame.  He stumbled into the rain, and I showed him the passion and tension bursting inside me.  He clung to me, reluctant to let any air separate us.  I pulled away and couldn’t even smile; these emotions were too raw, too new to feel anything but wonder.  I unraveled my legs from his trim waist and slid down his torso until my feet hit solid ground.

“I… I… I have to go,” I stuttered, more to myself than him.  Remington watched me escape to my car, his eyes searing my back.  I couldn’t look into the rearview mirror to see how long he stood, frozen in the middle of the pouring rain.

“Hey Joel?  Grant?” I called.

The air conditioning was on in their apartment, and I shivered as it cooled the damp shirt against my skin.  I could have called him to let him know it was truly over, but a phone call was too impersonal.  Despite his embarrassing display tonight, Holden deserved more after being with me for so long.  I owed him this visit.

I raced up the steps, and Joel popped his groggy head out of his room.

“Hey, Mer,” he said, surprised.

“Hey, I’m sorry for being so loud but I need to talk to Holden.”

“I don’t think now is the best time,” he whispered.

“Don’t worry.  I’ll be outta here in a minute.”  I opened the door to his room and flicked on the light switch.

As humans we like to think we know how we’re going to react in every situation.  If our parents die in a freak car accident we know we’d be devastated.  If we won the lottery we would pull out our secret shopping list of what we’d buy with our millions—everyone had one.  If we caught a man we had loved in bed with another woman we’d be irate.

But I wasn’t irate.

My senses were heightened.  I didn’t feel the familiar downward spiral of misery.  I felt a release, a freedom from oppression.

I was relieved.

Technically we weren’t together.  And, even if we had been, technically I had cheated on him tonight too.

“Mer, I can explain.”

I looked between my ex-boyfriend and his busty, red-headed bed buddy and didn’t care.

“Huh,” was all I could grunt as I turned to leave.  There was somewhere else I needed to be, someone else I wanted to be with.

“Come on, Mer.  Will you let me explain?” Holden pleaded.

“Does it change the situation?” I called back to him, not bothering to slow my pace as I made my exit.

“No, not really.  But it may help.”

“Then no, you can’t.”  He was no longer the source of the help I craved.

I made it halfway down the rickety steps before he caught up to me.  “I was so angry when I left the bar tonight.  I had thought that you… Mer, you know it’s never going to happen again.  I made a huge mistake.”

“I know you did, and that it’s not going to happen again.”

“You do?”  He judged my eerily calm demeanor warily.

If I thought about it too much I would probably have looked at myself the same way.  This person coolly, rationally reasoning through the current betrayal was not me.

If anyone would have asked me a month ago what I would have done if I had caught Holden in bed with another woman I could have given that person an exact rundown of the events following the hypothetical incident, right down to the length of the blade used to inflict his punishment.

Then I would have gone into hibernation and nursed my wounds for at least a year.  Everyone knew me as Holden’s girlfriend—a curse in any small town where you’ve lived your entire life and dated the same local guy for the majority.

But that’s not what happened at all.  My carefully laid-out plans of destruction and disembowelment had been inaccurate.  As a matter of fact, I did the absolute last thing I had thought I would do.

I laughed.

And it wasn’t just some cynical chuckle at my own idiocy for thinking that this man could be faithful to me.

I laughed and it sounded carefree.

I was happy.

Holden stared at me, waiting for the slicing pain I had warned him about; there were specific consequences he had been threatened with on numerous occasions.  But I didn’t look for a sword or machete.  I laughed, shook my head at the pitiful look my ex offered, and left.

I took the remaining stairs two at a time, not because I was in a hurry to leave but because I felt light, buoyant.  Gravity could not hold me down or force me to land on each carpet-covered board.

“See ya, Grant,” I said excitedly when I passed him coming from the kitchen.  He had probably been hiding the steak knives in an effort to protect his friend’s genitals.

“Um… bye, Mer?”

When the door slammed behind me it wasn’t because I was angry and using loud, unnecessary force to punish the building where Holden was staying.  No, it was because the spring had broken two months earlier and the landlord hadn’t bothered to fix it.

I raced to my car in the downpour, uncaring about the disastrous state of my appearance.  It took all my focused effort to keep from driving erratically.  Not from suicidal tendencies, but simply because I could not wait to be home.  A song filled with angry, vengeful lyrics kept me company on my journey.  I whistled along to the beat, belying the bitter purpose of the composition.

I pulled into our too-packed parking lot and took a steadying breath.  All the lights in our apartment were on, beckoning like a lighthouse and warning passersby of potentially treacherous conditions.

Instead of hurrying into the apartment I walked through the rain, allowing the drops to bond my clothes to my skin and ignoring the uncomfortable way my pants clung to my legs.  When I reached the shelter of our porch it struck me that I wasn’t ready to go inside just yet.

The walls would attempt to contain the insane energy radiating from my core; I couldn’t handle being suppressed.

So I took a walk up the steep hill of South Broadway Street.  At the first break in the incline I wasn’t even winded.  Then I noticed a familiar black Mercedes parked beside the elementary school.  The engine wasn’t running, but the windows were covered in a film of steam.

I knocked forcefully on the tinted glass, and the heavy door swung open, nearly taking out my kneecaps.

Remington didn’t emerge.  He just sat there, as soaked as I was, marinating in the damp leather seat.

“Did you go to him?” he asked, resigned.

“Yes,” I confirmed with a shaky breath.

He closed his eyes, swallowed, and whispered, “And?”

No words of explanation came to mind.  I didn’t want to taint this—whatever this was—with a pitiful sob story.  So I didn’t answer.  I couldn’t describe everything that I was feeling—the swirl of emotions, the heightened awareness, the cosmic pull between us, so I didn’t try.

I launched myself toward him, giving in to the attraction that had always existed between us, allowing myself to feel.  And I felt… the steering wheel pressed unforgivably against my back as electricity passed between our lips.  Rain-dampened clothes melded our bodies together.

When we came up for air he gave me the most endearing look of wonder.  My heart swelled, expanding to allow for this beautiful man.

“What is—?”

“Don’t know, don’t care,” I interrupted, impatient to kiss him again.

“Sounds good to me.”

Our semester of Thursdays may have been over but we had plenty of Thursdays—and Fridays and Saturdays and Sundays and Mondays and Tuesdays and Wednesdays—to look forward to.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: