Chapter 40 – After

Chapter 40 – After

No matter how hard I tried to avoid seeing him all week, I somehow end up in his car with him. He doesn’t look at me as I get in or while I buckle my seat belt. I tug at the dress again, trying to pull it over my thighs. We sit in silence for a moment and then he pulls out of the parking lot. One saving grace is his not allowing Molly to ride with us—I would have rather walked home than watch her fawn all over him.

“What’s with the new look?” he finally asks once we’re on the freeway.

“Um . . . well, Steph wanted to try something new with me, I guess.” I keep my eyes fixed on the buildings passing by outside the window. His usual aggressive music is playing quietly through the car.

“It’s a little over-the-top, don’t you think?” he asks and I ball my fists on my lap. So this is his plan today, to insult me the whole way back to my room.

“You didn’t have to drive me home, you know.” I lean my head against the window, trying to create as much space between us as possible.

“Don’t get so defensive; all I am saying is your little makeover is a little extreme.”

“Well, good thing I don’t care what you think, but considering your distaste for my usual appearance, I’m surprised you don’t think I look better like this,” I snap and close my eyes. I am already exhausted from being around him and he is sucking the little bit of energy that remained from me.

I hear him chuckle quietly and he turns the radio off completely. “I never said there was anything wrong with your appearance. Your clothes, yes, but I’d much

rather see the hideous long skirts than these clothes.”

He’s trying to explain but his answer doesn’t really make sense. He seems to like when Molly dresses this way, only much skankier, so why not me?

“Did you hear me, Tessa?” he asks when I don’t respond, and I feel his hand touch my thigh. I jerk away from his touch and open my eyes.

“Yes, I did. I just don’t have anything to say about it. If you don’t like the way I’m dressed, then don’t look at me.” One good thing that comes from talking to Hardin is that for once in my life I can say exactly what comes to my mind without worrying about hurting his feelings, seeing as how he has none.

“That is precisely the problem here, isn’t it? That I can’t stop looking at you.” The words leave his mouth and I consider opening the car door and hurling myself onto the freeway.

“Oh! Please!” I laugh. I know he will say just enough nice, yet cryptic, things to make it more painful when he takes them back and throws more insults at me later.

“What? It’s true. I approve of the new clothes, but you don’t need all this makeup. Regular girls wear tons of makeup to look as good as you do without it.”

What? He must have forgotten that we aren’t speaking, that he tried to ruin my life less than a week ago, and that we despise each other.

“You don’t expect me to thank you, do you?” I half-laugh. He is so confusing; he is brooding and angry one minute and telling me he can’t stop looking at me the next.

“Why didn’t you tell them the truth about Landon and me?” he asks, changing the subject.

“Because you obviously didn’t want them to know.” “Still, why would you keep my secrets?”

“Because they are not mine to tell.”

He looks over to me with hooded eyes and a slight smile. “I wouldn’t have blamed you if you did, considering what I did with Noah.”

“Yeah, well, I am not you.”

“No, no you’re not,” he says, his voice much quieter. And after that he remains silent for the rest of the drive, as do I. I have nothing to say to him.

We finally pull onto campus and he parks in the farthest possible spot from my room. Of course.

I reach for the door handle and Hardin’s hand touches my thigh again. “You’re not going to thank me?” He smiles and I shake my head.

“Thanks for the ride,” I say sarcastically. “Hurry back—Molly’s waiting,” I add as I climb out. I hope he didn’t hear me; I am not sure why I even said that.

“Yeah . . . I better. She sure is fun when she’s drunk,” he says with a smirk.

Trying to hide the fact that I feel like he just punched me in the stomach, I lean down to look at him through the passenger window and Hardin rolls it down. “Yeah, I am sure she is. Noah’s coming soon, anyway,” I lie and watch his eyes narrow.

“He is?” Hardin picks at his fingernails, a nervous habit, I assume. “Yep, see you around.” I smile and walk off.

I hear him get out of his car and shut the door. “Wait!” he says and I turn around. “I . . . never mind, I thought you, um, dropped something but you didn’t.” His cheeks flush. He’s clearly lying, and I want to know what he was going to say, but I need to walk away now, so I do just that.

“Bye, Hardin.” The words mean more than I let on. I don’t look back to see if he is coming after me because I know he isn’t.

I TAKE THE HEELS OFF before I even get to my room and walk barefoot the rest of the way through campus. The second I get into the room I put my fuzzy pajamas back on and call Noah. He answers on the second ring.

“Hey,” I squeak. My voice sounds too high-pitched. It’s only Noah, why am I so nervous?

“Hey, Tessa, how was your day today?” he asks softly. He doesn’t sound like the same distant Noah that I’ve gotten all week. I sigh in relief.

“It was okay, actually, I am just hanging out in my room tonight. What are you doing?” I purposely leave out my dinner with Steph and everyone, including Hardin. That will not help my “please forgive me” campaign.

“I just got out of practice. I’m thinking I’ll study tonight because I’m helping the new neighbors cut a tree down tomorrow.”

He is always helping everyone. He is too good for me. “I’m just studying tonight, too.”

“I wish we could study together,” he says, and I smile while picking at the tiny lint balls on my fuzzy socks.

“You do?”

“Yeah, of course, Tessa. I still love you and I miss you. But I have to know that nothing like this will ever happen again. I’m willing to try to put this past us, but you have to promise me you will stay away from him,” he says. He doesn’t have to say his name.

“Of course I will, I swear—I love you!” Part of me knows that I am desperate to have Noah forgive me only because I don’t want to be completely alone and fawning over Hardin, but I ignore it.

After exchanging more “I love you’s” with Noah, he agrees to accompany me to the bonfire next weekend and we get off the phone. I look online for the closest car dealerships to campus, and lucky for me there appears to be a good number of used-car lots ready to rip off college students. After noting the addresses of a few, I dig through Steph’s makeup bag and finally find the wipes to remove all my makeup. It takes forever, and this obnoxious process alone makes me never want to wear it again, regardless of how good it looked.

Series Navigation<< Chapter 39 – AfterChapter 41 – After >>

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

error: Content is protected !!