Chapter 43 – After

Chapter 43 – After

My alarm goes off too early and I roll over. I lift my hand, smacking at it to stop the hideous beeping assaulting my ears. My hand smacks against a soft, warm surface, and I blink my eyes open to find Hardin staring down at me. I reach for my pillow to cover my embarrassment but Hardin yanks it away.

“Good morning to you, too,” he says with a smile, rubbing at his arm.

I stare back, working an apology in my mind. How long has be been watching me?

“You’re cute when you’re asleep,” he teases and I sit up as quick as I can, sure I look fairly hideous, like usual in the morning.

He hands me my phone. “What’s the alarm for?”

I switch it off and climb off the bed. “I’m going to look for a car today, so you can leave whenever,” I tell him and he frowns.

“You’re obviously not a morning person.”

I pull my hair back into a tail, in an effort to keep it from looking like a bird’s nest. “I am . . . I just don’t want to keep you.” I feel a little guilty for being rude, but I had expected him to be rude himself, to be honest.

“You’re not. Can I come with you?”

I search around my room, wondering if I heard him correctly. Finally I turn to him with suspicion in my eyes. “To look at a car? Why would you want to do that?”

“Why do I have to have a reason? You act like I’m plotting to kill you or something.” He laughs and stands up, ruffling his hair.

“Well, I’m just a little taken aback by your cheerful mood this morning . . . and you wanting to go somewhere with me . . . and you not insulting me,” I admit.

I turn away from him and gather my clothes and bathroom kit. I need to take a shower before I go anywhere.

Unfazed by my honesty, Hardin presses some more. “It’ll be fun, I promise.

Just let me show you that we could . . . that I could be nice. It’s just one day.”

His smile is beautiful and convincing. But Noah will surely break up with me and never speak to me again if he knows that Hardin stayed the night with me, in my bed, holding me as we slept. I don’t know what it is that keeps me constantly afraid of losing Noah; maybe it’s my fear of my mother’s reaction if we broke up, or maybe that my old self is so tied to Noah. He has always been there for me, and I feel like I owe it to myself and him to continue our relationship. But I think the biggest reason is that I know Hardin can’t and won’t give me the type of relationship I need and honestly want from him.

While I am lost in my thoughts it finally seems okay for me to admit that listening to Hardin’s steady breathing in my ear while he slept was worth never speaking to Noah again.

“Earth to Tessa!” Hardin calls from across the room and I snap to. I have been frozen standing here debating with myself and completely forgot Hardin was even in my room.

“Is something wrong?” he asks and steps toward me.

Oh, nothing, just that I am finally admitting to myself that I have feelings for you and want more from you, yet know you will never care about anyone, especially me.

“Just trying to figure out what to wear,” I lie.

His eyes move down to the clothes in my hands, and he tilts his head but only says, “So, can I come? It will be easier for you, anyway—so you don’t have to take the bus.”

Well, it might be fun. And it would be easier. “Yeah, okay,” I say. “Just let me get ready.” I walk toward the door and he follows me.

“What are you doing?” I ask him. “Coming with you.”

“Um, I’m going to take a shower.” I dangle my toiletry bag in front of him and he snatches it from me.

“What a coincidence—me, too!”

Damn coed bathrooms. He walks past me and opens the door without looking back. I rush to catch up with him and grab hold of his shirt.

“Nice of you to join me,” he jokes and I roll my eyes.

“We haven’t even begun the day and you’re already annoying me,” I tease back.

A group of girls walks by us and into the bathrooms; they don’t even try to be subtle about staring at Hardin.

“Ladies,” Hardin greets them, and they giggle like schoolgirls. Well, technically they are schoolgirls, but they are also adults, so they should act like it.

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