Chapter 74 – After

Chapter 74 – After

Hardin’s eyes follow mine and widen as he sees her. He reaches for my hand, but I pull away and step out in front of him. “Hi, Moth—”

“What the hell are you thinking!” she yells as we approach. I want to shrink and disappear.

“I . . . what?” I don’t know what she knows yet, so I stay quiet. In her anger, her blond hair looks brighter, more angled toward her perfectly drawn-on face.

“What are you thinking, Theresa! Noah has been avoiding me for the last two weeks, and I finally ran into Mrs. Porter at the grocery—and you know what she told me? That you two have broken up! Why wouldn’t you tell me? I had to find out in the most humiliating way!” she shouts.

“It’s not that big a deal, Mother. We broke up,” I say and she gasps. Hardin stays behind me, but I feel his hand go to the small of my back.

“Not that big a deal? How dare you—you and Noah have been together for years. He is good for you, Tessa. He has a future, and comes from a great family!” She pauses to catch her breath a moment, but I don’t interrupt, knowing there’s more to come. She straightens up and says as calmly as she can, “Luckily, I have just spoken to him and he has agreed to take you back, despite your promiscuous behavior.”

Anger flares inside me. “How dare I? If I don’t want to date him, I don’t have to. What does it matter what type of family he comes from? If I wasn’t happy with him, that is what should matter. How dare you talk to him about this—I am an adult!”

I push past her to open the door. Hardin follows close behind me and my mother storms in after.

“You have no idea how ridiculous you sound! And then you show up here with . . . this . . . this . . . punk! Look at him, Tessa! Is this your way of rebelling against me? Have I done something to make you hate me?”

Hardin is standing by my dresser with his jaw clenched and hands shoved deep in his pockets. If only she knew that Hardin’s father is the chancellor at WCU and has even more money than Noah’s family. But I won’t tell her that, because that has nothing to do with it.

“This isn’t about you! Why do you have to make everything about you!” My tears are fighting to break free, but I refuse to let her get the best of me. I hate that when I am angry I cry; it makes me seem weak, but I can’t help it.

“You’re right, it isn’t about me—it’s about your future! You have to think of the future, not just how you’re feeling now. I know he seems fun and dangerous, but there is no future here!” She gestures to Hardin. “Not with him . . . this freak!”

Before I realize what I am doing, I am in my mother’s face and Hardin has stepped forward, grabbing me by the elbows to pull me away from her. “Do not talk about him like that!” I scream.

My mother’s eyes are wide and red-rimmed. “Who are you? My daughter would never speak to me this way! She would never jeopardize her future or be so disrespectful!”

I begin to feel guilty, but that’s exactly what she wants, and I have to fight through it to defend what I want. “I am not jeopardizing my future! My future isn’t even in question here, I’ll have a four-point-oh, and I have a great internship starting tomorrow! You are beyond selfish to come here and try to make me feel bad for being happy. He makes me happy, Mother, and if you can’t accept that, then you should go.”

“Excuse me?” She huffs, but in truth I’m as surprised by what I just said as she is. “You will regret this, Theresa! I am disgusted to even look at you!”

The room starts spinning. I was not prepared to go to war with my mother, not today at least. I knew it would be a matter of time before she found out, but she wasn’t even on my radar for today.

“I knew something was going on from the first time I saw him in your room. I just didn’t think you would be so quick to open your legs for him!”

Hardin steps between us. “You’re taking this too far,” he warns her with dark eyes. I think Hardin may be the only person who could actually give my mother a run for her money.

“You stay out of this!” she snaps, crossing her arms once again. “If you

continue to see him, I will no longer speak to you, and you surely can’t pay for college on your own. This dorm alone costs me thousands!” she shrieks.

I’m astounded that my mother would go there. “You’re threatening my education because you don’t approve of who I am in love with?”

“In love with?” she scoffs. “Oh Theresa, my naïve Theresa, you have no idea what love is.” She laughs, making a sound that is more like a sickening cackle. “And you think he loves you?”

“I do love her,” Hardin interrupts. “Sure you do!” Her head falls back. “Mother.”

“Theresa, I’m warning you: If you don’t stop seeing him, there will be consequences. I’m leaving now, but I expect a call after you clear your head.” She storms out of my room, and I go into the doorway to watch her as she stomps away, her heels clunking and echoing down the hall.

“I am so sorry.” I turn to Hardin.

“You have nothing to apologize for.” He takes my face in his hands. “I am proud of the way you stood up for yourself.” He kisses my nose. I look around the room and wonder just how everything came to this. I lean into Hardin’s chest and he reaches around me, rubbing the tense muscles on my neck.

“I can’t believe her, I can’t believe she would act like that and threaten not to help pay for my college. She doesn’t pay for all of it—I have a partial scholarship and some student loans. She only pays twenty percent; the biggest thing is the dorms. But what if she really stops paying for them? I will have to find a job on top of the internship,” I sob. His hand moves to the back of my head and gently guides my head down to cry on his chest.

“Shh . . . Shh . . . It’s okay, we will figure it out. You can move in with me,” he says. I laugh and wipe my eyes, but he goes on, “Really, you could. Or we could get an apartment off campus. I have enough money.”

I look up at him. “You can’t be serious.” “I am.”

“We can’t move in together.” I laugh and sniffle. “Why not?”

“Because we have only known each other for a few months, and most of that time was spent fighting,” I remind him.

“So, we have done a pretty good job getting along this weekend.” He smiles and we both burst into laughter.

“You’re insane. I am not moving in with you,” I tell him and he hugs me again.

“Just think about it—I want to move out of the frat house anyway. I don’t

really fit in there, in case you didn’t notice,” he says and laughs. It’s true, his small group of friends are the only ones who don’t wear polo shirts and khakis every day. “I only joined to piss my father off, but it didn’t work as well as I had hoped.”

“You could just get an apartment on your own if you dislike the house,” I say.

There is no way I am moving in with him this soon.

“Yeah, but that wouldn’t be as fun.” He grins and wiggles his brows at me. “We could still have fun,” I tease.

His wicked smile grows and he brings both hands down to my bottom and squeezes.

“Hardin!” I scold him playfully.

The door opens and my breathing stops. Flashbacks of my mother’s anger fill my vision, and I’m afraid she’s come back for round two.

So I’m relieved when it’s Steph and Tristan who walk into the room.

“Guess I missed something grand. Your mom just flipped me off in the parking lot,” Steph says, and I can’t help but laugh.

Series Navigation<< Chapter 73 – AfterChapter 75 – After >>

Leave a Reply

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

error: Content is protected !!