“Are you sure you want to do this?”
Considering my growing feelings for Adam, I’m positive that moving in with him is a terrible idea. Unfortunately, continuing to live with Kristy and Logan seems like a worse idea right now.
“It’s for the best.”
“You and Adam…” Kristy starts. “You guys didn’t even like each other a few weeks back. What the hell happened?”
I smile weakly and shrug. In the past few weeks, Adam has gone from my enemy to my friend – my first real friend outside of Kristy. If the romantic feelings he inspires in me aren’t enough to terrify me, the unwavering support he’s shown me these past weeks is. Since I came home, I’ve been aware of how much I need to let Kristy go. But now I’m holding onto Adam. I’m leaning on him hard right now.
“I spoke to Logan earlier,” Kristy says.
Logan will be home any minute, and I know he’s seen the papers and read the article today. I swallow, dreading our impending conversation.
“What did he say?”
“He doesn’t care what the papers are printing.”
Really? “Even if he doesn’t, I do. And surely you do, too.”
“I’m only worried about you, Jess.”
“I’ll be fine.”
I will be fine, won’t I? They say that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. If that’s the case, I should be made of titanium by now. That article today…I don’t know how I’m supposed to face Logan now that he’s read everything Alfie said about me liking him.
“I told Logan that Alfie was bitter and angry.”
“Even if he was, K, he was still telling the truth.”
Kristy shakes her head. “You didn’t do anything wrong, Jess.”
“Are you kidding? I’ve done everything wrong since I told Alfie I’d marry him.”
“But liking Logan the way you did – that doesn’t make you a bad person.”
I don’t have time to contradict her because Logan’s Ute pulls into the driveway and my lungs constrict in response. How am I supposed to talk to him about this? What am I supposed to say? Kristy’s only just come home from the café. I thought I’d have more time to discuss things with her before Logan arrived.
“It’ll be fine,” Kristy says, seeing my expression. “I’m going to take Cricket for a walk. I’ll give the two of you some space to sort it out.”
“Don’t you want to be here with us?”
Kristy’s expression is a mixture of exasperation and frustration. “Jess, I trust you. I trust you more than anyone. Anyone. I don’t doubt your intentions. And you and Logan are friends. You’re my friends. It’s important to me that the two of you sort this out. I don’t want you guys acting weird around each other.”
The sound of Logan opening the door sends my adrenaline racing through the roof. My heart is pounding, and my hands are clammy.
“Hey, babe. I’m in here,” Kristy calls out to him.
Logan walks into the kitchen. He sees me standing there and nods, but he doesn’t meet my gaze. Already, I know things aren’t the same between us. Kristy might have said he doesn’t care, but he does. I can feel it.
Kristy walks over to him, links her hands around the back of his neck and kisses him.
“I’m taking Cricket for a walk,” Kristy says, pulling away from Logan. “I’m going to give you two some time to talk. I’ll be back in thirty.”
Logan holds onto Kristy’s arm, begging her with his eyes not to leave. At least, that’s what I imagine he’s silently asking her. Once he finally releases her, Kristy nods to me and then walks out, leaving Logan and me together in the kitchen.
We stand in silence. He leans against the counter on one side of the kitchen while I stand on the other side, my hip propped against the sink. Neither of us says anything or make a move until we hear the front door close. Then I turn to face him.
“I’m sorry,” I start. “I never meant for any of my crap to affect you and Kristy. It’s the absolute last thing I wanted.”
He rubs a hand over his neck and looks at me properly for the first time since he walked in. “I guess I don’t understand any of this. What was in the paper today-“
“Was an exaggeration, and yet also the truth. When I saw the intimacy you and Kristy shared, I got confused for a moment and thought I wanted that with you.”
He looks shocked, then appalled, and I don’t think I’ve ever felt as ashamed as I do this second.
“You had to know that there was never going to be anything between us. I was with Kristy. I’m always going to be with Kristy.”
“I know that. Of course, I know that, and as much as I like you and respect you, Logan, I’m not interested in you that way anymore. I wasn’t really at the time. I think I envied the relationship you had and wished for something similar. By the time I stepped on that plane and went to London, I was over anything I felt for you.”
“That’s why you left, though, isn’t it? That’s why you went to London? That’s why Kristy blames herself for everything that happened over there.”
I shake my head, emotion clogging my throat as my gaze falls to the floor. “I didn’t realise that she was blaming herself. She shouldn’t feel any guilt over what happened; that’s the last thing I want. She’s my best friend, and I want her to be happy more than I want anything in this world. If she asked me to never speak to you again, or she wanted me to disappear from her life, I would. I’d do whatever it takes to make her happy. I went to London because I was worried she might feel threatened if she ever found out how I felt. When she saw us dancing together-“
“I remember,” he says, cutting me off.
“Nothing that happened is her fault, and I’ll tell her that. I went to London to give you two some space and stay out of your way.”
“And now?” he asks. “Now that you’re back, what are you planning to do? I know this is your place – your name is still on the lease. But I’m not sure this arrangement is going to work for me long term, Jess. I want to live with Kristy, and I want it to be the two of us.”
Oh my God, he’s asking me to move out.
Can you blame him?
I force myself to look at him. “If it’s okay with you, I’d like to move into the house next door. Adam and I have been talking about it this past week, and he’s happy to share with me. He can help move me in on the weekend.”
“I think that’s a good idea. If the two of you are paying me rent, then I can pitch in and help Kristy with hers.”
I nod, feeling a little bit shattered. Because even though Logan might have every right to feel confused and annoyed by the article, I thought he was still my friend. I hoped he wouldn’t doubt me because of the things people are saying, but he does. He’s been listening to the media and he’s taken the side that isn’t mine.
“Once again, I’m sorry. For everything. Especially for all the disruption and awkwardness this is causing you and Kristy. I’ll move out on Saturday.”
“Jess,” Logan says when I stand up straight, ready to walk out of the kitchen. “Adam is a good guy. One of the best. Don’t lead him on like you did with Alfie.”
I thought I was crushed before, but it was nothing compared to the stinging slap across the face his words are. Logan thinks I’m going to lead on one of his best friends? He really does believe everything that’s been written about me.
It’s on the tip of my tongue to tell him how much I care about Adam, but what’s the point? Logan will still warn me away from his friend. After all, I’m a man-eater, aren’t I? I’m a cold, conniving bitch who led her fiancé over here, only to eye her best friend’s man. Of course, he thinks Adam can do better than me.
“Adam and I are friends. That’s all both of us want.”
My throat feels raw from the lie I’ve just forced out and the emotion I’m holding back. As I walk out of the kitchen, I can’t hold back the emotion any longer. A tear slides down my face as I walk to my room and shut the door behind me. Everything is such a mess. And every time I think I’ve hit rock bottom, something else happens to show me it can get worse.
I just hope it doesn’t get any worse than this because I’m not sure how much more I can take before I break completely.
I break on Thursday. And it isn’t spectacular or dramatic in any way. I don’t explode or meltdown or shatter to pieces. Instead, I simply lose all desire to look after myself.
Adam comes over on Thursday morning. As he has done ever since he started helping me prepare for the interview, he knocks, then walks straight in. He studies me as I walk out of my bedroom to greet him, and I return the favour, taking in the messy hair he hasn’t bothered to shove a hat over before admiring the T-shirt he’s wearing. Not only does it make his blue eyes bluer, but it stretches very nicely over the muscles underneath. Adam is tall and lean; he has more of a runner’s physique than a bodybuilder’s, but it’s obvious he doesn’t lack strength.
“How did things go with Logan last night?” he asks, snapping my gaze up from his chest to his face.
“He hates me. He thinks everything that’s been written about me is true.”
He frowns. “I don’t believe that for a minute. He probably just needs some time.”
“Right. Either way, he’s happy for me to move out. He practically requested it.”
“He’ll come around, Jess,” he says with certainty.
I motion to the kitchen. “Do you want coffee? Kristy left a couple of muffins for us.”
Adam follows me into the kitchen, sitting on one of the barstools at the bench. “Coffee and muffins. What a perfect way to start the day.”
After switching the kettle on, I grab the plunger for his coffee out of one of the cupboards. “You should know that I don’t bake or cook like Kristy does. So don’t get your hopes up in that regard.”
“I don’t expect you to cook and bake. What kind of sexist pig do you take me for?”
I turn around in time to see a frown darken his handsome features. “I just don’t want you to have unrealistic expectations.”
“I have close to zero expectations, Jess. Clean up after yourself, take care of yourself. That’s all I expect.”
“Okay.” I pour coffee and then water into the plunger and let it brew before pouring Adam a cup.
“Thanks.” He grabs a muffin to go with it, but he doesn’t eat it yet. Instead, he sits back and gives me a tight smile. If the smile isn’t enough to alarm me something isn’t right, the flicker of guilt in his eyes does. “So…” he starts. “I wanted to let you know I won’t be around tomorrow morning.”
“Oh?” My heart sinks all the way to my feet. His company is the one thing I look forward to when I get up every morning. “Do you have stuff to do tomorrow? Maybe I can come with you.”
I hate leaving the house, but I don’t want to be left alone with my thoughts. I don’t want to be left alone in this house where awkwardness lingers, even when I’m by myself.
He shakes his head and his smile becomes even more strained. “Trust me when I say you don’t want to tag along tomorrow morning.”
I stand there, staring at him across the bench, unsure why he’d say such a thing. There isn’t much I don’t want to do with Adam.
“I’m going to Shark Bait with the brunette from the bar later.” He crosses his arms over his broad chest, making his muscles bulge. “I’m hoping tonight and tomorrow morning I’ll be otherwise occupied.”
“Oh.” I swallow and try to catch my breath as I turn around to take the teabag out of my tea.
Because right now it feels as though I’ve been whacked in the chest with a cricket bat. The pain is so excruciating that I have to blink rapidly, so I don’t cry. I can’t take air in. It’s horrible.
I stare out the kitchen window, seeing nothing but feeling my heart crumple like tissue paper in my chest. “Are you sure my moving in with you won’t interfere with your…extracurricular activities?”
“After this weekend, I’ll be less likely to bring them home with me, but it won’t interfere.”
I remember how I felt when I saw him in that bar, flirting with that woman. The idea of him going home with her…
The idea of having to listen to it…
I pour my tea down the sink, after only a mouthful. Even tea can’t bring me back from this.
“Have you started to pack yet?” Adam asks.
“I’ve started,” I say, my back still to him. “I don’t have many boxes.”
“Do what you can. We’ll drag whatever isn’t in boxes over in bags or whatever. From what I saw, you don’t have anything we can’t disassemble and bring over. We’ll manage fine without a van.”
At least half of everything in this house belongs to me, but I’ll leave everything that isn’t in my bedroom here while Logan and Kristy are staying. Logan’s house is well furnished, so I don’t see the point in swapping things over. When I move out of the house next door, I’ll worry about taking my stuff then. And I’m now certain that I want to move out quickly to avoid feeling like this again.
Adam makes a couple more attempts at conversation, but I don’t have anything to say. I don’t want to be alone, but I don’t want company either. For the first time in weeks, I’m relieved when he leaves.
For the rest of the day, I don’t eat anything. I don’t take more than a couple of sips of the tea I make, or water. When Kristy comes home, she tells me she and Logan are going out for dinner. It doesn’t take a genius to realise Logan doesn’t want to be in the house with me.
I go to bed early, but I can’t sleep despite my exhaustion. I lie there, waiting for Adam to get home. It’s well past midnight when he pulls into the driveway. Sure enough, I don’t have to listen too hard to hear he’s with her. She sounds seductive and flirty.
The same chest-crushing pain I felt earlier hits me as I listen the two of them walk inside his house. And this time it’s accompanied by a sick feeling. I bolt for the bathroom, lifting the lid of the toilet in time to empty the contents of my stomach. The only thing that comes up is bile. I haven’t had enough to eat to throw up much, and now my stomach hurts as much as my heart does.
I cover my stomach with my hand and slide down the bathroom wall. The tears are rolling down my face as I sit down with a thump on the floor. I can’t process everything that’s happening. It all feels too much. It hurts, and I need it to stop. I don’t want to feel anymore. Even when I hear Logan and Kristy come back from their night out, and I crawl back to bed, I don’t stop crying.
Adam: How u holding up 2Day?
Adam: 1 word? Is that all I’m getting?
Even though I can hear Adam’s frustration with me via his text message, I don’t reply. What am I supposed to say? I thought about you with her all night, and it made me sick? I hate the fact you touched another woman? I haven’t stopped thinking about it and crying, and my eyes are nearly swollen shut? Nope, I can’t tell him any of that. I can’t even feel pleased he’s found a minute during his morning romp with the brunette to check in with me.
When Adam pops over on Friday night with boxes for me, I can’t look at him. And after he tells me that I look like the walking dead, I leave him in the kitchen with Logan and Kristy.
Locking myself in my bedroom, I look around me. I should finish packing, but instead, I start flicking through photos of Kristy and myself. Me with her family, and her with my family, before the accident.
As soon as my tears start falling on the photo album, I close it and place it in the open box at my feet. I can’t seem to stop crying. After my parents died, I didn’t stop crying for almost a year. Now I’m crying the way I did back then. So much for my vow to never feel this way again.
When Saturday finally comes, I want to stay in bed and forget moving in with Adam. Only the sound of Logan chatting with Adam forces me out of bed. Logan wants me gone, and that’s my driving purpose – to give Logan and Kristy their space.
My feet drag, and my eyes feel gritty, tired and swollen as I walk into the kitchen to greet Adam. His expression is unhappy as he rakes his gaze over me.
“Are you sleeping at all?” he asks.
“Not really.” I shrug.
“If you need sleeping pills, I have some,” Logan says.
It’s the first time he’s spoken to me since our conversation about the article.
I glance in his direction. “Thanks.”
Adam curses. “You don’t need sleeping pills, Jess. What you need is to get your act together and start doing shit through the day. If you don’t spend energy, you’re not going to sleep well.”
And yet I’m exhausted from doing nothing. “Thanks for your diagnosis, Dr Granger. Am I moving in with you today or not?”
Adam’s eyes soften just a touch on mine before he turns to Logan. “You okay to give us a hand?”
Logan and Adam start working on taking my bed apart while Kristy comes in to help me move the smaller items. The few bags and boxes that I’ve put aside aren’t too heavy, and Kristy and I shuffle them from one place to the other.
As we walk back into the house that has been my home with Kristy, Logan and Adam pass us, carrying part of my bed.
Kristy sighs. “This feels like the end of an era.”
“Yeah,” I agree as we walk into my bedroom. Feeling more than a little melancholic and nostalgic, I pick up my iPod. “Wait, I have the perfect song for this moment right now.”
I push my iPod into its dock and press play on Good Riddance (Time of Your Life) by Green Day.
Kristy laughs, even as her eyes fill with tears. “You’re only moving next door, and I know we’re still going to see each other every day, but….”
“I’m still going to miss you,” I finish, my eyes watering as Kristy holds her arms out for a hug.
We hug like we’ve been apart for months. “You don’t have to do this, you know,” she tells me, her voice thick with emotion. “You don’t have to move out if you don’t want to. Your name is still on the lease. Please don’t move out because of what happened with Logan. I don’t care how you felt.”
Her words are so generous that it’s all I can do not to start sobbing. “I love you, K. You know I do. I’ll be around whenever you need me, but you have Logan now. I never intended to come back and live with you guys for long. I always planned to move in next door. You and Logan need your space.”
I pull away to wipe my eyes with a tissue, only to see Kristy and I aren’t alone any longer. Adam and Logan are standing in the doorway, watching us with bemused expressions.
“Sorry,” Kristy says to the guys, smiling through her tears. “We needed a moment.”
I know she’s upset, and she will miss me, but her life is going in a new direction. She should be excited. Logan makes her happy, and I’m glad she’s found someone to share her life with, even if that life might not include me the way I once assumed it would.
“Don’t worry about it,” Adam says.
“It’s fine,” Logan murmurs.
Both men eye Kristy and me as if we’re a bomb that might detonate any tick of the clock as they walk into the room.
Looking around me, I see there isn’t too much small stuff left to carry next door. I pick one of my heavier boxes up off the floor, but I regret it as soon as my ears buzz, and my vision begins to blur. The lack of eating and sleeping, combined with the emotions from a moment ago have caught up with me.
I sway on my feet.
I can’t tell who calls my name because the ringing in my ears distorts the voice.
“Shit, she’s going to go.”
One minute I’m standing there, the next I’m out cold.
I blink and open my eyes.
“She needs a doctor.”
“No,” I croak to whoever suggested it. “I’m okay.”
“You passed out.”
“I probably need to eat.”
“Why? When’s the last time you ate?”
I can’t remember. I don’t remember the last time I had a cup of tea, either.
Adam leans over me, a look of worry etched on his face. “Jess? When did you eat last?”
“Thursday, I think.”
His expression goes from worried to furious in an instant. “Are you insane? You can’t go days without eating.” He picks me up, bridal style, muttering a slew of things I only catch parts of, like, “Damn idiot. Stupid. Foolish.” The list goes on.
My heart goes crazy as he holds me tightly to his chest, despite the things he’s saying about me. I don’t want to lean on him; I never wanted to lean on this man the way I have, but I do as he carries me into the lounge room. I lay my head against him and allow him to carry my weary body.
He sits down on the couch, placing me in his lap. I should move before he hears or feels just how fast my heart is racing. I’m too aware of the heat of his body underneath mine; the strength of the arms wrapped around me, and the scent of his aftershave. But I don’t have the energy to move. I’ve never felt safer than I do right now. And for the first time in days, I feel something other than self-pity and grief. It might just be butterflies dancing in my stomach, and desire I don’t want to feel, but it’s a breath of a fresh air in comparison.
I forget to breathe as I look up at him and see how close his face is to mine – how close his lips are to mine. It would be so easy to thread my fingers through his hair and pull his mouth down on mine. I want to know how he’d kiss me. Whether he’d be soft, or hard. Whether he’d take, or give.
“You should put me down,” I whisper, even though I don’t want him to.
The way he’s soothing me, comforting me by stroking my hair and pulling me closer stirs a desire for something I can never have with him.
His hold on me tightens. “Kristy is bringing you something to eat. I’m not letting you go until I know you’ve eaten something. No one should have to tell a grown woman she needs to eat.”
“I haven’t been hungry.”
“Or tired.” He gives me a pointed look. “You clearly need someone to take care of you right now.”
He’s right, even though I wish he wasn’t. And it seems he’s appointed himself my guardian for the time being. But even if I’m leaning on him now, I can’t continue to do so. Adam Granger can’t be my strength or my reason for getting up in the morning. Not anymore. Holding onto anything too tightly can break you. I’ve lost my parents. My job. Kristy needs space. Adam can’t be everything to me any more than she can.
“Are you trying to punish yourself or everybody else for what’s happening, Jess?” he asks.
“I’m not trying to punish anyone.”
“Then why won’t you do something about what’s happening? Talk to Naomi and find out if there’s anything she can do. At least help me look into what happened that night. You can’t wait for the answers to come to you. You have to go out and get them.”
He isn’t telling me anything I don’t already know. The thing is, I’m scared the answers won’t be the ones I want. What if Adam’s wrong? What if my hunch that I didn’t sleep with Grant is wrong? Wishing and hoping for redemption and justice, then finding out I don’t deserve it would be a cruel blow.
But can I live with never knowing? Without answers, I’m stuck in limbo.
“You’re right,” I tell him.
Kristy brings me a sandwich, her eyes censuring me as she stands there with her hands on her hips. She reminds me of my mother when she’s cross with me. “Why aren’t you eating, Jess?”
Because I don’t want to feel anymore.
The moment I think it, I know it isn’t true. Not anymore. Maybe it was true yesterday, even this morning, but feeling butterflies beat their wings in my stomach because Adam’s holding me reminds me I’m not done. I still feel, and there’s so much left for me to experience. I want to live. I’m not done with life. I’m not willing to throw in the towel because everyone thinks I slept with a married man. My career might be over, but my life isn’t.
“I wasn’t hungry before,” I say to Kristy, taking the sandwich from her as Adam finally lets me slide off his lap. “But I am now. Thank you.”
Last week I faced the eye of the storm. I faced my biggest fears. I thought it would get easier after that, but it was only the beginning. I don’t know who I am anymore. I don’t know what happened that night. I don’t know what comes after modelling, but locking myself away means I’m putting off the inevitable. The answers, whatever they may be, are ones I need.
Besides, it gives me purpose, doesn’t it? Find out what happened that night and look for a job. Then I need to move out of this street and stop liking Adam Granger so damn much.
Because falling for a man who can’t return my feelings might break me all over again. I’ve shattered apart twice now. A third time is completely out of the question.
A/N: We’re now at the halfway point of the book. The next chapter continues moving day from Adam’s POV. Tune in for Adam’s first night living with Jess.
I felt very depressed while writing this. I don’t know whether I felt depressed because I was writing this, or this depressing chapter happened because I felt really shattered. What I really wanted to focus on while writing this book was what occurs when the labels we give ourselves are torn from us – the disintegration of our identity and the rebirth that comes from it. In this first draft, I don’t think I’ve been truly successful in getting that across, but I hope I can pull off some magic in the next draft.
Thanks for reading! Thanks for all your support. I can’t thank you guys enough. XO