APPARENTLY, MY FATHER has graduated from being an angry drunk to one who tells endless jokes, most of which are tasteless and obnoxious. The whole ride home he laughs too hard at his own words, with Hardin joining him every now and then. This isn’t how I envisioned this day at all. I don’t know what it was that made Hardin warm up to my father, but now that they’re both drunk in the middle of the day, I don’t like their “friendship” at all.
When we get home, I leave my father in the kitchen eating more of Hardin’s Frosted Flakes and head for the bedroom—where most of our arguments seem to begin and end.
“Tessa,” Hardin begins as soon as I close the door.
“Don’t,” I say coldly.
“Don’t be mad at me—we were just having a drink.” His tone is playful, but I’m not in the mood for it.
“?‘Just having a drink’? With my father—an alcoholic who I’m trying to build a relationship with, who I wanted to maybe think about getting sober. That’s who you were ‘just drinking’ with?”
“Baby . . .”
I shake my head. “Don’t you ‘baby’ me. I’m not okay with this.”
“Nothing happened.” He wraps his fingers around my arm to pull me to him, but when I pull away it causes him to stumble to the bed.
“Hardin, you got in a fight again!”
“Not a big one. Who cares?”
“I do. I care.”
He looks up at me from his place on the edge of our bed, his green eyes laced with red, and says, “Then why are you leaving me? If you care so much?”
My heart sinks a little farther into my chest.
“I’m not leaving you; I’m asking you to come with me.” I sigh.
“But I don’t want to,” he whines.
“I know, but this is the one thing I have left—apart from you, of course.”
“I’ll marry you.” He reaches for my hand, but I step back.
My breath hitches. I’m sure I couldn’t have heard that correctly. “What?” I raise my hands, blocking him from coming closer.
“I said I’ll marry you if you choose me.” He stands up, stepping toward me.
The words, even though they’re meaningless because of the amount of alcohol coursing through him, still excite me. “You’re drunk,” I say.
He’s only offering marriage because he’s drunk, which is worse than not offering at all.
“So? I still mean it.”
“No, you don’t.” I shake my head and dodge his touch again.
“Yes, I do—not now, of course, but in like . . . six years or so?” He scratches his thumb across his forehead, thinking.
I roll my eyes. Despite my fluttering heart, this last bit of hedging, offering to marry me in a vague “six years or so,” shows that reality is creeping back into his thoughts, even as he drunkenly tries to convince me otherwise. “We’ll see how you feel about this tomorrow,” I say, knowing he surely won’t remember it tomorrow.
“Will you be wearing those pants?” His lips form a wicked smile.
“No; don’t even start talking about these damn pants.”
“You’re the one who wore them. You know how I feel about them.” He looks down at his lap, then points at it and looks up waggling his eyebrows.
Playful, teasing, drunk Hardin is sort of adorable . . . but not adorable enough to make me lose my ground.
“Come here,” he begs, mock-frowning.
“No. I’m still upset with you.”
“Come on, Tessie, don’t be mad.” He laughs and rubs his eyes with the back of his hands.
“If either of you calls me that one more time, I swear—”
“Tessie, what’s wrong, Tessie? You don’t like the name Tessie, Tessie?”
Hardin grins wide, and I feel my resolve fading the longer I stare at him.
“Are you going to let me take those pants off of you?”
“No. I’ve a lot to do today, and none of those things involve you taking my clothes off. I would ask you to come along, but you decided to get wasted with my father, so I have to go alone.”
“You’re going somewhere?” His voice is smooth yet raspy, thick from the liquor.
“You’re not wearing that, though, right?”
“Yes, I am. I can wear whatever the hell I want to wear.” I grab a sweatshirt and head for the door. “I’ll be back later; don’t do anything stupid, because I won’t bail you or my father out of jail.”
“Sassy. I like it, but I can think of something else to do with that smart mouth of yours.” When I ignore his crude remark, he coos, “Stay with me.”
I quickly leave the room and the apartment before he can persuade me to stay. I hear him call “Tessie” as I reach the door and have to cover my mouth to hide the giggle that escapes. This is my problem: when it comes to Hardin, my brain doesn’t see the difference between right and wrong.
By the time I make it to my car, I already wish I’d have stayed in the bedroom with Hardin and his playful mood.
But I have too much to do. I have to call the woman back about the apartment in Seattle, get a few things for the trip with Hardin’s family, and, most importantly, clear my head about Seattle. Hardin offering me marriage nearly swayed me, but I know he won’t mean it tomorrow. I’m trying desperately not to overthink his words and let them change my mind, but it’s much harder than I expected.