Maybe the distance will make Hardin’s heart grow fonder, his tone softer. It may be the key to getting him to agree to move with me. Our history has proven that we aren’t very good at staying away from one another; whether deliberately or not, we always end up together in some way. It’s hard to remember a time when my days and nights didn’t revolve around this man. I’ve tried again and again to picture a life without him, but it’s nearly impossible.
“I don’t think he gives you the chance to really think about what you want or what’s good for you,” Zed says with conviction, though his voice does crack. “He only cares about himself.”
“And that’s where you’re wrong. I know you guys have some issues between the two of you, but—”
“No, you don’t know about our issues at all,” he says quickly. “If you did—”
“He loves me, and I him,” I interrupt. “I’m sorry that you were brought into the middle of this. I’m so sorry; I never wanted to hurt you.”
He frowns. “You keep saying that to me, and yet it keeps happening.”
I hate confrontation more than anything, especially when it involves hurting someone that I care for, but these things have to be said so that Zed and I can close the book on this . . . I’m not even sure how to categorize it. Situation? Misunderstanding? Bad timing?
I look at Zed, hoping he can read the sincerity in my eyes. “It wasn’t my intention. I’m sorry.”
“You don’t have to keep apologizing. I already knew this when I made the decision to come here. You made it pretty clear how you felt outside of the administration building.”
“Then why did you come?” I ask softly.
“To talk to you.” He looks around the room, then back at me. “Never mind. I don’t know why I came here, really.” He sighs.
“Are you sure? You seemed pretty determined a few minutes ago.”
“No. It’s pointless, like you said. I’m sorry for coming.”
“It’s okay, you don’t have to apologize,” I tell him.
We both keep saying that, I think.
He points down at the boxes on the floor. “You’re still going, then?”
“Yeah, I’m almost ready to leave.”
The air between us has become incredibly thick, and neither of us seems to know what to say to the other. Zed stares out the window at the gray sky, and I stare at the carpet beyond him.
At last he stands up and speaks, though I can barely hear his words through the sadness in his voice. “I better go, then. Sorry again for coming here. Good luck in Seattle, Tessa.”
I stand up as well. “I’m sorry for everything. I wish things could’ve been different.”
“So do I. More than you know,” he says and stands up from the chair.
My heart aches for him. He’s always been so sweet to me, and I’ve done nothing but lead him on and reject him.
“Have you made up your mind whether you’re going to press charges or not?” This isn’t the right time to be asking this, but I don’t think I’ll ever see or hear from him again.
“Yeah, I’m not going to. I’m over this whole thing. There’s no point in dragging it out. And I did tell you that if you told me you didn’t want to see me again I would drop them, didn’t I?”
Suddenly I feel like if Zed just looks at me in a certain way, I’ll probably start crying. “Yeah,” I quietly respond. I feel like Estella in Great Expectations, toying with Pip’s emotions. My own Pip stands in front of me, caramel eyes fixed on mine. And this is a role I don’t really want to play.
“I truly am sorry for everything. I wish we could be friends,” I say.
“Me, too, but you’re not allowed to have friends.” He sighs, running his fingers over his bottom lip, pinching it in the middle.
I decide not to comment on his statement: this isn’t about what I’m “allowed” to do. I do, however, make a mental note to discuss this perception that other people have with Hardin and make sure he understands that it bothers me that his attitude makes them think this about me.
As if on cue, my office phone rings, breaking the silence between Zed and me. I hold my finger so he doesn’t leave and pick it up.
“Tessa.” Hardin’s rough voice carries through. Shit.
“Hey,” I say, my voice shaky.
“Are you all right?”
“Yeah, I’m fine.”
“You don’t sound fine,” he says. Why does he have to know me so well?
“I’m fine,” I assure him again. “Just distracted.”
“Sure. Anyway, I need to know what you want me to do with your dad. I tried to text, but you weren’t answering me. I’ve got shit to do, and I don’t know if I should leave him here or what.”
I look over at Zed. He’s standing by the window now, not looking at me. “I don’t know, can’t you take him with you?” My heart is racing.
“No; hell, no.”
“So leave him there,” I say, just wanting this conversation to end. I’m going to tell Hardin about Zed’s visit, but I can’t imagine how pissed he would be if he knew he was here now, and I sure as hell don’t want him to find out.
“Fine, you can deal with him when you get here.”
“Okay, well, I’ll see you when I get home—”
Music begins to play through my office, and it takes me a minute to realize it’s coming from Zed. He reaches into his pocket and silences it, but not before Hardin notices.