“I’ll come up with you,” Landon offers.
“No, I’m okay, really. I had an early morning, we all did, and it’s getting late,” I assure him, and he nods even though I can tell he isn’t buying it.
As I reach the stairs I hear him say, “He’s a damn idiot.”
Yes, Landon. Yes, he is.
I CLOSE THE BALCONY DOORS before walking over to the dresser to change into my pajamas. With my mind racing, I’m finding it difficult to focus on clothing. Nothing appeals as a substitute for Hardin’s worn clothing, and I refuse to wear the white T-shirt resting on the arm of the chair. I need to be able to sleep in my own damn clothes. I give up after rummaging through the drawer and decide to settle for the shorts and sweatshirt that I have on, and lie down on the bed.
Who is this mystery girl that Hardin’s with? Ironically, I’m more upset about my apartment in Seattle than I am about her. If he wants to jeopardize our relationship by cheating, that’s his choice. Yes, it would tear what’s left of me into pieces, and I don’t think I would ever recover, but I’m not going to focus on it.
For the life of me I can’t picture it. I can’t picture him actually cheating on me. Despite all of the things he’s done in the past, I just don’t see it. Not after his letter, not after his pleading for my forgiveness. Yes, he’s controlling, too controlling, and he doesn’t know when to stop interfering with my life, but the intentions behind his actions are more about keeping me near him than trying to escape, like cheating would be.
Even after I’ve spent an hour staring at the ceiling and counting the beams of stained wood lining the sloped surface, the throb of resentment toward Hardin hasn’t let up.
I don’t know if I’m ready to talk to him just yet, but I know I won’t be able to sleep until I hear him return. The longer he’s gone, the stronger the twist of jealousy grows in my chest. I can’t help but notice the double standard here. If I was out with a guy, Hardin would lose it and probably try to burn down the woods surrounding the place. I want to laugh at the ridiculous thought, but I just don’t have it in me. Instead I close my eyes again, begging sleep to come.
Do you want a drink?” Lillian asks.
“Sure.” I shrug and glance at the clock.
She gets up and goes over to a silver bar cart. Looking at the bottles it contains, she selects one and shows it to me quickly, like she’s Vanna White or something. Pulling the top off of a bottle of brandy that I’m sure cost more than the massive television hanging on the wall, she looks back at me with mock sympathy. “You can’t be a coward forever, you know.”
“You’re so much like her.” She giggles.
“Like Tessa? No, I’m not. And how would you know?”
“No, not Tessa. Riley.”
Lillian pours the dark liquor into a curved glass and places it in my hand before sitting back down on the couch.
“Where’s your drink?” I ask.
She gives a regal shake of the head. “I don’t drink.”
Of course she doesn’t. I really shouldn’t be drinking, but the slightly sweet, intense aroma of the brandy pushes the nagging reminder away.
“Are you going to tell me how I’m like her or not?” I look at her expectantly.
“You just are; she has that brooding, angry-at-the-world thing going on, too.” She makes an exaggerated emo face and crosses her legs under her.
“Well, maybe she has something to be angry about,” I say, defending her girlfriend without even knowing her, then gulp down half the glass of liquor. It’s strong, aged to perfection, and I can feel the burn down to the soles of my boots.
Lillian doesn’t reply. Instead she purses her lips and stares at the wall behind me, deep in thought.
“I’m not into this whole Dr. Phil, you-talk-I-talk, ‘Kumbaya’ shit,” I tell her, and she nods.
“I’m not expecting ‘Kumbaya,’ but I think you should at least come up with a plan to apologize to Tamara.”
“Her name is Tessa,” I snap, annoyed suddenly by her small mistake.
She smiles and pulls her brown hair to one shoulder. “Tessa, sorry. I have a cousin named Tamara, and it was in my head, I guess.”
“What makes you assume I’ll be apologizing, anyway?” I click my tongue against the roof of my mouth while waiting for her response.
“You’re kidding, right? You owe her an apology!” she says loudly. “You need to at least tell her you’ll go to Seattle with her.”
I groan. “I’m not going to Seattle, for fuck’s sake.” What is it with Tessa and fucking Tessa Number Two and pestering me over Seattle?
“Well, then I hope she goes without you,” she says curtly.
I look at her, this girl who I thought might understand. “What did you say?” I put the brandy glass down on the table quickly, sloshing brown liquid onto its white surface.
Lillian arches one brow. “I said I hope she does go, because you tried to mess up her apartment deal and still aren’t willing to move with her.”
“Good thing I don’t give a fuck what you think.” I stand to leave. I know she’s right, but I’m over this bullshit.
“Yes, you do, you just won’t admit it. I have come to learn that the people who pretend to care the least actually care the most.”
I pick the glass back up and finish it off before heading toward the door. “You don’t know shit about me,” I say through my teeth.