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Hardin’s expression is grave. His hands are in fists at his sides, and his cheeks are a deep red. “I don’t know what else to do, okay? You know that I haven’t ever done this before, you knew going into this that I’d be a challenge. You have no right to bitch about it now.”

“?‘No right to bitch about it’? This is my life, too, and I can bitch about it if I fucking want to,” I say with a snort. He can’t be serious. For a second, I thought the expression on his face meant he’d apologize for the way he treats me, but I should have known better. The problem with Hardin is that when he’s good, he’s so good, so sweet and honest that I love him so; but when he’s bad, he’s the most hateful person I have ever, and will ever, encounter.

I walk back into the bedroom and open the suitcase, tossing my clothes into a pile inside of it.

“Where are you going?” he asks me.

“I don’t know,” I answer truthfully. Away from you, I know that.

“You know what your problem is, Theresa? Your problem is that you read too many damn novels and you forget that they’re all bullshit. There are no Darcys, there are only Wickhams and Alec d’Urbervilles, so wake up and stop expecting me to be some goddamned literary hero—because it’s not going to fucking happen!”

His words wrap around me and seep into my every pore. This is it. “This is exactly why we will never work. I have tried and tried with you until I’m blue in the face, I have forgiven you for the disgusting things you have done to me—and to others—yet you still do this to me. Actually, I do this to myself. I’m not a victim, I’m just a stupid girl who loves you too much—yet still I mean nothing to you. Once I leave on Monday, your life will go back to normal. You’ll still be the same Hardin who doesn’t give a shit about anyone, and I will be the one who is in pain and can barely function—but I did that to myself. I let myself get wrapped up in you, wrapped around your finger, knowing that it would end this way. I thought that when we were separated before, you’d see that you’re better off with me than alone, but that’s the thing, Hardin. You aren’t better off with me. You’re better off alone. You’ll always be alone. Even if you find another naïve girl who’s willing to give everything up for you, including herself, she, too, will grow tired of the back-and-forth and leave you just the way I . . .”

Hardin stares at me. His eyes are bloodshot, his hands are shaking, and I know he’s about to lose it. “Go on, Tessa! Tell me that you’re leaving me. Better yet, don’t. Just pack your shit and get out.”

“Stop trying to hold yourself together,” I tell him, angry, but also pleading inside. “You’re trying not to break, but you know you want to. If you’d just let yourself show me how you really feel—”

“You know nothing of how I really feel. Leave!” His voice catches at the end, and I want nothing more than to wrap my arms around him and tell him I would never leave him.

But I can’t.

“All you have to do is tell me. Please, Hardin, just tell me that you’ll try, really try this time.” I’m begging him; I don’t know what else to do. I don’t want to leave him, even though I know I have to.

He stands there, only a few feet away from me, and I can see him shutting down. Every glimmer of light that my Hardin holds is disappearing slowly, burning out into darkness, and taking the man I love further and further away from me. When he finally tears his eyes away from me and crosses his arms in front of his chest, I can see the way that he’s gone now; I’ve lost him.

“I don’t want to try anymore. I am who I am, and if that’s not good enough, then you know where the door is.”

“That’s what you want, then? You’re not even willing to try? If I leave, this time it’ll be for good. I know you don’t believe me because I always say it—but it’s true. Just tell me you’re only acting this way because you’re panicking over me going to Seattle.”

Staring at the wall behind me, he simply says, “I’m sure you can find somewhere to stay until Monday.”

When I don’t respond, he turns on his heel and leaves the room. I stand in place, shocked that he hasn’t came back to put up more of a fight. Minutes pass before I finally pick up the pieces of me that he has shattered and pack my bags for the last time.

Chapter fifty-three


My mouth keeps saying shit that my mind doesn’t want it to say, but it’s like I have absolutely no control over it. Obviously I don’t want her to leave. I want to pull her into my arms and kiss her hair. I want to tell her that I’ll do anything for her, that I’ll change for her and love her until I die. Instead, I walk out and leave her standing alone.

I hear her rustling around the bedroom. I know I should go in there and stop her from packing, but what’s the point, really? She’s leaving Monday, anyway; she may as well leave now. I’m still astounded that she brought up trying a long-distance relationship. It would never work, her being hours away from me, only calling once or twice a day, not sleeping in the same bed. I couldn’t do it.

At least if our relationship is terminated, I won’t feel guilty for drinking and doing whatever the hell I choose to do . . . But who am I kidding—it’s not even that I want to do anything else. I’d rather sit on the couch and have her force me to watch Friends over and over than spend one minute doing something without her.

Moments later, Tessa appears in the hallway dragging two suitcases behind her. Her purse is slung over her shoulder, and her face is pale. “I don’t think I forgot anything except some books, but I’ll just get new copies,” she says in a low, shaky voice.

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