Even the wall reminds me of Hardin and the time he tossed my notes around the room, making me want to slap him, until he kissed me, hard, up against it. My fingers move to my lips, tracing the shape of them, and they tremble at the thought of never kissing him again.
I don’t think I can stay in this room tonight. My mind will be reeling the entire time; memories will be haunting me, playing behind my eyes each time they close.
Needing to find something to do to keep myself distracted, I take out my laptop and try to search for somewhere to live in Seattle. Just as I suspected, it’s a lost cause. The only apartment that I can find is a thirty-minute drive from Vance Publishing’s new office, and it’s slightly over my budget. I save the phone number in my cell anyway.
After another hour of searching, I end up swallowing my pride and call Kimberly. I didn’t want to ask her if I could stay with her and Christian, but Hardin has left me no choice. Being Kimberly, of course, she happily obliges, emphasizing how delighted they’ll be to host me at their new house in Seattle and bragging a little that it’s even bigger than what they’re in now.
I promise her that I won’t stay longer than two weeks, hoping to buy myself enough time to find an affordable apartment that doesn’t come with bars across the windows. Suddenly I realize that with all the Hardin drama I’ve been dealing with, I’d almost forgotten about the mess at the apartment and the fact that someone broke into it while we were gone. I’d like to think it wasn’t my father, but I just don’t know if I can believe that. If it was him, he didn’t steal anything; maybe he just needed a place to stay for the night and he didn’t have anywhere else to go. I pray that Hardin doesn’t hunt him down and accuse him of the break-in. What would be the point? Still, I probably should try to find him first, but it’s getting late, and honestly, I’m a little afraid to be on that side of town alone.
I WAKE UP when Steph stumbles into the room around midnight, tripping over her own feet as she falls onto her bed. I don’t remember falling asleep at the desk, and my neck aches when I lift up my head. When I run my hands over it, it hurts worse than before.
“Don’t forget your party tomorrow,” she mumbles and passes out almost immediately.
I walk over and take her boots off her feet while she begins to snore, quietly thanking her for being a good friend to me and letting me stay in her room with only an hour’s warning.
She groans and says something incoherent before rolling over and snoring again.
I’VE BEEN LYING in my old bed reading all day. I don’t want to go anywhere or talk to anyone, and I especially don’t want to run into Hardin, though I doubt I would. He has no reason to be anywhere near here, but I’m paranoid and heartbroken and don’t want to take any chances.
Steph doesn’t wake up until after four in the afternoon.
“I’m going to order pizza—do you want some?” she asks, wiping last night’s heavy eyeliner from her eyes with a small napkin from her purse.
“Yes, please.” My stomach growls, reminding me that I haven’t eaten once today.
Steph and I spend the next two hours eating and talking about her upcoming move to Louisiana, and how Tristan’s parents are less than pleased with him transferring schools because of her.
“I’m sure they’ll come around—they liked you, right?” I encourage her.
“Yeah, sort of. But his family is obsessed with WCU and something like legacy blah blah blah.” She rolls her eyes, and I laugh, not wanting to explain to her what it means to families to continue a legacy.
“So, the party. Do you know what you’re wearing yet?” she asks, smiling wickedly. “Or do you want to borrow something of mine for old times’ sake?”
I shake my head. “I can’t believe I’m even agreeing to this after . . .” I almost mention Hardin, but I redirect. “. . . after all the times you’ve forced me to come to these parties in the past.”
“But it’s the last one. Plus, you know you won’t find anyone even remotely as cool as us to hang with at the Seattle campus.” She bats her long false lashes at me, and I groan.
“I remember when I first saw you. I opened the door to this room and nearly had a heart attack. No offense.” I smile, and she returns it. “You said the parties were big, and my mother nearly passed out. She wanted me to switch rooms, but I wouldn’t . . .”
“Good thing you didn’t or you wouldn’t be dating Hardin,” she says with a smirk, then looks away from me. For a moment I fantasize what it would have been like if I had changed rooms and never seen him again. Despite everything we’ve been through, I would never want to take any of it back.
“Enough reminiscing—let’s get ready!” she cheers, clapping her hands in front of my face before she grabs me by the arms and drags me off the bed.
“NOW I REMEMBER why I hated communal showers,” I groan, while towel-drying my hair.
“They aren’t so bad.” Steph laughs, and I roll my eyes, thinking about the shower at the apartment. Every single thing reminds me of Hardin, and I’m doing my best to keep this fake smile going, but inside I’m burning.
Finally, my makeup applied and hair curled, Steph helps zip me into the yellow-and-black dress that I bought just recently. The only thing keeping me standing and present right now is the hope that the party may in fact be fun and I can have at least two hours of peace.
Tristan arrives a little after eight to pick us up; Steph refuses to let me drive, because she plans on having me drink until I can’t see straight. Which is an idea I think I like. If I can’t see straight, then I can’t see Hardin’s dimpled smile or scowl before me every time I open my eyes. Still, it won’t stop me imagining him when my eyes are closed.