Or at least it feels that way.
The sky is above me, my ears are ringing, I can’t pull in a breath.
Landon is hovering over me. He grabs my helmet and shakes it. “What the hell is wrong with you?” He looks around and then back down at me. His eyes narrow. “Stay on the ground. Act sick.”
I do what he says and he jumps up to a stand. “I told him not to come to practice, Coach,” Landon says. “He’s had strep all week. I think he’s dehydrated.”
I close my eyes, relieved for my brother. I kind of like this kid.
“What the hell are you even doing here, Nash?” The coach is kneeling now. “Go to the locker room and get hydrated. We’ve got a game tomorrow night.” He stands and motions for one of the assistant coaches. “Get him a Z-pack and make sure he’s ready for the field tomorrow.”
Landon pulls me up. My ears are still ringing, but I’m able to breathe now. I make my way toward the locker rooms, relieved to be off the field. I should have never walked on in the first place. Not smart, Silas.
I make it back to the locker room and change out of my gear. As soon as I get my shoes on, I hear footsteps nearing the locker room from down the hall. I glance around and spot an exit on the far wall, so I rush to it and push it open. Luckily, it leads right out to the parking lot.
I’m immediately relieved to see my car. I rush over to it just as Charlie climbs out of the driver side, hopping onto her feet as I approach. I’m so relieved to see her—to just have someone to relate to—that I don’t even think about what I do next.
I grab her wrist and pull her to me, wrapping my arms around her in a tight hug. My face is buried in her hair and I let out a sigh. She feels familiar. Safe. Makes me forget that I can’t even remember…
“What are you doing?”
She’s stiff against me. Her cold reaction reminds me that we don’t do things like this. Silas and Charlie did things like this.
I clear my throat and release her, taking a quick step back. “Sorry,” I mutter. “Force of habit.”
“We have no habits.” She pushes past me and walks around my car.
“Do you think you’ve always been this mean to me?” I ask her.
She looks at me from over the hood and nods. “My money’s on yes. You’re probably a glutton for punishment.”
“More like a masochist,” I mutter.
We both climb into my car, and I have two places I plan on going tonight. The first being my house to shower, but I’m sure if I asked her if she wanted to come along, she’d say no just to spite me. Instead, I head in the direction of my house and don’t give her a choice.
“Why are you smiling?” she asks, three miles into our drive.
I didn’t realize I was. I shrug. “Just thinking.”
I glance at her and she’s waiting for my answer with an impatient frown.
“I was wondering how the old Silas ever broke through your hard exterior.”
She laughs. “What makes you think he did?”
I would smile again, but I don’t think I’ve stopped. “You saw the video, Charlie. You loved him.” I pause for a second, then rephrase. “Me. You loved me.”
“She loved you,” Charlie says, and then smiles. “I’m not even sure if I like you yet.”
I shake my head with a soft laugh. “I don’t know myself very well, but I must have been extremely competitive. Because I just took that as a challenge.”
“Took what as a challenge? You think you can make me like you again?”
I look over at her and give my head the slightest shake. “No. I’m gonna make you fall in love with me again.”
I can see the gentle roll of her throat as she swallows, but just as fast as she let her guard down, it flies back up. “Good luck with that,” she says, facing forward again. “I’m pretty sure you’ll be the first guy to ever compete with himself over the affection of a girl.”
“Maybe so,” I say as we pull into my driveway. “But my money’s on me.”
I turn the car off and get out. She doesn’t unbuckle. “You coming? I need to take a quick shower.”
She doesn’t even look at me. “I’ll wait in the car.”
I don’t argue. I close the door and head inside to shower, thinking about the small smile I could swear was playing in the corner of her mouth.
And while winning her over again isn’t my main priority, it’s definitely the new back-up plan in case neither of us can figure out how to revert back to who we were before yesterday. Because even through all the bullshit—her cheating on me with Brian, me cheating on her with the counselor, our families in turmoil—we still obviously tried to make it work. There had to be something there, something deeper than attraction or a simple childhood bond, that made me fight to keep her.
I want to feel that again. I want to remember what it feels like to love someone like that. And not just anyone. I want to know what it feels like to love Charlie.
I’m standing on the edge of the lawn, looking down his street when he walks up behind me. I don’t hear him approach, but I smell him. I don’t know how, since he smells just like the outdoors.
“What are you looking at?” he asks.
I stare at the houses, each of them immaculate and manicured to the point of irritation. It makes me want to shoot a gun into the air, just to see all the quiet people inside scramble out. This neighborhood needs a little life breathed into it. “It’s strange how money seems to silence a neighborhood,” I say quietly. “On my street, where no one has money, it’s so loud. Sirens blaring, people shouting, car doors slamming, stereos thumping. There’s always someone, somewhere, making noise.” I turn and look up at him, not expecting the reaction I have to seeing his damp hair and smooth jaw. I focus on his eyes, but that isn’t much better. I clear my throat and look away. “I think I prefer the noise.”
He takes a step until we’re shoulder to shoulder, both staring at the taciturn street. “No you don’t. You don’t prefer either.” He says this like he knows me and I want to remind him he doesn’t know me at all, but he puts his hand on my elbow. “Let’s get out of here,” he says. “Go do something that doesn’t belong to Charlie and Silas. Something that’s ours.”
“You’re talking about us like we’re body invaders.”
Silas closes his eyes and tilts his head back. “You have no idea how many times a day I think about invading your body.”
I don’t intend to laugh as hard as I do, but I trip over my own feet and Silas reaches down to catch me. We’re both laughing as he rights me on my feet and rubs his hands up and down my arms.
I look away. I’m tired of liking him. I only have a day and a half worth of memories, but they’re all filled with me not hating Silas. And now he’s made it his personal mission to make me love him again. It’s annoying that I like it.
“Go away,” I say.
He raises his hands in surrender and takes a step back. “This far?”
Another step. “Better?”
“Yes,” I smart.