Beau completely ignores him. “And where the hell have you been? I’ve been calling and texting you for the last twenty-four hours.” He’s gritting his teeth trying to control his temper, but it’s not working very well.
“She was with me,” Asher says, placing a protective hand on my lower back.
Beau doesn’t make a move or even give him a second glance. His eyes burn into me as he stands with his hands on his hips. “You told me Asher was your friend, Kate,” he says, his Adam’s apple pulsing in his throat.
I stand, fidgeting with my fingers as I think of the right thing to say. “Asher was my friend, but things changed and I can’t—”
“Can we maybe talk about this without him standing right there? I have some things I need to say to you,” Beau says, taking one step closer.
I don’t know how to handle this. Life has proven to be so much better when I let people in, but it was so much less complicated when it was just me.
Asher startles me by grabbing my hand and leading me around to the driver’s door. I have no idea what he’s doing and I’m too lost in the crossfire to ask. He leans back against the car door and cradles my face in his hands. “I’m not leaving you here alone with this guy.”
“I need to talk to him for a few minutes. It’s just going to make things worse if you stay here,” I answer, honestly. When I glance back at Beau, the pained look on his face when our eyes meet guts me. When he breaks the contact, the stabbing pain in my heart feels like it’s almost enough to kill me. I turn back to Asher, intent on making things right with both of them.
“Kate—” he starts in an uncertain tone.
“It’ll be okay,” I say, cutting him short. I place my hands on top of his, feeling his cold hands pressed against my cheek and my fingers.
He nods, looking over his shoulder to get a glimpse of Beau. “If you need anything, call me. I can be here in less than five minutes.” He grazes my lips with his before disappearing into the car. Anxiety bubbles over inside me as I think about what Asher must be thinking as he gets ready to leave me, and what Beau must be thinking watching me with Asher. As soon as he drives away, I wrap my arms around myself to chase the cold away. It could be the temperature outside, or the sudden emptiness I feel inside, but I can’t quite get rid of it.
When I glance at the front yard again, Beau is no longer standing there. In fact, I don’t see him anywhere. There’s a lump of pain in the back of my throat as I walk toward the one place I know he escapes to when he needs to think or calm down. It’s the same place he went when he was in trouble with his mom or dad when we were younger. It’s the same place he went when his grandpa died when we were twelve. It’s probably the same place he went every time I tried to push him away the last two years of high school; I just never had the courage to find him those times.
As soon as the trampoline comes into view, I see him lying on his back in the middle of the large black circle. Just watching him lie there motionless makes my stomach churn. There is no way that I’m going to get through the next few minutes without falling apart . . . I can’t even imagine what this is doing to him. I’m the one in control, and he has no choice but to live with whatever decision I make, no matter how much it might hurt him. This whole situation makes me want to fall to the ground and beg him to listen. And when I think about what will happen if he won’t . . . I can’t even put that sort of heartache into words. I knew I loved him before, but seeing him now, in so much agony, I realize how deep that emotion really is.
“Can I join you?” I ask, running my fingers across the metal ring that surrounds the trampoline. It’s so quiet that the faint phone ringing at the neighbors’ house is the only disturbance.
When he doesn’t respond, I slowly crawl onto the trampoline hoping to get his attention. I need him to say something. It really doesn’t matter if it’s anger that I hear; I just need to know that he’s not giving up on our friendship. Silence means nothing, yet it means everything.
I mimic his position, resting my hands under my head and crossing my legs at the ankles. I throw my gaze in every direction besides his, trying to get a grip on my emotions as I try to figure out what to say to make this better. The sun reflecting off of the black fibers provides a little bit of the warmth my body had been missing, but I need the guy lying next to me to fill in the rest. When I finally get the courage to glance over at Beau, all I see is the side of his face. I don’t know how much more of his silence I can take. I need to feel him breathe, and I would give anything to hear his voice.
“I didn’t want to stay and watch you kiss him again,” he says quietly. I’m surprised that he broke the ice first, but his words only drown me further into misery. I didn’t even think twice about Beau seeing us when I kissed Asher’s cheek, but now that he pointed it out, I feel like an insensitive bitch. He didn’t deserve that. He didn’t deserve any of it.
“Beau, I’m sorry. I wasn’t thinking.” I stare at him, trying to read what’s going on in his mind right now.
“It really shouldn’t matter that much to me. It’s not like you were ever mine,” he says, pinching his eyes closed.
“I never meant to hurt you. That was the last thing I ever wanted to do and the fact that I have . . . I’m really sorry,” I say, feeling a tear roll down the side of my face.
“Make me understand, Kate. Why him? Just a few weeks ago you told me you weren’t ready for any of that,” he says, finally looking at me with his teary eyes. Hearing his pain feels like a bulldozer driving into my heart, over and over again.
“I didn’t think I was ready but—”
“Just say it, Kate! You realized it was me you didn’t want. Am I not good enough for you?” He’s blinking rapidly, but it’s not enough to stop the first bit of moisture that falls from his eyes. My heart feels shattered and broken, beyond any sort of repair. There are no words to describe how much I want him . . . it’s just not the same sort of want he has for me.
“That’s not it at all,” I cry, using my sleeve to wipe the warm tears from my cheeks. “Things are different with him . . . it’s hard to explain. He’s not trying to bring back the girl I was before D—”
I almost said it. I almost laid my secret out for the second person in two days.
He rolls to his side, resting his head on his hand. “Before what, Kate?” I shake my head, turning away from him. “He knows, doesn’t he? You told him after only just meeting him, but you can’t tell me.” He sits up quickly, causing the whole trampoline to shake underneath us. I feel the anger rolling off his back as it hits me right across the face.
“It’s not like that. He shared something with me about himself, and then it just sort of came out.” I pause, trying to make sense of why it felt okay telling Asher, but not my best friend. Maybe I should just tell him and let things fall where they may. Maybe, if I told him, things would be less strained between us because he’d understand why I’m not who I used to be. But in the end, all I have are a bunch of maybes with no guarantees and I can’t risk damaging our friendship any more than it already is. I’m not ready to tell him, not like this, and honestly I don’t know if I ever will be.
“Someday, when the time is right, I hope I’ll be able to tell you. But I can’t right now.”
We lie in complete silence, avoiding the other.
“You remember that time we came out here in seventh grade to look at the constellations?” he asks, tilting his neck to look up at the sky.
“Yeah,” I say, sitting up next to him. It was a beautiful night and everything was absolutely perfect. It was also the night I realized I was falling for him.
“I wanted to kiss you that night, and every night after, but I didn’t because I was scared. Scared that I would blow the one chance I had with you but now . . . Fuck. I don’t even get my chance, do I?” His hands cover his face while I try to catch my breath. “Just answer one question for me. If I had kissed you back then, would things be different between us now?”
“I would have never let you go,” I cry. My whole body is shaking; having nothing to do with the bitterly cold weather anymore.
“Tell me why we can’t be like that now,” he says, sitting up next to me. I’m used to the strong, self-assured Beau, but the guy whose shoulders are trembling next to me looks anything but and it’s my fault.
“I can’t really explain it. Things change. People change.”
If Beau and I had been a couple that Friday night, I probably wouldn’t have even gone to that bonfire, and I definitely wouldn’t have given Drew the time of day. Beau would have been the center of my whole world.
“So where does that leave us?” he asks, just loud enough that I can hear it.
“You’re my best friend. I hope you always will be,” I whisper, reaching for his hand. He pulls it away before I get close, causing my heart to drop. He’s purposely putting distance between us.
“You said it yourself. Sometimes things change. Just remember that you made this choice, not me,” he says in a tone so distant he might as well be a million miles away. I watch in silence as he scoots to the edge of the trampoline and slides off. Things can’t end like this.
“Beau!” I yell. He halts in place, his shoulders shaking. “You’ll always be the first boy I ever loved. I won’t forget that. Ever.” Big, ugly tears slide down my cheeks.
He slowly turns, giving me a glimpse of his bloodshot eyes. “Up until a few minutes ago, I thought you’d be my last.”
My vision blurs as he disappears into his house without giving me another glance.
His parting words vibrate through my ears. He imagined a forever for us, and I just blew apart any hope he had for that kind of future. If I had been able to communicate better, things could have been different between us. Sometimes I feel like life is just a bunch of failed opportunities. I’ll always regret the one I lost with Beau. I think we both will.