“My sister really girlied the place up, didn’t she?” Sophie stands and makes small talk. The photos of Lennon and Brandon still hang on the wall, and she looks over them as she waits. The reality of my best friend being gone practically punches me in the stomach. The sadness comes in unexpected spurts when a memory is triggered. Thankfully, Sophie doesn’t mention the photos scattered all over the place, and when Lennon enters, she turns around and puts a huge grin on her face.

“I hate how pretty you are without even trying,” Sophie tells Lennon with a pout.

I laugh and shake my head. “You both have the same genes.”

“Yeah, but she got all the good ones,” Sophie playfully jokes.

Lennon rolls her eyes. “Okay, well, that’s what you get for telling me I was adopted for all those years.” She smirks. “We should probably get going.”

Sophie heads toward the door and walks out, and before Lennon follows her, she stops, and turns and looks at me. “Thanks, Hunter. Right now, you’re my only saving grace. And I know you’re making Brandon proud.”

Though the sparkle in her eyes is gone, and the smile is vacant from her face, I know she means it, and that’s enough for me. “You’re welcome,” is all I’m able to get out before the door clicks closed.

I put her half-eaten burrito in the fridge, then head back to work. I turn on the radio to drown out the memories of Brandon flooding my mind. The one that keeps popping into my head is how he wanted to propose to Lennon, to spend the rest of his life with her, and it’s not fair that opportunity was stolen from him. Though jealousy consumed me over the past two years, I never wanted this. If I could trade places with him, I would do it in a heartbeat. He had so much to live for.

I go back to the office and basically make calls for the rest of the afternoon. It’s annoying to have to talk on the phone so much, but I’m managing this project, and if something goes wrong, it’s my ass on the line. I want to go above and beyond so I can prove myself to my boss. Too many people expect me to fail, so I’m trying to stay focused on completing the job efficiently and effectively without any huge setbacks or disasters. This project is the only distraction I have at the moment, well, and Lennon.

Soon, the day is over, and as I’m walking to my truck, my phone vibrates in my pocket. Considering I’ve told Lennon to call me whenever she needs something, I hurry and pull it out only to see it’s Jenna. I swallow hard, exhale, and reject it. When she found out Brandon died, she texted me to give her condolences, and I thanked her. She’s texted me several times since, but I haven’t had the strength or been in the right mindset to reply. I made it clear the last time we hung out that I couldn’t give her what she deserved and that her feelings weren’t reciprocated, but she hasn’t given up. Even if I did feel the same way, I’d need to work on myself before I jump into a relationship because right now, I’m all sorts of fucked up, and it’s going to take time.

As I climb in the truck, my phone vibrates, and I see she decided to text me.

Jenna: I miss you. I hope you’re doing okay.

I know she’s trying to be nice, but I lock my phone and throw it in the passenger seat instead of replying. I cannot deal with her insistence right now. The drive home is uneventful, and when I walk into the apartment and instantly smell vanilla in the air, I know it’s one of Lennon’s candles. Anytime she’d burn them, I’d complain about how they reeked, but now I welcome the smell.

As soon as I set down my bag, she turns and looks at me from the couch. “Welcome home.”

She’s in higher spirits, but considering how grief works, I know it might be short-lived.

“Hey.” I give her a smile.

Her phone vibrates on the coffee table, and she leans forward to look at it. As I pass by, I see her parents’ picture on the screen as she rejects it, but I don’t say anything. Instead, I go to my room, grab some clean clothes, and take a shower. All I can think about is how Lennon will have to spend the next six days in the apartment alone while she’s on spring break. Though she made it through one day, I wonder how she’ll make it through the others.

After I dry off and dress, I walk back into the living room and sit on the opposite side of the couch from her to watch TV. It’s some stupid reality show, but she seems to be into it. Her phone rings again, and I notice it’s her parents again, but just like before, she rejects it.

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