“It’s you, isn’t it? Slade’s new girlfriend?”
Her blood went cold as her worst fears were confirmed. It really was her, she thought numbly as she clumsily turned around, and her gaze immediately collided with eyes filled with anger.
There didn’t seem enough anger in the world to hide the pain in Penny’s eyes, and the knowledge made Kady’s own heart hurt.
Because she knew.
One day, she could be the same, too.
Penny had a hard time forming her thoughts. The other girl was neat at best and plain at worst. She couldn’t see a single thing that would make the other girl better than her—
And didn’t that tell you something already?
No. No. No.
Penny’s gaze narrowed. “You know who I am, don’t you?” She saw the other girl hesitate, saw the flash of pain, and she realized—
This girl knew everything, Penny realized sickly.
Kady’s heart lurched painfully at the look of devastation on Penny’s face. “Penny—”
“Shut up!” Penny wanted to lash out, but instead she could feel her voice shaking and her eyes stinging. “Someone like you doesn’t deserve him,” she whispered bitterly. “I should be the one in your shoes—”
“If you were,” Kady cut in unsteadily, “you’d find out soon enough it’s no different from what you used to wear.” Every word she spoke was the truth, and every word hurt. It hurt so bad, but even so, she couldn’t stop herself from saying them. Because Penny had loved Slade, too, and Kady was the one girl in the world who could imagine just how much it had to have hurt to lose him.
“He doesn’t love me either, Penny.” She saw Penny’s eyes widen, and a painful smile wobbled over Kady’s lips. “So you see, we’re both the same—”
“Are we really?” Penny heard herself ask. “Then did you tell him you loved him, too?”
Kady swallowed hard. “That day…I saw you…when you slapped him.”
“Neither of you saw me, and I…I heard everything—”
Penny’s lips started trembling. The thought of this girl – this girl who had the man she loved – the thought of this girl seeing her sink to her knees and hearing her beg, the thought of this girl watching Slade turn his back on her for the second time—
Kady saw the tears that started running down Penny’s face, and her own eyes started stinging. “I’m so sorry—”
“No, you’re not.” She couldn’t be. Because now it was too late, and Penny, too, had already taken her revenge.
“I know he doesn’t believe that you loved him, but I do. I have to. I can’t not believe you because it would mean my own love for him isn’t real, and that’s why…when I r-realized why he left you, I also…I also decided to never tell him—”
Penny pointed to someone behind Kady’s back. “You just did, honey.”
She whirled around.
NO. OH GOD NO.
Penny watched Slade walk away. Saw the other girl run after him. But none of it turned out to be what she hoped for. It didn’t make her love him less or hate the other girl more. It didn’t even stop the pain. If anything, she was only hurting more, knowing that she had been so selfishly bent at destroying Slade’s chance at happiness…that she had refused to care about who else she hurt in the process.
Nothing Compares 2 U
* * *
“A mother’s arms are made of tenderness and children sleep soundly in them.” ~ Victor Hugo
* * *
Kady had never liked watching rom-coms much. Every time she did, she just couldn’t picture herself doing any of the things the cute and quirky heroine did in the name of love. In her mind, girls like her were better suited at keeping to themselves. Or at least that was how she used to think and feel…until she saw the man she loved walking away from her…maybe for good.
Just like a rom-com heroine, she threw her heels away to run after him, and just like a rom-com, music from somewhere started playing – Sinéad O’Connor’s Nothing Compares 2 U.
“Slade, please let me explain!” She was crying as she called out to him, and she didn’t even care how all the other university students at the parking lot were turning to gape at her.
And that, too, was just like a rom-com heroine.
Because apparently, she only needed to find her soulmate, and just like that, she could easily imagine herself doing anything and everything that rom-com heroines did.
But he was just so fast, and seeing how close he was to his truck, she knew there was only one thing for her left to do.
“I know you care for me, and you wouldn’t want me to beg, but I’m despe—” It worked far more quickly than she anticipated, and her words stumbled to a halt when he suddenly swung to face her.
Slade saw the look in her eyes, and it made him sick. “Goddammit, Kady.” Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. “Don’t you fucking look at me like that—”