Page 88 of We Were Once

“My father? What does he have to do with anything?”

Her hands fall to her sides, and she stares at me in disbelief. “Do you really not know?” Shaking my head again, she continues, “Your dad didn’t tell you how he had my son charged with stealing a vehicle, reckless driving, kidnapping, for God’s sake, and a whole other slew of charges?”

Breathing becomes difficult, so I cover my injured rib to steady the broken bone. “They wouldn’t do that. Not to me. Not to Joshua.”

“They did!” she yells. “Leave, Chloe. Unless you’re going to fix this, leave me alone. But more importantly, leave my son alone.” Stepping to the side, she adds, “You’ve already ruined his life. Don’t torture him anymore.” The door is slammed in my face, leaving me stunned.

Ruin his life?

Oh God. He’s in jail . . . her words replay. “Your dad didn’t tell you how he had my son charged with stealing a vehicle, reckless driving, kidnapping, for God’s sake, and a whole other slew of charges?”

No. No, my dad wouldn’t have done that. Would he? Why? It doesn’t make sense.

Tears fall once again, my heart broken. I thought I knew what pain was. But this . . . for my father to hurt me so deeply . . . Would the man who can’t tell me he loves me go out of his way to destroy the man who can?

Whether he intended to destroy me or not, he just did.

31

Chloe

I told myself I’d hold it together. I’d be strong and control my emotions like I used to do before I met him. But two hours aren’t enough time to cry myself out of the guilt I feel.

I’ve left messages for my dad, but he’s in surgery.

My mom insisted on coming to New Haven with me. I told her no because I didn’t want her to witness Joshua breaking my heart, if that happened. I wish I had let her come, after all. Although I haven’t told her about Joshua being in jail, I don’t think I can. I have to do this alone.

After finally figuring out where Joshua is being held, I sit here, waiting, struggling to restrain the pain, the guilt, the confusion I feel for him.

Our eyes meet the moment the door opens, and all that I’ve repressed comes flooding forward. Seeing the man who has been your strength, the blood that flows through your veins broken is devastating for the hope held inside. I stand, my hands pressed to the glass, hoping to feel his heat and our connection coming together once again.

The kind eyes I fell in love with are harder, the future I once saw inside now gone. Joshua’s hands align with mine, grappling for the same things I need—the life we once had. Tears fill his eyes as he stares into mine. Dropping his head, I see the shame he carries, the shame my family put there.

I’d break this glass if I could take it away. Helplessness feeds into desperation and I move as close as I can, pushing my cheek to the unyielding surface. When he does the same, my strength is regained.

We both pick up the phone, our eyes locked on each other as we sit. “I would never hurt you, Chloe,” he says with a shake to his tone I’ve never heard before, as if he has to convince me of his innocence. “Not on purpose.”

“I know . . .” My hand returns to the glass, silently begging him to return his. “I know you wouldn’t.”

The tears are gone, another emotion taking over, one I’ve only witnessed one time before—when we had a fight over . . . I don’t even remember all of it. My grades. My dad. My bad mood. I didn’t want him to walk away. He stayed. He was there for me when I needed him most. But in the moments prior, when I thought I was losing everything, the life, the love left his eyes. “But I have to now.”

My hand slides down the glass, the resistance the only tangible thing I can hold onto. “What?”

“I need you to leave, Chloe, and never return.”

“Need?” My hands start shaking, the receiver not safe against my ear. Surely, I heard him wrong.

“Want.” The response is clear. True to his expression and unbreakable glare, the black swallows the warmth I always loved. “I want you to leave.”

“Leave . . . Leave you alone?” I’m spiteful of the petty tears that reveal the weakness bleeding into my tone. He doesn’t mean it. I repeat in my head. He’s mad. I’m hurt, but we didn’t cause this mess. “I’ll fix this, Joshua. I promise. I’ll get you out. I’ll do whatever I have to. This is a mistake. Everyone knows that.”

“No one knows it. That’s why I’m here.” He rubs the bridge of his nose, and his hair falls over his forehead, the soft waves I always loved harsher, hanging straight down. “It was a mistake to date you. It was a mistake to pretend we could be together, like we were special, and our worlds wouldn’t collide in tragic ways, in ways I was warned about.”


Tags: S.L. Scott Romance
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