He blinked once and then twice, as if he couldn’t believe I was asking the question. “I’d been drinking last night, Syd, but I wasn’t that drunk.”
A slice of pain hit my stomach and I froze, staring at him. “You…you weren’t that drunk?”
“No.” He looked confused.
I swallowed, but the lump rising in my throat got stuck. In all the years I’d known Kyler and he’d been sexually active, I’d seen him take girls home when he was sober, tipsy, drunk-off-his-ass, and everything in-between. He was equal-opportunity when it came to having sex. Short. Tall. Skinny. Round. White. Black. Tan. Pale. Oompa Loompa color.
“That hasn’t stopped you before.” And I couldn’t stop myself from talking.
Kyler thrust his fingers through his hair, and then clasped the back of his neck. The shorter strands flopped back onto his forehead. He didn’t answer at first and the longer the silence dragged out the more I wished I’d kept my mouth shut. “You’re different, Syd.”
So I was different and apparently he had to be really drunk to get with me. Tears rushed my eyes, and I had to get away from him. We were too close. I needed space before I completely lost it and humiliated myself more. I started scooting across the bed, grabbing the quilt to cover myself. I needed to get away.
“Hey.” Kyler jumped to his feet. “Sydney, what are you doing?”
“I need to go to the bathroom.” I slid my legs out from the covers. The breath I took was shaky and short as I wrapped the patchwork quilt around me. My feet hit the cold floor and I took a wobbly step, smacking my toe into the edge of the suitcase. I hissed and a tear sneaked out, rolling down my cheek.
He started around the bed. “Let me help.”
“I’m fine.” That damn lump was at the top of my throat. I reached the bathroom door. Maybe I was going to hurl instead of cry. I didn’t know which was better.
“You don’t look fine.”
Pushing open the door, I slid inside and quickly shut it behind me, locking it. I couldn’t even look in the mirror. I squeezed my eyes shut, but it was hopeless. Tears eked out, streaming down my cheeks.
“Syd?” He was right outside the door. “What’s going on?”
“Go away, Kyler.” Sitting down on the rim of the bathtub, I pulled the quilt up to my chin. My stomach was churning. I lifted the lid on the toilet.
The doorknob rattled, and I sank to my knees. I couldn’t even see the toilet, but I hoped I hit it. “Sydney!”
The quilt slipped my fingers and I grasped the sides of the toilet. “Go away!”
A moment of silence stretched into minutes. Then all those stupid shots came back up, leaving my insides feeling wrecked and my heart—well, it was cracked for a whole different reason.
Wincing at the sounds coming from inside the bathroom, I moved away from the door and then went back, trying the doorknob again. She’d locked me out. God knows I could help her, hold her hair and shit, but she actually locked me out.
Damn it all to hell and back again, I wanted to kick the door in.
But I didn’t. I’d seen the look on her face, like I’d crushed her. I didn’t get why.
I stared at the door, taking a deep breath. Why did you stop me? Did she really ask that question? Was she still drunk? It seemed obvious to me. Syd had been way too drunk to even be considering masturbation, let alone sex.
Backing away from the door, I turned and headed downstairs. I checked her phone—still didn’t work—and then I checked the news. Still calling for the storm of the century, and outside the snow was starting to really come down.
I did just about everything to stop myself from checking on Syd, or from really thinking about what she had asked me. I even called my mom.
She answered on the second ring, sounding breathless. “Hey honey, please tell me you’re not on your way home. I don’t want you trying to drive through a blizzard or putting Sydney in a car.”
My lips split into a grin. “We’re going to wait it out, Mom.”
“Good.” Relief was evident in her voice. “Tony and I were so worried you were going to try to get out of there and hit the storm on the way.”
I meandered through the various rooms, stopping in the sunroom. “What’s it doing there?”
“Snowing like crazy, honey,” she replied. “Did anyone else make it up there?”
“No.” I moved a plotted plant to a different stand. “They hit the snow coming up.”
“So, it’s just you and Sydney?”
There was a pause. “Interesting.”
I frowned. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Nothing,” she said, but she said it way too innocently. “Are you taking care of Sydney?”
I thought of last night. “Yeah, I always do.”
“That is true.” Another pause had my brows slamming down. So did not trust her silences. “You know, she treats you real good, honey.”
My mouth opened, but nothing came out.
“That’s a good girl with a good head on her shoulders. You’d be—”
“Okay,” I cut in. I was not having this conversation with her. There was only one other conversation I dreaded more than talking about girls with my mom.
Mom laughed and then she said, “Oh. Before I forget—Tony wants to take you to the club in Bethesda we’re looking into remodeling. He wants to see what you think of it.”
I came to a complete standstill. Aaand there was the other conversation. “Why?”
“Because we probably won’t make a move on it until late spring,” she explained, and I could hear the TV in the background. She must’ve been in her home office. “The owner is holding out and thinks they have enough money to get them an additional four months, but we’ll see. Anyway, it works out perfectly. It can be your first restoration.”
“You’re graduating in the spring, or did you forget that?” Excitement hummed in her voice, and my stomach sank. “This works out perfectly. You get to show us your goods with the club in Bethesda. Tony wants to take you down there while you’re home over break.”
My eyes widened as I turned from the windows. “I don’t know, Mom. I might not have time for that.”
“Oh, pooh on that. You’ll have time.”
I said nothing.
Mom went back to talking about the weather, but I was barely listening. Ever since the restoration business took off, it was just assumed I would be a part of it. At first, I really didn’t have anything against it. Good money—great money even—my own hours, and I could travel, but it didn’t appeal to me.
It wasn’t what I wanted, what I cared about.
But Mom had sent me to college for this. Telling her that there was something else I wanted to do with my life was tantamount to throwing all that money back in her face—money that had started with my father’s life insurance.
I got off the phone pretty quickly after that and found myself in the basement, holding my guitar in my hands and staring into nothing. Back to Syd—always back to Syd.
A huge part of me was just confused. Completely, utterly confused by her question, but the other part? I was pissed. Did she think I normally slept with girls who were so fucked up they couldn’t walk straight? There was a huge, vast difference between that and being drunk. Was that how she really thought of me?
Disgust rolled through me, and my hand tightened around the neck of the guitar.
I had never slept with a girl who didn’t know what she was doing. If I even thought for one second that a girl was too drunk, nothing happened. Just like with Mindy. Then again, perception was all that mattered. All Syd saw was me going home with girls after drinking. I’d slept with a lot of females, so it didn’t take a huge leap of logic for her to think that I slept with every one of those girls, and that she wouldn’t be any different.
“Fuck,” I muttered as I sat on the couch across from the covered pool table.
The muscles in my stomach tightened. How could Syd think I’d treat her like a drunken one-night stand? The whole idea of that sickened me. I wasn’t perfect, but fuck, this was Syd.
Syd would always deserve far better than that, and far better than me, no matter how deep she lived inside of me.
I stayed hidden in my room until I was seconds away from chewing my arm off. By then it was in the late afternoon. I’d stopped hurling and crying hours ago, and from what I could see out the bedroom window, the snow was coming down in waves and the wind was picking up.
Heading downstairs, I stopped the bottom of the steps and strained to hear where Kyler might be. There was a distant hum of the TV from the basement, so the coast was clear. I hurried through the foyer and into the kitchen.
The room was cooler due to the floor-to-ceiling windows in the front. I wrapped my arms around myself and walked over to the glass. Staring out the window, I watched the wind pick up the flakes, spinning them into little funnels as it tossed them across the snow-covered driveway. There had to be several inches of the new fluff since last night. And it was supposed to get worse?
Man, we picked the worst time to come here.
Turning away from the window, I went to the fridge and opened it. Kyler’s mom had done us good, though. Food and drinks stacked the fridge and freezer. I bypassed the more complex stuff and went with bologna and cheese. But when I went to put the items back in the fridge, I sighed and made one for Kyler—ham, cheese, and extra mayo. I didn’t know if he’d already eaten or not. I don’t even know why I did it—maybe out of habit—or maybe it was just because even though Kyler had stared at me like I was nuts for asking why he hadn’t hooked up with me, I still loved him.
God, I was lame.
Wrapping his sandwich in a paper towel, I ate mine quickly and downed an entire can of soda in minutes. The food settled weird in my stomach, and I guessed it was a product of drinking half my weight in tequila. I couldn’t believe I’d drunk that much and didn’t die, considering I had no tolerance for alcohol.
When I was done, I really didn’t know what to do. I didn’t want to go back upstairs, and I wasn’t ready to face Kyler just yet. Would I ever be ready after I’d tried to kiss him and was then rejected by the guy who’d pretty much had his dick in just about everything? Had his dick in some chick two nights ago?
God, that should’ve just grossed me out, but it really just made me feel all the more lame.
As I roamed the upstairs, I could hear a strumming rift or two coming from the downstairs. I quietly made my way to the edge of the stairs that led to the basement.
Kyler was playing the guitar.
Leaning against the wall, I closed my eyes. Kyler had a talent when it came to playing music. Even as a kid, he could pick up almost any instrument and learn how to play it in record time. I, on the other hand, made musical instruments run in the other direction.
He was playing a Dave Matthews song, not missing a note at all. A smile pulled at my lips as I listened. Each note was perfect, rising in tempo as the song continued. I don’t know how long I stood there and listened, but when he stopped, I was bereft.