“I don’t mind,” I lied. I kinda wanted to know. I knew I wouldn’t be able to forget about it.

“So what’s your issue?” He changed the subject and I turned my face towards him, wishing I could see him.

“My mom,” I sighed. “There is something about our relationship that makes me feel soo guilty, every time I do something.”

“I know what you mean.” He sighed and I could tell that he empathized with me.

“Something happened a few years ago and she changed,” I sighed. “She used to be happy-go-lucky and carefree and we would always have fun, but it is like she is bipolar now.”

“My mom cries all night.” His voice was deep and dark and filled with regret. “She doesn’t know I can hear her, but she sobs all night and by the morning she is happy and cheerful again.”

“I’m sorry.”

“She pretends that everything is okay and her marriage is okay. And my dad does the same. But they barely talk. They barely look at each other.”

“My father doesn’t give a shit about me,” I said, bitterly. “He got my mom pregnant in high school and he couldn’t give a shit. I thought it was because of my mom. I went to go find him a few years ago. And he still didn’t give a shit.”

“I’m sorry.” He paused. “That must have been painful.”

“It was.” A tear rolled down my face as my heart beat with sadness. “I’ve never told anyone that. Not Lu ... I mean my best friends ... not my mom. No one.”

“So you grew up without a dad?”

“Yeah. It didn’t matter much to me until recently.” The tears gushed out of my eyes. “But I thought he’d care, you know, once he saw me, what with me being his flesh and blood, but he was distant and cold. He has a real family now, real kids. He doesn’t care about me.”

“Having a dad isn’t always the greatest,” he interjected. “I know that doesn’t make you feel better, but maybe it was a blessing in disguise.”

“I just wanted him to love me. To know that someone loves me,” I gulped out.

“Your mom loves you.”

“Yes, but she’s broken now.” I turned onto my stomach and I couldn’t control the sobs that wracked my body. “I can do nothing right in her eyes anymore. I’m just a disappointment.” I sniffed the grass underneath my nose and tensed as I sensed him close to me.

“I’m sorry.” He placed a hand on my shoulder and rubbed it gently for a second. “I didn’t mean to bring up painful memories.”

“It’s okay.” I mumbled, my words muffled.

He sat down next to me and I felt him lie flat next to me. All I had to do was turn over and then I would see his face. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to know who my midnight confidante was.

“My dad cheats on my mom.” He spoke slowly and surely, his words echoing silkily in my ears. He was so close to me. I could feel the edge of his body pressed up against mine slightly. “And she knows, but she pretends that she doesn’t.”

“That’s awful,” I mumbled.

“It’s life. I just want her to leave him.”

“And she won’t?”

“No,” he sighed. “You know, he has an image to protect. He won’t let her leave.”

My body tensed at his words and I felt my heart going out of control. Something about his words resonated in my mind. He has an image to protect. He has an image to protect. I felt my breath catch. I was pretty sure I knew who was lying down next to me. My skin started burning and I was aware of every part of his body that was lightly pressed against mine. I decided to ask another question, to see if it was him. But I paused before I did. He might hate me for who I was, what I was.

“I understand. My mom had a relationship with a man in a powerful position. She thought he was going to leave his wife for her, but he didn’t. It broke her.”

I heard him take a sharp intake of breath and I had a feeling that he knew. We were both silent for a moment, unsure of what to say. I wasn’t sure if I should say his name. It was obvious to me that he didn’t want to be known. He had to know that everyone from Jonesville would recognize him if they saw him. I was surprised to hear that he knew about his dad. He had never shown that he knew, but then I guess I had never shown I knew either. Even Luke and Anna didn’t know what my mother had done.

“Lexi?” His voice was soft, questioning, and I felt my heart skip a beat. He knew then, he knew about my mom. My cheeks flamed with shame and I felt my skin burning up.

“Bryce?” I slowly rolled over and stared at him. He was facing me and on his side so that, when I rolled over, our eyes met and gazed into each other’s. We just lay there for a few minutes, staring at each other’s sad faces and I saw in him more than a handsome face. I saw a kindred spirit, a weakened spirit. I wondered why he had been crying; it couldn’t have just been because his dad was a cheat. His dad had been cheating for years.

“How are you, Lexi?” He smiled at me sweetly and reached over and wiped a teardrop from my cheek. I felt my body shivering at his touch. I couldn’t believe I was here, in this moment, with Bryce Evans, the boy I had been in love with for years. He was a man now and I felt my heart expand as he leaned in closer to me. Our faces were nose to nose and he stared into my eyes deeply.

“I guess I can see who you are now,” I joked and he smiled. “I’m doing okay, I’m guessing about the same as you.”

“I guess so.”

“I thought you’d be happy, in preparation for your party tomorrow.”

“I’m not terribly excited for a party.” He shrugged and sighed.

“Really, why not?” I questioned, surprised. Bryce was always the life of the party; at least, he had been in high school. Not that I’d ever been to many parties, but at the ones I had gone to he had reigned supreme.

“Not much to celebrate I suppose.” He grimaced and I wondered what was going on in his mind.

“Well, I’m looking forward to it.” I tried to make him feel better, but I knew it wasn’t really true. I much preferred this moment right now, lying next to him in my favorite spot, with it being just the two of us. I knew that he would barely have time for me at the party, what with Suzannah and Mary and all the other girls who wanted their hooks in him.

“I’m surprised you agreed to come.” He looked at me, searchingly. “I wasn’t sure how you felt about me, after you know...”

“The night you saved me?” I said, breathlessly, my heart in my mouth.

“I didn’t save you.” He looked away from me. “That was a bad night, huh?”

“Yes.” I closed my eyes, not wanting to think about that moment. And what happened afterwards. I knew I shouldn’t blame myself, but it was hard not to.

“I’m sorry, Lexi.” He grabbed my hands. “I’m really sorry.”

“It’s okay,” I whispered to him, softly. “It wasn’t your fault.”

“I ... I need to…” He paused and I opened my eyes and saw the pain in his face.

“It’s not your fault, Bryce.” I squeezed his hands, not believing that this moment was actually happening. A moment that I never thought would ever happen.

“That night with Eddie,” he started and I cringed. “Sorry.” His voice was soft and he looked into my eyes, pleading. “Please don’t hate him.”

“I don’t hate him.” My stomach churned thinking about that night.

“He wasn’t himself.”

“We don’t have to talk about it,” I whispered.

“Do you mind if we do?” His eyes pleaded with me and I felt my heart melt. As painful as that night had been for me, I had been able to talk to Luke and Anna about what had nearly happened. And when Eddie had died, I had felt awful, but it hadn’t hurt me. In fact, part of me was happy he had died. I knew that, this way, he would never try to hurt someone else.

“I don’t mind.”

“He was my best friend, you know.” His eyes glazed over. “We grew up together but we both kind of had too much. We thought we ruled the world.”

“You did rule the world,” I said, softly. He still could if he wanted to. He was the King of Jonesville.

“We were two guys who had been given too much. We thought we could have everything we wanted and anyone who got in our way….” His voice trailed off and I shivered. “Sorry.” His eyes focused again and he looked at me.

“It’s okay.” I bit my lip. “I don’t know what I would have done that night…”

“It was the least I could do, Lexi.”

“You saved him from raping me, Bryce. I’ll never be able to show you my gratitude. You were literally my knight in shining armor.”

“Well, not literally.” He grinned.

“You know.” I smiled back. “When he asked me to dance, I thought to myself, wow, Eddie has noticed me. Maybe he likes me. And he took me outside and I went willingly.” I paused. “And he kissed me, and it was nice. Weird, but nice. But then he pushed me down. And I told him no. And he wouldn’t stop, he ripped my dress up and—”

“—I’m so sorry, Lexi.” Bryce’s eyes filled with tears and I was surprised at how much he really seemed to care about what happened.

“It’s not your fault.” I smiled at him, sweetly. “You are my savior.”

“No, I’m not.” His voice sounded anguished. “Please stop saying that, Lexi.”

“I don’t understand why you...” My voice trailed off as he jumped up.

I jumped up after him and stood still as he paced up and down, muttering. “Are you okay, Bryce?”

“I’m not okay!” he shouted, loudly. “I am not f**king okay.”

I stood there in shock. I had never heard him sound so angry. I was scared and turned on all at the same time. He looked gorgeous, his blond hair was luminated by the moon and the silhouette of his face was reminiscent of a Roman God. Bryce Evans was a demi-God in my eyes. He could do no wrong and all I wanted was for him to look at me, just once, with lust or love in his eyes.

“My best friend is dead.” He turned around and looked at me. “My best friend in the world is dead and I miss the shit out of him.” I stared at him in shock as tears ran down his eyes. I’d never seen a guy cry before. It was awe-inspiring and weird and crazy and I felt a million emotions that I had never felt before.

“Do you know how shitty I feel, Lexi? I hate him for trying to rape you. I hate him. But then I hate myself for not being there for him. How low did he have to be to kill himself?”

“It’s not your fault, Bryce. You didn’t put the gun in his hands,” I said, softly.

“It’s my fault, Lexi.” He looked anguished and put his head in his hands, sobbing uncontrollably. “I was his best friend and I turned my back on him.”

“Because he tried to do a bad thing, Bryce.”

“But it was my fault, it was my fault,” he sobbed and I walked over to him and hugged him. It wasn’t a conscious decision of mine to make but, as I held him in my arms, I knew it was the right step to make.

“It’s okay, Bryce.”

“If he would have hurt you, I would have killed him,” he sobbed. “But then he went and killed himself.”

“I’m so sorry, Bryce.” And I was. Eddie didn’t deserve to die. Maybe all he had needed was some help.

“It should have been me,” he sobbed into my shoulder.

“Don’t say that, Bryce.” My voice was shrill and scared. “Please.”

“You knew that my dad was sleeping with your mom?” He looked up at me with questioning eyes. I just nodded my head, sadly.

“I’m sorry.” I looked down, ashamed of myself and my mother.

“She wasn’t the first,” he sighed. “I didn’t know that.”

“That doesn’t surprise me.”

“They’re over now?” He looked at me, questiongly.

“Yes, they have been for years.” I looked away, hoping he wouldn’t continue his questions about our parents.

“I didn’t know.” He took a long, deep breath and leaned towards me. “I want us to be honest about everything, Lexi. I think we owe each other that.”

And then I did the only thing I could think of to do, to get him to stop talking. I leaned over and kissed him. I felt his arms pull me in closer to him and I closed my eyes as I sunk into him. He smelled like the grass: earthy, green, and pure and, as we kissed, I felt my insides melting. His lips were soft and luscious and they tasted like mint. I felt his tongue slide into my mouth and I wanted to pinch myself because I wanted to make sure that the moment was real. But I couldn’t enjoy every moment of it, because I knew that the only reason I had had the courage to kiss him was because I couldn’t let him know the truth. I had to keep it a secret.

Chapter 10

Lexi’s lips were soft to the touch. She kissed me passionately and sweetly and I couldn’t stop myself from responding. I sighed inside, but this felt so right. She felt so right. This beautiful young girl was trusting herself to me. She had watched me cry and go crazy and yet she was still here with me. She had seen that golden boy Bryce Evans was far from the perfect man that everyone in Jonesville thought I was. And she was still here. I wanted to pull away; I wanted to tell her the truth about that night. But something in me rebelled; something in me didn’t want to take the chance of telling her the truth.

Tags: J.S. Cooper Scarred Romance
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