Going Under

Page 30

He hesitated like he was thinking it over. “Are you sure that’s a good idea? I mean, if he wanted you at his house, wouldn’t he have taken you there?”

“He wouldn’t have taken me there if he’s too embarrassed by where he lives, but I want him to know he shouldn’t be.”

I could tell he didn’t want to upset his friend, but he finally conceded, “I’ll take you if you really want me to, but it may not even be where he lives. The only thing we can do is drive out that way and look for his truck.”

I was willing to try anything. “If you’re not in the middle of anything too important, I really want you to take me. I need to see him, Dane.”

I sent up a prayer and waited for Dane’s answer. “Okay, I’ll come by your place in about fifteen minutes.”

I sighed a breath of relief. “I’ll be watching for you. And Dane…thank you so much.”

“Well, I’m not taking the blame if we find him and he’s mad as hell about you showing up at his place without an invite,” he warned.

“I promise I’ll take all the blame,” I assured him.

When Dane pulled into my driveway, I raced out the door before he had a chance to get out of his car. I got in and told him again how grateful I was for his help, then he drove in the direction of where he suspected Jessie lived.

I had never been out that way, but there was a distinct difference in the housing the further south we drove. We left the grand two stories behind us and progressively drove into what most of my friends would refer to as a ghetto.

I hoped Dane was wrong about where Jessie lived, but if he wasn’t, it didn’t matter. I loved him and I didn’t care what kind of house he lived in or if he didn’t have money.

Dane turned into a place where mobile homes were lined with only enough room for a built on porch and a couple of cars in between. We searched for Jessie’s truck as he slowly drove through the trailer park, but didn’t see a sign of it and my hopes began to fade.

Dane saw the disappointment on my face. “I guess I was either wrong about this being the place or he didn’t go home after he left your house.”

I began to cry out of my desperation to find Jessie and need to straighten things out between us. “Thanks for trying, Dane,” I whimpered.

Dane tried to comfort me by saying, “Please don’t cry, Claire. I’m sure it’s not as bad as you think. I know that Jessie is crazy about you, so I’m sure you’ll work it out.”

“I don’t know if we will, Dane. It’s pretty serious,” I sobbed as I continued to search for Jessie’s truck in every yard we drove by.

I finally gave up after two hours of riding around and told Dane he could take me home. I tried one last time to call Jessie, getting his voicemail again. “Jessie, please call me. I really need to talk to you.”

* * *

Sunday came and went without hearing a word from Jessie and I was terrified he had decided things weren’t going to work between us. I didn’t sleep well for a second night and I got up while it was still dark to get ready for school on Monday morning.

I waited in Humanities impatiently and felt short of breath when he finally came through the door. This was it-the moment of truth.

He took the seat next to me, put his backpack down, then looked over at me and softly said, “Hey, Princess.”

Hearing him call me Princess made me feel a little more at ease. “Hey, you,” I said, keeping with our usual routine. I looked down at my notebook and doodled as I added, “You didn’t return my calls or texts.”

When he started to answer, I looked over at him. “I’m sorry. I know you’re probably a little confused about what is going on with me, but we don’t have time to get into everything before class. Will you meet me after practice so we can talk?”

“Of course I will,” I agreed. “Do you want me to meet you by your truck?”

“Yeah, that will work.” He didn’t look at me and I took that as a bad sign, so I was a bundle of nerves the rest of day.

After practice, I waited for him by his truck while my stomach was busy tying itself in knots. I dreaded this conversation because I was certain it was going to be near impossible to convince him that his sessions with my mom weren’t relevant to our relationship.

He looked so exhausted when he walked toward me from the field and I wondered if it was from practice or if he was as sleep deprived as me. “You look really tired. Is now a bad time for us to talk because we can wait if you want?”

He shook his head. “No. I need to do this.”

His words caused my heart to pick up speed because I didn’t like what they implied. I got in the truck with him and he dropped his head back against the seat and closed his eyes.

“You said you needed to do this. What does that mean? What do you need to do?” I asked while I braced myself for the worst.

He inhaled deeply, then slowly blew the air out through his pursed lips. “I don’t want to see you anymore. I pretended I was in love with you because I wanted to see if I could take you from Forbes. Looks like I did a pretty good job and I have to thank you for making it so much fun for me. I thought I could get in your pants, but since you shut me down on that, there’s really no need to continue this.”

“I don’t believe you. I know this is about something else,” I argued.

He turned to look out the window as he said, “Just because you don’t believe it doesn’t mean it isn’t true.”

“You’re lying. You won’t even look me in the face when you say it,” I challenged.

He hurled across the seat and grabbed my jaw. “Every time you teased me I was thinking about how I was going to screw Gretchen when I got away from you. That’s right, Claire. I’ve been sleeping with her all along.”

I felt the tears swelling, threatening to spill from my eyes. This wasn’t about my mom at all. I was only a game to him. It was never real. He didn’t love me because if he did, he would never have used Gretchen to hurt me like that.

I felt the tears rolling down my face as he held it firmly in his hand. This wasn’t what I expected and I was completely unprepared for it. I jerked away from him and silently stared at him for a moment before I opened the passenger door. I stumbled when I stood, my legs threatening to give away on me because they felt like gelatin.

I left his passenger door standing open and ran toward my car to throw myself inside. I had no idea how long I sat there staring blankly at my steering wheel, but there wasn’t a car remaining in the lot when I finally looked up. I turned to look where Jessie’s truck was parked and it was gone as well.

When I gathered myself enough to drive home, I felt numb. I parked in my usual spot, but had no memory of how I got there. It was like an out of body experience and someone else had driven home for me.

I walked in the house and my mom said something that sounded like static and I ignored her. I climbed the stairs to my bedroom and threw myself across my bed, the one I had shared with Jessie not so long ago.

I heard my mom knock, then ease my door open. “Can I come in?”

I didn’t answer and she mistook that as an invitation. She sat next to me on the bed and stroked my hair the way she did when I was a little girl. “I take it things didn’t go well today.”

“Jessie broke up with me.” I still couldn’t believe it even as I heard myself say the words.

“Do you want to talk about it?” she asked.

I wasn’t ready because the cut was too fresh and deep. “I can’t right now.”

“It’s okay. You know you can tell me anything when you decide you’re ready. I’m always here for you.” She pulled me close and hugged my tightly.

“Mom, don’t be shocked if I’m never ready.”

28 That’s Going to Leave a Mark


Damn. That was going to leave a mark.

Claire was my everything and now I was back to having nothing. It was like I had watched her slip from my grasp in slow motion as I told her the darkest lie to ever leave my lips.

I took one look at the devastating expression on her face and knew she believed my deception. I couldn’t feel more wretched, but it was necessary for her to believe I didn’t love her. Otherwise, she wouldn’t let me go and eventually be led to the whole truth about me.

I needed to talk to someone-a person that knew Claire. Dane was the only person to come to my mind, so I drove in the direction of his house.

When he answered the door, he was still wearing his clothes from practice. “I need you to come out and run with me.”

He looked at me like I was crazy. “Dude, you are out of your mind. My ass is dragging and yours should be too, so why would you want to run after that intense workout Coach gave us today?”

“Because I need to talk to you.”

He laughed and shook his head. “We can talk without running.”

I needed the running as a distraction to keep this from becoming so uncomfortable. “Will you come or not?”

He sighed deeply. “Hell, I don’t want to, but I guess I will.”

We started running and I couldn’t find the words I needed to begin, then Dane prompted me by saying, “I’m only giving you one block, so this conversation is becoming shorter as we make the circle back around to my house.”

Seeing I was on a time restraint, I said, “I broke up with Claire.”

I heard the confusion in his voice. “Why would you do that? You love her.”

The good thing about running was I didn’t have to look at him when I explained. “I do love her, but there are things she doesn’t know-bad things that would ruin the way she feels about me. I’m no good for her. Hell, I’m no good for anyone and it was only a matter of time before she figured it out on her own.”

“A chicken shit-that’s what you are. You’re scared and you’re letting her go so you don’t have to take a chance because it’s easier than getting hurt,” he accused.

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