Going Under

Page 32

“I’m fine. Really. I’m over it all. It takes more than the likes of Jessie Boone to make me lay down and die,” I said to convince her.

“That’s my girl,” Payton said as she hugged me. “It’s past time to file him under Who Gives a Damn.”

“I wish I hadn’t skipped school for three days like a wuss, but it’s too late to change that now.” When I finished digging around in my locker for my Spanish book, I turned just in time to see him walking toward Calculus and he quickly diverted his eyes when he saw me looking at him. “The only thing I can do is show everyone how unaffected I am by him.”

“Yes! That’s exactly what I needed to hear from you. I was so not looking forward to being all sympathetic and crap, but I still score friend points with you because I was prepared to do it, right?”

It was a stilly game we had played since grade school. “Of course, you still get your friend points.”

“Are you sure you’re prepared for second period with him?” she asked.

“Absotively,” I said as I smiled. Even if I caved on the inside, no one would know because there wasn’t anyone that could put on a better front than Claire Deveraux.

When I entered Mrs Tanner’s class, I confidently sat in my normal seat next to Jessie because I refused to give him the satisfaction of running me off. I had something to prove and this was the first step toward showing him he didn’t have any control over me.

“Claire, I’m glad to see you back in class,” Mrs. Tanner said. ‘I was worried you were quite ill.”

“It was only temporary, Mrs. Tanner,” I assured her, then I looked at Jessie and added, “It took a few days, but I’m very much over it, now.”

He refused to look up at me as I boldly stared at him and I hoped he felt my eyes tangibly all over him.

We didn’t partner on an assignment today and I was disappointed because I had every intention of beginning my quest to prove I was over what happened between us. I didn’t get the satisfaction of proving anything to him because he ignored me in Mrs. Tanner’s class, then again in third period.

I went to Physics and sat behind him and Gretchen. They didn’t act like a couple, but since they were only sleeping together, I guess that didn’t qualify them as one. Seeing them sitting at their table together reminded me of the things Jessie told me and my mind begin to imagine the things he hadn’t. I wanted to cry, but I sucked it up, sat a little straighter and held my head high as I stared straight ahead praying Mrs. Bishop would start talking soon and hold my interest enough to end to my torment.

* * *

Four Weeks and Many Tears Later

The days seem to run together as I masqueraded though my everyday life. I acted as though Jessie never hurt me-that what happened between us was an insane, momentary lapse in judgement on my part. Although I had almost everyone convinced, I couldn’t win over the one that mattered most-myself.

I had fallen back into my relationship with Forbes because it was so familiar and safe. I hoped he would make me forget about the one that devastatingly broke my heart, but he inadvertently became a constant reminder.

On the outside, I acted as though Jessie Boone never entered my life. The inside was entirely a different story and the harder I worked to forget him, the more impossible it became to stop loving him.

They say time heals all wounds, but that had not been the case thus far and tonight felt no different as I sat across from Dane Wickam and his parents at my dining room table. My mind wandered and I became curious if he had known about Jessie’s plan to use me, but sat back and allowed it to happen.

I listened as our parents caught up and occasionally laughed at one of their jokes, but was preoccupied with how I was going to grill Dane when I got him away from our parents.

When our parents left the dining room to sit in the living room, I decided it was time to make my move. “Dane, I need to talk to you for a minute. Will you walk outside with me?”

He wasn’t surprised by my invitation. “Sure.”

We walked out back by the pool and sat on the patio. He didn’t insult me by pretending he didn’t know what this was about. “I’m surprised you haven’t cornered me before now.”

“Believe me…it wasn’t because I didn’t want to. I kept thinking this pain would get better, but it’s only gotten worse over the last month and that isn’t even the most pathetic part.” I didn’t want to cry, but I felt the tears stinging my eyes. “I can’t move on because I still love him even after what he did to me,” I admitted.

He looked torn, like he wanted to say something important. “The only thing I can tell you is that there’s more to this than you know.”

I was shocked by his words and didn’t understand the meaning of them, but they implied Jessie could have feelings for me. “You have to tell me,” I pleaded.

“I believe you have the right to know everything, but it’s not my place to tell you. Jessie has to be the one to tell you,” he explained.

“Tell me what?” I begged.

“He’s either going to hate me or love me for what I’m about to do.”

I felt my hopes lifting higher. “Please, tell me what you’re talking about,” I pleaded.

“I never promised him I wouldn’t tell you this part.” He took a breath and said, “Jessie never used you. Well, maybe he did a little in the beginning, but never the way you think he did. He loves you with all of his heart and soul, but he had reasons for ending things with you-things out of his control. I can’t tell you anything more than that because he has to be the one to tell you the rest.”

I sat in disbelief as I recalled the way things had gone. It was hard for me to believed he loved me after the way he ended things between us. “How do you know he loves me?”

“Because he told me he did. He came to my house after he broke up with you and told me everything. He is incredibly miserable without you, even if he acts like he’s not.” A look of anguish came over his face. “Oh, man, he is going to kill me for telling you all of this.”

I hugged Dane and said, “He’ll never know you told me anything. I promise.”

He almost looked regretful about telling me. “What are you going to do, Claire?” he asked, anxiously.

There was no decision to be made. I was done with these childish games and ready to have Jessie back in my life, regardless of the measures I had to take. “I haven’t decided yet, but can I count on you to help me if I needed you?”

30 I Won’t Let You Be My Fault


The last four weeks were a total blur with one exception-I missed Claire fiercely. I was miserable without her and watching her go back to Forbes nearly killed me. The only thing worse than seeing her back with him was the way she seemed so unaffected by our separation. Her smile and laughter never escaped my attention and I admit it hurt to know she could pick up and move on so quickly while I remained stagnant in my misery without her.

Football seem to be the only thing that could bring me any kind of peace. I think it was because the game was the only thing in my life that required enough concentration for me to temporarily get Claire off of my mind.

It was Friday night and I stood on the sideline while my teammates played defense. We were so far ahead that the other team didn’t have a chance at making a comeback and my teammates had already begun to celebrate our victory.

Dane walked up next to me and said, “Hey, Jessie, everyone is going out to Harrison’s to celebrate after the game. You up for it?”

I thought of the night Claire and I snuck into the woods to be together at Harrison’s place the first time we admitted there was something between us and I couldn’t stand the thought of being there without her. “No. I don’t think so.”

“Why not?” he asked like he needed an explanation.

“You know why not.”

He stood shaking his head. “I don’t get it, man. If you won’t be with her, you should at least try to live a little. It wouldn’t kill you to have a little fun. You might actually enjoy it, you know?”

“I have to be at work early in the morning, so there’s no point in going since it will be so late when I get out there.” Yeah, that sounded like a more suitable excuse.

The look on his face told me he knew I was full of it. “So you’re telling me you’re going home and going to bed?”

“Yes, Dane. Rita is gone to Texas on a pharmaceutical run, so I’m by myself and I plan to take advantage. I am going home to get some uninterrupted sleep since I rarely get that. Besides, I have a job that requires me to work all day tomorrow. I don’t get to lay around and sleep half the day like you.”

“Whatever you say, but you’re going to miss out on a lot of fun. You might even find another girl you like besides Claire,” he suggested.

“There’s not a chance of that happening. Trust me,” I reassured him.

“You never know until you try.”

I gave up and didn’t reply because I could see I was getting nowhere with him. He didn’t understand the severe complexity of the situation between me and Claire and I seriously doubted he ever would.

After winning the game, we went in the field house to get changed. I must have overheard a hundred different conversations about going out to Harrison’s, but the one coming from the other side of the lockers caught my attention entirely.

“Claire isn’t coming to Harrison’s because she doesn’t feel good, so I guess it’s boys night out,” I heard Forbes brag.

“Are you going to get with Gretchen again?” I heard from Cooper.

“Shut the hell up, dude. Don’t say that out loud in here. Anyone could overhear you,” Forbes warned.

So, he was doing Gretchen behind Claire’s back. Nice. I bet The Penivore was enjoying her victory.

As I drove home, I felt a bit of satisfaction at knowing Forbes wouldn’t be with Claire tonight, but I didn’t like the idea of him cheating on her either. I had no idea how their relationship had altered over the last few weeks, but I found myself sick with wanting to know if it had become physical. I would kill him if he was double dipping and the more I thought about how far Claire had allowed Forbes to go, the more disgruntled I became.

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