Finding cinderella, p.10
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       Finding Cinderella, p.10
 

         Part #2. 5 of Hopeless series by Colleen Hoover
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  We’ve had it since the second she fell on top of me in the maintenance closet.

  “No,” I say, bringing my hands down. “I’m not okay.” I grip the edge of the table, then slowly turn to face her.

  Soft hair.

  Amazing mouth.

  Phenomenal kisser.

  My mouth is dry, so I reach to my cup and down a huge gulp of water. I slam my cup back down on the table, then turn and face her. I’m trying not to smile, but this whole thing is slightly overwhelming. Realizing that the girl from my past that I wished I could know is the same girl from my present that I’m thankful to have is practically one of the best moments of my life. I want to tell Six, I want to tell Chunk, I want to tell my parents. I want to scream it from the rooftops and print it in all the papers.

  Cinderella is Six! Six is Cinderella!

  “Daniel. You’re scaring me,” she says, watching as my face grows paler and my heart pounds faster.

  I look at her. Really look at her this time.

  “You want to know why I haven’t given you a nickname yet?”

  She looks confused that this is what I decide to say in the middle of my silent freak-out. She nods cautiously. I place one hand on the back of her chair and one hand on the table in front of her, then lean in toward her.

  “Because I already gave you one, Cinderella.”

  I pull back slightly and watch her face closely, waiting on the realization she’s about to have. The flashback. The clarity. She’s about to wonder how the hell she failed to realize it, too.

  Her eyes slowly move up my face until they meet mine. “No,” she says, shaking her head.

  I nod slowly. “Yes.”

  She’s still shaking her head. “No,” she says again with more certainty. “Daniel there’s no way it could . . .”

  I don’t let her finish. I grab her face and kiss her harder than I’ve ever kissed her. I don’t give a shit that we’re seated at a dinner table. I don’t care that Chunk is groaning. I don’t care that my mom is clearing her throat. I keep kissing her until she begins to back away from me.

  She’s pushing on my chest, so I pull away from her just in time to see the regret wash over her entire face. I focus on her eyes long enough to see them squeeze shut as she stands to leave the kitchen. I watch her rush away long enough to see her stifle a sob by slapping her hand over her mouth. I remain in my seat until the front door slams shut and I realize she’s gone.

  I’m immediately out of my seat. I rush out the front door and run straight to her car, which is now backing out of my driveway. I slam my fist against her hood as I rush to catch up to her window. She’s not looking at me. She’s wiping tears away, trying her hardest not to look out the window I’m banging on.

  “Six!” I yell, repeatedly banging on her window with my fist. I see her hand reach down to put the car in drive. I don’t even think. I sprint to the front of the car and slap my hands down on the hood, standing directly in front of it so she can’t take off. I’m watching her do everything she can to avoid looking at me.

  “Roll down your window,” I yell.

  She doesn’t move. She continues to cry as she focuses on everything other than what’s right in front of her.

  Me.

  I slap the hood of the car again until she finally brings her eyes up to meet mine. Seeing her heartache confuses the hell out of me. I couldn’t have been happier finding out she was Cinderella, yet she seems embarrassed as hell that I realized it.

  “Please,” I say, wincing from the ache that just reached my chest. I hate seeing her upset and I really hate that this is why she’s upset.

  She puts the car in park, then reaches a hand to her door and lowers the driver’s side window. I’m not so sure she still won’t drive away if I move out from in front of her car. I carefully and very slowly begin to make my way toward her window, the whole time keeping an eye on her hand to ensure she doesn’t put the car back into drive.

  When I reach her window, I bend my knees and lower myself until I’m face to face with her. “Do I even need to ask?”

  She looks up at the roof and leans her head against the headrest. “Daniel,” she whispers through her tears. “You wouldn’t understand.”

  She’s right.

  She’s absolutely right.

  “Are you embarrassed?” I ask her. “Because we had sex?”

  She squeezes her eyes shut, giving away the fact that she thinks I’m judging her. I immediately reach a hand through her window and pull her gaze back to mine. “Don’t you dare be embarrassed by that. Ever. Do you know how much that meant to me? Do you know how many times I’ve thought about you? I was there. I made that choice right along with you, so please don’t think for a second that I would ever judge you for what happened between us.”

  She begins to cry even harder. I want her to get out of the car. I need to hold her because I can’t see her this upset and not do whatever I can to take it away.

  “Daniel, I’m sorry,” she says through her sobs. “This was a mistake. This was a huge mistake.” Her hand reaches down to the gearshift and I’m already reaching into the car, trying to stop her.

  “No. No, Six,” I plead. She puts the car in drive and reaches to the door, then places her finger on the window button.

  I make one last attempt to lean in and kiss her before the window begins to rise on me. “Six, please,” I say, shocked at the sadness and desperation in my own voice. She continues to raise the window until I’m completely out of it and it’s all the way up. I press my palms to her window and slap the glass, but she drives away.

  There’s nothing left for me to do but watch the back of the car as it disappears down the street.

  What the hell was that?

  I pull my hands through my hair and look up at the sky, confused as to what just happened.

  That wasn’t her.

  I hate that she had the complete opposite reaction from me when she found out who I was.

  I hate that she’s embarrassed about that day, like she just wants to forget it. Like she wants to forget me.

  I hate it because I’ve done everything I possibly can to commit that day to my memory, like no one or nothing else I’ve ever experienced.

  She can’t do this. She can’t just push me away like this without an explanation.

  Chapter Six

  I couldn’t give my parents an explanation when I went back inside to grab my keys. They were apologetic, thinking they did something wrong. They felt bad about their jokes, but I didn’t even have it in me to reassure them that they weren’t the problem. I couldn’t reassure them, because I don’t even know what the problem is.

  I’ll be damned if I don’t find out tonight, though. Right now.

  I put my car in park and turn off the engine, relieved to see her car parked in her driveway. I get out of my car and shut my door, then head to her front door. Before I make it to her front porch, I detour to the side of the house. I know with the shape she left my house in a few minutes ago, there’s no way she would have walked through her front door. She would have taken the window.

  I reach her bedroom and the window is shut, as well as the curtains. The room is dark, but I know she’s inside. Knocking won’t do me any good, so I don’t even bother. I push the window up, then slide the curtains to the side.

  “Six,” I say firmly. “I’m respecting your window rule, but it’s really hard right now. We need to talk.”

  Nothing. She says nothing. I know she’s in her room, though. I can hear her crying, but barely.

  “I’m going to the park. I want you to meet me there, okay?”

  Several silent moments pass before she responds.

  “Daniel, go home. Please.” Her voice is soft and weak, but the message behind that sad, angelic voice is like a stab to my heart. I back away from the window, then kick the side of the house out of frustration. Or anger. Or sadness or . . . shit. All of it.

  I lean back into her window and grip the frame. “Me
et me at the goddamned park, Six!” I say loudly. My voice is angry. I’m angry. She’s pissing me the hell off. “We don’t do this kind of thing. You don’t play these games. You owe me a fucking explanation.”

  I push away from her window and turn to walk back to my car. I make it five feet before my palms are running down my face and I’m wishing I could punch the actual air in front of me. I stop walking and pause for several moments while I search for patience. It’s in here somewhere.

  I walk back to her window and hate that she’s crying much louder now, even though she’s trying to stifle the sounds with her pillow.

  “Listen, babe,” I say quietly. “I’m sorry I said goddamned. And fucking. I shouldn’t cuss when I’m upset, but . . .” I inhale a deep breath. “But dammit, Six. Please. Please just meet me at the park. If you aren’t there in half an hour, I’m done. I had enough of this bullshit with Val and I’m not putting myself through it again.”

  I turn to leave and make it all the way to my car this time before pausing and kicking at the ground. I walk back to her window again. “I didn’t mean it just now when I said I’d be done if you didn’t show up. If you don’t show up to the park, I’ll still want to be with you. I’ll just be sad that you didn’t show up. Because we show up, Six. It’s what we do. It’s me and you, babe.”

  I wait for a reply for a lot longer than I even need to. She never responds, so I go back to my car and climb inside, then head to the park and hope she shows up.

  • • •

  Twenty-seven minutes pass before her car finally pulls into a parking spot.

  I’m not surprised she showed up. I knew she would. Her reaction was uncharacteristic of her and I know she just needed time to let everything soak in.

  I watch her as she slowly makes her way toward me, never once looking up at me. She keeps her eyes trained to the ground the whole time until she passes me. She sinks into the swing next to me and grabs the chains, then leans her head against her arm. I wait for her to speak first, knowing she more than likely won’t.

  She doesn’t.

  I run my hands up the chain rope until they’re even with my head, then I lean into my arm and mirror her position. We’re both staring quietly into the dark night in front of us.

  “After you left that day,” I say. “I wasn’t sure of what you wanted me to do. I wondered if you thought about me too and if you had changed your mind. If maybe you wanted me to try and find you.”

  I tilt my head and look at her. Her blonde hair is tucked behind her ears and her eyes are closed. Even with her eyes closed I can see the pain in her features.

  “For days I wondered if that’s what you wanted me to do. I waited and waited for you to come back, but you never did. I know we both said we would be better off not knowing who the other was, but honestly, you were all I could think about. I wanted you to come back so fucking bad that I spent every single fifth period in that damn closet for the rest of the semester. The last day of school was the absolute worst. When the bell rang and I had to walk out of that closet for the last time, it absolutely sucked. So much. I felt like an idiot for being so consumed by the thought of you. When I met Val, I forced myself to go forward with her because it helped to not think about that damn closet so much.”

  I twist the swing until I’m facing her. “I like you, Six. A lot. And I know this sounds all kinds of jacked up and crazy, but pretending to make love to you that day was the closest I’ve ever been to actually loving someone until now.”

  I turn my swing to face forward again, then I stand up. I walk to her and kneel down on both knees in front of her, then wrap my arms around her waist. I look up at her and see the pain flash across her face when I touch her. “Six. Don’t let what happened between us become a negative thing. Please. Because that day was one of the best days of my life. Actually, it was the best day of my life.”

  She lifts her head away from her arm and opens her eyes, then looks directly at me. Tears are streaming down her face. It breaks my damn heart.

  “Daniel,” she whispers through her tears. She squeezes her eyes shut and turns her head like she can’t even look at me. “I got pregnant.”

  Chapter Seven

  Sometimes when I’m almost asleep, I’ll hear something that pulls me right back into a state of high alert. I’ll listen closely, wondering if I actually heard a sound or if it’s just my imagination playing tricks on me. I’ll hold my breath and be really still, and I’ll just listen quietly.

  I’m quiet.

  I’m still.

  I’m holding my breath.

  I’m listening.

  I’m concentrating really hard while my head rests on her thighs. I don’t know when I lowered it here, but my hands are still gripping her waist. I’m trying to figure out if those words are going to hit me and completely knock my heart around like a punching bag all over again, or if it was just my imagination.

  God, I hope it was my imagination.

  A tear hits my cheek that just fell straight from her eyes.

  “I didn’t find out until I was already in Italy,” she says, her voice coated and laced with sorrow and shame. “I’m so sorry.”

  In my head, I’m counting backward. Counting the days and the weeks and the months and trying to make sense of what she’s saying, because she’s obviously not pregnant now. My mind is still churning, crunching numbers, erasing errors, crunching more numbers.

  She was in Italy for almost seven months.

  Seven months there, three months before she left and one month since she returned.

  That’s almost a year.

  My mind hurts. Everything hurts.

  “I didn’t know what to do,” she says. “I couldn’t raise him by myself. I was already eighteen when I found out, so . . .”

  I immediately lift up and look at her face. “Him?” I ask, shaking my head. “How do you know . . .” I close my eyes and blow out a steady breath, then release my grip on her waist. I stand up and turn around, then pace back and forth, absorbing everything that’s happening.

  “Six,” I say, shaking my head. “I don’t . . . are you saying . . .” I pause, then turn and face her. “Are you telling me you had a fucking baby? That we had a baby?”

  She’s crying again. Sobbing, even. Hell, I don’t know if she ever even stopped. She nods like it’s painful to do.

  “I didn’t know what to do, Daniel. I was so scared.”

  She stands up and walks toward me, then places her hands delicately on my cheeks. “I didn’t know who you were, so I didn’t know how to tell you. If I knew your name or what you looked like I never would have made that decision without you.”

  I bring my hands up to hers, and I pull them away from my face. “Don’t,” I say as I feel the resentment building within me. I’m trying so hard to hold it back. To understand. To let it all soak in.

  I just can’t.

  “How could you not tell me? It’s not like you found a puppy, Six. This is . . .” I shake my head, still not getting it. “You had a baby. And you didn’t even bother telling me!”

  She grasps my shirt in her fists, shaking her head, wanting me to see her side of things. “Daniel, that’s what I’m trying to tell you! What was I supposed to do? Did you expect me to plaster flyers all over the school asking for information on who knocked me up in the maintenance closet?”

  I look her directly in the eyes. “Yes,” I say in a low voice.

  She takes a step back, so I take a step forward. “Yes, Six! That’s exactly what I would have expected you to do. You should have plastered it all over the hallways, aired it on the radio, taken an ad out in the motherfucking newspaper! You get pregnant with my kid and you worry about your reputation? Are you kidding me?”

  My hand covers my cheek a second after she slaps me.

  The pain in her eyes can’t even come close to matching the pain in my heart, so I don’t feel bad for saying what I said. Even when she begins to cry harder than I knew people were capable of cryin
g.

  She rushes back to her car.

  I let her go.

  I walk back to the swing and I sit.

  Fucking life.

  Motherfucking life.

  Daniel: Where are you?

  Holder: Just left Sky’s house. Almost home. What’s up?

  Daniel: I’ll be there in five.

  Holder: Everything okay?

  Daniel: Nope.

  Five minutes later Holder is standing on his curb waiting for me. I pull onto the side of the street and he opens the passenger door, then climbs inside. I put my car in park and prop my foot on the dash, then look out my window.

  I’m surprised at how pissed I am. I’m even surprised at how sad I am. I don’t know how to separate everything I’m feeling in order to get a grip on the core of what’s upsetting me the most. Right now I can’t tell
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