Broken and screwed 2, p.14
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       Broken and Screwed 2, p.14
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         Part #2 of Broken and Screwed series by Tijan

  I turned back. She knew.

  She smirked at me. “You guys are together again?”

  “Were we before?”

  She lifted a shoulder. “I don’t know. Yeah, I think you were. Angie hated it.”

  I know. My heart sunk to my stomach. I remembered how much she hated that I was with Jesse. “She just didn’t want me hurt.”A dark look stopped any other words from spilling. Marissa shook her head. “I cannot believe that you’re defending her, after what she did to you.”

  I shook my head. Nope. I wasn’t going to do this. “I’m going to go.” The tornado was back in me and it was picking up speed. I could not be here, not with her and definitely not with Jesse’s ex-girlfriend so close to prey on him.

  “Okay. Stop.” She grabbed my hand. I pulled it away and started after Jesse, towards the music. “Please, stop. Alex. Come on. I really do want to talk to you.”

  “Why?” I rounded on her, a strangled note in my voice.

  She braked and her eyebrows shot up. From my intensity, she fell back, then her eyebrows bunched together and a determined look came over. Her shoulders squared back and her chin steadied itself before she nodded. “Okay. I get it. I messed up as a friend. I ditched you—”

  “Twice.”

  Silence fell between us like a heavy blanket. It was suffocating and sweltering. I wanted to fold underneath it and disappear into the ground. I forced myself to keep calm. My insides were twisting and turning, but I drew in a deep breath and hoped it would calm the chaos down.

  “Okay.” Her voice had dropped to a soft whisper. “And I’m sorry for both of those times.”

  I shook my head. This wasn’t even right. Marissa had dumped our friendship, but she hadn’t been the one who ran like I had grown horns. That’d been Angie. A tremor went through me as I remembered that last day. They had come to say goodbye. Justin had always been there, alongside his girlfriend, but he had stayed in his truck that day. He couldn’t even muster a goodbye in person. Angie hadn’t taken two steps inside my house. She seemed ready to crap her pants at an invitation from me.

  Their goodbyes had lasted five minutes. Five minutes from the two that I had considered as close to my family as I could get.

  “Stop, Marissa.”

  I wasn’t going to hang my head in shame. I had done nothing wrong, but I knew she was getting ready to unburden her soul and that wasn’t right. Marissa had just gone away. That was all she had done. She’d been my best friend. She dumped me when she fought with Angie, and then she apologized at a party towards the end of the school year. That’d been it. Nothing more from the second person I considered a best friend all my life.

  “What is it?”

  “Just stop. You don’t have to do this.”

  “Do what?”

  “Apologize. That’s what you’re doing, isn’t it?” A bitter taste was in my mouth and I couldn’t get rid of it.

  Her lips clamped shut and she gazed at me. Her eyes were wide and they barely blinked. I felt her studying me, slipping inside how Jesse did at times. It was an uncomfortable feeling and one I wanted to shed, like a second skin. I wanted it off me.

  “Stop,” I snapped this time.

  She blinked. Once. Then she murmured, “You think I’m apologizing for ditching you, don’t you?”

  “Aren’t you?”

  One shake of the head.

  My heart dropped. There was so much more in her gaze and my chest swelled. I didn’t know if I was ready for whatever else she was going to say.

  The wind shifted. It grazed against my cheeks, but there was moisture on them as well. I glanced up idly, had it started raining? There were no drops in the sky.

  She started out, cautious at first, “I knew what was going on last year.”

  My heart plunged all the way to my feet now. She knew. I hadn’t thought anyone knew.

  “I worked in the counselor’s office as a teacher’s assistant.” At my look, she explained, “I never said anything. I didn’t want you guys to make fun of me or god forbid, be proud of me. I know. I know. Stupid of me, but I know you and Angie thought I was only some party hussy who could hold her own. I wasn’t. I was messed up. I know that much, but I wanted more.”

  She’d gone after Jesse. She slept with Cord instead. Then she dated Eric, only to cheat on him with Cord. Again.

  She was right about some of it.

  I tucked all that away. That wasn’t the same girl in front of me. Marissa had changed. Sarah had always seemed perfect and now she was another catty bitch. Even Cord changed.

  I had changed.

  Did nothing stay the same?

  “Look,” Marissa kept going. “I was unhappy last year and I was jealous.”

  “Jealous?”

  “Of you and Angie. You two are so close—you two were so close. I was left out all the time. I know Angie called me a slut behind my back. She said it to my face all the time. I messed up. I went after Jesse when I knew you two had a thing. And then Eric was going to ask you out and I got to him first. Then I became friends with Sarah.” She waved in her direction. “And look how she’s turned out.”

  I frowned. “Yeah, she seemed so perfect last year. Now she’s…”

  Marissa grinned. “Vapid? Shallow? Insecure? Because she’s all three of them. I think she thought if she stayed nice and perfect last year then Jesse would come back.”

  I shifted on my feet and shoved my hands into the front pockets of my jeans. Turning away, I muttered, “Yeah, well, they dated for three years.”

  “Three years that he hated her.”

  “What are you talking about?”

  She gave me an incredulous look. “Come on, Alex. You had to have known. I thought you always did and it hurt my feelings. I could never figure out what I’d done so you wouldn’t confide in me, then last year I stopped caring. I stopped caring about a lot of stuff.”

  Scratching at the back of my head, a foreboding sensation settled in the middle of my shoulders. It wouldn’t go away as I tried to figure out what she was talking about.

  “Jesse.” Her head inclined a notch. “Are you serious?”

  What?

  “He’s liked you since forever. You never knew?”

  “He was with Sarah. Three years, Marissa. He was with her for three years.”

  “Yeah, but he didn’t want to be.” She lamented, “Okay, he might’ve liked her in the beginning, but he didn’t for a while after. I heard them fighting one time.”

  “Sarah and Jesse?”

  “Ethan and Jesse.”

  This was the second person to talk about a dispute between my brother and his best friend. It sent daggers through me when Barbie had first said it and it sent daggers through me again. Ice-cold daggers with tips of steel. I didn’t like hearing about any discord between the two and I really didn’t like hearing that my best friend had known. She hadn’t said a word.

  My lips were stiff as I demanded, “What are you talking about?”

  “Jesse wanted to be with you. Your brother told him to stay away.”

  He’d said the same thing to me, but there was a missing piece. I knew it. It was nagging me from the back of my mind. The puzzle wasn’t complete and I was determined to figure it out. With my lips pressed together, I gave her a pointed look. “Thanks for telling me.”

  She flushed. “I’m sorry. Again. I was jealous.” She rolled her eyes. “He told Ethan he wanted to break up with Sarah and be with you, but your brother wasn’t having it. He threatened Jesse that if he broke up with Sarah, then he’d say something horrible to you. He was going to turn you against him.” Her laugh was hollow. “Your brother was hardcore, huh?”

  Not the Ethan I knew.

  Pain tingled at the tips of my fingers and toes. It was slowly working its way through me, all the way to send my heart into a tailspin.

  The brother I knew would’ve never kept me from someone I loved.

  Oh shit.

  I drew in another shuddering breath.
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  I had loved Jesse then.

  Had I stopped when he hadn’t returned my calls? Because I didn’t still love him. I couldn’t.

  “You okay?”

  I jerked my head in a nod. “Yeah.”

  She wasn’t convinced.

  “Look,” edging closer to me, Marissa glanced over her shoulder. “I know Jesse’s going to ditch her soon and she’s going to come back. I won’t say anything. I know you two were secretive before and I’m figuring you are now since you didn’t tell us where his house was.” She bit her lip and kicked at some dirt before her head came back up. “It’s no secret. She wanted to come down because she’s still obsessed with getting Jesse back. She’s dropped the perfect act. She’s hardcore, like your brother.”

  Anger flared in me. Ethan wasn’t hardcore. She must’ve heard wrong.

  “I’ve gone through a lot of my issues and I have a lot to say to you. I’m sorry about your parents. I knew what they were doing to you.”

  Panic threatened me.

  “I should’ve said something or done something, but I didn’t. I was a shitty friend to you, no matter what you think. I wasn’t loyal and I didn’t stand up for you.” Her frown deepened when she saw Sarah in the distance. “I hate feeling rushed. I wished you had met me for brunch. Listen, don’t trust Sarah. Don’t trust Angie.”

  Angie? Her name was a lightning bolt. “What are you talking about?”

  “Angie’s going to contact you.”

  I sensed her withdrawal. Sarah was almost upon us and this new Marissa would disappear again. My hand latched onto her arm. “Did she tell you that?”

  Startled, she looked up from my hand to my face. I felt the blood drain from me and knew she was seeing a ghost. Good. I was starting to feel like one again. She shook her head. “No, but I know Angie. She’ll take a semester off, see me at some party at Christmas, and I’ll tell her that I’ve seen you. She’ll hate that. She’s going to contact you, just for her conscience probably. She’ll think she’s the bad friend and she’ll hate that.” A smug grin came over her. “On second thought, maybe I won’t say anything at all. I like thinking of her as the bad friend.”

  I was getting restless. Marissa was talking too much about the past. It was a year of hell and I wanted it remain behind me. She was dredging up past hurts, past feelings, and memories. All of them were better left buried. I snapped, “Shut up, Marissa!”

  She jumped back.

  “Just shut up. Stop talking about shit you don’t know anything about.”

  “What?” Her mouth hung there for a moment. “But I do. I know what I’m talking about. Don’t trus—”

  “Stop it!” My voice rose and I knew the last was a shout.

  Sarah had halted a few feet from us, but she edged closer now. She’d grown cautious since my outburst. When Marissa jerked away, an evil grin came over her. She sauntered now, gloating, “Not so perfect now, Alex? I’m glad we ran into you at this pathetic picnic. I can’t believe my cousin told us hot guys would be here. Other than Jesse, I didn’t see anyone. They’re all freaks.”

  Taking a few deep breaths, I tried to settle my pulse down. I couldn’t believe this was the same girl Jesse had been with for so long. She’d been shy. She’d been dainty. Now she was ugly. I didn’t mean her looks.

  “Let’s go.” She gave me a pointed look as she spoke to Marissa, “Jesse told me where the real party is at. He said Cord’s there and he’s coming right behind us.”

  Marissa had been watching me. When I didn’t react, her lips thinned. She knew Jesse had been lying. “Sure. Why not?” Her eyes never left mine. “I’ll see you later?”

  I didn’t answer.

  I didn’t care.

  When they left, she gave me a sad smile while Sarah hurried off. Her hand was clutching onto Marissa, as if claiming her, and she went along like a dutiful friend.

  Whatever had changed, I knew Marissa would never be my best friend again. She’d never be merely a friend either.

  I squared my shoulders and lifted my chin.

  That was just fine with me.

  ‘All you do is lie.’

  I went in search for Jesse, and I shut that nagging voice down. It would only bring me heartache.

  When I approached the group at the bottom, no one paid me attention. This was why Sarah hadn’t liked them, because they hadn’t cared about her. A few others were behind me and were greeted by a group to the side. It was obvious this was a tight group. Sidelong glances were cast at me. I felt the suspicion from some of the members, some were merely curious.

  Jesse lifted his arm. He was sitting in a lawn chair around a campfire. As I drew near, I saw it wasn’t a real campfire, but one that stood in the air. It was an expensive looking piece of metal that would’ve looked at home on a millionaire’s patio. It stood out, nestled in the middle of its group with ripped and fading lawn chairs.

  Jesse patted his lap. I sat in front of his feet. I sensed his confusion, but then his hands came to my shoulder and he began to rub between my shoulders. When they paused, he had found the knots of tension between my shoulder blades. Biting my tongue, I hoped he wouldn’t comment on them. I didn’t want to talk. As his thumbs started to press into them and he began a massage, my shoulders lifted up in a relieved breath.

  Thank god.

  A girl from across the campfire waved. She had a baseball cap pulled down to cover most of her face. Her jean shorts were ripped at the ends with a white tank underneath a baggy flannel shirt. I was surprised as I recognized this girl from The Shack. She’d been the one tending the bar. Brielle? Was that what Jesse had called her? No, he called her Bri. As I looked around the rest of the campfire, I was even more surprised.

  The entire band of Braille sat around it. All of them had on baseball caps, all pulled low over their faces. They were unrecognizable.

  No wonder Sarah thought this Feast was a joke. I knew without a doubt that she hadn’t known who else was in attendance.

  The drummer was beside Bri and he was tapping her foot with his. She glared at him, then kicked his leg back. A goofy grin slid over his face as he continued to bob his head to the music’s beat. After she settled back down, he began tapping her foot again.

  “Braden!” she growled.

  “Shut up,” a low warning came from beside me.

  A guy was on the ground with a guitar in his lap. His shoulders were being rubbed how mine were, but instead of Jesse, he got a blonde bombshell. Her hair was sun streaked and instead of the flannel shirt Bri wore, this girl only wore a black tank top. It resembled more of a tube top as it rested high on her stomach and barely covered her cleavage. Tight black shorts disappeared in her lawn chair as her golden legs wrapped around the guy in front of her.

  Jesse chuckled and gray eyes shifted over to us. A menacing look was in them. I felt blasted with his coldness, but it didn’t have the same effect on Jesse. He cursed at him, “Stuff it, Luke.”

  The drummer, identified as Braden now, pumped a hand in the air. He held two drumsticks in it. “Yeah, Hunt! You tell him.”

  Bri’s lip curled up. “Just what we need, two superstars getting in a fight.”

  A guy in the back commented, “It’d be good publicity.”

 
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