Fallen fourth down, p.24
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       Fallen Fourth Down, p.24
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         Part #4 of Fallen Crest High series by Tijan

  “You did. Trust me, just by being you and making us eat your dust. You helped us. You helped me.”

  “Rest, Hayes. You’re delirious from the running today.” The side of my lip curved up in a grin. “You’ll get a scholarship. Just pretend you’re running against me.”

  “That might help actually.”

  “You’re back to being an ass. The world feels right again.” Opening my door, I got inside and leaned out the window, “See you tomorrow, Hayes. We had a nice moment.”

  He groaned, heading towards his truck.

  I started the engine, and as I passed by him, I shouted, “Let’s not do that again.” I pulled out of the lot and headed home. When I got there, I saw Mark’s and Cass’ cars in the driveway. The euphoria from a great run had started to dwindle, and I knew what I’d be walking into if I went inside. I didn’t want to go in there. Garrett had been calling every night. To be fair to my biological father so he couldn’t be accused of keeping me away, David relayed the messages to me, but I knew I wasn’t getting all of them. The pressure to see him was building up, but I didn’t want to be worn down. When I asked Mason for his advice, he told me to say, ‘fuck you and the horse you rode in on.’ The last couple times, as David was apologizing for another message from Garrett, I finally snapped and relayed Mason’s words. A big grin came over my dad, and he gave the message back. It hadn’t worked. Garrett kept calling. It was by accident that I found out that David hadn’t been telling me how much Garrett had been calling. They had to put the phone on silent in the evenings. That tidbit slipped out when Malinda was explaining to Mark why Cass should only call him on the landline. It hadn’t made sense to me, but Mark knew instantly. He laughed and said, “Good one, Mom. I know that phone’s silenced in the evening because of Sam’s other dad. No, thank you. Cass will keep calling my cell phone.”

  He left, and I heard Malinda mutter from the stairs, “Not if I stop paying for that phone. It’ll take you a year to figure out that it doesn’t work anymore.” She grunted. “Food for thought.”

  I went to the front of the house and sat on the porch swing. I didn’t want to hear another message. I wasn’t ready. I was still there when Helen came stomping from her house, across the street, and up our sidewalk. She was wearing a beautiful gown. It was light blue and matched her eyes perfectly. Like always, her hair was pinned up in a sleek bun. She had a hand resting on her neck, holding down the pearls so they wouldn’t bounce. She wasn’t looking up. She was watching where she walked and paused, one hand holding up her dress, so she wouldn't trip or tear it, as she stepped onto our stoop. As she let it drop, she lifted her head and saw me.

  Her eyes widened and her head reared back an inch. “Oh, Samantha. I didn’t see you there.”

  I lifted a hand in a careless wave. “Yep. Saw that. Sitting here.” I let my hand drop back down with a thud.

  Her eyes narrowed. “What’s wrong with you?” she rushed out, like it was an afterthought, not really caring about the answer. She craned her head so she could look inside the house again, through the door’s windows. I knew who she was looking for.

  “Logan’s not here.”

  She looked back at me. Her gaze swept me up and down. “Are you sure? You look like you were running. We both know that could take hours with you.”

  I said, dully, “He’s on a date with Kris.”


  I gave her a second look. “His girlfriend.”

  Her eyebrows lifted. “Logan has a girlfriend?”

  “Good god,” I muttered.

  “What’s she like?” Helen left the door and moved towards me. Her hand went back to holding onto her precious pearls.

  I shrugged. “Peppy. Little. A cute, pixy-like girl.”

  She paled. The corners of her lips curved down. “She sounds dreadful. Wait. Was she over the other morning?”

  I nodded.

  “Gracious, I had no idea he had taken her as a girlfriend.”

  I gave her a sweet smile. “I think he loves her.” I wanted to watch her squirm.

  “He does?” She tried to hold back a shudder.

  I nodded. “He asked me about home pregnancy tests last week too.”

  She froze, then drew to her fullest height, and rolled her eyes. “Har, har, Samantha. You’re so funny. You’ve been spending too much time with Logan, you know. That’s something he would’ve said.” Her lips pressed together, and she let out a sigh. “What’s your problem? You look like I used to during my first marriage.”

  “I’ll take that as an insult.”

  She waved me off and moved so she was leaning against the post. After making sure her dress wouldn’t stain, she fixed her steely gaze on me again. I had a flash of Mason staring me down before we started dating.

  She lifted her hand and made a circling motion. “Okay. Get on with it. What’s your problem?”

  “Why do you care?”

  “I don’t, but my son does.” She grimaced. “Both my sons care about you. So tell me. Out with it. What’s going on with you?”

  “You know,” I mused, a sense of not giving a shit surged up in me, “any other adult and I’d want to know your angle. There’s always one, but with you it’s so clear cut.”

  Her eyes narrowed.

  “You’re either being honest with me,” I paused and saw a deep frown come over her face, “or you’re going to use this against me in the hopes that Mason will dump me or Logan will stop caring about me.”

  She shook her head. “No.” She rolled her eyes again. “I’m a realist. I would love to take credit that I have that much pull with either of my sons, but I don’t. You know that. I know that. We just need to move on with how it is.”

  Had she given up on Mason leaving me?

  As if reading my thoughts, she waved a hand at me. “Oh, don’t worry. If I see a chance, I’m jumping on it. You know I feel Mason deserves better than you, and Logan,” she grimaced, and her body produced a mock tremor, “we both know how Logan is. Mason pretends to take into account what I say. I know he doesn’t, but he gives me the slight respect of appearing as if he does. Logan, well, Logan is Logan. The world might be a better place if he learned how to be fake once in a while. He doesn’t have the patience or time to pretend, even for his mother.” She leaned forward, her lips pressed tight together. “I’m not an idiot, Samantha. Mason loves you. I know he’ll never stop, and it's the same with Logan. So, again, what’s your problem? I need to turn over a new leaf at some point. I might as well start now.”

  I had to give her points for honesty. “My dad’s in town.”

  She was silent for a moment. “I assume, since we’re on David’s porch, that you’re referring to your biological father. Garrett? He’s in town?”

  I nodded. “I know your history. I don’t give a shit that he used to bone you.”

  She leaned back. “As you shouldn’t. I’m sorry, Samantha.”

  I looked to her, surprised at the honesty in her tone. She gave me a tight grin in return and nodded, saying, “I mean it. I do. Garrett abandoned you when you thought you were given a new family member. I’m not completely insensitive. I’m aware who your mother is, what she has done to you, and that David seemingly abandoned you as well. Your whole world was ripped upside down, and it’s being pieced back together.” She closed her eyes and her hands tightened around the pearls resting against her neck. “Something similar happened to me in my life, but not to the same degree. I’m not a fool. I understand why you cling to my sons as much as you do. They were the family that replaced the one you lost.”

  Hell had frozen over. Helen was sympathetic to my plight. “Do I need to check your purse? You don’t have a dagger to stab me with, after being so nice, do you?”

  She scoffed. “Fool girl. An enemy isn’t always an enemy. Sometimes, in the rare moments, we can be the greatest ally.”

  I continued to stare at her with my eyebrows lifted.

  “You’re right. Don’t listen to me. I’m sympath
etic because I used to love Garrett myself. I understand how his abandonment must feel.” She paused and then murmured, as if talking to herself, “I’m so sorry, though. For a child in your situation, it must be terrifying to let someone in.”

  A limousine slowed outside her house and pulled into her driveway. She wasn’t watching so I pointed across the road. “I think your ride showed up.”

  All sympathy vanished and she stood from the post. Straightening her dress, she let out an annoyed sound. “Please tell Logan that I will be gone this weekend. I’ve been trying to talk to him all week, but he keeps leaving the room before I can get a full sentence out. It’s irritating.” She glanced over her shoulder, and her features softened for a moment. “I suppose I’ll see if this pans out.” The softness left her and she turned to me. As if remembering that I was the enemy, clear distaste flickered in the depths of her eyes. Her top lip lifted in a sneer. “Please pass along my message to my son.” She left, sweeping her dress up and hurrying down the sidewalk and road in record time for someone in heels as high as hers. She moved past the gate leading to her house so I couldn’t see who got out of the car, but I heard a low murmur of conversation. It was only a moment before the car door shut and the limousine’s brake lights turned on. It reversed and headed off.

  It was the next morning when I relayed the message.

  Logan met me on the street as I headed outside with Mark. He gestured to me. “Ride with me. You don’t have practice today, right?”

  I shook my head. “Nope, but I have a shift at Manny’s.”

  “You can take the car for your shift, and I’ll make Derek drive me there after practice.”

  “Okay.” I headed over and waved to Mark. “See you later.”

  Instead of answering me, Mark went to the driver’s side of his car and opened the door. He didn’t get inside, he just stood there. After another moment, he glanced back, and stuck his butt out a little more. Logan winked at me, then went and smacked him on the ass. The two laughed, but didn’t say anything. When Logan got inside his Escalade, I shook my head. “You two are very weird. Do I need to be worried you might be my future brother-in-law? Or future stepbrother-in-law? Whatever. That’s so messed up.”

  Pulling out to the street, he leaned out his window and gave Mark the middle finger. Mark’s car had pulled away, going the opposite direction, but a second later, we saw him stick his middle finger up as well. He held it high as he went up a hill and over.

  I was done trying to figure them out.

  Logan flashed me a grin. “I love your other future stepbrother.”

  “I’m sure you do.”

  He laughed and yawned. “Are you nervous?”



  I sighed. “Yeah.” The state meet was in two days. In two mornings, I would be driving there instead of school. I wanted to throw up.

  “I’m going.”


  “I want to be there. It’s a big deal, right?”

  “I mean, I already have a scholarship. I have a back-up if I don’t get one from Cain.”

  “Yeah, but the Cain U scout is going to be there.” He’d been laughing seconds ago. Now he was so serious. “That’s a big deal, Sam. Why are you downplaying it?”

  My stomach decided it didn’t like my breakfast. I pressed a hand there, trying to soothe my nerves. “Because if I don’t get it, I don’t know what I’m going to do.” The Escalade rolled to a stop at a light, and I looked over. Logan met my gaze. His seriousness wasn’t faked. It was real. He was thinking about me, worried about me, and I could see the support from him. He was right there, seeing how scared I was. I murmured, “I have to get a scholarship to go there. If I don’t…”

  “You will.” He reached over and took my hand. The light turned green and we started forward. Logan squeezed my hand. “I’ll be there for the whole thing. Whatever you need, you tell me. I’ll be your running bitch. I’ll give you a radio and you can call me any moment. I’ll come running. I’ll do whatever. If you want an inspirational poem, call me Logan Angelou. If you want music to warm you up, I’m the new Beastie Boy. Whatever you want.”

  “Thanks Logan.” The ball of tension was still there, but I had to admit it had lessened by the time we got to school. It wasn’t until then that he let go of my hand.



  The conversation with Nate had been put off long enough, so I headed to his fraternity house. I knew it might end ugly, but I was done with being patient. We had made a deal going into college. I was about football and school. He was about networking and branching out. That was fine with me as long as he didn’t assume I would go along for the ride. I was tired of social drama. I was tired of fighting. I was tired of worrying about my girlfriend getting hurt. My intention with college was to keep my head down and to keep moving forward. Then he fucked it up. He wanted me to be friends with his friends. No. That wasn’t the deal. After he brought Marissa to that lunch, I knew it was Nate’s way of giving me the middle finger. He declared his side in that one move, and it wasn’t with me.

  The street was full of cars when I got to the house. As I found a spot and headed towards the house, I heard cheering from the backyard. Rounding the side of the house, I saw a large crowd had formed behind it.

  A loud horn sounded and the crowd erupted in cheers. They flung their fists in the air. A few guys dumped their cups over their head, drenching themselves in beer. They let out a primal sounding cry as they shook their heads in a frenzy.

  “Ladies…and the rest of you ladies,” a voice boomed through a microphone, “we are here for the Rival Revelry Rally because we are going to what?”

  The arms shot up in the air again and a collective sound went out, “Revel!”

  “That’s right, folks and Greek brothers! We may be in rival houses, but under the system, under the national blanket of our fellow houses, we are all brothers at heart. Am I right?”

  I started through the crowd. As I did, I could see a guy standing on a platform set above the crowd. With his last question, he held the microphone to the crowd, and they yelled back, “No!”

  He brought the microphone back and asked again, smirking, “What was that?”

  “No. No. No,” the crowd chanted.

  “No what?”

  “No to brothers!” The crowd yelled out their responses at different moments, but the guy next to me grumbled, “I’m not saying I’m a brother to those Alpha Omega’s. No fucking way. Is Dusty nuts?”

  His friend elbowed him in the side. “Just go with him. You know he’s leading to something big.”

  “No way.”

  Dusty gripped the microphone, bringing to his mouth once again. “All right, ladies and gents. If you’re not Greek brothers at heart, then what are you?”


  The sound was loud and yelled with such force, the air switched. It’d been light and fun, but a deeper feeling came over the group. It was intense. When I glimpsed the fierce determination in a couple of the guys’ faces, I knew there was a history between Nate’s fraternity and this other one.



  A chant started, “RIVAL. REVEL. RALLY. RIVAL. REVEL. RALLY.” It kept going, but I ignored it, skimming the crowd. I saw Nate on the back porch and started for him.

  “AND GO! FIGHT, YOU MOTHERFUCKERS!” A whistle sounded, and the cheering intensified. People began pounding their feet. I turned back, startled at the ferocity that had come over everyone, and saw two guys had started to circle each other below the platform. One threw a punch and the other countered.

  The two houses kept going crazy.

  They were having their own boxing match. Stepping around the last group, I covered the two steps to the patio. Nate had seen me. He was standing in a corner, tucked
in the back with his brothers. He made no move to meet me. With lawn chairs between us, a couch, plus his friends, I couldn’t get any closer. I lifted my hands up in a questioning gesture. His chest lifted, fell back down, and a reluctant expression came over him. He said something to the guy closest to him. They moved and he was able to get out to me. As he did, I stepped back. We didn’t say a word as he led the way inside. We didn’t go to a room. He went to the front of the house. After the door shut behind us, a loud cry came from the back of the house.

  I grinned. “You guys volunteer to go in the ring?”

  Nate rolled his eyes, shaking his head. “No. It depends on the match. This one went to the best fighter in the house. When we fight each other, you’re picked if you lose at a different competition. All part of hazing.”

  He sat on a chair, and I leaned against the railing. “You guys are still hazing?”

  “Yep. It’s pretty much all year.”

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