Broken and screwed 2, p.27
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       Broken and Screwed 2, p.27
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         Part #2 of Broken and Screwed series by Tijan

  “But it was important to her. Your boyfriend was off-limits, and for what it’s worth, I don’t think your sister enjoys sleeping around. She’s hurting.”

  “I know,” she said quickly. “I know that. I just worry about her.”

  I fell silent. My message had been given. It was up to her, whatever she did with it. I hoped she’d break up with him, but I didn’t at the same time. She’d probably focus even more on Jesse. Then we’d be back to being enemies and being enemies with Tiffany was exhausting.

  “Thanks.” She tried to give me a smile. It didn’t quite make it. “For that, thanks.”

  “No problem.”

  Before she left, she said one more thing. “Your parents are assholes.”

  “I know.”

  Then she left me alone in the bathroom. Kara popped in a second later and gave me a hug. She wrapped her tiny arms around me and held me for a while. Pulling back, she brushed my hair back and took a deep breath. I saw the tears before she left as quietly as she appeared. When I followed behind, the house was silent. It was such a contrast from the shouting earlier. I heard giggling from the living room and turned the corner. Cord and his girl were on the couches. She was on his lap and he was tickling her so she’d squirm. Glancing up, his grin faded. “Hey.” The girl muffled her giggles. When it didn’t work, she pressed her arm into her mouth, but more split through the air as Cord must’ve continued to tickle her side.

  “Hi.”

  “So those were the parents, huh?”

  “Yep.”

  “For what’s it worth and from what I remember, your brother wasn’t treated any better.”

  That got my attention. “What are you talking about?” But I knew something had gone on. Jesse let a little bit slip and now Cord. What had my parents done to him? Oh my god. An anchor dropped to the bottom of my stomach. Did it have anything to do with the reason he was in the car that night? Jesse said something about going somewhere, but he recanted. He said he didn’t want him with Barbie and those guys. But why was he with them in the first place? Was that because of my parents too? Were they pushing him too hard to be perfect? I took a calming breath, but it didn’t work.

  “Nothing. You should talk to Jesse. He knew more about it than me.”

  The girl started giggling again and fell to her side, off his lap. Cord twisted around her as he continued to tickle her. As I left the room, her feet were kicking in the air and she was shrieking in laughter, panting at the same time, “No, Cord. Stop. Oh, Cord. Don’t. Yes.”

  His deep chuckle was the last I heard as I went downstairs and shut the door.

  It was time. My secret was out. He now knew about my parents. I wanted to know his secret and I knew it was about my brother. I had every right to know. As I crossed the basement, his door was open and he was sitting on the edge of the bed. His elbows were resting on his knees. His head was down, but he looked up as he heard my arrival.

  He’d been waiting for me.

  I reached for the door, ready to pull it behind me as I stepped inside his room. But I stopped. My hand fell away from the handle and my gut dropped to my feet. Whatever Jesse had to say to me wasn’t going to be well received. I saw the warning in him and knew I was going to hate it, whatever it was. So I left the door open and leaned against the wall behind me now.

  He stayed on the bed.

  I stayed in the hallway.

  It was time.

  “Why didn’t you tell me about your parents?”

  He looked down at the ground. My lips parted. Why was he looking down? Why wasn’t he looking at me? Alarms went off in me, but I pushed past it. He felt bad. That must’ve been it. He felt bad because he didn’t know.

  I shrugged even though he couldn’t see that. He still wasn’t looking.

  “Alex?” He looked up now.

  I didn’t relax. He was still guarded. “What’s going on with you?” His eyes closed, but I saw the guilt. My voice rose. “What’d did you do?”

  “Nothing.”

  “Then why do you feel guilty?” I stepped towards him, but stopped again. An invisible hand pushed down on my chest. I couldn’t go any closer. “What is going on right now?”

  “Nothing.” Jesse stood now, but there it was again. Dread.

  I saw it. I knew that’s what it was. This wasn’t how it was supposed to be. I whispered as I looked away and pressed a hand to my mouth, “You were supposed to take me in your arms. You’re supposed to tell me that everything will be fine. You’re supposed to make it right.” At least that was how it was supposed to go in my fairytale dreams. Jesse saved me. He’d been there from the beginning. But that wasn’t how this was going? Doom settled in the bottom of my stomach. It was spreading all the way to my toes and I wanted to rewind time. I wanted to figure out where this started going wrong.

  His voice wrung out, “You should’ve told me about them.”

  “Why?” I gasped out.

  Confusion flared over him. “What do you mean?”

  “Why? You loved them. They were your ideal parents, not mine.” My gut kicked again. I went with a hunch. “And not Ethan’s either.”

  His hand jerked. There it was. I’d been right, but I felt no victory. “It’s the secret, isn’t it?”

  “What are you talking about?”

  My hand lifted and I gestured to him. “You. This whole thing. You’re not comforting me, Jesse. That’s your job. That’s what you’re supposed to do, but you’re closed off.” It hurt to say, but I did. “This is you for the last two years.”

  His eyes closed.

  He knew what I was getting at. I kept going even though I felt like I was being strangled, “What did they do to Ethan?”

  His head went back down.

  “Jesse.”

  He looked away now.

  “Jesse.” My voice rose to an authoritative bark. He had to tell me. He just had to.

  Finally, he looked back, but he was closed off again. A fucking cement wall came over him. He wasn’t letting me in and my stomach dropped. He wasn’t going to tell me the secret. He had to. He had no other choice. Didn’t he know that?

  Why was this going so wrong?

  The doomed feeling began to spread all over me now. I shook my head. “Stop this, Jesse. You can stop this right now.”

  His chest heaved up as he let out a dramatic breath, shaking his head. “I can’t. God, I want to. I really do, but I can’t. It’s not my secret, Alex. Trust me,” his voice sounded strangled too. “I want to. I really do, but I can’t.”

  The wall lifted. There was the same agony. My own came alive again as it felt its twin flare up. Why couldn’t he see? He could end both of our pain, if he’d just tell me. He turned away and his shoulders hunched forward. There it was, the look of defeat. He wasn’t going to tell me, ever.

  A wrangled cry escaped my throat. I couldn’t stop it and I couldn’t stop the tears that started falling. This was it then. He couldn’t know my secret and not tell me his. I needed to know. It was about Ethan. I had a right to know, but I didn’t ask again. He wasn’t going to tell me. So instead, I cut out, “I’ll pack.”

  His head snapped around. “What? No.”

  “I can’t be here if you won’t tell me. Ethan was my brother.”

  “He was mine too,” he growled. His hands jerked into fists at his side. “He was my fucking brother too. Don’t start rewriting history.”

  I flinched. There was the old Jesse again, the one that lashed out. But I swallowed over a lump in my throat and started grabbing my clothes. The tears had withered up at his anger, but my eyes were stinging. They wanted the release, but I wouldn’t allow it. My heart was pounding against my chest as I threw my clothes into a bag and then started for my books.

  He watched me as I moved around his room. I was blind as I rushed to get my stuff and get out. I was grabbing at things, not thinking. I could only feel his gaze on my back. It was burning into me, drilling a hole.

  “Stop, Alex.”

/>   “No.”

  “Stop.” He reached for my bag.

  I twisted away to keep it. “NO!”

  He wouldn’t let go and instead, he used the bag to pull me into his arms. Lowering his forehead to mine, he said urgently, “Please don’t do this.”

  I shoved him away. “You can stop me.”

  “How?” But he knew. It was clawing at him. I saw the guilt flaring up again in his depths before he looked away.

  “Tell me about Ethan. What did they do to him?”

  “I can’t.” His eyes closed tight. “I wish I could. I do. I really do, but I can’t.”

  It was done. No matter what I did, he wasn’t going to tell me and I couldn’t stay there knowing there was something about Ethan I should’ve known. A bitter laugh wrung from me. “This is fucking poetic.”

  “What is?”

  “You and me. Ethan wanted us apart when he was living and now he’s dead, and it’s working. Guess he won.”

  “Alex, no.” Jesse dropped to the bed and caught his head in his hands. His elbows went back to his knees and his fingers grabbed hold of his hair. He started to rock back and forth. “Don’t say that. It’s not like that. If I could tell you, I would. I promise I would. There isn’t anything I haven’t told you—”

  “Except this!”

  He visibly flinched.

  I swallowed back more tears. They were there, ready to spill. I couldn’t, not then. But I would. I promised myself, as soon as I got into the car, I could let them spill all they wanted. My voice wobbled, “Jesse, please just tell me.”

  “I can’t,” he whispered back. His eyes were filled with misery.

  “This is really what you’re doing? You really can’t tell me? I’m going, Jesse. This can’t keep happening, not if you don’t tell me.”

  I felt Ethan again. He was in the room with us, haunting us so much. Would he have been happy by this? I’d never know.

  “I can’t tell you, but I’m going to try and make it up to you.” Jesse grabbed my arm and hauled me in his lap. He wrapped both arms around me and buried his head into my shoulder. I felt his lips against my skin. “I’ll make it right. I promise.”

  “You can make it right by just telling me.”

  His arms tightened. He didn’t say the words, but I heard them spoken in silence. He couldn’t. It was all he’d been saying from the beginning and now I understood why this moment hadn’t happened how it should’ve been. My secret was out. Jesse’s should be out. He knew I would leave. It’s why he had kept it hidden for so long.

  My heart splintered in half as I turned and pressed my lips to his forehead. Then I slipped from his hold. I didn’t say goodbye. I just left, but it was the same as the last time I left him. A part of me stayed in that room with him.

  When I returned to my dorm room, I knocked. I wasn’t sure what was going on inside and I’d been glad I did. Hannah opened the door. Her jaw dropped, but then a guy rushed from her bed and out the door. She’d only had enough time to yell at him about a Kari girl before he was gone. The alarms went off in the next minute. Guess he’d gone through the backdoor. After that, everyone had woken up and we were called into a mandatory dorm meeting. Kara had been surprised to see me, as I was with her. I thought she had spent the night with Derek, but I never explained myself. Hannah figured out what happened by all my bags and so had Kara. I wasn’t sure what Jesse said to the guys, but I never asked either.

  Cord was the one that answered that when he saw me in class the next week. Jesse hadn’t said a word to anyone. No one would’ve even known I had left if it hadn’t been for Kara. I wasn’t sure if I was happy to hear that or hurt even more. And then class with him and Jaime had taken another turn. The girls on my dorm spread the word about the break-up, if that was what it had actually been, so the girls in our class started to throw insults my way. At first, it was just a word I caught in their conversation, like whore, or skank. It was loser most of the times. They were outright calling me pathetic by the end of the week. Jamie was the first to rip into them. He chewed them out, followed by a quick appraisal of how they fit into those descriptions based from his first-hand knowledge. Then he followed that by one phrase, “Back off, bitches.”

  Cord cast me an amused look.

  I would’ve shared the same feeling if I hadn’t been painfully aware that Jesse still hadn’t called. He hadn’t texted. He hadn’t emailed. He hadn’t even sent a message through Kara, who checked in on me daily since I left.

  Finals passed. Everyone left for Christmas break. I had been planning to stay at Jesse’s during the holiday break so I never considered going home. They still had games so everyone was going to celebrate the holiday together, but considering my situation, I was shit out of luck. The dorms shut down so I went home to an empty and cold house.

  I expected to be alone for the entire break.

  I was wrong.

  Angie came over the day after Christmas. Marissa came the next day. Even Eric made an appearance. Things were better with my friends, but there was still a strained tension. I never told them about Jesse. Angie never asked and Marissa had never known I was living with him. Eric asked if I could go for dinner one night and I went, but it was just as friends. I made that clear. Towards the end of the first week home, Angie’s boyfriend had a party. It was a small one in his family’s cabin. She made me go and being back at Justin’s family cabin had been weird. Marissa was there with Sarah Shastaine, who hated me even more after Marissa told her that Jesse had been sneaking around with me again. After Sarah got drunk, she followed me around and asked questions about Jesse. The entire night went like that. I was asked what he’s doing now, if he has a girlfriend, if we were still fuck buddies, if he told me why he broke up with her, if I thought she could get him back, etc. It was exhausting. I had a few drinks just to handle her.

  Angie eventually kicked her out.

  I was grateful.

  And because Marissa was still roommates with her at their college, she drove her home. She apologized for Sarah’s behavior the next day over brunch. Marissa drove to the house and forced me to go with her.

  It was the second week when I got more visitors. Hannah and Beth showed up on my doorstep. They announced they were moving in for the last week. They didn’t say anything about Jesse, but they did share that Jamie was back in the house. He and Tiffany were back together, I hadn’t known they weren’t, and Kara wanted to come with them to see me. I was glad they hadn’t let her. Kara had seen Jesse every day over the holiday. I wouldn’t have been able to handle that.

  Eric had a party at the end of the week before everyone went back to their colleges. No one knew how to react to Hannah or Beth. Hannah hit on Eric and Justin within the first hour. Marissa thought it was hilarious. Angie hadn’t known who to get mad at—Hannah, Justin, or me. Then Beth grabbed her cousin and told her ‘No Sex’ in front of the group. Hannah glared at her, but grumbled, “Fine.” They sat and drank with me in the living room throughout the rest of the party. After a while, Marissa and Angie sat with us, but they were still unsure of my new friends. I was informed that Sarah was angry with me because of Jesse so she would no longer be attending a party that I was at. I was grateful. I thought everyone else was grateful too. The rest of the party passed without any drama, except that Hannah staggered from a back room when we were leaving. Her clothes were inside out and her hair was sticking up. Eric came behind her. Her pink lipstick was smeared all over him.

  She asked me if he had a girlfriend when we drove back to my house.

  Jesse texted me that Saturday night. It wasn’t much. He only asked if I was coming back the next day. I shouldn’t have responded, but I did. My chest was heavy and pain seared me, but I told him I was. His response was:

  I hope you had a good holiday. I’m sorry I never said Merry Christmas.

  That was it. There was nothing else.

  I turned my phone off for the rest of the night. He wasn’t going to text me anymore and it hurt too
much. I would’ve been listening for an alert for the rest of the night.

 
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