Fallen Fourth Down

Page 19

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My thoughts were going in all directions. I shook my head. “Don’t say what I think you’re going to say.”

“You went on a run, but I know that you’ll go to a party tonight with Logan and Mark and,” he broke off, his voice full of emotion. He cleared his throat before continuing, “I know how the rumor mill works. They’re coming to the game tonight. People will notice. Someone will tell you. I needed to be the one to tell you first.”

“They’re here? Like, actually here?”

He nodded. “I’m so sorry, Sam. I should’ve told you as soon as I knew, but I didn’t know for sure if they were coming. I didn’t want to alarm you and them not come.”

“You’re sure they’re coming?”

“He called me this afternoon. They bought a house. They both have jobs here.”

“Where?” A buzzing sound was in my head. I couldn’t shake it off. I had to know the places to avoid. “Where?”

“She’s a chef at the country club, and he was added as a partner with a law firm in town.” When he saw my panic, his voice trailed off. “What can I do to help you?”

“Nothing.” Shit, shit, shit…I glanced at the clock again. It was 6:30. I had a three hour drive. I could be at Mason’s before ten. “I have to go.”


I turned and headed for the stairs. “Go, Dad. Go to your game!” As I turned for my room, he came to the top of the stairs and hollered down, “Are you okay, honey? I can tell him to stay away. Do you want me to do that?”

“NO.” I reached for my door, but it wouldn’t open. Fucking shit shit shit. I stopped, closed my eyes, and sucked in some air. I needed to think clearly. Breathing out, I tried to calm myself. The door handle. I needed to turn the stupid door handle.

“Sam?” He started down the stairs.

“Just go, Dad. I’ll be fine.”

“But where are you going?”

“I need a minute. I’ll be fine.” My voice was hoarse. He could hear my panic so I brought it down. “I’m fine. Honestly. Go to your game. This isn’t worth missing your own game, Dad.”

“Are you sure?” He was at the bottom of the stairs.

I shut my door. As he got there, standing right outside of my door, I locked it. It turned in the next moment. He would’ve come in. My knees grew unsteady and I fell on my bed.

“Samantha,” his voice was muffled through the door, “you don’t sound okay.”

I wasn’t. “I’m going to see Mason.”

He grew silent. After a moment, he asked, “I thought you were going in the morning with Logan and Kris?”

“I’m going tonight.”

“Oh.” He sounded disappointed. “Sam, listen. Please. I will call him. I will tell him not to go to the game and that it’s too soon for you. Don’t travel at night. Wait till tomorrow. Go with Logan. Fallen Crest Public and Fallen Crest Academy are playing against each other tonight. He’d want you to watch. I know it’s important to him.”

“I know what game it is.” Closing my eyes tightly, I bent over and caught my head in my hands. My elbows rested on my knees, and my pulse was pounding. He was hurt. Why did my dad sound hurt? My biological dad was in town. I didn’t want to deal with that. “I’ll be fine, Dad. I promise. I just have to…figure stuff out.”

“Okay. Well, call me if you need anything. Please, Sam.” He sounded so exhausted. “I’ll call Garrett and tell him to back off. We can figure this out at your pace.” He paused. I heard the scrape of his hand against the door. “I love you, honey.”

I nodded and said, “I love you.”

I stayed there, just waiting until I calmed enough to drive, but everything he said filtered in. Mason was at college. He wasn’t here. I couldn’t run to him for everything, and going with Logan and Kris in the morning was the smart thing to do. Pushing back the old panic that had kept me company for so long, I went to shower before I could change my mind. It didn’t take me long to dress. Pulling on jeans and a tee shirt, I was out the door within fifteen minutes. I didn’t think. I didn’t allow myself to dwell on anything. I just drove, and when I pulled into the parking lot by the school, I felt some of the anxiety rising.

No. I shook my head. Closing my eyes, I imagined a lever being pushed down, shoving my anxiety down with it. It left my head clear. I waited to let it sink in and felt better a moment later. I didn’t want to waste time so I took off through the cars before the anxiety came back up.

While weaving through the cars and the last little bit of a crowd that lingered outside the ticket booth, I braided my hair. When it was my turn to pay, Natalie stared back at me. A scowl formed on her face and she had a smug smile. “Well, well. If I don’t let you in, something tells me your stepbrother’s going to be upset with you.”

Irritation rose in me. “Give me a ticket or I’m leaving money with the first teacher I see and going through anyway.”

I stared her down. We both knew who they’d believe.

She rolled her eyes. “Five bucks.”

I put it on the counter and she gave me a ticket. As I took it, I asked, “How’d you end up back there in the first place?”

“Fucking detention. We’re still paying for beating your ass last year.” There was no remorse in her tone and the girl next to her froze. She glanced sideways as if fearful another beat down would happen. Natalie mused, “We’ll be doing this shit and anything else the superintendent wants us to do until we graduate. Those were the terms or we would’ve faced legal charges and expulsion.” She chewed her lip, studying me. “I’m starting to think legal charges wouldn’t have been that bad.”

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