Fallen Fourth Down

Page 55

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“I’m sorry,” he said, an extra layer of earnestness in his eyes. He leaned forward again. “It’s always February fourth. Maybe something was going on, and he didn’t want to bother yo…” He trailed off again. A look of concern came into his eyes as he noticed that I winced.

That was around the time I was in the hospital. Mason hadn’t said a word.

“I didn’t want to talk to cause problems. I’m sorry.”

I shook my head. “No, it’s fine.” Change of topic, please. “So your parents are getting a divorce?”

He winced, gritting his teeth at the same time. Lifting a hand to run it through his hair, he blew out a puff of air. His shoulders slumped down, and he started to pick at the tablecloth with his fingers. “Yeah. Uh. My dad kicked us out.”

I frowned.

“Not me, but he kicked my mom out. He can be a huge asshole.”

“It must run in the family.” Memories of Jeff flashed in my mind.

“Yeah. It does, but this is what I wanted to tell you.” His tone dropped to a serious note, and he lifted his head. When his eyes found mine, I saw an intensity in them. “I didn’t set out to sleep with you that night. I’m sorry if it came across like that. I’d been drinking. My parents were having problems, and I wasn’t a real nice guy that year at school. I was kinda like my cousin. I was a whore, but anyway, I didn’t mean for anything to happen. I want you to know that. You were just so nice, and you were hurting. I knew Jeff had done something to upset you and we hugged and …”

I swallowed over the knot in my throat. “I’m aware of what happened that night.”

“I liked you.”


“I liked you, before that night. Jeff showed me your picture, and he talked about you a lot. Regardless of how he treated you, I know my cousin loved you, but yeah. I think I started to crush on you because of what he’d say and then I met you in person, and you were more, you know? So I just wanted you to know that I wasn’t using you or anything. I would’ve dated you too, or pursued dating you, but you disappeared the next morning, and Jeff told me later you two were trying to make it work.” A shadow crossed his features. “I thought maybe I’d leave you alone after that.”

My mouth was slightly open as I listened to what he was saying. I never expected to hear that. He liked me? Because I had no idea how to respond, I snorted. “Jeff did not love me. No matter what you say. He had been screwing one of my best friends for two years.”

“He did?” A flash of anger appeared in his gaze.

I straightened, taken aback. “I’m over it. Trust me, things got better for me.” And with all the talking about Jeff… “Where is Jeff? I haven’t seen him since this summer.” A small buzzing sensation was in my stomach from Jackson’s explanation. I should address it, but I had no idea what to say. I wasn’t sure if I even wanted to talk about what would’ve happened if he had pursued me. It didn’t matter. It was in the past.

He leaned back, rolling his eyes. “My cousin has a girlfriend.”

A grin tugged at the corner of my mouth. “Why am I not surprised?”

“Yeah.” He was grinning too and propped his hand up, shaking a finger in the air. “His new girlfriend is a serious Christian.”

“What?” Bombs exploded. “Jeff’s with a Christian? Manwhore Jeff?”

Jackson nodded, a smile stretched from ear to ear as he laughed. “I know. Can you believe that? And get this, he’s not been around because on the weekends, he goes to a wilderness camp with her.”

My eyeballs were going to fall out. I couldn’t believe this.

He added, “They do bible studies, bonfires, singing. All of that.”


He kept laughing. “Oh, they’re having sex. Jeff said she’s changed him and strengthened his faith, but the sex is his influence on her. He said he can only be so much of a saint, you know.” Jackson kept laughing, and he shook his head. “Man, I laughed so hard when he told me he’s in love with this girl. I never thought it would last.”

“How long have they been together?”

“I think they’re going on three months.”

“Wow.” I was stunned. “That would explain why he hasn’t gone to any parties.”

“Nope. He said he’s been praying. They do lots of praying.”

“Good for him.”

“Yeah.” His grin faded a bit, and his laughter changed to a soft chuckle. “This has been nice.”


He gestured from me to him. “This. Talking to you. It was so easy to talk to you that night. I wasn’t used to that. I’m usually shy around girls.”

“I thought you said you were a manwhore that year?” But I agreed with him. It was easy to talk to him.

He chuckled again, stretching an arm up to rub the back of his neck. “Talking and having sex are two different things.” He flashed me a grin. “Sometimes being a football star comes in handy. I’m sure Mason and Logan have that affect. They’re like gods around here.”

“Yeah, they are.”

Memories of when I first moved in with them came back to me. Going to eat with Mason and him getting free food. He had been given free beer at the gas station a few times. So many girls. They had all wanted him. I’d almost forgotten what that limelight was like. He was gone, and all that attention went with him. Now, I was only Sam.

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