Fallen Fourth Down

Page 61

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“Jackson, you’re fine. You don’t have to worry about Logan.”


“Yeah.” I didn’t know what I meant when I said that, but Jackson was like me. If he had pursued me, I would’ve dated him, but I couldn’t think about that. Things would’ve been different, maybe. I would’ve been with him instead of Jeff when my mom left David for James Kade. For a split second, I envisioned that year if I had been dating Jackson, then the memories of that time came back to me. Mason watching me in the kitchen. Seeing me in the dark when Logan had no clue. The day he made me a sandwich and never said a word about it. All the tension I felt around him. The night Logan went to a party, and Mason stayed home with me. Then the cabin, being with him. I hadn’t been able to fight my feelings for him.

No. It wouldn’t have been different. I just would’ve cheated on Jackson.

Jackson was watching me. He asked, “What’s wrong?”

I stood and spoke softly, “When you told me last week that you were interested, a part of me had wished that you had pursued it. I was miserable with your cousin, and I hope that you would’ve treated me better, but hearing this, I thought about it again. I was so sad with Jeff. You would’ve been a break, just a brief one to take away some of that pain.” My head moved in the slightest shake. “It wouldn’t have lasted. I remember that year, when I moved in with Mason, and even if I had been with you, I would still have ended up with him. I love Mason so much. Being away from him is hard and Logan’s right. I’m lonely. I’m hurting. I miss Mason, but nothing would’ve changed. No matter what path I’m on, all roads lead to him. They always will.”

Jackson nodded and murmured, “I hope he realizes what he’s got with you.”

The corners of my lips tugged, forming a small grin. “He does. I think I’m the one who doesn’t realize it sometimes.”

He lifted his beer and tipped it towards me. “It was nice being considered a maybe-friend for a little while.”

My grin grew. “Yeah.” Logan. Making things right. I groaned. That was the real reason I was there. “He’s outside?”


I nodded.

He gestured to the backyard. “He and his friends are by the campfire, holding court.”

“What do you mean?”

“Just go and see for yourself. You’ll understand.”

I turned for the last screen door. Pausing, as I was about to push it open, I said, “It was nice to talk to you. It was nice seeing you again.”

“You too.”

I pushed open the screen door, and as it shut behind me, I heard from him again, “You too, Sam.”

The backyard was packed as well. Bean bags were being tossed on one side. Another group was hitting a volleyball over a badminton net and laughing when the ball wouldn’t go over. The garage had its doors lifted. Light flooded out from it, illuminating the front of the garage. A basketball hoop was attached to the top and a couple of guys were holding beers in one hand, shooting a basketball with the other. People stood in groups all around, laughing, drinking, flirting, telling stories. I walked around, looking for a campfire, but it wasn’t until I circled to the other side of the garage that I saw the flame. It was set back in the farthest corner of the backyard and a ring of people had formed around it, but they stood away, standing sideways so they could talk to their friends, but the closer I got, I saw they were sneaking looks at the campfire.

I realized why. Log benches were set around the fire, lined with guys, but there was no laughter coming from that group. Varying intense expressions were on all of them and no girls were there. The girls were in the groups standing away from the campfire, but still looking over at them every few minutes. An exclusive feel filled the air. It intensified the closer I got, until I was standing at the edge of the groups. I, too, couldn’t look away from the guys around the campfire.

Jackson said they were holding court. I understood. Even if I didn’t know Logan and saw him sitting there, I would know these guys were the top of the hierarchy. Confidence filled their shoulders, and as they spoke, it was heard in their voices as well. Even though they weren’t doing anything, they commanded attention from everyone surrounding them. More than few girls casted lustful looks to them. Some of the guys standing on the outskirts shifted on their feet and glanced around. Their hands gripped their beer cans tight before shoving a hand into their pocket. They shifted again, finally striking a cocky pose to cover any insecurity they had shown.

“You want another, Kade?” A guy stood from the log he was sitting on.

People shifted, watching as he said something else to his campfire comrades, then he was joined by another guy. Both lifted their legs, stepping over their benches and moved towards the groups surrounding them. The crowd shifted, automatically letting them through. As they passed by, they didn’t notice me.

In that moment, I felt like Jackson. I felt like I was in the shadows, not being seen, like I had before Mason and Logan came into my life. I felt the old loneliness settle back on my shoulders, weighing me down. A couple girls turned to me. They nudged each other, all moving so they could scan me up and down. I looked down at the ground, trying to hide a smile. The sense of anonymity was gone. It had been there for a split second, but I was recognized again. I let out a sigh. Being invisible and visible had pros and cons to it, but it didn’t matter.

Stepping forward, I rolled my shoulders back and raised my chin. Being in the limelight was how Mason and Logan lived. That meant that’s where I would be with them. As I moved closer, Logan’s friends saw my approach. Nothing was said to each other. They all stood and left, leaving Logan alone. As I got there, he glanced up. He had been sitting with his back to everyone. He said, “I figured it was you.” He gestured to the empty benches. “They wouldn’t have left for anyone else.”

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