Fallen Fourth Down

Page 84

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There were cars still parked in the lot, but I wasn’t surprised. I had to park in a different lot because I had been so late. Hurrying through a few of the rows, I got to mine. It was dark. The light flickered above me, but half the bulb was out. Opening the door, I tossed my bag inside and started to climb in when I heard my name.


Marissa was on the other side of my door. The rain had drenched her, plastering her hair to her face. She was wearing a baggy sweatshirt, jeans, and sneakers. All of it must’ve felt like fifty extra pounds on her.


She stepped closer. Her eyes were bright and alert, skirting over my face. She swallowed, biting down on her lip for a moment. “I have to say this.” She gestured to her chest, and her sleeve hung limp, barely moving as she did. “I have to get it out. It’s just eating me alive.”

“Okay.” I was drenched too. “Can we have this conversation in my car? We can dry off?” I skimmed up and down her tiny figure. It was cold, she could get sick. “You should warm up too.”

She shook her head. “No. It has to be here. It has to be now. I have to say this.”

“Marissa,” I started to argue. This was insane.

“No, Mason.” She scooted back a step and pressed against the front of my Escalade. The door was still open between us, so I closed it and leaned against it, facing her. She added, “I’ve been crazy these last few years.”

“Marissa.” Fuck. Really? “Let’s go somewhere dry.”

She shook her head again. “No.” Her hand went up to her head and grabbed a fistful of hair. She kept shaking her head, swinging her elbow around with it. “You have no idea what it’s like for people like me. I’m not even feeling the rain. I’m so hyped up. I have to get this off my chest, or I feel like it’s going to swallow me whole. Mason,” she stopped, and her eyes found mine, “when you became my friend our sophomore year, you have no idea what you did to me.”

What I did?

She kept going, her voice rising as she did, “I was nothing. I am nothing. I had two friends. That was it. My life was all about studying, helping my uncle at Quickie’s, and maybe a movie night with my friends. We read books. That was our excitement, then you came along and changed everything for me.”

“I’m sorry.”

“No.” She released her hair, and her arm fell back against her side. “I think you helped me. I mean, there were bad times. Trust me. I was picked on. I was bullied. Girls beat me up. They called me names. They called my house constantly and just hung up when someone answered. We changed our number twice, but it never mattered. They always found out the number. We went to the principal, but he didn’t do anything. That was the bad time, but you know, I got through it because of you. I kept thinking about you, daydreaming about you. I mean, look at you. Look at me.” She gestured to me and her. “I felt like I was an ugly loser and a waste of space, and you became my friend anyway. I still have no idea why. And then, even when I moved away, you were still my friend. You protected me, when we were at the cabin. You had Nate stay with me the whole time. I know that was you. You were taking care of me in your own way.”

I wasn’t. I hadn’t done a thing. “Marissa.”

“No. Please, just let me talk. I know I sound crazy. I know I probably look crazy, but you don’t know what it’s like. I was invisible until you became my friend. No one cared about me. No one. Even my friends didn’t care that much. We just stuck together because we were the three outcasts. We were on the outside, looking in, and you,” she waved at me, moving her hand up and down, “you were the in. You were the god. Even the seniors respected you.” Her voice kept rising, growing shrill. “I thought you were my romance story coming alive. You were the popular guy. I was the plain wallflower. No one saw me, but you did. You saw me.”

“Marissa.” She needed to stop this.

“NO!” She held her hand up. “I mean it. I know there’s no chance. I know you have a girlfriend. I am aware of all of this in here,” she tapped the side of her head, “but I feel all of it here,” she said, pressing her hand to where her heart was. “I have to get this out, or I will never move on from you. You, you’re in here, and you won’t go away. You just keep building and building, but I saw you in the hallway. I saw how you looked at her. I know in my head how much you love her, but this,” her other hand went to the middle of her chest too, “won’t accept it.”

“Fine.” I surrendered, hanging my head. “Go ahead.” I rested back on my heels, and she started again.

“I have convinced myself over the years that you loved me. I have comforted myself every time I felt lonely and, like a loser, felt that it was meant to be with you. The one guy who shouldn’t have noticed me was the only one who did. I have planned our future together. I have everything worked out, from how I was going to come back into your life in college. We were going to be together. You were going to realize you loved me, and I was going to be your superstar girlfriend. I even told my friends here that I could see us dating. They laugh at me now.” Her voice trembled, but I wasn’t sure if it was from emotion, if she was crying, or if it was from being cold. “I never expected you to protect me in high school. Why would you? I didn’t protect myself. I never fought back. I took it. A part of me thought I deserved it. I was a nobody, remember? Then the cabin, when you invited me there and had Nate take care of me, I convinced myself it was because you loved me. You loved me, but you couldn’t be with me. It wasn’t meant to be. That’s how sick I was.” She laughed at herself. “I even talked to Tate about it. I talked to her for hours about you and me.”

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