“Right,” I murmured.
“And I bet Cody thought he was fine. He didn’t think for a second that getting behind that wheel would end that way.”
My chest ached and it had nothing to do with my injuries. Cody had believed he was okay to drive. So had Chris and Megan and Phillip.
“He’s fine. Come on.” Megan took my hand and leaned in, whispering in my ear, “I want chicken nuggets and sweet-and-sour sauce.”
Swallowing hard, I let the memory slip away, but the meaning lingered. None of them thought for a second there’d be a problem with Cody driving, because all of them had been drinking. But me? I’d known differently.
But Sebastian was right, in a way. We all were responsible, in varying degrees. We’d all been so incredibly careless, time and time again. It was just no one thought about these kinds of things until they happened, until it was too late. But at the end of the day, I was just as responsible as Cody. Maybe not legally. But definitely morally.
And I didn’t know how to live with that.
“Dary texted me earlier.”
I raised a brow. “Why? She was over here today.”
“I know.” Sebastian placed the bottle back between his knees. “But she’s worried about you.”
“She shouldn’t be.” I leaned to the side as the twinge in my ribs increased. “I’m fine.”
Sebastian laughed softly under his breath. “You’re far from being fine, Lena.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“It means that pretending you’re straight in the head doesn’t mean you actually are.”
Brushing hair back from my face, I watched a star disappear behind clouds. “Are you now thinking about a career in psychology or something?”
He chuckled this time. “Maybe. I think I’m pretty good at it.”
I snickered. “Whatever.”
He stretched over, caught a strand of my hair and tugged gently. “Are you able to drive to school this week?” he asked. “I was talking to Dad about it, and he said one of the guys he knows at the plant had a collapsed lung. Just one. They didn’t want him driving until it was fully healed.”
“Yeah, I hadn’t gotten that far in my planning yet. I’m hoping they’ll be okay with me driving.”
“What about the arm, though? It’s just your left arm, but add that with the lungs, maybe you shouldn’t.” He dropped his arm and lifted his gaze skyward. “I live right next door. I can drive you until you’re fully healed.”
“That’s not necessary. I’m sure I’ll—”
“I don’t know if it’s necessary or not, but I want to give you a ride until you’re a hundred percent.”
I looked over at him. Our eyes met and held. “I’m fine. I can drive.”
“Or maybe you’re not. Maybe your reflexes are slow because your ribs are killing you. Or maybe you have trouble breathing and an accident happens.” He shifted toward me, and even though we were in separate chairs, there was suddenly very little space between us. “I almost lost you once. I don’t want that to happen again.”
My breath caught and it had nothing to do with the current state of my crappy lungs. “How will I get home, though? Don’t you have football practice? I don’t have volleyball practice,” I added, lifting the arm in a cast. “I’m out.”
“I’ve got almost an hour between when school ends and practice begins.” Sebastian didn’t question the whole volleyball thing. And Coach was probably expecting me on Tuesday, but that wasn’t going to happen. “I have time to get you home. I want to do it,” he added, voice lower. “And why wouldn’t I? If this was the other way around, you’d insist on driving me.”
He was right, but it would never be the other way around, because he wasn’t as stupid as me. Arguing over this was dumb, though. He lived next door. He was still, no matter what, my...my best friend. Though maybe not once he knew about the part I played in the accident.
He did that thing that drove me crazy: biting his lower lip and then letting it go slowly. “There’s something we need to talk about.”
“Is there?” I was staring at his mouth, thinking about how his lips had felt against mine.
His head tilted to the side. “There are a lot of things we need to talk about.”
Things I was sure I didn’t want to delve into.
Pulling away, I carefully leaned back in the chair. “I’m getting tired and I—”
“Don’t do it,” he demanded softly. “Don’t shut me out.”
My heart dropped. “I’m not shutting you out.”
“Yes. You’re shutting Abbi and Dary out, and the only reason you haven’t completely shut me out is because I’m not letting you.”
“You’re kind of annoying,” I admitted in a mutter.
He dropped his feet onto the floor and placed his bottle by his chair. “I have to say something to you. You don’t have to respond. You don’t have to tell me anything. All you need to do is listen while I clear something up.”
“I’m going to be honest right now,” I said, facing him. “I have no idea where you’re going with this.”
A lopsided smile appeared. “You will in a few moments.”
His gaze locked on mine. “When did we meet? At six? Seven?”
“Eight,” I answered, wondering what that had to do with anything. “We moved into this house when I was eight, and you were outside, in the backyard throwing a football with your dad.”
“Yeah, that’s right.” His lips curved up at the corner. “You were out on this balcony watching me.”
I gaped at him. “You saw that?” We’d never talked about that. Why would we? So I never knew he saw me. It had been the next day when he came over, asking if I wanted to ride bikes with him.
“I saw you.” He reached over, tapping his finger off my arm. “I also heard your dad telling you to get your butt back in the house and start unpacking. I think you responded by telling him unpacking boxes violated child labor laws.”
I couldn’t fight the grin. “I might’ve said something like that.”
“That’s when I fell in love with you.”
Jerking slightly, I blinked once and then twice. “Wh-what?”
His lashes swept down, shielding his eyes in the dim overhead light that was just a bare bulb going bad. “I was caught off guard when you kissed me at the lake.”
My eyes widened. What was happening right now?
“I didn’t regret it. I didn’t dislike it. I just never thought you were...you were into me like that.” He laughed again, but this time it was self-conscious, unsure. “Well, that’s a lie. Sometimes I wondered. I wish I hadn’t freaked out afterward. I wish I kissed you back. I wish... I wish I kissed you at the pool.” His shoulders rose and his gaze lifted. “Because I’d been wanting to do that for a while now.”
“What?” I repeated dumbly.
Sebastian didn’t look away. “I don’t know when it happened—when I started seeing you, really seeing you. Actually, you know what? That’s a bald-faced lie. I do know. I fell in love with you the moment I heard you say something ridiculous to your dad. I just didn’t know what that meant—what I was feeling. And it took years for me to figure out what I was feeling meant. It wasn’t until you started seeing Andre. That’s how I figured it out. I was... Damn, I was not happy. I didn’t like him. Thought you could do better. Didn’t appreciate how he was always touching you.”
All I could do was stare at him.
“I fooled myself for a long time. I told myself that I was being so hard on him because you’re my best friend. But it wasn’t just that. Whenever I’d see him kissing you, I wanted to lay him out cold. When I saw that he was at your house, I wanted to interrupt. Make sure you had no time alone.” He laughed once more. “Actually, I did that quite a bit.”