Who I was kidding? I’d still find him stunning.
Sebastian crossed the patio, stopped at the edge and looked up. He appeared completely frozen for a second, possibly realizing that I’d been out there waiting for him.
Then he walked up the side of the house and passed through the gates, and my pulse was all over the place. He came around the corner and then started up the steps.
Only then did I move.
Edging backward, I clasped my hands together. His head crested the top and then he was right in front of me, towering over me, his sea-blue eyes guarded, as they had been since the last time he’d been here.
His eyes held mine. “I’m here.”
“Can we...go inside?” I asked.
Sebastian’s gaze darted to the door and he hesitated—and it hurt, because he’d never hesitated—but then he nodded curtly.
I walked to the door and opened it, letting him in before he changed his mind. From there I went to the bed and sat on the edge. Sebastian took the computer chair.
“Keith said he saw you right before practice,” he said.
“We...we just chatted for a few minutes.”
Sebastian waited, and when I didn’t say any more, a muscle popped out in his jaw. Mouth dry, I focused on the map as I blurted out the stupidest possible thing ever to come out of my mouth, which was saying something. “How are things with you and Skylar?”
Silence and then, “Is that why you wanted to talk to me tonight? About her?”
“No,” I said immediately. “Just ignore that. I don’t even know why I asked.”
“Of course not,” he muttered.
I flinched. “I need to tell you something. Well, I need to first say I’m sorry for what I said to you that, um, that last time you came here. That wasn’t right.”
“No,” he replied. “No, it wasn’t.”
I winced but kept going. “I know what we were doing wasn’t about... It wasn’t about getting laid.” I flushed hotly. “And I know you miss your friends as much as I do, and I shouldn’t have insinuated otherwise.”
Sebastian didn’t reply, so I shifted my gaze down to him. He was watching me intently with those eyes, his head tilted slightly. Then he spoke.
“It took you a month to apologize?”
“It shouldn’t have. I’ve wanted to before now, but...” I swallowed hard. “I don’t have a good excuse except that I’ve been working to get my head sort of straight with Dr. Perry, and I just need to tell you the truth. And I don’t know how you will feel afterward. You might walk out of here this time and really never speak to me again. You might end up hating me.” Tears clogged my throat. “But I need to tell you something.”
A change came over Sebastian. Since I knew him so well, I could see it. A wall dropped, and he leaned forward, resting his forearms on his knees. “I could never hate you, Lena.”
My heart shattered into a million pieces at the almost brutal sweetness of those words. He had no idea. None. He could hate me. That was real. But I took a deep steadying breath anyway and said, “When I got into the car the night Cody was driving, I...I wasn’t drunk. I could’ve stopped him. I didn’t.”
Sebastian didn’t move. He didn’t speak for the longest moment. His steady gaze didn’t leave my face as he finally said, “What happened that night wasn’t your fault, Lena.”
“I am partially at fault,” I said, using Dr. Perry’s phrasing. “That’s why I haven’t talked about what happened this whole time. I could have stopped Cody. I should have. But I didn’t.”
He straightened, that muscle flexing along his jaw again. Another pregnant pause that stretched my nerves thin. “Tell me what you need to say, Lena.”
My lips moved without sound at first, and it took a couple of seconds for me to get the words out right. I wanted to do what Dr. Perry had told me to do: to rewind and start from the beginning, no matter how hard it was.
“After you and I... After we talked at the party, I went and hung out with Abbi and Keith. They were having an intense conversation. I don’t know about what. It was kind of like they were arguing and flirting at the same time. I sat with them for a while but didn’t drink anything. Just water and I think... No, I’m sure I drank a Coke. Then it was getting late, and I just wanted to leave.”
That night, sitting on the chair beside Abbi, I had been thinking only about Sebastian, about him and Skylar disappearing, having no idea that in a matter of hours, none of that would matter.
I took another gulp of air and didn’t look at him, because he knew why I hadn’t come to find him like I’d promised. “Megan was ready to go home, too. She was hungry and wanted chicken nuggets. I don’t even know how Cody ended up leaving. Megan and I were walking with Chris and then Cody was just there. Chris was pretty messed up. Someone said he’d been drinking since that afternoon, and he said he was too tired to drive. Cody took the keys, and he seemed fine at first. I swear he did. But I remember seeing him reach for the handle of the driver’s door and miss it.”
Closing my eyes, I spoke through the rawness. “I asked him if he was okay to drive and he said yes. He actually seemed kind of annoyed about the question. I didn’t want to get into the car. It was instinct, I guess. I was just standing there, and then Chris was telling me to get in the car and Megan was pushing me and Phillip was joking around like he always was and Cody said he only had one drink that night, but I knew...I knew...that wasn’t the case. He said he was fine, though, and I...I didn’t want to be that person, you know? The one who makes a big deal out of nothing.”
Tears pricked my eyelids. “But I guess I became a different kind of person, because I should’ve tried to stop him. I knew he’d had more than one drink. His face was flushed. I shouldn’t have gotten in the car, because he wasn’t okay to drive, and God...it happened so fast. I texted Dary and was about to text Abbi where I was. The radio was on. Music was playing. I remember wind coming in through the windows. I remember thinking that we were going fast and then I heard Cody shout and Megan scream. And that...that was it.” I let out a shaky breath. “So, you see, I could’ve done something. Stopped him. Stayed behind. Driven the car myself. I just did the wrong thing, and I’m...”
I didn’t know what else to say.
I was done, and I wanted to slip off the bed and hide under it, but all I could do was sit and wait for the anger and the disappointment. Part of telling him was dealing with how he felt afterward.
Slowly, I opened my eyes and looked at Sebastian.
His face was pale and tight. His hands were on his knees, his knuckles bleached.
“You...you remember the accident?”
I nodded. “Up until I lost consciousness. Something hit me in the head, but I remember the car hitting the tree and flipping. I remember the car rolling. It...it was the scariest thing I’ve ever experienced. I thought...” I trailed off, because Sebastian had to know what I thought.
I’d thought I was going to die.
“Jesus.” He closed his eyes tight. Then he said, “I knew.”
“What?” I breathed.
He leaned forward again, the chair creaking under his weight. “I’ve always known you weren’t drunk that night.”
“I don’t understand.”
His hands slid off his knees. “I think I’ve only seen you drunk once, and that wasn’t at a party. It was when Megan dared you to drink the bottle of wine your mother had forgotten about in the cabinet. You were too trashed to walk upstairs and Megan had to come get me to carry you to bed.”
A watery smile pulled at my lips. Damn Megan. I’d forgotten about that messy wine-induced horror show. “I got so sick.”
“Yeah, you did.” He tilted his head, his own smile sad. “And as soon as I got you upstairs in your bedroom, I then had to carry you to the bathroom, where you turned into a volcano of vomit.”
Sebastian had held me up with one arm around my waist, and Megan had scooped strands of hair back from my face. That was two years ago.