It had also been the first and only time I’d gotten drunk.
For some reason I never thought that Sebastian even remembered that.
“I know you don’t drink more than a couple of mouthfuls, and unless you decided to change it up that night, I knew you couldn’t have been drunk,” he said.
“So...” I wet my lips, stunned. “So you suspected this whole entire time that I was sober and got in that car anyway?”
Sebastian nodded. “I didn’t know if you really remembered the accident or not. You said you didn’t, and since you wouldn’t talk about it, I figured you didn’t have solid memories of it. Knowing that you do, though? Hell...”
I was thunderstruck.
His gaze held mine. “I probably would’ve gotten in the car.”
“What?” My entire body jolted, and I started to stand, but my knees went weak.
“I probably would’ve done the same thing,” he said. “Shit. I know I would’ve. I would’ve taken Cody for his word, and I would’ve gotten in the car just like you did. I don’t even know if I would’ve thought about it as much as you had.”
“No. You wouldn’t have. Sebastian, you would’ve stopped him. You—”
“I’d been drinking that night and had been planning to drive you home,” he interrupted, collapsing back in his chair. “I told you that before. I could’ve been Cody. I know I could’ve been. Drink a couple of beers, think I was fine and then get behind a wheel. I cannot even count how many times I’ve done that.”
I started to say it wasn’t the same thing, but it was, and I didn’t know what to say or do. I was expecting him to be furious and disappointed in me, but his expression showed none of those things, and neither did his words or actions.
He got up, walked over to the bed and sat next to me. He didn’t say anything. He didn’t need to at that moment.
I realized as he stared at me that he really had known the truth this entire time. He’d known I could’ve done better, I should’ve, but he also had been honest with himself. He knew he’d been in that situation himself and had made bad choices, but, as Dr. Perry said, he’d gotten lucky. He’d never had to pay the consequences for those decisions.
It didn’t make what he’d done okay.
It didn’t make what I’d done okay.
But he wasn’t judging me, and he had never judged me. This whole entire time I’d been so afraid of what he would think of me, and he already knew. He knew and was still there for me. He knew and still said he loved me.
My shoulders lowered centimeter by centimeter. “You don’t hate me? You’re not disgusted or dis—”
“Stop. I could never think those things, Lena. Not about you.”
A wave of relief rose, tinged with a deep sorrow that started loosening its razor-sharp claws. My voice was thick when I spoke. “But how? I’m so disgusted with myself. I h-hate myself.”
“You made a mistake, Lena.” He leaned in closer. “That was what happened. You didn’t kill them. You made a mistake.”
A mistake that cost people their lives.
I shuddered, lifting my hands to my face. Smoothing my palms over my cheeks, I willed the wetness gathering to go away, because I was tired of crying.
“Lena,” he said, voice low and rough. “Come here.”
Sebastian extended his hand.
I was moving before I gave thought about what I was doing. My hand folded into his, and when he hauled me into his lap, knees on either side of his hips, my arms went around his waist.
He clasped the sides of my face and, without saying a word, he kissed my cheek once and then twice, and he kissed away each tear that fell, and a heartbeat passed.
I broke. Ripped right open.
He made a sound in the back of his throat and then pulled my face to his chest. Tears streamed down my face, dampening the front of his shirt within seconds. His arms swept around me and he held me tight, held me close as I cried for Megan, for the guys, for Abbi and Dary, and for myself.
* * *
We lay side by side in bed, our faces separated by only a few inches. It was late, well past midnight, and the morning was going to come soon enough, but neither of us were sleeping. We had whispered to one another after the tears had subsided. I told him about the guilt, how it weighed on me, about how I wanted nothing more than to go back to that night and make different choices. I told him about the nightmares and how my mom knew the truth, how disappointed I knew she really was but wasn’t saying. I admitted to wishing I hadn’t quit volleyball. I told him how I talked to Keith today and what I realized. I even told him about Abbi.
“Are you going to talk to them?” he asked. “Abbi and Dary?”
“I need to.” My arms were folded against my chest. “It’s not going to be easy, but I need to.” I shifted my legs. “Has Abbi said anything to you about the accident?”
“No. Nothing beyond what everyone else has said. Nothing about you.” He inched closer. “Abbi has gotten really close with Keith, and I think she’s helping him deal with everything on his end.” He reached over the small distance and hooked his fingers around a strand of my hair that had fallen across my cheek. “What’s going on with Keith is so different. No one blames you or your family. They don’t know what you told me, and even if they did, I think most people would understand you made a mistake.”
A deadly mistake.
“But with Keith, everyone knows his family furnished the alcohol. They were the adults, and it’s really tearing his family up,” Sebastian explained quietly. “No one is really saying anything to Keith, but he’s having a rough time. Not to sound like an ass, but he’s letting his friends help him and...”
“And I didn’t,” I finished, feeling gross. I hadn’t really even thought about what Keith was going through.
Sebastian trailed a finger over my cheekbone, drawing my gaze back to him. Something, I wasn’t sure what exactly, had changed between us. It was almost tangible, and I think it had happened when he kissed away my tears and held me through the worst of them.
“You really not going to homecoming this weekend?” he asked.
The change of subject made me think of Skylar. “What about you?”
“Was going with some of the guys.”
His brows shot up. “No.” He laughed. “Why would you think that?”
I felt my cheeks heat. “You guys have been getting chatty again.”
“We’ve always been chatty,” he replied drolly. “She’s actually going with someone from Wood.”
“Really?” Surprise flashed through me. “I heard that you two were talking about homecoming.”
One of his eyebrows rose. “We talked about it, but not going together.” His gaze searched mine. “She knows I’m not going back there with her, and you should know that, too. Just because things...didn’t pan out the way I hoped doesn’t mean I’m going to play someone else.”
Things panning out had to do with me. I knew that.
Sebastian smoothed his thumb over my jaw. “There’s always prom.”
I liked how he said that. “There is prom.”
He was silent for several moments and then said, “Thank you for tonight.”
I frowned. “You’re thanking me?”
“Yeah.” His hand slid down to my shoulder and he squeezed. “You’ve been carrying this around and you’re not doing that by yourself anymore. You’ve told me. You’re going to talk to Abbi and Dary. You’re really not alone in this anymore.”
A tired smile tugged at my lips. “Shouldn’t I be thanking you, then?”
“Nah. I didn’t do anything. I just listened.”
But that was incredibly powerful.
“It’s all you,” he added.
Sebastian was sort of right. A lot of it was me.
My sleepy smile spread. Tonight...talking to Sebastian, was big, because either I could let what I’d done wreck me or I could learn to live with it.