“Okay,” Dary said hoarsely. “All right. So, I would like some french fries right now, and this place doesn’t sell them.”
A watery laugh escaped me. “French fries sound perfect.”
Abbi shook her head, causing the two thick braids to swing at the sides of her neck. “You just drank an entire smoothie and you want fries?”
“I need salt right now. I need tons of salt.”
Abbi rolled her eyes.
“You know,” Dary said, lifting her head off my shoulder, “I still love you. I just want you to know that.”
Tears raced up my throat and I beat them back but didn’t trust myself to talk, so all I could do was nod.
The subject at the table changed, and by the time we walked out of the smoothie shop, it was almost normal. Almost like it was before.
But I still needed to talk to Abbi one-on-one before they searched down the fries.
I stopped by my car. “Abbi, can you hold on a second.”
Waving goodbye to Dary, she twisted around and faced me. Like when we were inside, some of that wall was down. Not a lot. But some.
“I know things are still weird between us, but I wanted to ask you about your parents. How is everything with them?”
Abbi opened her mouth and I braced myself for a snarky or snide response, but she said, “Mom hasn’t been ‘working late.’” Added air quotations with the last part. “And they’re not arguing nearly as much anymore. I don’t know if she’s admitted to something or not, but I guess they’re trying to make it work.”
I leaned back against my car. “That’s good, right?”
“Yeah. I guess so. At least we don’t have to listen to them try not to kill each other.” She knocked a braid back over her shoulder.
“I’m glad to hear that. Really.”
She nodded again and then took a deep breath. “I need to tell you something, okay?”
I tensed. “Okay.”
“I’m sorry about what I said to you about riding with Chris when he’d been drinking and it not being the same. I know it was, and you were right... I just got lucky.” She swallowed hard. “And I really am sorry for saying that to you. I shouldn’t have.”
I briefly closed my eyes tight. “It’s okay,” I said, because it was.
“I...wasn’t mad about you getting in that car. I mean, I was mad. I think anyone would be mad at first. But what pissed me off was the fact you shut me out. You shut all of us out.”
“I know,” I whispered. “I did.”
“Do you have any idea how that made us feel? I didn’t know how to help you. You wouldn’t let me or anyone else in to even try to figure it out, and that’s what really made me angry. I lost Megan, and it felt like I lost you, too.”
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to do it. I just—”
“I get it. Your head wasn’t in the right place, and I...I should’ve done what Dary did. Given you space. Given you time.” She dipped her chin. “So I am sorry for that.”
“You don’t have to apologize.” I stepped toward her. “I don’t want any more apologies. I just want things to be...to be okay between us.”
“Me, too.” Abbi then popped forward and hugged me. It was quick, not like they used to be, but it was better than nothing and it was a start. She stepped back. “I have to get going, but I’ll text you later and you’ll answer, right?”
Abbi gave me a quick smile and then she was walking away, and I kind of wanted to cry. But these tears would’ve been so different from the ones from before.
* * *
Wednesday evening Sebastian was sitting on the bed, listening while I told him what had gone down that afternoon with Abbi and Dary, and then I told him what Dr. Perry wanted me to do.
“It’s been a big week or so for you,” he said when I finished.
I was sitting next to him, cross-legged with a pillow thrust in my lap. “It has.”
“How do you feel after talking to them?”
Shrugging, I held the pillow tighter. “Better. Relieved. At least now they know everything. I know it doesn’t change anything, and I know they are both disappointed, but it’s out there between us now and, yeah, it’s a relief,” I repeated.
“I get what you’re saying.” He cocked his head to the side. “Sometimes disappointment is worth the truth.” As he poked the pillow, a small grin played across his face. “You know, that night we got into it, you said something that was true.”
My brows rose. “I don’t think I said anything that was true.”
“No. You did.” He pulled the pillow out of my lap and put it behind him. “You were right about me not telling my dad about football.”
Oh. Hell. I’d forgotten how I’d thrown that in his face. I’d probably blocked it out.
“I talked to my dad.”
I jolted. “Seriously?”
“Yep.” He peered at me through thick lashes. “It didn’t exactly go over well.”
Popping up on my knees, I scooted closer to him. “What happened? Tell me everything.”
A brief grin appeared as I plopped down right in front of him. “I talked to him about a couple of weekends ago, actually. There’s really not much to tell. I was just honest.”
“And you’re just now telling me?” I smacked his arm. “Sebastian!”
“Hey.” He caught my hand, laughing. “We weren’t exactly being real talkative with one another, and you were dealing with other stuff.”
“True.” But I felt bad, because I should’ve had my head out of my butt long enough to have been there for him. I couldn’t change that, but I could be here for him now. “So what did he do?”
“He flipped out. Said I wasn’t thinking straight and that the accident had my head messed up. But I told him the truth—playing ball just isn’t something I’m that into now.” He lowered our joined hands to his knee. “I explained that I’d been feeling this way for a while.”
“He didn’t speak to me for a straight week.” Sebastian laughed while I cringed. “But he seems to be trying to accept it. He’s talking to me at least, and I think Mom has been working on him.”
I squeezed his hand. “This is huge.”
“Yeah,” he murmured, biting down on his lower lip. “Looks like Dad won’t enter a downward spiral because of it, so that’s good.”
Grinning, I asked, “So now that you’ve officially decided to not do the college-football thing, what school are you thinking about?”
“God, there’s so much more opportunity now,” he said, his gaze drifting over my shoulder, to the map above my desk. “May stick around and do community college for a year, or maybe I’ll apply to Virginia Tech or—” his blue eyes fixed on mine “—UVA.” The hollows of his cheeks turned pink as I gaped at him. “Or somewhere else. Who knows? I’ve still got some time. Anyway,” he said, stretching out on the bed. He tugged on my hand. “Want to watch a movie?”
I studied his profile for a moment and then nodded. “Whatever you like.”
The answering grin warmed me, and I let him pull me down so I was lying next to him. I reached over, grabbed the remote off the nightstand and handed it to Sebastian. He started flipping through the free-movie section.
“Hey,” I said.
He turned those beautiful eyes to me.
“I’m proud of you. I just wanted to say that. I’m really proud of you.”
The grin turned into a blinding smile that stayed on his face the rest of the evening.
Joanna’s was dead on homecoming night, so much so that Felicia all but shoved me out the door at nine that evening.
After hanging up my apron, I made my way outside and climbed into my car. The drive home was quick, and once I was in my driveway, I checked my phone and saw a text from Dary of her and Abbi in their pretty dresses, under a flowery awning. They were totally rocking the awkward couple pose, with Abbi’s arms wrapped around Dary’s waist from behind. I’d messaged them both earlier in the evening, telling them to have a good time. Dary had texted back immediately with a heart and smiley face. And a half an hour later after that last text, Abbi had texted back with a simple message that chipped away at the heaviness in my veins.