“It will probably be a cup of jello,” Jensen said.
Linds frowned. “Oh God, I want a Whopper.”
He rested his chin on my shoulder. “I doubt that’s going to happen.”
“You’re a dream crusher.” She sighed as she looked at me. “I owe you a huge thanks.”
I frowned. “Why?”
“Why?” Her eyes widened. “Mom and Dad told me what you did—you drove the car through the garage door to get me out. Man, I wish I was awake to see that part.”
My cheeks flushed. “I didn’t do it by myself. Brock helped get you out of the car, but he’s . . .” I trailed off, unsure of how much Linds knew.”
She shifted in the bed. “Dad told me about him and about that cop.” Her lower lip trembled. “He told me about Gavin.”
“Yeah,” I whispered, because I had no idea what to say about that.
Jensen’s hand flattened against my stomach, and he moved his thumb around in a slow, steady circle. “How are you feeling?” he asked, changing the subject.
As Linds answered his question, we had another visitor. Heidi. I wasn’t surprised to see her since I’d texted her on the way to hospital, but I was a wee bit shocked when she walked to the bed and actually hugged Linds instead of throwing granola in her face.
“I’m glad you’re, like, not dead or anything,” Heidi said.
Linds glanced at us and then back to her. “Um, thanks?”
I laughed, and some of the darkness of the last couple of months eased off. Jensen’s embrace tightened, and I smiled. Even though it hurt for reasons that cut deeper than the physical, the smile spread until my entire face ached.
My eyes met Linds’ and she winked as Jensen brushed his lips across my cheek. Carefully leaning back into his embrace, I glanced at Heidi. Her hair twisted into pigtails, she looked like the Wendy’s chick as she stared down at Linds, and for once, she looked like she wanted to be near her and not running in the opposite direction.
That was a major change.
Hell, we all changed, especially me. I wouldn’t give credit to Shaw or Gavin for that. The weight I carried with me was lighter, and, in a way, I had the memory of Penn to thank for that.
I had my friends to thank.
And we all were alive, our futures waiting for us.
AFTER STAYING WITH Linds in the hospital, I came home. Like the last time I’d done this, I wasn’t sure what led me to my closet door or what had me opening it, but I dropped to my knees and pushed the piles of jeans out of the way. I found the shoebox. Standing, I took it over to the bed with me and sat down. As I opened the lid and pulled the shoes out, I thought about Penn. The twinge of pain deep in my chest was still there, and even though I knew now that he never took his life, it didn’t lessen the pain of losing him. If anything, it increased it.
But I couldn’t go back.
Out of the four of us, only two of us remained. Jensen and me. I wondered sometimes if any of us spent any time in that tree house thinking it would just be the two of us. That at any point in our young lives we thought this was how things would turn out.
But I knew we never thought that. Or maybe Gavin did, long before that fateful afternoon in the tree house with Penn, but that’s not something I’ll ever know.
I want to be everything.
Taking a deep, biting breath, I slipped my sneakers on and laced them up. I could do that for Penn. Maybe not become a teacher, a veterinarian, and a doctor, but I could do this for him.
I pushed to my feet, wiggling my toes in the sneakers, and then I walked out of my bedroom, down the stairs, and out the front door. I stood on the porch for a moment and looked up at the cloudless, blue sky. I smiled until I felt it, until it was real.
Then I stepped off the porch and went running.