After

By IEatBooksForTea

Mystery / Romance

41 - Sam

"I need to see Matt," I'd told Chris on the phone.

The silence on the other end of the phone was evidently code for confusion. But then Chris had proceeded it with commenting that he was with Jessica.

"When did you guys get all chummy?" I'd chuckled, feeling my cheeks blush with a tinge of happiness. There had always been an underlying hope that all of us would bond again, mending whatever we'd lost. Jessica had distanced herself and Matt pushed us away with anger. But I'd always been clinging in there, waiting. Just in case.

I could almost hear Chris shrug through my phone. "Ask them." But I could tell that he too was glad for it. Maybe this body that we had been together was finally being sewn back as one. Even if the stitches were amateurish, thick and bulky. They'd still hold.

It had been just when I was about to hang up when Chris had dropped the bombshell.

Matt didn't know Emily was dead.

Way to go, Chris. Thanks for that info. Could have told me earlier.

The prospect of presenting a Matt who hated me with a letter from his dead girlfriend was scary enough. To face a Matt who's about to rediscover that his girlfriend is dead? That makes me it even worse. I can't even imagine coping for two years after a tragedy like that – and then having to face that reveal again?

That is among the worst fates imaginable.

"Okay, Sam," I tell myself, stealing some confidence. I press my fingers against the letter in my pockets. I feel a heavy weight of responsibility over this. Like Emily has chosen me especially to give it to him. The burden grips my shoulders with led fingers before pushing me forward, the bell chiming as I push the door of the cafe open.

Apparently both Jessica and Matt had found some comfort in this place. I think the both of them were far too scared to go home. There were probably far too many bad memories in both those places for the both of them. Well, for one of them at least.

"Matt," I can hear Jessica's distant voice breathe. And I can hear nervousness shiver in the back of her throat.

Chris had texted me that the both of them were here. Apparently, Jessica had asked him to join but Chris had said that Ashley was ill and couldn't leave her. Obviously, that was a blatant lie. Jess didn't know Josh was with them, and Chris couldn't exactly advertise that fact. And I highly doubted Ashley would want to be left alone with the person she thought was going to kill her.

And yet. Somehow, for some bizarre reason, I don't feel that way. I think... I feel just that little bit safe with him.

After everything he's done, that makes me sound like the insane one.

"I have to tell you something," Jessica is saying as I pace further into the cafe, following her voice. Something surges in me, pushing me forwards. I have to reach them before she tells him. He can't find out like this.

"It's about Emily," Jessica sighs, and I can see them now, sitting in a far off booth. Her head is ducked as Matt is sat across from her, his eyes peering at her in confusion. And a kind of desperation.

"Wait!" The word is skimming out of my mouth before I can stop it.

Their heads turn rapidly towards us, both expressions mirroring each other. Surprised. Shocked.

In a second, I'm beside them, my hand quivering in my pocket. Do it, Sam. "You're not the one to tell him," I say quietly, flicking my gaze to Jessica. She looks startled. Not just startled. Unsure. Distrusting.

But she stays quiet anyway. Maybe it's not me she's distrustful of.

"Emily is," I nod, feeling a chip of that heavy weight lift from my shoulders. And I pull the letter out out of my pocket, carefully unfolding it and placing it in front of Matt.

I can hear Jessica's breath hitch as she watches it – watches him – as if she knows. Curiosity and suspicion pulls Matt's eyes towards the letter, his large hands plucking it up from the table.

And I watch, as his eyes skim each word, his expression crumble. And his eyes quiver with rebellious tears. And then his hands are shaking and his adam's apple bobs as he swallows down his tears. And he's reading over each word again and again, as if he's trying to fight off the truth. A battle in his mind.

"What happened?" his voice breaks as his eyes finally lift from the page. There are so many emotions on his face, twisted between his eyebrows. It almost makes me cry too. I have to fight to keep standing.

Jessica wordlessly shuffles up the booth and I sit down beside her. And then my hands are automatically reaching forward for Matt's. He flinches at my touch – but doesn't pull away.

And very slowly – very carefully, even with a stray tear dribbling down my cheek – I tell him.

Everything. In the way he'd deserved to know to begin with. Not a twisted, third-party view.

The truth.

And, one day, I hope he'll be able to forgive us. At least we'll have a chance this time.


"Where are we going?" Josh whispers beside my ear as I guide him across the road, keeping him close enough that his face will be covered by my body – just in case he forgets to keep his head down.

I force a smile on my lips. Despite the battle in my stomach. Despite my instincts fearing how he'll react. "Don't worry," I murmur, glancing for a second at his eyes. He looks so hopeful. So excited. Like we're going on a trip. A date. I don't want to let him down.

And I know that, even if he won't see it, this is the best thing for him. If I did anything else, I would be letting him down.

"You're," Josh hums, trying his best to get used to the words. "So mysterious, Sammy."

"The way you like me." My banter is half-hearted. Like I'm on autopilot.

Josh doesn't notice. He lets out a gurgling laugh, drunkenly wiggling his eyebrows at me. The sad smile I return him with is real. He's so broken now. He's never just "Josh" anymore. He's "Josh the maniac who pranked his friends to death". He's "Josh who lost his twin sisters." He's "Josh who will never recover that chunk of himself that has been destroyed."

I think I've always been mourning for the Josh that was lost. There had never really been a funeral for him. But I've found a place for his grave inside my chest. Between my ribs and my heart.

"This way," I nonchalantly slip my fingers around Josh's wrists, just in case he bolts.

And then the police station comes into view.

Josh stiffens.

"Come on," I say as coolly as I can, despite my trembling pulse tugging at my veins, and swivel around to face him.

His eyes are frozen on the building, his muscles taut. He looks a mix of frightened and betrayed. And confused.

"I can't, Sammy," his voice breaks. His gaze goes unmoving. Never flinching from the building.

And then I automatically feel my arm reaching up and cupping the side of his face. For a second, I think I see him flinch. And then he gently allows my hand to guide his face to look at mine.

"Please, Josh," I beg. My eyes are pleading. Breaking. I hate to see that look in his eyes. The look of hurting. I want to stop this, want to just go back. Pretend I never had to do this. But I can't.

I can't just turn away. That would be betraying him.

"For me?" I whisper, watching the hardness breaking away from his face, his skin.

Then he nods, his cheek gently leaning into my hand. His eyes are crumbling. But trusting. "Okay."

And, as a unit, as a team, we walk into that police station. Together.


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