Chapter Seventeen - The Truth
Slowly Matt stood up, looking at me through his lashes. Raindrops clung to his hair and his Adam’s apple bobbed in his throat as he swallowed. His face was covered in a light sheen of rain, and his hair, which was a darker brown due to the rain, clung to the sides of his face, making water droplets splatter down his cheeks, throat and down the neckline of his open, dressy shirt.
“Matt, I’m so sorry,” I whispered, eyes wide as saucers as horror dawned on me. “I just… something else came up.”
He waved it away, though I could see the hurt written clearly in his bright hazel eyes, even if he didn’t want to show it. “It’s fine. It doesn’t matter.”
I felt terrible, and my stomach twisted guiltily. I was such an idiot! “No, it’s not fine. I should’ve been here. It’s just… I was tutoring Cole and then he asked me out to a thank you dinner as friends and we—”
“How can you be so naïve?” Matt whispered hoarsely, effectively cutting me off. My mouth clamped shut, and I swallowed nervously, fair brows pulling together.
“Do you seriously think Cole is the kind of guy who’ll take you out to dinner just to say thank you for tutoring him? With no ulterior motives?” Matt asked dubiously, watching me with a burning gaze.
“I don’t know what you mean…”
He ran a frustrated hand through his hair, tousling it so that it stuck up all around. “Look, it doesn’t even matter anymore, okay? I have to go.”
“Wait, no, Matt. Don’t go. Come inside with me. Mom won’t mind. You said you had something to tell me.” I shivered in Cole’s jacket as the rain continued to pour down around us.
“Maybe some other time.”
Did Matt just blow me off? That had to be the first time ever Matt had done that to me. My heart gave out a pang and I couldn’t help the hurt that flashed across my face. I mean, I’d done some bad things to him before, but he’d never been this cold. The mood he was giving me was like Antarctica in winter. Cold and unforgiving. I knew I deserved it, but it still hurt.
But for once Matt’s expression didn’t soften towards me, and stayed as hard as steel. “I’ve gotta go.”
“Please, Matt. Don’t be mad,” I whispered imploringly, eyes filling with tears. I hated this kind of animosity from him. Matt was always so kind and patient. And now he was… not. Now he was hurt and mean and rude. I got why, but still…. It was a whole new side to him that I’d never seen before.
“I’m not mad,” he said between gritted teeth, his eyes flashing with a feverish intensity.
“But you are.”
“Look, Grace. Drop it. It doesn’t matter.”
“Come on! Just tell me! I’m sorry I forgot, alright? I don’t know what else to say. We’ll do it again tomorrow night.”
“You mean we’ll plan to do it tomorrow night, until Lover Boy shows up and you suddenly forget about me again.”
I sucked in a sharp, staccato breath and took a step backward, stunned at his words. I shook my head gently. “That’s not fair.”
“No, Grace. Don’t talk to me about what is and what isn’t fair. You wanna know what’s not fair? Sitting on your porch step in the freezing cold for two hours. Hoping that maybe you’d be back soon. What’s not fair is losing seventy-five bucks you spent on making a reservation in a high-class restaurant because your date didn’t bother to even freaking show up!”
My eyes filled with tears at the strain in his voice, and I sniffled. My voice sounded all nasally and choked when it came out, but I didn’t care. “I’ll make it up to you. Tomorrow night.”
“I don’t want you to make it up to me, Grace.” He looked exhausted, and he scrubbed his jaw and rubbed his eyes. “You shouldn’t have to make it up to me. You should’ve been here in the first place.”
He started to walk past me, and I clung to his sleeve, desperate to make him stay so that we could talk things through and sort everything out. I couldn’t just let him walk away like that. “Don’t go. I’m sorry, Matt. Please.”
He shrugged me off, and my hand fell back to my side, cold and dejected. “It’s too late, Grace.”
“Why are you making such a big deal out of this?” I cried, growing increasingly frustrated. Couldn’t he see how sorry I was about what happened? Couldn’t he see that I felt terrible about it? That I wished I could go back and not forget? Couldn’t he understand and let it go?
“Because, ever since this whole thing with Cole started, you’ve completely forgotten about Annie and I. You promised you wouldn’t do it again. But then you went and broke into his freaking house! Who does that for some stupid rivalry? But I looked past that. I wanted to see that you hadn’t completely changed. But still, you spend more time with your ‘enemy’ than with us, your best friends. And then, when I finally needed you to be there, you chose him over me. So, no, I won’t stop being mad because you apologised. It doesn’t just go away because you said you’re sorry. I’ve heard it way too many times before.”
A tear slipped down my cheek, and I brushed it away quickly. “What did you have to tell me?”
“Are you really that stupid? How could you not realise? I’ve made it obvious enough. Everyone in this whole damn town knows!” he cried.
“What is it?” I yelled, angry now. I understood he was mad; I would be, too in his position, but did he seriously have to make me feel that bad about it? This was Matt here, the caring, kind guy who knew how to make you smile no matter what. This was a whole different side of him I was seeing.
“Grace, I’m in love with you!” he screamed back, his voice slicing through the cold night air and piercing right into my heart.
It felt like everything stopped in time in that moment. The rain stopped, and all I saw was Matt’s eyes, filled with fury and longing. Emotions warred inside me. Shock, anger, disbelief. I sucked in a staccato breath, and my sluggish mind slowly processed his words.
Something passed over his face: shock. He was a shocked as I was at his sudden outburst. As if he hadn’t planned to let that slip.
“Matt, I didn’t… I didn’t know,” I whispered through numb lips, feeling like everything around me was crashing down like a tidal wave.
“And the news I wanted to tell you was that I just got a football scholarship to attend the college you’re going to. I thought I’d tell you how I felt. I thought maybe you felt the same way. But I guess I was wrong.”
“Matt, I—” I began, but shut my mouth as he cut me off.
“I had everything planned out.” He was staring off into the distance, and speaking so quietly it was as if he were speaking to himself. He barely even noticed I was still there; he was lost in his own world. “We’d go to the same college. I finally didn’t have to pretend I wanted only to be friends. God, I thought it worked perfectly.”
I took a deep breath. I was just about to say something when Matt interrupted.
He leant forward, cupped my face with both of his warm, calloused hands and leant forward, pressing his lips to mine. His lips were gentle, his skin warm.
I stared at him in shock, not sure what to do. Before I had time to process anything, Matt pulled away, and my lips instantly felt cold without the warmth of his pressed against mine. I looked at him in surprise, my eyes wide in shock. I swallowed thickly as I tried to understand what the hell was going on.
“Now, you know everything.” I opened my mouth to say something, but he held up a hand, silencing me. “Don’t bother. It’s too late anyway. Just… I think we need some space. Please, just leave me alone. I’ll… I’ll call you.”
He stuffed his hands in the pockets of his jeans and turned around, walking away quickly. I was too shocked to move or interrupt. I just watched him leave. In hindsight, I wished I had’ve stopped him. What kind of girl was I? The kind of girl who let a guy confess his feelings then run away without any room for discussion, apparently.
But nevertheless, he ran away from me, like he was scared, or something. He unlocked his car, got in and drove away.
I brought my fingertips to my still-tingling lips and took a deep breath. As embarrassing as it sounded…
That had been my first kiss.