Chapter Twenty-Three - Realization
“Matt, please pick up,” I pleaded into the phone, my voice trembling. “Please. We need to talk.”
I waited in vain for an answer, and quickly scanned the football players on the field, but I didn’t see Matt.
Even though football season had ended a few weeks ago, Coach liked to keep his players in shape, even though the weather was chilly. So they trained, same as always, in the afternoon.
Cole was amongst the players, his head down as if he hoped to hide the bruises.
Annie had called last night, demanding some answers. Answers I wasn’t sure I could really give. I explained the situation the best I could, Cole and my argument, Matt’s intervention, the words exchanged and then the fight. She had admitted she knew of Matt’s feelings (Was I the only clueless one here?) and apologised once again for everything.
Today Matt and Annie were at school, and Annie hung out with me, but Matt avoided me completely, without so much as an explanation to either Annie or myself. My stomach was so twisted with guilt, it probably resembled a pretzel.
I sat down in a cold plastic chair in the bleachers and groaned, resting my head on my hands.
After about twenty minutes, I heard someone clear his or her throat, and I looked up to see Cole standing above me.
“You mind if I sit down?”
It took all my might not to yell at him for everything that happened only twenty-four hours ago, but now I was afraid I had snapped at him too quickly.
I looked up into his face, noticing the bruising and minor cuts from the fight. I felt my stomach give a small flip, and hoped he wasn’t in too much pain.
“Go ahead,” I answered quietly.
He sat down next to me, still dressed in his football training clothes, and looked down at the football field, where students were slowly starting to disperse.
“I’m seeing Aly later tonight.” Cole finally broke the silence. “I thought I owed her an apology for what happened between us. I know it’s long overdue, but… she deserves an explanation.”
I had to admit it; I was proud of Cole. I was glad he had finally taken the initiative to apologise to her. She deserved that, at least.
“I’m glad, but… what about all the other girls?”
He groaned into his hand. “Not this again. Grace, there were no other girls. I’ve only ever been with Aly. Annie asked me the same thing yesterday. There. Was. Only. Ever. Alyra.”
I frowned at him, thinking of all the gossip and rumors I had heard from girls. About how they had been with him and then he had left them. Were they lying? I looked into Cole’s eyes, and saw sincerity written in them. He was telling the truth.
I also wondered why he had talked to Annie about it. How had they gotten into that kind of conversation? I pushed it to the back of my mind.
“OK,” I murmured.
A few minutes of silence lingered around us, and I looked out at the sky, which was darkening to a less light blue colour as late afternoon began.
“I wasn’t lying, you know,” Cole whispered almost inaudibly.
I looked over at him. “About what?”
“What I said yesterday. I meant it.”
I swallowed. “I’m sorry for how I reacted. I said some things that were a little out of hand.”
He waved it off. “I don’t blame you. How could I? You were right. But I just… I wanted you to know that… I-I wasn’t lying.” I swallowed as he moved closer. “I think I’m falling for you, Grace.”
And then he pressed his lips to mine, soft and gentle. I breathed in his familiar, boyish sent as our lips moved against each other’s in perfect synchronization.
And then it crashed over me like a wave, and I realised how wrong this felt.
I was wishing it were Matt kissing me, not Cole. I wanted Matt to be the one wrapping his arms around my waist and pulling me closer.
And I knew then that my decision was made.
I pulled back away from Cole and lowered my eyes to the ground.
“I’m sorry, Cole,” I whispered. “You deserve better than this.”
I shook my head to clear it of the cobwebs. “I’m sorry. I can’t… I have to go.”
I stood up and brushed myself off. Cole made a sound of protest and stood up, too.
“Why?” he asked, worry lacing his tone. He grabbed onto my wrist to hold me in place. “Did I do something wrong?”
“It doesn’t have anything to do with you,” I deflected quickly. “I just… you deserve someone who can love you back. And that’s not me.” He dropped my hand in shock, and it fell limply to my side. “I’m sorry.”
I spun around and made my way down the bleachers towards my car, knowing exactly what I had to do.
“Mrs Fordman, do you know where Matt is?” I asked breathlessly, looking up into the warm brown eyes of Matt’s mother.
Hazelle Fordman was the epitome of a perfect housewife. Right now she wore crisp white three-quarter pants, a turquoise scoop-neck t-shirt, a white apron, and she had a basket of laundry tucked under her arm. The smell of chocolate brownies wafted out around her.
Nostalgia hit me as I thought about the afternoons I had spent here, when I had conversed with Mrs Fordman while I had eaten her brownies with warm milk and waited for Matt to get home from football practice. Back before things were so… complicated.
Matt’s dog, Shamrock, peeked out from behind Mrs Fordman’s ankles and looked up at me with its beautiful, innocent doe-eyes.
I cast a desperate look at Mrs Fordman, but she shook her head, eyes sad.
“I’m sorry, Grace,” she said quietly. “He blew off football practice today and said he needed to go and think through everything. He’s not here and I don’t know where he went.”
Great. Well, that was just peachy.
I nodded my head politely at Mrs Fordman and then turned around to leave.
She nodded, looking apologetic. I started down the walk when it hit me where he was.
It was probably his private place. He had once shown me where it was and I bet I could find it again if I tried. He had once told me I was the only one he had ever taken there.
“Grace?” A voice broke into my reverie, and I turned around expectantly to look at Mrs Fordman.
“Please don’t break his heart,” she whispered.
I shook my head and started towards the car.
“I’m gonna do everything in my power to make sure I don’t, Mrs Fordman,” I answered honestly, before jumping in my car and starting towards my destiny.