The Loudest Kind of Silence

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Summary

That—that horrible moment when I realized that I had just lost the person who might’ve meant more to me than anybody else—that moment was the loudest kind of silence. Aly Reed is the smartass with a heart of gold. She’s dealing with a father who is almost certainly having some kind of midlife crisis, and taking care of her sister who has been permanently injured in a horrible accident. Riley Green is the lovable boy next door who just wants to feel normal again after the deaths of his parents and brother. The two best friends must find a way to heal themselves and each other, all while facing their growing feelings after a sexy hookup that left some things unresolved the summer before. Can two struggling teens find a way to beat the odds and make it work before school starts again?

Genre:
Romance / Humor
Author:
Katherine York
Status:
Complete
Chapters:
16
Rating:
4.8 10 reviews
Age Rating:
16+

Chapter One: Summer Nights

Summer dreams ripped at the seams, but oh those summer nights. —Grease

I think the loudest kind of silence is when you miss somebody. Everything goes quiet, you know? Suddenly their glaring, obvious absence is everywhere.

You walk down the street and think of how they’d always forget to look both ways. You see their favorite restaurant all boarded up and think of how much has changed since they were last here with you.

For me, all I have to do is look next door to remember what I’m missing. That person’s house seems so much smaller without him inside of it, making noise and filling it with life.

But that’s the thing about life. It changes people, more than you’d ever want it to. If I were a better friend I’d have told him that I understood why he had to leave and left it at that.

Unfortunately, I am Aly Reed, and Aly Reed is a fighter. I went to his house that night just looking to argue. I was upset. By the next morning I would have lost my best friend until he came back the following summer.

If he came back the following summer.

Riley Green graduated from high school last June and decided not to go local with his college pursuits. Instead, he chose an art school in upstate New York where he could practice his photography without the rumors following him wherever he went.

I guess he was tired of people trying to talk to him about death. He’d had enough of that and enough of this town.

So he left.

He left me so he could experience new things in a different city where he could thrive.

He left me to forget about his past and to escape the memories that plagued him.

He left me to find something better.

I wasn’t enough to make him stay.

That’s the kind of silence I’m talking about. It becomes quieter and quieter until the only thing I can hear are the voices in my head screaming at me.

I shouldn’t have let things go like that with Riley.

What I want more than anything is for him to forgive me, but stupid pride always gets in the way of that, doesn’t it? I suppose I could have called. It’d be easy since I have his number on speed dial. But that damn pride is a funny thing, and here we are a year later and I haven’t heard one word from Riley since the night he left.

I remember the night he left really well.

We’d just been in his truck, doing things we knew we shouldn’t be doing.

“I want to kiss you,” he said softly, his sea green eyes glinting with hope in the pale moonlight. “And it’s not because I’m leaving tomorrow, or because I’m already missing you, or even because I’m picturing myself a million miles away from you.”

“Then why do you want to kiss me?” I was breathing quietly, trying to calm the anxious thudding of my heart. Riley licked his lips and leaned in closer.

“Because…just once…I want to do something we know we shouldn’t do. So I’m asking. Can I kiss you?”

I could’ve say no.

I could’ve told him that I was happy with things just the way they were.

I could’ve lied.

“Yes,” I said instead, my voice coming out in a whisper. In that moment, I wanted him to kiss me more than anything.

He leaned forward ever so slowly, and it didn’t once occur to me that this was my best friend whose lips were soon going to be on mine. I didn’t see the boy next door. I didn’t see the kid I grew up with, or the awkward, gangly teenager who always took my side throughout high school.

All I could see was Riley Green, the man who was leaving for his freshman year in college the next day.

So why not?

Why shouldn’t he part his lips and kiss me like we’re more than friends? Why shouldn’t we throw caution to the wind and lie down in the backseat of his car?

Why not?

The night was quiet, except for the steady crashing of waves on the white sand. His arms wrapped around me like we had nothing to lose, when really, we had everything to lose.

Riley’s skin was warm and tanned from days spent in the sun, and it felt good against my own skin. The weirdest thing about that was the fact that it didn’t feel weird at all.

Actually, it felt right. Like Riley belonged there, his fingers lacing through mine, his heart beating against my chest.

His lips tasted salty, like the ocean, and his breath came in and out more rapidly. He was real and solid under my fingertips, graceful in his movements as though he’d done this before.

Maybe he had.

All I knew was that I didn’t want him to go. I knew that he meant more to me than just about anyone, and that going back to school without my best friend would hurt more than hearing them talk about us.

All I knew was that my chest tightened at the very thought of Riley, and my stomach tied itself in a mass of tangled butterfly wings.

I wanted to ask him to stay, but it wouldn’t’ve made a difference, would it?

“I’m leaving tomorrow,” he whispered, his body hovering just centimeters over mine.

“I know,” I said breathlessly. “That’s why we’re doing this tonight.”

The ride back to my house was awkward as hell. Riley drove in complete and utter silence, the kind that makes you want to scream.

I wanted to scream.

Logically, I knew what we did probably wasn’t a good idea, and yet it had planted a seed in my brain. I was thinking about him and I was thinking about his hands, which I knew was a really weird thing to be thinking about but he had such nice hands and—

“So,” I said. Riley flipped his hair out of his eyes as his cheeks burned red. He looked like he wanted to crawl into a hole and die.

“So.” He blew out a breath and turned into my driveway. “So, how about we never speak of this again? At least until I come home.”

“What?” I asked. “How do we not talk about it? We just—”

“I know,” Riley said. “But I’m leaving tomorrow and we can’t…I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’m still in a bad place. I’m not ready for you, Aly. I was upset and I took advantage of you and now I feel like shit.”

“You weren’t taking advantage,” I protested. “It takes two, you know? And besides, what makes you think I’m just dying to be with you all of a sudden?”

“I don’t know.” Riley’s face grew redder by the minute. “I just thought—”

“Screw you!” I spit in his face. “Screw you and your stupid photography and your stupid college that’s so far away.”

“You knew I was leaving!” he exploded. “We always knew that I’d be leaving before you, and now it’s happening and you can’t handle it.”

“Damn right I can’t handle it,” I said, my eyes burning with unshed tears. What was happening to me?

Alyson Reed does not cry. She picks fights and goes overboard, sure. But she doesn’t cry.

“Is this still about Chase?” Riley asked, crossing his arms. He refused to look at me.

“Of course not,” I said. “This is about you.”

“Well maybe I’m sick of things always being about me. Maybe, just maybe, I want to feel normal and not like the kid whose family drove their car off a fucking bridge!”

“That’s not who you are,” I said. “You’re Riley Green and I—”

I couldn’t say it.

Seventeen years and I could never say it.

“I care about you,” I decided. “And I can’t stand to see you running away like this.”

“Is that what you think I’m doing?” he asked. “Running away? Because I’ve got news for you, Alyson.” He hissed my name like it was a curse word. Even worse, he used my full name. To him I was never Alyson. I was always Aly, or Al.

“I’m leaving because I want to,” he continued. “I hate this town and I don’t want to be stuck here with these losers—”

“With me,” I said. “You don’t want to be stuck here with me, a little high schooler who’d be glued to your side while you were trying to live it up as the big man on campus.”

“It’s not always about you!” he cried. “I need a change, and I need space.”

“Clearly,” I said. “You don’t need any of us. So why don’t I go back home and sit in my room thinking about how I’m just another loser?”

I stormed off, hoping desperately that he would follow me. I was sure that any second I’d hear his voice ringing through the clear, night air, begging me to come back.

We’d work it out. We always did. We were Riley and Aly, a not-gay Will and Grace, Phoebe and Joey, Thelma and Louise if one of them was a dude.

So I refused to swallow my pride and walked away, listening to nothing but the impossibly loud sound of my beating heart while my best friend prepared to leave and never come back.

My room was silent that night, and for the first time in a long time, Riley’s house was silent too.

He didn’t follow me. And he didn’t call my name.

That—that horrible moment when I realized that I had just lost the person who might’ve meant more to me than anybody else—that moment was the loudest kind of silence.

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