How He Broke My Heart

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Chapter 26

As I reach the house, I see Lauren sitting on the porch waiting for me. She stands up and smiles a little, but not her standard cheeky smile—a nervous one. Because I’m in a good mood from leaving Jonas’, I approach her without a cold expression on my face. It wouldn’t be fair for me to hold a grudge against her due to what happened with Milo—I came to her house, a complete mess, and nearly forced her to throw a party. I forgave her.

“Hi,” she says, “uh, I’ve been texting you, but you haven’t answered so I thought I’d come over and check on you. You seemed a little out of it when you left my house—thought maybe you needed some time.”

“Yeah, I did, thanks. After I left your house, Brandon broke up with me. The past two weeks I’ve just been apologizing and trying to get back on track, you know?”

“Oh, he broke up with you? Really? Emma, I’m so sorry. Because of the party? He came in at some point looking for you, I just, I don’t know. Sounds like we’ve both had a pretty shitty week.”

Walking up the porch steps, I stand with her, leaning against the fence. “What happened?”

“Austin happened. We hooked up this weekend,”
Lauren says, ashamed. “I thought for a second that things were working out between us, but when I woke up he wasn’t there. I tried to reach him, but he just sent me a text saying that we’re better off as friends and that our night together was a mistake. He said that he has feelings for Kailee and that he’s sorry.”

“Lauren, I know you really liked him, but we know Austin. We’ve known him. We know what kind of guy he is.”

“I know,” she mumbles, “I just thought I’d be different since we’ve been close for so long.”

Bringing my arm around her, I say, “I’m sorry. I really am, but those boys, Kaden and Austin... We deserve better. I did. You do. Okay?”

Lauren nods. “I just—I can’t believe you and Brandon aren’t together anymore. I feel like there’s no hope for me if even you two didn’t make it.”

"Actually,” I say, grabbing her attention. “We made up last night. I think we’re doing good. So please, don’t settle. Find someone worthy, Lauren.”

Lauren smiles and stands up straight, fueled. “You know what? You’re right. I-I’m going to go find Preston.”

“Preston?”

“Yeah,” she says, knowing something I don’t know. “Thanks, Emma, for your help. And I’m so relieved that you two aren’t over. Seriously. If you don’t end up with Brandon, then maybe you really are cursed.”

I laugh a little and wave when she leaves, but my smile fades quickly. If I don’t end up with Brandon... I don’t know what I would do. When we were broken up, I was utterly lost.

***

Ringing the doorbell to Jonas’ house, I step back and wait for him to answer the door. I see him appear through the glass and lazily walk over. Before I can say anything, when he opens up, Jonas says, “Brandon’s not here.”

Wanting to roll my eyes, I say, “Good, because I’m not here to see him. I’m here to see you.”

“Me? You mean it?” Sarcasm pools around him.

“Are you honing to let me in or what?”

I follow Jonas into the kitchen. He turns around with his arms crossed. “So what could I possibly help you with?”

“Will you just tell me what’s wrong already?”

He sighs. “Presley has been distant and too busy to go out and I don’t think it’s looking good for us.”

“Wait. What? Presley? You’re not mad at me?”

“I mean, you and Brandon get on my nerves with your stupidity and happiness. But no, I think Presley’s going to end things between us.”

Taken back, I say, “But from what I heard, you two were having such a good time together. You were always hanging out.”

“You heard it from me. I was just as surprised as you are. I don’t know, maybe he’s met someone else—maybe he’s just losing interest.”

“Uh, if Brandon of all people can somehow want me, I don’t understand how someone like you could be left hanging. You’re like the most amazing person I’ve ever met. Seriously, Jonas, I’m at a loss for words. Something must be wrong with him because there’s no way you could lose a guy.”

Jonas shuffles over to hug me. “I love your stupid, beautiful ass.”

“What’s with calling me stupid?”

He laughs and I can’t help but join. “Alright, alright, I love your stupidly beautiful ass.”

“But really, Jonas, you deserve so much more than unanswered calls and excuses. Without you, I probably wouldn’t be with Brandon right now. And trust me, you’re not the only one who knows heartbreak. Hey, you know what, Lauren came to me yesterday and told me how Austin turned her down.”

“Really? He finally told her how he feels?”

“Yeah, after they hooked up.”

Jonas winces. “Well, maybe the three of us can hang out. You know, nostalgic, old, pool days. I’ll text her.”

“I agree. The three of us have drifted too far apart. I’m going to put on my suit.”

Thankfully, Lauren comes over and we spend hours in the backyard. Jonas explains his situation and then Lauren explains hers. Although, Lauren goes on to tell us that she has been in a weird relationship with Preston, constantly flirting, teasing each other, even kissing a few times. “I’ve been so busy trying to get Austin’s attention that I just never saw anything more happening with Preston. I was so stupid. After I talked to you, Emma, on your porch, I went to his house to talk about whatever’s going on between us. Guys, he told me that he has feelings for me and that he wants us to give it a shot. He’s taking me out tonight for dinner.”

“As long as he treats you right, I’m happy for you,” I say, reaching from my float to hold her hand. “And just like Lauren, you’re going to find someone, Jonas. Someone who knows what a catch you are. After Hunter and Milo and Kaden, I found Brandon. If it worked out for me, it’ll work out for you guys.”

Jonas paddles over. “To all of us for being in, or getting in, or finding an amazing relationship.”

“To us!” Lauren cheers. “And it only took three summers.”

“It’s almost over, you know,” Jonas says. “What are you and Brandon going to do when it’s over?”

“Oh, uh, I don’t know. We haven’t really talked about that yet. Should I be worried? I don’t know what to expect, none of my relationships have made it to the end of summer.”

“I don’t think you should be worried. I mean, Berkeley is somewhat close to Sacramento,” Jonas says. “I’m sure you guys can figure something out.”

“Yeah, you’re right.”

“Wait. Where are you going to college, Emma?” Lauren asks.

“Oh, nowhere really. Just in Sacramento.”

“So like a community college?” Jonas asks.

“Yeah, community college. I wanted to stay close to home.”

Lauren raises an eyebrow. “What’s it called?”

“Sacramento community college.”

Unexpectedly, Lauren swims to the stairs and gets out. She grabs her phone and I ask what she’s doing. “Emma you’re a liar. There is no Sacramento community college, but there’s a Sacramento city college.”

“That’s what I meant.” She gives me a look. “Come on it’s a stupid little mistake.”

Jonas grabs my pool float and pulls me over to him. “Let me guess, you’re some secret genius, and you’re going to Oxford or Yale or Princeton or something.”

“Do I look like a genius to you guys?”

“Oh my God, you’re going to Stanford.”

"What? No.”

Jonas shakes his head. “You’re going to my dream school. You’re going to Stanford, is that why you won’t say anything?”

I swallow. “You talked about going there forever.”

“Oh my god, Emma!” Lauren yells, running over. “Emma! You’re going to Stanford! You’re so like Elle Woods right now.”

Jonas frowns. “You were valedictorian weren’t you?”

"Jonas,” I whine. “Come on.”

“Why are we just finding out that you’re a major nerd?”

I look up to Lauren and sigh. “I’m getting out.”

As I climb out of the pool, Jonas asks, “Does Brandon know?”

“I don’t remember if I even told him anything. I’m sure he thinks I’m just going to some state college in some state.”

“Just, just tell me how you did it.”

I shrug. “Strong academics, community service, extracurriculars, and winning writing contests.”

“I hate you,” he mumbles. “I can’t believe you never told us. And on top of that, you’re stealing my idea of being a writer.”

“You said it was a phase. My passion isn’t a phase, Jonas.”

Suddenly he splashed me and I kick water back. “I wonder what Brandon’s gonna say when he finds out.”

“He’s not going to.” The two of them pause. “I’m serious.”

“What,” Lauren comes up to me, “you don’t want him to know that you have a head on your shoulders?”

“I just don’t want to deal right now.”

“You are the weirdest fucking person I have ever met.”

Lauren’s phone buzzes then she murmurs, “I have to go. I’m meeting Preston soon and I have to get ready.”

“Okay, we’ll see you later.”

She gathers her things and waves before leaving through the back gate. Jonas gets out and wraps a towel around himself. “I’m gonna get a drink. Want anything, Helen Keller?”

“I’m fine, thanks.”

Sitting down on a lawn chair, I grab my phone to check the time. Brandon should be back soon. Hearing the back gate open I call out, “Forget something?” But when I peer up it’s not Lauren. “What are you doing here?”

Kaden nears. “I love you, Emma.”

“Are you drunk?” Standing up, I back away to the door, but he holds a hand up as if he’s telling me not to move. “Kaden, go home.”

When he shakes his head, I shoot to the back door but he lunges at me. I scream for Jonas just as Kaden grabs my face roughly with one hand—the other wraps around me like a straightjacket. I fight him, but he doesn’t budge.

“Where’s your boyfriend, Emma?” He mutters in my ear. “You’re nothing but a little slut. You’re a whore going around town and fucking every guy that says you’re pretty.”

Jonas yanks the door open and shouts, “Leave, Kaden, or I’m calling the police.”

Kaden glares at Jonas before throwing me to the ground. I watch as he chucks a chair into the pool then disappears through the gate. Jonas helps me up and locks the back door behind us. “I’m calling the police,” he says, swiping his phone from the counter.

“No, no, no don’t.”

"Emma, he just—he just attacked you!”

“He’s drunk. Don’t call them, please. Please, Jonas.” He looks at me, not believing what I’m saying. “He’s going to be arrested. It’ll only make things worse.”

“Are you hearing yourself right now?”

“It’s fine. I know Kaden. I know how he works, please. I’m fine.”

He ignores me and brings his phone to his ear. I shout for him to hang up. “Come home. Kaden just broke into the backyard and attacked Emma. She won’t let me call the police.”

“Jonas, you asshole! You called Brandon, really?” Throwing myself back against the couch, I rub the side of my body that hit the bricks. He hangs up and I blink away my tears. “Why would you do that!”

“He’s your boyfriend! What, I can’t call your boyfriend? What’s wrong with you! Kaden just—”

“I know what he did! He’s gonna be furious. Brandon’s gonna do something and Kaden’s gonna take it out on me. Kaden’s gonna—”

“You’re not with him, Emma,” Jonas says very clearly. “Kaden isn’t your boyfriend. Why are you acting like you’re with him?”

My mouth opens and closes, then opens. “I have to go.”

“You’re not going anywhere.”

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