Destructively Oblivious

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Chapter 15: Omission




1. something better left unsaid (better may not be accurate under certain circumstances).


*Chloe’s Point of View*

On Christmas day, Amy and Prim headed off for their trip to the mall to visit every Christmas-celebrating kid’s favorite human around the holidays: Santa. They yelled up goodbye to Asher, who had yet to come downstairs that morning, and upon his, “See you later,” they closed the front door.

Knowing my roommate was awake, I had the stubborn urge to check up on him and clarify he was okay after the circumstances of the night before, both during and after his father’s surprise visit. Alongside that, I needed to know whether or not he remembered the kiss in his bed that I’d hoped he forgot. In fact, I was damn near praying he had no recollection of turning me down as I moved up the stairs.

Stepping up to the bedroom door, I turned the handle and moved inside. In the heart of swinging the door open, a consideration passed me. After roughly a thousand conversations with my own mom about knocking before opening a closed door, I had walked into Asher’s room without listening to my own advice.

I didn’t have the time to back out and close the door because my eyes had already landed on a soaking wet, Asher, fresh out of the shower. With a towel hanging low around his waist, he faced me. I sucked in a sharp breath at his torso, mindlessly admiring. Maybe admiring wasn’t enough to describe the state I was in. I was gawking. Drooling, even.

His chiseled skin was glowing healthily and my conscious mind leaped between his body and his impressive choice in body wash. I didn’t know if he noticed my staring; he only chuckled, clutching his towel around his waist. “Jesus Dol, ever heard of knocking?”

Regrettably, I said nothing in response. My brain had reached a point of no return. Or at least no return anytime soon. Waving a hand in my direction, the Greek God in front of me stared, his forehead pinching in confusion. I wished that had worked to bring my attention back to Earth, but unfortunately, it had only brought my attention to his arms. He had nice arms.

I wasn’t at all the type to (publically) melt over a guy’s appearance, and if I hadn’t been so busy sticking my foot in my mouth and chewing it, I would have scolded myself for my own restless hormones.

“I-it’s jus-just, I- I’m-” Unable to get a clear sentence out to save my life, I held my finger up to him before closing his bedroom door.

I took a deep breath and pressed my hot, sizzling face against the icy door in an attempt to cool down, finally getting around to scolding myself. Eventually, when I regained enough courage, which was a minute and forty-eight seconds later, I reopened the bedroom door. I once again didn’t knock, surprisingly, as I could have avoided the traumatic experience by doing so initially.

Asher’s towel had been replaced with boxers and the cloth was now rubbing through his hair and as I slowly moved back into the room, I made sure to avoid his mostly bare body, looking directly into his eyes instead. Taking a full step into his room, I smiled.

“Good morning. How are you feeling?” I asked confidently.

“Oh, so you can say full sentences...” He chuckled, eyeing me cautiously. “I’m fine. Are you okay?”

I was praying we’d bypass the incident two minutes and three seconds earlier and shrugged. “I’m great!”

His brows pulled together and he suppressed a smile, signaling to the door. “Are we going to ignore what happened a second ago?”

So much for bypassing.

I looked away from him and instead wandered over to his dresser. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

To avoid his gaze, I took in the sight of his room. I’d been inside on multiple occasions for very short periods of time, mostly when he was taking too long to get ready and we were going to be late for school. I also helped him put up a few posters on the walls, seeing the first time I walked in, they were completely blank. I thought it was boring and bought him some stuff to put up. He hadn’t taken any of it down yet, so I assumed he didn’t mind.

As if drawn to it, my eyes landed on a guitar case leaning between his shelf and the wall, something I hadn’t noticed before right then. I wanted to ask him if he played, but when I glanced back his way, his attention was elsewhere.

He smirked his asshole-ish smirk and leaned backward on the dresser next to me, crossing his arms over his toned, perfect chest. To avoid looking anywhere but his face, my eyes advanced their way to his again.

“I guess we’ll just have to ignore you checking me out a minute ago,” he enunciated certain words, each rolling off his tongue deliberately slow. I flung him my best glare, and he pressed his thumb into my cheek, I’m sure leaving a blanched spot. “Damn, you blush a fuck ton.”

I finally snapped, unable to hold back a cruel comment. “Do you ever shut the fuck up? I came up here to ask if you were okay!”

As the words left my mouth, guilt flooded my chest and I winced at both my tone and my delivery. I opened my mouth to apologize, but my lips fell closed when he smiled brightly, looking too amused for words at my outburst.

He chuckled lightly, strolling over to his closet and yanking a random T-shirt from a hanger. “Why wouldn’t I be?”

“Because of last night... your dad...” I tried, unsure of how to unravel the topic without admitting he’d shared more personal details with me while drunk than I thought he’d be comfortable with. Really, that wasn’t what I was truly afraid he’d remember. The fiasco in his bed wouldn’t leave my mind, but I anticipated from his silence that it had long left his. “I understand if him being here bothered you.”

“It didn’t bother me.” He shrugged, keeping his gaze on everything but me. Pausing with the shirt in hand, his brow tilted in thought as he shifted to me. “Did I do anything last night?”

Oh crap. Maybe he did remember the kiss.

I frowned. “I didn’t think you’d remember me helping you upstairs.”

He shrugged again. “I don’t really, but even I know my drunken ass couldn’t have ended up in my own bed. Did I say anything?”

“Well,” I began with an inhale. “You shushed a flower pot outside, fought me about your house key, weighed at least one million pounds as I dragged you upstairs, and then...” I silenced myself, searching for one massive lie to avoid telling him what he’d told me.

“And then?” he asked, tossing pants on over his boxers, his newfound shirt following close behind.

“And then you told me about your father’s affairs and how he left after your mom kicked him out.” I cringed, flinching away at my own intentness.

Asher froze, finally fully clothed, and his pained face made me wish I had stayed downstairs. In fact, his humiliated, scrunched-up features made me wish I hadn’t woken up this morning at all. I knew then that I wouldn’t be able to tell him anything about the kiss, not that I’d been planning on spilling the beans soon anyway.

After a few more throbbing seconds of silence, Asher let out a breath packed with an uncertain emotion and his tense shoulders plummeted. “Is that all?”

I nodded. “Yes. I’m sorry.”

His forehead marred with unchecked confusion. “Why are you sorry?”

“That I know about... everything.”

He grinned gently, his head shaking. “Don’t be. I would have told you eventually.”

“Really?” A smile pulled on the corner of my mouth from his assertion.

He laughed, then nodded. “Yeah, I would have rather told you sober. Drunk me is... embarrassing.” He cringed as the sentence concluded, then shook his head and chuckled again.

I admired his ability to move on from the situation, or at least to act like he had, watching as he glanced into the mirror on his dresser. He threw a hand into his hair to force it into submission, then gave his reflection a smile.

Heading for the door, he gestured me out, saying, “Now come on, tell me all about how I still manage to be a massive ass while drunk.”

I smiled, ready to tell him all about his sex joke on the staircase, stalking out the bedroom door. Moments after we entered the kitchen, the sound of the front door opening stole my attention. I turned, wondering if Amy had returned having forgotten something, but my gaze ended up on Danny.

Asher shook his head at his friend, plucking a mug from the countertop and pouring coffee into it. He rolled his eyes, indicating between me and Danny. “Does anyone here know how to knock?”

Danny jumped up, slamming himself down onto the countertop, laughing. Meanwhile, I rolled my eyes across the kitchen, wishing that infamous moment would never be brought up again.

Asher maneuvered around Danny on the counter as he tipped milk and sugar into the coffee he had poured. Knowing he liked his coffee black, I narrowed my eyes at it, wondering why he was making it that way. My curiosity was put to an end when he held the mug in my direction, signaling me to grab it. I smiled at his generosity and stepped towards him.

He drew the mug away from me right as I reached for it. I lowered a brow in his direction as he stated, “Wait!” and brought my mug to his lips, tasting the coffee he’d made for me. He nodded contently before stuffing it in my hands. I gave him a befuddled stare and he smiled. “I was making sure it tasted okay.”

I laughed, agreeing that it was a great cup of coffee once I’d tasted it. He grinned, then turned back to Danny, questioning his friend. “What are you doing here? We’re not meeting till four.”

Danny frowned. “Blake said it was at 11.”

“Okay, well Blake lied.” Asher returned the expression before his features grew confused. “And it’s 11:30, so technically you’re late.”

Danny groaned, throwing his head back as he bit out, “I wanted to be casually late but now I’m freakishly early.”

My roommate laughed as I finally soaked in each word spoken, my smile falling into perplexion as I exclaimed, “Wait, it’s 11:30?”

Asher tilted his head toward the digital stove clock. “11:35,” he corrected.

With a glimpse at that same clock to confirm, I brought the brim of my mug to my lips, chugging my coffee. Taking into consideration Asher had recently poured it, it was unfortunately hot, and I squealed as half of it went down my throat in what felt like a trail of lava. The other half remained in the mug as I set it down in the sink and grabbed my purse off the counter.

Asher and Danny mumbled a few confused questions as to what I was doing and I answered them with, “Date. Hayden,” as I wiped the coffee from my lips with the side of my thumb.

“Oh right. Hayden, at the museum,” Asher mumbled with disdain, handing me a napkin to use in place of my hand.

I ignored his tone and tore the napkin from his fingers, wiping my face as I answered, “Yes, the museum with Hayden. And I’m excited.”

I stuffed the napkin back into his hands as I stepped away from him and into the entrance room. As I did, his voice followed after me. “I’m glad you’re excited. I hope nothing terrible happens. Like it rains, or his car breaks down, or he dies.”

I didn’t bother turning around as I called back, “Your optimism becomes you.”

I grinned as I shut the front door behind me. I’d mentally planned on meeting Hayden at his car at eleven-thirty so that, for the love of God, he did not knock on the door and have to play an unsolicited game of Who-Could-Be-More-Awkward with Asher. He pulled into the driveway right as I stepped out and I quickly climbed into the passenger seat, glad I’d achieved my goal for the morning and happy to see Hayden.

His expression matched mine as he leaned over and placed a kiss on one of my heated cheeks. “Hey, Chloe. You look beautiful. I’m sorry, I would have come earlier if I knew you’d be waiting outside.”

I immediately tried to play off the fact that I’d basically poured hot coffee down my throat and instead cracked a smile. “Don’t be sorry. I’d only just stepped out. I guess I sensed you were close,” I joked.

He chuckled and pulled from the driveway carefully, taking more than a few minimal glances at me as he peered over his shoulder.

“So Chlo,” he began. I grinned at the fact he’d taken it upon himself to call me a nickname. “How has your morning been?”

I thought back on my last few hours, the majority of them spent awaiting his arrival excitedly. To avoid saying that, I absent-mindedly listed the things I’d done that morning. “I woke up too early, had an extremely awkward conversation with Asher, and then drank my coffee at record speed.”

It hadn’t dawned on me while I was rambling on that a specific part of my morning might draw my date’s attention. Hayden squinted curiously, peeking a glance from the highway to me. “What did you and Asher talk about?”

“Oh, just embarrassing old Christmas stories from childhood, the usual,” I lied, wincing over the excuse I’d used. I wished I’d had more time to think, but my mind came close to shutting off when I realized Hayden was unknowingly asking for Asher’s personal information. I smiled at him, trying to play off my falsehood.

Hayden grinned. “That sounds interesting. Tempting really. Maybe we can swap some embarrassing Christmas stories later.”

I nodded, hoping we would be too distracted by the exhibit to share any stories. My most embarrassing childhood Christmas stories mostly included the cheap, broken, hand-me-down toys I always got or the fact that while Hayden’s kind-hearted family most likely volunteered at soup kitchens on Christmas, my family ate at them. I didn’t want to have to make up any stories, so I hoped he wouldn’t ask.

He let his lips lift slightly as his eyebrow did the same. “So...” he started, creating a bit of awkward silence between us. “You and Asher, still just friends?”

I let my mind unintentionally wander in the direction of Asher and my kiss the night before. The way his lips found mine, teasingly. How captivating it was, how familiar it felt. How the rhythm of my pulse felt like a nailgun hitting stainless steel. How I could kiss him like that every day and not have a single regret regarding the matter.

I grinned at Hayden, pushing the unwelcome memories out as I muttered, “Just friends.”

*Asher’s Point of View*

I chuckled at Dol’s smart-ass remark, watching the door fall closed behind her. With a smile on my face, my gaze lingered for a few seconds in the direction that she had run off in before I shook my head and returned to the counter to pour my own coffee.

I glanced up at Danny after he’d been silent for far too long to find him staring at me like I had grown another head. My eyebrows knitted and I questioned his antagonizing stare.

“I cannot believe my eyes.” He gasped overdramatically. “Asher Freed has a crush.” His voice was bubbly, filled with amusement.

I looked up from my mug only to send a glare his way, before abandoning the coffee altogether and shuffling around the counter into the living room. “Shut up, Danny. That’s not funny.”

He followed close behind me and sang, his tone filled with mockery. “Asher has a crush! Asher has a crush!”

“I do not have a crush. Fuck off,” I stated loudly, becoming instantly annoyed. Actually, I passed the point of annoyance fifteen seconds before and was becoming rather irritated.

“Really? You don’t?” he asked, his tone of voice more serious than before. When he watched me shake my head, a small smile spread over his face. “So you wouldn’t mind if I asked her out?”

I frowned at his lousy threat. “Go to hell.”

His smile melted into a severe expression as he said, “I’m serious, man, I will. I’ve been wanting to.”

With unsettle and petty jealousy flooding my features, I gave him a once over. “What?”

He nodded towards a picture of her and my family that was relaxing nearby. My mom had put it up a while back during Dol’s first week as a reminder for her stay, not that I needed it.

Chloe’s distinct presence had made itself obvious everywhere I looked. I couldn’t walk into my bathroom without seeing her makeup all over the counter or stroll into the kitchen without seeing her coffee mug in the sink. My living room seemed to be eradicated by her neatly stacked books and magazines. The smell of her perfume lingered in the air long after each departure from my house. Even my room had a part of her in it, based on her marching in and unapologetically hanging up posters on my mostly bare walls.

Her excuse when she stepped into my room with an arm full of posters and a smile on her face was, “I thought of you when I saw these. Your room is so boring I thought I’d lend my assistance.” She eyed my reaction carefully, grinning broadly when I nodded and gestured to my walls. After we had hung them up, the room felt like her. The whole house felt like her.

Danny smiled at that picture, his attention no longer on me. “I mean, if you’re not interested, I’ll gladly show her a good time.”

I don’t think I had ever had someone pinned to the wall at a faster speed in my life. I actually startled myself. When his body thumped against the wall, I growled, “Do not fucking touch her, Dan. I’m serious.”

I had expected a scared or even slightly worried expression from Danny, but instead, he chuckled. “Yeah, you don’t have feelings for her. I’m convinced,” he voiced sarcastically.

Unamused by both his comments and his humorless joke about liking her, I released him roughly. He declined the few inches to the ground, straightening himself out with the grin still cemented on his lips. I huffed out in anger towards him, and myself, and collapsed on the couch, kneading the bridge of my nose.

“You like her,” he declared as he sat on the couch next to me, unable to draw my eyes over at him.

I muttered, “Go. Fuck. Yourself,” ten seconds away from pinning him back to the wall, maybe this time with an excavator.

He simply repeated his previous accusation. “You like her, Ash.”

My attention was fastened to him as I snapped, “Who cares?”

A faltering breath escaped me when I finally admitted out loud what I’d always known, but was too stubborn to accept: I had feelings for Chloe. A fuck ton of them.

It was hard to stifle my feelings for her when being around her only made me like her more. And I couldn’t help being around her; we lived together. The more my feelings developed for her, the less I pictured her naked body on top of mine and began to envision her in simpler, more innocent ways.

My daydreams about her included hand-holding, cuddling, and lots of exemplary kissing — none of which I’d ever imagined, or done, with a girl before. Unfortunately, those fantasies didn’t entirely stop my reveries about making her moan, and every once in a while I found myself lost in a suggestive trance, with her as the star.

A few days prior, I came face to face with her in the hallway right after she’d gotten out of the shower. She’d had one of my sister’s tiny, seven-year-old towels wrapped around her soaked body, clearly having grabbed the towel by mistake, and she grasped the edges of it tightly to ensure it wouldn’t reveal anything to any hallway onlookers, such as myself.

Trying to keep my eyes off of her, and failing miserably, I stepped to the side to pass. When I did, she incidentally moved in tandem with me, consequently obstructing both our paths. In a second attempt to exit the hallway, I moved to the side again. Unfortunately, so did she, and once again, I was left standing face to face with my bare roommate who I wanted to lift up and press against the wall.

Her nervous expression was all kinds of cute as she finally managed to squeeze past me and into her room, slamming the door behind herself. I got into the shower after that, instantly turning the water dial to freezing cold, which thankfully had a rather negative effect on my hard-on.

I blinked, ridding myself of that red-hot memory. Danny’s smile was wide, wider than I’d ever seen. “You admit it, you do like her?”

“...Yes.” I swallowed, having a hard time digesting my pride.

He put a hand behind his ear, leaning towards me like I did to Prim when she wasn’t enunciating enough. “Sorry, that wasn’t clear enough. Can you repeat,” he mocked.

With a scowl, I tugged on the collar of his shirt to pull his ear to my mouth, screaming, “You’re a jackass! Is that clear enough for you?”

I shoved his shoulder away from me once my loud question had concluded. A tense silence followed his disturbingly loud sigh and his amusement was swiftly replaced with concern.

With an exhale as controlled as my insufficient tolerance, he spoke slowly like he was about to give me the worst medical prognosis of all time. “Asher, are you sure you’re in the right place to start... dating? Or be in love?”

“No, I’m not, Danny. Thanks for the reminder.” Sarcasm was deeply laced in my tone of voice but faded when I cringed. “And I am not in love.”

My best friend yanked out his phone, sending a quick text and slipping the device away again. My phone buzzing, I grabbed ahold of it and yanked it from my pocket, watching a group chat text notification pop onto my phone. Danny had charmingly informed Blake and Andy that we were meeting at my house early, and I sighed, looking over at him, concurrently trying to think of an escape route out of my own living room.

“What was that for?” I grumbled as Blake and Andy both shared that they were now on the way to my house.

He shrugged. “I think this is something we should all talk about.”

Bringing my glare from the phone over to him, I chucked a pillow at his head. “My emotions are not a group discussion topic!”

Fifteen minutes later they were all in my living room, waiting for Danny to tell them why the hell they were all there. I was too. Still sitting next to Danny on the couch, I watched Andy pace near the kitchen and Blake, sitting on the chair nearby, chug whatever alcoholic beverage he had stolen from my cabinets.

Blake sighed, leaning back in the comfortable seat. “Can you tell us why we’re here? I was seconds away from bagging Molly Cheffor when you texted.”

“Thank you for your sacrifice.” I rolled my eyes.

Blake scowled. “Molly’s not very happy with you.”

“You didn’t need to come,” I muttered with forced patience.

Danny shoved me, his plan to shut me up only making me angrier. “You like Chloe, idiot! This is a big deal.”

I closed my eyes as the room exploded with shock. I was friends with a bunch of children. I knew they wouldn’t judge me for the feelings I’d obtained but I felt embarrassed having to admit how many times a day Chloe invaded my thoughts, whether it was thinking about holding her hand or hearing her moan.

And clearly, the fact that I liked her was starting to affect my intoxicated thoughts too. I’d been drunk hundreds of times and not once had I ever confided in anyone the story of my father’s abandonment. I feared what else I may state, drunk or not, around Dol if I trusted her with one of my most painful secrets.

I rolled my eyes at the room’s reaction. “I thought this was information you already knew. You guys sure tease me enough for it.”

Andy chuckled. “Yeah, for wanting to bang her. I didn’t realize you had feelings involved.”

“No way,” Blake muttered belatedly with a smug ass face that was just asking for a good punch. “You? With a crush? Like a fuckin’ middle schooler? I don’t believe it.”

My jaw tensed like someone had tossed a lemon into my mouth. “Would you believe you’re an asshole?” I bit out.

Blake and Andy chuckled at the admittance to my feelings and my shoulders fell with defeat, sensing a strange need to convince them I wasn’t the emotionless robot that everyone besides Dolphin thought I was.

“I like her, alright? I care about her a lot. My day is better when she’s around. Goddammit, I don’t know how many ways I can say it.”

Blake’s smile melted the way ice cream did on a scorching hot day. The room stared blankly at me.

“It’s not a big deal. I’m not going to date her,” I continued, telling them what I thought they wanted to hear. I had no idea if I was going to tell her how I felt or not, but I certainly didn’t need the relationship advice, at least not from these guys.

Andy’s eyes widened at my statement, the dispute in them clear as day. “What do you mean you’re not going to date her?”

Blake nodded, agreeing. “Yeah, I’m sure she likes you too. Why not bang one out with her?” He winked while I cringed.

Andy began to challenge the notion that I shouldn’t go out with her, but Danny cut him off with an explanation. “I just think you’re... not really the relationship type, I guess, and I wouldn’t want to see you or Chloe hurt in the situation.”

Andy’s face changed from confused to irritated as he made his opinion clear. “Neither was I, yet here I am, in a relationship.”

Eyes bouncing between Andy and me, Danny’s singled in on Andy. “Yeah, but that’s different. You and Asher are two different types of jackass.”

A tight grin on my face, I grumbled sarcastically, “Do tell, what kind of jackass am I?”

Danny peeled his gaze off Andy to pull it to me. The empathy that was once in his voice evaporated as he bluntly stated, “The kind who gets drunk at parties every weekend and fucks the most noticeable girl out of the twenty who are throwing themselves in your lap.” I swallowed the lump in my throat from his harsh explanation. His tone dropped as he continued verbally tearing me limp by limp. “The kind who would break Chloe’s heart without even making the attempt.”

I opened my mouth to speak, but no words revealed themselves.

The empathy in Danny’s voice thankfully returned as he softly muttered, “It’s a crush, and I know how... uncommon those are for you, but it doesn’t mean it’ll last forever. Your choices are to ignore it until it goes away, or yank her into some mess that will most likely end in a few weeks and fuck your friendship up.”

Blake sighed as he came to the problematic realization himself. “He’s making a lot of sense. And on top of that, you’re a horrible influence. If you two get any closer, you might as well morph into one person.” He paused, then smirked. “Still, bang one out.”

Irritated, annoyed, and angry, I clenched my teeth. I knew what they were saying. They were telling me that I wasn’t good enough for her... in kinder words. They didn’t have to tell me, I already knew.

“She doesn’t even like me, asshole,” I spat.

Andy disagreed with a scowl. “Well, I think she does. You should’ve seen her at that party a few weeks ago, when she found out you were kissing some girl upstairs, man. She looked devastated.”

I frowned at the reminder of one of my mistakes, the guilt of the event returning. Then I thought deeply about what he had shared, my curiosity taking over. “She told you she was upset?”

My question earned me a smirk. “She might as well have,” he answered. “I could have sworn she was going to cry.”

A sigh followed my eye roll. “But she didn’t actually say anything.”

“If you don’t believe me, let’s just call and ask her how she feels about you.” Andy shrugged like it was a brilliant idea. As he dragged his phone out of his pocket, panic noticeably flooded my body. Pointing to me, he put the phone to his ear. “Grab him.”

Blake and Danny both leaped onto me before I could fully grasp the situation. Danny collapsed onto my legs, holding his hands over my mouth as Blake ensured I wouldn’t be able to move my arms as I attempted to push Danny off of me. Jackasses.

I continued to struggle in their grasp, unyielding until Andy put his phone on speaker and I heard Dol’s soft voice fill the room. My whole body went slack against the couch when I heard her. “Andy? What’s up?”

“Hey, Chloe. I was sitting here… alone… in my room… and I had a question for you.”

Dol’s voice was hesitant but accepting as she said, “Oh, uh, yeah sure. Can it be quick though? I’m kind of on a date.”

I received the three most sympathetic glances known to mankind and I wanted to blow up into a million pieces.

“Yeah, it’ll be quick. Do you like Asher?” he asked bluntly.

Chloe paused, the silence only strengthening the anticipation. “Asher? Of course, I do. He’s a great friend.”

Andy sighed, bringing the phone closer to his mouth. “No, no. I mean like, like him. A crush. Do you have feelings for him?”

She took a much longer pause, and I felt my entire body tense up. Though I already knew her answer, it didn’t help hearing it out loud, or in front of other people.

“Uh, no, Andy...” Dol squeaked through the phone.

I was internally punched, the emotional damage much worse than anything physical I’d ever felt. She really didn’t like me after all. I knew that. That was the worst part. I’d expected it, but that didn’t make it hurt any less.

With compassion in her voice, she finished verbally kicking me in the ribs. “I’m on a... a date right now. With someone else. Why?”

All I felt was nausea in my lurching stomach, threatening my throat. Holding my breath, I hoped maybe I’d pass out or just flat out die. Anything to get rid of the painful ache in my chest.

Quiet and empathetic, Andy spoke softly. “No reason. I guess I was just curious. I’ll see you later today, okay?”

“Alright... Bye, Andy!”

Hanging up the phone, the guys gently released me, like if they let go too fast, I’d explode. I sat back in my seat in an attempt to be as nonchalant as possible. I wanted to throw up, and cry, and drink. What I ended up doing was tossing on my best grin, glancing at each of my friends as if I was unfazed.

Andy’s face scrunched up apologetically. “Sorry,” he told me, faintly. “I really thought she’d say yes.”

“It doesn’t matter. I was never going to date her,” I confirmed again. “You all can stop freaking out. It’s a dumb crush and it’ll go away.”

It had too. I didn’t have any other choice.

Although I was sure the guys could see right through me, nobody mentioned how unsettled I looked. Andy shook his head. “This is your first crush, like, ever. It’s a big deal. Just because these assholes don’t think you’re good for her doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give it a chance.”

Letting out a breathy, bitter laugh, I focused on not blowing up into a pit of anger and sadness. “She doesn’t even like me. And it wouldn’t matter if she did. I don’t date.”

Blake raised an eyebrow. “Then just bang one ou-”

Pointing a stiff finger in his direction, I narrowed my eyes. “I swear to fucking God. Shut up.”

With a sigh in no general direction, Danny breathed out, “Honestly Asher, where do you see the relationship going with her?”

It wouldn’t go anywhere. I knew that. But hearing it from other people tightened my chest even farther than it already was, wounding it up like a tight string.

“Nowhere, which is exactly why I’m not making a move. We’ll be friends.” I thought for a moment, then sighed. “Plus, she’s on a date with Hayden Larkin right now. It’s not like I ever had a chance.”

The guys nodded slowly, and I exhaled in utter despair. I had to keep my feelings from her a secret or I could lose her, which made me feel like an elephant was sitting on my heart. Nonetheless, I knew I could keep my emotions hidden. After all, hiding things came easily when you’d always felt invisible.

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