As usual, he left for swim practice at the crack of dawn after a particularly good night’s rest, which meant he had no idea he hadn’t slept in his house the previous night, which also meant that he had no idea that she completely intended on avoiding him for a good portion of the day. Tyler went to training in an extremely good mood and returned from the mandatory team bonding lunch in an even better one, ready to spend the rest of the day with his girlfriend and still finding it amazing that the thought of having a girlfriend didn’t scare the shit out of him.
After dropping his gym bag on his bedroom floor and taking a quick shower, he stepped barefoot into the hallway, his hair still damp from washing, and knocked on the guest bedroom door, his heart rate spiking a bit at the thought of seeing Cassie. However, his excitement was dashed when he got no response. Thinking that maybe she was with his sister, he tried Jessamine’s room next, lifting his eyebrows in greeting when she pulled open the door only wide enough to reveal her head.
“Hey, sis,” he nodded, mussing his hair with his fingers to get it to dry faster. “Is Cassie with you?”
“Nope,” Jessamine shook her head. “Haven’t seen her all morning. Did you check her room?”
“Yeah…,” he replied slowly. “She’s not there and I texted her earlier and she hasn’t responded. I hope she’s okay.”
Jessamine lifted one shoulder in a shrug. “I’m sure she’s fine. Maybe she’s out with one of the girls and she hasn’t checked her phone. She’ll probably text you back in a couple hours.”
He supposed that made sense, though he wasn’t sure why Cassie would be out with the girls without Jessamine, but he decided not to question it, instead turning his attention to how he was going to spend the rest of the afternoon. “Yeah, you’re right. Thanks.”
Shooting him a soft smile, she shut the door before he could continue the conversation, leaving him a bit confused in the hallway. On the other side, Jessamine pressed her back against the door, inhaling deeply to calm her nerves and waiting a few seconds to ensure Tyler had returned to his room before shooting a glare at the girl sitting on top of her bed.
“Wanna tell me why I’m lying to my brother?” The tone of her voice was half genuinely curious and half annoyed because she hated keeping things from Tyler.
Cassie crinkled her nose apologetically. “Sorry. I’m just not ready to talk to him yet. I will, but I wanted to see you first.”
Intrigued, Jessamine hopped up onto the bed beside her friend. Cassie had come into her room about an hour ago and Jessamine hadn’t thought much of it because they often had gab fests at random hours, but when Tyler had knocked on the door, Cassie had begged her friend to say that she wasn’t there and Jessamine had obliged. But now she wanted an explanation and Cassie wasn’t entirely sure where to begin.
“Okay,” Cassie started slowly, tucking a short curl behind her ear and chewing on her lower lip nervously. “So you know how Ty came with me to have dinner with my mother last night?”
“Yeah…,” Jessamine replied, holding back a smile because she still finding it hard to believe that it actually happened. “Did it not go well?”
Tyler had already been asleep when Jessamine got home and Kira had texted her to let her know that Cassie was sleeping at the Brewer/Saxton place, so Jessamine hadn’t gotten any of the details on the family reunion.
“Actually, it went kinda perfectly,” she admitted, her eyes wide as she tried to convey her confusion. “Which made me realize that he’s all in which sorta freaked me out.”
“Gotcha,” Jessamine nodded, processing this information. She supposed Cassie’s reaction to Tyler being so invested was understandable, especially seeing as Cassie had never asked Tyler to be exclusive. All she wanted to know where the rules and it was Tyler who had suggested they be exclusive, a statement which probably left Jessamine’s roommate thunderstruck seeing as it came from a guy who, after breaking up with the only girlfriend he’d ever had, said that commitment was for people who didn’t know how to have a good time. “So what are you gonna do?”
That was an excellent question. The truth was that Cassie had no idea what she should do, but she did know she needed to figure out what the hell she wanted, and she was never going to be able to that while Tyler was across the hall. So she sighed heavily as she spoke softly. “I’m going to tell him the truth.”
That seemed like a simple enough solution, but when Cassie finally found the nerve to leave Jessamine’s room and found herself standing outside Tyler’s closed door, listening to the sound of Fall Out Boy blasting on the inside, she realized that telling the truth might be the hardest thing she’d ever have to do.
Inhaling deeply, she held her breath as she lifted a hand and knocked three times, using progressively more force each time in case he didn’t hear. He answered a few moments later, his eyes lighting with excitement at the sight of her, which only caused her heart to ache.
“Hey, babe!” he grinned, leaning forward to press a quick kiss to her lips before pulling her into the room, an assist she needed because his use of endearments had left her dumbfounded. “Where have you been? I was looking for you.”
“Around. I slept in.” she replied vaguely, allowing him to lead her to his bed, where he closed his laptop and shut off his music, crossing his legs and patting the empty space in front of him to indicate she should do the same. She did as she was told, waiting until she was facing him fully to continue. “Hey, can we talk?”
Tyler may not have known much about relationships, but he did know that those words were never good. Nodding, he furrowed his eyebrows and pursed his lips as he reached out to grab her hand, more for his own sense of comfort than hers. “Sure. Is everything alright? Did your mum not like me?”
“She loved you,” Cassie assured him, trying not to wince at her choice of words. “She thinks you’re great.”
“Awesome,” he grinned, letting out a sigh of relief before realizing her expression was still conveying concern. “Did something else happen?”
“Nothing really happened,” she shook her head slowly, avoiding making eye contact and instead staring at where his thumb was brushing over her skin. “It’s just…I’ve been thinking. I’ve been thinking that maybe when we got involved, we didn’t really think it through.”
“What does that mean?” he asked, not liking where this conversation was headed. He wondered if this was how Lindsay felt right before he broke up with her. No wonder she didn’t want to speak to him for a while afterwards. Whatever he was feeling right now – he couldn’t quite put his finger on what it was – was absolutely horrible.
“It means,” she took a breath in, giving her time to formulate her thoughts as she finally gained the nerve to lift her gaze to meet his. “I think we sort of just gave into our feelings without thinking about the big picture logically. I mean, you don’t know where you’re going to be next year and I don’t know where I’m going to be the year after that and I don’t know, we just didn’t really consider any of that, did we?”
“Why the hell does it have to be logical?” he spat out, genuinely confused by her words. “Why the hell does everything have to follow some sort of plan?”
“Because I’m falling in love with you.”
She hadn’t meant to tell him that – the words sort of tumbled out of their own accord – but now that it was out there, she supposed there was no turning back. So she kept her gaze on him, glad that he seemed too shocked by her confession to speak because it meant she kept the momentum to continue.
“And that probably freaks the shit out of you,” she said softly, holding his hand tightly because she wanted to keep physical contact as long as she possibly could. “It should, seeing as it freaks the shit out of me, which is why I realized that not thinking about the big picture was a huge mistake. Because if I allow myself to fall for you fully and things between us don’t work out…I just…I don’t know if I’d be able to handle it.”
Tyler was still in shock from her previous statement, but he figured he should focus on the fact that Cassie seemed to be in the midst of ending their extremely short relationship and think about her confession of love later.
“So that’s it, then?” he replied, barely able to get his voice above a whisper. “We’re over. Just like that.”
It was a kind of cruel irony that the shortest relationship he’d ever been in was with someone that he actually saw a future with.
“I’m sorry, Tyler.” She didn’t know what else to say. She didn’t want it to be over, but her biggest fear was that she’d give herself to him entirely only to have her heart shattered beyond repair. At least if she ended things while she was still in the process of falling, the carnage wouldn’t be as damaging.
It was a cop out and a selfish one at that, but she hoped she was sparing Tyler some pain as well. Maybe not immediately, but hopefully in the long run he’d understand why it was best if they part ways now.
There were about a million things he wanted to say to her, the most important being that he was most definitely falling for her as well, but he couldn’t seem to make the words come out and before he worked up the nerve to beg her to reconsider, she was leaning forward to press a chaste kiss to his cheek and dropping his hand.
“I think I should probably head back to school early,” she said quietly, leaning back a bit to create some distance between them. “I have a bunch of stuff to do for my end of year project anyway. Jessa said I could take her car and she’d get your parents to drive her up later.”
She wasn’t sure why she was explaining the details of her next steps, especially because she couldn’t imagine he cared in the slightest, but she hated the silence and he didn’t seem to have anything else to say. He was too dumbfounded by how things could have taken such a sharp turn that he couldn’t form words and watched helplessly as she uncrossed her legs and swung them to the floor, padding quietly towards the door.
With one hand on the handle, she paused in the open doorway, turning to face him, her lips parting and pressing together a couple times as she formulated her thoughts before speaking. “I just want you to know that you made me so incredibly happy.”
He wanted to ask her why, if that was true, she was throwing it all away over something that they could most definitely work out. She was right in stating that they hadn’t really thought about the future, because truthfully, Tyler didn’t have any clue what he was doing after high school, but he did know that whatever the future held, he wanted Cassie to be by his side.
Before he could open his mouth and express those feelings, however, she had lifted one hand to her lips to blow him a kiss and stepped across the hall to grab the bags she had packed before working up the nerve to knock on his door. A few moments later, he heard her making her way down the stairs and heard her soft voice ringing out in the foyer as she thanked his parents and explained why she was leaving and then the garage door opened and closed and Cassie had left his life just as quickly and unexpectedly as she had entered it.