Chapter 17 - Ruined
Surprise! I'm back a day early. I’m still busy but Beau couldn’t wait ;) Happy Sunday, friends!!
I messed up.
I was walking a tightrope, one wrong step would almost positively make this mediocre life I had made for myself crumble to the ground.
But apparently, that wasn't enough to stop me.
The main reason I never drank enough alcohol to get drunk was that when I was drunk, I became social.
As if someone flipped a switch and I turned into a damn butterfly.
But the thought of River at that stupid excuse of a senior trip made me throw back a few too many beers.
She was too smart and too good.
River had opportunities that her friends couldn't even dream of. She was busy taking college classes while they were worrying about who they could sucker into buying their next six-pack.
And what was I?
I was just the idiot who couldn't keep his drunk mouth shut.
And clearly, a glutton for punishment.
The second Jackson mentioned that he was considering sending River to live with some relative of the guy he took her away from, I felt nauseous.
And when he suggested that maybe she should stay with Taylor Thomas' family, I wanted to throw my fist through the wall.
And I knew exactly what that said about me.
But I also knew that neither of those options would work for River.
So I told Jackson that I would move in. I didn't want to renew my lease, the timing couldn't have been better.
The tight rope under my feet felt like it had shrunk to the size of a string of floss and I would fall off at any minute.
I had made myself scarce since the day Jackson told her that I was moving in. I knew she wouldn't be happy with the idea but I didn't expect her to freeze me out.
That wasn't River.
My phone buzzed in my pocket. If it was work calling for me to answer another question I would lose it. Lucky for them, it wasn't.
"What time will you be here?"
Jackson's voice brought me back to reality. Tonight was his going away party, and my first night in my new house.
"Two hours. Is that okay?"
"Yeah, I'm just making sure you'll actually show your face."
"I'll be there."
I didn't need to tell him, he knew that I would be there but with the last week of the two of us only speaking a couple of times, I could understand why he was making sure.
Jackson was a nervous wreck.
Between deploying, which would scare anyone shitless, and having to leave River, he was on the verge of losing his mind with worry.
And I was a shitty friend for not being more present this last week. For letting him think for even a second that River would be alone while he was gone.
"What should I bring?"
I asked while putting my running shoes on.
"Just yourself. . . And maybe a big ass jar of peanut butter to cheer River up."
"What's wrong with River?"
"I don't know man. I can't tell if it's because I'm leaving or something else."
"Something else as in?"
I held my breath while I waited for his answer.
"I have no clue. She's baking now, so that's a good sign."
My stomach growled at all the possibilities and I also had to suppress a laugh. She put so much effort into acting like she was in a bad mood. And she never really was.
I took my running shoes off. There was no use in going now. I was trying to clear my mind but now that I had confirmation that she was sulking and baking, it was time for me to head over.
"I'm on my way. I'll stop by the store first."
I closed my phone and got ready to deal with the mess that I created.
Nearly all of my things were already at Jackson's house in his guest room. I moved most of my clothes during the week while River was at school so all that I was bringing tonight was a bookbag full of whatever was left here.
River was lying flat on her back on a blanket in the front yard when I pulled into the driveway. It drove me nuts that she did that, I actually I could barely stand it.
But I knew why she liked it.
I turned the key in the ignition and grabbed the grocery bag from the passenger seat.
I knew she was aware that I was walking toward her. River was always aware. But she never turned head toward me, she kept her eyes trained on the clouds passing by.
I sat down on the ground beside her.
She turned her head and glared at me. She didn't find me funny at all today. Good thing I came prepared. I reached into the bag and pulled out the jar of peanut butter and sat it next to her.
"I have peanut butter inside."
I knew that. But I also knew what she didn't have.
I set the container of gourmet pretzel rods next to the jar of peanut butter and she sat up. The grocery store was almost always sold out, but not today.
She looked at up me and narrowed her eyes and I shrugged my shoulders.
"I know a guy."
She laughed and I counted it as a win.
Jackson was going to be deployed for a while and I needed River to understand that she was okay here with me. And that there would be no more instances like last week.
My role here was clear and whether River realized it or not, it was for the best.
She was struggling to open the pretzel container and I knew I didn't have her full attention. I took it out of her hands and ripped the plastic from around it before giving it back to her.
"I made a mistake."
I searched her face for some type of reaction but there was nothing.
I sighed and rubbed the back of my neck. I hated that she loved to curse.
I didn't say anything, I just watched as she pulled out a pretzel then secured the lid back on top of the container.
"The problem is Beau, I highly doubt that you and I agree on why it was a mistake to begin with. You think it was wrong because I'm seventeen and your best friend's little sister, but that's not it. And it wasn't the words either, those don't take any effort. It was wrong because the second that your lips touched my skin, you ruined me."
I was stunned into silence. There was nothing I could say anyway but I wanted to think of something.
Her bottom lip quivered as she studied my face, waiting for me to respond. When she realized that I wasn't going to she stood up and walked inside.
She had no idea what she was saying.
She couldn't possibly know what it meant to be ruined.
But I couldn't ignore the fact that knowing she existed made me feel ruined too.