Chapter 11: Denial
For a second, my whole world seemed to stop as my blood ran cold. I struggled to wrap my head around the words that Noah had just uttered. His eyes were downcast, as if he couldn’t even bare to look at me.
“No. No way,” I denied, swallowing thickly and shaking my head vigorously. “Logan wasn’t like that.”
“Logan wasn’t who you thought he was. We all saw it. Everyone knew.”
Everyone knew? How was that even possible? How could everyone know and never tell me? It just didn’t make sense! I refused to believe it was true, but a seed of doubt was still planted in my mind, which made me ask the question I asked next.
“Who was the girl?”
Noah cleared his throat and refused to make eye contact. He scratched the back of his head, and half-turned away from me. I stepped forward and grabbed his wrist, and my nails dug tightly into his skin. “Noah. Who. Was. The. Girl?” I asked again, my voice cold and deadly.
“There wasn’t just one girl,” he said finally.
I let go of his hand as I realized how painful my grip must’ve been. What was wrong with me?! It might not even be true! God, Marley, get a grip.
“He was with me all the time,” I said, denying it until the very end. I just couldn’t let myself believe it might be true. “There was no way.”
“You hated parties, Marley. Every party, there were all kinds of girls throwing themselves at him. Didn’t you ever wonder why he never called Friday night? Why he blew you off?” Noah looked at me from under his lashes, and I felt tears brim my eyes at his words. The way each one was like an ice-cold knife stabbing into my heart.
I looked down at my lap. I thought about it. It was true. He was never available Friday nights. He never called or texted or went on a date with me. He always told me he was busy, or he had an after-party, or there was something else he had to do. And he left me at home like a fool, staring at my cell and praying for a call.
Was it because he was a little too busy with another girl?
I shook my head vehemently, dismissing the thoughts. No! Logan was a faithful boyfriend, and always had been. He was always by my side. He was the perfect boyfriend, and he’d never do that.
“There’s no way,” I said, standing up and walking to the door. “I asked for answers. Noah. Not lies.”
“I’m not lying, Marley,” Noah said, his voice growing louder as he got angrier and more exasperated. “Do you have any idea how much it hurt me hiding it from you? Watching him walk all over you while you doted on him like the perfect girlfriend. Watching every Friday night as he disappeared upstairs with a new girl. One that wasn’t his girlfriend.”
I was speechless at the anger and emotion portrayed in his voice. How he truly seemed hurt. I couldn’t speak, but Noah filled up the tense silence for me.
“Do you know how much it hurt, knowing that he was with another girl, while you sat at home staring at your phone, waiting for him to call? Watching you every night when I came home from a party, knowing he was still there, in a spare bedroom with some new girl. I used to watch you sitting on your bed, playing with your phone, waiting for him to call. But he never did.” He closed the space between us, until we were mere inches apart. I could feel the body heat radiating off of him in waves, and his voice was almost inaudible when he finished. “Do you know how much it hurt me, knowing that he was the only thing on your mind, when he never even thought about you.”
Tears sprung to my eyes as he leant so close to me that his lips were centimeters from mine, and I could see every freckle on his nose. I could see each fleck of gold in his hazel eyes, feel each cool breath as he spoke.
“And do you know how much it hurt, knowing that there wasn’t a goddamn thing I could do about it?”
“Why did you even care?” I whispered shakily, as a traitorous tear escaped my eye and slipped down my cheek. My small hands fisted at my sides. “You hated me. What would you care if he hurt me?”
“Is that truly what you think?” he breathed incredulously, eyes filled with pain. “That I wanted to see you hurt? I could never hate you, Marley. I never stopped caring about you. Of course I hated watching him walk all over you. Watching him flirt and dance and kiss a new girl, while he knew that you were still there, waiting for him to call.”
I looked down, and froze as his calloused thumb grazed against my cheek, wiping away the tear. My breath hitched in my throat, and I swallowed, trying to push down my traitorous thoughts.
“You deserved so much better than that, Marley. That’s all I ever wanted you to know. You deserved so much better than to have your heart played like a toy. Why do you think I agreed to help you in the first place?”
I sighed and nodded slowly, knowing he was right. Somewhere deep inside me, I could hear it in his voice. The hurt, the raw truth, hidden within it as cleanly as if it had been written on a scrap of paper. Logan had cheated on me. While I had sat at home every Friday night, watching my cell and hoping he would call, he had been with another girl, not even giving me a second thought.
How could I have been so stupid?
Somewhere inside me, it was like a dam collapsed, and soon I was wrapped up in Noah’s arms, sobbing into his t-shirt while he ran his hands through my hair, whispering that it was all gonna be OK.
I leant back and looked into his eyes, and I swear for a second that I could see love there. Maybe I was crazy or dreaming, but for one second, as he gazed down at me, I swear I could see it.
Before I even knew what I was doing, I stood on my tiptoes, and pressed my lips to his.
This wasn’t a kiss for show. I couldn’t blame it on the crowds or Logan or pressure. This was all me. There were no excuses, no lies and definitely no pretending.
For a second he was completely still, shocked, before he kissed me back, his head sliding around the back of my neck and bringing us closer. For a second all I could feel was his arms and all I could taste were his lips. I leant in closer to him and moved my arms around his neck, pressing myself against him. He deepened the kiss, and I leant up further, twining my arms around his neck and bringing him closer.
Finally I leant back, and realized what I had done. I had kissed Noah! Shocked at my bold actions, I dropped my hands and stumbled back, creating some space between us. This was wrong. So, so wrong! Now I was the cheater! Sure, Logan and I weren’t together, but I had still once belonged to him!
Noah opened his mouth. “Marley, I—”
I held up a finger and shook my head, looking down at my ballet-flat clad feet. “Don’t say anything, please. I’m sorry. That was a mistake. I shouldn’t have done that. I didn’t mean it.”
“But, Marley—” he began, but I couldn’t hear it.
Once again I cut him off, not wanting to hear whatever it was he had to say. “Please don’t say anything, Noah. That kiss was a mistake.”
He stepped back, looking hurt. He breathed out a hurt breath. “A mistake, huh?”
“Is that all I was to you? A mistake? Was I just something to keep you occupied until you got Logan back?” Noah asked, his voice steadily rising.
I had no idea where this was coming from, and it took me a second to regain my voice. “No, Noah.”
“You can’t do this to people, Marley. You can’t break down and cry and then kiss somebody and put them down. That’s not how it works. I was trying to help you. Were you using me all this time?”
“Of course not, Noah—”
“Save it, Marley. Maybe you and Logan deserve each other, after all.”
I froze, and there was nothing I could do to control the hurt that was clearly showing on my face. The words cut deeper than the sharpest knife, and I felt my heart shatter into a million pieces as I stared into those familiar eyes as familiar to me as my own.
I took a step back as the breath left me in a whoosh. Noah rubbed his eyes and looked sincerely regretful. “Look, Mar, I didn’t mean—”
“Maybe I hurt you,” I whispered, fresh tears welling in my eyes, and some falling down my cheeks. “If I did, I am truly sorry. But I promise you, that I will never say or do anything to you that will hurt you as much as those words hurt me.”
Before he had a chance to say anything, I turned around and started walking out of the door, not giving him a chance to reply.