The Jealousy Game

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Chapter 15: Repercussions

NOAH’S POV

That afternoon, as soon as I got home, I could feel it in the air. It wasn’t a smell, or a noise. It was an instinctual feeling, just something permeating the air.

My family knew.

Slowly, with dread, I made my way into the kitchen, where my mom and dad were sitting at the table. My mother’s face was shadowed by her curly blond hair, and my dad’s had creases in it like he had run his hands through it too many times. They looked up when they saw me, and gestured to a spare seat at the mahogany kitchen table. Ella was noticeably absent. Which could only mean one thing.

And it sure as hell wasn’t good.

I sat down slowly and laid my backpack beside me, next to my shoes. “I guess you guys know.”

“It’s all over the town,” my father, Matt Fordman, said, his hazel eyes so similar to my own raking my features. “It’d be impossible not to know.”

“Look, let me explain—”

“Why did you do it, Noah?” my mother asked, her voice small and disappointed. It made my heart ache. “Logan Hawkins? Do you know who his father is? He could send you to prison.”

Everyone knew that Logan’s father, Patrick Hawkins, was a big-shot lawyer. One of the best in the state. Along with Marley’s dad, but that hardly seemed to make a difference now.

I looked down at my hands, knowing they were right. “I know, mom.”

“Why Logan? Why Marley’s boyfriend?” she asked tiredly, rubbing her eyes as if she were exhausted, or had a headache. I could still hear the disappointment in her voice, something I never wanted my mother to feel. Their quiet, gentle voices were worse than if they had been yelling at me. But my parents weren’t like that.

I hadn’t even mentioned the Jealousy Game to them yet. How the hell was I meant to explain that to them now? After everything? It seemed so childish.

“You wanna know what else I heard today?” mom asked, looking up at me with her bright blue eyes.

“What?”

“About you and Marley’s relationship.” I froze, and a thick feeling of dread started to build in my stomach. Dear God, no. “How long did you think you could keep that from me, Noah?” She seemed genuinely hurt. “I’m a music teacher at the high school. I don’t live under a rock.”

I swallowed thickly and kept my eyes glued to the tablecloth. I couldn’t bear the burden of her gaze. The obvious sadness in her voice that she hadn’t been told that the people she had always pinned together as the “Number-One Couple” had gotten together without her knowledge.

“I guess I should explain everything to you guys,” I said slowly, looking at my mother and then my father.

“I think that might be a good idea, Noah,” my father replied.

And, just like that, I told them about the plan Marley and I had hatched, and then everything that happened. I told them about my ulterior motives, and how I only had Marley’s interests at heart.

And then I told them how there was a huge possibility I might’ve fallen for Marley Adams.

It had happened so quickly I had barely had time to process it.

I hadn’t even really allowed myself to think about it until now. It slipped out before I had a chance to pull it back in, but now it was out in the open, I didn’t even want to.

When I was done, I looked up at them, to see my mother smiling a little. She bit her lip and traded a look with my dad, and I glanced between them, worrying what their look meant. They did this all the time. It was like they had some magical psychic power to communicate with each other through looks and head gestures. I had never learnt how to decipher those looks.

Finally, she turned to me.

“You’re in love with Marley?” she half-squealed, jumping up in excitement.

I jumped a mile high in my chair, before blinking at her, taken aback by her reaction. “I guess… I don’t know,” I admitted slowly. “Maybe.”

“I knew this would happen,” she said, clapping her hands in excitement. “But you fought for her? That’s so romantic. Did you know your father did that for me twenty years ago?”

My eyebrows rose. I had known about the pranking war that my mother and Marley’s father, Cole Adams, had fought in, but I had never heard of a fight.

“Wait, for real?” I asked.

She nodded. “Yep. And that was the moment I realized I loved your father,” she said, her eyes glazing over as she went into la-la land. She did that a lot when she thought about her past.

“Wow,” I said, giving my dad an appreciative glance. He was currently blushing and watching my mother with adoration. I didn’t even know my dad had it in him to do something like that. He was more gentle and calm. “Good work, Dad.”

He shrugged. “It’s all in the romance, son.”

She turned back to me, snapping out of her dreamland and returning to Earth to do her motherly duties. “But you’re still in trouble, mister. You can’t start fights with Logan. His dad could send you to jail or get me fired.”

“I know. I’m sorry.”

She sighed. “It’s fine. Just… try not to do it again, OK? I mean, you put the poor boy in hospital and cracked his ribs! That’s serious, Noah.”

“Do you think they’ll press charges?”

“We’ll deal with that when it comes. Until then, just stay out of trouble, OK? Now, as your punishment, I want you to go and try and talk to Marley,” my mother said.

That didn’t sound like much of a normal punishment for other kids. Maybe being grounded or having to do the dishes for a month.

But my mother knew me well, and knew that this would be even more punishment than extra chores. She knew it would take a lot to be able to talk to her.

I smiled at her, knowing there was another reason behind her punishment choice. “You really want us together, don’t you?”

She shrugged happily. “You’re perfect for each other. Even if you don’t see it.”

I thanked her and then stood up, grabbing my backpack and then making my way out the front door and to the house next to me.

I knocked on the door with a slightly trembling hand and listened for any noises.

I heard approaching footsteps, and knew it was too late to turn around now.

The door opened, and her brother, Jake, who had been my best friend, opened the door. “Hey, Noah,” he said.

“Hey, Jake. Is Marley here?”

He shook his head with a sigh. “No. She’s in the hospital with Logan.”

My jaw clenched, and I looked down. Of course she’d choose him over me. By now I’d bet they were even together.

The thought made me want to throw something heavy at the little rich boy and see how he liked being crushed like that.

I nodded slowly. “OK. Thanks, Jake. Sorry to bother you.”

He nodded, and I turned to leave.

His voice stopped me. “Hey, wait.”

I turned around. “Yeah?”

“Don’t give up,” Jake told me quietly, leaning forward to be heard better. “We all know about Logan, and Marley’s naïve. She refuses to see what’s obvious. She’s a pushover, and she always sees the best in people, even when sometimes it’s not there.”

“What are you trying to say?” I whispered.

“I’m trying to say that… Don’t give up on her. Even if she won’t admit it, she needs you. And when she finally realizes—when she finally gets her heart broken—she’s gonna need you to lean on. She needs you more than she could ever say.”

I nodded and thanked him, before walking down the porch steps and back to my house, feeling lethargic and deflated. But I couldn’t give up. I had to keep trying for her.

For me.

I made my way to my room, shutting the door behind me. I opened the window separating us, but didn’t notice her light on. Maybe she really wasn’t home?

It wasn’t that I didn’t trust Jake. It was just that maybe she was home and refused to talk to me. I had to know.

“Marley,” I whispered into the night, my voice carrying easily. “Marley!”

There was no response, and I leaned out further, my fingers gripping the sill in desperation. “Marley! Marley Jayne Adams!”

No reply.

“Marley, please, if you’re out there, answer me!”

Just then my phone buzzed in my pocket, and I pulled it out. My stomach knotted as I noticed the name.

Marley McAwesome.

She had called herself that when I first got this phone when I was fourteen, and I had never changed it back. She never texted me, so I never saw the name and changed it. This was the first time she had texted me in a while.

I pulled down the notifications and opened it, reading it with furtive eyes.

I just wanted to tell you that I need some space, Noah, it read, and I could almost imagine her voice saying these exact words, her eyes wide and brown and sincere. I’m sorry, but I just need some time to think. Please… just leave me alone for a little while, OK? I’m sorry.

Had she just blown me off? I ran my hand through my hair. I couldn’t believe I had ruined everything by starting a stupid fight with her boyfriend!

I quickly typed out a message, having to rewrite it six times because my hands were shaking so badly. There was so much I wanted to say, but nothing came out right.

Finally, I just wrote, Marley, please. Let me explain.

I needed the chance to explain everything and make it better. I needed to explain things to her and make her see things my way. I needed to tell her how I felt. That I loved her. That she was all I ever thought about. Maybe then she’d see things my way, and maybe she felt the same way and we could finally be together.

But I never got the chance to tell her.

Because she never replied.

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