Chapter 16: Help
“Marley, I need to tell you something about Noah.”
I jumped at the sound of Logan’s voice. I turned to him, raking my eyes over his sleepy face. I thought he had been asleep due to the excessive amounts of morphine the doctors had given him to ease the growing pains in his ribs.
Slowly, I put my phone back in my pocket. Noah had replied five minutes ago, with a simple, Marley, please. Let me explain.
I hadn’t answered, because I didn’t know what to say. What he wanted me to do. It hurt too much, and I didn’t know if I was ready to hear whatever it was Noah had to tell me.
So I never replied.
I tensed at the sound of Noah’s name, but forced a tiny smile in order to convince Logan everything was fine. “What is it?”
“I don’t know how to tell you this, but Noah lied to you,” Logan said, eyes large and brown and innocent.
“How did he lie?” I asked, leaning forward, my interest successfully piqued.
“I know about your fake relationship.”
I froze, my eyes going large and a blush filtering onto my cheeks in embarrassment. Looking back, I realized how immature I must’ve seemed, enlisting Noah’s help to get back at Logan. He must think I was so petty.
“W-What do you mean?” I stuttered, not knowing how else to reply.
“I know you asked Noah to help you make me jealous,” he deadpanned, not looking judgmental in the slightest. “That you started a fake relationship to make me want you back.”
I looked down. “I know it was stupid, Logan,” I muttered, cheeks flaming.
He laughed, and I raised my eyes to meet him. The laugh was deep and booming and genuine, a laugh I had always loved. But for some reason now it didn’t have the same effect it had always had. I couldn’t help imagining Noah’s laugh, how happy and musical it sounded.
Stop it, Marley, I scolded myself. Just… Just stop.
“It wasn’t stupid, Mar,” he replied, flashing me a knee-weakening smile. “I thought it was sweet, and it definitely worked.”
He nodded solemnly. “Yep,” he said, popping the ‘p.’ “It drove me crazy, actually.”
I couldn’t believe it had worked! I thought the plan was ridiculous and petty, but it had worked? Maybe it wasn’t such a terrible plan after all.
“But then… why did you say Noah lied? Did you mean about the relationship? Because I lied, too,” I told him, feeling the need to defend Noah’s honor.
He shook his head. “No, not about the relationship. I mean he lied about the reason he agreed to help you.”
“He said… He said it was because he wanted to help me and make you mad,” I admitted, entwining my fingers and staring at my lap, which was currently clad in dark-washed jeans.
Logan had told me before that he loved to see me wearing jeans. He hated when I wore shorts or tights or skirts, because he hated the idea of other guys being able to see my legs.
Before I had found it sweet. Now I found it rude and possessive that he thought he could control my wardrobe choices.
Can you blame him? I thought to myself. He doesn’t want other guys checking you out. Not that they would check out a girl like you, but the thought is there.
And still I wore jeans.
Noah said he loved when I wore skirts or denim shorts, because he thought I looked happy and carefree.
But he had never told me not to wear certain clothes.
There you go again, judging Logan because of Noah. It doesn’t matter the difference!
“That wasn’t the reason,” Logan replied to my earlier statement.
I frowned at Logan, not comprehending his words. Why would Noah bother to lie? It wasn’t like in the beginning he had even cared about myself or Logan. He had just done it for kicks…. Hadn’t he?
“Well, what was the reason?” I asked, tucking a piece of brunette hair behind my ears nervously and wringing my hands.
“He wanted to sabotage your relationship with me and ruin it to make sure you never got back together with me,” he told me seriously, looking unbelievably sincere.
The truth was, he had already told me that. He had tried to sabotage our relationship so that I never got back with Logan because Noah thought I was too good for him. But I didn’t want to rat Noah out, so I shook my head and said, “Why would he do that?”
“Because he wanted you for himself.”
I reeled backwards, not expecting that as answer. Noah wanted me to himself? We were enemies! That was impossible! I knew Noah, and I also knew that he wouldn’t ever like me.
He didn’t like girls like me. He liked preppy cheerleaders who wore short skirts and had blond hair and blue eyes.
In case you hadn’t noticed, I had none of those things.
I was quick to deny it. “No way. Noah and I aren’t even friends!”
“There’s a fine line between love and hate.” It was funny, it was exactly what Noah’s friend had said, and what I had said to Logan. And yet, used in this context, for this reason, it just seemed wrong. “Didn’t you think he was awfully eager to help you?”
I frowned. I mean… maybe? I don’t know. It was just impossible to believe Noah would have an interest in me. It couldn’t be true. As that song by Taylor Swift went, She wears short skirts, I wear t-shirts, she’s cheer captain and I’m on the bleachers. She wears high heels, I wear sneakers…
Those were the things he liked, and the latter were the things I were. He would never fall for a girl like me.
You fell for him, a narcissistic voice in the back of my mind reminded me. Why is it so impossible to believe he fell for you, too?
Because it’s Noah Fordman, that’s why!
“Look, Logan,” I said softly, taking his hand. “That’s not true. But even if it was—which it’s not—it wouldn’t matter, because I love you, remember?”
He grinned, looking happy. “Yeah. And I love you, too.”
His eyes drifted closed as his morphine kicked in and he fell asleep. I stayed there for a few more hours, holding his hand and smiling at him, but the truth was, I couldn’t ignore the nagging feeling that maybe I had missed out on some kind of opportunity by saying yes to Logan.
Like being with Noah.
That night, as I sat on my bed, trying to catch up on homework that was long overdue—but had been seriously neglected due to other, more romantic, reasons—I was interrupted by a knock on the door.
“Come in!” I called, pushing the biology textbook off of my lap and sitting up straighter.
My twin brother poked his head in and gave me a sheepish smile. “Can I talk to you?”
I cleared my throat and gestured for him to come in. “Of course.”
Jake stepped in further and sat on the edge of my bed, looking around the interior of my room, from my pastel-blue walls to my white chiffon curtains and white desk scattered with textbooks and novels.
“I haven’t been in here in a while.”
“Because you’re always out,” I reminded him kindly, giving him a genuine smile. I had a better relationship with my family than most other people I knew my age.
“Yeah. Sorry about that,” he apologized, patting my shoulder.
“It’s no problem. At least you have a social life. Speaking of which, how is Jordyn?”
He ran a hand through his dark-brown hair—which was the exact replica of my colored hair—and cleared his throat. “Um, I wouldn’t know.”
“Why not?” I asked, my eyebrows knitting together in confusion. Jake was the perfect boyfriend. He was always by her side like a loyal lapdog.
“I broke up with her,” he told me matter-of-factly.
I froze. I bet Ciara would be dying of happiness if she heard that. I could just imagine her squeals and mini freak-out.
But I knew how much he had liked Jordyn—maybe even loved. I couldn’t imagine why he had left her.
“Oh,” I replied, trying to look sympathetic. “I’m sorry.” The truth was, though, I had never liked Jordyn. She was this cheerleader with bleached-blonde hair extensions, manicures and a high-pitched, nasally voice that made you want to cut your eyes out with a blunt plastic knife while sawing off your pinky finger with a rusty hacksaw. Sorry for the visual picture, but that’s the kind of voice she had.
He waved it away nonchalantly. “Things weren’t working out.”
“So why did you need to talk to me?” I asked, trying to change the subject. I could tell the memories were fresh in his mind, so I wanted to try and take his mind off of it.
“Oh, um, I just wanted to talk to you about Logan and Noah,” Jake said honestly, staring at me. Jake didn’t beat around the bush; he always got straight to the point.
I bit my lip, and looked at the plush white carpet, feeling a blush rise to my cheeks. Of course Jake knew about it! We went to the same school, in the same year, and we were twins! How did I not think about this? My family probably knew the whole story.
Oh, God, I was gonna die of embarrassment any second now. This was one of those moments where you wish for a gigantic black hole to come and swallow you up.
“What about them?” I asked, trying to force a bright tone, like I didn’t care that he knew about my most humiliating secret—apart from the diary I had been keeping since I was twelve years old.
“Look,” he said, scratching the back of his head. “I just wanted to ask what’s going on with you. I mean, Logan dumped you, and the next week you’re going out with Noah. Then they have a fight and you go with Logan in the ambulance. Just wondering what your deal is.”
I sighed and buried my face in my hands, letting out a loud groan. “It’s a mess, Jake.”
His hand rubbed soothingly on my shoulder. “You wanna tell me what happened?”
And then I found myself in the awkward situation of explaining things to my twin brother. About the breakup and then the Jealousy Game and the fight and then agreeing to go back out with Logan. I left no details out at all—well, I mean, apart from the tiny little kisses and interludes and rendezvous between Noah Fordman and myself.
There are some things you just can’t tell your brother.
When I was done, I watched Jake’s face for any hint of a reaction. His eyebrows were raised, and he seemed taken aback by my story—or maybe just my honesty.
“Uh, wow, sis,” he said finally, searching for words. “You’ve made a mess of things, haven’t you?”
I rolled my eyes. That wasn’t really helping the situation. Then I promptly realized he was telling the truth, and nodded. “Yep.”
“Why did you agree to go out with Logan?” he asked, watching me. I could feel his hazel-brown eyes staring at me.
I stopped and frowned, thinking the question through. Why did I say yes to Logan? Was it because I felt guilty about what had happened with Noah? Was it because Noah had taken himself out of the picture and I was just settling for Logan?
No, I couldn’t be settling for second best with Logan… could I?
“I don’t… I don’t know,” I said finally, frowning. “I guess it was because I’m in love with him.”
“You guess?” Jake replied.
“I… I mean, I’m in love with him,” I said in a small voice, like a chastised child.
“Are you in love with him?” Jake asked skeptically, throwing questions my way. “Or are you just in love with the idea of being in love with him?”
For that question, I had absolutely no answer.
I lowered my eyes, letting his words sink in. The worst part of it all was that I didn’t know if I was in love with Logan or not. Everything was just so confusing lately.
Three months ago, there was a clear-cut answer. Noah was off my radar. I focused on Logan and my friends, and he was the center of my universe. There was no questioning. The answers were as solid as concrete.
But now Noah was in the picture, and all of my definite thoughts had been screwed up, so now there was always a sliver of doubt in my mind about my feelings.
“Look, Marley,” Jake said. “I know I’m not the best guy to give relationship advice—Lord knows I’ve had my fair share of hit-and-misses—but I think maybe you should think carefully about whether or not your feelings for Noah were purely platonic.”
I nodded and lowered my head, sighing a little. I already knew the answer to that question. No, they weren’t just platonic. They were much, much more.
I think… I think I was in love with Noah.
No, I wasn’t allowed to think like that! I was with Logan. Logan and I were a couple again.
“I don’t know, Jake. It’s all a mess.”
He nodded. “I know. But, Marley, you need to think about this, OK? You need to really decide what you’re doing. Because while you were at the hospital, Noah came around. And when he heard you weren’t there, he went up to his room and started whispering into your window to see if we were just lying and you didn’t wanna see him. You’re tearing his heart apart and it’s not fair. And I know it’s breaking your heart, too.”
I looked down, feeling flustered at everything Jake had said. I needed time to seriously think about this.
“When did you become such a genius?” I asked, trying to make light of the situation.
He shrugged. “I don’t know, I have my moments.”
I giggled and swatted his arm playfully, before something came to mind. Jake had really helped me tonight, and I planned to repay the favor by at least attempting to make two people I loved happy.
“Jake,” I said, leaning forward and pursing my lips. “Have you ever met my friend Ciara?”