Chapter 17: Broken
Two weeks later, Logan was finally out of hospital. And three days after that, his parents and the doctors let him go back to school.
It felt like all eyes were on us as we walked through the school, his arm wrapped around my shoulder not only for romantic reasons, but also to help support his weight.
Although a thick bandage wrapped around his torso, he was still in a lot of pain because of the ribs. Things like that didn’t heal overnight, and they were still bruised. Despite the copious amounts of medication he was on, it didn’t stop all of the pain.
Maybe that was the thing that stopped me from approaching Noah. The all-too-present reminder of Logan’s injuries.
It had been two and a half weeks since I had last texted or spoken to Noah. I hadn’t spoken to him since that night when I had told him I needed space. He had been good enough to let me have it, and he hadn’t pushed me on the subject. But that was the kind of person he was; he respected my decisions and abided by them.
In return, I had also managed to convince Logan and his parents not to press charges on Noah. That it was a simple misunderstanding. It took a little while, but it was worth it in the end. Noah got off scot-free. Of course, Logan had been hurt and confused about why I had wanted Noah not to be arrested, but I had made up some excuses and sweet-talked Noah’s way out of trouble.
I felt it in my heart, though. The distance between us. I thought it was impossible to miss someone as much as I missed Noah. I know I had been the one to tell him I needed space, but I had too much pride to go back and speak to him. Even if it was a stupid conversation about donuts or foosball, I still would’ve liked to have a conversation with him.
Even one of our arguments that made me want to tear my hair out would’ve been better than the radio silence I was currently subjected to.
That morning as we made our way down the corridors and I tried to guide Logan to his locker through the teeming throngs of students, I saw Noah at the end of the hallway. He was talking to one of his friends, gesticulating with his hands as if enunciating a point, and his friend was nodding in understanding.
Somewhere behind us, I heard someone call out his name, and immediately his head jerked in our direction, responding to the call.
His eyebrows were raised as he searched the faces for the perpetrator, before he looked at us.
He did a double take as he took us in, and I saw his face completely fall.
He was just standing there, frozen, as teenagers conversed around him, and the world moved on while he seemed completely immobile. He stared at Logan and I, and I realized it was the first time he had seen me with Logan since the fight. He didn’t know we were back together.
The look on his face made my heart plummet. He looked crestfallen; heartbroken. Like his whole world had ended.
It broke my heart.
His eyes never left my gaze, but I knew I had to leave Noah behind. As much as it hurt, he had beaten up Logan, and he had tried to sabotage my relationship with Logan. Who knew what else he had lied about? Maybe he didn’t even care about me after all, and was just doing it for a laugh.
It hurt, and I knew I would miss those incredibly kind hazel eyes, the tousled hair. All I wanted was to run forward and fling my arms around his neck and pull him close. Kiss him, or maybe just hold him. Talk to him and tell him how I really felt. That it took everything in me not to text him or go to his house. Not to lean out of my window at night and call his name, like I had done so many times before we had fought when we were fourteen.
Not to just tell him that I loved him, and I wanted to be together more than anything else in this world.
But it was too late. It was too late to revert back to the way we once were, when we had campouts in the tent in the backyard. When we studied together and talked and I watched him grow.
We needed to be neighbors, but nothing more. I would see him occasionally, but I couldn’t talk to him. I hated violence, and he had seriously hurt Logan. I had no idea how much further things could’ve gone if I hadn’t have stepped in and put a stop to it. Who knew what else Noah could do.
It would hurt, and I knew my heart would break, but it was for the best. They say time heals all wounds, and I hoped that that meant heartbreak, too. I knew with absolute certainty that I loved Noah, but there wasn’t a thing I could do about it. I was with Logan, and I needed to put Noah behind before I caused us both any more pain.
I did what I did next for the both of us.
So I did the only thing I could do.
I bowed my head and turned away.
The one thing I thought to myself was a saying I had heard not too long ago, that seemed ironically fitting right now.
The pain that hurts the most is the one that mends a broken heart.
“So the rumors are true?” Chaska asked as her and Ciara took a seat next to me at our usual cafeteria table at lunch. They both had boxes that contained hamburgers, and sodas tucked into their arms.
“What rumors?” I asked glumly, stabbing a piece of cos lettuce with my plastic fork and shoving into my mouth.
“You and Noah are kaput?” Ciara chimed in, grabbing an apple out of her satchel and polishing it on her baby-pink t-shirt. “That you and Logan are back together?”
“I told you that,” I said, frowning at them. “We’ve been back together for two weeks.”
“I know. It’s just strange actually seeing it, you know?” Chaska said quietly, taking a bite from her hamburger. “I mean, since you and Logan broke up, I guess we’ve gotten used to seeing you and… you-know-who together. It’s just weird seeing you with someone else.”
I nodded and forced a smile, before returning my attention to my salad. I couldn’t help but smile to myself a little as I remembered my conversation with Noah at Betsy’s that night, when I had ordered a burger with a garden salad. Had I really changed all that much?
“Why aren’t you happy about it?” Ciara asked, taking a bite from her apple and watching me curiously, her icy-blue eyes searching my face.
I glanced up from my salad. “I am happy.”
“Who are you kidding, Marley?” she asked softly, her eyes suddenly turning sad. “A blind man could see you aren’t happy.”
I sighed. “I don’t know what’s wrong with me,” I whined, rubbing my throbbing head. Stress migraines had become a common occurrence for me lately.
“What do you mean?” Chaska asked.
“I love Logan. I mean, at least I think I do. But for some reason, I can’t even focus when I’m around him. All I can think about is Noah. And I try and I try, but nothing I do can stop me from thinking about him.”
They both gave me matching pity smiles.
“That’s because you still love Noah,” Ciara said gently, as if giving me heartbreaking news.
“I shouldn’t though,” I whispered, not bothering to deny it. It was true, and these two were my best friends. They knew me better than I knew myself. “I mean, he beat up my boyfriend, lied about his intentions for our relationship, kept things from me, lied to me, betrayed me… Why should I?”
“You can’t help loving someone,” she replied. “Feelings don’t just go away because you want them to.”
“I just can’t stop thinking about the look on Noah’s face when I picked Logan over him. He looked absolutely broken.”
“That’s because he loves you, Marley,” Chaska said matter-of-factly.
I shook my head and denied it. “No, he doesn’t.”
“Marley, he does,” Ciara agreed. “You may not see it, but everyone else does. The relationship wasn’t a lie for him. Some stupid game. It meant more to him. He fought Logan for you, haven’t you ever asked why?”
I froze. I had been so caught up in my thoughts that I hadn’t even bothered to ask why they had fought. I mean, I knew it had to be over me. I wasn’t being arrogant or anything about it, but that was the only logical explanation.
Noah would’ve just gone his own way and done his own thing had I not involved him in this stupid game. So why did they fight?
“I don’t… I don’t know,” I said, groaning and burying my face in my hands. “It’s so difficult.”
Chaska patted my shoulder soothingly. “It’ll get easier, Mar.”
“Can someone just give me some good news and help take my mind off it?” I asked, getting sick and upset from the current topic.
Ciara smiled. “I have a date with Jake Friday night.”
Well, there was one little diamond in the rough. I couldn’t help but smile to myself, thinking about how I had helped the relationship.
Mission One: Accomplished.