The Jealousy Game

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Chapter 8: Despair

At exactly 7:30 Saturday morning, I woke up refreshed and rejuvenated, ready to face the bright new day.

Unfortunately both Chaska and Ciara couldn’t stay, so they had left about eleven last night. Neither seemed inclined to tell me what they meant when they asked how well I knew Logan. They said that I should ask Noah to tell me.

Which were my exact plans for today.

I didn’t know what they meant when they said that he wasn’t all he said he was, but I thought I might as well find out from Noah. Surely he’d tell me, right?

After I got up, I quickly dressed in jeans and a sweater, and brushed my hair into a chignon. I wasn’t really worried about my appearance. It was just Noah. He’d seen me after camp-outs in the backyard, horror movie marathons when I was pale and about to throw up from fear, after I’d gone swimming and my hair had gone green from too much chlorine, and when I had no make-up and my most comfy pajamas. He didn’t care.

When I traipsed downstairs after brushing my teeth and adding some lip-gloss, Dad was already up, cooking pancakes.

“Morning, Dad,” I greeted, standing on my tiptoes and kissing him on the cheek.

He turned around, and his mouth quirked into an affectionate smile. “Morning, Mar. You’re up early for someone who normally doesn’t rise before lunchtime.”

I smiled. “I need to see Noah. What are you doing up early, anyway? I didn’t even hear you come in last night. What time did you get home?”

“About twelve-thirty.”

“And you’re still awake? That’s, like, six hours of sleep! How are you even functioning properly?”

He pressed the pedal on the garbage bin and the lid flew up, revealing seven charred pancakes and what looked like what used to be a clump of sugar. He threw me a wry smile. “Guess I’m not really.”

I laughed and ruffled his hair. “Alright, I gotta go next door. But, seriously, why are you up? Is mom home yet?”

He nodded. “That’s why I got up. When she wakes up, I want her to be able to come down to a nice cooked breakfast.”

I hope one day I can find someone who treats me as lovingly as my dad treats my mom. Who would be willing to get up early and cook me dinner, and who idolizes me like my dad idolizes my mom. I really lucked out in the parental department.

“Alright, well I’ll be back. Save me some pancakes!” I said, walking towards the front door and exiting the house, before making my way next door.

When I got there, I flattened my sweater nervously with my hand and knocked quietly, in case no-one was awake.

But then my Aunt Grace opened it, and she grinned at me, before pulling me into a tight hug. “Marley, what are you doing here? You haven’t been here in so long!”

Waves of guilt crashed over me. I really should’ve come around more often, I hadn’t even realized how much I missed Matt and Grace until now. “I know! I’m so sorry about that. But I was wondering if I could maybe see Noah?”

Her eyebrows raised. “Noah? As in, my son, Noah? I thought you guys hated each other.”

I laughed. “Him and I are slowly working things out. Do you mind if I see him, please? I can come back later if you want.”

She shook her head and ushered me inside, closing the door behind me. “No, he’s still asleep. But, please, feel free to wake him up.”

An evil smirk crossed my face as I thanked Aunt Grace and walked up the stairs towards Noah’s closed door. Even after all these years, I could’ve navigated the house with my eyes closed. I knew the house as well as I knew my own.

I quietly opened my door, stepping into the messy abyss known as Noah’s room. I gingerly stepped over discarded clothes, textbooks and other random paraphernalia scattered about like fallen debris, before stepping in front of Noah’s bed.

He lay lengthwise across the bed, wearing a thin cotton shirt and the dark gray covers pulled to his chest. He looked so innocent and peaceful in sleep that I almost felt guilty for what I did next.

I grabbed his water bottle and leant close to his ear, poising my arm correctly and smirking.

“Noah,” I breathed softly, my breath stirring his hair.

He twitched and said something unintelligible, before remaining still.

“Oh, Noah?” I asked sweetly. “Wake up.”

Once again he muttered something, before returning to a slumber. He readjusted his position, and I paused and made no movement until I was sure he had fallen back asleep.

“Don’t say I didn’t try,” I mumbled, before screaming as loud as my lungs allowed—without waking the rest of the house, of course—”Noah, there’s a cockroach crawling up your neck!”

Immediately his eyes opened and he let out a startled scream-slash-yelp that made me question his masculinity, just as I pressed the water bottle and assaulted him with a thin spray of cold water.

He spluttered and fell off the bed, landing at my feet and trying to swat at his neck. His movements were jerky and disjointed, proving that he, like me, couldn’t function on weekends before twelve.

I know it’s mean to use someone’s phobias against them, but I think it’s only fair for everything he’s done to me in the past.

He looked up at me and called me a word that I don’t think should be muttered first thing in the morning, before sitting up and staring at the alarm clock.

“OK, let me see if I have this right, Marley. You barge into my room uninvited, at 8 in the freaking morning, use my fear against me, drench me with water, make me fall off the bed and possibly dislocate my shoulder?”

I shrugged easily. “I have a few objections to that statement, but on most counts you’re right.”

“I swear to God this better be good, otherwise I’m lifting you and throwing you right out this window.”

I gulped. OK, maybe I hadn’t really thought ahead on this one. I came here to get answers, and drenching him in water, waking him up early and almost giving him a heart attack probably wasn’t helping my case.

“Look, Noah,” I said honestly, putting the bottle down on his bedside table and sitting next to him on the ground, wrapping my arms around my knees and pulling them to my chest. “I came for answers.”

“What kind of answers?” He narrowed his eyes suspiciously.

“Like why everyone is saying Logan wasn’t a good guy. How did he play my heart? What did he do, Noah?”

“Why don’t you ask your precious boyfriend?” he sneered bitterly.

“Because I’m asking you.”

“What if I don’t give you the answers you want?”

This was definitely not going as planned. I had a script written in my head of how this scenario would play out, but it seemed Noah was not inclined to obey it.

“Noah, please. I need to know.”

“What makes you think I wanna be the one to tell you?”

The question had me bewildered for a second. “Why wouldn’t you want to tell me?”

“Maybe because I don’t want to be the one to hurt you like that,” he said, and for a second I saw a hint of vulnerability written in those arrogant and egotistical eyes. Something that made my heart race.

“I… I love him, Noah,” I said, meeting his eyes after a moment of silence. They held an unidentifiable emotion. “But I need answers.”

“What makes you think I have them?” he whispered.

There was no use trying with Noah. He wasn’t going to tell me. I shook my head, blushing. Why had I even come here? God, I was so stupid.

“You’re right,” I whispered, downcasting my eyes. “I shouldn’t have come. I’m sorry. I’ll leave now.”

I stood up and closed my eyes, willing the tears not to come out. I was so confused and I had no idea whose side I should be on. Who was telling the truth in this situation?

I heard Noah stand behind me, and turned around to face him.

He took a step towards me and stared into my eyes. “Marley, please,” he whispered, reaching up and tracing my jawbone softly with his hand, eliciting a tiny shiver from me.

I had never had such a tender moment with Noah Fordman, and it broke my heart.

I should’ve guessed it wouldn’t last forever.

All of a sudden there was a loud knock on the door, and his little sister Ella’s voice drifted through the wood.

“Noah, get up! Dad wants you!”

Noah jerked his hand back from my face as if he had been electrocuted, and turned towards the door abruptly. His voice came out strange and thick and garbled as he replied to his sister.

“Yeah, Elle. I’m coming!”

The sounds of footsteps running away broke through the silence, and I swallowed. I still hadn’t gotten the answers I came for. In fact, I had gotten nothing from this visit except pretense and tears. And it killed me inside.

I sighed and started towards the door. “I should leave,” I whispered.

“Marley, wait!” he called, and I felt his arm wrap around my wrist and pull me back towards him. I slowly raised my eyes to look at Noah. He looked torn, his hazel eyes drifting around the room as if he wasn’t sure where to look. I played with the hem of my sweater uncomfortably, and he unwillingly dropped his grip on my wrist.

He took a deep breath and ran a hand through his hair. “Please. Just trust me when I say that he’s not good enough for you.”

“Why?” I whispered. “Why should I trust you? Give me one good reason.”

“You may not believe this—I know I haven’t given you any reason to—but just know that I…I actually care what happens to you, Mar. And I don’t wanna see you get hurt.”

And then he walked past me, barely brushing against me as he passed, and opened the door, stepping out of the room before I had the chance to reply.

Even though I had no idea what I would’ve said, anyway.

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