No, it just makes me feel worse.
“Okay, well.” I blow out a harsh breath. Run a hand through my hair. I don’t know what to say, what to do. I’ve fucked this all up and I can’t fix it. “I’m gonna head downstairs and apologize to Tristan.”
“Let him apologize first,” Jade calls after me as I head toward the door.
I stop and turn to look at her. “What?”
“Let him apologize to you first. He’s the one who started it. He needs to learn humility. He reacts first and feels bad later. It’s a bad habit we need to help him break,” she explains.
I smile and it’s genuine. I’ve been beating myself up over our fight but Jade’s right. Tristan did fucking start it like he always does, the jerk. “You’re right. I’ll let him grovel first, then I’ll apologize for what I did.”
“Perfect.” She smiles and approaches me, wrapping her arms around my middle and giving me a hug. “I’m sorry Gabe. Maybe you could approach her eventually but I’d give her some time first. She’s hurting.”
“So am I,” I whisper, squeezing her waist before I step away from her. “Thanks for letting me know what’s going on, Jade. I appreciate it.”
“You deserved to know. Now go talk to Tristan and get it over with.” She shoves me toward the door. “Go.”
I practically run down the stairs, stopping short in the kitchen when I see Tristan sitting at the counter looking miserable. “Hey,” I say.
Shep quietly exits the kitchen as Tristan lifts his head to look at me. “I feel bad, bro.”
“You should.” I approach the counter, bracing my hands on the edge of the smooth granite surface. “But I feel bad too. I shouldn’t have hit you.”
“You had every right to hit me. I’m an asshole for what I did. I’m sure Lucy hates me.” Tristan hangs his head, looking miserable.
“Lucy’s too busy hating me to worry about you,” I say as I sit on the stool beside Tristan’s. “I fucked up that relationship.”
“I didn’t help matters. Is she okay? Like…with the baby?” he asks.
“She’s not pregnant.” I should be happy. Relieved. I’m too young for a baby and so is Lucy.
But I don’t feel happy. I’m…sad. Pissed that I ruined this. That I reacted like a scared idiot instead of the brave man that Lucy needed me to be.
I failed her. And she’ll probably never forgive me.
“Oh.” Tristan’s gaze meets mine once more. “That’s a good thing, right?”
“Yeah. I’m not ready for a kid.” I sigh. Ain’t that the truth. I proved that with my reaction to all of this. “But I miss Lucy. We’re finished and I…I hate that.”
“Are we finished? Business-wise?” When I frown at him he shrugs. “Shep told me what you said. I don’t blame you. I know you haven’t been happy with the casino for a while. It’s at your house so you have to deal with it all the time and business has gotten progressively slower. I get why you’re sick of it. And I totally understand why you’re sick of me.”
I scrub a hand over my face, along my jaw. “I was angry when I said that. You’re right, business has gotten slower and I’m getting tired. Tired of running it, tired of dealing with it. But I’m not giving up on it yet. Not giving up on you either.”
The relief on his face is clearly visible. “Thanks, man. I’m sorry.”
“I’m sorry too.” I offer my hand out to him and he takes it, giving me one of those macho, complicated handshakes us guys are so good at doing. “We’re good?”
“Yeah, we’re good.” The devilish glint in Tristan’s gaze is familiar. “Let’s tell Shep we’re closing the casino. See if we can fuck with him for a bit.”
I start to laugh, shaking my head. So typical. “Fine, but you do all the talking.”
“Deal.” He grins and slaps me on the back and then bellows, “Shep!”
Shep enters the kitchen and Tristan launches into our bogus plan, skepticism written all over Shep’s face the deeper Tristan’s story gets. I just sit there, going for solemn and lots of nodding, not saying a word. I play along but it’s not easy. I’d rather be with Lucy than with these guys. I want to talk about what happened between us. Ask for her forgiveness. Hopefully she’ll apologize too for the lies. If I can forgive her for that, hopefully she can forgive me. I want another chance.
I need another chance.
I need Lucy.
I go to my marketing class because I don’t have a choice. Somehow I missed the point where I could still withdraw and have it count as only that. Now if I don’t go to class, I have the potential to flunk and there’s no way I could let that happen.
My appointment with Professor Bailey turned out better than I expected. He actually listened to my brief excuse—I claimed illness—and nodded along as I rambled, making sympathetic noises like he understood. He let me make up my missing assignments but told me I couldn’t avoid the group project. And considering groups had already been chosen and their projects were well underway, he paired me with the other student who missed a lot of class and was making assignments up just like me.
His name is Gabriel Walker.
No way could I explain my relationship with Gabe to Professor Bailey so I just smiled and nodded and agreed that I would work with him. No problem. I could handle this.
I sit in the back row during class, taking copious notes and praying like crazy I can work up the nerve to approach Gabe afterward and tell him we need to work on our project together. I don’t even know what our project is supposed to be. I haven’t looked at the description sheet Professor Bailey gave me because I didn’t want to freak myself out.
After the numerous freak outs I’ve gone through these last few months, I think I’ve had just about enough.
I confessed everything to Mama a few days ago. About Gabe, lying to him, falling in love with him, even the pregnancy scare. She burst into tears when I told her about the last part and I had to reassure her numerous times that I’m not pregnant. I think she finally believes me.
Though truly, I’m not exactly sure.
Gina and I have become closer. She’s not going to see Chad as much, giving him a little breathing room and herself too. Jade has become a good friend and I’m so thankful that she stayed loyal despite everything that happened between Gabe and I. She admitted telling him that I wasn’t pregnant after all and I was glad she did that.
And sad he didn’t bother talking to me about it.
I need to move on, though. It won’t be easy, dealing with him for the marketing project but what can I do? This will be a good test for my future. We all have to deal with things we don’t want to at some time or another in our lives. This is a part of life. So Gabe and I were involved for a short period of time. So what? I can deal with this. So can he. We’re mature adults who can remain friends.
When Professor Bailey releases us, though, my stomach starts to churn with nerves. I stuff my tablet into my backpack and slowly rise to my feet, slinging the backpack over my shoulder as I watch everyone fight their way out of the room. I smile at a girl as she passes by, my gaze flicking from hers when I see him.