I drew in a deep breath. “You don’t... You don’t want to play college ball, do you?”
His eyes closed and several moments stretched out between us. “It’s crazy, isn’t it? I mean, I’ve always played ball. I don’t even remember a time when I wasn’t being carted off to practice or seeing my mom cleaning grass stains out of my pants. And I like playing it. I’m good at it.” He said it without an ounce of arrogance. It was just the truth. Sebastian had a God-given talent for playing football. “But when I think about another four years of getting up at dawn, running and catching...another four years of Dad basing his entire existence on how the game goes...I want to turn to drinking. Hell, maybe even crack and meth. Something.”
“We don’t want that,” I said drily.
He flashed a brief grin and then it disappeared. Our gazes met and held. “I don’t want to do it, Lena,” he whispered this to me, a secret he couldn’t speak loudly. “I don’t want to spend another four years doing this.”
My breath caught. “You know you don’t have to, right? You don’t have to go to college and play ball. There’s still time to get other scholarships. A ton of time. You can do anything. Seriously.”
He laughed, but there wasn’t an ounce of humor to it. “If I decided not to play ball, my father would stroke out.”
I squirmed closer so our faces were inches apart. “Your dad will be fine. Do you still want to study recreational science?”
“I do, but not for the reasons Dad thinks.” He bit down on his lower lip, slowly letting it pop out. “He has this plan for me. I’d play college ball, then be drafted—second pick. Not first. He’s realistic.” His grin was wry as his gaze slid to mine. “I’ll play a couple of years and then move on to coaching or working with the teams, putting to use the recreational science degree.”
The all-American dream right there. “And what is your plan?”
His eyes were wide, the blue startling and vibrant. “Do you know how much you can do in recreational science? I could work in hospitals, with vets or even in psychology. It’s not all about sports injuries. I want to actually help someone. I know this sounds stupid and cliché.”
“It’s not stupid or cliché,” I insisted. “Not at all.”
A half smile formed. After a moment, some of the light faded from his eyes and he said, “I don’t know. He would flip out. It would be like the end of the world.”
I had no doubt in my mind that Sebastian was correct in that assumption. “But he’d get over it. He has to.”
His lashes lowered. “He’d probably disown me.”
“I don’t know if he’d go that far.” My gaze flickered over his face. “It’s your life. Not his. Why would you do something that you weren’t really into?”
“Yeah.” A brief smile appeared and then he shifted back so he was facing me. “You still hoping for UVA?”
Clearly he was officially done with the conversation. “Yeah.”
“Can I ask you a question?”
“It’s kind of random.”
I grinned. “You’re always random.”
He nodded in agreement. “Why did you and Andre break up?”
Blinking, I wasn’t sure I heard him correctly. I started to respond but laughed.
He nudged my leg through the blanket with his. “Told you it was out there.”
“Yeah. Um...I don’t know.” Holy crap, wasn’t like I could tell him the truth. It didn’t work out because I was in love with you. That wouldn’t go over well.
Sebastian opened his mouth, then closed it. When I peeked at him, his lips were pressed in a hard line. “He didn’t do something, did he? Like mess around on you or hurt—”
“No. Oh my God, no. Andre was practically perfect.” My eyes widened as what he said really sank in. “Wait. Did you think he did something?”
“Not a hundred percent. If I had, he wouldn’t be walking right now.” I raised an eyebrow. “I just never knew why you guys broke up. One second you two were together and then you...you just weren’t.”
I let the blanket slip down my shoulders. “I just wasn’t into him the way I should’ve been, and it made me...uncomfortable.”
His chest rose with a deep breath. “Know the feeling.”
My gaze shot to his. He was staring at my ceiling. “You know I’m going to ask this... Why did Skylar break up with you? You’ve never told me.”
“You’ve never really asked.” His eyes shifted back to me. “Actually, come to think of it, you never really asked about anything that has to do with Skylar.”
My mouth opened, but I didn’t say anything, because, come to think of it, he was right. I didn’t ask about Skylar, because I just didn’t want to know. Supporting him hadn’t meant I needed to know all about their relationship.
“I...I figured it wasn’t any of my business,” I answered lamely.
His brows pinched together as his lips turned down at the corners. “I didn’t know there was anything between us that wouldn’t be each other’s business at this point.”
“Skylar broke up with me because she felt like I wasn’t giving the relationship my all. She thought I cared more about ball and my friends than her.”
“Well, that’s kind of lame.”
“Kind of the same reason why you broke up with Andre, right? You weren’t into him. Probably weren’t giving it your all.”
I pursed my lips. “Whatever. We’re in high school. Exactly how much work do we have to put into relationships?”
“Don’t think you should ever have to ‘put in work’ in a relationship,” he replied. “I think it should come naturally.”
I wrinkled my nose. “Aren’t you so deep with all your worldly experience,” I teased.
“I am experienced.”
Rolling my eyes, I kicked his leg from under the cover. “Was it true? That you cared more about your friends and football than her?”
“Partly true,” he answered after a moment. “Well, you know the football part wasn’t.”
Mulling it over, I wasn’t sure how to feel about that. Since I was one of his friends, was he saying he cared about me more? A second later, I realized that was a stupid thing to question and I sort of wanted to punch myself.
“I’m going to stay here for a little while,” he murmured, lifting his hand. He caught a strand of hair that had fallen across my cheek. As he tucked it back behind my ear, his fingers dragged over my skin and my breath hitched in my throat. A wave of shivers skated across my skin as he drew his hand back. “You okay with that?”
“Yes,” I whispered, knowing he hadn’t seen my reaction. He never did.
Resting his hand between us, he shifted closer, and I felt his knee press against mine. “Lena?”
He hesitated for a moment. “Thank you.”
The corners of his lips picked up. “For just being here, right now.”
Closing my eyes against a sudden rush of tears, I spoke the truest thing I could’ve. “Where else would I be?”
* * *
“So my mom made me write down this list of the top ten things I want to do with my life, since she thinks it’s completely ridiculous that I’m about to enter my senior year and I don’t know what I want to do yet,” Megan said, nursing her third glass of sweet tea as she rooted around in a basket of fries. “Which is hilarious considering my mom is like the official hot-mess express, ticket for one.”
“Does she not realize you don’t have to declare a major right off the bat?” Abbi was sketching what appeared to be a rose garden on her napkin. “Or you could change it later on?”
“You’d think she’d know that, being an ‘adult,’” Megan said, curling her fingers in air quotations. “You’d also think she’d cool it, since I ended junior year a half a point away from a 4.0. I’ll do fine no matter what I choose to study in college.”