It had been forty-two days since I’d last seen Andrea in the treatment facility. And those forty-two days felt like a lifetime ago.
I knew she was out. She’d been out for the last week and a half, according to Sydney, and I hadn’t heard from her. There was an ache in my chest, but I’d meant what I’d said to her that day. I would wait as long as she needed me to and I wanted her to come to me when she was ready.
I was not and could not be her first priority right then. I understood that and believed in that a hundred percent. She needed to take care of herself first, and if that required another forty-two days, then so be it.
But I missed her. Fuck. I missed her.
I missed her snappy comebacks and the way she gave as good as she got. I missed the sound of her husky, throaty laugh and the way her brown eyes reminded me of aged whiskey. I missed those tiny, feminine sounds she made, and I missed the way she said my name.
I simply just missed her.
And truthfully, I didn’t think of her differently. Yeah, I’d wanted to yell at her when I found out she’d been drinking and driving—she could’ve killed someone or herself. I was pissed, fucking in a rage, but the fact that she’d immediately gotten treatment and held herself responsible for her actions lessened that anger pretty quickly.
I was just happy that she finally had an answer for why she turned to alcohol—that we all had an answer to why. Knowledge was everything, the only way she could get better. Having depression didn’t make me think less of her. Honestly, if anyone thought less of someone because of that, they could go fuck themselves.
A huge part of me wanted to be there for her right then—wanted to help her in any way possible, to take care of her. But I knew she didn’t need that. Andrea didn’t need me to swoop in and save her. I knew damn well she could save herself.
She would save herself.
A beep intruded on the music blasting from my phone.
Slowing down, I pulled my phone out of my pocket and hit the screen, revealing the text message.
I straightened and almost fell off the damn machine. Smacking the stop button, I stared at the message, no longer feeling the burn in my calves or my lungs as my lips spread into a wide smile.
A breeze rolled across campus, stirring the loose curls around my face. An hour had passed since Syd had dropped me off and I’d texted Tanner. My phone was in my purse beside me, and I hadn’t obsessively checked it. I didn’t know if he would come or not. It had been a while since he’d visited me in rehab and I’d gotten out. For all I knew, he could’ve moved on. It wasn’t like I expected him to seriously wait for me. People’s lives changed in a matter of minutes. That was the way life was, and he’d said he loved me, but while love was strong, things…things could change.
It would suck if they had. Admittedly, there were many moments while in treatment that I did cling to the idea of him and me, the promise of a sweet future, and that dream had helped get me through the roughest of the moments, but if there wasn’t going to be us…I was going to be okay in the end. I’d be sad. I’d cry. And I’d want to take a drink, but I wouldn’t.
Today, I was ready to face the future with or without him.
Moving my hand to my wrist, I toyed with my newest fashion accessory. My über-chic medical-alert bracelet that made people aware of the fact I was spleen-less. It wasn’t like I’d drop at any given moment without a spleen, but I was more susceptible to infectious diseases. Good news was I didn’t have to take antibiotics every day, but one of the first things I’d done when I’d left rehab was get all kinds of immunizations.
It was just another way my life…my life had changed.
While I’d been in rehab, I hadn’t been on medication to treat the chemical imbalance. At first, they had wanted to try a more…holistic approach, considering I had addictive tendencies—talking, developing coping skills, and all that jazz. After a few weeks, though, they knew I needed more. So, another thing I had done within the last couple of days was pick up my prescription. It was strange thinking that I might have to be on the medication for the rest of my life, but it was far better than the alternative.
I watched a bird hop across the grass as it twitched its wings. The little guy stopped, glanced in my direction and then took flight. It flew to a nearby branch and landed, rattling the leaves. I’d watched the leaves changing color while I was in rehab. No longer green, a few that remained on the branches dropped to the ground in lazy spirals. A shadow fell over me.
My breath hitched in my throat as I lifted my gaze.
Tanner stood at the other end of the bench, his hands shoved into the pockets of his dark denim jeans. He had a dark blue baseball cap on, and it was pulled low, shielding his eyes.
For a moment, neither of us moved or said a word, but then one side of his lips quirked up in a lopsided grin. “Hey,” he said.
My heart was pounding fast and that hope was a wildfire burning in my chest. “You came.”
“Of course I did.” He sat beside me, so close his thigh pressed against mine. His eyes never left my face. He stared at me so long I felt my cheeks start to heat.
“What?” I whispered. “Why are you staring at me like that?”
His grin spread. “You just look different. I don’t know what it is. Maybe because it’s been forty-two days since I last saw you.”
My brows flew up. “You’ve been keeping track of the days?”