You and Everything AfterBy: Ginger Scott
(Book 2 in the Falling Series)
Here’s the thing about a really good dream: no matter how hard you try to stay in it—eyes closed, hands gripping the sheets, face pressed deep into the coolness of your pillow—you always wake up.
My dreams are always the same. I can feel the pull of the bat in my hands, swinging it around my entire body, the pressure on my thighs as I push my weight back on my right leg, my hips twisting, the bat cracking against the ball. Then I’m running. I’m really running.
I can feel it all.
Sometimes, when I can hold on long enough, Kelly is there after I round the bases. I feel her weight in my arms, her hands along my ribs, reaching around my back as she curls her legs around my body, and I lift her. It’s all so effortless. I kiss her, carry her, touch her—breathe her in.
And then it all just stops.
The buzzing of the alarm is harsh; everything about my now a painful contrast against the dream I was forcefully removed from. I spend the next few minutes grieving. I have to get it all out of the way here and now, because I can’t make my goddamned useless legs anyone else’s burden. And I have to get up. I have to pack and get my ass on a plane back to Louisiana to make sure my brother follows through with college. I know if I go where he goes, we’ll both make it through—through life.
He doesn’t know this, but I need him, probably more than he needs me. But I’m the strong one, and Nate’s the gifted one with the big heart. Those are our roles in life; I was crowned at birth by being born first. I take care of Nate, no matter what. Even if I’m fucked up and broken.
“Hey, you’re awake.” I barely register the half-naked brunette exiting my bathroom. It’s all a bit of a fog. There was a party, and there were a lot of underclassmen there, and I remember the flirting. Huh—I must have been charming last night.
I force my typical smile to my face, and push my body up so I’m sitting on the edge of the bed, still wrapped in my sheets. Reaching for the T-shirt half hanging from my dresser’s top drawer, I indulge in a quick glance at the back of her naked body while she’s facing the other way. She’s hot. Super hot. But she’s not my type. Nobody is.
“Hey, sweetheart.” I hate calling chicks that, but I have no idea what her name is. “Thanks for last night, and I hate to be a dick, but…I gotta go,” I say as I pull myself to the chair, and bend forward to grab my jeans.
“I know; you told me. You don’t do girlfriends,” she says, making air quotes with her fingers. Good…glad I was with it enough to have that conversation with her before anything else. “You planning on coming back to Florida next semester though?”
And there it is. She knows my deal, we had the conversation—but they always want more. “Sweetheart,” I say, her name’s still a total blank, “I’m probably never coming back to Florida again. And if I do, it will be in my private jet as CEO. Now, I have a flight to catch in just a few hours…and that towel you’re in? I need to pack that. So—”
She looks like she wants to punch me, and I don’t blame her. But I never make any promises I can’t keep. I’m on the hook for too many promises as it is. Promises to my parents to “be strong for my brother” and to “do something big despite my disability.” I’m good at playing strong—sometimes I even believe it myself. But other times…hell, I’m just fuckin’ tired.
“In case you change your mind,” she says, handing me the corner of some paper she just ripped from one of my magazines. What the hell? I turn it over and see her number and, ah…that’s right—Beth.
“Yeah, thanks,” I say, tossing it in the trash right in front of her. That pretty much seals the deal; she’s gone seconds later, giving me the finger on her way out. I deserve that. I probably deserve a lot worse. But Beth is better off without me, and as selfish as it sounds, I need to keep all of my energy in reserve to get through the things I want in my life. I don’t have the capacity to share with anyone else. I lost that the moment I dove off that cliff.