Literally, in his case.
She picked up a stuffed basketball next to her and threw it across the room at the light panel, plunging us into darkness. Nice shot, I said.Susie snored. I knew this because I could not sleep. She needed one of those machines with the straps. I’d have to tell Braden.
It was only eleven, but I should’ve been exhausted. My brain wouldn’t shut off. I told Susie that I hoped this week would help me clarify things, but I realized I wasn’t trying to clarify anything. I was trying to shut everything out. That was why I was working so hard. Physical exertion made me forget; the adrenaline, the high of the competition helped me block out everything else.What I really needed right now was to sit by the fence and talk about my problems with Braden. I wanted to hear the timbre of his voice as he responded to me. He had a very soothing voice. And he always knew just what to say . . . except he seemed to be saying all the wrong things lately and making me mad. Nobody could make me as mad as he could. It was probably because he knew me so well that he knew what bothered me the most.I could picture his face perfectly—hazel eyes, floppy auburn hair, a very light dusting of freckles. The way his cheeks turned red when he worked too hard. Like that night he ran behind me for five miles when we were fighting, just so I wouldn’t run alone. His cheeks had been so red that night.
I moved to my side and readjusted my blankets. I closed my eyes, but all I could see was his face with his lopsided smile. That was my favorite. It was like he was amused but didn’t want to admit it. He gave me that look a lot. Like the time he beat me in one-on-one basketball. I liked that he didn’t let me win, but I was so mad that he won. He found that so amusing.I wasn’t amused right now. Right now I was still hurt that Braden didn’t think Evan could like me for me. Why did I care what Braden thought anyway? It didn’t matter. My brothers seemed to think Evan was nice. That was enough.
Only it wasn’t.
I growled and moved onto my back, staring at the shadows on the ceiling, hoping they could tell me the answer to that question. The only thing I saw on the ceiling was Braden’s face.He looks down at me, finally meeting my eye. A heat sparks there, a heat I haven’t seen in months. A heat that isn’t banked or contained. A heat like Dover Beach. Like the Buttery. Like his dining room. A heat with potentiality. I love her, too, he murmurs.
I don’t know why we can both say that so freely about his mother, but haven’t yet said it to each other, about each other. Maybe he doesn’t feel it. Maybe he’s just English. Maybe he’s protecting himself.I know which reason is mine.
I go up on tiptoe. I kiss him softly. He kisses me back. Not so softly.Are you two coming? Antonia calls from the hall.