Chapter 1 - Part 2
Tentatively she knocked on the door, shifting from foot to foot, unsure anyone was going to answer.
She wrapped her arms around herself, feeling chilly as she waited, but she couldn't hear anything. Feeling disheartened, she turned to walk away, when suddenly the door swung open.
"What— Jess?" The familiar voice washed over her like a thousand memories.
Slowly, she turned to see Myles standing in the doorway with only a pair of jeans slung low on his hips. His face turned from annoyance to surprise.
"I didn't… I mean…" she babbled, struggling to explain what she was doing on his doorstep at such a ridiculous time in the morning.
"Did something happen?" he asked with concern, taking in her attire.
Her lip began to tremble.
His features softened and he reached for her hand to pull her inside. He closed the door as she took in the fact that not much had changed inside the house since she had last been here.
"What happened, Jessica?" he asked as he began to check her over.
"I'm sorry," she breathed, struggling to keep her emotions in check. "Did I wake you?"
It was a stupid question. His dark-blond hair was disheveled, like he had just woken up.
"Yeah." He studied her. "What's going on?" he asked, cocking his head to the side.
"Maybe I shouldn't have come here," she murmured, unsure if this had been a good idea as she took a step in the direction of the front door.
"You're always welcome. Day or night. You know that."
His words uncurled a warmth in her chest and she breathed a sigh of relief.
"Myles. Who was—" A girl appeared in the room with a sheet wrapped around her. Her hair was in disarray, but her eyes were sharp. She was pretty, even with bed hair.
"Who the hell is she?" she asked angrily with unmistakable jealousy dripping from her glare. She put a hand on her hip.
"Jessica is a friend." His tone was short as he threw a look at her, which made the girl clamp her mouth closed.
She didn't look convinced as her eyes wandered back to look Jessica up and down, making her more conscious of her hang-ups about her body. Jessica tugged at the shirt of her pajamas.
"I'm sorry," Jessica mumbled, feeling more scantily dressed with the added attention. Like most women, she had issues about her weight. There had never been a time when she had felt confident about how she looked. Even now, with endless dieting, she hated her small boobs and curvy backside, and she really hated her thighs.
"Go back to bed," he told the girl as he looked back over his shoulder at her. Reluctantly, she followed his request and went back to his room.
"I'm sorry," Jessica felt compelled to say again, wishing she had taken the time to get some proper clothes on. "I didn't mean to cause trouble."
"You're no trouble, Jess." The use of her nickname pulled them together in the way only years of history could.
"Thanks," she mumbled, shifting nervously.
"Do I have to beat someone up?" He raised an eyebrow at her. He was tall and muscular and would have no problem taking on most people single-handed, but to her he would always be the scrawny boy who had smiled at her across the classroom on her first day at school.
Things had changed so much since then. Even he was different. They had all been changed; none of them had come through unscathed.
She shook her head. It was so like him to be protective, it made her smile inside.
"Karsyn's old room is made up. You can sleep there." He led the way to the room, two doors down, where she had spent countless nights.
Karsyn. His older brother. The name vibrated through her, taking her back in time to where there had been so many memories—good, bad and heartbreaking. It was enough to take her breath away and make her heart ache with renewed pain.
"Thanks," she murmured, stepping into the room behind him. Inside she reeled from being in the familiar space.
"Get some sleep. If you need anything, let me know."
She nodded, turning to face him, trying to hide how affected she was.
He left the room, closing the door behind him. As she sat down on the bed, dealing with old feelings that had been so suddenly resurrected, she dropped her keys and purse on the bedside table.
If it had been anyone else, they wouldn't have stopped until she had told them what happened, but with Myles there was an unconditional friendship that had somehow survived when all else had crumbled into nothingness.
The walls were still the same light gray she and Karsyn had painted together one afternoon. It had been a random decision as spontaneous as Karsyn had been. She could still smell the paint and remember when she had gotten so bored of painting that she had sat down in one corner and began to paint random things like hearts and butterflies.
She rose up and moved the bed slightly over before she crawled onto it to look at the wall to its side. It was still there: a heart she had painted. Karsyn had refused to paint over it. He had said it was a reminder of how much he loved her. It filled her with so much emotion that it made her eyes water, reminding her what she had lost.
That late Saturday afternoon in her memory, they had been carefree, happy, and in love. Unable to face it any longer, she moved off the bed and pushed it against the wall, hiding the small heart from direct view. It was a reminder that left a hollowness in her chest.
Feeling tired, she slipped into the bed and lay on her side. She needed to get some rest, but memories that she had suppressed for so long began to replay in her mind, making it impossible for her to get more than a couple hours of restless sleep.
She managed to get some sleep before her phone began to ring, again and again. She rolled onto her stomach to find her phone, but when she saw the caller ID she pushed the phone away and sat up, pushing her hair out of her face. It was Charlie.
He would have woken up with her gone. The only thing she had left him was the ring on the kitchen table. He deserved an explanation, but she wasn't ready to speak to him yet. She rubbed her hands over her face while the ringing from her phone continued to echo in the room.
When it stopped, she rubbed her temple, trying to think through the tiredness that ached in her bones. She checked the time—it was eight in the morning.
When her phone started to ring again, she dropped it on the bed and backed up to the wall to try and get as far away from it as she could. The ringing pierced her fragility and she struggled not to answer it. Somehow she held her nerve until the phone stopped ringing once more. Then, after she put it on silent, a moment later it began to vibrate.
He was probably worried and it made her feel even worse than she'd felt before for putting him through this.
Someone knocked on the door and she pulled the covers up to her chest.
"You decent?" Myles asked through the door.
"Yeah," she replied hurriedly.
The door opened. He threw a toothbrush on the bed, and she picked it up. "Thanks."
"There's a change of clothes in the bathroom, as well as a clean towel." He remained in the doorway.
Overcome by his thoughtfulness, she struggled to say anything back, so she nodded.
"I don't like seeing you like this," he said, and she struggled to keep his gaze. "If you need an ear to listen or anything, you have it."
Her eyes began to water and she nodded again. The phone began to vibrate beside her, but she made no move to answer it.
"And you can stay as long as you need to, no questions asked."
Why was he being so good to her when she didn’t deserve it?
"I'm sorry, Myles." She was sorry for everything that had happened and for things he didn't even know about. There was so much for her to be sorry about.
"You're family, Jess. I’d do the same for Karsyn."
It reminded her of how long their lives had been intertwined. But if he knew how she had failed them, he wouldn't have said that. She wasn't ready to deal with that yet; she wasn't sure if she would ever be.
"Thanks, Myles." It was so easy to step back into the closeness they had once shared.