Flight (Page 45)

“So where does that leave me? I can’t stay here forever.”

“Would it really be that bad to stay in New Orleans longer? Forgetting about Levi for a second, you’re not safe away from here. Do you really want to risk it?” Hailey asked carefully.

“My life isn’t here.”

“Not to be a b***h, Allie, but where is your life exactly?” Hailey sat down next to me. “I mean, what’s waiting for you up north? An ex-boyfriend who doesn’t get what over means and a college you are only going to for your parents?”

“My mom is up there!” I argued even as Hailey’s words rang true. So much had changed, especially now that I knew about Mom’s boyfriend moving in.

“You’re leaving home either way. What’s the difference between a two-hour drive and a two-hour flight? Both ways you’re not at home.”

When I didn’t respond, Hailey placed a gentle hand on my arm. “Look, I’m sorry I said that. I was out of line, but I don’t think staying here would be the worst thing for you, and besides I want you to stay.”

“Owen, can I talk to Hailey alone?” I asked, even though I was prepared to kick him out if necessary. There was so much I wanted to say but not in front of Levi’s friend.

“Well, I told Levi I would report back to him about—”

“Just leave, Owen. Who cares what Levi wants, this is about Allie.” Hailey got up and started pushing him towards the door.

“Fine, but I’ll be down the hall,” he relented and walked out, closing the door behind him.

Hailey took her seat next to me again, sitting cross-legged. “I can’t imagine what you went through.”

The sincerity in Hailey’s words matched the emotion in her eyes. Even as I struggled to understand the situation, I knew she was a friend and had no role in Levi’s deception. Our friendship, as new as it was, was one of the only solid things I had to hold onto.

“It was horrible. The way he touched me… If we hadn’t been interrupted…” I couldn’t finish the thought. “I’ve never been so scared in my life.”

“I’m so sorry.”

“And the worst part is that even though it’s over, I still feel so dirty. I can still feel the guy’s hands all over me, and when I close my eyes I see his face. I’ve never felt so helpless before.” I bet a million self-defense classes wouldn’t have saved me, but I planned to sign up for one the first chance I got.

“I wish there was some way for me to erase what happened, but I know I can’t. All I can do is promise you that I will never let that happen to you again. None of us will.”

“I think that’s why I’m tempted to stay. I’m afraid to leave.” The thought of ever being in that situation again terrified me. I hated having to rely on others, but at this point, I had no choice.

“Will you at least consider it?”

“Staying?” I asked.

“Yeah.”

“I’ll think about it.” The words flew out of my mouth before I could stop them. “But let’s stop talking about what happened. I can’t handle it.”

“Really? You might stay?” Hailey’s face lit up and she hugged me. “It’s going to be so awesome; we’ll be roommates and get to hang out all the time.”

“Whoa, slow down. First of all, I said I’d think about it, not that I’d do it. Secondly, in case you forgot, I’m not enrolled at Tulane, and lastly, you already have a roommate.”

“If you’re thinking about it, you are going to do it. Anyway, be realistic, between our connections, money, and your ridiculous academic background are you really worried about getting in?”

“My ridiculous academic background?”

“You’re supposed to go to Princeton. Don’t tell me you don’t have perfect SATs and grades.”

“Well, what about your roommate?”

“What about her? You think I want to live with that girl? Besides, getting things changed will be easy. All I have to do is tell my dad about her panties on the door plan and it’s a done deal.”

Talking to Hailey about living together got me excited. If I was being honest with myself, Levi aside, I didn’t want to leave New Orleans. Even without the fear for my safety, I would have been tempted to stay.

“Like I said, I’ll think about it.”

“You do realize what you still have to do though?” she asked, avoiding my eyes.

“What?”

“You have to talk to Levi.”

“Why? Just because I stay doesn’t mean I’m going to be with him.”

“Well, then you can tell him that. He’s not going to back down until you two talk things out.”

“Lovely. Will you come with me? I don’t trust myself to refrain from slugging him.”

Hailey laughed. “You ready then?”

“Now?” I asked alarmed.

“What time were you thinking?”

“Never…”

“Exactly. Let’s go, the sooner the better.” She tugged on my arm to pull me up from my seat.

“At least let me get changed. If I’m facing him I’m not doing it in this.” I gestured to my pajamas.

I didn’t wait for a response and walked into my room to change. I pulled on a pair of jeans and a t-shirt because I wanted to cover up my bruised up knees and my bandaged leg. Hopefully, no one noticed my wrists. I was bound to run into someone, and I didn’t want any extra questions. Natalie knew what happened, but no one else did.

***

Levi leaned against the window at the front of the corner coffee shop. He didn’t notice us approaching, and he looked way too good. If I thought I could avoid thinking about the last time we were together, I was totally delusional.

“Hey man,” Owen called out. He flanked me with Hailey on my other side, both helping take some weight off my bad leg. The several times I attempted to turn around, the two of them had me facing forward again. I knew that avoiding this confrontation was pointless but it didn’t mean I wanted it.

Levi looked up, locking eyes with me immediately. He took two steps forward reaching toward me. I fought the urge to take his hand and he got the hint lowering his arm.

We stood there looking at each other for a moment before he took another step toward me, pulling me into his arms. I wanted to struggle, but I didn’t. As angry and hurt as I was, there was something so safe about those arms that I needed to be there for a moment.

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