Let's Get Textual (Page 36)

She loops her arm with mine. “I think that’s a great idea. I should be done in about two hours, so it’s not that long. Afterward we’ll grab a pizza to take home and then we’ll be bums on the couch.”

“Sounds like a plan—but we’re not watching that weird show you’ve been hooked on lately.”

She narrows her eyes at me. “Fine, but only because you’re heartbroken and all that.”

Twenty-Two

I don’t know how I ended up here, but it’s too late to backtrack now.

I push through the doors of Level Up and my eyes scan the room of their own accord.

He’s not here.

I’m caught between feeling elated and upset at that fact.

I make my way to the front counter and order the drink Zach first picked for me. The barista squints at me from behind his glasses and I realize it’s the guy who was working the night Zach brought me here. I quickly avert my gaze, hoping he doesn’t recognize me.

It’s no use.

“Are you looking for him?”

I snap my head up. “Who?” I ask, feigning innocence.

“Hastings.”

Hearing his last name causes me to lose my breath. I can feel the now all too familiar sting of tears beginning.

“No,” I say quietly. “I’m not looking for him.”

“He’s been coming in here with nothing but grunts and scowls. Hasn’t even been chatty about that little goat of his.”

The mention of Marshmallow is what sends me over the edge, and I’m a blubbering fool again.

“Oh s**t. I didn’t mean to make you cry.”

The panic of seeing lady tears is real. He begins rushing around, making my drink as I grab a few napkins and wipe at my face.

“Here.” He slides my drink toward me. “On the house.”

I shake my head. “No way. I’m paying.”

“Hastings would have my a*s if he knew I made his lady cry and then didn’t do anything to remedy it. There’s no way you’re spending a penny on that drink.”

I want to correct him, tell him I don’t think I’m anyone’s lady anymore, but I don’t have it in my heart to say it out loud.

I stare him down, hoping he’ll budge. He doesn’t.

“Well, thank you then.”

“My pleasure.”

When he turns away from the counter and isn’t watching, I stuff a ten in his tip jar.

Take that.

I grab my drink and make my way over to an open pinball machine. I spend the next hour or so putting all my aggression—and about twenty bucks—into that and skee-ball.

It’s amazing to me how therapeutic it is.

As I’m walking out the door, the barista calls out to me. “Make sure to check on our guy, okay?”

God, that hurts.

I nod and swiftly make my way outside, where I have to bend over to catch my breath…again.

A few pedestrians pass by me, staring. I do my best to straighten myself up and climb into my car without any other incidents.

I make my way back over to campus to pick up Zoe. She’s waiting at the edge of the parking lot for me.

“How was your afternoon?” she asks timidly once she’s inside the car.

“It was…” I pause, debating if I should tell her where I ended up. I decide against it, not wanting to explain. “It was great to go out and about for a bit, get off the couch for a while.”

I feel terrible for not telling her where I went, but then again, I don’t. There are some things I need to keep private.

“I’m so happy to hear that.”

I nod and navigate us to our favorite pizza place. All I can think about is the fact that the last time I had pizza was with Zach when we sat in his car eating.

This time I don’t want to cry; I want to smile.

For a second, I think everything will be okay.

A pounding at the door wakes me from the first decent night’s sleep I’ve had in days.

“Coming!” I yell as I peel myself off the couch.

Zoe and I passed out while watching Penny Dreadful. Guess it wasn’t such a smart idea to eat half a pizza each after all.

Stumbling to the door, I swing it open without checking the peephole. To say I’m surprised by who I find on the other side would be an understatement.

I rub my eyes to make sure they aren’t deceiving me.

They aren’t.

Swallowing the lump in my throat, I ask, “What are you guys doing here?”

“Go ahead, tell her, you a*s.”

Shep grumbles something incoherent. Caleb gets right in his face.

“What was that, dick? Want to say it again?”

Shep shoves at him and he shoves back—harder.

“Don’t test me right now. I’m this f*****g close to punching you again.”

For the first time, I notice that Shep’s right eye is starting to bruise. I can’t help but get a smidge of satisfaction from that.

“Tell her,” Caleb bites out.

“Fine. It was me, okay? I’m the one who sent the photo.” Shep turns to Caleb. “You f*****g happy now?”

He scoffs. “Not even close. Tell her everything.”

“Why? She knows it was me, what else does she need?”

Caleb gives him a cold smile, and it’s enough to make even me shiver. “Because it’s the most pitiful thing I’ve ever heard and I want to hear you say it again.”

Another grumble out of Shep, a slap to the back of the head from Caleb.

“Quit hitting me!”

“Quit pussyfooting around and get on with it.”

“Fine. F**k. I snooped around on Zach’s phone when he let me borrow it, found that pic you’d sent him, and sent it my way for, you know, later. I made sure to delete the sent text from Zach’s phone because he didn’t need to know what I was doing.”

My stomach turns at the thought of Shep masturbating to a naked photo of me—hell, any photo of me—but I think what repulses me the most is that he’s Zach’s brother and he violated not only me, but him too. What kind of person does that to their family?

“Disgusting,” Caleb mutters.

“Shut the f**k up.” Shep meets my eyes for the first time and I have to take a step back when I see the hatred pouring out of his. “Anyway, you wouldn’t shut your mouth about your little friend Zoe, implying that I screwed her over or some s**t. Newsflash, darlin’, she gave it up real easy. I got my piece and I was done.”

My hands curl into fists at my sides. Now I’m the one who wants to hit him.

“So, yeah, I screenshotted the picture and forwarded it on to a few friends.”

“And those fuckers forwarded it on to a few of their friends,” Caleb says with a sneer.

My mouth is hanging open. I can’t believe what I’m hearing.

“You were mad because I called you out for screwing my friend over? Is that what I’m gathering from all this?”

“You did it in front of my family, on Thanksgiving. Great table manners there, Delia.”

He spits my name out like a curse.

“That has to be the pettiest s**t I’ve ever heard of.”

Shep shrugs and I can feel my pulse kick up, my muscles tense at how nonchalant he is about all of this. What an a*****e.

“You sent a naked picture of me to your buddies because you’re a man-w***e and I called you out on that? Is your ego really that fragile? Do you have any idea what you’ve done? Any clue at all what it could do to my future if anyone found out it was me?”

“No one will. I kept it anonymous. No harm, no foul.”

This time it’s me who steps toward him. “No harm, no foul? Please tell me you’re joking. Numerous strangers saw a naked picture of me. I feel violated beyond belief. What’s to stop them from sending it all over campus? Or posting it on the internet? I cannot believe you don’t think this is a big deal.”

“It’s just a pair of t**s. You didn’t even have the balls to put your p***y on camera.”

The sound of skin smacking against skin is deafening.

I slap him—hard, so hard that he stumbles backward.

I don’t feel an iota of regret for doing it.

“You hit me!”

My hand shakes as I grab the doorknob. “And I’m about to again if you don’t get out of this building…now!”

He glares at me before attempting to tuck tail and run.

Caleb grabs him before he can get far. “Not so fast. I’m not done with you.”

The two have a short-lived staring contest—with Shep giving up first—before Caleb turns my way.

“I’ll call you tomorrow.”

“Thank you, Caleb.”

He practically drags Shep down the hall by his collar, shaking him a few times.

I can only imagine what he’ll do to him, and the thought brings a smile to my face.

Closing the door, I turn back to the couch. Zoe’s still passed out. Should I wake her and let her know what happened or wait until morning? I glance at the clock: it’s already midnight. If I wake her up now, we’ll be up for hours gabbing, and she doesn’t need that.

That said, I’m wide awake right now. Not even the couch appears inviting.

Ambling my way down the hall, I close myself into my bedroom and click on my Bluetooth speaker. I pull out my phone as I plop down onto my bed and put on something soothing.