Teardrop Shot

Page 44

He kept going. I didn’t think he’d heard me.

“His leg healed, but it almost didn’t matter. He got his first DUI a month after he was driving again. He went to rehab. Thirty days in and out. Then to a sober living home. But as soon as he could start drinking, he was. I was a freshman in high school, then a sophomore during all of this, and he started getting hired for jobs because they liked having Reese Forster’s brother working at their establishment. If it was a bar, they threw parties for him. If they were retail, they used my name on their banners, saying ‘Come in on game day! 50% off in honor of Roman’s little brother, Reese Forster.’”

He began grinding his teeth. I could hear the clicking sound.

“He burned his way through all the jobs in town—and I didn’t grow up in a small place. It was a suburb of a bigger city. Didn’t matter. By the time I was a senior, Roman was a full-blown alcoholic. Cops knew him by name. He’d had so many probation officers. I was removed from the house when I was a senior, because he kept going back. My parents kept taking him back. Parents’ guilt, it’s fucking powerful. But my coach noticed bruising on me from where Roman had ‘wrestled’ with me, which was really when he would try to beat the shit out of me, laughing as he did it. Social worker came in and surveyed the situation, because by then our parents were slipping too. My mom gave up. She just stayed in her bedroom all the time. My dad started joining Roman with the drinking. And I was sent out of there. Best goddamn time of my life.”

“Reese.” Somewhere in there, my wall had fallen. I turned toward him and put my hand on his face, turning him to me.

He gave me the saddest, the most haunting smile, and it broke me wide open. My tears were falling, for him, for me, for Damian, for his family.

I bent forward and rested my forehead to his chin. “I am so sorry.”

He rested his cheek against the top of my head. “My brother lost his license that summer and went to rehab again. He’d gone so many times, but this time was longer. He stayed in for six months. I paid for everything, and no, I wasn’t taking bribes or anything. I sold my car to pay for his rehab. I hoped—I really did—that he’d come out and be the big brother I wanted. And he was, for three weeks. He came to see me at school. He stayed with me even. He was the greatest brother. I’d never known this guy. We had a great time, and then he went back home to get a job. Three days with our dad, and he was drinking again. I went back a few times to try to help Mom, but she wasn’t having it. She was so firmly in denial that I let her go too. All three of them. My high school coach had been in talks with my college coaches, so they all had a meeting with me. They laid it out. Let go of your family and keep moving forward to where they thought I could go, or let my family back in and never go anywhere. Alcoholism doesn’t just affect the one person. It affects everyone.”

He looked at me now, his eyes so piercing. “I get your denial. I get that you didn’t want to lose Damian. I get all of it. The difference between my situation and yours? I had help. I had people in my corner ready to support me, but if they hadn’t been there, I don’t know where I would be. And yeah, I get you wanting to put a wall up, but it ain’t happening.”

He laid me down and loomed over me.

His hands traced my face. “Not on my watch. Not while I’m in your corner.”

He paused, his eyes growing tender. “Got it?”

He’d used a hammer. Each word he’d said was a strike, a dent, a chip away. With his last word, the wall fell.

I crumbled. “Got it.”

Then his mouth was on mine, and after we checked to make sure Grant and Sophia were sleeping (both snoring), he locked the door and turned my fan up even louder.

Once again he moved inside of me.

No condom. Just him. Me. Nothing between us.

I was fairly certain this felt like making love.

We’d missed the friendship bus, Reese and I. The train. The subway. The entire freaking airport. We were so far off base from friends who fuck, or whatever we were supposed to be to keep out the emotional attachments that I didn’t know how we’d recover I rolled over, knowing his alarm would go off in three minutes.

I wasn’t sure I wanted to recover.

His face was turned toward me. His long eyelashes resting against his cheek.

One arm was up under his pillow, and his other draped over my waist.

Maybe he felt my gaze, but his eyes opened. When I saw he was watching me, a slight twitch to his top lip, I spoke.

“Would you still like me if I wasn’t funny anymore? If I resorted to lame jokes I stole from a Laffy Taffy, would you look at me differently?”

I propped my head on my hand.

“Can I have your entire wardrobe?”

“Do you think Grant and Sophia boned last night?”

“Are we still friends?”

A pause, then, “Does dementia run in your family?”

His eyes shifted, growing more alert with each of my questions. He moved, his hand sliding around my shoulders at the same time his alarm went off. Reaching over me, he turned it off. Lying on his side, his head on the pillow next to mine, he smiled. It was slow and tender, but only one thing would make it the best smile I’d ever seen.

Reaching behind me, I opened the drawer on my nightstand and pulled out two pieces of gum. I offered him one. “To preserve the romance.”

He snorted, but popped it in. “There.” He breathed on me. “Better?”

“Minty fresh.” I put mine in too. The only thing I needed now was to ignore my bladder. I knew Reese. He would answer my questions.

“I never liked you because you were funny. I started liking you because you were nuts, but you really weren’t, if that makes sense.”

I grinned. “It doesn’t, which makes me feel like it does.”

He smiled again. “I think Laffy Taffy jokes are the best, so every now and then maybe? Let’s not overdo it. No to the wardrobe, since I need it, and we can’t do a switch. No. I don’t think they boned. I think Grant thought about it, wished he could, but was too drunk to get it up.”


He ignored that. “Yes, we’re still friends.” His finger moved up, tracing the side of my face, pushing some hair from my mouth. “I think we can save time and acknowledge we’re more than friends.” He caught my look. “More than friends who bone even.”


“And no, dementia does not run in my family. My grandfather was an alcoholic, so’s Roman, and I think my dad pretends to be so he doesn’t have to deal with life. But I don’t drink, so you don’t have to worry about that—you know, if we remain more than friends who bone.”

It was like my heart was made of flower petals. Each one opened, beginning to collect, build, blossom. His last words were the last petal falling into place, completing the heart.

Cheesy, but the perfect description. It fell into place, all of it.

“I think I like you,” I whispered.

Reese moved closer, his forehead resting against mine. “You have a cardboard cutout of me. I think you’ve liked me for a long time.”

I barked out a laugh. “I was messing with you. I don’t have a cardboard cutout.”

“If we keep with our more-than-friends-who-bone theme, I’ll get you one for Valentine’s Day.” He lifted me up and rolled to his back, holding me over him, his hands under my arms.

“Deal.” I nodded. “I feel like I’m your new puppy.”

“Christ.” He draped me over his chest, and nuzzled against the top of my head. “I have a flight to catch.”

“You do.” My hand traced his chest, because I could, because I was already missing him. Catching on his boxer’s waistband, I slid my finger underneath, moving across his stomach and then smoothing my hand back up to his bicep.

“We have a game tomorrow.” His hips nudged mine, jostling me a little. “Would you come?”

An argument could’ve been made that I already had, but I knew we weren’t joking anymore. Lifting my head, I peered at him. “What are you asking?”

He smoothed his hands down my back, resting on my hips. “Spend the day with your friends, and then fly out tomorrow morning. Come to my game.”

“Are you serious?”

He nodded, his eyes somber. “Come see me. Home games are the best. Spend the week. I can show you my city.”

My heart lurched upward, and I went with the motion. Sitting up, my legs falling to either side of him, I rested my hands on his chest. “We’re so far past the friends-who-bone-who-can’t-bone-anyone-else, aren’t we?”

“I think we have been since we started.” He watched me, steadily. “I think we were before we started.”

My heart lurched again. “You’re okay with that?”

He could have any girl, any number of girls. Why would he want someone with baggage the size of the Atlantic? Who couldn’t communicate except through random outbursts of fuckery questions. Who longed to return to her hermit status, but knew being social was healing and something she wanted in the long run.

“I have problems.”

He pressed his lips together, sighing. “So do I.”

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