Falling for the Wrong Guy (9 page)

BOOK: Falling for the Wrong Guy
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Chapter Thirteen

“H
e’s gone,” Ruby said, running into the kitchen in time to see her mom taking plates and glasses out of the cupboard, the cake and lemonade sitting on the counter.

She hadn’t known whether to chase after Drew or to let him go. As it happened, he had been so fast, she wouldn’t have made it to the car before he’d gone, anyway. She’d made it to the front door just in time to watch him take off down the road at what looked like ninety miles an hour. She felt so angry at his behavior. Just like with her father, everything was always about him.

Him. Him. Him.

She didn’t know why she bothered. Actually she did. She loved him. For all his faults. And that meant she had to try to understand he wasn’t the way he was through choice.

He never used to be so angry. He’d always been more considerate of her needs than Blake, even. Blake would often joke that Drew would have been a much better brother. At the time, Ruby had just laughed. She loved the pair of them in that brotherly way. She wished Drew could be like that again. Not that she wanted him to act like a brother now.

“Don’t worry, love,” Ruby’s mom said. “He’s going through a bad time. It’s not something he’ll be able to get over quickly.”

“Rose, where are you?” her father called from down the hall.

“In the kitchen,” her mom replied.

Ruby could hear her dad shuffle down the hallway, and she watched as he stood in the doorway of the kitchen, his shoulders slumped.

“I’m out of pain meds,” he muttered.

“I’ll get the prescription filled tomorrow,” her mom replied.

“But I need them now.” He glanced at Ruby with the usual helpless look on his face. Would this be what Drew would turn into if he let his anger get the best of him? A sad, defeated man hooked on pain medication, who never interacted with the world or his family other than to make demands?

“You should go, Dad. It’s a nice day out, and the pharmacy is only down the street,” Ruby said, trying to sound positive.

He let out a long sigh. “I don’t want to.” He turned and shuffled back down the hallway.

“Never mind. I’ll go later,” her mom called out after him.

Ruby pulled out one of the breakfast bar stools and sat, leaning her elbows on the counter. She watched her mom pour some lemonade into a glass and cut a large piece of cake. She put it on a plate, which she then placed in front of Ruby.

“I get what you said, that things are tough for Drew,” Ruby said. “But that doesn’t mean he has to take it out on you.” She picked up the glass and took a long drink.

“He didn’t. It was too early for him. I’m annoyed at myself for having suggested it.” Her mom leaned against the sink, facing her. Ruby envied her ability to be so understanding and patient. Sometimes Ruby wished her mom would get angry with her dad and refuse to do things for him, until he snapped out of it and tried to live his life like a functional human being. But, of course, Mom would never do that. Her enormous capacity to take care of people was one of the things Ruby loved best about her. The trouble was it enabled her father’s unacceptable behavior, and there was nothing Ruby could do about it.

“I should have realized, especially as we’ve been through it all with your dad.” Her mother shook her head.

“It’s not your fault, Mom.” Ruby took a bite of the chocolate cake, but her stomach felt so churned up, she could hardly manage to swallow it. Which really frustrated her, since her mom’s chocolate cake was pretty amazing.

“I know,” her mom replied, nodding. “But I still should’ve thought it through more. With all the experience I’ve had with your dad, there’s no excuse.”

Ruby knew it was pointless trying to persuade her mom otherwise. And really what did it matter? They couldn’t change it.

“Do you think he’ll ever get over what happened?” Ruby wiped the chocolate crumbs from her mouth with the napkin her mother slid across the counter in her direction and then took another drink.

“Honestly, I don’t know. He reminds me so much of your father.” She leaned against the counter and looked sympathetically at Ruby.

“No.” Ruby shook her head vehemently, even though she’d been thinking the same thing earlier. “There’s no way Drew is anything like Dad. Apart from his injuries. Obviously.”

A nagging thought in the back of Ruby’s head kept forcing itself forward. Of course she would disagree with her mom about any similarity between Drew and her dad. Because she couldn’t bear to even think about Drew having to deal with the crap that her dad had. She wouldn’t have wished that on her worst enemy. But what if Drew did turn out that way? What if he became even more reclusive? What would she do then? Could she stay with him? Would she
want
to stay with him?

“Maybe you’re right,” her mom said, smiling softly. “At least he’s going to school now, which gets him out of the house every day. That’s very important, and it’s more than your dad does. More than he’s ever done since his accident. What about when school’s out, does he take you places?”

Ruby sighed. She didn’t think sitting in the park on their own or sitting in his car would count as
taking her places
, however she dressed it up. There was the time at the café, though. “Not really, I suppose,” she replied. “He doesn’t want us to be seen together because of what people would think about him dating.”

Saying the words out loud actually made her feel a bit better. They made her realize that his reasons were much less to do with the burns on his body than being seen acting happy when Reese was gone. That was very different from why her father wouldn’t go out. His was totally because of all the staring.

“Because he feels guilty?” her mom asked.

“Yeah, I guess so,” Ruby said. “And he doesn’t want people to think that he’s getting on with his life after what he did.”

All very understandable from his perspective.

“So different reasons from your dad, but same outcome.”

“What do you mean?” Ruby frowned. She had no idea how her mom had come up with that, when they’d just decided the two cases were totally different.

“They both want to keep themselves separate from everyone else. They both are fixated on what happened to them. They both put themselves first. Can you see the similarity?” her mom asked gently.

“That’s not true. Drew isn’t like that, he…” Her voice trailed off because it was exactly what she had thought about Drew earlier. He did put himself and his guilt first.

“Are you sure?” her mom pressed.

Ruby swallowed. “I don’t know.”

She suddenly remembered the conversation they’d had about him not wanting skin grafts. What would her mom make of that? She wasn’t going to mention it now, especially since she hoped Drew would change his mind down the road.

“Well, I hope he can get through it. As much as I love your dad, you know how hard it’s been for me over the years. For all of us. Can you really see yourself going through it all again?”

“He’s not like Dad,” Ruby said quickly. “Okay, there are some similarities. Agreed. At the moment he does seem more focused on himself than on anything else. But that’s understandable. I can deal with it. I can.”

Ruby wished she felt as confident as she sounded. But she had to have hope. Without it, what would be the point?

D
rew walked out of the class and headed down the corridor toward the cafeteria. He hadn’t seen Ruby all morning since he’d had Spanish, and she didn’t take that subject. He wanted to see her, to explain why he’d walked out on her and her mom yesterday.

He’d spent the entire night going over what had happened and feeling guiltier by the minute. He’d had virtually no sleep at all. He’d thought about texting her first thing in the morning and then decided it would be better if he could talk to her face to face, and then hopefully she would understand. Or at least accept that he hadn’t meant to hurt either of them.

It beat him why he couldn’t have accepted Ruby and her mother being nice to him, instead of getting all worked up about it. Everything they had done, they’d done out of kindness. Even if it wasn’t going to change how he felt about himself and the fire, he should have kept his feelings to himself.

He pushed open the double doors and scanned the cafeteria, which was heaving with students. He finally spotted Ruby in the corner sitting next to Tiffany, their heads close, deep in conversation. He paid for a soda and a sandwich, and then he headed in their direction.

Ruby had her back to him, so she couldn’t see him making his way over. In an ideal world, he hoped that she would ask Tiffany to give them some time alone so they could talk. But he guessed she probably wouldn’t, which meant he had to make up some reason for persuading her to leave her friend. He supposed he could mention the science project. The good old science project, where would they have been without it? Except that excuse wouldn’t work for much longer, since they’d all been handed in for assessment.

As he got within a few feet of them, he could hear Ruby talking.

“It’s awful,” Ruby said.

“I feel so sorry for you,” Tiffany replied. “And for him, obviously.”

Drew stopped dead in his tracks. Were they talking about him? He shook his head. He was leaping to conclusions. It could be anyone. Blake, for a start.

“Yes. And that’s what’s so painful about the whole thing. I doubt he’ll ever come to terms with looking like he does. It sends shivers down my spine just wondering what he’s thinking when he sees a reflection of himself. That’s why I always have to be there for him. He needs me.”

Drew’s jaw clenched. They
were
talking about him. Who else would have a hard time looking at his own repulsive reflection? And Ruby as good as admitted that she was only with him out of pity.

He had really thought that their relationship meant something to her. She had acted as though it did. Even though they hadn’t talked about their feelings for each other, he’d just assumed they both felt the same. But obviously, he’d been wrong. And she was one hell of an actress.

An actress who couldn’t keep her mouth shut. It was bad enough she’d told her mom, but now she’d told Tiffany, especially after he’d specifically asked her not to. He wondered who else she’d told. It was just more proof that she didn’t think that much about him, other than her damned pity. And apparently revulsion when she looked at him.

Part of him wanted to confront her, but he knew that if he didn’t get out of there, he’d lose it.

He turned to leave before she had time to notice him.

“Drew?” He stopped and saw Ruby beckoning to him to join them. “Sit with us,” she added.

Typical. He couldn’t even get away from there without being spotted. “No thanks. I’m just leaving.”

A puzzled expression crossed her face. “But you haven’t eaten your lunch.”

He glanced down at the sandwich he’d been clutching so tightly in his hand that it was squashed beyond recognition. “I’m not hungry.” He shrugged, tossing it in a nearby garbage can.

“What’s wrong?”

His jaw clenched, and he drew in a sharp breath, trying to keep himself from shouting. “Nothing.” He turned and made his way toward the door.

He had to stop himself from actually running, because he didn’t want to stand out. When he finally made it out of the cafeteria, he went through the door leading outside. He then crouched down, leaning against the school wall, and buried his head in his hands. He could have kicked himself for being so stupid for not realizing that Ruby didn’t care for him. Not like he cared for her.

“Drew.”

Ruby. Of course she’d followed him. He glanced up and saw her standing by him. He felt a flash of annoyance. It wasn’t hard to realize that he wanted to be left alone. So why hadn’t she? “What?” he snapped.

She might get the hint and leave him alone if he made it difficult for her.

“Why are you being like this?” She started to crouch down next to him, but he jumped up and faced her. He noticed the redness as it gradually crept up her cheeks and fought back his feelings of guilt for upsetting her. He wasn’t going to back down. Not now. Now that he knew the truth.

“Being like what?” he asked coolly.

“You know what I mean.” She tentatively reached out her hand to touch him, but he stepped away so she couldn’t. She dropped her arm back down to her side.

“Yeah, I know. Your pet project. Someone you can discuss with your best friend to make yourself feel like a caring person.”

Her eyes widened in shock as he spoke, and the blush that had been creeping up her cheeks turned into a full-face red flush. “What are you talking about?”

He had to hand it to her; she was making a very good show at not understanding. It was easy to see how he’d misread everything between them. She was a talented actress, and she’d been playing him for a fool the entire time. His whole body tensed at the thought. “Don’t play dumb with me, Ruby. I heard you in the cafeteria talking about me to Tiffany.”

He couldn’t spell it out any more, so surely now she would have to admit everything and then she could go and leave him alone.

“In the cafeteria?” she confirmed.

“That’s what I said.” He watched her face change as she realized what he’d been talking about. “But we weren’t talking about you,” she said, shaking her head.

“Of course you weren’t. And I suppose you’re now going to say that Tiffany doesn’t know about us.” He couldn’t believe that she could take him for such a fool. She’d been found out, so why didn’t she come clean and admit it?

“I didn’t say that. I admit she does know we’ve been seeing each other, but she hasn’t told anyone, I promise.”

He knew it. “And who else have—”

“But we weren’t talking about you,” Ruby interrupted. “We were talking about my dad.” She stood with her hands on her hips and glared at him.

“So you say.” But some of his anger had left him as he processed her words. Because it was entirely possible that he’d misunderstood. She could have been talking about her dad, who did need her and probably always would.

Whether or not what Ruby had said was true, he still knew deep down that he shouldn’t be in a relationship with her. He was covered in scars, practically a monster on the outside. And it just matched what was on the inside. After what he’d done, it wasn’t fair to Blake or to Reese’s memory for him to carry on as if nothing had happened. And it wasn’t fair to Ruby to let her think that they could have something serious between them. He was stupid for letting things go as far as they had.

BOOK: Falling for the Wrong Guy
10.14Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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