Still Jaded

Page 18


"Don't bullshit me, Sheldon." Corrigan stepped closer, but he slid his hands into his pants pockets. He looked like he was brooding.
"Why should I stop? I'm so good at it."
Corrigan drew in an abrupt breath and didn't comment. I should've cared. I should've apologized. I should've made sure he knew I meant about this night, about the very recent nights, but the wine had already started to do its job.
I didn't care.
His voice dropped near a whisper. "Are you pissed at me? I thought we were good. You said we were good."
"We are good."
Corrigan wasn't the one I wanted to hurt. I gestured towards the group below us. "These people aren't here because of me. They're here for you."
He never looked. "I'm here for you."
"I know." The words ripped out of me.
It was true. I wasn't stupid. So many people tried to use me, but Bryce and Corrigan didn't. They were there for me, or Corrigan was at least. At the thought of Bryce, my grip tightened on my glass and I gulped the rest of it down. Bryce could go to hell.
"You look good." He shrugged. "For what it's worth."
I knew I looked good. The outfit was one I had purchased a while ago. I saw it in a magazine spread. I liked it, so I bought it. I thought Bryce would've enjoyed it before, but now—my throat burned with emotion.
Corrigan studied me. "This have to do with Bryce not coming tonight?"
I expelled a deep breath and cursed. "He never cared what I said before. He never gave one damn, and now I make one statement and he folds." I cursed again and refilled my glass. Life was rosier drunk. Life was manageable when drunk, not really but that night it was.
Corrigan fell silent as he watched me. He turned his back to the crowd beneath and folded his arms over his chest. "Okay. Look, I know you and me aren't how we used to be in high school."
"Not since you left Spain." There was a bitter taste in my throat.
Corrigan paused for a beat. "You're right. Things changed. Things…"
….things happened…
"…are different, but that doesn't mean you're not one of my best friends. I don't know what I want right now, but I know this is because of Bryce. He did something or you reacted to something. I don't know, but this is because of him. Not me." He waited another beat and then surrendered in a sigh. "So I guess I'll head back downstairs—"
My head snapped up. "You wouldn't have left my side two years ago."
Corrigan didn't respond. I didn't look, but I waited and held my breath. I waited before he allowed me to breathe again when murmured, "We're not in high school."
"We're not. No."
It was easier back then. Things made more sense.
I wrung out, "You're right. Go ahead. Join your brothers." Now I turned to look at him and let my anger shine through. I was angry at the world. I was angry at being used. I was angry because Bryce wasn't fighting. I was angry because Corrigan was only half with me. It wasn't the same, not anymore. It hadn't been since I shot Marcus.
"What did Bryce do?"
"He didn't do anything. That was it. He didn't do anything."
"He said that you told him not to come."
"He didn't do anything." He didn't come. That was my point, but Corrigan wasn't hearing it.
"What happened in Spain?"
I closed my eyes and hung my head at that painful reminder. I wouldn't fold down and fall to my knees. My third glass of wine was finished before I set it back down. "I lost him. I think I lost myself."
Corrigan's eyes sparkled in an emotion I didn't dare name. His hand reached upwards with his fingers spread wide, and his palm was ready to cup my cheek. But then he froze an inch from my face and cursed before he withdrew his hand. "You're his girl. I can't say what I want to say right now because you're his girl."
"We're best friends." My face tingled from the anticipation of that touch.
He shook his head as his shoulders drooped. "Maybe in high school, but since…I don't even know when. He needs to be your only best friend as long as you're with him. I have to leave now. I shouldn't be up here when we both know you're hurting because he's not."
He turned to leave, but I caught his hand. "Corrigan."
He cut me off as he twisted around, agony and fury in his eyes.
I let go of him immediately, scorched by that look. Then he left, his body filled with tension. I couldn't do anything or say anything to stop him. I wanted to…
I wanted something, but I didn't know what. There was a hole I needed to fill, and, with that, I filled my glass a fourth time. I should've gone downstairs. I should've mingled with everyone. It was my party after all, but I sat and I drank. My phone buzzed a couple times, but I never looked at it and I never answered. I'd given what I could.
He hadn't even been kissing her, but it burned.
I saluted the air with my glass and toasted a lightning bug. "To you, little man. Fly free. Fly free."
Then I heard another voice from behind me. "Sheldon?"
It was a girl's voice. I tensed, but then Grace popped her head through the sheer curtain. Her eyes lit up as she saw me. "Hey, you look great!"
"You too."
Her blonde hair had been pulled into a low ponytail with a few stray strands curled to frame her face. It gave her a soft look and accentuated her pale lips. With the green sweater she wore over a pair of pale jeans, I was tempted to give her a wolf whistle.
She plopped down into a chair and fanned herself. "I was asked to join a sorority! I know, I know. This sounds like alterno-world or something, but it's not. I swear. I was downstairs, and a bunch of girls all said hello to me." She frowned and grabbed the empty wine bottle. Then she started to shift from hand to hand. "Did I do something? I don't know what to make of it. Maybe they know Corrigan, and he told them to be nice. Do you think that's it? What do you think?"
I watched my clueless friend.
Grace scratched at her chin. "I know. I know. I'm probably imagining all of this, but it was a lot. A LOT of girls said hi to me. What's going on? Did I become a celebrity or something? I can't believe Corrigan has that ability. You think it was him? That's the only thing that makes sense. Wow, I didn't realize how much weight he had around campus. Not to mention, I didn't think he even cared about me. That night was two years ago."