DISCLAIMER: This is original work! Please do not plagiarize or steal! I have been working on this story since I was in the third grade. Please respect it. All reviews are welcome!
A/N: This is On the Road, the sequel to Living the Game. If you haven't read the first book, I suggest you do that first, otherwise this will be really confusing. I'd also like to remind you of the multi-genre sections that are in some of the chapters, which may include journal entries or emails or other documents. So, without further ado, here is the first installment of On the Road. Enjoy!
After finding out that Beth was The Tormented Shopper, there was only one other question in my mind: who is the guy she's been chasing after all these years? She said it was her best friend's brother.
And if I've noticed anything about Beth besides her blazing red hair and genuine personality, it's who she hangs out with. Her best friend in the whole world is Abbey Bennett. Which means that Abbey's twin brother must be the guy. What makes it even more ironic is that he is my roommate.
I've learned a lot about Tyler in the past few days. He means well, sure. But the guy can be completely insensitive. He's rude during practice, messier than hell, and he treats Beth like she's not a real person. What does she see in him? Tyler's got a major ego and is incredibly arrogant.
Why does Beth have to like him, of all people? I'm not saying that she should go for me or anything, but I'm a good guy. Sure, I look dorky and I'm nearsighted and I haul a laptop computer with me wherever I go. Okay, and so maybe I don't dress exactly the way Tyler does, but I actually like to wear clean clothes every day. Is that such a bad thing? Is it so wrong – so – unattractive – to be polite and friendly and have conversations that don't start with the phrase "What's up?"
Me? Jealous of Tyler?
Maybe a little.
Okay, so I think I figured this out. Tyler just wanted me to see him before dinner, he didn't know that Robyn would try to kiss him, that's all. And I saw him pull away so I know it didn't happen. He would never kiss Robyn Walters. Not in a million years.
I'VE BEEN TOLD I'M A GOOD KISSER. NOT TOO SLOBBERY, NOT TOO MUCH OF A "SUCKING ON YOUR LIP" KINDA THING. I MASTERED IT JUST RIGHT SO I'M USUALLY PRETTY CONFIDENT WHEN IT'S TIME FOR THAT FIRST-EVER SMOOCH. I'VE NEVER REALLY CHICKENED OUT OF A KISS UNTIL I WAS WITH ROBYN. I KEEP ASKING MYSELF WHY THE HELL DIDN'T I DO IT? WHAT MADE ME STOP?
ROBYN IS REALLY AGGRESSIVE. SHE KNOWS WHAT SHE WANTS AND SHE'LL DO ANYTHING TO GET IT. I RESPECT THAT. AND AT FIRST I THOUGHT THAT THERE WAS SOMETHING ABOUT HER THAT STUCK OUT – SOMETHING THAT MADE HER SPECIAL, AND NOW I REALIZE IT WAS THAT IN-CONTROL ATTITUDE. WHEN THINGS ARE GOING HER WAY, NOTHING CAN STOP HER, BUT IF HER LIFE TAKES A SPIN AND SHE DOESN'T HAVE HER WAY, SHE LOSES CONTROL.
AND I THANK THE PERSON WHO HAPPENED TO BE COMING DOWN THE STAIRS AT THE EXACT MOMENT WE WERE ABOUT TO KISS. IT'S HARD TO EXPLAIN, BUT IT JUST SEEMED LIKE THAT WASN'T THE RIGHT MOMENT TO KISS HER. THERE WAS SOMETHING WRONG ABOUT IT.
I told myself I could do this. I could move away from home and play soccer. I could say goodbye to my parents and my friends and I would travel around the country. Deep down inside I knew I could handle it - and after I left Cory behind at that bus station last week, and now that I have Felicia, I was sure I could pull it off.
But then, being the absolutely wonderful guy that Cory is, he had to show up again. He had to come down her and be with me just a little while longer. I love him for it, but now when we're together, all I can think about is how I'm going to have to say goodbye to him again and I don't think I can do it. I already did it once, why do I have to go through with it again?
I can't. There is no way I can find the courage to do it again. No way. I'm just going to have to find a solution that I can handle. I'll have to find a way from him to come with us.
Abbey replayed the game in her mind over and over again. She stood at the goal, watching the opposing team as they dribbled towards her down the field. She saw the shot, knew exactly where the ball was going to go. She moved on instinct, reached...and suddenly felt like she was going to pass out.
She cursed herself for being so weak. What's wrong with me? she thought. The eerie feeling of light-headedness came back to her, but she quickly shook it off. She wasn't going to let it happen again. Ever again.
She took a sip of her chocolate milk and sighed. She was sitting at the breakfast-bar in the pitch-black kitchen, swinging her legs from the stool she was sitting on. It was a quiet night, the team had just played its first game that afternoon, and the memory of it was still fresh in her mind. She wanted to be alone, she wanted to think, and she knew that if she turned the light on she would have to face her reality. At least when she was in the dark, there were no babies to feed, no games to play, no ex-boyfriends to betray.
No hearts to break.
Abbey already knew she was attracted to Jason. She'd felt it since that first time she saw him at tryouts. He probably didn't remember her, but that day she felt electricity in the air. It frightened her so badly that she decided not to participate in the tryouts. She and her brother, Tyler, were already on the soccer team because her father was coaching – and both were very well qualified for it – so she convinced him that someone had to watch their little sister.
And because Abbey had been doing it for the past year alone, it was easy to concentrate on taking care of Logan and playing with her instead of staring at him during tryouts.
But each time she looked out the window, she couldn't keep her eyes off Jason. That was something she hadn't told anyone. Not Beth, not even Jason himself. She hadn't even been ready to admit it to herself until the night before when they'd sat on the porch and Jason had a gleam in his eyes that she knew she had put there. She wanted to tell him so much. She wanted to tell him how much she adored him, how he always made her laugh and smile, and when he came back with the photo album, the perfect gift picked out by the perfect man, she was so happy she could burst.
But then the memories came. The nightmares.
She had no right to be involved with someone else when she'd watched her own boyfriend, a guy she thought she loved, die right in front of her eyes. She didn't help him – couldn't help him. The nightmare that she woke up to a matter of minutes ago was far too clear in her mind. She pressed her hands to here eyelids, trying to erase the fear, the pain, and the knowledge that the man she loved was going to die, and there wasn't a damn thing she could do about it.
The staircase creaked as Abbey heard footsteps approaching the kitchen. Someone yawned and stretched their arms as they walked past her and straight to the refrigerator. The door opened, light spilling into the kitchen. She could make out the figure now. It was Jason.
He took a carton of orange juice out of the fridge and set it down on the bar. He jumped, realizing that there was someone else in the kitchen with him. He quickly turned on the light as Abbey shaded her eyes from the harsh brightness.
"Abbey!" he cried, clearly startled. He had known it was her all along. His face held a broad smile, but it quickly faded. "I can leave if you want me to."
"No, that's okay," she said quickly. She cleared her throat. "I think we need to talk. I owe you a few explanations."
Jason didn't say anything. He nodded and got a glass from the cupboard and sat down next to her. He was so sincere. He really did care about her. He wasn't going to press her, he was just going to listen, and as far as he was concerned, Abbey didn't owe him a thing.
"I want to apologize for the other night - especially about Tyler hitting you. I had no idea that my brother would react like that."
"It's okay," Jason replied, rubbing his lower lip. There was still an abnormal purple bump, but he shook it off. "Barely even hurt," he added with smile.
"I probably should have explained everything about Andy to you. I'm sorry. It's just hard to talk about." She swallowed the lump in her throat, trying her best to hold back her tears. "Tyler told you about what happened, right?"
Jason nodded. Her brother had told him all the major points, but not the details, and Jason still wished that Abbey would have told him herself. It was obvious she was still in pain from it, and knee brace she wore at every practice was just a reminder of what the accident had done.
What the creep had done to Abbey, he thought bitterly.
"I think about him everyday," she said sadly. "It's like I just can't get past it. I can't move on. It feels like it was yesterday, not a year ago."
He took advantage of the silence and laid a hand over her trembling fingers, enjoying every moment of touching her until she pulled away. She always pulled away from his touch, but just to feel her soft skin against his own for a few moments was worth the quiet anger he felt when she recoiled. "Death is a hard thing to get past, Abbey," he said carefully. "It takes a long time to get over it, and some things you never do."
"I just…" Abbey paused for a moment. She had to word it in the right way. The last thing she wanted to do was hurt Jason again. "You need to know, Jason. I'm just not ready to have a boyfriend again. I don't know when I will be."
He stayed silent. The words stung, but there wasn't anything he could do about it.
She had to explain. She had to give him a reason, one that she kept forgetting as time passed. But why did he have to look at her in that way, like he had tuned out the rest of the world and was mesmerized by her? Why did he always have to say the right things? Why did she have to care about him?
The silence was more than she could bear. She couldn't explain. She couldn't put her feelings into words. She felt like she was cheating on Andy, like she was betraying his memory. She was his girlfriend, for god's sake. She couldn't go out with other guys, no matter how badly she wanted Jason, or how badly she wanted to be happy.
Abbey could feel tears welling in her eyes, threatening to show themselves. She managed a weak smile. "And every time I think about him, I start to cry." Her voice cracked. She couldn't hold back the tears.
Jason instinctively moved to her side. She was trembling as he put his arm around her, and that shook him more than anything. "I'm sorry Ab. I wish I could make it better."
Holding her was something that nobody had done since the accident. No one had wanted to make things better for her. They all just said that everything would be okay, everything would go back to normal in time. They all gave her empty promises, and what Jason was giving her was so sacred she couldn't help but let go.
When the sobs came, his heart nearly broke. Where had her big brother been a year ago when she'd come home from Andy's funeral? Where had her father been when she come to him for comfort? Where had her mother been when Abbey needed somebody the most?
He couldn't make up for lost time, but he'd be damned if Abbey was going to spend one more day hurting over somebody else's mistake.
So he held her in his arms, her sobs heaving against his bare chest. She was so fragile sometimes, so weak. And yet she was the strongest person he knew.
She pulled away and grabbed a paper towel to wipe her eyes, embarrassed. "I think I'm done now." When she laughed, her nose stuffy from her tears, he managed a smile. He didn't think he could handle another minute of her tears without doing something drastic about it.
"I know just the thing to make you feel better," Jason said with a wink. He stood up from his stool and jogged into the living room. Abbey quickly took a sip of her chocolate milk, trying to regain her composure.
Jason returned carrying the purple photo album he gave her when they went out to dinner, the photo album that she left behind. "I think you forgot this," he smiled, handing it to her.
She took it from him. "Are you sure I deserve this?"
He nodded. "Of course. And I had an idea."
"Yeah. I thought that we could make a travel journal together," he paused. "I know it sounds corny, but I think it would be fun. You could take the pictures and I would write about all the places we've been to. It would be perfect, especially for a budding photographer like you," Jason added, giving her a playful punch on the cheek.
She thought it over. What harm could it do? It would be a nice thing to have. "Sure," she replied. "I'd love to make a travel journal. That's a great idea, Jason."
He beamed. "I knew you would say yes!" She laughed. It was so nice to see her smile again. He cleared his throat. "By the way, I called my dad and apologized."
"Really?" Abbey cried. "That's great!"
"Yeah, I was a real jerk," Jason admitted. "But I think I made up for it. He and Virginia are going to come and say goodbye to all of us before we head down to Indiana."
Abbey smiled. "Good. I'm glad you guys are talking to each other."
Jason nodded. "And who knows? Maybe he and Virginia will be split up by the time we come back home."
Her smile quickly faded. "Jason-"
"I'm just kidding," he said. "I know that's not happening. Just keeping you on your toes."