Andy sighed deeply, staring at the walls of her bedroom as she’d been doing for the last three months.
Three months. Three long, desolate months she’d never wish on anyone, not even her worst enemy. Not even AJ.
AJ. Again, she felt her stomach churn uncomfortably. She always believed hate was a very strong feeling, and she rarely used the word. Thinking of him, however, the word fit perfectly.
He had gotten his way; he’d destroyed her. Her faith, trust, basically her whole world.
They’d acted as if no one else was in the backyard that afternoon. The shouting, the accusations, the harshness in their words were carelessly flung back and forth as if they were the only ones that existed that day. It wasn’t until AJ had delivered the final blow that the rest of the world seemed to come into perspective for her.
She’d seen them all where seconds before there was no one. Howie, looking at AJ, disappointment etched on his face. Brian, frozen on the spot, his eyes fixed on her. Kevin, not knowing whether to stay or run, and then her eyes rested on him.
Nick’s face wasn’t a forgettable one, she admitted, but the look on it that day was something she wouldn’t forget, even if she tried. It still haunted her, the wide eyes, the gaping jaw, the hurt in his expression, his apologetic glance directed toward her.
And she knew Tommy was watching her the entire time. His presence was something she’d grown to feel over time. He was right behind her, walking through the patio door. When she turned to look at him, he was right where she’d imagined, yet she was surprised at what else she found.
He’d started crying. She noticed the wetness in his eyes the second she looked into them. She wanted nothing more than to go to him, to protect and be protected by him, as she’d done countless times before, but this time, under these circumstances, she knew it wouldn’t be right. It wouldn’t be the same.
So she opted for running. Leaving the scene. But not without leaving AJ something to really hate her for. As she turned to bolt through the patio door, she looked him dead in the eyes and let him have it. Literally.
She’d never hit anyone in her life, but as her fist connected with the young man’s jaw, she felt a sense of relief overcome her. Before he could react, she was gone from view. She’d heard him call after her, angrier than she’d left him, but she didn’t care. Nothing mattered to her at that moment.
And it didn’t matter to her now. She’d changed her priorities so that school and her immediate family were the only things that mattered. Her Mom, Dad and Suzie, now with a family of her own, were her only concerns now. Nothing more, nothing less. And, for once, she was happy. Happy that she’d never be hurt again, happy that she was making something of herself, happy that she was now on her own and enjoying it.
No more depending on anyone. Friends weren’t really all that important, she mused. The only things they turned out to be good for were to betray and hurt. No one was worth that pain. She was better off alone.
She hated being alone. Loathed it, but she was getting used to it. She was starting over, and this time, she’d make no mistakes. Her heart was set on it.
He didn’t know what to do with himself. Three months in absolute solitude wasn’t going to cure anything, much less help him get back on his feet again.
He hated being alone. There was no feeling in the world like it, and it was driving him insane. Granted, he wasn’t the one who decided on the solitude; it was simply forced on him.
Andy wouldn’t see anyone. Not a soul. He’d called, e-mailed and visited her, only to have his calls turned down, his e-mails deleted, and his visits rejected.
He hadn’t even seen Nick after that day. How could he? How could he face him, his life long friend, his brother, knowing how he felt about Andy?
That was a shock beyond belief. Never in a million years would Tommy had thought of it. And yet, within minutes of finding it out, AJ had blurted it out to the world in the worst way possible.
That damn AJ. If Tommy disliked him before, he detested him now. It wasn’t enough that he had been on the recieving end of Andy’s sarcasm, no, he had to make it officially and impossibly difficult for her to even look his way again. He’d gained her hatred, and that was something no one really thought she had within her.
The day replayed over and over in his mind, and he couldn’t help but smile when he saw Andy’s fist connect with AJ’s jaw. The look of pure terror etched across his face, followed by one of sheer embarrasment, was more than enough vindication for Tommy. She’d gotten a revenge of sorts for the both of them. For Nick, as well.
Tommy would bet anything on the fact that Nick got his own vengeance after the crowd dispersed that day. Nick wasn’t the type to let AJ go without doing anything. No, Nick’s temper rivaled Andy’s to a T, and Tommy was certain AJ got what he deserved later in the afternoon.
But what now? After everything was said and done, what was left to do?
Move on. Start over. Forget. The possibilities were endless, but did he really want to opt for any of them?
Like he really had a choice.
He encountered Suzie no more than two weeks ago, and she told him Andy was dead set on moving on. Starting over, were her exact words, with a clean slate. Andy had single handedly wiped out her whole life and was starting anew.
That explained the lack of her presence in his life. She wanted nothing to do with him, or with Nick, for that matter. But for how long? How long would this last?
If he knew the answers, perhaps he’d sleep easier at night.
For what seemed the umpteenth time that day, Nick assured Brian he was perfectly fine.
“You’re sure?” Brian asked, causing nick to grumble under his breath as he shifted the phone from one hand to the other.
“Positive,” was his reply. “Bri, there’s nothing left to do but move on. True, I can’t stand the sight of AJ right now, but when has that stopped me? I’ve been mad at him before; it all fades away in the end.”
“But never like this,” Brian protested. “Nicky, you’re positive you won’t do anything at the meeting?”
The meeting. Nick had been thinking about that for days already. He’d managed to avoid seeing AJ the past three months whenever possible, but those meetings regarding the new album and it’s release to the public were becoming harder to sit through. Everything involved constant interaction with his bandmates, and while he was perfectly content to speak to the majority of them, he knew he’d rather nail mis mouth shut before speaking to AJ. At this meeting, however, he would finally have to, and look like he was enjoying it.
“I won’t do anything to incriminate anyone in public,” Nick promised. “So long as he knows where he stands. He crosses that line, I’m not responsible for my actions afterward.”
“As long as it’s afterward,” Brian sighed. “I hope this all ends soon. I mean, I feel really bad for Andy, and for Tommy. What AJ did was not commendable.”
“It wasn’t,” Nick agreed. “I haven’t seen either one of them for three months. It’s hell, you know? You can’t see your lifelong friends because of a stupid act another good friend of yours committed without thinking. I don’t even know if they’re seeing each other, either, if they’ve talked amongst themselves at all.”
“That AJ,” Brian sighed. “He really did it this time, ruining such an amazing friendship.”
“No, he didn’t ruin it,” Nick corrected his friend. “He destroyed it.”
[chapter list | chapter sixteen]