Second Chance Boyfriend

By: Monica Murphy

Chapter Two

She’s all broken inside but no one will ever notice. – UnknownFable“So.” Owen slurps on the giant thirty-two-ounce soda I bought him at the gas station, where we stopped to fill up my mom’s crap car on the way home. “Can I eat for free at this joint you’re working at?”

I shake my head. “It’s too classy. Kids aren’t really welcome.” The understatement of the year. The restaurant is definitely not kid friendly. In fact, I’m thinking it’s not really Fable friendly either but I’m willing to give it a chance. Colin claims I can make a ton of money in tips, though I’m not sure if I believe him.

My thoughts drift to Colin. He owns the restaurant…because his rich daddy gave it to him to play with. That much I gleaned out of him when he first brought me there. He’s nice. He’s attractive. He’s charming.

Beyond chatting with him like he’s my boss and I’m his employee, I’m avoiding him as much as possible. I took him up on his job offer, though it sounds almost too good to be true.

Funny thing is, I haven’t quite given notice at La Salle’s yet. Holding on to that job until I know for sure the new job is going to work out is the only way to keep the money consistently flowing in.

And as always, my inflow of money is the most important thing. Our mom isn’t doing anything to ensure that’s happening.

Owen puffs up his chest, his expression indignant. “Are you kidding me? I’m not a kid. I’m fucking fourteen!”

I slap his arm and he yelps. “Language,” I warn because, oh my God, he needs to watch that mouth of his. And since when did the legal adult age get bumped back four years? In his dreams.

“Seriously, Fabes, you can’t even sneak me in?” Owen shakes his head, his irritation clear. “I hear the chicks who hang out there are bangin’.”

I don’t need to hear my little brother talking about bangin’ chicks and whatever else. Bad enough I found the baggy of weed in his jeans pocket when I did laundry a few days ago. I showed it to my mom and she shrugged, then demanded I hand the bag over.

She proceeded to open it and took a deep sniff, proclaiming the weed high-quality stuff. I know she took it with her over to Larry’s house later and they probably got high as hell. I still can’t believe it. How did I become so normal and stable when my mom is such a…child?

You had no choice.

Wasn’t that the damn truth?

“Listen, the dinners they serve are like fifty bucks a plate. It’s for couples and stuff. And there’s a bar. After ten, the place is completely shut down to those under twenty-one,” I explain. It’s truly the most beautiful, elegant restaurant I’ve ever seen. Let alone worked at. It’s organized, efficient, everything and everyone has a place. The staff isn’t very friendly, though. More like snobby. I’m sure they sneer at me behind my back, the white-trash townie who’s come to work among their elitist ranks.

Whatever. All I care about is the tips. And the fact that Colin believes in me. It’s been a long time since someone believed in me. I thought Drew did but the longer he’s absent from my life, the more it proves to me that was all fake. We just got a little too caught up.

“You can’t even bring me any leftovers, huh?” Owen’s question snaps me out of my thoughts and I glance at him, see the smirk on his face.

He’s getting more and more good-looking as time passes. I have no idea if he has a girlfriend or not, but I really hope he puts that sort of thing off for a least a little while longer. Relationships are nothing but trouble.

“That’s so gross.” I roll my eyes. I used to bring him home burgers from La Salle’s. Which goes to show I completely spoiled him.

“Well, Mom sure as hell isn’t going to feed me. Sorry,” he blurts when he catches my evil eye over his curse. “And I feel like a jerk with how much I hang out at Wade’s house. His mom has to be getting sick of me.”

Guilt swamps me. I need this job. I need both of my jobs and that means I can’t be there for Owen. Making him dinners, keeping on top of his homework, forcing him to clean that dump of a room. The apartment has three bedrooms, a rarity but in demand in a college town, and the rent is getting more expensive. Considering my mom is never here and it’s usually just Owen and me, I’m considering looking for another apartment. For just the two of us and without my mom included.

This little tidbit will piss her off when I tell her. It doesn’t matter that she spends the majority of her time with Larry. It doesn’t matter that she’s never here and doesn’t have a job and can’t afford the rent. She’ll still be angry and take it personally, like Owen and I are forcing her out.

I kind of am. I don’t want her here anymore. She’s not a good influence, Owen’s uncomfortable around her and so am I. I’m done.

But for whatever reason, I’m scared to confront her. I don’t want to deal with a bunch of unnecessary drama. And that’s what my mom is. Complete and total drama.

My cell beeps, indicating I have a text, and I check it, see that it’s from my new boss. Unease slips down my spine as I read the message.

What are you doing?

I type in the good employee response.

Getting ready for work.

Hey, it’s the truth.

I’m in the neighborhood. Let me pick you up and take you there.

I stare at his message for too long, ignoring Owen as he starts griping about what he’s going to have to fix himself for dinner. What the hell could Colin want? Why would he be in my shit hole of a neighborhood? It makes no sense. Unless he purposely came looking for me…

I don’t have to be at work for almost an hour, I reply.

I’ll pay you for the extra time. Come on.

Sighing, I type in my answer: Give me five minutes.

“I gotta go,” I tell Owen as I head for my bedroom. I haven’t changed into my work uniform, if you can call it that. All the waitresses have to wear the most outrageous dresses I’ve ever seen. There are at least four different dresses and they’re sexy as all get-out, with our boobs hanging out or they fit us skintight. I get the sex appeal thing. We don’t look slutty or anything, but if I bend over wrong, I’m giving everyone a flash of my ass. Boy-short undies are the name of the game for those dresses.

I’m grabbing my dress off the hanger when I catch Owen lurking in my doorway. “What’s up?” I ask him.

He shrugs. “What do you think of me getting a tattoo?”

My head spins for a moment. Oh my God, where does he come up with this stuff? “First, you’re only fourteen, so legally you can’t get one. Second, you’re only fourteen. What could you possibly want to have tattooed forever on your body?”

“I dunno.” He shrugs again. “I thought it might be cool. I mean you just got one so why can’t I?”

“Maybe because I’m an adult and you’re not?” A few weeks before Christmas, when I still believed Drew and I had a chance, I got one. The stupidest tattoo you could ever imagine. I thought by doing it, by having a piece of him, no matter how small, permanently etched into my skin, I could somehow call him back to me.

Didn’t work. And now I’m stuck. Thank God, it’s small. I could probably have it filled in if I wanted to.

Right now, I don’t want to.

“So you put some guy’s initials on your body and it’s cool but I can’t get an artistic tat of a dragon on my back or whatever? So unfair.” He shakes his head, his dirty blond hair getting in his eyes, and I want to smack him.

And I also want to draw him into my arms and ask where did the sweet, simple kid of not even a year ago run away to? Because he sure as hell isn’t around here anymore.

“It’s different.” I turn away from him and yank the dress off the hanger, clutching it in my hand. “I need to change so you need to go.”

“Who’s the guy, anyway? You never did tell me.”

“He’s no one.” The words are heavy as they fall from my lips. He was definitely someone. He was my everything for the briefest, most intense moment of my life.

“He’s not no one. He broke your heart.” Venom fills Owen’s voice. “I ever find out who he is, I’ll kick his ass.”

I smile because I can’t help it. His defense of me is…awesome. We’re a team, Owen and I. We’re all each other’s got.* * * *I slip outside of my apartment because I so don’t want Colin knocking on my door and meeting Owen. Or worse, seeing the inside of our dingy apartment. Wherever Colin lives, I bet it’s amazing. If his house is half as gorgeous as his restaurant, then it has to be amazing.

The second I step off the stairs, he’s there in a sleek black Mercedes, the engine purring, the car so new it doesn’t have plates yet. I take a step back when he opens the door and climbs out of the car, a blond god with a devastating smile and twinkling blue eyes.

He rounds the car, opening the passenger side door for me with a flourish. “Your carriage awaits.”

I hesitate. Is this a mistake, climbing into his car with him? I’m not afraid of Colin yet I am afraid of the situation I might be putting myself in. He’s a flirt but I notice he flirts with pretty much everyone who works for him—and the customers. He never crosses a line, he’s always polite and knows when to step back if need be.

But am I giving him mixed signals by allowing him to pick me up for work? He just happens to be near my apartment so he can swing by and get me? I don’t believe it.

Not for a second.

“Did you come here specifically to pick me up?” I ask him the minute he climbs back into the car and slams the door.

He turns to look at me, our faces awfully close. The car is nice but small and the setting is rather intimate. He smells like expensive cologne and leather and I wonder for a quick minute if I could actually feel something for this guy.

I realize just as quickly that I can’t. My heart is still tied up in knots over someone else. Someone unreal.

“You’re pretty straightforward, aren’t you?” Colin asks, his eyes gleaming in the dim interior.

“It’s better than doling out a bunch of lies, right?” I arch a brow.

Laughing, he shakes his head as he puts the car into gear. “Right. I really was in the neighborhood, Fable. And I remembered you lived around here so that’s why I texted you. I know you don’t always have access to a car.”

I’ve worked at his restaurant for three shifts and he already knows all this information about me. Is that a sign of a good boss or a creeper? “I had my mom’s car today.”

He pulls out of the parking lot and onto the road, his hand draped casually over the steering wheel, his other arm resting on the center console. There’s an easiness to him. No, make that effortlessness. He makes everything appear like he could get whatever he wants out of life and he deserves every bit of it too.

I envy him that. It’s a confidence I could never hope for.

“Want me to take you back so you can drive it?” There’s amusement lacing his deep voice. He must think I’m a joke.

“No.” I sigh. This is stupid. What are we doing? “I won’t have a ride home, though.”

“I’ll give you a ride.”

I don’t bother answering him.

I remain quiet, picking at my cuticles as he drives, both of us silent. My hands are dry, my cuticles bad and I think of the other girls I work with who have perfect manicures and pedicures and I literally look like the still slightly ragged Cinderella who’s been finally pulled out of the basement and set to work among the glittering, beautiful princesses. I might shine but rub me a little bit and the tarnish comes through relatively easy.

I feel…less than when I’m at my new job. And I don’t like that.

“Nasty habit,” Colin says, breaking the thickening silence. “You should go get your nails done.”

Okay, that irritates the crap out of me. His assumptions are rude. “I can’t afford it.”

“I’ll pay for it.”

“Hell, no,” I practically snarl. His offer irritates me more.

Colin ignores me. “And while you’re at it, you should go see a hairstylist. I’ll pay for that too. There’s too much bleach in your hair and it looks damaged.”

The nerve. This guy is such an asshole. Why did I agree to work for him again? Oh yeah, the money. Greediness is going to get the best of me, I just know it. It’s led to two really stupid decisions already. “Who are you? The fashion police?”

“No, but I’m your boss and at The District we have certain criteria that we need to maintain.”

“So why did you hire me? You knew what you were getting.”

“I saw your potential,” he said softly. “Do you, Fable? Do you see it?”

I couldn’t answer him. Because the truth wasn’t what he wanted to hear.

No.DrewI’m in class though I don’t want to be. I took a lighter load after my supreme screwup of the fall semester. Why risk temptation again? I’ll have to make it up over the summer break by taking a few extra courses, but I don’t care. Where else would I go?

Not home, that’s for damn sure.

At least while I’m on campus, I feel somewhat normal. I can forget about my dad and Adele and what she told me. I haven’t spoken to her since the last time I called her and made her tell me everything. I barely talk to my dad either. He knows something’s wrong with me, but doesn’t push. I know something’s wrong with him too, and I don’t push either. What’s the point? Do I really want to find out what’s wrong?

No.

I move through the day like a robot, checking in and checking out. The longer I’m alone, the more in my head I get. Remembering I promised Jace I would go to Logan’s birthday party this Saturday fills me with a sort of panic I don’t like to focus on. I have to do this. Dr. Harris said I need to make like a real person again and she’s right.

But it still scares the shit out of me.

I’m in my communications class, which is huge, and there’s this girl who I sit close to every day. She’s short and petite, her hair is long and blonde and she reminds me so much of Fable, it’s almost painful.

But I’m a glutton for punishment. I like sitting by her. Pretending she’s someone else, holding my breath when she turns her head in my direction, always ready to be surprised when I find out Fable really is sitting next to me.

Dealing with the disappointment when the truth is revealed. She isn’t who I want her to be. No one ever will be.

The professor is droning on but I’m not listening. I take out a sheet of paper and start writing. A letter I will never give a certain someone. But I need to pour my feelings out for her or I’m going to explode. Once my pen meets the paper they just flow and I have no control over them.Maybe it was a mistake leaving you.

And I don’t know how to make it right.

Regret fills me every single day.

So much of it builds up I

Hate myself for

Missing you. Hurting you.

And I want you to know I…

Long for you

Love you

Others may come and go in our lives but…

We belong togetherI stare at my stupid little poem that the girl I love will never read. I draw little squiggly lines around it. A cursive F, just like I was taught in elementary school. Her name. Fable. A story. A myth. A fairy tale. She’s my story. I want to live and breathe and die for her and she has no idea how much she consumes my thoughts. To the point I think of nothing else. I’d rather sit in class and write her love poems with secret messages in them than pay attention to what’s really going on my life.

What a fucking mess I am.For a girl

As pretty as she deserves the

Best. No more

Lies. She is my

Everything.But I’m not brave enough to tell her. I stare at this new bit I wrote for her and disgust fills me. I’m not good enough for her. I can’t even tell Fable how I really feel about her to her face.

“Are you a writer?”

I glance up to find my pseudo-Fable smiling at me and I frown. Her face is all wrong. She has brown eyes. And she’s not as pretty, though she’s definitely attractive. I don’t know how I thought she looked like Fable. “What did you say?” I ask.

She nods toward the piece of paper filled with my scribbling. “You’re not paying attention to the lecture. Are you writing a poem? It looks like one.”

Sliding my hand over the paper to hide the words from her seeking eyes, I study her face, willing her to look more like Fable. But it doesn’t happen. This girl is nothing like her. And I hate her for it. “I’m taking notes.”

She smiles. “Don’t worry. I won’t tell if you’re not.”

“But I am,” I insist defensively because these words are for no one else. They’re for me and a girl who will never see them.

“No need to freak out,” she whispers. Her gaze narrows, as if she can see in me, through me, and I’m tempted to run. “Or get so defensive.”

I say nothing. How can I defend myself against that when she speaks the truth?

“Hey, aren’t you Drew Callahan?” She cocks her head, her expression full of sudden interest. “Mister Big Shot Quarterback?”

Her voice is full of sarcasm. I let down the entire school at the end of the season in one spectacular fail after another. I fell apart and everyone knows it. I can see the contempt in her gaze, feel it radiating from her body, and I know she thinks I’m a joke.

Grabbing my backpack at my feet, I shove the piece of paper into it, along with my book. I get out of my chair and haul the strap over my shoulder. “He doesn’t exist anymore,” I mutter to her before I make my escape. Right in the middle of class.

But I don’t give a shit. I just keep on going. Until I’m outside and breathing in the sharp cold air, the sun shining on me, the people bumping past me as I push through the crowd. I hear someone call my name but I ignore it. All sorts of people seem to know me but I don’t know them.

That’s my bullshit story, no matter how much I don’t want it to be.

I feel my phone vibrating in my jeans pocket and I grab it, see that it’s my dad. Normally I’d let it go straight to voice mail but for whatever sadistic reason I’m in the mood to talk to him. So I answer.

“Drew.” He sounds surprised.

“What’s up?” My voice is deceptively casual. I should’ve been an actor. I’m so good at faking my life it’s unbelievable.

“I was hoping I could come and see you.” He clears his throat and it’s like I can feel how uncomfortable he is even through the phone. “There are some…things I need to talk to you about.”

My gut clenches and I feel like I’m going to throw up. He sounds serious. Scary serious. “Like what?”

“Well, I’d rather talk about it when I see you but…I may as well tell you now.” He takes a deep breath and so do I. “Adele and I are getting a divorce.”

I feel like I’ve been smacked upside the head and little birds are tweeting in a circle above me, straight out of a cartoon. Glancing around, I catch sight of a bench and I sit heavily on the edge of it, my backpack knocking against me, making me wince. “What? Why?”

“I’d rather come there and tell you. Are you free this weekend?”

“Sure.” I remember Logan’s party. “Well, I have something to do Saturday night, but I can cancel it.”

“I don’t want to interfere with your plans.” My dad usually doesn’t give a shit about my plans, so his protesting is unnerving. He’s not himself. Is he upset that he’s getting a divorce? Does he view this as a good thing or a bad thing? Of course, I automatically blame Adele for everything.

“You won’t be interfering, Dad. Trust me. It’s just a stupid party.” Dr. Harris is going to be pissed at me, but I don’t care. I need to be here for my dad. Especially if he’s finally going to really end it with Adele.

I shouldn’t be happy. I should feel sorry for him. But this is the right move. She’s a sick bitch and I want her poison out of my life. Out of my dad’s life too. Plus—and this is completely selfish on my part—I don’t want our secret revealed.

I don’t even know if her secret is the truth. And that’s what scares me the most. What’s real, what’s not? I’m not sure anymore.

“How about I’ll come there Friday, stay the night with you and go home Saturday? That way you can do what you need to do Saturday night,” Dad suggests.

“You can stay the entire weekend if you want.” I want him to. I miss him. We used to be close. Before I turned fifteen and my stepmom decided I looked far more interesting than my dad ever did.

You’ve grown up so much, Andrew. You’re so handsome, so big and strong…

Closing my eyes, I shove her flirtatious voice firmly out of my brain.

“Let’s play it by ear,” my dad says.

That’s all I can ask for, so I agree. And when we hang up, I feel a little lighter. My head’s not as cloudy and for once, I’m hopeful.

I clutch that feeling close to me for the rest of the day.

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