The Sweetheart Sham

By: Danielle Ellison


There’s also Georgia Ann. I broke her heart, I know that, and I’ve never been able to make it up to her. What’s she going to do when she sees me again?

My character takes a few more shots. “Someone drop some ammo!” Will yells. We both comply and then take out a group that snuck up behind us.

“What else happened at the End of the Year Party? You have any random hookups?” I ask.

Immediately I wish I hadn’t because my mind goes there. To her. My last End of the Year Party was that final summer in Culler. It was there I kissed Georgia Ann. She’d pushed me away and told me to sober up. I wasn’t drunk, though. I’d just wanted to kiss her. I’d been waiting all year for the right time to do it, she’d been standing there under the moonlight, and I went for it.

That changed everything for us.

“Not for me,” Will says.

I settle back into my seat as our three characters run across the screen. We move through the forest toward a camp wall on the other side. Drew starts telling us which direction to go, how to split up. Good. I need to not think. I need to get lost in the game where Georgia Ann doesn’t exist.

Five minutes later, I’ve failed.

Who was I kidding? She’s always existed. Even two years later. She’d always been my fantasy girl, and I screwed that up. I still think about her a lot. When I wasn’t being a wuss, I’d ask about her. Will didn’t know about us, or if he did he’s never mentioned it. What would she sound like now? What would she look like? What does she do for fun? How has she changed? Would she smile if she saw me again, or would she punch me in the face?

It’s hard to tell with her. The girl was a tornado—unpredictable, fierce, and mesmerizing. At least she had been once.

I’d dated since I’d been in Atlanta, but none of them compared to her and none of them lasted. My last serious girlfriend didn’t tell me she was still hanging out with her ex until she ended up pregnant. I hadn’t slept with her, so I knew it wasn’t mine. One thing I can’t handle is a liar, not after everything my ma and I have gone through.

What the hell would I say to Georgia Ann when we saw each other? We hadn’t talked since I’d left, which wasn’t for a lack of trying. She shut me down a few times, then she disappeared altogether.

“How’s Georgia Ann?” I ask.

There’s a pause over the headset as we cover Drew in the game and go in for an attack. Drew is yelling commands at us as Will’s character takes down a few enemies. I focus on that instead, shooting for dead. Once the path is clear, our characters move forward.

“Georgia’s good. Her momma’s driving her crazy already with someone’s wedding plans.”

“Sorry,” Drew interjects. “It’s driving me crazy, too.”

“She’s Georgie, you know?”

I nod, picturing her in my head. “I do know.”

“I’m sure she’ll be excited to see you.”

“Oh yeah,” I say, but really I doubt it, the way we left things. We didn’t even say good-bye. In our last conversation, which I only got after calling her nonstop, I asked her to let me explain. She didn’t let me.

The last words she ever said to me were, “You broke my heart, Beau Montgomery, that’s what happened. There’s nothing else to say. Hope your new life is grand.”

That was it. That was the last time I heard her voice. I could only hope that now, maybe, she’d hate me a little less. But what if she didn’t?

“Hey, maybe don’t tell her I’m coming.”

“Why not?” Will asks.

I think for a second. Why not? Will likely doesn’t know we had a history. “I want to surprise her.”

“She hates surprises,” Will says.

“I know, but…just go with it, okay?”

“Sure, whatever,” he says.

A grenade hits the building we’re raiding and kills us all.



I pull some suitcases from the attic. I have a week, but I want to get on out of here as fast as I can when the day comes to leave. Ma says she’s still making the trip down for the wedding, and I hope she does.

My phone dings with a text from Dad. Son, I hear you’re coming all summer. Can’t wait to see you. I miss you around here. We all do.

I stare at the words. Dad misses me. He’s got a shit way of showing it. I get a present in the mail on my birthday and Christmas, a few texts, and that’s it. He’s never asked me to return home, never watched a basketball game, or even visited me. He stopped being my dad the day we left town.

Same

I’ll talk to the coach about the basketball camp in town and let you know.

K

Three dots come and disappear. Guess that’s the end of father/son bonding time. I get out my suitcase in the corner of the room and open it up. I hear Ma’s footfalls on the steps before I see her. “You need help?” she asks.

“I’ve got it all,” I reply. Ma looks at me, really stares at me. “What?”

“Sit down.”

“Ma.”

She points to my bed so I sit on the side of it. Ma runs a hand over my hair. I hate when she does that. “Look, I want to talk to you about Culler. I know you and your dad haven’t been on good terms.”

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