I’ve always been good at reading people. Call it a gift. Intuition, if you will.
Pen was always so easy to read. She could never hide her innermost thoughts from me.
I’d known, before she’d admitted it to herself, that she loved us. I saw it in the way she’d held back, in the way her emotions played across her face like a love poem trapped beneath her skin. Her eyes would flash with intensity, her mouth would part, her cheeks would pink up, her eyelashes would flutter, her brows would pull together in a frown as though trying to contain the love within her eyes. But I saw it. She’d watch us with all these secret words fluttering across her face, this secret love hidden inside.
Love words. Words of love.
I read them all.
Unspoken. Kept secret. Contained.
In the beginning she’d held them back, that truth, that love.
Perhaps it was from fear of rejection. That ache that comes with loving someone who may never love you in return. She’d been so badly hurt by her own mother’s cruelty and her brother’s brutality that it was little wonder she was so fucking cautious. I don’t blame her. It’s hard enough to love one person, but four? She was so fucking brave.
To love us. Four boys broken in their own way. Each of us carried a burden. Dax’s was his father’s hate. Zayn’s was his family ties. Xeno’s was the darkness he held inside from some past trauma he never shared. And me? I came from a home where my parents didn’t even know I existed. I lived with parents who barely cared where I was from one moment to the next. So to have her look at me with love was scary. I didn’t believe I deserved it.
But she loved us anyway. All of us. Every broken, jagged part.
During the early years of our friendship we’d placed her firmly in the friendzone, and we were all happy there. We laughed. We danced. We spent hours together. It was natural. She fit into the Breakers perfectly. She became the organ that pumped us with blood, that kept us alive, vibrant. She became the pulse that gave us purpose, focus. A reason to be better.
Then things changed. She evolved from this scrappy, little kid, into a beautiful young woman. It was as though a lightbulb had flicked on inside of her, lighting her up from the inside out. I wasn’t the only one who’d noticed.
We all did. Even Xeno. Especially him. Though he’d never admit it. He couldn’t deal with it. That light that poured out of her. That love.
I knew he had demons, but I never really understood back then why he reacted so badly to her love. Why he pushed her away. Why he gave her an ultimatum. Because I saw what he refused to believe. He loved her too. Just like the rest of us.
She was our best friend. Our Titch. Our Tiny. Our Kid. Our Pen. Our lucky penny.
Until she became so much more than that.
It scared the shit out of Xeno. All of us to a certain extent.
Frankly, I was a dick. I can admit that now. Before I acknowledged how she felt, I’d flirted with other girls in front of her. I’d kissed them and touched them knowing deep down that she’d be watching, hurting. It was wrong. So fucking wrong. But, like I said, I was broken too.
Then she kissed Dax. Then she admitted how she felt about all of us.
I’d never felt happier. She was so fucking brave opening herself up like that.
Finally. Finally someone noticed me. Noticed us.
Four boys who hurt.
And what did we ultimately do?
She gave us her love, and we threw it back in her face.
That night when she walked away, we proved to ourselves that we were unworthy of her love, her light, because there wasn’t one of us who’d noticed how it’d gone out.
How, in the space of a couple of hours, Pen’s light disappeared.
Even me. The one person who could always read her better than the rest.
We were all fucking blind to it.
Maybe it was because we’d knocked back too many drinks that night.
Maybe it was because we were too high from the joint we’d smoked celebrating our win.
Maybe it was because by the time she’d finished breaking our hearts, we were too busy bleeding out from the rejection that we didn’t stop to look at how she’d died inside.
All the broken parts she’d smoothed out with her love, suddenly became sharp