“Don’t,” I plead, my voice cracking at the same time my heart threatens to.
“Don’t,” I repeat, cutting him off. “Don’t do this.”
“It’s not like I want to do this, Say––”
“Stop. Please. I’m begging you.” The warm pavement almost burns my bare thighs as I nearly collapse onto the steps outside my house. I’d worn a jean skirt with a pair of navy blue sneakers tonight because he always loved them. And I loved how confident they made me feel. But now, I’m regretting my clothing choice because it leaves me feeling bare. And in this moment, I need all the protection I can get.
Dropping my head into my hands, I dig my nails into my scalp and tangle them into my hair. The bite of pain isn’t enough to keep my heart from breaking, though.
“Say…look at me,” he begs.
Shaking my head, I squeeze my eyes shut but can still hear his movement as he squats down and sits beside me. I have so many memories on this porch with him. So many smiles. So many stolen kisses. So many late-night talks about our future and everything we’re going to achieve. Together.
I almost want to laugh because I couldn’t have been more wrong.
“Babe. You’re killing me right now,” he rasps.
With a dry laugh, I hastily wipe away a tear from beneath my eye before he can see the physical evidence of what he’s putting me through.
“I’m killing you right now?” I scoff. “Are you kidding me?”
I finally find the courage to look up at him. The pain is clearly etched onto his face, but it does nothing to ease the ache in my chest. If anything, it only amplifies it.
“Don’t do this, Owen,” I plead.
“You think I want to do this?” His jaw tightens. “Do you think I want––”
“Then why the hell are you doing this?” I spit, my frustration finally boiling over. “We’ve talked about this. We can make this work. I can––”
“Stop, Say. Just stop. I’ve been fucking sick over this, okay?”
“Don’t play the martyr and say you’re doing this for me. That’s bullshit, and you know it.”
“Stop saying my name.” I shake my head in an attempt to erase all the times he’s said it. The deep grittiness in his voice when he’d whisper it against my ear. The light ease when he’d say it on a laugh. All of it. I just…I can’t hear it anymore. Not from him.
I laugh, though there isn’t any humor in it. In fact, it hurts more than anything else in the world. “That’s even worse.”
“I’m not going to hold you back, Say. I refuse to.” His voice is quiet. Pained. It’s excruciating.
And only fuels the flames.
“No. You don’t get to say that to me. You just want to enjoy the spotlight. That’s it, isn’t it? You want to be able to go to college and enjoy the plethora of new college girls who will be worshiping the new football god at their school. Heaven forbid you stay in a committed relationship, right? Where’s the fun in that?”
“Wanna talk about bullshit, Say?” he snaps. “What the hell are you talking about? I love the shit out of you. You know that! Don’t discount my feelings for you or everything that we’ve shared together. That’s not fair.”
“That’s rich coming from the guy who’s throwing it all away just because he’s moving. Especially when you refuse to let me come!” I shout, my entire body trembling. The air is still a little chilly, and the evening rain only amplifies the cold. But I’m so hot with rage right now that I don’t really give a shit.
“And take you away from your family?” he counters. “And your dream school?”
“I would do it for you––”
“And that’s why I can’t let you.”
There’s a finality in his voice, but I refuse to give in.
“No.” He shakes his head. “I’m not going to hold you back from your dreams. I’m not going to––”
“You are my dream!” I scream. “And I’m even fine being second to yours. How’s that for irony, huh?” My shoulders deflate as I voice aloud my greatest fear. I’ll always be second to football with Owen. Everything will be. He used to eat, sleep, and breathe football until he saw me one day in high school, and I changed everything. Or at least, I thought I did. Now, I realize I was nothing but a distraction, and he just didn’t know how to get rid of me.