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Authors: Colleen Hoover

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BOOK: Regretting You
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As soon as Jonah pulls back up in my driveway, I swing open the passenger door. It feels like I’ve been holding my breath since we left the Langford, but stepping out of the car and into the fresh night air does nothing to refill my lungs.

I don’t expect Jonah to get out, but he does. He begins to follow me across my yard, but before I open my front door, I turn around to face him. “Did you know about their affair?”

He shakes his head. “Of course not.”

My chest is heaving. I’m angry, but not at Jonah. I don’t think. I’m angry at everything. Chris, Jenny, every single memory I have of them together. I’m angry because I know this is now my new obsession. I’ll be constantly wondering when it started, what every look meant, what every conversation between them meant. Did they have inside jokes? Did they say them in front of me? Did they laugh at my inability to sense what was happening between them?

Jonah takes a hesitant step forward. I’m crying now, but these tears weren’t born from the grief I’ve been grappling with this entire past week. These tears are born from a more innate anguish, if that’s even possible.

I attempt to inhale a breath, but my lungs feel clogged. Jonah’s concern grows as he watches me, so he moves even closer, invading my personal space, making it even harder for me to catch a breath.

“I’m sorry,” he says, attempting to soothe the panic within me. I push him away, but I don’t go inside yet. I don’t want Clara to see me like this. I’m audibly gasping now, and it’s not helping that I’m trying to stop the tears. Jonah leads me to a chair on the front patio and forces me to sit.

“I can’t . . .” I’m winded. “I can’t breathe.”

“I’ll go get you some water.” He heads inside the house, and as soon as the door closes, I burst into sobs. I cover my mouth with both
hands, wanting it to stop. I don’t want to be sad. Or angry. I just want to be numb.

I see something out of the corner of my eye, so I look at the house next door. Mrs. Nettle is peeking out at me from behind her living room curtains, watching me as I cry.

She’s the nosiest neighbor we’ve ever had. It makes me angry that she’s watching me right now, probably getting pleasure from seeing me in the middle of a panic attack.

When she moved in three years ago, she didn’t like the color of grass in our yard because it didn’t match the grass in her yard. She tried to petition the homeowner’s association to force us to replant our yard with alfalfa rather than Saint Augustine.

And that was just the first month she lived here. She’s gotten so much worse since then.

God, my random anger at my eighty-year-old neighbor is making it even harder to breathe.

My heart rate is so fast right now I can feel it pounding in my neck. I put a hand on my chest just as Jonah returns with the water. He takes a seat next to me, ensuring I take a sip. Then another. He places the glass on the table between us.

“Lean forward and put your head between your knees,” he says.

I do it without question.

Jonah inhales a slow breath, intending for me to mimic it. I do. He repeats it about ten times, until my heart rate has slowed down significantly. When I feel less on the verge of a heart attack, I lift my head and lean back in the patio chair, attempting to refill my lungs with air. I let out a long sigh, then glance next door. Mrs. Nettle is still staring at us from behind her curtain.

She doesn’t even try to hide her nosiness. I flip her off, which works. She snatches the curtains shut and turns off her living room light.

Jonah makes a small sound in his throat, like he wants to laugh. Maybe it is funny, seeing me flip off an eighty-year-old. But there’s no
way I could possibly find it in me to muster up even a modicum of laughter right now.

“How are you so calm?” I ask him.

Jonah leans back in his chair with a sidelong look in my direction. “I’m not calm,” he says. “I’m hurt. I’m angry. But I’m also not as invested as you, so I think it’s natural for us to have different reactions.”

“Not as invested as me?”

“Chris wasn’t my brother,” he says, matter-of-factly. “Jenny wasn’t someone I’ve been married to for half my life. They’ve cut you deeper than they’ve cut me.”

I look away from Jonah because his words make me want to wince. I don’t like that description.
“They’ve cut you . . .”

It’s the perfect explanation for how I feel, but I never imagined Jenny and Chris would be the ones to make me feel it.

Jonah and I don’t speak for a while after that. I’m no longer crying, so I should probably go inside now that I’m in the clear. I’ve been trying to hide my emotions from Clara. Not the grief. The grief is natural. I don’t mind being sad in front of her. But I don’t want her to sense my anger. What Jenny and Chris did is something I never want Clara to find out. She’s gone through enough.

No telling how she’d lash out if she uncovered the truth about them. She’s already lashed out enough with behavior that is so unlike her.

“Clara left Chris’s funeral early. I found her at the movie theater getting high with that guy. Miller Adams. The one you claimed was a good kid?”
I don’t know why I threw in that last part, like it’s somehow Jonah’s fault.

Jonah releases a sigh. “Wow.”

“I know. And the worst part is I don’t even know how to deal with it. Or how long I should ground her for.”

Jonah pushes himself out of the chair, coming to a stand. “She’s suffering. We all are. I doubt it’s something she’d have done if it were
under different circumstances. Maybe give her a pass on her behavior this week.”

I nod, but I disagree with him. A free pass would be appropriate for something milder than doing drugs. It’s more appropriate for something like breaking curfew. I can’t just let it slide that she left Chris’s funeral to get high. Not to mention she was with the one guy her father told her not to spend time with. If I let either of those things slide, what will that leniency lead to?

I stand up, ready to go inside. I open the front door and turn to face Jonah. He’s in the doorway now, staring at his feet, when he says, “I need to pick up Elijah.” He lifts his eyes, and I can’t tell if he’s holding back tears or if I just forgot that when you’re this close to Jonah Sullivan, the blue in his eyes looks liquefied. “Will you be okay?”

I let out a half-hearted laugh. I still have tears on my cheeks that haven’t even dried, and he’s asking me if I’ll be okay?

I haven’t been okay for a week. I’m not okay now. But I shrug and say, “I’ll survive.”

He hesitates like he wants to say more. But he doesn’t. He walks back to his car, and I close my front door.

“What was that about?”

I spin around to find Clara standing at the entrance to the hallway. “Nothing,” I say, almost too quickly.

“Is he okay?”

“Yeah, he just . . . he’s struggling. Raising Elijah on his own. He had questions.”

I’m not the good liar in this family, but that technically wasn’t a lie. I’m sure Jonah
struggling. It’s his first child. He just lost Jenny. I remember when Clara was a baby and Chris was a full-time student and worked all the days he didn’t have class. I know how hard it is to do everything on your own. I’ve been there.

Granted, Elijah is an easier baby than Clara. They look like they could be twins, but their personalities are nothing alike.

“Who has Elijah?” Clara asks.

I hear that question come from Clara, but I can’t answer it because my thoughts aren’t moving forward. They’re stuck on the last thing that went through my head.

They look like they could be twins.

I grip the wall after being hit by what feels like a ten-thousand-pound realization.

“Why did you leave the house with Jonah?” Clara asks. “Where did y’all go?”

Elijah doesn’t look anything like Jonah. He looks just like Clara.

“Mom,” Clara says with more emphasis, trying to get a response from me.

And Clara looks just like Chris.

The walls in front of me begin to pulsate. I wave Clara off because I know what a terrible liar I am, and I feel like she can see right through me. “You’re still grounded. Go back to your room.”

“I’m grounded from the
room?” she asks, puzzled.

,” I say firmly, needing her to leave the room before I completely break down right in front of her.

Clara storms off.

I rush to my own bedroom and slam the door.

As if their deaths weren’t enough, the blows just keep coming, and they’re getting more and more severe.



I left the house as soon as my mother went to her bedroom and slammed her door. I’m not supposed to leave, so I’m sure this will extend however long I’m grounded for, but at this point, I don’t care. I can’t be cooped up inside that house for another minute. Everything reminds me of my father. And every time I look at my mother, she’s sitting quietly in random spots, staring at nothing.

Or snapping at me.

I know she’s hurting, but she’s not the only one. All I did was ask her where Elijah was and why she left the house with Jonah, but she completely overreacted.

Will this be how it is from now on? My father is gone, so now she feels she has to compensate for his absence and be even stricter on me?
Who gets grounded from their own living room?

I’m grounded from my phone, so my mother won’t be able to see where I am. I was afraid she’d call the police, so before I left, I wrote her a note that said,
“I’m really hurting. I’m going to Lexie’s for a couple of hours, but I’ll be home by ten.”
I knew if I threw in the “hurting” part that maybe she wouldn’t be so angry. Grief is a beast, but it’s also a great excuse.

I drove to Lexie’s house after leaving my own, hoping she’d be home, but she wasn’t.

Now I’m sitting in the parking lot of the movie theater, staring at Miller’s truck.

I pulled in because I was thinking how nice it would be to sit in the dark theater for an hour and a half and forget the outside world even exists. But now that I know Miller is working tonight, I’m not sure I want to go in. It’ll seem like I came here on purpose, seeking him out.

Maybe I did? I don’t even know.

Either way, I’m not going to stop going to the movies anytime he’s working, simply because he’s got a girlfriend. I’m also not going to stop going just because I’m worried it’ll be awkward.

I mean, the guy bought me drugs. Can’t get much more awkward than that.

The outdoor ticket counter window is closed, but Miller is inside. I watch him through the glass doors for a moment. He’s wiping down the concession stand counters while Steven, the guy who sold him the weed, sweeps up random spills of popcorn.

The lobby of the theater is quiet when I walk inside, so both of them look up when they hear the door open.

Miller shoots me a small smile and stops cleaning when he sees me. I’m suddenly more nervous than I anticipated I’d be.

He presses his palms onto the counter and leans forward as I approach him. “I figured you’d be grounded.”

I shrug. “I am. She took my phone and banished me to my bedroom.” I look at the menu over his head. “I escaped.”

He laughs. “Final showings started between thirty and forty-five minutes ago, but you can take your pick. Theater four is the emptiest.”

“What’s playing in four?”

It’s an action flick.”

“Gross. I’ll take it.” I pull money out of my purse, but he waves it away.

“Don’t worry about it. Family gets in free. If anyone asks, tell them you’re my sister.”

“I’d almost rather pay than pretend we’re siblings.”

Miller laughs and grabs a large cup. “What do you want to drink?”


He hands me the Sprite, then wets a handful of napkins in the sink behind him. I look at him with confusion as he hands me the wet napkins.

“You have stuff,” he says, dragging a finger down his cheek. “Makeup. From crying.”

“Oh.” I wipe at my cheeks. I don’t even remember putting on mascara today. I seem to be going through the motions of life without actually being aware of any of the motions. I wasn’t even aware that I was crying the entire way here. Hell, I’m probably still crying. I can’t even tell anymore. My guilt over knowing I was texting Aunt Jenny the moment she had the wreck, coupled with the gaping loss I feel for both of them, doesn’t feel like it’ll ever go away. The tears that seemed to only come at night are starting to follow me into the daytime. I thought time would make it better, but so far, time has just allowed my feelings to build and build. My heart feels swollen, like it might explode if even one more small tragedy finds its way in.

Miller makes me a large bag of popcorn as I wipe away my mascara.

“You want butter?”

“Lots of it.” I toss the napkin in a nearby trash can, not even concerned if I got it all. He douses the popcorn in butter.

“Don’t forget. If an employee asks for a ticket, you’re my sister,” he says as he hands the popcorn to me.

I put a few pieces of popcorn in my mouth as I back away. “Thanks, bubba.”

He makes a pained face after I call him that, almost as if it’s a gross thought. I like that the thought of us being relatives repulses him. That
means there’s a chance he’s imagined us together in an entirely different capacity.

BOOK: Regretting You
11.24Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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