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Authors: Raquel Valldeperas

Tailspin (Better Than You)

BOOK: Tailspin (Better Than You)
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Tailspin

A novel by Raquel Valldeperas

 

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters and incidents are products of the author’s imagination , or the author has used them fictitiously.

 

Copyright © Raquel Valldeperas

All rights reserved

 

Cover by Raquel Valldeperas

Image by bikeriderlondon/shutterstock.com

 

Prologue

 

November 5, 2009

 

                           
“One day you’re going to find a girl that makes you question everything you think you know about love and life. When you find her, don’t let her go. Look for the answers in her and make her believe them, too.”

I wish I could say that I remember every single thing about her; her voice, her smile, the way she ran her hand through my hair when she was upset or worried, but as the pain of losing them fades, so do the memories. Mom’s face is a fuzzy picture floating in the peripheral of my mind until I dig out the photo albums and memorize every laugh line there is. I’m losing her, one piece at a time, just like I’ve lost Logan.

             
I don’t think Mom could have ever anticipated this situation; that’d I be in love with a girl who could be impossible to love. Because I am. In love with her, that is. And just as Mom told me so many years ago, I’m questioning everything about the notion and how it fits into my life. Sitting here beside her hospital bed, her bony, cold hand in mine and her frail chest barely rising and falling, I know one thing for sure; that I would do anything to take away the pain inside of her, even if it meant putting it inside of me.

              What kills me the most is the not knowing; how it happened, how she ended up here, how her friends could have left her to die, if she did it on purpose or not. Even if I knew, even if she woke up right now and looked me in the eyes and told me that she loved me enough, too, I don’t know that I can be what she needs. But god, I want to be. I want to be the one that puts the smile on her face and the peace in her heart. I want to be the one that lights up her whole fucking world.

              More than anything, I want to believe that she can change, that she can overcome this addiction and love me back.

 

 

1

 

September 2, 2005

 

              There’s exactly three seconds between the moment the hiker tosses me the ball until the moment it leaves my hands, but in those three seconds, a thousand thoughts fly through my head; a thousand scenarios and outcomes and possibilities, all mine to choose from, all mine to dictate. The play may have been decided, but it’s up to me to execute it. I was always aware of that, but it isn’t until now, my first game as a starter, that I’m fully grasping the gravity of my position; Nathan Hawkins, quarterback for the University Of Miami.

              Every feeling is heightened out on the field. The heavy in and out of my breathing as I pull my arm back, the strain against my shoulder as I pitch it forward, the roughness of the ball as it rolls across my fingertips. And then I’m watching it soar, a perfect spiral that took endless hours of practicing to accomplish. This is the part where everything slows. The world disappears and the cheering from the crowd quiets. Up until this point, I am aware of every single thing around me. But when the ball soars through the air and the fate of my career literally hangs in the balance, I can see nothing but the imaginary line connecting me to the ball and the ball to the receiver. I can hear nothing but the sound of my breathing and the thumping of my heart.

              When the ball lands in his arms, the world returns to its loud state. Through the slats in my face cage, I watch as he cocoons it like a baby, turns and runs as if his life depends on it. Ten yards, twenty, thirty…touchdown.

              The noise of the crowd slams into me then, chaos erupting over the final touchdown of the home team’s first win. Because of me. All my life, I never imagined I’d be standing here, the center of attention, surrounded by thousands of people cheering for my team, chanting my name. I’m smiling so hard my face hurts. This is where I belong. This is where I was meant to be. I spread my arms out wide and brace myself against the rush of my teammates. Someone lifts me in the air, above the rest of the growing crowd, and my eyes search for her face in the stands. She’s never too far away. When I finally find her, she stands and smiles.

              Showered and still feeling high from the game, I emerge from the locker rooms to find Heather waiting in the hall. I rush her, lift her into my arms and spin her until the ground starts to tip. She laughs and holds me tighter, even after I’ve set her feet back on the floor.

              “You were amazing,” she says.

              “I was, wasn’t I?” That earns me a slap to the chest. “Jesus, I’m just kidding!” I throw my arm over her shoulder and guide her out of the athletic building, into the disgustingly humid night air. “Did you still wanna go to that party?”

              She shrugs her shoulders. “Sure.”

              I can tell she’s not crazy about the idea, but I also don’t care. Tonight’s about me, the sophomore who just blew everyone’s expectations to smithereens.

              The house is already packed when we get there. It seems like the entire school came out, which wouldn’t be a surprise. When I walk in the door, someone yells my name and soon everyone is crowding around, giving out high fives and shoves. Heather’s hand isn’t in mine anymore, but I only stop to think about that for a second before letting the crowd push me into the kitchen. Four shots and a shotgun later, and I’m on top of the world again. Unstoppable.

This is where I belong.

             

 

2

 

April 14, 2006

 

              “I’m sorry, Heather. It was last minute and they need me.”

              “They
always
need you, Nathan. What if I need you more?”

              I pull the phone away from my mouth and sigh. If Heather heard it, she would never let it go. “It’s their anniversary. What am I supposed to tell them?”

              “That you already had plans with your girlfriend and it’s rude to break them.” Her voice is tight with annoyance. I clench my fists by my sides. “And we already have reservations.”

              “I’ll make it up to you, babe. I swear.”

              She doesn’t say anything for a few seconds. I hold my breath, hoping she’ll accept this new arrangement but also hoping she doesn’t and it gives me the excuse I’ve been looking for to break up with her. “Fine, Nathan,” she finally breathes into the phone. “I expect you to make up for this ten times over. After all, it’s a Friday night and now I have nothing to do. I’ll look like such a loser.”

              “You’re not a loser, babe. Thank you for understanding.”

              “Whatever. I’ll talk to you later.”

              And then the line goes dead. It takes a lot of effort not to throw the phone against the wall. She makes me
that
angry. Always has. But I stay with her because it’s easy, in some sick way. We know each other; understand each other’s busy schedules and individual quirks. It doesn’t bother her that I can’t talk to anyone before a game; that I need my solitude and my quiet. It doesn’t bother me that she likes to socialize at parties instead of sticking by my side. We have an easy rhythm, in front of others and in bed. It works, and you know what they say; don’t bother fixing what isn’t broken. Or some shit like that.

              “We’re leaving!” Dad calls from downstairs, and I take a deep breath before going down to see them off. It’s always like this; Dad shows up, surprises Mom with flowers and reservations to a fancy restaurant. Emily, Joshua and I meet them at the door and tell Mom how beautiful she is, because she really is. We all get our light hair and light eyes from her. Sometimes they joke about Dad having no part in our conception. He’s got dark hair and dark eyes but we somehow all look like him, too.

              “We’ll be back by midnight,” Mom says as she brushes a kiss on my cheek.

              “You better be. I’ve got my shotgun locked and loaded, young man,” I tell Dad. He laughs a deep, hearty laugh and slugs me on the arm.

              “Have fun! And don’t do anything I wouldn’t do!” Emily yells as they walk down the path to the driveway. Mom just shakes her head, neither one of them acknowledging her wildly inappropriate comment. But that’s how we are, always have been. We’re open, honest, and we all genuinely love each other. Some people don’t understand but it’s none of their business anyway.

              Still leaning against the open doorframe, I turn to Emily. “When do you leave?”

              She pulls her cellphone out of her pocket and checks the time before jamming it back in. “Shit. I’m supposed to meet Michael in half an hour.”

              “You’re acting like that’s five minutes from now.”

              “I still have to get dressed.” She says this as if I should know better.

              “But you’re already dressed.”

              The look on her face tells me that I do not, in fact, know any better. Not at all. “I can’t meet him looking like
this
. Ugh what do you think this is…” she trails off as she stomps up the stairs, the drama queen she really is leaving the room with flair.

              I glance over at Joshua, who shrugs his shoulders and goes back to playing his brand new Nintendo DS. The sounds of Mario World fade as he walks into the living room and plops on the couch. He’s pretty easy to watch, keeps to himself unlike most nine year olds, but I’d still rather be with Heather or with the guys from my team. It’s only 6:30. It’s going to be a long night.

              Two hours later, after watching re-runs of CSI and Cops, Joshua closes his game and lets out a long groan, sounding like a grown man who drank too much beer.

              “What’s wrong?” I ask him, my eyes still glued to the screen. The cops are chasing some whacked-out drug dealer through a shady part of Miami. It’s actually just on the other side of town, which doesn’t surprise me. Miami’s pretty shady in general.

              “I don’t feel so good,” Joshua says, but I still don’t look at him. It’s about to get real good because one of the cops is closing in on him and that’s always the best part- the tackle, the cuffing, the reading of his rights. Cop number one is just about to body slam into crazy guy when I hear the most disgusting sound in the world.

              “What the fuck?!” I yell, dodging the spray of Joshua’s puke. It’s mostly on the floor and on the coffee table, thank God. The couch would be a bitch to clean. Joshua’s coughing now, sitting there all pale and shaking and I immediately feel bad for yelling at him. “Stay right there and let me grab a towel,” I tell him before jumping over the back of the couch and grabbing thirteen towels from the linen closet. I hand one to him and tell him to go wash up, and then get to cleaning the mess. All the while I’m thinking about how I could be fucking Heather right now, or enjoying an ice cold beer on the beach with the team. Who the hell wants to spend their Friday night cleaning up vomit? Not this guy, that’s for sure.

              After everything’s as clean as it’s going to get- Mom will have to do the rest when they get home- I throw all of the towels on the floor in the garage and check on Joshua. He’s lying under the spray of the cold shower, half asleep, so small and helpless looking.
It’s not his fault
, I remind myself, and wrap him up in a clean towel. Once he’s dried and dressed, we head to Mom and Dad’s room and lie there with the garbage can in arm’s length. Poor Joshua throws up three more times in an hour and I know it’s time to call Mom; not just because I wanna get the fuck out of here, but because he’s been asking for her non-stop and there’s only so much I can do.

              But her phone goes straight to voicemail. When I try Dad’s it rings and rings until he finally picks up. On a long breath, I tell him about Joshua and how they
need
to come home. He tells me they’ll be leaving right away, and I relay the news to Joshua, thankful that I’ll be out of here soon.

I glance at the red numbers on Mom’s nightstand, silently keeping track of the time as it passes by. Thirty minutes and no word. Forty minutes and I start to worry. An hour passes and they’re still not home. Even with traffic, the restaurant isn’t more than fifteen minutes away, so I pull out my phone and call Mom, but again it goes straight to voicemail. Dad’s too. It’s so unlike them that I call Emily to see if she’s heard from them, and when she tells me she hasn’t, I get this terrible feeling in the pit of my stomach. I chalk it up to the fact that I want them home to take over this mess and dial them both again. Nothing. They ring and ring and ring and then their voices pick up, telling me who I’ve reached and to leave a message.
I know who I’m calling.
I don’t need to leave a message.

BOOK: Tailspin (Better Than You)
13.41Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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