Authors: Mindy Hayes
The Day That Saved Us
Copyright © 2016 Mindy Hayes
All rights reserved
No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any form or by any means electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage retrieval system, without prior written permission of the author except where permitted by law.
The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious.
Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.
Published by Mindy Hayes
Cover Design by Designs by Starla
Edited by Madison Seidler
& Samantha Eaton-Roberts
Book design by Inkstain Interior Book Designing
Me After You
Me Without You
IF GRADUATION IS
one of those rites of passage, this monumental event that miraculously means we’ve officially joined the real world, then why is it so long and boring? Just give us the diplomas already and we’ll be on our way. That would make everyone happier. No one wants to sit through this entire thing. Listening to dull speeches, an off-key “Star-Spangled Banner,” and Principal Neiman slowly annunciating and fumbling over everyone’s names.
If I’m being honest, what I really want is for today to be over so we can be on our way to Hatteras. That is where my summer will begin. If I can manage to survive this ceremony, I’ll be one step closer.
None of my friends have a last name close to mine in the alphabet, so I search the auditorium toward the front and see my best friend, Harper Day, staring at the ceiling like she can’t take one more second of this torture. Her dark pink curls drape over the back of the chair. At least I’m not the only one who finds this ridiculously mind-numbing. Almost as if she feels my eyes on her, she turns around and winks at me.
My eyes glide over the rest of my graduating class, trying to figure out where the F’s are. I find Brodee easily because he’s already looking at me. He has his fingers pointed at his head like a gun. I laugh. He flashes one of his charming grins that make all the girls fall head over heels.
Our parents have been best friends forever. They rarely spend time apart, so when they all graduated from college together, it only seemed logical to have houses built next door to each other. But they couldn’t just do that together. Our moms
to get pregnant together. When Tatum found out that she was pregnant with Brodee, my mom was sure to follow. Brodee and I are only three months apart.
I think back to our freshman year when the three of us started going to school together. While Brodee and I have known each other since birth, Harper and I met in eighth grade when she moved here from Minnesota. Brodee had gone to a different middle school, so they’d only heard of each other through me. On our first day at Hilton Rock High she’d noticed him. It was hard not to.
“Don’t look now, Peyton-Parker.” She said my name like it was one word. Always. “But there’s a McHottie at two o’clock watching us.”
Even though Harper tried to stop me, I had to see who she was talking about. When I turned, Brodee smiled and gave a head nod. “Oh.” I tossed a wave.
“Wait.” Harper grabbed my arm, yanking me to face her again. “You know him?”
“It’s Brodee, Harper. My best friend, Brodee Fisher.”
“Holy crap. That’s Brodee? Why didn’t you tell me he was so hot?”
“You never asked.” I shrugged.
“You seriously have nothing going on with him?” Her eyes grew wide. “You’re crazy.”
Crazy would be considering the possibility and ruining our friendship forever. “I’ve known him my whole life.” I’m not willing to wreck that.
“So, then you wouldn’t hate me if I took a whack at him?” Harper wiggled her eyebrows.
“Took a whack at him?” Did she really just say that about my Brodee? It didn’t matter that technically he wasn’t my Brodee. In my mind he kind of was. Not romantically speaking or anything, but if someone were to ask who my best friend was, I wouldn’t say Harper, I’d say Brodee.
Harper giggled uncharacteristically. “You know, try to see if there could be something there? He’s gorgeous.”
There was nothing else I could say except, “Be my guest.”
“I’ll talk to him at lunch. He won’t know what hit him.” She smirked at me and let her laughter fly.
Brodee really hadn’t. Harper has that way about her. She’s about as subtle as a hurricane, but once she launches herself into your world, you cling to her for dear life because you feel alive having her near, no matter the chaos she leaves in her wake.
While Harper didn’t hold anything back, for some reason Brodee didn’t bite. She let go of her fascination when she took one look at his friend, Skylar. Skylar and Harper have been together ever since.
I peer back at Harper in the auditorium and see Skylar loop his arm around her neck. His top teeth graze his lip ring before he tugs her over to plant a kiss on the top of her head. Harper Day and Skylar Dalton, Hilton Rock High School’s sweethearts. Knowing them, they’ll probably get engaged as soon as the diplomas are in hand.
Finally, Principal Neiman announces that it’s time for the diplomas and everyone cheers.
Two hours later.
Well, maybe it hasn’t been that long, but it feels like it.
When Harper is handed her diploma she curtsies and lifts a rock-on hand gesture while sticking out her tongue. Her dark pink hair flows over her shoulders in thick waves. That girl refuses to be predictable, and I love her for it.
You know that one guy at school who everyone likes? Not the popular jock or the biggest flirt, but the loveable guy? The one who’s nice to everyone and can immerse himself into any group because he’s laid-back and easy to get along with? That’s Brodee Fisher. So when he walks coolly across the stage, like it’s a regular day and there aren’t thousands of eyes on him, he gets the loudest cheer out of everyone in our graduating class.
Normally when you’ve known someone your whole life and know everything about them, there are things that drive you insane. But for some reason with Brodee, everything he does is cool. It sounds so lame, I know. But it’s the best way to describe him, to encompass everything that he is. The way he handles himself and can make anyone laugh. The way he casually paces a room when he gets a little anxious. The way he treats others and doesn’t allow others to be treated. The casual way he dresses and styles his hair with surf wax. He really doesn’t care about what people think. He’s just Brodee Fisher. He’s endearing without even trying.
All he does is smile when he’s handed the diploma. I shout out his name and cheer as loudly as my voice will go. He nods his head like he’s tipping the brim of a hat and walks off the stage.
When we’re outside of the auditorium our group of friends congregate under a big oak tree for pictures. Our moms are the queens of picture taking. If they didn’t have cameras in their hands for memories like this, I’d be worried about their mental state.
Brodee jumps on my back and gives me a noogie. Yeah. A noogie.
Who still does that?
Brodee Fisher. Then he lets out a Chewbacca howl, which he’s surprisingly good at. Makes me laugh every time.
“Pete! We graduated!”
“Yeah,” I laugh and shove him off me, rubbing the tender skin where his knuckles were digging into my skull. “I was there. And you’re a dork.”
I couldn’t count the number of times I’ve been called Peter Parker in my lifetime, even if I tried.
What were my parents thinking, right?
Brodee was the first. When we were six, he had a huge obsession with Spider-Man, and I was the perfect target for teasing. Though at that age, he thought it was kind of cool, and I was embarrassed. I wasn’t the type of girl that wanted to be associated with a boy superhero, especially one that has to do with spiders.
He’s been calling me Pete ever since. It used to drive me crazy, but over the years it’s grown on me. Dare I say that I even like it because he’s the only one that does. Which makes it kind of special—personal to us.
“Peyton,” my mom says, “I want one of just you, Harper, and Brodee.”
“Oh, good idea,” Tatum says, encouraging us to separate from the group. “Get together, you three.”
When we branch off, Brodee stands on one side and Harper takes the other. For some reason, it’s this moment that makes me teary. Not sad tears, but I realize how grateful I am to have these two in my life. They’ve always been there for me, and I know they’ll stick by my side no matter what.
When I lost my dad last year, Brodee and Harper knew when to leave me alone and when to stick around even if I pushed them away. They knew when I was pretending to be okay. And they knew sometimes I just needed to cry. On nights when my bedroom window was cracked open, and Brodee could hear me crying from his room, he’d climb up the tree outside my house and crawl into my open window to hold me until I fell asleep. Sometimes I’d feel his tears mingling with mine. Other times all he did was hold me, clinging tightly, so I wouldn’t feel alone.
Brain aneurysms suck. One minute my dad was there, the next he was gone. I know I’ll never be fully healed, but I have Brodee and Harper to try and make up the difference.
Stupid monumental moments making me reflect.
When Brodee and Harper notice my glassy eyes, they laugh and reach around me in a group hug.
“Cry baby.” Harper chuckles.
“I was wondering when you’d crack,” Brodee says, nudging his head against my temple.
I laugh and shove them away, wiping my face. “I’m fine. Whatever. I just got something in my eyes.”
“Suuuuuuure,” Harper croons. “It wouldn’t be like you if you didn’t shed a tear, but no more. We have an entire summer ahead of us!”
“That’s right, we do.” I smile at her.
“Now, Brodee and Peyton,” Tatum, Brodee’s mom, says, motioning us to get closer together. “Our babies have graduated,” she says to my mom.
“Don’t remind me.” My mom has tears in her eyes. No one has to guess where I get my sensitive side. Though, I know it’s more than graduation. It’s him. She wishes he were here with us.
I do too.
As if Brodee knows I’m about to cry all over again, he throws his arm over my shoulder, tugging me close, and murmurs wryly into my long hair, “They’re going to be unbearable this summer.”
“Save me,” I mutter, chuckling under my breath, grateful for his distraction.
“But The Amazing Spider-Man doesn’t need saving.” He squeezes me.
I laugh so hard; I know that picture is going to be
As my mom and I are walking to our car after all the picture taking, she places her arm around my shoulders and hugs me close to her side. “He would’ve been so proud of you today, Peyton.”
I nod, unable to open my mouth to respond without crying.
, I miss him. He would’ve squeezed my face with one hand, kissed my forehead, and said, “Peyton Jane, it’s time to start a new chapter.”
Every big event was a new chapter to him, a clean slate with a blank page to create new memories and adventures. As a writer, that analogy made the most sense for him. I want to go back and rewrite the chapter where we lost him, change the ending so he could be here now, with me today.
“I know he’s with us today.” Mom rests her head atop of mine. I hear the raw emotion in her voice though she tries to conceal it. “I feel it. He wouldn’t have missed today for the world.”
A couple tears fall down my face, and she leans down and kisses my cheek. “I love you, baby girl.”
“Love you too.”
SKYLAR IS HAVING
a graduation get together at his house. We all want to ditch grad night anyway, so the whole gang heads to his house after we do dinner with our families.
“Hey, McLean, you know the point of ping-pong is to hit the ball onto the other side of the net, right?” Skylar taunts from the beanbag he and Harper are occupying. Harper thumps him in the chest with that back of her hand.
“Shut it, Dalton,” Mike retorts, concentrating on not only hitting the ball, but also trying to fend off Robby, who’s doing everything he can to distract him. “I’d like to see you do better with this moron in your way.” He elbows Robby in the ribs, but all Robby does is laugh and move just out of reach.