Ugly Love
Page 18

 Colleen Hoover

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He sits up straighter in his chair, the smile still on his face. She lived in one of the buildings I did maintenance for. She was married to a bastard of a man who was only home about two weeks out of the month. I fell in love with her when I was around thirty years old. She was in her mid-twenties. People just didnt get divorced back then once they got married. Especially women like her who came from the type of family she came from. So I spent the next twenty-five years loving her as hard as I could for two weeks out of every month.
I stare at him, not sure how to respond to that. Its not the typical love story people usually tell. Im not even sure if it can be considered a love story.
I know what youre thinking, he says. Sounds depressing. More like a tragedy.
I nod, confirming his assumption.
Love isnt always pretty, Tate. Sometimes you spend all your time hoping itll eventually be something different. Something better. Then, before you know it, youre back to square one, and you lost your heart somewhere along the way.
I stop looking at him and face forward. I dont want him to see the frown that I cant seem to remove from my face.
Is that what Im doing? Waiting for things with Miles to become something different? Something better? I contemplate his words for way too long. So long, in fact, I hear snoring. I cut my eyes in Caps direction, and his chin has dropped to his chest. His mouth is wide open, and hes sound asleep.
Chapter eighteen
Six years earlier
I rub her back reassuringly. Two more minutes, I tell her.
She nods but keeps her face pressed into the palms of her
hands. She doesnt want to look.
I dont tell her we dont actually need the two minutes. I dont
tell her the results are already there, clear as day.
I dont tell Rachel shes pregnant yet, because she still has two
minutes left of hope.
I continue to rub her back. When the timer goes off, she
doesnt move. She doesnt turn to look at the results. I
drop my head to the side of hers until my mouth is close
to her ear.
Im so sorry, Rachel, I whisper. Im so, so sorry.
She bursts into tears.
My heart is crushed at the sound.
This is my fault. This is all my fault.
The only thing I can think to do now is figure out how to
rectify it.
I turn her toward me and wrap my arms around her. Ill tell
them you dont feel well and you cant go to school today. I
want you to stay here until I get back.
She doesnt even nod. She continues to cry, so I pick her
up and carry her to the bed. I go back to the bathroom and
package up the test, then hide it underneath the sink in the
very back. I rush to my room and change clothes.
I leave.
Im gone most of the day.
Im rectifying.
When I finally pull back up our driveway, I still have almost an
hour before my father and Lisa are due home. I grab everything
from my front seat and rush inside to check on her. I left my
phone behind in my rush this morning, so I havent had a way to
check on her at all, and Id be lying if I said it wasnt killing me.
I go inside.
I go to her door.
I attempt to turn it, but its locked.
I knock.
I hear movement. Something crashes against the door, and I
jump back. When I realize whats happened, I step forward
again and bang on the door. Rachel! I yell, frantic. Open the
I hear her crying. Go away!
I take two steps back, then lunge forward and shove my
shoulder against the door as hard as I can. The door flies open,
and I rush inside. Rachel is curled up against the headboard,
crying into her hands. I reach her.
She pushes me away.
I walk back to her.
She slaps me, then scoots off the bed. She stands up, shoving
me back, pushing her palms against my chest. I hate you! she
screams through her tears. I grab her hands and try to calm her
down. It makes her angrier. Just leave! she yells. If you dont
want anything to do with me, just leave!
Her words stun me.
Rachel, stop, I plead. Im here. Im not going anywhere.
Her tears come harder now. She screams at me. She says I
left her. I put her in bed this morning, and I left her because I
couldnt handle it. I was disappointed in her.
I love you, Rachel. More than I love myself.
Baby, no, I tell her, pulling her to me. I didnt leave you. I
told you I was coming back.
I hate that she didnt understand why I left today.
I hate that I didnt explain it to her.
I walk her back to the bed, and I position her against the
headboard. Rachel, I say, touching her tear-stained cheek,
Im not disappointed in you, I tell her. Not in the least. Im
disappointed in myself. Which is why I want to do everything
I possibly can to turn this around for you. For us. Thats what
Ive been doing today. Ive been trying to find a way to make
this better for us.
I stand up and grab the folders, then spread them out on the
bed. I show her everything. I show her the brochures for
family housing I picked up from campus. I show her the forms
we need to fill out for free campus child care. I show her the
financial aid brochures and the night classes and the online
course review and the academic adviser list and how it will all
coordinate with my flight-class schedule. All the possibilities
are spread out before her, and I want her to see that even
though we didnt want this, even though we didnt plan for
this … we can do this.
I know itll be a lot harder with a baby, Rachel. I know that.
But its not impossible.
She stares down at everything Ive laid out before her. I watch
her in silence until her shoulders begin to shake and she covers
her mouth with her hand. She meets my gaze as huge tears
spill out of her eyes. She crawls forward and throws her arms
around my neck.
She tells me she loves me.
You love me so much, Rachel.
She kisses me over and over.
Weve got this, Miles, she whispers against my ear.
I nod and hug her back. Weve got this, Rachel.
Chapter nineteen
Its Thursday.
Game night.
Normally, the sound of their Thursday-night game gets under my skin. Tonight its music to my ears, knowing that Miles should be home. I have no idea what to expect from him or this arrangement weve got going on. I havent texted or spoken to him in the five days since hes been gone.
I know that with as much as Im thinking about him, I shouldnt be doing this. For something thats supposed to be a casual thing, its felt anything but casual. For me, its been extremely involved. Intense, even. Hes pretty much all Ive thought about since that night in the rain, and its quite pathetic that Im reaching for the doorknob to walk inside my apartment and my damn hand is shaking, knowing he might be in there.
I open the door to the apartment, and Corbin is the first to look up. He nods but doesnt even say hi. Ian waves from his seat on the couch, then looks back at the TV.
Dillons eyes roam up and down my body, and I do what I can to stop myself from rolling my eyes.
Miles doesnt do anything, because Miles isnt here.
My whole body sighs from disappointment. I drop my purse onto the empty chair in the living room and tell myself its a good thing he isnt here, because Ive got way too much homework to do anyway.
Theres pizza in the fridge, Corbin says.
Nice. I walk into the kitchen and open the cabinet to remove a plate. I hear footsteps closing in on me, and my heart rate kicks up a notch.
A hand touches me on my lower back, and I immediately smile and turn around to face Miles.
Only it isnt Miles. Its Dillon.
Hey, Tate, he says, reaching around me to the cabinet. The hand that first touched my lower back is still on me, but now that Ive turned to face him, his hand has slid to my waist. He keeps his eyes locked with mine as he reaches past me and opens the cabinet. Just need a cup for my beer, he says, excusing the fact that hes right here. Touching me. His face only inches from my face.
I hate that he saw me smiling when I turned around. I just gave him the wrong idea.
Well, you wont find a cup in my pocket, I say, pushing his hand off of me. I look away from Dillon just as Miles steps into the kitchen. His eyes are burning holes into the part of me that Dillon was just touching.
Miles saw Dillons hand on me.
Miles is looking at Dillon now as if he just committed murder.
Since when do you drink beer from a cup? Miles says.
Dillon turns around and looks at Miles, then glances back to me and smiles a very blatant, flirtatious smile. Since Tate was standing so close to the cabinet.
Shit. Hes not even hiding it. He thinks Im into him.
Miles walks to the refrigerator and opens it. So Dillon. Hows your wife?
Miles doesnt make an attempt to remove anything. Hes just standing there, staring into the refrigerator, with his fingers gripping the door handle harder than its ever been gripped, Im sure.
Dillon is still looking at me, staring down at me. Shes at work, he says pointedly. For at least four more hours.
Miles slams the refrigerator and takes two quick steps toward Dillon. Dillon stands up straight, and I immediately scoot two feet away from him. Corbin specifically instructed you to keep your hands off his sister. Show him some f**king respect!
Dillons jaw twitches, and he doesnt back down or look away from Miles. In fact, he takes a step toward him, closing the space between them. Sounds to me like this isnt really about Corbin, Dillon says, seething.
My heart is pounding in my chest. I feel guilty that I gave Dillon the wrong idea and even guiltier that theyre arguing about it now. But dammit, I love that Miles hates him so much. I just wish I knew if it was because he doesnt like that Dillon is flirting when hes got a wife at home or if he doesnt like that Dillon is flirting with me.
And now Corbin is standing in the doorway.
What isnt really about me? Corbin asks, watching the two of them in their standoff.
Miles backs up a step and turns so that he can face Dillon and Corbin at the same time. His eyes remain locked hard with Dillons. Hes trying to f**k your sister.
Jesus Christ, Miles. Ever hear of sugarcoating?
Corbin doesnt even flinch. Go home to your wife, Dillon, he says firmly.
As embarrassing as this is, I dont do anything to step in and defend Dillon, because I get the feeling that Miles and Corbin have been looking for an excuse to defriend him for a while now. I would also never defend a man who has no respect for his marriage. Dillon stares at Corbin for several painstakingly long seconds, then turns to face me with his back to both Miles and Corbin.
This boy seriously has a death wish.
I live in ten-twelve, he whispers with a wink. Stop by sometime. She works weeknights. He turns away and walks between Corbin and Miles. The two of you can go f**k yourselves.
Corbin turns, and his fists are clenched. He begins to stalk after Dillon, but Miles grabs his arm and pulls him back into the kitchen. He doesnt release Corbins arm until the front door slams shut.
Corbin turns to face me, and he looks so angry Im surprised steam isnt coming from his ears. His face is red, and hes popping his knuckles. I forgot how insanely protective he is of me. I feel like Im fifteen again, only now I suddenly have two overprotective brothers.
Erase that apartment number from your head, Tate, Corbin says.
I shake my head, somewhat disappointed that he would even think Id want to remember Dillons apartment number. I have standards, Corbin.
He nods, but hes still making an attempt to calm himself down. He inhales a deep breath, pops his jaw, then walks back into the living room.
Miles is leaning against the counter, staring down at his feet. I watch him silently until he finally raises his eyes and looks up at me. He glances toward the living room, then kicks off the counter and walks toward me. Every step closer he takes, the more I press myself into the counter behind me, making an attempt to back away from the intensity in his eyes, even though I cant very well go anywhere.
He reaches me.
He smells good. Like apples. Forbidden fruit.
Ask me if you can study at my place, he whispers.
I nod, wondering why in the hell he would make such a random request after everything that just happened. I do it anyway, though. Can I study at your place?
He breaks out into a huge grin and drops his forehead to the side of my head so that his lips are directly over my ear. I meant for you to ask me in front of your brother, he says, laughing quietly. So I have an excuse to get you over there.
Well, thats embarrassing.
Now he knows exactly how much Im not Tate when Im near him. Im only liquid. Conforming. Doing what he asks, doing what Im told, doing what he wants me to do.
Oh, I say quietly as I watch him ease away from me. That makes a lot more sense.
Hes still smiling, and I didnt realize how much I missed seeing that smile. He should smile all the time. Forever. At me.
He walks out of the kitchen and heads back to the living room, so I go to my room and shower in record time.
I didnt realize I was such a good actress.
I had practice, though. Five minutes of practice. I stood in my room, trying to think of the best, most casual line for when I walked into the living room to ask Miles for his key. I decided to wait until a particularly loud moment during the game, and then I burst out of the room and yelled at all of them.
You guys either need to mute the damn TV or go watch it next door, because Im trying to study!