Home > Backdraft (The Secret Life of Trystan Scott #2)(7)

Backdraft (The Secret Life of Trystan Scott #2)(7)
Author: H.M. Ward

“I am,” he insisted even though he wasn’t. He pulled the girl closer. “You guys go do your thing. We’ll do ours.”

Seth watched him for a moment. Uncertainty clouded his eyes. Or maybe that was lust. Either way, Seth was frozen in place. He wanted to keep Trystan from doing something stupid, but the girl sitting next to him was a sure thing. “You’re a pain in the ass, Scott,” he said and scooted out of the booth. Twin number one—Bess—followed. Bess and Seth threaded their fingers together. She leaned into him and threw her hip out, annoyed that Seth stopped again.

“You sure?” Seth asked.

“Leave,” Trystan urged. “We’re fine. Right, Betsy?” Trystan said, as he gently pushed a strand of golden hair away from her face. The girl giggled and nodded so furiously that Trystan thought her head might snap off. Turning back to Seth, he said, “See, we’re fine. Go.”

Seth didn’t need more encouragement. He took the check, paid, and left. It was the normal agreement. Trystan was fine being the wingman, if Seth paid the bill. He stretched and placed his arm over her shoulders again. This part was going to suck.

“So, what do you want to do?” she asked snuggling into his chest. Her fingers played with the collar of his shirt, slipping between the buttons.

Mari chose that second to appear at the door and looked over at them. His heart clenched tight, but he didn’t move. Instead they stared at each other. She was a million miles away, someone he’d never have. Katie’s warning was clear enough, even if it did embarrass Mari—keep away.

When his date’s lips landed on his neck, Mari shot him a disgusted look and walked out. Trystan pulled his date off his throat, but Mari was already gone. Katie watched her friend walk out the door and looked back at Trystan. The way Katie looked at him made his balls jump up into his body. That girl would castrate him, if she could. He stared her down, refusing to look away.

Betsy, Beth, or whoever she was seemed impatient. She pulled on his shirt front and grabbed Trystan’s face, pulling him to her for a kiss. Before the kiss connected, he saw Katie walk out. Betsy’s lips pressed into his, but they were cold and lifeless. There was no passion there. It was a kiss without feeling. Trystan didn’t want this, but Mari wasn’t his. She never would be. He peeled Betsy off his mouth and they slipped out of the booth, walking out the door hand-in-hand.

The rest of the night passed in a blur. After making out with Betsy, he walked her to her sister’s car in front of Seth’s house. She tried to talk Trystan into more, but he wasn’t interested. It was like part of him died. Trystan didn’t think a single girl could have such control over him, but if he couldn’t have Mari, he didn’t want anyone. And, to his horror, making-out with this girl didn’t help him forget. If anything, it made the realization that he didn’t have Mari more painful. Trystan didn’t know what to do. Part of him wanted to give up and give in—say yes to the beautiful woman in front of him—but her kisses left him hollow and cold. He could only image what sleeping with her would feel like. He ran his hands through his hair and walked away.

Frustrated, Trystan walked home alone. Carefully, he cracked open the front door and glanced around for his dad. The lights were still on, the TV blaring. Trystan slipped around the door quietly and saw his father passed-out on the couch.

Relief flooded through him. While he wished his dad would just snap out it, he knew that wasn’t going to happen. He wasn’t a little kid anymore. This was his life. This was all there was. He stripped off his shirt as he walked back to his room, wishing he had his guitar. The weight on his chest felt like it was going to crush him.

Trystan closed his door and slid the new bolt shut before lying on his bed. He finally had time to think, time to rest.



I slumped against my bedroom door, tossing my book bag on the floor. Thoughts of Trystan filled my mind in an endless wave. It wasn’t fair. Why’d he have to show up with a girl on his arm? He didn’t seem like he was that into her, but when Katie and I left, the girl was going all vampy on his neck and he didn’t seem to mind. Actually, he seemed comfortable with it. If I ever did anything like that in a diner, I’d die of embarrassment. The concept of a public-display-of-affection was foreign to me. I wanted my private life private, so what Trystan was doing with that girl, in front of everyone, made me feel sick.

That would never be me.

Before I had time to think another thought, someone pounded on my door. Pressing my eyes closed, I peeled my back off the door and opened it. Dad was home. That was his knock. I braced for whatever scolding I was about to receive. Pulling the door open, I said, “Hey, Dad. Home from work?”

“Yes,” he said in a clipped tone, pushing past me into my room. He had that look on his face, the one that said I didn’t measure-up, the one that made me feel like a failure. “You’re progress report showed up today. Would you like to tell me anything before we discuss it?” Dad had the piece of paper in his hand. The school sent weekly progress reports via email to psycho-parents, like mine, who demanded them. That was one of the changes my Mom made while she sat on the school board. Dad thought it was a great idea, while I found it to be less than stellar.

Dad’s dark hair was silvering at the temples. Wrinkles sprouted from the corners of his eyes making him appear older than he was. Dad had seen too much, first in the military, and then in the hospital. To him, getting good grades was a life or death thing.

I pressed my shoe to the floor, staring at the black toe. I’d loved these shoes when I’d gotten them. They were so cute, but now they seemed frivolous. Dad probably thought so, too. I shook my head, “No, sir. There’s nothing to tell.”

“It says here that you received detention this week? Mari, we’ve talked about this. You cannot have such childish things on your permanent record. College is next year. It’s not three years away. It’s only one year away, and you can bet they’ll look at this year and see this blemish.” He became more stressed as he spoke, slapping the paper into his fist. When I didn’t look up at him, he snapped, “You’re destroying your future, Mari. It’s not something that can be undone.”

My mind broke. Maybe it was Trystan, I don’t know, but I couldn’t take the emotional berating he was giving me. The guilt he dumped on me sank into my stomach and sat like soured milk. It curdled and I spewed verbal vomit at him, ranting like a lunatic, “It’s one detention, Dad! Out of how many days of school? Like seven hundred and twenty! One day doesn’t matter! They won’t even look at it.”

Dad laughed, but the sound was angry, “Young lady, so help me, I’m going to get through to you.” He leaned close to my face, speaking deliberately slow, like I was too stupid to fathom what he was saying, “Everything you do, from now until graduation, matters—every grade, every test, every day—all of it. It’s recorded and they’ll see it. If you just blew your shot at Yale, so help me God, I will—”

“What? What will you do?” Tears streamed from my eyes. I couldn’t hold them back anymore. “I made a mistake. It wasn’t even something I did. Mom knew about it and she didn’t do this to me.”

“Because your mother doesn’t know! Did she go to Yale? Did she attend an Ivy League school and have her parent’s pay for medical school?”

“No,” I said softly.

He was still up in my face. “That’s right. I did. I know what they expect and this little stunt might have just cost you everything.” He sighed and shook his head, like he knew everything and I knew nothing. Closing his eyes he inhaled hard and let it rush back out. “I only want what’s best for you, Mari.”

I stared at him. I wanted to believe him, but I didn’t. I felt like a trophy child, someone he had around to show off. It felt like it was more important that his daughter was smart, that his daughter was perfect—but, I was his daughter and I was neither of those things. I worked hard to get my grades, and I tried so hard to meet his expectations, but I failed. Over and over again, I fell short. I didn’t measure up. That feeling never faded. It’s there every day when I got a test back.

School was not for learning, not to Dad. School was to demonstrate how smart I already was, but I wasn’t. And I wasn’t him—he just didn’t see it.

I nodded, “I know, Dad.” There was nothing else to say. He couldn’t see me. It’s like I was nothing more than that paper he held in his hands. That one blemish blinded him to all the A’s. I knew it was coming. I knew he’d react this way. He always did, but today I couldn’t just nod and take it. Tears streaked my face, and I knew he saw that as a sign of weakness.

He lifted my chin in his hand, and looked me in the eye, “Only the cream rises to the top, Mari. You’re mother and I know you’re cream. Don’t disappoint us again.” His grip felt cold and distant, his gaze was even more so. I swallowed hard and nodded. He released me and said, “Get in a little studying before bed.” With that, he turned on his heel and left.

Every inch of me wanted to scream, but I couldn’t. They couldn’t know how trapped they made me feel, how smothered I was. I pushed the door shut and went to the computer not thinking about what I was doing. Before I knew it, I was on the Day Jones page and clicking play on his song, letting Trystan’s voice fill my head. I laid down on my bed, clutching the pillow, crying into it, as the song played softly and drowned out my sobs.

There were so many things that I wanted to say to my parents, but I couldn’t. They both worked non-stop trying to give me everything they never had. They acted like I was an adult with some things and a child with other things. I just wished they’d see Mari, their daughter. I wished they saw how much I liked art and how much I didn’t want to dedicate my life to something I wasn’t passionate about. It left me, their only child, alone. From the time I turned twelve, I’d spent more days alone than with them. Last year, their work schedules lined up and they were pleased. It meant they’d get more time together, but it also meant I saw them less. They worked four days on, three days off. For the days they were gone, I was on my own, and they were proud they had such a self-sufficient child.

Tears chilled my face, as they sank into my pillow. I couldn’t stand it anymore. For once, I wished I wasn’t me, that I didn’t feel the way I felt about everything. I wished I could just hook up with a random guy and not hand over a piece of my heart. It would help me forget the things that I tried so hard not to remember. No matter what happened, in a year, I knew if I didn’t fight for my life, I’d be stuck on this path forever, living the life my father wanted—not the one I wanted.

Pushing off the bed, I looked at the screen. More comments, more pleas for Day to play another song, reveal his name, post a pic, anything—and they all went unanswered.

Emotional insanity compelled me to do it. Staring at the screen, I typed in one word at a time. I watched as my fingers wrote something I would never say, something I never tried before. I wanted to know if it helped take away the sting, if that was why he did it.

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