Lena Wise is always looking forward to tomorrow, especially at the start of her senior year. She’s ready to pack in as much friend time as possible, to finish college applications, and to maybe let her childhood best friend Sebastian know how she really feels about him. For Lena, the upcoming year is going to be epic—one of opportunities and chances.
Until one choice, one moment, destroys everything.
Now Lena isn’t looking forward to tomorrow. Not when friend time may never be the same. Not when college applications feel all but impossible. Not when Sebastian might never forgive her for what happened.
For what she let happen.
With the guilt growing each day, Lena knows that her only hope is to move on. But how can she move on when she and her friends’ entire existences have been redefined? How can she move on when tomorrow isn’t even guaranteed?
At home, I washed off the layer of sweat and then ate a lunch of microwaveable bacon and another round of cereal. I was walking into the living room just as my phone rang on the coffee table. I groaned when I saw who it was. I sent the call to voicemail without hesitation, picked up the remote, and settled on the ID channel.
With the Dangerous Women marathon playing in the background, I sat back on the couch and picked up my book. I’d finished the first one in a series last night, and had only made it through the first couple of chapters of the second, but I couldn’t wait to fall back into the world of the Night Court and High Fae.
Couldn’t forget about him.
I curled up on the corner of the couch about to get my reading on, when there was a knock on the door. For a minute I considered ignoring it, and getting lost in the pages of the book, but when there was another knock I sighed, got up, and made my way to the front door. I peered out the window and my stomach dropped all the way to my toes when I saw who as there.
Unable to fight the stupid grin spreading across my face, I opened the door. “Hey.”
“You busy?” He placed on hand on the doorframe and leaned in. The movement caused the old, faded gray shirt to stretch across his biceps in a way that drew my gaze.
“Not really.” I stepped back to let him in, but he stayed at the door.
“Perfect. I was going to head out to the lake and get my car dirty as hell. You game?” He winked, and damn it all to hell, he actually looked good doing it. “It’ll be fun.”
I’d forgotten about his badminton win. “Sure. Let me get my keys.” I toed on a pair of old sneakers and grabbed my phone and bag before following Sebastian outside. “What are you planning to do?”
“You know the dusty roads leading out to the lake area?” he asked. “Figured that should do enough damage.”
I got in the passenger side as he got behind the wheel. “Not sure how I’m supposed to help.”
He shrugged with one shoulder as he turned the key. “Just wanted your company.”
My stomach fluttered, and I sat back, buckling myself in as I desperately ignored the feeling. Bright sunlight streamed through the windshield. Sebastian reached behind him, snagging his baseball cap off the floor, and pulled it on, tugging the bill down low, and I… I sighed.
I couldn’t help it.
Boys in baseball caps were my weakness, and Sebastian rocked the look. Something about that old, worn cap showcased the chiseled line of his jaw.
I closed my eyes and told myself to stop looking at him. Just in general. Maybe for the rest of my life? Or at least for the next year or so. That sounded like a valid plan.
I really needed to get a grip.
I rolled my eyes and turned down the radio for a distraction. “I haven’t been to the lake since Keith attempted to make water skis out of snow skis.”
Sebastian laughed deeply. “God, when was that? In July? Seems like forever ago.”
“Yeah.” I sat back, fiddling with the hem on my shirt. “It was right before you left for North Carolina.”
“Can’t believe you haven’t headed out there since. Is it because going to the lake is only fun when I’m with you?” he teased, reaching over to flick my arm. “You know, you can just admit it.”
“Yeah. That’s exactly it.” I knocked his hand away and crossed my ankles. “The girls aren’t huge fans of the lake.” That wasn’t a lie at least. “So do you think Megan and Phillip are going to get back together?”
“God only knows. Probably. Then they’ll break up again. Then get back together.” He grinned. “I know he wants to get back with her. He’s pretty open about that.”
“That’s cool,” I murmured.
He raised a brow at me.
“Most guys don’t want to admit stuff like that to their dude friends,” I reasoned.
“And you’d know this because you’re a guy?”
“Yes. I’m secretly a guy.”
Sebastian ignored me. “I think when most guys are really into a girl, they don’t care who knows. They’re not ashamed of it.”
I was going to have to take his word on it.
The lake was about twenty minutes outside of town, near Keith’s family farm, after a series of gravel and dirt roads. From what I knew, it was actually on the outskirts of Keith’s family property, and his family owned it. But they didn’t really police it, so people could use it however they saw fit.
Sebastian turned onto the private access road. The wheels bumped over the uneven terrain and dust plumed into the air, coating the Jeep within moments. “Keith is going to be so ticked at you.” I laughed as I peered out the window. “But he’d totally do the same thing.”
“Hell, he would’ve taken his car mud-bogging and then brought it to me. I don’t feel bad at all.”
After hitting every barely accessible road for about an hour, my butt hurt and the Jeep was completing unrecognizable. I figured we’d start heading back, but then I caught a glimpse of the lake through the trees.
Yearning sparked in my chest. I thought about going home to the empty, quiet house that sometimes reminded me of a set of bones that had no skin or muscle. It was just an outline of a home. No filler.
Guilt churned my stomach. The house did have filler. It had my mom, and my sister when she was home, and my mom did everything and more to make it a home…but sometimes there was no denying what was missing.
Mom lived a… she lived a half-life.
She worked all the time, came home, worked some more, ate dinner and went to sleep. Rinse and repeat the next day. That was her half-life.
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