Rival Page 57

Kneeling down, I dragged one out only to notice that there were about ten more underneath.

Flipping the lid off, I froze so still that only my heartbeat moved my body.

Oh, my God.

My stuff?

I stared down into a box full of my Legos. All of the robots and cars with remotes and wires were thrown in here, scattered with loose pieces around the box.

I licked my dry lips and dug in, taking out a Turbo Quad I made when I was twelve and a Tracker that I’d just started on before I left.

This was my stuff from my room!

I was frantic, smiling like an idiot, ready to laugh out loud. I dove under the piano, pulling out two more boxes.

Tossing off the lids, I gasped in surprise at all of my mock engineering blueprints and another box of Legos. I shuffled through the papers, memories flooding me of the times I’d sit in my room with my sketchpad and design futuristic skyscrapers and ships.

My fingers started tingling and a shaky laugh broke out, causing me to giggle like I hadn’t in a very long time.

I couldn’t believe this! This was my stuff!

I scurried back under the piano, slamming my head into the edge in the process.

“Ouch,” I groaned, rubbing the top of my forehead and pulling another box out much slower this time.

I went through all of the boxes, finding everything I’d missed and things I didn’t even remember that I’d had. Skateboards, posters, jewelry, books . . . nearly everything from my bedroom except the clothes.

Sitting cross-legged on the floor, I stared at all of the stuff around me, feeling strangely disconnected from the girl I used to be yet so glad to have found her again. All of these things represented a time when I’d stopped listening to others and started listening to myself. When I’d stopped trying to be what she wanted and just started to be.

These boxes were Fallon Pierce, and they weren’t lost. I closed my eyes, clutching my sea otter stuffed animal I’d gotten from my dad at SeaWorld when I was seven.

“Madoc.”

My eyes popped open, and I saw Addie at the bottom of the stairs.

She had her arms folded across her chest and let out a long sigh.

“Madoc?” I questioned. “He did this?”

“He lost it a little when you left.” She pushed off the wall and walked toward me. “Stealing his dad’s liquor, partying, girls . . . he bounced off the walls for a few months.”

“Why?” I whispered.

She studied me and then gave a defeated half-smile before continuing. “Jason sure had his work cut out for him. Madoc and his friend Jared wreaked havoc like nobody’s business the summer after sophomore year. One night he went into your room and saw that your mom had cleaned everything out to redecorate. Only she hadn’t packed anything. She’d thrown it out.”

Yeah, I knew that. But somehow the pain in my chest wasn’t spreading. If she threw it out, then . . . I looked down, closing my eyes against the burn again.

No. Please no.

“Madoc went outside and dug everything back out of the trash.” Addie’s soft voice spilled around me and my chest started to shake. “He boxed it up and saved it for you.”

My chin started trembling, and I shook my head. No, no, no . . .

“That’s what makes Madoc a good kid, Fallon. He picks up the pieces.”

I crumbled.

The tears spilled over my lids, and I gasped as my body shook. I couldn’t open my eyes. The pain was too great.

I doubled over, clutching the sea otter, and put my head down, sobbing.

Up came the sadness and despair, and I wanted to take back everything I’d said to him. Every time I doubted him. Everything I didn’t tell him.

Madoc, who saw me.

Madoc, who remembered me.

• • •

Six hours later I was sitting in Tate’s bedroom, my leg slung over the side of her cushioned chair near her French doors, and staring out at the tree outside. All of the fall colors swayed in the breeze, and the soft glow of the day’s last light slowly disappeared from the branches, inch by inch.

I hadn’t talked much since getting there, and she’d been good about not asking questions. I knew she was worried, because she avoided the topic of Madoc so well that he was like a planet sitting in the middle of the room. I wondered if he’d been angry to find me gone this morning.

I rubbed my hand over my eyes. I couldn’t shake him.

And what’s more? I didn’t want to.

“Tate?” I called.

She peeked her head around the door of her closet, pulling out a black hoodie.

“If you . . . betrayed Jared,” I stammered. “Like not cheated, but lost his trust somehow. How would you go about getting him back?”

Her lips flattened into a line as she thought about it. “With Jared? I’d show up naked.” She nodded.

I snorted and shook my head, which was about as much of a laugh as I could summon right now.

“Or just show up,” she continued. “Or talk to him, or touch him. Hell, I could just look at him.” She shrugged, smirking, and threw on her hoodie.

I doubted I had that kind of power over Madoc. Whereas Jared seemed more animalistic, Madoc was a mind-fuck.

She sat down on the edge of her bed, slipping on her black Chucks. “Sorry,” she offered. “I know I’m not much help, but Jared has just as much power over me as I do him. We’ve been through enough. There isn’t much we wouldn’t forgive each other for.”

Half of what she said was true for Madoc and me as well, but I hadn’t earned his forgiveness. What the hell was I supposed to do?

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