First, I had to remember how to breathe. Then, I had to learn how to survive. Two years, three months and sixteen days had passed since I was the Rowe Stanton from before, since tragedy stole my youth and my heart went along with it.
When I left for college, I put a thousand miles between my future and my past. I’d made a choice—I was going to cross back to the other side, to livewith the living. I just didn’t know how.
And then I met Nate Preeter.
An All-American baseball player, Nate wasn’t supposed to notice a ghost-of-a-girl like me. But he did. He shouldn’t want to know my name. But he did. And when he learned my secret and saw the scars it left behind, he was supposed to run. But he didn’t.
My heart was dead, and I was never supposed to belong to anyone. But Nate Preeter had me feeling, and he made me want to be his. He showed me everything I was missing.
And then he showed me how to fall.
“You ever make wishes?” he says, out of nowhere. His voice breaks the thick silence, and it makes my heart jump. I think it would have jumped at hearing him anyhow.
“All the time,” I say. “You?”
“Nah,” he says, and I start to laugh, but I realize he isn’t. “I just made my first one in years.”
“Oh yeah? You want Barbie back?”
“No,” he smiles. “I wished you were over here instead of there.”
More seconds pass, and I let them slip into minutes, my eyes unable to leave his. He didn’t ask. He didn’t come up with some transparent scheme. He was just honest—perfectly, beautifully, terrifyingly honest. We lie there for fifteen more minutes just looking at one another, this new feeling swallowing us both up whole, until Nate finally rolls to his back and then his other side, facing away from me.
More seconds. More minutes. I watch his body rise and fall with every breath, and it’s constant and regular, but I know he’s still awake. Being Cass’s friend, being Paige’s friend, even being Ty’s friend—that’s all part of healing. But what I’m about to do right now has nothing to do with my own personal growth and overcoming my trauma. Being Nate’s friend was a level I left in the dust the second I made his acquaintance. And right now is about me, and the pounding in my chest, and the voice in my head telling me to take what I want.
“Nate?” I speak, my eyes shut tightly.
“Can I come over?” I open my eyes as soon as I speak—amazed the words left my lips.
He rolls back over to face me, lifting his blanket open, and I somehow find my balance and tiptoe to the other side of the room, lying down next to him, in the most amazingly safe place I’ve ever felt.
He’s slow with his arm, pulling the top of the blanket over my shoulder and then reaching around the front of my body to pull me in close. He slides his other arm under my head for a pillow, and my head rests heavily on his bicep. I reach up and pull the tie from my hair, dropping it to the floor. Nate’s hand reaches along my arm when I do, and then he runs his fingers up my neck and into my hair, scooping my heavy strands into a pile along my skin. He continues to run his fingers from my hairline to behind my ear, each stroke like a wave crashing over me, making my eyes feel heavy.
“Hey Nate?” I say, my voice barely a whisper.
“Mmmmm,” he says, his nose pressed against the back of my head while he pulls me in closer, continuing to wind my hair through his fingers.
“You should make more wishes,” I say.
“I just made, like, about twenty. But don’t worry. I’m patient.”
Every nerve in my body is tingling from whatever it is we’re doing. This is no longer just flirting. This is levels beyond flirting. And I am about to fall asleep without the help of Ambien for the first time in months.
Ginger Scott is a writer and journalist from Peoria, Arizona. She is the author of four young and new adult romances, with her fifth title, This Is Falling, set to release in late August 2014.
Scott has been writing and editing for newspapers, magazines and blogs for more than 15 years. She has told the stories of Olympians, politicians, actors, scientists, cowboys, criminals and towns. For more on her and her work, visit her website at http://www.littlemisswrite.com.
When she’s not writing, the odds are high that she’s somewhere near a baseball diamond, either watching her son field pop flies like Bryce Harper or cheering on her favorite baseball team, the Arizona Diamondbacks. Scott is married to her college sweetheart whom she met at ASU (fork ’em, Devils).