Meet Me Here

Meet Me Here by Bryan Bliss

Book: Meet Me Here by Bryan Bliss Read Free Book Online
Authors: Bryan Bliss
once again for—how long? Months? Years? However long, I have the undeniable sense that I’ve finally ended everything between us.
    But the anxiety about Jake climbs up my neck and breathes in my ear, trumping everything else.
    “Either way, I need to go.”
    She spins around and faces me. “You can’t do that again,” she says. “Promise me you aren’t going to do that again.”
    “I’m sorry.”
    “Don’t be sorry; just promise you’re not going to do that again. I have a boyfriend, and it’s bad enough that I lost the ring, that I’m out with you instead of him. Plus, that isn’t what tonight is about. It’s not what we’re about, Thomas. So you have to promise me right now that you’re never going to do that again.”
    “I know, Mallory. I promise. And I am sorry.”
    She still looks a little angry when she says, “And I’m not going home. So stop being stupid.”
    “I don’t know if you should come,” I say carefully. I’ve already told her about Jake, but seeing him, having him focus on her with those empty eyes, is another story.
    “Well, I don’t care what you want right now, so shut up about it already. What I want is to go to River Road to see why in the hell your brother feels the need to further screw up my graduation night with all his crazy.”
    It stings, and she sees how I flinch immediately.
    “Now I’m sorry,” she says quietly. And then we stand there, unable to deny how weird it’s become. But I don’t have time for awkwardness, not now.

    River Road is long, cutting across four counties and eventually getting swallowed by Highway 10 before they both spill into the interstate. The bridge, an old metal structure that crosses the river, soon to be the Specialist Jake Bennett Bridge, sits exactly in the middle of the county. I’ve known this place since birth, but every turn feels like a surprise as I try to get to Jake.
    “Any idea what he wants?” Mallory says, her voice still noticeably tentative. “Does he go out to the bridge a lot? That’s a pretty long walk from your house.”
    She rubs her wrist as she talks, both feet on the dashboard. Trying so hard to be casual. The truth is, I haveno idea what Jake does when I’m not around. This phone call was the most animated he’s been in months. If he’s not watching a movie or eating, he’s in a mobile catatonic state. Moving only enough to remind you that he still exists.
    I fantasize about miracles, that he’s been magically healed in the past two hours. That we’ll arrive at the bridge and he’ll be there, grinning like he did in his yearbook pictures. The guy jokingly voted Most Likely to Be Arrested. The football star. He never seemed to stop smiling, even when everybody else was worried about college or SAT scores. Jake was mythic to everyone.
    The bridge comes into view first, then Jake. He sidearms a rock, and it skips across the water as I park the truck. The backpack sits open at his feet.
    Dad never liked to fish but wanted us around the water as kids. So we’d get in the truck and drive to the river on weekends. He’d send us out to find the perfect stones, flat and smooth, and we’d throw them until our arms ached and the sun died behind us. We’d go to Mountain View Barbeque and have hamburgers, fries, milk shakes, never returning before dark. Half the time Dad would catch hell because Mom had dinner on the table and we were already busting at the seams.
    When Mallory and I get out of the truck, Jake zips up the backpack and puts it on his shoulder.
    “Thanks for coming,” he says.
    “Yeah. Of course.”
    Jake and I never had the kind of relationship where I’d go into his room and tell him about girls or what was going on in my life. Dad was never the sort to share his feelings, and he didn’t want us doing it either. I didn’t understand it, but it never really mattered, I guess. It wasn’t until I was over at a friend’s house and saw the way they were with each other

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