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Chapter no 26 – Ledger

Reminders of Him

The joints in my body feel locked in place as I attempt to execute the motions of the evening with a stiffness that should be the result of a hangover. But I’m not hungover. Just . . . irritated? Is that what this is?

I’m reacting like an asshole. I know it and Roman knows it, but my maturity can’t seem to catch up and take over.

How long has Kenna been here? How long were they in Roman’s apartment? Why did she seem short with me? Why the fuck do I care?

I don’t know what to do with these feelings, so I wad them up and try to keep them stuffed in my throat, or my stomach, or wherever people tuck away this shit. I don’t need to start this shift with an attitude. It’s the end of finals week. Tonight is going to be insane enough as it is.

I turn on the jukebox and the first song that comes on is one left over from last night’s queue. “If We Were Vampires,” by Jason Isbell.

Great. An epic love song. Just what Kenna needs.

I walk to the back and notice she’s got her headphones on. I grab all the fruit I normally slice at the beginning of my shift and take it to the front. I’m slicing up a lime, possibly a little too angrily, when Roman says,

“You good?”

“I’m fine.” I try to say it like I would normally say it, but I don’t know how I would normally say it because Roman never has to ask me if I’m good. I’m usually always good.

“Rough day?” he asks. “Great day.”

He sighs and reaches over, pulling the knife out of my hand. I press my palms into the counter and turn to look at him. He’s leaning casually on his elbow, twirling the knife in a circle with his finger while he stares at me.

“It was nothing,” he says. “She borrowed a table and some chairs. We were upstairs for three minutes.”

“I didn’t say anything.”

“You didn’t have to.” He releases an exasperated laugh. “Shit, man. I didn’t peg you for the jealous type.”

I reach for my knife and start slicing through the limes again. “It has nothing to do with jealousy.”

“What is it, then?” he asks.

I’m about to answer him, probably with some bullshit lie, but the door swings open and four guys spill into the bar. Loud, ready to celebrate, possibly already drunk. I cut our conversation short and prepare for a shift I’m not at all in the mood for.

 

 

Eight long hours later, Roman and I are in the alley loading the table and chairs into the back of my truck. We’ve barely had time to think tonight, much less finish our conversation from earlier.

Not much is said between us. We’re both tired, and I think Roman is treading carefully, but the more I think about him and Kenna being in his apartment together, the more it bothers me.

I could see Roman being attracted to her. And I don’t know Kenna that well, but she’d probably be desperate enough to attach herself to anyone who could be an excuse for her to stay in this town.

I feel guilty even having that thought.

“We gonna talk about this?” Roman asks.

I slam my tailgate shut, and then I grip my truck with one hand and my jaw with the other. I choose my words cautiously as I begin to speak. “If you start something up with her, she’ll find an excuse not to leave town. The whole point of her working here is so she can save up money and leave.”

Roman rolls his head, like rolling his eyes wouldn’t convey his irritation enough. “You think I’m trying to hook up with her? You think I would do that to you after everything you’ve done for me?”

“I’m not making her off limits because I’m jealous. I need her to leave town so Patrick and Grace’s life can go back to normal.”

Roman laughs. “You are so full of shit. You played in the NFL. You own a lucrative business. You’re building a ridiculous fucking house. You aren’t broke, Ledger. If you wanted her to leave town, you would have written her a check to get rid of her.”

I’m tense as fuck, so I tilt my head to the side until my neck pops. “She wouldn’t have taken a handout.”

“Did you even try?”

I didn’t have to. I know Kenna, and she wouldn’t have taken a handout. “Just be careful with her, Roman. She’d do anything to be in Diem’s life.”

“Well, at least we agree on that part,” he says, right before disappearing into the stairwell to his apartment.

Fuck him.

Fuck him because he’s right.

As much as I can try to deny it, I’m not acting this way because I’m worried Kenna will stay in town longer. I’m upset because the thought of her leaving has me more on edge than the thought of her sticking around.

How did this happen? How did I go from absolutely loathing this woman to feeling something else entirely? Am I that pathetic a friend to Scotty? Am I that disloyal to Patrick and Grace?

I didn’t hire Kenna because I want her to leave. I hired her because I like being in her presence. I hired her because I think about kissing her again every time my head meets the pillow at night. I hired her because I’m hoping Patrick and Grace have a change of heart, and I want to be around if that happens.

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