Sidney felt awful. No, he felt like shit. Honestly, he felt like whatever could possibly be worse than shit. He’d made a fairly critical error in judgment last night when he hadn’t opened his mouth a single time when his friends were treating Bryce like the outcast she was in school and let them stick their foot in their mouths.
It didn’t help that he’d decided not to argue with them when they were talking about driving home drunk. He’d never even consider doing that, nor would he ever let them do it in his presence. He also knew his friends and knew arguing with them about it would only piss them off and he was just looking to pacify them by letting them spout off. He hadn’t known about Bryce’s cousin when he’d been doing that.
He couldn’t believe it got worse, but it did. He’d stood there like a complete tool as Bryce stormed out of the bar. He didn’t even know what to say when she yelled at him about not being different from high school. Instead he’d just let her get in the car and leave, which made him a total schmuck.
He hadn’t exactly treated Bryce very well while they were growing up, and his friends had been even worse. He wasn’t proud of that, but he didn’t want Bryce to think he was still like that. In the time he’d been spending with her lately, his view on her had drastically changed. It seemed impossible, but he’d actually started to really like her. And not just as someone to hang out with.
He’d been toying with the idea of asking her out. They’d had so much fun putting his house together and hanging out. He wanted to see where things with them could go, and now he’d probably completely blown it. What an epic disaster of a night. He hated that he’d not only overestimated his friends, but himself as well.
When he’d walked back into the bar after Bryce had left, his friends were hysterically laughing. Upon asking what was funny, they really lit into Bryce. Every insult they’d thrown at her, every prank they’d played on her was repeated through peals of laughter. That is until he’d literally slammed a glass down on the table and told them to cut the shit.
They’d all stopped, but he saw the looks they were giving him the rest of the night. They were wondering what the hell was wrong with him. He spent the night wondering what the hell was wrong with them. Why couldn’t they move on from high school? He knew the answer. Because they’d never gotten out of Cole Harbour. He’d gotten out, he’d seen the world, he knew what was out there. Life wasn’t about popularity anymore.
He didn’t sleep well all night. Instead he thought of a million things to say to Bryce. He got out of bed early in the morning, before anyone else had woken up. He stopped to grab coffee on the way and drove to Bryce’s. He had to call up a couple of times, but eventually she answered the intercom.
“It’s me. Please let me up to apologize. I brought coffee.”
He didn’t know why he threw in that last bit about the coffee. He doubted Bryce was going to let him up just for coffee. There was silence on the other end of the intercom. It went on long enough that he was about to call up again when the door buzzed and he heard the door unlock. He pulled it open and made his way to the elevator, taking it up to her condo, which happened to take up the entire top floor.
Bryce was standing there waiting for him when the elevator doors opened. She was wearing sweatpants and a t-shirt, her hair pulled back messily, no makeup on, eyes red rimmed like she hadn’t slept and had been crying all night. Her arms were crossed and she didn’t exactly look thrilled to see him.
“Hey,” he said quietly.
She didn’t respond, instead choosing to move aside silently to allow him past her and into the condo. He wasn’t sure where to go from here and paused to see where she would go. She made her way to the sofa in the living room and sat down. He chose the chair next to it, putting the cup of coffee down in front of her. It sat on the table untouched.
“I’m really sorry about last night. I guess I thought my friends had moved past high school. Obviously I was wrong. I should have said something sooner, not let them be the way they were with you. It was just really hard for me to believe that they were still like that,” he apologized.
“Thanks,” Bryce croaked out, her voice hoarse, sounding not at all forgiving.
“I’m also really sorry about McKenzie. I didn’t know. If I had I wouldn’t have let them blabber on about drinking and driving. I can’t honestly say if they were serious or not, but I had no intention of letting them drive anywhere. I just…..I’m sorry.” He wasn’t sure what else to say. Either Bryce accepted his apology or she didn’t.
“It’s just not funny to me,” she finally said after more silence.
“It’s not funny to me either, trust me.”
Bryce nodded, and if he wasn’t mistaken, she looked like she was a little less angry. He decided she was when she sat up and grabbed the coffee off the table, taking a sip. She looked over at him and sighed, tears beginning to fill her eyes. Without thinking, Sidney was out of the chair and next to Bryce, pulling her into him.
“She was the only friend I had growing up.”
“I’m really sorry, Bryce,” he told her truthfully. She pulled back from him and gave him a little smile. “Tell me about her.” Bryce leaned into him, resting her head on his shoulder. He slid his arm around her and slid back so that they were lounged comfortably on the couch.
“McKenzie was a year older than me, and everything I always wanted to be. She was the funniest person I knew and so full of confidence. She didn’t care what other people thought of her, which I think is why so many people loved her.”
“She sounds great.”
“She was. When we were kids I had a hard time saying her name so I just settled on calling her monkey. I’m not sure if it was coincidence or because I called her that, but monkeys became her favorite animal. Every time I go home I go to the cemetery to visit her and I always bring a monkey to leave for her. I know it sounds silly, but I do it anyway.”
“I don’t think it’s silly. I think it’s nice that you do that.”
“It’s the least I could do after everything she did for me. I didn’t exactly get along with my family very well. My mom is psycho, my brother is perfect, and my father is absent despite being around. It’s no secret that I was an outcast in school. McKenzie was all I had. She never once made me feel like I was different or like I should be ashamed of myself. She just loved me for me. I just can’t imagine how much worse my life could have been without her back then.”
“I’m so sorry for how we were to you. We never even thought about how you must have felt. I know if I had I never would have been the way I was. I never would have let others be like that.” Bryce smiled at him and placed a kiss on his cheek.
Sidney stayed there with Bryce for a while. They remained cuddled up on the couch and he listened to Bryce tell stories about McKenzie. It was nice to have her open up a little for once. He enjoyed getting to know her in this way and was disappointed when he realized he should probably get back to his place and to the friends who had flown in to see him. He gave Bryce one last hug and left her condo feeling a little bit better about things.
I watched Sidney drive away out the window of the condo, a smile on my face. I should win a fucking Oscar for the performance I just put on. He didn’t have a clue that I had just played him perfectly. When he first called up to the condo I didn’t think I could face him. I was so angry from the night before that I thought I’d strangle him on sight.
I thought about the night before, about how absolutely horrible he and his friends her and how horrible they’d been to me, and I sucked it up. I wanted revenge now more than ever. Sidney was going to get it, and he was going to get it hard. The day I crushed him would be the best day of my life. It was time to get serious.
I was confident that he suspected nothing, that he thought something might be brewing between us. I’d played it perfect. I’d been appropriately angry when he’d arrived, and appropriately sad when we started talking. None of that was difficult since I was feeling all of that already. The hardest part was not letting on to just how angry I was. By the time Sidney left he thought I’d forgiven him, at least enough to give him another chance to prove himself to me.
It was his move now. He wouldn’t risk upsetting me again by getting in touch with me when his friends were in town, so I had a few days to plan. I knew as soon as they were back on a plane headed home he’d be calling. When he did, I’d be ready.