Chapter Two.

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When my shift is over, I clock out and grab two to-go cups from the counter to make my usual departure drink. Two macchiatos, one for me and one for Tess. 

Not just your ordinary macchiato, I add three pumps of hazelnut and one shot of banana flavoring. It sounds gross, but it's actually really good. I made it on accident one day, mixing the Vanilla bottle with the Banana. It's my favorite drink, and Tessa's too. I bring the drinks and she brings dinner- sometimes warm dinner, from the restaurant she works at, it's a pretty sweet gig we have going on.

She's working late tonight so I take my time to close. It's not that I can't be home without her, it's that I've already finished my coursework for the next week and I haven't found a good book to devour. I've seen all the good movies that are out and Tessa keeps the place too clean for me to have any chores to do around the apartment. I have nothing useful to do and I haven't made many friends outside of work and Tessa.

Tessa says I'm in a funk, that I need to make some new friends and have some fun. I'm having plenty of fun picking up shifts at Grind. It could be better, I know, but everything in my life is okay, simple and easy. I check the clock on the wall and cringe when I notice it's barely after ten. I wasted so much time closing, I swept the floor one straw wrapper at a time and I walked as slowly as I possibly could to fill up the ice bins and cylinders of coffee grounds. Time isn't my friend tonight. It rarely is, but tonight she's betraying me more than usual. Each minute is that passes is mocking me, the little hand on the clock keeps ticking by, passing slowly, but time doesn't seem to be.

I check around the shop one last time. I'm the last one out tonight. Posey offered to stay with me but I overheard her talking about her sister having something going on. Posey doesn't say share much of her life with me, but everything that she says is usually centered around her family in some way.

A group of four walks past as I lock the door and step onto the sidewalk. I watch as the two couples split into hand-holding pairs. The tallest of the guys is wearing a Brown's jersey and I wonder if he has checked the stats for their season. If he had, he probably wouldn't be prancing around in that jersey with such pride. I watch them as I follow behind them to walk home. I call my mom to check on her and let her know that I made it through another day in the big city.

She wasn't as worried about the idea of me moving as I thought. She wanted me to be happy, and moving to New York to be with Dakota made me happy. Well, until she broke up with me right before I moved here for her. I didn't hold it against her then, and I still don't, but I can't say that it didn't throw a small wrench in my plans. I thought I would move to New York, we would live in an apartment together. I would wake up to her legs wrapped around mine and the sweet smell of her hair in my face. I thought we would learn the city together, make memories, take strolls through New York City parks. I expected so much, I expected this move to be the beginning of my future, not the end of my past.

By the time she ended things, I was too invested in the move to change my mind. I'm still happy with my choice now, especially now that Tessa is here with me. She was the first and only friend I made in Washington, and the same for her. She thought she had friends at WCU, but they were all playing her the entire time. Tessa needed me for support and it was a good thing for me to have someone to talk to if I wanted to.

I like to have the option, even though I don't cash it in. I like my place as the friend, the nice guy. I've been the nice guy my entire life and I'm the most comfortable there. I don't need to be the center of attention. Even when everything went down in Michigan, I wanted to suffer alone. I didn't want anyone to bleed with me, especially Dakota. Her pain was inevitable and no matter what I did, I couldn't fix it. I had to let her bleed and I was forced to sit back and watch as her world was ripped apart by a tragedy that I tried my damnest to prevent. She was my bandage and I was her net. I caught her when she was falling and we will be bonded, whether it's by friendship or more, until the end of time because of the pain we've shared.

My mind doesn't often wander here, to the memories that I've forced myself to forget. That can of worms is closed, sealed, and buried under cement. 

Author's note: I'm holding a cover contest for the Wattpad version of this book. The winner gets to be a small character in the story :) Check out my social media for exact details, and don't forget to post your entry on my app using the #NMcovercontest 

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