Chapter Twenty-Eight

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Days at the cabin pass a lot more quickly than I had expected. Especially with Connor there, I had thought awkwardness would drag the passage of time to a snail’s pace. However, Christmas whizzes past in a blur of fairy lights, wrapping paper and turkey. At one point it snows, even if the novelty does only last ten minutes and it looks more like a sprinkling of icing sugar on the ground than anything else. With all of us packed in together, the house is pleasantly chaotic, with my twin cousins up to their crazy antics pretty much every hour of the day.

            The chaos hasn’t distracted from the brewing tension between Connor and I, though. The two of us have been quiet since day one, not making eye contact, let alone conversation. I think pretty much everyone has sensed there’s something going on, even without voicing their thoughts. Of course my mom doesn’t fall into that category; more than once she’s sidled into my room, dropping hints and unsubtly trying to get me to spill the details of what’s really going on.

            However, I’ve got enough sense to keep my mouth shut. I understand her disappointment at being left out, but she’s not exactly known for her secrecy. If I let slip even a slither of information, I have no doubt it’d be Big Family News in a matter of hours.

            Things have been strange, though. Connor’s no longer confident, instead looking noticeably uneasy when we’re around each other, as if afraid I’m going to pounce on him or something (like I’m actually capable of that). It’s like we’re constantly tip-toeing about, scared that any sudden movements will blow up in our faces. A couple of times I’ve caught him looking like he wants to say something, but each occasion he’s changed his mind, abruptly closing his mouth and averting his attention to the floor.

            I suppose I should be happy, but instead I’m more confused than ever.

            The hype of Christmas passes, and soon the days leading up to New Year are trailing off too. I barely notice time passing. It’s almost as if I’m only partly present: one half of me is here, laughing and joking with the family the same way we do every year, but the other is at an undisclosed location, wondering about Connor and where this has left us. Cutting him out of my life is turning out to be a more difficult feat than initially accounted for.

            On top of everything, thoughts of Nathan still plague me. I try calling him a few times, but never get further than his voicemail. The day before New Year’s Eve, my third try, I muster up the courage to leave a message, swallowing hard before saying, “I know I don’t deserve you returning my calls, but I’m so sorry. Please… just call me when you’re ready to talk.”

            I hang up and slide my cell back into my pocket, heaving a sigh. Nathan’s obviously got every right to ignore me, but that doesn’t make it hurt any less. Each silent day just makes me wonder even more if he’ll ever speak to me again. I’m a terrible person for doing what I did, but the prospect of being deprived of a second chance is almost too much to bear.

            Suddenly feeling suffocated, I slip downstairs and out of the back door. The rest of the family is in the living room; I can hear their voices and laughter through the open door. Thankfully, the deck is empty. The past few days it’s become my favorite spot, the only place I can properly be alone. Most of them don’t bother venturing out here in the frosty weather. Still, it doesn’t bother me; as long as you’re accompanied by a thick jacket, the deck’s a good place to think.

            Sinking onto the cushion of the swinging seat, I can’t help but admire the lake. It’s almost seven in the evening, and the sky’s already blanketed in darkness, the moonlight glistening on the surface of the water. The thick ring of surrounding trees are rustling slightly in the wind; the air is cold and sharp. I’m concentrating so hard on the giant stretch of water before me that I barely notice the person slip out onto the deck to join me.

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