The pounding on my front door was accentuated by the chiming of my cell phone signalling a new message.
Denver: open up fucker!
Charming, but it did the trick. I threw the door open with a welcoming snarl then stomped back to bed. Of course he followed me, along with Jase who was carrying a brown paper bag and Matt who at least had the decency to bring coffee.
“What the fuck Nick? I thought we were having breakfast to celebrate out first day off in … too fucking long?” Denver shoved my shoulder then threw himself onto my bed. I had my head under my pillow so I knew this by virtue of how much the bed moved.
“I’m touched you missed me so much,” I muttered still grumpy as fuck but the smell of coffee and bacon was tempting.
“You missed out on all the attention,” Jase told me. “But we did bring you food.”
“And coffee,” Matt added. “So get your pretty face out of bed and come eat.
Thank fuck they left me alone then, I heard them stomping through my place and then blessed silence. With a groan I pushed the pillow aside and rolled to my back, building myself up to sitting up. My stomp through the house might have felt good at the time but the pounding in my head told me I was an idiot. For more than one reason.
“Next time you want to get shit faced, give me a call. Drinking alone is just sad.”
Fuck. My bed hadn’t moved so Denver hadn’t left. I just grunted in reply.
“What happened? I thought you were headed home?” His voice held the concern of a long time friend who knew I wasn’t much of a drinker.
I cranked my eyes open and didn’t cry from the pain so I sat up to see how that felt.
“I was,” I muttered as I slowly bent down and grabbed my jeans from the floor, standing up to pull them on and starting a slow shuffle towards the coffee I could still smell.
The sight that greeted me was almost worth the trip, a plate of crispy bacon and greasy hash browns sat beside the coffee. Jase and Matt were both sitting with their cell phones in hand and I muttered, “Thanks,” as I sat down and took a sip.
A minute later Denver joined us, placing a bottle of aspirin on the table next to my cup, so I shook out a couple and downed them in between bites of food. By the time I finished eating, my three friends were all looking at me expectantly but I wasn’t ready to talk yet.
Instead I got up and hit my coffee maker, partly to stall and partly because I needed the caffeine. Coffee made, I sat down and made my confession.
“I went to see Sienna.”
“No need to ask how that went,” Matt said with a sigh.
“Did she tell you to fuck off? I would have.” Denver had no sympathy for me.
I sighed and scrubbed my hands over my face. “I know I was a dick.”
“A giant dick,” Denver muttered.
“I went to apologise,” I defended myself.
“It went well then?” Jase was the king of sarcasm as he produced more food from the bag, this time some donuts.
“She told me to leave her alone.”
“Can you blame her?” Denver grabbed one of the donuts and took a bite so at least he’d be quiet for a moment.
“She didn’t mean it though, I can tell when she’s lying.” Denver shot me a glare but he couldn’t say anything. “Relax Denver, I didn’t push it, I left her alone.”
“So why the hangover?” Matt asked.
“I tried to call, thought she might just talk to me, but her number was disconnected. So I called Teal.” I named Sienna’s best friend. I knew her well enough to take the chance she’d be up, probably out somewhere and she had been. That hadn’t stopped her from giving me a piece of her mind though. “Apparently I’m scum and should be dead.”
I nodded in agreement when Denver snorted a laugh, Jase shrugged and Matt muttered, “Maybe.”
“Do you remember when it happened, how busy we were?” I got nods and grins all around. It had been a crazy time, riding the wave of ‘overnight success’. “How insistent Libby was that we ignore the publicity and let her handle it?”
“We were in that many magazines, my mom has a few scrapbooks,” Jase said with a grin.
Mine probably did too. Knowing what I did, a conversation I’d had with her all those months ago made more sense. She had been concerned about what she was reading but I assured her it was all rubbish and not to worry about it. It had been rubbish, but I should have worried about it.
Seeing it had been hard enough, I didn’t want to have to say it. So I got up and went to the other room, came back with my laptop. It was still open to the page that had sent me to the bottom of a bottle the night before. I set it on the table, saw the expressions of disbelief and confusion cross my friend’s faces.
The tabloid cover they were looking at had a candid photo of Sienna standing near her car. I thought it was probably at her school but I wasn’t sure. The headline read: ‘Lustful Gaze’s Nico’s Dumps Sex Addict Ex’. If they scrolled down they’d find the story that claimed the story was from a ‘trusted insider’.
“What the fuck?” Denver looked up at me, looking ready to kill someone.
“They retracted it but it was too late. She lost her job.” That killed me because I knew how much she had loved to teach. “I ruined her life,” I said with a sigh. “I had no idea, but I ruined her life.”
“This is pretty fucked up.” Matt reached over and closed the laptop, making his opinion of the story clear. “Makes sense now though. My sister wanted to know why we let them print such bullshit. I told her it wasn’t- ”
“Worth worrying about.” We all finished the sentence with him. The same thing Libby had told us over and over. Made me wonder what else had been printed about us.
“So what are you going to do about it Nick?” Denver demanded.
I shrugged. “They retracted it, I don’t think there’s anything else to be done.”
“Not that,” he said dismissively. “About Sienna.”
“I don’t know … maybe nothing? She told me to leave her alone, she’s better off without me.” It killed me to say it but what right did I have to drag her back into this world where she was a target of lies just because I loved her.
“Yeah right,” Jase scoffed. “As if you can leave her alone.”
“Whatever, you still owe her an explanation and an apology,” Matt said and we all nodded in agreement.
“Okay, you got a pen and some paper Nick?” Denver stood up and went to rummage through my drawers.
“What’s that for?” I asked when he came back.
“You’ve got a lot to apologise for fucker, we’re going to need a list so you don’t miss anything.”
“One, sorry I was stupid.” Jase got them started.
“Two, sorry I was selfish.” Matt added.
“Three, sorry I had my head up my ass.” Denver scribbled out his list.
I let them extol my lack of virtues while I sipped my coffee. I couldn’t stop thinking about how much I had hurt Sienna by being a selfish insecure fuck. I couldn’t stop picturing the way she’d looked at me when she opened the door. Disbelief had turned to shock but in between the two I had seen a moment of happiness. The same happiness I’d felt at seeing her, being close enough to touch her, hell, just breathing the same air as her. But what killed me was the look on her face when she’d told me to leave her alone. She’d looked like she didn’t care if she ever saw me again, and I couldn’t blame her.