My skin feels like it's on fire. "What?" groggily, I sit up and rub my eyes, squinting as I try to see who is standing beside me.
I'm on one of the lounge chairs on the deck, wearing just my underwear. Maddie is standing beside me, blocking the sun a little bit. My one leg is a little redder than the other from the unprotected sun exposure.
"Get up, Ruby," she says again as she helps me up from the chair.
In the distance, I can hear some yelling. What is going on?
"Ryver is pissed the fuck off," she says as she hands me a sundress. I don't recognize it, so I assume it must be one of hers. "Put it on."
Still confused, I throw the dress over my head and pull my hair up into a ponytail. I can feel the knots in my hair as I tighten my ponytail on top of my head. I must have forgotten to comb it last night. "What's happening?"
Maddie shrugs her shoulders. "You tell me. I'm not the one who was out here in her underwear, wrapped around my brother's best friend."
Well that'll wake a girl up.
I gasp, my hands flying up to cover my mouth.
"Consider yourself lucky you were both in your underwear. God knows what would've happened if you'd have been naked.
No no no no no!
My instinct is to go inside and do damage control, but before I can make it five steps, I feel Maddie curl a hand around my arm to pull me back. Frowning, I turn to look at her.
“Don’t,” she says with a firm shake of her head, “you’ll only make it worse.”
My frown deepens. Is Maddie worried about me?
She offers me a small smile. “We used to be friends, Ruby. I know you care about Joe. Ryver will need time to process this. Let them fight it out before you get involved. They’re best friends. Why wouldn’t he be happy that you’re together?”
I sigh, wanting to believe her. Ryver knows Joe better than anyone, which is both a good and a bad thing. In college, they partied together. He knows how many one night stands he’s had. How he’s treated girls. But he also knows how Joe’s always felt protective over me, just like he has. It’s always been as if I had two big brothers. Except, you know, I’ve had a crush on Joe for as long as I can remember.
“Maddie,” I start, then pause to collect my thoughts, trying to choose my words carefully. “Maddie, it’s like with you and I. I kind of hated you once you started getting involved with Ryver. Mostly because it felt like you’d just been using me to get close to my brother. We used to be friends, just like you said. Used to be. Once you started, well we can’t exactly call it dating, but you know, once that started I didn’t wanna be around you anymore. I got annoyed when you were all over my brother. And we weren’t even best friends. Can you imagine what this will do to Ryver and Joe? We can’t even be in a relationship because he’s moving to Canada at the end of summer. Ryver is gonna kill him. And then he’s gonna kill me. I have to go inside and-”
A loud crash interrupts me. I whip my head around and peer inside through the glass doors. Joe is on the floor, his hand cupping his nose. Some chairs around the dining room table have fallen down. It appears as if a bottle of OJ has crashed onto the floor, the juice spilled all over. My heart starts racing. Ryver got aggressive. He normally never gets aggressive. Or at least not that I've ever seen.
“You don’t wanna get in the middle of that, Ruby,” Maddie says softly, squeezing my shoulder. “Let’s get out of here and give them some time to cool off.”
I open my mouth to respond, watching as Joe slowly rises again but it looks like he’s in pain. All I wanna do is go inside and comfort him, take care of him. But Maddie is right. Ryver is way too upset for me to get involved. I know he wouldn’t intentionally hurt me, but I’ve also never seen my brother this mad before.
Reluctantly, I turn and follow Maddie down the stairs that lead onto the beach so we can escape and come back when, hopefully, the storm has passed.
Spending a day with Maddie turned out to be more fun than I expected. It made me miss the days when we first came here and hung out all the time, before she started fucking my brother.
My laughter dies out after she told a funny story from work and I lean back in my chair, staring out the window, watching the people on the boardwalk pass us by.
“It’s gonna be okay.”
With a sigh, I lean forward on the table again, playing with the straw in my nearly empty milkshake. “I’m not so sure, Maddie. I’ve never seen Ryver act like that. Joe knew not to get involved with me-”
“You don’t choose who you fall in love with, Ruby.” She reaches over and squeezes my arm as to reassure me.
“We said we wouldn’t,” I reply softly. “I know he wouldn’t.”
“But you did, didn’t you?”
I look up at her and swallow hard, my stomach fluttering. I did. I most definitely did. But I know that he hasn’t.
“Why don’t you just go with him to Canada? You’re not going to college yet, right? This doesn’t have to be the end.”
“What? It’s not that crazy!”
“I have a whole trip planned. Besides, Ryver would never approve.”
“Fuck that,” she shrugs her shoulders and takes a sip of her drink. “You really care what your brother thinks? You never tried to keep me and him apart. What makes you think he has the right to keep you and Joe apart?”
I bite my lip and turn to look out the window again.
She’s right. Again. But Ryver and I have always been close and I know it would hurt him. Though somewhere deep down, I’m sure he has to be happy about this. His best friend and his little sister. Why wouldn’t that make him happy?
“We can’t be together, Maddie,” I respond. “We agreed it would just be fun before we both leave.”
Maddie rolls her eyes and finishes her drink before leaning back in the booth. “You’re an idiot, Ruby. A big fucking idiot.”
“I knew what I got into. I knew what the outcome would be. We just never thought we’d get caught.”
“That’s the thing about sneaking around though,” Maddie responds, “you always get caught.”
Somehow, Maddie convinced me to stay out with her a bit longer before going back to the beach house. We ended up going to the mall together and I had a really good time.
Once we’re in the car and I start to recognize the road that leads up to the house, a lump forms in my throat. I have no idea what I’m about to come home to. No idea what Joe said to my brother and vice versa.
Maddie parks the car in her driveway and turns to look at me. “If you want, you can sleep over tonight. I’m sure Ryver’s calmed down but, just in case, my door’s always open.”
I smile, reaching over to squeeze her hand. “Thanks, Maddie. I had a great time today.”
“Me too.” She returns the smile and nods her head in the direction of the house. “Now go, it’ll be alright.”
Nodding, I unbuckle my seatbelt and get out of the car. I walk slowly up to our driveway, my heart pounding. I hope Maddie’s right.
When I open the front door, I spot a couple bags by the stairs. Upon closer inspection it turns out that they’re mine. “What?” I whisper to myself as I close the door.
Before I can take another step forward, Ryver appears in the doorway to the living area. His arms are crossed in front of hos chest.
“What is my stuff doing here?” I ask, confused.
“I booked you a flight home,” he says flatly.
“Excuse me?! Why?”
“Because you fucked my best friend behind my back, Rubes. He’s already gone. Now I want you gone too. I can’t look at either of you.”
My mouth drops open. Is he being serious? “Are you fucking kidding me?!” I exclaim, throwing my hands up out of frustration. “You’re acting like a child, Ryver.”
“I’m acting like a child?” He roars, “do you have any idea how many fucking times he’s done this, Rubes? I asked him to look after you. I asked him to keep you safe. Instead he goes around my back, fucking my little sister and leaving her out on the deck in her freaking underwear.”
I open my mouth to respond but before I can, Ryver continues on his rant.
“What, he told you that you were different? That he wouldn’t hurt you? It’s the same fucking thing every damn time. But you wouldn’t know that because you have never seen him with other girls. I have seen this before, Rubes. There’s a reason why I wanted him to stay away from you. And you may not want to see it nor believe it, but he’s a fucking asshole when it comes to women and relationships no matter what he’s fucking made you believe.”
My lips start to quiver. I don’t want to believe him. I know he’s lying to try and convince me to stay away from Joe.
“I didn’t want you to get hurt, Ruby.” His voice softens and he takes a step towards me, reaching over to grab my shoulders. “I shouldn’t have invited him.”
I wipe away a tear and look down at the ground. “I love him.” The words are out before I know it. Ryver steps away from me, his fingers combing through his hair, messing it up.
“I’m sorry!” I yell, more tears running down my cheeks. “I thought... I mean it was just supposed to be... we said we wouldn’t but I couldn’t help it.”
“Fucking hell.” My brother sighs, shaking his head. “You’re an idiot.”
“No I’m not-”
“Yes you are. He left willingly. He didn’t even try to put up a fight.”
“Because you nearly knocked him unconscious!”
“Get it through your fucking head, Ruby,” he raises his voice again. “You were just another notch on his belt.”
“Stop lying!” I yell back before storming upstairs and slamming my door shut.