Tyler nodded, too, letting me know I didn’t have to continue. His face flushed, his teeth clenched. “He drugged you, fucked you, and now he’s blaming you for it.”
I closed my eyes, and more tears fell down my cheek. So many hours of the day had been spent trying not to think of what I’d done and how it could have happened, that hearing Tyler describe it so bluntly made my chest ache.
“I shouldn’t have taken the pill. I didn’t even ask him what it was. I just popped it in my mouth.” My breath faltered. “Sterling loves Fin. If he knew that was going to happen, he wouldn’t have taken it, either. He’s just as scared as I am that she’ll never speak to us again.”
“That’s why you’re…” He gestured to me.
“Yes, why I’m trying to do better. I’m hoping if she ever does find out, she’ll forgive me because…” I choked. “I’m not that person anymore.”
“You’re not. I’m not sure you ever were,” Tyler said, putting his hand on mine. “Eat. You haven’t eaten all day.”
I took a bite, chewing as I cried—as it turned out, that was surprisingly difficult.
Tyler rummaged through the cabinets until he found some Keurig pods. He watched me eat, clearing his throat when he finally got the courage to ask his question.
“Did you … you know … go to the doctor? I imagine neither of you probably thought to use protection.”
I nodded, wishing I could crawl into a hole and die. “Yeah. I’ve had an IUD in one form or another since I was fifteen. I checked out.”
“Good. It could have been a lot worse. Piece of shit,” he grumbled.
“It would be easier to blame him, but it’s not just his fault.” The tears began to flow again. Tyler set a steaming mug in front of me, and then made another for himself. We sipped tea until I stopped crying, sitting together in comfortable silence. We had barely said anything since our initial conversation an hour before, but I felt better just knowing he was there.
Dark circles began to form under his red eyes, and he tapped his keys. “Ellie…”
“Here?” Tyler said, pointing down at the island.
“I mean … I guess I could. It’s my day off, anyway. Chief owes me.”
“It doesn’t have to be like last time.”
He made a face. “I know. I’m not a complete asshat.”
“So you’ll stay?” I felt so weak, so vulnerable, but that was preferable to being alone.
“Yeah. I mean, I can if you want me to. On one condition, though.”
I studied him, unsure what he was going to require.
“What if we tried another breakfast?” he asked. “Tomorrow morning.”
“I’m assuming you don’t want me to attend hungover this time?”
He chuckled, but he seemed preoccupied. “I don’t know. I kind of liked holding your hair.”
“I bet you did,” I teased. I looked over at him, not a trace of humor in my expression. “Full disclosure … I’m pretty sure this is a terrible idea.”
“Yeah,” Tyler said, looking down. “You’ve mentioned that. I know you’re trying to get your shit together, and I’m probably a risky friend to have during a transition … but, I don’t know, Ellie. I just like being around you.”
“You’re sort of beautiful with dirt on your face.”
I managed to use my remaining energy to breathe out a laugh. “I’m just going to say that’s a compliment and call it good, but I’m still going to take a shower.”
I put my dirty plate in the sink, and then led Tyler upstairs, this time to my bedroom. He sat on the end of my bed while I undressed and turned the knob on the shower.
“I was thinking,” he called from the other room. “I’m getting pretty sick of the bar scene. There are so many other things to do here. All my friends drink, though.”
“Take it from me, that makes it difficult.”
I stepped under the water, moaning as it washed over me. Hot showers in the middle of a national park with twenty other people were rare. Just because I didn’t complain didn’t mean I didn’t miss it. “Two people don’t make a club, Tyler.”
“Who cares?” he said, poking his head through the door. He faced the wall but spoke loud so I could hear. “We can do what we want.”
“A no drinking club? That sounds like the lamest thing ever.”
“So … breakfast?” he asked, a new spark of hope in his eyes.
I sighed. “I would be really, really bad for you.”
“Nah,” he said, waving me away. “Anyway, I’m a big boy. I can handle it.”
“I don’t need you to save me. I’ve got this.”
My eyebrows pulled together. “You’re sort of a dick when you’re not in the woods.”
“Rinse off already. It’s my turn.”
I wrung out my hair and pulled the towel off the rack, stepping out onto the mat. From the corner of my eye, I could see Tyler pulling his shirt over his head. He pulled his belt from the loops, and the buckle clanged against the tile before his jeans hit the floor. He walked across the room and opened the shower, stepping in under the water.
“Christ, this feels good,” he said.
I smiled, pulling a brush through my wet hair. I watched his reflection in the mirror lather the soap over his skin, and felt a familiar tingling between my thighs.
“What if this gets ugly?” I asked. “What if you hate me when it’s over?”
“I’m not going to make you trip balls, and then have sex with you.”
The water cut off, and Tyler stepped out, wrapping a towel around his waist. His Adam’s apple bobbed when he swallowed, and then he cleared his throat like he was about to make a promise he didn’t want to keep. “Friends.”
Tyler managed a small smile, the thoughts swirling behind his eyes clouding his irises. “I wasn’t going to try to sleep with you, anyway, Ellie.”
I stood, stunned, unable to form a response. Whatever the ache was in my chest, I was sure it was something similar to a broken heart.
He followed me to the bed, but there was a difference in the air between us. Tyler seemed more relaxed, as if the question was gone, the pressure eliminated. With the towel still wrapped around him, he crawled into my bed, turning onto his side.
I opened my dresser drawer and slipped on a pair of Calvins under my towel and then walked over to bathroom doorway, picking his T-shirt off the floor.