Hope Is Lost (Ocean Beach #2)(2)

By: Emma James


Levi catches on and starts watching my brother. “Bro, look at me. You know why she hit her head. We’re all safe in your gym. There’s no danger. The only danger is Short Stuff to herself.

Although my brother’s a little slow to come out of his fog, he gradually registers what Levi and I have been saying to him, and his eyes start blinking. He looks at the both of us and then takes in his surroundings.

“Jase, I’m okay.” Faith’s voice gets his attention, and he looks down at her.

I put a hand on his shoulder. “Buddy, nobody’s going to get hurt again today.”

Faith has her eyes shut while my brother keeps the small, stained towel clamped to her forehead.

“I’m good. I can get up. I need to show Jase I’m okay.” She starts trying to sit up, but my brother holds her firmly in place with one hand to her chest. Faith ultimately gives up and lets him have his way.

“Harley, I thought I saw Levi and… and…” She sounds confused as she pushes the towel away from her forehead, opening her eyes. “Oh, hey, Levi… um… Can you just humor me and stand up, please?” Faith’s voice is unusually high pitched as she watches Levi kneeling beside her, waiting for him to move.

Blood is flowing down her cheek, but she doesn’t even feel it. She slides Text’s hand off her chest and pushes off him gently, getting into a cross-legged position to get a better look, and she still doesn’t notice the blood trailing down her face. My brother has his legs on either side of her, parroting the way she’s sitting, with his chest pressed up against her back. He takes the towel and holds it against her forehead, but she doesn’t seem to be aware of him behind her.

Levi looks from me to Text and back to Faith, hesitates, and then takes a deep, resigned breath and pushes off with one leg to stand up. He’s wearing his work-out shorts and a tank top. To everybody else, this is normal. Levi’s looking a little pale and a lot worried as he shuffles from side to side, making me feel sorry for him. This was not how he wanted to tell her.

As her eyes travel up and down his body, Levi looks so helpless, waiting for her to say something. I think we’re all holding our breath. When Faith’s breath falters just a little, it’s her only tell.





I drop my head then realize Jase is behind me, so I push his hand out of the way and hold the towel to my face myself.

Holy shit, what have I gone and done again?

I decide looking at my lap is the best option at the moment. I can’t look Levi in the face; all I can do is mumble to myself, “For six years, I’ve been a totally self-absorbed ass. Six years.” I’m so angry with myself in this moment.

“Faith…” Levi tries to get my attention. “Faith.” He crouches down in front of me again. “Faith!” His sharp voice forces me to acknowledge him.

I take a deep breath and meet Levi’s eyes. I need to get a grip. “It’s okay, Levi. This is my problem, and there’s absolutely nothing I can do about it to make up for not being here for you guys. I already know none of you hold it against me. I get that. But I have to live with letting Chance down a little by not being here for his friends in some capacity.”

“Faith…”

“For God sake, I didn’t even acknowledge any of you. I’m not looking for y’all to make me feel better. It simply is what it is, and I’ve got to deal with it.”

“Ahh, hell, Faith, don’t do that to yourself.” Harley’s now trying to fix this situation, but there’s nothing that can excuse how badly I abandoned these guys.

Nothing.

I simply have to live with it.

“I was just wondering when somebody was going to enlighten me on Levi.” I’ve gone from shocked to starting to feel pissed off that I was put in this position in the first place. It may still be shock. Who knows? My head is freakin’ killing me, but that’s the least of my worries. There are too many emotions swirling around in my head at the moment.

Something is building inside of me.

“I’ve been here four days, and nobody told me. Retro showed me Levi’s body, lifted his shirt, but nobody told me. Levi had the perfect opportunity, and y’all watched, knowing there was more to tell me.”

I can’t help directing my crankiness to Harley. “Nice one, Harley.” I look up and to the side. “Jase, I can’t expect you to tell me anything, but you could’ve drawn a stick figure. You know, something simple, left leg drawn down only to above the knee. I would have caught on, or you could have sent me a text.”

My rip cord has been pulled, and I can’t seem to get ahold of myself. I’m not finished giving them all hell.

“I mean, do I look like I can’t handle it? Well, apart from the fact”—I wave my hand in front of my head—“that the staircase really should not be there; it’s dangerous. This wouldn’t have happened if I’d been told already.” My words are sounding a little groggy, and my head’s stinging like a bitch. I know I must look like a mess, but I will not complain in front of these guys who have lost so much.

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