Hold On Tight
[Eleven] It's All I Have
Tyler looked at his phone again for the thousandth time that week, groaning in frustration when the only notification he had was a text from his sister telling him that she was excited for the first game of the season. He hadn’t heard from Haley at all since he left Brayden in the bar, and he was starting to wonder if the blonde had even told her to call him.
He couldn’t even blame the guy either. If anyone had treated his sisters the way he had treated Haley all those years ago, he would never in a million years let them contact him again. He sighed and ran his hands through his hair. He was such an idiot to believe that Brayden would actually be on his side. Crazy to think that Haley might actually want to try again after she literally fled a state in order to get away from him and anything that reminded her of him.
His phone rang in his hand before he could sulk any longer, an unknown Dallas number flashing across the screen. He tried desperately not to get his hopes up as he answered it. “Hello?”
There was a tense filled silence as if the person on the other end was hesitating. He repeated his greeting, his stomach filling with knots.
With just the sound of his name, he could feel all the tension he had been filled with since meeting Haley again relax. His mind calmed down, leaving him with the ability to actually think clearly again, the iron grip on his heart let up, and the knots in his stomach unraveled. That’s the kind of power she held over him, and if he hadn’t been so relieved that she called him, she called him, then it would scare the crap out of him.
“Haley,” he breathed out, letting his body sag into his couch. “I honestly didn’t think you were going to call.”
“I-I thought about it.” Haley paused. “But Brayden thinks you deserve another chance, so…”
Tyler didn’t respond – couldn’t respond – because as soon as she started talking, he had the gut-wrenching realization about how much he had missed her. He hadn’t really let himself think about it, not even when he finally found her again. He preoccupied himself – first with the trade and disaster in Boston, then with hockey, situating himself with his new team, and when he saw her on that street, with the determination to get her back into his life.
He had missed her. More than he believed was possible. He missed her smile, the way she laughed at him no matter what mood he was in, how she always seemed to know what to say. He missed the noises she would make when he was inside her… He squeezed his eyes shut, knowing he had to say something before she decided to hand up on his sorry ass. “I really am sorry, Hal. I – I was young, and I was stupid, and I know that’s not an excuse, but it’s all I have.”
He flinched when he heard her sad sigh. It was one he had been familiar with, a sound that he would make right before she told him something he didn’t want to hear. “I know, Tyler. But it was a long time ago, and if I’m being completely honest, I don’t think I would change what happened. No matter how much it hurt. Because then I wouldn’t be where I am today, and as cheesy and cliché as it sounds, I love my life and the people I have in it now.”
He exhaled. This didn’t sound like it was going to go in the direction he had hoped. He started bracing himself for a goodbye and a have a nice life.
“But,” she paused and he felt his stomach flutter. “I thought about it a lot, and I talked about it a lot with a couple of different people, and I would like to try, Tyler. I’m not promising anything, but I can try if you are willing to do everything on my terms.”
He was already nodding his head before she finished the sentence, though it was the silence on the other side that made him remember she couldn’t see him. “Of course, Hal, of course. I just want-“
She started to talk over him. “As friends, Tyler. That’s all I can give you right now. I’m not saying that's all we’re ever going to be, but I can’t do more than friends right now. Not after –“ He heart her let out a shaky breath and his eyebrows furrowed in concern. Not after him? Or someone else?
He gave her the out he knew she needed. “Haley, I’m just glad you’re talking to me again. Friends. I can do friends. It’s better than what I had a couple of minutes ago.”
“Okay,” she breathed.
He knew she was going end the call, but he couldn’t let her go without making a plan to see her again. “Before the season starts, after we get back from Minnesota, I have a day or two off. Can I see you then? We can get dinner or something. Whatever you want. There a couple of places I would love to show you around Dallas, though you probably already know about some of them, having been here slightly longer than I have. There’s-“
Her laugh stopped him short. “I forgot you were a rambler, Mr. Seguin. Glad to see some things haven’t changed.”
Tyler smiled down at his shoes. “I only ever rambled with you.”
On the other side of the phone, Haley couldn’t stop her cheeks from heating at his words. Some things haven’t changed, indeed, as he could still tear down her walls like they were paper.
She didn’t let him say another word, just told him to text her when he was free to do the dinner before she rushed herself off the phone. Her sigh caused the person sitting next to her to wrap his arms around her shoulders, his intent to try to comfort the raging sea of emotion going on inside her heart. She leaned her head on his shoulder in response, and let herself sink into the embrace, knowing that everything was about to get harder than they ever have been before.
“You still haven’t told me about what happened with Ian.”
Haley squeezed her eyes shut at the mention of the green-eyed man she left in New York almost a week ago. She didn’t want to think about his wet eyes that fought to keep the salty tears from falling as she told him that she wished she had met him first – or at least talked to him first, since he had been in her classes way before Tyler found her working in that coffee shop after she rammed into him. She didn’t want to relive their last time together, how it was slow and filled with all the words they couldn’t say out loud to one another. How when he dropped her off at the airport, he kissed her like he would never kiss her again. Like he was trying desperately to remember how she tasted. They told each other goodbye, and though that didn’t mean they would never see or talk to each other again, they were still best friends, it meant they couldn’t be what they were.
She looked at Brayden with tears in her eyes, letting him see just how not okay she was. “It’s over.”
He didn’t look convinced. “Like over, over? Or like, while Tyler is in the picture, over?”
“Like, we are best friends who are nearing thirty and need to move on so that we can find something real.”
“And what you two had was never real?”
Haley bit her lip, trying to find the right words to explain to Bray something that was indescribable. Things were too real with Ian. There was a level of love there that no one could ever measure up too, and she felt that if Tyler had never existed, they would’ve been it for one another. He could’ve been it.
“But he can’t.” She whispered. “He can’t, because Tyler has always been in the back of my mind, and I can’t be what Ian wants. What he needs. What he deserves.”
Brayden’s hand tightened around my shoulder. “There is not a guy in this world, Haley, that you wouldn’t make the happiest he’s ever been.”
She scoffed. “Yeah? Tyler. Andrew. Hell, Ian. There are three guys, Bray, three guys in the past five years I that I wasn’t good enough for.” She held up her hand when she saw his mouth open to argue with her. “And I know, Tyler is trying to get back in my life and Andrew is the worst piece of shit out there and Ian- “ She inhaled. “I would never be good enough for Ian. Because of Tyler. Because Tyler left a stain on my heart that will always be there. Ian doesn’t deserve a girl who could never fully give herself to him, a girl who would always wonder what if.”
Her mind wandered back to that third-floor balcony.
”He’s always going to be your what if.”
Ian was looking at her with sad eyes as if he knew where their conversation was going and he couldn’t it all from crashing down. But she couldn’t let him continue to think that Tyler was the only one she lost sleep over at night.
“Ian, you’re my what if.”
He gulped and reached across the table to grab her hands tightly in his. “I’m not, Haley. We know how this works. We’ve been doing this for three and a half years. We’re good for one another, for a while. And then we leave those walls of my bedroom, or yours, and we don’t work.”
She looked away from him, knowing he was going to use their last break as the shining example for his words.
“You love to be around people. You like to go out and dance and interact, and that’s you. You’re good at it. But I’m never going to be that person, and I’m never going to be okay with waiting for you to come home in the middle of the night. I could go days without speaking to anyone and be perfectly happy with it. I hate our yearly vacations pretty much eighty percent of the time, and if it weren’t for you and the fact that our friends are obnoxiously involved, I probably wouldn’t keep in touch with anyone from Dallas – or from Boston.”
He let out a harsh laugh and leaned back in his chair, leaving her hands cold in between them. “I was so angry at you that last time we were together, Haley. I said words I didn’t mean to say, and I know I heard some that you didn’t mean as well. But that’s our what if, Hal. You going out with Melissa or whatever other friends you make a couple nights a week, whether for a drink after work, or a Saturday get together, and me being at home stewing over the fact that I can’t sleep without knowing you were okay. Me never being able to be fully apart of your life, and you becoming resentful that I don’t care about meeting your friends or going out with you.”
Ian’s lips quirked into a small smile, one devoid of any real humor. “Our what if leads us to losing everything, Haley.”
The tears spilled over and she couldn’t hold in the sob trying to burst from her chest. His eye was twitching, something it only did when he was lying, and he only lied to her when he was trying to save her. Haley knew he didn’t believe a word that was coming out of his own mouth, knew that their what if ended up with something neither of them could say out loud – because saying it out loud would mean they would go down a road that led to people getting hurt.
She closed her eyes against the pain in her chest. It had never hurt her before, leaving him and going back to her own life in Dallas. She never thought of him when she dated other men, never thought of him when she got too drunk to stop herself from going home with temptation. The only time he crossed her mind, as something other than her best friend, was when they both needed a distraction from whatever relationship had just ended or a bad date that made them feel even more lonely than before.
Haley didn’t open her eyes when she heard his chair screeched as he pushed it back. Didn’t open them when she felt his warmth as he kneeled down beside her chair. Kept them closed as he grabbed her face in his hands and pressed a hard kiss to her forehead before wrapping his arms tightly around her the best their positions allowed.
She tried to picture it. A future with him. Doing what Emma had told her that night in her kitchen after Tyler came crashing back into her life. She tried to imagine herself coming home after a day at work, him sitting on their couch with his laptop perched on his legs, the workings of a new novel on the screen. She tried to conjure an image of her walking down the aisle towards him, her dad by her side and her best friends all standing with him at the altar. Their kids, their home… their life.
But almost as soon as she looked at his face in her visions, he transformed into someone else, and then the images started changing.
Hockey games, her in green, cheering with the rest of the home crowd around her. Kids with brown eyes wearing hockey skates and begging her to join them on the ice while their dad taught them all the ins and outs of shooting a puck.
Her eyes snapped open and she squeezed Ian tightly, knowing that he was right in his distortion. They would fight over their personalities. They would resent each other. They weren’t good together.
She hoped the more she repeated it to herself the more she would believe the lie.
But for one night – for one night they could lose themselves in the truth.
Haley met Brayden’s wide eyes. He was the only one who knew the details between her and Ian. From the very beginning, having caught them the second time they slept together, he had helped them navigate their new relationship. He told the other about new people, and then about the breakups that would happen only months later. He made sure Haley was never too worried about meeting new people, never too caught up in Ian that she forgot they weren’t actually together. Sometimes he did the same for Ian.
He had thought they would get married one day. Thought that they were both just too stubborn to realize they were utterly in love with one another but would eventually come to their senses.
Of course, that was before he found out about Tyler.
“So… how awkward are summer vacations going to be for me now?”
Haley couldn’t help the laugh that bubbled up in her chest. Count on Brayden to make everything about him. She rolled her eyes and patted him on the knee. “I think you’ll be okay. We’re friends. We’ll always be friends. It’s done. Completely over, and though it hurts right now, it didn’t hurt as much as-“ She stopped, not wanting to complete the sentence. The fact that her heart wasn’t broken didn’t mean she wasn’t upset about what had happened, and it didn’t mean Ian meant less to her. It was just a different kind of heartache, and she was finally starting to be okay with that.
She forced herself to smile. Jumping up, she pulled her best friend with her and moved to collect her purse from her coffee table. “Come on, buy me lunch and I’ll tell you all about how my boss hit on me.”
Brayden dramatically gasped as he followed her. “And you didn’t tell me this as soon as it happened?! Screw the Ian and Tyler drama, tell me all about the workplace sexual harassment.”
Haley rolled her eyes, holding the door of her apartment open for him as they exited. She didn’t know what was going to happen with Tyler, if anything was going to happen with Tyler, but for the first time since she saw him again, she was excited about the prospect.
Uh-oh. Is Ian going to be a problem later on? Is it smart of Haley to let go the fears she had before? Has she?
Comment and Subscribe!