Home > Falling Into Us (Falling #2)(11)

Falling Into Us (Falling #2)(11)
Author: Jasinda Wilder

He looked up suddenly, and the hate in his eyes had me scooting back in fear. “Or nothing, Becca. I will. Because I have to, okay? That’s it.” He looked away, and I wasn’t sure what to say, what to think. “I’m sorry. I—that was—I’m sorry. I’ll be right back.” He shot to his feet and retreated to the bathroom, leaving me with a half-eaten plate of pesto and no appetite.

He wasn’t just driven, he was being pushed so hard it was consuming him. I would never have guessed. I watched him play every game, since Nell and Jill dragged me to games all the time. Kyle was the quarterback, and the star of the team, flashy and beautiful and godlike in his near-perfection, and Jill’s boyfriend Nick Nagle was on the team, too, but he was one of the guys in the front line who wrestle with the other team’s front line. I watched Jason play all the time, and he always seemed to have fun, like being on the field was his element, as if there was nowhere he’d rather be. I was seeing a different reality now, it seemed.

Jason came back and seemed to be in control once again. He sat down and touched the back of my hand with his, sending lightning shooting through me. “I’m sorry I blew up, Becca. It’s no big deal, really. Yeah, my dad pushes me hard, but it’s for the best. It makes me better. Don’t worry about it, okay?”

I recognized a blow-off when I got one. “Okay, well, that’s bullshit, but I’ll let it slide.”

He grinned, and confident, cocky Jason was back. “So. Enough about me and football. Tell me something about you.”

“Like what?” I asked, nervous.

“Like, I don’t know. Something no one else knows.”

I searched for something unimportant to tell him. “I’m double-jointed in my hands?” I bent the fingers of one of my hands back with the palm of the other so the tips of my fingers touched the back of my forearm. Jason winced, and then again when I bent my thumb back double. “It helps with piano, since I have nimble fingers.”

“You play the piano, too?” he asked.

“Yeah, since I was four. I have to practice at least two hours every day.”

“Plus all AP classes and courses at a community college.”

“And don’t forget speech therapy.”

“What?” He paused with his fork halfway to his mouth.

“My speech impediment? The stuttering? I didn’t just wake up one day and decide not to stutter anymore. I go to speech therapy twice a month. I have to work at it, all the time.”

He tilted his head to the side. “Work at it how?”

I shook my head. “You don’t want to hear about this.”

He smiled, and this wasn’t a flashy, cocky grin, but a slow, sweet smile that melted something inside me. I’d been working the whole dinner to keep my pattering heart under control, to just enjoy the time I was getting to spend with Jason and not expect anything, but this smile…it made me feel like he liked me. Like this could be something.

“I do too want to hear about this,” he said, taking my hand in his and rubbing the back of my thumb with his.

It was an intimate gesture that had my every pore tingling, my scalp tightening, my heart hammering. I pulled my hand away and twirled a curl of hair around my index finger.

I composed my thoughts and tried to answer him in a way that would make sense. “Well, there’s a lot to know, honestly. I’ve had my whole life to figure all this out. Some kids have stutters when they are young, but they grow out of it. For them, it is just a difficulty in the process of learning correct speech. For others, like me, it is a lifelong battle, something I will never completely be free of.”

Jason was focused and interested, toying with his straw as he watched me. “So do they know what causes stutters?”

“They, which will someday be me, don’t know exactly, other than that it is a combination of elements. It is thought to be both genetic as well as environmental, and there is evidence showing a difference in brain structure as well. It isn’t an indication of intelligence, nor is it the same as childhood apraxia of speech, which is a different kind of developmental disorder.”

Jason sat back in his chair, seeming stunned. “You really know a lot about this. You sound like…I don’t know. Like a doctor or something.”

I smiled shyly. “Well, since I suffer from stuttering, I decided a long time ago that I should know about what it is I’m dealing with. I plan to major in speech therapy in college and eventually pursue it into post-graduate studies to become a researcher. I want to help find new ways to help children with stutters overcome it, if finding a cure isn’t possible.”

“So you really are going to become a doctor.”

I nodded. “Yes, definitely. I’ve known since I was eleven that I wanted to be like Mrs. Larson, my speech therapist. She’s helped me more than I can ever express. Not just in fluency techniques, but in learning to be confident and to like myself despite my stutter.” I paused, not sure I should share the next part of my speech, but something about Jason drew me to him, made me trust him. “Mrs. Larson was the one to suggest I write to express my feelings.”

“What do you write?” Jason asked.

I shrugged, spinning a tight curl between my fingers. “Just stuff. What I’m thinking, what I’m feeling. The things I can’t necessarily say, or wouldn’t say.”

“So is it like a book? Or poetry?”

I squirmed. Nell knew I had poetry journals, but even she had never seen them. I barely knew Jason, and this was getting intensely personal and very difficult. His bright green eyes like pools of sunlit jade pierced me, drawing my secrets from me, drawing words from me that I hadn’t intended to speak.

“Poetry,” I said in a barely audible voice. “But not like rhyming, Shakespearean sonnets about flowers and things. It’s different. Free-verse, I guess you’d call it. Just words on a page that come from inside me.” This was more than I’d even told Nell about why I write. My heart hammered, and I felt nauseous.

He just smiled at me. “I think that’s cool. I wish I could do that. Write poetry or whatever. Words aren’t something I’m good with, especially writing. I get the thoughts sorted in my head, but then they just don’t end up on the paper like I’d thought them.” He tossed his napkin on his plate and pushed it away, but his eyes never left mine. “Could I read something you wrote sometime?”

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