Fall Back Skyward (Fall Back #1)(3)

Written By: Autumn Grey

His text message flashes on my screen three seconds later.

Simon: I’ll be there in twenty minutes. We need to talk.

I frown down at the screen, nervousness creeping inside my chest. I’m not used to feeling like this and I don’t like it. Worse, if Simon says we need to talk, then it’s serious.

Rolling my head to ease the tension building at the nape of my neck, I start to pace unable to stay still. My body is wound so tight, I can feel it cracking in some places. I pause and groan in frustration. This isn’t helping to lessen the panic I’m feeling.

I head to my room and strip off my jeans and shirt, and put on a pair of running shorts. Seconds later, I walk down the hall to the gym. I slip on my gloves and start taking out my emotions on the bag hanging from the ceiling.

Punch. Punch. Punch.

Sweat rolls down my face, my chest. Air locks and leaves my lungs. I feel alive, my head is clearing.

With one final punch, I pull off the gloves and toss them on the nearby mat in the corner. I exit the room, snatching a gray towel from the rack in the bathroom on my way to the kitchen to text Tate and let him know what’s happening. The lamp in the living room blinks a few times, alerting me that someone is at the door. I look up and see Simon striding toward me. His short blond hair sticks out in every direction and his shirt is on inside out.

I don’t know why he bothers to use the bell, given that he lives here and has his own key.

“Dude. You can’t just tell me shit like that while I’m getting laid,” he signs, halting in front of me. I see the concern in his eyes behind those words. Unlike me, Simon has perfect hearing. I guess signing comes automatically for him when he and I communicate.

I nod my head to his shirt. He shrugs, smiling cockily, and takes off toward his room down the hall which is situated between mine and the gym room. He returns minutes later, clutching a bundle of letters held together by rubber bands in his hands. He stops in front of me, his gaze on the letters.

He frowns and shifts on his feet. “Remember when you asked me to get rid of these? I never did. Sorry, man. I thought you might need to read them one day.”

Simon thrusts them to my chest. I scowl down at them, and then up at my best friend. “I don’t have time for this.”

I turn around but a tap on my shoulder stops me.

“What’s going on?” he asks when I focus on him again.

“This.” I reach for the letters on the counter and give them to Simon.

He scans them quickly, his face paling fast. He raises his head and says, “I’m coming with you.”

I shake my head. “I got this.”

“Are you sure?”

I feel like a f*cking toddler. Helpless. “I got this,” I tell him again.

He runs a hand along his jaw, his eyes narrowed at me. “If you think I’ll be sitting behind a desk and sucking ass all day while you have all the fun, you’re f*cking wrong.”

I shake my head and chuckle, relieved he’s making light of the situation though. I have fifteen hours of driving and not enough time to think or prepare myself for what’s waiting for me when I reach home.

He jerks his chin to the bundle in my hands. “Do you think what’s in there has something to do with this?”

I shrug. Right now, I have no f*cking clue about anything. All I know is that my brother is in a hospital room, very sick, and the thought of never seeing him again terrifies me.

I need to find out what’s in these letters, and be prepared for what awaits me back home.

I set them on the counter and my hands fumble around until the rubber bands are gone. I grab the blue envelope on top of the mound, carefully rip the top and pull out a letter. Something slides from within and flutters to the floor. I watch its descent, frowning at what looks like a birthday card. Crouching down, I pick it up and flick it open and I’m met with a picture of two identical girls, grinning at the camera. They can’t be older than six years.

A touch on my arm pulls me away from the image. I look up to find Simon staring curiously at the card in my hand, and then meets my gaze.

“Who are they?” he asks.

I shake my head, return my focus to the picture and flip it around to scan for clues.

The words ‘Cora and Joce Holloway. Six years old’ are scribbled on the back in Nor’s handwriting.

I feel as if someone thrust a sharp object in my chest.

Nor and Josh have children? And why the hell did she see fit to shove that fact in my face? As if marrying my brother wasn’t enough.

That thought sends pain spreading through my body. Throwing the card and picture on the counter, I grip the counter, my sight blurring with rage.

Knowing that Nor—the girl I’d loved and lost—and my brother have children is like having my heart broken all over again. They moved on with their lives, while I spent the last nine years of mine living in stasis.

Simon touches my arm again. I spin around to glare at him.

“Satisfied?” I spit out, jabbing a finger at the photo. “Fuck, Simon. This is the reason I never wanted to open those letters.”

He’s holding one of the letters in his hands, his eyes wide. He tries to say something but stops and drags a hand through his hair.

“Oh, man. The girls. . .Cora and Joce are your daughters. Nor and you. Not Josh,” he says.

The words punch me in the gut, and I stumble back on impact.

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