The Fear of Falling
By Amanda Cowen
Publication date: August 22nd 2018
Genres: Contemporary, New Adult, Romance
When Ella Jones’ twenty-first birthday ends with a bang – literally – she never imagined it would be with her best friend since freshman year, Ryan Owen.
A year later, after their so called “mistake”, they’re still best friends and about to rock their Senior year at the University of San Francisco. But when Ryan returns from spending a summer in Australia and brings back a friend, Liam George, who takes an immediate liking to Ella, Ryan starts to question the Aussie’s intentions with his best friend. The trouble is, Ryan has a girlfriend of his own, and Ella and Ryan swore they would never cross that line again – until they do.
They try not to let their second slip up affect their friendship, but when Spring Break forces them to vacation under the same roof; and Ryan’s ex walks back into his life, Ella is shocked by a fierce stab of possessiveness. And when Ella continues to see Liam, Ryan finds himself plagued by unfamiliar jealousy. With their friendship strained for the first time, Ella and Ryan face an alarming truth: Maybe they can’t be just friends. Maybe they are falling faster than expected. And maybe, deep down, they want to.
He leans closer, smiling down at me, gaze hovering on my mouth.
He motions to the side of his lip with a finger. “You’ve got some icing on your face.”
My face heats, immediately.
I start to wipe my face with the back of my hand, mortified that I am such a messy eater. I can never just eat something and not make a complete mess on myself.
Ryan grabs my hand and places it down at me side. “Don’t,” he says. “I’ll get it.” He leans forward and brushes his thumb against my lip, pulling down on it slightly. For a brief moment, he holds my gaze a little too long, and something unfamiliar tightens inside my chest.
I lean away from him and look down at my half-eaten cake. “We should probably get back to the party.”
“Yeah,” he clears his throat. “I guess that’s why we’re here. To celebrate Gam-Gam.”
“Plus, I could really use another piece of chocolate cake.”
He laughs, and looks over at me eyes twinkling. “Careful…you don’t want those knees getting any chubbier.”
“Jerk,” I playfully smack him in the arm. “You know I’m self-conscious about my knees.”
“I’m just bugging you,” he says, squeezing my bare thigh. “You’ve got great knees. Sometimes I can’t look away from how perfect they are.”
I roll my eyes. “Please stop.”
“Aw come on, you love it,” he says and stands up from the bench. I nudge him in the side and he drapes his arm around my shoulders as we walk back to join the birthday party.
A few hours later I’ve eaten enough chocolate cake for the entire party. I have more than a few mimosas and Ryan keeps his drinks to bottled water. The rest of my afternoon is filled with meaningless small-talk conversations with his cousins, aunts, and uncles. As the party dwindles down we head to the lake with Reggie and share a cigar and talk about nothing and somehow everything. Just before we are about to drive back to San Francisco, Ryan leaves me to chat with Gam-Gam while he has a private conversation with his dad.
Gam-Gam makes me laugh more than once with her bold and comical outlook on life. Compared to the rest of Ryan’s family, she is a breath of fresh air.
Ryan walks up to us, shoulders hunched and both hands shoved in his pockets. He looks tense again, and his face is sullen. I can only assume their private conversation didn’t go well.
“Time to go?” I ask.
He nods, “Yeah.” He leans forward, gives Gam-Gam another hug and wishes her happy birthday. She thanks him for coming and gives me a hug too.
In the parking lot, Ryan pulls open the passenger side door for me.
“Thanks for coming with me,” he says.
“Yeah, no problem,” I say, and slide onto the seat. He closes the door behind me and I watch him walk around the front of the vehicle, pull open his door and slide onto the driver’s seat. After a few beats, I glance over at him, “You’d do it for me.”
He looks over at me. “I do anything for you, you know that,” he says, and turns on the ignition. We sit in the idling car, both of his hands on the steering wheel as he stares out the windshield. Another few beats pass in our comfortable silence before he lets out a deep breath and turns to face me again.
“Nothing. Just glad I met you.”
“Yeah, well, knowing you doesn't suck either.”
“Let’s stick around Sacramento and you can ditch your dinner date with Thor. We can stroll around midtown and grab something to eat before we head back to San Fran.”
As much as I know he needs me right now, I can’t keep on choosing Ryan over my relationships with other men. I can’t cancel on Liam for the third time this week as much as it pains me to say no to Ryan. He’s clearly upset after his private conversation with his father and the impact of his sister’s admittance to a facility, but I can’t break my plans with Liam this time.
“I’m sorry Ryan. I can’t,” I say and look away from him. “I promised Liam and you promised me I’d be back on time.”
It takes a few moments for him to reply, but I can feel his eyes burning into me. “I guess we better hit the road then.”
Amanda Cowen can be found eating cupcakes, singing off-key, or watching a good RomCom when she isn't trapped on her computer writing stories. She is an "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" fanatic, a hater of roller-coasters and a country music junkie. She lives in Thunder Bay, ON where the summers are short and the winters are long.
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