A Cross to Bear
- 95.3K words
In his darkest hour, hope leads him to glory. Focus and determination are all that Logan Belanger lives by. Brought up single-handedly by his mother, he moves to Columbus, Ohio, to begin the next phase of his life as a competitive swimmer with Ohio State University. All that changes when he meets Bree, a troubled young woman who hides a dark secret that has the potential to destroy his faith in love. New friendships are forged and bonds created that send his life into a spiral. Not being able to handle the pressures of college life, Logan soon finds himself walking down the dark and lonely path to self-destruction—losing those he loves along the way. Can Logan break the cycle or will his actions be his cross to bear?
April 26, 2015
A haze filled my head, making even the simplest of thoughts hard to convey. I struggled to open my eyes, but something kept pulling me back into the realm of the unknown. A limbo that made no sense whatsoever.
Lost in my own regret, I found myself knee-deep in mud. Cold and anxious, I searched for something that would tell me I would be all right, but there was nothing and no one around me. The headlights of the car beamed down on me as I tried to make my way back to the road.
I fought the pain pulsing through my head and tried to keep my eyes on the car, ignoring the laughter echoing behind me. Tunnel vision soon took over and left me plummeting down an endless pit of dread, the despair taking hold of me. Drake’s face constantly flashed before my eyes. Pain and anger filled my soul, making it almost impossible to breathe. The grief alone was unprecedented.
The burning at the back of my throat left my mouth feeling dry, the taste of stale alcohol still lingering on my tongue. It was both disgusting and nauseating.
Flashbacks soon took over—the pounding music, the booze, the fight and Bree. They played over and over again, pushing me further down the gutter with each breath.
I opened and closed my eyes. The bright light above me hurt when I tried to focus my gaze. I turned my head to the side and saw Bree sitting on a chair, mumbling to herself and holding a pair of rosary beads between her thumbs and index fingers. I swallowed hard. It hurt to think about what I’d put her through.
* * * *
Her hair gathered around her face as I held out my hand to help her. We’d accidentally stumbled into each other, the fault being partly due to my roommate Spence’s refusal to leave the party. I’d gone in to make sure he didn’t get himself into trouble. I wasn’t interested in booze or the party scene, never mind the girls. They weren’t priorities.
Being a freshman meant that the stakes had been raised. I didn’t want to jeopardize my future. There I stood, staring at this beautiful stranger, instantly overcome with a bad case of the mumbles.
“Oh my God! I’m so sorry.”
She brushed the spilled beer from her top and looked up at me. Her pretty eyes shimmered as they caught the reflection of the lights above us.
“Don’t worry about it,” she said, and laughed.
My cheeks grew warm and I wished the ground would swallow me up. “I’m such a clumsy idiot.”
“Hey, if this is the worst that happens tonight, I think I’ll have gotten off lightly.” The blue-eyed girl with the brown curly hair smiled at me. She held her hand out to me. “I’m Bree.”
“Well, as long as you’re sure about that,” I replied, taking her hand in mine. “I’m Logan. It’s nice to meet you, Bree.”
“Wanna grab a beer?” she asked. “Mine’s kinda empty.”
I glanced at Spence, who was now swigging on his own bottle of beer. I nodded and followed Bree inside.
“So, Logan, what brings you to GAP tonight?” She handed me a beer.
“GAP?” I asked, shaking my head.
“Gamma Alpha Pi—this frat house.”
“Ooooh!” I said, sounding a little stupid. “I need to brush up on this entire college lingo.”
“You’re okay.” She laughed.
“My roommate pulled me in here.” I was out of my comfort zone.
“Against your will?” She winked at me.
I couldn’t help but smile at the pretty girl in front of me. “Not entirely. I couldn’t let him step into the wolves’ den alone.”
“Wolves’ den, huh?”
“Yeah, Spence would be eaten alive in here,” I said, glancing around the room.
“Wanna know a secret?” She moved her face closer to my ear.
“It’s not the wolves I’d be worried about.”
I saw a glint of something mischievous in her eyes. It was both enticing and intriguing. This total stranger was either coming on to me or playing me. I honestly didn’t care which.
“Who should I be worried about, then?”
“Take a look around, Logan. Tell me what you see.”
Following her prompt, I observed the drunken chaos and the brazen displays of sexual prowess. The fact that she had me take a look made me rethink my being there and I could see it in her eyes.
“You seem like a nice guy, Logan. Nice guys don’t belong in a place like this,” she said, taking me by the hand.
“And what about you? You don’t seem like the kind of girl to be getting mixed up in all this.”
She cocked her head to the side and smiled. “You have no idea what kind of girl I am.”
“You seem decent to me,” I said.
“Don’t let my mild-mannered demeanor fool you, Logan.”
We now stood outside on the front lawn, free from the smoke and noise.
It was hard not to stare at her. Bree was beautiful, a perfect combination of all the things I found attractive in a girl, but she wasn’t reciprocating anything.
“I’m not a fool, Bree. I know what goes on at these things,” I said, defending myself, though God knows why.
“I know, which is why I’m giving you a heads-up.”
“Because you were the only sober guy in there. You didn’t make a pass at me, and you have this aura that tells me you’re a good guy. Good guys get slaughtered for all the wrong reasons.”
“My aura?” I laughed.
“Yes, your aura.” She winked at me. “But seriously, go back to your room, Logan. I’ll make sure your roommate gets home in one piece.”
She turned her back on me and sauntered back inside the house, leaving me looking every inch the loser.
A wave of relief washed over me. She’d saved me the bother of standing out like a sore thumb, yet I couldn’t get her out of my head. It was stupid, childish and irrational, making me want her all the more.
I heeded her words and went back to my room. It was a blessing in disguise. My interest in Bree was piqued. She was like a breath of fresh air and I had an inkling she’d become a huge part of my life.