MORE THAN EXES BONUS SCENE

A scene from Alexis’s point of view from MORE THAN EXES by Elizabeth Briggs

THREE YEARS BEFORE

I stood with Kyle on the football field under the scorching sun, holding my cap and gown while waiting for the ceremony to start. Our new lives were about to begin, which meant I had to end this first.

I drew in a breath and forced out the words. “Kyle… I can’t do this.”

He turned to me, still smiling. “Do what?”

My chest tightened. This was my last chance to see that smile. He was so handsome, with that dark hair and those warm blue eyes that always made me melt. How was I going to live the rest of my life without ever seeing him again?

I closed my eyes, steeling myself for what I had to do, hating myself for what I was about to say. “This. Us.”

He didn’t answer, just stared at me like he couldn’t believe what I was saying. I continued even though each word was like a knife stabbing me in the gut. “I’m moving across the country for four years. And then who knows what will happen after that? It will never work out between us.”

His face fell, but then he shook his head. “No. No. I refuse to accept that. Not after everything we’ve been through.” He took my hands in his and stared into my eyes. “Alexis, we can make it work, even long distance. If anyone can, it’s us. What’s four years out of forever?”

His words gave me a slight glimmer of hope. Maybe I could convince him to change his mind this time. “It’s not too late. You could still apply for late admission to one of the schools near Princeton…”

He dropped my hands and the hope vanished. “I’ve already accepted at UCLA. I want to go there. Their music program is perfect for me, and the band is starting to take off. I can’t leave now. You know that. Especially with Jared the way he is…”

I bit my lip. “But Jared’s doing better, and the band will still be here when you get back.”

“He’s not better. And the band is my life. That’s my dream, and I won’t give it up. I can’t.”

We’d had this argument a hundred times since we’d opened our college acceptance letters, but neither of us had ever swayed. We had different dreams, different futures, and after today they wouldn’t overlap anymore. Every time we’d fought about it we’d cry and hold each other and swear we’d figure it out later. But now there was no later.

I had to end this and set Kyle free.

“You’re right.” I shook my head, my copper curls glinting in the sunlight. My mother had made them especially bouncy today. “And let’s face it. It would never work between us anyway. We’re too different. I mean, look at us.”

I gestured at my yellow flower-print sundress and at his Ramones t-shirt and ripped jeans like it was obvious why I was breaking up with him. I actually loved the contrast between us, the preppy girl and the emo boy. I loved that he was in a rock band and that my father hated him. And Kyle loved being the guy who brought out my inner bad girl when we were alone. But he’d always been sensitive about our differences, and I had to convince him that I really wanted to end this somehow.

“Since when do you care about that?” he asked. “Is that you speaking, or your parents?”

I glanced behind us, where my parents were waiting. “It has nothing to do with them. I’m going to Princeton and things will be different there. It’s time I got serious about my future. And that means ending it with you.” I was proud of myself for not letting my voice falter as I said that last line.

“But this isn’t you! You don’t even want to go to Princeton! You’re only going because your dad expects you to!”

“That’s not true!” A tear slid down my cheek, despite my best efforts to remain strong. “This isn’t about my dad, or your brother, or anything else. It’s about you and me. Things have changed, Kyle. It’s…it’s just not the same as it was.”

“What’s not the same?” he asked, his voice desperate. “What changed? Tell me!”

Once I said these next words there would be no going back. I didn’t want to say them. I’d resisted so far because I knew they’d break me, too. But I realized now that this was the only way to break it off with him. Otherwise he’d never let me go.

“I don’t love you anymore,” I lied, and this time my voice did tremble.

He stepped back, like I’d slapped him in the face. “What?”

Another tear fell, down my other cheek. I wiped my face, brushing it away. “I don’t love you anymore. It’s over.”

“No, Alexis, please…” The look on his face nearly killed me. I actually saw his heart breaking.

“Goodbye, Kyle.”

I couldn’t stand the pain in his eyes and had to turn away. I walked back to my parents, the tears flowing freely now. I wanted to retract every single thing I’d said, but I couldn’t. This was for the best. We both had to move on with no regrets or we’d spend the next four years pining away for each other and never really living our own lives.

I loved Kyle too much to do that to him. Which is why I had to let him go.

PRESENT DAY

I surveyed the crowd backstage, but didn’t spot the one face I wanted to see. Maybe Kyle was in the main part of the club. Villain Complex was scheduled for the last set of the night so I knew he must be here, somewhere.

God, what was I doing? Maybe this was all a big mistake. I could leave now and he’d never even know I was at the show tonight.

No, I had to find him. I drew in a long breath, forcing myself to calm down. I’d been back in LA for months and had nearly contacted Kyle a hundred times, but always chickened out in the end. When I’d heard about tonight’s UCLA vs. USC Battle of the Bands I knew it was the perfect chance to see him again. No matter how scary it was, I had to talk to him.

I said hello to my friend Todd and his band, who were competing on the USC side, and took a few photos of them before turning away to look for Kyle again. I peered through my camera, snapping a few shots, using it as an excuse to study people without them noticing. That was the beauty of a camera, you could hide behind it in the middle of a crowd and no one thought it was odd.

And then I saw him. His hair was dyed black and longer than I remembered, falling into his eyes a little. He had more tattoos and round black gauges in his ears, but otherwise he looked so similar to the boy I’d known in high school that my heart felt like it was about to burst open. He looked more beautiful than ever, and I loved him just as much as I had then.

I felt it when he spotted me. His eyes widened a touch, his lips parted, and surprise flickered across his face. He’d always been easy to read—unlike Jared, Kyle wasn’t very good at keeping his emotions off his face. He was definitely shocked to see me—and not entirely pleased.

Of course he wasn’t pleased to see me. What was I thinking, coming here tonight without any warning? He probably had a girlfriend. This was a terrible idea, and now it was too late to hide behind my camera. Not that I wanted to hide—I was here to see him, after all. But I should have planned this better.

We both began moving through the crowd toward each other, drawn together by some invisible force. I’d rehearsed what I wanted to say to him, but now the words slipped from my mind. I’d have to wing it and hope for the best. I could do this. I had to.

Three years ago I broke Kyle’s heart. Tonight I was going to win it back.