Previously: Hardin solidified his place as the Kool-Aide Man and barged in.
Samantha: Tessa asks Hardin wtf he’s doing here even though the answer is obviously that he has some tasty Kool Aide samples for them to try. (M: OH YEAH.) He booms that he’s here because Tessa snuck out on him. Tessa can tell from Noah’s face that he’s starting to put everything together. Tessa can’t decide who to explain things to so Hardin gets close to her face and yells “Answer me!” Ugh.
Noah steps in between them and warns Hardin to stop yelling. Tessa is too busy thinking about Hardin’s motivations to realize that Noah is probably about to get decked.
Marines: She’s also so very not Naturally Suspicious™ that she registers no danger or nothing wrong with Hardin getting in her FACE and yelling at her. She’s too busy being emotionally manipulated she can’t register danger for Noah or herself so HOORAY.
Samantha: She can’t believe that he’s so mad because she still has not picked up on their abuse patterns. She tells him to not do this right now and then starts thinking about who would win in a fight between Noah and Hardin.
“What the hell is happening in my life that I have to worry about Noah and Hardin fighting?”
Uh, you mean all the decisions that you yourself made that led you here? Obviously I hate Hardin but too often Tessa is wide eyed shocked that her decisions have consequences.
Mari: Also, she gives the edge to Hardin, of course, even though Noah is more in shape. Because hot boy main dude obvs.
Samantha: Noah starts asking questions, and Hardin starts goading Tessa into telling Noah the truth.
“I know how cruel he can be, but this takes it to a whole other level.”
So. Is the thing that we women WANT cruel and shitty guys, actively? Because here is our heroine, yet again acknowledging how utterly terrible Hardin is to the reader. So. The answer is that women want to be mistreated, that we enjoy it secretly? IDK I hate everything.
Mari: We’ve already fallen into this hole where our entire job has become not only pointing out how horrible Hardin is, but how that is actively acknowledged AND ignored in the text AT THE SAME TIME. It’s almost impressive in a very deeply terrifying kind of way. She’s about to talk to herself about how she can’t stay away from Hardin, seconds after acknowledging that he’s reached max cruelty.
Samantha: Tessa tries to continue lying but Hardin tells her to tell Noah or he will. Tessa starts crying because she suddenly feels all the guilt and shame for how she’s treated Noah. Man, that blockade you built must have been a good one. She starts to stutter out the truth to Noah, who finally gets it. He starts crying, and Tessa is consumed with hatred for Hardin so she shoves him. She rushes over to Noah but he won’t let her hug him.
She has no idea what she’s been thinking and for real girl, neither have we. If only the book ended here, with this realization.
Instead, she gives us the metaphor that she is “a moth to his flame, and he never hesitates to burn me.” Cool. Healthy. Fine.
Noah tells Tessa he doesn’t know her anymore and walks out. Tessa tries to rush after him but Hardin holds her back because HE HAS NO BOUNDARIES AND TESSA BELONGS TO HIM NOW, I GUESS. (M: All we needed was some physical restraint to really seal the sickening deal here.) She jerks out of his grasp and he tells her that if she goes after Noah, he’s done. Tessa tells him that she hates him and that something that never began can’t end. #deep. She runs out after Noah.
She tells him that she was drinking and sorry and stuff. She wants him to forgive her so that they can go back to normal. Noah “runs a hand over his perfectly gelled hair.” Hawt. He tells her that he needs to think, kisses her on the forehead, and leaves.
Mari: If you were smart, Noah, you would run away and never look back. Then again, so would we.
Next time on After: Tessa and Hardin have more of a yelling match in After Chapter 37.